Koldunov Alexander Ivanovich
Soviet military figure. Chief Air Marshal of the USSR. Twice Hero of the Soviet Union. During the Great Patriotic War, he was one of the best Soviet fighter aces. Alexander…

Continue reading →

Fighter pilot
In 1940 he entered the Chuguev Military Pilot School. After graduating from college, he was left in it for six months as an instructor. In December of the same year…

Continue reading →

Evstigneev Kirill Alekseevich
After a severe wound in the legs in July 1943. escaped from the hospital and in September 1943. returned to his 240 IAP who fought in the Kremenchug region over…

Continue reading →

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…

...

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.

The Great Patriotic War
The Great Patriotic War caught P.Ya. Golovachev near Iasi. He flew to attack the enemy troops on the I-16. On the second day of the war, he shot down his…

...

Stepped into immortality: little-known heroes of the Great Patriotic War
During the years of the Great Patriotic War, the highest Soviet award - the Gold Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union - was awarded to 11,657 soldiers and…

...