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Clive Caldwell

Posted by aaron on March 25, 2008

Group Captain Clive “Killer” Caldwell was the all time leading ace of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). He apparently never cared too much for his nick name “Killer” which he earned based on his ability to employ the gun both in the air and on the ground. He was born in Sydney on 28 July 1911 and began his flying career in 1938 when he joined the Aero Club of New South Wales. He was awarded his RAAF pilot wings in January 1941 and was sent to the Middle East to fly P-40’s with No 250 Squadron, RAF.
He was a skilled fighter pilot and able to employ the gun of his P-40 Tomahawk with deadly accuracy. He scored his first aerial victory on 26 June 1941 against a German Messerschmitt BF-109. He went on to become the leading ace in the Western Desert shooting down more than 20 German and Italian aircraft. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by the RAF for action on 29 August 1941. After being attacked by two BF-109s, he had received damage to both himself and his aircraft. Despite this, he was able to reverse on the Germans, kill one and have the other separate before receiving a similar “can of whoop ass.”
He became known for practicing his gunnery against the shadow of his own aircraft over the desert. He dubbed the practice “shadow shooting”, and it caught on with other squadron mates as a great way to practice air to air gun employment. When he first tried this, Clive noticed that most of his bullets were impacting well behind the aircrafts shadow. Since the shadow was going the same speed and in the same plane of motion, it was a great demonstration of how important lead is to a successful gun attack. 
He returned to Australia in 1942 to assist in the War against the Japanese who were threatening to invade his homeland. He took command of the No. 1 Squadron at Darwin, and later became the No. 80 Wing Commander in Morotai. By August of 1943 he was credited with an addition 8 victories over Japanese aircraft. As the Pacific War progressed, he and other RAAF aviators became frustrated over the targets they were being assigned from higher headquarters. They began to feel like their lives were being risked in vain. His discontent culminated when he and a group of RAAF officers put in their resignations. This became known as the “Moratai Mutiny.”
Among his many decorations, he received two Distinguished Service Crosses from the RAF and the Distinguished Service Order from the RAAF. Though the name “Killer” stuck, he preferred to be called Clive. He died on 5 August 1994 and his legend as one of Australia’s greatest fighter pilots lives on today.


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