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Sergei Makarovich Kramarenko
Major Sergei Kramarenko, with the Golden Star of Hero of the Soviet Union, in 1954.
Born April 23, 1923(1923-04-23) (age 99)
Place of birth Sumskaya oblast',
Ukrainian SSR,
Soviet Union
Allegiance  USSR (1941-1977)
Service/branch Soviet Air Force
Years of service 1941 — 1977
Rank Major General of the Air Force, Soviet Union
Battles/wars German-Soviet War
Korean War
Awards Hero of the Soviet Union Order of Lenin
Other work Memoirs: Protiv Messerov i Seybrov. V Nebe Dvukh Voyn (Against Messers and Sabres. In the Sky of Two Wars), 2006.

Sergei Makarovich Kramarenko (Russian: Серге́й Макарович Крамаренко) (born 23 April 1923) was a Soviet Air Force officer who fought in the World War II and the Korean War. For his service in Korea became a holder of the Title of Hero of the Soviet Union. He achieved several high command positions in the USSR and was also Air Force advisor in Iraq and Algeria in the 1970s. Retired in 1977 with the rank of Major-General, he lives with his family in Moscow.

Childhood and Encounter with Aviation

Sergei Kramarenko was born on 23 April 1923 in the village of Kalinovka in Sumskaya province, Ukraine, the eldest of three sons of Makar Kramarenko and Nadezhda Galkovskaya. His parents were divorced when he and his brothers were still children and he went with his mother and brothers to live first in the Caucasus, and later to a kolkhoz (collective farm) near the Volga river.

During the 1930s the young Kramarenko listened to radio broadcasts about the deeds of Soviet airmen like Valery Chkalov and Georgiy Baidukov, and so decided to become a pilot. In the autumn of 1940 he began a flying course at the Dzerzhinskiy aeroclub, and as one of the 80 who graduated with the highest marks was offered the opportunity to become a military pilot. Kramarenko accepted and began military training on 1 April 1941 at Borisoglevsk aerodrome.[1]

The German-Soviet War (1941-45)

Sergei Kramarenko first saw action in late November 1942 over Stalingrad, as part of the 523rd IAP- equipped with the LaGG-3. Like most inexperienced fliers, he began as wingman to more experienced pilots, such as Capt. Mikhail Baranovskiy and Lt. Yury Ryzhov. In early 1943 his unit was re-equipped with the Lavochkin La-5, which performance-wise proved to be on a par with the German FW-190 and Bf-109.

First aerial victory

On 23 February 1943 he was flying as wingman in a flight led by Capt. Baranovskiy when they engaged a group of dive-bomber [Ju-87 Stuka]s. Several escorting FW-190s jumped his element leader Ryzhov and he promptly rushed to assist:

In that moment in front of me, with a left turn at 100-150 meters arrived two unknown aircraft of green color - in their fuselages were black crosses. In spite it was the first time I saw them, immediately I knew they were two FW-190s. As soon as they finished their turn, one of them began to shoot at my leader. I opened fire against the trailing airplane and I saw shell strikes all over the aircraft. I watched that suddenly it went upwards turning, and his leader after him. Right then, ahead of me from the left went by tracers. I looked to the left and saw that 300 meters behind at the left were two Focke-Wulfs. They shoot right at me, and the tracers of their aircraft get closer and closer to my airplane. What should I do? To climb was impossible, because there were two more Focke-Wulfs. Immediately broke to the left, underneath the tracers. I dove [...] Many years later, while I described this episode to a journalist friend of mine, he told me that he saw in German memoirs a report of the leader of that schwarm. [...] After the combat with me, while returning home, one of his pilots, because of unexplainable reasons, got into a dive and crashed into the ground. I realized that one of the shells of my cannons hit the pilot's cockpit and wounded the pilot, who because of the loss of blood fainted and crashed to his death.[2]

Kramarenko's first victory claim was FW-190A-3 (WkNr 2265) of Oberfeldwebel Karl Stadeck, (of 2./JG 51 "Mölders"), who was killed. He claimed while flying Lavochkin La-5 "Red 34".[3]

Downed, Wounded, Captured and Rescued

On 19 March 1944 three La-5FNs of the 19th IAP intercepted a group of Ju-88 bombers escorted by six Bf-110 fighters. Kramarenko's leader - Pavel Maslyakov - shot down one of the Junkers, but was in return jumped by one of the Bf-110s. Kramarenko was ready to cover him, scoring hits on the Messerchmitt. He then fell prey to the Bf-110 wingman, who set his aircraft on fire and forced him to bail out with severe burns to face and hands.

Kramarenko was captured almost immediately by German troops, and as he was unwilling to answer the questions of his SS interrogator he was to be executed. Fortunately for Kramarenko the order was cancelled at the last minute by a Wehrmacht General, who ordered also that Kramarenko be sent to a German field hospital. Two weeks later Kramarenko was rescued by Soviet troops liberating the hospital.[4]

Service in Kozhedub's 176th GIAP

After several months of convalescence in a Moscow burns hospital, he returned to his regiment (now redisignated 176th GIAP). Kramarenko was appointed wingman to the Regiment navigator Major Aleksandr Kumanichkin, already an ace with 35 aerial victories ( he claimed five more in Korea). Both men were aggressive and disciplined in the air and they became a lethal team. He flew Kumanichkin's wing for several of the ace's victories, and shared some of them. On 16 April 1945 Kramarenko scored his second full victory: a FW-190 over Eastern Prussia.[5] The aircraft he flew that day was the Lavochkin La-7 "Red 27", of the regimental executive officer Major Ivan Kozhedub. Kozhedub had lent Kramarenko his aircraft because he was not scheduled to fly and no other aircraft was available.[6]

The Post War and the beginning of the Cold War (1945-50)

In 1946 the 176th GIAP was redeployed to the aerodrome of Teplyy Stan on the south-west outskirts of Moscow and was among the first units to receive the new prop-driven La-9, the jet-propelled La-15, and in late 1949 the MiG-15. Already the zamkomesk (Замкомэск, заместител командир эскадрилии = zamestitel komandir eskadrilii = deputy squadron leader) of the regiment's 3rd AE of Aleksandr Vasko, Капитан (Kapitan = Captain) Kramarenko flew the MiG-15 during the 1950 May Day fly-past over the Kremlin and Red Square, and on 14 August over Tushino airbase (for Air Force Day ).

The Korean War (1950-53)

In early October 1950 the 176th GIAP were called to a meeting in the Officers' Club at Teplyy Stan by General Redkin, the Executive Officer of the Air Defense of Moscow, with Vasily Stalin (son of Joseph Stalin) also attending. Redkin detailed the critical situation in North Korea, with American B-29 heavy bombers bombing the poorly defended North Korean cities. The Soviet-backed Democratic Republic of Korea had officially requested Soviet assistance. When asked for volunteers all pilots, including Kramarenko, raised their hands. The unit was soon deployed to Korea.[7] Soviet involvement would be a secret until well after the end of the Cold War.

Travelling across Siberia, Kozhedub's 324th IAD (made up of the 176th GIAP and 196th IAP) arrived in the city of Dunfyn, where they were given Chinese uniforms to wear. The Soviet fliers received their first salary in Chinese currency which they spent at local markets, buying civilian clothing to replace the Chinese uniforms. An intense period of air-to-air training in the MiG-15 followed. The Russians trained alongside Chinese pilots in the nearby airbase of Mukden. Kozhedub brought Kramarenko with him and personally checked the training of their Chinese and Korean apprentices. Kramarenko remembered the poor training of the Chinese students who could barely perform even basic training flights. Both he and Kozhedub also realized the meager diet of rice they received was a problem. As soon as the Chinese rations were replaced by meat and other high-calorie food the situation improved.[8]

First victories

Both regiments of the 324th IAD redeployed to the forward airbase at Antung, and entered into battle in early April 1951. On 3 April they suffered three losses for no victories, although on 4 April 1951 Fiodor Shebanov managed to shoot down an F-86 and the pilot captured[9]).

Kramarenko noted that the main reason for such a defeat was that they failure to enter Korean airspace higher than American aircraft and at high speed.[10] Yevgeny Pepelyaev (196th IAP's commander) and Sergei Vishnyakov (176th GIAP's executive officer) instructed the MiG pilots to jump the American formations in co-ordinated attacks from different directions.[11] Now with these coordinated attacks and both height and high speed the MiG-15 fliers had combat conditions in their favor.

These tactics were tested on 12 April 1951 when forty-four MiG-15s of the 176th GIAP and 196th IAP faced an American formation made up of forty-eight B-29s escorted by ninety-six jet fighters. Against these uneven odds the Soviet fliers claimed some ten B-29s, three F-80s and one F-86 shot down. Kramarenko's first victory in Korea was the F-80C of Captain A. B. Swanson (18th ABG).[6] Kramarenko's second victory in the Korean sky occurred on 2 June, as he recalls:

In such conditions (on 2 and 17 June [1951] I managed to shot down some Sabres. For example, reminded me the following combat: We flew in a zveno [a flight, a 4-airplanes formation] in the area assigned to patrol, having performed some circuits, when we spotted a group of eight Sabres. heading in a head-on course. We maneuvered to gain altitude and turned around to attack them from the rear hemisphere, but the Sabres spotted us and turned around too. A quartet kept on flying straight, and I with a dive began to chase the aircraft of the rearmost quartet. Two Sabres went to left, and two to the right; Lazutin's pair attacked the pair on the left, and went towards the right. The Sabres began to dive, but by then the range had decreased, and at about 400 meters I open fire. I see hits all over the Sabre wingman, which releasing smoke kept on diving. My wingman jumped the second Sabre, but his aircraft began to shake, due to the speed had almost reached 1.000 km/h, and consequently missed. We got out of the dive, and we saw that below remained only one Sabre - no trace of the second. Soon the ground control confirmed us, that he fell.[12]

His victory was probably confirmed by the interception of American radio dialogue: the F-86A Bu.No 49-1130 of Thomas C. Hanson (336th FIS, Killed), although USAF records list the aircraft as lost in an accident shortly after take-off.[13]

Clash of Titans

On 17 June 1951 Kramarenko and his six wingmen almost fell in an American ambush when they engaged eight Sabres who were acting as bait for three more F-86s lying in wait and ready to attack from above. What follows is Kramarenko's account of the duel he had against an American ace of World War II:

"Then the Sabres changed to another tactic. Individual pairs of their most experienced pilots would sit off to the side, and when combat was joined would pounce on the trailing aircraft of our group, and frequently shoot them down. [...]

My flight was flying to reinforce the strike group in the lead battle. As we got to the place of combat, the enemy were just finishing up moving out over the sea. Our side was also running out of fuel, and they were heading for home. As we got there, we could see an eight of Sabres coming right at us at the same altitude. Without thinking, I gave the command “Let’s attack them” and turned at a nearly 90 degree bank to wind up 600 meters behind this group. It was just as I got the leader in my sights and gave him a burst that I got a sensation of that something was behind me. That sensation made me turn right and look behind me, and what it was I do not know to this day. Perhaps I had seen something. But inexplicable as it was, there I now saw less than 100 meters behind me the huge nose of a Sabre and the blasts and tracers of its six machine guns firing at me. Without thinking, in the space of a few hundredths of a second I reacted automatically, and my MiG momentarily did a half roll, dropping into a dive. While in the dive, I looked back and saw a group consisting of three Sabres right behind me in a dive. [...]

I could have initiated a dive, but I have been told that the Sabre was heavier than the MiG, so it should dive better. Because of that, to dive wasn't an option. Then I saw right in front of me a cluster of saving clouds. My only choice was to head my aircraft towards one of them. Once inside the cloud, I made a very sharp turn of 90° to the left, I got out of the clouds and performed a right turn. I supposed that the lead Sabre would thought that my MiG kept on diving straight after getting out of the cloud. And that was exactly what happened. Now, below me, there were these three Sabres, which were looking for me downwards. Without losing not even a second, I jumped them. I have turned the wits. Now it was my turn to attack. But somehow they spotted me and immediately they split: the wingmen performed a diving turn to the left, and the leader a climbing right turn. This tactic allow them to neutralize my attack and to transform me into their prey: it was a trap. Whichever one I attacked, I would be forced to turn my tail to the others and then they would get me under fire. What was I to do? I could climb up and give battle, but I did not want to get into this interesting and advantageous situation: if you are going to do battle with strong pilots, with the Sabre wing commander, you had better be in a better position.

It is true that they were 3, but it didn't matter to me: I was very self-confident in my skills and my MiG. But now, I should decide fast who I shall to attack. Should I attack the pair which was diving, or the Sabre which was climbing? If I would jumped the first ones, the latter would dive after me and he would shoot me down. That's why I choose the later, because it was closer and was making a climbing turn to the right. So, I dived and soon I put myself behind him, I aimed, and at a distance of about 600 meters, I opened up. To slow down and to hold my fire until to be closer it was impossible, because the two remaining Sabres could catch me. My shells struck the Sabre. Evidently, some of the projectiles should hit it close to the engine, because the aircraft began to leave a trail of dark-gray smoke. The Sabre began to descend, and later entered in a steep dive.

I could not see all the fall, because when I looked back, I saw a couple of Sabres at 500 meters. A little bit more, and both would open fire with their 12,7 mm (0,50") machineguns. Evidently, that was when I made a mistake. I should increase my angle of climbing and drag the Sabres to high altitude, where the MiG had the advantage. But I came to that conclusion only a long time later. At that time I reversed my heading, passed over the Sabres and in a slight dive I led my aircraft to a small group of clouds. Once there I turned to the right and went I got out of them, I started a ‘Boyeboj Razvorot [‘Combat Turn’, a climbing turn with a roll angle of 40-50°] to the left, but I didn’t found the Sabres bellow where I expect them to be, but behind at my left. [...]

I threw my aircraft in a dive, but instead of a sharp pull-up into a climb I began to slowly roll my aircraft into a flat dive. The Sabres, who didn’t expect that, stayed in the height, far above and behind.

I dived to the right towards the hydroelectric station over the Yalu river [this station is referred in the Russian cartography as Suphun hydroelectric station, and as Suiho Dam/Reservoir in the American one – Note of the authors]. This huge reservoir had a dam of 300 meters height and a power station which provided energy not only to half of Korea but also the whole North-East of China. Precisely it was the main target we should protect. Besides us, their defense consisted in a dozen of anti-aircraft batteries, which had the order to shoot at any airplane which get closer to the dam.

I had the hope that the gunners of these batteries would help me to get these Sabres out of my tail. And that was what happened: the gunners accomplished their order to open fire at any intruder, and in front of me it appeared a dark cloud caused by the detonation of the anti-aircraft shells. I didn’t want to evade that cloud, because the Sabres would reduce the distance and they would shot me down. At that moment I preferred to eventually die in the hands of my fellow gunners, rather than the bullets of the Sabres, so I headed for the very center of a cloud. The aircraft punched into the cloud. Once inside and away from the shell bursts I immediately swung the aircraft from side to side, up and down. Grabbing the stick, I pulled back on it. The results were that the wings fluttered a bit.

But after several tens of seconds passed, suddenly I was once again out in the sunshine. The aircraft had punched through the black cloud. Behind and below me were the dam and the reservoir. Off to the left I could see the departing Sabres, having lost me in the cloud and perhaps figured I was dead. Following me had proven to be useless, the sea was near, and not wanting a new fight, even though I had come close to passing out from the stress. In order to not lose consciousness I focused my attention in front of me and pinched the arteries in my neck, as I did not want the blood to leave my head. It was far easier for the Sabre pilots to take this stress – they had a special anti-G suit which, when it sensed increased stress on the pilot, filled with air and, grasping him tightly, prevented the blood from leaving his head. Up until then our designers had never thought of such an idea.

I circled the airfield a couple of times, landed and then, taxiing over to the hardstand, saw my wingmen. They, having lost me during the sharp turn, continued to go after the eight Sabres, but when they got to the coastline had to turn back, searched for me, and not finding me, returned to the airfield.

Subsequent examination of my gun camera footage showed good hits on the Sabre. Ground command reported where it had impacted.”[14]

The Sabre downed by Kramarenko was the F-86A BuNo 49-1281 of Lt.Col. Glenn Todd Eagleston (4th FIG's commander, a famed World War II ace with 18.5 Luftwaffe kills while flying a P-51 Mustang, and two victories against MiGs in Korea), who belly-landed his jet at Kimpo Airbase South Korea. The jet was damaged beyond repair and was written off.[15] The leader of the two Sabres who came to assist Eagleston was also a notable combat pilot: Lt.Col. Bruce Hinton, the first Sabre pilot to shoot down a MiG on 17 December 1950.

First Jet-vs-Jet Ace in History

Kramarenko's streak of successes continued during June and July. On the 23rd he was credited with another F-86 kill (although records show no Sabre was lost that day). On 11 July the 176th GIAP engaged a group of Sabres escorting F-80s, while the 196th IAP intercepted the fighter-bombers. While leading six MiG-15bis Kramarenko engaged a flight of six Sabres, and at 300 meters shot down one F-86 which was seen to crash south-west of Tetsuzan, the pilot ejecting into the sea.[16]

On 29 July 1951 sixteen MiG-15bis of the 176th GIAP relieved other MiGs of the 17th IAP which were tangling with Sabres. Kramarenko's flight was among them, and flying at 14,000 meters he spotted two F-86s at 10,000 meters. A single burst at 250 meters sent one of them downwards out of control.[17] The heavy 37 and 23 mm shells from Kramarenko's MiG-15bis destroyed the rudder and elevators of the F-86A BuNo 49-1098 (4th FIW) and its pilot managed to reach South Korea where he bailed out safely.[18] This was Kramarenko's fifth victory. Sergei Kramarenko was the actual first ace of the Korean War, and due to the fact that all his victims were jets the First Jet-vs-Jet Ace in History.[19]

Hero of the Soviet Union

The 324th IAD had been fighting without a respite since April. During August it was allowed to rest for a month. When the unit came back into the fight, Kramarenko soon claimed new victories:

  • 12 September 1951: he got credit for an F-80 kill,[17] in fact the F-84E BuNo 49-2399 of Captain Chapman (136th FBW), who managed to reach Korea Bay and eject there.[16]
  • 22 September 1951: he claimed a Sabre. In actuality he had seriously damaged the F-86A BuNo 49-1158 (4th FIW), but this jet survived and could be salvaged.[16]
  • 30 October 1951: one more jet was claimed - the F-84E BuNo 51-615 of the 49th FBW (the unnamed flier was rescued).

Kramarenko was postulated to be awarded the Zolotaya Svezda, which is given the title of Geroy Sovietskogo Soyuza (Hero of the Soviet Union).He was finally decorated with this award on 10 November 1951 by the Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, Nikolay Shvernik. On his return to the skies over Korea, Kramarenkokept on scoring victories:

  • 1 December 1951: he claimed two Gloster Meteors of No. 77 Squadron RAAF, the seriously damaged Meteor F.8 S/N A77-559 of Flight Sergeant Bill Middlemiss, and the shot-down Meteor F.8 S/N A77-251 of Pilot Officer Vance Drummond RAAF, who bailed out and was captured.[20] He could also have shot down one more fighter that day. He pulled behind and within firing range of a third Meteor, the pilot of which was completely unaware of his presence. But at that point Kramarenko showed his humanity: he felt that the air battle was already over, he and his team had won, and he felt that there was no need to draw more blood that day. Consequently, he ordered his wingman Ikar Gulyy to disengage and to leave the unknown Australian flier alone.[21]
  • 12 January 1952: he was credited with two F-86 kills in two separate engagements. The first claim matches with an US aircraft lost - F-86E BuNo 50-615 of Paul G. Ridgeway (334th FIS), though the USAF records credit it to an "engine failure".[16]
  • 16 January 1952: Kramarenko scored his last confirmed victory over Teiju, a F-86 which then crashed near the village of Un-Denri.[22] Kramarenko recalled this victory:

"After takeoff and climb to altitude we saw the entire sky was filled with moving dots. We dropped our tanks and hit the throttles, and our MiGs went into combat. Immediately the regiment broke up into several groups and pairs. I and my six were following the group commander’s flight, which were attacking a group of Sabres flying an intersecting course from below the Sabres. At that moment his group found itself under attack from a flight of Sabres. I gave the command to my wingman to repulse the attack, and we proceeded to cut through their flight. A long burst in front of the Sabres forced them to break off the attack and climb away. I gave the command to Lazutin to go after them, while I and my wingman turned to follow the group commander, who had opened fire as he closed on the Sabres, but they made a sharp maneuver to avoid his fire and split up. One flight went into steep left bank, and the other did the same to the right. Vishnyakov’s flight split up as well and began to go after both groups as pairs. At that moment his pair was jumped from above by a pair of Sabres, who literally popped up about 300-400 meters from me. I immediately went over to get on their tails. The Sabres rolled over and went into a dive. I ordered Gogolev, my third pair leader, “Cover the commander,” and tried to go after the Sabres. I could see that the Sabres were holding a dive at an angle of about 60 degrees – I aimed at them and immediately gave one of them a burst. I saw the shells detonate in the area of the cockpit, and there was clearly black smoke now visible inside the cockpit; the Sabre’s dive angle increased and he kept ongoing down. At that moment, Gulyy called me: -I’m spinning! I looked behind me and saw his aircraft nearly inverted. I gave the command: -Hit your air brakes! Pull out! I saw Gulyy pull out of the inverted position and we then went into a dive, climbed back up to altitude, and returned home. [...]

Fifty years later a special group carrying out a search for American pilots who were missing in action asked me if the pilot of the Sabre I shot down had bailed out. I could only repeat what I wrote above.”[23]

The USAF reported no Sabre loss on that date, but the fact that the US-Russia Joint Commission for POW-MIA interviewed him in 2002 looking for details on this kill indicates that this victory is unofficially admitted by the Americans. {KORWALD shows a F-80C loss with the Pilot MIA[24]}

Fired Upon

On 17 January 1952 Kramarenko flew his last combat mission in Korea. During it he damaged an F-86, but was not only shot down himself but also fired upon by the Sabre flier while he was hanging defenseless in his parachute. He himself describes the events:

“17 January was a heavy day for me. The radar station picked up the approach of a group of ground attack aircraft on their way to Anju. Our regiment was sent out to repulse them. Arriving in the area of combat operations, we just spotted the last group of Thunderjets sliding along above the clouds to our south. Vishnyakov went to go after them, but we were not able to attack as the Thunderjets went into a cloud and we found ourselves over the coastline. Not seeing the usual Sabre escort, we made a left turn and began a level climb and had just turned around when I spotted two groups of Sabres diving down to attack Vishnyakov. We were engaging under the most unfavorable conditions, but nevertheless we beat off the first attack of the Sabres and, by using maneuver, climbed back up to about 9000 meters. At that moment another group of Sabres showed up, and moved to come down to attack the regimental commander’s group from above. As for me, as I virtually had no speed due to the climb, managed to increase my climb angle and at 600 meters I opened fire on the Sabre group leader. His aircraft ran through my tracers, and I saw several explosions on it. He increased his dive and angle and headed down. Turning around, I saw that my group was also being attacked from above by a group of Sabres. I gave the command: “Everybody break!” and we turned under the Sabres, but now I saw that my rear wingman, Senior Lieutenant Voronoy, was being fired on by two Sabres. Voronoy went into a sharp dive and headed down. I returned to the battle. At that moment my third pair came under attack from two Sabres coming down from above which, as they opened fire, cut through them and headed out directly towards above me. I followed them, firing at the wingman. He, evidently damaged, turned and banked over into a dive. I was not able to go after the damaged aircraft, as I suddenly felt a sharp blow and the aircraft around me began to rapidly spin. I kicked hard left rudder, but the controls did not respond. It was so sudden that one wing suddenly broke off. I made the decision to bail out of the uncontrollable aircraft, as it was now in a vertical spin downward. With a great deal of difficulty – as I was rammed into the left side of the aircraft – I managed to get my hand on the ejection seat control lever and pull it. A sharp blow momentarily pressed down on my eyes, so I have no idea how I flew out of the aircraft. As I came back to life I was falling together with the seat, I released the harness and kicked out of the seat with my legs. I could see that the clouds below me were coming up rapidly, so I pulled on the parachute ripcord ring, and after I yanked it the canopy opened. I came to a sharp halt, and now I was floating under the parachute. Above me was the blue sky, below me the clouds. They were about 800 meters below. I glanced around and saw a Sabre coming at me very quickly. He came on for a few more seconds, and suddenly I saw the smoke and tracers that he was firing his six machine guns. Death was coming for me, and all I could do was wait as he came after me. Fortunately, the Sabre was about 800-1000 meters away, and the tracers flew by tens of meters below me. But for those very few seconds the tracers began to head up towards my legs and only stopped a few meters away. Perhaps at the last second I could pull my legs up at the moment that I felt the bullets were about to hit my legs. But at that precise moment the tracers stopped. I could see the Sabre bank away sharply when 500 meters away, and passing about 50 meters away from me, make a quick turn. I got nauseous from his jet exhaust as he passed. I saw the Sabre make another turn and come back to attack me again. Now I understood that he wanted to get even for the death of his leader, but then I didn’t want to think about that so silently waited for the end to come. The second time, I thought, he won’t miss. I looked down. The cloud was now much closer – perhaps 50-100 meters away. I thought: ‘What will happen first – will I go into the cloud or will his tracers hit me? If the Sabre opens fire, he won’t miss.’ But when the Sabre closed to 800 meters and new tracers flew from it, I poked into the cloud. It immediately became quite dark, humid, but it was a beautiful sensation that I was safe, as he could not see me and I did not see the approaching Sabre and his tracers."[25]

Kramarenko landed safely was found by a North Korean villager who took care of him until he was recovered by a search party and returned to Antung.[26] The Sabre attacked by Kramarenko was the F-86E BuNo 50-636 of Major George V. Wendling (16th FIS), which received "major damage" on that day.[27] Almost certainly the pilot who shot down and shot at the Soviet ace was Major William F. Shaeffer, of the 16th FIS, 51st FIW.[28]

Following the decision of General Staff of USSR's Armed Forces, the VVS 303rd and 324th IAD were replaced by PVO divisions, the 97th and 190th IAD. So, on 31 January 324th, IAD ceased combat operations in Korea and 176th GIAP (and Kramarenko with it) returned to the Soviet Union.

Credits for aerial victories of Sergei Makarovich Kramarenko

In the German-Soviet War Sergei Kramarenko scored two individual victories and 10 more group (shared) kills, plus a balloon. During the Korean War he flew 104 combat sorties, engaged UN aircraft in 42 occasions, and was officially credited with 13 victories. After cross-referencing his credited victories with German and US losses, it seems that in fact he shot down one German warplane during World War II, and he scored at least eight or nine victories in Korea, besides seriously damaging three more UN jets.

Date ( Unit Aircraft flown Enemy Aircraft Pilot & Fate Unit, AF
23.02.1943 523 IAP La-5 "Red 34" FW-190A-3 WkNr 2265 Karl Stadeck (KIA) 2./JG 51, Luftwaffe
16.04.1945 176 GIAP La-7 "Red 27" FW-190 -- Luftwaffe (**)
12.04.1951 176 GIAP MiG-15 "Red 729" F-80C BuNo ? A. B. Swanson (*) 18 ABG, USAF
02.06.1951 176 GIAP MiG-15bis "Red 721" F-86A BuNo 49-1130 Thomas C. Hanson (KIA) (*) 336 FIS, USAF
17.06.1951 176 GIAP MiG-15bis "Red 721" F-86A BuNo 49-1281 Glenn T. Eagleston 4 FIW, USAF
23.06.1951 176 GIAP MiG-15bis "Red 721" F-86 -- {***} USAF (**)
11.07.1951 176 GIAP MiG-15bis "Red 721" F-86A BuNo 48-297 Conrad Allard (KIA) (*) 335 FIS, USAF
29.07.1951 176 GIAP MiG-15bis "Red 721" F-86A BuNo 49-1098 ? {Pilot bailed out 6 miles (9.7 km) NE of Suwon} 4 FIW, USAF
12.09.1951 176 GIAP MiG-15bis "Red 721" F-84E BuNo 49-2399 Capt. Chapman {bailed out near Cho-do rescued} 136 FBW, USAF
22.09.1951 176 GIAP MiG-15bis "Red 721" F-86A BuNo 49-1158 (dam) ? {KORWALD reports damaged 23.09.1951} 4 FIW, USAF
30.10.1951 176 GIAP MiG-15bis "Red 721" F-84E BuNo 51-615 ? {Plane Heavily damaged by MIG Sunan area-crash landed} 49 FBW, USAF
01.12.1951 176 GIAP MiG-15bis "Red 684" Meteor F.8 S/N A77-559 (dam) Bill Middlemiss No.77 Sqn, RAAF
01.12.1951 176 GIAP MiG-15bis "Red 684" Meteor F.8 S/N A77-251 Vance Drummond (POW) No.77 Sqn, RAAF
12.01.1952 176 GIAP MiG-15bis "Red 684" F-86E BuNo 50-615 Paul G. Ridgeway (*) 334 FIS, USAF
12.01.1952 176 GIAP MiG-15bis "Red 684" F-86 -- USAF (**)
16.01.1952 176 GIAP MiG-15bis "Red 684" F-86 BuNo ? {F-80C BuNo 49-1880} ? - pilot MIA {Possibly 1stLt R.L. McNulty-MIA} 80 Ftr-Bdmr USAF
17.01.1952 176 GIAP MiG-15bis "Red 684" F-86E BuNo 50-636 (dam) George V. Wendling 16 FIS, USAF

(*) = Loss not credited in US records to MiG-15 action. KORWALD lists Captain A.B. Swanson loss date is given as 13.04.1951 and that he was hit by AAA, bailed out successfully and was rescued. Ditto lists Lt Thomas C. Hanson loss date 05.06.1951 crashed on take off 5 miles (8.0 km) off end of runway Suwon K-13 after jettisoning fuel tanks; Ditto lists Captain Ridgeway as being lost 13.01.1952. Cause of loss is given as "Engine explosion, crashed" and "Explosion in engine section"; {Pilot} successfully ejected 6 mi (9.7 km) N of K-14, rescued.

(**) = Overclaim in good faith.

(***)= KORWALD reports only one F-86 lost between dates of 21.06.1951 and 24.06.1951-on 22 June 1951 F-86A 49-1276 of 4th Ftr-Int Gp/336th Ftr-Int Sq was shot down by MIG at 645L. Pilot 1Lt Howard P. Miller remains recovered in "Operation Glory" [29] Likewise KORWALD reports that on 24.06.1951 a F-80C of 49th Ftr-Bmdr Gr/8th Ftr-Bmdr Sq-a Flight of 4 F-80s attacked by 12 MiG-15s, downed by MiG over Chonsodae (Sonchon); 1Lt Ernest C Dunning Jr Captured and returned during Operation Big Switch.[30]

Post War Career and Family

After his return to the Soviet Union, he studied at the Air Force Academy, where he graduated in 1954. Around that same time, in Moscow, he met an art student - Yulya Alekseyevna. Soon they began dating and going together to the Bolshoy Theater and others. In 1956 he got his first command duty as deputy commander of a regiment placed in Machulishchi, Belarus. In 1957 he proposed marriage to Yulya, and she accepted. Already married, that same year Kramarenko received his second command assignment - the 167th IAP in Georgia. Soon other commissions followed all over the Soviet Union, and he was also blessed by the births of his son Aleksandr and his daughter Nadezhda.

In 1970 he received a new appointment, this time on foreign soil: the Iraqi Air Force had bought brand new MiG-21s, and Kramarenko helped Iraqi pilots and officers to learn to operate the Soviet aircraft and trained them in tactics. A similar duty followed in Algeria in the mid-1970s. Finally, already a Major-General of the Air Force, Kramarenko retired in 1977.

Today Sergei Kramarenko is the vice-president of the Rossiskaya Assotsiatsya Geroev (Russian Association of Heroes, the War Veteran Association, named that way because many of his members are Heroes of the Soviet Union), author of his autobiography and collaborator in many other books where Russian pilots have openly described his wartime experiences. Sergei Kramarenko lives currently in his flat in Moscow together with his wife, receiving the love of his daughter and four grandsons.[31]


  • Sergei Kramarenko, The Red Air Force at War: Air Combat Over the Eastern Front & Korea. 2008, ISBN 978-1-84415-735-8


  1. Sergei Makarovich Kramarenko, "Protiv Messerov y Seybrov: V Nebe Dbukh Voyn" (Against Messers and Sabres: In the Sky of Two Wars", Chast (Part) I, pp.1-20. EKSMO, Moskow, 2006
  2. Sergei Makarovich Kramarenko, "Protiv Messerov i Seybrov: V Nebe Dbukh Voyn", Chast I, pp.42-44. EKSMO, Moskow, 2006
  3. Sergei Makarovich Kramarenko and Milos Sedivy, "Lovec", Svet Krídel, Prague, 2008
  4. Sergei Makarovich Kramarenko, "Protiv Messerov i Seybrov: V Nebe Dbukh Voyn", Chast I, pp.65-71. EKSMO, Moskow, 2006
  5. Sergei Makarovich Kramarenko, "Protiv Messerov i Seybrov: V Nebe Dvukh Voyn", Chast I, pp.85-122. EKSMO, Moskow, 2006
  6. 6.0 6.1 Sergei Makarovich Kramarenko and Milos Sedivy, "Lovec", Svet Kridél, Prague, 2008
  7. Sergei Makarovich Kramarenko, "Protiv Messerov i Seybrov. V Nebe Dbukh Voyn", Chast II, p.154. EKSMO, Moskow, 2006
  8. Sergei Makarovich Kramarenko, "Protiv Messerov i Seybrov. V Nebe Dbukh Voyn", Chast II, p.158. EKSMO, Moskow, 2006
  9. Leonid Krylov and Yuriy Tepsurkayev, "Soviet MiG-15 Aces of the Korean War", Chapter 2, Osprey Publishing Ltd., 2008
  10. Sergei Makarovich Kramarenko, "Protiv Messerov i Seybrov. V Nebe Dbukh Voyn", Chast II, p.164. EKSMO, Moskow, 2006
  11. Igor Seydov and German Askold, "Krasnye Dyaboly na 38-y Paralleli
  12. Sergei Makarovich Kramarenko, "Protiv Messerov i Seybrov. V Nebe Dbukh Voyn", Chast II, p.183. EKSMO, Moskow, 2006
  13. Sergei Makarovich Kramarenko and Milos Sedivy, "Lovec", Svet Kridél, Prague, 2008 and KORWALD
  14. Sergey Makarovich Kramarenko, "Protiv Messerov i Seybrov: V Nebe Dubkh Voyn", Chast II, pp.184-190, EKSMO, Moskow, 2006
  15. Warren E. Thompson and David R. McLaren, "MiG Alley, Sabres vs MiGs over Korea", Appendix B, p.172, Specialty Press, 2002 -the date mentioned, 25 June 1951, is wrong. Bruce Hinton provide the actual date for the battle -17 June 1951- in Larry Davis, "The 4th Fighter Wing in the Korean War", Chapter 4, pp.59-61, Schiffer Military History, 2001
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 KORWALD
  17. 17.0 17.1 Igor Seydov and Askold German, "Krasnye Dyaboli na 38-y Paralleli", EKSMO, Moskow, 1998
  18. Larry Davis, "4th Fighter Wing in the Korean War", Chapter 6, p.87, Schiffer Military History, 2001; and KORWALD
  19. Diego Zampini, "Red Stars over North Korea", Flieger Revue, Xtra 22, November 2008
  20. Sergei Kramarenko and Milos Sedivy, "Lovec", Svet Krídel, Prague, 2008
  21. Sergei Makarovich Kramarenko, "Protiv Messerov i Seybrov. V Nebe Dbukh Voyn", Chast II, pp.195-198, EKSMO, Moskow, 2006
  22. TsAMO RF 176th GIAP ‘Zhurnal uchyota boebikh viletov’ za period s 23.12.1951–30.01.1952, Opus 539889s, delo 5, p.15-19; and Russian Claims of the Korean War
  23. Sergei Makarovich Kramarenko, "Protiv Messerov i Seybrov. V Nebe Dbukh Voyn", Chast II, pp.202-203, EKSMO, Moskow, 2006
  25. Sergei Makarovich Kramarenko, "Protiv Messerov i Seybrov. V Nebe Dbukh Voyn", Chast II, pp.206-208, EKSMO, Moskow, 2006
  26. Sergei Makarovich Kramarenko, "Protiv Messerov i Seybrov. V Nebe Dbukh Voyn", Chast II, pp.210-212, EKSMO, Moskow, 2006
  27. Warren E. Thompson and David R. McLaren, "MiG Alley. Sabres vs MiGs over Korea", Appendix A, p.166, Specialty Press, 2002
  28. Warren E. Thompson and David R. McLaren, "MiG Alley. Sabres vs MiGs over Korea", Appendix C, p.176, Specialty Press, 2002
  31. Sergei Mkakrovich Kramarenko, "Protiv Messerov i Seybrov. V Nebe Dvukh Voyn", Chast III, pp.220-340, EKSMO, Moskow, 2006

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