Biplane fighter aces

Soviet Union

Serzhant Kucherenko

In May 1943, Serzhant Kucherenko served in the 71 IAP-KBF. This unit was at the time still equipped with I-153s.

On 2 May, the Red Banner Baltic Fleet air force attacked Kotka with 30 aircraft and they were engaged by 18 Brewsters on the south side of the town. In a 60-minute combat, which raged across the Gulf of Finland between 10:00-11:30, the 2nd Flight managed to claim four LaGG-3s shot down into the sea. The cost was high however since the flight leader, kapteeni Ilka Törrönen (BW-380) was killed when he was shot down. Vänrikki Olavi Puro described the combat:

“We met an enemy bomber and fighter formation between Someri and Haapsaari heading south-east. I attacked the LaGG-3 fighters, which were escorting Il-2s, going towards Lavansaari. I managed to get behind one LaGG-3 and fired at it for about 3 km distance from behind at 100-50 m range. We descended all the time and finally at about 150 m altitude the burst hit the cockpit and it went straight in the sea about 10 km W from Someri. I chased with luutnantti Sarjamo a further three enemy fighters to east side of Lavansaari, where eight other LaGG-3s came from the south. They attacked us from the sun and in the ensuing curve battle I managed to give a good burst at one in a bank scoring hits between the engine and the canopy of the LaGG-3, when plating sheets flew around and flames came out of the plane. Smoking strongly it went down halfway between Lavansaari and Peninsaari. I fired at least at another six enemy fighters, when one landed immediately to Lavansaari airfield once I had fired from the opposite direction. Low on ammunition the Russians finally broke off and headed east.
Brewster pulls tighter turns than the LaGG-3. The speed about the same at the deck. The Russians very aggressive and enterprising.
My plane BW-387.
The claimants from 2/LeLv 24 were vänrikki Puro who claimed one LaGG-3 10km from Someri and another LaGG-3 over Lavansaari-Peninsari. The third was claimed as a shared vääpeli Martti Alho (BW-383) and ylikersantti Taipo Järvi (BW-377) over Kronstadt. Luutantti Urho Sarjamo (BW-386) claimed the fourth LaGG-3 over Peninsaari.
Three Bf 109s from LeLv 34 also scrambled in the Lavansaari direction, where they were engaged in combat with approximately 30 Soviet aircraft. In the ensuing combat, the Finnish fighters claimed two La-5s. One was claimed by luutnantti Veikko Evinen (MT-203) 15km from Someri between 10:00-11:00 and the second was claimed by vääpeli Urho Lehtovaara (MT-216) over Lavansaari between 10:15-10:55.
The chronicles of the Baltic Fleet reported that at 11:20 (Moscow time), five Il-2s of 7 GShAP, with direct cover of four I-16s of 71 IAP and top cover of five LaGG-3s of 3 GIAP, attacked a gun boat and patrol motor boat in the vicinity of Haapasaari. The gun boat a direct hit from a 100kg bomb and sank. The vessel was actually the gun boat Turunmaa, which was run aground on a shoal to prevent her from sinking and she was later repaired. Over the target the assault planes were attacked by six Fiats and one Bf 109. One Il-2 was shot down when it tried to ram the gun boat Karjala. The direct cover was attacked by two Bf 109s and four Brewsters and the top cover by six Bf 109s. In these battles, one I-16 was damaged and the LaGG-3s sent one Bf 109 down. Soon after this, twelve Fiats attacked the LaGG-3s. In the opposite direction firing, Starshiy Leytenant Ivan Kravtsov claimed one Fiat shot down. This may have been BW-380 flown by kapteeni Iikka Törrönen.
On the return at 11:35, when the detachment approached Lavansaari, it was attacked by four Bf 109s and 12 Brewsters. Leytenant Vasiliy Chernenko shot one Brewster down 10km north-west of Lavanssari.
Two Chaikas of 71 IAP, which had taken off for reception met at 11:30, five Moranes near Lavansaari claiming one shot down by Serzhant Nikolay Karpenko and Serzhant Kucherenko.
At 11:21, four LaGG-3s, four Yak-7s and four I-153s took off from Oranienbaum to protect the flight of Il-2s from Lavansaari to Oranienbaum. The Yak detachment fought a resultless battle 20 minutes later near Lavansaari with two Fokkers.
One LaGG-3 from 3 GIAP was damaged in combat during the day and made a forced landing on Lavansaari.
Totally, the Finnish fighter from 2/LeLv 24 and LeLv 34 claimed six victories while losing one Brewster. The Soviet units claimed four Finnish fighters while suffering one lost Il-2, one damaged LaGG-3 and one damaged I-16.
Luutnantti Aulis Lumme took command over 2/LeLv 24 after the death of kapteeni Törrönen.

Kucherenko ended the war with 1 shared biplane victory.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  02/05/43 11:30 ½ Morane (a) Shared destroyed I-153   near Lavansaari 71 IAP-KBF

Biplane victories: 1 shared destroyed.
TOTAL: 1 shared destroyed.
(a) The Finnish fighter from 2/LeLv 24 and LeLv 34 claimed six victories while losing one Brewster. The Soviet units claimed four Finnish fighters while suffering one lost Il-2, one damaged LaGG-3 and one damaged I-16.

Suomen Ilmavoimat part V – 1943 – Kalevi Keskinen and Kari Stenman, 2007, ISBN 978-952-99743-3-7

Last modified 17 September 2008