The United States is a country that has always been associated with a strong military, and today they have the most powerful military in the world by a large margin. Their military has been involved in a number of conflicts over the last two centuries, and in that time, we’ve seen countless brave people risking their lives to battle and win against their enemies.
Pilots are no exception to this, and some of the most talented fighter pilots in history were from the US military. These are some of the best US pilots that the world has ever known.
Gregory Boyington started out as an officer in the Marine Corps but would later resign from this position to instead join the Flying Tigers, a legendary squad of fighter pilots during the Sino-Japanese War. While a part of this squad, Boyington claimed his first six victories, and would later take this experience with him as he rejoined the Marines later on.
He would earn the title, “Gramps” from younger marines due to the fact that he was 31 and active during the Second World War. He would go on to down 26 enemy fights and would be captured by the Japanese, and released after the war, only to be given a multitude of rewards for his service.
Another World War 2 veteran, Campbell started his service in 1934 and would join a squadron of fighters just four years later. During 1944, Campbell would take command of Carrier Air Group 15, a group that was commonly known as the “Fabled Fifteen” at the time. While he was in command of this squadron, Campbell would claim a total of 34 confirmed victories.
Altogether, the Fabled Fifteen were some of the most talented pilots of the Second World War, and they would claim 318 victories by the time that the war had come to an end. He was declared the Ace of Acnes by the Navy and holds the record for being the only US airman to earn the ace in a day title twice. Campbell flew the Grumman F6F Hellcat, a plane so important in the war that it became a pop culture icon; it’s not unusual to see its likeness in movies, video games, book covers, themes for online slots, on old arcades, and so much more.
Widely considered one of the greatest pilots of all time, not just within the US military, but in all military history, Bong was highly decorated and well-regarded by his superiors, peers, and underlings. During his time in World War II, Bong would accumulate a total of 40 confirmed kills, and was given the Ace of Aces title for it. Bong was adamant that he was not particularly talented with gunnery, but that the secret to his success was getting as close as possible to his target before opening fire; a tactic that worked with exquisite efficiency. Sometimes he was so close to the enemy that he’d fly through the debris of the downed play.