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 2. Korean
Editor's comment: Although the events described in
this interview are not related to Lend-Lease, the
editors feel that describing Korean combat experience of
pilots earlier involved in flying Lend-Lease aircraft,
will be beneficial to our readers.
move on to Korea. In Korea did you fly the MiG-15, or
did you already have the MiG-15bis?
we were training Chinese and Korean pilots on the
MiG-15, and we conducted combat actions in the airspace
over KNDR [the Korean People’s Democratic Republic—North
Korea] in the MiG-15bis. As part of the same 28th Guards
Fighter, Order of Kutuzov III Class Regiment.
you replace someone there? Or were you in the first
this occasion we were not replacing anyone. There were
already propeller-driven aircraft there—night fighters.
But I did not see them. Our regiment was based in Andun.
At that time they were just building the Myaogou
airfield. Kozhedub arrived in Korea with his division.
He landed at Andun airfield. Lobov’s division went to
us, how did the Korean War begin for you?
version or the short version? I guess it’s my choice. I
was at periodic training for fighter pilots for flying
in bad weather, on instruments, and at night. This was
at the Savasleyka center for combat use of the aircraft
(similar to “top gun” school) The regiment sent me there
sometime in March.
At this time, this was in 1950, the Korean conflict
began. Initially the Koreans advanced, and drove the
South Koreans almost to Pusan. Then the Americans
Pilots from Lobov’s division were also attending these
courses. I recall that one of them was Perepletchikov.
He learned that their division was leaving on temporary
duty to China, and went to the superiors. He requested
that he be permitted to test out of the course early and
return to his regiment. He soon left. A division from
Yaroslavl was also sent to the East.
I completed the training. In addition, I will tell you,
only two pilots—and I was one of them, the second one
was the commander of Savasleyka Center, who later became
commander of the 8th Army of PVO in Kiev, I just can’t
recall his name—received the rank Pilot First Class. The
remaining pilots were designated “second class.” I
completed a MiG-15 flight at night in such terrible
conditions that I was barely able to land.
was your rank at that time?
Lieutenant. The courses were completed and I returned to
Kalinin. I had gone there in the winter and returned to
my unit at the end of June. It was summer—hot. I got off
the tram that delivered me to the airfield and was
walking, carrying my suitcase and greatcoat. The
division commander approached me in his GAZ.1
My appearance surprised him. “Ovsyannikov! Where are you
I stopped and thought to myself—did I forget to greet
him? This happened sometimes, that you have to salute
your senior commander even if he is in a vehicle. I
said, “From training courses, Comrade Colonel! I just
“OK, go immediately to the headquarters, and tell them
to include your name on the list.”
What list? Well, I continued walking, and met some of my
comrades along the way. They were all in civilian
clothes, and drinking beer at a kiosk. At that time we
had beer in the cafeteria flight crew canteen. They also
sold vodka from the cafeteria.
an aviation unit. We did not drink to excess. We knew
what and when to drink.
In short, I arrived at the headquarters and reported to
Matvey Matveevich Pestov, the chief of staff. “Comrade
Major! The division commander met me and told me that
you should include me on the list.”
“I have to redo the list again!”
I said, “I don’t know. I am only carrying out an order.
What is the list for?”
“Temporary duty in China.”
Well, we knew that. The American spies also learned
where Lobov’s division had gone. The Western nations
covered it in their press, so the division was diverted
to Vladivostok. In its place they were sending our 151st
Guards Fighter Division (GIAD) to China.
they have to force anyone to sign the confidentiality
your temporary duty, how many flight hours did you have
in the MiG-15?
15. Including my night hours. The regiment’s other
pilots — no more than that. I had more because I flew
We went to China by train; our MiG-15 aircraft were
supposed to come right after us. While we were getting
organized, a week later our trains with aircraft began
to arrive. We test-flew the aircraft after they were
assembled, and they assigned us the mission to
transition the Chinese pilots. These Chinese pilots had
completed school in the Yak-11, a propeller-driven
These were the pilots we were to transition. And not on
a dual-control MiG, but in a dual-control Yak.
Altogether, we had six or seven instructors, I think.
Chinese pilots before
as piloting techniques, were they different for a Yak-17
than for a MiG-15? Or were they pretty much the same?
understand that there are differences between any two
airplanes. At the same time, they have things in common.
Their speeds, of course, were different. And landing
with a three-wheeled aircraft was simpler than on an
aircraft with a tail wheel or skid.
your opinion, did the Chinese have problems with moving
from the training Yak-17 to the MiG-15?
problems. They were studious pilots. They executed
instructions literally and without question.
generally understood that they normally eat less than we
do. Were there occasions when they lost consciousness in
tell you about this later. We began to transition the
Chinese pilots. We flew and we flew and we trained. In
one of these flights, the regiment commander, Kolyadin,
who was supervising that flight, transmitted to me:
“115—after landing, report to me!”
Just like at the front, we had callsigns there. All of
us had our own callsigns. I walked over to him, and the
division commander was there, smiling. He extended his
hand: “I congratulate you! With the rank military pilot
first class, and with promotion to the rank of captain!”
They did not give everyone first class at that time.
I had already served more than enough time in grade to
be promoted, but my position did not give me the right
to receive the next higher rank. First class did give me
the right for one step in rank higher.
Well, so now I was a captain. I continued to train, and
now already the regiment’s pilots had begun to fly from
Mukden airfield and conduct aerial engagements. I will
tell you about that after I finish this part of the
On another occasion, “A directive came in to recommend
the regiment’s personnel for promotion, for successful
execution of the mission.”
So my division headquarters, and the regiment as well,
again sent a recommendation for the rank of captain.
Another time, already after the beginning of combat
actions, they again summoned me to the command post. A
directive concerning promotion had come in. Again the
division commander smiled. Aleksandr Sapozhnikov was
“I congratulate you on reaching the rank of major!”
I don’t know how this happened. But it happened.
you have to drink for your stars, as a general rule?
We drank for other reasons. So I became a major, and
quickly they appointed me as a squadron commander. We
were flying our first combat sorties from Mukden. It was
far away. We did not have drop tanks. We would fly out
and hang around for five minutes, and then fly back.
Later the Chinese began to slap together drop tanks,
from tin plate that was intended for tin cans. They were
a piece of trash. You took off, and behind you was a
trail of kerosene coming out of your tanks.
literature, you constantly encounter assertions that our
pilots were ordered to converse with each other in
tell you the real story. This all happened. It actually
happened. Pepelyaev talked about this and more. When we
began to fly combat missions, we were required to study
the Chinese language. I passed an exam in the Chinese
It began with one, two, three, and later “chzhou yuan,”
then some other kind of “yuan.” Left turn, right turn.
Well, in general, we studied the required aviation
terminology. Perhaps we did not pronounce it correctly,
but they understood us. When we began to fly, they said
to us, “You need to limit conversations in Russian.”
They did not forbid us to speak Russian. But they said
to us, they warned us, they advised us. No one
reprimanded us or cursed us. And, of course, we spoke
only when necessary.
From right to left:
Sosna, regiment commander’s driver-Korean, Ovsyannikov
behind the wheel, Grigoriy Timofeev Garkavenko
you transition the Chinese pilots, and later move to
Mukden and yourself begin to fight?
began to put pressure on us, they took the training
mission away from us. They made the Mukden airfield
ready and our entire regiment flew there. Our first
primary mission was to cover the bridge and dam at
Andun, the Supkhun hydroelectric station. I don’t
remember now, but I think it was January or February
you able to fly familiarization sorties in the area of
as we moved there, without any familiarization flights,
we began combat patrols from the first day.
what altitudes did our air forces operate?
various altitudes. We intercepted Shooting Stars at low
altitudes—500 to 1000 meters, and the B-29 somewhere on
the order of 5,000 to 6,000 meters.
often did the Americans fly against the bridge?
say how often. I had about 50 sorties there at that
time, I don’t remember exactly. They sent us up fairly
often, but more often we would hang out in the air.
Sometimes they vectored us against fighters. I had
perhaps five or six engagements with bombers there.
were pilots selected for temporary duty in China? Did
they simply send the entire regiment? Or was there some
sort of selection? Or did pilots go as volunteers?
As volunteers. If you said, “I’m not going!” no one
would send you. Some of our pilots — one or two — did
not go. Why? I can’t really say.
kind of mood did you have? How was your morale?
of morale? Where they send you, you go. Wherever. It’s
not the same as now.
encounters assertions that ostensibly our pilots were
not so eager in their first encounters with the
Americans. In connection with the fact that just prior
to this, they had been our allies. Later, when we began
to suffer losses, we began to fight back in full force.
Or did we genuinely fight with them from the beginning?
know who puts out this rubbish. If you take off, and
someone shoots you in the ass with six machine guns,
what kind of friend is that? No, we considered them to
be enemies. Right now I consider America to be our
enemy. Earlier, during the Great Patriotic War, I did
not consider them to be genuine allies.
aircraft armaments were better?
after the war, the Americans in a book expressed an
opinion of their pilots, who said about the MiGs, “If
only we had such armaments!” I will continue. For ome
time we sortied frequently. Around March 1951, they gave
my squadron a rest. At that time we were housed in the
palace of some Emperor Pu-I. It was an enormous palace,
near Andun, perhaps 10 kilometers from the airfield. In
Andun, we had right away begun to conduct combat
actions—patrols. In the morning, only in daylight. We
did not fight at night.
Two squadrons went to the airfield and we stayed behind.
We each did our own thing—some played chess, and so on.
Suddenly we heard the drone of aircraft. Of course, I
picked up the telephone and asked, “What is going on?
What? What should we do? Leave or stay here?”
They told me not to leave, and explained that [F-80]
Shooting Star fighters were headed our way. Normally one
could see far away, almost always away from the sun;
contrails were visible. One four-ship flight, a second,
and then a third. We would gain altitude over Chinese
Someone was talking on the television, and was talking
about how we shot them down over the airfield. When we
were there, I recall a single case when the Americans
crossed the Chinese border. I will tell you, there had
been no border crossings before this. Normally we fought
over Korean territory, but perhaps they just jumped the
border. They flew across and then left.
There was a balcony around this palace. We went out onto
the balcony. It was a large brick building. The roof was
curved a bit.
So we are watching, and someone shouted, “Look, guys!
Some MiGs are chasing Sabres at the airfield!”
Behind them was a pair. It was difficult from our
vantage point to determine who was who. Suddenly we
heard a burst of fire, like a tearing sound:
“Guys! That’s the Sabres chasing our airplanes!”
They fired a burst, then turned and departed. I got on
the telephone again and asked what was going on. They
said to me, “A Sabre hit and damaged Kolyadin.”
[This event occurred on 12 March 1951. The pilot who
damaged Kolyadin’s aircraft most likely was Lieutenant
Colonel Glenn Eagleston, commander of 334th Fighter
Squadron, 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing. I.S.]
His wingman, Bushmelev, broke off and returned to base.
Kolyadin arrived, as usual, went in for landing, and
they shot him up. Thirty-two holes in his aircraft.
There were holes everywhere—the tail pipe chambers,
hydraulic systems, landing gear—he was not able to lower
his gear, and landed on one wheel. But land he did,
alive and healthy.
they repair the aircraft or write it off?
repaired it. If somehow a pair of 23mm cannons rounds
had hit the Sabre, it would not have been able to land.
you give us an example of our cannon strikes? Barsht
said this about our cannons: “Was there any shortcoming?
Here comes a Sabre, attacking someone. You lay out a
burst of barrier fire, and it passes through between
to say this mildly—he is lying. Some burst of barrier
fire. Try to deliver it at a velocity of 900 kilometers
per hour. And than try to see if he can pass through it.
I don’t know. But I didn’t go around with heroes…
us, please, did you work against ground targets?
in the air.
Americans write that they did not see MiGs over the
ocean; did our commanders forbid you to fly out over the
invented. They said to us, “Guys! Do not fly over the
Yellow Sea. If they shoot you down over the Yellow Sea,
you’re done for! No one will come to your aid. The
Americans are there.” They did not need to forbid it;
they simply advised against it.
there was no concrete prohibition?
no specific prohibition. [The prohibition was quite
strict! And it was strictly monitored. As soon as they
observed on radar from land that someone had crossed the
coastline, they gave a command by radio to come back to
land and return to base. They did not punish pilots for
these violations, since a strict command came from the
command post not to cross the coastline. They cursed
only those who heard this order but did not execute it,
but such violations seldom occurred. It happened in the
heat of the moment that our pilots went beyond the
boundary of the coastline, but with an immediate
“reminder” from the command post they just as quickly
executed the order to come back over land. Such
excursions were strictly monitored! Perhaps this never
happened with Ovsyannikov or they simply never violated
this order and they never had occasion to be reprimanded
for it. Therefore he has no memory of it. I.S.]
you cross the front line?
was not recommended.
not recommend it. Where was the front line? How was it
The devil knew its location; there was hardly any line
drawn on the ground, the more so in the mountains.
I will tell you about an engagement that I conducted
with some B-29 bombers. They scrambled us and then
informed us of the following: “Group of bombers. Look,
they are there!”
“They are close by!”
I did not see them. Then “ground” gives the command,
“Cease combat mission. Cease combat mission, return to
At this time they appeared. Below us. They had already
turned toward home. And I already could see the
coastline of the Pacific Ocean. I radioed: “I see them!”
“Ground” did not issue any commands, so I decided to
attack. While I was catching up, you understand, some
time elapsed. Then I dropped down and we attacked them.
I hurtled straight past the wings going down hill. The
speed differential was significant: I was going
somewhere around 1,000 kilometers per hour, and they
were flying at 600 — 400 kilometers per hour difference.
you see your strikes?
not. I fired a burst and radioed: “Make a quick turn and
go back to base!”
I ordered all the pilots, “Do not assemble! Move
To assemble meant expenditure of more fuel. We gained
altitude again and moved to our base. When we were
perhaps 90 kilometers from the airfield, suddenly my
wingman — Tolya Bezmaternyy (strange name [it means
“motherless” in Russian] — he was a short, red-haired
man) — transmitted, “I’m ejecting!”
Immediately I began to think, “How far did we fly?” I
was the commander, and they ordered me to return! I did
not execute the order!”
These thoughts were running through my head when I came
in for landing. I touched down, taxied, parked in my
spot, and looked around. One aircraft was taxiing,
another was on final. There 12 crews in all, 11 had
landed and one had bailed out. One combat loss.
Suddenly, “Request permission to land? Support my
This was Tolya, coming in without an engine. He touched
down, rolled out normally, then taxied. I said to him,
“Were you trying to frighten me? Didn’t you say that you
“Comrade commander! I looked out, and all around me was
water. I thought about it; the Chinese would search for
me. But the Koreans were also pressing in, and if they
picked me up: who am I? Russian or American?”
While his fuel indicator hovered around zero, the engine
was still working. Then he glided. This was the second
such incident in our regiment. The first pilot’s name I
forgot. The squadron zampolit intercepted a
reconnaissance aircraft. He also ran out of fuel, and
also glided in from 9,000 meters [altitude] and landed
at the airfield.
[The engagement described here with the B-29s
occurred on 25 February 1951. The pilots of
Ovsyannikov’s group scored four downed B-29s. They
landed at their airfield on the last drops of fuel. I.S.]
did the Sabres appear?
Sabers showed up almost right away. Yes, they were there
immediately. But initially there were very few of them.
Later they began to fly more often. Our first
engagements from Mukden were with F-80 Shooting Stars,
F-84 Thunderjets, and Corsairs. And even the
propeller-driven Mustangs. [The first encounters
between Sabers and MiGs occurred on 17 December 1950,
and these were the pilots of the 29th Guards Fighter
Regiment. On both occasions, the engagements ended
without results for either side. The pilots of the 28th
Guards Fighter Regiment did not encounter the F-86 until
11 March 1951. I.S.]
ask a completely stupid question?
ask a stupid question, and you will get the same kind of
did you fight a MiG-15 against a P-51 Mustang?
well. Because I was the “king,” or whoever sat in my
place. At any moment I could break away from him or do
with him what I wished. Whatever speed he maintained — I
could match it with the MiG-15. I think the Mustang was
capable of 600 kilometers per hour. The MiG-15, it seems
to me, was quite maneuverable.
It was one of my favorite airplanes. I did not like the
MiG-17. The MiG-19 was even worse—solid like an oak
return to Korea. What other aircraft types did you
have straight wings or were they already swept back?
just slightly swept back, like our Yak-17. [At that
time the Thunderjet only had straight wings; therefore
our pilots nicknamed it “the cross.” The G modification
appeared in 1952; this variant had the backswept wing,
but the pilots of the 28th GIAP naturally did not
encounter it. I.S.]
you shot something down, how was it confirmed?
conducted this attack, my wingman brought back a bullet
in his wing leading edge. My wingman was the zampolit,
the one who glided in without an engine?
was another zampolit. I have corresponded with
him. I think he has also passed on. What were we talking
[The zampolits in the squadrons of the 28th GIAP
were: Senior Lieutenant Mikhail Petrovich Nasonov, and
after his death Captain Ivan Filippovich Krivakov became
the zampolit. Was it Nikolay Grigorevich Pronin, the
zampolit for 3rd Squadron, who landed without an engine?
I do know that Nikolay Alekseevich Nekrasov from 3rd
Squadron landed in November 1950 at the airfield and
heavily damaged his aircraft. Perhaps this is who
Ovsyannikov had in mind. I.S.]
was this mission scored?
the attack, came home, landed, and I reported, “We
fought an engagement! I attacked four B-29s.” That was
In addition, the enemy spoke freely and put out over the
radio: “At such-and-such location, our bombers were
attacked by MiG-15 aircraft. As a result, one aircraft
fell into the ocean. A second aircraft was damaged and
crashed upon landing on Okinawa.
Then our gun-camera film was developed, and we looked at
it. It showed me opening fire at very close range. And
the others—some did and some did not. I got credit,
get credit for any Saber kills?
I fired up a “cross” [F-84 Thunderjet], I saw that when
I fired a burst, something flew off the wing. He went
over like this [gestures] and then I lost sight of him.
What he did after that—I don’t know. I departed upward
as usual. [Officially, Ovsyannikov was credited with
one F-86, which he shot down on 30 March 1951. The other
two fighters that were credited to him were F-80s. I.S.]
the battles quite heated? Or did they vary in intensity?
were with fighters, they were always normal. You put
everything into it.
could compare it with fighting the Germans?
could compare it to the Germans.
was a more steadfast foe, from your point of view?
can’t say. Who here is steadfast? Who? In what? If you
got behind them, they turned; if they got behind you,
general, were the American pilots good?
had an enormous amount of flight hours.
Generally speaking, when you were in China, were you
preparing for combat?
preparing. In our training battles we emphasized
cohesiveness in group combat and performed simulated
were the largest American formations in the air?
I think, 45 bombers at one time. Against the dam. This
was before Kozhedub replaced us. They had a very large
covering force of Thunderjets. They had direct escort.
There was another group of fighters whose mission was to
“clear the airspace.” This group was made up of Sabers.
There may have been as many as 150 aircraft in the
entire group. We put up, I think 18. That’s all we had
[This was on 30 March 1951. On this day, 16 aircrews
from the 28th GIAP and 8 aircrews from the 72nd GIAP
sortied. They encountered a group of 24 B-29s that were
escorted by 40 F-80 and F-86 fighters. I.S.]
end, did many Americans make it to the target?
of them reached the target. I don’t know how many of
them there were. They told us that the total was 150.
I do not recall how many of our pilots scored that day.
It was such a tangle, that I don’t know who scored what.
the Americans report the results of the raids on the
targets you were covering?
not report. But they were unable to bomb the dam.
time did you use the capabilities of the sight on the
MiG-15? How did this automatic sight work?
laid the sight on an aircraft that had an angle of
displacement, the aimpoint shifted forward. You aim at
the aircraft, and the sight calculated the lead angle. I
can’t say. I did not use the sight in the fixed mode.
of our pilots, and the Americans as well say that it was
simpler for them to use the fixed sight.
the F-84 Thunderjet capable of flying with the MiG-15 in
a maneuver fight?
I did not
dogfight with them. They came in, and I attacked them
when they were bunched up. Like us during WW II, they
were escorting their bombers. We had two groups: one
group of immediate escort, and another so-called
maneuver group, which engaged in combat. They did the
same thing, used the same tactics. Those that were
flying immediate escort were tied to the bombers; they
were required to protect them. They only fended off
attacks. And those that were covering this group could
freely engage in combat.
you have G-suits?
don’t think so. I have already forgotten. But it is a
fact that based on the experience of the Americans, they
I listened to the presentations of the pilots of
Pepelyaev’s group, and one of them said, “The Americans
had a special flight suit that helped them cope with
gravity forces. In order to compensate for G-forces, we
had to (he demonstrates) to align [our bodies] into a
certain position to withstand the G-forces.
When G-forces are working on you, you can’t lift your
arms or your legs. What alignment? I don’t understand
it. Let’s not dwell on it. How can you overcome a G-load
of four or six?
times your own weight—isn’t that a lot?
it was even more. I did not have an instrument to
measure the G-load. But to anticipate the force and to
attempt to compensate for it? I don’t think so.
you able to see kills from the ground, how they fell?
I did not
you ever see any captured Americans?
Americans, no. One time I did see some German prisoners.
They led some prisoners through an airfield where we
were stationed. Belorussian partisans were leading them.
That was the only time.
were your living conditions like? What did you do in
your free time?
excellent living conditions. We lived in rooms, two or
three men to a room.
some type of encampment built separately for you, close
to the airfield?
would do this? They were already there when we arrived.
We fought at Andun in the period from February to May. [From
February to 2 April 1951. I.S.]
go back to when you arrived in China.
arrived there in July 1950, and left in October 1951. I
participated in combat operations from February 1951.
The regiment executed combat sorties from Mukden before
my time. I only flew combat missions out of Andun.
Pilots of the 72nd GvIAP and 28 GvIAP relax at a Chinese
resort area near the town Dalniy after combat actions.
about your rations? Who were your cooks—our cooks, or
know. But they fed us well. Perhaps it was our cooks. We
had a norm for flight status and for instructors.
The rations were exclusively according to norm. But when
we began to fly with the Chinese, some of them fainted
from the G-forces. From hunger.
surrounded by Chinese cadets
this lead to crashes?
didn’t happen. Only loss of consciousness. We began to
investigate. They had their own cafeteria, and it turned
out that they fed them a very sparse norm. The same as
A bowl of
grass stems, not rice! Our command insisted that the
Chinese begin to feed their men according to our norm.
We did not hear about any fainting after that.
Pilots of the 28th
Regiment observe the course of a soccer match between
two Chinese teams in Leoyan, 1950
the Chinese and Koreans fought in the air during combat
addition to those whom we trained, there were none in
combat. I did not see any. In our subsequent time in
China we introduced several squadrons of Chinese pilots
to battle. They were unsuccessful in their first aerial
combats and suffered great losses. In the first battle
they lost, I think, four or five pilots. They had no
experience. Subsequently I do not know how they fought,
and I will not speculate. We heard that they fought
alongside Kozhedub’s division.
know about three of our fallen pilots. Were there
you know about?
Vasiliy Fedorovich Bushemelev, Mikhail Petrovich
Nosonov, and Sokov.
Sokov. I will answer this question. You are absolutely
right. Nosonov died during a sortie from Mukden. They
shot him up, wounded him in the neck. He landed at Andun
airfield. He caught the aircraft shelter, and turned
over. His aircraft nosed over and he died. This was a
[Mikhail Petrovich Nasonov died on 11 November 1950
during a forced landing on Andun airfield, which was
under construction. It is believed he landed in wounded
condition, thus explaining his tragic end. I.S.]
Now Bushmelev and Sokov. By the way, Sokov was in my
According to the records, the two of them collided.
tell you what really happened. We were on alert; my
squadron was parked separately on one area on one side
of the airfield. The other two squadrons were on the
other side, near the headquarters. My squadron was
farther away. We climbed down from our aircraft to take
a break. We had an hour of readiness in the cockpit and
than were allowed time for rest. At this time they
sounded the alarm and launched aircraft. The telephone
rang: “Prepare to launch! We are taking off for
intercept; Shooting Stars are coming to attack Singisyu
The town Singisyu was on the other side of the river;
Korean pilots in Yak-9s were stationed at the airfield
I sat in my cockpit, turned on everything, and waited
for takeoff. But we did not take off. I saw a battle
unfold over there, and somewhere at an altitude of about
2,000 meters, at a distance of, well, how many—10–15
kilometers—something like that, aircraft shining in the
sun were visible.
was around Andun?
were parked at Andun. Nosonov died flying out of Mukden.
This was now the second occasion. As we were watching,
two aircraft collided. Bang! And the pieces flew
everywhere. We thought it was two Shooting Stars.
When our aircraft returned, it turned out that this was
two of our own pilots who, not seeing each other, were
attacking one and the same enemy aircraft. They
collided. [On 12 March 1951, Senior Lieutenant
Vasiliy Fedorovich Bushmelev and Senior Liuetenant
Vladimir Pavlovich Sokov collided in the air. I.S.]
Our regiment did not have any other pilot losses.
Dubrovin was from another regiment.
Concerning the squadrons, how did you become a squadron
commander? Whom did you replace?
commanded, I think, the 1st Squadron. Whom did I
replace? I think I came after Korobov, who moved up the
chain of command. He became the deputy regiment
commander, I believe.
[Initially Ovsyannikov was the deputy commander of
Captain S. I. Korobov’s 3rd Squadron. In December 1950,
Major Korobov became the deputy commander of 28th GIAP
for operations, and Captain Ovsyannikov became the
commander of 3rd Squadron. I.S.]
you ever have a feeling that we did not have enough
strike aviation [in Korea]?
sense? What kind of strike? Bombers? I was not in
command. Of course, the Americans had air superiority
over Korean territory. They chased down every Korean
vehicle in areas where we did not fly.
They wanted to plant us in Korea and build an airfield
near Pyongyang, I think, somewhere around there. But as
soon as a landing strip was built, an armada of B-29s
would fly over at night and blow it away with bombs;
they would make it useless.
kind of aircraft did you see that the Koreans had? Il-2?
various types. But I’m not sure what all they were. They
were based on Korean territory.
us, please, what did our MiGs look like?
looked good. They were silver. The air was painted, I
think, all around. Ours [28th GvIAP] were white,
and the 72nd’s were red. The recognition markings were
Korean. We had a bort number as usual. My number? No, I
don’t recall it.
they paint stars on them to acknowledge kills?
the composition of the squadron? Who arrived at the very
beginning of the fighting? Who arrived later as
replacements? Do you recall?
I had a
replacement—Chernov. He was young. Bezmaternykh also was
did he replace?
Gordeev, for example, left for reasons of health. He
ejected when his aircraft was shot up. All who left us
did so because of medical condition.
[The personnel roster of 3rd Squadron at the
beginning of combat actions in Korean skies:
1. Korobov, Sergey Ivanovich – Captain, squadron
2. Ovsyannikov, Porfiriy Borisovich – Senior Lieutenant,
deputy squadron commander for flight operations;
3. Gordeev, Ivan Ivanovich – Captain, squadron zampolit;
4. Parfenov, Aleksandr Ivanovich – Senior Lieutenant,
5. Pronin, Nikolay Grigorevich – Senior Lieutenant,
6. Motov, Nikolay Nikitovich – Senior Lieutenant, pilot;
7. Nekrasov, Nikolay Alekseevich – Senior Lieutenant,
8. Pokryshkin, Valentin Ivanovich – Senior Lieutenant,
9. Kuznetsov – Senior Lieutenant, pilot;
10. Anisimov, Viktor Vasilevich – Senior Lieutenant,
11. Krivulin, Aleksandr – Senior Lieutenant, pilot;
12. Bezmaternykh, Anatoliy – Senior Lieutenant, pilot.
Kuznetsov died in August 1950 of encephalitis; Korobov
left for promotion; Gordeev, Nekrasov, Anisimov, and
Krivulin went back to the Soviet Union ahead of schedule
for reasons of illnesses and injuries or wounds. The
following men arrived as replacements: V. F. Bushmelev
and Viktor Grigorevich Monakhov (both from 72nd GvIAP),
and also pilot Vitaliy Uryvskiy from the corps reserve.
Bezmaternykh arrived from the regiment headquarters
us, please, how did the political officers keep busy?
know. The squadron zampolit flew. But they still
conducted meetings, and so on. They did what they were
supposed to do.
last time, you became quite indignant when we raised the
issue of Smersh personnel. What is your perspective on
this was an enormous effort devoted to the uncovering of
enemy agent networks. I think that without them... well,
I don’t know how to explain it to you. Who would do what
there are many arguments about this, and we are openly
Arguments... right! Of course, they were necessary.
all of our films show that these “sons of bitches” and
so on only thought about how and whom to cram into a
penal battalion. On the other side was the good film, In
film? I haven’t watched any films lately. Anyway, in
these films the Smersh officers are cursing, the types
of faces they select for these roles! In our regiment we
had a lieutenant, a modest guy; I have even forgotten
his name. He had his own separate office, where he did
his business. He was invisible to us, but his work was
there cases in your memory when a non-flying Smersh or
political officer asked you to teach them how to fly?
not have any such cases. The Smersh men in general did
not fly. I don’t know. The zampolits in the regiment,
before they became political officers (in higher units),
all flew, and later became “no-flying.” They did not fly
after the war as well.
Returning to Korea, where and when did you fly your
first sortie in Korea? How did it go?
did you see the enemy?
remember. Gentlemen... how may years have passed? [It
is likely that Ovsyannikov made his first sortie in
February 1951, somewhere after the 10th, and had his
first combat engagement on the 14th of February. I.S.]
whom were you most often paired?
I flew in
pair with my deputy, with Pronin.
was an outstanding wingman. With him, together we could
fight effectively with the Sabers.
many men come down with fear-induced diarrhea?
happened, it happened. You don’t know for sure, but...
Of the two regiments at our base, one regiment was
formed. Monakhov came to our squadron from the 72nd
GvIAP. As I now recall, he had a red intake on his
We were in a dogfight with some Sabers; there was such a
commotion and such G-forces. I was thinking to myself,
“I’m alone.” Then I glanced around, and he was behind
me. He was a remarkable pilot, if you please - the best
of all my wingmen.
[A portion of the 72nd GvIAP was engaged in the
training of Chinese pilots at Anshan, and did not
participate in the February battles. However, when the
pilots of the 28th GvIAP got in a bind, reinforcements
began arriving in March from the 2nd Squadron, 72nd
GvIAP of Major Bordun. Later another squadron of this
regiment was sent to Andun. I.S.]
would you grade your zampolit as a wingman? As a
By the way, he brought my aircraft into his sight when
he was attacking a bomber. It showed on the gun-camera
film. It was very close. A casing from one of my rounds
was stuck in his stabilizer. I was in his sight, he had
one hole from a bullet from the bomber’s gunner and a
hole in the stabilizer—this long, 10 centimeters. We
landed. What was this? Did the Americans have a new
weapon? We began to speculate. Later when they picked
through the stabilizer, they pulled out my 37mm casing.
When I fired, he was so close to me that it hit him in
the butt end of the stabilizer. By the way, he was an
aircraft technician during the Great Patriotic War, and
transitioned to be a pilot. [Pronin was shot down in
combat on 25 February 1951. I.S.]
you rate the rifled armaments of the B-29 bomber?
say they were very good. By the way, when they fired at
us, they smoked, and you think, is the bomber burning,
or is it machine gun smoke? That’s how it was.
what distance did you open fire?
For me it
was 600 meters. I did not even manage to pull away
before I found myself between the wings of [adjacent]
about with fighters, with all their differences? Did you
normally fire from the same distance?
somewhere from 600 to 400 meters. They did not allow you
to get any closer. The Saber could pull away from us in
a dive. In a dive, it was the same as a Focke-Wulf 190
from a Cobra. We could not catch them in a dive.
your opinion, what was the better airplane — the MiG or
For me it
was the MiG.
what way was it superior to the Saber?
know. But I fought with them. And I got out of difficult
situations. Does this mean anything? Either I was
better, or the other pilot was not as good, or...
how did you get out of it? Did you always use the same
methods, or various methods?
out, as a rule, by climbing. We did not engage in pure
turns. They taught us that in the regiment. In the first
place, it’s difficult to hit someone while turning
because it’s hard to stay on his tail. The bullets fly
you deploy your air brakes in combat?
kind of actions did you have to undertake in order to
deploy your air brakes? Did you have to take your hand
off the throttle?
pressed a button on the stick [to deploy them], and when
you released the button they retracted. The cannon
button was on top, under your thumb. The machine gun
triggers were on the front. But we reconfigured them
under a single button. It was the same on the MiG as it
was on the Cobra.2 You press
on one trigger and everything fired.
you have adequate ammunition in the MiG for combat?
course, we had enough. You asked if we could shoot down
two aircraft. I don’t know; perhaps not. In the MiG we
had enough for battle, for one engagement. But you did
not want to go “dry.” They advised us not to fly “dry,”
without ammunition. You never knew if you might not need
it at any moment before landing.
you have an ammunition counter? Something that kept
track of your shells?
MiG was like the Cobra — not a large reserve. In my
opinion, also 30–40 rounds. This was for the 37mm
cannon. I think we had 120 for the 23mm cannons.
They taught us to economize and not fire up our
ammunition supply totally. They trained this even in the
Great Patriotic War. When you are arriving at your
airfield, “keep your ears open.” Because you need to
hold back some ammunition in combat in the event someone
attacks you while you are landing.
there an order in the Great Patriotic War that you were
to expend all your ammunition on the enemy?
even cussed us out if we did. They used this short verse
to teach us:
Don’t expend shells for nothing!
Get as close to the enemy as possible,
Press on the trigger
When the enemy fills half of your sight!
“Fills half of your sight” is about 200 meters or less.
kind of coordination occurred between you and those who
came to replace you? Did you prepare them? What did you
explain to whom?
There was some type of hand-off, but in very brief form.
I think even Pepelyaev was with me. Pepelyaev came to
the position of the regiment commander, it seems, from
the position of division inspector. I conducted a
preliminary “ briefing of the pilots,” and there was an
inspector from division, a major. I don’t recall his
you leave Korea as a squadron commander?
subsequent position was regiment commander.
your opinion, was the unit that replaced yours a worthy
How did I
rate it? First, the division that replaced us was
commanded by Three Times Hero of the Soviet Union, the
famous pilot of the Great Patriotic War, Ivan Kozhedub.
heard a lot about him, that he was called “Vanya-dub”?
[Pilots thought Kozhedub to be as tough and stubborn
as an oak tree. Ed.]
know. I do know that he was from our Chuguev flight
school. He was an instructor. I learned from an order
that on one occasion he flew with a female parachutist
and during landing he damaged the aircraft. Well, so
what! Later he became a Three-Times Hero!
You have, let us say, more than a few kills.
I will tell you honestly, as Melekhin, the regiment
commander, taught me: “Accomplish your mission! If you
are the wingman, you are responsible for the leader. It
is not your job to get kills! Moreover, if you are
escorting other aircraft, it is not your job to shoot
down enemy aircraft; you are to protect the bombers!
This is what they taught us. You fend off the attack!
Beat them off, so they don’t shoot you down. Keep your
place where you belong!”
He pounded this into me. My kills... they are a
byproduct. During the Great Patriotic War, I had two
Fokkers, and in Korea, four: B-29, a Saber, and two
“Crosses” [Thunderchief]. Not much, but they are all
mine! Of course, I was not able to confirm every kill.
It seems to me I shot down one B-29, one Saber, and two
[Regarding the victories of Porfiriy Borisovich
Ovsyannikov: His official score for the Korean War is
listed as seven victories, but a portion of them are
indicated in the records as “probables.” (Not confirmed
Ovsyannikov’s first victory was recorded on 14 February,
a B-29. However it is more likely that he (like other
pilots at that time who claimed victories over B-29s),
in the best case, only damaged several B-29s, which all
returned to their bases and all were repaired. The
Americans did not report any losses or damaged B-29
aircraft overall on this and the subsequent two or three
According to our augmented data, of the four claimed
B-29 victories on this day, only one B-29 struck the
ground, and more than likely it fell either in the sea
or on South Korean territory. Therefore, the Americans
did not report this loss. It is more likely that the
regiment commander, Kolyadin (he fired from very close
range) scored this single B-29 on this day; the rest of
the pilots (including Ovsyannikov) fired at the B-29s
from ranges of 1,000 meters and greater. Of course, in
the best of circumstances they could only have lightly
damaged an additional one or two B-29s, but certainly
not down them, although victories were credited to all
four. Thus it can be said with certainty that
Ovsyannikov’s first victory did not occur, in light of
the absence of experience of combat with such aircraft
as the B-29.
His second victory was on the 23rd (!) of February 1951
(Red Army Day) over an F-80, confirmed by the American
side. In this engagement Ovsyannikov seriously damaged
one F-80. This was F-80 No. 49-1860 from the 8th Fighter
Bomber Wing. Though it flew back to its base, it was
destroyed during landing. Naturally, the Americans
recorded this loss as “non-battle,” the aircraft
ostensibly having been destroyed “for technical
reasons.” In fact, it landed in damaged condition and
during the landing suffered a catastrophic accident.
Ovsyannikov’s third victory was again a B-29, on the
25th of February. On this occasion, the errors committed
in the previous battle with B-29s (14 February) were
taken into account, and four B-29s were shot down. All
of them were credited to the personal scores of our
pilots as confirmed. The Americans acknowledged these
losses, but only five days later. They acknowledged the
loss of three B-29s and an additional damaged B-29. One
B-29 went down on North Korean territory and crashed
there, and an additional two flew back to their bases
and landed. Because of the heavy damage they received,
both were consigned to scrap. Only one of the damaged
B-29s that returned to its base on this day was
repaired. All three lost B-29s were from the 98th Bomb
Wing of the USAF. Thus Ovsyannikov’s victory on this day
In the next engagement with B-29s on 1 March, our pilots
claimed that they damaged (note—not shot down, but
damaged) 10 B-29 aircraft. But according to photographic
data, three confirmed B-29 victories were credited, two
of which the Americans acknowledged: one B-29 was
destroyed during landing in South Korea, and another was
written off because of the heavy damage it received. The
remainder were repaired. These again were B-29s from the
98th Bomb Wing, and it is most likely that B-29 No.
44-69977, which was destroyed in South Korea, was the
work of Ovsyannikov (shot from close range). This
victory can be credited to Ovsyannikov.
Ovsyannikov’s next victory is dated 2 March and is
recorded as his first F-84. In fact in this engagement a
group of MiGs of the 28th GIAP fought with a group of
F-80s and F-84s. Initially our pilots were credited with
three F-84s, but latter the record was corrected to two
F-80 kills and one F-84 kill. Ovsyannikov shot down one
F-80 in this engagement. The Americans confirm the loss
of two F-80s from the 25th Squadron, 51st Fighter Bomber
Wing, but three days later and because of damage
received “from antiaircraft fire.” In fact, they were
damaged by the fire of MiG cannons and thought they made
it to their base in South Korea, both aircraft were
written off as unrepairable. Thus this victory of
Ovsyannikov also has confirmation.
Ovsyannikov gained his last two victories on 30 March—a
B-29 and an F-86. The Americans confirm the loss of a
B-29. This bomber crew was from the 28th Squadron,
commanded by Captain Gallaher. He managed to limp his
damaged B-29 No. 44-69746 to the base at Itazuki in
Japan, but the aircraft was so damaged that it was
consigned to scrap. Ovsyannikov’s second victory in this
same engagement was not an F-86, but an F-80 from the
9th Squadron, 49th Fighter Bomber Wing. Its pilot went
missing in action on this day, and it was mistakenly
recorded as an F-86.
In the final tally, of Major Ovsyannikov’s seven claimed
victories, six can be confirmed: three B-29s and three
F-80s. If one speaks of confirmation from our side, then
all claims of victories are based principally on
statements of our pilots. In this period, the front in
North Korea was not stable and a portion of the
territory of the KNDR was still occupied by UN forces.
Therefore our pilots were forbidden from flying deep
over the territory of North Korea. Naturally, it was
dangerous to send out search parties into the front-line
zone and this was not done.
All victories were counted in this period exclusively
based on photographic evidence and the observations of
Chinese and North Korean ground forces, or on data from
radio intercepts. As the above discussion makes clear,
our claims in large part corresponded to reality and had
confirmation from the American side, though to this day
they have tried to hid their losses in battles with MiGs
under various pretenses, such as: “equipment failure,”
“ground fire,” “insufficient fuel,” “accident upon
landing,” and so on. As a matter of fact, in this period
the Chinese and North Koreans had so few antiaircraft
units ( (our antiaircraft resources had not been
deployed yet) Korean AAA artillery at the described time
consisted of mostly 85mm guns, mostly located around
Phenyan, and 12,7 DShK portable machine guns, also in a
very low quantities. AA became a real threat for UN
aircraft no sooner then 1952.) that it is laughable to
read the American claims of losses of their aircraft,
the more so jet-powered aircraft, “from antiaircraft
years have passed. What is your attitude toward the
enemy—toward German pilots, toward the Americans? If you
were to meet them now, what would you say to them?
pilots themselves are blameless. Those who sat in
positions of authority are guilty. We both have a
similar love for the air.
principle, upon meeting them, you could shake hands?
We fought. We are equals. Well, perhaps I would not be
able; I refused to see an American who wanted to talk to
me about Korea. Well, I could not do that. Even now I
consider Americans my enemies. Oh, well!
Even in peacetime, the aviation profession is dangerous.
In my 33 years of flying duty, I had to execute a forced
landing five times because of engine failures. Of these,
on three occasions it was off the airfield, on my
“belly,” with retracted landing gear. One of these belly
landings was photographed. It was on 29 October 1956,
when I was conducting a weather reconnaissance in a
two-seat MiG-15 on the last flying day before my leave.
That I would live;
All the bullets passed me by.
It found level fields for me,
Where I could land,
Saving my life and the aircraft
In order to fly again,
With my hand at full throttle.
Consequences of a forced landing
did you fly after Korea?
MiG-17, then the MiG-17PF. But the MiG-15 was more
maneuverable. The MiG-17 was less responsive. The same
with the engine. The speed brakes—these were the same
type of air brakes that the Saber had, but not quite as
The MiG-19, in comparison with the MiG-15—I don’t
know—an oak [unresponsive Ed].
Enough of all of that. I want to confirm the opinion
that exists among aviators that those who have
associated themselves with the profession of pilot — and
it’s not important if they are military or civilian —
for their entire lives are afflicted with an incurable
illness: nostalgia for the limitless expanses of the
aerial ocean. It seems to me that fighter pilots suffer
from this illness most of all. I have suffered from this
illness for more than 30 years, and one time expressed
my dream in verse:
a Former Pilot
that not long ago I was in a MiG-15;
I plowed the expanses of the blue skies,
Already 30 years have flown by
Since the last time I held the stick in my hands.
In combat in MiGs in Korea we did not screw up,
And now in our old age we remember;
How in the skies we crushed “fortresses” [B-29s] there,
And their wreckage was falling down to burn up on the
And how the Sabres scattered from our salvoes,
When we came up behind them in air battles...
How we frequently sortied on alert,
To cover the dam and Andun bridge.
Many years have passed, and my days of flying are gone.
It seems I can’t resign myself to this fate.
Still, even if just once, to climb upward in a MiG
And execute a cascade of aerobatic maneuvers.
Climbs so steep my eyes would grow dark,
Turn, loop, then an Immelman,
Where the G-forces press my body into the seat,
So that a thick fog comes over my eyes.
To complete the Immelman in a snap roll
And again streak down from great height,
With a combat turn to place points in the sky
And in this way spend the entire night: dream, dream,
Now both the MiGs and I have grown old,
Missile-laden systems have come to replace us.
Its metal has become brittle and my eyes have grown
But just the same, I’d love to go back to the old days
one more time.
1. This was a jeep-like vehicle, named
from its factory of production—Gorkiy avtomobilnyy
2. The Airacobra was modified in many
Soviet regiments to permit the firing of the
nose-mounted 37mm cannon and two .50 caliber machine
guns with a single trigger. [JG]
<--- Part 1