Biplane fighter aces

Soviet Union

Podpolkovnik Aleksandr Fedorovich Semenov HSU

7 April 1912 – 13 February 1979

Semenov was born on 7 April 1912 in Zabolotnoe in the Kalinin region.
He entered the army in 1933 and graduated from the Kharkov Military Air School.

In 1937, he volunteered for combat duty in Spain. He served as a leytenant in an escuadrilla commanded by A. I. Gusev, flying on the Teruel Front.
While in Spain, he flew 30 sorties in I-16s and claimed 1 and 3 shared victories here.
In 1938, he was seriously wounded after a crash but returned to duty after two months.
For his service in Spain he was awarded an Order of the Red Banner in 1938.

In December 1939, he saw action during the Finnish-Soviet Winter War. During this conflict, he served as a kapitan and commanding the 3rd eskadrilia of 7 IAP with Polikarpov I-15bis. He flew 75 sorties and claimed 4 victories during five combats (the claimed aircraft were reportedly of British origin).

On 24 December, he claimed a reconnaissance aircraft over Pienpero on the Kareilan Isthmus. This loss can’t be verified with Finnish records.

Between 25 December and 20 January 1940, the 3rd eskadrilia converted from I-15bis to I-153s.

Between 14:01-16:06 on 5 March 1940, three I-153s from 3./7 IAP flown by kapitan Semenov, mladshiy leitenant S. B. Myasnikov and mladshiy leitenant Aleksey Nikitin intercepted three Finnish fighters identified as “Bulldogs”. Two of these were claimed by mladshiy leitenant Nikitin over Kantola and Suurpälä and the third was claimed by kapitan Semenov over Kantola.
These claims can’t be verified with Finnish losses.

For his service in Finland, he was awarded the Gold Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union and the Order of Lenin on 21 March 1940.
He was also decorated with the Order of the Red Banner for a second time during 1940.

His initial sorties against the Germans from June 1941 were flown in a MiG-3 of an Otedelnaya Istrebitelnaya Aviaeskadrilya (OAE – Independent Fighter Squadron).

In September 1941, he became commanding officer of the 180 IAP on the West Front and with this unit saw considerable combat at Rzhev, Kholm-Zharkovskij, and Zubtsov being occupied with furnishing ground force cover and beating up enemy columns.
He was also decorated with the Order of the Red Banner for a third time during September.

In October, he was decorated with the Order of Lenin for a second time.

In the end of 1941 until May 1942, he undertook an officer’s advanced training course. After the course, he posted as a major and fighter inspector to Stalingrad.

In July 1942, he was posted to 434 IAP near Stalingrad, becoming commanding officer on 19 September.

On 18 September 1942, a lonely Fw189, probably the aircraft the aircraft piloted by Oberfeldwebel Manfred Klöhe of NAGr 12’s 6.(H)/41, was unfortunate to become intercepted by a large formation of 434 IAP Yak-7Bs. The reconnaissance aircraft was claimed shot down over Kotluban by major Semenov, the fighter inspector in Stalingrad.
According to some sources, this was claimed as a shared with 18-year-old starshiy leitenant Vladimir Mikoyan, the son of the premier of the USSR, Anastas Mikoyan.

On 22 November, the regiment became the 32 GIAP.

He was removed from operations for a time and in January 1943 served in the Headquarter of Front Aviation.

In February 1943, he was assigned to the badly battered 286 IAD to get this into operational trim once more. He found this in a demoralised state but soon got it into shape.

In February 1944, he applied for transfer to combat duty and returned to the 32 GIAP, which was now flying La-5FNs.

After taking off at 17:40 on 3 March 1944, he claimed a Ju 87 over Cherepovo.

In May 1944, he was posted as commander of the 3 GIAD as a podpolkovnik, leading this unit on the 1st Baltic Front over East Prussia.
He participated in the huge Soviet offensive against Army Group Center in Byelorussia in June 1944 and subsequently fought in Kurland.

In October 1944, he moved to the 1st Ukrainian Front to command the 322 IAD, remaining with this unit during the advance into Germany in the spring of 1945, and for the capture of Berlin.
He displayed outstanding leadership in the final aerial campaigns over the Reich with the pilot of the unit claiming 152 victories over Silesia, Berlin and Prague during 4369 sorties.

On 2 May 1945, he undertook his 240th and last sortie of the Great Patriotic War with a mission in a La-7 over Berlin.

Semenov ended the war with 1 biplane victory and a total of 20. These were claimed in 345 sorties (30 in Spain, 75 (4 combats) in Finland and 240 (65 combats) in the GPW) and at least 70 encounters.

During the war, he was also decorated with the Order of the Red Banner (four times), the Order of Kutuzov 2nd Class, the Order of Bogdan Khmelnitski 2nd Class, the Order of the Patriotic War 1st Class and the Order of the Red Star.

Semenov remained in the VVS after the war and graduated from the General Staff.
He retired in 1970 as a general leytenant.
He wrote of his experiences in Na Vzlete (Take Off) and co-authered Eskadrilya “Mongolskii Arat” (The Mongolian Shepherd Squadron).

Semenov died on 13 February 1979.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 ??/??/3?   1 Enemy aircraft Destroyed I-16   Spain 6a/21
  ??/??/3?   1/? Enemy aircraft Shared destroyed I-16   Spain 6a/21
  ??/??/3?   1/? Enemy aircraft Shared destroyed I-16   Spain 6a/21
  ??/??/3?   1 Enemy aircraft Shared destroyed I-16   Spain 6a/21
2 24/12/39   1 Reconnaissance aircraft (a) Destroyed I-15bis   Pienpero 3./7 IAP
3 05/03/39 14:01-16:06 1 Bulldog (b) Destroyed I-153   Kantola 3./7 IAP
4 17/08/41   1 Bf 109 Destroyed MiG-3     180 IAP
5 21/08/41   1 Bf 109 Destroyed MiG-3     180 IAP
6 23/08/41   1 Bf 110 Destroyed MiG-3     180 IAP
  23/08/41   1/2 Bf 110 Shared destroyed MiG-3     180 IAP
7 02/10/41   1 Bf 109 Destroyed MiG-3     180 IAP
  06/10/41   1/6 Fw 189 Shared destroyed MiG-3     180 IAP
  12/10/41   1/3 Do 17 Shared destroyed MiG-3     180 IAP
  13/10/41   1/5 Bf 110 Shared destroyed MiG-3     180 IAP
  13/10/41   1/5 Fw 189 Shared destroyed MiG-3   Kalinin 180 IAP
8 18/09/42   1 Fw189 (c) Destroyed Yak-7b   SW Kotluban 434 IAP
9 08/03/44 17:40- 1 Ju 87 Destroyed La-5   Cherepovo 32 GIAP

Biplane victories: 2 destroyed.
TOTAL: 9 and 8 shared destroyed.
(a) Not verified with Finnish records.
(b) Not verified with Finnish records.
(c) Probably a Fw189 piloted by Oberfeldwebel Manfred Klöhe of NAGr 12’s 6.(H)/41.

All aces of Stalin 1936-1953 – Mikhail Bykov, 2014
Black Cross/Red Star Volume III - Christer Bergström, Andrey Dikov and Vlad Antipov, 2006 Eagle Editions Ltd, Hamilton, ISBN 0-9761034-4-3
Red Stars 7 - Talvisota Ilmassa - The Winter War In the Air - Carl-Fredrik Geust, 2011 Apali Oy, Tampere, ISBN 978-952-5877-04-5
Sovetskiye asy - Nikolay Bodrikhin, 1998, kindly provided by Ondrej Repka.
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
Suomen Ilmavoimat part II – 1928-40 – Kalevi Keskinen and Kari Stenman, 2006, ISBN 952-99743-0-2
Additional information kindly provided by Ondrej Repka.

Last modified 28 October 2020