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Aces Against Aces. Counting the Victories of the Red Army Air Force.
In the Red Army Air Force since 1941, the number of downed aircraft was established in each individual case by the testimony of a fighter pilot at the place where the downed enemy aircraft fell, and by the confirmations of the commanders of the ground units or by establishing on the ground the crash site of the downed enemy aircraft by the regimental command. All this was stipulated in the order of the People's Commissar of Defense of the USSR I. Stalin No. 0299 of August 19, 1941 It was called "On the procedure for rewarding the flight personnel of the Red Army Air Force for good combat work and measures to combat covert desertion among individual pilots."
However, for the first time, the rigid concept of a sortie was given in Order of the People's Commissar of Defense of the USSR No. 0685 dated September 9, 1942 they started a fight with the enemy, the bombers covered by fighters did not suffer losses from enemy fighters, an assault operation or reconnaissance was carried out.
Consequently, without contact with the enemy, the sortie was not considered combat, and a combat award could be received, if not for three downed aircraft, then for performing 15 sorties.
Thus, the fighter pilot was made dependent on his number of sorties for receiving awards, both government and monetary.
While working in the Central Archive of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation in archival funds in one of the cases, I accidentally came across reports on the results of an air battle, that is, confirmation of downed aircraft.
The fighter pilot wrote something like a report on a piece of paper (on a notebook or any other) about the battle that had taken place, where and when. Then followed short reports of all the participants in that battle: what they saw. But until 1943, a downed enemy aircraft was credited to the pilot according to the evidence (confirmations) of the headquarters of the ground forces, for example, infantry, or partisans, or VNOS posts.
Sometimes, the victory was also confirmed by the German pilots themselves, who were taken prisoner.
In 1943, during a lull after intense fighting in the Kuban, A.I. Pokryshkin with a group of pilots who distinguished themselves in battles were summoned to the headquarters of the Air Army for a meeting. There he criticized the old order on the mandatory confirmation of those shot down by ground forces. It is interesting that Pokryshkin was supported in this matter not only by the pilots, but also by the command. In the book "Know thyself in battle" Alexander Ivanovich wrote about this performance. Here is what he then said: “Unfortunately, the destroyed equipment is not counted to us. In an order issued at the beginning of the war, it was established that downed enemy aircraft must be confirmed by our ground forces or fixed with a film machine gun. How can advanced units see an air battle if we are fighting twenty to thirty kilometers behind enemy lines? Our industry is still producing aircraft without film guns. For example, in the Myskhako area, we had to fight the main battles over the sea, fifty kilometers west of Novorossiysk. The downed enemy vehicles were clearly seen by the shooters of the bombers escorted by us. But their data does not confirm the victory in the air battle.
In general, Pokryshkin asked the command on behalf of the fighter pilots to cancel this order.
“Comrade Pokryshkin, your speech deserves attention. Guidance will be given on these matters. We will report proposals on the order about the downed aircraft to Moscow. Regarding the fighting in the Myskhako area, you and the army navigator will fly to the bomber regiment tomorrow. Upon receipt of confirmation, we will count the downed aircraft, ”said Vershinin, commander of the army.
And indeed, in the Order of the NPO No. 294 of October 8, 1943, signed by the commander of the Red Army Air Force Marshal Novikov, these proposals were taken into account . A new definition of a sortie was also stipulated there: “A combat sortie for fighter aviation, counted for awarding, is considered to be each flight associated with a meeting with an air enemy, or a flight that took place in the enemy’s anti-aircraft fire zone or over the enemy’s battle formations” (Note 1) . The downed aircraft in a group air battle were also stipulated: “If it is impossible to establish who personally shot him down or if they were shot down by a simultaneous attack of two or three or more pilots, they are divided evenly and counted as part of the downed aircraft for each individual pilot participating in this group battle” ( Note 2).
Nevertheless, the mechanism for simplifying the confirmation of an air victory in 1943 led to the appearance of postscripts and false winners. Some pilots began to fight in different ways for the title of Hero of the Soviet Union, which from this year could only be awarded for 10 personally shot down bomber (reconnaissance) aircraft or for 15 personally shot down aircraft of other types. And no less. In fact, the pilot, taking advantage of the fact that he himself assessed whether he shot down an enemy aircraft or not, and also easily enlisted the support of a witness by filling out the necessary documents, could well go for a deliberate forgery.
To this end, a real struggle unfolded in the headquarters of the air armies, corps and divisions. For example, in April 1944, two fighter air divisions applied to the corps for the destruction: one - 125 aircraft, the other - 91 aircraft. Only 216. However, during the Crimean operation, at the same time, attack aircraft, bombers and other fighter aviation regiments of the two armies operated on enemy airfields. Moreover, the Germans in the Crimea had only up to 270 aircraft of various types. In this regard, the corps commander ordered:
1) Immediately, under the personal responsibility of the division commanders, organize the collection of evidence for downed aircraft, which is easy to do, since most of the downed aircraft fell on the territory already liberated from the Germans.
2) On April 28, 1944, submit to the corps commander confirmation of downed aircraft for the month of April. Of which they will actually be recognized: confirmations of ground forces, photographs of downed aircraft, plates with the number of the downed aircraft. At the same time, provide information on downed and captured aircraft in accordance with the timesheet of urgent reports.
3) From now on, streamline the issue of accounting for downed enemy aircraft and take immediate measures to collect appropriate evidence ... "
In this regard, it is characteristic that in all formations of fighter aviation a register of downed aircraft was opened. There were other forms of reporting, including by commanders and units.
And here is another typical example. “Former inspector for piloting technique of the 3rd Air Army and commander of a group of penalists,” reported Lieutenant General N.F. Papivin to Lieutenant General S.I. Rudenko March 25, 1944, - Lieutenant Colonel, now Colonel Fedorov Ivan Evgrafovich, for the entire time of his stay on the Kalinin Front, according to combat reports and credentials, shot down 8 enemy aircraft, about which he was issued a certificate by the Army Headquarters on March 5, 1943 . Confirming the accuracy of this certificate, I inform you that all other certificates of the flight crew of the 157th and 163rd fighter regiments and Gromov's telegram confirm the same aircraft that are indicated in the final certificate of 03/05/43 on Fedorov's combat work on the Kalinin Front. Grounds for the submission of Comrade. Fedorov to the title of "Hero of the Soviet Union" was not.
On April 7, 1944, the commander of the 16th Air Army, Lieutenant General S.I. Rudenko, after the relevant proceedings, informed the Chief Marshal of Aviation A.A. Novikov: “For directing the combat work of the units and personally downing 8 enemy aircraft Comrade. Fedorov was awarded the Order of the Patriotic War 1st class in 1942 and the Order of Alexander Nevsky in May 1943.
Having personal indiscretion and predilection for government awards, not satisfied with the two orders already received, comrade. Fedorov took the path of extortion and fraud, attributing to himself non-existent combat merits (15 personally shot down and 3 enemy aircraft shot down). As a result of the insistent demands of Colonel Fedorov, the commander of the 6th IAK presented an award list for conferring the title of Hero of the Soviet Union to Colonel Fedorov. When considering the award material in January 1944, I was denied submission.
On February 8, 1944, the commander of the 6th IAK for the second time presented an award list with certificates of downed enemy aircraft. Considering the award list and the certificates attached to it, I had doubts about the correctness of the latter, i.e. whether certificates were issued for the same downed aircraft, only by different units and persons. Having asked the commander of the 3rd Air Army on the merits of this issue, I received an answer, as I assumed earlier, that Colonel Fedorov showed exceptional dishonesty and fraud, attributing to himself twice the same planes shot down by him.
For the unworthy behavior of a senior officer, expressed in extortion and fraud, as well as unsatisfactory work as a division commander - I petition for the removal of Colonel Fedorov from his post and for his appointment with a demotion.