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  #431  
Old 07-22-2011, 04:58 PM
FOZ_1983 FOZ_1983 is offline
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Ron Marlow
Rear Gunner on Lancaster Bombers
50 Squadron
Skellingthorpe Lincs


In all my ops an enemy night fighter never once came near me, they always stayed away and left me alone. I came to the conclusion it was because they were scared of me and my 4 brownings, and that helped me get through each op.

Ron completed his tour of duty and then went on to training potential new air gunners.
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  #432  
Old 07-24-2011, 10:46 PM
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Flier in Libya Mourns Absence Of Pumpkin Pie
Freeze at High Altitudes In Middle East

WASHINGTON, May 23, 1942 — Flying Officer Ian Spengler, R.C.A.F., who comes from Windsor, Ont., and has been flying big Wellington bombers out of the western deserts on raids into Cyrenaica, Greece, Crete and Rhodes has a complaint to make.
"The grub is good out there," he says, "but you can't get good pumpkin pie."
Along with a fellow-Canadian, Pilot Officer Lloyd Warriner, R.C.A.F. and three other Empire airmen he was here yesterday. Both Canadians, who hope to get home for a visit, say there are a good many Canadians out there in the Middle East and they are giving a good account of themselves.
They don't like to talk about themselves but both of them who have flown both in Europe and in the Middle East have seen a lot of action. What's the difference?, you ask.

ALMOST FREEZE
"Well," said Warriner, "when you fly over Germany you meet a lot of ack-ack and the fighter opposition is heavier but you get your job done a lot quicker. Out in the Middle East, you may be eight hours on a run — and don't believe them when they tell you that the Middle East is a hot climate — not when you are flying. You almost freeze at those high altitudes."
Spengler, who has seen a lot of action and has been shot down, smiles when you ask him to talk about himself.
"Can't you know," he said, "the less said the better."
For twelve months he has served as navigator with Squadron Leader John Alexander, D.F.C., a blue-eyed British lad who has served through the Norwegian campaign and who was here with him. Like Spengler, Alexander it a bit tight-lipped about his side of the show. Asked about the Nazi anti-aircraft he said, "It goes cracking along."
Most interesting personality in the team was Squadron Leader Clive Robertson Caldwell, D.F.C., with bar, Polish military medal, a trim young Australian who was once an insurance broker in Sydney. They call him "Killer" because in the course of operations in Libya he has destroyed 20 enemy aircraft.
In one engagement he shot down five planes, deprecated this accomplishment cheerfully in these words, "it all depends on the opportunity, you know, and how your ammunition lasts out. I happened to run into a group that were flying in close formation. When I shot down one, the others obligingly moved over to take his place — they are a bit strong on regimentation you know."
Fighter pilots out there have established a three to one superiority over the Nazis in the air fighting because of the greater flexibility of our planes.

P-40 WAR'S BEST FIGHTING PLANE
Used By 26 Nations Besides U.S.
Accounts For 13½ Enemy Ships For Every One Lost
By JACK STINNETT, 14 December 1944, Washington (AP) — It happened in Buffalo the other day, but only in aviation circles here and among Army fliers scattered over the world did it cause any stir.
What actually happened was that the Curtiss-Wright plant there turned over to the Army Air Forces the 15,000th and last of the P-40's.
It was a P-40N Warhawk, 14th model of the fightingest plane in this war, but now a casualty of wartime aviation progress. The assembly line has been torn down. The cavernous Curtiss-Wright factory there is temporarily as empty as a barn. But in history and in the minds of thousands of pilots, the P-40 will live on for many years.
In something over three years, the P-40's hung up a fighting record that may never be equaled. For a long time, the P-40 was Gen. H. H. "Hap" Arnold's baby. Col. Robert L. Scott, author of "God Is My Co-Pilot" and "Damned to Glory," not long ago summed up many pilots' views when he said "Give me my old P-40 and I'll go back to China any time and slap the Japanese back where they belong."
The P-40 originally was designed as a pursuit plane, but in the hurry-scurry to catch up with the blitzkrieg of the aggressor nations, it became probably the most versatile fighter plane in the skies.
The famed shark-mouthed "Flying Tiger" planes in China were all P-40's. But what isn't generally known is that the P-40's or their "daddys" — the P-36's — chalked up more "firsts" than any other type of fighting plane. For example, they shot down the first ME-109 over France in 1939; the first enemy aircraft downed by Allied or American airmen over Pearl Harbor, Iraq, the Philippines, Australia, Java, the Aleutians, Russia, Africa, Italy and Yugoslavia.
It is claimed that more Army aces to date have flown P-40's than any other plane. Among them, at least, are Wing Commander Clive "Killer" Caldwell, the Australian ace who is credited with 20 and one-half Nazi planes; Col. David Lee "Tex" Hill who dropped 18 Japanese planes in the Chinese theatre; Maj. Kenneth M. Taylor, who sent the first Japanese plane over Pearl Harbor plummeting to death; and Col. Scott, who commanded Gen. Claire L. Chenault's fighter force in China and himself bagged 13 Japanese planes.
In addition to the United States, 26 other members of the United Nations have painted their insignia on P-40's. The P-40's, despite their original design as pursuit planes, have served as dive-bombers, photo-reconnaissance ships, ground strafers and just straight bombers carrying up to a ton of deadly missiles.
In a cross-section made in all theatres, it is estimated that P-40's have accounted for 13 and one-half enemy planes for every one of their own shot down. That estimate based on 457 planes that engaged 1,257 enemy planes, undoubtedly would be cut down considerably in an overall picture, but it still is a record that may never be approached.
As far as production is concerned, the P-40 is gone, but it will be a long time before it is forgotten, either by our Army pilots or by our enemies.

LIQUOR FOR EQUIPMENT
Allegations at Court-Martial
SYDNEY, Wednesday, 17 January 1945 - "There was a dearth of equipment for my command at Morotai, and I learned that the only way to secure equipment for them was to trade liquor to the Americans for services rendered. They had no regular supplies or stocks of liquor, and depended solely upon supplies that could be brought in from time to time."
That explanation was contained in a statement read by Mr. J. E. Cassidy, K.C., counsel for Group-Captain C. R. "Killer" Caldwell, at the court martial at Bradfield Park today on behalf of his client, who declined to give evidence on oath.
In the statement, Group-Captain Caldwell said he was able by such means to obtain heavy earth-moving plant and other equipment from the Americans, who had plenty of equipment at that stage, but no liquor. He further claimed that it was the recognized practice at Morotai, where he commanded No.80 Fighters' Wing, to trade liquor for equipment, but he denied trading for money.
The wing had a total strength of 3000 officers and men. He claimed that owing to his trading in liquor to obtain equipment, the morale of his men remained very high, and they worked with plenty of enthusiasm. Discipline was completely satisfactory.
The statement added that the prices charged for the liquor were high according to mainland standards, but they were the ruling prices at Morotai, and other officers were doing the same thing to help their units. Orders affecting the carrying or sale of liquor by R.A.A.F. personnel were generally ignored during the period covering the charges, and it was not a secret that liquor was being brought in by service aircraft for trading purposes.
On two occasions in September and October 1944, two flights of Kittyhawks made sweeps over Tanimbar Island, and then went on to Darwin. There were seven planes in the first sweep and eight in the second. They each returned to Morotai with liquor. The sweeps had no operational value and were designed solely for the purpose of obtaining liquor at Darwin and bringing it to Noemfoor where the head quarters of the 1st T.A.F., under Air-Commodore Cobby, were located. Those flights were formally authorized by 1st T.A.F. head quarters, and to enable large quantities of liquor to be brought back, the aircraft were stripped of armament and ammunition at Darwin to increase their carrying capacity.
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  #433  
Old 07-31-2011, 11:08 PM
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Voennoe Delo: Man at War. Soviet Fighter Pilot of WW II. (English subtitles)
contains brief nudity.....

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  #434  
Old 08-02-2011, 08:39 AM
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David and Goliath-2d Lt. Owen J. Baggett

By John L. Frisbee

Many extraordinary encounters took place in the skies of World War II but none more bizarre than this.

The Tenth Air Force in India was, 5 throughout most of its life, the smallest of the AAF’s combat air forces but with a large geographical area of responsibility and an important mission. It was responsible for helping to defend the supply line from India to China and for interdicting the Japanese supply net running from Rangoon, Burma, to the north of that country. Its heavy bomber force – consisting of a few B-24s – was the 7th Bomb Group, based at Pandaveswar, northwest of Calcutta, whence it flew very long missions to targets mostly in Burma. On March 31, 1943, the 7th BG’s 9th Bomb Squadron was dispatched to destroy a railroad bridge at Pyinmana, about halfway between Rangoon and Mandalay and near two active enemy fighter bases. The formation was led by Col. Conrad F. Necrason, 7th BG commander, The B-24 on his right wing was piloted by 1st Lt. Lloyd Jensen whose copilot was 2d Lt. Owen J. Baggett. On that mission, Baggett was to earn a distinction believed to be unique in Air Force history. Before reaching the target, the B- 24s were attacked by fighters. Colonel Necrason was severely wounded, and Jensen’s aircraft was fatally damaged. Oxygen bottles were shattered, intensifying a fire in the rear of Jensen’s bomber. Nineteen-year-old Sgt. Samuel Crostic slid out of his top turret, grabbed two fire extinguishers, and fought the fire in the rear of the aircraft while standing on a catwalk over the open bomb bay. The plane still was under attack by enemy fighters, taking many hits along its fuselage. To help defend the aircraft, copilot Baggett took over the top turret until Sergeant Crostic had emptied his fire extinguishers, giving the crew time to prepare for bailout. Smoke and fumes filled the 8-24. Jensen ordered the crew to bail out.

With the intercom inoperative, Baggett hand-signaled the gunners to hit the silk and, nearly overcome by fumes, put on his own chute. He next remembers floating down with a good chute. He saw four more open canopies before the bomber exploded. The Japanese pilots immediately began strafing the surviving crewmen, apparently killing some of them and grazing Lieutenant Baggett’s arm. The pilot who had hit Baggett circled to finish him off or perhaps only to get a better look at his victim. Baggett pretended to be dead, hoping the Zero pilot would not fire again. In any event, the pilot opened his canopy and approached within feet of Baggett’s chute, nose up and on the verge of a stall. Baggett, enraged by the strafing of his helpless crew mates, raised the .45 automatic concealed against his leg and fired four shots at the open cockpit. The Zero stalled and spun in.

After Baggett hit the ground, enemy pilots continued to strafe him, but he escaped by hiding behind a tree. Lieutenant Jensen and one of the gunners landed near him. All three were captured by the Burmese and turned over to the Japanese. Sergeant Crostic also survived the bail-out. Baggett and Jensen were flown out of Burma in an enemy bomber and imprisoned near Singapore. In the more than two years he was held prisoner, Owen Baggett’s weight dropped from 180 pounds to ninety. He had ample time to think about his midair dual. He did not at first believe it possible that he could have shot down the enemy while swinging in his chute, but gradually pieces of the puzzle came together. Shortly after he was imprisoned, Baggett, Jensen, and another officer were taken before a Japanese major general who was in charge of all POWs in the area and who subsequently was executed as a war criminal. Baggett appeared to be treated like a celebrity. He was offered the opportunity of and given instructions on how to do the "honorable thing" – commit hara-kiri, a proposal he declined.

A few months later, Col. Harry Melton, commander of the 311th Fighter Group who had been shot down, passed through the POW camp and told Baggett that a Japanese colonel said the pilot Owen Baggett had fired at had been thrown clear of his plane when it crashed and burned. He was found dead of a single bullet in his head. Colonel Melton intended to make an official report of the incident but lost his life when the ship on which he was being taken to Japan was sunk. Two other pieces of evidence support Baggett’s account: First, no friendly fighters were in the area that could have downed the Zero pilot. Second, the incident took place at an altitude of 4,000 to 5,000 feet. The pilot could have recovered from an unintentional stall and spin. Retired Colonel Baggett, now living in San Antonio, Tex., believes he shot down the Japanese pilot, but because that judgment is based on largely indirect and circumstantial evidence, he remains reluctant to talk much about it. We think the jury no longer is out. There appears to be no reasonable doubt that Owen Baggett performed a unique act of valor, unlikely to be repeated in the unfolding annals of air warfare.

Thanks to Colonel Baggett and to Charles V. Duncan, Jr., author of B-24 Over Burma.

AIR FORCE Magazine / July 1996
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  #435  
Old 08-04-2011, 06:00 PM
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Interview with Vladimir Mikhailovich Mukhmediarov

I, Vladimir Mikhailovich Mukhmediarov, was born in Moscow in 1923. There I lived with my parents and there I went to school. My parents were simple labourers. Family was large, there were five children – four sons and a daughter.
The school I was studying in was supervised by «Pravda» publishing house. From there I went to pioneer camps. Approximately at the age of 16 I entered aeroclub…

— Did you apply yourself, or were you sent by a directive?

I did it my self. When I finished aeroclub, I was younger then 18 years old, and because of this I was not accepted to a military flight school. Later, from winter 1940, I started flying in Zheleznodorozhniy aeroclub.

— What’s your education status?

Secondary school and flight school. I finished the seventh grade. I finished evening high school later, in the army. I had junior officers education and I had to have high school finished.

— What did you study in aeroclub?

There was a program in aeroclub. Theory at first, then flight practice. We flew Po-2 with instructor, take offs-landings. Then maneuvers in the zone. Loops, all kinds of combat turns, zooms. That’s with instructor. Then instructor would allow solitary flight. A bag of sand would be placed in the rear cabin in order not to change weight balance…

— How many flights did you make before your first solo flight?

About fifteen with instructor. In the second aeroclub I flew solo on the sixth flight already.
In the beginning of 1941, in February, perhaps, instructors from Chernigov military flight school came. They examined how everyone was flying, and the best were listed as candidates.
After that my file was sent from the Voenkomat to the flight school. I came to Chernigov flight school in the beginning of April.
I passed medical commission, but at vesting commission they said:
— You are not 18 years old yet. You should go home.
I replied:
— I will be eighteen in the end of April.
— Fine, we will accept you.
And they allowed me to pass. I studied from 1941 until 1943. When the War broke out, we begun studying with increased speed, by a shortened program…
At first we studied on I-15bis and I-16. There also were I-5, but we did not fly them, only taxied and trained holding direction on take offs and landings. The fabric from the wings was torn away, so that no one would take off. It was done because we had no twin control I-15Bis.

— How did you find out about the war?

It was announced.
We started walking with rifles and gas masks. Airplanes were dragged away from the airfield to the forest. At first we knew nothing. Then we noticed an airplane at an altitude of about 1500 meters. We couldn’t see if it was ours or enemy airplane. Then something fell out of it. Somebody said:
— Are they dropping leaflets?
Suddenly those “leaflets” started wining… For increased effect on moral Germans made whistles it the bomb stabilizers. In order to make more noise. Bombs fell to the taxiway. Three men were killed, ten men were wounded.

— When approximately did it happen?

It was in June. Just as war begun, in it’s first days… Their reconnaissance airplanes flew over Chernigov even before the war. I remember how I-16 took off to intercept one, but couldn’t catch up. Junkers flew away – it had good speed.
Shortly after, we were evacuated to Rostov, where we were based at turf airfields. One squadron was at Mechotinskaya, another in Yegorlykskaya. And our squadron at station “Verblyud”, that’s Zelenograd…

— Were you evacuated with your planes?

Yes, with planes. Planes were at flat carts, we were in cargo carts, where beads were made…

— From many other schools airplanes were taken to the frontline units. Was that so in your case?

No, we always were with our planes. Near Rostov we flew a little bit, but when Germans got close again we had to evacuate for the second time. This time to Central Asia. Many schools were sent there. Some were sent to Baku, from there further to Central Asia. We were taking the long way: via Saratov and Stalingrad. We were going at winter 1941–1942 and it took a long time. Via Kazakhstan and Tashkent we came to Kyzyl-Arvat, that’s Turkmenia. No other schools were nearby.
Main squadron stayed in Kyzyl-Arvat and so was all school staff. Other squadrons were spread out in the field bases. We flew a lot. We were trained faster by shortened program. There was a shortage in trained pilots.
I finished the flight school in 1943. Instead of supposed four years of training in took two years. Training was weak. Only piloting, in general. At first I-16. UTI-4. I almost completed full program. In 1942 we received Yaks. They were built in Saratov. I finished Yak-1 training program, again take off-landing, and zone practice.

— Your attitude towards I-15 and I-16?

Neither speed to catch the enemy, nor to escape...

— What was your attitude towards Yaks?

Of course, Yak was much more powerful then I-15 or I-16. It could be felt even on take off…

— Which plane was easier to master? What advantages I-15 and I-16 had? What about Yak-1?

I-16 was a difficult airplane. It was very strict on landing, and in the air it could always spin out of control, when one was performing aerobatics. This spin was not a maneuver, it was rather wide.
Germans were afraid to fly them. Before the war there was some agreement and our pilots tried out Messershmitts, while Germans were offered to try out I-16. They flew, and considered it to be very tricky.

— Everybody said that it easily came out of spins.

Usually it came out easy. But sometimes it was delayed. It would enter dive, and then it would come out…
Yak was easier on take offs and landings then I-16. Yak was landing before its wings got critical angle of attack. I-16 landed at critical angle of attack. If one would pull the stick just a bit more, it would fall to one side…

— When you came to the flight school, what kind of uniform did you have?

Cadets uniform… Like a soldiers uniform, only insignia and emblems indicated that we were cadets. Oh, yes, and the “birds”.

— How you were fed?

Sufficiently.

— When you moved to Rostov how you were fed there?

Not excellently, but also sufficiently. Flight crews have to be fed well, or they will loose conscience in the air. We were fed poorly in Central Asia.

— Was there entertainment in the school: concerts, movies?

In Chernigov there was a Palace of Culture, we went there to see movies. But it was on rare occasions.

— Did you know that our bombers dropped their load on Berlin in 1941?

In 1941 cadets woke up early, gathered near radio and listened to the news broadcast. Then, in August 1941 it was announced that Il-4s bombed Berlin. It was a well-accepted news. They bomb us, why we can’t bomb them?
Il-4 is more of a crow, than a plane. But they made it, and bombed Berlin. Then Germans captured Estonia, and no our aircraft could reach it.

— Did you change uniforms in Central Asia? For example, did you get panama hat?

No, they were not even available during the war. They appeared after the war.
In Central Asia we did not get high boots, just low boots with wrappings. There was some accident somewhere and a conclusion was made that a wrapping jammed controls. It was decided that it is unsafe to get inside a plane in wrappings. There was one pair of high boots for all squadron, when it was a time to fly we would get them on and fly.
Mostly we were fed by rice. There was also a “shrapnel” as we called barley. Meat was lamb and camel. Food was in short supply. Sometimes, when flights were long, we received a second breakfast - sandwiches…
In Kyzyl-Arvat we lived in barracks made of clay, we built them our selves. The roofs were made of hay…
At the Kodzh airfield we lived in summer tents, that’s near Kara-Kum desert, railway station Kodzh. There was one water well within 18 kilometers. Then it became cold, and we installed winter double-layer tents. We made heaters with a long pipe, almost around entire tent so that the exhaust was already cold. That’s how we lived…

— Did you have at least a visiting mobile movie service?

We saw movies perhaps couple of times there. But I remember an actress Shulzhenko. For the first time I saw her performance there. It was a «Concert to the Front», I think that was how it was called.

— In the area of Kyzyl-Arvat there were no airfields…

Airfields there were 10-15 kilometers in length. There, in Turkmenia, nothing was growing. It was flat cracked earth spreading for dozens of kilometers. To the right from us were mountains, there was Iran…

— Where there salt mines?

We went there to get some firewood for our kitchen. Early in the morning, before sunrize, we went to sands to find vegetation for the kitchen. Then we were flying because it was too hot to go to the desert during day time – very hot, up to 40 degrees (Celcium) in the shadow.
There was one well. Depth – fifteen meters. Water – very cold. Then we, starting from about eight o’clock, begun flying, and flew until eleven. After that all movement stopped. It was a period of day when no one was able to do anything.
Airplanes were semi-dug into the sand. We were afraid of the strong winds, which were called “afghanets”.
On Yaks training program was very brief: takeoff – landing, zone. And a bit of formation flight training.

— Route flights?

We did not fly route training, and we did not train to shoot neither in the air, nor on the ground. I believe, never before such training existed.

— During training time, how many flights did you make?

Before I got to the front? A few. They are listed in my logbook. Here: U-2, 57 hours flown. UTI-4 – 24,5…
I finished the school in March 1943. Our group graduated. My friend I and were sent to Saratov, to the ZAP. I went there for three days, once again through Kazakhstan. Airfield was in Bagai-Baranovka. There we were supposed to be trained in ZAP… But mostly we were fooling around there, because there were no airplanes. Then we were sent to Leningrad Front.

— At which rank did you finish the school?

Junior Lieutenant.

— When did you receive Lieutenant rank?

I received Lieutenant rank when I already was in 14th Regiment. After the war ended, I think.

— How pilots were chosen to be sent to Leningrad?

There was no choosing. Pilots were sent where there was shortage of them. In September 1943 I was sent to the headquarters, there I received a directive… I went through Moscow, then Kobona, from Kobona we crossed Ladoga Lake on a ship to Maryin Nos, and finally to Finlandskii railway station. In the Air Army Headquarters, located at Dvortsovaya Square I was directed to Volkhov.
I crossed Ladoga on another ship to Kobona. Then hitchhiked a truck from Kobona to the Plekhanovo airfield. There were two regiments stationed there: the 159th Regiment under command of Pokryshev (equipped with Lavochkins), and the 196th Regiment equipped with Airacobras. It was commanded by HSU Andrei Chirkov.
I was assigned to the ranks of the 196th regiment. I started conversion training on Cobra. It had a front wheel, it’s landing was a bit unusual… But first I flew a Kittyhawk, in order to get used to the instrument panel. It was not common in our aviation: feet, miles… we had to recalculate constantly in our minds. Landing characteristics were very close to Yak, and the only purpose of these flights was to get used to instrument indications.

— How would you compare Yak with Kittyhawk?

Hawk was crap in comparison with Yak… In terms of flying qualities Yak was better. But Hawk was well equipped, excellent radio, good view from the cabin. I made several flights in it. Then I flew in a dual-control fighter. Pilot-instructor was an Estonian. For some reason he couldn’t get to the fighting readiness, and his task was to train young pilots on a dual-control planes.

— Dual control Kittyhawk? Was it a field modification?

I don't know the details, but if I remember correctly, they were rebuilt by our engineers. And when engine hours were exhausted, they installed our M-105 engine.
After several flights on a double-seat fighter, instructor transferred me to the Cobra.
I familiarized myself with Airacobra, performed simulated take-off and stopped, just to feel it on take off. Then I took off, everything was fine. When you land, you shouldn’t pull the stick all the way, and it will get on the nose wheel all by it self. Visibility was good; engine was behind the pilots seat. I believe that Alison was a great engine, I remember it to this day, but airframe was way too heavy. Armament: 37 millimeter cannon shooting through spinner, two sincronized large caliber machine guns firing through the propeller, and four Colt-Brownings in the wings. When one pressed the trigger, it was a firework…

— There are rumors that Cobras was prone to spins?

I’m already coming to this.
All our planes weighted around 3 metric tons. Yak weighted a bit less. Lavochkin weighted a bit more. Cobra had a take off weight of 6 metric tons. (Take-off weight of P-39 Airacobra was about 3.5 tons – I.G.) A lot of armament, a lot of ammunition, a lot of fuel. Heavy airplane. We were stationed with Lavochkins, but especially for Cobras there was an extended runway. Because it required longer runway for a take-off. (Required runway for P-39 was about 500 meters from a grass field and less from a concrete, La-5 required runway 450 meters long with a take off distance 550 meters – IG)
By the way, division commander Matveyev once came to us:
— What’s this plane like? I’m going to try it out.
He tried to take off not on the runway, intended for Cobras, but on the one used by Lavochkins. We saw that he was rolling on the strip and rolling. The strip was almost over. I thought, that was it, he will crash. But he managed to lift off, wings were shaking, but he did take off. Gained some altitude. Landed normally, taxied to the parking area, spitted to the ground and went away without speaking to anybody.
I once was going in a commuter train to Pushkin with him, to the museum of the 275th Division, and asked him:
— How did it happen that you almost crashed in a Cobra?
— You never warned me that I had to extend flaps before take off!
Chirkov didn’t tell him, he thought that division commander would know it himself. He was a subordinate and it is not a subordinate’s business to tell his superior what to do…
Cobra easily entered any kind of spins. Both into simple and into flat spins. It also had bad landing characteristics due to the fact that it was tail-heavy. (This is very unusual comment as most accounts praise Airacobra for its excellent landing characteristics due to tricycle landing gear – IG). There were two of us, who came to train on Cobras, we already mastered take offs and landings. Then they told me:
— Now go to the zone for aerobatics. And look after your tail, Germans are close by, they can shoot you down…
So I flew, sharp turns first, then half-loop down… What’s going on? Earth is so close now? But I was flying at 3 000 meters. In a half-loop I lost 1 500 meters, Yak would loose 600 meters. What a heavy airplane, I thought.
I gained 3 000 again… Zooms, combat turns, half loops, barrel rolls… Then I flew in formation with my friend, with whom we came from the flight school – Sergeant Vladimir Pavlov. He flew very well, he was an excellent pilot. But he did not make it to combat-ready status, got killed in a Cobra.
It happened before my eyes: their pair flew from Volkhov to the airfield at an altitude of approximately 2 000 meters. Leader begun diving, dove, dove, then he pulled out very sharply. His aircraft lifted its nose and then begun falling like a leaf. Chirkov shouted over radio:
— Bail out!
We heard no reply.
— Bail out!
No reaction.
— Bail out!
Airplane fell into the bushes…

— Who was it?

Pavlov. (TsAMO: Pavlov Vladimir Ilyich born 1922, Sergeant of the 196th IAP. Was killed in P-39 accident on 2 February 1944. Burried in Plekhanovo).
He wanted to fight so much… We buried him at Plekhanovo…
Engineers for a long time were investigating the cause of the crash, their conclusion was that stabilizer mount broke on high G maneuver. Aircraft exited the dive with extremely high G load, pilot lost conscience, further on it was uncontrolled fall…
There were a lot of accidents and catastrophes on Cobras...

— People who flew and fought on Cobras have polar opinions about this plane. What is your opinion?

It was not good for fighting.

— That is, you did not like it?

I didn’t like it. But I read a book called “I fought on Cobra” recently – a lot of other pilots liked it.
But there were too many non-combat related losses on them…

— Which fuel did you use? American?

It should have worked on American B-100, which we did not have. On our B-89 engine lost power, and airplane couldn’t give all it was built for. I never flew it fuelled with B-100, and I never fought on Cobra. I only mastered it.
As I completed training I was transferred to the 14th GvIAP equipped with Yaks.

— If you already were combat ready on Cobras, why were you transferred?

This regiment did nothing at a time. Some pilots left to Novosibirsk to bring new airplanes, which came from Alaska. Those pilots that remained at Plekhanovo were doing nothing. Meanwhile, the 14th regiment suffered severe losses, and I was sent there.
I started combat missions on Yak-7TD — it was called “Tyazhelyj Duboviy” (heavy and oak-like – Oak-like is idiomatic expression characterizing such features as being slow and clumsy I.G.). It had four wing fuel tanks and was built for escorting bombers to large distances.
I finished the war on Yak-9U with M-107 engine. Its engine life was 50 hours only. There also were a lot of accidents with this airplane. At high power connecting rods would break. We lost one pilot after the war. Engine on his airplane stalled over Ezel. He decided to belly land, Yak’s nose was long, and he couldn’t see anything directly in front of him, so he hit a large stone. Pilot’s head was smashed against gunsight.
I also had to belly land it. When I was thrown around the cockpit I grabbed gunsight trying to hold on…

— When were you transferred to the 14th Regiment?

In the end of 1943 I think. In April 1944 near Gdov, at the airfield Chernevo regiment commander HSU Svitenko tested me and allowed to combat. We then flew to Narva, Tartu. Then fighting near Narva ended. In the beginning of summer 1944, we went to Karelian Isthmus. In the fights over it our regiment was completely torn to pieces.
Not only our regiment suffered losses, but the entire Division too. Serov Vladimir also perished then. (HSU (posthumorously) Senior Leitenant of the 159th IAP was killed in action on 26 June 1944).
We covered the 943rd ShAP over Karelia. Twice HSU Georgii Parshin served there. We fought alongside with him all the time.
We were based at the airfield Maisniemi. It was a large, grass airstrip. On one side sturmovicks were parked, on the other – our fighters. Every day there were fierce fights… We lost a lot of men. When we entered the battle, there were 55 planes in the regiment. When we finished fighting, hardly a squadron – 10 airplanes were airworthy. All others were lost. We suffered losses everyday… there was too much work to be done…
There is a museum of our Division in Pushkin. I was going there on a train with a General, former commander of our Division. I asked him:
— I’m sorry, General, but why did we suffer so many losses over Karelia?
Former Division commander answered:
— We did all the dirty work. That’s why we lost so many.
That’s his words. Major losses were suffered by the 159th, 14th, 196th regiments and the 29th Guards Regiment. The 191st regiment was equipped with Kittyhawks, so they flew rarely.

— Did you fly escort missions only?

No. As the General said, we did all the dirty work there. When ground fighting begun, I escorted Tu-2 bombers, reconnaissance Pe-2 were escorted by a pair. We also flew close air support…

— Wasn’t Pe-2 faster then you?

No, it couldn’t overrun us. It could outdive us. We were returning from a reconnaissance flight.
— Well, — he said, — goodbye!
Pushed the stick — and went down… We couldn’t catch up, he easily escaped in a dive.

— Were there cases when Yaks wing skin was torn in flight?

I heard about such cases in the flight school, but not in the combat regiment.
In my opinion, and I participated in 25 fights, best fighter of WWII was Me-109G2.
Our planes were called Russfaner by Germans. Yaks were built out of wood. Only when Yak-3 appeared we got an upper hand over Messer. Otherwise Germans were always higher then we were because of more powerful engine. And if they were higher, they were faster.

— Could they be above you only because you were given precise tasks with predefined altitudes?

Yes, this too, but we always were at the limit. Even if you banked too much airplane would loose altitude. They would come in higher then we could fly, and hit us out of there.

— When you came to the 14th Regiment, how you were met?

Normally. HSU Svitenko was the Regiment commander.
— Well, let me test you in the air in a dual-control fighter.
He tested me, and made a note in my logbook – «Flights to the combat missions allowed».

— You are a Tatar by nationality. Were there cases of racial intolerance?

Never.

— You were one of the youngest pilots in the regiment?

Speaking of young pilots. I’ll describe my first combat mission. Squadron commander HSU Zelenov and flight commander Vasiliy Derevyankin took two of us, to show where was what.
We were stationed near Gdov, airfield Chernevo. We took off:
— Look here, there is one airfield, there is another one. Now we are going to the front line, to Narva.
We gained 3 000 meters, and went to Narva. We saw explosions on the ground… Most important for youngster is to keep on the tail of the leader…

— Who was your leader?

Vasiliy Derevyankin. (Leitenant Derevyankin Vasiliy Dmitrievich was shot down in aerial combat in Vussami area on 10 October 1944).
Second youngster was Gordeev, his leader was Zelenov.
We were going back at an altitude of 3000 meters. Suddenly, a radio message came from the ground:
— Go to Gdov! Gdov is being bombed!
Zelenov replied:
— I’ve got two young ones in the flight.
— I order to go to Gdov!
There were a lot of planes over Gdov, Ju-87s, FW-190s… The city was burning. I remember how Vasiliy was shooting… Then I noticed a pair of Fokkers on my tail. I begun tight turn, they followed me, but Yak had a much tighter turn radius… We were chasing each others tails over Chudskoye Lake. I almost caught enemy wingman, but his leader saw it, turned over wing and they escaped.
I noticed the direction they went to, and decided that I should fly in opposite direction. You know, I simply forgot to look at the compass. I flew from the middle of the lake, it seemed that aircraft was not moving at all. Then I noticed a Yak ahead. I flew after him, while he tried to outrun me. It was known that Germans flew Yaks and shot our unsuspecting pilots down.
Anyway, I caught him and made formation. So he led me to Chernevo airfield. We landed, taxied to the full stop. I asked:
— Where is Gordeev?
— He’s over there, in a forest.
It turned out that he was shot down, all cooling liquid had vaporized, so he tried to return to the airfield. He was trying to land his plane, when an engine stalled over pine forest… aircraft suddenly lost altitude, caught pine trees tops and fell to the Ground. But Gordeev stayed alive!
That was my first mission at the front. Then everything seemed as usual…

— Zelenov once was court martialled for loosing 6 Pe-2s on escort mission. Do you know what happened exactly?

No, I know nothing about it. I know that he was sent to our 14th Regiment as a penalty.
Pilots used to say about our regiment that it was a penal regiment. If somebody did something wrong, he was sent to the 14th GvIAP for “rehab”… There were different pilots. Some of the Heroes wanted to stay alive too much…

— Have you heard anything about penal squadrons or regiments?

There was nothing close to infantry. There were no true penal units in aviation. If a pilot did something extra serious, he would be sent to infantry to a penal unit.

— What can you say about Zelenov?

He flew a lot of missions, but he became too cautious in the end of the war. What I heard about him and felt it myself: he wasn’t too keen on entering a fight, and he didn’t care about his wingmen… wingman is a shield of the leader, he covers the leader. Any shield is the first to receive a strike. Zelenov lost many of his wingmen.

— You flew your first mission with Zelenov. Who was your next leader?

Then – with many different pilots… But mostly with Maxim Glasunov. After the war he worked at LII (Flight research institute) – test-flew new Yak-25 in Saratov. He was a good pilot. I flew a lot with him. I flew a lot with other pilots too. If somebody would loose their wingman, I would be appointed to his pair.
In 1944 we experienced heavy losses. Regiment commander should take off and check, what was wrong, why losses were mounting… But regiment commander did not fly. It’s not good, people keep dying. He was a HSU, but he must have decided for himself that he had flown too much, enough is enough. Maybe he was right – they got their share of fighting.
In 1944 our flight of six had escorted Marshall Govorov to Moscow. We took off from airfield in Karelia. He was flying on board of Li-2, and we escorted him to Moscow. He went there to receive his Marshal’s Star. He received his star, we spent a night in Moscow, and then we escorted him back.

— You were still flying Yak-7TD?

Yes, Yak-7TD — this same heavy-oak-like…
On Yak-7TD and Yak-7T there was a 37mm cannon and two large caliber machine guns. That was their basic armament.
Aviation plant in Novosibirsk at first built Yak-1s (Yak-1 was built only in Saratov and not in Novosibirsk – IG), then they begun building Yak-7. Some of them were equipped with 37 mm cannons. Yak-9s also came with 37 mm cannons, for example Yak-9U with a VK-107 engine.

— Was there any visual difference to tell that this Yak was equipped with 37 mm cannon?

They were almost identical in appearance, but you could tell it: in a Yak-9U there was a radiator on the belly behind pilots seat. Yak-7 had a beard – oil radiator under the engine…

— We stopped when Germans were chasing you over Chudskoye Lake…

You mean, I was chasing them.

— You chased them. What happened after that fight?

Then we were liberating Estonia…

— Did anything interesting happen there?

When we were based at Chernevo airfield on 14 May 1944, squadron commander Ivan Baranov had made a head-on ram.
This is how it happened. Ju-88, covered by Fw-190s came to bomb our airfield. There were about 25 Junkers bombers and 12 FW-190.
Only one flight managed to take off when bombs begun falling, and fighting ensued. We, those who did not take off, were looking from the ground. Focke-Wulf was going down in a shallow dive. Our Ivan Baranov was gaining altitude. They were shooting at each other, no one willing to turn away. They collided head-on at an altitude of 100-150 meters…
It was horrible. There was a huge explosion! Our Yak burned out almost completely. The nose part of Focke-Wulf was totally destroyed and he fell into the forest just outside of the airfield boundaries (According to German records Uffz. Heinz Buschan of 6.II.JG54 flying Fw190A-5/F3 was killed on 14.05.44 while colliding with Yak-9. Had previouselly claimed only one Il-2 as shot down on 28.04.1944).

— How often did Germans attack head-on?

It depended on many factors. Some times it happened in a fight. We came in at almost 0, firing at each other, but somebody would turn away – no one wanted to die. It was much better to cut enemy’s tail in terms of rams…

— What do you know about pilot Bibin head on ram.

Yes, Georgiy Bibin. I do not know when he carried out this ram. He came to our regiment when the war ended, we were stationed at Hapsala in Estonia. He told us how it happened.
At the last moment he pulled the stick. Usually it is bad, because then you open the belly of an airplane, and it becomes a good target. Because of this usually you try to push the stick forward, just not to let the enemy see your belly…
He told us:
— I pulled the stick just a little bit, then there was a noise, engine begun shaking. Then it stalled…
He used to be an instructor pilot, very good pilot. Airfield was close to the front line, so he managed to glide from an altitude of 6 000 meters. He landed normally, technicians found bits and pieces of a German fighter in a water radiator… I do not know where he fought. Some where in Ukraine… For head-on ram he was awarded an Order of Red Banner. Georgiy had passed away already…

— What were your thoughts about ramming?

It is highly risky business, you may die yourself, but your enemy may survive. If you are in a dogfight against fighters, there is no true reason for ramming. If you are attacking a bomber, then you may come from below behind and cut his tail by propeller. Without tail control he will fall. If you have no ammo but this bird has to be shot down, you may ram him. But you should do it carefully, to stay alive yourself…

— How many missions did you fly per day?

At Karelia: five, six, even seven. We took off at sunrise and landed at sunset.

— How much time technicians required to prepare airplane for next sortie?

They worked fast. I did not note, but about twenty minutes, refueled, reloaded, and it was ready.
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Old 08-04-2011, 06:02 PM
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pt 2

— Were pilots satisfied by technicians work?

Yes, they worked excellently.

— Were there cases when they did not do everything right?

No, it would be a case for court martial. With an outcome in a penal unit. No, everything was fine… By the end of the war, in winter, they all had frostbitten fingers…

— In your logbook there are notes: «Me-109 shot down, FW-190 shot up». What is the difference between Shot down and Shot up?

If Shot down – it means that there was a confirmation from ground forces. If I know where and when it fell, a representative officer from our regiment would go there and collect confirmation from the ground troops in this area. Then everything was clear…

— Was there a need to attach wrecks to a report, or was a report itself enough?

Only a document was brought to the regiment… About “shot up”: it happened like this. We flew escort for Sturmoviks. I noticed that a 190 flew past me.
I fired at him from all guns. There was a thick black smoke. No flames, just smoke. “Humpbacks” saw it all. But it did not fall right here, it went in a shallow descent with a trail of smoke. We went on at our target, so no one could say what happened to it…

— Because of this it was recorded as “shot up”?

Yes, shot up.

— Were you payed for a messer that you shot down?

Yes. A fighter cost 1 000 roubles, a bomber was 1 500. I also received a payment for 50 accomplished missions.

— How many mission did you fly?

I flew 85 missions.

— What was considered a combat mission?

A combat mission was when you had a mission to accomplish, even if there was no fight. Dogfights were accounted for separately.

— Were you paid for Focke-Wulf?

It did not fall.

— How did you shot «109» down?

It was a very bad weather. Cloud cover was at approximately 600 meters. We were flying close air support over the front line near Vyborg. There were four of us.
Messers also came in a flight of four. They flew in and out of clouds. Germans were cunning, they were looking for convenient position. When he saw that he could kill you without any risk, be sure that he will do so.
Then I saw – one got out of cloud and is heading almost straight at me. Right into my gunsight! I just pressed triggers and fired all my guns at him... I even thought that we are going to collide. But everything was quiet. Then somebody said over radio:
— Look, Your Messer is going straight down in flames.
That’s how I shot it down.

— In 1944 there shouldn’t have been Germans on “109”s in Karelia. Most likely those were Finns?

No, Germans. At spring 1944 we fought at Narva. At summer we commenced fighting to liberate Karelian isthmus. Here we met those same Germans we fought near Narva. Those same Germans on those same Fokkers and Messers. They flew over the Gulf of Finland to the bases in Finland.

— Did you meet Finns in combat?

Yes. But they did not have Messers. They had Brewsters and some other Fokkers, not 190s. They were no match to our planes.
At first, when we only begun fighting for Karelia, we saw them, then, quite soon, they stopped flying completely. They were very slow, like our planes at the beginning of the war.

— Brewster was quite close to Yak-1.

No, Yak was much better.

— Could you have told by flying signature was it a Finn or a German in the air? Finns had Messers at their disposal.

Finns had their markings: white circle and fashist swastika inside. But we never saw them. We met Germans with black crosses, yellow wingtips, yellow spinner, a bit of the tail was also yellow. Our Yaks had white spinner and tail.

— You mean rudder?

Yes, it was done to easily recognize friend or foe. At large distance silhouettes were similar…

— What was the meaning of camouflage if these yellow bits were clearly visible?

They were no so big. Yellow parts at the wingtips were about 10-15 centimeters in width, and yellow spinner. It had almost no effect on the camouflage.

— Did camouflage work at all?

Of course. It worked against ground. Which one was better: ours or German? I can’t really say.

— Germans had Gray-Dark gray camouflage by the end of war?

Yes, we had Green-Dark green. (By the end of the war Soviet fighter planes had grey – dark grey camouflage and green – black camo was standard prior mid-1943 – IG). Camouflage was needed to hide against earth. If you look upwards you will see airplane in any camouflage. It does not help…

— A lot of our pilots believed that ammo load was not enough on Yaks?

It was enough for a usual dogfight. There were 30 rounds for 37 mm cannon. Can’t say about machine guns.

— At which altitudes did you usually fly?

Combat air patrol at 5 000 meters usually. At this altitude we could fly and fight. Above it M-105 engine lost power dramatically.

— Did you use oxygen mask at 5 000 meters?

No, not yet. No one used them. We took a mouthpiece, sucked it and that was all. Oxygen mask did not allow for a good situational awareness. Situational awareness is everything… If I saw the enemy, I already had 50% chances to win the fight… You have to twist head all the time…

— Did you fly with open or closed canopy?

With closed. If you open it, you will lose a bit of speed… Some flew with open. For example Dubovik, Deputy Regiment commander. When we flew close air support, we often saw that his canopy was almost always open. It was not completely transparent, so the view was a bit obscured.

— Was there an armored glass?

Armored glass was in the front. Behind us was an armored metal plate, about shoulder high, and the rest was armored glass, for viewing of what was happening behind. Our first Yaks were produced with full metal armored headrest. Then it was decided that glass was needed. But the view at long distances was still bad – armored glass was sandwich-like, so visibility was distorted.

— Was there a rear view mirror?

We had them on Spitfires, not on Yaks.

— You flew against Messerschmitts and Focke-Wulfs, other pilots also recall that Messer was a better fighter.

Yes. But it would be more correct to compare Focke-Wulf with Lavochkins. They both have air cooled engine.

— But our pilots always recall that Messerschmitts were much better then Fokkers. They say that Focke-Wulf was nothing but rather average fighter… Germans, on the other hand consider Messerschmits as an obsolete construction.

But they improved it all the time.

— But it was getting heavier with every modification and lost it’s handling characteristics.

Messerschmitt was much more maneuverable. If it, for example, went upwards, it would escape. Focke-Wulf was heavy. It even had a turn radius larger then Messer.
The only serious advantage Fokker had over Messer was the amount of guns. That is, if it hit – it’s a kill. Messer had only three guns. But… If you are at the tail and shoot from 200 meter, there is no need in so many guns. Cobras had 7 guns, and that was thought to be too much. Our pilots asked to remove the wing guns…

— We broke the Karelian defense line, captured Vyborg…

Then we went to liberate Estonia. To the airfield Krikovo near Kingisepp. We were stationed there with Humpbacks, from there we flew to Narva. Then there was airfield Smuravievo. From there we also flew to Tartu and Narva. Then we were based near Hapsala – airfield Ungru. Quite commonly we were based with sturmoviks. It was very convenient to be based alongside, we always had a chance to listen to complaints, to decide how we are going to interact in the next mission. We took off and landed together, there was no need to wait for each other. Tactically it was very convenient. When we came back we met the sturmovik pilots in the canteen.

— Were there complaints that fighters abandoned the sturmoviks in flight…

We escorted sturmoviks all the time, and there were no complaints. How can I leave them, if we live together, and even eat together? Abandon sturmoviks? For that you would be court martialled.

— But, you must have heard about such cases… Zelenov was sent to you…

Anything could happen. It was war. We could have shot down many planes, Germans could shoot down many of our planes. This is war and how situation will turn – who knows?

— Have you seen how sturmoviks were shot down?

Not a single one fell before my eyes. I was returning to the base with serious battle damage and a humpback was also returning with damage. I formed up with him, and we returned together…

— How were you shot up?

We were flying with twice HSU Parshin. He flew the lead of a nine sturmovik formation. Our four fighters were escorting them. When they were flying back they usually flew at tree top level, so they would be protected from below. We flew a bit above and behind. This time we flew right over Oerlicon position. That’s small caliber AA guns. We got in such a melee! It was like in the mid of a firework, they shot at us, and there was nowhere to maneuver. Tracers everywhere… They got me. My plane turned on its back and I half-rolled back, and saw a hole in the wing. They tried to finish me off…

— How large was the hole?

I easily went through it myself. Almost all of the center of the wing was knocked out. It was a little bit to the side from the fuel tank. If they would have hit it, my plane would have blown up…
Aircraft flew sideways… They tried to shoot me down, but they did not hit me…
I came back, taxied to the parking space. I came to the earth through the hole in the wing. Well, I thought, it seems I’ll have some rest from fighting. In the morning I came to the airfield – my plane is waiting for me fully repaired. Technicians worked all night. I couldn’t even find where the hole was! As if nothing happened.

— You showed us a detonator from a shell or from a large-caliber bullet…

A Fokker hit me, this time at the beginning of fighting for Karelia. We flew escort for sturmoviks. They did their job and we were returning. Sturmoviks over tree tops, I was flying behind and above. Everything was quiet, nothing looked like trouble... Then, suddenly, fireballs appeared at the side of my cockpit. I automatically gave foot in… When I looked around, there was no one... Well, I missed them. Fokkers attacked me from the sun. I got relaxed, and they caught me off guard…
Engine was working, airplane flies, but there was severe smell of fuel…
They damaged the stabilizer, fuselage and wing. I noticed that a hole was close to the flaps.
I thought that if I will extend damaged flaps, I could roll over, and have no time to recover…
So I extended them at an altitude of 600 meters. Everything was normal, so I landed safely... Landed, taxied to the parking.
The detonator was near the fuel tank. Technician found it later and gave it to me as a present.
We were going to sleep that night. I took off my high boots – they were just issued to me, brand new. Small shell fragments pierced my wraps so it reminded laces. My foot was fine, not even a scratch! I looked attentivley and found small holes in the boot. I was still wearing it after this.

— What did you see when you missed the attack?

Red fireballs flew past cockpit side. And four smoke trails after them…

— That is, tracers helped enemy to aim and at the same time it warned you about attack. If you did not notice it they could have performed second run on you?

Germans usually attacked only once. From about 400 meters. It is almost impossible to hit anything from larger distances. From closer distance it is also dangerous – what if enemy plane would start to disintegrate. But I never actually saw how planes disintegrate; they usually went down on fire.

— Was Yaks armament of 37mm cannon and two machine guns enough?

Usually only first three-four shells would hit a target, then you saw nothing.

— At what distance would you train your weapons?

At 400 meters.

— Did you have armor-piercing rounds?

The belt was armed as following: armor-piercing, high-explosive, high-explosive-incendiary, and tracer. Tracer always, so you could correct your aim… Same as for American planes.

— A lot in a fight depends on luck… According to this: did you have any superstitions?

I had no superstitions.

— How about your regiment? May be pilots did not shave or get photographed before taking off?

Everything was a lot simpler — there was no staff photographer. You could make a photo when there was nothing to do. About shaving – nothing special…
But there was something... Yes! There was no number “13” plane! “12”, and right after it “14”…

— Were there slogans or paintings on the fuselage sides?

There were people who liked to paint. But it was done usually after the war. There was no time to do it at the front.
I remember, when I flew Cobra there was an order of Alexander Nevskii drawn on its door.

— Did you see any “nose art” on enemy planes?

I saw a heart pierced by an arrow with blood drops on a Messer. And a word KAPUT. I saw it after the war on a trophy plane at the airfield near Saratov. (Description matches Karaja aircraft)

— Did you know anything about German aces?

54th Geschwader commander was Hauptmann Fillipp. He was an ace, and Germans treasured him a lot…

— Did you fight in Estonia for a long time?

When we liberated Estonia we transferred to an airfield near Hapsala. I made my last sortie to island Ezel from there. The island was almost completely liberated, but there was a small appendix occupied by Germans. We escorted sturmoviks there. We could see Libava from there, and ships in the port. I wanted to take a look at the port, as long as sturmoviks were doing their job, and everything was calm. I turned towards those ships. Well, I was fired upon from all weapons! I immideatley rolled over and dove away. They decided that I was going to attack the ships, and their AAA opened fire from all ships…
There all our fighting was over. We were sitting in Hapsala and tried to intercept enemy reconnaissance airplanes.

— Were there a lot of reconnaissance planes?

They overflew us maybe 2 times. No one really even tried to intercept, since they were too far, too high and too fast. There was no sense in chasing them.

— Did you fire at ground targets?

We never flew to strafe, our task was to cover sturmoviks. But if everything was clear… I chose targets at will. I once saw a house and strafed it with 37 mm cannon. I clearly saw how my tracers disappeared in the roof…
There was one case.
We went to escort sturmoviks to the frontline. They strafed more or less normally. And then some wise guy from the ground radioed that everything was quiet in the air and we should descend and take part in strafing. There were a lot of sturmoviks, and then we dove… It was a mess — about 40 airplanes overall. Two our fighters collided. Gordeev and Klepikov. There were so many planes in the air, that we had to look after each other trying to avoid collision. They both died. (According to TsAMO on 28 June1944 airplanes of Junior Leitenant Klepikov Aleksey Ivanovich and Sergeant Gordeev Sergey Petrovich collided in midair over the target in Vyborg area).

— Did you end the war in Estonia?

Yes, our war ended in Estonia. Later I was sent here to protect Leningrad sky in Spitfires. I was transferred in it in 1947.

— When it became clear that Leningrad will not fall?

They lived through blockade, a Road of Life appeared. Then they captured a piece of territory and arranged train communication.
But everything was still blocked. Starvation. Pilots were also poorly fed. But they have to be fed well, or they will loose conscience in the air…
Technicians did not get enough food. I used to take extra piece of bread for my technician; I knew that they were in bad condition.
When we fought in Karelia, it was almost normal. Blockade was lifted. We had rice, technicians had barley and millet.
I was fed up with rice and asked:
— Give me «technical» millet.

— You were at the Volkhov Front, how you were fed there?

There it was normal.
I'll tell you one more story. When we were in the Volkhov area, at Plekhanovo airfield, all of a sudden Division on Li-2 commanded by Grizodubova arrived. Li-2 was an excellent night bomber. They were conducting raids on Tallin and Helsinki. Usually they were flying at night. We came to the canteen in the morning and they all are sitting there. We have no room to eat. Than we saw one of their crews are almost crying, they were drunk. We asked what happened.
They flew to Helsinki. They took 4 bombs externally under the belly and small bombs inside the fuselage. So they reached the target and their navigator issued a command to drop bombs. They opened a door and started to drop small bombs. At this time Messershmitt 110 got on their tail, turned his lights on and started to attack. Of course, the pilot of Li-2 initiated evasive maneuver. And mechanic with bombs and without a parachute fell in the open door. Parachute was bulky and interfered with operations when dropping bombs, so when they dropped them they took the chute off.
So they where were grieving about their mechanic.

— What do you think about our and German strike aircraft, which were better?

Our sturmoviks were more effective. We used to say: they worked so much, that they got a hump. Sturmovik pilots were very serious people. But they suffered a lot of losses. Ju-87 was a close support bomber, but it was not even a close match for Il-2.

— Your opinion of bomber aviation?

German was more effective. Their most common bomber was Ju-88. It was a tactical bomber.

— Did fighters shoot down their own aircraft?

I know that Germans were flying our Yaks and I know that ours were flying Messers. I learned about it after I attempted to fly next to our Yak over Chudskoe Lake in order for him to lead me home. And he was scared of me. Cases that one of us in our own regiment will shoot down somebody of our own – no, that did not happen.

— Did strafing by fighters require formal orders in writing?

No, that was done on our own initiative. We helped. Sturmoviks are strafing, all is calm in the air. And then what? Would I bring my ammunition home? Why did I fly?

— Well, you look and there is no enemy. When you go for strafing and here they are, falling on you...

Than we will fight, what else can you do?

— And if you have no ammo, if you expanded all in strafing?

Well, it’s a risk because it is war. Otherwise I will bring all my ammunition back home. I'd better expand it on the ground targets. I can see them.

— How did you learned that the war is over?

We went after new Yaks to Kharkov. We were loaded in Li-2. We came there, and suddenly somebody announced:
— The war has ended!
Everybody opened fire…

— You ended fighting in Estonia. It was the end of 1944. Did you feel bad that people are still fighting and you are sitting in the rear, that you were not going to storm Berlin?

It was no difference, somebody was fighting, but not everybody could be there.

— Did you fly after new planes often?

No, others flew. Ivan Sclyarenko flew to Moscow. He told us that planes were at the Central airfield, right in the town, next to the Dinamo stadium. There, in the canteen he saw how Pokryshkin and Kozhedub were shouting at each other. Kozhedub said:
— All aircraft that I shot down are on the ground, you can count them with no problem. All yours – in the water. Go find them!
I later flew airplanes to Kharkov, we brought planes from there when the war was over.

— Right after the war ended there were a lot of accidents and catastrophes. A lot of planes were destroyed, famous HSUs were killed…

We begun training for a flights in complex weather conditions then. A lot of pilots got killed in such flights. Second wave begun when we started utilizing jet planes. At that time I already flew a transport plane and had to bring coffins to their home towns. Those days it was common to bring perished pilots to their relatives.
A lot of pilots got killed in MiG-15 — engines stalled, spin characteristics were bad… My former wingman got killed in a spin in MiG-15…

— In 1947 you received Spitfires. What can you say about it?

Excellent airplane. There were different versions. There were removable wingtips. If you need to go to a higher altitude a wingtip could be added, it would add about 1.5 m to wing span. We flew mostly with these wingtips – high altitude variant. And if you need to fly for manevering, then the wingtips were removed.
Then wings would look like cut.

— What kind of fuel was used?

Engine Merlin 66, but we flew on our fuel, and it did not give best results. The seat belts were of great construction… If you sit normally, they would follow you, but if you moved sharply they would hold you in place. Like in modern cars.

— Did you use seat belts when you flew Yaks?

Mostly waist belts. I did not use shoulder belts because they limited movement. Of course the risk in case of belly landing increased, but we never thought about it. Most important was that you had to see everything.

— Where was the visibility better: in Yak or in Spitfire?

About the same.

— How Spitfires were painted?

Same as Yaks…

— Did you use drop tanks on Spitfire?

Never seen them.

— What about armament in the wings being further from the center line? Was it a problem?

No, our Spitfire IXs had either 4 cannons or 2 cannons and 4 machineguns. I flew and fired at the cone target. (Spitfire LF.IXE had 2 cannons and 2 .50 machine guns – IG)

— Many pilots recall that they had a problem with propeller pitch regulator when they flew Yak…

Yak had an automatic propeller pitch regulator. If I remember correctly ARV-41 or 44…

— What about Spitfire?

There you could do it both manually and automatically.

— Spitfire had rather narrow wheel base. Did you encounter problems during take-off or landing at side wind?

Of course at strong side wind direction of take-off and landing would change, otherwise one can brake an airplane.

— You flew Spitfires. What was next?

Then a special squadron was formed to train antiaircraft gunners. I was flying at the range as a target.

— Did they really shoot at you?

Well, no. Firing was organized as follows. They aimed at me but the barrels of their guns were turned sideways 45 degrees. Therefore, explosions were on the side. But the quality of aiming could be judged based on the location of these explosions. They would ask: « How do you see an explosion?» I reply: « Saw explosions at my altitude, all is normal». I flew a lot because as one unit will complete their shooting another one will start it over again.
Once I flew to the range and was flying over it again and again. I got bored, and decided to descend rapidly. I turned and went in a dive. I had some nasal congestion. My ears were hurt during the dive. I was swallowing and shouting to clear them up as usual, but it did not help. My ears started to bleed. I ended up in a hospital. I spent almost a month there. My ear failed. I lost hearing on that ear completely. On medical exam they told me:
- You hear nothing, what kind of a fighter are you?
I went to Moscow, to specialized hospital. There I was transferred to transport aviation. I was flying as ship commander on Li-2 and later on Il-14. There were various special assignments. I was flying all over the country. I even delivered C-47 to Krasnovodsk. They brought all obsolete airplanes there, put them on autopilot and shot at them air-to air missiles from fighters.

— Where you offended that you, a fighter pilot, became a hauler?

And whom to be offended at? At myself, at my own health? And I enjoyed transport aviation. A fighter pilot is like a circus performer. They turn around, all this aerobatics and that is all. I liked transport aviation. You engage autopilot and go. I flew at various weather. I liked to fly in clouds and between them. It was interesting. Down there it was totally dark but as you get to the altitude, here is the sun and you fly and enjoy all this beauty.
In the Far East I flew over Kuril islands, Kamchataka, Sakhalin, and Chukotka..

— Which of the transport planes did you like the most?

Of course Il-14. It was not afraid of side winds. It had a tricycle gear and at take-off you practically do not feel wind. With Li-2 it was like a sale and wind influenced it trying to spin you. Il-14 had more powerful engines. It’s a pity I did not have a chance to fly turboprops. I was decomissioned for health reasons.

— What did you do later?

I completed my service in Khabarovsk, came here to Leningrad and became an apprentice for repair of photo and camera equipment. I liked it, and I still like to tweak cameras and lenses.
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Old 08-08-2011, 03:00 AM
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Porfiriy Borisovich Ovsyannikov

The formula of battle is simple:
You should see the enemy first;
Altitude is the guarantor of victory;
Plus speed and steel nerves.

De facto I was born on 29 February 1924, but de jure on 1 March 1924, in a remote settlement in the center of Russia, in Kursk oblast. The name of the village was Ovsyannikovo, and accordingly my family name is Ovsyannikov. I was a hereditary peasant; my father became a carpenter and a laborer, and my mother was a kolkhoz worker.

How did you get into aviation?

It was simple in our Soviet time—club members worked for free. I considered aviation to be the “profession of the elites.” We ran behind the pilots with open mouths, believing that this profession was incomprehensible.
It was in September 1940, at the beginning of the school year; I recall it like it was yesterday. The 15th of September was such a good day, with light clouds. I was in 10th grade at the time. The school was 5 kilometers from my house, in a former monastery—the [monastic] cells were made over into classrooms. It had an enormous garden, an apple orchard. We had one long break a day—20 minutes. We were running round the garden. Suddenly an aircraft appeared overhead—a U-2, flying so low we could see the pilot. We looked—the airplane was turning around. It made only one circuit and then the bell rang. Like a disciplined student, I ran back to class. The late-comers ran in and announced: “The airplane landed! In the field, close by.”
We were in literature class and whispered back and forth. When 15 minutes remained to the end of the lesson, the door suddenly opened and Fedor Yakovlevich Senkevich—the school principal—walked in. He was a tall man, and with him was the pilot, a man of average height. He was wearing a raglan jacket and carrying a mapcase. He removed his helmet, no earphones, just a helmet, with goggles.
Of course, we greeted him: Zdras’te! [Good day]
He asked: “How are things with you? What are you doing for your lesson?”
The teacher responded: “Now we are reviewing previous reading assignments and checking how well it was mastered.”
He replied: “Then I will take up your time to the end of the lesson. Is that alright?”
“Yes, yes, please do.”
This is when I saw the pilot for the first time. The director declared, “Kids!” (He always referred to us as “kids.”) A pilot from the Kursk aero club has flown to us. He wants to converse with you.”
The pilot gave a brief evaluation of the international situation—the war. It was 1940 and the war was already underway. The Germans were fighting in France, the Maginot line, and so on. Speaking briefly, he said that a supplementary call-up had been declared in Kursk, and they were bringing in boys. Then some of our girls raised their hands:
“What about girls?”
He replied: “Ladies! The government has forbidden the selection of young girls. Before this we had [female] pilots. Young girls were trained. But the government has issued a regulation that this is not women’s business. There are other clubs—radio, parachute class... Help yourselves!”
They grew quiet. The lesson ended and debates began. We had 15 young boys and 15 girls. All the boys gathered: “Well, how about it! Should we go? Let’s go!”
Only two did not go. One of them was our idol. His name was Valka Tutov. He was tall, well-proportioned, and the best student among us. He could make a complete revolution around the horizontal bar, and we still hung like sausages. Overall, he was a strong, developed young man. He said:
“Guys, the medical commission will not accept me. I can’t see out of one eye.”
The second guy was, well, not too bright. You might even say he was retarded.
At the established time, we all raced into town. Only two of our group made it through the medical screening. The remainder, including me, were “thrown overboard.” The surgeon probed me and said: “What is this you have—a left-side abdominal hernia!”
Well, that was all for me.
He said: “I advise you, young man, to go to the polyclinic and get a consultation for the hospital.1 Let them do a relatively simple operation on you. After that, we will look at you again.”
Our village was very religious; so were my mother and father, especially my mother. But she was also quite illiterate—she could neither read nor write. They had suggested to her before that I have an operation. But my mother responded:
“Cut on him? No way!”
Now I went to her and said: “Mama, I am going to the hospital, and they will do the operation!”
She protested, but I went anyway. They did the operation. I went back to school in about two weeks. It was late fall by now. My schoolmates who had been selected for the aero club in early November got their head gear somewhere, and showed them off. Well, we were around 17 years old then. They called themselves pilots.

You said that your village was religious. How did they regard Soviet authority in the village? And how did Soviet authority relate to the “believers”?

The village was Old Believers.2 As they used to go to prayers before the revolution, they kept going after. We did not have a church in the village, rather a prayer house. How did the people relate to Soviet authority? I could talk for a long time on this theme. Briefly—we lived the same way as we used to. Kolkhozes were formed. Peasants hardly wanted to go at first, later they “tried it out.” Nobody complained much; they got used to it. And as before, they crossed themselves and prayed.

So, in the larger sense, Soviet authority did not interfere with your lives?

No. Absolutely not.

Was there a party organization? A Komsomol organization?3

Not in the village. There was one in the school. I was an Oktyabrenok [pre-Pioneer]. On holidays, I participated in the religious processions; when I returned, the other boys teased me. But I was terribly religious, and could not argue with them.
But in all, we were happy and lived an interesting life. From my childhood, as long as I can remember, I participated in religious services and performed my duties for all the holidays. We were brought up with our own idiosyncrasies. For example, the railroad track was 5 kilometers away, and we could hear the whistle of the steam locomotives. Well, they preached that when the locomotive whistled, we had to cross ourselves. And we did. Locomotives were considered as anti-Christ manifestations. Airplanes were beginning to fly — an airplane flew over our village, a passenger airplane. It was flying, I think, from Kharkov northward to Moscow. In one of the sermons, I heard them say:
“It is written in the Bible — iron birds will appear in the sky. The noise they will produce will be the anti-Christ, the voice of the devil.”
And further: “You should not look at them; close your ears and cross yourself.”
This is how we lived.

Meanwhile, an airplane landed at your school?

This happened later. When I went to school, I already had begun to break away. What was the cross about? I had begun to argue with my mother.
“I do not believe in God!”
Of course, she was distressed by this.
But we digress. The young men who had joined the aero club came to the school and said to me:
“They have declared a supplementary selection. Do you want to join?”
“Yes, I do!”
So I went to the doctor again.
“What’s this you have?”
“A scar.”
“What did they remove?”
“Remove” was not exactly the right term—they “took in.” Well, in general he understood. Perhaps it was the pre-war situation and the requirements had been lowered. But in the end, he gave me a satisfactory evaluation.
So we began to go to the aero club, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. As soon as lessons ended, we went from the school into town. Exercises began there at 1800 and lasted three hours. We returned home sometime around midnight. It was 10 kilometers to the town, but we were young.

Tell us what kind of equipment you had in the classes.

Nothing special. Well, of course we had posters and cutaway engines. We studied aircraft and aerodynamics, meteorological issues. Everything was laid out for us in an easy manner. I remember it all to this day. Our instructors must take credit for that. Our first flight was in May, with an instructor, of course. By the way, I had a female instructor. She was the wife of the flight commander—Yelena Karayskaya. She was pretty. My instructor had, I think, 10 or 12 students. So, we flew for the first time. I glanced down and there... I was accustomed to a single stream near the village, and I saw many streams! Well, I had no idea where I was, but overall I liked it. The credentials committee came to us, and everyone passed it: none of us were from a kulak background—we were all peasants.4 We made our flights very early, at 0600. We made four flights in a day, no more.

Did they take you out of class on flight days?

From lessons? No. Examinations had already begun at school. We flew from 0600 to 0900. After 0900, as a rule, they released us and we walked to school. They greeted us with the words:
“The pilots have arrived!”
Our flight program was extended. When demonstration flights began, it was possible to be out for a day. During the first flights, we observed the pilot and did not touch the controls. We also flew on Saturday, Sunday, or days off.
One time my father came home on a Sunday. He worked as a foreman or team leader; he was building something somewhere. Well, now they call them handymen. My father was one of the first in the village to buy a battery-operated radio. He had only a fourth-grade parochial school education. He began to teach me church-Slavonic. We had a Bible at home.
I remember to this day, “Az, buki, vedi...”[the first three letters of the church-Slavonic alphabet].
It was Sunday, and we were still lying in bed. Mother awakened us from the kitchen: “Get up! It’s time to eat!”
It was already 10:00, I think. Father turned on the radio. Some kind of music was playing, over and over, and then they announced, “All radio stations of the Soviet Union are working!” This was the sign-on announcement.
Then Vyacheslav Molotov began speaking, and he declared, “Early this morning, the German Army violated the border... They bombed our cities.” He listed them: “Odessa, Kiev, and Minsk.”
Father listened, then he cried out, “Mother, trouble! Mother, trouble! War!”
Mother wailed, cried, and ran outside. The sun was already high. Everyone in our village learned that the war had begun from us.

Had you finished school by this time?

No, both the aero club and school continued to function. One day, some I-16s landed at our aero club airfield. On the other side of the town, in the south, was a large airfield with a concrete runway. Some SBs were stationed there. Why didn’t they land there? I don’t know. Two of I-16s broke their gear during the landing, I think. They came from Chernigov. Some Messerschmitts harassed them in the air. The war was on, and we were training. Back in June, before the war I think, I took off on my sixth flight solo. Everyone was going through the program, but I was the first to solo. I don’t know why, but everything was going my way, and I was the first among all of our young men. We flew only on the U-2. We also had a UT-2 and a UT-1, but only the detachment commander flew them. I remember how we looked at it; it was such a beautiful small airplane, a miniature. I finished school; we had a graduation party.

Did you have finals right before the war?

No. When our final exam was scheduled, a German airplane flew over. We rushed out of the schoolhouse. It had its own unique sound. It was in the evening, probably; it was a reconnaissance aircraft heading past us for Moscow.
Studies ended and they issued us our papers. Sometime in July, around the 26th, we finished aero club. They gave us a certificate of completion for aero club. “Komsomol, forward!” and we rushed off to the front. Quickly, independently, without any summons, we went to the voyenkomat [military commissariat—draft board]. To the front! We are already pilots! Send us to the front! They received us at the voyenkomat and said, “We are not sending you to the front, but to further flight training!” They sent me and two of my comrades to Chuguev Aviation School.

Did you call it “Chugunok” among cadets? [Chugunok in Russian is a cooking vessel that was used in a traditional Russian oven.]

Not at all. We did not call it “Chugunok.” I heard this the first time from you. Its name was Chuguev School.
On 29th of June, my father and younger brother accompanied me from Kursk railroad station to Kharkov. This was my farewell with my parents. Already on the 6th of August, I was enrolled as a cadet in Chuguev School. The school was large, with seven squadrons. Initially they had a terka there as well.5 We studied the UT-2 and I-16. Later we entered a flight program on the UT-2. We began to fly. We flew without any special strain, and there was no shortage of gasoline. We had not even begun solo flights when suddenly, sometime in early September, around the 10th, I think, flights were curtailed. They prepared all the aircraft that were capable of flight.
We began walking guard, securing the aircraft, with a rifle and bayonet that together were taller than we were. We had one captain, Pavlov, the chief of personnel and supply records. He issued us our instructions. “Be vigilant!” He provided a review of events: spies killed someone here, they blew up a bridge there, and saboteurs landed somewhere else. He described the real situation to us. The nights... The nights are dark in Ukraine. We walked around the airplanes, which were spread out with about 30 meters between them. You are walking, and a gopher scampers from under your foot. “Whew!” And you have some unspeakable feelings… Your senses are on full alert. You are pumping adrenaline. In the morning you hear that in another squadron, sentries shot a horse. Someone shouts: “Halt! Who goes there?”
It keeps walking. Well, it turns out the “walker” was a horse. We had such episodes.
A rumor went around that they would evacuate us. The unserviceable airplanes were burned. On the 15th of September, we set out in a march column. We rolled up our greatcoat and shouldered our rifles and gas masks. We formed up and moved out. Where? For what? The answer to every question was the same—“Forward – march!” With all of the school’s squadrons. Our squadron walked from Blagodatnyy settlement. The squadrons were dispersed. We walked about 40 kilometers on the first day. We moved in this manner on foot 500 versts [approximately 500 km] to Kalach in Voronezh district! The Germans were at Smolensk. At night they flew over us to Kharkov, which they bombed.

Did your instructors stand Alert-1 in the cockpits of the I-16s to intercept enemy planes?6

No, They did not stand watch. At Kalach they mounted us in rail cars. Where were they hauling us? It was a secret! They were correct in concealing our destination, by the way. There was a lengthy delay at Rostov while they permitted a hospital train to pass. I remember that well. They let it pass, and then the Germans bombed it.

Did it have the cross markings, in accordance with all the international conventions?

Yes, red crosses everywhere. But who looked at that? Oh, God! “In accordance with the Geneva Convention…” Oh, come on! They just dropped their bombs.

Did our pilots bomb their medical facilities?

I don’t know. But try to spot the crosses from an altitude of 6,000 meters.

Perhaps the Germans did not see the red crosses?

I don’t know. But that was not my point. I simply said that if we had not let that train pass, then it possibly would have been us and not them. We crossed the bridge over the Don. They transported us to Baku and there transferred us to a steamer. When we were crossing the Caspian Sea, I became seasick, perhaps for half a day. I was thinking, “God! It’s a good thing that I ended up in aviation. Thank God not in the Navy!”
We arrived at Krasnovodsk. The electricity was flowing! There was no blackout, it was as if there was no war going on! They placed us on a passenger train to Chimkent. A [flight] school was based there. The squadrons were being dispersed throughout Kazakhstan and Turkestan. One squadron was in Dzhambul. Ours was in Arys, a railroad hub north of Chimkent. The school was set up on a base for troop ammunition storage facilities.
By the way, Ivan Kozhedub was at our school. One day they held a formation and read a citation to us about Kozhedub. He flew at low altitude and hit something, and then made a forced landing. I have forgotten the details.

What types of aircraft did you have?

We were supposed to graduate on the I-16. We flew the UTI-4, that’s a dual seater. Before that we were supposed to master the UT-2.

Did the UT-2 have straight or bent wings?

Straight. What else?

Were you afraid of it? Was there talk that it would spin?

Indeed, it was complicated in that respect. It would go into a flat spin. At the beginning, for some time, we were forbidden to execute complex aerobatic maneuvers. I will tell you about spins later.
We began to train, and simultaneously constructing the airfield. The Kazakh steppe, gophers, burrows. We leveled the hummocks with shovels—no heavy equipment was available. Summer is dry there, and autumn—you can sink in this soil. Spring there is like a carpet! Initially tulips, later poppies. In mid-May, large flocks of sheep come. What they ate, I don’t know. Everything has dried up, everything is parched. Only camel’s thorn are green, and they remain green all summer.
We built the airfield and began to fly. By now it was 1942. Stalingrad. We finished with the UT-2 and went on to flights in the UTI-4.
After the U-2, when I took off in the UT-2, I began to work the stick abruptly. My flight instructor almost killed me after my check ride: “Do you want to kill me? What were you doing?”
I’m describing how maneuverable it was.
The UTI-4 was small—you could reach out and touch the wingtip, it seemed. In the rear cockpit you could say that your back was resting against the fin. Well, in short order I completed a total of nine flights. Right there it had begun, and just as soon it ended: they took a portion of our instructors to the front, along with the operational I-16 aircraft. Only several crippled airplanes remained. Some even had spreader bars between the wheels to keep the chassis from collapsing. They divided the cadets into two parts: we had four groups in the detachment—114th, 124th, 134th, and 144th. These they divided in half, and only the 114th and 124th flew. I was in the 134th. So I and my comrades spent many unhappy days on the sidelines. While they began to fly an accelerated program, we walked guard, spent a day on guard duty, and the next day worked in the kitchen. They flew and we “licked our lips.”
By now it was November 1942, and I was on guard duty. A call came from the entrance to the dugout. The chief of the guard took the handset. I heard him say:
“Roger!” [Understood!]
He then informed us:
“The squadron commander just came through the checkpoint.”
I was replaced at my post, and a person replaced at his post should then stand watch over the guard house—the awake shift. I was standing on top of the dugout; it was cold, I was wearing a sheepskin coat. I was holding such a long, long rifle—longer than I was tall. Major Yusim walked up. He had his own distinctive stride—he did not raise his head, he looked down all the time. He came up even with me, raised his head, and asked the question:
“Ovsyannikov! Do you want to fly?”
“Yes, comrade Major!”
Then he said to me from below (from below, because I was above him, on top of the dugout):
“An experimental group is being formed, which will, bypassing the UTI-4, go through the program on Yak-7s, which have arrived at the school. We will issue the Yaks immediately. What do you think about that? Well, we will give you an additional course in the UT-2, including high-speed landings and maneuvers in zone.”

Were they dual-control or single-seat Yaks?

The Yaks were both single- and dual seat. We practiced takeoffs and landings and aerobatics in the Yaks. But we also performed this training in the I-16. Also spins. You had only to pull back the stick and it would spin. The Ishak [donkey, the nickname for the I-16] was demanding. But on the other hand, it came out of the spin immediately.

They have told me that the I-16 spun in an unusual manner. Everything normally spins evenly, but the I-16 rotated 360 degrees—slowed, rotated 360 degrees again, and slowed again.

I will not lie about the I-16—I did not fly in them. I flew the UTI-4 [a two-seat version of the I-16]. The Cobra spun in a jerky movement, and the MiG-19...
But let’s return to November 1942. As soon as the squadron commander left, the chief of the guard jumped up: “Are you an idiot? Do you want to be arrested? They will give you ten days of arrest!”
Being on guard duty, I did not have the right to talk or respond. But what kind of question was put to me? It was a provocation! I returned to my barracks after the shift change, and they were already waiting for me—my former flight commander, who trained me in the UT-2, and my instructor, Lieutenant Viktor Polesskiy. They began to train us in a special program. We worked on high-speed landings. You get close to the ground—level it out, and at level attitude carry on for perhaps a kilometer. Well, perhaps this was not necessary, I can’t say, really.
Then we moved on to the Yak-7. In July 1943 they graduated us; we “chased down” the group that had already completed in the Yak-7, but after the I-16. Well, we were like the guinea pigs—test animals. In July they commissioned us with officer rank—junior lieutenant. Before this they graduated as sergeants.

What did you think of the Yak after the UT and UTI?

Well, the Yak was a good airplane. As I began to take off, my back was pressed into the seat—it had a lot more power! As far as manipulating the controls—it was a normal airplane.

Were there breakdowns? How often were they damaged from unskillful flying?

I never had any myself; but in general, well, I don’t remember.

What color were they painted?

The UT-2s, I think, were white and one with a red stripe. The I-16s were greenish. Well, I’m not very selective in my colors, but it was closer to greenish.

Upon graduation, how many total hours had you flown?

Altogether 100 hours, including the aero club. About ten hours in the Yak at flight school. The program was local flight—circuits around the airfield and in the local area. One time we flew cross-country as a pair.

Did you have any examination or test for graduation?

Yes, there was an examination. It was flying around the local area with an instructor. I don’t remember whom I flew with. They also tested us in theory. I finished flight school in July and they issued us canvas boots. Before us they sent out sergeant pilots in puttees, and collected up any new greatcoats among us. Well, we ourselves exchanged them, and no one lost his. They issued us a certificate that said we were officers, and with this certificate... They had just introduced these ranks. Initially we were junior lieutenants. It was different for artillerymen—they held lieutenant rank for six months of their training. Well, Timoshenko was not really fair to us aviators.

Talk about how they fed you during training.

They fed us normally. It was sufficient.

Everyone with whom we have raised this subject has said: “We were not fed enough until we reached the front lines.”

Well, I can attest to that as well. For example, they did not give the instructors a supplementary breakfast. So we gave them supplements from our rations. We were not starving, but if they had given us seconds, we would have gladly eaten them. No, I would not say that we were hungry, no. Our ration was normal, but strictly controlled. Do you understand? It was according to norm.
One time we were sent to sort rotten onions from good ones in a vegetable storage base and we tried to eat them. We had young stomachs.
Well, we went to Moscow. We arrived at the personnel department and, instead of the front, they sent our entire group to Ivanovo—to be transitioned to the Cobra. On the one hand it was unfortunate, but on the other hand perhaps we were lucky. Initially we were upset. Well, we were officers and we were eager to get into the fight.
We arrived in the town Ivanovo at the 22nd Reserve Air Regiment. We went through another “terka” and transition training. There were no dual-control Cobras. They checked us out in Yaks. The food was worse in the reserve regiment than at flight school. I don’t remember the norm number. At the front, you could eat as much as you wanted for dinner. At the training regiment you could eat only as much as they gave you. Don’t ask for more! We were young then, and constantly wanted to eat.

Were they paying you then?

Yes, 550 rubles. But in the market a loaf of bread cost 100 rubles and a bottle of vodka 400 rubles. I recall one time we went together and bought vodka for someone’s birthday.
But more importantly, in essence, we frittered away our time. Flights occurred infrequently and we could have finished transition more quickly. We went dancing to keep ourselves busy and learn how to dance. The dances were free at the local circus.

What was your first impression of the Cobra?

My first impression of the Cobra was that it was a remarkable airplane. I liked it. Why did I like it? I will tell you. You sat in the cockpit and you could see everything, because it had a nose wheel. I did not fly the Lavochkin; I did not fight in the Yak; but I flew it, and I will tell you that the Cobra had good visibility.

What model of the Cobra were these—the “D” or the “Q”?

There were many variants. I do not recall specifically how they were divided up. We even had some with electric drive to change the propeller pitch. Later they were hydraulic—variable-pitch propellers.

Describe the program for transitioning to the Cobra.

What did we do in the Cobra? First, circuits around the airfield, then a program of flights in zone where we worked out the techniques of piloting the airplane. We did as our instructor directed—there was no dual-seater.
Before the completion tests, that is, toward the end of the program, I had an assignment: fly out, then go to a [gunnery] range and fire my machine guns at ground targets. I took off, flew out as required, and then decided I would do a slow barrel roll. I began to execute the roll. While in the inverted position, I somehow moved the stick slightly away from myself. What does this mean? My buttocks came out of my seat and I was hanging in my seat and shoulder harness. While I was dangling there, my airplane went into a flat spin. I began to recover. The first attempt... the airplane did a revolution and the nose came up suddenly, above the horizon. I thought, “Well, now it will recover!” But it went back out of control. Then I collected myself and thought, “What did they teach us?” They taught us well. I applied stick in the direction of the spin. You understand? At the moment the nose dropped, I pulled back on the stick and applied opposite rudder. I looked out and it had taken hold. I recovered. I flew straight home—no gunnery range—straight home. I had the thought, “Bail out!” I’m not lying. I thought, “I will jump!” What will I tell them? I had failed in my flight mission.

What did they say to you about this?

No one said anything, because I didn’t tell anyone about what had happened.

But you didn’t complete the gunnery task.

Think about it. Who was there to monitor it? So it went unnoticed.

What were the armaments on your Cobras?

The two extra wing guns were removed. What remained were two Colt-Browning 12.7 mm [.50 cal.] machine guns and a 37 mm cannon. It had 39 shells in the cannon system, but we snuck in 40. How 40? We loaded one directly into the barrel.

It’s a good thing I was unable to correct you. I was thinking, the cannon has a drum, each shell has a spot... What about the Cobra’s engine?

It was good, but weak in terms of engine hours, and not very good if you flew with too much throttle. I will tell you about it. This was not a fault of the airplane, but ours. Because our gasoline was not suitable.
We flew on our fuel—B-78. The Cobra had a limiter [governor]. The normal supercharger pressure on the Cobra was 67 pounds per square inch. They set the governor on the Cobra so that it would not exceed 45 pounds. Kinematics supported this; it was ours, already developed. It would not give any more with our fuel. Therefore, if one were using our fuel, the connecting rods in the engine would snap.
That’s not all. They glued a piece of paper on the throttle slot. Paper, ordinary paper. You could set the throttle to get only 40 pounds. Maximum 40. But in combat it was possible to get 45 pounds, but only by tearing the paper. Then you had to report this to the mechanics later. They could see this themselves; they then would remove the filters from the engine to check for [metal] filings.
What was dangerous about the Cobra? Its coolant fluid was Prestone [antifreeze], and it burned better than gasoline. In the event connecting rods would snap, a fire would break out. And in most cases—right away.

They said that, even under such conditions, these Allison engines did not last the projected number of operating hours.

Well, you know, this did not affect me—the mechanics worried about such things.

At the front, did you fly on our gasoline? What about at the training center?

At the front. More precisely, at both places. There was no other choice. The American gas was B-100. They could deliver it some places, but we never received any. Perhaps Pokryshkin flew on these aircraft.

Radios. What type was installed in the Cobra?

Very good radios. They were good for those times. At least there were no complaints about them. In general, we had good communications. There were earphones, not helmets, but earphones. There were no helmets. We wore our pilotka [garrison hat] and earphones. We also did not take our [oxygen] masks. In place of an oxygen mask we used a mouthpiece. Like a cigarette holder. We breathed through our mouth and this did not interfere with our ability to see.

How did the Cobra handle in flight? What were its optimal operating altitudes?

I don’t recall. In my opinion, it would even reach 12,000 meters. It was capable of fighting at all altitudes. It was a good airplane, an aerobatic machine. I liked the Cobra, but I did not fight in our fighters, so I can’t compare it to them.

It is well known that at one time the Cobra had a very weak tail section.

This is absolutely true. But we did not crumple our tails, because ours were reworked. Here’s the story. In our regiment, I think two Cobras twisted their tails, and the pilots bailed out. This was before my time. Our diplomatic representatives delivered a complaint to the manufacturer. They sent out the parts to strengthen the tails. Our technicians strengthened the aircraft. We riveted two plates around the tail portion of the fuselage.

We are interested in how your Cobras were painted.

Ours were green in color. Perhaps we did not over-paint ours. They painted only specific portions of the surface—the regimental markings. In our regiment we had white spinners, and I think the rudders were also white. In the 72nd Regiment, they were red, and in the 68th Regiment—sky blue.

What kind of art did they paint on your airplanes?

We decorated them. Stars [denoting victories] were painted on the nose. In our regiment we had Alexey Semenovich Smirnov, who later became a Twice Hero of the Soviet Union.7 When I arrived in the regiment, he was a squadron commander and Hero of the Soviet Union. The young generation arrived and among them was a pilot who drew well. He drew a “joker,” like on playing cards, on the rudder of his plane. There weren’t any other such art cases or attraction to drawing.
Our aircraft were not repainted in the winter. We flew them in green. The stars on the wings? I don’t even remember where they were, but I think they were only on the bottom. The serial numbers remained on the fins, but I don’t remember their color.

Do you remember your tactical number?

I remember one—42. This was already after they had shot me down and I had changed aircraft.

Let’s return to the ZAP.

The reserve air regiment… I was the duty officer for the airfield. The telephone rang:
“A colonel is arriving at your location in an UT-2. Meet the airplane and put it in the hangar.”
I did as instructed—I met him. He climbed out, but he was not wearing the Caucasian fur cap which was given to all officers starting from colonel as a part of the uniform, rather an Astrakhan fur cap. “The ‘merchant’ has arrived!”8
This was sometime in February 1944. We had already completed transition training.

Was there a sense that the war was coming toward an end and you might not make it to the front?

The situation was not that clear yet. Some of the country’s western republics were still occupied.
I will continue. The guest—the “merchant”—turned out to be Colonel Ivanov, the commander of a front-line corps. He was a pilot, as they say, “from God.” He flew in spite of his general’s rank. The only thing he could not fly was a broomstick. He died in a crash after the war in a small German liaison aircraft, the Siebel. I believe that at the time he was a PVO commander.
So, I met him and sent him to the headquarters. I came from the airfield and everyone was already assembled. It turned out that everyone had already been “sold”! I was surprised, but my name was already on the list. In the morning, we were supposed to turn in our belongings and sign out. I gathered up my linens and mattress and carried them on my back to the supply room. A fellow student behind me, from Chuguev flight school but from another squadron, was shouting:
“Ovsyannikov! Wait! Don’t leave! Come back! I am going to go in your place! Captain Sarkisyan will explain everything to you.”
He was the adjutant there. I no longer remember what detachment or squadron. I went up to him indignantly:
“What’s going on?”
He replied:
“Listen! You will still get there! What do you get—550 rubles? He only gets seven rubles.”
This guy, Boris Sosna, was a handsome man. We became friends, we exchanged letters, and he just died last year, in the south, in Pyategorsk. Back then he was a “string puller,” who had gone AWOL on at least one occasion. Because of this they gave him starshina rather than lieutenant. Therefore as a starshina he received seven rubles salary.
“Why am I being held back?”
“It’s all been decided. You’ll still get there.”
So I laid out my mattress again. It embarrassed me to tears.
It was the end of April before another “merchant” showed up. It turned out that they assigned me to the same regiment as my “friend-rival”, as I called him at that time. So at the end of April I left from Ivanovo and ended up in the same corps. But now instead of a colonel, a major general received me. We had a conversation, and from our group he sent me and one other comrade to the guards division. In our corps we had two divisions, one guards and the other not guards. They called it the 180th “wild” IAD. This division was also in Cobras.

How did you get there, to the regiment, from the school in Ivanovo?

Oh, you wouldn’t believe it. They told us how to reach the regiment: “Go to this station, and there you will find your way.”
This was in Valday rayon, the village Somenka, and Somenka airfield. [The 5th Guards Fighter Air Division, 6th Air Army, Northwest Front was stationed at Somenka airfield from March to May 1944. I.S.]
Aha! Right away! There was nothing there.
We arrived at the station with a friend at night, crawled out [of the conveyance], and it was cold. It was spring, the month of May, but still cold. An old woman was stoking a small stove. We asked her:
“Please tell us, how do we get to Somenka?”
She replied:
“Down this path. Go this way. You will get there by daylight.”
“How far is it?”
“Six kilometers and a little bit.”
How much over six kilometers she did not specify, and like fools, we didn’t ask. We found the path and set off. We walked and we walked, and there, to our left and then to our right, the black grouse uttered their mating calls. We walked three-plus kilometers past the six she told us, and the road ended! The road just ended. It was an overcast day, with fog and low clouds. We reached a stream. On the other side was a settlement. The stream was wide, with a log in place of a bridge. We went across and stopped at a peasant hut.
“Does anyone live here?”
An old woman answered: “Yes, Yes, come in.”
We asked her:“Where is Somenka? We have to get to Somenka.”
“Somenka? Yes, I have been there, to a wedding.”
“How far is it?”
“Six kilometers and a little bit.”
Again that little bit!“Which way?”
“Go this way.”
We walked farther. We walked and we walked. Suddenly the overcast lifted and we saw an airplane fly over. It was a U-2, one pass. It dropped down and was hidden by the forest. We walked and we walked; we saw a stream, half full of water. The ducks flew off. We approached the stream and a man was walking, in a dark blue jacket. He was an aviator with a pistol. Perhaps he was duck hunting.
“Look here! Where is the airfield?”
“It’s over there, ahead of you.”
I took off my canvas boots and trousers. My friend Pasha walked straight into the stream and got all wet. I put on my dry clothes and he wrung the water out of his; then we waited for them to dry out. We made it to the airfield. We asked where the division was, and it turned out that the division headquarters was also on this same airfield, in a dugout.
Well, how did they greet us? We reported in the normal fashion. They directed us, I don’t really remember, either to the commander or to the personnel department. It turned out that they left me at this airfield, in the 28th Guards Regiment, in which I fought. My friend was also sent to a guards regiment—the 72nd. This was almost in the opposite direction, but he was lucky—they took him there in a Po-2.
Well, we walked out of the division headquarters, and this same Boris Sosna was walking toward me: “Ah, friend! Come on! Have you eaten? Let’s go eat!”
He took us to the dugout where the canteen was located. He was a regular there already.
“Hey, girls! Reinforcements have arrived! Feed us something!”
What food they had there! We were accustomed to rear-area rations. Here they brought out enormous portions—fried potatoes, a huge cutlet, and compote. I thought to myself: “One could live well here.”

When did you receive a personal weapon?

I arrived at the regiment and was issued a TT. We all had TTs. They gave us uniforms, weapons, and maps. I ended up in the 2nd Squadron. My commander was a major, Petr Ivanovich Isaev. He fought in the Finnish War. We called him “Grandpa.” He was over 30 years old. Later my flight commander became the squadron commander. And so began my front-line journey. They checked my piloting skills. My flight commander checked me out in a dual-control Yak. Later I took off in a Cobra. I flew around the airfield, made several flights, and later in the zone. Then we began to maneuver in pairs. This was to work on our so-called coordination. I established a sort of rhyme with my lead:
“I am your lead,” he said to me,
Looking me straight in the eye.
“Now remember, in your sleep,
You should be close to me!”

Tell us, did you conduct any practice aerial engagements?

Both coordination and training aerial engagements. They trained us well. We fired at both ground and aerial targets. The aerial target was a fabric sleeve towed behind an airplane. They used Cobras to tow it. They rolled it up in a ball, then cast it out, and it fully deployed. My time came to shoot at the sleeve. I sat in my cockpit, waiting for the signal to launch. I could already see the towing airplane—it was almost over the airfield. I took off on signal, raised the landing gear, closed the flaps, and gave it throttle. Suddenly, my engine cut out. It was as if I had closed the throttle myself. I was at about 100 meters altitude, no more. This was in Kalinin oblast — we were surrounded by trees. I glanced to my left and saw a small open area. There was a hamlet and a field. I did not have time even to turn or even drop the gear doors and I was there. I landed. I just sat it down. They said to me on the radio:
“Where are you? Where are you?”
I replied: “I made a forced landing. Everything is okay. Six kilometers out, perhaps.”
Well, the truth was that they had to drive around for 15–20 kilometers to get me to the airfield.
They said: “An aircraft is taking off. Direct him to you.”
So I did that.
“Well, any problems?”
I responded: “Everything is normal.”
“Wait there. They are driving out to get you.”
An engineer and some technicians finally showed up in about an hour, perhaps less. They had to go around a small stream. But they finally found me. The flight technician came with a mechanic for the “evacuation,” as they liked to call such operations.
“What happened?”
I said, “I don’t know. It was as if I closed the throttle.”
Already a rumor was going around that we were going to the front, and now this. They had already sent someone from the regiment off somewhere, because he came down and broke his airplane. He crashed a second airplane. Then he left the regiment. At one time he was the wingman for my flight leader. Now I had taken his place, and also crashed.
I left for the airfield and reported in. We arrived at the regiment and reported there. I told my story. In the evening, we left the airfield to rest, to the village where we were billeted. Our squadron lived on the second floor of the building. I lay down.

Did the other men give you looks?

I don’t know. Some did, some didn’t. You know how a person can blow things out of proportion. I did not pay attention to anyone else. I lay there for a long time. Suddenly, it was night, perhaps midnight, the door opened, someone walked in, and came straight over to me. He came up to me and said:
“Ovsyannikov, you aren’t asleep?”
“No.”
“It wasn’t your fault—the fuel pump broke.”
A great load was lifted from me. It was Fedot Aksenenko, the squadron engineer. He calmed me, relating to me in a caring way. He could have forced me to be tortured until morning. He understood what I was feeling.
Everything turned out alright. The regiment stood down for reconstitution: pilots arrived, new aircraft joined our fleet. At the end of June, somewhere around the 18th, we took off for the front.
We flew to the front at low-level, for purposes of camouflage, in order not to be observed. We went at an altitude of 100 meters. We made an intermediate stop at Andriapol. This was also in Tver region. By the way, my home regiment is now based at Andriapol. True, only its name remains there. We refueled at Andriapol, and flew on to Dretun airfield. It was a primitive strip, also in the forest, 18 or 20 kilometers from the front line. It had been registered by the Germans, and therefore was subject to artillery fire. After we landed, they fired on us. It killed one mechanic and burned up one airplane, but not ours. An American Curtiss was left behind from the regiment that occupied this airfield before us. They “unoccupied” this airfield on our behalf and left behind a damaged aircraft. This is the one that burned. A shell burst literally under the tail of my comrade Sergey Korobov, leaving a big crater. But his aircraft suffered not a single hole. It was sprinkled with dirt, and that was all.
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Old 08-08-2011, 03:03 AM
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pt 2

What kind of Curtiss? A fighter or a bomber?

The devil knows, likely a reconnaissance aircraft.

High-wing?

Yes, yes.

O-52, perhaps.

Perhaps. They called it a Curtiss.9
We made our first familiarization flight somewhere around the 20th of June. It was right before the beginning of Operation Bagration—the liberation of Belorussia. The genuine combat sorties began soon after that, just two or three days later. The mission was to provide coverage of the battlefield. It was my first combat. On the first sortie, I became separated from my leader. But it was not my fault. The fact of the matter is that there were Messerschmitts there. For the first time I saw from the side how shells flew out of my leader’s airplane. I thought to myself, “That’s some kind of smoke. Is his engine knocking?”
He fired at a Messerschmitt and after his attack zoomed upward. There was an overcast, not thick, but scattered. He jumped into a cloud and I behind him. I came out of the cloud and there was no one to be seen. While in the clouds, he turned and went down, and I went up. This was already at the end of our sortie period. We were low on fuel.

What was the duration of flight of a Cobra?

About an hour. What was the capacity of the fuel cells—I don’t remember. Perhaps four hundred liters. I have forgotten everything. Well, approximately an hour, and if you were flying economically, 90 minutes

A question about fuel. Not long ago a film was released, Peregon [ferry flight], in which they described the following situation. Upon landing a pilot pulled the control stick toward himself; the fuel in the fuel cell poured to the back of the tank and the engine died, although ostensibly there was still fuel. Did such a thing happen, or is this nonsense?

Nonsense, raving nonsense. I have heard so many lies. Horrible! Here now they are announcing commentary for an aviation catastrophe... The commentator says: “You know, the tire, when the pressure is seventy atmospheres...” [about 1000 lb/in2]
How much?
“...and when the tire blows, the airplane is penetrated through...”
Yes, the skin can be penetrated, but seventy atmospheres in the tire? When I hear this, I shout, “How is it possible to give this commentary if they don’t understand anything about the topic discussed?” All these journalists…

Let’s return to the past. You got lost and...

Me? Lost? I fell behind! And I heard – they were shouting:
“Back to base! Back to base! Assemble back at base!”
Well, back to base...
I saw that some Cobras were racing toward me. I wanted to turn around and form up on them, but they flew away. I took a course under the overcast. I knew where, in what area I was, and I arrived home normally. There I told them that I had become separated; I told them how it happened.

Did they chew you out?

For what? I didn’t try to lag behind. My leader—he didn’t transmit his plan to me. And in the clouds... In combat, you try to maintain a distance of 200 meters behind. My first aerial engagement was over rather quickly. Later, it just settled down, and sorties were conducted normally.

Tell us, did you immediately begin to get a picture of what was happening in the fight?

What can I say about “getting a picture”? I knew that I had to maneuver, that I had to get orientation. But the main thing that you visualize, that you must understand, is where you are and what you should be doing.
I will tell you a story. In a sense I was lucky, and in another sense I was not lucky.
In the first case, I did not see a single bomber in the sky. Not one. I had 204 combat sorties in slightly less than a year. Of all the young pilots, I flew more sorties than anyone else. I had a large number of reconnaissance sorties. But primarily we were engaged in non-standard missions—we did ground attack. Yes, they hung bombs on us.
Of course, everything came with time; with the passage of time, one visualized better, but it was very important to have good teachers. They did not simply teach us; before they took us into battle, they checked us out thoroughly. They trained us well and told us everything [we needed to know].

Did you consider your overall training, including that which you received in the aero club, in the reserve regiment, and later in the regiment before combat, sufficient or barely adequate?

Of course, it was not enough. When I went to the front, I had only 12 flights in a Cobra.

With whom did you most often fly in pair?

Not “most often,” but with whom did I begin to fly—this was Senior Lieutenant Boris Aleksandrovich Mukhin, my flight commander. I became his wingman. He ended his service as a division commander. I myself became a pair leader somewhere near the end of 1944.

Did you fly escort?

Of course!

What other kind of combat missions did your regiment execute?

First—covering the battlefield.
Second—escorting groups of shturmoviks or bombers.
Third—reconnaissance. This was secondary.
Perhaps one might consider our main mission to be attacks against enemy ground targets. This included airfields, railroads, and road columns.

What was the most unpleasant mission for you?

Escorting shturmoviks.

What was so complicated for you in this mission?

First, I would say altitude. They are firing at you from the ground from every possible weapon. The shturmoviks’ maximum altitude was one thousand meters. When they drop down—say to 500 or 300 meters, the enemy flogs you with AAA. But you have to stay with them.
Second, they didn’t have much speed. For a fighter, speed is the main thing. They flew at about 250 kph—that’s approximate. For us this was slow. And we had to protect them from enemy fighters.
We have clarified the most difficult mission. My favorite mission? This was to escort the female bomber regiment. I don’t remember its number. The young ladies flew the Pe-2, Peshkas. We liked this mission. They held their formation like in a picture. The men—someone would fall back, the formation would be stretched out.
True, I never saw them drop their bombs from the dive. They always dropped level.

Now let’s turn to the Germans. In your opinion, how good were the German pilots, their training, and their conduct of a battle?

With the exception of the first battle, when I encountered but did not engage them, because I was so focused on holding onto the tail of my leader, I did not encounter any Messers and Fokkers. The Cobra was able to fight with them on par and overcome. The pilots? I don’t know. Either I encountered weak pilots or their aircraft were inferior (or rather defective). You should understand that when I encountered them, well, I had three aerial combats myself.
My first happened at Baus. We went out, this was after the 18th of August (Aviation Day), and I had only drunk a little, but my friends had drunk their “100 grams” and perhaps more, if they were able to acquire a supplementary ration.
We were covering the battlefield. Our commander, Captain Mukhin, was somewhat hard of hearing. I was the flight commander’s wingman, and our second flight was flying higher, somewhere at 600 meters higher. I was out on the far left (indicates with hands), here was the leader, and Sergey Korobov was leading the second pair to the right. I spotted a pair of aircraft coming from the left, trying to come up behind us. Then they put out some smoke. Not long before this, we were informed that a Fokker had come out with a supercharger. When they switched on the supercharger, they smoked. I transmitted to my leader, “Pair from the left!”
Then I transmitted the same message again. He paid me no attention and flew straight ahead. Then I transmitted, “Fokkers are attacking us!”
Again, no reaction. What could I do? Perhaps I was the first to spot the enemy. I turned sharply, zoomed up, and began to chase whomever was behind us.
We got into a dog fight. I turned this way and that, one against two. The rest of my flight did not see me and flew off. I was still engaged. It turned out that I began to get on their tail. I fired, but from a distance. They dove and flew off. I turned sharply upward—the Cobra could not catch them in a dive. Then I heard my leader, the flight commander. He later became a Hero of the Soviet Union—Leonid Aleksandrovich Bykovets: Look! A Cobra is chasing some Fokkers!

Did your Cobras have automatic [propeller] pitch control?

Yes we did. It changed the propeller pitch. Well, when I jumped up to a higher altitude, I ended up in the rear of our group. They had not even noticed my absence. This was my first engagement with Fokkers. I drew the conclusion that I could fight on equal terms with them. My second encounter was near Prikula, also in the Baltic area.

This was your first combat with Focke Wulfs?

We had earlier encounters, but this was my, so to speak, first personal combat. Later came my second, again in an unfavorable situation, and again I was able to get out in one piece. Therefore I will tell you that I was able to fight the Germans in the Cobra.

It turns out that the German pilots did not suffer with enthusiasm during the conduct of a fight?

If someone came up behind me, I also would attempt to get away. What’s wrong with that? Who wants to get whacked? What kind of enthusiasm is that?

Tell us, please, what was your score of downed aircraft in the Great Patriotic War?

Two—not a lot but they are mine!

Honestly?

I don’t know.

According to the archives, it was three:
29.10.44, 1 FW-190, Ilmaya station
13.04.45, 1 FW-190, Khalenen Krayts
13.04.45, 1 FW-190, south of Gross-Dirkshkhaym airfield (according to Mikhail Bykov)

Listen to me. I absolutely do not believe those who say: “I was in an aerial engagement, I did such-and-such, and he went down. And I saw where he fell!”
He is either a fool or he is lying. How many aerial combats did I conduct? Regardless of how many times I fired my guns, not once did I say: “Comrade commander! I got him!”
I normally said: “I conducted an engagement, I fired.”
I take credit for two kills. That’s all.

Did you have gun cameras? Were victories confirmed with them?

They mounted them, but they did not use them to count. Or should I say very rarely. They did not believe them. Of course, if the enemy aircraft blew up... But that was a relatively rare occurrence. Confirmation was required. Who could confirm? Another pilot from one’s group could confirm.

From your own group?

Yes, from your own group. Or a ground unit.

Who among you overall in the regiment looked after this? A pilot didn’t fly out to obtain confirmations, did he?

No. We were fighting. Someone in the headquarters took care of this. Reports came in that an aerial engagement had occurred in such-and-such area and there were downed aircraft there.

Could over-claims be made?

Why not? There could be over-claims. But I don’t know of any such cases. It was difficult to confirm. How would one know if he truly over-claimed or not?

Tell us, did they pay you money for downed aircraft?

Yes. What did they do with the money? They did nothing with it, it was deposited on our account.

Was it common practice to transfer these monies to the defense fund?

I don’t know. That isn’t what we did. But I did not see any money. It evaporated into thin air.

So you didn’t receive it after the war?

I received it after the war, but later the government pulled a trick on us with ruble conversion, and it vanished.

Tell us, do you remember a case when they shot down our pilots?

Yes.

Did the Germans shot at men under parachutes?

I know they did because I saw it. This particular pilot survived the experience. It happened over Dvinsk (Daugavpils). We were covering the battlefield. He was from our flight, Kolya Shmelev. Well, I saw how they shot him down. I saw the Fokker, and how, you know, he gave it to him with all barrels — he had six cannons. Kolya bailed out, and the Fokker tried to shoot him still.

Did the Germans come at you head-on?

You know, forget about these head-on attacks. I don’t know how it would be possible to shoot someone down in a head-on approach. I repeat—I don’t know how in a head-on approach, with a closing speed somewhere around 600 meters per second, to even take aim.

Were there cases when a victory was given over to another pilot? For example, someone did not have enough for Hero status, and they gave him a victory?

It’s possible that they gave it to him on paper, but...

The pilots themselves did not do it?

No, I know of no such case. We did not do that.

Where there cases when you fired on your own aircraft, by mistake?

It happened. And they were shot down. Our own Yak shot down our Cobra. But I am not able to tell you the details—it happened before my time.

In what period, in your opinion, did the regiment fight its heaviest battles?

“Intensive” I can talk about, but I can’t say “heaviest.” Intensive combat occurred when we were attacking Koenigsberg. We sortied five times in a day. But heavy? It was never particularly heavy for us. Well, someone was shot down, and didn’t return from a mission.

On average, how many sorties per day did you fly?

Sometimes two, two or three. The maximum was around five sorties, and this was at Koenigsberg. It was two or three days when we took Zemland Peninsula. Our regiment captured one town with ground attacks, by the way.

How did you accomplish this?

It was right after the capture of Koenigsberg. This town was named Palmnicken. You do not know it, perhaps? You might have heard of Yantarnyy?
Our forces captured Pillau, on the Baltic Sea. Palmnicken remained encircled. There was some kind of company there, defending, sitting in fighting positions. They ordered us to “dig them out.” We dug them out. We made five or six sorties. In the end, they came out and threw up white flags. [In early May 1945, a regiment sortie of 29 P-39s under the command of Major B.D. Milekhin and 16 P-39s led by Guards Captain P.D. Uglyanskiy sortied to conduct bombing attacks on an accumulation of enemy forces in the town Palmnicken. The enemy forces concentrated here had retreated from the Zemland Peninsula. Our fighters conducted two bombing attacks and five firing passes on the accumulated enemy troops and equipment. After these crushing blows, the Germans raised a white flag and surrendered. I.S.]

Bombed them with what?

Bombs, strafing. What bombs? Normally we carried 100 kg and 250 kg. Only one bomb; the bomb hanger was under the fuselage. We did not hang bombs under the wings.

Did you have drop tanks?

No. No drop tanks. They might have used them for ferrying.

How did you feel after five sorties?

Normal.

In their memoirs, the Germans often write that they customarily flew 10 or 15 sorties in a day.

Well, I don’t know about that. They also say that they drank schnapps during the flight.

What is your opinion?

Judge for yourself—if they chased after each of our pilots. Let it be 15! Whatever the number, these poor bastards wouldn’t have had time to go to the bathroom.

Are you prepared to believe that a single airplane could shoot down 15–17 enemy aircraft during a single sortie?12

No!

Absolutely, categorically?

Categorically. They did not have sufficient ammunition to accomplish this.

Perhaps they use one [cannon] shell for each kill?

One round per kill—do you know what you are saying? This might be possible in a shooting gallery. After the war we fired weapons in a shooting gallery. We managed there [to shoot at the target] with two rounds with a ShKAS.13

What was your opinion of the effectiveness of your armaments on enemy aircraft?

The armaments on our Cobras were good. If a 37mm shell hit an enemy aircraft anywhere, that was sufficient. And the machine guns—obviously, they were not cannons, but at least 12.7mm machine guns. These were not 7.62mm.

The number of rounds — wasn’t 40 [for the cannon] somewhat limited?

No. You know, its rate of fire was not that great. I don’t remember now.

Do you remember how you shot down two aircraft?

No. I fired, and it was over. The bullets flew. You could see the tracers. I fired a burst and then maneuvered so some other enemy could not come around on my tail. Just like they taught us. And they taught us well.

Were you wounded?

No. But I got a bump.

How many times did they shoot you down or damage your aircraft?

One time. This happened when we were strafing an airfield. My airplane was damaged, but I landed safely. It was a forced landing. Our forces were already near Berlin, the 24th of April [1945]. Koenigsberg and Danzig had already been captured. There were still Germans on Khel Spit.14 They were flying out of there. The spit extended to the north and south from [an area west of] Koenigsberg. Where the spit went south, there was a group of cut-off Germans. They had an airfield from which they were operating. We flew there several times to bomb and strafe. The fight on 24 April was my last over this airfield.
We flew as a regiment—24 crews. We took bombs. I was in the cover group, in the very last pair. My wingman was Nikolai Pivovarov. I made my dive and dropped my bomb on the airfield, and when I was pulling out, I spotted two aircraft under camouflage netting on the bank of a stream. The plan was to make two passes. I was last—the first aircraft had already dropped their ordnance, and the regiment commander gave the order, “We’re done! Assemble, return to base.”
I had still not made my second pass and went in to strafe these two aircraft. I was diving and had just commenced firing. I felt a thump under my wing. I fired a burst and pulled up. I glanced down and my oil pressure was zero. You can’t fly very far without oil. We did not know exactly where the front line was. They had told us that “everything across the Visla is ours.” That was all. It was spring, and the Germans had blown up the irrigation system. All around us was a virtual sea! Chimneys were sticking up out of the water. I was afraid to set it down in the water. The Visla was getting closer and closer. So I flew on, gained some altitude, perhaps 1,500 meters, but I could feel the engine.
I have already told you that if the connecting rod breaks in a Cobra, there will be a fire. But I made the decision to fly on. I spotted the Visla, where our forces might be. Then I saw an enormous field. On the right side, near the tree line, were some structures, probably hunting cabins and not village dwellings. I radioed to my wingman: “I am setting it down in the field!”
I began to turn and spotted a church up ahead. That meant a populated area, I’m thinking; our troops will be there. “Perhaps I can stretch it out.”
I stretched it out, shut off my engine, and glided, but did not reach it. I landed in swampy terrain, with lakes to the left and right. On my belly, of course. Away from an airfield, one should always land on the belly.

I heard from one pilot, true he flew Yaks, that in a forced landing in the Cobra the engine broke loose and drove the pilot into the instrument panel.

Drivel. I made a second forced landing. When I landed, the only thing that happened was normal for all aircraft—it rotated around 180 degrees. Well, I landed. On this occasion the antenna separated from the radio on account of the landing shock. I figured this out later. I pressed on the push-to-talk switch and nothing happened. I crawled out and my wingman was circling above me. I indicated to him, “Return to base!”
He acknowledged with his wings and departed. He had not even reached our own airfield and was forced to be re-directed to a secondary airfield.
I am standing on the wing. Looking around, I am thinking, “What should I do? Where should I go?” In front of me I spotted the high berm of a railroad embankment. Had I flown farther, my nose would have struck this embankment. It was not visible from above.
Three figures are running toward me. One falls to the ground and two are running. Then this figure gets up and runs and they go to ground. I see our greatcoats.
They are running up to a drainage ditch. When they are perhaps a hundred meters distant, they shout:
“Ruki vverkh! [Hands up]
“Whose are you? Come here!”
Don’t think that I was brave, or some kind of hero. I simply was sure that I was among our own forces.
Again they shouted:
“Hands up!”
I said, “Come here.”
They came over to me:
“What is this airplane?”
“It’s a Cobra.”
You have to understand, they thought it was a Messerschmitt. The German airfield was not that far away, and they had seen Focke-Wulfs and Messerschmitts flying around. They came right up to me and I said to them:
“How far is the front line?”
“A kilometer and a half from here.”
Now it came to me—had I not stretched out my glide toward the town, I might be a guest of the Germans. Not a good thing. I was lucky to have had the presence of mind to land there, in the field. It was a good thing I had spotted the church and thought there might be a garrison there.

Did pilots return to the regiment from German captivity?

They did not come to us. Hero of the Soviet Union Ziborov arrived in the neighboring guards regiment.15 They shot him down over the airfield that we were bombing and strafing on Zemland Peninsula. He bailed out and they captured him. He spent some time in the same guardhouse where I myself sat for two days in peacetime. Our forces were advancing quickly and liberated him. He flew for some time after that.

SMERSH didn’t drag him off?

Listen, excuse me. I don’t know if we would have won the war had there not been a SMERSH.
To make a long story short, when my wingman landed, he told them that I had landed and everything was normal! But it seemed to him that I had landed in German-held territory, because when he was circling around, they shot at him from the ground.
The next day, I asked the battalion commander for a screwdriver. The battalion commander gave us permission, and I took the screwdriver and walked out to my airplane. I opened the compartment hatch, checked around, screwed the antenna connection back on, and turned on the battery switch. I sat in the cockpit and listened. In a minute or two I turned on the power. I picked up my book and read. Suddenly I heard:
“[breaking squelch sound] 116, 116, this is so-and-so.”
It’s ours! But they are approaching the reception limit of my radio. I shout:
“This is 115! How do you hear me?”
I did not get a response, as they went into a dive and at a lower altitude communication was lost.
When Kolka (Nikolai) Shmelev returned, he reported: “I connected with ‘Oves!’” [Oves – oat.]
They called me “Oves,” for Ovsyannikov.
“I connected with ‘Oves’. He contacted me and then communications was broken.”
Sergey Korobov requested a Po-2 from the regiment commander in order to find me and bring me out. By the way, he brought out Shmelev from behind enemy lines around Daugavpils when they shot him down and he bailed out. But it turned out that there was no Po-2 available, and he flew out in a Cobra. He found where my Cobra was lying and circled around. They shot at him again, so he flew home and reported:
“Perhaps the Germans have him! Because I saw the airplane, but there is no one there. I saw German positions not too far away and they fired at me.”
Perhaps it got back to SMERSH that I possibly was in the custody of the Germans. By this time I had gathered up my things and departed. However, no one interrogated me and they did not drag me off anywhere. When I returned, I simply reported to the commander what had happened, and that was it. It was over. By the way, on my return leg I came across Marienburg airbase, where some Navy shturmoviks were based. There were also about a hundred different Focke-Wulfs on the tarmac there, some with unusual long noses.

Did you have a SMERSH man or an osobist in the regiment? What did he do?

We didn’t know him. It was some lieutenant who hung around.

Did your political officers fly?

They flew. All the squadron zampolits flew. At the regiment? He seldom flew.

In general, describe their duties.

You need to ask them this question! They were engaged in ideological preparation. They conducted meetings and read lectures. Standard political work.

You flew cover for bombers and shturmoviks. Were you punished when one of your charges was lost?

It depended on what type of loss, in what conditions. Yes, they punished us. My former flight commander Mukhin, before my time, ended up in a penal battalion, in the infantry. The entire flight was punished because they lost five Ils [Il-2 Shturmoviks]. Fighters shot them down. They sent the entire flight to a penal battalion. But perhaps someone up high over there gave it some second thought, and sent them all back to us.

Did you ever hear of a penal squadron?

No. How so? Who is talking or writing about this?

Ivan Yevgrafovich Fedorov, I think, first put out the rumor that penal squadrons existed.

Well, I don’t know.

By the way, do you know this comrade’s story?

I’ve never heard of it. Have you found much confirmation?

So far, none. We have found some Il-2 pilots who were made [rear-seat] gunners for attacking our own troops. We have heard about this. This happened.

I will tell you what I heard. The Germans put out rumors that we were chaining our shturmovik pilots to their aircraft so they could not bail out. You never heard this? I heard it. But I came across confirmation of these rumors. One time I was flying, and something happened to my stomach. It was so hard that I was ready to stuff my pilotka [cap] under my butt. You understand? Well, I really had to go to the toilet. I landed, and I didn’t even make it to my parking spot. I jumped out of the cockpit and I looked up, and a woman was standing there.
“Oh, sonny, is it true, that they tied you in?”
I had a cord hung around me... It was my helmet-microphone cord.
“People are saying that they tie you in.”
It turned out to be even more scary—we tied ourselves up.

Tell us, how you were secured in flight—lap belt or shoulder harness also?

Normally - only the lap belt.

Did you have some kind of system?

What do you mean?

There was a British system, when the pilot was strapped in, a cable ran from his back to the armored seat. Like in an automobile. Did you have this system?

You know, I can’t give you a straight answer. We seldom used our shoulder harnesses. We had a buckle here, at the navel. We could shove our shoulder straps or our lap belts in here.

Were there cases when, for some reason or other, combat sorties were not counted?

I don’t remember if this happened with us. Perhaps it could have, somewhere. We did not have such instances.

Do you know of an instances of cowardice in battle? Refusal to go on a combat sortie? And the decisions of a tribunal in such cases?

We never had any such cases in our regiment. They brought some cases to our attention, of course. These things did happen.

What [uniform] did you fly in?

A flight suit. In the summer it was regular field blouse. I don’t know what color—some kind of gray-brown.

Did you wear your medals?

Some who had them wore their medals.

What about leather?

Leather jacket? Yes. Winter and summer.

Pants?

We also had leather pants. American.

What was on your feet?

Fur boots in the winter, probably. In the summer we wore high boots. We didn’t wear low boots.

Did you have silk scarves?

Yes, I had some kind of multi-colored silk scarf.

Were you short of flight gear items?

No, no shortage.

What can you say about observation of radio discipline? They say that there were constant problems.

Discipline? We did not jabber any longer than was necessary! Jabber about what? Then we had to respond. We did not sing songs. I do not even understand your question. We used the radio only when it was necessary. That was all.

Did you address each other with codes, nicknames, last names?

Codes. There were exceptions; when the division commander, Rykachev, flew, he called himself “Yu. B.”—Yuriy Borisovich.

Can you provide any details regarding the death of Fedor Fedorovich Voloshchenko?

I can’t tell you anything. He was in our squadron. He did not return from combat when we were in the Baltic area. The battle was at Libava.

What about Yuriy Mikhaylovich Chapliev? Ivan Petrovich Grachev?16

They also did not return. How, what? It’s unknown. We used the phrase, “did not return from combat mission.” These were the first losses in the regiment that I can recall.

What can you remember about the regiment commanders?

I had only one regiment commander in the war. Before I arrived in the regiment, it was Lieutenant Colonel Oleg Markivoch Rodionov. Later, his deputy quickly became the regiment commander, Boris Dmitrievich Melekhin. Rodionov left to become Aleksandr Pokryshkin’s deputy commander, and perished in an automobile accident.

What kind of pilots and commanders were they?

Good, normal. I don’t know about Oleg. Of course, he flew less. It seems to me that regiment commanders did not have to fly often and did not need to.

Can you say anything about Aleksey Smirnov?

He was a remarkable person. He was our idol. A fair-haired Adonis, with a burnt face. But it was not visible too much (he didn’t stand out in a crowd). A hale fellow and a jokester.
This happened at Shaulyay, west of Panevezhis [in Lithuania]. Perhaps 20 kilometers from it was a primitive airfield. We always were stationed at primitive airfields. This was a plowed field, with potatoes or something growing there. We were flying there for the first time. Nearby stood a brewery or a vodka distillery.
To make a long story short, we were parked near this plant, and Smirnov had a rifle. It was a German rifle. Someone, somewhere obtained some shells for it. They were German training cartridges. You could fire at something point blank and the bullets broke into tiny pieces, and nothing else happened. So we taxied in and parked, and we were sitting around shooting the breeze.
The flight technician walks up and Smirnov calls him out: “Why are your aircraft not serviced?”
“What do you mean—not serviced?”
Smirnov presses down and releases—there are five cartridges in the clip. They appear to be absolutely genuine. He loaded the five cartridges into the rifle.
“Do you know what they do for this at the front?” Bang! And we all laughed!
“C-comrade c-c-commander! They’re joking, aren’t they?”
We laughed some more.
Well, this was nothing yet. The squadron commander, Petr Isaev, lands. He taxis over to the parking area. Normally he did not fly combat missions, but he ferried any leftover aircraft. We had one with the nickname “Zebra.” It was camouflaged, dappled. It was the only one like that. Where it came from—I don’t know. Very few men flew it, but they ferried it from airfield to airfield. This airplane was like a log, and normally they set it up for defense of the airfield. [To bring the guns level with the horizon] they dug in the front wheel.
So we hear them declare over the radio that he is coming in for landing, and Aleksey says:
“Hey, now we’ll fool the old man!”
The old man comes in and lands. He sets it down, but where he landed the potato rows went across. The nose of the aircraft drops, and the Cobra hits hard. The nose gear was broken in a big shower of dirt. Well, when there is an accident there is an investigation. The joking was over. But we did have fun sometimes.

Tell us. At the front in those years, was there any kind of nationality clashes?

What do you mean? Listen, guys. You understand that now our enemies are enflaming this national hostility. You understand that?
Bagramyan (Armenian) was our front commander. We had an Armenian aircraft technician and another aircraft technician was a Kazakh. There were Jews. We joked together. The Ukrainians called us “katsaps [butchers],” and we called them “khokhols” [“topknots,” for a Ukrainian custom of cutting all the hair but a single tuft]. But in order for there to be hostility, or some kind of prejudice...
Who has received their freedom today? And who is receiving rights? You and me? No, of course not. There you have it. This is where all this dissension comes from.
“Russian Independence Day?” What have we become independent from? Look into the future, look. This is nationalism; this is new. Our enemies have thrust this “new” on us. This is very serious, very serious.

Let’s return to the war. Tell us, please, did you have people in your regiment who lost relatives to the occupation? Or whose relatives were taken as forced labor to Germany?

You know, I don’t remember. I know that we had one man, pilot Zhora Baranov. He went home to his village after the war, and there he shot a starosta [a person designated by Germans to be a village supervisor – ed.]. The old man had helped the Germans.

Was he charged?

No.

When you came into German territory, was there a desire to get vengeance on the Germans?

You know... Listen, I fought them. And if I had encountered a soldier... But when we settled in East Prussia, we had already driven the troops out. Those still living there were peaceful inhabitants. What was there to fight about with them?

What was your relationship with them?

Well, I generally did not associate with them. They engaged in exchanges of bits and pieces with us. In one of these exchanges, I acquired an accordion.

This was not a “trophy,” you got it in exchange?

This was not a trophy.

Did [the command] issue an order to you? About punishment for thievery and so on?

Yes.

Where were you and what were you doing when the war ended?

Where did we greet the victory? We were around Riga. We had been launching strikes against the Courland pocket from Yushkas airfield. Well, you know that aviation fought only during the day. We were resting. Everyone had been at the airfield since dawn. The squadrons had been scattered about to various places. Suddenly, on the morning of 9 May, the telephone rang. The commander had a field telephone. Right away we were all “on our guard.”
Mukhin, the squadron commander, said on the telephone:
“Understood. Got it. Where? What? Immediately. We got it! We are launching! Mission: ground attack column of troops moving along highway from such-and-such point, in direction of Ventspils, where they are loading on ships.”
We all headed for our aircraft. This was my 204th combat sortie. Just another mission. We did not know about the end of the war. We took off, assembled, then gained altitude. The front was close—perhaps 25–30 kilometers. We were at altitude, and suddenly I hear:
“This is ‘Kedr’ [cedar]. Kedr was the front forward radio-vectoring station.
“111”! (Mukhin was “111”.)
“Do not cross the line! Drop your bombs in a safe place in the Gulf of Riga. Return to base!”
We did not take this at face value. Don’t cross! Who says so? The Germans were very cunning in this regard. Our leader demanded: “Password!”
The other end repeated everything, adding the password. All is in order!
It was strange. But an order is an order. It was forbidden to land a fighter aircraft carrying a bomb. That meant we found the German column, considered this a “safe area,” dropped our bombs, and made a couple of gun runs. Then we returned. When we passed over our airfield, we saw a crowd of people where there shouldn’t have been anyone. We landed, taxied, and shut off our engines. There was shooting on all sides. People were shooting whatever weapon they had, and shouting. We climbed out of our cockpits, which involved opening the door and climbing out on the wing.

Which door?

You could use either one. On the left side, the throttle lever got in the way a bit, but it was possible. Can I continue? They did not let us to climb down from the aircraft. They grabbed us and began to throw us up in the air, catching and throwing us up again. We knew that this meant the war was over. Victory.

Did you ever operate against ships? And after the war, here you told us about the end of the war. Did you still fly combat sorties after the war?

We operated against ships in the Pillau area. We dropped bombs on them.

What was your level of accuracy?

We had hits. Aiming was conducted in the dive, “by the boot.” [An idiomatic expression indicating that there was no bombsight, rather that the pilot simply guessed when to drop the ordnance. An equivalent American expression might be “by the seat of my pants.” Ed.]
We did not fly any combat sorties after the war.

What about the Germans who were trying to make it to Sweden? Did you destroy them?

We weren’t involved in that.

You have said that in the Cobra, the engine coolant was flammable. What was this liquid?

Prestone. I do not know its contents [ethylene glycol – ed.], but it burned well.

Let’s return to the Cobras. The 37mm cannon, a fairly sufficient caliber. When they mounted it on our fighters, significant dispersion of rounds was noted. The first two rounds struck the target and the rest went all over the place. Did you have this problem on the Cobra? Did it shake the aircraft?

No. You must understand the reason for that is that our cannon was mounted precisely in the center of the aircraft.

But in the Yak it also fired through the propeller hub.

Well, I don’t know about that.

What about point of aim? How many rounds could you fire without disturbing the sight?

How would I know?

Well, what kind of bursts did you fire?

They told us to fire a burst of one second. No more than that was needed. Do not waste ammunition.

Tell us, please. Did you have armor-piercing rounds for the 37mm cannon?

We did. We had that type, I think.

Judging by lend-lease archival documents, only high-explosive rounds were delivered, and not armor-piercing.

In my opinion, we had them. But I can’t prove it. In my consciousness, they alternated [high-explosive with armor-piercing]. The same as with the machine guns: armor-piercing, then explosive bullets. Tracers. There was a tracer; this is how I know.17

What was easier to shoot down—a Messer or a Fokker?

I did not fight with Messers. I have talked about the Focke-Wulf. Either I encountered such weak pilots, or… I don’t know.
What about these airplanes? The Germans celebrate the Fokker and the Americans the F-86 Saber. They talk about their field of view, and in ours—ostensibly like in a cage or coop. Somehow I did not feel myself as being in a cage.
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  #439  
Old 08-10-2011, 03:11 PM
Gilly Gilly is offline
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More on the Spitfire found in the Irish peat bog

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-14421581
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  #440  
Old 08-15-2011, 06:58 AM
Davedog74 Davedog74 is offline
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not sure this is 100% true but made me chuckle,
An enemy decoy, built in occupied Holland, led to a tale that has been told and retold ever since by veteran Allied pilots. The German "airfield," constructed with meticulous care, was made almost entirely of wood. There were wooden hangars, oil tanks, gun emplacements, trucks, and aircraft. The Germans took so long in building their wooden decoy that Allied photo experts had more than enough time to observe and report it. The day finally came when the decoy was finished, down to the last wooden plank. Early the following morning, a lone RAF plane crossed the Channel, came in low, circled the field once, and dropped a large wooden bomb.
i do hope its true
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