The Unknown Ace Who Terrorized the Luftwaffe
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When this Luftwaffe pilot got separated from his formation on a daring daylight mission on the Western Front, he wasn’t worried since he was piloting a Focke-Wulf Fw 190, aka ‘Butcher Bird,’ a Germany fighter plane that instilled dread on the Royal Air Force.
But he wasn’t pitted against any ordinary pilot that day, but instead with the legendary Johnnie Johnson who was the highest-scoring Western Allied fighter ace against the German Luftwaffe.
From the Ground Up
Johnson entered the ranks as a fighter pilot and for a year, he honed his skills and piloted a Supermarine Spitfire solo.
That training soon paid off, as he earned a place in the RAF’s General Duties Branch as a pilot officer before the Battle of Britain loomed.
The Ascending Ace
In April 1942, the RAF Fighter Command resumed large-scale operations. During this time, Johnnie participated in seven operations, taking down as many enemy planes as possible. However, this time, the battlefield has shifted since the Luftwaffe now had the formidable Focke-Wuld Fw 190.
It outperformed the Spitfire at altitudes below 25,000 feet, it boasted a faster roll rate, superior firepower, and the ability to out-dive and out-climb its British counterpart. This increased Spitfire squadron casualties that greatly concerned the RAF.
Nevertheless, Johnson’s combat record climbed- his rising tally against Bf 109s led to increased recognition and he was eventually promoted to squadron leader of the 610 squadron. Johnson’s first faceoff with an Fw-190 in February 1943 ended in probable victory.
With 38 victories against single-engine fighters by the end of WWII, Johnson emerged as the top-scoring Allied ace against the Luftwaffe. In the Spring of 1945, he was also promoted to Group Captain and Commander of the 125th Wing.
Post-war, he continued serving the RAF which included stints in Korea, Germany, England, and the Middle East until his retirement as an Air Vice Marshal.
Today, not only is he one of the most celebrated Aces in the world, but also a leading authority in WWII combat.