Boris F. Safonov - Naval Aviation Ace
by Christer Bergström (continued)

Three days after the arrival of the British airmen--on September 15, 1941--Safonov decided to demonstrate his abilities. This was to become Safonov´s most successful day: A swarm of Messerschmitt 110s from 1.(Z)/JG 77 was out on an escort mission for the Stukas of Hauptmann Arnulf Blasig´s IV.(St.)/LG 1, which were attacking Soviet ground troops in the Zapadnaya Litsa region. Lieutenant Heinz-Horst Hoffmann, the pilot in one of the Bf 110s, spotted a lone I-16 below. Hoffmann was one of the veterans of the Zerstörerstaffel, with three victories to his credit.Safonov's White-11 Without hesitating, he put the nose of his twin-engine fighter down to make an attack.

Hoffmann didn´t see the trap until it was too late. A dark green I-16 with the bold inscription "Smert fashistam!"
("Death to fascism!") painted in two-feet-high red letters on the side of the fuselage came arrowing down from above. It was Boris Safonov's "White 11." Hoffmann's Bf 110 was hit in an engine. The plane made a roll and went down from low altitude, exploding on impact three miles west of Zapadnaya Litsa. Having scored his 12th victory, Safonov turned against the Stukas. One of them went down in flames, Safonov´s 13th victory. Shortly afterwards, the Russian ace caught a third German plane, an Hs 126, and shot it down as well. On the following day, Boris Safonov received the highest Soviet award, the Gold Star medal--the token of the Hero of the Soviet Union.

As the British pilots left for home, the Hurricanes were naturally handed over to 72 SAP. With better equipment, the Soviet fighter pilots were able to inflict growing losses upon the small Luftwaffe forces on the "Polar Front." Marking the end of 1941, Boris Safonov, flying a Hurricane fighter, claimed one Messerschmitt 109 on December 17, 1941, and one He 111H-5 (piloted by Unteroffizier Engelbert Roithmayr of 1./KG 26) on December 31, 1941.

Boris Safonov went missing in action after pursuing a group of II./KG 30 Ju 88s over the convoy PQ 16 off Murmansk on May 30, 1942. On June 14, 1942, Safonov posthumously became the first Soviet citizen to be twice appointed Hero of the Soviet Union during the war against Germany. "For Stalin!"

A detailed account of Safonov's last combat - plus his victory list, and a color profile of the Curtiss P-40 E in which he made his last flight - is presented in Vol. 2 of Black Cross/Red Star.

(Note: this article is an excerpt from Christer Bergström's two volume set of books "Black Cross/Red Star". Thank you also goes to Dariusz Tyminski...for a few of the photos and information on Safonov's career. He also has an excellent article and pictures about Safonov at his website, World War II Ace Stories -A. Bates)

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