Biplane fighter aces


Százados László Pottyondy

László Pottyondy together with the two greatest fighter pilots of all time, Erich Hartmann and Gerhard Barkhorn.
(from Bernd Barbas collection)

Pottyondy took part in the Slovakian-Hungarian border conflict in March 1939.

On 24 March 1939 Hungarian Ju86K-2 bombers attacked Spisska Nova Ves’ airport. The bombers were escorted by CR.32s from the 1/2. vadászszázad.
For his part in this escort mission Pottyondy was decorated with the bronze Signum Laudis.

He served in the 2/3. “Ricsi” vadászszázad (Fighter Squadron) operating Fiat CR.42s in the summer and autumn of 1941 during the unit’s operations against the Soviet Union.

Despite poor weather conditions over the sub-Carpathian region on 29 June, Hungarian aircraft did undertake several combat missions. 25 Ju86K-2 and Ca.135bis bombers, escorted by Fiat CR.42s, targeted Striy. This was the last action of a two-day strategic bombing offensive against Soviet rear area targets, in retaliation of the bombing of Kassa. While returning from the mission, Fiat CR.42 V.245, of the 2/3. "Ricsi" vadászszázad, flown by föhadnagy Pottyondy force-landed near Tiszavásár. The aircraft was 50% damaged, but the pilot escaped uninjured.

On 12 July, alezredes (Lieutenant Colonel) Béla Orosz, commander of the air contingent attached to the Fast corps, ordered százados Aladár Szobránczy, commander of 2/3. vadászszázad, to provide escort for two short-range reconnaissance squadrons, which were to bomb an enemy transport assembly point west of Zwanczyk. Szobránczy, főhadnagy Pottyondy, hadnagy Gyözö Vámos (CR.42 V.265), szakaszvezetö Péter Soós and szakaszvezetö János Balogh took off at 10:00 and soon joined the formation of WM 21 Sólyom aircraft of the VIIth and Xth közelfelderítö-század. On the way to the target, Szobránczy caught sight of three twin-engined Soviet bombers. As the Fiats dived on them, seven Soviet I-16s appeared suddenly and engaged the Hungarian biplanes. Szobránczy selected a Soviet fighter and soon saw his tracers penetrating the cockpit. The machine began to trail thick smoke and hit the ground west of Zvanchyk. Pottyondy also attacked an I-16 but, at the same time, he was jumped by another I-16. He noticed with satisfaction that Soós took over his victim-to-be and he was able to concentrate on his attacker. Despite the Soviet machine’s advantage of altitude, thanks to the superb manoeuvrability of the CR.42, Pottyondy managed to get behind the Russian and his bullets tore pieces of the fuselage. The Russian pilot steadied his plane only to fly into the machine gun fire of the oncoming Vámos. The two machines raced towards each other and in the next second, they collided head-on. Pottyondy saw two parachutes floating downward but he was immediately attacked by another I-16. It took some time to get behind this opponent, but he finally did it. The bullets hit the tail and then moved forward on to the section between the engine and the cockpit. Pottyondy knew that he finally had got his first victory out of three chances since smoke poured out from the I-16s engine as the Fiat’s machine guns kept pounding the fuselage. Finally, it spun towards the earth near Dunayevtsy, out of control. Meanwhile the WM 21 Sólyoms had completed their task and turned for home. Despite being fired upon by effective ground fire, all but one Sólyoms returned.
Pottyondy and Balogh, who also had shot down an I-16, were the last to leave the area yet they were the first back in Kolomea. Soon Soós arrived and also reported an air victory. On the return, he had got low on fuel and had to land to refuel at another airfield. However Vámos, who they know had bailed out after the collision, and Szobránczy were still missing. After shooting down his opponent and watching Vámos’ collision, Szobránczy had decided to try to find him. Circling around the parachute, he noticed that Vámos hung motionless. When his body hit the top of threes, a Russian patrol appeared at the edge of the wood. Szobránczy sent the Russians running with a few well-aimed bursts. Looking around he saw a meadow along the south-east edge of the forest and put the Fiat down. The machine came to a halt after about 250 feet and the undercarriage sank into the soft ground. A group of horsemen appeared galloping towards him and Szobránczy draw his pistol but, to his great relief, it was not needed for they were Hungarian hussars who had watched his landing. Szobránczy detailed a hussar to guard the plane, mounted the hussar's horse and began to search for Vámos. They found the parachute quickly, but it took ninety minutes to find the pilot, who they found sleeping in an abandoned forester hut! The happy Vámos explained that he lost consciousness upon the impact and did not remember pulling the ripcord. He came to when he hit the foliage. At the edge of the forest, he was fired on, so he went farther into the woods until he saw the hut where, exhausted, he fell into a deep sleep. In the meantime, a Hungarian armoured unit reached the scene and then towed the Fiat on to solid ground. Szobránczy landed back at Kolomea at 19:00 and the unit could claim five victories during the day with no losses of pilots.
According to some sources was the I-16, which collided with Vámos credited as an unconfirmed to Pottyondy, who fired at this aircraft before the collision.
It seems that they had been in combat with SBs from 132 SBAP and I-16s from 168 IAP. 132 SBAP reported that at noon six SBs bombed tanks at Dunayevtsy while three SBs attacked more tanks at Shatava:

“Near Shatava, six enemy sesquiplane fighters [most probably Hungarian Fiat CR.42s] attempted to attack our bombers, but were driven away by our fighters, which arrived just in time. During the hurried withdrawal, two enemy aircraft collided and crashed to the ground in flames.”
While returning from the target, the Soviet bombers were attacked by six Bf 109s north of Dunayevtsy. The I-16 zveno from 168 IAP tasked with escort barred the enemy’s way towards the bombers and forced them into dogfight. The combat lasted for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, the bombers had carried out their task and left. Three fighters, flown by Kapitan Konstantin A. Pilshikov, Starshii Leitenant Peter Shurmin and Leitenant Klimenko, didn’t return. A single parachute was observed, without the pilot’s identity being established. Next morning, a message arrived from Kapitan Pilshikov. He informed his headquarters that his zveno clashed with three ‘Fiat’ aircraft in the Dunayevtsy and Solobkovtsy area. The ‘Fiats’ were followed by four more, which also joined the fight. Pilshikov shot down one of them during the first attack. However, a second came at him in a frontal attack, damaging the engine of his I-16. He had to disengage from combat and reached friendly territory, where he landed, close to Bar. The fighter burned out and the pilot rejoined his unit days later. A couple of hours after being posted missing, Leitenant Klimenko returned to base. He reported that he had entered into combat and fought until his I-16 had run out of fuel. In the end, he landed successfully 10km south of Dorozhnya. However, he had to burn his aircraft, as the area was already abandoned by Soviet troops. He also reported that besides the ‘Fiat’ shot down by Pilshikov, he saw a second one also falling while burning. He assumed that it was brought down by Starshii Leitenant Shurmin. It is believed that he rammed a Hungarian Fiat CR.42 close to Strybiz and was killed in the process. Totally, the 168 IAP lost six I-16s and four pilots during the day.

After the combat on 12 July Aladár Szobránczy and Gyözö Vámos were decorated with the bronze Signum Laudis while Pottyondy received the silver Signum Laudis.

A few days later the “Ricsi” vadászszázad was pulled back to Hungary.

Pottyondy served on the Eastern front again in 1942. This time with the 2/1. vadászszázad, which was equipped with Re.2000 fighters.

Later in the war Pottyondy became an ace.

On 6 June 1944 the 102/2. vadászszázad arrived at the Soviet front. They had previously been based at Kolozsvár conducting fighter training and anti-aircraft defence roles on Re.2000 Héjas and immediately commenced its conversion onto the Bf109.

On 9 June 1944 föhadnagy Pottyondy took command over the 102/2. vadászszázad.

The 102/2. vadászszázad went into action in the beginning of July.

On 22 July they pulled back to Reichshof but two days later they moved to Mielec and then to Balitze on 27 July.

On 15 September Pottyondy claimed a Il-2 near Mezdilaborze.

In October the unit moved together with the 102/1. vadászszázad from Munkács to Felsöábrány. On 21 October both units were pulled back to Ferihegy.
Whilst based at Ferihegy Pottyondy was promoted to százados.
The 102/2. vadászszázad was soon moved to Bábolnapuszta, near Györ.

On 1 November Hungarian fighters intercepted Boston bombers and their escort fighters, which were attacking German-Hungarian troops near Cegléd. Zászlós István Kálmán of the 102/1. vadászszázad and föhadnagy Ferenc Málnássy of the 102/2. vadászszázad each claimed a Boston while Pottyondy claimed a La-5.

On 17 November 1944 the 102. osztály (Fighter Group) operated together with JG52 against Soviet bombers and ground-attack planes at the foot-hills of the Mátra Mountains. During the day Pottyondy flew a mission with Hauptmann Erich Hartmann as wingman. On the sortie, each of them shot down one of the Bostons, which were attacking targets at Budapest. Pottyondy’s victim crashed near Ocsa, while Hartmann’s went down near Erzsébetfalva.

Pottyondy left 102/2. vadászszázad on 31 December after having claimed 7 victories while flying Bf109Gs.
From 7 July to 31 December the 102/2. vadászszázad flew 334 missions and spent 309 hours over enemy territory. It downed 18 aircraft and destroyed a tank. The unit lost three pilots and seven aircraft in action and 18 to mechanical failure.

From 1 January 1945 he moved to the Home front and commanded the 101/8. vadászszázad, which core consisted of pilots from his old unit 102/2. vadászszázad.

Between 10:07 and 11:05 on 20 February 1945 eight aircraft from the 101/8. vadászszázad were on a fighter sortie. They noted Soviet close-support aircraft and fighters flying at 500 metres near Szendehely. The camouflaged Il-2s flew close to the ground and tried to blend in, while the Yaks took up the challenge. Not far from the village, Pottyondy “sat” behind one of the Yaks and shot it down with rounds from his 30-mm cannon. The left wing of the Yak almost tore off in the air. The fighter exploded on impact with the ground.

At 15:50 on 8 March 1945 he led a flight of four aircraft to relieve another flight. They ran into Il-2s, escorted by Yak-9s, between Soponya and Kálóz. They attacked the Il-2s, which were in the process of a low-level attack, and Pottyondy claimed one of them. One Bf109G “White 4” flown by föhadnagy Victor Inkey was shot down by Soviet anti-aircraft fire and he bailed out over enemy held territory.

He claimed 5 victories flying Bf109Gs with the 101/8. vadászszázad. He continued to serve with this unit until 4 May 1945.

Pottyondy ended the war with 1 biplane victory and a total of 13.

László Pottyondy and Gerhard Barkhorn speaking to two war correspondents.

After the war he emigrated to Little Rock, USA, with his wife Eva.

Here he befriended the owner (also a Hungarian dissent) of the local airport, who helped him to get his flying certificate.

After receiving his flying license he flew crop dusting and was killed while doing so in 1952.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 12/07/41 10:00- 1 I-16 (a) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   W Zwanczyk 2/3. vadászszázad
  12/07/41 10:00- 1 I-16 (b) Unconfirmed Fiat CR.42   W Zwanczyk 2/3. vadászszázad
2 15/09/44   1 Il-2 Destroyed Bf109G   near Mezdilabortze 102/2. vadászszázad
3 09/10/44   1 La-5 Destroyed Bf109G   Tuchla 102/2. vadászszázad
4 30/10/44   1 Boston Destroyed Bf109G   Kiskörös 102/2. vadászszázad
5 30/10/44   1 Yak-9 Destroyed Bf109G   Törökszentmiklós 102/2. vadászszázad
6 01/11/44   1 La-5 Destroyed Bf109G   Cegléd area 102/2. vadászszázad
7 17/11/44   1 Boston Destroyed Bf109G   near Ócsa 102/2. vadászszázad
8 22/12/44   1 Il-2 Destroyed Bf109G   Csány 102/2. vadászszázad
9 03/01/45   1 Yak-9 Destroyed Bf109G   Csapdi 101/8. vadászszázad
10 14/01/45   1 Boston Destroyed Bf109G   Pilisvörösvár area 101/8. vadászszázad
11 22/01/45   1 La-5 Destroyed Bf109G   Ercsi area 101/8. vadászszázad
12 20/02/45   1 Yak-9 Destroyed Bf109G   near Szendehely 101/8. vadászszázad
13 08/03/45   1 Il-2 Destroyed Bf109G   Soponya-Kálóz 101/8. vadászszázad

Biplane victories: 1 and 1 unconfirmed destroyed.
TOTAL: 13 and 1 unconfirmed destroyed.
(a) Claimed in combat with I-16s from 168 IAP, which claimed two CR.42s while losing three I-16. 2/3. vadászszázad claimed five I-16s while losing one CR.42.
(b) According to some sources was this I-16, which collided with Gyözö Vámos credited as an unconfirmed to Pottyondy, who fired at this aircraft before the collision.

A "Messzer" Bf 109-ek a Magyar Kiraly Honved Legieroben - György Punka, 1995 (kindly provided by Ondrej Repka)
Csaba Becze: A magyar királyi 1. honvéd éjjeli vadász repülöszázad Magyar Repüléstörténeti Társaság Konferencia Közleményei 1999 kindly provided by Csaba Becze
Biplane Against The Red Bear (Air Combat Spring/1974) - Julius R. Gaal, 1974 (kindly provided by Santiago Flores)
Elfelejtett Hősök - Csaba Becze, 2006 Puedlo Kiadó, ISBN 963-9673-064
From Barbarossa to Odessa: Volume 1 – Dénes Bernád, Dmitriy Karlenko and Jean-Louis Roba, 2007 Ian Allan Publishing Ltd, ISBN 978-85780-273-3
Harcok az orosz égen Budapest - László Tomor, 1942 kindly provided by Csaba Becze
Hungarian Aces of World War 2 - György Punka, 2002 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 1-84176-436-1
“Kőr ász” Egy vadászrepülő század története 1936-1941 - Csaba Becze, 2007 Puedlo Kiadó, ISBN 978-9639673854
"Messer" The Messerschmitt 109 in the Royal Hungarian "Honvéd" Air Force - György Punka, 1995
Additional information kindly provided by Csaba Stenge and Michael Karatsonyi.

Last modified 28 August 2019