A Curious Admission

On 23 June Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie reviewed the personal experiences of a Soviet air ace who had fought in both World War II and the Korean War. We have a great deal on the exploits of the Soviet air force 1941-45, but very little at first hand about the air battle on the Korean peninsular, where, of course, the Russians were flying what were supposed to be North Korean planes. Only their chatter gave them away. The pilots were supposed to make sure they did not overfly enemy airspace for fear of capture and exposure, but it meant they were shooting down US bombers wherever they could. The Soviet role was thus not unlike that in Spain against the Franco, the Germans and the Italians 1936-39 and in China against the Japanese 1937-45.

What we did not know, however, was that this particular officer, Ivan Kozhedub, also shot down two US Mustangs over Berlin in April 1945. He claimed the Mustangs had attacked him. And how did his commanding officer respond to what could have turned into a serious diplomatic incident at the most delicate time? “This can be billed to the coming war.”