Ekaterina Vasilyevna Budanova was a fighter pilot of the 73rd Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment (6th Guards Fighter Aviation Division, 8th Air Army, Southern Front), senior lieutenant of the Guards. She was born on December 7, 1916 in the village of Konoplyanka, the Smolensk region, in a peasant family. She became an orphan early. After finishing school, she went to Moscow to work. She worked at a factory in Fili. Then she successfully graduated from the local Flying Club and became an instructor. In September 1941 Ekaterina Budanova came to the point of formation of women’s aviation regiments. She was sent to a fighter unit. After retraining in Saratov on the combat Yak-1, she was assigned to the 586th Women’s Fighter Aviation Regiment. After the outbreak of the Great Patriotic War in October 1941, she was enlisted in the Red Army as a volunteer and sent to Saratov, where she completed a retraining course for the Yak-1 fighter at Engels Military Aviation School (she completed the courses in February 1942, upon their completion on February 22, she was awarded the military rank of “junior lieutenant”). Since March 1942 she was the Flight commander of the 586th Fighter Aviation Regiment of the Air Defence of the 144th Fighter Aviation Division of the Air Defence (Saratov-Balashovsky divisional area of the air defence). Covering the skies of Saratov, she carried out 55 combat sorties on patrol and to search for enemy aircraft. In this regiment she met Lydia Litvyak and they became best friends. In the future, they always served together. On September 10, 1942, she was sent to the 437th Fighter Aviation Regiment (287th Fighter Aviation Division, 8th Air Army, Stalingrad Front). Participating in the Battle of Stalingrad, October 2, 1942 paired with pilot Raisa Belyaeva, she discovered a group of 12 German bombers and attacked them, forcing them to drop bombs into the steppe. Thus, the operation to bomb the Elton station was disrupted. On October 6, Budanova attacked a group of 13 Ju-88s on her own and shot down one of them. It was her first victory. Since October 1942, she fought as a pilot in the 9th Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment (268th Fighter Aviation Division in the same Air Army). In mid-November 1942, in fierce battles in the sky over Stalingrad, she destroyed two Me-109s in the group, and then a Ju-88 bomber. In one of the battles, its leader Vladimir Lavrinenkov shot down a He-111, but his plane was also damaged and Ekaterina Budanova accompanied the commander’s almost uncontrollable airplane until the landing. At the end of November, she was assigned to the group of “free hunters”. On December 10, returning from a mission, she was attacked by a pair of Me-109s. She took the fight and shot down the presenter. In January 1943, she was transferred to the 296th Fighter Aviation Regiment (268th Fighter Aviation Division, 8th Air Army, Southern Front). In its ranks, she participated in the Rostov and Voroshilovgrad offensive operations. The commander of the regiment, Major N. I. Baranov, appointed her his wingman. In one of the sorties, the fighters found 19 Ju-88 bombers flying under the cover of FW-190 fighters. Baranov, together with Budanova, attacked the fighters, ordering the rest to beat the bombers. In battle, the commander damaged one of the German fighters, and Budanova finished him off. In early March, returning from a free hunt, she found a Focke-Wulf Fw 189 reconnaissance aircraft, which was called a “frame”. She caught up with it and destroyed it. Among the pilots, this aircraft was considered the most difficult prey. On March 18, 1943, for the exemplary performance of combat missions and the courage and heroism shown at the same time, the regiment received the Guards rank by order of the People’s Commissar of Defence of the USSR and was renamed the 73rd Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment. Lieutenant E. Budanova contributed to this honorary award for the regiment. In the spring of 1943, they shot down 2 more enemy fighters, and on July 17 – a Ju-88 bomber. On July 17, 1943, the Soviet troops of the Southern Front launched the Mius offensive operation in the Donbass. From the very first day fierce air battles broke out over the battlefield. On July 19, Budanova was assigned to cover the Il-2 group heading for the assault on the German positions of the Mius Front. Near the town of Anthracite, the group was attacked by German fighters. In a fierce battle with a group of Me-109 Budanova was shot down. She managed to land the plane in a field, and local residents who were watching the fight ran up and pulled the pilot out of the plane. Budanova died of her wounds without regaining consciousness, and was buried on the outskirts of the village of Novokrasnovka.
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