Aviation of World War II

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Vitaly Klimenko and Yak-7B

1920 - 2014

Vitaly Ivanovich Klimenko, Guard Senior Lieutenant

On June 22, 1941, Lieutenant V.I. Klimenko at the fronts of the Great Patriotic War. Until November 1941, he fought as part of the 10th IAP, flew I-16 and MiG-3. From March 12, 1942 - flight commander in the 1st Guards IAP. He flew the Hurricane, Yak-1 and Yak-7.

Guard Senior Lieutenant V.I. Klimenko flew 335 combat missions, conducted 42 air battles, in which he personally shot down 12 enemy aircraft.

On June 24, 1945 he took part in the historic Victory Parade on Red Square in Moscow.

- How did you enter?

A young pilot comes, for example. I finished school. They let him fly around the airfield a little, then fly around the area, then in the end he can be paired. You don't let him into battle right away. Gradually ... Gradually ... Because I don't need to carry the target by the tail. The wingman must look after me, and when I go on the attack, he must cover me. And if he only watches so as not to get lost and not to tear himself away from me, then they can shoot him down, and I cannot attack, because I have to watch him. So, if a young man flies in a group, then the whole group guards him until he gets a little more comfortable.

One day the commander of the 3rd Air Army, Hero of the Soviet Union M.M. Gromov arrived at our airfield. On behalf of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, he awarded distinguished pilots. I also received the first Order of the Red Banner. At that time, it was an honor for us to receive a government award, and we wore them all the time, even on flights.

In September, we transferred our remaining Yak-1 to a neighboring regiment. I took 8 or 9 of the remaining Yak-1s. We approached the airfield. We worked on the details of the dissolution on the ground at our airfield, deciding to perform a beautiful steep slide with the dissolution of the group and subsequent individual performance of aerobatics. We formed a circle over the airfield for the approach. We sat down and lined up. Beautiful! I went to the command post to report on the arrival and transfer of our Yak-1. At the command post I was met by the commander, who turned out to be the former head of the Chuguevsky aviation school, Colonel Petrov. After a short conversation, we were put into a passenger Li-2 and taken to our airfield. The next day, our 1st Guards IAP on Li-2 was relocated to the Voronezh front, to the airfield near the city of Usman.

Arriving at the airfield near the city of Usman, we settled in the nearest village, waiting for new fighters. After 2 - 3 weeks, new Yak-7B fighters, already flown by the factory test pilots, began to arrive from the Novosibirsk plant. We quickly mastered them, since they practically did not differ from the Yak-1, and were preparing in the near future to engage in air battles on the Voronezh front in order to ensure our air supremacy and repulse the Germans from Voronezh. While we were equipping with the new Yak-7B near Voronezh, the German offensive was suspended. And we, having flown to the airfield near the city of Stary Oskol and made several combat missions, received an order to return to the Kalinin front again, since we rarely met Germans in the air. And the front-line aviation worked well here.

- What types of yaks did you fight?

- On the Yak-7B and Yak-1. He mastered the Yak-9 at the Higher School of Air Combat. They were all the same to me. The worst fighter is the I-16, and everything else is nonsense. "MiG", so he sat down himself, at least drop the handle. What about the yaks? The cockpit is quite comfortable, the glazing, the quality of plexiglass is normal and the visibility is good, so we flew with a closed canopy. In general, the review largely depends on the pilot. A mirror was installed to look back, but you still need to turn the plane slightly to look around, well, and turn your head. You must see the back hemisphere, otherwise you will be killed. It used to turn your head so bad that the neck was red, and when we flew in the I-16, we had celluloid collars, so they rubbed the neck until it was bloody. The sights were normal, but in the "dog dump" there is no time to use them - you aim at your own track. Young pilots, as they press the trigger, do not release it until the cartridges run out. When they arrive, the trunks are blue, they are overheated - they need to be replaced. And when I have experience, I threw the track, let the plane down and hit it. You can look through the scope when you shoot at targets. But when you are already in the air, in battle, where moments, seconds decide everything, what kind of sight is there!

- Who is harder to shoot down?

Fighter. The Messerschmitt is a good car, the Focke-Wulf is a very good air-cooled car, but its maneuverability is worse than that of the Messer. In general, everything depends on the pilot who is sitting in the German plane. The more experienced the enemy pilot, the more difficult it is. I must say that although it is easier to shoot down a bomber, it is not easy to approach their formation. It is necessary to enter from the sun or from a cloud, or even better, when the attack is coming simultaneously from different directions, for example, some from below, others from above. From the first attack it is necessary to shoot down the leader - everyone is guided by him, and bombs are often thrown "at him". And if you want to personally shoot down, then you need to catch the pilots who fly last. They don't know shit, there are usually young people. If he fought back - yeah, it's mine. Consider two thousand rubles in your pocket (for a bomber they gave 2 thousand, for a scout for some reason 1.5 thousand, and for a fighter a thousand). Well, we all piled up the money, and if there was a lull, then we sent messengers (or to drive the plane to the workshop, or something else) for vodka. I remember that half a liter then cost 700 - 800 rubles. So the first step is trying to get into the cockpit, then you can transfer the fire to the plane. You leave the ammunition for the second run, otherwise some will shoot everything, and then ram. Nobody rammed into our regiment. Why? Because there was a good flight crew, with good training. True, it happened that the pilot flies in and says: "Shot down!" - "How did you hit?" - “Well, I saw that the track ended ...” And it so happens that when you shoot from a great distance, the track bends and gets lost behind the plane, and it seems that you hit, but it flies and flies. When you get on a plane, you immediately see something like sparks or lightning.

- How were the downed planes confirmed?

In general, so. You arrive at the airfield and report to the regiment command that they were conducting an air battle in such and such an area, shot down one enemy plane, which fell there. If this is on our territory, then confirmation should come from the troops located in this area, and if from the Germans, then the partisans should confirm either the crews of the aircraft that we accompanied, or the pilots with whom they flew. It seems to me that there were no entries in the battle accounts. This was not accepted. All are in sight! What do you mean shot down in a group? At first it was like this: I attack, shoot down, but the follower is covering me. I write that we shot down in a group. Who then counted? Anyway, they put a thousand or two in a hat.

- You flew for escort. Whom is it harder to escort - IL-2 or bombers?

- More difficult to cover for stormtroopers. They walk very low. I can't walk next to them - they will shoot down. Climbed higher - they are not visible against the background of a forest or snow, it is very easy to lose. It happened that the "Messera" rushed to them. You hear on the radio: “Hats, caps, we are under attack! Cover up! " Then you dive down to the group. Was the loss of the escorted group punished? No, but there were debriefings on which disciplinary action could be obtained. War is war. And with bombers it is good - they fly at 3-4 thousand. We go a little higher than them, or even next to them: twirl the "barrel" in front of them, to raise courage. Of course, if you got involved in a battle, then they very quickly leave with a decline and it is almost impossible to catch up with them, for which we later scolded them.

- When did stable radio communication appear?

- In the 41st year, one might say, there was no radio communication. There was one crack in the headphones, no one was using the radio. In 1942, when the "yaks", "flashes" went, we already began to use the radio both between our planes and for communication with the escorted group.

- Air battles at what altitude did you mainly go?

- At the beginning of the war at low altitudes, up to one and a half thousand. This is where we lost a lot. Gradually, the heights rose to three or four thousand.

- Have there been any cases of cowardice?

- There were. Especially at the beginning of the war. I even remember that in a neighboring regiment a pilot was shot in front of the formation for a crossbow.

- There were times when you did not get involved in the battle, seeing that the German group is larger or it is higher?

- Leave before the fight? Never! Be there at least a hundred planes, at least two, at least a thousand! Why? Because everyone will not attack you at the same time.

- Were there signs, premonitions, superstitions?

- Everyone was afraid of the 13th and did not want to take a plane with that number. On the contrary, I tried to get the plane with the number 13. Sometimes it even seemed to me that the German fighters would turn away when they saw the number. Maybe it helped me, saved me. But not to be photographed or not to shave before departure - that was not the case.

- What is the significance of the physical strength and training of the pilot?

- Colossal value! And not only physical, but also moral preparation. The fighter pilot experiences not only overloads during the battle, he not only pilots at the limit of what is possible, he also bears the burden of responsibility for his comrades, for his followers, he is affected by the loss of his friends. He must be ready for all this.

- Did you give the pilots a rest at the front?

- During periods of calm near the airfields, they organized some kind of rest house, sent there for a week. They also rested there after being wounded.

- Did you have a feeling of fear?

- Never before departure or upon receipt of a mission. It happened that a ground station would direct you, but you could not see the enemy group. Here you are nervous, kind of like a blind man: somewhere there is an enemy, maybe he is preparing to attack, but you do not see him. You freak out. As soon as I saw it, everything is in order. Here - who will win. On the Volkhov front, we accompanied the "pawns". On the way back, one damaged bomber began to lag behind. I sent my wingman with the group, and I myself stayed with the bomber. He somehow reached the front line and caught fire. The crew began to jump out, then a Messer jumped out from somewhere. He got in my tail, missed and jumped forward. We took a turn with him. It's already dark in my eyes from overload, and you can't lay a steeper turn, and he can't do it. This is how we hummed for two minutes on a bend. Probably, he ran out of gasoline, he jumped out of the bend and left. I went home too. Here - you want to shoot down, but the power of the equipment is not enough.

- How did you treat losses?

- Hard. Friends are hard to lose. In my flight there was a young pilot, Valentin Soloviev, with whom we were friends. In one of the air battles on the Kalinin front, I turned back and saw that a Messer had come into its tail, and it flared up. All this took some seconds, I didn't even have time to shout. I could not help him in any way and from this I was very worried. There was a bad aftertaste from the fact that he had lost a friend and could not help him in any way. Then, of course, you get used to losses - this is how it should be. Some will be alive, some will not.

- What did you do with the personal belongings of the victims?

- What personal belongings do we have? Overcoat. There were no raglans. Boots can't be sent anywhere.

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In 1946 he was unjustifiably repressed on charges of anti-Soviet agitation. In 1955 he was fully rehabilitated.


  • I fought in a fighter / Artem Drabkin /