Military Review

Odyssey of the Russian ace Incredible fate of fighter pilot Ivan Smirnov

Odyssey of the Russian ace Incredible fate of fighter pilot Ivan SmirnovThe life of Ivan Vasilyevich Smirnov, one of the best Russian aces of the First World War, who won 10 or 11 victories in the air, who participated in the Second World War, was filled with adventures and exploits ...

To begin with, we note that the number of victories in the air war, despite a purely quantitative assessment, which in its essence claims to be objective, remains a very subjective indicator related to ideological, political, national, military, and organizational features. one or another country. If the Entente fighter pilots and the Germans who fought on the Western Front were nevertheless associated with the concept of reliability, then on the Eastern Front this criterion simply did not exist for the German aces. For example, a statistical estimate of the number of victories won by the Germans on the Eastern Front during World War II, when the German side declared more than one hundred aces with one hundred or more victories, shows that with these numbers the number of aircraft shot down only by fighter aviation, more than double the total number of aircraft (for all years of the war) that were in service with all the Allied countries.

For World War I, when anti-aircraft artillery was still underdeveloped, and the number of group aircraft seizures on the ground was small and well known, just as the total number of aircraft lost by the parties was known, the situation was no less complicated. The fact is that a group victory, and those that happened quite often, did not pass into the category of group victories, but was recorded as a victory for each participant. In addition, the British, French and allies of the Entente, especially the British, had such dubious downed categories as “lost control” or “gone with decline”, therefore the coefficient of reliability of declared victories of the Entente aces is small and does not exceed 0,25.

The fighting on the Eastern Front, where Russian and German pilots fought, was less intense, due to the lower intensity of the front by aviation, and due to a certain technical backwardness of Russia, and therefore aircraft with a machine-gun synchronizer appeared here almost a year later than on the Western Front.

It is quite characteristic that in the last years of the First World War a specific “culture of aces” appeared in the countries of the West.

Newspapers and magazines were filled with articles about the best pilots; not only numerous and diverse publications were devoted to them, but also souvenirs, dishes, toys, smoking accessories, the first models of airplanes appeared, often flying, and sometimes costing a fortune. In Russia, due to the growth of the revolutionary events, this culture did not have time to develop, and we learned our best pilots of the First World War only in the last twenty years.

... Ivan Smirnov was born 10 (according to other sources, 30) January 1895, in the very heart of Russia - in the Vladimir province, in a peasant family. His childhood and adolescence were spent in the parental five-wall, in the village, here he studied in the parish school, helped his father and brothers to peasantry.

In October 1914, the handsome young man voluntarily joined the Russian army. He received the baptism of fire as a regimental intelligence officer of the Omsk Infantry Regiment. He made more than a dozen transitions of the front line, conducted a number of daring reconnaissance, captured several German and Austrian "languages". Once his group was ambushed, Ivan was seriously wounded by a machine gun bullet in the leg. For capturing a staff Austrian officer with operational documents, the brave scout was awarded the soldier’s Cross of St. George of the 4 degree.

After a conversation with a member of the imperial family who visited the wounded in the hospital, Smirnov was sent to the Air Department fleet. After graduating from the Sevastopol Military Aviation School, in August 1916, the ensign sent to the 19th corps squadron. A week later, with a little was transferred to the 1st Combat Aviation Group, where he fought under the command of the best Russian ace Lieutenant Colonel A.A. Kazakov, who repeatedly noted exceptional flying abilities and outstanding composure of Ivan Smirnov. His comrades and associates were the famous Russian pilots - Ernst Lehman, Peter Pentko, Longin Lipsky.

Ensign Smirnov scored his first air victory on 2 on January 1917 of the year, knocking Lutsk on the double Newpore-10 (pilot-observer P. Pentko) German Aviation C.I. The enemy's plane caught fire and began to fall apart in the air. The crew died.

2 May 1917 on the Moran-Solnier Type N Smirnov shot down the famous German pilot Alfred Heft. The pilot was still alive and was captured. A well-known photograph of Smirnov standing next to a German pilot on the background of his plane (in the photo).

The "Moran-Monocoque" was an extremely lightweight monoplane, distinguished by a good (for its time) speed up to 152 km / h, with complex controls, take-off weight up to 450 kg, it was equipped with a Vickers machine gun with a synchronizer.

May 18 I. Smirnov scored the only one of his unconfirmed victories, knocking over the "enemy airplane" over Bolshovets.

16 July 1-I air group relocated under the city of Stanislav and resumed its combat activities. Two days later, Smirnov, who was flying on Newpore-17, "... met an enemy plane, attacked him and forced him to leave with a decline to himself. In the Svistelnikov area, he met an enemy plane that attacked 3 times, after the last attack, the enemy plane left for its location. " For this fight, Ivan Smirnov received for a long time the honored title of a military man (military pilot).

16 in August, in the Skalat, Smirnov and Lehman area on the Newpore-17, acting as a pair, attacked the enemy plane, "... who was chased 15 versts to the rear of the enemy, reducing it from 3000 to 800 meters. At Hotin, they attacked another the plane that had gone down with the Mill. A hostile aerostat was fired at the Mill, which descended to the ground. " The result of the first battle was considered victorious, and the reduction of the enemy aircraft was counted as an official victory, having painted it on both pilots.

23 August 1917 was a tense day. Ivan Smirnov made six combat missions on the Newpore-17 screwdriver biplane. At the same time in each departure he fell out for what he flew - air combat. In the last, sixth sortie, having flown up with the lieutenant Huber, they engaged in battle with the Austrian "Elfauga". The Austrian biplane managed to incite after several attacks and he went on an emergency landing on a neutral territory. Landing was unsuccessful, the wheel on the run fell into the pit and the biplane got on the nose. Russian artillerymen immediately joined in, turning the wooden-percale airplane into a rapidly settling cloud of explosion ...

On August 29, in the Skalat area, Smirnov single-handedly attacked a pair of enemy aircraft and hit one of them in the very first line. True, the enemy machine crashed on its territory and, again, was not counted "due to the lack of evidence from disinterested persons."

September 8, patrolling along with Ensign Shaitanov in the Gusyatin area, Smirnov fought with two Austrian fighters. One of the enemy cars, Ivan managed to damage, but then came out of the fight due to a lack of gasoline. Shaytanov pursued the injured enemy and managed to finish off: therefore, both he and Smirnov were considered this aircraft as official victories.

For the victory of 11 September 1917, when the “Brandenburg Ts. 1” reconnaissance plane “downed in a battle” “descended at our disposal and was captured as a whole”, its observer was killed and the pilot was captured, Smirnov became a knight of the Order of the Holy George IV degree.

According to available data, in a year with a small participation in hostilities as a pilot, he became one of the most productive Russian aces, according to the total number of victories, second only to lieutenant colonel A.A. Kazakov and Second Lieutenant V.I. Yanchenko.
On “Newpore-10”, “Newpore-11” and “Newpore-17” I.V. Smirnov made more than a hundred sorties.

The Newpor-10 airplane was designed to compete for the Gordon Bennett 1914 prize of the year, but the outbreak of war canceled the race, and the Newpore-10 with a take-off weight of 670 kg, with a rotary (rotating) engine Gnome-Rhône, 80 horsepower hp and speeds up to 140 km / h became an air scout. The “Newpore-10” was a half-plan (like the other “Newpors” of the First World War - the chord of the upper wing in them was 1.5-2 times the chord of the lower wing, which allowed to significantly reduce the number of racks and braces connecting the wings of the biplane, and Finally, to increase the speed. The weakness of the aircraft was noticed by most pilots and soon these machines became single, significantly reducing the size, reducing the take-off weight to 480 kg, increasing the speed to 156 km / h, setting two aircraft guns on the plane, Tractors managed to create an even more successful Newpor-11 - Bebe, which became one of the machines that put an end to the German Fokker monoplane in the air, while the Newpore 17 fighter became for its time an exceptionally successful machine, produced in a quantity of more than 2 thousand pieces. He also had a small take-off weight (550 kg), but a more powerful engine in the 110 hp, which allowed him to pick up speed to 177 km / h. The German firm "Simmens-Schukkert" even began production of a German copy of an airplane called SSW D.1. Gustav Delyazh (1883-1946) - a French naval officer and one of the pioneers of aviation design, first used in the car a dense engine layout (which later became generally accepted for most winged cars), weapons, dashboard and controls, the place of the pilot and the gas tank cars, it made the airplane compact (its length was less than 6 m, its wingspan was about 8 m), for its time it was high-speed (up to 180 km / h) and maneuverable. At the time of the appearance of the fighter airplane, the serial machine gun synchronizer was missing and the Lewis machine gun, firing “according to the Garros scheme” over the propeller, was mounted on the upper wing. In the summer of 1916, a hydraulic synchronizer developed by G. Constantinesko was successfully tested in battles and actively promoted by the British firm Vikkers. Already at the end of 1916, the Newpore-17 airplanes appeared, armed with machine guns with Vickers Mk.I synchronizers, and then with a lightweight Vickers Mk.II (with air cooling instead of water) shooting through the propeller disk, which made it much easier aiming.

24 (according to other 25 data) September, paired up with Ensign L. Lipsky, Ivan attacked the Albatros C.III German reconnaissance aircraft and forced him to land on his own territory. According to the report of Baranov, the commander of the 7 th aircraft division: “... Ensign Smirnov shot down an 6 th enemy plane in the Balin area. The plane was little damaged, the crew of the 24 of the German squadron - the pilot-cadet was intact, the observer - the lieutenant was seriously wounded in the head. An infernal machine was found in the vehicle, which the pilot did not have time to activate. ”

It was one of the first sorties of Smirnov on the SPAD-7. Interestingly, the original abbreviation SPAD was deciphered as Société de Production des Aéroplanes Deperdussin, the Deperdussen Aircraft Production Society, and after an unjustified arrest of an aircraft designer in 1913, for SPAD they invented a Société Pour L'Aviation et ses Dériée fériri decipher deciphering SPAD. SPAD S.VII, according to experts, became the first French biplane fighter, one of the best in its class, successfully used in the First World War. It was a biplane with a Hispano-Suiza 8Aa engine in 150, developed speed in 192 km / h, which had a ceiling in 5 400 m and a speed of more than 400 m / min. On this machine, many famous aces fought. Among them - Frenchman Georges Ginemer, Italian Francesco Barakka, Australian Alexander Pentland.

Total ensign I.V. Smirnov fought on four types of machines - he won the first victory on the Newpore-10, the second on the Moran-Solnier, the third and fourth on the Newpore-17, the fifth again on the Moran-Salnier, the rest on the SPAD -7.

10 November Smirnov again worked in tandem with Lipsky. They attacked three "Brandenburg S.I.", which photographed Russian positions. Ivan destroyed one enemy on his own, shot down another with the help of Lipsky. The third opponent, having received heavy damage, left the battlefield. The Austrians subsequently confirmed the death of at least one crew (pilot - Corporal Fish and Letnab - Lieutenant Barkal).

Both downed aircraft recorded at the expense of Smirnov. For combat work, he was awarded 4 with “soldier’s” George crosses — a “full bow” (the lowest degree — like a regimental intelligence officer, the rest — like a pilot), the Order of St. George IV degree, the French Military Cross and the Serbian Order of the White Eagle ( besides him, among the pilots of the Entente, only the best Belgian ace Willy Coppens received such an award). I.V. Smirnov presented himself as the head of the detachment A.A. Kazakov to the Order of St. Vladimir IV degree and St. George arms, but in view of the revolutionary events, the submissions were not considered and were returned to the General Headquarters from the Petrograd St. George's Council. According to others, despite the boiling revolution, for this victory Smirnov was still marked by the command and awarded the Golden St. George weapon.

Another victory of Smirnov dates back to 23 in November, when he entered the battle in the Levtov area with a two-seater Austrian airplane "Lloyd S.V." The pilot died Siegfried Marash and the observer Karl Ulrich. According to the report of Smirnov himself, the bodies of the pilots "... were stripped and robbed at the crash site. At the same time, all the documents disappeared."

In his telegram Aviadarm Vyacheslav Tkachev noted that "... 9 victory for Ensign Smirnov in the days of coming devastation and mortal danger for our long-suffering Motherland gives confidence that our glorious pilots will fulfill their duty to the end and will remain in their grave, but glorious post, weaving new laurels into the crown of glory of our native aviation. "

On November 26, Ivan won his 11 and his last victory, knocking down on the SPAD-7, paired with A.A. Kazakov, a two-seat reconnaissance aircraft that sat in its nearest rear in the area of ​​Germanuvka. By that time, the raid I.V. Smirnova has reached 1300 hours.

After the conclusion of a truce with the Germans, anarchy in the Russian army reached its apogee. Shaken by the suicide of Ensign Leman, Smirnov, Lipsky and Silaev left for Kamenets-Podolsky on an “expropriated” car.

The following entry appeared in the diary of the 2 February 1918 of the year: “The 19 corps squadron of the military pilot Ensign Smirnov and the observer Silaev who fled from the detachment on the night of 14 December 1917 of the year and have not returned until now, exclude the detachment from the regiments and consider deserters ".

In Kamenetz-Podolsk, they got into an echelon that was coming from the front and traveled around the country for about a month, driving all of Siberia and reaching Vladivostok. At first, the Russian pilots were driving with all the comforts, but when the money ran out, they moved to the stoker. Then, when Russia concluded a treacherous (according to the allies) peace with Germany, in Singapore local authorities arrested Smirnov and Lipsky as prisoners of war.

Having escaped from the camp, changing the most exotic vehicles for the 20th century with dizzying courage: from car to two-wheel drive, from two-wheeled vehicles to an elephant, from an elephant to a train, from a train to bulls, from bulls to steam, from a ferry to a stagecoach, from a diligence to camels From camels to oxen, they reached Egypt through Rangoon, Colombo and Aden.

In Suez, Smirnov and Lipsky, as experienced combat pilots, managed to get a job in one of the local aviation divisions. But they failed to gain a foothold in the RAF. According to one of the versions, during the 1918 - 1920 period, Ivan Smirnov managed to be an assistant to the military air force attache and chief-pilot of the Russian government in Paris, study at the British aviation school in Apavon and, finally, even serve in the ranks of the Slavonic-British legion north of Russia.

According to another version, at the end of the British aviation school I. Smirnov went to Novorossiysk, where he met with L. Lipsky. However, having listened to the conversations from the participants in the events, from the people who were pessimistically waiting for the end of the “thundering minutes”, since the victory was clearly leaning towards the Reds, Ivan Vasilyevich the next day hare penetrated the ship and sailed back to England. According to other sources, on his return to Novorossiysk, he several times ran into unkindly minded people — either Denikinians or Trotskyists, or Makhnovists — twice under arrest with the threat of being shot, both times escaped. After these events, I made a difficult decision to leave Russia ...

More or less reliable information about the life of Smirnov begins to appear only from 1920, when he got a job at the Handley-Page aircraft factory in Croydon. Here Ivan Vasilyevich was a simple worker for some time, but in the Belgian company SNETA he again became a pilot. However, a fire broke out in his hangar, the plane burned down, and Smirnov was left without work again.

Ivan moved to Holland, where he got a pilot on the Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM). A quarter of a century having worked in this company, he often found himself in difficult situations. So, on October 19, 1923, Smirnov, with three passengers, flew to Fokker F.III from Schiphol airport. Because of the strong wind and engine failure, Smirnov had to make an emergency landing on the sandbar of the canal called the "Goodwin Sands". The broken car was almost flooded by the tide, when a random tramp came to the rescue of those in distress, who brought them to the nearest locality. After this incident, Smirnov’s colleagues called him "Earl Goodwin."

In 1928, Ivan Smirnov became the first airline pilot to ply the flight from Amsterdam to Indonesia and back (18 000 miles). In 1933-34, when flying on the Fokker F-18, nicknamed the Pelican, he had a record raid on this route. He continued to work there until the 1940 year, after which he was sent to the East India and engaged in local air transport.

At that time, when Smirnov, working in Indonesia, again became a military pilot, one of the most dramatic and mysterious episodes in his biography took place.

In 1940, World War II came to this “tropical paradise”, and Smirnov was enlisted in the Netherlands military aviation with the rank of captain.

In December 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, launching hostilities against the United States and the United Kingdom. In the course of the rapid attack, the samurai captured the whole of Southeast Asia and landed on the islands of the Indonesian archipelago. The Anglo-Americans suffered one defeat after another, and the local Europeans, in horror of the “yellow invasion”, hurried to move to Australia or even further - overseas.

Germany’s attack on the Soviet Union, information about the heavy losses of the Red Army hurted I.V. Smirnov, in the soul of the remaining Russian patriot. Soon, he voluntarily joined the Dutch army, becoming a member of the Second World War since 1942. He fought with the rank of captain of the 8-th Army Air Corps of the Netherlands Eastern India, then, after the surrender of Holland in May 1940, he achieved admission to the US Air Force, 317-th American military transport group. He flew between the islands of the Indonesian archipelago and Australia, not just being attacked by Japanese pilots.

3 March 1942, a passenger plane DS-3 piloted by Smirnov, made one of the last flights between Java and Australia on the eve of the occupation of Java by Japanese troops. Before departure, the representative of the jewelry company "De Beers" handed over to the ship's commander Smirnov a box with diamonds. In flight, a low-speed aircraft was attacked and shot down by a Japanese fighter, several passengers and the co-pilot were killed. Smirnov, the injured 5 with bullets, managed to land the car on the very edge of the coast so that it extinguished the burning engine. In this tragic accident, a casket with 300 grams of large diamonds worth over 10 million dollars (the current value of more than 100 million dollars) disappeared without a trace, which gave this stories detective shade.
There are several versions of the fate of the precious box. According to one of them, accepted by the investigation after the investigation, she disappeared after a complicated emergency landing of the wounded aircraft in the surf zone. (The plane was not subject to recovery, the passenger 3 and the co-pilot were killed in aerial combat and landing.)

According to another version, at the time of the landing of the aircraft, when the co-pilot died, Smirnov threw the precious box into the water. Later, he secretly got it. Using connections in the American aviation, he managed to send as a regular pilot in the USSR, where he anonymously transferred most of the contents of the box to the Defense Foundation, having enclosed the letter “from friends of a struggling Russia”.

A well-known writer Felix Chuev told the author about this version: V.M. Molotov said that during the war years there were several large anonymous donations to the Defense Foundation from abroad.

Until the end of World War II, the captain of the US Air Force I.V. Smirnov made more than one hundred sorties, surprising his comrades with exceptional stamina, flying skill, tirelessness, and calm attitude to danger.

After the war, continued flying in the aviation company KLM. This company KLM exists to this day, being one of the largest aviation companies in the world. Ivan Vasilievich lived in Heemstede, not far from Amsterdam, in a flower district. There he bought a spacious house of his own, because of the things disappearing in numerous rooms he was called “Pelican”. He was married and had no children.

In the 1948 year I.V. Smirnov was invited by the pilot to participate in an outstanding world tour round the clock, conducted by an American company for American businessmen. Of course, he could not refuse this offer. The DC-4 passenger plane, piloted by Smirnov, flew 80 thousands of kilometers, crossed the equator six times, visited all five continents, in twenty-eight countries, forty-five cities! The demonstration flight was full of adventures. Thirty American businessmen who dared to make a difficult round-the-world trip on a four-engined plane, developed before World War II, should be given credit in the amount of more than 1100 pieces used in the US military transport aircraft during the war years. This flight was full of adventure and risk - all that was so much in the heart of the aging Russian ace ...

In the 1949 year I.V. Smirnov, at the insistence of doctors, retired, having a huge official raid - more than 30 thousands of hours! According to the observation of the Honored Military Pilot of the USSR Hero of Russia P.S. Deinekin, the high air raid of foreign civilian pilots is related to the fact that their flight time is counted from the moment the engines were started up to the moment they were turned off, whereas in the Soviet and Russian air forces only the time spent by the pilot or crew member in the air is considered to be an attack.

I.V. Smirnov died in the Catholic Clinic of Palma de Mallorca on October 28 1956. Reburied in Heemsted, in 40 km from Amsterdam, next to his wife.

He was awarded the distinctive Dutch Flight Cross, a knight of the knightly degree of the Dutch Order of Orange Nassau (The Order of Orange-Nassau).

Name I.V. Smirnov is highly honored in the Netherlands; in particular, it was assigned to DC-3 from the Dutch company KLM, located in the Lelystat Museum.
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  1. parus2nik
    parus2nik 19 February 2014 08: 08
    Indeed, the incredible fate of the pilot ... Thank you!
  2. vlad0
    vlad0 19 February 2014 11: 33
    Excellent article!
    The era of rapid development of aviation gave birth to great pilots. It is very pleasant that there are many Russian people in this series. And triple it is pleasant that they remained Russian patriots, in spite of all the troubles and fractures in their fate.
    I am sure this article will reveal to many another unknown page in Russian history and will restore the memory of a worthy Russian officer.
  3. Vadim2013
    Vadim2013 19 February 2014 13: 40
    Well done, Ivan V. Smirnov, not participating in the civil war in Russia.
  4. bbss
    bbss 19 February 2014 13: 45
    Yes, a difficult fate.
  5. mabuta
    mabuta 19 February 2014 14: 56
    How many fates broke ...
  6. krokodil_gena71
    krokodil_gena71 19 February 2014 19: 47
    Good article! Russian man with a capital letter!
  7. Duke
    Duke 25 February 2014 23: 33
    Thanks, very interesting.
  8. Ursus
    Ursus 26 February 2014 21: 22
    Yeah ... a real hero!