Member of the Great Patriotic War
Born May 1, 1922 in Moscow in a working class family. My father worked in a special purpose garage at the Council of People's Commissars. When he was transferred to…

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Twice Hero of the Soviet Union - Skomorokhov Nikolai Mikhailovich
Skomorokhov Nikolai Mikhailovich - squadron commander of the 31st Fighter Aviation Regiment (295th Fighter Aviation Division, 9th Mixed Air Corps, 17th Air Army, 3rd Ukrainian Front), captain. Born on May…

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Evstigneev Kirill Alekseevich
Born on February 4 (17), 1917 in the village of Khokhly (now the Shumikhinsky district of the Kurgan region). In 1932-1934. lived in the village of Maloye Dyuryagino (now the…

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The feat of the people in the Great Patriotic War
“I began serving in the army in September 1938 in the Far East (Voznesenovka, Vozzhaevka) in the combined arms units of the Red Army, from where, as a graduate of…

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Meeting with Zhukov. “We shoot few scoundrels!”

Meeting with Zhukov. “We shoot few scoundrels!”
It was with Stalingrad and Marshal Zhukov that one of the most unpleasant and humiliating memories of the pilot Popkov about the war is connected – this episode, even sixty years later, evoked rage and bitterness in him.

“When signatures were being collected to rehabilitate Zhukov, I refused,” Vitaly Ivanovich sincerely and very childishly puckered up in his chair. – Not because I don’t consider him a great commander, but because of a personal …

And the personal is as follows. On August 23, the Germans bombed Stalingrad. The city turned into one huge fire: water mixed with oil from broken storage facilities burned in the Volga. Making five or six sorties a day, losing one after another the best pilots, the “seven” (7th Air Army) was not able to cover the city and crossings. German air superiority was overwhelming. The fighters of the 5th Guards fought with desperate courage, often single-handedly rushing to the links of German bombers going under the cover of “experts” (as the Germans called their best fighter aces). And they died in unequal air battles.

Popkov was one of the most skillful, brave and lucky pilots. Having already shot down seven enemy vehicles near Stalingrad, he knew his own worth, and when on August 26, 1942 he was called to headquarters among the other three best fighter pilots of the front, he was not surprised. “Probably, the authorities decided to arrange a banquet, feed and reward, and then again into battle,” Sergeant Popkov decided with his usual optimism. But in the dugout there were neither tables with front-line delicacies, nor awards, but at least thirty generals gathered. The pilots were placed on the edge, and when Zhukov and Malenkov entered, they were pushed into the front row.

Why are you fighting badly? the marshal shouted, adding the obscenity, which he could not do without. – Not enough of you, bastards, we shoot! How many have you personally shot?

Popkov was not at a loss:
“Comrade Marshal, we have enough Germans. We don’t shoot our own.

– But I shoot cowards and traitors! In their yard…

The pilots were taken out into the yard. Machine gunners showed up. Vitaly Ivanovich remembers fear and helplessness before the absurdity of what is happening. And a strong sense of humiliation. A minute later, three were indeed shot. They brought in anonymous Russian peasants, indifferent to doom in tunics without insignia, and shot them in the dust and rubble of bricks. And then just as impersonally dragged away. Whom? For what? Never afraid of either strangers or his own, Vitaly Popkov was stunned by what had happened.

“They will do the same to you,” Zhukov grinned terribly, “if you fight badly, bitches!” From this day on, they will no longer consider combat sorties, downed aircraft, do not encourage, do not present for titles and awards. Free…

Nina Mikhailovna fell in love with Popkov when she was only 15 years old
Nina Mikhailovna fell in love with Popkov when she was only 15 years old

Photo from the personal archive of Peter Kamenchenko

Friend of the Korean people
When the pilots returned to the regiment, the order of Marshal Zhukov was already in the special department of the unit. Thanks to him, Vitaly Ivanovich Popkov’s personal account did not include 187 sorties and 13 enemy aircraft shot down near Stalingrad. Add 13 more to the 47 counted – you get 60. And the first ace of the USSR Ivan Kozhedub – 62, Alexander Pokryshkin – 59, Grigory Rechkalov – 56.

“Well, Vitaly Ivanovich shot down four more in Korea,” Nina Mikhailovna, Popkov’s wife, put her word into the conversation. – The day before yesterday, only he was invited to the DPRK embassy as a friend of the Korean people to the anniversary on the occasion of the sixtieth birthday of their leader Kim Jong Il.

The pilot smiled mischievously.
– It will be for you, Nina Mikhailovna, to reveal the secrets of international politics.

– But after all, if you add four more Americans to sixty Germans, it turns out that you are the number one ace in the USSR in general! The discovery shocked me.

Pilots of the Great Patriotic War. Kirill Alekseevich Evstigneev
The most productive and FURIOUS PILOT of the century: twice a Hero in the sky and Stenka Razin on the ground... Nikolai Gulaev was born on February 26, 1918 in…

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Air Marshal Twice Hero of the Soviet Union Nikolai Mikhailovich Skomorokhov
End of 1944. There is a fierce battle in the sky over Budapest. In mortal combat - two planes. Senior Lieutenant Nikolai Skomorokhov got a serious opponent. The forces are…

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