Biplane fighter aces

Soviet Union

Podpolkovnik Vasiliy Alekseyevich Smirnov

1909 –

Vasiliy Smirnov was born in 1909.

Smirnov took part in the Nomonhan conflict with Japan in 1939, serving in 22 IAP and flying Polikarpov I-15bis and I-153s with this unit.

On 9 July, Smirnov (Polikarpov biplane) claimed two shared Ki-27 over Lake Naryn-Nur together with one other pilot. This was possibly mladshiy leitenant Aleksandr Smirnov (I-16), who claimed two shared Ki-27 (reported as a ”I-97s”) in the same area during the day. Leitenant Ivan Sakharov (I-16) claimed a third Ki-27 destroyed (according to some documents, Sakharov claimed this as a shared with another pilot).

On 21 August, 22 IAP fought bombers and fighters south-west of Lake Yanhu at around 15:00. Fighters were claimed by leitenant Petr Agafonov (I-153), Smirnov (Polikarpov biplane) and starshiy leitenant Viktor Rakhov. Two Ki-30s were claimed as shared by four pilots flying I-16s; known pilots are leitenant Ivan Krasnoyurchenko and starshiy leitenant Viktor Rakhov.

On 30 August, the 9th Hikodan flew missions against 29 artillery regiment forward positions. The bombers set 14 vehicles on fire, yet the 40-odd escorting Ki-27s from 1st, 11th, 24th and 64th Sentai failed to withstand the pressure of the numerous enemy patrol (88 I-16s and 25 I-153s) and, though claiming 28 destroyed (seven by 64th Sentai) and 5 probables, in reality lost the initiative and allowed two 31st Sentai Ki-30s to be shot down. They lost two fighters and one pilot when Sergeant Major Katsutoshi Kato (NCO67) of the 1st Sentai was killed. Bomber gunners claimed another seven confirmed and one probable victories.
A Ki-30 (s/n 99) from 16th Sentai was shot down by enemy fighters 3 km north of Lake Abutara and the crew was KIA; pilot Staff Sergeant Makoto Itô and gunner Sergeant Tomie Ishizuki.
VVS claimed to have shot down 19 Ki-27 while losing one I-16.
Leitenant Nikolai Grinev of 22 IAP (I-16) claimed a shared Ki-27 north-west of Lake Buir-Nur together with three other pilots while leitenant Pavel Solntsev (I-16) claimed a single Ki-27 and a second as a shared with four other pilots (including Vasily Naydenko) west of Lake Usur-Nur. Smirnov (I-153) claimed one Ki-27 and a second shared Ki-27 together with another pilot in the Lake Usur-Nur area. Leitenant Ivan Krasnoyurchenko (I-16) claimed two shared Ki-27s west of Lake Uzur-Nur. One with another pilot and one with four other pilots. Starshiy leitenant Aleksandr Kostygov (I-16) claimed a shared Ki-27 together with another pilot. Leitenant Aleksandr Piskunov (I-153) claimed one Ki-27. Georgiy Marchenko (I-16) claimed a shared Ki-27 together with another pilot as did leitenant Pavel Solov’yev (I-16).
Leitenant Pavel Dolzhenko from 56 IAP (I-16) claimed one Ki-27 while leitenant Aleksey Novozhilov claimed a shared together with anoth pilot.
Platon Smolyakov of 70 IAP (I-16) claimed a Ki-27 northwest of Nomunhan-Burd while major Sergey Gritsevets (I-153) claimed a shared Ki-27 north of Lake Buir Nur together with two other pilots. Eskadrilya commander starshiy leitenant Mitrofan Noga (I-16) claimed a shared ”LB” north-west of Lake Uzur-Nur probably together with leitenant Aleksey Gudkov, who reportedly claimed a two-seater. Major Aleksandr Mochalin (I-16) claimed a Ki-27 over Nomunhan-Burd. Nikolay Zheredev also claimed a Ki-27 but at an unknown place.

On 4 September, fighters clashed south-east of Shirin-Obo and overhead the Numurgin-Gol River in the morning when the Soviets flew 68 fighter sorties and the Japanese 40.
Initially, eleven I-153s and 39 I-16s from 22 IAP fought with and pursued 20 Ki-27s, and then eleven I-16s and seven I-153s from 70 IAP did the same with seven Ki-10s from 33rd Sentai led by Captain Takeo Kawada. The Japanese encountered a reported 20-30 Soviet aircraft at a height of 5,000 metres. Kawada had been personally forbidden to engage, but 2nd Lieutenant Tadashi Harada (NCO54) and Sergeant Major Akira Ishikawa (Sho-1) charged in, followed by the rest of the formation. In this combat the Japanese claimed nine and three probables, including three by Ishikawa personally, although he force-landed after suffering severe wounds, from which he died next day. Harada and Sergeant Major Seizo Hiraki (NCO66) were also killed.
The 33rd Sentai’s 3rd chutai was also engaged in combat claiming 13 victories and 13 probables.
Soviet reports were filed with claims of nine enemy fighters (one Ki-27 and the remaining Ki-10s) in the morning while losing two I-16 tip 10s and one I-153.
Seven of the claims can be identified when starshiy leitenant Pavel Ankudinov (I-16 from 22 IAP) claimed a single Ki-10 (reported as a ”I-95”) and two more as shared together with 14 other I-16 pilots (including kapitan Andrey Dekhtyarenko (22 IAP), starshiy leitenant E. E. Evkudinov (22 IAP), starshiy leitenant Vasiliy Vuss (22 IAP), starshiy leitenant Fedor Golub (22 IAP), leitenant Aleksandr Mel’nikov (56 IAP), starshiy leitenant Mark Shpan (22 IAP) and leitenant Pavel Solov’yev (22 IAP)) at “Square 787” while kapitan Grigoriy Boychenko (I-153 from 70 IAP) claimed a Ki-10 over the mouth of the Numurgin-Gol River. Mikhail Abzianidze (I-16 from 22 IAP) claimed a Ki-27 while Smirnov (I-153 from 22 IAP) claimed a Ki-10, both over “Square 787”. Two I-16s from 22 IAP piloted by starshiy leitenant Fedor N. Cheremukhin and an unknown pilot (possibly Georgiy Marchenko) shared a Ki-10 in the Khalkhin Gol area in the morning. Leitenant Ivan Rybkin (I-16 from 22 IAP) claimed two shared Ki-27 ”in group”.
Leitenant Aleksandr Piskunov from 22 IAP (I-153) was wounded in air combat and killed when his fighter overturned on landing back at his airfield.

Smirnov ended the Nomonhan conflict with 3 biplane victories.

In August 1941, Smirnov served in 23 IAP, flying LaGG-3s with this unit.

Smirnov was posted from 23 IAP in March 1942 when he was posted to 66 IAP.
With this unit, Smirnov flew Yak-1s, Yak-7s and Airacobras.

Smirnov ended the war with 3 biplane victories and a total of 6.
These where claimed during 67 combat missions (as of 20 February 1945).
During his career he was decorated with the Order of the Red Banner (twice), the Order of Aleksandr Nevskiy, the Order of the Patriotic War 1st Class (twice) and the Order of the Red Star.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  09/07/39   1/2 Ki-27 Shared destroyed Polikarpov biplane   Lake Naryn-Nur 22 IAP
  09/07/39   1/2 Ki-27 Shared destroyed Polikarpov biplane   Lake Naryn-Nur 22 IAP
1 21/08/39 15:00 ca 1 Ki-27 Destroyed Polikarpov biplane   SW Lake Yanhu 22 IAP
2 30/08/39   1 Ki-27 Destroyed I-153   Lake Usur-Nur area 22 IAP
  30/08/39   1/2 Ki-27 Shared destroyed Polikarpov biplane   Lake Usur-Nur area 22 IAP
3 04/09/39 morning 1 Ki-10 Destroyed I-153   ”Square 787” Nomonhan 22 IAP
4 28/12/43   1 He 111 Destroyed     Bagerovo 66 IAP
  28/12/43   1/2 He 111 Shared destroyed     Bagerovo area 66 IAP
5 12/01/44   1 Ju 87 Destroyed       66 IAP
  01/02/44   1/4 Bf 109 Shared destroyed       66 IAP
  06/02/44   1/2 Bf 109 Shared destroyed     Kerch 66 IAP
6 13/02/44   1 Fw 190 Destroyed     E Tarkhan 66 IAP

Biplane victories: 3 and 3 shared destroyed.
TOTAL: 6 and 6 shared destroyed.

Air War Over Khalkhin Gol: The Nomonhan Incident - Vladimir R. Kotelnikov, 2010 SAM Publications, ISBN 978-1-906959-23-4
All aces of Stalin 1936–1953 – Mikhail Bykov, 2014
Japan Against Russia In The Sky Of Nomonhan - Dimitar Nedialkov, 2005 Propeller Publishing, Sofia, ISBN 954-9367-33-9
Soviet Aces 1936-1953

Last modified 27 September 2021