Interview with Porfiriy Borisovich Ovsyannikov
Oleg Korytov and Konstantin Chirkin ©
Transcribed by Igor Zhidov ©
Translated by James F. Gebhardt © and edited by Ilya
Special thanks to Svetlana Spiridonova, Mikhail Bykov,
and Igor Seidov (whose commentary is annotated “I.S.”)
Part 1. Great
formula of battle is simple:
You should see the enemy first;
Altitude is the guarantor of victory;
Plus speed and steel nerves.
I was born on 29 February 1924, but de jure on 1 March
1924, in a remote settlement in the center of Russia, in
Kursk oblast. The name of the village was Ovsyannikovo,
and accordingly my family name is Ovsyannikov. I was a
hereditary peasant; my father became a carpenter and a
laborer, and my mother was a kolkhoz worker.
did you get into aviation?
simple in our Soviet time—club members worked for free.
I considered aviation to be the “profession of the
elites.” We ran behind the pilots with open mouths,
believing that this profession was incomprehensible.
It was in September 1940, at the beginning of the school
year; I recall it like it was yesterday. The 15th of
September was such a good day, with light clouds. I was
in 10th grade at the time. The school was 5 kilometers
from my house, in a former monastery—the [monastic]
cells were made over into classrooms. It had an enormous
garden, an apple orchard. We had one long break a day—20
minutes. We were running round the garden. Suddenly an
aircraft appeared overhead—a U-2, flying so low we could
see the pilot. We looked—the airplane was turning
around. It made only one circuit and then the bell rang.
Like a disciplined student, I ran back to class. The
late-comers ran in and announced: “The airplane landed!
In the field, close by.”
We were in literature class and whispered back and
forth. When 15 minutes remained to the end of the
lesson, the door suddenly opened and Fedor Yakovlevich
Senkevich—the school principal—walked in. He was a tall
man, and with him was the pilot, a man of average
height. He was wearing a raglan jacket and carrying a
mapcase. He removed his helmet, no earphones, just a
helmet, with goggles.
Of course, we greeted him: Zdras’te! [Good day]
He asked: “How are things with you? What are you doing
for your lesson?”
The teacher responded: “Now we are reviewing previous
reading assignments and checking how well it was
He replied: “Then I will take up your time to the end of
the lesson. Is that alright?”
“Yes, yes, please do.”
This is when I saw the pilot for the first time. The
director declared, “Kids!” (He always referred to us as
“kids.”) A pilot from the Kursk aero club has flown to
us. He wants to converse with you.”
The pilot gave a brief evaluation of the international
situation—the war. It was 1940 and the war was already
underway. The Germans were fighting in France, the
Maginot line, and so on. Speaking briefly, he said that
a supplementary call-up had been declared in Kursk, and
they were bringing in boys. Then some of our girls
raised their hands:
“What about girls?”
He replied: “Ladies! The government has forbidden the
selection of young girls. Before this we had [female]
pilots. Young girls were trained. But the government has
issued a regulation that this is not women’s business.
There are other clubs—radio, parachute class... Help
They grew quiet. The lesson ended and debates began. We
had 15 young boys and 15 girls. All the boys gathered:
“Well, how about it! Should we go? Let’s go!”
Only two did not go. One of them was our idol. His name
was Valka Tutov. He was tall, well-proportioned, and the
best student among us. He could make a complete
revolution around the horizontal bar, and we still hung
like sausages. Overall, he was a strong, developed young
man. He said:
“Guys, the medical commission will not accept me. I
can’t see out of one eye.”
The second guy was, well, not too bright. You might even
say he was retarded.
At the established time, we all raced into town. Only
two of our group made it through the medical screening.
The remainder, including me, were “thrown overboard.”
The surgeon probed me and said: “What is this you have—a
left-side abdominal hernia!”
Well, that was all for me.
He said: “I advise you, young man, to go to the
polyclinic and get a consultation for the hospital.1
Let them do a relatively simple operation on you. After
that, we will look at you again.”
Our village was very religious; so were my mother and
father, especially my mother. But she was also quite
illiterate—she could neither read nor write. They had
suggested to her before that I have an operation. But my
“Cut on him? No way!”
Now I went to her and said: “Mama, I am going to the
hospital, and they will do the operation!”
She protested, but I went anyway. They did the
operation. I went back to school in about two weeks. It
was late fall by now. My schoolmates who had been
selected for the aero club in early November got their
head gear somewhere, and showed them off. Well, we were
around 17 years old then. They called themselves pilots.
said that your village was religious. How did they
regard Soviet authority in the village? And how did
Soviet authority relate to the “believers”?
village was Old Believers.2
As they used to go to prayers before the revolution,
they kept going after. We did not have a church in the
village, rather a prayer house. How did the people
relate to Soviet authority? I could talk for a long time
on this theme. Briefly—we lived the same way as we used
to. Kolkhozes were formed. Peasants hardly wanted to go
at first, later they “tried it out.” Nobody complained
much; they got used to it. And as before, they crossed
themselves and prayed.
the larger sense, Soviet authority did not interfere
with your lives?
there a party organization? A Komsomol organization?3
the village. There was one in the school. I was an
Oktyabrenok [pre-Pioneer]. On holidays, I participated
in the religious processions; when I returned, the other
boys teased me. But I was terribly religious, and could
not argue with them.
But in all, we were happy and lived an interesting life.
From my childhood, as long as I can remember, I
participated in religious services and performed my
duties for all the holidays. We were brought up with our
own idiosyncrasies. For example, the railroad track was
5 kilometers away, and we could hear the whistle of the
steam locomotives. Well, they preached that when the
locomotive whistled, we had to cross ourselves. And we
did. Locomotives were considered as anti-Christ
manifestations. Airplanes were beginning to fly — an
airplane flew over our village, a passenger airplane. It
was flying, I think, from Kharkov northward to Moscow.
In one of the sermons, I heard them say:
“It is written in the Bible — iron birds will appear in
the sky. The noise they will produce will be the
anti-Christ, the voice of the devil.”
And further: “You should not look at them; close your
ears and cross yourself.”
This is how we lived.
Meanwhile, an airplane landed at your school?
happened later. When I went to school, I already had
begun to break away. What was the cross about? I had
begun to argue with my mother.
“I do not believe in God!”
Of course, she was distressed by this.
But we digress. The young men who had joined the aero
club came to the school and said to me:
“They have declared a supplementary selection. Do you
want to join?”
“Yes, I do!”
So I went to the doctor again.
“What’s this you have?”
“What did they remove?”
“Remove” was not exactly the right term—they “took in.”
Well, in general he understood. Perhaps it was the
pre-war situation and the requirements had been lowered.
But in the end, he gave me a satisfactory evaluation.
So we began to go to the aero club, on Mondays,
Wednesdays, and Fridays. As soon as lessons ended, we
went from the school into town. Exercises began there at
1800 and lasted three hours. We returned home sometime
around midnight. It was 10 kilometers to the town, but
we were young.
us what kind of equipment you had in the classes.
special. Well, of course we had posters and cutaway
engines. We studied aircraft and aerodynamics,
meteorological issues. Everything was laid out for us in
an easy manner. I remember it all to this day. Our
instructors must take credit for that. Our first flight
was in May, with an instructor, of course. By the way, I
had a female instructor. She was the wife of the flight
commander—Yelena Karayskaya. She was pretty. My
instructor had, I think, 10 or 12 students. So, we flew
for the first time. I glanced down and there... I was
accustomed to a single stream near the village, and I
saw many streams! Well, I had no idea where I was, but
overall I liked it. The credentials committee came to
us, and everyone passed it: none of us were from a kulak
background—we were all peasants.4
We made our flights very early, at 0600. We made four
flights in a day, no more.
they take you out of class on flight days?
lessons? No. Examinations had already begun at school.
We flew from 0600 to 0900. After 0900, as a rule, they
released us and we walked to school. They greeted us
with the words:
“The pilots have arrived!”
Our flight program was extended. When demonstration
flights began, it was possible to be out for a day.
During the first flights, we observed the pilot and did
not touch the controls. We also flew on Saturday,
Sunday, or days off.
One time my father came home on a Sunday. He worked as a
foreman or team leader; he was building something
somewhere. Well, now they call them handymen. My father
was one of the first in the village to buy a
battery-operated radio. He had only a fourth-grade
parochial school education. He began to teach me
church-Slavonic. We had a Bible at home.
I remember to this day, “Az, buki, vedi...”[the first
three letters of the church-Slavonic alphabet].
It was Sunday, and we were still lying in bed. Mother
awakened us from the kitchen: “Get up! It’s time to
It was already 10:00, I think. Father turned on the
radio. Some kind of music was playing, over and over,
and then they announced, “All radio stations of the
Soviet Union are working!” This was the sign-on
Then Vyacheslav Molotov began speaking, and he declared,
“Early this morning, the German Army violated the
border... They bombed our cities.” He listed them:
“Odessa, Kiev, and Minsk.”
Father listened, then he cried out, “Mother, trouble!
Mother, trouble! War!”
Mother wailed, cried, and ran outside. The sun was
already high. Everyone in our village learned that the
war had begun from us.
you finished school by this time?
the aero club and school continued to function. One day,
some I-16s landed at our aero club airfield. On the
other side of the town, in the south, was a large
airfield with a concrete runway. Some SBs were stationed
there. Why didn’t they land there? I don’t know. Two of
I-16s broke their gear during the landing, I think. They
came from Chernigov. Some Messerschmitts harassed them
in the air. The war was on, and we were training. Back
in June, before the war I think, I took off on my sixth
flight solo. Everyone was going through the program, but
I was the first to solo. I don’t know why, but
everything was going my way, and I was the first among
all of our young men. We flew only on the U-2. We also
had a UT-2 and a UT-1, but only the detachment commander
flew them. I remember how we looked at it; it was such a
beautiful small airplane, a miniature. I finished
school; we had a graduation party.
you have finals right before the war?
our final exam was scheduled, a German airplane flew
over. We rushed out of the schoolhouse. It had its own
unique sound. It was in the evening, probably; it was a
reconnaissance aircraft heading past us for Moscow.
Studies ended and they issued us our papers. Sometime in
July, around the 26th, we finished aero club. They gave
us a certificate of completion for aero club. “Komsomol,
forward!” and we rushed off to the front. Quickly,
independently, without any summons, we went to the
voyenkomat [military commissariat—draft board]. To
the front! We are already pilots! Send us to the front!
They received us at the voyenkomat and said, “We are not
sending you to the front, but to further flight
training!” They sent me and two of my comrades to
Chuguev Aviation School.
you call it “Chugunok” among cadets? [Chugunok
in Russian is a cooking vessel that was used in a
traditional Russian oven.]
all. We did not call it “Chugunok.” I heard this the
first time from you. Its name was Chuguev School.
On 29th of June, my father and younger brother
accompanied me from Kursk railroad station to Kharkov.
This was my farewell with my parents. Already on the 6th
of August, I was enrolled as a cadet in Chuguev School.
The school was large, with seven squadrons. Initially
they had a terka there as well.5
We studied the UT-2 and I-16. Later we entered a flight
program on the UT-2. We began to fly. We flew without
any special strain, and there was no shortage of
gasoline. We had not even begun solo flights when
suddenly, sometime in early September, around the 10th,
I think, flights were curtailed. They prepared all the
aircraft that were capable of flight.
We began walking guard, securing the aircraft, with a
rifle and bayonet that together were taller than we
were. We had one captain, Pavlov, the chief of personnel
and supply records. He issued us our instructions. “Be
vigilant!” He provided a review of events: spies killed
someone here, they blew up a bridge there, and saboteurs
landed somewhere else. He described the real situation
to us. The nights... The nights are dark in Ukraine. We
walked around the airplanes, which were spread out with
about 30 meters between them. You are walking, and a
gopher scampers from under your foot. “Whew!” And you
have some unspeakable feelings… Your senses are on full
alert. You are pumping adrenaline. In the morning you
hear that in another squadron, sentries shot a horse.
Someone shouts: “Halt! Who goes there?”
It keeps walking. Well, it turns out the “walker” was a
horse. We had such episodes.
A rumor went around that they would evacuate us. The
unserviceable airplanes were burned. On the 15th of
September, we set out in a march column. We rolled up
our greatcoat and shouldered our rifles and gas masks.
We formed up and moved out. Where? For what? The answer
to every question was the same—“Forward – march!” With
all of the school’s squadrons. Our squadron walked from
Blagodatnyy settlement. The squadrons were dispersed. We
walked about 40 kilometers on the first day. We moved in
this manner on foot 500 versts [approximately 500 km] to
Kalach in Voronezh district! The Germans were at
Smolensk. At night they flew over us to Kharkov, which
your instructors stand Alert-1 in the cockpits of the
I-16s to intercept enemy planes?6
did not stand watch. At Kalach they mounted us in rail
cars. Where were they hauling us? It was a secret! They
were correct in concealing our destination, by the way.
There was a lengthy delay at Rostov while they permitted
a hospital train to pass. I remember that well. They let
it pass, and then the Germans bombed it.
have the cross markings, in accordance with all the
crosses everywhere. But who looked at that? Oh, God! “In
accordance with the Geneva Convention…” Oh, come on!
They just dropped their bombs.
our pilots bomb their medical facilities?
know. But try to spot the crosses from an altitude of
Perhaps the Germans did not see the red crosses?
know. But that was not my point. I simply said that if
we had not let that train pass, then it possibly would
have been us and not them. We crossed the bridge over
the Don. They transported us to Baku and there
transferred us to a steamer. When we were crossing the
Caspian Sea, I became seasick, perhaps for half a day. I
was thinking, “God! It’s a good thing that I ended up in
aviation. Thank God not in the Navy!”
We arrived at Krasnovodsk. The electricity was flowing!
There was no blackout, it was as if there was no war
going on! They placed us on a passenger train to
Chimkent. A [flight] school was based there. The
squadrons were being dispersed throughout Kazakhstan and
Turkestan. One squadron was in Dzhambul. Ours was in
Arys, a railroad hub north of Chimkent. The school was
set up on a base for troop ammunition storage
By the way, Ivan Kozhedub was at our school. One day
they held a formation and read a citation to us about
Kozhedub. He flew at low altitude and hit something, and
then made a forced landing. I have forgotten the
Ovsyannikov (left) and Cadet Gertsenok, 1942.
types of aircraft did you have?
supposed to graduate on the I-16. We flew the UTI-4,
that’s a dual seater. Before that we were supposed to
master the UT-2.
the UT-2 have straight or bent wings?
you afraid of it? Was there talk that it would spin?
it was complicated in that respect. It would go into a
flat spin. At the beginning, for some time, we were
forbidden to execute complex aerobatic maneuvers. I will
tell you about spins later.
We began to train, and simultaneously constructing the
airfield. The Kazakh steppe, gophers, burrows. We
leveled the hummocks with shovels—no heavy equipment was
available. Summer is dry there, and autumn—you can sink
in this soil. Spring there is like a carpet! Initially
tulips, later poppies. In mid-May, large flocks of sheep
come. What they ate, I don’t know. Everything has dried
up, everything is parched. Only camel’s thorn are green,
and they remain green all summer.
We built the airfield and began to fly. By now it was
1942. Stalingrad. We finished with the UT-2 and went on
to flights in the UTI-4.
After the U-2, when I took off in the UT-2, I began to
work the stick abruptly. My flight instructor almost
killed me after my check ride: “Do you want to kill me?
What were you doing?”
I’m describing how maneuverable it was.
The UTI-4 was small—you could reach out and touch the
wingtip, it seemed. In the rear cockpit you could say
that your back was resting against the fin. Well, in
short order I completed a total of nine flights. Right
there it had begun, and just as soon it ended: they took
a portion of our instructors to the front, along with
the operational I-16 aircraft. Only several crippled
airplanes remained. Some even had spreader bars between
the wheels to keep the chassis from collapsing. They
divided the cadets into two parts: we had four groups in
the detachment—114th, 124th, 134th, and 144th. These
they divided in half, and only the 114th and 124th flew.
I was in the 134th. So I and my comrades spent many
unhappy days on the sidelines. While they began to fly
an accelerated program, we walked guard, spent a day on
guard duty, and the next day worked in the kitchen. They
flew and we “licked our lips.”
By now it was November 1942, and I was on guard duty. A
call came from the entrance to the dugout. The chief of
the guard took the handset. I heard him say:
He then informed us:
“The squadron commander just came through the
I was replaced at my post, and a person replaced at his
post should then stand watch over the guard house—the
awake shift. I was standing on top of the dugout; it was
cold, I was wearing a sheepskin coat. I was holding such
a long, long rifle—longer than I was tall. Major Yusim
walked up. He had his own distinctive stride—he did not
raise his head, he looked down all the time. He came up
even with me, raised his head, and asked the question:
“Ovsyannikov! Do you want to fly?”
“Yes, comrade Major!”
Then he said to me from below (from below, because I was
above him, on top of the dugout):
“An experimental group is being formed, which will,
bypassing the UTI-4, go through the program on Yak-7s,
which have arrived at the school. We will issue the Yaks
immediately. What do you think about that? Well, we will
give you an additional course in the UT-2, including
high-speed landings and maneuvers in zone.”
they dual-control or single-seat Yaks?
were both single- and dual seat. We practiced takeoffs
and landings and aerobatics in the Yaks. But we also
performed this training in the I-16. Also spins. You had
only to pull back the stick and it would spin. The Ishak
[donkey, the nickname for the I-16] was demanding. But
on the other hand, it came out of the spin immediately.
have told me that the I-16 spun in an unusual manner.
Everything normally spins evenly, but the I-16 rotated
360 degrees—slowed, rotated 360 degrees again, and
not lie about the I-16—I did not fly in them. I flew the
UTI-4 [a two-seat version of the I-16]. The Cobra spun
in a jerky movement, and the MiG-19...
But let’s return to November 1942. As soon as the
squadron commander left, the chief of the guard jumped
up: “Are you an idiot? Do you want to be arrested? They
will give you ten days of arrest!”
Being on guard duty, I did not have the right to talk or
respond. But what kind of question was put to me? It was
a provocation! I returned to my barracks after the shift
change, and they were already waiting for me—my former
flight commander, who trained me in the UT-2, and my
instructor, Lieutenant Viktor Polesskiy. They began to
train us in a special program. We worked on high-speed
landings. You get close to the ground—level it out, and
at level attitude carry on for perhaps a kilometer.
Well, perhaps this was not necessary, I can’t say,
Then we moved on to the Yak-7. In July 1943 they
graduated us; we “chased down” the group that had
already completed in the Yak-7, but after the I-16.
Well, we were like the guinea pigs—test animals. In July
they commissioned us with officer rank—junior
lieutenant. Before this they graduated as sergeants.
did you think of the Yak after the UT and UTI?
Yak was a good airplane. As I began to take off, my back
was pressed into the seat—it had a lot more power! As
far as manipulating the controls—it was a normal
there breakdowns? How often were they damaged from
had any myself; but in general, well, I don’t remember.
color were they painted?
UT-2s, I think, were white and one with a red stripe.
The I-16s were greenish. Well, I’m not very selective in
my colors, but it was closer to greenish.
graduation, how many total hours had you flown?
Altogether 100 hours, including the aero club. About ten
hours in the Yak at flight school. The program was local
flight—circuits around the airfield and in the local
area. One time we flew cross-country as a pair.
you have any examination or test for graduation?
there was an examination. It was flying around the local
area with an instructor. I don’t remember whom I flew
with. They also tested us in theory. I finished flight
school in July and they issued us canvas boots. Before
us they sent out sergeant pilots in puttees, and
collected up any new greatcoats among us. Well, we
ourselves exchanged them, and no one lost his. They
issued us a certificate that said we were officers, and
with this certificate... They had just introduced these
ranks. Initially we were junior lieutenants. It was
different for artillerymen—they held lieutenant rank for
six months of their training. Well, Timoshenko was not
really fair to us aviators.
about how they fed you during training.
us normally. It was sufficient.
Everyone with whom we have raised this subject has said:
“We were not fed enough until we reached the front
can attest to that as well. For example, they did not
give the instructors a supplementary breakfast. So we
gave them supplements from our rations. We were not
starving, but if they had given us seconds, we would
have gladly eaten them. No, I would not say that we were
hungry, no. Our ration was normal, but strictly
controlled. Do you understand? It was according to norm.
One time we were sent to sort rotten onions from good
ones in a vegetable storage base and we tried to eat
them. We had young stomachs.
Well, we went to Moscow. We arrived at the personnel
department and, instead of the front, they sent our
entire group to Ivanovo—to be transitioned to the Cobra.
On the one hand it was unfortunate, but on the other
hand perhaps we were lucky. Initially we were upset.
Well, we were officers and we were eager to get into the
We arrived in the town Ivanovo at the 22nd Reserve Air
Regiment. We went through another “terka” and transition
training. There were no dual-control Cobras. They
checked us out in Yaks. The food was worse in the
reserve regiment than at flight school. I don’t remember
the norm number. At the front, you could eat as much as
you wanted for dinner. At the training regiment you
could eat only as much as they gave you. Don’t ask for
more! We were young then, and constantly wanted to eat.
they paying you then?
rubles. But in the market a loaf of bread cost 100
rubles and a bottle of vodka 400 rubles. I recall one
time we went together and bought vodka for someone’s
But more importantly, in essence, we frittered away our
time. Flights occurred infrequently and we could have
finished transition more quickly. We went dancing to
keep ourselves busy and learn how to dance. The dances
were free at the local circus.
was your first impression of the Cobra?
impression of the Cobra was that it was a remarkable
airplane. I liked it. Why did I like it? I will tell
you. You sat in the cockpit and you could see
everything, because it had a nose wheel. I did not fly
the Lavochkin; I did not fight in the Yak; but I flew
it, and I will tell you that the Cobra had good
model of the Cobra were these—the “D” or the “Q”?
were many variants. I do not recall specifically how
they were divided up. We even had some with electric
drive to change the propeller pitch. Later they were
Describe the program for transitioning to the Cobra.
we do in the Cobra? First, circuits around the airfield,
then a program of flights in zone where we worked out
the techniques of piloting the airplane. We did as our
instructor directed—there was no dual-seater.
Before the completion tests, that is, toward the end of
the program, I had an assignment: fly out, then go to a
[gunnery] range and fire my machine guns at ground
targets. I took off, flew out as required, and then
decided I would do a slow barrel roll. I began to
execute the roll. While in the inverted position, I
somehow moved the stick slightly away from myself. What
does this mean? My buttocks came out of my seat and I
was hanging in my seat and shoulder harness. While I was
dangling there, my airplane went into a flat spin. I
began to recover. The first attempt... the airplane did
a revolution and the nose came up suddenly, above the
horizon. I thought, “Well, now it will recover!” But it
went back out of control. Then I collected myself and
thought, “What did they teach us?” They taught us well.
I applied stick in the direction of the spin. You
understand? At the moment the nose dropped, I pulled
back on the stick and applied opposite rudder. I looked
out and it had taken hold. I recovered. I flew straight
home—no gunnery range—straight home. I had the thought,
“Bail out!” I’m not lying. I thought, “I will jump!”
What will I tell them? I had failed in my flight
did they say to you about this?
said anything, because I didn’t tell anyone about what
you didn’t complete the gunnery task.
about it. Who was there to monitor it? So it went
were the armaments on your Cobras?
extra wing guns were removed. What remained were two
Colt-Browning 12.7 mm [.50 cal.] machine guns and a 37
mm cannon. It had 39 shells in the cannon system, but we
snuck in 40. How 40? We loaded one directly into the
good thing I was unable to correct you. I was thinking,
the cannon has a drum, each shell has a spot... What
about the Cobra’s engine?
good, but weak in terms of engine hours, and not very
good if you flew with too much throttle. I will tell you
about it. This was not a fault of the airplane, but
ours. Because our gasoline was not suitable.
We flew on our fuel—B-78. The Cobra had a limiter
[governor]. The normal supercharger pressure on the
Cobra was 67 pounds per square inch. They set the
governor on the Cobra so that it would not exceed 45
pounds. Kinematics supported this; it was ours, already
developed. It would not give any more with our fuel.
Therefore, if one were using our fuel, the connecting
rods in the engine would snap.
That’s not all. They glued a piece of paper on the
throttle slot. Paper, ordinary paper. You could set the
throttle to get only 40 pounds. Maximum 40. But in
combat it was possible to get 45 pounds, but only by
tearing the paper. Then you had to report this to the
mechanics later. They could see this themselves; they
then would remove the filters from the engine to check
for [metal] filings.
What was dangerous about the Cobra? Its coolant fluid
was Prestone [antifreeze], and it burned better than
gasoline. In the event connecting rods would snap, a
fire would break out. And in most cases—right away.
said that, even under such conditions, these Allison
engines did not last the projected number of operating
know, this did not affect me—the mechanics worried about
front, did you fly on our gasoline? What about at the
front. More precisely, at both places. There was no
other choice. The American gas was B-100. They could
deliver it some places, but we never received any.
Perhaps Pokryshkin flew on these aircraft.
Radios. What type was installed in the Cobra?
radios. They were good for those times. At least there
were no complaints about them. In general, we had good
communications. There were earphones, not helmets, but
earphones. There were no helmets. We wore our pilotka
[garrison hat] and earphones. We also did not take our
[oxygen] masks. In place of an oxygen mask we used a
mouthpiece. Like a cigarette holder. We breathed through
our mouth and this did not interfere with our ability to
did the Cobra handle in flight? What were its optimal
recall. In my opinion, it would even reach 12,000
meters. It was capable of fighting at all altitudes. It
was a good airplane, an aerobatic machine. I liked the
Cobra, but I did not fight in our fighters, so I can’t
compare it to them.
well known that at one time the Cobra had a very weak
absolutely true. But we did not crumple our tails,
because ours were reworked. Here’s the story. In our
regiment, I think two Cobras twisted their tails, and
the pilots bailed out. This was before my time. Our
diplomatic representatives delivered a complaint to the
manufacturer. They sent out the parts to strengthen the
tails. Our technicians strengthened the aircraft. We
riveted two plates around the tail portion of the
interested in how your Cobras were painted.
green in color. Perhaps we did not over-paint ours. They
painted only specific portions of the surface—the
regimental markings. In our regiment we had white
spinners, and I think the rudders were also white. In
the 72nd Regiment, they were red, and in the 68th
kind of art did they paint on your airplanes?
decorated them. Stars [denoting victories] were painted
on the nose. In our regiment we had Alexey Semenovich
Smirnov, who later became a Twice Hero of the Soviet
Union.7 When I arrived in
the regiment, he was a squadron commander and Hero of
the Soviet Union. The young generation arrived and among
them was a pilot who drew well. He drew a “joker,” like
on playing cards, on the rudder of his plane. There
weren’t any other such art cases or attraction to
Our aircraft were not repainted in the winter. We flew
them in green. The stars on the wings? I don’t even
remember where they were, but I think they were only on
the bottom. The serial numbers remained on the fins, but
I don’t remember their color.
remember your tactical number?
remember one—42. This was already after they had shot me
down and I had changed aircraft.
return to the ZAP.
reserve air regiment… I was the duty officer for the
airfield. The telephone rang:
“A colonel is arriving at your location in an UT-2. Meet
the airplane and put it in the hangar.”
I did as instructed—I met him. He climbed out, but he
was not wearing the Caucasian fur cap which was given to
all officers starting from colonel as a part of the
uniform, rather an Astrakhan fur cap. “The ‘merchant’
This was sometime in February 1944. We had already
completed transition training.
there a sense that the war was coming toward an end and
you might not make it to the front?
situation was not that clear yet. Some of the country’s
western republics were still occupied.
I will continue. The guest—the “merchant”—turned out to
be Colonel Ivanov, the commander of a front-line corps.
He was a pilot, as they say, “from God.” He flew in
spite of his general’s rank. The only thing he could not
fly was a broomstick. He died in a crash after the war
in a small German liaison aircraft, the Siebel. I
believe that at the time he was a PVO commander.
So, I met him and sent him to the headquarters. I came
from the airfield and everyone was already assembled. It
turned out that everyone had already been “sold”! I was
surprised, but my name was already on the list. In the
morning, we were supposed to turn in our belongings and
sign out. I gathered up my linens and mattress and
carried them on my back to the supply room. A fellow
student behind me, from Chuguev flight school but from
another squadron, was shouting:
“Ovsyannikov! Wait! Don’t leave! Come back! I am going
to go in your place! Captain Sarkisyan will explain
everything to you.”
He was the adjutant there. I no longer remember what
detachment or squadron. I went up to him indignantly:
“What’s going on?”
“Listen! You will still get there! What do you get—550
rubles? He only gets seven rubles.”
This guy, Boris Sosna, was a handsome man. We became
friends, we exchanged letters, and he just died last
year, in the south, in Pyategorsk. Back then he was a
“string puller,” who had gone AWOL on at least one
occasion. Because of this they gave him starshina rather
than lieutenant. Therefore as a starshina he received
seven rubles salary.
“Why am I being held back?”
“It’s all been decided. You’ll still get there.”
So I laid out my mattress again. It embarrassed me to
It was the end of April before another “merchant” showed
up. It turned out that they assigned me to the same
regiment as my “friend-rival”, as I called him at that
time. So at the end of April I left from Ivanovo and
ended up in the same corps. But now instead of a
colonel, a major general received me. We had a
conversation, and from our group he sent me and one
other comrade to the guards division. In our corps we
had two divisions, one guards and the other not guards.
They called it the 180th “wild” IAD. This division was
also in Cobras.
did you get there, to the regiment, from the school in
wouldn’t believe it. They told us how to reach the
regiment: “Go to this station, and there you will find
This was in Valday rayon, the village Somenka, and
Somenka airfield. [The 5th Guards Fighter Air Division,
6th Air Army, Northwest Front was stationed at Somenka
airfield from March to May 1944. I.S.]
Aha! Right away! There was nothing there.
We arrived at the station with a friend at night,
crawled out [of the conveyance], and it was cold. It was
spring, the month of May, but still cold. An old woman
was stoking a small stove. We asked her:
“Please tell us, how do we get to Somenka?”
“Down this path. Go this way. You will get there by
“How far is it?”
“Six kilometers and a little bit.”
How much over six kilometers she did not specify, and
like fools, we didn’t ask. We found the path and set
off. We walked and we walked, and there, to our left and
then to our right, the black grouse uttered their mating
calls. We walked three-plus kilometers past the six she
told us, and the road ended! The road just ended. It was
an overcast day, with fog and low clouds. We reached a
stream. On the other side was a settlement. The stream
was wide, with a log in place of a bridge. We went
across and stopped at a peasant hut.
“Does anyone live here?”
An old woman answered: “Yes, Yes, come in.”
We asked her:“Where is Somenka? We have to get to
“Somenka? Yes, I have been there, to a wedding.”
“How far is it?”
“Six kilometers and a little bit.”
Again that little bit!“Which way?”
“Go this way.”
We walked farther. We walked and we walked. Suddenly the
overcast lifted and we saw an airplane fly over. It was
a U-2, one pass. It dropped down and was hidden by the
forest. We walked and we walked; we saw a stream, half
full of water. The ducks flew off. We approached the
stream and a man was walking, in a dark blue jacket. He
was an aviator with a pistol. Perhaps he was duck
“Look here! Where is the airfield?”
“It’s over there, ahead of you.”
I took off my canvas boots and trousers. My friend Pasha
walked straight into the stream and got all wet. I put
on my dry clothes and he wrung the water out of his;
then we waited for them to dry out. We made it to the
airfield. We asked where the division was, and it turned
out that the division headquarters was also on this same
airfield, in a dugout.
Well, how did they greet us? We reported in the normal
fashion. They directed us, I don’t really remember,
either to the commander or to the personnel department.
It turned out that they left me at this airfield, in the
28th Guards Regiment, in which I fought. My friend was
also sent to a guards regiment—the 72nd. This was almost
in the opposite direction, but he was lucky—they took
him there in a Po-2.
Well, we walked out of the division headquarters, and
this same Boris Sosna was walking toward me: “Ah,
friend! Come on! Have you eaten? Let’s go eat!”
He took us to the dugout where the canteen was located.
He was a regular there already.
“Hey, girls! Reinforcements have arrived! Feed us
What food they had there! We were accustomed to
rear-area rations. Here they brought out enormous
portions—fried potatoes, a huge cutlet, and compote. I
thought to myself: “One could live well here.”
did you receive a personal weapon?
at the regiment and was issued a TT. We all had TTs.
They gave us uniforms, weapons, and maps. I ended up in
the 2nd Squadron. My commander was a major, Petr
Ivanovich Isaev. He fought in the Finnish War. We called
him “Grandpa.” He was over 30 years old. Later my flight
commander became the squadron commander. And so began my
front-line journey. They checked my piloting skills. My
flight commander checked me out in a dual-control Yak.
Later I took off in a Cobra. I flew around the airfield,
made several flights, and later in the zone. Then we
began to maneuver in pairs. This was to work on our
so-called coordination. I established a sort of rhyme
with my lead:
“I am your lead,” he said to me,
Looking me straight in the eye.
“Now remember, in your sleep,
You should be close to me!”
us, did you conduct any practice aerial engagements?
coordination and training aerial engagements. They
trained us well. We fired at both ground and aerial
targets. The aerial target was a fabric sleeve towed
behind an airplane. They used Cobras to tow it. They
rolled it up in a ball, then cast it out, and it fully
deployed. My time came to shoot at the sleeve. I sat in
my cockpit, waiting for the signal to launch. I could
already see the towing airplane—it was almost over the
airfield. I took off on signal, raised the landing gear,
closed the flaps, and gave it throttle. Suddenly, my
engine cut out. It was as if I had closed the throttle
myself. I was at about 100 meters altitude, no more.
This was in Kalinin oblast — we were surrounded by
trees. I glanced to my left and saw a small open area.
There was a hamlet and a field. I did not have time even
to turn or even drop the gear doors and I was there. I
landed. I just sat it down. They said to me on the
“Where are you? Where are you?”
I replied: “I made a forced landing. Everything is okay.
Six kilometers out, perhaps.”
Well, the truth was that they had to drive around for
15–20 kilometers to get me to the airfield.
They said: “An aircraft is taking off. Direct him to
So I did that.
“Well, any problems?”
I responded: “Everything is normal.”
“Wait there. They are driving out to get you.”
An engineer and some technicians finally showed up in
about an hour, perhaps less. They had to go around a
small stream. But they finally found me. The flight
technician came with a mechanic for the “evacuation,” as
they liked to call such operations.
I said, “I don’t know. It was as if I closed the
Already a rumor was going around that we were going to
the front, and now this. They had already sent someone
from the regiment off somewhere, because he came down
and broke his airplane. He crashed a second airplane.
Then he left the regiment. At one time he was the
wingman for my flight leader. Now I had taken his place,
and also crashed.
I left for the airfield and reported in. We arrived at
the regiment and reported there. I told my story. In the
evening, we left the airfield to rest, to the village
where we were billeted. Our squadron lived on the second
floor of the building. I lay down.
the other men give you looks?
know. Some did, some didn’t. You know how a person can
blow things out of proportion. I did not pay attention
to anyone else. I lay there for a long time. Suddenly,
it was night, perhaps midnight, the door opened, someone
walked in, and came straight over to me. He came up to
me and said:
“Ovsyannikov, you aren’t asleep?”
“It wasn’t your fault—the fuel pump broke.”
A great load was lifted from me. It was Fedot Aksenenko,
the squadron engineer. He calmed me, relating to me in a
caring way. He could have forced me to be tortured until
morning. He understood what I was feeling.
Everything turned out alright. The regiment stood down
for reconstitution: pilots arrived, new aircraft joined
our fleet. At the end of June, somewhere around the
18th, we took off for the front.
We flew to the front at low-level, for purposes of
camouflage, in order not to be observed. We went at an
altitude of 100 meters. We made an intermediate stop at
Andriapol. This was also in Tver region. By the way, my
home regiment is now based at Andriapol. True, only its
name remains there. We refueled at Andriapol, and flew
on to Dretun airfield. It was a primitive strip, also in
the forest, 18 or 20 kilometers from the front line. It
had been registered by the Germans, and therefore was
subject to artillery fire. After we landed, they fired
on us. It killed one mechanic and burned up one
airplane, but not ours. An American Curtiss was left
behind from the regiment that occupied this airfield
before us. They “unoccupied” this airfield on our behalf
and left behind a damaged aircraft. This is the one that
burned. A shell burst literally under the tail of my
comrade Sergey Korobov, leaving a big crater. But his
aircraft suffered not a single hole. It was sprinkled
with dirt, and that was all.
Mukhin and Fedot
Aksenenko, squadron engineer
kind of Curtiss? A fighter or a bomber?
knows, likely a reconnaissance aircraft.
They called it a Curtiss.9
We made our first familiarization flight somewhere
around the 20th of June. It was right before the
beginning of Operation Bagration—the liberation of
Belorussia. The genuine combat sorties began soon after
that, just two or three days later. The mission was to
provide coverage of the battlefield. It was my first
combat. On the first sortie, I became separated from my
leader. But it was not my fault. The fact of the matter
is that there were Messerschmitts there. For the first
time I saw from the side how shells flew out of my
leader’s airplane. I thought to myself, “That’s some
kind of smoke. Is his engine knocking?”
He fired at a Messerschmitt and after his attack zoomed
upward. There was an overcast, not thick, but scattered.
He jumped into a cloud and I behind him. I came out of
the cloud and there was no one to be seen. While in the
clouds, he turned and went down, and I went up. This was
already at the end of our sortie period. We were low on
was the duration of flight of a Cobra?
hour. What was the capacity of the fuel cells—I don’t
remember. Perhaps four hundred liters. I have forgotten
everything. Well, approximately an hour, and if you were
flying economically, 90 minutes.
from left) by his aircraft, with comrades
question about fuel. Not long ago a film was released,
Peregon [ferry flight], in which they described the
following situation. Upon landing a pilot pulled the
control stick toward himself; the fuel in the fuel cell
poured to the back of the tank and the engine died,
although ostensibly there was still fuel. Did such a
thing happen, or is this nonsense?
raving nonsense. I have heard so many lies. Horrible!
Here now they are announcing commentary for an aviation
catastrophe... The commentator says: “You know, the
tire, when the pressure is seventy atmospheres...”
[about 1000 lb/in2]
“...and when the tire blows, the airplane is penetrated
Yes, the skin can be penetrated, but seventy atmospheres
in the tire? When I hear this, I shout, “How is it
possible to give this commentary if they don’t
understand anything about the topic discussed?” All
return to the past. You got lost and...
I fell behind! And I heard – they were shouting:
“Back to base! Back to base! Assemble back at base!”
Well, back to base...
I saw that some Cobras were racing toward me. I wanted
to turn around and form up on them, but they flew away.
I took a course under the overcast. I knew where, in
what area I was, and I arrived home normally. There I
told them that I had become separated; I told them how
they chew you out?
I didn’t try to lag behind. My leader—he didn’t transmit
his plan to me. And in the clouds... In combat, you try
to maintain a distance of 200 meters behind. My first
aerial engagement was over rather quickly. Later, it
just settled down, and sorties were conducted normally.
us, did you immediately begin to get a picture of what
was happening in the fight?
I say about “getting a picture”? I knew that I had to
maneuver, that I had to get orientation. But the main
thing that you visualize, that you must understand, is
where you are and what you should be doing.
I will tell you a story. In a sense I was lucky, and in
another sense I was not lucky.
In the first case, I did not see a single bomber in the
sky. Not one. I had 204 combat sorties in slightly less
than a year. Of all the young pilots, I flew more
sorties than anyone else. I had a large number of
reconnaissance sorties. But primarily we were engaged in
non-standard missions—we did ground attack. Yes, they
hung bombs on us.
Of course, everything came with time; with the passage
of time, one visualized better, but it was very
important to have good teachers. They did not simply
teach us; before they took us into battle, they checked
us out thoroughly. They trained us well and told us
everything [we needed to know].
you consider your overall training, including that which
you received in the aero club, in the reserve regiment,
and later in the regiment before combat, sufficient or
course, it was not enough. When I went to the front, I
had only 12 flights in a Cobra.
whom did you most often fly in pair?
often,” but with whom did I begin to fly—this was Senior
Lieutenant Boris Aleksandrovich Mukhin, my flight
commander. I became his wingman. He ended his service as
a division commander. I myself became a pair leader
somewhere near the end of 1944.
you fly escort?
other kind of combat missions did your regiment execute?
First—covering the battlefield.
Second—escorting groups of shturmoviks or bombers.
Third—reconnaissance. This was secondary.
Perhaps one might consider our main mission to be
attacks against enemy ground targets. This included
airfields, railroads, and road columns.
was the most unpleasant mission for you?
was so complicated for you in this mission?
would say altitude. They are firing at you from the
ground from every possible weapon. The shturmoviks’
maximum altitude was one thousand meters. When they drop
down—say to 500 or 300 meters, the enemy flogs you with
AAA. But you have to stay with them.
Second, they didn’t have much speed. For a fighter,
speed is the main thing. They flew at about 250
kph—that’s approximate. For us this was slow. And we had
to protect them from enemy fighters.
We have clarified the most difficult mission. My
favorite mission? This was to escort the female bomber
regiment. I don’t remember its number. The young ladies
flew the Pe-2, Peshkas. We liked this mission. They held
their formation like in a picture. The men—someone would
fall back, the formation would be stretched out.
True, I never saw them drop their bombs from the dive.
They always dropped level.
let’s turn to the Germans. In your opinion, how good
were the German pilots, their training, and their
conduct of a battle?
exception of the first battle, when I encountered but
did not engage them, because I was so focused on holding
onto the tail of my leader, I did not encounter any
Messers and Fokkers. The Cobra was able to fight with
them on par and overcome. The pilots? I don’t know.
Either I encountered weak pilots or their aircraft were
inferior (or rather defective). You should understand
that when I encountered them, well, I had three aerial
My first happened at Baus. We went out, this was after
the 18th of August (Aviation Day), and I had only drunk
a little, but my friends had drunk their “100 grams” and
perhaps more, if they were able to acquire a
We were covering the battlefield. Our commander, Captain
Mukhin, was somewhat hard of hearing. I was the flight
commander’s wingman, and our second flight was flying
higher, somewhere at 600 meters higher. I was out on the
far left (indicates with hands), here was the leader,
and Sergey Korobov was leading the second pair to the
right. I spotted a pair of aircraft coming from the
left, trying to come up behind us. Then they put out
some smoke. Not long before this, we were informed that
a Fokker had come out with a supercharger. When they
switched on the supercharger, they smoked. I transmitted
to my leader, “Pair from the left!”
Then I transmitted the same message again. He paid me no
attention and flew straight ahead. Then I transmitted,
“Fokkers are attacking us!”
Again, no reaction. What could I do? Perhaps I was the
first to spot the enemy. I turned sharply, zoomed up,
and began to chase whomever was behind us.
We got into a dog fight. I turned this way and that, one
against two. The rest of my flight did not see me and
flew off. I was still engaged. It turned out that I
began to get on their tail. I fired, but from a
distance. They dove and flew off. I turned sharply
upward—the Cobra could not catch them in a dive. Then I
heard my leader, the flight commander. He later became a
Hero of the Soviet Union—Leonid Aleksandrovich Bykovets:
Look! A Cobra is chasing some Fokkers!10
your Cobras have automatic [propeller] pitch control?
did. It changed the propeller pitch. Well, when I jumped
up to a higher altitude, I ended up in the rear of our
group. They had not even noticed my absence. This was my
first engagement with Fokkers. I drew the conclusion
that I could fight on equal terms with them. My second
encounter was near Prikula, also in the Baltic area.
was your first combat with Focke Wulfs?
earlier encounters, but this was my, so to speak, first
personal combat. Later came my second, again in an
unfavorable situation, and again I was able to get out
in one piece. Therefore I will tell you that I was able
to fight the Germans in the Cobra.
turns out that the German pilots did not suffer with
enthusiasm during the conduct of a fight?
someone came up behind me, I also would attempt to get
away. What’s wrong with that? Who wants to get whacked?
What kind of enthusiasm is that?
us, please, what was your score of downed aircraft in
the Great Patriotic War?
lot but they are mine!
According to the archives, it was three:
29.10.44, 1 FW-190, Ilmaya station
13.04.45, 1 FW-190, Khalenen Krayts
13.04.45, 1 FW-190, south of Gross-Dirkshkhaym airfield
(according to Mikhail Bykov)
me. I absolutely do not believe those who say: “I was in
an aerial engagement, I did such-and-such, and he went
down. And I saw where he fell!”
He is either a fool or he is lying. How many aerial
combats did I conduct? Regardless of how many times I
fired my guns, not once did I say: “Comrade commander! I
I normally said: “I conducted an engagement, I fired.”
I take credit for two kills. That’s all.
you have gun cameras? Were victories confirmed with
mounted them, but they did not use them to count. Or
should I say very rarely. They did not believe them. Of
course, if the enemy aircraft blew up... But that was a
relatively rare occurrence. Confirmation was required.
Who could confirm? Another pilot from one’s group could
your own group?
your own group. Or a ground unit.
among you overall in the regiment looked after this? A
pilot didn’t fly out to obtain confirmations, did he?
were fighting. Someone in the headquarters took care of
this. Reports came in that an aerial engagement had
occurred in such-and-such area and there were downed
over-claims be made?
There could be over-claims. But I don’t know of any such
cases. It was difficult to confirm. How would one know
if he truly over-claimed or not?
us, did they pay you money for downed aircraft?
did they do with the money? They did nothing with it, it
was deposited on our account.
common practice to transfer these monies to the defense
know. That isn’t what we did. But I did not see any
money. It evaporated into thin air.
didn’t receive it after the war?
received it after the war, but later the government
pulled a trick on us with ruble conversion, and it
us, do you remember a case when they shot down our
the Germans shot at men under parachutes?
they did because I saw it. This particular pilot
survived the experience. It happened over Dvinsk
(Daugavpils). We were covering the battlefield. He was
from our flight, Kolya Shmelev. Well, I saw how they
shot him down. I saw the Fokker, and how, you know, he
gave it to him with all barrels — he had six cannons.
Kolya bailed out, and the Fokker tried to shoot him
the Germans come at you head-on?
forget about these head-on attacks. I don’t know how it
would be possible to shoot someone down in a head-on
approach. I repeat—I don’t know how in a head-on
approach, with a closing speed somewhere around 600
meters per second, to even take aim.
there cases when a victory was given over to another
pilot? For example, someone did not have enough for Hero
status, and they gave him a victory?
possible that they gave it to him on paper, but...
pilots themselves did not do it?
know of no such case. We did not do that.
there cases when you fired on your own aircraft, by
happened. And they were shot down. Our own Yak shot down
our Cobra. But I am not able to tell you the details—it
happened before my time.
what period, in your opinion, did the regiment fight its
“Intensive” I can talk about, but I can’t say
“heaviest.” Intensive combat occurred when we were
attacking Koenigsberg. We sortied five times in a day.
But heavy? It was never particularly heavy for us. Well,
someone was shot down, and didn’t return from a mission.
average, how many sorties per day did you fly?
two, two or three. The maximum was around five sorties,
and this was at Koenigsberg. It was two or three days
when we took Zemland Peninsula. Our regiment captured
one town with ground attacks, by the way.
did you accomplish this?
right after the capture of Koenigsberg. This town was
named Palmnicken. You do not know it, perhaps? You might
have heard of Yantarnyy?
Our forces captured Pillau, on the Baltic Sea.
Palmnicken remained encircled. There was some kind of
company there, defending, sitting in fighting positions.
They ordered us to “dig them out.” We dug them out. We
made five or six sorties. In the end, they came out and
threw up white flags. [In early May 1945, a regiment
sortie of 29 P-39s under the command of Major B.D.
Milekhin and 16 P-39s led by Guards Captain P.D.
Uglyanskiy sortied to conduct bombing attacks on an
accumulation of enemy forces in the town Palmnicken. The
enemy forces concentrated here had retreated from the
Zemland Peninsula. Our fighters conducted two bombing
attacks and five firing passes on the accumulated enemy
troops and equipment. After these crushing blows, the
Germans raised a white flag and surrendered. I.S.]
them with what?
strafing. What bombs? Normally we carried 100 kg and 250
kg. Only one bomb; the bomb hanger was under the
fuselage. We did not hang bombs under the wings.
Valentin Petrovich Volkov, bort 28 – Baranov
you have drop tanks?
drop tanks. They might have used them for ferrying.
did you feel after five sorties?
their memoirs, the Germans often write that they
customarily flew 10 or 15 sorties in a day.
don’t know about that. They also say that they drank
schnapps during the flight.
is your opinion?
yourself—if they chased after each of our pilots. Let it
be 15! Whatever the number, these poor bastards wouldn’t
have had time to go to the bathroom.
you prepared to believe that a single airplane could
shoot down 15–17 enemy aircraft during a single sortie?12
Categorically. They did not have sufficient ammunition
to accomplish this.
Perhaps they use one [cannon] shell for each kill?
per kill—do you know what you are saying? This might be
possible in a shooting gallery. After the war we fired
weapons in a shooting gallery. We managed there [to
shoot at the target] with two rounds with a ShKAS.13
was your opinion of the effectiveness of your armaments
on enemy aircraft?
armaments on our Cobras were good. If a 37mm shell hit
an enemy aircraft anywhere, that was sufficient. And the
machine guns—obviously, they were not cannons, but at
least 12.7mm machine guns. These were not 7.62mm.
number of rounds — wasn’t 40 [for the cannon] somewhat
know, its rate of fire was not that great. I don’t
remember how you shot down two aircraft?
fired, and it was over. The bullets flew. You could see
the tracers. I fired a burst and then maneuvered so some
other enemy could not come around on my tail. Just like
they taught us. And they taught us well.
No. But I
got a bump.
many times did they shoot you down or damage your
This happened when we were strafing an airfield. My
airplane was damaged, but I landed safely. It was a
forced landing. Our forces were already near Berlin, the
24th of April . Koenigsberg and Danzig had already
been captured. There were still Germans on Khel Spit.14
They were flying out of there. The spit extended to the
north and south from [an area west of] Koenigsberg.
Where the spit went south, there was a group of cut-off
Germans. They had an airfield from which they were
operating. We flew there several times to bomb and
strafe. The fight on 24 April was my last over this
We flew as a regiment—24 crews. We took bombs. I was in
the cover group, in the very last pair. My wingman was
Nikolai Pivovarov. I made my dive and dropped my bomb on
the airfield, and when I was pulling out, I spotted two
aircraft under camouflage netting on the bank of a
stream. The plan was to make two passes. I was last—the
first aircraft had already dropped their ordnance, and
the regiment commander gave the order, “We’re done!
Assemble, return to base.”
I had still not made my second pass and went in to
strafe these two aircraft. I was diving and had just
commenced firing. I felt a thump under my wing. I fired
a burst and pulled up. I glanced down and my oil
pressure was zero. You can’t fly very far without oil.
We did not know exactly where the front line was. They
had told us that “everything across the Visla is ours.”
That was all. It was spring, and the Germans had blown
up the irrigation system. All around us was a virtual
sea! Chimneys were sticking up out of the water. I was
afraid to set it down in the water. The Visla was
getting closer and closer. So I flew on, gained some
altitude, perhaps 1,500 meters, but I could feel the
I have already told you that if the connecting rod
breaks in a Cobra, there will be a fire. But I made the
decision to fly on. I spotted the Visla, where our
forces might be. Then I saw an enormous field. On the
right side, near the tree line, were some structures,
probably hunting cabins and not village dwellings. I
radioed to my wingman: “I am setting it down in the
I began to turn and spotted a church up ahead. That
meant a populated area, I’m thinking; our troops will be
there. “Perhaps I can stretch it out.”
I stretched it out, shut off my engine, and glided, but
did not reach it. I landed in swampy terrain, with lakes
to the left and right. On my belly, of course. Away from
an airfield, one should always land on the belly.
heard from one pilot, true he flew Yaks, that in a
forced landing in the Cobra the engine broke loose and
drove the pilot into the instrument panel.
made a second forced landing. When I landed, the only
thing that happened was normal for all aircraft—it
rotated around 180 degrees. Well, I landed. On this
occasion the antenna separated from the radio on account
of the landing shock. I figured this out later. I
pressed on the push-to-talk switch and nothing happened.
I crawled out and my wingman was circling above me. I
indicated to him, “Return to base!”
He acknowledged with his wings and departed. He had not
even reached our own airfield and was forced to be
re-directed to a secondary airfield.
I am standing on the wing. Looking around, I am
thinking, “What should I do? Where should I go?” In
front of me I spotted the high berm of a railroad
embankment. Had I flown farther, my nose would have
struck this embankment. It was not visible from above.
Three figures are running toward me. One falls to the
ground and two are running. Then this figure gets up and
runs and they go to ground. I see our greatcoats.
They are running up to a drainage ditch. When they are
perhaps a hundred meters distant, they shout:
“Ruki vverkh! [Hands up]
“Whose are you? Come here!”
Don’t think that I was brave, or some kind of hero. I
simply was sure that I was among our own forces.
Again they shouted:
I said, “Come here.”
They came over to me:
“What is this airplane?”
“It’s a Cobra.”
You have to understand, they thought it was a
Messerschmitt. The German airfield was not that far
away, and they had seen Focke-Wulfs and Messerschmitts
flying around. They came right up to me and I said to
“How far is the front line?”
“A kilometer and a half from here.”
Now it came to me—had I not stretched out my glide
toward the town, I might be a guest of the Germans. Not
a good thing. I was lucky to have had the presence of
mind to land there, in the field. It was a good thing I
had spotted the church and thought there might be a
pilots return to the regiment from German captivity?
not come to us. Hero of the Soviet Union Ziborov arrived
in the neighboring guards regiment.15
They shot him down over the airfield that we were
bombing and strafing on Zemland Peninsula. He bailed out
and they captured him. He spent some time in the same
guardhouse where I myself sat for two days in peacetime.
Our forces were advancing quickly and liberated him. He
flew for some time after that.
didn’t drag him off?
excuse me. I don’t know if we would have won the war had
there not been a SMERSH.
To make a long story short, when my wingman landed, he
told them that I had landed and everything was normal!
But it seemed to him that I had landed in German-held
territory, because when he was circling around, they
shot at him from the ground.
The next day, I asked the battalion commander for a
screwdriver. The battalion commander gave us permission,
and I took the screwdriver and walked out to my
airplane. I opened the compartment hatch, checked
around, screwed the antenna connection back on, and
turned on the battery switch. I sat in the cockpit and
listened. In a minute or two I turned on the power. I
picked up my book and read. Suddenly I heard:
“[breaking squelch sound] 116, 116, this is so-and-so.”
It’s ours! But they are approaching the reception limit
of my radio. I shout:
“This is 115! How do you hear me?”
I did not get a response, as they went into a dive and
at a lower altitude communication was lost.
When Kolka (Nikolai) Shmelev returned, he reported: “I
connected with ‘Oves!’” [Oves – oat.]
They called me “Oves,” for Ovsyannikov.
“I connected with ‘Oves’. He contacted me and
then communications was broken.”
Sergey Korobov requested a Po-2 from the regiment
commander in order to find me and bring me out. By the
way, he brought out Shmelev from behind enemy lines
around Daugavpils when they shot him down and he bailed
out. But it turned out that there was no Po-2 available,
and he flew out in a Cobra. He found where my Cobra was
lying and circled around. They shot at him again, so he
flew home and reported:
“Perhaps the Germans have him! Because I saw the
airplane, but there is no one there. I saw German
positions not too far away and they fired at me.”
Perhaps it got back to SMERSH that I possibly was in the
custody of the Germans. By this time I had gathered up
my things and departed. However, no one interrogated me
and they did not drag me off anywhere. When I returned,
I simply reported to the commander what had happened,
and that was it. It was over. By the way, on my return
leg I came across Marienburg airbase, where some Navy
shturmoviks were based. There were also about a
hundred different Focke-Wulfs on the tarmac there, some
with unusual long noses.
you have a SMERSH man or an osobist in the regiment?
What did he do?
know him. It was some lieutenant who hung around.
your political officers fly?
flew. All the squadron zampolits flew. At the regiment?
He seldom flew.
general, describe their duties.
to ask them this question! They were engaged in
ideological preparation. They conducted meetings and
read lectures. Standard political work.
flew cover for bombers and shturmoviks. Were you
punished when one of your charges was lost?
depended on what type of loss, in what conditions. Yes,
they punished us. My former flight commander Mukhin,
before my time, ended up in a penal battalion, in the
infantry. The entire flight was punished because they
lost five Ils [Il-2 Shturmoviks]. Fighters shot
them down. They sent the entire flight to a penal
battalion. But perhaps someone up high over there gave
it some second thought, and sent them all back to us.
you ever hear of a penal squadron?
so? Who is talking or writing about this?
Yevgrafovich Fedorov, I think, first put out the rumor
that penal squadrons existed.
way, do you know this comrade’s story?
never heard of it. Have you found much confirmation?
far, none. We have found some Il-2 pilots who were made
[rear-seat] gunners for attacking our own troops. We
have heard about this. This happened.
tell you what I heard. The Germans put out rumors that
we were chaining our shturmovik pilots to their
aircraft so they could not bail out. You never heard
this? I heard it. But I came across confirmation of
these rumors. One time I was flying, and something
happened to my stomach. It was so hard that I was ready
to stuff my pilotka [cap] under my butt. You
understand? Well, I really had to go to the toilet. I
landed, and I didn’t even make it to my parking spot. I
jumped out of the cockpit and I looked up, and a woman
was standing there.
“Oh, sonny, is it true, that they tied you in?”
I had a cord hung around me... It was my
“People are saying that they tie you in.”
It turned out to be even more scary—we tied ourselves
us, how you were secured in flight—lap belt or shoulder
- only the lap belt.
you have some kind of system?
was a British system, when the pilot was strapped in, a
cable ran from his back to the armored seat. Like in an
automobile. Did you have this system?
I can’t give you a straight answer. We seldom used our
shoulder harnesses. We had a buckle here, at the navel.
We could shove our shoulder straps or our lap belts in
there cases when, for some reason or other, combat
sorties were not counted?
remember if this happened with us. Perhaps it could
have, somewhere. We did not have such instances.
know of an instances of cowardice in battle? Refusal to
go on a combat sortie? And the decisions of a tribunal
in such cases?
had any such cases in our regiment. They brought some
cases to our attention, of course. These things did
[uniform] did you fly in?
suit. In the summer it was regular field blouse. I don’t
know what color—some kind of gray-brown.
you wear your medals?
had them wore their medals.
jacket? Yes. Winter and summer.
had leather pants. American.
was on your feet?
in the winter, probably. In the summer we wore high
boots. We didn’t wear low boots.
you have silk scarves?
had some kind of multi-colored silk scarf.
you short of flight gear items?
can you say about observation of radio discipline? They
say that there were constant problems.
Discipline? We did not jabber any longer than was
necessary! Jabber about what? Then we had to respond. We
did not sing songs. I do not even understand your
question. We used the radio only when it was necessary.
That was all.
you address each other with codes, nicknames, last
There were exceptions; when the division commander,
Rykachev, flew, he called himself “Yu. B.”—Yuriy
you provide any details regarding the death of Fedor
tell you anything. He was in our squadron. He did not
return from combat when we were in the Baltic area. The
battle was at Libava.
about Yuriy Mikhaylovich Chapliev? Ivan Petrovich
did not return. How, what? It’s unknown. We used the
phrase, “did not return from combat mission.” These were
the first losses in the regiment that I can recall.
can you remember about the regiment commanders?
only one regiment commander in the war. Before I arrived
in the regiment, it was Lieutenant Colonel Oleg
Markivoch Rodionov. Later, his deputy quickly became the
regiment commander, Boris Dmitrievich Melekhin. Rodionov
left to become Aleksandr Pokryshkin’s deputy commander,
and perished in an automobile accident.
kind of pilots and commanders were they?
normal. I don’t know about Oleg. Of course, he flew
less. It seems to me that regiment commanders did not
have to fly often and did not need to.
you say anything about Aleksey Smirnov?
He was a
remarkable person. He was our idol. A fair-haired
Adonis, with a burnt face. But it was not visible too
much (he didn’t stand out in a crowd). A hale fellow and
This happened at Shaulyay, west of Panevezhis [in
Lithuania]. Perhaps 20 kilometers from it was a
primitive airfield. We always were stationed at
primitive airfields. This was a plowed field, with
potatoes or something growing there. We were flying
there for the first time. Nearby stood a brewery or a
To make a long story short, we were parked near this
plant, and Smirnov had a rifle. It was a German rifle.
Someone, somewhere obtained some shells for it. They
were German training cartridges. You could fire at
something point blank and the bullets broke into tiny
pieces, and nothing else happened. So we taxied in and
parked, and we were sitting around shooting the breeze.
The flight technician walks up and Smirnov calls him
out: “Why are your aircraft not serviced?”
“What do you mean—not serviced?”
Smirnov presses down and releases—there are five
cartridges in the clip. They appear to be absolutely
genuine. He loaded the five cartridges into the rifle.
“Do you know what they do for this at the front?” Bang!
And we all laughed!
“C-comrade c-c-commander! They’re joking, aren’t they?”
We laughed some more.
Well, this was nothing yet. The squadron commander, Petr
Isaev, lands. He taxis over to the parking area.
Normally he did not fly combat missions, but he ferried
any leftover aircraft. We had one with the nickname
“Zebra.” It was camouflaged, dappled. It was the only
one like that. Where it came from—I don’t know. Very few
men flew it, but they ferried it from airfield to
airfield. This airplane was like a log, and normally
they set it up for defense of the airfield. [To bring
the guns level with the horizon] they dug in the front
So we hear them declare over the radio that he is coming
in for landing, and Aleksey says:
“Hey, now we’ll fool the old man!”
The old man comes in and lands. He sets it down, but
where he landed the potato rows went across. The nose of
the aircraft drops, and the Cobra hits hard. The nose
gear was broken in a big shower of dirt. Well, when
there is an accident there is an investigation. The
joking was over. But we did have fun sometimes.
us. At the front in those years, was there any kind of
you mean? Listen, guys. You understand that now our
enemies are enflaming this national hostility. You
Bagramyan (Armenian) was our front commander. We had an
Armenian aircraft technician and another aircraft
technician was a Kazakh. There were Jews. We joked
together. The Ukrainians called us “katsaps [butchers],”
and we called them “khokhols” [“topknots,” for a
Ukrainian custom of cutting all the hair but a single
tuft]. But in order for there to be hostility, or some
kind of prejudice...
Who has received their freedom today? And who is
receiving rights? You and me? No, of course not. There
you have it. This is where all this dissension comes
“Russian Independence Day?” What have we become
independent from? Look into the future, look. This is
nationalism; this is new. Our enemies have thrust this
“new” on us. This is very serious, very serious.
return to the war. Tell us, please, did you have people
in your regiment who lost relatives to the occupation?
Or whose relatives were taken as forced labor to
I don’t remember. I know that we had one man, pilot
Zhora Baranov. He went home to his village after the
war, and there he shot a starosta [a person designated
by Germans to be a village supervisor – ed.]. The old
man had helped the Germans.
you came into German territory, was there a desire to
get vengeance on the Germans?
know... Listen, I fought them. And if I had encountered
a soldier... But when we settled in East Prussia, we had
already driven the troops out. Those still living there
were peaceful inhabitants. What was there to fight about
Valentin Volkov, unidentified, Boris Sosna, Ovsyannikov
was your relationship with them?
generally did not associate with them. They engaged in
exchanges of bits and pieces with us. In one of these
exchanges, I acquired an accordion.
was not a “trophy,” you got it in exchange?
not a trophy.
[the command] issue an order to you? About punishment
for thievery and so on?
were you and what were you doing when the war ended?
we greet the victory? We were around Riga. We had been
launching strikes against the Courland pocket from
Yushkas airfield. Well, you know that aviation fought
only during the day. We were resting. Everyone had been
at the airfield since dawn. The squadrons had been
scattered about to various places. Suddenly, on the
morning of 9 May, the telephone rang. The commander had
a field telephone. Right away we were all “on our
Mukhin, the squadron commander, said on the telephone:
“Understood. Got it. Where? What? Immediately. We got
it! We are launching! Mission: ground attack column of
troops moving along highway from such-and-such point, in
direction of Ventspils, where they are loading on
We all headed for our aircraft. This was my 204th combat
sortie. Just another mission. We did not know about the
end of the war. We took off, assembled, then gained
altitude. The front was close—perhaps 25–30 kilometers.
We were at altitude, and suddenly I hear:
“This is ‘Kedr’ [cedar]. Kedr was the
front forward radio-vectoring station.
“111”! (Mukhin was “111”.)
“Do not cross the line! Drop your bombs in a safe place
in the Gulf of Riga. Return to base!”
We did not take this at face value. Don’t cross! Who
says so? The Germans were very cunning in this regard.
Our leader demanded: “Password!”
The other end repeated everything, adding the password.
All is in order!
It was strange. But an order is an order. It was
forbidden to land a fighter aircraft carrying a bomb.
That meant we found the German column, considered this a
“safe area,” dropped our bombs, and made a couple of gun
runs. Then we returned. When we passed over our
airfield, we saw a crowd of people where there shouldn’t
have been anyone. We landed, taxied, and shut off our
engines. There was shooting on all sides. People were
shooting whatever weapon they had, and shouting. We
climbed out of our cockpits, which involved opening the
door and climbing out on the wing.
use either one. On the left side, the throttle lever got
in the way a bit, but it was possible. Can I continue?
They did not let us to climb down from the aircraft.
They grabbed us and began to throw us up in the air,
catching and throwing us up again. We knew that this
meant the war was over. Victory.
First – Sosna, third
– Chebotarev, fourth – Smelev, sixth – Korobov. German
aviation boneyard at Gross-Dershkayn airfield
you ever operate against ships? And after the war, here
you told us about the end of the war. Did you still fly
combat sorties after the war?
operated against ships in the Pillau area. We dropped
bombs on them.
was your level of accuracy?
hits. Aiming was conducted in the dive, “by the boot.”
[An idiomatic expression indicating that there was no
bombsight, rather that the pilot simply guessed when to
drop the ordnance. An equivalent American expression
might be “by the seat of my pants.” Ed.]
We did not fly any combat sorties after the war.
about the Germans who were trying to make it to Sweden?
Did you destroy them?
weren’t involved in that.
have said that in the Cobra, the engine coolant was
flammable. What was this liquid?
I do not know its contents [ethylene glycol – ed.], but
it burned well.
return to the Cobras. The 37mm cannon, a fairly
sufficient caliber. When they mounted it on our
fighters, significant dispersion of rounds was noted.
The first two rounds struck the target and the rest went
all over the place. Did you have this problem on the
Cobra? Did it shake the aircraft?
must understand the reason for that is that our cannon
was mounted precisely in the center of the aircraft.
the Yak it also fired through the propeller hub.
don’t know about that.
about point of aim? How many rounds could you fire
without disturbing the sight?
what kind of bursts did you fire?
us to fire a burst of one second. No more than that was
needed. Do not waste ammunition.
us, please. Did you have armor-piercing rounds for the
We had that type, I think.
Judging by lend-lease archival documents, only
high-explosive rounds were delivered, and not
opinion, we had them. But I can’t prove it. In my
consciousness, they alternated [high-explosive with
armor-piercing]. The same as with the machine guns:
armor-piercing, then explosive bullets. Tracers. There
was a tracer; this is how I know.17
was easier to shoot down—a Messer or a Fokker?
I did not
fight with Messers. I have talked about the Focke-Wulf.
Either I encountered such weak pilots, or… I don’t know.
What about these airplanes? The Germans celebrate the
Fokker and the Americans the F-86 Saber. They talk about
their field of view, and in ours—ostensibly like in a
cage or coop. Somehow I did not feel myself as being in
Translator’s note: Porfiriy Borisovich Ovsyannikov
continued to serve in the 28th Guards Fighter Regiment
after the war, and in late 1950 went with his regiment
to China to train Chinese pilots to fly the MiG-15.
During his several months in air combat along the
Chinese–Korean border, Ovsyannikov shot down at least
three B-29 Superfortresses and three F-80 Shooting Stars
while piloting a MiG-15.
1. In the Soviet public health system, a
polyclinic was an out-patient facility located in large
towns. It was staffed by general practitioners and
specialists, and was normally equipped with a
laboratory. Frequently it adjoined a hospital, where
patients could receive bed care or surgical treatment.
2. Old Believers (starovery in Russian)
in Russian history are worshipers who resisted changes
to liturgical practices introduced to the Russian
Orthodox Church by Patriarch Nikon in 1666–67.
Persecution of this group varied with changes in regime,
even into the Soviet period, but along the way drove
many of them out of Russia into all parts of the world,
including Australia, Canada, and the United States.
3. The Komsomol was an organization for
teenagers, and was responsible for the political, moral,
and physical education of the teenager. While commonly
considered to be a branch of the Communist Party, it was
a semi-independent political structure. It certainly
served as a “feeder” organization for the party.
4. A kulak was a well-off peasant in the
late Russian empire and early Soviet period. He
typically owned his own land and hired other peasants.
Kulaks as a class were singled out for persecution in
the early Soviet period and blamed for many of the
country’s agricultural economic problems.
5. This term is an abbreviation for
teoreticheskoye obucheniye (theoretical instruction).
This training served two purposes—to impart aeronautical
theory and also to round off the cadets’ rough edges.
6. “Alert 1” is a readiness condition in
which the aircraft was fully refueled and rearmed,
oxygen tanks topped off, and all systems and instruments
tested and checked. The aircraft was parked in a
revetment or under camouflage. The pilot was sitting in
the aircraft with parachute on. The motor was kept warm
by periodic starting, the radio was turned on, and
during hot weather a door or canopy was kept open for
ventilation. The aircraft’s crew chief was nearby,
prepared to assist the pilot as required. The aircraft
was expected to take off within two to three minutes of
a launch order, normally indicated by a flare fired from
the control tower and conformed by telephone from the
tower to the aircraft parking area, or if pilot saw
enemy plane by himself. “Alert 2” meant that airplane
was ready to take off, but a pilot could be close-by and
not wearing a parachute. “Alert 3” meant that plane was
ready, but a pilot was in the dug-out or commanding
post. Basically speaking, all crews of the regiment were
in unofficial Alert 3 stance. Usually if Alert 1 flight
took off, Alert 2 flight would be changed to Alert 1
stance, Alert 3 to Alert 2, and some other crews would
be assigned to Alert 3.
7. Aleksey Semenovich Smirnov (1917–87)
was born to a peasant family in Kalinin oblast north of
Moscow. He joined the Soviet Army in 1938, completed
flight training in Odessa that same year, and later
participated in the Soviet–Finnish War 1939–40. Smirnov
spent the entire Great Patriotic War in the same
regiment—the 28th Guards Fighter Regiment, earning his
first award of Hero of the Soviet Union in September
1943 for having flown 312 combat sorties and downed 13
enemy aircraft in 39 engagements. By September 1944 he
had increased his sortie count to 396, and his personal
score to 31 personal and 1 shared kill. He received his
second award of Hero of the Soviet Union in February
1945. Smirnov remained on active duty until 1954, when
he retired at the rank of colonel.
8. As described in the previous chapter,
the “merchant” was a high-ranking officer from a
regiment or division who flew to the flight training
center to select pilots for assignment to his unit.
9. The Curtiss O-52 “Owl” was an
observation aircraft, powered by a Pratt and Whitney
radial engine. It was capable of 200 mph [320 kmh], with
a service ceiling of 19,500 feet [6,000 m] and a range
of 700 miles [1100 km]. It had a rear-facing .50 caliber
machine gun for the rear cockpit. The USSR received 30
via Lend-Lease, which were delivered to Arctic ports by
10. Bykovets was born in December 1921
near Moscow to a Russian working family. He completed
aero club training in 1939 and joined the Soviet Army in
1940. In 1941 he graduated from the Kachinsk Aviation
School. In late 1942 he was a deputy squadron commander
in the 28th Guards Fighter Regiment. By March 1945, he
had flown 200 combat sorties and had a personal score of
16 and four in group. He was awarded the rank Hero of
the Soviet Union on 18 August 1945. Bykovets retired at
the rank of colonel in 1960.
11. Kislyakov was born in February 1918
near Moscow to a Russian peasant family. He entered the
Soviet Army in 1939 and graduated from Borisoglebskaya
Aviation School in 1940. As a deputy commander of the
28th Guards Fighter Regiment, Guards Captain Kislyakov
flew 532 combat sorties from June 1941 to the end of the
war, downing 16 enemy aircraft (three shared) and one
aerostat. He was awarded the rank Hero of the Soviet
Union on 18 August 1945. Kislyakov retired at the rank
of colonel in 1968.
12. More than 60 years after this
conflict, claims for some Luftwaffe pilots have been
exaggerated in the popular press. These questions seek
to refute such claims.
13. 7.62mm aviatsionnyy skorostrelnyy
pulemet sistemy Shpitalnogo–Komaritskogo (7.62mm
aviation rapid-firing machine gun designed by V.G.
Shpitalnyy and I.A. Komaritskiy). This weapon, which
dated from 1932, was produced in configurations for
wing-mounting, turret-mounting, and synchronized firing
through the propeller.
14. The area being described is a
narrow spit of land extending southward from the present
town of Baltiskiy, which is on the coast west of present
15. Vasiliy Mikhaylovich Ziborov, born
in April 1923, joined the Soviet Army in 1941 and
completed flight school in 1942. Arriving at the front
in September 1942, by January 1945 he had flown 134
combat missions, participated in 23 aerial engagements,
and had a personal score of 15. By the war’s end he had
raised his score to 20 personal and one shared. He was
awarded Hero of the Soviet Union on 18 August 1945.
Colonel Ziborov retired in 1960. He was also a P-39
pilot, in the 72nd Guards Fighter Regiment.
16. Ivan Petrovich Grachev (1915–44)
joined the Soviet Army in 1936 and after completing
flight training in 1939 participated in the
Soviet–Finnish War 1939–40. He had flown 102 combat
sorties by September 1941 and was awarded Hero of the
Soviet Union on 16 January 1942. When he was killed in a
ramming incident on 14 September 1944, his score was 18
personal and 8 shared victories.
17. One of the enduring arguments about
the employment of the P-39 Airacobra in the Soviet Air
Forces (army and navy) is whether it was used to attack
German armor. While Lend-lease documents do not report
the delivery of armor-piercing ammunition for the 37mm
cannon, many P-39 veterans claim to have used it. On the
other hand, high-explosive ammunition was delivered in
vast quantity (over 3.1 million rounds). Written Soviet
accounts of P-39 attacks against German armor are
extremely rare. The discussion continues. [JG]
Part 2 --->