Interview with Sergei Nikolayevich
Glumov by Oleg Korytov and Konstantin Chirkin
Editor Igor Zhidov
Tranaslators Oleg Korytov and Ilya Grinberg
Spetial Thanks Svetlana Spiridonova
| Sergei Glumov: I was born
in a town of Pskov, railway station Podsevy, in 1919. Mom was a nurse in a
kindergarten. Dad was a forester, and worked in an “Uralles” (Ural
Forest) Trust. He was awarded by golden watch for exceptional work, which I
inherited from him…
Dad graduated from Forest Academy in St. Petersburg before revolution. He published several books, I remember how he presented me his book “Fighting Bark-Eaters Bugs – Saving a Forest». He was a passionate hunter. I have a book, where he describes how he and I went duck hunting.
When I was born, Civil War was raging on, so my Mom took us to Perm. There I graduated from ten-year school and applied to a dental institute. But I studied there for two years only. On the third year I, as a Komsomol member, was “asked” to go to the military service by “special enlistment”. Either you go to the military, or quit Komsomol. There were representatives from different military schools, which came to persuade us to go to their facility, but I without any hesitation agreed to go to Chelyabinsk military navigator’s school.
— Were there any problems with mandatory commission? Your father got his higher education during Tsar time?
We underwent medical commission in Perm. Mandatory… It was both in Perm
and in Chelyabinsk. But I simply wrote my autobiography. There were no problems
with my parents.
We were suggested to study at preparation courses. But I said:
— Why I should go to preparation course, I want to go to the first course.
— Why you are so sure that you will be good enough?
— Because I wanted to apply for medical academy and studied a lot.
So I was enlisted to the first course in Chelyabinsk.
— Did you know that you will be studying not to be a pilot, but a navigator?
I did. School representative came and described navigators work to us. I would have gone to the pilot’s school, but there were no offers.
— How did training begun?
A month of quarantine at first. But from day one it was drill, drill, and more
drill for about three months as well as physical training.
We were brought under oath later, when we finished “young soldier’s course”.
— And when did you begin to study theory of flight?
After we gave an oath. Theory of flight… No, we started from general studying. But there were some practical things. Our two main classes were bomb aiming and navigation. And, of course, all was under strictest discipline.
— When did you begin flying?
In about half a year. At first we were introduced to the theory in the classes, how the instruments work, how to use bombsight. I still remember that it caused us a lot of problems. These days you just press the button and bombs are gone, then it was all on the cords. My hand was constantly in blood. The bombsight was also obsolete. A tube was pushed through a hole in the cabin floor. Airfield was near the school, so in half a year we went there training on a daily basis. Then we began training in route flights, first preplotted, and then we had to plot our own course to the bomb range…
— You have become a cadet at the autumn of 1938?
Yes, I have a documented proof.
— What was the initial education level of the cadets?
Pretty high. Those who lacked education were sent to the preparatory courses.
— What did you dislike the most in cadets life?
Drilling, I suppose. Physical training was very helpful on the other hand. I used to be like a dust bag, but after intensive training I was ready to perform quite serious exercises. But to reach this state I went to the sports field and trained after studying for the day was complete, after supper.
— What did you like the most?
I liked flying and everything that associated with it.
— Were there cadets who didn’t like to fly?
There were expelled cadets but mostly for the lack of discipline. If one didn’t want to fly he would be reviewed by the draft board…
— You told us that for refusal to apply one could be expelled from Komsomol? But what if someone studied without actually willing to do so?
It happened, but very rarely. Maybe once or twice. No one was obliged to fly. If you don’t want to – don’t do it.
— Do you know what happened to those, who were expelled?
— Which planes did you fly?
From the beginning and till the end of the Battle for Moscow I flew only in R-5.
— But by this time R-5 was obsolete?
During pre-war years it was still a good plane, but by 1941 it was totally
"disrespected" for its technical features. Judge for yourself: four
100 kg bombs, four «RSs», two small caliber machine guns. And a gunner
had a machine gun. At first it was ShKAS 7,62 mm, later changed for 12,7 mm.
And you can’t mention its speed without tears…
R-5 was used in emergency cases — when there was an immediate threat to the front you would throw everything into the battle. That’s why our 606th regiment flew in R-5, and had completed a lot of missions. Only when it was almost wiped out – only a few of the planes remained, we were sent to Kuybyshev to receive new airplanes.
— When you flew R-5 in the school, were they armed?
Yes. At first - 7,62 mm, with a very high rate of fire…
— Wasn’t it Degtyatyov Aviation machine gun (DA)?
No. We had ShKASs from the beginning.
— Did you study flying in the school?
We tried it ourselves. Curiosity isn’t a sin. We asked pilots, taught ourselves how to fly, but we didn’t do take offs and landings…
— What was your main goal in training?
Bombing at the practice ranges. But we had to make it there first, so there was navigation and so on.
— When did you graduate from school?
Two years in school. That is in 1940.
— Do you believe that you got sufficient amount of knowledge?
It was quite enough for a navigator. Everything that we were supposed to do as navigators we did quite well.
— Were you under any control during long range flights? Was there any instructor in the cockpit?
No, there was no instructor — there was no space for him. A pilot was very experienced. There were cases of lost orientation, so they had to recover their location together with a navigator.
— Were you trained for simple flying conditions or for complex too?
We could fly at night too. We flew to Sasovo airfield near Yaroslavl and trained at night flying. And I believe, we were well trained for night flying.
— Where were you sent after graduating from the flight school?
After graduation I was sent to the combat unit in Kirovograd. There were SB airplanes. So I transferred to SB. We flew training bombing missions…
— What is your professional opinion about SB?
Excellent for those days. But when the war began, they were found to be quite flammable.
— When we spoke to pilots, they universally spoke of comfort that SB provided…
Of course. Large cockpit. Very comfortable airplane, but flammable. One bullet was enough to…
— What was that regiment’s number?
Can’t recall it now. But I remember how Marshal Budenniy came to us.
It was quite interesting: he announced that he will come, and regiment commander
was waiting for him at the front gates. But Budenniy stopped at railroad station
Kanatovo, 1,5 kilometers away from us, unloaded his cars and came to us from
the rear. But regiment commander was not there. Chief of the combat department
went to report, but Budenniy said:
— Comrade, I can see that you are neither a pilot, nor a commander…
He walked towards us and said:
— Guys, there are a lot of accidents in the air...
And he spoke to us very warmly. That is what I remember.
— How did you find out about war?
I heard about it for the first time in Yaroslavl. After additional courses
in Chelyabinsk school I was sent to instructor courses in Rogan, near Kharkov.
A few months later, after finishing these courses, I was sent to Yaroslavl. There
I became an instructor of bomb aiming and navigation for gunner-bombardiers in
the local navigation flight school. Sometime later the war broke out. I wrote
a report: «I wish to be sent to the front, as I believe that I’m
ready». All I got in reply:
— Everybody wants to fight. Your place is here.
Then, when the Germans made it to Yuhnov, a 606th bomber regiment was formed on the basis of our school. Since I had some practical experience I was immediately given a position of a flight navigator.
— But still, how did you find out that the war start?
We woke up early, that became a habit already. We always woke up early. We,
three young lieutenants, took a boat and crossed Volga River, where we wanted
to swim. We were always in uniforms, because we did not have civilian clothes.
We just undressed, when someone shouted to us:
— Comrades, war!
We left behind everything unnecessary and ran to the school. Commander was absent – he was trying to figure out what was going on. When the war began, we all expected to be sent to the front immediately.
— What changes occurred until the 606th regiment was formed? Were you placed in barracks? Was your ration reduced? Was the training program changed?
No, it was not changed. Discipline was stricktened, rations remained the same. Instructors’ life did not change. We freely lived at private quarters.
— Do you remember the famous order by Timoshenko?
I do. It hurts me even now. It did not affect me. My nephew did suffer from it. Instead of graduating as a lieutenant, he was graduated as a sergeant. Everybody in the army was shocked. It was a great mistake.
— Was there an order to send all lieutenants to?
No, I do not remember anything like that.
— Was there a feeling that the war is about to break out?
Yes and very strong one. We all knew it, and intelligence reported to General
Staff. It was Stalin’s mistake.
It was frequently mentioned among other officers’ discussion topics. We talked that Germans are getting ready, that they are gathering very large force.
— Were there veterans of Finnish campaign, Spanish Civil War or Khalkhin-Gol among instructors in your school?
— Did you know anything about these conflicts?
We knew about the Finnish War, about misfortunes, about heavy losses… We knew that our soldiers had shown miraculous heroism and determination. The press published reports in quite reader-friendly form. We were informed.
— That war was not very well known. But as it seems it was not so secret either?
Quite opposite, there were reports in newspapers and magazines.
— And about heavy losses too?
Yes, of course. And about inability of our planes to catch up the Finnish, but actually German fighters. That is, our planes lacked speed and range. It was not a secret at all.
— Were any airplanes taken from the school for the front?
Not a single airplane was taken from Yaroslavl school. We were engaged in a heavy training of gunners-radio operators.
— Wasn’t the amount of flights reduced due to fuel or training bombs shortage?
— What types of bombs were used for training purposes?
«FAB-100» mostly. Practical bombs. That was when I was an instructor. When I was training we used concrete bombs: «P-20», «P-50»…
— When you were sent to the front in August, how were your R-5s armed?
Payload was not too large, four or five FAB-100 bombs, four «RSs» on special pylons. Two forward firing machine guns and the third one on a turret. There were no cannons. What can I add? Old bombsights required a lot of work, they were OPB-1 and OPB-5.
— When pylons for RSs were introduced?
After a while. We flew for some time, and then we received RSs and KSs. «KS» was a self-igniting liquid in glass balls. We did not let Germans sleep, setting everything below ablaze.
— What kind of weapon do you consider to be the most valuable?
— Why not rockets?
Several reasons. First of all, rockets should be aimed very precisely, or you will not hit anything.
— Rockets were aimed by a pilot...
Yes. I had only one machine gun.
— Were there misfires with a ShKAS?
Not in the air. Sometimes they happened during training. But we could assemble and disassemble it blindfolded. We even had competitions.
— If you released bombs at your target, could you shoot some rounds from your machine gun towards the target area? Or was it forbidden?
Of course we did. We mostly flew at night. We saw where we were firing at.
We would "tr-r-r" there, and the gun would shut up. And not only in
such cases. Pilot would release bombs, but if we would find a column or troops
concentration site in the enemy territory he would tell me:
— Attention, there.
And I would open fire with my machine gun. So I actively participated.
— Wasn’t it forbidden?
No. But you are right in a sense that our gun was the only defense against
Although... Ariev Armen… It was an interesting case, I’ll describe it briefly. We were standing at the airfield, when Ariev took off. At this moment a Messerschmitt dove at him. Armen made a sharp turn and landed. Messer couldn’t attack, and departed.
— Where did your regiment start its combat way?
When the 606th regiment was formed, we transferred to Vatutinki airfield…
We received an order to begin active combat work when Germans got close to Yukhnov. But there was a problem – we flew, but our technical crew were travelling via railroad. We had to service and arm our own airplanes. Luckily, we were trained to do that, so, just in a few hours? As it was ordered, we took off towards Yukhnov. That’s how my combat service began.
— Were you sent on a day mission?
Yes, we were sent at day time and we lost 5 airplanes. That’s why in a couple of days we were transferred to night flying, and we began flying solo missions.
— How many missions were flown in a day?
One mission per day at first. Then two, sometimes three.
— What kind of missions was easier for you?
Night missions. In terms of enemy counteractions. But in terms of navigation night sorties were much more difficult. No landmarks were visible; there was no radio on board of R-5, no illumination in the cockpit to look at the map. All you had was precise calculations and a hope that the pilot was obeying your commands precisely.
— Were there cases of loosing direction?
There were. Once, we were hit. It was north of Yuhnov, so we had to fly the damaged airplane eastwards and we got lost. We got lost, had to force-land, so there was a serious crash. We landed at a simple crop field and our plane overturned. Some local peasants managed to get us out of the wreck. The airplane was completely destroyed beyond any repairs.
— Were your tasks changed when you switched to the night flying?
Not really. Germans reached the shores of Ugra River, so we had an order to stop Guderian’s tanks at all costs. We were sent after the enemy trucks and tanks. Primary targets were tanks – they caused most of the troubles… And we bombed troops in the trenches. We also dropped KS at the housing, since we knew that Germans sent locals away from the battle zone, and we hoped to force the enemy to stay outside at the fierce frost. All missions were pretty similar. Sometimes we flew reconnaissance missions during the day.
— How would you find truck columns at night?
If there was a moon light it was as clear as at daytime.
— I heard from a veteran that R-5 was the best night bomber of that time?
I can’t confirm. It certainly had low speed and quite small payload —
just 500 kilograms…
And I have to state again – we were directed for a precision bombing. It was very hard to achieve. But we had to, since the enemy was about to capture Moscow. You know, we used to talk how things were going on in Moscow, where Stalin was…
— In your opinion, if our troops were told that Stalin had fled from Moscow, would it have catastrophic results?
It would be very sad… But we would keep fighting… I doubt that it would be decisive moment. But Stalin meant a lot to us. We were all glad that he was still with us in Moscow. But if he would have evacuated, we would still fight, with a pain in the heart.
— When you were told about November 7 parade?
After it took place. We heard about it over radio. We were happy, hugged each other.
— And what about “Moscow Great Escape” in October 1941?
There was such an event… Some officials and rulers panicked and tried to escape with their families and goods… It happened. Of course, we learned about it later.
— Did your R-5s carry only FAB-100s or you carried some other types? And how the payload was defined?
Loading was defined by BAO. They brought us FAB-100s. They were just right for us.
— How would you describe German air defense when you flew R-5s?
All I can say — it was horrible. When we flew our first mission against the bridge over Ugra River we were met by a wall of AAA fire, but we had to fly for 80 seconds in a straight line. Otherwise bombs would not hit the aim point. German Oerlicons firing tracers created a true barrage, blasting our planes from the sky. Two squadrons lost 5 planes.
— What caused most losses then – AAA or fighters?
AAA at the time. Fighters did not expect us, we used the element of surprise, and the cloud cover was at 450 meters. We flew in the clouds, sometimes rising above them. After the wingman would appear, we would hide in the cloud again…
— I asked about the entire 1941, not the first mission?
Still - AAA.
— Did you plot your own course, or you were given one by command?
Regiment navigator briefed us:
— For this sortie you will have a task of destroying… You route will be…
We follow his directions at the map.
— Did you plot your course around known AAA sites?
Not at night. And during day time we also did not bother. Why? Because we flew
day missions very rarely, and for example during Stalingrad battle pilots knew
better how to reach the target. We were sent with tentative routes when HQ warned
— At Gumrak there is a huge amount of AAA, fly past it.
— What kind of altitudes did you use for bombing with R-5s?
In order to be safe from our own bombs we dropped from no less than 300 meters. But it depended on cloud layer altitude.
— Did you fly during 1942 offensive?
We flew at the beginning of 1942, but most of our airplanes were out of service. So, even at the winter of 1942 we were sent to Kuybyshev by train.
— How many missions did you fly with R-5?
— What was your post then?
I was a flight navigator. When we trained to fly Il-2s, that’s with the 503rd Regiment, I was appointed as an adjutant of the 2nd Squadron, and soon after that as a deputy chief of staff.
— Could you describe your arrival to Kuybyshev, please?
We came to a completely unprepared airfield at KapustinYar. We began digging
trenches and dugouts for regiment technicians. There we could see huge clouds
of smoke. It was oil burning in the water of Volga River. Stalingrad was in terrible
We received new planes in Kuybyshev and trained to fly them for some time. We were astonished by them and they really deserved our admiration.
— But there was no place for a navigator in Il-2. Did you train as a pilot or quit flying altogether?
I flew 9 combat missions as a gunner in the rear cabin.
— Where all the navigators were sent?
They were moved to different positions. Some were sent to other units with promotion. Some were appointed as a chief of chemical service, ordnance service and so on. There were a lot of places where people were required during the war.
— That is, the 606th regiment was completely disbanded and a new regiment with another number was formed based on it? How long did it take?
— Why was it so long?
First of all there was a line to get new airplanes. Everybody wanted to receive them in the first place, and secondly, they needed to retrain. R-5 and Il-2 were totally different…
— What kind of Ils did you receive?
Single seaters, but our gunners still made an accommodation for themselves and a machine gun behind the pilot. Our technicians – wonderful people, made these arrangements themselves…
— Wasn’t it forbidden by the instructions?
If it would be, our technicians would let us know. Since there was a lack of crew members, I also had flown missions as a gunner. Especially reconnaissance missions – I was not a novice at this, so I had flown 9 reconnaissance missions.
— Deputy Chief of Staff is a pretty high position, but you flew as a gunner? And what your commanders thought of this?
They were positive about it. My chief of staff was an excellent man. Major,
later Lt-Colonel Mekinyan — an Armenian. He saw that I worked well,
trusted me, and briefed for every reconnaissance mission in person.
There was a case once: a flight was planned as Fedyakov and Glumov. Chief of staff summoned me:
— You will fly in the next sortie.
I still do not know why. Fedyakov crashed on that sortie.
They crossed the front line in a damaged airplane, but crashed, and airplane exploded. Wingman saw where it happened, took a truck with technicians and went there. All that was left of Fedyakov was one boot…
(Version: according to Memorial Data base a crew of the 503rd ShAP –
pilot, squadron commander Senior Lieutenant Fedyakov Ivan Lavrentievich and gunner
Junior Lieutenant Mamutov Khuday-Bergen are listed among losses. The cause –
catastrophic accident of shot-down plane on July 9, 1943.
In the book “Brothers-in Arms of Nikolay Gastello edited by A. P. Kovalenko, Moscow, 1995 the cause was listed as heroic ramming of the enemy troops).Comments by Igor Zhidov.
Another difficult case was near Krasnodar. We were attacked without warning
from three sides. It was breakfast time and people were standing near the field
kitchen Bombs were whistling, those who ran were killed, and those who dropped
to the ground straight away stayed alive. Somebody shouted:
— Sergey, help us.
I saw a female gunner was wounded in the back, and blood was pouring out… There was nothing I could help her with. Her husband was lying there with his leg torn away…
— Who was your regiment commander?
Major Kalyabin was the regiment commander since we came to Kapustin Yar. After the war he came to visit us.
— And what about the 606th?
Colonel Vinogradov. But he was quite old, and he did not go for retraining with us. I don’t know his later career.
— Did he fly combat missions?
Colonel Vinogradov? No.
— What about Kalyabin?
— There was an order that a regiment and higher level commanders should not fly missions without special permission?
There was such order. But… There were ways to avoid this order, if one really wished to fly…
— What did your special department and political department do?
What did they do? Theoretically they should look for unreliable people…
I knew our special department officer but I had no idea what he actually did.
I can’t say anything bad about zampolits either.
There was one funny case. Kapustin Yar. We were warming engines at the runway. Zampolit climbed at the wing and shouted:
— Sergey, don’t be afraid, don’t worry, in case if something will happen, we will let your wife know immediately!
I was just over 20 years old, and single. That’s how he taught us.
Another example. We were also at the runway, zampolit took off. Suddenly, his airplane caught fire. There was a Messer that dove from above, set him on fire and flew away…
— Your political officers were the flying ones?
Yes. But not all.
— Wasn’t there scornful attitude towards non-flying political officers?
I wouldn’t say so.
— What were relations between flying and technical crews?
Very good. I can’t recall when technicians slept…
Il-2 was hard to shoot down. There were cases when some kind of a combat damage was brought home. I remember that once we came home with a small-caliber bullet hole right between my legs…
Small scale damage was quite common, so that they had to repair the planes. Airplane was tented, they would work all night, and by morning the airplane was combat ready. They were fed by a lower ration norm then pilots.
Relations were very good. My technician was Svinolupov, who was wounded severely during bombing of our airfield. He died soon after.
— When did you begin to receive new factory built twin-seater Ils?
We had them at Stalingrad times already. When the encirclement began, I remember well how did we, with pilot Yeryashev, fly to Kotelnikovo through Stalingrad in one of them.
— What kind of weapons did your Ils have?
Powerful Yartsev cannons, 23 mm. Two cannons, four RSs, up to six bombs. 12,7 mm machine gun in the rear.
— Did you have Ils with 37 mm cannons?
No. There were such machines in the neighboring regiment. For some reason we didn’t use them.
— How about fighter cover?
It was quite poor at first. We suffered heavy losses, especially during the first mission. We lost nine planes then. Germans were in control of the air. We were forbidden to fly in V-formation, and were ordered to fly in pairs, so that wingmen would cover leaders.
— You flew Sturmoviks in pairs too?
After Stalingrad we flew in pairs. Even though instructions prescribed to fly
in a flight of three and there were orders from “above” to keep flying
In a few days we began flying under fighter cover. Before each multy-plane mission we would coordinate all possible scenarios with fighters.
— Was it common practice?
It became standard later. Each mission was arranged specially. Then vectoring posts at the front line were arranged.
— When you flew R-5 and Il-2s, how the results of your work were recorded and evaluated?
Very strictly. When you return to the base, a navigator would report to the
chief of staff where and what you did. He would take notes; a commander would
sign them and send to the Division HQ.
I was responsible for this work in Stalingrad. I had prepared a wooden board where all the questions were written, and then I questioned each returning pilot what, where, and when. Kalyagin would sign it and send to the 206th Division.
— And what about claim control? Suppose a pilot claims that he destroyed 5 airplanes on the ground. How would you control these claims? You couldn’t ask Germans of their losses?
There were different methods… Wingmen could confirm. Partisans sent reports to the high command that on such a day a group of Ils destroyed this and that. Sometimes they even reported bort numbers. Later, vectoring posts at the front lines confirmed that they saw a dogfight or strafing run.
— What kind of punishement could be used against pilots who gave untruthful information?
There were such cases. Sr. Lieutenant Degtyaryov was court martialled. Personnel
were gathered and the announcement was made:
— He flew there and hit our troops…
But it was a singular case in our regiment.
— And what was the sentence?
It was a conditional sentence, I can’t say how many years, but he stayed
in the regiment with demotion. He was a squadron commander, and became a deputy
He was supposed to fly a defined number of missions to clear his record.
— It is common nowadays to write about penal squadrons. Have you heard anything about them?
— What was your task as a squadron adjutant?
I had to look after discipline, technical services, and contacts with BAO. I also controlled building of hiding dugouts (in case of enemy bombardment of the airfield), communications, and providing pilots with everything needed.
— Was it possible for the squadron adjutant to fly 30 missions per year?
It was possible.
— Was it voluntarily or required?
We all were eager to fly.
— You had become a deputy regiment commander later?
Yes, Deputy regiment Commander for operations.
— When did it happen?
In about couple of month after we landed at Kapustin Yar and I was at this post until 1944, when I was sent to the VVS Academy.
— How did that happen?
Chief of staff Lt. Colonel Mekinyan in a discussion with Division Commander Colonel Dzusov pointed me out of three candidates.
— What is your opinion about Dzusov? Pokryshkin is not very nice about him in his memoirs.
Two sides. He was a good commander, strict, always knew what was going on… But in soldiers circles there were a lot of rumors about his constant affairs with women…
— Which good qualities would you point out for our pilots as a staff officer?
They all wanted to fight… Camaradery — good quality. There were almost no cases of cowardice. But there was one squadron commander – Lt. Colonel, who always walked with a stick, he had a damaged leg. He was not too happy about flying. Pilots used to joke, that his surname in the flight roster was spelled as “Legackescannotstandit”.
But there were no more people like him.
— You were sent to the Academy and met the war end there?
I was a student in the Academy. We returned from Chkalov to Monino, where we
were told that the war was over.
I saw the Victory Parade and saw Stalin. I was so happy when German flags were thrown to the ground… I was so sad that many of my friends did not make it to that day… And recently I had lost last of my former brothers in arms…