In the summer and fall of 1939 a new fighter regiment, 69 IAP (Fighter Aviation Regiment), was established. First commander of the new regiment was major Pavel Baranov, the second officer was captain Lev Shestakov. Shestakov, who joined 69 IAP in September 1939, was at the time one of the most famous Soviet aces with 8 victories in 90 sorties during the Civil War in Spain in 1937. At the end of 1940, Baranov left the regiment and was replaced by major Alexander Marinsky. He was the regiment commander during the first days of the Great Patriotic War. Lev Shestakov became the Regiment Leader on July 16, 1941.
 
69 IAP was located close to Odessa. As is well known, the Luftwaffe gained overwhelming success during the first days of the war against the Soviet Union; but pilots of 69 IAP managed to get a few kills even during June 22, 1941. For example, Mikhail Astashkin shot down a Ju-88 and a Do-215.
 
69 IAP was one of the few soviet aviation regiments, which fought well against Luftwaffe and Romanian Air Forces during the first months of war. At the start of the war 69 IAP flew the I-16, which were used both as fighters and attackers. September 22, 1941, the attack of 69 IAP against the airfield in Baden and Zieltz resulted in 21 enemy planes destroyed on the ground. During the battle for Odessa 69 IAP pilots achieved 94 air victories. At the time it was the best result from amongst all the Soviet fighter regiments. Losses inflicted by 69 IAP upon the Romanian Air Force forced the Romanian High Command to withdraw its entire air force from the Eastern Front.
 
At the end of 1941 69 IAP received the LaGG-3 to replace the outdated I-16s, and was relocated to the Stalingrad area. Along with a select few, it became a "guardian" regiment, and received a new number and name, 9 GIAP (Guardian Fighter Aviation Regiment). The Lagg-3 was a predecessor of a famous soviet fighters la-5 and la-7, but it was a difficult plane to master. It should be mentioned, that the initial phase of the battle of Stalingrad was the best time for 9 GIAP. During the action 9 pilots and 20 LaGGs were lost, and in September of 1942, 9 GIAP was withdrawn from the front line, and sent to Kazakhstan. At this stage it was decided that 9 GIAP would be an "ace regiment", so during reinforcement it received replacement pilots who already had several kills. For example, at this time Amet-Khan Sultan, Vladimer Lavrinenkov, and Ivan Borisov joined 9 GIAP. There were 4 female pilots in 9 GIAP, among them fighter ace Lidiya Litvak.
 
In Kazakhstan, 9 GIAP were issued the Yak-1, which was the best soviet fighter at the time, and a close match to bf109f4. 9 GIAP was thrown back into action in November of 1942, when the Battle of Stalingrad entered a new phase, and the Red Army started its assault. 9 GIAP played an important role during the operation when German forces were surrounded at Stalingrad. In only twenty-one days between December 10th. through December 31st. , 9 GIAP made 349 sorties. At this time, the Luftwaffe used large numbers of bombers and transports to support the surrounded German army. 9 GIAP pilots shot down many of those planes:
 
Loaded with food cargo, Ju-52 sometimes fell close to our airfield. Then meat cans, cookies and cigarettes were at once added to our warehouses. (Lavrinenkov)
 
It was not an easy time; for example on January 10, 1943, regiment leader Shestakov was shot down during an air battle, though he managed to ditch his fighter. In the winter of 1943 one of the squad aces, Baranov, crashed his Yak-1 and died.
 
In February of 1943, 9 GIAP was transferred to Rostov. Before that, the regiment received the new modification of the Yak, the Yak-1M. Over Rostov, 9 GIAP pilots met with very high activity on the part of the Luftwaffe. For example, during March 25, 1943, in the air raid against Rostov, the Luftwaffe used more than 100 bombers with heavy fighter support. On this day, 9 GIAP pilots shot down 16 enemy planes, but lost some pilots also.
 
9 GIAP took part in the Battle of Kursk. In July of 1943, 9 GIAP was equipped with the P-39 Airacobra. After flying the maneuverable Yaks, many pilots considered the P-39, which was heavier and exhibited vicious stalls, as a step backward. Many pilots loved its strong punch and radio equipment though.
 
After returning to action, 9 GIAP took part in another Red Army assault, which was the ending stage of the Battle of Kursk. 9 GIAP fighters supported Soviet Army troops from the airbases at Rostov again.
 
In the winter of 1944, 9 GIAP was located at bases very close to the Black Sea. From these bases, pilots of 9 GIAP hunted the Ju-52, which were using routes deep over the sea to supply the German army. At the Black Sea, 9 GIAP again were again used in the attack role, which actually was normal practice in the VVS. The situation had now changed greatly; the Luftwaffe had lost its air superiority, and fewer fighters or bombers would be met in the air. Starting from 1944 and until the end of the war, 9 GIAP loses were notably small, though air kills were now increasingly harder to get with every new day, for lack of Luftwaffe aircraft.
 
Not many pilots liked the diminishing opportunities for victory, it is known that at least once, 9 GIAP pilots challenged the Luftwaffe for a 8 vs. 8 duel, dropping the challenge letter over one of the Luftwaffe fighter bases; but this duel never took place. In Lavrinenkov's memoirs, it can be found that he acccused the Luftwaffe of cowardliness, but it is more likely that the challenge was not received, or the Luftwaffe decided to avoid it and not to risk the limited resources it had in the region.
 
In March of 1944, the former commander of 9 GIAP, Lev Shestakov died. The story of his death is still something which is considered being a mystery. It was reported that Shestakov died during an attack against a Ju-87. When he destroyed it, his plane lost control due to wake turbulence, and he spun in. In reality, it may be that he died fighting the famous German Stuka pilot, Hans-Ulrich Rudel. This is how the story comes from Rudel's memoirs:
 
"Was he shot down by Gadermann, or did he go down because of the backwash from my engine during these tight turns? It doesn't matter. My headphones suddenly exploded in confused screams from the Russian radio; the Russians have observed what happened and something special seems to have happened... From the Russian radio-messages, we discover that this was a very famous Soviet fighter pilot, more than once appointed as Hero of the Soviet Union. I should give him a credit: he was a good pilot" (Hans-UIrich Rudel).
 
In the spring of 1944, 9 GIAP supported another Soviet Army advance, which was to liberate the Black Sea area of Germans. It was one of the last times during the war when Luftwaffe resistance was still formidable. In March one of the 9 GIAP aces, Alexandr Karasev, was lost. During another air battle, Alelukhin, who was with the squadron from the very first days of the war, was shot down and wounded but he managed to survive and soon returned to action.
 
Once again, Sevastopol, which was defended by 69 IAP pilots during the first months of the war, was the stage of a big battle. To reduce the Luftwaffe's ability to operate in the area, 9 GIAP attacked the main Luftwaffe base at Khersones. The attacks were very successful:
 
"Next days we used to meet only few enemy planes in the air, which when it came to a contact with soviet planes preferred to disengage at once." (Lavrinenkov).
 
In May of 1944, 9 GIAP was moved out of the front line again, and in the Bogoduh, close to Kharkov, it was equipped with the la7, the new Soviet fighter. 9 GIAP was one of the first VVS units to be equipped with La7s, and the pilots valued this fighter very highly:
 
"We at once fell in love with this wide fore-headed plane, which had powerful engine, roomy and comfortable cockpit, and formidable guns. New plane was a big success of the Soviet war planes industry" (Lavrinenkov).
 
The war was now in the Baltic, and 9 GIAP fought as a part of 303 Aviation Division, under the command of the famous Soviet aviator general Zakharov. Another well-known regiment of 303 division was the Normandy Fighter Regiment, which consisted exclusively of French pilots. Once, French pilots, who operated Yak-3s, and 9 GIAP pilots, who flew La7s, had an argument about which plane was better. It ended in 2 vs. 2 duel, in which fighters were armed only by photo guns. This fight resulted in draw.
 
For its participation in the battle for the Baltic, 9 GIAP were awarded with Suvorov's medal.
 
January 13, 1945: the 3rd. Beloruss front started a decisive assault operation. Once again 9 GIAP aviators met stiff resistance from their opponents. Luftwaffe pilots avoided fights with Soviet fighters and preferred to attack bombers when possible. Kenigsberg became a target of air and ground assault. The Luftwaffe, which was at the time outnumbered greatly, still had some combat proven pilots to resist the Soviet Air Force.
 
"New best aces aviation group were send to support the surrounded German troops; their planes were decorated by dragons and aces of diamonds. Over the Kenigsberg the multi level tough fights took place between our and enemy air forces". (Lavrinenkov)
 
Equipped with the latest versions of bf109s and fw190s, German aces still inflicted losses in the 9 GIAP ranks; some veterans were lost in these fights, including aces Kiriev, and Plotnikov.
 
In Lavrinenkov's memoirs it is described that on one occasion, four 9 GIAP la7's asked for support after engaging into a fight with fw190s, and after reinforcement, 10 la7s continued the fight for a long time:
 
"-- How many "fokkers" it were there?
Only one pair -- answered the frustrated Maslennikov" (Lavrinenkov).

 
But it was more of an exception than the rule. German reinforcements consisted of new pilots with low air combat experience, and were an easy target for the 9 GIAP veteran pilots.
 
The last battle 9 GIAP fighters took part in during the war was the battle for Berlin. In the first days of April, 1945, the regiment suffered its last loss during WW2, thought it was more than a month til the end of war. During the battle of Berlin, 9 GIAP shot down several more enemy fighters. 9 GIAP saw the end of the war in the sky over the Berlin.
 
During the war, 9 GIAP scored 558 air to air kills. It had many famous fighter aces in its ranks. All of them were awarded multiple Soviet decorations. There were many Heroes of the Soviet Union among the 9 GIAP pilots, and some of them were awarded this the highest of Soviet Union decorations twice.
 

 
(This information was compiled by Fariz Alikishibekov, using many sources. If you find any incorrect information, or have good sources or information about 9 GIAP, please let us know).
 

 
   
     
 
© 2002 Fariz Alikishibekov. All rights reserved.
Contact me if any questions, comments, suggestions: fariz@warriormage.com