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Old 3rd December 2007, 04:28
Santiago Santiago is offline
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USAAF claims against Bulgarian AF

I been doing a lot of research on the Bulgarian air force during WWII and recently I adquired the two of the three volumes of the work BULGARIAN FIGHTERS PART .II by Dimitar Nedialov, Propeller Publishing, Sofia 2006.

Quite an interesting book about the Bulgarian fighters vs the USAAF mostly agaisnt the P-38 and later the P-51 and P-47 that were involved in the escort of USAAF bombers. Its there a listing of USAAF claims against the Bulgarian by group or pilots available.

Santiago A. Flores
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Old 19th May 2008, 12:07
RossGmann RossGmann is offline
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Re: USAAF claims against Bulgarian AF

Is the following site any help?

In part it states

Operation Tidal Wave, a massed air raid by American B-24 Liberators on 1 August 1943 was intercepted by Bulgarian fighters as it headed towards Romania. The Royal Bulgarian Air Force was now able to claim its first aerial victories, with Bf 109G pilots managing to bring down four B-24s. 14 November 1943 marked the start of a series of nine daylight air raids on the Bulgarian capital, Sofia. A late warning hindered the defences and only one escorting P-38 was shot down. Subsequent raids were heavier and involved aircraft from the Italian-based US 15th Air Force as well as the North African-based 9th Air Force. Bulgarian air defences became increasingly well organised, but despite fierce fighting could only bring down and average of 2% of the enemy raiders (39 aircraft in total) for the loss of 14 of their own. Eight night raids were also staged, but the lack of night fighters and night flying skills left aerial defence to the anti-aircraft artillery. After April 1944 the Allied bomber offensive returned to attacking Ploesti, with only sporadic air engagements occuring over Bulgaria.

Kind regards
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Old 29th May 2008, 00:14
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Re: USAAF claims against Bulgarian AF

Hello Santiago,

here are US claims (and losses) in 1943 / 44 over Bulgaria:

14/11/43 82nd FG Claims: 3 Me109 + 2 FW190 for 1 P38 (lost an engine in the target area, disappeared over Yugoslavia)
24/11/43 82nd FG Claims: 2 Me109 for 1 P38 (out of fuel)
10/12/43 82nd FG Claims: 8 Me109 + 1 FW 190 for 1 P38
20/12/43 82nd FG Claims: 2 Me109 + 1 FW 190 for 3 P38
04/01/44 82nd FG Claims: 1 Me109 (damaged)
10/01/44 14th FG Claims: 5 Me109 + 4 FW 190 for 2 P38 (one for crash landing at the airfield)
30/03/44 82nd FG Claims: 4 Me109 + 1 FW 190
30/03/44 14th FG Claims: 1 Me109 for 1 P38
30/03/44 1st FG Claims: 6 D520
17/04/44 31st FG Claims: 3 Me109 for 1 P51 (mechanical failure)
17/04/44 325th FG Claims: 4 Me109
11/06/44 52nd FG Claims: 13 Me109 + 1 FW 190 for 1 P51
24/06/44 82nd FG Claims: 7 Me109

"Adorimini - A history of the 82nd FG" by Steve Blake
"The 14th FG in WW2" by J. Lambert
"Spitfire and yellow tail mustangs (52nd FG)" by T. Ivie
"An escort of P-38 (1st FG)" by J. Mullins
"In a now forgotten sky (31st FG)" by D. Kucera
"USAAF MTO Claims" by F. Olynyk

Let me know if you need the name of the american pilots.
Also, I wonder if you can provide the list of Bulgarian fighter losses in the same period.


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Old 16th September 2008, 20:27
Burdokva Burdokva is offline
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Re: USAAF claims against Bulgarian AF

As this is my first post on the forum, let me say "hello" to everyone!

CENTURION, the VnVV (Bulgarian AF) lost 23 pilots and 27 fighters (machines that were completely destroyed or too badly damaged to be repaired). Here's a full list of the pilots, the day of their deaths in air combat and the type of fighter they perished in, as written on the new memorial in Sofia.;и/

The site is in Cyrillic , but if anyone's interested I can translate it.

It includes only the pilots who fell in the defence of Bulgaria against the USAAF, not those who perished fighting against the Germans from September '44 to May '45.
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Old 17th September 2008, 02:13
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Re: USAAF claims against Bulgarian AF


thank you for the list you provided.
I wonder if you have the dates related to the four losses not included in the list, and of eventual fighters damaged and forced to crash landing.

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Old 17th September 2008, 05:31
Steve_Fossey Steve_Fossey is offline
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Re: USAAF claims against Bulgarian AF


There is an Me-109 and pilot listed as lost on 24-05-1944. Most of the USAAF 15th Air Force went to Austria but USAAF Combat Chronology also lists Zagreb as a target. Is Zagreb where the Me-109 was lost and do you know anything about what happened?

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Old 17th September 2008, 11:08
Burdokva Burdokva is offline
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Re: USAAF claims against Bulgarian AF

Actually, two dates are mistaken on the link (thanks to CENTURION in pointing it out in the thread about the air combat on June 11th) - Ivan Bonev died on 11th June, not August. Tzvyatko Zagorski perished on 24 June 1944 when "bounced" by a force of P-38s , probably from 82nd FG. I have a detailed account of the air combat, if anybody's interested I'll post it here.

EDIT: CENTURION, according to the book "Air Power of the Kingdom of Bulgaria. Part 4" FARK OOD, Sofia, 2001 of the 27 Bulgarian fighters listed as lost, 14 were downed or damaged beyond repair and 13 were seriously damaged to various degrees. The volume is both in Bulgarian and English and is a good study on the aerial conflict, but it covers only the period from August 1943 to April 1944 (against the USAAF; there's a brief section on the campaign against the Germans), and not the summer battles (which lasted until August 26th 1944).
Several fighters belly landed after damage to the engine, or if the pilot was wounded, but these were quickly repaired. I'll check on the other losses, they are probably from the (incomplete) 1st and (training) 4th orlyaks with D.520s, which were pressed to join the defence of the capital.

Last edited by Burdokva; 17th September 2008 at 11:51.
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Old 17th September 2008, 23:56
Martin Gleeson Martin Gleeson is offline
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Re: USAAF claims against Bulgarian AF

Hallo Burdokva,

Yes, I for one would be very interested in details of any engagement between Bulgarian and 82nd FG pilots.

Thanking you in advance,

Martin Gleeson.
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Old 18th September 2008, 22:53
Dénes Bernád Dénes Bernád is offline
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Re: USAAF claims against Bulgarian AF

Originally Posted by Burdokva View Post
Actually, two dates are mistaken on the link (thanks to CENTURION in pointing it out in the thread about the air combat on June 11th) - Ivan Bonev died on 11th June, not August. Tzvyatko Zagorski perished on 24 June 1944 when "bounced" by a force of P-38s , probably from 82nd FG.
I think the date of the first pilot's death is also listed erroneously, as according to my info Por. Luka I. Obreykov of 672 Yato died on 09-aug-43, when crashed near Lyabzhena.

P.S. I think it's very commendable that a German pilot who died in defence of Bugaria is also listed on the monument (Hptm. Gerhard Wengel, Gruppenkommandeur of I./JG 5, KIA on 10 Jan. 1944).
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Old 19th September 2008, 00:14
Burdokva Burdokva is offline
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Re: USAAF claims against Bulgarian AF

Here's the combat report, as promised.

June 24th 1944. Yesterday the Americans had conducted a heavy bombing of Bucharest, so we thought that today there’ll be a brake. But just as the sun had come up over Murgash and Ihtiman, we received first warning of an incoming aerial threat.

We’re gathered around the map in the command point* and we watch as the plotters draw the route of the enemy airraft. We are trying to guess where would the incoming air armada drop its deadly cargo today!

* of 3/6 orlyak at Bozhurishte airfield, armed with Bf 109G’s. Bulgarian orlyaks were similar in strength to German gruppe and a total of 4 were under the command of 6th fighter regiment.

- Surely, they won’t go over Athens. From this rendezvous point they most likely won’t head towards Vienna or Budapest. So either against us or Nish, or even Bucharest and Ploesti!

The sirens of Sofia alerted of an aerial anger at 7:00 in the morning. For thefirst time the citizens of Sofia had run into the shelters so early.

Today we received an order that we’ll be flying under orders from High Command HQ of the fighter forces in the village of Boyana. We all sat in our fighters waiting for the signal to start. The loudspeakers were transmitting data about the incoming enemy. And today he was coming with a record number of aircraft - more than 600. We’ll be going against him with 14. That’s what we have in operational condition for today. The other orlyak*, temporarily relocated at Karlovo, would come to our aid, but they won’t be any more than us. We don’t have a preplanned arrangement for mutual support or a gathering point. We took off at around 8:00 o’clock and, guided by High Command, we started climbing toward Kurilo.

* 2/6 orlyak, armed with Bf 109G’s since January 1944.

At an altitude of around 2000 High Command warned us to be careful as there was also a German squadron taking off into the air. This meant that some help is provided by our allies. Soon we noticed them and we made a left turn to join the, and their commander took command of both our forces. Crossing the chain of the Balkan Mountains, we continued north while gaining altitude.

We flew over an area northwest from the town of Vraca, when we were informed by our radio link that the enemy is already over our territory and takes a direction to the towns of Dupnica and Samokov. The German leader of our formation however remained unconcerned by this message and went on flying to the north. Obviously he did not care for protecting our land, but was ready to protect the Rumanian petrol factories from being bombed. In this moment I decided to do something different. I left the group of German planes flying to the north and I turned my plane back to the south, where our capital city Sofia lays; thus finishing our joint aerial operation with the Germans.

When we reached the mountains around Ihtiman our altitude was already over 7000m. Far away we could see the enemy group over Chamkoria (today Borovets), stretching far into the horizon. We continued climbing, while keeping our planes to the side of the enemy column and letting it fly undisturbed below us with a north-eastern course. One by one, the groups passed under us, as if a military parade is going on, and we to the side are watching as we are receiving it. And we’re counting: nine groups of 20-30 bombers each, escorted by “Lightings” and “Mustangs”. Some of the fighters flew close to the bomber to provide cover, while other lone planes circled above the “fortresses”* so the could carefully watch the skies around and give courage to the bomber crews, several groups of 40-60 fighter planes in large masses, like swarms of bees, were circling at different altitudes and directions around the main group, ready to repel any attack.

* Bulgarian pilots referred to any 4-engined bomber a “fortress”, either the B-24 or B-17

The last groups were passing below us. We watch them fly by, we let them pass, and we wondered from where we could start an attack. We were around 1500m higher than them. A group of their fighter started slowly approaching us, but probably realizing our “peaceful intentions”, the returned over the column of bombers. That’s where they belong. And we were continuing to fly to side and behind the column, within a respectful distance.

During the short time that the fighter cover moved forwards we threw ourselves with surprise against the trailing planes. Then, somewhere in the heights above the towns of Panagiurishte and Koprivshtitsa, together with the howling of the engines echoed the thunder of machinegun and cannon fire. Two of the 4-engined machines received serious damage and most likely wouldn’t be able to return to their home bases. We quickly left the engagement so as to not attract the enemy fighters against us. And, having barely cached our breaths, one of the pilots reported on the radio that he sighted another machine flying several kilometers behind us in the same direction.

I immediately spotted this lonely plane and I couldn’t help but wonder why it was flying alone, so far away from the group?

And without any fighter cover! If it had problems with the engines it should have had returned to its base. Why would it continue o risk over enemy territory? Ah, maybe - it’s a special decoy for us? We had heard and we had read in the press that the enemy sent lonely planes, armed with 32 machineguns and 4 cannons, to attract fighters and destroy them with their superior firepower. Maybe this is such an aircraft , called “Marauder” or something like that! Yet it was attractive target and like it was teasing us: “Come on, attack, what are you waiting for!”

We decided to attack. But as if it had guessed our intention (or that was the preplanned scenario), the plane turned quickly right and headed back We headed with full speed against it. I chose my four planes to lead the first attack and we pulled a little forward and to the side to inspect this mysterious plane. Six planes remained to the right and above, and to the left and 500m above them was the covering four led by podporuchik Mihail Banov. We were slowly gaining on it (-the enemy plane) with a certain feeling, totally confident in our victory - we were fourteen against one. We were passing over Ihtiman and somewhere above Karabair I took position for an attack, behind and a little to the side of the enemy, about 500m higher, I preparing to attack and again use one of the tried methods of attacking a lone 4-engined member. Behind me, spread in a line astern, were the other flyers from the four, ready to follow and repeat my attack.

I announced on the radio:
- Attention, I’m attacking! The next one starts while I’m pulling off from my run!

I dived forward, approaching the “fortress” from the right side. The side gunner started firing from a great distance, but I was diving and side-slipping slightly, carefully watching the tracers, maneuvering when needed to avoid them. A let out a few short burst to frighten the gunner. He’s a human too, and had to take cover over the armor plating these gunners had.

When a got close to the plane I increased the side-slip and I quickly moved behind the tail of the target. Up to this point the tail gunner couldn’t see me and aim well, but having suddenly appeared right against him I fired a long burst, continuing to side slip to the right. Thus I appeared on the left side and opened fire on the left side gunner, whom I saw in the gun port in his entire height. My sudden appearance didn’t gave him the chance to aim well. He only managed to fire a very short burst. After that I saw a human figure fall from the plane, tumble several times and the air and disappear in the aerial chasm.
Maybe somewhere below he managed to open his parachute, if he was alive at all, but I couldn’t see him, and this wasn’t occupying my attention. I had a different task. I targeted the left engines of the bomber. Towards them I directed the glowing tracers of the cannon and the machineguns. A split second later, a dim white tail emerged from one engine. Enough! It was time for me to back off. Behind me podporuchik headed for an attack. He was a good hunter on the ground and a reliable marksman in the air.
Let him continue! And I slipped under the enemy machine and turned right, so I could watch the attack of the other pilots and their shooting. The tracers were passing slightly under the bomber so I called on the radio:
- Uzunov, slightly higher! ... That’s it, keep it steady! … Good!

Soon the smoking engines multiplied. Six or seven men jumped out from the enemy plane and I ordered:

- Uzunov, break off your attack! The next one, go!

Podofficer Kiril Stoyanov charged. His shooting was good and the bomber burst into flames. An explosion followed, parts flew everywhere and the plane fell down. Someone shouted over the radio:

- Uraaaaa ! Victory!

From the command post of our orlyak, where they listened to our radio chatter, came a salute “Well done, boys!” We were all happy, but only for a second, because trouble loomed over us.

Before going into an attack I always looked closely around my plane, especially behind and above. I did it again, but it turned out it wasn’t enough. When the others pressed into the attack I got carried so away inspecting their shooting that I forgot to look around. The covering four, as well as the six planes between us and them, also watched our actions and forgot their primary mission, not assuming that enemy fighters can emerge from the clear sky. And just that happened in these short seconds. More than 40 “Lightnings” jumped on us. We didn’t even got time to “get scared”. I could barely hear the leader of the covering four:

_ “Lightings”, above us! - and the combat was underway.

I looked up and I thought that the entire sky was full of buzzing aircraft.
During his career each pilot has critical moments when his life is in serious danger. Such was the moment for all of us now. An uneven, fast duel began. Against each of us there were at least 3 or 4 of the twin-bodied fighters. Within the first few moments I saw one of our planes diving for the deck. I closed him, to see his tail number and I saw, terrified, that three “Lightings” were chasing him. I opened barraging fire against the leading fire and I managed to get him off the tail of “ours”, but in doing so I involuntarily got in front of them and became an easy target. They, of course, quickly took advantage of my self-offering and closed in against me. Death loomed over my eyes and I had to escape from her clutches. I looked up and I saw a dozen fighters chasing each other. I was a lot lower than them and if I pulled up, I would have reached their altitude with very low speed. And that was a new, certain meeting with death. So - up, no! Forward or to the side - again, no. My only choice was down, even if unfavorable tactically. Around me there were already tracers passing by. I chilled and I curled myself within my seat. I pushed the stick forward and I dived straight down - even slightly inverted. I felt the unbearably strong g-forces and even with my training, the sudden movement of the elevator made my stomach go up and crush my diaphragm. My heart started pounding intensely and blood rushed to my eyes. I almost lost my vision for a second, but mind continued to work and I still pressed the stick forward, as for an inverted loop, spinning the fighter on its axis, so as to emerge from the dive in the opposite direction. It was something like a half barrel roll, only in a steep dive and not horizontally, or even say, a chandelle, but in a dive and not upwards. My speed was well over 700km/h and without slowing down I continued in a low-level flight just over the rocky surface of Plana Mountain. A turned several times left and right, but I didn’t see any pursuer. I took my breath and I climbed to 4000m still keeping my guard up. Here I gave the command for all of our fighters to gather.

In cases like today the outcome of combat is decided within minutes. For such a short time our encounter with the enemy fighters ended. While I was escaping the clutches of death, the stricken bomber had fallen next to the bridge on the river Iskar, in the center of the town of Samokov, and there, in the riverbed its remains smoldered. In the same time a “Lightning” crashed in the nearby hills. The American pilots who jumped with parachutes had safely landed.
Podporuchik Hristo Kostakiev had been badly shoot up when we were bounced by the enemy fighters and had to belly land in the fields around Ihtiman. His plane crashed, and he, although seriously wounded, survived and was taken to a hospital. Nearby with a damaged plane also landed podporuchik Mihail Koychev Banov. Podporuchik Todor Rozev survived trough a tough hardship.

His plane had received several hits in the motor and it started to burn. He tried to escape and jump with a parachute. But his canopy was deformed from an enemy shell and it didn’t open. The flames were already reaching his legs, and his plane became unresponsive, heading with great speed towards the earth. A few more seconds and the last moments of his life would have ended. He gathered his strength and pushed the canopy with all his effort, but it again refused to open. And Rozev accepted his faith. But, he was destined to live. By some lucky, happy chance his extra fuel tank exploded and ripped his aircraft around the canopy, which flew off, and he himself was pushed away by the strong air stream and managed to open his saving parachute just before the ground, in the fields between the villages of Raduil and Dolna Banya, Samokov area.
Pilots Evgeni Tonchev and Tzetan Gruev also received several hits, but they returned safely to the airfield. Podporuchik Tonchev had, again, to holes in the blades of his propeller and one in his wingtip, which was ripped apart.

The only on who didn’t make it back today was the quiet and always smiling Tzvyatko Zagorski. In the aerual struggle he managed to shoot down a “Lightning”, but the others pushed him towards the ground. Continuing to fight, he slowly lured them over the position of our small-caliber AAA in the region of Novoseltzi (now Elin Pelin). His plane was struck several times, but Zagorski refused to back off. He maneuvered sharply to the left or right, firing in the enemy fighters as he got the chance. But, again, numerical superiority decided the outcome of the combat. His plane was hit again in the fuel tank, which erupted in fire in his cockpit and the plane plummeted towards the ground. Another hero fell, but his example remained with his comrades in arms. And they promised to avenge his death.

This promise they fulfilled a few hours after this combat, when they downed another “fortress” from the group of returning bombers.

Vengel's grave site (which is near the modern center of Sofia) is also marked with a commemorative stone plate. IIRC after the severe losses by I./JG5 suffered on 10 January they were relieved by a unit from JG 301. The few German pilots who fought over Bulgaria are almost unknown.
Sadly, even Bulgarian pilots (including those from bomber, recce and assault units who fought against Germany) were forbidden to talk about the war by the communist government. After the war most were discharged without honors, stripped of their pensions and sentenced to prisons and labor camps for several years. After that those who couldn't flee to the west were harassed by the police and worked as construction workers, gardeners, miners, tourist guides and janitors. Most haven't received back their medals and military ranks even to this day. Absolute shame, really...
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