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Soviet volunteers in the Korean War

Author : 🕔19.11.2011 📕25.115
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On November 1, 1950, six Soviet fighters were assigned to patrol over the Yalu River: Maj. Strojkov, Lt. Guts, Kaznachev and Lt. Monachov, Chiz and Sanin. The MiG-15 of the latter failed to start, so the remaining five led by a World War II veteran Strojkov, who had 16 individual victories, set out for the sky. At 14.15, the leader of the second pair of Lt. Col. Guts saw three Mustang fighters and the Soviets attacked without delay. They took too high a speed during the dive, so there was not much time left to aim and shoot. Americans take a dose of burnt por. Chizem easily escaped and escaped back south by a ground flight. However, por. Chiz claimed the first victory.

The 28th, 72nd and 139th GIAPs have been operating at Anshan and Liaoyang Airports since August 1950. Soviet fighters trained Chinese pilots on the MiG-15 . At the end of October, they were joined by the 67th IAP , which together with the 139th IAP created the 28th IAD. The 28th and 72nd GIAPs then formed the 151st IAD. Four weeks later, they were replaced by the 50th IAD ( 29th GIAP and 177th IAP ), which operated from Antung Airport. From the very beginning, the Soviet participation in the war was completely secret. MiGs flew with Chinese insignia, pilots wore Chinese uniforms without ranks and documents, and there was even an order to use Chinese or Korean in radio communication. The pilots tried to obey the order, but in the heat of battle, of course, later used Russian. Captivity was also strongly discouraged; Soviet pilots were forbidden to fly over the sea and beyond the imaginary line between Wonsan and Pyongyang. When someone pointed out the presence of the Soviets, something about volunteers was said from Moscow.

Npor. Ichsangaliev of the 351st Fighter Air Regiment will sit in the MiG

On the afternoon of November 1, four fighters from the 72nd GIAP led by Maj. Bordon was forced to interrupt the operation and return to base, because Lt. Esjunin did not work on switching the fuel supply from the auxiliary tanks. Coincidentally, however, wanted Lt. Chominič saw ten F-80 Shooting Star jet fighters and attacked them from the sun. He fired a 3s shot and watched one of the enemies fall. The American side admits the loss of two F-80s that day, but attributes both losses to anti-aircraft artillery. The first was lost as early as the morning, but the second F-80 of the 49th FBG was reportedly lost by ground fire during an afternoon attack near Unsan, which would claim the lieutenant. Chominič confirmed. This was the first case in history where one jet shot down another jet.

It is widely believed that the first downing of the MiG-15 fighter occurred on November 8 in an attempt by B-29 bombers to destroy bridges over the Yala River in order to stop the influx of Chinese troops. At that time, Soviet fighters tried to stop the B-29, but before they could reach them, they had to undergo a duel with the accompanying F-80 fighters. American Russell Brown caught up with a lighter MiG-15 Lt. Charitonova, and although he fired only one of the six machine guns, hit an additional MiG tank. A whipping flame and black smoke would indicate a clear victory, but in reality Charitonov sank to the ground flight, where he finally dropped the burning auxiliary tank and landed safely in Anshan. Soviet fighters in Korea did not have enough additional tanks, and therefore from the beginning of the war they threw them away only in the most urgent cases.Over time, supplies improved, and with the advent of American F-86 Saber fighters , the dumping of tanks became a necessity to maintain a chance of survival.

Soviet pilots of the 523rd IAP in Chinese uniforms play with a monkey at Tatung-kao Airport. The exact time of the monkey is shown by Grigory Ochaj

The first loss on the Soviet side occurred on November 10, when the MiGs fought a mixed group of F4U Corsair and F9F Panther , which took off from aircraft carriers. The Soviets mistakenly identified the enemy as the F-47 Thunderbolt and F-80 Shooting Star . Naval Air Force pilot William Amen on the Panther shot down in combat and killed Capt. Gračova from 139th GIAP. The Soviets claimed three victories, but in fact damaged only one American machine. A day later, an ace fell with 12 victories from World War II, Lt. Col. Nasonov of the 28th GIAP. In mid-November, deteriorating weather interrupted air operations over the battlefield, forcing the Soviet command to move the 151st and 28th IADs into the Chinese hinterland to continue training Chinese pilots. They were replaced by the aforementioned 50th IAD . Newly arrived fighter pilots were unlucky to learn the rules of jet combat when the most modern American F-86A Saber fighters arrived on the Korean battlefield, which were at least equal to the MiGs. Soon the Soviet command was to realize that the training of their fighter pilots did not reach the level usual for American opponents.

Pilots of the 913rd Fighter Air Regiment in early 1953

The first collision of MiG-15 and F-86 aircraft occurred on December 17, 1950 over the river Jalu, when Maj. Jakov Yefromenko, at the head of a four-member formation, was alerted by one of his men to the presence of four jets. According to the arrow wings of the Sabers, Jefromenko judged that they were MiGs, and calmly announced on the radio, " These are ours ." That's why he didn't do anything when Bruce Hinton flew for him. The first projectiles hit the engine, fuel tank and cockpit. Mjr. Yefromenko did not even try to save him. By the end of the year, Lt. Col. had fallen victim to the Sabers. Barsegjan of the 177th IAP and three other MiGs. The Soviets claimed the destruction of six F-86s, but the American side only confirms the downing and capture of Capt. Bach, whose F-86 was shot down by Capt. Nikolai Vorobyov about 40 km south of Sinuiju.

Ivan Kožedub's men

January 1951 did not provide much opportunity for combat, so in early February the 50th IAD was deployed to the Soviet Union and replaced by the 151st IAD, which, given previous combat experience, was expected to cope better with the arrival of the Sabers. In less than two months, members of the 151st IAD for the price of two MiGs claimed the destruction of one F-86. The fact that, due to the Chinese advance to the south of the peninsula, the top Sabers were withdrawn to the safety of Japan for a while also played a role. At the beginning of April, in the system of regular exchanges of entire air divisions, one of the best arrives - 324.Fighter Air Division ( 176th Guards Fighter Air Regiment and 196th Fighter Air Regiment ) under the command of the most successful Allied fighter of World War II Ivan Nikitovich Kozedub .

The fatigue in Mikhail Michkin's face is more than obvious. September 1952

Although the newly arrived Soviets did not have enough time to gain experience and did not have a chance to get advice from their predecessors in complete secrecy, they still managed to massacre B-29 Superfortress bombers so much during the week that they forced the Americans to interrupt daily air raids. Apparently it played a role here that almost half of the men had combat experience from World War II. Another reason for success against huge cumbersome aircraft can be found in the massive cannon armament MiG, consisting of one cannon caliber 37 mm and two caliber 23 mm. The relatively low cadence made it difficult to intervene in maneuver combat with light, fast and agile Sabers, but the static B-29 was not difficult to hit at a distance of 600 m. Between April 7 and 12, Ivan Kozedub's unit managed to shoot down eight B-29s and several others severely damaged. They excelled especially Capt. Konstantin Sheberstov , Grigory Ges and Serafin Subbotin.

The wreckage of an F-86 shot down by Mikhail Michkin on September 9, 1952

From May 8, the Soviet Air Force in Korea strengthened the 303rd IAD ( 17th IAP, 18th GIAP and 523rd IAP ), which was already largely armed with improved MiG-15bis machines. From the very beginning, Nikolai Sutjagin, the future most successful fighter pilot of the entire Korean War, flew on aircraft with a slightly more powerful engine. Before the Soviets replaced all the MiG-15s with more modern MiGs-15bis, the Americans also began introducing improved F-86Es from June 1951, bringing back the slightest technical superiority back to their side.

However, on June 19, ten pilots of the 17th IAP on MiG-15bis aircraft were lucky to fight a pair of F-86As . The formation was led by Maj. Grigory Pulov ( 8 kills ) and in one of the cabins sat the lieutenant. Nikolai Sutjagin. The Soviets were led to the enemy from the ground, but for a long time they were unable to make visual contact with him. It succeeded just after passing through the clouds. Sutyagin called on his number Vasily Shulev ( 7 kills ) to cover his back, and from a height he descended behind the back Saber. The first shot whizzed in front of the American fighter and the second behind it, without Sutjagin watching the intervention. Unexpectedly, the American went on a dive and tried to disappear toward the Korean coast. But before he could pick up the speed, Sutjagin's third shot fired from just 100 meters ignited the Saber, and the unguided machine crashed almost vertically into the foot of the mountain. At the same moment, Shulev chased the leader Saber in a dive, firing even at a distance of 400 m, but the enemy disappeared at a height of about 2,000 m against the background of the ground. Sutjagin's first victory is also confirmed by the American side, because the 4th FIW unit lost one machine the same day during a fight with the MiGs.

Lt. Col.Evgeny Pepelyaev

Undoubtedly, October 1951 became the pinnacle of Soviet fighter units in Korea, during which they won 92 victories ( 16 B-29, 41 F-86, 21 F-84, 12 F-80 and 1 B-26 ). Although the American side admits only 15 combat losses ( 5 B-29, 7 F-86, 2 F-84 and 1 F-80 ), it was still the largest loss in the war so far. So that the Soviets would not feel sorry for it, the other side also exaggerated. Of the 37 recognized destroyed MiGs, according to the Soviet side, only 8 MiGs remained eligible. However, a significant disparity of losses occurred among the flying staff. If only three MiG pilots were killed in the October fighting, UN troops had to send death reports to 60 families.

Alexander Smorčkov ( left ) and Dimitrij Oskin shot down five B-29s together between October 22 and 24, 1951

The most famous period of MiG pilots dates between October 22 and 27, for which the term " Black Week " was used in the Western world. At that time, B-29 bombers, accompanied by dozens of fighters, tried to break the railways in the North Korean hinterland, but the MiGs were able to hit an unprecedented number of 84 machines at once, enough to disperse the fighter escort, shoot down five bombers and severely damage another eight B-29s. Alexander Smorčkov of the 18th GIAP, who received three B-29s and three F- 84s, excelled especially during Black Week . On October 27, one Thunderjet also credited Dmitry Samojlov from the 523rd IAP: “There were nine B-29s in front of me. Their engines were smoking as they desperately tried to escape the sea, because their crews knew we were not allowed behind them. Their machine guns turned to me, but I hadn't seen any flashes from the main. I aimed, pulled the trigger, but my speed was too high for a frontal attack, so I decided to attack from behind. I stopped firing and immediately began to climb, bringing myself high above the group. At the same moment, I heard the shout of my Zykov number in my headphones: 'I'm hit, I'm hit!' I immediately stopped fighting and started looking for Zyk in the sky. It was full of maneuvering MiGs and F-84s, between which the Superfortresses floated. One of the Thunderjets was flying right in front of me without knowing about me, so it was very easy to fire a shot and watch him fall to the ground. When I returned, I checked MiG Zykov, but he had only one shot in the fuselage. "

The reaction of the Americans and their allies to " Black Week " was to limit the deployment of propeller bombers during the day. For the next time, B-29 aircraft preferred night raids, against which the Soviets could deploy only a single regiment of night fighters, which arrived in Korea on September 9, 1951. It was the 351st Fighter Air Regiment , which was armed with MiG-15 without radar equipment. so the bomber losses stopped for a while.

Cpt. Karelin ( 6 night kills B-29 ) leaves the MiG. Autumn 1951

Nevertheless, among the members of the 351st IAP , Capt. Anatoly Karelin , who managed to shoot down six B-29s at night only with the help of headlights and moonlight. The most successful for night fighters was the night from 30 to 31 December 1952, when 19 BG bombers attacked targets in the Tagvan area. Karelin, guided by the enemy, was the first to encounter an enemy B-29. He gradually reduced his speed until he hung 400 m behind the bomber.He then fired several shots from a safe distance until the left B-29 internal engine began to burn. Then the bomber exploded and the wreckage flew in all directions. Karelin reflexively tried to avoid a right ascending turn, but one of the flying fragments hit him from the left. Fortunately, the damage turned out to be light. That same night, they knocked down their B-29 and Lt. Col. from the sky. Ichsangaliev , Andreyev and Muravyov.

New blood

At the turn of January and February 1952 there was another complete replacement of fighter regiments. Instead of the relatively successful and experienced pilots of the 303rd and 324th IADs, the self-confident but completely inexperienced young men of the 97th ( 16th IAP and 148th GIAP ) and the 190th IAD ( 256th, 494th and 821st IAPs ) arrived . Compared to the previous batch, there were only a minimum of pilots with combat experience from World War II among the newcomers. In the bad system of the Soviet Armed Forces, the men of the 303rd and 324nd IAD did not have the opportunity to pass on their expensive experience, so from the very beginning, the newcomers were severely fought by experienced F-86E fighters . The only man who managed to make a name for himself from this generation was named Vladimír Zabelin ( 821st IAP ) and won 9 victories. He was most successful on May 20 and 21, 1952, when he shot down one F-86 fighter from the 4th FW. Surprisingly, both claims are confirmed by the American side. Zabelin won the second of these victories over the Soviet airports of Antung and Tatung-kao, returning from the operation with his number and being attacked by four Sabers. Both Soviet pilots tried to shake them off with a steep climb through a layer of clouds. However, after flying out of the surrounding white darkness, they learned that four more Americans were waiting for them above the clouds. Zabelin ordered him to return to the clouds and gradually descended to the lower limit of the clouds. From there, a little to the right, he saw a pair of F-86s. He fired a 350 m long shot at one of the enemies, after which the enemy crashed northwest of Phihen.

Alexander Smorchkov of the 18th GIAP added another 12 in Korea to four victories from World War II

The above-mentioned duel clearly characterizes the fighting in the spring of 1952, when the Americans changed their tactics and focused on permanent patrols and attacks on both Soviet airports. The Soviets responded by operating in small groups and deploying to multiple airports, making it more difficult for the enemy to gain complete air supremacy. Nevertheless, in May, 16 MiGs were destroyed, 14 damaged and 3 pilots killed. Half of the losses were reported at takeoff or landing. Also, 20 American aircraft out of a total of 33 claimed victories landed in the vicinity of Soviet airports. The Soviet command responded to the unfortunate development of the air war in Korea by sending the 133rd IAD ( 147th GIAP, 415th and 726th IAPs ), which remained until the very end of the war in July 1953.

But even the numerical strengthening could not reverse the American dominance, which was further strengthened by the introduction of improved F-86F . In August 1952, the decimated 97th and 190th IADs were withdrawn and replaced by the 216th ( 518th, 676th and 878th IAPs ) and the 32nd IAD ( 224th, 535th and 913rd IAPs ), which in September supplemented the 578th IAP Naval Air Force.

Ivan Sučkov from the 176th GIAP achieved 10 victories in the Korean War

The arrival of newcomers was marked by a sharp increase in losses. In September, the Soviets lost 41 MiG-15bis aircraft and 13 pilots were killed. In return, MiG pilots claimed 40 Sabers and 18 Thunderjets, but the Americans recognized only eight F-86s and four F-84s .Despite the deep defense, Cpt. Mikhail Michkin ( 9 kills ) of the 518th IAP, and Capt. Semjon Fedorec ( 7 kills ) of the 913rd IAP.

The last six months of the war were already marked by protracted peace negotiations, so the Americans in particular tried to increase their scores before the fighting ended. The period between 7 and 12 April became particularly hectic, when Capt. Grigory Berelidz of the 224th IAP managed to shoot down a double fighter ace of Harold Fischer. Five days later, Soviet fighters shot down three more Sabers, one of the most affected was the most successful American fighter in the entire Korean War, Joseph McConnell ( 16 kills ). However, he was able to drag his severely damaged F-86F over the sea, where it catapulted and was immediately pulled out of the water by a rescue helicopter. It is not possible to determine exactly the winner over McConnell, but in the same duel Semjon Fedorec won over his fifth F-86, and immediately afterwards he also collected the hit and had to eject. He then spent the next two months in the hospital with an injured leg. In total, only four MiGs were lost and two pilots were killed in April, although the American side declared 27 MiGs shot down.

Friends of Cpt. Timofjev at his grave in Port Arthur. May 1953. The men pictured in the previous wars have collected a total of 74 victories. From left: Popov, Maslenikov, Karasev, Oskin and Pulov

The last F-86 Saber of the Korean War was shot down on July 20, 1953 by Boris Siskov of the 224th IAP near Antung's home base, halting the total number of Soviet fighter victories in Korea at 1,097 ( 647 F-86 ), although the UN Air Force reported only 1 092 operational losses of all types ( 184 F-86 ). In air battles, the Americans and their allies acknowledge only 141 losses. However, we must not forget that another 253 victories were claimed by Chinese and North Korean pilots. In the war, the Soviet Union lost 335 MiGs and 120 Soviet fighters were killed. Only the last issue is unquestionable.

Name Regiment Division Kills Types of shot down aircraft
NV Sutjagin 17. IAP 303. IAD 22 15 F-86, 3 F-84, 2 F-80, 2 Meteor
EG Pepeljajev 196. IAP 324. IAD 19 14 F-86, 2 F-84, 2 F-94, 1 F-80
DP Oskin 523. IAP 303. IAD 15 6 F-86, 4 F-84, 1 F-80, 2 Meteor, 2 B-29
LK Ščukin 18. GIAP 303.IAD 15 5 F-86, 5 F-84, 2 F-80, 2 Meteor, 1 F-51
SM Kramarenko 176. GIAP 324. IAD 13 9 F-86, 2 F-80, 2 Meteor
MS Ponomarjov 17. IAP 303. IAD 12 3 F-86, 6 F-84, 3 F-80
K. J. Šeberstov 176. GIAP 324. IAD 13 3 F-86, 6 F-84, 2 F-80, 1 B-29, 1 F-51
AP Smorčkov 18. GIAP 303. IAD 12 4 F-86, 2 F-84, 3 F-80, 3 B-29
PS Milaushkin 176. GIAP 324. IAD 11 5 F-86, 3 F-84, 2 Meteor, 1 B-29
SA Bachayev 523. IAP 303. IAD 11 5 F-86, 2 F-84, 2 F-80, 1 B-29
GU Ochaj 523. IAP 303. IAD 11 4 F-86, 2 F-84, 2 F-80, 3 Meteor

Published with the kind permission of the author.
Published in Military revue 12/2010 published by Naše Vojsko


IAP - Fighter Air Regiment ( i strebitelnyj and viacionnyj p olk )
GIAP - Guards Fighter Air Regiment ( g vardejskij i strebitelnyj a viacionnyj p olk )
IAD - Fighter Air Division ( i strebitelnaja a viacionnaja d ivizija )

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Author : 🕔19.11.2011 📕25.115