The most dangerous job in WWII?

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Arto O
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The most dangerous job in WWII?

Post by Arto O » 19 Aug 2011 06:35

Hi,
I hope that this has not been discussed before in the forum. What was the most dangerous "job" during the WWII?
I have red somewhere that the men operating flame throwers, had a average lifetime counted in minutes. Sounds exarated, but.... Others assault pioneers? Also that allied bomber crews (especially U.S.) had very high KIA casualities.
Any opinions. Thanks
Arto

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AVV
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Re: The most dangerous job in WWII?

Post by AVV » 19 Aug 2011 07:43

Hello!
Soviet gunners of Il-2 double-seater versions - due to relatively weak armor protection their death rate was about 3 times higher than those of Il-2 pilots, i.e. average Il-2 pilot survived his 3 gunners.

Best regards, Aleks

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The Edge
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Re: The most dangerous job in WWII?

Post by The Edge » 19 Aug 2011 09:36

:lol: being a Ba 349 pilot - 100% kill ratio (i.e. one try - one dead)

Graeme Sydney
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Re: The most dangerous job in WWII?

Post by Graeme Sydney » 19 Aug 2011 09:48

Kamikaze pilot! :milwink:

JonS
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Re: The most dangerous job in WWII?

Post by JonS » 20 Aug 2011 06:28

Graeme Sydney wrote:Kamikaze pilot! :milwink:
Ha! :D But, ISTR reading that - surprisingly - the survival rate for Kamikaze pilots was actually pretty good.

Also, ISTR that the chances of a USMC soldier surviving the war were much better than a USAAF bomber crew in 1943. Similarly Germans were much safer serving on the Eastern Front than as a single-engine day fighter pilot over Germany.

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Der Alte Fritz
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Re: The most dangerous job in WWII?

Post by Der Alte Fritz » 20 Aug 2011 08:39

This is an area of much myth making but there has been some official research into this.
The RAF conducted a study into life expectancy during the war so that they could set the tour of duty to even out the chances of survival. They found that Coastal Command had the lowest, followed by Fighter Command, then Bomber Command. However within these there was wide variation. medium bombers operating by day, even with fighter cover were far more dangerous than night bombers. The most dangerous job in the RAF though was found to be in Coastal Command in the Torpedo Bomber squadrons operating off Norway and in the Mediterranean. For about a year not a single crew survived a tour of duty from the Beaufort squadrons as a combination of operating at long range over sea, in daylight at low level and against very heavily defended targets saw very heavy loss rates. Interestingly the Fleet Air Arm operating out of Malta at the same period, suffered light losses as their radar equipped Albacores attacking at night often sank the ships before the defenders knew they were under attack.

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Re: The most dangerous job in WWII?

Post by Larso » 20 Aug 2011 09:14

In terms of a significant arm, I would've thought the U-boat crews, which I think suffered deaths at the ration of 3 out of 4. It's hard to compare some of the others - some periods were deadly (Battle of Britain), other years/campaigns were less so. Does anyone know what overall ratios were in Bomber Command - I heard it was a 50% casualty rate. But surely it was worse than that in 1943, when apparently very few crews survived their 30 trip tours?

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Re: The most dangerous job in WWII?

Post by JonS » 20 Aug 2011 22:04

Larso wrote: Does anyone know what overall ratios were in Bomber Command - I heard it was a 50% casualty rate. But surely it was worse than that in 1943, when apparently very few crews survived their 30 trip tours?
From page 221 of "Brute Force" by Ellis
During the war as a whole roughly 125,000 served as aircrew with Bomber Command. Of these, 59,423 were killed or missing presumed killed. This was a casualty rate of 45.5 per cent - killed. If wounded are included the rate rises to 54.3 per cent. For the greater part of the war the casualty rate was probably much lower, as from mid-1944 Bomber Command expanded considerably, inducting quite a high proportion of the total intake of aircrew, and at the same time casualties noticeably declined. ... For the period up to D-Day, therefore, one is probably talking in terms of a fatality rate upwards of 65 per cent. It is not surprising that several writers have compared the slaughter of Bomber Command with the terrible carnage wreaked among infantry battalions of the First World War. The comparison is perfectly justified, as long as one realises that the 'Tommies' have the best of it. Total casualty rates compare remarkably closely. Thus, between 1914 and 1918, the two battalions of the Scots Guards, both of which spent the whole war on the Western Front, endured a casualty rate of 53.9 per cent. The ratio of men killed, however, was only half that of Bomber Command, at 24.8 per cent.

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Re: The most dangerous job in WWII?

Post by Spike 7.62 » 21 Aug 2011 02:15

Just guessing here... but I certainly would not want to have been a U Boat crewman (or on any submarine force), nor a German or Soviet infantryman. As for the Allies.. I would think submarine crews suffered high attrition, as well as aviators and infantrymen.

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Re: The most dangerous job in WWII?

Post by Larso » 21 Aug 2011 03:15

Thanks Jon - those figures really spell it out.

The question almost needs a qualifier - something which specifies a particular role and a year. For instance I imagine the chances of an average American infantryman surviving from Normandy and going through to May in Germany might have been lower than 10%. In some companies only a handful made it through the whole campaign and some of those had spells away with wounds. In the most recent airborne memoir that I read ('Jump: Into the Valley of the Shadow' by Burns) he was the ONLY one to make it without being wounded (or captured or killed obviously). About 12 other 'originals' were with him at the end but all of those had been wounded at least once. I can't remember what an airborne company's paper strength was, but regardless this is an extremely high casualty rate.

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AVV
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Re: The most dangerous job in WWII?

Post by AVV » 21 Aug 2011 12:52

Hello!
Larso wrote:I can't remember what an airborne company's paper strength was, but regardless this is an extremely high casualty rate.
Speaking about Allied airborne troops, don't forget about the pilots of airborne gliders, like Horsa or CG-4A. Their job was also very dangerous.

Best regards, Aleks

Arto O
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Re: The most dangerous job in WWII?

Post by Arto O » 22 Aug 2011 01:42

Thanks to everybody for these interesting comments and information. I found a lot of surprises, like the one about torpedo bomber squadrons. How about sharpshooters? I have red somewhere that even tanks were used against them. And death rates among german sharpshooters was very high. Realities or myths?
Keep coming, thanks.
Arto

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Re: The most dangerous job in WWII?

Post by Berthier92 » 22 Aug 2011 16:54

AVV wrote:Hello!
Soviet gunners of Il-2 double-seater versions - due to relatively weak armor protection their death rate was about 3 times higher than those of Il-2 pilots, i.e. average Il-2 pilot survived his 3 gunners.

Best regards, Aleks

Yes. the gunner was an "add-on". the first Il-2s were single seaters and the cockpit was heavily armoured (Windshield could withstand cannon shells) while behind the pilot, the aircraft was mainly wooden. When the gunner position was added behind the pilot, the gunner was in the wooden section which couldnt be armoured as it would cause the aircraft to become unbalanced. and as the wooden area was the more obvious area for an Me-109 or Fw-190 to slam its rounds into, the gunner would be the first to catch a bullet.
3rd Recon battalion ,DAK , First in Tripoli, First at front

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Berthier92
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Re: The most dangerous job in WWII?

Post by Berthier92 » 22 Aug 2011 16:57

I reckon being in an M4 Sherman was the most dangerous job. These tanks were badly armoured and undergunned and were nicknamed by the germans the "Tommy cooker" because it burst into flames quite easily when hit by a 75mm cannon
3rd Recon battalion ,DAK , First in Tripoli, First at front

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AVV
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Re: The most dangerous job in WWII?

Post by AVV » 22 Aug 2011 18:12

Hello!
Berthier92 wrote:Yes. the gunner was an "add-on".
Yes. And besides it was faster and cheaper to train the gunner than the pilot. Sad but true.

Best regards, Aleks

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