Nineteen year old Second Lieutenant Konstantin Michailovich Treshchov was one of the first Soviet pilots to gain an aerial victory against the Luftwaffe. Born in Tula, Russia, Treshchov developed an early interest in aviation and built model aircraft as a boy. At 15, he joined the local aero club, making his first flight in a Polikarpov Po-2 trainer. A year later, he entered the Kachyn military aviation school. In 1940 and 1941, Treshchov served as a senior pilot posted near the border of Byelorussia and German occupied Poland. On the night of 21-22 June 1941, when the Germans opened Operation Barbarossa, he was standing alert.
At 0335 hours an air raid alarm sounded and Treshchov and his fellow pilots launched in their Polikarpov I-153 Chaikas. Unaware that war had begun, the Soviets ran head-on into Luftwaffe Junkers 87 dive bombers escorted by Messerschmitt 109 fighters. Battling over Grodno, Treshchov and his flight commander shot down a bomber. Outnumbered, he and his comrades fought courageously as the Germans advanced to the edge of Moscow. In late 1941, his regiment, equipped with the Polikarpov I-16 Rata, fought in the early days of the 900-day Leningrad siege. They escorted Soviet transports flying across Lake Ladoga, a route known as the “Road of Life.”
In 1942, Treshchov transitioned to a Yakovlev fighter and became a squadron commander in the 16th Air Army. The next few months were the most unforgettable and important in his life and a turning point in World War II. In the Battle for Stalingrad, Treshchov often flew four to five combat sorties a day, scored nine victories, and earned two Orders of the Red Banner and a Defense of Stalingrad Medal. In 1943, as the Germans began Operation Citadel in the Kursk-Orel salient, he continued to add victories as the greatest tank battle in history unfolded. In 1944, the 22-year old “ace” flew in Operation Bagration, the liberation of Byelorussia, and in 1945, covered the Red Army’s final assault on Berlin.
He flew 565 total combat sorties, scored 28 aerial victories, and received the Gold Star and title, “Hero of the Soviet Union.” In 1950, Treshchov graduated from War College and served at Air Force Headquarters. In Korea in 195 1, he studied tactics of USAF squadrons flying the North American F-86 Sabre and the Republic F-84 Thunderjet, later co-authoring A Survey of War in the East. From 1957 to 1959, Treshchov was a military advisor to the Chinese. He remained on flight status until 1964, logging over 3000 hours and flying nearly all the fighters developed by Polikarpov, Yakovlev, Lavochkin, and Mikoyan-Gurevich. In 1983, Treshchov medically retired, but remains active in several veteran’s organizations.