Biplane fighter aces

Soviet Union

General-Major Grigoriy Andreyevich 'Grisha' Rechkalov HSU

9 February 1920 – 22 December 1990

Grigoriy Rechkalov as a kapitan wearing two Gold Stars of the Hero of the Soviet Union.

Grigoriy Rechkalov was born on 9 February 1920 in the village of Khudyakovo in the Sverdlovsk region (now Yekaterinburg).
He was taught to fly in the Sverdlovsk aeroclub before joining the army in 1938. In 1939 he graduated from the Pern Military Air College. However, he was grounded after a medical commission had diagnosed Daltonism but he nevertheless made it to a fighter unit and in 1941 he was posted to the 55 IAP. At this time, he was a serzhant. This regiment was based in Moldavia and had a variety of fighters on its establishment during the summer of this year. However, the eskadrilya Rechkalov served in was equipped with I-153s and I-16s.

During the opening weeks of the Great Patriotic War he flew an I-153 carrying a blue '13' on the tail, undertaking 30 sorties (6 sorties on 22 June and 7 sorties on 23 June beating up ground targets) in this aircraft and engaging in ten combats.

Between 13:45-14:55 on 26 June, ten MiG-3s and nine I-153s of 55 IAP escorted bombers of 211 BBAP and 45 SBAP. While approaching the target, one I-153 ’zveno’ was attacked by several Bf 109s. The Soviet biplanes became engaged in a dogfight and mladshiy leitenant Petr Grachev and mladshiy leitenant Rechkalov claimed a Bf 109 each.
While leaving the target, the I-153s strafed enemy infantry and artillery positions.
One MiG-3, flown by ’zveno’ commander, leitenant V. Nosov, did not return to base.

From noon to 13:25 on 27 June, nine I-153s and five MiG-3s of 55 IAP covered the actions of six Su-2 light bombers of 211 BBAP in the Sculeni area. During this mission, Rechkalov attacked and brought down an Hs126, which fell to the ground, burning, 2km east of Boksha, near Sculeni.
Rechkalov mentions in his memoirs, that he actually shot down a ‘PZL-24’ – one of four such gull-winged fighters downed by his unit that afternoon.

On 11 July, he claimed one Ju 88 near Kotovsk.

There is some controversy in the various sources regarding the type of aircraft flown by Rechkalov when he claimed these three victories. Since the unit was equipped with both I-153s and I-16s, they could have been claimed flying either of these types.

In late July, he was allocated an I-16.

On 26 July 1941, during a combat sortie between 12:55-13:40, leitenant Rechkalov was part of an I-16 escort of I-153s from 299 ShAP. Near Dubasari, when the aircraft approached their target, they came under AA fire and Rechkalov was wounded in the right leg. Even after being attacked by Bf 109s he managed to reach his airfield and after landing, he was immediately sent to hospital.

Flying on the South Front the 55 IAP was designated the 16 GIAP on 7 March 1942. Subsequently the regiment was re-equipped first with MiG-3s and then Yak-1s.
He returned to the unit April 1942.

At the end of 1942, the regiment was withdrawn and re-equipped with P-39 Airacobras. In the spring of 1943, they took their new fighters to the North Caucasus Front to fly over the Kuban River area.

On the regiment's very first mission with the Airacobra on 9 April, kaptain Aleksandr Pokryshkin claimed a single Bf 109 in a dogfight at Krymskaya.
During this period, Rechkalov was promoted to starshiy leitenant, leading a zveno in the eskadrilya commanded by kapitan Pokryshkin.

On 12 April, he and Pokryshkin scored when he claimed one victory and Pokryshkin two.

On 15 April, he shot down a Ju 88 as his flight was breaking up a formation of bombers.

Following day, 16 April, he shot down a Bf 109 in the vicinity of Abinskaya.

Next day he claimed one more Bf 109, which crashed into the sea in the Anapa area.

He claimed two more Bf 109s on the 21st.

Eight days later six Airacobras with kapitan Pokryshkin in the lead became engaged with four Ju 87s escorted by an equal number of fighters while prowling around the frontline area. Pokryshkin immediately ordered the attack personally tearing into the bomber formation while assigning Rechkalov to cover his attack. In the ensuing melee Rechkalov claimed one Bf 109.

On 24 May 1943, starshiy leitenant Rechkalov was decorated with the Gold Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union (# 994) and the Order of Lenin for 16 and 1 shared victories claimed on 194 sorties and 54 encounters as of May 1943. He was to claim 11 victories in total during the Kuban operations.

In June, he became commander of the 16 GIAP’s 1st eskadrilya.

On 23 August 1943, three Airacobras from 16 GIAP claimed two He 111 over Dmitriyevka. Two of the claiming pilots were Rechkalov and Nikolay Trofimov.
Later in the day, Trofimov claimed a Ju 87 south of Krinichka.

Around noon on 29 August 1943, eight Bf 109 Gs from of III./JG 52 flew on a mission to escort He 111s from III./KG 55. They were intercepted by ten Airacobras from 16 GIAP led by eskadrilya command kapitan Rechkalov, which were patrolling in the Fedorovka-Malo-Kirsanovka-Latonovo area.
Rechkalov ordered six of the Airacobras, led by starshiy leitenant Arkady Fedorov, to attack the bombers while he attacked the fighters together with the other three.
Rechkalov and his wingman, leitenant Nikolay Chistov claimed three Bf 109s shot down. Rechkalov claimed one east of Novospassky and a second east of Marfinskaya while Chistov claimed the third east of Marfinskaya (Chistov’s 4th victory).
The six Airacobras, led by Fedorov, out to attack the He 111s were in turn attacked by a pair of Bf 109s and Fedorov attacked one of them head-on, which reportedly crashed west of Malo-Kirsanovka (Fedorov’s 7th victory).
9./JG 52 suffered two losses when 113-victory-ace Leutnant Bethold Korts (Bf 109 G-6 WNr. 15899 Yellow 1 + ~) and six-victory-ace Unteroffizier Hans Müller (Bf 109 G-6 WNr. 15569 Yellow 8 + ~) both were shot down and killed.
Southwest of Ekaterinovka, He 111 H-16 WNr.161372 G1+MR from 7./KG 55 was shot down. Unteroffizier Wilhelm van Heck (commander), Gefreiter Heinz Plehn, Unteroffizier Hermann Pausi and Unteroffizier Günter Scherian were wounded while air-gunner Obergefreiter Fritz Schürmann was killed.
16 GIAP claimed three ”Ju 88s” over Malo-Kirsanovka by leitenant Veniamin Tsvetkov, mladshiy leitenant Sergey Nikitin and mladshiy leitenant Aleksandr Torbeyev.
All Airacobras returned to base without any damage.

He next saw action over the Sea of Azov, where he claimed two Ju 52/3ms over the Black Sea during the autumn/winter of 1943.

In spring 1944, he operated on the 4th Ukrainian Front over the Crimea.

The next action for the regiment was the Jassy-Kishinev campaign, which took him back to the areas where he had fought during the opening days of the war. Now however, he was a kapitan and the deputy commander of the regiment. It is reputed that at this time he led the unit but was criticized by Pokryshkin for putting the pursuit of further personal victories ahead of proper leadership.
When Pokryshkin in May was promoted to commander of 9 GIAD, Rechkalov took command over 16 GIAP.

On 31 May 1944, Rechkalov was involved in a disastrous battle over Jassy. Messerschmitts succeeded in getting between the strike group led by Rechkalov and the covering group led by Aleksandr Klubov, and five P-39s were swiftly downed.

At Pokryshkin's prompting, the Corps commander apparently then appointed Boris Glinka from the 100 GIAP as commander, removing Rechkalov, for according to Pokryshkin "losing control, indecisiveness and lack of initiative".

On 1 July 1944, he was decorated with a second Gold Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union (# 25/II) for 48 and 6 shared victories claimed on 415 sorties and 122 encounters as of June 1944.

On 15 July 1944, Boris Glinka was seriously wounded when he bailed out of his badly damaged Airacobra and struck its tailplane.
Rechkalov took over Glinka’s duties as regiment commander again (still clashing with Pokryshkin).

On 16 July, he claimed a Ju 87.

On 6 October 1944 the president of the Bell firm (USA) awarded engraved watches with congratulatory letters signed in English to guards polkovnik A. I. Pokryskhin, guards major D. B. Glinka, guards kapitan Rechkalov, guards major B. B. Glinka, guards major K. G. Vishnevetskiy, guards kapitan Aleksandr Klubov, guards starshiy leitenant I. I. Babak, guards starshiy leitenant 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 Rechkalov twice).
The watches were presented to the pilots by the commander of the 2nd Air Army, general Stepan Krasovskiy. Major 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 remains on display to this day.

The regiment then transferred to the 1st Ukrainian Front, taking part in the Lvov-Sandomierz operation. It then operated over Poland, and over the Weser and Oder rivers.

He resigned command of 16 GIAP in February 1945 and was appointed Inspector for Flight Training of 9 GIAD.

His last combat against the Luftwaffe was fought over Berlin in April 1945 by which time he was flying the Lavochkin La-7.

By the end of the war he had become the highest scoring pilot on the Airacobra (53 victories), the majority of his sorties being recorded on P-39N-0 number 42-8747 and P-39Q-15 number 44-2547.

Rechkalov ended the war with 3 biplane victories and a total of 61 and 4 shared victories. These victories were claimed on more than 450 sorties and 122 combats.
During the war he was also decorated with the Order of the Red Banner (30 December 1942, 5 May 1943, 22 October 1944 and a fourth time on an unknown date), the Order of Aleksandr Nevskiy (2 October 1943), the Order of Patriotic War 1st Class (11 March 1985) and the Order of the Red Star (twice).


Rechkalov on the wing of his Bell P-39Q-15 Airacobra.


Rechkalov in front of his Bell P-39Q-15 Airacobra. The pilot on the wing is Boris Glinka.


Bell P-39Q-15 Airacobra flown by Rechkalov, 16 GIAP, at Prut, Soviet Union, on 1 July 1944.
The three-letter code is "RGA" denoting his initials.
© Claes Sundin 1999
Image kindly via Claes Sundin (Luftwaffe Fighter Aces Aircraft in Profile).

Rechkalov remained in the Air Force after the war, graduating from the Air Academy in 1951. He retired in 1959 as a General Major. He has written two books about his wartime experiences - Dymnoe Nebo Voiny (The Smoking Skies of War) and V Nebe Moldavii (In Moldavian Skies).

Rechkalov lived in Moscow before passing away on 22 December 1990.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1941                
1 26/06/41 13:45-14:55 1 Bf 109 Destroyed I-153 "13" Ungheni 55 IAP
2 27/06/41 12:00-13:25 1 PZL P-24 (a) Destroyed I-153 "13" 2km E Boksha 55 IAP
3 11/07/41   1 Ju 88 Destroyed I-153 "13" near Kotovsk 55 IAP
  1942                
4 25/05/42   1 Bf 110 Destroyed MiG-3   Izum area 16 GIAP
5 27/05/42   1 Bf 110 Destroyed MiG-3   Izum 16 GIAP
  02/07/42   1/4 FW 189 Shared destroyed MiG-3   Podgorodnoe 16 GIAP
6 09/07/42   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Yak-1   Berestovaya 16 GIAP
7 10/07/42   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Yak-1   Zotarevka 16 GIAP
8 10/07/42   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Yak-1   Zotarevka 16 GIAP
  1943                
9 11/04/43   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Airacobra   N Abinskaya 16 GIAP
10 12/04/43   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Airacobra   E Troitskaya 16 GIAP
11 15/04/43   1 Ju 88 Destroyed Airacobra   Gostogaevsky-Nikolaevsky 16 GIAP
12 16/04/43   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Airacobra   Abinskaya 16 GIAP
13 17/04/43   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Airacobra   Muyskhako 16 GIAP
14 21/04/43   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Airacobra   Tsemess Bay 16 GIAP
15 21/04/43   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Airacobra   S Novorossiysk 16 GIAP
16 29/04/43   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Airacobra   Blagodarnyy 16 GIAP
17 04/05/43   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Airacobra   S Neberdzhaevskaya 16 GIAP
18 04/05/43   1 Ju 87 Destroyed Airacobra   Height 151,6 (Kuban) 16 GIAP
  04/05/43   1/2 Bf 109 Shared destroyed Airacobra   Sementsovsky 16 GIAP
19 05/05/43   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Airacobra   W Crimea 16 GIAP
20 06/05/43   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Airacobra   W Neberdzhaevskaya 16 GIAP
21 08/05/43   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Airacobra   Neberdzhaevskaya area 16 GIAP
22 08/05/43   1 Ju 87 Destroyed Airacobra   W Neberdzhaevskaya 16 GIAP
23 08/05/43   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Airacobra   NW Neberdzhaevskaya 16 GIAP
24 28/05/43   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Airacobra   S Kiev 16 GIAP
25 16/08/43   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Airacobra   N Ivano 1./16 GIAP
26 17/08/43   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Airacobra   S Krasnopole 1./16 GIAP
  23/08/43   1/3 He 111 Shared destroyed Airacobra   Dmitriyevka 1./16 GIAP
  23/08/43   1/3 He 111 Shared destroyed Airacobra   Dmitriyevka 1./16 GIAP
27 26/08/43   1 Ju 88 Destroyed Airacobra   S Kvashino 1./16 GIAP
28 29/08/43   1 Bf 109 (b) Destroyed Airacobra   E Novospassky 1./16 GIAP
29 29/08/43   1 Bf 109 (b) Destroyed Airacobra   E Marfinskaya 1./16 GIAP
30 30/08/43   1 Ju 87 Destroyed Airacobra   S Novo-Khreschatyk 1./16 GIAP
31 02/09/43   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Airacobra   Kalinin 1./16 GIAP
32 19/09/43   1 He 111 Destroyed Airacobra   N Meltiopol 1./16 GIAP
33 26/09/43   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Airacobra   Bol'shoy Tokmak 1./16 GIAP
34 01/10/43   1 Ju 87 Destroyed Airacobra   Dmitriyevka 1./16 GIAP
35 01/10/43   1 Ju 87 Destroyed Airacobra   Karlsrus 1./16 GIAP
36 01/10/43   1 Ju 87 Destroyed Airacobra   Radostnyy 1./16 GIAP
37 16/10/43   1 Ju 87 Destroyed Airacobra   W Nogaysk 1./16 GIAP
38 24/10/43   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Airacobra   N Mikhailovka 1./16 GIAP
39 24/10/43   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Airacobra   Burchak 1./16 GIAP
40 26/10/43   1 Ju 88 Destroyed Airacobra   NW Vesyoloye 1./16 GIAP
41 01/11/43   1 Ju 87 Destroyed Airacobra   SW Perekop 1./16 GIAP
42 01/11/43   1 Ju 87 Destroyed Airacobra   W Perekop 1./16 GIAP
43 01/11/43   1 Ju 87 Destroyed Airacobra   N Budennovka 1./16 GIAP
44 01/12/43   1 Ju 87 Destroyed Airacobra   NW Chuchak 1./16 GIAP
45 08/12/43   1 Ju 52/3m Destroyed Airacobra   SW Tenderovskaya Kosa 1./16 GIAP
46 12/12/43   1 Ju 52/3m Destroyed Airacobra   Adzhalyk estuary 1./16 GIAP
47 29/12/43   1 He 111 Destroyed Airacobra   S Odessa 1./16 GIAP
48 29/12/43   1 Fi 156 Destroyed Airacobra   Vygoda 1./16 GIAP
  1944                
49 30/05/44   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Airacobra   Tautoshti 16 GIAP
50 31/05/44   1 FW 190 Destroyed Airacobra   NE Chuzha 16 GIAP
51 31/05/44   1 Fi 156 Destroyed Airacobra   SE Porchesti 16 GIAP
52 03/06/44   1 Ju 87 Destroyed Airacobra   Bogonos River 16 GIAP
53 03/06/44   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Airacobra   Bogonos River 16 GIAP
54 16/07/44   1 Ju 87 Destroyed Airacobra   S Sushno 16 GIAP
55 22/07/44   1 FW 190 Destroyed Airacobra   NW Zamosc 16 GIAP
56 02/08/44   1 FW 190 Destroyed Airacobra   Jasyany 16 GIAP
57 31/08/44   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Airacobra   Ostrovets 16 GIAP
58 24/10/44   1 Ju 52/3m Destroyed Airacobra   Zharnovice 16 GIAP
  1945                
59 26/01/45   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Airacobra   Brande 16 GIAP
60 20/02/45   1 FW 190 Destroyed Airacobra   N Krummels 16 GIAP
61 20/02/45   1 FW 190 Destroyed Airacobra   S Schadefelde 16 GIAP

Biplane victories: 3 destroyed.
TOTAL: 61 and 4 shared destroyed.
(a) Actually a Hs 126.
(b) Claimed in combat with Bf 109 Gs from 9./JG 52, which didn’t claim anything but lost 2 Bf 109 Gs (both pilots KIA). 16 IAP claimed 4 Bf 109s without losses.

Sources:
All aces of Stalin 1936–1953 – Mikhail Bykov, 2014
From Barbarossa to Odessa: Volume 1 – Dénes Bernád, Dmitriy Karlenko and Jean-Louis Roba, 2007 Ian Allan Publishing Ltd, ISBN 978-85780-273-3
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 and Tomáš Polák.
Soviet Aces 1936-1953
Soviet Fighter Pilots 1936-1953 - Mikhail Bykov
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
Additional information kindly provided by Vladislav Arhipov, Christer Bergström, Ivan Lavrinenko and Ondrej Repka.




Last modified 17 April 2021