Red Air Force at war : air combat over the Eastern Front and Korea : a Soviet fighter pilot remembers by Sergei Kramarenko
(Translators: Vladimir Krupnik and John Armstrong. Editor: Sergei Anisimov. English text: Chirstopher Summerville)
Barnsley, Sth. Yorkshire: Pen & Sword Military, 2008 ISBN 9781844157358
Sergei Kramarenko was the first "ace" of the jet era, downing 15 US and Australian jets in the Korean War, to add to his two victories in World War II. This short book is his story. Sent into combat in World War II, the first section of the book describes Segei's underdone training - sent to an operational unit not long after his first solo flight, he was flying against FW190s when all he'd done is fly a circuit around the airfield. He was shot down, and was a POW of the Germans for a short period before he was liberated by the Red Army, and taken to hospital for a long and painful recovery from burns and broken bones.
The action quickly moves on to the final years of the war, when Kramarenko has become a veteran pilot, covering the advance to Berlin. After his triumphant return, Kramarenko and his colleagues are moved to Moscow to start training on the new jet aircraft, moving quickly to pilot the MiG15, which was one of the most advanced jet fighters in the World at the time.
At the beginning of the Korean War, his whole squadron "volunteered" to go and fight for the DPRK, and the second half of the book describes his time flying over "MiG Alley" and tackling the USAF and the RAAF.
This book is inherently interesting, as there are not too many books available to English-language readers that look at Korea from the "other side". Unfortunately, unlike other pilot's memoirs from the likes of Pierre Clostermann or Adolf Galland, this book lacks background, is written in a very bald style, and is too episodic to be considered a good example of this genre of writing.
The book is also hindered by the publisher - I've read a few of Pen & Sword's books, and they are always so much less than they could be. I assume they are a relatively small outfit, and can't afford to expend much time or money in the editing of their books, which is a shame, as every Pen & Sword title I've read has been let down by poor editing.
This title is no different - items that should be footnotes are inserted into the text in square brackets - Russian words are not translated and then explained by square brackets; again, footnote either the translation or the Russian word. The translation is far too literal "list" used where the appropriate English term is "bank". These problems are scattered throughout the text. What is evident from these sorts of problems is that the translator has not thought about the reader of the text in a coherent way, and unfortunately there seems to have been no editor to fix up this problem. It's a real shame as the book seems more amateurish than it should. The index, as is becoming far too common, looks like it was automatically generated by a computer program; i.e. many entries, most of which are useless for navigating the book.
So, I would only recommend this title if you were a serious student of the air war in Korea, and don't mind ploughing through some painful intrusions into what is a poorly executed book.
Cheers for now, from
A View Over the Bell