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Vitaly Ivanovich Popkov, the future Maestro and future Twice Hero of the Soviet Union, went to the front in early May 1942 after several reports. From the very beginning, the…

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Klubov Alexander Fedorovich
Alexander Fedorovich Klubov was born in 1918, in the small village of Zherinovo, in the Vologda region (Russia). His father was a worker Fyodor Ivanovich. At one time he was…

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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…

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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 superficially familiar with Russian history.

Kozhedub and Pokryshkin are the most productive Soviet fighter pilots. On account of the first 64 enemy aircraft shot down personally, on account of the second – 59 personal victories, and he shot down 6 more aircraft in the group.

The name of the third most successful Soviet pilot is known only to aviation lovers. Nikolai Gulaev during the war years destroyed 57 enemy aircraft personally and 4 in the group.

An interesting detail – Kozhedub needed 330 sorties and 120 air battles to achieve his result, Pokryshkin – 650 sorties and 156 air battles. Gulaev, on the other hand, achieved his result by carrying out 290 sorties and conducting 69 air battles.

Downed Yu-87.
Born to fly and win. Belarusian aviation pages
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Moreover, according to award documents, in his first 42 air battles, he destroyed 42 enemy aircraft, that is, on average, each battle ended for Gulaev with a destroyed enemy machine.

Fans of military statistics have calculated that the efficiency ratio, that is, the ratio of air battles and victories, Nikolai Gulaev was 0.82. For comparison, Ivan Kozhedub had 0.51, and Hitler’s ace Erich Hartman, who officially shot down the most aircraft during World War II, had 0.4.

At the same time, people who knew Gulaev and fought with him claimed that he generously recorded many of his victories on the followers, helping them receive orders and money – Soviet pilots were paid for each downed enemy aircraft. Some believe that the total number of aircraft shot down by Gulaev could reach 90, which, however, cannot be confirmed or denied today.
About Alexander Pokryshkin and Ivan Kozhedub, three times Heroes of the Soviet Union, air marshals, many books have been written, many films have been shot.

Nikolai Gulaev, twice Hero of the Soviet Union, was close to the third “Gold Star”, but he never received it and did not go to the marshals, remaining a colonel general. And in general, if in the post-war years Pokryshkin and Kozhedub were always in sight, engaged in the patriotic education of young people, then Gulaev, who was practically in no way inferior to his colleagues, remained in the shadows all the time.

Perhaps the fact is that both the military and post-war biography of the Soviet ace was rich in episodes that do not fit too well into the image of an ideal hero.

Nikolai Gulaev was born on February 26, 1918 in the village of Aksayskaya, which has now become the city of Aksay, Rostov Region.

Don freemen was in the blood and character of Nicholas from the first days to the end of his life. After graduating from a seven-year school and a vocational school, he worked as a mechanic at one of the Rostov factories.

Like many of the youth of the 1930s, Nikolai became interested in aviation and studied at the flying club. This passion helped in 1938, when Gulaev was drafted into the army. The amateur pilot was sent to the Stalingrad Aviation School, from which he graduated in 1940.

Gulaev was assigned to the air defense aviation, and in the first months of the war he provided cover for one of the industrial centers in the rear.

Ivan Fedorov after the Victory with his wife Anna Babenko.
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Reprimand complete with award
Gulaev ended up at the front in August 1942 and immediately demonstrated both the talent of a combat pilot and the wayward character of a native of the Don steppes.

Gulaev did not have a permit for night flights, and when on August 3, 1942, Nazi planes appeared in the area of ​​\u200b\u200bresponsibility of the regiment where the young pilot served, experienced pilots went into the sky.

But then the mechanic urged Nikolai:

— What are you waiting for? The plane is ready, fly!

Gulaev, determined to prove that he was no worse than the “old men”, jumped into the cockpit and took off. And in the first battle, without experience, without the help of searchlights, he destroyed a German bomber.

When Gulaev returned to the airfield, the general who arrived said: “For the fact that I flew out without permission, I announce a reprimand, but for the fact that I shot down an enemy plane, I increase my rank and present for a reward.”

His star shone especially brightly during the battles on the Kursk Bulge. On May 14, 1943, repelling a raid on the Grushka airfield, he single-handedly entered into battle with three Yu-87 bombers, covered by four Me-109s. Having shot down two “Junkers”, Gulaev tried to attack the third, but the cartridges ran out. Without hesitating for a second, the pilot went to ram, shooting down another bomber.

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