Best Defense

A lesson in every war: Survive the first few missions — your chances improve greatly

“If you lived the first three, four, five or six sorties, you cottoned on very quickly and learned the business of rubbernecking,” recalled a British pilot quoted in Joshua Levine’s Forgotten Voices of the Blitz and the Battle for Britain. “Because far more pilots were shot down by aircraft they never saw than by ones they actually did see.”

Hurricane_I_1_Sqn_RAF_at_RAF_Wittering_1940

“If you lived the first three, four, five or six sorties, you cottoned on very quickly and learned the business of rubbernecking,” recalled a British pilot quoted in Joshua Levine’s Forgotten Voices of the Blitz and the Battle for Britain. “Because far more pilots were shot down by aircraft they never saw than by ones they actually did see.”

And so it seems to go in every way.

S.A. Devon, Royal Air Force/Imperial War Museums/Wikimedia Commons

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com.

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