Biplane fighter aces

Soviet Union

Naval Kapitan Vasilii Semenovich Adonkin HSU

7 April 1918 - 17 March 1944

Adonkin was born on 7 April 1918 in Khokhlovo in the Belgorodsk region.

He joined the army in 1937, attending the Eysk Military/Naval Air School, from where he graduated in 1941.

As a Mladshii Leitenant he was posted to the 72 SmAP-SF (Composite Air Regement) of the Air Force of the North Fleet.

He was in action from the start of the Great Patriotic War over the Polar region. His unit was at the time equipped with a mix of Polikarpov I-15bis, I-153s and MiG-3s.

On 29 June, he claimed a Ju 88 and three more shared while flying in an Polikarpov I-153.

On 17 January 1942, the 72 SmAP-SF became a guard’s unit and renamed to 2 GIAP-SF.

In March 1942, he was promoted to Kapitan and transferred to 78 IAP-SF, which was equipped with I-16s.

In June 1942, Kapitan Adonkin he was posted as deputy eskadrilia commander to 27 IAP-SF also with I-16s.

On the morning of 2 June 1942, the Luftwaffe struck twice at Murmansk and its port. The Northern Fleet Air Force scrambled 30 fighters at 11:20 to repel the first raid, which comprised nine Ju 87s escorted by four Bf 109s and a similar number of Bf 110s. Several jetties were seriously damaged as well as the railway line to the port. A submarine, which was under repair in the shipyard, was also damaged by a bomb. The Hurricanes were joined by a eskadrilia of I-l6s from 27 IAP-SF under the command of Kapitan Adonkin. The Polikarpov pilots engaged the Bf 109s and Kapitan Adonkin claimed one of them (credited as a probable). This gave their compatriots in the Hurricanes an opportunity to attack the enemy bombers without interference. Starshii Leitenant Alexei Dizhevskii, who was leading six Hurricanes, subsequently reported:

“We were patrolling over Mishukov Cape airfield when we encountered eight or nine Ju 87s at 1125 hrs at an altitude of 3500 m. They were flying out of the cloud and out of the sun on a bombing mission. I called on my group to close up and we attacked head-on and from below as a group. Having prevented the enemy aircraft from diving on their targets, they lost altitude and attempted to turn for home. This was a mistake, as their manoeuvring allowed us to get in behind them and continue the pursuit.
I attacked two Ju 87s, the first from behind and below. I fired two bursts into its engine and the Stuka started to smoke. Dropping onto its port wing, the aircraft went down vertically in flames. I then attacked a second Ju 87. I caught up with it and attacked from below and behind from a distance of 30-20 m. After I had used up all my ammunition, I watched as the Ju 87’s engine cowlings broke loose and the engine started to smoke heavily. The aircraft disappeared in a steep dive east of Lake Pyayve-Yavr. I was not able to pursue the dive-bombers any further because of an Me 110, which I engaged in combat. Following this battle I landed safely at my home airfield. My aircraft was undamaged.”
In all, the pilots of 78 IAP-SF claimed to have destroyed ten enemy aircraft during the raid. This total was comprised of six Ju 87s, three Bf 109s and a single Bf 110. The following pilots from 78 IAP were amongst those who claimed to have destroyed a Ju 87: Starshii Leitenant Dizhevskii (who was promoted to Kapitan after this combat), Starshii Leitenant Petr Sgibnev (1./78 IAP-SF), Leitenant E. M. Dilanian, Starshii Leitenant Petr Kolomiets, Leitenant N. I. Nikolaiev and Serzhant Alexei Pilipenko. Starshii Leitenant Vasilii Doroshin claimed a Bf 109. This earned him a second Order of the Red Banner. The Soviet fighters from 78 IAP-SF suffered no losses.
German sources state that 3./StG 5 lost only two Ju 87Rs (WNrs. 5485 and 5545) and had three crewmen killed (Oberleutnant Karl Pauls, Unteroffizier Jakob Holtmaier and Leutnant Karl Rapp). Air gunner Obergefreiter Werner Somann survived being shot down and was taken prisoner. Under interrogation, he made the following observation:
“It has become more difficult to get away from the enemy fighters recently, in as much as now the Russian pilots are starting to get as close as 7-10 m from the bombers, which previously didn't happen.”
It was not such a successful day for the pilots of 2 GIAP-SF, however. Seven Hurricanes, led by Aleksey Kovalenko, were sent aloft to counter the second raid on Murmansk’s port, but they suffered heavy losses. Three Hurricanes (BH328, Z5052 and Z5252) were shot down and Guards Serzhant A. V. Vanyukhin was killed. Only a solitary Bf 109 was claimed by Guards Leitenant Pavel Markov (Hurricane Z5252) in return, although this was not confirmed.

When his regiment was re-equipped with Hurricanes at the end of March 1943, Adonkin was one of the first pilots to convert. He was subsequently appointed deputy commander of 27 IAP-SF and would probably have progressed further but for his addiction to alcohol, which resulted in his demotion and transfer to 78 IAP. Adonkin was sent to Pummanki airfield as a eskadrilia CO of 2./78 IAP-SF in April and given the job of escorting Il-2 ground attack aircraft.

Flying a night mission on 12 June 1943, four Il-2s, led by Kapitan Mazurenko, had attacked enemy shipping near Ekkeri Island. The Shturmoviks were escorted by eight Hurricanes, with Kapitan Adonkin in the lead fighter. According to pilots’ reports, the raid inflicted heavy losses on the enemy – a 1500-ton transport and two 120-ton launches were sunk and fires started on the quayside. The defending fighters managed to intercept the mixed group of attack aircraft as they were leaving the target area. The Hurricanes engaged two Bf 110s and six Bf 109s in combat, and according to the Soviet pilots, shot down four enemy fighters – two of each type. Adonkin claimed a Bf 109 over Ekkeri and a Bf 110 over Kibergnes. Mladshii Leitenant Yuri Maslennikov and Mladshii Leitenant Nour reportedly claimed a Bf 109 and a Bf 110 respectively, but their claims are unconfirmed.
Low cloud and poor visibility aided the safe return of the Soviet formation without loss.

On 19 June, Kapitan Adonkin led eight Hurricanes that were accompanying four Il-2s with six Yak-1s and eight Airacobras providing fighter escort.
At 03:00, the attack aircraft swept in from 400 m to engage a German convoy. Comprising three transports, five patrol boats and two minesweepers, it was approaching its home port of Liinakhamari with an escort of 13 Bf 109s and four Bf 110s circling overhead.
The Soviet aircraft were still eight kilometres from the target when they were intercepted by a large force of enemy fighters. Some of the Messerschmitts engaged the Hurricanes, which in turn became separated from the Il-2s. The latter were left unprotected, as the 20 Yak-1s from 20 IAP-SF that should have been providing a fighter escort were still at high altitude. They eventually arrived over the convoy just as the battle was ending. By then the Il-2s had managed to evade the fighters and fight their way to the ships. Making a single pass, the Shturmoviks strafed, rocketed and bombed the vessels from an altitude of 200 m.
Fighting for their survival, the Hurricane pilots engaged in a fierce battle with the opposing fighters, which soon gained the upper hand. No fewer than five Hurricanes (AM274, KX144, KX404, KX488 and KX730) were shot down into the sea, resulting in the deaths of Mladshii Leitenant Vasilii Nazarov (a flight commander), Mladshii Leitenant Petr Gaplikov and Mladshii Leitenant Nikolai Starosvetskii, Mladshii Leitenant Yurii Maslennikov and Leitenant Fyodor Kochanov bailed out of their burning aircraft and were quickly rescued from the water by launches. Two more Hurricanes made emergency landings at Pummanki, as did an Il-2, leaving the remaining attack aircraft (escorted by Yak-1s and Airacobras) to fly back to Vaenga-1.
Four pilots from 2./78 IAP-SF claimed a Bf 109 each; Kapitan Adonkin, Leitenant Z. V. Bulat, Leitenant Fyodor M. Kochanov and Leitenant V. G. Mitrofanov.
It is possible that Boston bombers also took part in this raid and three pilots from 9./JG 5 claimed heavily in this raid:
Oberleutnant Wulf Dietrich Widowitz claimed six destroyed when he claimed one Airacobra at 01:50 (120 metres altitude), a second Airacobra at 01:53 (100 metres), a third Airacobra at 01:58 (200 metres), a fourth Airacobra at 02:00 (400 metres), a Boston at 02:02 (700 metres) and a second Boston at 02:04 (600 metres).
Leutnant Hans-Bodo Diepen claimed two destroyed when he claimed one Airacobra at 01:51 (200 metres) and a Hurricane at 01:54 (700 metres).
Unteroffizier Hans Thomann claimed three destroyed when he claimed one Hurricane at 01:55 (300 metres), a second Hurricane at 01:56 (120 metres) and a third Hurricane at 02:05 (200 metres).

On 22 August 1943, Kapitan Adonkin led a mixed group of six Hurricanes and four I-16s tasked with strafing enemy aircraft at Luostari airfield on the shores of Varanger Fjord. Having taken off before dawn, the Soviet fighters managed to hit the target accurately, despite difficult weather conditions. The pilots observed one aircraft on fire before engaging about ten Bf 109s. After they had all returned from their sortie the Northern Fleet pilots reported shooting down five enemy aircraft, although this tally was unconfirmed. The following pilots each claimed a Bf 109 – Kapitan Adonkin, Kapitan Vasilii Pronchenko (south of Vardø), Starshii Leitenant Ivan Popovich, Starshii Leitenant Semion Podiachev and Starshii Leitenant Nour.

From October 1943, he served as deputy commander for flight training and air combat before being posted as deputy commander of 255 IAP-SF, which was equipped with Airacobras.

On 22 January 1944, he was decorated with the Gold Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union and the Order of Lenin.
The official recommendation for the award noted that ”during his period of combat activity, Comrade Adonkin flew 365 combat sorties, logged 372 flying hours and has fought in 42 air battles, during which he has destroyed ten enemy aircraft. He made 31 successful attacks on enemy ground troops, other targets and small enemy vessels. He also carried out bombing raids, followed by ground attacks on paratroops landing in the area around Malaya Volokovaya Bay, and attacked a large number of enemy troops close to the River Zapadnaya Litsa. In the period between 1 June and 6 July 1943, Comrade Adonkin commanded seven attacks on small enemy vessels, during which two motorboats were sunk, and three motorboats and one transport vessel, displacing up to 1500 tons, as well as a single patrol boat, were set on fire”.

On 17 March 1944, Kapitan Adonkin failed to return from a sortie. He had taken off on his 370th operational mission to escort torpedo bombers attacking a large convoy of enemy ships. The following account by a 255 IAP pilot was noted in the official combat report:

“We ran into a heavy snow shower en route to the target. The leader of the group of escort fighters, Kapitan Vasilii Adonkin, gained height to fly over the snowstorm, together with his wingman, Mladshii Leitenant Smirnov, who was able to return despite his aircraft being seriously iced up. Kapitan Adonkin continued to fly on after his aircraft became iced up and he is presumed to have crashed near the Rybachii Peninsula.”

Adonkin was also decorated with the Order of the Red Banner (thrice; 14 July 1941, 2 June 1942 and 7 July 1943), the Order of the Patriotic War 1st and 2nd Class and the Order of the Red Star.

At the time of his death, Adonkin was credited with 1 biplane victory and a total of 16. These victories were claimed on more than 500 sorties and around 50 combats.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1941                
1 29/06/41   1 Ju 88 Destroyed I-153   Vaenga airfield 72 smAP-SF
  29/06/41   1/5 Ju 88 Shared destroyed I-153   Vaenga airfield 72 smAP-SF
  29/06/41   1/5 Ju 88 Shared destroyed I-153   Vaenga airfield 72 smAP-SF
  29/06/41   1/5 Ju 88 Shared destroyed I-153   Vaenga airfield 72 smAP-SF
  21/07/41   1/2 Bf 109 Shared destroyed I-153     72 smAP-SF
  25/07/41   1/3 Ju 88 Shared destroyed I-153     72 smAP-SF
  13/08/41   1/3 Bf 109 Shared destroyed I-153     72 smAP-SF
  15/08/41   1/5 Bf 110 Shared destroyed MiG-3   Murmansk 72 smAP-SF
2 09/09/41   1 Hs 126 Destroyed MiG-3     72 smAP-SF
  06/10/41   1/8 Ju 88 Shared destroyed MiG-3     72 smAP-SF
  1942                
3 09/05/42   1 Ju 87 Destroyed I-16     78 IAP-SF
4 12/05/42   1 Bf 110 Destroyed I-16     78 IAP-SF
5 14/05/42   1 Bf 109 Destroyed I-16     78 IAP-SF
6 01/06/42   1 Bf 109 Destroyed I-16   W Kola 27 IAP-SF
  02/06/42 11:25 1 Bf 109 Probably destroyed I-16   Murmansk area 27 IAP-SF
7 03/07/42   1 Ju 87 Destroyed I-16   W Murmansk 27 IAP-SF
8 12/08/42   1 Bf 109 Destroyed I-16     27 IAP-SF
  1943                
9 02/06/43   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Hurricane   Kibergnes port 2./78 IAP-SF
10 12/06/43 night 1 Bf 110 (a) Destroyed Hurricane   Kibergnes 2./78 IAP-SF
11 12/06/43 night 1 Bf 109 (b) Destroyed Hurricane   Ekkeri 2./78 IAP-SF
12 19/06/43 03:00- 1 Bf 109 (c) Destroyed Hurricane   Varanger Fjord 2./78 IAP-SF
13 04/07/43   1 Bf 110 Destroyed Hurricane     2./78 IAP-SF
14 22/08/43 dawn 1 Bf 109 (d) Destroyed Hurricane   Varanger Fjord 2./78 IAP-SF
  1944                
15 20/01/44   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Airacobra     255 IAP-SF
16 05/03/44   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Airacobra   Ekkeri 255 IAP-SF

Biplane victories: 1 and 6 shared destroyed.
TOTAL: 16 and 8 shared destroyed, 1 probably destroyed.
(a) Claim not verified with Luftwaffe records.
(b) Probably from 7./JG 5. Claim not verified with Luftwaffe records.
(c) Claimed in combat with Bf 109s from 9./JG 5.
(d) Claim not verified with Luftwaffe records.

Sources:
Aeroram
All aces of Stalin 1936–1953 – Mikhail Bykov, 2014
Russian Fighter Aces of 1914-1953 years
Soviet Aces 1936-1953
Soviet Hurricane Aces of World War 2 – Yuriy Rybin, 2012 Osprey Publishing Limited, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84908-741-1
Soviet Lend-Lease Fighter Aces of World War 2 - George Mellinger, 2006 Osprey Publishing Limited, Oxford, ISBN 1-84603-041-2
Stalin's Eagles - Hans D. Seidl, 1998 Schiffer Publishing, ISBN 0-7643-0476-3
Stalin's Falcons - Tomas Polak and Christhoper Shores, 1999 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-01-2
Suomen Ilmavoimat part VI – 1944 – Kalevi Keskinen and Kari Stenman, 2008, ISBN 978-952-99743-5-1
Additional information kindly provided by Ondrej Repka and Mirek Wawrzynski




Last modified 03 May 2018