Breaking Down Bomber Gunner Kill Ratio B-17 vs. B-29- Surprising Results

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Defining Kill Ratio

Kill ratios are computed by the number of enemy aircraft destroyed by bombers divided by the number of bombers destroyed by enemy aircraft. Air-to-air kills are counted; air-to-ground kills are not.

Source of Data

The data were taken from a 300-page Army Air Forces statistical digest of WWII in December 1945. In this report, only the data from the 8th Air Force are included.

What Destroyed Means

An enemy airplane is considered destroyed if it is seen crashing, disintegrated/enveloped in flames, captured on friendly territory, or the pilot and the crew are seen bailing out.

Enemy Aircraft Destroyed

FW-190s make up the bulk of destroyed enemy aircraft, with 3,107. ME-109s came in second with 1,955 demolished.

B-17/B-24 Kill Ratio

The two bombers destroyed 6,098 enemy planes while losing 2,452 bombers. Computing the total kill ratio would yield 2.49 aircraft destroyed to 1 bomber lost.

The Problem

Since bombers flew in formation, the possibility of them firing on the same target is very high. Therefore, kill credits are difficult or slightly impossible to establish. Even the US has stated that bomber gunners’ kill claims are ten times more than the actual number.

Re-Evaluated Claims

These are an estimate of a possible minimum of enemy aircraft destroyed by US bombers. Through this estimate, the Air Force saw the claims reduced to one-third of their original value.

A Huge Difference

If the new value is used, the revised kills of B-17s and B-24s over Europe drop from 6,098 to 2,032. This means that a revised kill ratio would result in 0.83 enemy aircraft destroyed to 1 bomber lost.

Average Rounds Fired

On average, the two bombers expended 22,510 rounds per enemy aircraft destroyed. In comparison, the B-29 used up 3,300 rounds – 6.8 times more rounds than the two.

Compared to B-29s

The B-29s destroyed 969 enemy planes and lost 83 bombers, amounting to an 11.7:1 kill ratio. Its kill ratio is fourteen times higher than the B-17 and B-24.