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Knights of the Air: A. Prokofiev-Seversky

Not an "official ace", but undoubtedly the most successful Russian naval pilot with an illustrious war record:

Alexander Nikolayevich Prokofiev-Seversky was born in Tiflis (Tbilisi, Georgia) in an actor's family. Seversky was his father's scenic name. He entered a military school at the age of 10. Seversky's father was one of the first Russian aviators to privately own an aircraft, and when Alexander entered the Naval Cadets School, his father had already taught him how to fly.

Seversky Senior...

... and Junior:

Alexander (on the right) with his father and elder brother George (on the left):

Graduating in 1914, Ensign Prokofiev-Seversky was serving at sea with a gunboat when World War I began. Seversky was selected for duty as a naval aviator, transferring to the Military School of Aeronautics at Sebastopol, Crimea.

After completing a postgraduate program on aeronautics in 1914–15, he was reassigned as a pilot in the summer of 1915 to an aviation unit in the Baltic Fleet. While stationed in the Esel Island, flying a French FBA Flying boat (shown above), he attacked a German destroyer but his aircraft had been damaged before he could drop his bombs. One bomb exploded in the crash, killing his observer and badly wounding Seversky. Doctors amputated his leg below the knee and although he was fitted with an prosthetic leg, despite his protests, authorities deemed him unfit to return to combat. But, just like another Russian hero, Yuri Gilsher, Seversky did everything possible to fly again.

Physical exercise and strong will made wonders: young aviator soon was able to play football and tennis. He had no trouble to ride a motorcycle. To prove to his superiors that he could still fly, Seversky appeared unannounced at an air show, but was quickly arrested following his impromptu spirited aerial performance. Emperor Nicholas II intervened on Seversly's behalf and in July 1, 1916, the aviator returned to combat duty, downing his first enemy aircraft three days later. Now his craft were Russian-built Grigorovich flying boats (M-5,M-9 and M-11, shown below).

He also fitted his flying boat with ski chassis that enabled to use it in winter.

In February 1917, he assumed command of the 2nd Naval Fighter Detachment, until he was seriously injured in St. Petersburg where a horse drawn wagon broke his good leg while he was driving his bike. But in July Senior Lieutenant Prokofiev-Seversky was back to combat duty, this time flying a landplane, the Nieuport 17 fighter.

On 14 October 1916, he was forced down in enemy territory and had to set his aircraft on fire, but made it back (20 miles by feet!) to the safety of his own lines. He went on to fly 57 combat missions, shooting down three German aircraft (confirmed; his claims for 13 victories would make him Russia's third-ranking World War I ace although the claims are disputed). Senior Lieutenant Prokofiev-Seversky was the leading Russian naval pilot in the Great War. For his wartime service, Seversky was awarded the Order of St. George (4th Class); Order of St. Vladimir (4th Class); Order of St. Stanislaus (2nd & 3rd Class); Order of St. Anne (2nd; 3rd; and 4th class).
In 1918 Prokofiev-Seversky left Russia for Washington, D.C. In his American immigration papers he was registered as Alexander P. de Seversky.On this photograph we see him (marked with red X) with the foreign Military Missions officers:

Here starts the story of the great aviation designer, businessman and the author of Victory Through Air Power. And this story will be told here some day.

Sources: Wiki, Russian Air Aces (1, 2), World War One Aviation. Special thanks to alexww1 @ LJ for the illustration #1.

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Tags: 1910s, Knights of the Air, aviation, fighters, navy, russian, wwi

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