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The following are lists of World War I flying aces. A flying ace is a military aviator credited with shooting down five or more enemy aircraft during aerial combat. The term was first used by French newspapers, describing Adolphe Pegoud as l'as (the ace), after he downed five German aircraft.[1]

List of aces by victory count:main

+20 • 15–19 • 11–14 • 10 • 9 • 8 • 7 • 6 • 5


Scoring systems

Different air services had different methods of assessing and assigning credit for aerial victories during World War I.

For instance, the Germans did not use the term 'ace' but referred to German pilots who had achieved 10 kills as Überkanone (big gun) and publicized their names and scores, for the benefit of civilian morale. German scoring was rigorous. Every victory had to be claimed in a combat report to his commanding officer. The report was passed up the chain of command for evaluation. Downed enemy aircraft that landed behind the German lines of trenchwork were more easily confirmed. Those that fell behind enemy lines had to be verified by a German observer. All 'kills' were credited to a single specific pilot. In case of insoluble disagreement over a given victim, the victory would be credited to a unit, but not to an individual.[2] The sole exception to this was the awarding of a victory each to the pilot and observer of a successful two-seater.[3]

On the other hand, the British Empire began by crediting victories for enemy aircraft driven down to a lower altitude and out the fight, or for enemy planes forced to land. This standard later morphed to the category "out of control". The British also counted a full credit to every pilot and/or gunner involved in a victory.[4] After 1916, British officials often awarded the Military Cross to a pilot or observer with five air combats endorsed as "decisive" by the commanding officer of his squadron, although the term "ace" was never used officially by the British.[5] Moreover, the British system was not as strict a procedure as the German one. A British commanding officer, often non-fliers or occasional fliers, would accept or reject a victory claim in a combat report, and might or might not annotate their decision on the form. Accepted claims were bucked up the chain of command to Wing or Brigade.[6]

During the early years, the French were inconsistent in evaluating victory awards, but by early 1916, the French had settled on a system of determination much like the German one. Only enemy planes destroyed or driven down and captured were counted. However, the French, like the British, allowed a full credit to everyone involved in the destruction or capture of an enemy.[7]

U. S. aces' scores were calculated in a number of different ways. It was not just a case of individual aces being appraised by the British or French units for which they flew. American squadrons under British control were evaluated by their standards; other American squadrons under French control followed the French system.[8]

Conditions affecting accuracy of scores

The number of victories reported for any ace are usually open for contention. Besides the differing methods of assessing combat reports, there were many factors that led to uncertainty as to whether or not a fallen aircraft had been removed from action. In the swirling chaos of a dogfight, a scoring pilot could be distracted by fire from enemy planes, anti-aircraft fire, the difficulty of spotting one aircraft while flying another, risk of midair collision, or changes in weather, wind direction and speed.

Even in a simple one on one encounter, it was possible to err. A deceptive tactic of pilots in a losing situation was the mimicking of defeat by purposely spinning their plane, giving the appearance of being shot down out of control. Once the plane had fallen out of danger, the pilot would usually regain control, often to fight again.

Ownership of the terrain below also had its effect on verifying victory. An enemy aircraft that crashed in enemy held territory obviously could not be verified by the victor's ground troops. Because aerial combat commonly took place over or behind the German lines, German scores are generally considered more accurate because German aces' victories were more easily confirmed on the ground.

Composition of ace population

While "ace" status was generally won only by fighter pilots, bomber and reconnaissance crews on both sides also destroyed enemy aircraft, typically in defending themselves from fighter attack. An observer usually had a machine gun or guns mounted pointing rearwards that could be used for defense, in addition to the forward firing guns available to the pilot.

There were also some two seated fighter aircraft, most renowned of which was the Bristol F.2b (Bristol Fighter). Pilots and gunners aboard these aircraft usually had differing scores. Additionally, because pilots usually teamed with differing observer/gunners in two seater aircraft, an observer might be an ace when his pilot was not, or vice versa.

Observer aces are a sizable minority in the lists.

The scores presented in the lists cannot be definitive, but are based on best available sources of information.

There are 1,856 known aces from World War I.

Sources of information


  • German Air Forces 1914-18. Graham Sumner. Osprey Publishing, 2005. ISBN 184176924X, 9781841769240.
  • British and Empire aces of World War I. Christopher Shores, Mark Rolfe. Osprey Publishing, 2001. ISBN 1841763772, 9781841763774.

See also

External links



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