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View Full Version : George Beurling - fascinating and disturbing at the same time



Paul Pless
08-06-2013, 11:46 AM
Saw this a few days ago on the Military Channel. Worth a watch if you're interested in the biographies of WWII aces. He's Canada's number one ace of the war with 31 kills, 27 in just fourteen days over Malta. He recorded kills at extreme range including the longest confirmed kill by a Spitfire pilot at over 800 yards, most Spitfire kills were less than 250 yards, remember Spitfires used the .303. Pretty amazing fighter pilot, he removed the tracer rounds from his ammo belts so he could carry more ammo, and so that the aircraft he was targeting would not see the tracers coming. He also claimed he didn't need the tracers because he knew where his shots were going. He zeroed his guns at a different point then was standard practice to minimize his use of ammo so that he could fight longer and more efficiently. He was a master of predictive shooting, knowing where an aircraft before it got there and his bullets would drop to meet that imaginary point. So much so, that his early kills were not recognized because they occurred beyond the scope of his gun cameras. At one point he was even grounded for lying about kills that he had no evidence of.

But quite disturbing too, during war bond drives there's film of him addressing crowds of thousands and then describing how he would specifically target enemy pilots heads - that's how good a shot he was. Its not disturbing that he would target their heads, its just disturbing the tone that he used in talking about it.

http://military.discovery.com/tv-shows/air-aces/videos/george-beurling-the-perfectionist.htm

<a href="http://military.discovery.com/tv-shows/air-aces/videos/george-beurling-the-perfectionist.htm" target="_blank">
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGHP-xBLmOo
(http://military.discovery.com/tv-shows/air-aces/videos/george-beurling-the-perfectionist.htm)

Jim Bow
08-06-2013, 12:59 PM
But quite disturbing too, during war bond drives there's film of him addressing crowds of thousands and then describing how he would specifically target enemy pilots heads - that's how good a shot he was. Its not disturbing that he would target their heads, its just disturbing the tone that he used in talking about it.

Which is why most combat veterans only talk to each other. All out war is horribly ugly, and can't truly be explained to non participants.

Plus, the RAF were the only defense of Malta. There was very little else protecting the island. Those guys would be in the air constantly, only landing to refuel and rearm. The Italian, and later German, strategy was to bomb and bomb again until the island starved to death.

Do a search for "SS Ohio" if you want to learn more about Malta.

Paul Pless
08-06-2013, 01:09 PM
yes i've read about the ohio, truly remarkable. . .

chas
08-06-2013, 01:19 PM
" He was a master of predictive shooting, knowing where an aircraft before it got there and his bullets would drop to meet that imaginary point. So much so, that his early kills were not recognized because they occurred beyond the scope of his gun cameras. At one point he was even grounded for lying about kills that he had no evidence of."

Tks for that link Paul. It's known by the pilots as deflection shooting. Buzz Beurling was a master at this and was blessed also with extraordinary eyesight, a formidable combination. Contrary to the stories of him being the lone wolf, he would share his theories on deflection shooting with any of his fellow pilots who were interested.

More on his career here for those interested, http://www.acesofww2.com/Canada/aces/beurling/#.UgE6x51rZjo

My father flew with Buerling in 126 Wing in '43-'44 and had some interesting stories regarding his amazing successes as a fighter pilot. He felt that Buerling would easily have eclipsed Johnnie Johnson as the most successful Commonwealth fighter pilot and was somewhat railroaded from active service for that reason. / Jim

Paul Pless
08-06-2013, 01:25 PM
More on his career here for those interested, http://www.acesofww2.com/Canada/aces/beurling/#.UgE6x51rZjo

I like the part in that link that says that he buzzed an airfield, so low that it knocked tents down. the following day, during a meeting between the base commander and air wing commander over courtmarshalling him for this behavior, George buzzed the tent that they were in. :d

PhaseLockedLoop
08-06-2013, 01:48 PM
" He was a master of predictive shooting, knowing where an aircraft before it got there and his bullets would drop to meet that imaginary point. So much so, that his early kills were not recognized because they occurred beyond the scope of his gun cameras. At one point he was even grounded for lying about kills that he had no evidence of."

Tks for that link Paul. It's known by the pilots as deflection shooting. Buzz Beurling was a master at this and was blessed also with extraordinary eyesight, a formidable combination. Contrary to the stories of him being the lone wolf, he would share his theories on deflection shooting with any of his fellow pilots who were interested.

You mean he'd lead his targets? Was that so unusual? I'd think you'd have to do it with any moving target, but I suppose your own motion would complicate matters. I admit I don't know much about it, so I'm just asking.

chas
08-06-2013, 02:28 PM
"You mean he'd lead his targets? Was that so unusual? I'd think you'd have to do it with any moving target, but I suppose your own motion would complicate matters. I admit I don't know much about it, so I'm just asking."

I don't think I could explain it well either. When I inquired about this at some point in my teens I don't think Dad considered this to be a skill I needed to acquire; later I came to understand that he just didn't want to revisit his prowess in that department. I didn't pursue the issue. / Jim

Waddie
08-06-2013, 02:47 PM
All the Military Channel stuff about the Allied aces is great programming, but I would like to see something documenting the Axis aces. That's who really put up the numbers. From WW1 and WW2 their kills numbered in the 80's and some even had over a 100 kills. They were in it for the duration, and didn't get rotated out of the action after a few months of combat. How did they stand the pressure, yet were so proficient? They were the real "killing machines".

regards,
Waddie

John of Phoenix
08-06-2013, 04:11 PM
...he would specifically target enemy pilots headsMay have picked that up from Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron. Seems to have worked pretty well for both of them.

"Aim for the man and don't miss him. If you are fighting a two-seater, get the observer first; until you have silenced the gun, don't bother about the pilot"

Paul Pless
08-06-2013, 04:17 PM
[COLOR=#333333] May have picked that up from Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron. Seems to have worked pretty well for both of them.

"Aim for the man and don't miss him. If you are fighting a two-seater, get the observer first; until you have silenced the gun, don't bother about the pilot"

Actually I think it had to do with just how good a shot he was. Even from long range. For instance, he knew where the oxygen bottles were in all of fighters he opposed, he would aim for these, knowing that hitting one would create a lot of damage. Or he would aim for the turbo supercharger, knowing that it was a part of the engine that was more susceptible to damage than the rest of the engine.

He was very efficient, he used half as many bullets as anyone else that he flew with, and shot down almost twice as many planes as anyone else that he flew with. And many of his kills, more than half, were against front line german and italian fighters - not transports or bombers. Another thing that was pointed out was that his guns never jammed, which was common with Spitfires.

Another thing that was fascinating was when he on the defensive, He didn't try to outmaneuver his opponent with complex twists and turns in an effort to get behind his opponent. He would make his plane unflyable and put it into spins and tumbles where it just dropped out of the sky, and after falling away a few thousand feet he would regain control and then re-enter the fight.


But back to what was disturbing, it was clear that he thrilled in combat. He was a Canadian who volunteered for service in England. When he was forced into retirement he tried to join the US Army Air Corp.. After the war he was listless, and then after WWII he was given an offer to fly combat missions for the Israeli Air Force, which he accepted. He died in a plane crash en route to a combat posting in Israel.

Jim Bow
02-17-2015, 03:34 PM
I finally saw this documentary. The bits of his speeches during the bond tour were absolutely chilling.
I can only imagine the reactions of town dignitaries, after giving him the keys to the city, to hear him describe the blood flowing into the slipstream after a pilot's head was blown off.

Peerie Maa
02-17-2015, 03:46 PM
He zeroed his guns at a different point then was standard practice

Many of the best aces did this in defiance of the official instructions. They did know better than the desk wallahs.

johnw
02-17-2015, 05:08 PM
Which is why most combat veterans only talk to each other. All out war is horribly ugly, and can't truly be explained to non participants.



I think there was a little more to it than that. He came back from the war rather strange, and within a year his family and his wife wanted nothing to do with him.

http://storage.torontosun.com/v1/dynamic_resize/sws_path/suns-prod-images/1297399704570_ORIGINAL.jpg?quality=80&size=420x

Ian McColgin
02-17-2015, 05:23 PM
"Leading", "predictive shooting" and "deflection shooting" are more or less synonomous but in general use leading is used for the more intuitive shooting at a moving target from a static base, like quail shooting, predictive is a bit more scientific about aiming for where the target will be by the time the ammunition gets there, and deflection really covers the whole range of ballistic problems of any combination of moving target, moving shooter, time, distance and (for extreme long range artillary) the earth's rotation.

Andrew Craig-Bennett
02-17-2015, 05:57 PM
All Naval gunnery after the invention of the rifled barrel has been deflection shooting. HMS Warspite hit the Guilio Cesare at 26,000 yards whilst both ships were making about 24 knots, during the Battle of Calabria in 1940.

Michael D. Storey
02-17-2015, 10:22 PM
Which is why most combat veterans only talk to each other. All out war is horribly ugly, and can't truly be explained to non participants.




If you can't explain to non-participants, as you call them, the inference is that the military should govern and treat and control itself?
No civilian interference? No civilian doctors?
But you would accept their money and their draftees, I reckon.
In truth and fact, there are no non-participants.
Think about it.

Gerarddm
02-18-2015, 01:33 AM
#13: that is a spooky photo. I mean, the guy looks just this side of psycho.

Andrew, I think Scharnhorst shares Warspite's record. Dropped an 11" shell 26,400 yards on the RN carrier Glorious.

Jim Bow
02-18-2015, 11:54 PM
I Wiki-ed "Asperger's Syndrome". Buerling might be a candidate for diagnosis. Obsessed with WWI fighters and pilots, paid for flight lessons by making and selling model airplanes. Attempted to join the Finnish Air Force, and RCAF as a young teen. Few friends his own age. And no social filters in his conversations.


There's a conspiracy theory that he was killed by the Brits before he could do combat with the Egyptian Air Force in Palestine. Britain was a supporter of Egypt at the time, and having Buerling kill Egyptians would have been a diplomatic nightmare.

Is there a decent biography out there , possibly in a magazine?

http://101squadron.com/101real/people/beurling.html

johnw
02-19-2015, 02:31 PM
#13: that is a spooky photo. I mean, the guy looks just this side of psycho.

Andrew, I think Scharnhorst shares Warspite's record. Dropped an 11" shell 26,400 yards on the RN carrier Glorious.

I see no reason to think that he was "this side" of being a psychopath. He was sent to Malta as punishment for not being a team player. There, his courage and ability mattered more. A lack of fear is one of the indications that a person is a psychopath.

Henning 4148
02-19-2015, 03:15 PM
... I would like to see something documenting the Axis aces.
regards,
Waddie


You could research Erich Hartmann.

John B
02-19-2015, 03:24 PM
I've read about him , I look forward to watching the video. I seem to recall reading they nick named him mad dog Beurling . And that his early kill or kills were not believed because the deflection was so great that it wasn't caught on gun camera.

Dannybb55
02-19-2015, 07:07 PM
Eddie Edwards, 260 squadron, Desert Air Force was a deflection artist too. He demonstrated his technique by loading 6 20mm rounds in on gun of his Spit and holing a towed sock with a 90 degree deflection shot. Macki Steinhoff bagged many a target by firing a short burst when his target was hidden by his engine. Marseille was beyond compare in parsimonious ammo expenditure. 158 kills in the desert.

Three Cedars
02-19-2015, 09:46 PM
Beurling was a guy you wanted on your side .

The politicians that encourage war should be on the front lines , it's not like they can't be replaced .

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akm3nYN8aG8