Yekaterina Budanova bigraphy, stories - Soviet fighter pilot

Yekaterina Budanova : biography

6 December 1916 - 19 July 1943

Yekaterina Vasylievna Budanova (Cyrillic: Екатерина Васильевна Буданова), also known as Katya Budanova (Катя Буданова), (6Polunina 2004, p. 137. December 1916 – 19 July 1943), was a fighter pilot in the Soviet Air Force during World War II. With 11 air victories,Jackson 2003, p. 57. along with Lydia Litvyak, she was one of the world's two female fighter aces. She was shot down by either Luftwaffe ace Georg Schwientek of JG 52 or ace Emil Bitsch, of JG 3.

World War II

After the German attack on the USSR in June 1941, she enlisted in military aviation and was assigned to the 586th Fighter Regiment (586 IAP), formed by Marina Raskova. This unit consisted entirely of female pilots and was equipped with Yak-1. Initially all women pilots were placed into three all-women units; the 586th IAP, the 587th BAP and the 588th NBAP. The 500 designations were originally meant to signify defense reserves. These units were originally made up women who were flight instructors or members of pre-war flying clubs. As the Battle of Stalingrad raged the supply of replacement male pilots was drying up and thus the 586th (under Major Tamara Kazarinova) saw combat action in the spring 1942.

In May 1942 the 586th IAP redeployed to Anisovka where it was assigned to the 144th IAD (Air Defence) covering the railway installations near Saratov, and it was here Budanova flew her first combat missions. Seeing the skill of these women, the Soviet High Command began dispersing selected female pilots to existing male units. On 10 September she was assigned with Lydia Litvyak, Maria M. Kuznetsova and Raisa Beliaeva to the 437th IAP, based in Verkhnania Akhtuba on the east bank of the Volga river.Pennington 2001, p. 130. engaged in the fighting over Stalingrad. The 437th was a LaGG-3 regiment, under Major Khvostikov, who was initially skeptical of the ability of women pilots. But in a short time Budanova became known for her aggressive attacking and high piloting skill. According to some historians, she shot down her first opponent — a Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter — on 14 September 1942, combining forces with Lydia Litvyak.Seidl 1998, p. 135. According to regiment archivist Ekaterina K. Polunina on 2 October 1942 Budanova achieved her two first solo air victories, shooting down a Junkers Ju 88 and a Bf 109.Polunina 2004, p. 138. However, Budanova's aircraft mechanic, Inna Pasportnikova wrote that she shot down her first aircraft on 6 October when she attacked 13 Ju 88 bombers, downing one.Cottam 1998, pp. 267–268.

From October until January 1943 Budanova (and Litvyak) served in the Stalingrad area with the elite 9th Guards Fighter Regiment, commanded by Lev Shestakov, Hero of Soviet Union. This regiment consisted either of aces or potential aces.Cottam 1998-Selected Biographies, p. 150. One of them was Vladimir Dmetrievich Lavrinenkov, who ended the war with 46 victories (11 shared).Polak 1999, p. 196. He later recalled that Budanova "was tall, kept her hair cut short,... and in her flightsuit hardly stood out from the fellows." He characterized Budanova as a "cheerful, lively character" while Litvyak looked "thoughtful and quiet".Pennington 2001, p. 134. Both he said were excellent pilots. Initially the two females had they had flown together but then more often flew separately as wingmen to other pilots.Pennington 2001, p. 135. While in the Stalingrad area, an order was received citing the return of the women aircrew to the 586th. Pasportnikova later recalled "Budanova and Litvyak appealed to Lt.Col Shestakov, the commander of the 9th Fighter Regiment, with a request to let them remain in the regiment." They were allowed to stay, remaining with 9th IAP for over three months.Pennington 2001, p. 134.

On 10 December Budanova shot down two Messerschmitt Bf 110s.Polunina 2004, p. 138. In the following months she was credited with several more aircraft. In January 1943 the 9th was re-equipped with the US-built P-39 "Airacobra" and Budanova and Litvyak moved to the 296th Fighter Aviation Regiment (later the 73rd Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment) of Nikolai Baranov, and continued to fly the Yak.Pennington 2001, pp. 135-163. It was with 73 IAP that Budanova and Litvyak achieved the bulk of their combat claims.Budanova was selected to fly with Baranov, while squadron commander Alexei Solomatin took Litvyak as wingman.Pennington 2001, p. 135.

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