Yevgeny Pepelyaev

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Yevgeny Pepelyaev
Native name Евгений Георгиевич Пепеляев
Birth name Yevgeny Georgievich Pepelyaev
Born (1918-03-18)18 March 1918
Bodaybo, Irkutsk, Soviet Union
Died 4 January 2013(2013-01-04) (aged 94)
Service/branch Soviet Air Forces
Rank Colonel

Colonel Yevgeny Georgievich Pepelyaev (18 March 1918 – 4 January 2013) was a Soviet fighter pilot of the Korean War, tallying 20 kills, second only to his compatriot Nikolay Sutyagin's 21.

Early career and World War II

Pepelyayev was born on 18 March 1918 in Bodaybo, Irkutsk, in Eastern Siberia, the son of a railroad worker. His elder brother Konstantin enlisted in the Soviet air force, and thus with the intention to follow the steps of his brother he worked in Odessa with the city aeroclubs. He graduated in 1938 from the 8th Military Pilots School and was sent to serve in a regiment deployed in the Far East.

With the German invasion of the USSR in June 1941, he was retained in the Far East despite several requests for a combat posting in the West, especially after his brother Konstantin was killed in action. In late 1943 he was still an instructor with the 162nd IAP. In 1945 he was deputy commander of the 300th IAP, and participated in operations against Japan in Manchuria. Pepelyayev flew 20 combat sorties in the Yak-9T, claiming a locomotive and a truck destroyed on the ground before the end of the war in August 1945.

The 300th IAP was then assigned surveillance duties covering the deployment of the US troops in Korea until March 1946, when the unit was sent back to the Soviet Union. In December 1947 he became the Executive officer of the 196th IAP, 324th IAD. This unit was among the first in the VVS to equip with the newest Lavochkin La-15. In July 1949 the regiment began to receive the MiG-15 jet fighter.


In June 1950 the Korean War began. By October 1950 Pepelyayev commanded the 196th IAP. Secretly the USSR sent several air regiments equipped with the MiG-15 to the Chinese base of Antung in Manchuria to support Chinese ground forces. In December 1950 the 64th IAK (Fighter Corps) with two fighter regiments was created; the 176th GvIAP and 196th IAP (Pepelyayev’s unit).The division was put under the command of Colonel Ivan Kozhedub.

The 196th IAP arrived in Manchuria in January 1951, and re-deployed to Antung. On 20 May 1951 a force of 36 MiGs clashed with 28 Sabres, and both sides overclaimed, with the USAF claiming three MiGs and the VVS four F-86s. In fact one MiG was lost and three Sabres were damaged. Captain James Jabara shot down one of the Pepelyayev’s pilots, Kpt. Viktor Nazarkin, and Pepelyayev claimed a F-86; the burst fired by Pepelyayev hit the right wing of Sabre F-86A 49-1080 flown by 1/Lt. Milton Nelson of the 335th FIS, destroying the hydraulic lines of Nelson's aircraft. Nelson managed to bring his crippled Sabre back to Kimpo Air Base, where it was written off.

On July 11 26 MiG-15s of the 196th IAP led by Pepelyayev dogfighted with Sabres again, claiming F-86A 49-1297 (336th FIS), which force-landed back at Suwon Air Base. The pilot was not injured though the F-86A was written off. (Official USAF records indicate the loss as a “landing accident”.) On July 21 the 196th IAP intercepted a formation of "F-94s" (actually F9F-2Bs of the USMC's VMF-311). Pepelyayev claimed two of the enemy aircraft, and his unit claimed five more.

On 6 October 1951 Pepelyayev clashed with Sabres of 4th FIW at 8,000 metres, downing 2 F-86s. The F-86A 49-1319 of Captain Gill M. Garrett (334th FIS), ditched in Sokhoson Bay, while another F-86A, 49-1267 (334th FIS), according to USAF official records was lost because of an "engine failure". On October 16 Pepelyayev and his wingman Aleksandr Ryzhkov caught a pair of Sabres of the 336th FIS (Douglas Evans and Nicholas Kotek) and one 23 mm shell hit Kotek's F-86A in the fuel tank. Initially that was not noticed by the US pilots, but during the return flight Kotek realised he was running out of fuel and was forced to bail out before reaching base.

On 8 November 1951 two more American aircraft were claimed; over Pkhenvon he spotted four F-86s, and opened fire at 150–200 meters, downing F-86A 49-1338 of Charles W. Pratt (334th FIS), who perished. A few hours later Pepelyayev intercepted a RF-80A of the 15th TRS and shot it down - the pilot, Dennis W. Hill, ejected and was rescued. Over 3 days in late November Pepelyayev bagged four more American aircraft. On November 27 he downed a F-80C of 7th FBS, 49th FBW, (Bernard K. Seitzinger was KIA) and the next day destroyed 2 F-86s; F-86A 49-1166 and F-86A 50-673 in flames (Lt. Dayton Ragland POW.) Pepelyayev scored his 14th kill on 29 November 1951, when he claimed the F-86A 48-301 of the 334th FIS over Syukusen. The Sabre managed to limp back to Kimpo, but the aircraft was written off on 9 December.

On 1 December 1951 Pepelyayev forced Lieutenant Thomas T. Mounts to eject from F-80C 49-855, while on 7 January 1952 Pepelyayev led 18 MiG-15s to engage a group of Sabres of the 51st FIW, and Pepelyayev hit the F-86E 50-651, forcing Charles E. Stahl to eject and be captured. Yevgeny claimed another F-86 the next day, but his victim (F-86E 50-679) was only damaged and was repaired and returned to combat. His next three victories were one F-80 on 1 December, a F-86 on 6 December and another Sabre on 11 January 1952; these have no confirmation in USAF records. Avictory that was classified "probable" was confirmed by American sources: an F-86 attacked by Pepelyayev on 15 January 1952 was one piloted by 1st Lieutenant Vernon D. Wright, who was captured.

In total Pepelyayev flew 109 combat sorties, participated in 38 aerial combats, and was credited with 19 aerial victories against American aircraft (14 F-86s, two F-84s, one F-80 and two "F-94s").[citation needed]

Pepelyaev was awarded the Order of Lenin twice, three Orders of the Red Banner, Order of the Patriotic War 1st and 2nd Class and two Orders of Red Star.