Boris Safonov

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Boris Feoktistovich Safonov
Сафонов Борис Феоктистович.jpg
Native name
Борис Феоктистович Сафонов
Born26 August [O.S. 13 August] 1915
Plavsky District, Tul'skaya oblast
Died30 May 1942(1942-05-30) (aged 26)
Barents Sea, Murmansk Oblast
AllegianceFlag of the Soviet Union (1924–1936).svg Flag of the USSR (1936-1955).svg Soviet Union
Service/branchSoviet Naval Aviation
Years of service1933–1942
RankLieutenant colonel
Unit15th Fighter Aviation Regiment
Commands held78th Fighter Aviation Regiment
2nd Guards Mixed Aviation Regiment
Battles/warsWinter War
German-Soviet War
AwardsHero of the Soviet Union (twice)

Boris Feoktistovich Safonov (Russian: Бори́с Феокти́стович Сафо́нов); 26 August [O.S. 13 August] 1915 – 30 May 1942) was a Soviet Naval Aviation fighter ace of World War II who was twice awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union.

Early life[edit]

Safonov was born to a peasant family in the village of Sinyavino, now in the Plavsky District of Tula Oblast on 26 August 1915. After graduating from seven grades, he entered the Tula Railway Training College in the late 1920s. While studying at the college, he joined the local flying school, where his instructor was Valentina Grizodubova, who later became a celebrated military pilot. He was conscripted into the Red Army in 1933 and on completing his flying training at the Kacha Higher Military Aviation School, was posted to the Belorussian Military District. He served in the 106th Dzerzhinsky Fighter Aviation Squadron of the 40th Aviation Brigade from 1934, later 15th Dzerzhinsky Fighter Aviation Regiment. In 1939, he joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.[1] In 1940, he requested a transfer to the Northern Fleet Air Force.[2]

World War II[edit]

Safonov's Polikarpov I-16 fighter, displayed at the Central Naval Museum in Saint Petersburg.

At the beginning of the German-Soviet War, Safonov was based at Vaenga (now called Severomorsk) on the Murmansk Front, commanding the 4th Squadron of the 72nd Mixed Aviation Regiment, flying the Polikarpov I-16 fighter.[3] A widely circulated photograph of Safonov showed him with an I-16 bearing the slogan "За Сталина!" (For Stalin!) on its fuselage, although this probably was not his personal machine.[4]

In September 1941, No. 151 Wing RAF arrived at Vaenga by sea, with 39 Hawker Hurricane fighters which they were to train Soviet personnel to operate and then hand over. Safonov headed the Soviet side of the training programme and made a good impression on his British colleagues, who remembered him as serious and likeable.[5] By the time he converted to the Hurricane, Safonov had already scored 14 individual and 6 shared victories with the I-16.[3] He took command of a new squadron, part of the 78th Fighter Aviation Regiment of the Soviet Naval Aviation which was formed to fly the Hurricanes and was largely manned by his pilots from 72nd Mixed Aviation Regiment. As a commander, he showed exceptional organisational and tactical skills, while enforcing strict discipline on his men, once threatening to shoot a pilot whom he judged to have returned early from combat. However, he defended Sergey Kurzenkov who accidentally shot down a friendly bomber and often gave others the credit for his own kills.[6]

Safonov in 1942.

In March 1942, Safonov returned as a lieutenant colonel to command 72nd Mixed Aviation Regiment, by then renamed as the 2nd Guards Mixed Aviation Regiment. On 30 May, he took off for his 234th combat mission, flying a Curtiss P-40E to cover the approach of arctic convoy PQ-16. He shot down three Ju-88s, but crashed into the sea following engine failure. The convoy escorts were unable to find him.[4]

Final tally[edit]

Russian historians Andrey Simonov and Nikolai Bodrikhin credit Safonov with 20 solo and 5 shared shootdowns, based on official Soviet documents,[7] while Mikhail Maslov credits him with an additional shared kill.[4] Western historian Hugh Morgan suggested he had 25 individual and 14 shared.[8]

Awards and honors[edit]



A Soviet postage stamp issued in 1944, showing Safonov, his medals and an imagined combat scene.

Safonovo, a village in the Severomorsk administrative area, is named after Safonov and has a bust of him at the entrance to the settlement. The street where he lived in Severomorsk is also named after him and his former home has a commemorative plaque attached. One of his I-16 aircraft is displayed in the Central Naval Museum in Saint Petersburg. An annual prize for the best naval pilot is also named after him. Safonov's last regiment was renamed Red Banner, Safonov's Second Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment in his honour.[11]


  1. ^ "Boris Safonov". Герои страны ("Heroes of the Country") (in Russian).
  2. ^ "Boris Feoktistovich Safonov". Archived from the original on 2015-05-09. Retrieved 10 April 2015.
  3. ^ a b Mellinger 2006, p. 8.
  4. ^ a b c Maslov 2010, p. 75.
  5. ^ Carter p. 211
  6. ^ Mellinger 2006, p. 8-9.
  7. ^ Simonov & Bodrikhin 2017, p. 296.
  8. ^ Morgan 1997, p. 76.
  9. ^ Указ Президиума Верховного Совета СССР «О награждении Героя Советского Союза подполковника Сафонова Бориса Феоктистовича второй медалью «Золотая звезда» от 14 июня 1942 года // Ведомости Верховного Совета Союза Советских Социалистических Республик : газета. — 1942. — 30 июня (№ 24 (183)). — С. 1.
  10. ^ Simonov & Bodrikhin 2017, p. 298.
  11. ^ Morgan 2013, p. 76.