Biplane fighter aces

Soviet Union

Kapitan Alexandr Fedorovich Klubov HSU

18 January 1918 – 1 November 1944

Klubov was born on 18 January 1918 in the Vologda area.

He learned to fly in an aeroclub before joining the VVS in 1939 and completed his flying training at Chuguyev military flying school the following year.

He was stationed in Leningrad in June 1941 but did not see any action before he was posted to the 10 IAP flying I-153s.

He flew his first combat mission on 28 July 1941.

He managed to make claims for a Ju 87 and a Bf 109 in one of his early encounters but was then badly wounded and out of action for several months.

Later on, he served with the 84 IAP. This unit was formed on 6 August 1942 with 16 I-153s and flew from Mozdok, North Caucasus, on the Caucasian Front. The unit was mainly used for ground attack missions. During 4 ½ month they shot and strafed 122 German aircraft on the ground, destroyed 319 tanks, 1087 trucks, 24 guns, 222 Flaks and machine-gun Flaks. Of these were 40 cars and 15 Flaks claimed by Klubov on 153 ground-attack missions (by early November 1942).
The most experienced pilots from the 84 IAP later served in the 16 GIAP.

Around midday on 4 September, Kapitan Petr Sereda, CO of the 84 IAP, led his I-153s in a low-level attack against the Terek bridges in the Lukovskaya area. Defying the intense ground fire, the I-153s carried out several gunnery runs against the target. Leytenant Klubov, managed to set some of German 111th Infantry Division’s trucks ablaze.
The formation was intercepted by Bf 109s from III/JG 52 (including Oberfeldwebel Alfred Grislawski) but the biplanes managed to evade all German attacks until the Soviet escort of I-16s from 88 IAP intervened. Grislawksi shot down one I-16 at 11:29 but two Bf 109s were lost in the combat.

He claimed a Bf 110 on 31 October.

On 2 November 1942, 84 IAP I-153s, escorted by I-16s from 88 IAP, were carrying out low-level attacks against a German army position. They were attacked by a Rotte of Bf 109s from 7./JG 52 led by Oberfeldwebel Alfred Grislawski. Grislawski quickly shot down an I-16 (victory no. 61 of a total of 132) flown by Serzhant Vladimir Yudin, which crashed to his death. Then Grislawski turned against one of the biplanes at treetop level. The combat was drawn out before Grislawski got the I-153 in his gun sight. He opened fire and the biplane caught fire (victory no. 62). The I-153 was flown by Starshiy Leytenant Klubov, who reportedly claimed a Bf 109 before he was hit by the Germans wingman. His aircraft caught fire and the flames swept from the engine to the cockpit. Klubov hastened to land his burning aircraft and below he could see a field. The flames were already licking his face and he pushed the stick forward and touched down on the ground. Soldiers came running to the aircraft, which was blazing like a torch. They pulled the tormented pilot out of his flaming captivity before the aircraft burned down.
Klubov was seriously burned and his face bore the scars of this incident for the rest of his life.
Grislawski saw the I-153 go up in flames on the ground below at 11:40 (the previous victory was claimed at 11:38) before turning home to celebrate his 23 birthday. No German aircraft was lost in this combat.

With his tally standing at 4 aerial victories plus 16 more destroyed on the ground during 150 sorties, in late May 1943 he was assigned to the 16 GIAP equipped with the P-39 Airacobra. Under the tutelage of Aleksandr Pokryshkin he would run up a large score in a series of hard battles over Taman, Rostov and Novocherkassk requiring only 68 sorties and 28 combats to run his score to 14 in three months combat including 4 and 19 shared over the Kuban River.

One of his victims was a Bf 109 that he forced down near Slavyansk on 13 July 1943.

On 15 August, his flight of six P-39s found two Fw-189s with four Bf 109s as escort. Splitting his force to attack from both sides, Klubov and his pilots downed both Fw-189s for no losses.

On an unrecorded date, he almost fell foul of a Messerschmitt whose pilot was his equal in every respect but finally managed to shake him off and turned for home to crash-land his crippled P-39 on his own airfield.

He frequently flew an olive drab/neutral grey P-39N "White 45" with a red spinner.

On 13 April, he was decorated with the Gold Star of Hero of the Soviet Union for 14 and 19 fractional victories on 84 air combats on 310 sorties as of September 1943.

It is reputed that during this period one of the other pilots in his unit was killed in a crash, occasioned by a spanner having been left loose in the aircraft. At a party to mourn the man's death, Klubov killed the mechanic responsible. As a consequence he was stripped of his decorations, but was permitted to continue flying.

He was then involved in operations over the Sea of Azov and the Crimea. On one occasion, he claimed a triple with three Ju 87s in the vicinity of Osipenko (west of Yalta).

He subsequently flew on the 4th Ukrainian Front during the Jassy-Kishinev operations. In this period he claimed a further 10 victories, 9 of them in five days in June 1944. His actions were considered to have redeemed him, and his decorations were reinstated.

He quickly rose to Kapitan and deputy squadron leader and eventually was appointed deputy regiment commander.

On 29 May 1944, his formation of eight P-39s led an attack on a formation of Ju 88s. In their initial attack Klubov’s group shot down two bombers, and then, when the escort intervened, he destroyed a Bf 109.

The next day his flight met nine Ju 87s escorted by ten Bf 109s, and Klubov downed the leader of the Stuka formation, thus disrupting the attack. His own aircraft was damaged by one of the Bf 109s, however, and he only just made it back to base.

In mid June 1944, the unit was transferred to the 1st Ukrainian Front for the Lvov-Sandomierz operation.

Klubov then participated in periods of intense activity during the Lemberg-Sandomierz campaign (13 July - 29 August, 1944).

During the fighting in the Yassi-Kisinev operation, he claimed 13 victories in a week including two Ju 87s on 16 July while leading 12 Airacobras on a front-line patrol.

Between 10:00 and 10:45 on 25 August, he flew a sortie together with his wingman Mladishiy Leytenant Sergey Ivanov between Sandomoir, Lagun, Keltse, Mologoh and Khmelnik. They spotted a lone enemy fighter at 13,125 feet in the Keltse area. The two Soviet fighters immediately slipped into the clouds and took a closing course with the enemy fighter. They did not rush their approach, carefully masking themselves with clouds and overcast.
Klubov guided Ivanov into an attack on the enemy fighter and the wingman struck from the front at an angle. The enemy fighter flashed by underneath the Airacobra. It turned out that it was a Bf 110 and the rear gunner opened fire. The Soviet fighters’ first attack was a failure and Klubov radioed Ivanov that he should attack from the left and right rear. Klubov hit the gunner’s compartment with a long burst from 110 to 85 yards and the now dead gunner ceased firing. Ivanov hit the engines, setting them on fire. The Bf 110 began slowly rotating to the right, presenting its entire underbelly to the P-39s and Klubov finished off it with a second pass. Ivanov attacked the Bf 110 a third time, delivering the coupe de grace and seconds later it crashed into the earth.
The returning pilots shared the monetary bonus for the destruction of a fighter (1000 rubles in the closing period of the war).
This sortie had been a radar (RUS-2) led interception.

On 6 October 1944 the president of the Bell firm (USA) awarded engraved watches with congratulatory letters signed in English to Guards Colonel A. I. Pokryskhin, Guards Mayor D. B. Glinka, Guards Kapitan Grigorii Rechkalov, Guards Mayor B. B. Glinka, Guards Mayor K. G. Vishnevetskiy, Guards Kapitan Klubov, Guards Starshiy Leytenant I. I. Babak, Guards Starshiy Leytenant A. I. Trud and Guards Kapitan M. S. Komelkov.
These pilots all had shot down twenty or more enemy aircraft as of 24 June 1944 while flying the Airacobra and were all decorated with the Gold Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union (Pokryskhin three times, D. B. Glinka and Grigorii Rechkalov twice).
The watches were presented to the pilots by the commander of the 2nd Air Army, General Stepan Krasovskiy. Mayor Vishnevetskiy received his watch posthumously since he was killed on 30 July 1944 in an enemy air raid.
After the death of Aleksandr Pokryskhin in 1985, his widow Maria placed his “Bell” watch in the Central Museum of the Soviet (now Russian) Army in Moscow, where it remain on display to this day.

In October, Klubov served as deputy commander for aerial gunnery of the 16 GIAP.

On 1 November, Kapitan Klubov was flying a training flight in one of the new Lavochkin La-7s. While landing he didn’t fully extend the flaps and the aircraft careened past the end of the runway due to excessive speed. When one of its wheels dug into soft dirt, it flipped over and broke up. The entire incident occurred in full view of many of Klubov’s comrades, which rushed to his aid but his life couldn’t be saved.

Klubov was buried in Lvov on the Hill of Glory.

Klubov was admired and highly respected by his comrades. G. Golubev, a fellow 16 IAP aces, provides the following recollection:

"He was a cool and calculating leader, aggressive in the air, fast surprise attacks were his forte. He possessed a remarkable physique and stamina that combined with his great fighting spirit. He neither knew fear nor did he waver in the face of numerical enemy superiority. To take off on a mission with Klubov almost invariably meant success."
On 27 June 1945, he was posthumously decorated with a second Gold Star of Hero of the Soviet Union for 31 victories in 95 air combats on 457 sorties as of October 1944.

Klubov was also decorated with the Order of Lenin, the Order of the Red Banner (twice), the Order of Alexandr Nievskii and then Order of the Patriotic War 1st Class.

At the time of his death Klubov he was credited with 4 biplane victories and a total of 31 (27 on P-39). These were claimed in 95 encounters on 467 sorties. He was also credited with at least 16 aircraft destroyed on the ground.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 ??/??/41   1 Bf 109 Destroyed I-153     10 IAP
2 ??/??/41   1 Ju 87 (a) Destroyed I-153     10 IAP
3 31/10/42   1 Bf 110 Destroyed I-153     84 IAP
4 02/11/42 a.m. 1 Bf 109 (b) Destroyed I-153   Terek area 84 IAP
? 13/07/43   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Airacobra   Slavyansk 16 GIAP
  15/08/43   1 Fw-189 Shared destroyed Airacobra     16 GIAP
  15/08/43   1 Fw-189 Shared destroyed Airacobra     16 GIAP
? ??/??/??   1 Ju 87 Destroyed Airacobra   Osipenko 16 GIAP
? ??/??/??   1 Ju 87 Destroyed Airacobra   Osipenko 16 GIAP
? ??/??/??   1 Ju 87 Destroyed Airacobra   Osipenko 16 GIAP
? 29/05/44   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Airacobra     16 GIAP
? 30/05/44   1 Ju 87 Destroyed Airacobra     16 GIAP
? 16/07/44   1 Ju 87 Destroyed Airacobra   Yassi-Kisinev 16 GIAP
? 16/07/44   1 Ju 87 Destroyed Airacobra   Yassi-Kisinev 16 GIAP
  25/08/44 10:00-10:45 ½ Bf 110 Shared destroyed Airacobra   Keltse area 16 GIAP

Biplane victories: 4 destroyed, 16 aircraft, 40 cars and 15 Flaks destroyed on the ground.
TOTAL: 31 and 19 shared destroyed, 3 damaged, 16 aircraft, 40 cars and 15 Flaks destroyed on the ground.
(a) According to other sources this could be a Bf 109.
(b) Claimed in combat with a Rotte of 7./JG 52, which didn’t suffer any losses.

Attack of the Airacobras - Dmitriy Loza, 2002 University Press of Kansas, ISBN 0-7006-1140-1
Black Cross/Red Star Volume III - Christer Bergström, Andrey Dikov and Vlad Antipov, 2006 Eagle Editions Ltd, Hamilton, ISBN 0-9761034-4-3
Graf & Grislawski: A Pair Of Aces - Christer Bergström with Vlad Antipov and Claes Sundin, 2003 Eagle Editions Ltd., Hamilton, USA, ISBN 0-9721060-4-9
Luftwaffe Claims Lists - Tony Wood
P-39 Airacobra Aces of the World War 2 - George Mellinger and John Stanaway, 2001 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 1-84176-204-0
Sovetskiye asy - Nikolay Bodrikhin, 1998 kindly provided by Ondrej Repka.
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
Eskadrilia vediot boi - K. Suhov, 1983 kindly provided by Alexey V. Andreev.
Additional information kindly provided by Vladislav Arhipov.

Last modified 15 November 2011