names I have used a simplified version of the Library of Congress system;
for Japanese names, the rendition common in Western literature. Except for a very few well-known exceptions (Beijing, Chiang
Kai Shek) Chinese names and places have proven very difficult.
I have been given by a friend a table for transliterating Pinyan
phonetics into Cyrillic, and have tried to work it backwards to obtain
Pinyan from the Russian. I am
not confident of any success. I
ask your indulgence, and any corrections the knowledgeable may wish to give.
On May 31 the Japanese executed a new attack on the aerodromes of
fighters defending the capital. The
Chinese write that they had received advance information and were ready for
them. At mid day 36 fighters
and 18 bombers flew against Wuhan. Thirty-one
aircraft of the Soviet volunteers took off without delay to a height of 1.5
km, becoming the main attack force. At
the same time 18 Chinese fighters from the 3rd and 4th
Air Groups climbed to an altitude of 2.4 km, providing an echeloned covering
detachment. When the Japanese
appeared above Wuhan the Soviet volunteers, already awaiting them, cut off
their path to the east. Fifty
Soviet and Chinese fighters pursued the Japanese, who, retreating, gave a
battle which lasted about 30 minutes. In
all, 14 Japanese wee shot down, and the attempted attack was foiled.
The Chinese and the Soviet pilots each lost one pilot and one
aircraft. According to
Taiwanese information, 6 I-16s of the 21st squadron participated
in the battle, of which aircraft No. 2107 was shot down.
Judging by Rytov’s memoirs, concentrating the aircraft at the
Hankow aerodrome began already on May 30, and was completed by early on the
morning of May 31. In all, there
were concentrated more than a hundred fighters.
After the sounding of the alarm, according to the previously devised
plan the I-15s occupied an echelon at 4000 m, while the I-156s flew higher.
Even before the appearance of the bombers, one of the
groups of fighters was bounced from an altitude of 6000 m by A5Ms.
But the surprise did not help, and they were not able to engage all
the fighters in battle. After
the bombers appeared, A. Zingaev’s group threw themselves upon them, and
with the first attack shot down two. The
remaining bombers of the first group and the two remaining groups were not
able to force their way through to the aerodrome.
The fighters chasing after them lit 14 bonfires on the ground.
Two Chinese aircraft were lost and several seriously damaged. Rytov worried about the fate of A. Gubenko, who finally
returned in his damaged aircraft and reported that he had shot down one
Japanese and rammed another.
According to the recollections of the pilot N. G. Kozlov, the
encounter with a large group of A5Ms occurred about 15 to 20 km east of the
aerodrome. The Japanese
attacked leaving one flight at altitude.
Following the maneuvers of his leader, Kozlov in a banking turn gave
a burst at a Japanese fighter which was following K. Opasov.
In the turning carousel, this Japanese finally happened directly into
the gunsights of Kozlov’s “Chizh” (I-15), but the burst went into an
already burning aircraft. A
second Japanese began an attack on Kozlov.
For their part, the I-16s conducted a battle in the vertical, diving
at a steep angle and hitting the Japanese and then soaring upwards, and
opening fire at the moment when the Japanese was dependent on his motor,
climbing through a half loop. Mainly
attacking out of the sun, the Japanese quickly lost the initiative, which
gradually passed to the Chinese, as the battle dissolved into a sharp
dogfight and gradually dissipated. While
departing Kozlov let off a burst at long range at a Japanese under attack by
two Chizhi, and the A5M limply began turning wing over wing and tumbled out
of control to the ground.
The Japanese record that 35 A5Ms (11 from the 12th and 24
from the 13th Air Units) escorted 18 G3M2 bombers.
Poor visibility in the region of the target led to he fighters of the
13 Air Unit failing to discover the enemy, and thus the A5Ms of the 12th
Unit engaged in a heroic battle against 50 fighters. In the dogfight one Japanese and perhaps 18 Chinese were shot
down, including an old, unarmed Bellanca 28/90 biplane evidently a
reconnaissance aircraft. According
to other sources, participating in the battle were 31 Soviet pilots and 18
Chinese pilots (33 I-15 bis and 16 I-16).
One Chinese pilot was killed, and there is no report of deaths of our
pilots on that day, but the Japanese claimed 12 victories.
On June 5 the Guomindang government in Wuhan conducted a festive
ceremony in memory of all the air heroes, Chen Huaimin and others.
At the meeting, in addition to the Guomindang authorities, attending
and laying a wreath was one of the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party,
In May 1938 the Guomindang government again addressed a request to
the USSR for the supply on credit of new shipment of weapons and aviation
equipment. The next resolution was
issued by the Council of Ministers on May 17 authorizing the
provision to China of 60 SBs and a complement of spares and armaments, an
augmented quantity of fighters
was not yet approved. But after
the escalation of the struggle at Wuhan, the Chinese delegation again raised
the issue of the supply of aviation equipment, and on June 17, a decision
was taken to provide China with a credit for 100 I-15bis fighters.
These arrived in Lanzhou on November 10.
By the summer of 1938 the period of the special detail expired for
the first group of Soviet volunteer aviators.
They returned to the Soviet Union via the southern route leaving all
their aviation equipment with the Chinese.
Unfortunately, this did not occur without loss.
On March 16, 1938 a TB-3 piloted by Guo Jiayan and Zhang Jun crashed
in a mountain ravine of Imphal, according to reports, from the failure of
one motor. Flying on it were 25
Soviet volunteers, amongst whom the number of volunteer fighter pilots
killed is unknown. In October
1938 during the period of the evacuation of Wuhan by air, a C-47 burned for
unknown reasons. Twenty-two
people were killed of which 19 were returning Soviet volunteers, including
the fighter pilot Sokolov. the
only two survivors were the aircraft mechanics V. Korotaev and A. Galagin.
Later, yet one more C-47 crashed in the mountains.
Suspecting sabotage, for which there
was every reason since 50% of the losses of Soviet aviators occurred due to
accidents, the Soviet leadership categorically forbade our volunteers from
using air transport without special permission.
With the rotation of the returning aviators there arrived a new
group. Already by the spring of
1938 a group of I-16 pilots of Captain E. M. Nikolaenko (73 men, including
26 pilots) began to adopt combat lessons.
The group of Captain M. Yakushin with 10 I-15bis arrived in June
At the meeting of the Soviet and Chinese delegations on July 22, 1938
the first conclusions were summarized from
the participation of Soviet volunteers in the Sino-Japanese war.
Considering the interaction of the Soviet and Chinese pilots, our
representatives observed that
in the Chinese Air Force, alongside pilots
who were courageous and fearless, one met with members of the aircrew who
not infrequently avoided fulfilling military assignments, intentionally
disabled aircraft and so forth. As
an example, 23 SBs of the latest group (27 SB) wee put out of service soon
after delivery to China. The
Guomindang representatives expressed deep indignation on this occasion.
Possibly from precisely this moment began the rapid cooling of
relations between our volunteers and the Chinese authorities.
There were no such reports about the fighters, but the criminal
negligence of the Chinese military administration was noted: aviation
suffered serious losses from untimely notification of the approach of
Japanese aircraft. The alarm signal (“timbo”) often sounded only 5-10
minutes before the Japanese flew over.
Pilots were unable to gain the necessary altitude and occupy a
suitable tactical formation. D.
A. Kudymov mentioned that the signal for take-off was perpetually tardy
because the air observation and warning service in Nanking operated poorly,
and that pilots could take off only when the enemy was already over the city
or the airfield. The problem
was made worse by the construction of the I-16’s undercarriage, which for
retraction required the pilot
to give more than 40 turns of a wheel, while taking care not to hit the
control cables. In Kudymov’s
memoirs there is a very dramatic description of such a procedure:
“While the ‘little hawk’ gained altitude - before it could
assume horizontal flight, it was necessary to retract the undercarriage,
which requires the pilot to turn the control handle on a drum mechanism 42
times, - the enemy fighter was already approaching the airfield, and began
to dive from above on my clumsy fighter.
The thought flashed through my mind - shot like a snipe taking wing!
- frantically turning the drum, I gave full throttle and turned the nose of
the fighter straight toward the Japanese.
Head to head! But the enemy had already managed to give a burst from long
range, about 300 meters, and I felt my little hawk shudder.
The enemy swiftly made a steep dive under me and swooped upward.
It was clear he was turning for a new attack, striving to get on my
tail... Immediately putting the airplane into level flight I strongly turned
the bothersome crank. Most
important - don’t fumble, don’t get nervous.
The Japanese had just completed his turn and I had a couple of
seconds before he sat on my tail.... I almost shout “Ura!” when the
little hawk, like a war horse freed from the path, breaks
into a full gallop. Undercarriage
is up! The fighter almost rises
up on its tail from the sharp jump upward, and turns toward the attacking
The general inability to organize on the part of the Chinese delayed
introduction of new airfields which would permit the dispersal of aircraft,
but also did not allow them to be evacuated to less exposed airfields in the
Unfortunately, to reach a quantitative summary of the role of our
fighters in the beginning stage of the war, and to identify the most
successful groups and individual pilots is almost impossible for a number of
reasons. In addition to the
commonplace registration of kills by foreigners to “volunteers”,
according to agreements with Chinese aviation officials (and to this we will
return again), the basic fact is that our pilots and the Chinese entered air
battles in mixed groups, together they fought and shot down the Japanese,
and together they died. The
archival information of the Chinese Aviation Committee is still unavailable
to me. In addition to this, the
membership of the Soviet volunteer groups was continually changing.
In this connection, the Soviet aviation command maneuvered the
fighter groups according to reconnaissance data, rebasing them from Hankow
to Nanchang as reenforcements and the reverse.
Also, as a measure of the development of the aviation network, large
groups splintered and were deployed as flights at small fields (at Nanchang
there were two fields, a large and a small one, and later at Chengdu there
were seven), which at the same time complicated the task of the Japanese
bombers. Unknown ever are the
names of all the commanders of these small groups.
The Chinese write that during various periods f the war the number os
Soviet fighter groups varied from two to eight, though for the largest
period of time there were five. Among
the named commanders of the groups are V. M. Kurdyumov, G. M. Prokof’ev,
A. S. Blagoveshchenskii, N. A. Smirnov, A. S. Zingaev, G. N. Zakharov, E. M.
Nikolaenko, F. F. Zherebchenko, G. P. Kravchenko, M. N. Yakushin, S. P.
Suprun, K. K. Kokkinaki, A. I. Lysunskii, S. K. Bdaitsiev, N. G. Kozlov, T.
Rakhmanov, Ivanov, Bol’shakov, Baranov, etc.
From memoirs it is also known that already in China at the time of
the conflict were several pilots among them, N. G. Kozlov, E. Vladimirov, K.
Opasov and others, transitioned from “lastochki” to “chizhi”, which
also caused some confusion. Thus
in various sources we find that A. Gubenko on May 31 conducted his ramming
attack in the I-15 and in the I-16.
In the summer of 1938 the commander of fighter aviation, P. V.
Rychagov was recalled to the Soviet Union together with the volunteers, and
was replaced by P. F. Zhigarev. Finally
the chief aviation advisor became P. N. Anisimov.
His deputies were S. P. Suprun (fighters) and V. A. Kartakov
Until June 1938 the Soviet volunteers fought only on the main
approaches, defending in the air the large cities of Nankin, Nanchang, and
Wuhan. But air battles with the
Japanese in the south of China - in Guangdung and Guangsi provinces, an din
the north in the provinces bordering Manchuria.
Here the Chinese, together with the New Hawks used other not very
modern aircraft. At the
beginning of he war all combat capable fighters from the flying schools were
transferred to the operational squadrons, consolidating the instructors in
the 34th squadron, which defended Shanghai and Nankin for about a
month. Then the instructors returned to the flight school at Hankow
and transferred three Old Hawks to the 28th squadron for the
battle for Tai Yuan (Shansi Province).
In exchange the squadron commander Chen Chiguang turned over three
New Hawks and was dispatched to the to Shaoguan (Guangdung) for “defense
and liaison”(before the war the local aircraft factory here assembled the
Hawk III, and from the end of 1937 was occupied with copying the I-15).
In the 5th Air Group all the Old Hawks were divided into
two sections, one dispatched to the south to Guangdung, and the second to
the north to Shansi.
On September 21, 1937 in an air battle over Tai Yuan, Chen Chiguang
was seriously wounded and made a forced landing.
Liang Dingyuan (Hawk No. 2810) was shot down.
On October 15, three Hawk IIIs of the 28th and 31st
squadrons took off to bomb the Japanese positions at Gosyang (Shansi).
Pursued by the Japanese on the return flight they lost two pilots.
One of the shot down Hawk IIIs, No. 8, of the 31st squadron not
long before had been mobilized from one of the training schools.
After this battle, having lost all but one of their Old and New
Hawks, the 28th squadron received the English Gloster Gladiator
Mk.I, and in November the 31st after being decimated at Anyang
was sent for retraining to the bomber school at Hankow, and was later
redeployed to Yichang (Hubei Province).
In the spring of 1938, resisting the Japanese offensive the
Chinese-flown I-15s were often used in the role of ground attack.
On May 20 the 17th squadron with I-15s was ordered to
attack the Japanese positions near Yifeng (Henan Province), with escorts by
I-16s and Hawk IIIs. However,
before take-off the I-16s received information about the appearance in the
air of Japanese aircraft, and the signals officer of the 3 Army ordered the
I-15 group to take off earlier. Near
the target they were intercepted by the Japanese and an air battle ensued.
Without protection of the I-16 group they suffered heavy losses.
I-15 No. 5883 of squadron commander Cheng Jiliu was damaged and he
turned back. Four I-15s (No.s
5905, 5909, 5903, 5910 - pilots - Zhu Jiongtiu, Tang Weiliang, Qiu Ge, Zhang
Shangren) were shot down. Two more I-15s (No.s 5901 and 5899) made forced landings
among the Japanese positions, but the pilots, Hu Zuolong and Deng Zhengsi
managed to hide and return to their unit.
the same day the 22nd squadron dispatched two Hawk IIIs (No.s
2201 and 2205) of the 5th Air Group to bomb Lanfeng (Henan
Province). In an air battle
over the target both aircraft were shot down.
Fierce air battles, though on a smaller scale occurred in southern
China. Urgently formed in
August 1937 from instructors of the Central Bombardment Aviation School, the
32nd squadron with antique Douglas O-2MC (similar to our R-5) was
destroyed by the Japanese on August 16, in a single air attack.
The squadron was disbanded and the instructors returned to the
aviation school, but the number was allocated to a second squadron organized
at an airbase in Guanxi Province. Their
equipment was the American Vultee V-11 ground attack aircraft, but somehow
they were counted as fighters and quickly were relocated from Liuzhou to Nan
Ning for air defense of the provincial capital.
In January 1938 Japanese aircraft repeatedly conducted attacks on Nan
Ning. On one occasion five V-11 light bombers rose to intercept the
Japanese and shot down two aircraft, losing their own aircraft No. 507.
The 32nd squadron was reinforced by the 34th,
organized in December 1937 on the base of the local aviation school, and
equipped with the obsolete American Atlas from the Guanxi Provincial Air
Force. Although their mission
also included regional air defense, during attacks the pilots in the air
attempted to avoid encounters with the Japanese.
On September 15, 1937 an Air Force headquarters was organized at
Gunagzhou (the provincial capital of Guangdung, in western sources usually
called Canton), to which were subordinated the 28th and 29th
squadrons with the Hawk III, and the 18th squadron with the
Douglas O-2MC. As early as
September 21, on the occasion of a heavy air attack, four Douglases were
given the order to disperse (that is “to make themselves scarce”), and
fly to the northwest. The
Japanese spotted them and quickly shot down the commander of the group,
Liang Guopeng and set fire to the aircraft of Liu Baosheng who baled out.
From this battle only one aviator survived, the rest perished. After this the 18th squadron was sent back to the
bomber school at Yichang to reform.
On the morning of September 21, at the time of the massive Japanese
air attack, seven Hawk IIIs of the 29th squadron, following
squadron commander He Jinbeng, engaged in a heavy battle and in thirty
minutes lost two aircraft (No.s 5239 and 5232).
From one of them the pilot baled out but was killed.
The middle of the same day the Japanese repeated their attack.
Five Hawks rose to battle, and No. 5231 was shot down in flames, the
pilot saving himself by parachute.
On October 7,1937 a group from the 28th and 29th
squadrons shot down two Japanese. Hawk
No. 5250 of the group commander, Chen Shunnang was set afire and the pilot
killed. On this same day,
during a sharp and massive attack on the railway station near Yingde, Hawk
No. 2807 was shot down, one pilot made a forced landing at Shaxing, and
another pilot was wounded and returned to the aerodrome.
After this battle, there remained battle worthy in the 28th
squadron only a single Hawk II. As
the Taiwanese wrote “all the remaining aircraft were quantitatively and
qualitatively outclassed by the Japanese, therefore they began to avoid
taking part in combat”.
At the start of 1938 the 29th squadron reequipped with the
Gladiator and redeployed to Guangzhou.
The staff of the 5th Air Group was redeployed there from
Hankow in February 1938 to provide the 28th and 29th squadrons
with combat-experienced leadership. The
29th squadron had already suffered heavy casualties by the time
of the redeployment, having run into the Japanese at Nangxiong.
The 28th squadron with the Gladiator Mk.I was dispatched
for the defense of Guangzhou on February 23, 1938.
The very next day eight Gladiators form the 29th and three
from the 28th squadrons shot down two hydroplanes.
In this battle Chen Chiwei (No. 2806) was shot down and Zhou Linxiu
(No. 2810) was damaged, and aircraft No.s 2902 and 2907 were damaged while
returning to the airfield. The unserviceable Gladiator No. 2909, with a pierced fuel
tank, was destroyed on the aerodrome.
In April 1938 the 14th Aviation Unit was formed in Japan
for support of land operations in southern China, equipped with 12 A5M and
24 shipboard bombers. The new air unit was quickly sent to Sangzao Island (near
Macao). On April 13 the air
battle resumed anew over Guangzhou. With
combined strengths the 28th and 29th squadrons shot
down 7 Japanese. In the battle
the pilot of aircraft No. 2803 was killed.
Gladiator No. 2910 was shot down and the pilot of aircraft No.s 2810
and 2812 were wounded when their aircraft were shot down.
The commander of 29 Squadron, Huang Xianrui was also wounded, and
baled out by parachute. Gladiator
No. 2908 made a forced landing.
According to Japanese sources, 6 A5Ms from the aircraft carrier Kaga
participated in this battle, escorting groups of D1A and B4Y bombers.
They were intercepted by more than 20 Gladiators and Hawk IVs (they
forgot that the only examples of the Hawk IV went to Argentina) from the
aerodrome at Tienho. The
Japanese claimed that the A5Ms without loss destroyed 11 Chinese fighters.
By June 1938 Japanese attacks by the 14th Air Unit on
Guangzhou become more frequent. At
the same time the 15th Air Unit was sent to reinforce the 14th
Air Unit, but numerous losses required that they were equipped equally with
the A5M2 and the A4N1. Due to
the delays in organization, the 15th Air Unit entered combat on
July 10 over Anqin, and then they included A5Ms from the aircraft carrier Soryu,
stationed on the coast since April. The
old A4N1s were replaced with A5Ms only in September when the 15 Air Unit
relocated to Yuan for attacks on Hankow.
During the summer Chinese intelligence received information that off
the southern coast, near Guangzhou a major landing assault was being
organized. It was decided to
send there a group of our volunteers.
The redeployment took place in small groups, because the intermediate
aerodrome could not manage large groups, being tiny and bounded by a marsh.
Landing there proceeded fairly well.
Only the pilot Andreev touched down far from the landing “T” and
at excessive speed ran into the swamp at the edge of the runway, turned over
completely , coming to rest upright on his landing gear.
Both the pilot and the airplane received “only a mild scare”.
But the adventures were not finished.
Most of the group landed at Guangzhou shortly before sunset, but
Blagoveshchenskii in the last I-15 and A. G. Rytov with Colonel Zhang in a
light four-seat aircraft could not make it before nightfall.
At that time the Chinese were not equipped for night take-offs or
landings. As Rytov wrote, “they simply had no idea of the concept,
and flew only during the day”. The
native pilot with “Olympic” calm descended into the dark toward the
glowing lights of a large city. Barely
missing collision with a large building, he turned sharply to the right and
flew into a ditch. The aircraft
was destroyed but the passengers were unhurt.
Moments earlier, Blagoveshchenskii somehow had managed to spot the
airfield through the darkness, but while landing he snagged his wheels on
something and ended up on his nose. It
seems that in the darkness he had confused the runway with a sewage pipe.
The Japanese intelligence agents did their job, and that night the
Japanese bombed the airfield. However,
the losses were minimal - only one I-16 damaged, and several holes in the
wing surfaces of N. G. Kozlov’s I-15bis.
In the morning the Chizhi, loaded with 25 kg bombs, under he escort
of the Lastochki flew to bomb the port of Aomyn, at Macao, where a Japanese
airbase was located. The
Japanese had timely removed their aircraft away from the attack - the
airfield was empty and the group was met with fierce antiaircraft fire.
After dropping all their bombs on a nearby Japanese cruiser (like
stoning an elephant), the pilots returned without loss to Guangzhou.
here they awaited the Japanese landing for a week, but the
information proved false. Leaving
a portion of the group behind to reinforce the local air defenses, the rest
returned to Nanchang.
In the summer of 1938 the Japanese began a new offensive against
Wuhan. After capturing Anqin on
June 12, the Japanese based there the recently organized 15 Air Unit and
began to advance up the Yangtse in the direction of Wuhan.
Somewhat surprising for the Japanese, Chinese aviation became active,
making 49 on the Japanese ships on the river and troops on the land.
In air battle over Anqin Lieutenants V. G. Veligurov (May 19-25) and
S. A. Moskal’ (June 3) were killed. Until
the arrival of the 15th Air Unit at Anqin on July 10, the several
A5Ms located there were unable to provide adequate air protection for the
Japanese forces. Mainly they
escorted groups of bombers attacking Wuchang (July 12), Wuhan (July 14),
Nanchang and the aerodrome at Xiaogan (July16), where two Soviet air groups
were based. Two more of our air
groups were also based at Hankow.
From July 14 to July 28 the Japanese managed to intercept only a few
of the 49 Chinese air attacks. However,
sometimes the Chinese themselves unwittingly assisted the Japanese.
On June 28, 1938, when six SBs of the 2nd squadron
following squadron commander Sun Tungan flew from Nanchang to bomb the
Japanese ships in the neighborhood of the Madanyaosai fortress, not only did
they lose contact with their escorting I-16 fighters, but they also broke
their own formation. Ultimately,
only two SBs (No.s 1104 & 1103) arrived over the target, and they were
attacked from all sides by the Japanese.
One SB (No.1104) was shot down in flames,
and the pilot and gunner killed; only the navigator, Qian Changsong
was able to bale out. On July
3. Senior Lieutenant A. I. Matkin and Junior Commander I. S. Bastynchuk, the
crew of an SB were missing in action in an air battle near Anqin.
In addition, during 1938 three more SBs went missing - on February 17
near Beng-Pu (Sr. Lt. V. N. Fomin and Starshina
M. M. Rumyantsev), March 14 in the Wuhu region (Lt. P. V. Murav’yov, Lt.
I. N. Kushchenko, and Voentech 2nd rank
M. A. Domnin), and on May 24 in an unknown location (Sr. Lt. S. A.
Mursyukaev, Lt. I. P. Makarov, and Jr. Commander G. F. Lebedev).
News arrived of only one of them, Voentech Domnin, who was captured
by the Japanese and executed. There
is no information about missing fighter pilots.
Although during July the scale of resistance of Chinese aviation
decreased dramatically, based on Japanese
claims, in the air over Wuhan and Nanchang there continued sharp air battles
between the Japanese A5Ms escorting bombers and the Chinese interceptors.
But the Japanese write that after July 4, when the Chinese sent up 65
fighters over Nanchang against 23 A5M and 26 G3M2, and over half the
defenders were destroyed, the Chinese interceptors became rare.
The Taiwanese claim that in this battle seven I-15s of the 22nd
squadron led by squadron commander Zhang Beihua shot down one A5M, whose
pilot was captured. The
squadron commander himself was wounded, and baled out, and the pilot Zhang
Zhichawu was killed. Another
pilot baled out and was strafed in the air.
The toll of the July air battles was also heavy for the Soviet
volunteers. In that month 11
pilots and crew members were killed, more than 10% of the combat losses for
the period 1937 to 1939. as an
aspect of the ground forces offensive the enemy extended its network of
aerodromes, while the number of Chinese air warning posts decreased.
This decreased the time from the first notice to the appearance of
the Japanese. According t the
recollections of N. G. Kozlov, constantly “ the pilots were assigned to
the exhausting duty flight, maintained at ‘readiness number one’,
sitting in their airplanes in the broiling sun, shielding their heads with
their map cases.” On July
7,1938, the first anniversary of the start of the Sino-Japanese war there
was a huge air battle over Nanchang. At
the sound of the alarm, everyone took off at once, on criss-crossing paths.
Lastochki, Chizhi, and Katyushi (SBs).
In this battle the Japanese adopted very strange tactics, allowing
the bombers to fly in advance without protection while the fighters, in
compact groups came later, falling upon the Chinese fighters as they were
exiting from their attack on the bombers.
On this day four Japanese bombers and fighters were shot down.
In the first sudden attack B. Borodai, in an I-16 shot down a bomber.
In all, the volunteers lost seven aircraft, and the I-15bis of A.
Gubenko and N. Kozlov were seriously damaged.
Sukhorukov was killed in the battle, Gridin baled out, Rovnin was
wounded and landed back at the airfield, and E. Vladimirov turned over in a
rice paddy in his damaged I-15bis. K.
Opasonv shot down a bomber early in the battle, and later baled out, but was
killed in the air by the Japanese. Three
days later fishermen pulled his body out of Lake Poyanghu.
Curiously, the physician S. Belolipetskii has described his death
differently: “K. Opasov shot down a Japanese aircraft and was preparing to
land, but very close to the ground his aircraft suddenly went into a steep
dive and crashed. There were no
signs of bullet wounds in the body, but there were bullet holes in the
coverings of the control surfaces and the stabilizers.
Seemingly, the aircraft lost control at the moment when it was too
low to bale out...” Perhaps his description referred to someone else.
(According to defense ministry archives, Sr. Lt. K. T. Opasov, and
Lieutenants V.A. Kashkarov, E. I. Sukhorukov, and S. A. Khryukov were killed
on July 4,1938. It is possible
that the date in the memoirs of July 7 is in error.)
It remains to be noted that on the eve of the battle, Opasov’s
I-15bis was mounted with a new motor and a heavy caliber “Colt” machine
gun in addition to the four PV-1s. In
this battle three Chinese pilots were shot down.
Afterward the group of Soviet fighters relocated to the reserve
airfield at Tengsu. After four
days, N. Kozlov was shot down in flames but baled out.
Not long after, L. I. Lysunskii, the recently arrived commander of a
new group was shot down. He was
killed in a night battle on September 9, crashing beyond the aerodrome
runway at Henyang.
In an air battle on July 16, Er Shitong of the 32nd
squadron, which had received Gladiators in April, first shot down a
Japanese. The group lost two of
the five Gladiators (No.s 3204 & 3210) which took off to intercept, the
pilot of the latter baling out. After
two days five I-15s from the 8th squadron at Xiaogang (Hubei
Province) were sent to Nanchang for early reaction to Japanese attacks.
In an air battle Lieutenant Huang Qiu was first shot down, and then
the Japanese surrounded and destroyed the entire group of I-15s.
In the attack on Nanchang perished the leader of six A5Ms of the 15th
Air Unit, M. Nango.
It is interesting that in July the entire Chinese 4th
Fighter Aviation Group relocated specifically to Nanchang as a combat
reserve, and then were transferred to the training center. (Main Fighter
Unit) at Liangshan (Sichuan province) “for training”. The
21st squadron of the 4th Air Group was sent there even
before July; in September they
were sent to Lanzhou for new I–16s, and at the end of November the
squadron was rebased at Chengdu (Sichuan).
The Japanese claim that Chinese fighters appeared in large numbers
over Hankow once again on August 3, when bombers traveling under the escort
of 21 A5Ms were intercepted by about 50 Chinese machines.
27 of them were claimed shot down, and the Japanese themselves lost
three fighters. According to
Chinese sources, in all 70 Japanese aircraft participated.
In the battle, the commander of the 26th squadron, Wang
Hangxun was killed in his I-16 after managing to shoot down an aircraft; in
his cabin were more than 60 bullet hits.
Liu Lingci (No. 5922) also shot down a Japanese.
When his I-16 was set afire the pilot baled out.
I-16 No.5921 was shot down and No. 5920 made a forced landing.
The 26th squadron received the I-16 at Langzhou in January
1938, and participated in battle over Hankow from the end of
A major air battle occurred over Wuhan on August 12, in which forty
fighters of Major E.M. Nikolaenko gave battle to 120 Japanese aircraft.
According to our information, the Soviet volunteers shot down 16
Japanese aircraft, losing five of their own machines. According to reminiscences, I. N. Gurov was killed in this
battle. As they watched from
the ground, his I-15bis gradually descended completing a series of loops,
one after another. Exiting from
the last loop it struck the surface of the earth, tearing off the landing
gear and damaging the propeller, and skimmed along the earth’s surface for
a short distance on its belly. Gurov
sat strapped into his seat, his right arm grasping the control stick, the
left on the throttle, and feet on the pedals.
In his chest were six bullets. (According
to archival information I. N. Gurov is listed as killed on August 3, 1938
together with Sr. Lt. P. S. Filippov. Killed
in air combat on August 12 wee Capt. A. P. Tikhonov, Sr. Lt. Kh. Kh.
Churyakov, Lt. A. G. Maglyak, and Jr. Commanders A. P. Ivanov an P. G. Popov.
They all, except for Maglyak, are listed as buried at Nanchang.)
On August 18, the Japanese sent three nine-aircraft flights in a
massive attack on the aerodrome at Henyang.
Our SBs without loss waited out the attack in the air, although one
impatient aircraft almost was hit by the bombs while making a landing
approach. In the air two
Chinese Hawk pilots were killed, one was seriously wounded, and one more was
killed on the ground. On August 19, 27 Japanese bombers flying in two groups
against Hankow were met by a dozen Chinese fighters and anti-aircraft fire.
Two Japanese were shot down and the bombs released from 3000-4000 m
fell on an empty aerodrome, as on the eve the SBs had flown to another
aerodrome at Juangxi. During
the attack of August 21, the Japanese straight away shot down two aircraft
of the 12th training unit. The
new commander of the 24th squadron Li Keyuan managed to take off
with his wingman, but while trying to gain height, he was shot down.
After the Japanese in the south captured Guangzhou, an attack on the
provisional capital of China began from a southerly direction.
On August 26, by order of the staff, the Air Force transferred the 7th and 8th squadrons of the 3rd
Air Group, equipped with the I-15, to the
2nd Army at Henyang (Hunan Province), and on August 29 to
Nanxiong for defense against enemy air attacks the 32nd squadron
with Gladiators under the command of the commander of the 3rd Air
Group, Wu Ruliu. This was
observed by the Japanese and the very next day they mounted an attack.
Nine Gladiators rose against them and shot down four Japanese.
The group commander, Wu Ruliu, and another pilot were killed in the
battle, three pilots baled out. Squadron
commander Zhu Jiaxun and pilot Yang Yongzhang made forced landings. Only two aircraft of the entire squadron managed to return to
base. The Japanese claim that
in this battle A5Ms from the aircraft carrier Kaga shot down 16
Gladiators, losing two aircraft of their own.
Having borne major losses in battle, at the beginning of September
the 3rd Air Group was sent by a special train to Henyang for
rebuilding. On September 6 (or
7th) on the outskirts of Henyang there was a train wreck: the
special train with the pilots ran into another train (according to a
different version, at an unguarded railway crossing the train ran into a
truck carrying pilots).
Two pilots from the 7th squadron were seriously injured
and later died, while the rest were seriously battered, and there were many
injured and dead in the 8th squadron, in all twelve people were
killed. Therefore, on September
10 the Aviation Committee sent the 3rd Air Group to the training
center at Liangshan for rebuilding, reinforcing it with pilots from the 28th
squadron (Later redeployed to Lanzhou).
The Chinese suffered more non-combat losses later.
Thus on January 2, 1939 five pilots of the 25th squadron,
returning from Chongqing to Zhichyang (Sichuan province) were killed in a
flying accident. The remaining pilots of this squadron were sent to Lanzhou
for reforming, and in August 1939 they were dispersed to the 4th
and 5th Air Groups.
In 1937-1938 the Chinese tried to use other foreign volunteers in their air force besides the Soviets. About the 14th squadron under the command of some Vincent Schmidt, and its participation in battle, we have heard in some detail in the memoirs of the volunteers. The Chinese actually disbanded it in March 1938 for inactivity. The Soviet bomber pilot M. T. Machin also mentions a group of French volunteers, supposedly based at Nanchang, and fought the Japanese in the Hawk. While repulsing one of the attacks by A5Ms, in his words, they lost four machines, from which two pilots baled out. After several days, the Japanese shot down three more, and one pilot was killed. After this the group ceased to exist. Machin perceived the reason to be the significant superiority of the A5M over the Hawk. To the comparative characteristics of the fighters battling in Chine we will return later., but according to Taiwanese information, in June 1938 in Kunming (Yunan Province) the 41st squadron was organized, and with it served French advisors-volunteers. But their main assignment seemed to be the securing of purchase from France of the Dewoitine D.510. At that time, when the Japanese began continuous attacks on the city, this unit practically never participated in battle and, according to Taiwanese sources, never did anything at all. In October 1938 all the foreigners were dismissed and the 41st squadron was disbanded, At first the Dewoitine D.510s were sent to the air school, and later to the 17th squadron.
about the transport aviation catastrophes in the memoirs in a number of
cases significantly from archival data.
On August 5, 1938 in the region of Urumchi were buried the crew
and ten passengers lost in the fatal crash of a Soviet military
transport aircraft. On
November 1, 1938 in one of the outlying districts of the city of
Hanzhong (Shansi Province), while flying from Lanzhou to Chongqing, a
transport aircraft was lost under uncertain circumstances, killing 21
Soviet airmen. On December
19.1938, near Chengdu (Shangpang settlement, Pinglu region), a Soviet
military transport aircraft crashed killing 17 people including the crew
average Russian reader would automatically recognize a half dozen of the
preceding names as famous fighter leaders, aces, and test pilots during
the war against Germany.
top Soviet non-commissioned rank, equivalent to Sergeant Major.
Red Army “enlisted rank” dating to the egalitarian period when
traditional ranks were abolished in favor of designations such as
“Military Technician”, Korkom (Corps Commander), Divkom, etc.