Kozhedub, Ivan, born 08-06-1920, in the village of Obrazhiivka, Ukraine, a settlement in the Sumy region in the Ukrainian People’s Republic. He was the youngest of five children. For two years he attended a school for young workers, and in early 1940 graduated from the Shostka chemical technical school. Kozhedub learned to fly aircraft in the Shostkinsk aeroclub and joined the Soviet army in 1940. He graduated from the Chuhuiv Military Air School in 1941 at the start of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, but he was retained as an instructor. Ivan Kozhedub remained at the school for two years where he trained many young Soviet pilots.
Feeling his talents would be better used in combat, he requested a transfer to an operational unit and in March 1943 was posted, as a Starshii Serzhant, Senior Sergeant, to 240th IAP, one of the first units to receive the new Lavochkin La-5.
After his first military flight on 26-03-1943, he operated on the Voronezh Front and, in July over the Kursk battlefields. His first kill was a Junkers Ju 87 Stuka shot down over Pokrova on 06-07-1943. By 16 August he had claimed eight air victories. He was promoted to Mladshii Leitenant, Junior Lieutenant. Then his unit moved towards Kharkiv. At this time he usually flew escort for Petlyakov Pe-2 twin-engine bombers. During World War II, he then served as a fighter pilot in several areas (Steppe Front, 2nd Ukrainian Front, 1st Belorussian Front) and at different ranks, starting from senior airman up to the deputy commander of the air regiment. He claimed his 61st and 62nd victories – his final claims – over Berlin on 16-04-1945.
Kozhedub holds the record for the highest number of confirmed air combat victories of any Soviet or Allied pilot (effectively the Allied “Ace of Aces”) during World War II. He is regarded as the best Soviet flying ace of the war, and is associated with flying the Lavochkin La-7. He was also reputed to have a natural gift for deflection shooting, i.e. aiming ahead of a moving target at the time of firing so that the projectile and target will collide.
Kozhedub’s World War II record consists of: 330 combat missions, 120 aerial engagements and 62 enemy aircraft shot down, including one Me 262 jet fighter (possibly Uffz Kurt Lange of 1./KG(J)54.)
In 1949 Kozhedub graduated from the Air Force Academy. In April 1951, promoted to Polkovnik, Colonel, he commanded the 324th IAD (Fighter Air Division) and dispatched to Antung airfield on the China-North Korea border to fly the Mig 52] during the Korean War supporting the North Korean forces. He was not given permission to participate in combat missions. Under his leadership the 324th IAD claimed 239 victories, including 12 Boeing B-29 Superfortresses for the loss of 27 MiG-15s in combat and 9 pilots.
In 1956 he graduated from the High Command Academy, after which he was promoted to General. From 1971 he served in the Central Office of the Soviet Air Force and from 1978 in the general inspection group of the Ministry of Defense of the USSR. He was made an Aviation Marshal in 1985.
Kozhedub was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union with the Order of Lenin three times (1944, 1944, 1945), seven Orders of the Red Banner, two Order of Alexander Nevsky, two Orders of the Red Star, Order of the Patriotic War First Class, and numerous medals. He was promoted to his final rank of Marshal shortly before retirement.
Death and burial ground of Kozhedub, Ivan Mykytovych.
Ivan Kozhedub died 08-08-1991, aged 71, in Moscow and is buried on the Novodevitchy Cemetery in Moscow. Close by the graves of Nikita Krushchev, General and Commander of the 3rd Belorussian Front, who died from wounds received outside Königsberg at age 39. General Ivan Chernakhosky, The defender of Moscow, General Lev Dovator, the Russian Foreigh Minister 1942, who signed the agreement with the Germans in 1939, Viacheslav Molotov, the Red Army’s 3rd Tank Army commander Generaloberst Pavel Semjonovich Rybalko, and Commanding General of the 1st Belorussian’s 3rd Shock Army, Vasily Kuznetsov.