I came across the story of Alexander Gorovets some time ago in a book I was reading. But of course, I didn’t write down which book, so when it came time to talk about him, I had lost my main reference. I figured an Internet search would turn up all the info I needed. I was wrong…and when I started reading what itty-bitty crumbs were available, some of the facts were different from what I had remembered.
Then I got frustrated and did some more digging through the books I’ve recently had open…nothing. I looked through some magazines…not a word. So…what to do? I’ve decided to tell you the basic story, because it’s constant, then let you decide on the details…or point me to the proper answers. It’s a two-way version of Today’s History Lesson.
We mentioned the Battle of Kursk yesterday and its heavy concentration of ground-based firepower. Kursk is best known for its tank warfare, and that’s good, because it was easily the largest tank battle in warfare’s long history. But there were nearly as many planes in the air as there were tanks on the ground. And that’s where our subject comes into the picture.
On July 6, 1943, the Lieutenant was flying over the battle when he spotted 20 Junkers Ju-87 Stukas. The Stuka was, in WWII, just about the closest thing to a “precision” bomber in existance. Though by 1943, it was clearly outdated as any kind of fighter, it was deadly in its “tank plinking” role. Carrying a single 500-pound bomb under the fuselage, it was devastating to armor. Gorovets knew that 20 of them could easily destroy 20 tanks. And so he attacked.
And on the ground, Russian infantry were able to watch in amazement as Alexander slashed through the Stukas, downing one, then a second, then two more, and then another. The Stukas simply couldn’t fight with the additional bomb weight. And so they jettisoned their bombs and scattered for safer territory. But before they could escape, Lt. Alexander Gorovets had single-handedly destroyed 9 of them…and then his guns ran dry.
But while his fame was just beginning (he would be named a Hero of the Soviet Union), Alexander’s life was nearly over. Returning to base, he was jumped by a 4-ship of Focke-Wulf Fw-190’s. Low on fuel and with no ammunition for defense, the hunter became easy prey, and Gorovets was shot down and killed.
None of that is disputed.
Here’s my confusion. My notes indicated that our hero was flying a Bell P-39 Airacobra. The Airacobra (shown on the left) was a U.S. mark, sent to Russia as part of Lend-Lease. It was a capable (though not outstanding) fighter that probably achieved its greatest success in the hands of Russian pilots. But all other sources state that Gorovets was flying a Russian-made Lavochkin La-5 (shown on the right), a very capable aircraft on par with the Focke-Wulfs that shot him down.
Anyways, Gorovets’ achievements were remarkable, regardless of which plane he was flying. I just wish I could find that reference to him flying a P-39. If any of you ever come across it…