Monday, May 11, 2015

Aleksandr Kozakov, (1889–1919)

Leading Russian fighter ace of World War I. Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Kozakov was born on 15 January 1889 near Kherson, Russia, to a family of minor nobility. Kozakov was educated in military schools and commissioned a kornet (junior lieutenant) in a cavalry regiment. In early 1914, he was admitted to the flying school at Kacha. Graduating in October 1914, he was promoted to poruchik (lieutenant) and sent to the IV Corps Aviation Detachment, where he flew the Morane G two-seat monoplane. Since his aircraft could not carry a machine gun, in March 1915 he experimented with using a grappling hook and cable to attack enemy aircraft. In his first combat encounter the device failed, but Kozakov brought the enemy down by ramming its upper wing with his landing gear, the second ramming attack in history. He was able to land his own damaged Morane.

In September 1915, he was promoted to stabsrotmistr (captain) and transferred to the IXX Corp Aviation Detachment, where he was able to fly a Nieuport 10 armed with an obliquely mounted Maxim machine gun. Though this device was difficult to aim, he was finally able to shoot down an enemy aircraft on 17 June 1916, followed by several more successes. At the end of August, Kozahov commanded the 1st Battle Aviation Group, which was formed from several Russian flying detachments that were to be Russia’s first specialized fighter units. The units received the Nieuport 11 and Nieuport 17 Scouts to fly. On 2 December 1916, Kozakov scored his fifth air victory, becoming an ace. Kozakov scored his seventeenth confirmed (plus three more unconfirmed) air victory on 26 November 1917.

The Bolshevik Revolution caused Kozakov to leave the military in early 1918. Strongly conservative in sentiment, when the civil war broke out he resisted the repeated attempts of the Bolsheviks to pressure him into joining the Red Army and instead rallied to the anticommunist Whites, joining the British intervention forces at Murmansk in June 1918. The British promoted him to major and appointed him commander of the Slavo-British air squadron. During July he flew numerous air support sorties in the Sopwith Snipe against the Red forces and was awarded the British Distinguished Flying Cross, in addition to the numerous czarist medals he had been awarded. However, the anticommunist movement in northern Russia was a lost cause. On 1 August 1919, just after taking off from his airfield, Kozakov stalled and crashed in what witnesses agreed appeared to be a suicide.

Durkota, Alan, Thomas Darcey, and Viktor Kulikov. The Imperial Russian Air Service: Famous Pilots and Aircraft of World War I. Mountain View, CA: Flying Machines Press, 1995, pp. 58–71.

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