1 January 1942: The Air Battle above the “Ice Road” of Lake Ladoga
By Michael Barrentine
This account of 1 January 1942 was written for the JG 54 website and focuses on the operations of JG 54 contesting Lake Ladoga. The claims of the German victories cannot always be 100% matched with Soviet losses. When possible, I’ve suggested possible losses against a claim based on time and location. Still, the task is not so clear cut as might be thought on examining the times for Russian and German data. There is also the outright mysteries as clearly the Soviet aviation suffered losses but no German claims exist either by lost records or denial for lack of a witness. The losses of JG 54 can also fall into the problem of no time listed for the loss and that Soviet pilots claimed more then the actual loss. Pilots of both sides could have made their claims in good faith in the “heat of battle” and trying to stay alive but there are some who have attempted to “pad their score.” It is not always possible to determine if a flier inflated their score, unless a continuous pattern is detected on examination of the after war records. In the first year of the war on the Eastern Front I have found the JG 54 pilots claims very reasonable, even ones that later in their careers claimed questionable scores. I hope that this answers questions and clears up some misconceptions for JG 54 for this day.
In the sector of the siege of Leningrad and the Soviet Volkhov Front, JG 54 continued its operations against the Soviet forces. In the records of the 7 IAK PVO a mystery arises for a dogfight during the morning.
At 10:00 (M – Moscow) took off 4 P-40 Tomahawks of the 158 IAP under the command of the Regiment commander Mayor Vladimir Matveev a Hero of the Soviet Union with 2 personal victories and 1 group victory. The Soviet fighters took up the covering of Cape Osinovets, which was the focus point for supplies coming into Leningrad. At 10:14 the flight met and engaged in battle with 8 Bf 109s. As a result the Tomahawk of Leytenant Petr Kharitonov, another Hero of the Soviet Union, was damaged and he had to escape by parachute. The Tomahawk of Leytenant Viktor Solomkin belly landed and subsequently burned. Both of these pilots escaped unharmed from the encounter. These were not the last casualties of this battle. Mayor Matveev was confirmed his 3rd and final personal victory of a Me-109 over Lake Ladoga. He would last be seen being shot down by 2 Bf 109s. The end of the mission time for the 158 IAP was recorded as 12:00 (M).
This battle and the victory over Mayor Matveev has been attributed to Oberleutnant Max-Hellmuth Ostermann of 3. Staffel, but Ostermann’s victory over an I-26 (47) at 12:37 (B – Berlin) don’t match with the time listed in the Journal of Combat Reports of the 2 GIAK (7 IAK) PVO. So the times for any German claims would have to be around 09:14 (B), but unfortunately no claims were listed in German JG 54 records for this time.
At 10:55 – 11:45 (M), 5 MiG-3 from the 44 IAP escorted 3 Pe-2 to the area of Krasnogvadsk without opposition. From 12:05 – 12:56 (M), 5 LaGG-3 from 44 IAP conducted escorting for Il-2s to an assault on Nizino station without opposition.
From 11:30 – 12:30 (M) over Cape Osinovets flew 4 MiG-3 from the 124 IAP led by Kapitan Matyukov. At 12:05 (M) at an altitude of 4000m there was an engagement with 2 Bf 109s involving Kapitan Matyukov and Mladishiy Leytenant Mikhail Barsov. The German fighters left from the battle with no results for either side. The same two Soviet pilots engaged another 2 Bf 109s at 12:07 (M) and again with no results as the Germans withdrew to the south. Barsov did report having damaged a Me-109. Again on checking German data it gives a possible opponent for the 124 IAP in the claims of III./JG 54. Feldwebel Alfred Kromer of 9. Staffel claimed an I-26 (5) at 10:15 and was followed by Unteroffizier Rudolf Damoser of 9. Staffel claiming an I-26 (5) at 10:20 (B) with both providing no location.
The 13 IAP KBF sent five I-16s to the area of Kobona – Lavrovo to provide cover for Soviet supply vehicles crossing the frozen Lake Ladoga. AE Politruk Sergey Dmitrievskiy, Serzhants Efim Dmitriev and Dmitriy Kirillov took position above Kobona. To the western section was sent Starshiy Leytenant Petr Shishatsky and Starshiy Serzhant Aleksandr Baydrakov. Serzhant Dmitrievskiy on observing a formation of approaching “Junkers” with six Bf 109 escorts had all five Soviet fighters going to engage. In his rush to engage the enemy, he failed to notice that behind him approached another group of Bf 109s. At 11:35 (M) occurred the first attack at an altitude of 1000 m on Dmitriev’s aircraft. He parachuted from his aircraft and was covered by Starshiy Leytenant Shishatskiy until he landed on the ice. Hauptmann Franz Eckerle of Stab I claimed an I-16 (39) at 10:35 (B). During this time Serzhant Kirillov was tangled up with two Bf 109s. Also at this time two Bf 109s attacked Politruk Dmitrievskiy’s fighter from the rear quarter. His I-16 went into a spin and crashed into the ice with its dead pilot. Oberfeldwebel Karl Fuchs of 2. Staffel claimed an I-16 (14) at 10:37 (B). Starshiy Serzhant Baydrakov’s aircraft was damaged and left the scene of combat.
During this time a further four I-16 from 13 IAP KBF with Leytenant Gennadiy Tsoklaev, Serzhant Valerian Bakirov, Starshiy Leytenant Aleksandr Agureev and a pilot with the last name of Kulikov were sent to aid the pilots in their life and death struggle. At 11:32 (M) at an altitude of 2000 m, they were bounced from above and behind by German fighters. Starshiy Leytenant Agureev while trying to defend Serzhant Bakirov’s tail came under aimed bursts. The tail only had pieces of covering, control cables were broken and the fuel tank punctured. Kulikov escorted Agureev’s fighter as it lost altitude to the side of the airfield. The I-16 could not make the landing and crashed in the spruce forest. Agureev managed to survive with injuries as the plane exploded. Bakirov’s aircraft had a wrecked rudder and stabilizer. During this time Hauptmann Eckerle claimed an I-16 (40) at 10:42 (B) and Oberfeldwebel Rudolf Rupp of 9. Staffel claimed an I-16 (5) at 10:55 (B) near Kobona. Agureev’s victor is not easy to determine from the two but is possibly Rupp by going from the time and that Bakirov was already under attack.
Over Kobona, two LaGG-3s from 5 IAP KBF patrolled above and about 10 km away from the island of Zelenets. From the same unit over Zelenets were two more aircraft with Starshiy Leytenant Petr Munin in a Yak-1 and his wingman Leytenant Petr Chepelkin in a LaGG-3 reported being attacked by a single Bf 109. In the dogfight that followed between the antagonists, Chepelkin claimed a Me-109 at 12:30 (M).
An aerial battle was also conducted by Unteroffizier Fritz Ebner of 1. Staffel who claimed an I-16 (1) at 11:43 (B), with no location. The Polikapov I-16 is similar to the UTI-4 except the UTI-4 has a second seat to the rear of the pilot for training pilots for the I-16. On this day the Inspector of Pilots Kapitan Vasiliy Antipov was flying liaison over Lake Ladoga transporting the Chief of Staff of the VVS KBF (Red Baltic Fleet) Polkovnik Dmitriy Surkov. This was possibly Ebner’s I-16 claim, as both personnel of the Soviet aircraft were killed in an aerial battle.
At 12:05 – 12:58 (M) 6 I-16s from 123 IAP led by Leytenant Nikolay Kuprianov covered Cape Osinovets. The I-16s of Mladshiy Leytenants Viktor Shekunov and Dogretsov were attacked from the above rear by 2 Bf 109s which left to the south.
At 12:07 – 13:10 (M) 3 Yak-1s from the 123 IAP also took up station above Cape Osinovets and engaged in an air battle with Bf 109. At 12:55 (M) the Yak-1s of Starshiy Leytenants Aleksandr Baklanov and Isakov fired their RS rockets at the German fighters and claimed a Me-109, while the other one went to the south. On examination of German data based solely on the time period a possible opponent might be established. Leutnant Hans Götz of 1. Staffel made a claim for an I-18 (19) at 12:03 (B) with no given location.
Oberleutnant Max-Hellmuth Ostermann of 3. Staffel filed a claim for an I-16 (47) at 12:37 (B) with no location. As previously mentioned this could not have been one of the Tomahawks of the 158 IAP, who he encountered. The data for the Soviet 2 RAG PVO and 3 RAG PVO could not be examined to see if they reported an encounter but no loss was found in their units for a death.
The TB-3 (# 22394) from 7 TBAP under ship commander Starshiy Leytenant A. I. Sudakov took off from Leningrad. The Soviets had some confusion as to the time, with staff reports the take off as 13:40 (M). The aircraft’s navigator, Leytenant P. I. Goduniv, listed the take off as 14:20 (M) being 25 minutes before being attacked and going down near Maryin Nos on Lake Ladoga. The Soviets stated 2 Bf 109s attacked the huge aircraft. The German data for III/JG 54 has only Unteroffizier Gerhard Raimann of 7. Staffel claiming a DB-3 (2) at 13:45 (B) with no location. The confusion for this claim is the size in the Soviet aircraft as the TB-3 is far larger then the DB-3. One of the witnesses to this was Major Hannes Trautloft who stated: “The word Abschuss crackles in my headphones and that was the end of the game.”
From 14:50 – 15:43 (M), 3 MiG-3s from 123 IAP led by Leytenant Evceev covered Cape Osinovets. At 15:20 (M) at an altitude of 1500 m after an attack by 2 He-113s (Bf 109 F) in the area of Osinovets a dogfight ensued. Leytenant Evceev and Mladshiy Leytenant Nikolaev made up to 6 attacks on the “He-113s”, the German fighters finally departed to the southeast.
From 15:04 – 16:03 (M), 5 MiG-3s from 124 IAP covered the area of Cape Osinovets without any contact with the enemy. From 15:33 – 16:40 (M), a section composed of 1 I-16 and 2 MiG-3s from the 26 IAP led by the Regiment commander Mayor Romanov covered the area of Cape Osinovets. Mayor Romanov was flying the I-16 with the MiG-3s being flown by Starshiy Politruk Georgiy Lobov and Starshiy Leytenant Nikolay Molteninov. Around 15:55 (M) at an altitude of 4000 m they engaged in a dogfight with 7 Bf 109s. Two Bf 109s dove out of the sun and attacked Romanov’s I-16. The MiG-3s engaged the two Bf 109s in battle with Starshiy Politruk Lobov claiming a Me-109 (1) at Naziya and Starshiy Leytenant Molteninov claimed a Me-109 (2) that fell in the area of Putilovo.
Hauptmann Franz Eckerle of Stab I claimed an “I-153” (41) at 14:08 and Unteroffizier Peter Bremer of 1. Staffel claimed an “I-153” (8) at 14:10 (B), both aircraft were misidentified and provided no location. The I-15bis (# 5152) flown by Starshiy Serzhant Filipp Mandra was killed and fell into Lake Ladoga near the Bugrovsky lighthouse and the I-15bis flown by AE Politruk Filipp Arzhanov fell in the area of Morozova – Vsevolozhsk. Both pilots were part of the Soviet 8 VA serving in the Leningrad defense at that time belonging to the 770 IAP (but listed on the roster of 439 IAP, which had been renumbered in November 1941).
With the Soviet pilots of 7 IAK making claims for three “Me-109” on this New Years Day it is hard to determine and the Soviet naval pilots making a claim for one “Me-109”, whom was the victor of the lone JG 54 loss to aerial combat. The loss data for JG 54 shows that an unnamed pilot was shot down in aerial combat from III./JG 54 with Bf 109 F-2 (# 11971) suffering 75% damage over Lake Ladoga.
The other loss was not combat related as Obergefreiter Reinhold Höger of 9. Staffel during a take off accident at Siverskaya on Bf 109 F-2 (# 6773) suffered 80% damage.
- Die Jagdfliegerverbände der Deutschen Luftwaffe 1934 bis 1945 Teil 9/I Winterkampf im Osten 6.12.1941 bis 30.4.1942 by Jochen Prien – Gerhard Stemmer – Peter Rodeike – Winfried Bock (2005 Struve’s Buchdruckerei und Verlag) [German text]
- Max-Hellmuth Ostermann ZG 1 – JG 21 – JG 54 by Christer Bergström (AirPower Editions 2007)
- Journal of Combat Reports of the 2 GIAK (7 IAK) PVO (TsAMO f. 20506, o. 1, d. 124, l. 1 pages 1-5) (internet available from Russian Federation Archives) [Russian text]
- Baltic Winged Guards (Гвадейцы Балтики Крылатой) by I. I. Tsapov, V. N. Konev, Yu. A. Myasnikov (OOO “Delta NB” Moscow 2006) [Russian text]
- Soviet Aces 1941 – 1945 Victories of Stalin’s Falcons (Советские Асы 1941 – 1945 Победы Сталинских Соколов) by Mikhail Bykov (Moscow “Yauza” “Eksmo” 2008) [Russian text]