Most aviators will never fly a military aircraft in battle. But many did during the 20th century. The area of the fighter has largely passed due to technology and different combat strategies. Flying a plane skillfully is difficult enough, but adding in the variable of dodging incoming fire and disturbing fire and you get perhaps the best pilots in history. In this article, we’re going to look at the top 5 most deadly U.S. fighter pilots.
Major Richard Bong, U.S. Army Air Forces
Major Bong was born in Superior, Wisconsin and went by the nickname “Bing-Bang.” He served from 1941-1945 during World War II. During his service the Major recorded 40 confirmed kills. Bong received the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, seven Distinguished Flying Crosses, and 15 Air Medals.
Captain David McCampbell, U.S. Navy
Captain McCampbell was born in Bessemer, Alabama, and served from 1933 to 1964. He recorded 34 kills during World War II. McCampbell’s 34 aerial victories during his WWII missions made him the Navy’s Ace of Aces. He was the only American airman to achieve “ace in a day” twice, one time shooting down seven Japanese bombers in a single afternoon. The captain also shot down nine enemy aircraft in another mission, which set a new world record. He was eventually presented with the Medal of Honor by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Colonel Gregory Boyington, U.S. Marine Corps
Born in Columbus, Ohio, Colonel Boyington served from 1934 to 1947. He recorded 26 confirmed kills during World War II. He began his career as a Marine Corps officer but later resigned from the Marine Corps to serve with the legendary Flying Tigers, an American volunteer squadron that supported China in the Sino-Japanese War. Boyington received the Medal of Honor, the Navy Cross, and a Purple Heart for his heroism during the war.
Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, U.S. Army
Captain Rickenbacker was another Columbus, Ohio native. Fast Eddie served from 1917 to 1919. He recorded 26 kills in World War I. Prior to his military career, Rickenbacker was a race car driver. Because of his experience as a mechanic, he started off as an engineering officer at the U.S. Air Service’s pursuit training facility By the end of WWI, the Captain accumulated a total of 300 combat hours and received the Medal of Honor.
Brigadier General Joseph J. Foss, U.S. Marine Corps
Born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Smokey Joe served from 1939 to 1955. During World War II he recorded 26 confirmed kills. Foss was famous for his close-up gunnery skills. In the battle of Guadalcanal, he shot down 26 enemy aircraft with his team of 8 Wildcats. His team, which was dubbed “Foss’ Flying Circus,” shot down 72 Japanese aircraft during that battle. His 26 victories made him the first American pilot to match Ace Eddie Rickenbacker’s record from WWI.
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