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Ivan Kozhedub and La-7

The commander of the 176th GIAP Colonel P.E. Chupikov (left) and the deputy regiment commander Captain I.N. Kozhedub (right).

Three times Hero of the Soviet Union Ivan Nikitovich Kozhedub on La-7 shot down 17 enemy aircraft (including the Me-262 jet fighter) out of 62 he shot down during the war on La-brand fighters.

Kozhedub fought one of the most memorable battles on February 19, 1945 (sometimes the date is February 24). On this day, he flew out on a free hunt, paired with Dmitry Titarenko. On the traverse of the Oder, the pilots noticed a plane approaching rapidly from the direction of Frankfupt an der Oder. The plane flew along the riverbed at an altitude of 3500 m at a speed much higher than the La-7 could develop. It was the Me-262. Kozhedub instantly made a decision. The Me-262 pilot relied on the high-speed qualities of his car and did not control the airspace in the rear hemisphere and below. Kozhedub attacked from below on a head-to-head course, hoping to hit the jet in the belly. However, before Kozhedub, Titarenko opened fire. Much to Kozhedub's surprise, the slave's premature firing was beneficial. The German turned to the left, towards Kozhedub, the latter could only catch the Messerschmitt in the sight and press the trigger. Me-262 turned into a fireball. Non-commissioned officer Kurt-Lange from 1./KG(J)-54 was in the cockpit of the Me 262.

On the evening of April 17, 1945, Kozhedub and Titarenko performed the fourth combat sortie of the day to the Berlin area. Immediately after crossing the front line north of Berlin, the hunters discovered a large group of FW-190s with suspended bombs. Kozhedub began to climb to attack and reported to the command post about the establishment of contact with a group of forty Focke-Wulwof with suspended bombs.

German pilots clearly saw how a pair of Soviet fighters went into the clouds and did not expect them to appear again. However, hunters appeared. From behind, from above, Kozhedub in the first attack knocked down the leading four of the Fokkers, closing the group. The hunters tried to give the enemy the impression of the presence of a significant number of Soviet fighters in the air. Kozhedub threw his La-7 right into the midst of enemy aircraft, turning Lavochkin left and right, the ace fired in short bursts from the cannons. The Germans succumbed to the trick - the Focke-Wulfs began to free them from bombs that interfere with an air battle. However, the Luftwaffe pilots soon established the presence of only two La-7s in the air and, taking advantage of the numerical advantage, took the guardsmen into circulation. One FW-190 managed to get into the tail of Kozhedub's fighter, but Titarenko opened fire before the German pilot - the Focke-Wulf exploded in the air. By this time, help arrived - a La-7 group from the 176th regiment, Titarenko and Kozhedub were able to get out of the battle on the last remnants of fuel. On the way back, Kozhedub saw a single FW-190, still trying to drop bombs on the Soviet troops. Ace dived and shot down an enemy plane. This was the last, 62nd, German aircraft shot down by the best Allied fighter pilot.

Kozhedub's total bill does not include at least two aircraft - American P-51 Mustang fighters. In one of the battles in April, Kozhedub tried to drive away German fighters from the American Flying Fortress with cannon fire. The US Air Force escort fighters misunderstood the intentions of the La-7 pilot and opened barrage from a long distance ...


"As Ivan Nikitovich himself told me (preface to Ivan Kozhedub's book" Loyalty to the Fatherland "by N. G. Bodrikhin), on April 17, 1945, meeting the" Flying Fortresses "of the allies in the air, he drove away from them a couple of" Messerschmitts " ", But a second later he himself was attacked by American cover fighters.

“Fire to whom? To me?! - Kozhedub recalled with indignation half a century later. - The line was long, with a long distance of a kilometer, with bright, unlike ours and German, tracer shells. Due to the long distance, it was visible how the end of the line bends down. I rolled over and, quickly getting close, attacked the extreme American (by the number of fighters in the escort, I already knew who it was) - something exploded in his fuselage, he got very worn out and went down towards our troops. After completing a combat turn with a half-loop, from an inverted position, I attacked the next one. My shells went down very well - the plane exploded in the air ...

When the tension of the battle subsided, my mood was not at all victorious - I had already managed to make out the white stars on the wings and fuselages. "They will arrange for me ... for the first number," I thought, as I put the car down. But nothing happened. In the cockpit of the Mustang, which had landed on our territory, sat a hefty black man. To the question of the guys who came to him in time, who knocked him down (or rather, when they managed to translate this question), he answered: "Focke-Wulf" with a red nose ... I don't think he was playing along; the allies had not yet learned to look both ways ...

When the FKP (photo-machine gun) films were developed, the main moments of the battle were recorded on them very clearly. The footage was watched by the command of the regiment, and the division, and the corps. The division commander Savitsky, who we were under operational control then, said after watching: "These victories are at the expense of a future war." And Pavel Fedorovich Chupikov, our regiment commander, soon gave me these tapes with the words: "Take them for yourself, Ivan, and do not show anyone."

This was one of several military clashes between Soviet and American aviation that took place in 1944-1945 ... "

FKP footage from La-7 Kozhedub, capturing the last seconds of the flight of the American Mustang, which recklessly attacked the Soviet ace in the Berlin sky on April 17, 1945.

Bibliography

  • War in the Air magazine / No. 70, 2001 /
  • Loyalty to the Fatherland. / Ivan Kozhedub /
  • Fight Seeker. (preface to the book by Ivan Kozhedub) / N.G. Bodrikhin /