Interview with Khvalenskii Stanislav Pavlovich by Oleg Korytov and
Redactor: Igor Zhidov.
Special thanks to Svetlana Spiridonova, Ilya Grinberg, James Gebhardt, Igor Seidov and Eugine Rudman
Khvalenskiy, Stanislav Pavlovich: I was born on October 25th,
1921, in the city Vladimir, to the family of a military man. My father served
in the Army ground forces until 1951. He served for thirty-one years and retired
at the rank of colonel. My mother was a housewife. We were constantly on the
move because of my father’s profession.
In 1939, when I was in the tenth grade, I applied for the Bobruisk aeroclub. I graduated from aero club in the summer of 1940.
— Which planes did you fly, and what was your training program?
We had only the “U-2” in the aeroclub. What was the program? Take
offs, landings, circles, turns, split-S’s, and so on.
At the Autumn of 1940, after finishing aeroclub, I was sent to Konotop Military Flight School. But in 1941 this school was reformed into advanced flight courses, while we were sent to other different schools. I was sent to Stalingrad school and stayed there until 1942, but I still hadn’t completed training. As the Germans approached Stalingrad, we were evacuated to Kazakhstan, near Kustanai. But we didn’t stay there for long either — our squadron was sent to Hakassia, to the village Chernogorka, which is not too far from Abakan. There I finished the flight school in 1943. For unknown reasons, I was left there to become an instructor.
— Lets return to 1941: how did you find out that war had begun?
It was in Stalingrad. We, cadets, were allowed to go into the city. When we arrived in the city, we were told that the war had started.
— Did you hear Molotov’s speech over the radio?
It had finished by this time, but people told us what it was about. When our leave expired, we returned to the school. And everything was more or less quiet.
— That is – no one was worrying?
On the contrary, we were full of patriotism: “We will show them!”
and so on. Later, when our army began to retreat, we would ask ourselves: “How
could it be? Why did it happen?”
We felt that war was coming. At first – our borders had been constantly violated by German reconnaissance aircraft.
— Were you informed about it?
No one informed us officially. My family—Dad, mom, two sisters and younger
brother—were living at Kobrin, which is near Brest. It was just sixty
kilometers away from the border.
Just before war broke out, my grandmother visited them. She stayed with the children, while mom and dad headed toward Sochi for a vacation. As the train arrived at the Sochi station, they found out about the war. They immediately returned, but starting from Smolensk no movement was allowed to the west for civilians, so my father went to his unit, while mom had to stay alone.
— What happened to the other children?
I was serving at the time, and my mother knew my address, and I knew my older
sisters’ address. Through the special state service we managed to find
the youngest kids in a kolkhoz near Stalingrad.
We were far from the front, and all we knew is what we heard over the radio in the news. We were disappointed. “Why? Who is guilty in our misfortunes?” We didn’t understand what was going on. We were constantly training, trying to get ready.
Whether I was disappointed or not, my task as a cadet was to study flying.
— That is, you were in training before becoming an instructor for four years?
I already explained why. Because there were constantly changes – we were
sent from one school to another.
We were taught on the I-15Bis. As we were getting ready for combat it was announced that they are obsolete, and we began to train on the I-16, which was thought to be a transition airplane to Yaks.
— Do you remember where the I-15s were sent after that?
Somewhere to Stalingrad or Astrakhan. I have no idea where they went beyond that.
— Do you remember how they were painted?
As all our aircraft, they were green. One shade. Stars on wings, fuselage, and tail fin.
— When you finished the school, how many hours had you flown?
About 150 hours, maybe less. I can’t say for sure.
— When you were an instructor, how many flying hours did your students have? It is commonly believed that at that time it was no more than 10 hours.
I can’t say exactly, but of course not less then 30 hours.
— I mean solo flights.
Ten flights in the “box,” fifteen in the “zone,” two or three flights on the route. I think that is it. I’m not sure; it was over 60 years ago.
— Was there a limitation for combat maneuvering in your school? There was an order issued in 1940 to limit high-G maneuvering to decrease the accident rate.
No. The program included turns, split-S, loop, Immelmann, barrel rolls — and that’s what combat maneuvers consist of.
— What about spins?
We demonstrated spins.
— We talked to Vasiliy Nikolaevich Kubarev, and he told us there were limitations for certain aircraft.
I’ve heard this name. But I’m not sure if we ever met in person. Speaking of restrictions – we had none. Neither before war, nor after its beginning.
— In your opinion, in which terms was the I-16 better than the I-15?
The I-16 had better speed. It had shown itself much better in Spain and Khalkhin-Gol, while the I-15 had suffered great losses from Japanese aviation.
— Which plane had better handling characteristics?
I worked a lot as an instructor on the I-16, and I liked it. It was exceptionally maneuverable.
— It was commonly considered that the I-16 was a very demanding airplane.
I wouldn’t say that it was so difficult to fly. But, perhaps, that is only my opinion – I had to fly it a lot. On the other hand, it was really demanding on landing. If you did something wrong, it would roll. You could break wings, propellers, or, in the worst case – you could lose your life.
— Were there cases when somebody broke wings in your school?
On the I-15 there were cases, but I can’t recall any on the I-16. I only remember how two cadets collided above the airfield in I-16s.
— Where and when did it happen?
In Chernogorki. It’s 11 kilometers from Abakan. In the beginning of 1943,
just before graduation. Final flights in the zone. They were passing the exam.
10 pilots were already assigned to stay as instructors. This group was flying.
Someone strayed away from the assigned zone. He strayed, and a collision happened. They caught each other by the wings. One cadet was hit by the wing on his head. He crashed, but we were not allowed to the site. The second pilot managed to land.
— Did you shoot?
Cadets had to shoot at ground targets — one flight in an UTI with an
instructor. I don’t remember, but I think that it had one ShKAS machine
gun. The gun sight was already a collimator type.
He dove, saw the target, and pressed the trigger. And that was good enough. No one cared if they hit the target. It was their first practice.
— Did you sho0t at aerial targets – sleeves?
Not at school. It was done later in the combat units.
— How was life organized for cadets and instructors?
During the war we lived in dugouts, with two-tier beds. The only difference between cadets and instructors was that we had a separate dugout. Food was in short supply, just enough to stay alive. But it was free. I served for 20 years, and didn’t pay for anything. It was all free.
— How were instructors’ families fed?
I have no idea how they lived. They must have had some kind of a ration, I suppose.
— It is known that there was an order to send instructors to the front for a month or two to gain experience. Were instructors in your school were sent to the front?
From our school – one or two. Perhaps from other schools there were more, but only one or two from ours.
— What kind of airplane did you receive after the UTI-4, and when?
My task was to train pilots on the UTI-4. It was considered as a transition airplane to the Yak-1. When a cadet finished training with me, he was sent to another squadron, which worked on Yaks, and finally he was sent to the combat unit.
— To the combat unit, or to the ZAP? [reserve aviation regiment]
I can’t say for sure. Maybe they received some extra training in the ZAP.
— Did you fly Yaks?
No. There was no time for it.
— How many flights a day did you make as a cadet?
As a cadet? As many as I could get. Three or four pilots were assigned for each airplane. If we were flying “boxes,” then 3–4 flights each. If we were flying in the “zone” – 1–2 flights.
— When you were an instructor, how many cadets did you teach simultaneously?
There were four cadets in my group. I taught them for a month or two, then I would graduate them, and I would receive a next group.
— Were there cases when cadets were signed off as unable to fly?
For all my time I graduated twenty pilots, and only one was signed off. He was not completely unable to fly, but it was war time and I couldn’t waste more time on him.
— Did you meet your cadets later?
I met one in Korea. He served in a day fighter regiment and flew as a free hunter. I can’t recall his name or the regiment he flew with.
— Did you have a chance to fight in the Great Patriotic War?
No… And there was no chance for me to fight in the Japanese war either
[the brief Manchurian campaign in August–September 1945]. Up until our
school was disbanded, I was an instructor there.
Instructors in the flight school – 1945
Second row -, Leonid Petrov, Khvalenskii, -, Boris Lavrinovich
First row Govorovskii, -, -, Chechel
— When was your flight school disbanded?
In 1945, somewhere around Autumn. Most of the instructors were demobilized, while the remaining were sent to different units in Primorye and the Far East. That’s how I ended up in the 304th IAP in 1946. It was equipped with the La-7.
— What did you think about the La-7?
For that time it was a very good plane: maneuverable, with good armament — three 20mm cannons.
— Where was the 304th IAP based?
At Spassk-Dalniy. It’s 150 kilometers north of Voroshilov, or how it is called now, Ussuriysk. About 200–250 kilometers from Vladivostok.
— What was your rank and position when you came to the regiment?
I was a lieutenant by rank and a pilot by position.
— Were there GPW veterans in the 304th IAP?
Yes. And there were three HSUs in the regiment as well.
(304th IAP (32nd IAD) Was based at Spassk-Dalnii. Regiment commander – HSU major Korolev, political deputy commander – Lt. colonel Pirozhok, deputy commander for flying duty – HSU Major Yeremin.
Commander of 3rd Squadron was Captain Morenko, Another squadron commander was HSU Major Amelin. I.S.)
— Was there talk toward you: "You sat in the rear while we fought?"
No. The relationship was good. Somebody had to train pilots also. In 1948, the 304th regiment started night flying training. We were among the first to fly the La-7 at night. Then, at the end of 1948 or at the beginning of 1949, we received the La-9.
— How was the La-9 after the La-7?
The La-9 was less maneuverable than the La-7. The La-7 had leading edge slats, and could do more aggressive maneuvers. Later, in the 351st IAP, we switched to the La-11, which was even heavier – it was designed for long range escort.
— Which one of them was more comfortable?
Comfortable? Cockpits were rather cramped. Instruments were almost the same. Later ones were equipped by “aviahorizons” to supplement the “arrow and ball.” Now you could see the position of the airplane in the air.
— What about visibility and plexi-glass quality?
Plexi-glass was the same.
— It was a common problem that it became a bit yellowish with time?
I can’t recall anything like that. It was of decent quality.
— Were there mirrors in Lavochkin cockpit?
No, not on Lavochkins. On the MiGs we had them. Later, in Korea, we received
a warning system for the MiGs – it sounded an alarm if an enemy fighter
got on your tail.
In the end of 1949 almost half of the pilots from our 304th IAP were selected to participate in a “government assignment.” Each pilot was called individually for a discussion; they explained to us that this assignment would be associated with danger, that most likely there would be war. Those who didn’t want to go were left behind. Only those who volunteered were accepted. Fifteen men were loaded onto the plane and brought to the 351st regiment. There we joined this regiment, and once again we were sent by plane to the town Dalniy, on the Laodun peninsula. We were then divided into three squadrons…
(Pilot from 304th IAP Anisimov Alexandr Petrovich recalled that following 15 pilots were transferred to 351st IAP: Anisimov A.P., Amelin A.S., Hvalenskii S.P., Karelin A.M., Kiselev V.V., Lukinyh A.P., Popov S.A., Abramovich N.N, Davydov A., Isaev F., Smirennikov V., Kaplenko I.V., Makeev V.V., Chirkov I.N. and Yarunin N.I.. They were transferred to 351 IAP and flown by Li-2 to city Dalnii (China) in February 1950. I.S.)
— What was your rank and position?
Senior Lieutenant, Senior Pilot.
— What plane type did you have?
La-11s. We trained on them, and in the spring we flew toward Shanghai, to Tushan. It’s a Chinese town about 800 kilometers from Dalnii. We had a leader plane – Tu-2. Just as we took off, and started crossing the Yellow Sea, one aircraft’s engine failed. The pilot decided to try and belly land, but he perished.
— It was a pilot from your squadron?
From our 3rd Squadron, 304th IAP. Our squadron was commanded by HSU Amelin.
The 2nd Squadron commander was Guzhov, if I remember correctly, and I don’t
remember who commanded the 3rd Squadron.
(1st Squadron was commanded by Captain Guzhov, 2nd – Major Golovanov and 3rd – Major Amelin. I.S.)
— I have a note that it was pilot Makeev, whose engine caught fire.
I don’t know what happened. There was a special signal: if something
would happen to the airplane, the pilot had to say this word over the radio,
so that the flight leader would know that something had happened. I forgot what
this word was, “Ocean,” perhaps, or something else, but he said
that word. Karelin escorted him to the landing. He saw that the landing was
unsuccessful, and that pilot had no chance. Then he caught up to us and landed
(Sr. Lieutenant Makeev V.V. perished during ferry flight from Dalnii on 08.03.1950?. Engine caught fire in midair, he managed to pilot it to the shore line, but was killed during crash landing. I.S.)
— "In March 1950, the regiment, under command of HSU Lt. Colonel Makarov flew to the Shanghai area to provide the city and port with cover against bombing raids by the Go Min Dan air force"… [Kuomintang—Nationalist Chinese forces, supplied and supported by the USA]
Yes. We landed at Tunshan. MiGs for the 29th regiment arrived there. While they were assembled and test-flown, we had to cover this area. That is, we had a defensive position. Over Tunshan our regiment shot down two Kuomintang reconnaissance B-25s.
Third row: all unknown
Second row: Kurganov, Belozertsev, Sidorov, Khvalenskii, Popov
First row: Yelkonadze, Deputy squadron commander Grigorii Sergeev, Isaev, Karelin, Akkuratnov
— "First victory was achieved by Senior Lieutenant Sidorov in the middle of March 1951." What do you remember about this fight?
The fight was conducted by Sidorov and his wingman; there also was another pair of pilots. They intercepted the enemy airplane and shot it down. (In this fight on 13th of March 1950 participated Sidorov Vasilii Davydovich with his flight. For it he and his wingman Lieutenant Popov were awarded with Red Banner Order. I.S.)
Kurganov, Sidorov. Deputy staff commander Sternatkin, Popov, Khvalenskii
— How was it confirmed: did you find the wreckage?
Yes, we found the crash site, although it was rather far from our airbase.
When the Kuomintang air force lost the first reconnaissance plane, they did
not understand what happened, and sent in another one. When we shot it down
too, they stopped flying.
This time our flight flew. Dushin led us.
— In the words of Sidorov, Vasiliy Davydovich, Dushin shot down the second plane on the next day.
I don’t think so. Maybe five days later, but not on the next day. Four planes took off: Dushin, with Abramovich on his wing, and flight leader Isaev with me on his wing. Dushin and Abramovich shot, and Dushin brought the enemy airplane down. (This happened on 14.03.1950 – for this fight Sr Lieutenant Dushin was awarded by Order of Lenin, and his wingman Sr. Lieutenant Abramovich – Order of Red Banner. I.S.)
— Were you ordered to learn the Chinese language?
No. Not in our regiment. We talked over the radio in Russian. But we were given Chinese names and documents, just in case.
— Do you remember your Chinese name?
No, I don’t.
— Apart from your combat sorties, you had to teach Chinese pilots to fly the La-11?
We taught a Chinese regiment, left them our airplanes, and returned to Dalniy by train. I have to say that Chinese pilots were not so bad at all. Their main problem was language. We had to explain things to them in Russian, and they had to understand our explanations in Chinese.
— How many Chinese pilots did you personally train?
I didn’t train them. There was a group of specially selected instructors. I don’t remember them. I only remember that one cadet crashed in my plane. He was coming in to land, half rolled for some reason, and fell to the runway.
— Were there many accidents with Chinese pilots?
No, there was only one case, and it happened on my airplane… They mastered new airplanes in about two months’ time, and soon began flying combat missions. One of them brought his airplane back to Andun with 40 holes in it.
— There were rumors among our pilots that Chinese pilots were very poorly fed, and because of this they were unable to achieve good results.
No, I never heard of this.
— Where did you live and what kind of food did you eat?
We lived in good conditions. One room for two men. Our food was also exceptionally good.
— Was it Chinese or Russian cuisine?
No, Russian. It was cooked by a restaurant chef.
— Did you order something in advance?
We didn’t order anything. They made up the menu by themselves. Apart from the ordinary menu, we also went hunting. Near Shanghai we shot pheasants, near Andun – geese. We took them to the kitchen, the chef would do something with it, and they tasted great!
— What was your relationship with locals?
We had no connections to the locals. We saw only servicing personnel.
— Was there any entertainment? Cinema? Theaters?
There might have been a cinema, but no theaters for sure. I remember that one delegation came to Shanghai from the Soviet Union and visited our airfield. It happened so that at this moment a Kuomintang B-24 overflew our airfield. One MiG from the 29th IAP took off from a nearby airfield, and when bomber was caught in the search light, the MiG shot it down. It happened almost over our airfield, and we clearly saw what occurred.
— How many combat missions did you fly while defending Shanghai?
When we landed at these airfields, MiGs from the 29th regiment and our La-11s, the Kuomintang Air Force stopped flying almost completely. Once a B-25 dropped a couple of bombs at our airfield at night with no results. And on another occasion our pair was sent up to intercept two Mustangs that were hunting after ground targets at about 100 kilometers away from Shanghai. Guzhov shot them both down while flying the La-11. Once more we were sent on an intercept mission, but we were unsuccessful. Maybe the weather was bad, or some other reason. I don’t remember. Anyway, it became quiet.
— How were victories confirmed?
When Guzhov shot two Mustangs down, one fell to the ground straight away, while
another one didn’t make it to the home base. Our Foreign Office received
a note from Chan Kai Shi on this matter.
(1st Squadron Commander Captain Guzhov on 02.04.1950 in pair with Sr. Lieutenant Lufar intercepted 2 P-51, and Guzhov shot them both down in one pass. Guzhov was awarded by Order of Lenin, Lufar – Order of Red Banner. I.S.)
— How you were decorated for the defense of Shanghai?
Dushin was awarded the Order of Lenin, Abramovich received the Red Banner. Guzhov also got an Order of Lenin. I received the Chinese medal “For the Defense of Shanghai.” Only 2000 such medals were issued.
— How were your La-11s painted?
Single tone green and Chinese markings on the wings, fuselage, and rudder.
— And MiGs?
White, or silver, to be exact.
— Did you draw victory stars on your planes?
Yes. About palm size on the left side of the cabin.
— Do you remember your MiG’s tactical number?
No, I flew different planes. Today on one plane, tomorrow on another. Numbers were two-digit, if I remember correctly. (All airplanes of 351 IAP had three digit tactical numbers. I.S.)
— How much time could a La-11 fly?
We patrolled for five hours. We took off from Anshan, it’s about 200 kilometers away from Korean border, and we flew there for about two hours.
— How did you end up in Anshan?
From Dalniy we flew to Anshan, and we started training night flying on the La-11.
— Your regiment returned to the Sanshlipu airfield at Laodun Peninsula in October 1950?
Yes, the 351st Regiment was based at the central airfield in Dalniy.
(In the end of October 1950, after passing all of their airplanes to Chinese 7th fighter regiment 351 IAP left to Dairen. I.S.)
Half a year had passed from the moment when we returned to Dalniy, and we were sent to 252nd Regiment, which was equipped with La-9s.
Another half a year had passed, and the 351st Regiment was about to be sent to Korea, Ivan Petrovich Golyshevskiy and I were approached to return to the 351st IAP. I agreed.
After returning from Shanghai
Above: Lukinyh, Smirennikov
Below: -, -, Isaev, Khvalenskii
— You were in 2nd Squadron?
In the 351st, I can’t say exactly. Definitely not 1st Squadron.
— We have a roster of 2nd Squadron. Do you remember any of them?
Kurganov, Akuratnov — I remember them. Smirennikov? Galkevich? Kozemyakin? I recall them all.
— Alexeev? Elkanadze? Abramovich? Davydov? Lukinyh? Volkov? Tsibulskii?
I don’t remember if they were in my squadron. You see, there were constant changes. I was transferred from one squadron to another several times. I used to be in Dushin’s squadron and in Isaev’s squadron, but I can’t remember when exactly.
— You came to Anshan with the same regiment?
It was 351st IAP, equipped with La-11s, but some pilots had changed.
We trained for night flying for about two months. We began flying to Korea, to Andun. We had patrol zones near Andun, over the Yalu River. We flew only night missions.
— Were there successful intercepts at that time?
I know of one such occasion, when Kurganov intercepted a solitary B-26. Those
morons forgot to switch off their navigation lights!
(It happened on 15.05.1952. Americans confirm a loss of RB-26 from 67th TRW I.S.).
— Was it Kurganov or Simko?
Kurganov! About Simko, there were talks that he encountered someone and even
fired his guns, but I can’t say anything about results. Dushin told us
that he met someone there.
I’ll tell you what it looked like: dark southern night, not a single light on the ground. You fly mostly by instruments How would you be able to see anyone? They told us… But there were no confirmations. (American data seem to confirm both claims by Simko and one claim by Dushin I.S.).
— Do you remember how on December 4 you, along with squadron commander Captain Dushin, intercepted a B-29? And how you fired at this giant?
We flew out simultaneously, but we both were in our designated patrol zones. The La-11 was heavy. We flew in a patrol zone. If only we had a decent instrument panel, or at least some navigation spot on the ground for orientation. At night all orientation was based on course and time. You flew in one direction for a certain amount of time, then you turned to other direction. Then I saw a vapor trail.
— Was the vapor trail visible?
You could see it clearly if it was caught by a search light. But it was as
far as 50 kilometers away at an altitude of 7–8 thousand meters. While
I closed in, the bomber dropped its bomb load and started running away. I fired
at him, but in reality the distance was over 2 kilometers.
(According to the research done by Yu. Tepsurkaev and L. Krylov (ISBN 978-5-699-26667-8, pp 209-210), on the night December 4th to December 5th Dushin and Khvalenskii attacked two B-29s. First one left unharmed due to the fact that both pilots fired from distance well over effective range of fire, second one (attacked at 23.20) was credited to both pilots as “damaged ”. On December 5th a B-29 from 307 BAG was signed off for scraping due to heavy battle damage. As no other claims were made it is quite possible this plane was damaged beyond repair by these two pilots. O.K.)
The La-11 was not the best choice to intercept such airplanes. Krasovskiy, who commanded all Far Eastern aviation, arranged in Moscow that half of our regiment would be trained to fly MiGs.
— In the spring of 1952, one squadron was trained to fly MiG-15s.
That was our squadron. Dushin’s squadron continued to fly the La-11 till the end.
— Didn’t you leave your La-11s to Chinese pilots, as when you left Shanghai?
We left the first batch in Shanghai and received new La-11s in Dalnii. Also green ones.
— Let’s return to the bombers, which flew with navigation lights on.
The one that Kurganov shot down? It fell next to our airfield, and burned to the ground. There was material evidence – dead pilot, some map cases, pieces of metal.
— But why was the first victory credited to Simko in October 1951?
I think it was done by his words. There was no confirmation. No wreckage was found. It was decided that plane fell into the sea. We were forbidden to fly over the sea. (In both cases when Simko claimed enemy planes to be shot down, there was a “Tigercat” damaged. Both were able to cross the frontline, but both had to make a forced landing. Out of four crew members only one survived. I.S.)
— Who searched for wreckage?
Our commanders organized search groups. They would talk to the ground forces, establish several vectors on the map, and then they would find the wreckage.
— Were there non-combat losses in your regiment as a result of accidents?
There were. Flight commander Gavrilov (Should be – Gurilov. I.S.). When he and Ivan Petrovich Kovalev were training for night missions, they flew a “closed route,” and entered clouds. For some reason he lost orientation, half rolled, and crashed. Kovalev made it back safely. He later was shot down in a MiG and had to eject. There was something strange – either a ram or a collision. Kovalev told us that they collided on parallel–intersecting courses. Another non-combat loss in a La-11 was navigator Kaplenko. (Sr. Lieutenant Gurilov perished on 08.08.1951, and Kovalev collided with American on 07.11.52. I.S.)
— There is report, that the noses of La-11s in the 351st IAP were painted in red.
No, not true.
— …and bellies were painted in black, to lessen a chance of detection by search lights.
No. It was American mode to paint B-29 bellies in black.
— Did it help?
I don’t know… If it was caught by a search light, the first thing
you saw anyway was a vapor trail.
Our planes were painted in standard scheme. But I can say that our “day fighter” MiGs had a green-brown camouflage. Not on all planes, but on those that fought at low altitudes. My friend from a flight school was there in day fighters – Boris Lavrinovich. He was shot down twice. The first time on take off, and the second time he was caught on route. He flew camouflaged MiGs.
— How they were divided between high- and low-altitude interceptors?
There must have been a regiment specialization. Low altitude was full of F-84 close air support aircraft, while Sabers were more common planes at the higher altitudes. At first there were no Sabres, but F-80 Shooting Stars and F-84 Thunderjets, while our pilots flew MiGs. At that time MiGs were by far superior to anything then in the air. Kozhedub’s division had a great hunting time then. Later, when Sabres appeared, they in some points, but not in all, were even better then MiGs. It became harder to fight them.
— Were there Mustangs and Corsairs in Korea?
I didn’t see them.
— You trained to fly MiG-15s.
We trained to fly MiGs at night for a month. And after training we moved to Andun, and started to fly combat missions.
— Did you fly MiGs from Andun or Anshan?
— When you trained to fly MiG-15, did you have a MiG-15 UTI?
Our first two flights we flew MiG-15 UTI, and then we transferred to the MiG-15. In comparison with piston-engine planes, it was a very simple plane to fly.
— Didn’t you think that the MiG had a drawback in comparison with the La-11 in flight time?
The MiG flew for 1 hour 15 minutes.
— Didn’t you think that it was not enough?
No, we got used to it quite quickly.
— Did you fly with drop tanks?
MiGs were equipped with drop tanks. I don’t know who made them. There were huge piles of them, because day fighters dropped them as soon as they saw enemy aircraft. We flew at night, and there was no real need for us to drop them, and we brought them home. At first we flew on drop tanks, then on rear fuselage, and finally on central fuselage tank.
— Did you like the MiG’s armament?
The armament on the MiG was great. One 37mm and two 23mm cannons. One round from a 37mm cannon made a 1-meter hole in the wing. If it hit a fighter, most commonly it fell.
— “In the spring of 1952, you were sent to 1st Squadron under the command of Major Kultyshev to train on the MiG-15.” Did you apply for a transfer?
No, our regiment commander picked us.
— Which pilots from the 1st Squadron had combat experience?
I don’t remember. And there were no dogfights during the Japanese war.
(From the 351 IAP following pilots had combat experience from WWII: Golysevskii, Karelin and Dushin. Apart of them the following pilots had combat experience in Japanese campaign: Regiment Commander Yefimov, Guzhov, Gurilov, Sidorov, Galkevich, Akkuratnov, Ishangaliev and Kurganov. I.S.)
— Three Japanese planes were claimed.
I don’t know who claimed them. I was told that our regiment simply flew to the Japanese airfield at Dalniy, landed there, and raised the tails of their airplanes [bringing the guns into firing position] to keep enemy ground troops away from the airfield until our forces reached them.
— On June 10, 1952, the first victories on the MiG-15 were achieved by Deputy Regiment Commander Capitan Karelin.
It happened right before my own eyes.
— Did you participate in that fight?
No. He was alone on that occasion. There was an air raid on the other side
of the Yalu River, opposite of Andun. One bomber was caught in the search light;
Karelin shot at it and hit the bomb bay. The enemy bomber exploded in midair.
Then he attacked a second bomber. It was also hit well and fell to the ground
burning. He also shot at a third bomber, but there was no confirmation for that
one – it caught fire but then extinguished it and most likely escaped.
(Karelin was the only pilot from the 351 IAP on this occasion, but at the same area there were two pilots from 147th GvIAP – Major Studilin and HSU Major Bykovets. Americans claim that 11 B-29s were attacked over target by no less then 12 MiGs, and as a result of the fight 2 B-29s were shot down while third crash landed at Kimpho I.S.)
— You observed this from Andun?
Yes, we were standing at the bank of the river, and saw everything clearly.
— Did Americans fly often at night?
Bombers? Relatively often. Our intelligence worked very well. Or, perhaps, it was Chinese intelligence. B-29s were just taking off from Formosa when we received a warning call: “They took off! Expect air raid!” But it was unknown where they would go to exactly. Search lights were available only near the Yalu River.
— In your regiment there was a ram. Was it actually a ram, or a collision?
Kovalev collided… Most likely a collision. Due to this collision, his MiG-15 caught fire and Kovalev had to eject.
— Do you have any idea whom he collided with?
That American had the callsign “Talbot-24.”
— Was wreckage of the American plane found?
I can’t say. If I remember correctly, this callsign was heard later.
(Americans do not confirm any losses on this night, but a crew of F3D-2 at night of November 7th to 8th was credited with MiG-15. Most likely Kovalev misjudged the situation and decided that shells hitting his plane and following explosion was a sign of other plane crashing into his MiG. I.S.)
— Were you paid for planes you shot down?
— Day and night victories were paid for similarly?
— Do you remember anything else about your regiment’s victories?
Well, I remember another of Karelin’s fights. We flew together. I had
to stay in a closer zone; he flew deeper into Korea. An aircraft was caught
in a search light there. He fired one burst, and everything became dark. Then,
I suddenly noticed that a fire trail appeared several seconds later and it was
moving from north to the south. It was enlarging as time passed. Karelin must
have hit the bomber “on the spot.”
Then Karelin was sent to Phenyan. He flew alone. There he shot up two bombers in one pass, but he was damaged by return fire. One bullet was found in his parachute, another punctured his fuel tank, and when he returned home, he had to make a night landing without an engine. (Karelin achieved two more B-29 kills on January 28th and 30th 1953. Both claims were verified by American side. On January 30 Karelins MiG was hit by B-29 gunners, and later it was also attacked by F3D, and, possibly, it added damage to his plane. Americans believe that they shot 1 MiG-15 down that night, but in reality Karelin was able to safely land at the home base. I.S.)
— Were those MiG-15s or MiG-15Bis?
We had the MiG-15 Bis. This plane had better engines and boostered controls. The MiG-15 had boosters only on horizontal controls, while there were no boosters for the aerilons.
— Were your planes checked for Valezhka (An aerodynamic condition that caused a plane to roll to one side at speeds close to M 0,9. O.K.)?
Not in the regiment. But I know that in the 29th IAP in Tunshan, one young pilot had crashed.
— What do you know about death of Major Sychev from corps headquarters? In November 1952, he flew a night intercept in your regiment’s airplane and didn’t return from a mission.
There was a case with the corps navigator. I don’t remember his name, but he called me to fly as his wingman on a day mission. I refused. He took off for the first time at night, lost orientation, and crashed.
— Didn’t the Americans begin to use night fighters early in 1953?
Yes, and one of them trailed Karelin when he was damaged and had to land with no fuel. But it was B-29 gunners who damaged him, not the fighter.
— Did they attack you?
I saw them once. They flew above me in a pair, and I saw their silhouettes from below. It was one of those rare nights with clear sky. Neither did they attack me, nor I them. The only case when they could claim a victory that I know of is that collision with Kovalev.
— When you returned to the Soviet Union in February 1953, where did you leave your planes?
We left them at Andun airfield.
— Did you see any new pilots?
We were replaced by the 78th Fighter Regiment, if I remember correctly, which was based at Gorelovo. We took their place there. But I did not see a single pilot from that regiment… (351 IAP was sent to Gorelovo near Leningrad, where 298th IAP, which changed them, was stationed. 351 IAP was included into the 44th IAD. I.S.)
— How many missions did you fly in North Korea?
I don’t remember exactly, some where around 400.
— Not too many?
No, we usually flew four missions per night on MiGs. It flew for an hour plus or minus fifteen minutes.
— How many times did you shoot at the enemy?
Once, on December 4 1951, but he was way too far away. And I never got a second chance.
— Were you stationed at Myaogou?
There were three main bases for our fighters: Andun, Anshan, and Myaogou. Once American night fighters were patrolling above our airfield, and flight control sent me to Myaogou. I landed there, waited for them to leave, and flew home.
— What did you do at the airfield, if there were no missions?
We waited for a mission.
— Did Americans bomb your base?
No. It seems that it was some kind of a “silent agreement.” They didn’t bomb us, and we didn’t use our strike aviation.
— Which awards did you receive for Korea?
Two Red Stars and the Chinese medal for the defense of Shanghai.
— What did you do after returning from Korea?
We returned from China to Gorelovo, where I flew as a Deputy Squadron Commander for a year. In 1955 I was sent to 102nd GvIAP to a posting as Squadron Commander, where I flew the MiG-17 until 1959.
— What about the MiG-19?
There were MiG-19s which were equipped with radar, but there were no combat
On the last day of 1958, I was signed off flying duty and left the Air Force with the rank of Major.
— Are there any pilots from 351st IAP you know about?
Currently there is only one man still alive, with whom I served there: Dushin.
He lives nearby, but he is very ill. And that’s all… There are only
two of us still alive – “The last of the Mohicans.”