The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.


                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.






Bizarre, Fascinating, and Wacky World War I & ll Secrets.

Lt. "Katyusha": Russian Kamikaze

by Cecil Owen

Katyusha was her nickname, her name was Senior Lieutenant Yekaterina "Katyusha" Zelenko. She was the flamboyant young woman, who was deputy commander of the 5th Squadron of the 135th Bombardirovanny Aviation Polk (Bomber Aviation Regiment) of the 21st Russian Air Army. Katyusha was only 25 years old, but she was a seasoned combat veteran. The "Sortie," as the Russians called the combat missions, would be her fortieth.

Lt. Zelenko was flying her favorite airplane, the Sukhoi Su-2 nicknamed the "Ivanov." It was one of the best airplanes that the Russians had at that time. It carried a pilot and machine gunner-navigator and could be used for a variety of missions. The "Ivanov" could operate as a bomber, a reconnaissance plane,  and even as a fighter plane. It was a light, maneuverable, single engine monoplane, armed with five 7.62 mm machine guns and a 2,000 lb. bomb load.

On the morning of September 12, 1941, she flew two sorties, bombing German tanks near Konotop. The airplane was badly damaged by anti-aircraft fire and she was barely able to land safely at Berestovka Airfield, Yekaterina's home base. However, at this time, the pilots here were overloaded, it was hard to find time for a breather. Yekaterina was immediately called by the base commander, Colonel Grigory Korzinnikov, to find another plane to use for another combat sortie. None were available, so she borrowed the plane belonging to the deputy commander of the base, Anatoly Pushkin. Colonel Korzinnnikov said, the German tanks have broken through the Soviet lines and are traveling along the Romny-Lokhvista highway. You must stop this by bombing their positions.

All the airplanes at Berestovka airbase were the same, the Su-2 "Ivanov,

Cecil Owen

therefore Lt. Katyusha felt at ease with deputy commander Pushkin's plane. Her machine gunner-navigator was Lt. Nikolai Pavlyk, who had flown with her several times. Accompanying her was Captain Vladimir Lebedev, flying his own Su-2. Due to a shortage of airplanes, there were no fighter planes to provide cover. As she took off, Yekaterina was thinking about the supper planned for later that evening. Her new husband, Captain Pavel Inatenko, was commander of the 4th squadron of the 135th BAP. It would be a wonderful time out for the both of them. (The time was exactly 4:00pm.)

The bombing and strafing sortie was completed successfully and the two planes started back to Berestovka Airfield. Suddenly, diving down out of the clouds hurtled eleven ME-109F German fighter planes. The

Messerschmitt ME-109F was the hottest fighter plane the German Luftwaffe possessed. (Until late in the war when Messerschmitt developed a two engine Jet fighter.)

A swirling dogfight began over the village of Anastasovka. The first two ME109-F's took several bursts of machine-gun fire from Lt. Nikolai Pavlyk but failed to spin out. Then, one flew right across Lt. Zelenko's gun-sights. She squeezed off a long burst into its underbelly, and it went down in flames. This was her first aerial victory. (or "Kill".) Four of the German fighter planes were

after the Su-2 of Captain Vladimir Lebedev. That left six more that were swirling around "Katyusha"!!!

She was an experienced and superb fighter pilot but the odds were just too great. Yekaterina and Pavlyk, her gunner, had both been shot at least once. Her plane was riddled with bullets and began to lose altitude as smoke poured out of the engine. Then, to complicate things even more, they both ran out of ammunition!! Lt. Yekaterina Zelenko now ordered Lt. Nikolai Pavlyk to bail out at once. He wanted to stay with her, but she was the senior officer. So he opened his side of the cockpit and jumped. (That

An artist's rendition of a Sukhoi Su-2 nicknamed the Ivanov  being prepared for combat at the Russian front in WW2.

was the last time he ever saw her alive.) Next she lowered the plane. The pilot of the ME109-F panicked and tried to escape, but she was too close. She rammed the tail section of the German plane and chopped it off with her propeller!!

So, Senior Lieutenant Yekaterina  "Katyusha" Zelenko became the only woman "Kamikaze" pilot of the Russian Air Force!! (Remember that the Japanese in the Pacific used several hundred Kamikaze pilots to inflict much bloodshed upon our fighting forces.) Both planes crashed in the outskirts of the village of Glinskoye. The German pilot bailed out safely and vanished into the woods. Lt. Pavlyk had also landed and helped some of the Russian farmers pull Katyusha's body from her wrecked airplane. As the German

troops were about to occupy this area they had to work fast. "Katyusha" was buried close by, wrapped in her parachute. For three years the Germans did occupy this part of Russia. The local school teacher of Glinskoye, Anastasia Marchenko,  hid her burial site and her identification papers from them.

"Katyusha" was a Russian Amelia Airhart, who just loved to fly. At the age of 18, she graduated from the Orenburg Aviation School with flying colors. While at school, she learned to fly six different airplanes. Another graduate of this school was Yuri Gagarin, the first Cosmonaut to be rocketed into orbital  space flight. She graduated with the rank of Lieutenant and was assigned to the 19th Brigade of light bombers. This was in the Kharkov region where she was a pilot instructor. She taught pilots how to master new flying machines. She also tested flying equipment and electrically heated flight gear at high altitudes.

When war broke out, Yekaterina applied for a transfer for combat duty at the front. Despite her experience, she was turned down repeatedly. She was told wars are not  women's business, we can't use you. Finally, she sent a request directly to the Kremlin, the seat of Russian government, and signed it Lt. Ye. Zelenko. The Kremlin quickly approved her transfer and sent her to Lake airfield on the Karelian Isthmus Front. Imagine how surprised her commanding officers were when she turned out to be a woman. But she soon earned the respect and admiration of everyone. She was awarded a medal on two occasions for her skill and bravery under fire. Her first medal was "The order of the Red Banner," and the other was "The Order of Lenin." Later,  after she was killed in action, Senior Lt. Yekaterina Katyusha Zelenko was awarded the highest award, the Gold Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union!! She was a very remarkable young  lady, who gave her life for her country.