JG77 Versus Soviet Airacobras

A Bell P-63 Kingcobra in service with the Soviet Air Force.

In August 1942, the German summer offensive had come to a standstill along the River Don. A heavy battle raged over the city of Voronezh. On August 12, 1942, a futile Soviet attempt to throw the Germans back across the river in this sector resulted in heavy air battles. These engagements took the lives of two of the most successful German and Soviet fighter aces in this area.

II./JG 77, the only German fighter unit available in this area, claimed 36 Soviet aircraft shot down during the air battles that raged throughout August 12, 1942. But II./JG 77 also sustained a number of losses. Soviet fighters managed to bring down five Messerschmitt 109s. Among the Soviet adversaries was 153 IAP, the 153rd Fighter Aviation Regiment, the first VVS unit to be equipped with the Bell P-39 Airacobra.

In the vicinity of Privalovka, a Bf 109 F-4 piloted by Feldwebel Franz Schulte, an ace with 46 victories to his credit, went missing. Schulte's last words, cried in a desperate tone over the R/T, were: "Why should this happen to me?" In the same dogfight, 153 IAP's Kapitan Aleksandr Avdeyev, with a total score of eleven kills, met his final destiny. Avdeyev's first attack against one of the enemy fighters failed. The pilot of the Messerschmitt 109 skilfully evaded his attack with an Immelmann turn and dove beneath Avdeyev's Airacobra. Turning after him, Avdeyev suddenly found himself on frontal course toward another Messerschmitt. Neither of the pilots turned away. . .

On August 13, 1942 the Soviets continued to launch everything they had into the air above Voronezh. Another 27 aircraft were claimed by II./JG 77 (including five LaGG-3s by Leutnant Badum), but this time without any losses.

The bloodletting of the VVS, making an all-out effort all along the front during this time, had reached a terrible level. On August 12 and 13, 1942, alone, the Luftwaffe reported 159 Soviet aircraft shot down. To the airmen of the Soviet first-line aviation units, this meant an average combat life expectancy of no more than two months. During August 1942, the four fighter aviation regiments in 268 IAD lost 99 out of 140 aircraft. The LaGG-3-equipped units, 9 and 440 IAP, took the harshest punishment, losing 58 of 69 aircraft, while the 273 and 515 IAP, equipped with Yak-1s, fared only a little better.

© Christer Bergström, Andrey Mikhailov 2000


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