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 the Chelyabinsk flying club, I was sent to the village of Burma, where the first fighter pilot school in the Far East was formed. After graduating from this school, I was left to work as an instructor pilot. But like many of my comrades, with the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, he repeatedly turned to the command with a request to send me to the front. At the end of 1942, a group of four instructor pilots of our class (Shabanov, Mubarakshin, Panteleev and myself) was sent to Moscow to the Air Force Headquarters to ferry American Air Cobra aircraft under Lend-Lease from America to the front.
But we didn’t want to go to America, we wanted to go to the combat unit going to the front. Therefore, we decided not to rush to turnout, but to delay (time suffered) at the aircrew station in Moscow. There, after meeting with the famous pilot Soldatenko I.S., a participant in the Spanish events, our fate was determined. His 140th regiment, which had transferred to the La-5, these days was transformed into the 178th Guards Fighter Regiment. There we, to our great joy, were enrolled. On March 11, 1943, on our “shops”, we left for the front at the Urazovo airfield via Rossosh along the Seim – Ivanovo – Borisoglebsk route, and on March 17 our military life began – just when heavy battles were going on to hold Kharkov, which is still ours had to leave again. Unfortunately, the first losses appeared in the regiment.
On the Kursk Bulge during the summer battle of July 7, 1943, I managed to shoot down the leading ten enemy bombers, and successes were repeated. Already in the award list of that time it was noted: “He is actively looking for the enemy, always boldly enters into battle … even if he is many times superior in numbers.” But I had my own view on speed and on the numerical advantage too. On August 5, 1943, I flew out as part of a group of 8 La-5s to cover our troops on the outskirts of Belgorod. When meeting with the enemy, the battle at first flared up somehow sluggishly.
Then things went well. But in one of the seemingly ordinary moments of the fight, after another 180-degree turn, I habitually glance at the planes of my group … and then suddenly there was an unexpected blow and crack on the left side of my plane. Then I feel a strong blow to my legs. Before my eyes, I see the collapsing side of the car, and flames burst out from under the dashboard … And the plane, turning over its wing, rushes to the ground.
I try to get him out of the dive, I take the handle on myself – no effect. I work with pedals – it’s useless. And the cockpit is full of smoke and I’m starting to choke. It smelled burnt. The flame unbearably burns the face, the open part of the hands between the gloves and the sleeves of the overalls. I can no longer decide in what position the plane is falling and how much is left to the ground – a thousand or three hundred meters? Can I use a parachute? I’m trying to get off the plane. He was pressed against the seat with monstrous force. But I still draw my legs up to the seat, lean on the sides of the cabin with my hands and, having gathered all my strength, straighten up. The oncoming air current instantly pulls me out of the cabin, which is already completely engulfed in flames …
Moments go by and I feel like I’m in free fall. We need to open the parachute. But what is the height? I have no idea. And then I grab onto the exhaust ring, I wait that a moment before the parachute opens, I will hit the ground … Suddenly – a bang. I was shaken, and I hang on the opened parachute. Having torn my eyelids with fingers twisted from the burnt skin of gloves, I see that the height is still decent … The left side of the overalls is on fire, colored threads of tracer bullets are stretching from the ground. This is still not enough! It didn’t burn out on the plane, so now they’ll finish it off! By sliding the lines I increase the speed. The cars of my comrades are circling over me, but I can’t wave my hand to them: they say, I’m alive.
The earth is rapidly approaching. Lowering the lines, I land on my feet, but they bend like cotton wool, and I fall. Sharp pain from head to toe! Having freed myself from the parachute, I jump up in a fever to let my people know, but again I fall from unbearable pain. With a pistol in my hand, I crawl towards the burnt bushes, behind which there is a deep ravine. I see how from there, crouching down, five or six people in camouflage suits run towards me. Who are they, these people – their own, others? Runners have machine guns with carob magazines. I let them go about fifteen meters and scream, or rather, I try to scream – my throat is dry, my lips are swollen:
– Stop! I will shoot!
People stop and stare in surprise. A huge fellow, saying: “We are Russians,” continues to approach me with a rolling gait.
“Stay away,” I raise the gun threateningly. – Why are the machine guns German?
“Trophy,” he replies calmly.
At one I notice an automatic machine with a round disk – my own! And then I lower my hand tiredly:
Help, I’m hurt…
“That’s another conversation,” the same kid concludes irritably. – And who are you, German? If you sbreshesh, I’ll make a hole in an instant, – and he directs the barrel of his machine gun at me.