Chapter 28. Air domination

The war did not end in June 1941. Just the opposite – it was only on its start. Casualties of the first days could be very heavy, but Soviet air forces did not leave the skies. Moreover – they still outnumbered the enemy significantly (see Annex 4).

        There's nothing to be surprised at. First of all, there were no significant losses in Soviet air forces at the flanks of the battle scene (Odessa and Leningrad districts, Black Sea and Baltic Fleets). In spite of great casualties, the initially huge air force group of the South-Western front (Kiev district) was still many times greater than enemy air forces. In spite of heavy losses in the air, the long-range bomber aviation preserved most of its planes and crews (there were virtually no "airfield losses" there).

        Second, the Soviet Union – unlike Germany – had to fight on one front only (Japan, being theoretically Germany's ally, did not make a single step to Soviet borders, which allowed the Red Army command to redeploy significant forces from the Far East to the West). In 9 days four air divisions (three mixed ones and one division of fighters) were deployed to the front. There were 15 air divisions redeployed from inner military districts, Transcaucasia and Far East to air forces of acting fronts from June 22 to August 1, 1941. 15 air divisions are at least 3 thousand aircrafts and crews, which outnumber greatly all the Luftwaffe air force troops at the Eastern front.

        The last and most important: even the devastating blow at airfields (and even more devastating "redeployment") at the Western and North-Western fronts only resulted in the loss of aircrafts – but not pilots. The main component of military aviation – qualified and well-trained crews – were preserved. Attentive reader must have noticed two figures highlighted in the text of the previous chapter ("75% of crews are preserved, 80% of materiel is lost"). As to losses in materiel, they got replenished rather quick. So, air forces of the Western front received 709 aircrafts from June 25 to July 16 (23).  This figure is hardly known even to specialists, so lets us give an exact archive reference: Central Archives of the Ministry of Defense, f.35, op.3802, d.19, 70-76. In other words, losses in air force of the Western front from the "sudden strike at airfields" (keeping in mind the generally accepted figure of 550 to 600 aircrafts) were completely replenished (and even surpassed!) with the new equipment delivered.

         The further – the better. Since the beginning of combat actions Soviet aircraft factories changed from pre-war forced operating mode to the war super-forced operating mode. Vast spaces of our country protected Soviet aircraft and air motor industry from air strikes better than any air defense system. In the second half of 1941 the amount of aircrafts produced did not decrease, but even increased – in spite of all the chaos of retreat, collapse of the transportation system and evacuation of certain most important factories that had started.

Aircraft factories sent 4517 battle planes to the front from July to September, 1941 (3). The total number of combat aircrafts produced in the second half of 1941 was 8444, with 5229 fighters among them (2211 MiG-3s, 2141 LaGG-3s, 877 Yak-1s). We'll note in parenthesis that Germany, with "the whole Europe working for it", produced only 2850 fighters throughout the two halves of 1941.

         All the figures above can certainly not be considered absolutely exact, as they differ by 10-15% when taken from different sources; besides, there is a certain amount of time between the aircraft being accepted by the military representative and actually handed over to the combat unit, which makes the figures vary even greater. Anyway, the "above-level" losses of the first weeks of war had been replenished by the autumn of 1941.

        As for Germany, its aircraft industry could not even simply cover the 1941 losses. Hitler did not find any allies capable of providing him with battle planes in hundreds, and later in thousands. As a result, the Luftwaffe group at the Eastern front never more had as many aircrafts at its disposal as it had on the 22nd of June, 1941. By the start of September, 1941 the total number of aircrafts listed in three air fleets (the 1st, the 2nd and the 4th) was 1005 (less than half of the total amount of planes in the group by June 22). That's right, the situation for the Luftwaffe was not always so gloomy as in the beginning of September (after fierce summer battles), but the average numbers also show increase in those losses not replenished by new equipment deliveries. Thus, the average number of fighters decreased from 850 to 650 in the autumn of 1941, and the average number of bombers decreased from 900 to 750 units by the winter of 1941.

         In the summer of 1941 Germany and its air forces fought at many fronts from La Manche to Dnieper, from Northern Africa to Northern Norway. Yet another front were sea communications, the struggle at which required massive air forces to be present in the skies above the Atlantic. This situation did not give the Luftwaffe command any chance to increase the numbers of its eastern group; moreover, it was forced to redeploy fighter groups from the Eastern to the Mediterranean front. By December 1941, 6 of the 22 Luftwaffe fighter groups fought in the skies above Malta and Northern Africa, after being redeployed there from the East where they were on June 22 (II,III/JG 27,  I,II,III/JG 53, II/JG 3).

 

        Advantage in numbers was held by the Soviet side. Unfortunately, it did not turn into domination of Soviet air forces in the air. Detailed and reliable "blamestorming" would require a few more books – as thick as this one – being written. Nevertheless, one can get certain insight into the "efficiency ratio" of the acting Soviet fighter air forces by simply comparing figures. Comparing casualties sustained by German air forces in the battle above France in May 1940 to Luftwaffe losses at the Eastern front in the summer of 1941.

         As it has already been mentioned above, the first day of the "triumphant march" (May 10, 1940) was the day of the greatest losses for the Luftwaffe throughout the whole World War II: 304 aircrafts were irrecoverably lost, casualties in flight crews made up 607 men killed and missing in action and 133 wounded. However, this huge figure includes the 157 transport "Junkers" shot down and crashed on the first day of war when landing troops in Holland. For the purpose of our investigation it would be correct to take into account only "battle aircrafts" in the narrowest sense of this term (that is, all kinds of bombers and fighters). These losses made up 111 aircrafts on the 10th of May, 1940 (7 fighters, 9 divers, 95 two-engine bombers) (21). Irrecoverable losses of Luftwaffe battle planes on the 22nd of June, 1941 were 62 units (see Annex 6).

         The total number of battle aircrafts irrecoverably lost in the Western campaign (May 10 – June 24, 1940) was 976, with 250 one-engine fighters among them. The total irrecoverable losses of German air forces at the Eastern front over a comparable period of time (June 22 – July 31, 1941) were 583 battle planes, with 189 one-engine fighters among them.

        Irrecoverable losses of the Luftwaffe in first three weeks of war at the Western front (May 10–31, 1940) made up 642 aircrafts. The author does not have data for the similar time period. Arithmetical addition of German losses at the Eastern front for June and half of losses for July make up 398 battle planes in total.

        As we can see, Luftwaffe losses at the Western front exceed those at the Eastern front for any of the time intervals in questions. Let's mention at once that we did not take into account non-battle casualties of the Luftwaffe at the Eastern front (crashes and accidents), which made up a significant part of losses (15-25%) in the summer of 1941. But even this provision does not actually change the picture: losses at the Western front are still higher (not 1.6 but something like 1.35 times). In other words, English and French fighters (650-700 of them in total) incurred more loss to the enemy than 3.5 thousand of "Stalin falcons". One also has to remember that battle characteristics of Allied fighters were not even slightly better than those of the Soviet air forces (we've discussed this matter above in detail). French or English fighters did not have long operational records either, while many of Soviet fighters had taken serious "school" of fighting in Spain, China, at Khalkhin-Gol and in Finland by June, 1941.

         Talking of Finland, summaries of air combat between Soviet and Finnish air forces are worth at least brief mentioning. From the 25th of June and till the end of year (actually, the active phase of battle finished on the first December days) Finnish fighters reported 307 Soviet aircrafts shot down. These are reported victories. What were the real figures? Works of Soviet historians would hardly help us to answer this question as Soviet historiography never admitted any "2nd Soviet-Finnish war". It was "participation of Finland in Hitler's aggression against the USSR", which did not suppose any separate loss record at the Finnish front. The classical "Secrecy label removed" documents collection edited by Krivosheyev (35) gives a certain casualty figure (64 aircrafts) in a "defensive in Karelia", but this operation is chronologically limited with the 10th of October, 1941 and does not include combat actions of August, 1941 on the Karelian Isthmus (which were always "diluted" by Soviet historiography in the context of the global "Leningrad defensive").

        On the other side, it's known for certain that Finnish fighters distinguished themselves with excessive modesty in air victory reports. Thus, they reported 34 Soviet bombers shot down from June 25 to June 30, 1941, while archive documents of Soviet air units recorded the loss of 22 bombers (apart from mid-air collision and friendly fire from own fighters) on the 25th and 25th of June. Finnish fighters and a German fighter group (actually consisting of two staffels) reported 566 Soviet aircrafts shot down in summer battles of 1944 (176, page 355). Krivosheyev's documents collection admits the loss of 311 Soviet aircrafts – and once again, over a smaller period of time. 

         Taking into account the overstating factor of 2 or 3 times which seems to be quite realistic here, we come to at least 100 to 150 Soviet aircrafts shot down by Finnish fighters. Losses sustained by them made up 11 fighter aircrafts. The loss ratio is at least 1 to 10. Especially remarkable here is combat performance of fighter groups LLv-24 (reported 133 Soviet aircrafts shot down, with own irrecoverable losses of one "Brewster" shot down with air defense gunfire) and LLv-26 (52 victories reported without any irrecoverable losses) (176, . 269). One also has to add to these figures that there was not a single "Messerschmitt" at all in the ranks of Finnish air forces in 1941, and this phenomenal success was achieved by a crowd of rather well-worn scrappy aircrafts (besides, it was virtually impossible in the context of 1941 to get spare parts and repair kits for American, French and Dutch airplanes). Let us also mention the lack of any "multi-year experience of air combat" among Finnish pilots, with true battle experience being gained by the sides in mutual combat…

         Let us, however, get back to the events at the main, i.e. German battle front. We encounter here facts even more surprising than above: losses of German air forces in the first days and weeks of war (with the Luftwaffe "absolutely dominating the air", according to the traditional version of Soviet historiography) were significantly… higher that in subsequent months! Let's mention once again that we take into account irrecoverable losses of battle aircrafts "from enemy actions and for unknown reasons". This approach gives a significant decrease in figures (consequences of crashes and accidents, and the many incidents of combat and non-combat damage resulting in temporary inoperability of aircrafts are not taken into account), but it seems most appropriate to adequately record activity and efficiency of enemy countermeasures (that is, those of the Soviet air forces).

        Thus, on the 22nd of June, 1941 the Luftwaffe lost (in the sense described above) 62 aircrafts. 62 planes in one day. The total number of airplanes lost from June 22 to June 30 inclusively was 213, which makes 24 aircraft a day. 370 aircrafts were lost in July, 1941 (i.e. 12 airplanes a day). Monthly average losses in July turned out to be twice as low as in June. The further, the less. 198 aircrafts were lost in August, which makes 7 airplanes a day. The total summary of German losses at the Eastern front in 1941 was the following (145, 146):

- 382 fighters (with 32 on the ground among them)

- 638 bombers

- 161 Ju-87 divers

- 132 multi-purpose -110s

- the total of 1,313 battle aircrafts, with 62 of them destroyed by the enemy directly on airfields

        As we can see, average daily losses were about 7 aircrafts a day, which is 3.5 times as low as in June, 1941. Yes that's right, the very "black June" of 1941 (with Soviet air force "destroyed on airfields", "endless crow-like ranks of aircrafts with spider hakenkreuz signs", and so on…)

        One also has to mention the undoubted fact that re-equipment of the Soviet fighter aviation with "new types" of aircrafts fell upon the second part of 1941 and was carried out at a breakneck speed. The reason was very simple: most of the fighter park accumulated before the war (about 1.5 thousand of I-16 and I-153 aircrafts) was lost on airfields in the Baltic, Byelorussia and in the Western Ukraine during the first two weeks of war. The "donkeys" and "seagulls" (I-16 and I-153) only managed to survive on the flanks of the giant front (in the Leningrad and Odessa districts, as well as in air forces of the fleets). Loss structure of Soviet fighter aircrafts (see Annex 10) shows clearly that the most part of losses (and thus – combat activity), except for the losses of the first weeks of war, falls upon "new types" of fighters. But there no sign of increase in enemy losses – even with MiGs instead of "donkeys" (I-16) in the air.

        The reason for significant losses of German air forces in the first days and weeks of war is simple and obvious. The Soviet Union had been getting ready for the war for many years, with the maximum all-out effort of the giant country under a most cruel totalitarian regime. A serious result was achieved – a weighty, brutal and visible one. German air forces could not avoid being crashed against a "wall" of hundreds of air regiments and many thousands of aircrafts. It would be enough for each of the 340 Soviet fighter squadrons deployed in the Western battle scene by the start of war to shoot down only three German aircrafts – and that would amount the total Luftwaffe irrecoverable losses to almost half of the original number of battle planes.

       Besides, fighters were not alone – there were also gunners at bombers. They also used to shoot down enemy aircrafts – and rather actively. A characteristic example: it was 94th bomber (!) air regiment which took the fourth position by the number of enemy aircrafts shot down among all the air regiments of the South-Western front (gunners of SB bombers from this regiment reported 23 German aircrafts shot down by July 17, 1941) (161).

       The first two weeks of war were the only period when weekly irrecoverable losses of Luftwaffe air forces at the Eastern front were nominated in three-digit figures. Further total losses (for all reasons) level off at 50 to 60 planes per week shot down and 30 to 40 damaged. Yes, enemy losses do seem miserly against the astronomic figures of Soviet aircrafts lost (in any sense of this word). But this is delusive. It was by the start of September 1941 when the total number of irrecoverable losses (1350 aircrafts according to minimal estimates) exceeded half of the original amount of planes in the group. By the start of December, 1941 cumulative irrecoverable losses (including non-combat ones) made up 2090 airplanes which is almost equal to the original amount (166).

        The truthfulness of heavy losses in the Luftwaffe is confirmed by casualty data from individual units and troops. Thus, the KG-51 bomber squadron irrecoverably lost 30 newest Ju-88 A4 "Junkers" in June 1941. The elite Mölders fighter squadron (JG-51) irrecoverably lost 40 aircrafts by the end of July, which made one third of its original numbers. On August 30, 1941 there was only one operable "Messerschmitt" left in the ranks of the III/JG3 fighter group. By the 2nd of September maintenance teams managed to repair 10 damaged aircrafts, so that's what the III/JG3 group had when it covered the visit of Hitler and Mussolini to Uman' under command of Walter Oesau, one of the best Luftwaffe aces.

         The fight was tough both for the Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe. There were fierce battles in the skies of war, which made Germans sustain very tangible losses.

 

        On the other side, losses of Soviet air forces were incomparably higher – they were gigantic. Apart from strange "airfield losses", combat losses of Soviet air forces were times as high as those of the enemy (all the figures below are taken from the "WWII Soviet Air Forces in Figures" collection of documents).

Thus, fighter forces lost 1380 aircrafts shot down in air engagements and 350 shot down by air defense gunfire. This makes 1730 fighters in total irrecoverably lost "from enemy actions". This is five times as high as enemy fighter losses in air combat (see above). But these two categories (shot down in air engagement and by air defense gunfire) are not the only ones in the loss structure of Soviet air forces. 1400 fighters more are listed as "failing to return from mission". Taking them into account, the casualty ratio of Soviet to German fighters amounts to 9 to 1. Let's say it again – these are air combat losses apart from aircrafts lost on airfields!

         Casualties are gigantic. The progress (compared to losses) is more than limited. There is hardly another point in the history of war where appraisal from German and Soviet parties match so well as the appraisal of the "efficiency" of  Soviet fighter air forces in 1941. The "German aircrafts keep bombing unpunished, our fighters are not to be seen" phrase is repeated a thousand times in reports and operational records. One can assume Red Army commanders would like to intentionally dramatize the situation and find ground reasons for their units having been defeated. But German pilots and their commanders reported virtually the same. What could be their reason to lessen degree of enemy's resistance that they had managed to overcome?

         Luftwaffe General Schwabedissen (commander of an air defense corps at the start of war) wrote a book based on command reports and memoirs of Luftwaffe officers analyzing operations of Soviet air forces in 1941-1945 (19). It contains, among other things, the following testimonies from parties directly involved:

"…in 60 missions made by September 9, 1941 our unit only encountered Soviet fighters for 10 times... trying to attack, Soviet fighters opened fire at 500 meters and attempted diving as soon as the bomber returned fire" (Major Kossart, bomber squadron commander)

"...I nearly came into collision with Russian fighters for a few times while flying through their ranks, and they even did not open fire" (Lieutenant Colonel H.Reisen, II/KG-30 bomber air group commander)

"... we never encountered a single Soviet fighter by the autumn of 1941 – or they just did not attack us" (Major J.Jodike, bomber squadron commander)

"…I ran on more than 100 missions from June 22 till August 1941 and only encountered Soviet fighters for 5 times, but non of these encounters resulted in a serious engagement"

(Captain Pabst, diver squadron commander) 

"…by the end of 1941 I made 21 strategic reconnaissance missions deep into Russian rears, and it was only once that I encountered Soviet fighters" (Major Schlage)

        Schwabedissen summarized it as the following: "All reports from commanders of German bomber units say that Soviet fighters were of no threat to German bombers in 1941 and often tried to evade the fight". He also quotes some report from command of the JG-54 fighter squadron saying the following: "Fighter combats were a rare thing… Russian pilots tried to evade the fight and escape immediately… The very first aircrafts shot down put them to confusion. Most of Soviet pilots were helpless in such combat, which resulted in German pilots shooting them down easily…"

         One should not think that "beaten German generals" simply agreed to speak all the Soviet things ill. Nothing of that kind. They were highly impressed by Soviet air defense, and they do not conceal it. W.Schwabedissen writes the following: "Anti-aircraft gunners quickly recovered from the initial shock and turned into a very serious foe… German commanders were surprised at the effectiveness of enemy air defense…" The above-mentioned Major Kossart admits that "air defense units fought against German air troops with great success... The very first salvos of heavy anti-aircraft guns used to fall upon the right altitude, the first shells often exploded in the midst of German aircraft ranks... Reasons for German aircrafts shot down were primarily air defense gunfire, followed by infantry gunfire, and only then do fighter attacks come..." (19, page 49-50).

         Certainly, the final remark (telling about the low efficiency of Soviet fighters) only reflects personal experience of one of Luftwaffe commanders. And although it is quote possible to find many other similar statements, let's not quote enemy memoirs any more and just take one single order of the Red Army Supreme Commander – completely uncensored. This order was to be disseminated to every other pilot against receipt. I think everyone interested in the history of that war should take a look at it.

        Order #0685

        September 9, 1942, Moscow

                     Definition of a combat mission for air fighters

         Facts coming from Kalinin, Western, Stalingrad, South-Eastern and other fronts state that our fighter air forces generally act very unsuccessfully and often fail to complete battle tasks. Our fighters often evade combat with enemy fighters and even avoid attacking bombers. When being on guard missions with attackers and bombers, our fighters, even provided that they outnumber enemy fighters, evade combat, fly aside and let our attackers and bombers being shot down unpunished.

        Order #0299 of the People's Commissar for Defense provides a reward of monetary bonus and government awards for the flying personnel for combat missions resulting in combat task being fulfilled. This order has been perverted in air troops at the fronts.

       A combat mission is allegedly considered just any mission on the battlefield regardless of the fact whether the fighters have fulfilled the combat task assigned to them. This wrong understanding of what a combat mission is fails to bring our fighters up to actively attack enemy aircrafts and lets certain tricksters and cowards receive monetary bonus and government awards together with honest and brave pilots.

        In order to eliminate this injustice and only encourage honest pilots, while identifying tricksters and cowards, driving them out of the ranks of our fighters and punishing them, I ORDER THE FOLLOWING:

1. A combat mission for air fighters to be considered a mission where fighters encountered enemy in the air and engaged in air combat; a guard mission with attackers and bombers to be considered a mission where attackers and bombers did not sustain any losses from enemy fighters when fulfilling the combat task.

2. Enemy aircrafts to be considered shot down by pilots only provided that there are corresponding photo shots or reports from ground surveillance.

3. Payments for combat missions and government award recommendations are only to be made according to points 1 and 2 of this order.

4. Fighter pilots evading air combat with the enemy to be brought to trial and transferred to penal units to the infantry.

5. The order to be announced to all fighters against receipt.

                                                                                                       People's Commissar for Defense

                                                                                                                          J. STALIN

 

         Unfortunately, there were reasons for this order to come up. It was preceded by the work of a special commission headed up by CC Secretary Malenkov (summaries made by this commission were included into the text of the order virtually word-for-word). The commission left for the Stalingrad front and, among other things, investigated the terrible air strike made by German air forces against Stalingrad on the 23rd of August, 1942. That day German bombers ran on more than a thousand missions – with almost no rebuff from Soviet air forces – and virtually wiped out the northern part of the city. Up to 60% of Stalingrad residential area is assumed to have been destroyed that day, with not less than 40 thousand people having died in fires and under ruins.

        As to the above-mentioned Order #0299 by the People's Commissar for Defense, its full name was the following: "About awarding flying personnel of the Red Army for good combat performance and about measures to fight latent desertion among war pilots". Let's not distract to quoting the detailed "price list" of monetary rewards (rather limited ones, by the way) and awards for the "good combat performance", and get to the last section of Order #0299:

"IV. Measures to fight latent desertion among certain pilots.

Commanders and commissars of air divisions to thoroughly investigate all cases of forced landing with landing gear retracted and other flight incidents resulting in aircraft materiel being made inoperable.

Pilots responsible for landing with landing gear retracted and performing other actions which result in materiel being made inoperable without legitimate reasons to be treated as deserters and brought to court martial."

        One can assume that by the moment this order was issued (August 19, 1941) the highest command in Moscow already noted the amount of aircrafts made inoperable being much higher than losses in flight crews (see Annex 8). That's exactly what it should be on a long time run (many months and many years), when combat casualties of aircrafts are complemented with losses due to wear (both physical and moral) being times as high (that is, obsolete planes get decommissioned and replaced with new types, which process was rather fast in the times of WWII). But on a "short run" (within a tactical operation) losses in aircrafts and crews are to be comparable.

        At least, that's the way it was in the Luftwaffe. Germans irrecoverably lost 574 men from flight crews in the Eastern front from June 22 to June 30, 1941 (apart from land service staff and air defense gunners), which surprisingly matches the estimated amount of crew members of aircrafts shot down in June (see Annex 6). Similar ratios are to be seen in the Western front, as well. During the campaign of May and June 1940, the Luftwaffe irrecoverably lost 3022 flight crew members (killed and missing in action) (165).

The estimated number of crew members of aircrafts irrecoverably lost is the same 3 thousand men. French fighter air forces lost 257 pilots killed and missing in action, with 250 aircrafts shot down in air combat and 123 lost in crashes and accidents (21).

The situation with losses of aircrafts and crews in Soviet air forces looks at least strange against this background.

        However, all these strange things fade away at the most surprising fact: a great number of aircrafts missing in action ("failing to return from combat mission"). Losses in this category are summarized in the following Table 28.

                                                                                  Table 28

 

1941

1942

Fighters

1400 / 32

2469 / 64

Bombers

1582 / 39

1049 / 72

Attackers

372 / 70

1290 / 77

Note:

the first figure is the number of aircrafts, the second one in the percent from total combat losses.

 

       These figures are just overwhelming. In 1942 the number of airplanes "failing to return from combat mission" is greater than the number of those shot down in combat, shot down by air defense gunfire and destroyed by the enemy on airfields altogether. Triple as great with attackers. How could that be?

        Taking into consideration the structure of Soviet bomber air force (two thirds of which were close-range Pe-2 bombers, with one third of long-range DB-3f, which flew deep into enemy rears quite rarely), it's impossible to explain this loss ratio even for bombers. And it seems even more incredible when applied to Il-2 ground attack plane. "Ils" fought directly over the combat field, covering up land troops with fire. Attackers could only attack enemy positions in daytime and only with good visibility; night attacks were impossible by definition. With rare exceptions, each Il-2 could be seen by thousands of eyes, as well as the place where it fell down, and the reason for it. Finally, finding out specific reasons for the loss of a battle plane are necessary not for future historians, but rather to improve the design, armor, defense weaponry and tactics.

         Figures for fighters are just as well surprising. Half (47.4%, to be exact) of all air missions made by Soviet fighters were guarding land troops and rear targets – that is, something happening at the sight of tens of thousands of people. 37% of total air missions made by fighters were covering up strike aircrafts – that is, the very Pe-2s and Il-2s at the front line. The only situation when a couple (a "wing") of fighters could disappear without a trace is a "free hunt" in the enemy's operative rears. These missions were only 2.7% of the total number of missions – which would probably be the ratio of fighters "failing to return" in the loss structure. In fact, it turned out to be 10 or 20 times as high.

         What was that? The author does not have any answer to that question. For lack of anything better, I'd like to offer my reader a hypothesis. Namely: the slushy "failed to return from combat mission" formula was a euphemism that replaced the 1941 euphemism of similar credibility in the 1942 reports: "destroyed by enemy strike on the home airfield". This wily figure was used to "make ends meet" in reports, masking negligence of the command, the terrifying accident ratio, as well as the phenomenon which Stalin called "latent desertion" in simple and plain words in the order he signed. The most convincing argument for the hypothesis that the great number of aircrafts "missing in action" is not a fundamental war law is the time history of this figure (see Annex 9). With aircrafts "failing to return from combat mission" making up 70% of total combat losses in 1942, this figure decreases to 25% in 1944 and to 23% in 1945...

Mark Solonin became the first who dared to say: But the emperor has no clothes! The very first step, the simplest comparison of the number of airplanes, announced as being destroyed on land (800 units), with the total number of Soviet AF, deployed on the Western USSR borders (more than 8.500 units), as well as a comparison of the number of airfields being attacked (66) with the total number of airfields in the Western military districts (613), knocks over like skittles. However, the content of a 600-page long research "At the Airfields That Seemed to Be Asleep is much deeper; questions which the author is asking, are much more complex than unmasking of obvious nonsense.
Every step, every try as well as a documented, fair and unprejudiced answer to these three issues lead the researcher to a deadlock of unsolvable, at first sight, contradictions. Why Stalins empire, after years of preparation for the Big War, having concentrated all resources of the richest country in the world, and, finally, having amassed the biggest army size in the world, suffered a crushing defeat in the summer of 1941? Why Stalin, who didnt believe his closest comrades, did believe to Ribbentrops signature in the non-aggression pact? Why the Soviet Union utterly militarized totalitarian empire found itself to be the only participant of the WWII, which started mobilizing its Armed Forces not before the start of combat actions (as did everybody else) and not even on the date of Hitlers invasion, but only on the second day of the war, on June 23, 1941? Why hours before the German invasion fighter regiments of Soviet AF received a day-off, while surface-to-air divisions were withdrawn to the far home front airfields? These are among the questions that will be addressed in my book.
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