Few people know that, in fact, in those years, overseas aircraft inflicted an unpunished blow on the Soviet territory. It happened in the Far East in October 1950.
On October 8, 1950, at 4.17 p.m. local time, two Lockheed F-80C Lockheed “Schutting Star (Meteor)” violated the state border of the USSR and, having deepening into the territory for almost a hundred kilometers, attacked the Soviet military airfield Suhaya Rechka 165 kilometers from Vladivostok, in the Hasan district. As a result of firing by the US Air Force seven Soviet squadron aircraft were damaged, one completely burnt in the parking lot.
That autumn the war on the Korean Peninsula was already rumbling. The volleys rattled quite close to our common border with the Koreans. Moreover, the Americans and their allies were not too ceremonious in observance of international law. Combat aircraft of a probable enemy made systematic flights near Soviet cities and military bases. Although the USSR officially did not participate in the war, it reached the point of armed clashes.
On the night of June 26, 1950, South Korean warships in international waters fired the Plastun cable ship, part of the 5th Navy of the USSR (now the Pacific Fleet), as a result of which the commander of the ship, captain-lieutenant Kolesnikov, died. Part of the crew was wounded. The enemy withdrew only after the return fire was opened.
On September 4 of the same year, in order to monitor the actions of an unidentified destroyer approaching a distance of 26 kilometers to the port of Dalny (formerly Port Arthur), the crew of the Soviet reconnaissance aircraft A-20Z Boston, under the command of senior lieutenant Konstantin Korpaev, was alerted. Our two fighters were acompanying him. On approach to the target, Soviet aircraft were attacked immediately by 11 American fighters. As a result of a short air battle, Boston caught fire and fell into the ocean. All three members of its crew were killed.
This was the military-political background at that time in the Far East. Not surprisingly, the units and formations of the Soviet Armed Forces in those parts were in constant tension. Alarms, orders for immediate dispersal followed one after another. On October 7, 1950, exactly that order came to the 821st Fighter Aviation Regiment of the 190th Fighter Air Division, armed with old American piston planes “Kingcobrams”, obtained in Lend-Lease during the Great Patriotic War. The pilots were to fly urgently to the field airfield of the Pacific Fleet Suhaya Rechka in the Khasansky district of the Primorye Territory, 100 kilometers from the Soviet-Korean border. By the morning of October 8, all three squadrons of the regiment were already in a new place. Then something almost incredible began.
On Sunday at 4:17 p.m. local time, two jet aircraft suddenly appeared over Suhaya Rechka. On a short flight, they passed over the airfield, then turned around and opened fire. No one had even time to understand how six Soviet planes were damaged, and one was burnt. There is not a word in the archival documents about whether there were killed and wounded in the 821th regiment. But about this we will tell below.
It turned out that the American F-80 fighters “Shooting Star” stormed the Suhaya Rechka. The pursuit of the reactive F-80 pilots of the 821st Aviation Regiment was not attempted. Yes it would have been impossible on their piston “Kingcobra”.
American fighter aircraft F-80 “Shooting Star” assaulted Suhaya Rechka. There was no attempt to chase the reactive F-80 by the pilots of the 821st Aviation Regimen. Anyway it would have been impossible on their piston “Kingcobra”.
On October 9, the USSR presented an official note of protest to the UN. The government of the Soviet Union was very concerned. Could not understand – or this is the beginning of the third world war, or the pilots’ mistake.
On October 20, US President Harry Truman, speaking at the UN, admited the guilt of the USA and expressed regret that the US military were implicated in the incident of violating the border of the USSR and inflicting damage on Soviet property. He stated that the regimental commander had been dismissed, and the pilots had been transferred to the court of the military tribunal, that the attack on the territory of the Soviet Union had become “the result of navigational error and poor calculation” of the pilots. And also – that the commander of the aviation unit, which included the F-80, was removed from his post, disciplinary sanctions were imposed on the pilots.
Despite the fact that the incident seemed to be exhausted, the 303rd Air Division, which had reactive MIG-15s, was immediately relocated from Moscow to the Far East. The troops entered combat duty. The situation in the units was alarming.
On October 20, US President Harry Truman, speaking at the UN, admited the guilt of the USA and expressed regret that the US military were implicated in the incident of violating the border of the USSR and inflicting damage on Soviet property.
The Americans continued to defend the version of the error of the pilots until 1990.
“The war in Korea was going on, the Soviet meteorological data was classified, which deprived us of weather information in Siberia and the Far East,” recalled Kvonbek, a former CIA and Senate intelligence officer, and a former pilot of one of the two American fighters who stormed Airfield Suhaya Rechka in 1950. – Identification signs were not visible on the ground, there was no radio navigation… At an altitude of 3 thousand meters in the clouds I found a hole, we rushed into it and found ourselves over a wide river valley … I did not know exactly where we were… We saw a truck driving west by the dust road.”
“I did not know exactly where we were… We saw a truck driving west by the dust road.”
The Americans decided to catch up with the truck and, after pursuing the one, found the airfield. It looked similar to the airfield Chongjin, which the pilots saw on a large-scale map.
“The Soviet radars must have got and tracked us about 100 miles from the border, following us going down, they probably lost us in the folds of the area when we went down to the river valley.” A general military alarm was announced, but the Russians did not have airplanes or missiles ready to repel the attack.This was on Sunday afternoon.There were many planes on the airfield – the dream of any military pilot. In two rows were parked about 20 aircrafts such as P-39 and P-63… On dark green fuselages There were big red stars with a white rim. There was almost no time for making a decision, the fuel was also running out… I went to the left, fired a few turns, my partner Allen Diefendorf did as I did. “
Having made sure that the target is hit, “Meteors” turned around and flew away. On the way back from the target, the Americans headed for the base and unexpectedly saw the island next to the coast. “Wow,” I thought, “Kvonbek recalled: “There is no island next to Chongjin…”. Returning, the pilots reported that they bombed the airfield with the aircraft. The specialists checked the camera’s record, and it turned out that the airplanes on the airfield were American “Kingcobes”, supplied by Americans in lend-lease. The camera showed that the planes on the ground did not flamed – probably there was no fuel, which means it was definitely not a military airfield of the North Koreans and the pilots were mistaken.
According to the commander of the 64th Air Corps, now deceased, Lieutenant-General Georgy Lobov and former pilot of the 821st Aviation Regiment V. Zabelin, there could be no mistake. The Americans had to see perfectly where they were flying and that they were bombing. It was an obvious provocation. According to Zabelin, “the Americans perfectly saw where they are flying. They were flying 100 kilometers from our border with Korea. They knew everything very well. It was later invented that the young pilots lost their way.” The further track record of Olton Kwonbek also causes doubt that this was a mistake. He is very successful. Most likely, the bombing was carried out purposefully, and the incident was a pure provocation by the United States.
According to the former pilot of the 821st Aviation Regiment V. Zabelin, there could be no mistake. “the Americans perfectly saw where they are flying. They were flying 100 kilometers from our border with Korea… It was later invented that the young pilots lost their way.”
However, in any case, this is not the only mystery of those events. The archival documents of the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the USSR refer only to Soviet aircraft that were damaged as a result of a sudden assault. And there is no a word about human losses.
Of course, seven aircraft is not a great loss for a superpower. If there were no victims as it is in the official statement. However, apparently, they were also. At least in the list of monuments of the Khasansky district of Primorsky Krai under number 106 we can find “Anonymous common grave of pilots who died in repelling of American bombers in 1950”.. It also says that the grave is located near the village of Perevoznoye, the former territory of the military base of Sukhaya Rechka.
It’s strange, of course, that the grave is anonymous. It’s strange that military archives keep silent about it. It was often in the Great Patriotic War when soldies were buried in anonymous graves, without caring about the mark on the map. This is the eightinth decade the search squads are wandering around the battlefields. And they’ll be wandering for still a long time…
Not long ago, one of the owners of Coca-Cola Bottling Co. in Washington to the question by a Russian journalist: “What do you know about the incident that occurred in the Sukhaya Rechka airfield in 1950, was it a provocation or a mistake, in your opinion?” Replied: “This incident was a disgrace to the US. The very idea that two pilots did not know where they were, did not know the location of the Soviet border and were unable to understand what is the airfield they are attacking, it seems incredible. The US stated that the blow was caused by a mistake in the navigation and an incorrect assessment of the situation.The commander of the Air Force was removed and the pilots were punished.The United States offered to pay damages.The USSR decided not to inflate the scandal. And a former participant in the fighting in Korea added: “The incident on the Syhaya Rechka is hushed up until now, and most likely, you will not be able to find a person in the US who would have heard of him…”
It is interesting how many people in Russia have heard about this?
- On April 8, 1950, an American intelligence aircraft violated the borders of the USSR in the area of the naval base in Libau. Four of the La-11 fighters knocks down the scout, the entire crew of ten is dead.
- In May 1950, two F-51 “Mustang” fighters in the sky over Chukotka meet with the La-11 pair. In the battle one “Mustang” was shot down.
- In December 1950, a MiG-15 pair in Primorye was shot down by a reconnaissance aircraft RB-29.
- On October 7, 1952, the Super-Fortress B-29 invaded the sky over the Kuriles, opened fire from its guns on two patrol MiGs and was immediately destroyed.
- On November 18, 1951, an air battle took place between four Soviet MiG-15 fighters and a group of F-9 fighters over the Peter the Great Bay. Two of our planes were shot down, another of the patrolled that area was crashed because of an accident (engine failure). Only one American plane has received damages.
Originally published in August 2017
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