Did enemy really use grudgingly complimentary nicknames for planes?

Discussion in 'The War In The Air' started by Dave55, Jan 21, 2021.

  1. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA

    I wonder if Japanese forces really called Corsairs "Whistling Death" or if we just like to think they did.

    I've never seen a contemporary account of an allied airman calling the FW 190 the Butcher Bird or a German calling the IL-2 Black Death, only postwar.

    Others are Fork Tailed Devil for the P-38, Whispering Death for the Beaufighter and Grim Reaper for the Fokker G1.

    Haven't heard anything similar for Spits, Mustangs, 109s, Hellcats, Zeros, etc.. Jabos for P-47s but that might have just been descriptive and easy to say.

    Found this related article on the Sunderland Flying Porcupine.

    Debunking the Flying Porcupine Myth
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2021
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  2. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

    In the Luftwaffe the P-47 Thunderbolt was sometimes nicknamed "Trunkenbold" (boozer) because of the phonetic similarity
    whereas the P-38 Lightning was called "Gabelschwanzteufel" (fork-tailed devil) by the Infantry. (Luftwaffe pilots, on the other hand,
    considered them as easy prey)
    Otherwise, the familiar type designations were used

    Furthermore there were collective terms for dedicated CAS aircraft as "Schlächter"/"butchers," derived from "Schlachtflugzeug", literally: "battle plane"
    In the German language there is a subtle linguistic interface between Schlacht/Battle and schlachten/butchering, as both denote in essence a bloody affair.
    I don't know how this was handled by the Allies, in the Luftwaffe they distinguished between "battle planes" (most notably Hs-123 and later the Ju-87), which practically attacked the ground troops personally and fighter-bombers, which had a wider range of operations like battlefield interdiction
    The Hs-129, originally developed as "Schlachtflugzeug", then evolved as a dedicated tank buster into a "Panzerschlachtflugzeug", nicknamed "flying can opener"

    Fighter-bombers were commonly referred to as Jabos (JAgdBOmber), in the usual pilot jargon bombers were called "Möbelwagen"/"furniture vans" and enemy fighters "bandits"

    The Il-2 was also called "Eiserner Gustav" (iron Gustav) or "Betonflugzeug" (concrete Plane), while Soviet infanterists are said to have called the Ju-87 Stuka "bast shoe wearer"
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  3. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

    Some nicknames come about in a rather mundane way:
    The Messerschmitt 262 officially had the suggestive name "Sturmvogel"/"Stormbird" - but hardly anyone knew it back then.
    Pilots, however, often called them "Turbojäger" (Turbofighter) internally
    And that was based on a simple misunderstanding:
    The 262 was powered by turbines (Turbinen), which were as exotic as turbochargers ( "Turbos" in short form) in Germany at the time.
    Because of the phonetic similarity and in ignorance of the differences, the name Turbojäger became popular to reflect the unbelievable flight performance of the time.
  4. jonheyworth

    jonheyworth Senior Member

    Mosquito panik was a term used by the Luftwaffe
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  5. dp_burke

    dp_burke Junior Member

    I've often wondered that of late and I dare say its all just wartime propaganda.

    Did a search for Beaufighter and "whispering death" in British Newspaper archives just now and the eaerliest article with both terms seems to be:

    THE JAPS HAVE NAME FOR IT. WHISPERING DEATH silently do the Beaufighters approach the targets and so devastating is fire power that the Japanese call them ' Whispering Death.' Daily Telegraph- THE FAMOUS BEAUFIGHTEB With four ...

    Published: Friday 16 April 1943
    Newspaper: Western Daily Press
  6. dp_burke

    dp_burke Junior Member

    And the in Feb 1944, there must have been a press release "note Air Ministry News Service" containing the phrase that many papers printed or quoted, here is an example

    WHISPERING DEATH The R.A.F’s. Bristol Beaufighter operating so effectively on the Burma front is called by Jap soldiers whispering death,” states the Air Ministry News Service. A technical explanation ...

    Published: Saturday 19 February 1944
    Newspaper: Liverpool Evening Express
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  7. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

    Holds an interesting story about the possible origins of ささやく死
    Bristol Beaufighter
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  8. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA

    Not one bestowed by the enemy but still my favorite is Ensign Eliminator for the F4U Corsair and carried on with its successor, the F7U Cutlass. Also known as the Gutless Cutlass :)
  9. Ewen Scott

    Ewen Scott Well-Known Member

    I’d never really thought about it before but the timing of the article in the Western Daily Press is interesting being April 1943.

    The first Beaufighter strike aircraft only appeared in the Far East in Nov 1942 in 27 squadron with operations on the type beginning on 25 Dec that year over the front line in Burma.

    Night fighters followed in Jan 1943 with a transfer of a flight of 8 aircraft of 89 squadron in the Middle East to India where they became 176 sqn. But their activities were limited to the defence of the Calcutta area at that time.

    Given the relative lack of fighting in the region at the time, and the reluctance of the Japanese to surrender and the relatively few Beaufighters available, just how did the Allies discover what the Japanese were supposed to be calling it and get the word back to the press in the U.K. inside 4 months given how long it generally took to get anything to/from that part of the world.

    RAAF Beaufighter operations over Japanese held territory in New Guinea had begun only a short time previously, in Sept 1942.

    The Beaufighter was known from early on its career as being a quiet aircraft to those on the ground due to the exhaust layout of its Bristol Hercules engines.

    I think it must have begun as a bit of good PR for a new type to the region that has become part of folklore. At that time any opportunity to spread some good news about India/Burma when so many men had been shipped out there in 1942 and then seemingly forgotten because there was little action must have been very welcome. Especially in the aftermath of El Alamein, Op Torch and Stalingrad. So take some already known facts and produce a “puff piece” (propaganda if you wish) promoting the activities of a new RAF unit in the Far East. Why not? There is a war on!
  10. Ewen Scott

    Ewen Scott Well-Known Member

    The F4U Corsair was also referred to in the FAA as the “bent wing b*****d from Connecticut” as the factory was in East Hartford in that State.

    Widow maker has sadly been applied to a number of aircraft over time.
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  11. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

    Apparently nicknames were given far more by the own side than by opponents:

    My favourite is the “Idiotenbock” (Idiots trestle), a decommissioned Bf 109 E, whose undercarriage was welded together by means of struts and the wing ends provided with support structures similar to the support wheels on bicycles. On such vehicles trainee pilots were familiarized to the tendency of the Bf 109 to steer off during take-off as the powerful torque and narrow wheelbase made them susceptible to this.
    Falcons Messerschmitt Bf 109 Hangar - Fotoansicht - FotoID: 6349

    BTW: "Butcher Bird" for the Fw-190 is no nickname but the 1:1 translation of the German term "Würger" as Focke-Wulf named their planes after birds of prey (Fw-187 Falke, Fw-190 Würger, Fw-57 Weihe, Fw-189 Uhu, etc)
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2021
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  12. dp_burke

    dp_burke Junior Member

    Very well thought out response there on the Beaufighter.

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