Biplane fighter aces

Soviet Union

Serzhant Georgiy Zhuravlyov

In 1943, Serzhant Zhuravlyov served in the 977 IAP. This unit was serving on the North-Caucasian Front and still equipped with Polikarpov I-153s.

On 4 February 1943, Soviet troops landed at Myshako, west of Novorossiysk on the Caucasian Black Sea coast, in the back of the retreating German 17th Army. This was the beginning of the long Battle of the Myshako Bridgehead.
On 11 February, the 15,000 Soviet troops in the Myshako Bridgehead continued to push forward slowly. The Soviet aviation that was dispatched to their support met a total of 190 Luftwaffe sorties through the day. During the night of 11-12 February 1943, the Soviet troops seized the strategic Myshako Mountain.

The air forces of both sides stepped up their actions on 12 February. VVS ChF’s 47 ShAP Il-2s strafed German troops near Novorossiysk together with I-153s, I-16s and LaGG-3s from 5 VA. Varvara Lyashenko, a female pilot serving with 502 ShAP, carried out eleven sorties during the battle around Krasnodar.
II./JG 52’s Oberleutnant Gerhard Barkhorn scored four victories against four Soviet fighters on 12 February, two Yak-1s and two I-16s - the latter from 236 IAD/5 VA, which actually lost two I-16s in combat with German fighters. But mostly, the Bf 109s fought with strafing I-153s, and of 23 victories claimed by II./JG 52 on 12 February, eleven were attained against I-153s. Unteroffizier Hans Waldmann took part in four clashes with these biplanes on 12 February, claiming the destruction of four through the day.
I-153 pilot Serzhant Georgiy Zhuravlyov of 977 IAP was reported to have rammed a Bf 109, and bringing his damaged fighter safely back to his base at Lazarevskoye. This feat earned him the Order of the Great Patriotic War.
II./JG 52 reported the loss of two Bf 109s during the course of the day, but it is now known whether any of these were due to a ramming.
Meanwhile, I./StG 3 was deployed in tight Gruppe formations against the Soviet bridgehead, but the Soviet troops could not be halted. On this 12 February, they seized Krasnodar and Timoshevskaya with their important airfields.

Throughout 13 February, the Il-2s of 47 ShAP/VVS ChF kept paving the way forward for the Soviet ground advance, losing only one Il-2. Defying relentless German bombings in groups of four to eleven planes, the Soviet ground troops pushed their way forward to cleanse the entire Cape Myshako from German troops. LaGG-3-equipped 166 IAP claimed to have shot down five Bf 109s and damaged an Fw 189 in air combats on 13 February. II./JG 52 reported 12 victories and lost five Bf 109s in action over the Kuban area that day. With one of them, Knight’s Cross holder and 67-victory ace Oberleutnant Gustav Denk went missing. According to the memoirs of Denk’s wingman on that occasion, Leutnant Helmut Lipfert, the German ace was killed when his Bf 109 received a direct hit from ground fire during a strafing mission against a Soviet airfield near Krasnodar. Next, Lipfert lost orientation and belly-landed in friendly territory. “In addition to Oblt. Denk, three other pilots had failed to return that day,” wrote Lipfert. “Morale was below the zero point when I arrived and made my report.”

Zhuravlyov ended the war with 1 biplane victory.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 12/02/43   1 Bf 109 (a) Destroyed I-153     977 IAP

Biplane victories: 1 destroyed.
TOTAL: 1 destroyed.
(a) Claimed in a “taran” ramming attack.

Le Chaika et l’attaque au sol (Les I-153 dans le Caucaseet au Kouban en 1942-43) – Dmitriy Karlenko, 2003 Air Magazine No.17 dec 2003/jan 2004, kindly provided by Ondrej Repka
Much additional information kindly provided by Christer Bergström.
Additional information kindly provided by Ondrej Repka.

Last modified 08 March 2007