Sorcerers rushed into the sky
Koldunov rushed into the sky, into the element of air combat. He submits an application with a request to be admitted to the Kachin flight school. But he was refused – a few years. Alexander went to the military commissar. He just threw up his hands – I can not help. Then the young man wrote a letter personally to K. E. Voroshilov. The People’s Commissar of Defense instructed to send Koldunov to a flight school. So Alexander ended up in glorious Kacha …
He always flew clean and recklessly. In the spring of 1943, after successfully completing a flight training course, junior lieutenant Koldunov was sent as an instructor to the 3rd reserve aviation brigade in Saratov. Many hours have already been flown, and my heart burns with vengeance, I want to go to the front as soon as possible.
Everything would have come in due time, but random circumstances helped to fulfill the dream ahead of schedule. A front-line aviation unit arrived at the airfield of the reserve regiment to receive new, more modern aircraft. The pilots are experienced, almost all officers have orders. The front-line soldiers quickly noticed the capable pilot Sergeant Koldunov. Decisive in his actions, he once folded his soldier’s belongings into a skinny duffel bag and got a job in a transport plane flying to the front. The glory of a classy aerobatic pilot flew ahead of him, and the command of the 866th IAP at the airfield where the Li-2 landed did not oppose the “hazing” replenishment.
The division commander, Hero of the Soviet Union B. A. Smirnov, understanding the condition of the young pilot, allowed him to remain in the regiment. Alexander fought boldly and courageously. He piloted the aircraft well, was distinguished by rare discipline, accuracy, accuracy and boundless courage. In his free time from flying, he trained on the ground near the stands with mock-ups of aircraft, working out the angles and firing distances, the beginning of the opening of fire. Having good flying practice, Koldunov quickly got used to the combat situation.
“Remember, courage must be combined with skill and caution,” the regimental commissar, Major Cherny, admonished after the first sortie. Well, he did the right thing. And one more thing: do not be shy, learn from the “old men”, their experience was gained at the cost of blood.
Alexander Koldunov did not miss the opportunity to talk with experienced pilots, with technicians, engineers, he learned flying skills from them, learning the secrets of air victories.
Useful advice of the fearless commissar, an experienced pilot Ilya Cherny, well-aimed remarks by comrades-in-arms Dmitry Syrtsov and Ivan Panin were the basics of the theory to beat the enemy in the air. The front-line friends helped the young pilot to the best of their ability. And soon Alexander Koldunov successfully passed the exam for combat maturity as a fighter pilot.
Koldunov won his first victory in the 3rd sortie, on July 21, 1943, shooting down a Ju-87 dive bomber over the Seversky Donets. The victory was worth 16 holes on his Yak. A few days later, his plane was shot down on takeoff by a pair of “hunters” that “fell” from the clouds, he himself was wounded. In this “contingency” situation, the 19-year-old pilot did not lose his head: turning off the engine, he planned and carefully landed the fighter near the airfield. After 2 days, he left the hospital and again raised his repaired “Yak” into the sky.
His martial prowess grew rapidly. When Alexander’s personal account reached 5 downed aircraft, he was appointed flight commander, then deputy squadron commander.
A man of unconditional courage and self-control, Alexander had an analytical mind that allowed him to bit by bit collect his own and other people’s experience, improve and diversify air combat techniques, and develop intuition. The skill of air combat, probably, consists in intuitively combining prowess and accurate calculation, courage and technical skill. After all, fate often destroys seemingly unshakable laws, seeking will and courage.
In the autumn of 1943, the six Yakovs, led by Koldunov, covered the ground forces on the right bank of the Dnieper. Suddenly, enemy fighters appeared in the sky. At maximum speed, Alexander attacked the Me-109 from the rear hemisphere and shot down in the first burst. At this time, 2 enemy aircraft clamped his wingman in pincers. Koldunov went into the tail of the nearest Messer with a combat turn and shot it down. After that, the enemy left the battlefield. Soon a group of bombers appeared. Attacking them, Alexander set fire to the leader, and then with his comrades dispersed the rest. In one sortie, Koldunov scored 3 victories at once (shot down 1 He-111 and 2 Me-109) and brought their number to 10.
Soon he was appointed commander, becoming a recognized ace in the regiment and in the division. By coincidence, the 866th IAP, with the advent of Koldunov, fought exceptionally hard. During the second half of 1943 near Belgorod and Izyum, over the Dnieper and in the Nikopol operation, the pilots of the regiment shot down 171 enemy aircraft in air battles, losing only 6 people in the flight crew in battles and disasters.
In air battles near the city of Izyum, the regiment had to face the strongest enemy fighter squadron JG 2 “Richthofen”, in which the famous German aces served. However, our pilots boldly entered into battle with them and achieved success. Alexander Koldunov also shot down several enemy planes.