interview by Oleg Korytov
email@example.com (remove .nospam)
I've interviewed Grigory Tarkhanovich Avanesov, who started war at Baltic and finished it at Black sea as a flying boat navigator/bomber.
|Upper right on the wing of MBR-2, Mid - MBR-2 navigator Avanesov
from 82-nd detached squad VVS ChF discussing events of covering ASW flight with
an "Izvestia" newspaper correspondant.
right - L-t Malokhovskii, April 1942, Poti
Q: How it all started?
A: I always wanted to be a painter, and applied for an art school in 1937, but failed the exams. After that I was enlisted into the army. I was sent to Yeisk aviation school named after Stalin.
Q: Was the instruction there good enough?
A: It was great. I studied at navigator department. We had to know navigation, camouflage and countermeasures, bomb aiming and MG use as well as piloting skills. I was quite busy in the air. I finished school at 1939, and was sent to Baltic fleet aviation at Khanko peninsula. My first plane was an MBR-2.
Q: How did You met the war?
A: War for me started at 1940. We had several reconnaissance missions to fly. We painted over red stars, and flew over Baltic to see what was carried by the cargo shipping from Germany to Finland.
Q: Wat was you doing when the GPW started?
A: I was supposed to check the chutes of the squadron, so I woke up early. When I reached airfield I heard a radio message that the war had started. On June 25-th we were shot by large caliber guns from the Finnish territory, but with no result. Then we were moved to Tallinn. From there I got my first order. We were said that a submarine had left Helsinki or Kotka with torpedo boats escort. Mission was to prevent them from getting to Tallinn port. We scrambled in 2 MBRs with 4 FAB-100 each. We found the submarine, but it submerged. No surprise, our cruise speed was about 160-180 km\h… But the boats were afloat and started to shoot at us. We shot back with shkas. No result, of course. But we managed to sink one of them with FABs. What was interesting, no damage was inflicted to us. Those gunners were really bad!
Q: What happened then?
A: Well, from Tallinn we flew to Libava port, and bombed some airbases. At night, of course. Then we were moved to Ezel and Kogul. From there we flew recon missions. At July 1941 we were told that tomorrow at 10 o’clock new fighters will come to the bases to show them to us, so that we will be able to recognize them. We were standing at the beach, when we saw 3 planes coming from the south. We cheered. But they threw bombs at us. Those were Me-109! We spread out, and tried to hide. At the same time the Messerschmitts strafed our planes on the water. Several were lost. Our AAA defense were hiding with us, but we threw them from foxholes. The AAA fire started when they left. In about 10 minutes 3 planes came back. We started firing, but those were promised Yaks! Someone shouted “Yaks!” We answered “Huyaks”! (Word game – second is very rude swearing) and continued firing. Luckily, we killed no one! This lead to some problems later - we shot at some circumstances at our fighters. Some time later at Ezel Preobrazhenskiy with his group arrived. We helped with weather recon and bomb supplies. When they dropped bombs on Berlin we were happy! After the evacuation from Ezel we were stationed at Kronstadt. Our main work was ASW. We had special method of finding u-boats. They left trail of oil on top of the sea. If it was cone shaped, we dropped a series of bombs a bit ahead of the trail. If it was still, we dropped bombs amid of it. We could not see the damage we did, of course. It was rather boring, really. In 1943 I was moved to the Black Sea.
Q: It was then that you were transferred to Catalinas?
A: Later. We were sent after torpedo boats that attacked ports. They went to Kertch. We found them almost at their port. Still, we bombed them, but after bombs were gone we were intercepted by fighters. Don’t know whether we hit something or not, we had to fight for our lives. Pilots went to 10 m height, we shot at fighters, and they left. Germans did not like low altitudes. We started gaining altitude almost at our shore, I radioed to the ground that we were arriving, when they said that fighter is behind us. Then everything exploded around me, we fell into the water, and when I came to the surface I saw a Me-110, a two- keel plane. Its pilot strafed us and set off. I shouted that I was sinking, when I saw my pilot, Komesk (squadron leader) showing fist to me and shouting something like ”You god ****ed motherf*cker! If you will sink I’ll go down after you and I will torture you instead of the devil, and I will do it better!!! All demons will get in line to study!!!!”. That helped a lot. I lost consciousness in the boat. It took us to the AAA battery, where soldiers fixated my damaged knee. Last I can remember, we were flying at approximately 150 meters, and fell down without chutes! The tail gunner was killed in the air. I was sent to the hospital, and after 1 month I was sent to the training facility where I studied to fly in Catalinas.
Q: What is Your opinion about Catalinas?
A: It was a marvelous plane! Apart from all it was able to carry 600 kg of bombs instead of 400 by MBR-2. We were patrolling Black sea with it. We managed to kill 3 U-boats with it. It was confirmed by reconnaissance. 4 more boats were damaged by our squad alone.
Q: what do You think about fighters?
A: Germans were great! No, really. There were some tricks that helped, but we lost a lot of pilots to their fighters. Our pilots were excellent at the 1941 and 1944 on wards. In the mid they were rather weak.
Q: what do You think about flak?
A: I can’t say anything about Flak. Ground based targes was not a matter of our interest. The AA defences of surface vessels were not really good, some times we flew above until they would shoot all of their ammo, than get low and shoot passengers and personnel by machine guns. In 1941 we did this to the German descend ship, which was crowded with people. When we left more than 100 dead soldiers were afloat in the waves, and those who survived were weaving white fabrique. We had no possibility to take prisoners, so we continued firing on and on. We managed to make so many holes in that ship, that it sunk. The usually dark leaden water was red with blood. When we came back, I had only 1 bullet left. After the war I found out that this ship was thought to be lost in a storm, since no survivors were ever found. It had a mission of dropping descent near Leningrad to capture a beachhead behind our land forces. I’d like to apologize before relatives of those we killed, but it was war, and they came to our homeland, not we! Some unpleasantries always happen, and you can’t do anything about them…