Korean War Ace Nikolai Sutyagin

Korean War Ace  - by JoeB

I have researched the kill list for Nikolai Sutyagin, a Soviet ace, the highest claiming one  of the 17th IAP, and I don't agree with the corrected score. I get a much lower maximum possible score. First I quote the list in the article then respond. 

A note on sources: Except where mentioned otherwise the sources are primary records of each side. Abbreviations for other sources

· "19 June 1951 - First victory, the F-86A of Robert H. Laier (MIA)". Two F-86's were credited to Soviet pilots this day, the other to St. Lt. Shulev of 17th IAP. Both at around the time of Laier's (the only) loss.

· "22 June 1951 - his 2nd F-86 kill, his victim is Howard Miller (POW); he also claimed a 3rd Sabre on this day". 2 F-86's were credited to Sutyagin this day and another to a pilot of the 176th GIAP, but both the 176th claim and Miller's loss (the only one that day) were early in the morning. Sutyagin's claims were midmorning, so Sutyagin doesn't seem to have shot down an F-86 this day.

· "24 June 1951 - his most impressive victory when shot up the F-86A of Colonel Glenn Eagleston (CO of the 4th FIW), who had to belly land in Suwon. Eagleston's Sabre was written off." No F-86 was lost 6/24; Eagleston's a/c was shot up 6/25 (per the a/c, 49-1281's damage report). And I don't know of any credits to Sutyagin either 6/24 or 6/25. It would be interesting if Sutyagin turned out to be the "Casey Jones" character, leader of the "bandit trains", who shot up Eagleston but reality seems more boring: "Casey Jones" was one of Capt. P.N. Antonov, or Senior Lt's N.V. Batonin, V. N. Akatov or S.T. Kolpilov, the four relatively obscure 18th GIAP pilots credited with F-86's 6/25/51 (source KD); only Eagleston's aircraft was hit that day.

· "26 June 1951 - his 5th kill, the F-80C of Bob Lauterbach (KIA), officially becoming Asov (Ace)." Sutyagin was credited with an F-86 this day not an F-80. No F-86's were lost. Lauterbach was lost to AAA (Source: K).

· "29 July 1951 - shot down the F-86A #49-1098, his 6th kill (his 5th kill confirmed by US records)". Sutyagin was credited with an F-80 this day, not an F-86. The 4 claims of F-80's by the 17th IAP correspond roughly in time to an engagement recorded by 16th FIS F-80's. No F-80's were hit and one F-80 pilot was credited with a MiG destroyed. Since the 17th IAP's account confirms this loss, Senior Lt. Fokin was wounded and his damaged aircraft written off on landing, (source KD) it was almost certainly the same combat. The loss of F-86 49-1098 corresponds to one of 4 F-86 claims made by MiG pilots other than Sutyagin.

· "9 August 1951 - claimed an F-80." The claims of the 17th IAP this day seem to correspond to an engagement recorded by 51st FIG F-80's; none were hit.

· "25 August 1951 - together with the CO of the 17th IAP, Mayora (Maj.) Grigorii Pulov, intercepted what they identified as Australian Meteors and both claimed one Meteor each." This was 77 Sdn Meteor's first engagement with MiG's; none were hit. Source CN.

· "26 September 1951 - one of his more successful days: in two separate sorties the 17th IAP engaged Meteors of the RAAF No. 77 Sqdn and Sabres of the 336th FIS, and he scored in both furballs: first shot-up the Meteor of Ernst Armit (written off later that day) and later shot down the F-86A of Carl Barnett (MIA)." The Meteor hit in this engagement was flown by WO Bill Michelson. Armit was present but his a/c was not hit. Michelson's aircraft, serial 77-726, was repaired and returned to service October 6. (Source CN). St. Lt. Yakovlev of the 17th as well as Sutyagin was credited with a Meteor destroyed. Four pilots of the 17th and 523rd IAP's were credited with F-86's, including Sutyagin, compared to one actual loss. All claims occurred at around the time of Barnett's loss, the only one that day.

· "10 October 1951 - awarded with the Golden Star, he became Hero of the Soviet Union."

· "November 1951 - claimed to have shot down three F-86 and one F-84 (none confirmed by US records)". Yes, none of Sutyagin's claims this month can be confirmed.

· "3 December 1951 - bagged another Sabre (the F-86A 49-1184) and claimed one F-84." Sutyagin was only credited with an F-86 this day, AFAIK no F-84 though in any case none were lost, but F-86 49-1184 was lost December 4 to uncertain cause, possibly to MiG's; the time of loss corresponds approximately to a claim of the 176th GIAP.

· "15 December 1951 - shot-up one F-86E of the 334th FIS. The unfortunate pilot (William F. Prindle) crashed and died while trying to land at Suwon airbase." Of 3 Russian F-86 claims this day, two correspond in time to the single loss: Sutyagin's and one by a Maj. Popov of the 523rd IAP.

· "6 January 1952 - two victories: the F-84E of Donald Grey (KIA) and the F-86E of Lester Page (MIA)." Sutyagin was credited with 2 F-86's this day, no F-84's. Grey was lost to AAA. (Source K). 9 F-86's were credited to Soviet pilots this day, 8 including Sutyagin's in the morning engagement where Page was lost.

· "11 January 1952 - last victory, his 21st: the F-86E of Thiel M. Reeves (MIA)." There are no fewer than 8 Soviet and 6 Chinese claims this day (Chinese published sources) against a single F-86 loss. The second highest claiming Soviet pilot, Yevgeny Pepelyaev, was also credited with an F-86 this day. Unfortunately incomplete information about times precludes further narrowing down the possibilities except to say 2 of the Soviet claims other than Sutyagin's seem to be at the wrong time. 12 claims including Sutyagin's cannot be ruled out as possibly corresponding to Reeves' loss.

In summary Sutyagin's maximum confirmable score by my count is 5 (the 6/21/51, 9/26/51, 12/15/51, 1/6/52 and 1/11/52 F-86 claims, plus possible damage (repairable) to a Meteor 9/26/51) compared to 12 in the article and 21 official. The minimum is zero because in each case other ostensibly equally valid claims by other Soviet or Chinese pilots cannot be ruled out as explaining single American losses each of those days. On the basis of sharing credit equally among each pilot claiming where time or place does not rule out the claim, Sutyagin's score would be 1.46. It might be slightly higher with more information about 1/11/52. Assuming Sutyagin's claims were somewhat more accurate than average 2 or 3 might be a reasonable estimate of his score. 5 would mean 16 of 21 claims were apparent over-claims but in all 5 other cases every other pilot claiming wrong and Sutyagin was right; that seems unlikely.

I only looked into the Sutyagin score in detail but glancing at some of the other descriptions for the other Soviet aces there seem to be other cases that might be questioned also. One other I'd mention because it was picked up on another website was Semen Fedorets' supposed victory over Vincent Stacy 2/21/53. Stacy was not downed and certainly not taken prisoner this day, his participation in later missions is documented. The apparent Russian source for the article (KD) says that *if* Fedorets claim could be confirmed then the F-86 would have come from Stacy's flight since Stacy claimed a MiG, and Fedorets claimed an F-86 that had just shot down a MiG. But this is extended in the article to saying Stacy was downed which I don't believe any source says, and which didn't happen. No F-86 was lost in combat this day.

Loss of Fu-184 / 49-1184 ?, by JoeB

" Do you have any idea who really shot down FU-184? That was "Miss Behaving"!

No sorry I don't have a name. 49-1184 was lost at around 1545 Korea time. The only Soviet claim of the day was recorded at 1600 Korea time by a pilot of the 176 GIAP, but I don't know the name. I don't know of any Chinese claims (but claims I know of theirs by date are only about half their total claims; they were highly active by this time); A single North Korean MiG-15 unit was also flying by this time but its claims are not known. The exact cause of FU-184's loss is also not clear. The 4th FIW's historical report for December says "flameout after evasive turn" in an engagement with MiG's. Then the a/c glided to near base but could not restart, so the pilot ejected (btw, do you know who the pilot was?). So it might be classed a "maveuver kill" by the MiG's, but it's not clear the F-86 was actually hit. The 176th says the F-86 it downed crashed into the Yellow Sea. It's possible the claim doesn't actually correspond to FU-184's loss, pending further info.

Al Magnus Comprehensive Aces List - by Greg_P

Too many ace summaries on the web are incomplete. One such list is here and follow the "Elevon" link.

The American "Aces" are, of course, all pilots with 5 or more victories. The German aces from WWI are listed if they have scores of 10 or more. What happened to 5? The German aces of WWII are listed if they have scores of more than 150! Damn! What's wrong with 5? or even 20?  USSR aces are listed with scores of more than 20! I begin to see why the Russians accuse us of "filtering" information. How can we say we have a list of aces when we count ours with scores of 5 or more, but do not use the same criteria for foreign aces?

Yes, I know, some countries used a points system. Whether or not the pilot is Allied or Axis, or North Vietnamese, the same criteria should be used for a "master list of aces." If we limit the list of German aces to those with scores of more than 150, then the USA has no aces. If we credit US aces with scores of 5 or more, then we should do the same for German and Soviet aces, and anyone else as well. The US Government maintains a list of aces by theater, service, squadron, by aircraft type, etc., but no list of all US aces that I can find. And we seem to have no clue about foreign aces, except that we don't seem to recognize ALL of them in any list I can find.

Don't you think it is time for the fighter aces associations of the world to agree on an "official" list of flying aces and their victory totals? The Germans in WWII shot down most of the aircraft that have ever been shot down and, yes, they fought until they died or the war was over while we rotated home after a certain number of missions.

But there ought to be a list of aces that the entire world can look at to check on their country's best-of-the-best. How can we help create that list? I have a pretty good list in Excel format if anyone is interested, but it has the same limitations as described above, I'll email it to anyone who wants  it. greg.pascal@mindspring.com. I'll email it within a few days or receipt of request. All I ask is that when a list is finally constructed, I want to get a look at it, in downloadable format!

Al Magnus Comprehensive Aces List, by acepil2

Al Magnus' Ace List  is the best I've found - all wars, all countries, etc. His WW2 German list seems to go to 5 victories. His sources and footnotes show the incredible amount of research he has done.

Many websites that you have found are incomplete more because of webmaster interest, audience interest, and available info than anything else. Look at my site right here, it doesn't even include ALL US aces of WW2. Roughly speaking I only listed aces with over 10 kills. Why? That's as far as I got. Look at my list of German aces; I think I only list guys with 150+. Again, just limited by my time, research, etc.

Another point, regarding the German aces of WW2. First, they shot down a ton of planes, so, in a sense five was not that big a deal. Second, the Luftwaffe made no special distinction or list of pilots with five kills. Medals and honors went to experten with far higher numbers. So, for Al Magnus, or anyone else to research Luftwaffe pilots with 5+ kills, they gotta go back to original combat reports and other documents, and start adding up the kills, one-by-one. In any case, Al Magnus has done (or has made great progress) on building a master list of all aces from all countries at all times.