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An Equation with one Unknown, or Again about the Aerial Victories of Aces of World War II
We were head and shoulders below
An astute reader will immediately guess that the word "unknown" hides a plane shot down in an air battle. And he will be right. Probably, many still remember a small note, almost a decade ago, in the newspaper "Arguments and Facts" No. 16 for 1990, in which, perhaps, for the first time in Russia, a list of air victories of the most productive German aces in World War II was officially published. But it was she who caused on the pages of numerous periodicals a long and passionate controversy about the reliability of the three-digit combat accounts of our opponents.
Of particular doubt was the very method of confirming the downing of an aircraft in an air battle. Many believe that the five main points of the confirmation system in the Luftwaffe cannot objectively and reliably reflect the likelihood of an aircraft being destroyed. The author fully shares this point of view.
Let me remind you what these points are - 1) the report of the pilot; 2) report of a direct witness (participants in the battle); 3) recommendation of the squadron commander; 4) the report of the witness from the ground; 5) film-film of a film machine gun. In particular, it was said that the first three reports cost nothing to receive: they came from people who were very interested. Regarding the 4th point, examples were given of how often in combat conditions it was impossible to confirm the destruction of an enemy aircraft if an air battle took place over enemy territory, or over a water surface, etc. And, the last, 5th point: due to the imperfection of the photo installation, which works only at the time of firing, it also could not reflect the real picture of the damage and what followed - the plane crashed or returned safely to its airfield.
One cannot but agree with the convincing arguments, as well as real examples given in the articles, and, following their quite reasonable logic, it turned out that with all the skill of the leading aces of the Luftwaffe, their breathtaking accounts of air victories are nothing more than fiction . And in contrast to these “soapy” three-digit accounts, the authors presented the reader with more modest two-digit accounts of our Soviet aces, which, according to some, are even somewhat underestimated, since many of our aces, for a number of reasons, gave aerial victories to other pilots: their wingmen - out of a sense of duty , young pilots - to raise their morale, etc.
Summing up the inconsistency of the battle accounts of the German aces and simultaneously analyzing whose aces were more productive, many authors cited the fact that, in the end, the dispute over who fought better, the Germans or ours, was resolved on May 9, 1945 - in favor of the Red Army Air Force. And the final figure of 57,000 destroyed Nazi aircraft on the Soviet-German front, out of 77,000 lost by the Germans, indicated the indisputability of any final conclusion. This, or something like this, is our current public opinion regarding the fascist and Soviet aces of World War II.
Over the course of many years of research work related to a single theater of operations in the Far North, having well-verified lists of losses on both sides: units of the 5th Luftwaffe Air Fleet based in Northern Finland and Norway, as well as the Air Force of the Northern Fleet, units of the 7th Air Army and the 122nd Air Defense IAD - the author came to conclusions of a slightly different nature.
First of all, in these logical reflections, what is alarming is that their authors unconditionally question the accounts of the German aces, but not the Soviet ones. Although it is well known that the Germans have one very characteristic and significant national feature - that very notorious German punctuality. The author experienced this very well, having lived in Germany for more than six years.
And if there is every reason to doubt this German pedantry, then what can we say about our "broad Russian nature". But these, of course, are only the subjective emotions of the author, which, in particular, helped him to correctly understand the origins of this or that case.
But what about the situation in the Red Army Air Force with the regulations, according to which downed enemy aircraft were determined and read into the combat accounts of Soviet pilots? The author managed to find only two such documents, which guided the command of the Murmansk air defense divisional area. Both date back to 1942. Here is one of them, I will quote it in full:
Extract from the letter of the Commander of the MDR Air Defense Colonel Ivanov - Commander of the 122nd IAD dated July 10, 1942:
In order to correctly account for the downed aircraft of the pr-ka and correct information, the High Command of the Red Army ordered the aircraft of the pr-ka to be considered shot down after confirmation:
1. VNOS * or anti-aircraft artillery posts;
2. Groups of pilots who saw the plane crash or the place of the plane crash determined by reconnaissance after the battle.
For the final approval of the downing of the aircraft, please submit the material on the downed aircraft to the headquarters of the Air Defense MDR.
Commander of the MDR Air Defense Colonel Ivanov.
As can be seen from this document, instead of five points, like the Germans, in our Air Force in 1942 there were only two. True, two definitions were included in the second paragraph. But what is interesting to note is that the testimonies of the pilots of the participants in the battle are in the same "weight" category with the item - "the place where the enemy plane crashed." That is, no matter how it is necessary to look for a downed plane, it is enough just to confirm the participants in the battle.
Of course, there was more than enough room for abuse in these definitions. This was quickly understood "at the top" and new additions soon appeared:
Extract from the order of the MDR Air Defense, ref. No. 01932 dated November 18, 1942:
In development of the instructions of the Commander of the Air Defense Forces of the country's territory, the Commander of the Air Defense MDR ordered:
1. Only the one for which supporting documents about the crash of the aircraft will be presented is considered a downed aircraft:
a) plane crash site;
b) photograph of the crashed aircraft;
c) data defining the type and belonging to the corresponding part, number and other identification marks;
d) an act on the downing of an aircraft, signed by disinterested persons (not the part of the unit that represents the act);
e) confirmation of VNOS posts.
2. For fighter aircraft:
a) photograph of the downed aircraft;
b) confirmation of VNOS or NPZA posts.
3. A downed aircraft is one in which, after firing anti-aircraft artillery or air combat with fighters, a violation of the flight regime is clearly noticeable (a sharp decrease in altitude, loss of speed, the appearance of a flame).
4. In the submitted documents for the downing of the aircraft, indicate what signs and who confirms it.
5. Simultaneously with the act, submit all supporting documents. A completed scheme must be attached to the submitted act.
Aircraft will not be considered shot down without submission and execution of relevant documents.
Chief of Staff Air Defense MDR
In this document, item number 5 is very interesting: which aircraft can be considered shot down. Without false modesty, any aircraft that went down sharply can be considered ... But these were only separate regulatory documents, and in the subsequent war years, the registration of downed enemy aircraft in the Red Army Air Force was tightened. For example, in 1944, without providing photographs or details of a downed aircraft, an air victory did not count.
But in life, as you know, everything happens according to its unwritten laws, and before moving on to bare facts and examples, let's try for a moment to imagine and delve into the essence of air combat itself. To do this, let's turn to the memories of our esteemed veterans, who more than once saw an enemy aircraft in the crosshairs of an optical sight, managed to survive in this bloody war and survive to this day.
Concisely, objectively and quite accurately, in just a few sentences, Alexander Shevtsov managed to show the specifics of air combat between fighters in the book “It's a Difficult Summer”:
“And then everything began to spin. It would be difficult for an uninitiated person to understand this mess. Because of the roar and howl of their own engines, the pilots did not hear the roar and howl of someone else's, just as they did not hear the crackle of machine guns and even the deep rattling of cannons. And to be frank, in this deadly carousel it was not always easy to determine which “Messer” you were fighting with. Crosses and stars flickered in the air. Oh, how much it was necessary to see, understand, evaluate, weigh the fighter at the same time, and not seconds, but fractions of a second were allotted for everything. 1
This passage shows very well that in a fierce, fleeting group battle, it was not easy to follow the actions of an individual enemy aircraft, and no one did it. After all, the main thing was at least not to let the enemy act with impunity and at the same time try not to let himself be knocked down. Everything else (following the readings of instruments, memorizing landmarks on the ground, watching where the plane you attacked, etc.) was secondary.
These are the realities of any air battle, and therefore at meetings with veterans, asking the same question: “Did you see how the enemy plane you attacked crashed (exploded) on the ground?” the author invariably received the same answer that for the most part the pilots in battle did not see the place of the fall. Perhaps, the former pilot of the 768th IAP of the 122nd Air Defense Division Boris Pavlovich Nikolaev, who defended the sky over Murmansk during the war years, answered most categorically:2
“No one will ever tell you where (the enemy's) plane fell. Any pilot sees that he shot down, but he does not watch how he falls, where he falls, he looks first of all at the situation in the air ... "
And here is another very interesting revelation that I received in a letter from a former pilot of the 767th IAP of the same air defense division, Timofey Demidovich Gusinsky:
“In battle, you see your turn, where it falls. When you hit, you immediately see changes in the flight of your victim. He will either roll without overloading, or a lump of smoke will come off from him, and subsequently a fire may break out. Well, let's say there was no fire - it tilted and goes down, in a peak. And at that moment, a “hundred and ninth” is sitting on your tail, but the distance is (still) respectable and he does not open fire on you. What are you going to pursue your victim? Of course, you are engaging in a fight with a pursuer. And at home they ask you: "Show me the place where the one you shot down fell." Yes, even in the tundra, where the landscape is the same everywhere. You know one thing: east or west of the Tuloma River - that's all the landmarks. Yes, even though at what height the battle took place. You will not pursue the victim if on the mountain we have the superiority (on the side) of the enemy, and the loss of altitude is like death.
This is what happened to me after the battle on May 9th, 1944. The squadron commander, Captain Nikulin, put me before a choice: “If you don’t show the place of the fall of the 109th, then the headquarters will send a presentation to the Order of the Red Star. Show - to the Order of the Red Banner. I refused to lie and did not indicate the place where the Me-109 fell, I did not see it ... "
There is nothing surprising in these answers. If it were the other way around, that would be surprising. Of course, there are exceptions to the rules. And the author is sure that there will be veterans who will tell you in detail how they shot down a "Messer" or "Junkers", how he, leaving behind a black trail, collapsed to the ground and a huge smoky "mushroom" rose above him. But such memories will be relatively few.
Let's draw the first conclusion: the pilot, who announced the destruction of the enemy aircraft in battle, in most cases did not see it fall. We will not consider the testimonies of other participants in the battle, since many authors rightly noted (though only in relation to the Germans) that they are interested parties, and therefore cannot be objective.
Here it would be appropriate to note that while working with the daily operational reports of the 258th SAD, whose fighter regiments operated in the Murmansk direction, the author drew attention to one interesting thing. Sometimes, after an air battle, the squadron commander, and sometimes even someone from the command of the regiment, flew to the indicated areas in search of pilots who had not returned from a combat mission and at the same time to check downed enemy aircraft. As a rule, in the first sortie, and sometimes in subsequent ones, they did not find their own downed planes and pilots, but invariably, immediately, on the first sortie, they found all the places where enemy aircraft crashed and thereby confirmed the reports of the pilots who returned from the battle. This leads to some thoughts.
Although there is nothing surprising here either. For a moment, let's imagine that a very principled person is at the head of the regiment, who, as required, without the necessary and reliable evidence from the VNOS posts, ground command, and also without physical evidence (i.e., certain parts removed from the aircraft, tags etc.) does not write down enemy aircraft to the accounts of his subordinates, and hence to the general combat account of the regiment. And the following picture emerges: neighboring regiments are fighting, their number of victories invariably grows from battle to battle, and in this regiment, only the number of combat losses invariably grows. I think that such a principled commander will not lead the regiment for long, not to mention his future career.
Many will ask, what about the reports of the observers of the VNOS posts or ground troops (if the battle took place over our territory), because they were the main witnesses in confirming the fall of the aircraft? We will talk about their role in this matter, since in practice everything turned out differently.
Who read the book of A.I. Pokryshkin "The Sky of War", they remember how he attacked and shot down his Su-2 bomber in one of the first sorties. In fact, such cases in the sky of war were not isolated. As for enemy aircraft, until the very end of the war, pilots in air battles often made mistakes in determining the type of enemy aircraft. This also applies to experienced pilots. Here are some examples:
On April 19, 1943, junior lieutenant Nikolai Bokiy, who by this time had 9 air victories, shot down the German ace Oberfeldwebel Muller, who flew the Bf109G-2 / R-6. Returning to his airfield, the pilot reported on the destruction of the Focke-Wulf-190, which, as everyone knows, is strikingly different from the Messer from all angles.
On March 7, 1944, two "Aircobras" of the 19th Guards IAP, the leader of the pair - Guards Junior Lieutenant Kuznetsov, flew out to intercept an enemy reconnaissance. Our fighters over the Kirov railway intercepted an enemy plane and shot it down after several attacks. Upon returning, they reported on the destruction of the Finnish Pe-2 and indicated the place of its fall. The next day, the aircraft was discovered by the search group, but it turned out to be the German Junkers-88 from the 1st squadron of the 124th long-range reconnaissance group (1. (AF) / 124). It turns out that even in a relatively calm air battle, a two-keel aircraft can be confused with a single-keel one.
What are these two examples about? And here's what. If the combat pilots were mistaken in determining the type of aircraft, then what could be demanded from the observers of the VNOS posts. As you know, Red Army soldiers were usually sent to these “farms”, fit only for non-combatant service (during the war years there was such a playful decoding of the abbreviation VNOS - “drank, ate, sleeps again”, Note ed.).
Now let's look at how the VNOS post confirmation system worked in practice. Rarely did air combat take place directly over the heads of observers, and, as a rule, aircraft engaged in combat moved, by earthly standards, over considerable distances. Therefore, few people could follow the battle from the beginning to the very end from the ground and indicate the exact place where the plane crashed. However, VNOS observation posts on the outskirts of Murmansk were quite sufficient. Most of them recorded the results of almost every air battle and the alleged squares of the crash sites, which was immediately reported by telephone to the headquarters of the Murmansk Air Defense Brigade Region (MPVO)3.
On the same day, reports on downed aircraft were received by telephone from the headquarters of the Air Defense Forces to the headquarters of the aviation divisions, and from there to the regiments. It was on the basis of these telephone reports that entries appeared in the daily headquarters operational reports of the division: “Confirmed by VNOS posts.”
But let's get back to the VNOS post. After it was reported by telephone about the fall of the aircraft (aircraft), a group (2-5 Red Army soldiers) was allocated from the calculation of the post to search for the aircraft and pilots. This search could last more than one day and did not guarantee any results in the end. But if the plane (or what was left of it) was discovered, then the finder made a detailed memorandum (due to the diligence and literacy of the writer)4.
And now attention, the most interesting detail in the mechanism for confirming VNOS posts - it was at the moment of finding the type of the crashed aircraft that was determined. And earlier on the phone, if it was impossible to reliably determine the type of aircraft and its belonging, according to an unwritten rule, any unidentified aircraft was considered enemy! Also, the human factor cannot be discounted, when sometimes the desired was presented as reality. After all, every Soviet person wanted not ours, but a hated plane with crosses to fall to the ground.
Then the written report arrived at the command - the platoon commander, the commander of the VNOS battalion, and from there to the headquarters of the MPVO, where it was filed into multi-volume cases. The real information of these memos about the found aircraft, with the exception of individual cases, due to the fact that the air defense and the air force were different "farms", did not enter the aviation units, and therefore were not taken into account.
Now it will become quite clear why, after the battle that took place on April 19, 1943, the observers of the VNOS posts reported the fall of four enemy aircraft, but in reality they were shot down ... one Messerschmitt, one Air Cobra and two Hurricanes . We note in passing that all the participants in the battle declared that the captain Sorokin shot down the fifth Messerschmitt, and although he was not confirmed by the VNOS posts, he was also recorded on the battle account of the future Hero of the Soviet Union5.
Of course, one example is not enough to draw any conclusion. Perhaps this case will seem to someone uncharacteristic for Soviet pilots. Therefore, I will give another “uncharacteristic” example, only now with “confirmation” from ground troops and other uninterested persons.
On one of the January days of 1944, when the "polar hunters" from the 5th fighter squadron "Eismeer" rarely appeared over Murmansk, the Pegmatit radar stations recorded a large number of targets heading towards the city. On alarm, three groups of Yak-7b and Yak-9 from the 122nd Air Defense Fighter Division were raised, a total of 26 aircraft.
Soon, VNOS posts reported the approach of six Ju-87 bombers, accompanied by two Me-109 sixes. But when meeting with our fighters, the "Junkers" suddenly removed the chassis and "turned" into "Messers". A battle ensued, after which the Soviet pilots announced the destruction of nine Me-109s. From our side, only one Yak-9 was shot down, the pilot, junior lieutenant Chelyshev from the 767th IAP, landed safely with the landing gear retracted at his airfield.
Judging by the available archival documents, all the declared downed enemy aircraft were confirmed:
Downed planes are checked by going to the crash sites, but due to the difficulty of finding them in the hills, only 6 burnt and wrecked enemy planes have been found so far. The remaining four are confirmed: 1 prisoner, three reports of pilots who shot down planes and other pilots, participants in the battle, who saw both the moments of attacks and the fall.
Me-109 - ml. lieutenants Zubkov and Chernetsky of the 767th IAP. (Confirmed: by the workers of the station of Loparskaya, the head of the communications post; reports of pilots Koryakin, Zubkov and Chernetsky);
Me-109 - ml. l-nt Round 767th IAP. (Confirmed: Kruglov's report, parachute passport, tag No. 109593; reports of pilots Fedorov and Ilyin);
Me-109 - ml. Lieutenants Levanovich and Ilyin of the 767th IAP. (Confirmed: Levanovich's report, tag, wing console, compass and other burnt parts of the aircraft);
Me-109 - ml. Lieutenant Krivobokov of the 768th IAP. (Confirmed: reports of pilots Krivobokov, Kutuzov and Shpyrko);
Me-109 - ml. Lieutenant Skachkov of the 768th IAP. (Confirmed: reports of pilots Skachkov, Chelyshev and Babushkin);
Me-109 - ml. Lieutenant Krivobokov of the 768th IAP. (Confirmed: report of the pilot, junior lieutenant Krivobokov);
Me-109 - ml. lieutenants Kuznetsov and Agafonov of the 769th IAP. (Confirmed: report of Kuznetsov and Agafonov; certificate of the commander 2/1082 ZAP and act drawn up by the commander of military unit 35562);
Me-109 - Art. Lieutenant Gavrilov of the 769th IAP (Confirmed: tag No. 1095526 and 50557, acts drawn up by the commander of military unit 39264; reports of pilots Chernenko and Kvashchuk);
Me-109 - Art. Lt. Nikulin and Jr. Lt. Malyshev of the 769th IAP. (Confirmed: report of Nikulin, Malyshev, tag No. 1095536, act drawn up by the commander of military unit 35563);
Me-109 - ml. Lieutenant Fedorov of the 767th IAP. (Confirmed: reports of pilots Kruglov, Ilyin, Levanovich and Fedorov).
As can be seen from the documents presented above, out of the nine downed aircraft, only four Me-109s can be doubtful, which are confirmed only by the reports of the participants in the battle. The remaining five have physical evidence or confirmation of third-party observers and thus do not raise doubts about the authenticity. However, judging by the available lists of losses of the 5th Air Fleet, in reality the German side lost only two Bf 109Gs that day. Pilot non-commissioned officer Wilhelm Strobel was wounded, but returned to his own, and the commander of the 9th detachment, Lieutenant Walter Klaus, was captured.
A few words about the loss lists of the German side, as many readers with righteous indignation will express doubts about any lists of the enemy side there. Can they be trusted?
First of all, it must be said that these lists were not compiled during the war years, when indeed, for various reasons, the German headquarters, when reporting to higher authorities, often underestimated the combat losses of their subordinate units. By the way, the Germans themselves admit this fact.
But there are other lists of losses in our time, which were compiled by historians-researchers on the basis of numerous archival documents - loss registers, combat reports, combat logs, etc. For decades after the war, they were constantly supplemented and refined. At present, they reflect the real picture of combat losses in air battles, and also take into account the downed fire, the missing and those who died in catastrophes.
To be honest, the only time the author was visited by some doubts. This case is directly related to our topic. Studying the combat activities of the 20th Guards IAP, in which such famous fighter pilots as Heroes of the Soviet Union V.I. Krupsky, P.S. Kutakhov and A.S. Khlobystov, the author came across a striking fact.
One of the air battles was inscribed in the history of this regiment, as they say, with “golden letters”. Soviet pilots demonstrated their skill, mutual assistance, self-sacrifice in it and in a heavy, bloody battle inflicted great damage on the enemy, after which enemy aircraft did not appear in the area of \u200b\u200bour airfields for a long time. All participants in this significant battle were awarded orders and medals. Guard Major Gromov, at that time the commander of the 1st squadron, who led this battle and shot down two Messerschmitts, was presented with the Order of Lenin.
In total, it was announced that eight Me-109s were destroyed with their losses: five pilots were killed, three were injured, seven Kittyhawks were shot down, three were shot down, two of them were overhauled.
When the author turned to the above lists, it turned out that on this day the 5th Eismeer squadron had no losses at all! It was just hard to believe. Fortunately for the author, in Murmashy, exactly where this battle took place, one of its participants lived - Nikitin Ivan Mikhailovich. Then he was wounded in the leg, but managed to reach his airfield and land safely.
Ivan Mikhailovich's story was exciting, with a lot of interesting and shocking details that were not included in either the operational summary or the official description of the battle in the Journal of Combat Experience of the 20th Guards IAP. At the end of the story, as always, a tactless question was asked: “Have you seen with your own eyes at least one falling or burning fascist aircraft in this battle?” To which Ivan Mikhailovich, smiling slyly, replied: “When I left the hospital, I was awarded the medal “For Courage” in a solemn atmosphere in front of the formation. Handing over the award, the chief of staff of the regiment whispered in my ear: “Ah, we never found a single “Messer” ...
Probably, in this case, against the background of such heavy losses, it was beneficial for the command of the Guards Regiment to present a fictitious picture of the battle, and the surviving pilots to compensate for the pain of losing their comrades with an abundance of awards.
What conclusion can be drawn from this? I don’t know how things were in other theaters of operations, but apparently in the Far North, the pilot’s report was (more often than it seems at first glance) the main evidence and the only point in the system of confirming enemy aircraft destroyed in air combat. Another vivid example of this is the last battle of B.F. Safonov, when he reported on the radio about the destruction of three Yu-88s over the PQ-16 convoy at once, and so far (judging by the press) no one doubts this fact.
Speaking about the imperfection of the confirmation system in our Air Force, it would probably not be superfluous to show the case when a really downed aircraft was confirmed by all the rules by VNOS posts or other ground observers. I present to the attention of readers the report of the pilot who shot down the enemy plane, and he is one of the most productive aces of the Arctic - Pavel Stepanovich Kutakhov, whose name does not require any additional introduction (original spelling):
"To the commander of the 19th Guards IAP, Guards Major Novozhilov
I am reporting to you that today, March 27, 1943, in an air battle that began at low level in the area of Lake. Home and (in) the balance of forces of the enemy 4 Me-109G (against) our 3 "Aerocobra". From the first attack, I shot down one Me-109G on a turn, which immediately left the battle and went to the northwest. In the air battle that unfolded on the verticals, using the peculiarity of my car, in comparison with the machines of Silaev and Lobkovich, I broke away from them and began to fight 600-1000 m higher than my own with two Me-109G. They make a coup after a 15 minute fight and went on the attack on Lobkovich and Silaev. I followed them from behind, beat Lobkovich out from under the tail and began to pursue the Me-109G, which tried to get away from me for 4-5 minutes on horizontal and vertical maneuvers. I carried out attacks from short distances from behind from above and from behind from below, in the upper vertical position the Me-109 was hit, but having made a coup, I lost it on camouflage. Posts reported about his landing, the pilot was taken prisoner.
Commander of the 1st IE Guards. Major Kutakhov"
And here is a memorandum on the confirmation of the head of the ground team, who became an unwitting witness to this air battle:
"To the commander of the 19th Guards IAP
from the Head of the technical team No. 42 of the RAB, senior technician-lieutenant Tishchenko
I inform you that my reconnaissance discovered an enemy plane of the Me-109G fighter type No. 657, shot down by your pilots on 03/28/43. Your Airacobra tail number 10 pursued this Me-109G and fired at Lake Tukhmenskoye, then your pilot stopped pursuing, thinking that the enemy had left, (but) in fact, the Me-109G fell into the forest and exploded and burned down in district 3 km east of Lake Domashnee. The second Me-109G aircraft was found by a reconnaissance group 5 km northeast of the lake. Home. The aircraft number could not be determined. The plane burned down. Shot down in action by your pilots on 03/12/43. The moments of the fall of these aircraft were observed by my scouts, who were on the lookout for other emergency aircraft.
Signature of Senior Technician Lieutenant Tishchenko certifies
Head of the combat department and personnel of the 6th BAO Lieutenant Gusev»
And although these documents do not match everything and there are some inaccuracies (in particular, the serial number of the Messerschmitt is not quite accurately rewritten), nevertheless, Guards Major Kutakhov really shot down a Bf 109G-2 piloted by non-commissioned officer Edmund Krishovsky. The next day, a German pilot in the Urd Lake area was taken prisoner. In this battle, the pilots of the 19th Guards IAP dealt with the aces of the well-known 6th detachment of the 5th fighter squadron "Eismeer" (6./JG 5).
From all of the above, I would not like to build any global generalizations. But, nevertheless, the author made one main conclusion for himself; due to the inevitable specifics of air combat, the list of declared air victories of any ace, on whose side he fought, does not correspond to the number of aircraft he actually shot down. But how much it does not correspond, you need to find out individually for each pilot. However, in the general mass, some regularity can still be traced. According to rough estimates, the ratio of actually downed aircraft to those declared is in the range from 1:3 to 1:4.
The following lists of victories of some of our aces confirm these ratios. But here it should be noted that some planes shot down and confirmed by the enemy side can be claimed not only by other participants in the air battle, but also by anti-aircraft gunners, and in some cases, ordinary soldiers who fired rifles and machine guns at enemy aircraft. Therefore, only in rare cases can we say with complete certainty that such and such a pilot shot down this particular aircraft.
So in the list of Lieutenant Colonel Boris Feoktistovich Safonov's Guards, out of eight air victories confirmed by the German side, only four with full confidence can claim that it was he who won them.
I would also like to add a few words about the planes shot down in the group. Judging by the way they are invariably indicated with a plus in almost all the lists of air victories of our pilots published to date, you involuntarily begin to believe that these numbers mean something. Realistically though, these numbers mean absolutely nothing.
During the war years, the practice of accounting for group victories somehow justified itself. Well, first of all, this was one of the incentives for our pilots to strive to fight in a group, since in individual combat we suffered huge losses. And in some regiments, non-flying political instructors, in their instructions on how to fight correctly, reached the point that an enemy aircraft shot down in a group was put higher in importance than shot down by someone alone.
Very eloquent entries in the register of downed enemy aircraft of the 20th Guards IAP for 1941-1942. Here are some of them:
“April 23, 1942.
Pilots: art. lieutenants Kontsevoi, Khlobystov, But, Gorelyshev, senior s-nt Bychkov, s-nt Chibisov, Petelin, Zurov in an air battle in the region of the lake. Piaveyavr was shot down - 1 Me-110, 2 Me-109 and 3 Yu-87. Confirmed by VNOS posts.
April 29, 1942.
Pilots: Mr. Gromov, Art. Lieutenants Gorelyshev, Khlobystov, Kotov, Krymsky, Yurilin shot down 2 Me-109s in an air battle in the Bolshaya Zapadnaya Litsa area. Confirmed by ground forces.
May 09, 1942.
Pilots: art. Lieutenants Khlobystov, Gorelyshev, Krymsky, Yurilin, Lieutenant Lomakin, and Lieutenant Krutikov shot down 1 Me-109 in an air battle in the Bolshaya Zapadnaya Litsa area. Confirmed by ground forces.
May 15, 1942.
Pilots: Mr. Solomonov, Art. political instructor Seleznev, Art. lieutenants Kontsevoi, Yurilin, Krymsky, political instructor Zharikov, lieutenant Pshenev, s-on Krug in the area of Lake Odezh-Yavr shot down 1 Yu-88. Confirmed by VNOS posts."
And here is another curious entry in the same journal, which causes even more bewilderment:
“December 18, 1941.
Pilots: senior lieutenants Khlobystov and Gorelyshev, together with the pilots of the 145th IAP, shot down 4 Me-109 in an air battle in the Bolshaya Zapadnaya Litsa region ”(there is no record of confirmation of VNOS posts or ground troops - Approx. author .).
If in the previous entries it is only unclear which pilot and how many specifically recorded downed aircraft in the group, then in this entry it’s even unclear to everything else - for which regiment these four “downed” in the Me-109 group are actually recorded -X? And who can say how many stars to draw on board the aircraft participating in this battle - one or four at once? I think we will not be mistaken if we assume that all these four “downed” Me-109s were recorded on the accounts of both the 145th and 147th air regiments. On the scale of the division, which included these regiments, this figure was automatically doubled, and the divisional reports will feature not four, but already eight downed Messerschmitts. But the most interesting thing is that in reality the Germans had no losses at all that day.
At the same time, we should not forget that the command of the regiment, as well as especially distinguished pilots, quite often had to attend various meetings of residents of cities whose population suffered severely from enemy bombing. And the commissar proudly said that such and such a pilot, in a battle with the hated fascist invaders, personally shot down three enemy aircraft and ten in a group, and such and such personally shot down five and fifteen in a group ... Such figures, of course, were impressive.
Many photographs have been preserved where our pilots are posing near their aircraft, on which one or two filled stars are clearly visible for enemy aircraft shot down individually, and about two dozen "empty" stars for aircraft shot down in a group.
Very interesting memories were left by Alexander Shevtsov, already mentioned in this article, in which he well showed the attitude of the pilots of the 19th Guards IAP to this issue:
“And so Kutakhov's five landed. Excited pilots reported to the regiment commander: a group of enemy aircraft had been dispersed, the bombardment of Murmansk had been thwarted. Four enemy planes were shot down in air combat. All of our goals.
- Whom should the downed planes be assigned to?
- Everyone! Shot down by a group.
And suddenly the offended voice of Efim Krivosheev 7 was heard:
- Why at all? I shot down one "Messer". I fired at him, comrade commander. And he fell.
- And I shot, - said Kutakhov.
- However, I'm not asking you to write it down for me. Yes, and Bochkov shot.
Gloomy, angry ones returned from the command post. In the evening, guys from other squadrons came to the first squadron: Volodya Gabrinets, Kolya Gubin, the lively and always laughing Vanyushka Gaydayenko. And somehow, imperceptibly, the conversation turned around the Krivosheev plane. At first, in the form of separate remarks or sharp remarks, then louder and sharper. And finally, it resulted in a “male conversation”, in which they decided: to consider personally shot down only the plane that the pilot destroyed on his own, without the help of others. All the rest should be recorded as shot down by a group.
Having slightly crushed each other, the pilots at one time figured out which downed enemy aircraft to count in the group and which not. But what about us? If 2/3 of the declared aircraft shot down personally are not confirmed at all, then what can we say about those shot down in a group? And anyway, where did they come from - shot down in a group? How can one logically explain this Soviet collective accounting, if there was no such thing at all in other belligerent powers (Here one can argue with a respected author, see the article “Air Combat Accounting”. Note ed.).
Here are the cases that lend themselves to a logical explanation: the first - when the number of fallen "enemy" aircraft, according to the reports of the VNOS posts, was higher than the number declared by the pilots in an air battle. This difference was recorded for all the pilots who participated in the battle. The second is absolutely all the downed aircraft declared by the pilots, confirmed and not confirmed by the VNOS posts, signed between the participants in the battle.
But, as with every rule, there are exceptions. So, the author managed to find several cases when one enemy aircraft was shot down in a group. Basically, these are those episodes when everything is very clear: there is one enemy aircraft (usually a reconnaissance aircraft), and several of our fighters attack it in turn.
So, on June 27, 1941, three of our I-16s, the leading flight commander of the 72nd SAP, Major Gubanov and his wingmen - Senior Lieutenant Safonov and Lieutenant Antipin, having found the German reconnaissance Henschel-126 bombers in the ranks of their SB bombers, attacked his. After repeated attacks, the North Sea pilots managed to bring down the enemy 8 by common efforts. Of course, this destroyed aircraft was recorded in the flight books of the above-named pilots as being shot down in a group battle.
If such a case had occurred among the Germans, then the air victory would have been recorded only by one pilot, that is, the one after whose attack the enemy plane crashed to the ground. Of course, a mistake is possible here, since the attack of the previous pilot could have been more effective, but on the other hand, the Luftwaffe did not have deliberately inflated numbers of air victories.
At the end of the article, as required by the genre of historical investigation, the author must draw an appropriate conclusion; to compare some generalized figures, on the basis of which it would become obvious - whose aces were more productive and whose list of victories should ultimately be longer.
The author proposes to look at this issue from the other side - whose losses were higher, which means that the list of actually downed aircraft will be longer for the opposite side. From here, each reader will draw his own conclusion. To do this, I propose to compare the losses of Soviet and Nazi aviation during the successful offensive operation in the Far North from October 7 to November 1, 1944, when our aviation already completely dominated the sky of the Arctic.
For direct participation in the operation, 747 combat aircraft were involved from the 7th Air Army, of which 308 fighters (54 La-5, 30 LaGG-3, 67 Yak-9, 32 Yak-76, 19 Yak-1, 81 P-39Q, 25 R-40E and N), in addition, the Air Force of the Northern Fleet participated - 275 aircraft, of which 160 fighters (18 Yak-7b, 4 Yak-9, 105 P-39Q, 33 P-40N). A total of 1022 combat aircraft, including 468 fighters.
The German aviation group of the 5th Air Fleet, opposing the Soviet Air Force in the Far North, then included 66 fighters of the 3rd and 4th groups of the 5th fighter squadron "Eismeer" (III. and IV. / JG five). In total, 169 combat aircraft were based at sea and land airfields beyond the Arctic Circle.
Thus, the ratio of fighters was approximately 1:7, of course, not in favor of the Luftwaffe. Nevertheless, only in air battles from enemy fighters, our side lost 66 aircraft, of which 39 were fighters. The enemy lost 25 aircraft from the action of our fighters, of which only 12 fighters. The total combat losses were: 142 aircraft from our side and 63 from the Germans; 61 and 19 pilots died, respectively. There is no need to invent any complex and intricate systems for calculating the performance of a particular pilot, as some authors do. The above figures speak for themselves, who fought better and who should have a longer list of air victories.
As you can see, these figures also indicate that the enemy was not defeated, contrary to what is written in many books on the air war in the North.
Of course, now we can say that the enemy was cunning, did not enter into "fair" open fights, that bad weather was in the hands of German pilots, that the enemy's airfield network was more developed, but the fact remains - "polar hunters "in the sky of the Arctic once again demonstrated their advantage and, after the defeat on the land front, almost in full force were relocated to the airfields of the western coast of Norway. There, new Bf 109G-14 and FW 190 F-8 fighters were already waiting for them, on which they continued combat operations against the British Royal Air Force.
In conclusion, I would like to urge fellow historians to take a step up in their work and stop copying each other's well-known facts that supposedly should promote the heroism and high skill of Soviet pilots. Almost every such publication mentions cases when our illustrious ace No. 1 Ivan Kozhedub shot down a Nazi Me-262 jet plane in the German sky or pilot Alexander Gorovets shot down nine Ju-87 bombers over the Kursk Bulge in one battle, etc.
I will not reveal a big secret by saying that in every downed enemy plane there was a pilot who had a military rank, first and last name, and the plane belonged to one or another squadron, group, squadron. Of course, the establishment of all these parameters will require additional time and painstaking research work. But after all, one day it is necessary to name everyone by name, especially since the significance of the feat of our pilots will not decrease from more accurate and specific information, but on the contrary will only increase. Although disappointment awaits someone, since many of the feats sung by Soviet propaganda will remain only beautiful legends.
Here is one of them, invented, I emphasize, not by the pilot himself, but by those who were supposed to do this by the nature of their occupation and position. Three rams in one battle, and two rams were made by one pilot (A.S. Khlobystov) - it sounds great and inspires new reckless actions. But if you think about it sensibly, is it possible to shoot down a heavy twin-engine Me-110, and then with it the same Me-109? Theoretically, probably, it is possible to bring down more, practically - hardly.
Indeed, the German side confirms only one ram in this battle, but not Senior Lieutenant A.S. Khlobystov, and his commander, navigator of the regiment, Captain A.P. Pozdnikov, who died in a head-on collision with the Messerschmitt-110, whose pilot, Lieutenant Karl-Friedrich Koch, made an emergency landing and safely returned, together with the gunner-radio operator, to his airfield. (It is only unclear who Khlobystov “broke off” the wing of his “Kittyhawk” then, which can be clearly seen in the photo in the article. Editor’s note, the photo is not shown on the site ).
And here is a "tale" in the style of hunting stories, which used to be published in large numbers on the pages of the magazines "Wings of the Motherland" and "Aviation and Cosmonautics".
In the article under the common name "Duel", it was told how a famous German ace Major Mebus was shot down by a North Sea pilot in the sky of the Arctic over the Barents Sea on June 8, 1944, on whose combat account there were 74 air victories. The article also said that this ace always flew alone, and a dragon was painted on his Messerschmitt-109. In confirmation of the fact that this ace died in battle, a reference was made (the rarest case!) To the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, which placed an obituary.
Indeed, in Northern Finland in June 1944, Major Martin Mobus (Martin Modus) - commander of the 1st group of the 5th squadron of attack aircraft (I. / SG 5), holder of the Knight's Cross and Oak Leaves, died. True, not in battle, but in a car accident and not on the eighth of June, but on the second. Yes, and he never flew a Messerschmitt, since all his combat activities took place on Ju-87 dive bombers. And his grave is not in the cold waters of the Barents Sea, but in the military cemetery of Rovaniemi in Finland.
Perhaps, not from scratch, it was noticed in ancient times that they never lie as much as after hunting and during the war, which many authors simply forgot about.
* VNOS - aerial surveillance, warning and communications. NP - observation post.
1 Alexander Shevtsov was a correspondent for a divisional aviation newspaper during the war years. He made 48 sorties, 24 of them - on the Il-2 attack aircraft as an air gunner, which gave him the opportunity to competently describe an air battle.
2 B.P. Nikolaev has 5 downed enemy planes on his combat account. On March 27, 1943, in a battle over Murmansk, he rammed a Bf 109F-4 (WNr.7544), he himself escaped by parachute, and the German pilot died.
3 From January 1942 - Murmansk air defense divisional area; from 10/27/1943 - Murmansk air defense corps area.
4 Border guards, whose outposts operated throughout the war, also searched for downed planes and pilots, but their reports went through other channels and, naturally, did not reach the air defense and air force headquarters.
5 For complete objectivity, it should be noted that at the same time in the area of Lake. Nyalyavr two Yak-9s of the 20th IAP of the Northern Fleet Air Force fought an air battle with two Me-109s. As a result, Junior Lieutenant Shevchenko announced the downing of one Me-109, and Lieutenant Turganov - one FW-190. (Here is also an interesting detail, he fought with the Me-109, and reported that he shot down the FW-190).
6 These are tags from one aircraft.
7 Killed on 09/09/42 in an air battle ramming a Bf 109F-4 in the forehead, German pilot Ober-Corporal Günther Hoffman from 6./JG 5 also died. E.A. Krivosheev was posthumously awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.
9 Ns 126B WNr.3395 of 1. (H)/32, pilot Fw Herbert Kern missing, observer Lt Paul-Heinz Becker killed .