Air Marshal Nikolai Mikhailovich Skomorokhov
The future ace pilot was born into a peasant family. In 1930, the family moved to Astrakhan, where in 1935 Nikolai graduated from the 7th grade. For the next two…

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412 sorties
On September 20, 1923, in the village of Moshchinovo, Smolensk province, a Soviet fighter pilot, ace, military and statesman, Twice Hero of the Soviet Union, the most productive ace among…

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Marshal of the Soviet Union Chuikov V.I.
Chuikov Vasily Ivanovich (Fig. 38) - Soviet military leader, Marshal of the Soviet Union, twice Hero of the Soviet Union. Born on January 31 (February 12), 1900 in the village…

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Sky tanker
Air Marshal Efimov Alexander Nikolaevich is one of the most famous pilots of the Russian Air Force. At the age of twenty-two, he was twice awarded the title of Hero…

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Last great ace

I want to tell about the life of a man with whom a journalistic fate once brought me together. About a man in whom self-esteem and absolute inner freedom were combined with responsibility and duty. About a man who had the courage to follow his destiny, and neither the totalitarian system, nor the war, nor insurmountable circumstances, nor fools, nor roads prevented him from doing this. Twice Hero of the Soviet Union, Colonel-General Vitaly Ivanovich Popkov was a great ace of World War II, one of the ten best fighter pilots of the USSR and the entire anti-Hitler coalition. On his official account – 47 enemy aircraft shot down, another 13 were shot down in group battles with his participation. 47 plus 13! But this story is not only about downed Junkers, Focke-Wulfs and Phantoms…

Senior Stalin, oven and glider
Vitaly Ivanovich Popkov was born in 1922 in Moscow, in Nizhny Kislovsky Lane, almost opposite of which, in the garage of the Central Executive Committee, located in the Manezh building, his father worked as a driver and Chekist. Actually, in this garage, among the wheels, engines, in the lubricant and the smell of gasoline, Vitalik spent his childhood. Then the parents were sent on a secret special mission to Tehran, and the boy was sent to the government orphanage in Gagra for this time. There he met Vasya Stalin and his friend Timur Frunze.

Vasya was a year older than Vitalik, and he had a real oven, from which the children took turns shooting at sparrows. Vitalik did it especially well. Several times he met Vasya’s father Joseph Vissarionovich. The elder Stalin planted trees and always carried chocolates in his pockets. He walked around the territory of the dacha and ordered: plant such a tree here, here it is, and you, boy, candy … And he also checked the lessons with Vasya and Timur, these kids were always afraid and prepared in advance – they wrote “swords” on their hands (that is, cheat sheets) . At the time of the exams, the oven went to Vitalik in full possession.

Fighter Vitaly Popkov
Fighter Vitaly Popkov

Photo from the personal archive of Peter Kamenchenko

In Gagra, Vitalik glued together his first aircraft model, and there he made his first flight on a non-powered glider. Gliders were dragged high into the mountains on bulls, and then launched into the sky with the help of a rubber catapult. At the age of 12, Vitalik Popkov became a glider pilot, made long independent flights over the Black Sea. And at the age of 15, he already flew the U-2, which Comrade Stalin presented to Nestor Argunia, the director of state dacha No. 3, and Vasya begged for it for the orphanage.

After that, the fate of Vitalik Popkov was predetermined. He could only become a pilot and no longer imagined himself as someone else. And when the film “Fighters” with Mark Bernes and Nikolai Kryuchkov was released on the screens of the country, the desire to be a pilot grew into the belief that a real pilot can only be a fighter. At 17, Vitaly Popkov entered the Chuguev Military Aviation School and graduated with a fantastic 1941 graduation, among other 59 future Heroes of the Soviet Union.

Better than Kozhedub, cooler than Hartman
Better than Kozhedub, cooler than Hartman The names of the Soviet aces of the Great Patriotic War Ivan Kozhedub and Alexander Pokryshkin are known to everyone who is at least…

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What were they like, those "old men" who went into battle?
The war for the twice Hero of the Soviet Union Guard Captain Gulaev quite unexpectedly ended in early September 1944. By decision of the command, he was forcibly sent to…

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