Biplane fighter aces


Captain Chen Sheng-Hsing

In May 1940 Captain Chen Sheng-Hsing was serving as Commander of the 21st PS, 4th PG. This unit was at the time equipped with Polikarpov I-15bis.

On 22 May Japanese bombers caught Chinese fighters refuelling at Baishi-Yi Airfield, destroying 5 and damaging 7. They managed to do this by flying close enough to Chungking to cause the Chinese to scramble their fighters and then circling out of range until the Chinese ran low on fuel and had to land. A reconnaissance plane monitoring all of this radioed the bombers to come in and attack after the Chinese fighters started refuelling.

On 26 May the Chinese warning network reported three separate raids inbound for Chungking; one group of 27 bombers passed Chang Yang at 10:09, another group of 36 bombers passing the same place at 10:44 and finally a third group of 36 passing Wu Feng at 11:20. Three reconnaissance planes were also reported supporting the bombers.
As a result of the experience from 22 May the Chinese had changed tactics. At 11:40 they scrambled two I-16s from the 24th PS, four I-15bis and four Hawk IIIs from Kwangyang-Ba Airfield. The I-16s were to look for the reconnaissance planes and the biplanes to look for the bombers while holding another group of fighters in readiness. Sure enough, the Japanese bombers circled out for range until 13:45. By then, the shorter legged Russian-made fighters had run low on fuel, but instead of landing at their home base, they diverted to other airfields to refuel. In their place, the group of fighters held in readiness was scrambled. However, the Chinese didn't quite get their timing right and the second group of fighters did not get high enough in time to intercept the Japanese. The only ones that managed to make contact were two of the four Hawk IIIs led by Captain Yuan Chin-Han, vice-commander of the 22nd PS and two I-15bis from the 21st PS led by Captain Chen Sheng-Hsing.
Patrolling at 5,000m between Baishi-Yi and Kwangyang-Ba airfields, Yuan’s group was getting low on fuel and two of the Hawk IIIs had broken off to refuel at Hsu-Ning when he spotted a group of 36 Japanese bombers dropping bombs on the Hua-Lung Bridge. Leading his wingman Lieutenant Wang Lung-Kwang on an intercept course to the south-west, Yuan caught up with the Japanese over Tachung-Ba. Attacks on the Japanese formation were made first from the right, then from the left and finally from directly below. Wang's 50-caliber (12.7mm) machinegun jammed on his third pass and he was left with to make a couple of more passes with his 7.92mm machinegun before breaking off to land at Yi-Bin Airfield. The more experienced Yuan carried on alone and soon, his shooting brought some results. One bomber was seen to fall back from the No.3 shotai with its left engine on fire. Yuan concentrated on this straggler, boring in to within 100m on his firing passes as the Japanese bomber lost speed and descended lower and lower. Breaking away in a dive after one pass, Yuan found himself so low that he almost crashed into the mountains. Frantically pulling up, Yuan repositioned himself for another pass. In the next three attacks, Yuan concentrated on the bomber's right engine and broke away only after he had also run out of 50 caliber ammunition. By this time, both engines of the Japanese bomber were smoking heavily.
During this period, Captain Chen Sheng-Hsing and future ace Lieutenant Kao You-Hsin arrived in two I-15bis from the 21st PS. Both had been descending towards Baishi-Yi to refuel at 13:45 when they spotted 27 Japanese bombers heading from the south-west to bomb the airfield. Climbing for altitude once again, Chen spotted two other formations of Japanese bombers. One (the 36 bombers attacked by Yuan and Wang) was coming much closer. What's more, there was a straggler that had fallen behind. Initially, the other Japanese bombers had slowed down to box in and support the damaged bomber. On his first pass from the front, Kao had to fly through the fire of the other bombers to get at the damaged bomber. Chen bore in from behind and managed to draw off some of the fire concentrated on Kao. Soon, the damaged Japanese bomber had slowed down so much and descended so far that the rest of the Japanese formation had to leave it behind. After Yuan broke off, Kao followed the Japanese bomber until it crashed into the mountains while Chen covered him from above.
Credit for the kill was awarded to Yuan, Kao and Chen.

On 21 May there was a duty flight of eight I-153s from the 21st PS and one from the 29th PS at Xigucheng aerodrome commanded by Captain Chen Sheng-Hsing. During the day they scrambled to intercept 27 Japanese bombers over Lanzhou. The Chinese fighters flew in two formations. The first of five fighters was led by Chen while the second of four fighters was led by Chang Kuang-Yun, vice-commander of the 21st PS. The first formation claimed a bomber shot down and it was shared between Wu Guo-Duan, Sun Bo-Xian, Hu Nai-Wu, Zhu Huan and Chen Sheng-Hsing. This was the first Chinese claim with the Polikarpov I-153.
The Japanese bombers were G3Ms from the Mihoro Kokutai. One G3M was lost and another returned after suffering 70 hits.

Chen Sheng-Hsing ended the war with 2 shared biplane victories.

Kill no. Date Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  26/05/40 1 Enemy bomber Shared destroyed Polikarpov I-15bis   Chungking area 21st PS
  21/05/41 1/5 G3M (a) Shared destroyed Polikarpov I-153   Lanzhou area 21st PS

Biplane victories: 2 shared destroyed.
TOTAL: 2 shared destroyed.
(a) Claimed in combat with G3Ms from the Mihoro Kokutai. One G3M was lost and another returned after suffering 70 hits.

Soviet Fighters in the sky of China, Part V - Anatolii Demin, 2001 Aviatsiia Kosmonavtika 1 (translated by George M. Mellinger)
Additional information kindly provided by Raymond Cheung and Erich Wang.

Last modified 09 October 2003