WWII Aviation Accident Stats—Amazing!
Barrett Tillman is an aviation author of note and
is researching WWII losses for a new book.
These figures will surely give you pause. Tillman also writes for Tailhook magazine.
For the new book I
computed the AAF’s average daily loss in combat for June ‘44: nearly 50
aircraft. Today, if we lost
that many in a year we’d probably park our air forces!
WWII Accident Stats:
After the Camarillo accident
a few of my acquaintances were wondering how 19 year olds mastered high
performance fighters with little training during WWII. I looked into it and found some rather
interesting figures. This same question was brought up in the P-51 Torque
The short answer is they did
what they needed to do and accepted the losses. Unfortunately, it
looks as if combat and accidents losses are usually combined when overseas.
The information below sheds some light on the accident losses.
The info is from the Army Air Force Statistical Digest WWII published
in Dec 45. According to it, thousands of aircraft were lost due to accidents.
In the Continental US between 1942 and Aug 1945 there were 824 P-51
accidents, 131 of those fatal resulting in 137 fatalities and 358 aircraft
wrecked. The P-47 was much worse with 3049 accidents, 404 of those fatal with
455 fatalities and a staggering 1125 airplanes wrecked.
This is just the beginning according to the table. If you add up all the accident losses on
that table you get 47,462 accidents, 5533 of which were fatal resulting in
13,624 fatalities and 12,506 aircraft wrecked. Keep in mind this was just in
the Continental US.
Also in the US looking at
all AAF accidents from Dec 41 to Aug 45 there were 52,651 accidents, 6039 of
those fatal resulting in 14,903 deaths and 13,873 aircraft wrecked. Branching out overseas gets difficult. As
I mentioned previously, I cannot find combat losses verses accidents. I also cannot find specific type losses.
But if you look at Airplane Losses in US and Overseas, you will see that page
two breaks out the Continental US verses overseas.
There were a total of 43,581 losses overseas and 21,583 losses in the
US. Keep in mind this includes combat
losses but I can almost guarantee nearly all the 21,583 Continental US losses
were accidents. The Continental US does not include AK and HI, the only
places in North America that had direct combat with the Axis.
While en route from the US
to the theater, 909 planes were lost. Airplane losses on combat mission by
theater states a total of 22,948 aircraft were lost during combat. If we subtract this from the 43,581 total
overseas losses figure above, we get 20,633 aircraft lost not during
I found these figures
absolutely overwhelming and much more than I ever would have thought. Total losses due to accidents for WWII may
never be know, or at least it is beyond my researching skills, but I do think
it was in the thousands. Gives me even more appreciation for that generation.
On a lighter note, here are some other figures just for fun....
9,707,109,000 gallons of gas
used from Jan 42 to Aug 45
459,750,000 round of ammo expended overseas from Jan 42 to Aug 45
107,886,000 hours of flying time from Jan 43 to Aug 45
7,952,020 bombs dropped overseas from 43 to 45
2,057,244 tons of bombs dropped overseas from Dec 41 to Aug 45
2,362,800 combat sorties from Dec 41 to Aug 45
299,230 aircraft accepted from Jan 1940 to Aug 45
808,471 aircraft engines delivered from Jan 40 to Aug 45
799,972 propellers delivered from Jan 40 to Aug 45
40,259 enemy aircraft destroyed Feb 42 to Aug 45
- Barrett Tillman