Sergey Gritsevets

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Sergey Ivanovich Gritsevets
File:Gritsevets SI.jpg
Sergey Gritsevets
Born 19 July 1909
Baranavichy Raion, Russian Empire, now Belarus
Died 16 September 1939(1939-09-16) (aged 30)
Vitebsk, Byelorussian SSR
Allegiance Soviet Union Soviet Union
Service/branch Red star.svg Soviet Air Forces
Years of service 1931 – 1939
Rank Major
Battles/wars Spanish Civil War, Battle of Khalkhin Gol
Awards Hero of the Soviet Union Hero of the Soviet Union

Sergey Ivanovich Gritsevets (Belarusian: Сяргей Іванавіч Грыцавец, Russian: Серге́й Иванович Грицевец) (19 July 1909, Baranavichy Raion – 16 September 1939, Vitebsk) was a Soviet major, pilot and twice recipient of the honorary title of Hero of the Soviet Union.


Sergey Gritsevets was born in 1909 Barautsy, Minsk Governorate (in present-day Brest Region, Belarus) in a peasant family of Belarusian ethnicity[1] In 1931, Gritsevets joined the army, where he completed pilot training at an Orenburg military school in 1932 and further air combat training in 1936 at a pilot school in Odessa. In spring of 1938 Gritsevets volunteered to go to China, where he was involved in combat against Japanese forces attacking Wuhan and credited with two or three kills in a fierce 30 minutes air battle in which a total of 21 Japanese airplanes were downed. Gritsevets flew a Polikarpov I-15 biplane or I-16 monoplane.

Later the same year, Gritsevets volunteered to serve in the Spanish Civil War; he stayed there until the end of 1938, when all Soviet pilots were recalled. Flying an I-16, he claimed 30 victories in Spain, for which he received his first Hero of Soviet Union together with a Gold Star on 22 February 1939.

On 29 May 1939 a group of 48 experienced pilots, including Gritsevets, were sent to Mongolia to function as the backbone of a newly established air force to replace the former, which earlier had suffered a crippling defeat at the hands of Japanese forces and been decimated by NKVD arrests. Here Gritsevets was involved in several counts of actions with Japanese planes. On 26 June, during the Battle of Khalkhin Gol, Gritsevets landed his I-16 alongside his commanding officer, Major V. Zabaluyev, whom an engine failure had forced down deep in hostile territory, 60 kilometers behind enemy Japanese lines. Zabaluyev climbed into Gritsevets airplane and together they escaped. For this, and other heroic action during the conflict, he was awarded a second Gold Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union 29 August 1939. All in all Gritsevets claimed 11 downed Japanese airplanes during this time.

On 12 September 1939 Gritsevets and 20 other pilots were sent back to Ukraine in preparation of the invasion of Poland on 17 September 1939. Gritsevets was killed on the 16 September 1939 in an accident in Bolbasovo near Vitebsk, wherein his airplane was rammed by another while taxiing in preparation for take off.[2]

Gritsevets is credited with downing 42 enemy planes before he died in an aviation accident in 1939, two of them while flying biplanes. He was awarded the Hero of Soviet Union (twice), the Order of Lenin (twice), the Order of the Red Banner (twice) as well as a Mongolian order he received in Ulan Bator before returning.

A monument in his honour was later erected in his birth town of Baranovichi.

In his book Polikarpov I-15, 1-16 and 1-153 Aces, Mikhail Maslov writes:

"During his service in Spain, from 10 June to 26 October 1938, when all volunteer pilots were recalled to the USSR, Gritsevets commanded 5 Escuadrilla de Caza and then the whole group of I-16s. Having claimed a single kill over a Japanese aircraft attacking Hangchow on 29 April 1938, Gritsevets then volunteered for combat in Spain. Here he flew 88 sorties and fought in 42 aerial battles, and according to legend he shot down no fewer than 30 enemy aircraft. However, this tally probably reflects the total claimed by the unit whilst under his command because Gritsevets always stressed that enemy aircraft shot down should be credited to the unit as a whole, rather than to the individual. Nevertheless, official reports credit him with seven personal aerial victories in Spain.

"In any case, Snr Lt Gritsevets was judged to be a distinguished fighter pilot, and on 22 February 1939 he was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. That summer he became a squadron commander with 70th lAP and participated in the Khalkhin Gol campaign, where he increased his personal score by 12 more kills. On 23 August Gritsevets performed the heroic act of landing his 1-16 on the steppe amid enemy troops to rescue his CO, Maj V Zabaluev, who had been forced to bail out 60 kilometres behind Japanese lines. Six days later Sergey Gritsevets was again honoured with the Hero of the Soviet Union Star, bur he was killed in a flying accident at Bolbasovo airfield on 16 September 1939."


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