Biplane fighter aces

Soviet Union

Kapitan Leonid Kirillovich Ryzhii HSU

Leonid Ryzhii was born in Kiev on 23 September 1921.
He studied in the Agricultural School and learned to fly in a local aeroclub before joining the army in 1939. He graduated from the Kacha Military Air College in 1940.

He was assigned to the 743 IAP and posted to the front in October 1941.

Up until 17 May 1942, he had claimed 2 Bf 109s and 1 Ju 88 while flying the Polikarpov I-153. During this day his aircraft was damaged and he was wounded but he managed to return to his base.

His wounds required hospitalisation and he returned to combat in the end of 1942 when he was posted to 347 IAP. This unit was at this time equipped with Yak-1s.

On 20 September 1943, he was leading four Yak-9s to tear into a large bomber formation near Koselets (north-east of Kiev) and in spite of vicious return fire destroyed a Ju 88 while his comrades got two more. His fighter had been badly hit but he maintained effective control completing the mission.

On 9 August 1944, 12 Yaks under his leadership was involved in combat with 22 German fighters over the Wisla river near Magnuszew (south-east of Warszawa). During this combat, he claimed the leading Fw190 and later two more.

He saw a great deal of action during the Vistula-Oder campaign 12 January to 3 February 1945 and above the Oder bridgehead at Küstrin.

During February 1945, his unit was re-equipped with Yak-3s.

Ryzhii remained on operations throughout the war, and by March 1945 he was a Kapitan, leading an eskadrilya in the 347 IAP on the 1st Belorussian Front.

On 7 March, he was flying a free hunt mission together with Mladshii Leitenant N. P. Bugayev in the Beeskow area. During the mission the encountered 6 Fw190s and in the ensuing combat they claimed one each of the German fighters.

On 28 April 1945, he claimed his last victory during the war when he claimed a German aircraft over Berlin.

Ryzhii ended the war with 3 biplane victories and a total of 21. These were claimed in more than 250 sorties and 90 air combats. Among his victories were one He 111 and three Ju 88s.

On 15 May 1946, he was decorated with the Gold Star of Hero of the Soviet Union.
During the war, he was also decorated with the Order of Lenin, the Order of the Red Banner (four times), the Order of Alexandr Nevskii, the Order of the Patriotic War 1st Class (twice) and the Order of the Red Star (twice).

He remained in the VVS after the war and graduated from the Air Academy in 1951 and from the Economy Faculty in 1963. His last flight was in a MiG-21. He retired in 1973 with the rank of Polkovnik and lives today in Moscow.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 ??/??/4?   1 Bf 109 (a) Destroyed I-153     743 IAP
2 ??/??/4?   1 Bf 109 (a) Destroyed I-153     743 IAP
3 ??/??/4?   1 Ju 88 (a) Destroyed I-153     743 IAP
? 20/09/43   1 Ju 88 Destroyed Yak-9   Koselets 347 IAP
? 09/08/44   1 Fw190 Destroyed Yak-9   Magnuszew 347 IAP
? 09/08/44   1 Fw190 Destroyed Yak-9   Magnuszew 347 IAP
? 09/08/44   1 Fw190 Destroyed Yak-9   Magnuszew 347 IAP
? 07/03/45   1 Fw190 Destroyed Yak-9   Beeskow area 347 IAP
21 28/04/45   1 Enemy aircraft Destroyed Yak-3   Berlin 347 IAP

Biplane victories: 3 destroyed.
TOTAL: 21 destroyed.
(a) Claimed between October 1941 and 17 May 1942.

Sovetskiye asy - Nikolay Bodrikhin, 1998, kindly provided by Ondrej Repka.
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

Last modified 27 March 2007