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Russian Aces of World War 1

Russian Aces of World War 1 Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review June 2013 Title Russian Aces of World War 1
Author Victor Kulikov Publisher Osprey Publishing
Published 2013 ISBN 9781780960593
Format 96 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $22.95


At least 13 pilots of Russia's Imperial Military Air Fleet achieved ace status during World War I.  And Russian Aces of World War 1 – latest installment in Osprey's Aircraft of the Aces series – recaps the spellbinding saga in 96 fascinating pages.

Contents course, unit-by-unit, through biographies, service and fates of personnel with the:

  • 1st Battle Aviation Group (BAG)
  • 7th Fighter Aviation Detachment (AOI)
  • 9th Fighter Aviation Detachment (AOI

A chapter on "Other Aces" completes core coverage.  Photos, 28 color profiles and four plan views tincture text.  And a convenient index concludes contents.

Original research clearly powers this terrific tome.  Author Kulikov helpfully correlates Russian victory claims to enemy casualty records – both German and Austrian.  And he mines previously unpublished military and private archives for some real gems.

Imperial personnel, for instance, continually coupled creativity with cunning in combat – leading to technical, strategic and tactical originality amidst adversity.  And instances of renowned Russian resourcefulness relentlessly roll through this excellent effort.

As early as 1913, one innovative individual mounted a Maxim machine gun to a Farman XV nose.  Yet early in the conflict – before the advent reliable aircraft nose armament – Russian aviators actually employed knives, ropes, anchors and ramming in constant quests for aerial ascendancy.

Kulikov's individual accounts prove really riveting.  After distinguished Imperial service, second-ranked ace Ivan Smirnov, for instance, flew with White Russian, British, Dutch and US forces.  His remarkable career spanned two World Wars and 30,000 flying hours.

Yuri Gilsher's left leg was crushed in the 1916 crash of his Sikorsky S-16.  Yet the "'resolute, brave, cool'" Imperial ace inspiringly mastered his replacement Nieuport with a prosthetic foot – before dying in combat a year later.

Personalities like Smirnov and Gilsher clearly take center stage.  But aircraft assume supporting roles, too.  And with obligatory Spads, Nieuports and Morane-Saulniers, rarities like the S-16, Vickers FB 19 and, surprisingly, Italian-Russian Moska-Bystritsky MBbis also appear.

Most Imperial aces suffered death or exile.  Just one – Ivan Loiko – eventually joined the Bolshevik cause.  And that occurred after he served with White forces, entered exile in Yugoslavia and returned to Russia – only to commit suicide!

Maybe I'm slow.  But I wish Osprey added tables of victory totals by ace – and Imperial Russian ranks with English translations.  Both would have clarified contents.

Still, what a ripping read!  Make this exciting effort your introduction to these forgotten heroes.

Robustly recommended!

My sincere thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review sample!