Who's Who - Vasili Yanchenko

Vasili Yanchenko Vasili Yanchenko (1894-1959) scored 16 victories as a Russian air ace during the First World War.

Yanchenko was born on New Year's Day in 1894 in the Nicholsk-Ussurisk region of Russia.  An early student of aviation he enlisted with the Imperial Russian Air Service on 22 November 1914.  Following training at Sevastopol the following year he emerged with his pilot's license in early September 1915.

His first aerial mission took place on 15 September; unfortunately for Yanchenko he was obliged to crash-land his aircraft after the engine proved faulty; he suffered severe burns in the accident, although his observer emerged virtually unscathed.  For his actions in saving both himself and his observer that day Yanchenko was subsequently awarded the Cross of St. George (4th Class).

Following conversion training in mid-November 1915 at the Moscow Air School - to learn to fly Morane-Saulnier Type H aircraft - Yanchenko was assigned to 7th Corps Detachment in March 1916.  His inaugural air 'kill' was achieved on 25 June while flying a Nieuport 11 aircraft, when he successfully brought down an Austro-Hungarian Aviatik B.III aircraft over Podgaitsy.  This success brought him the Soldiers Cross of St. George (2nd Class) and a promotion to warrant officer.

Promoted to ensign on 21 August 1916 Yanchenko achieved his second aerial victory on 4 October, again while flying a Nieuport 11 aircraft.  Of his 16 confirmed victories all but two were achieved while flying Nieuport aircraft (his last two with the Nieuport 21); two other victories were scored with Morane-Saulnier aircraft.

In January 1917 - by which time he had raised his tally to three victories - Yanchenko was the recipient of the Order of St. Anne and of St. Vladimir (4th Class).

Yanchenko's final victory was achieved on 14 October 1917, downing an Albatross D.III above Gorodok.  With the onset of the October Revolution and consequent Bolshevik seizure of power Yanchenko chose to desert the Russian Air Service, joining instead the opposing Volunteer Army in 1918, leading the 2nd Air Squadron against the Bolsheviks.

Later emigrating to the U.S. Yanchenko - the 'Invincible Tartar' - worked as an engineer at Sikorsky until his retirement in 1952.  He died in Florida in 1959.

In slang a "beetle" was a landing craft for 200 men.

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