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Knights of the Air: Alexander Kozakov

Alexander Alexandrovich Kozakov* (1889-1919) was Russia's highest scoring ace of the Great War, with 20 victories.

He was born in Kherson province. Educated in Cadet Corps and Cavalry Officers School, he entered the ranks in 1908, beginning his service with Belgorod Uhlans. Ironically, the Colonel-in-Chief of his regiment was no other than Franz Josef of Austria and Hungary. After serving in the light cavalry, Kozakov transferred to Russian Imperial Air Force in 1913 and by the following year, graduating from Air School in September 1914, was assigned to the 4th Corps Air Detachment in Poland where he flew reconnaissance and bombing missions in a Morane-Saulnier (starting from December 25).

Having made several unsuccessful attempts to bring down enemy aircraft by dangling explosives and grappling hooks beneath his plane, Kozakov scored his first victory in the spring of 1915 by ramming his opponent. It was the second air ramming in history (the first one was lethal for both parts). On July 28, 1915 he was awarded with St. George's Weapon (gold saber, decorated with with an enamel St. George's Order cross).

In September of 1915, he was promoted to Staff Rotmistr (cavalry rank equal to Сaptain) and assumed command of the 19th Corps Air Detachment but scored no additional victories that year and only 2 more by August of 1916 when he assumed staff officer position with the new 1st Combat Air Group (CAG-1, under Capt. Zalessky's command). Kozakov did his best to develop the air combat tactics and to improve Nieuport IX airplanes, converting them from recce two-seaters to single-seat fighters.

His group, equipped with new Nieuport X-G fighters, proved to be very effective from the start. The Southwestern Front Command issued a daily order that said: "Squadron combat tactics brought excellent results... no enemy airplane could enter the air space over our lines. "

On December 21, 1916 he attacked two Austrian Brandenburg C.1 bombers and shot one. The pilot, Johann Kolbi, was killed. The observer, Franz Weigel, was seriously wounded while trying to land the damaged plane.

Kozakov and Weigel:

On In February of 1917, his CAG was ordered to Romania where Kozakov scored eight more victories before being wounded in action on 27 June 1917. He rejected an offer to head the Yevpatoria Air School (Crimea) and soon returned to duty, with at least three new victories in July and August. On September 11, 1917 he scored his last air victory, shooting down a Brandenburg of the Austro-Hungarian air force.

Soon he was promoted to Colonel and assumed command (pro tempore) of the 7th Air Division. His brothers-in-arms received new SPAD VIII fighters and were eager to fight. But the Great War was over for them - after the October Revolution (Nov. 7, 1917) Army Revolutionary Committee banned all flights at the frontline.

With 20 victories, Kozakov resigned his commission in January, 1918. He tried to cooperate with the Bolshevik regime and has been made a member of the new Air Fleet Administration. But in a few weeks the Administration was proclaimed "counter-revolutionary" and disbanded. The ace fled to Murmansk where he joined the British Joint Military forces in June. Promoted to the rank of Captain (Royal Flying Corps), he commanded the 1st Squad of the Slavo-British Air Corps at Berezniaky and continued flying combat missions until he was again wounded in January of 1919. Returning to duty in March and awarded with British Distinguished Flying Cross, he assumed command of the newly formed Russian Air Division.

One of the last photogrpaphs of Kozakov, in British uniform:

He gradually became deeply depressed by the withdrawal of British forces from Russia in the summer of 1919. On the evening of August 1, 1919, ignoring an invitation to a farewell dinner for British pilots, he took off in a Sopwith only to crash to his death a few moments later. Having watched Kozakov pull a loop at low altitude and stall the plane, Ira Jones concluded the Russian Ace of Aces "brought about his own death and staged it in the most dramatic manner."

Kozakov's funeral:

And more pictures...

Alexander Kozakov in Russian uniform with St. George's and St. Vladimir's crosses:

Some of his airpanes

Nieuport X N222, early color scheme:

Nieuport X N222, late color scheme:

Kozakov's Nieuport X cockpit with Maxim machine gun:

Nieuport 17:

SPAD VII:

SPAD VII:

SPAD VII:

Sopwith 1A2:

Sopwith Snipe:

Sopwith Snipe after the crash, August 1919:

Sources: theaerodrome.com, Air Aces (RU)
Special thanks to alexww1 @ LJ for providing an excellent set of illustrations for this entry
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* His family name is often misspelled (even in Russian) as Kazakov or spelled as "Kosakoff" in a French manner.

Views: 1266

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

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Comment by lord_k on November 28, 2010 at 12:45am
My pleasure as usual.
Comment by Larry on November 27, 2010 at 6:34pm
Great images, great art and great information. As usual wonderful post, lord_k.

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