Alexandr Borisovich Krasnov
by Oleg Korytov and Konstantin Chirkin
Editor: Igor Zhidov
Translation: Oleg Korytov
Special thanks: Svetlana Spiridonova
|Alexandr Krasnov with Konstantin Chirkin|
Alexandr Borisovich Krasnov: I was born in 1922, in Kiev.
— Who were your parents, what was their position in society?
When I was born, they were “no one”. Father became a high-positioned
Party official. He was arrested and held in custody while
investigation was underway. Even though he was not found guilty and set free, he got angry at Party, refused to work as an official, and became a
teacher at the university… He had a long life. Mom was a head of city healthcare service. What for am I telling you all this…
I left school prematurely, from 9th grade I went to the military school, because I was afraid to come too late there. In 1945, after the war I
passed all exams for the course of school.
— How did you end up in military school?
I was in 9th grade, studying in aero club at the same time. I wanted
to get to the sky, abandoned school and in 1940 I applied to Chuguev
High Pilot School. This school prepared Lieutenants. But in December an order No 0253 was issued, and I still remember it. You must know it:
Timoshenko made flying schools out of Pilots High Schools. In High Schools cadets trained for three-four years, while in flight school I trained
for only eight month…
— What about mandatory commission? Your father was in prison…
By this time he was already released and fully reabilitated. But a bit
earlier I was expelled out of aero club because of him. He was thought
of as people enemy, how could I become a pilot? As long as dad was under investigation, I and my mom were suffering. I worked as a turner
student at the plant, and we lived very hard. Dad was in prison for almost a year, proving his innocence. If he wouldn’t prove it, I would have no
father… He made it… I keep his documents till now.
— At which planes you trained?
I’m a fighter. Best fighters then were I-16s. I trained in it, first in dual-control UTI-4, and then graduated on I-16.
— Did you fly out in UTI-4 straight away? You should have had trained in U-2 at first?
I flew U-2 in aero club. But I can’t really remember them; I flew too
briefly in them. Then UTI-4. When I flew out in I-16 myself, war
broke out. Well, Chuguev is pretty far from borderline, but Germans were moving very fast, so an order came to school, to pick out best cadets and present them to state commission for state exams. We all were eager to get to the front, you understand… Thanks’ God I was flying pretty well, so I passed state exams and was accepted to this group. We graduated as sergeants. Sergeant had two triangles. As I was good at flying I received a senior sergeant — one more triangle. I had them until 1943, while around me were lieutenants…
After me, there were two sets of pilots graduated as sergeants. Then they were graduated as Lieutenants again.
I was not lucky, because I stuck in ZAPs.
At first I was sent to ZAP in Kuybyshev at Kryazh airfield, where I was supposed to be trained to fly LaGG-3. But there were no planes,
we had only theoretical education, so pilots, and sergeants as I was, spent there several month. I asked to be transferred to old I-16s. I was sent to another ZAP to the North. But by that time there were American Tomahawks instead of I-16s. I began training to fly Tomahawks. It was very bad, heavy plane. I barely escaped from there to 20th ZAP to Novosibirsk, where I finally met Yaks and mastered it. Only then I made it to war.
— At which Yak types you flew?
Yak-1 in ZAP. Later I flew Yak-7 and Yak-9. With an index “R” — reconnaissance,
Yak-9r. Main part of the war I spent in
reconnaissance air regiment, which had an ARPGKKA abbreviation — Aviation Reconnaissance regiment of supreme command of Red Army.
There were only three such regiments in whole Soviet Union. I was a fighter-reconnaissance pilot. But I was sent to 519th regiment first.
— How did you get there? You were picked out by “Merchants”? Or you were sent there from ZAP?
A group of 10 or 12 pilots was sent to the front after finishing training
course. Near Kursk, to 16th Air Army. We were directed to
different divisions and regiments. I was alone sent to 519th regiment. It was in May or June 1943.
— How you were accepted in the regiment?
With neglect: "Neither can fly, nor shoot".
— Such attitude was common only in this regiment, or everywhere?
Everywhere. We were called "yellow mouths": we had no combat practice
in ZAPs, two-three flights to the “zone” for aerobatics, one-two
training firings at the towed cone. So we were kicked mercilessly at first.
— What was your flying experience when you graduated from flight school?
About 9 hours. That was a lot. I was smart, and used every opportunity to get extra flying time.
— How many hours you flew in ZAPs?
A few too. I can’t remember how much exactly… May be 10 hours on American
airplane. I didn’t want to fly it at all, and evaded flights
as much as I could… It was bad airplane…
— Why you didn’t like it so much?
We called it “an iron”. Fighter should be maneuverable and fast. The
only good American plane there was – Airacobra. But I had no
chance to fly Cobras. So I fled from that ZAP.
— You came to 519th IAP, you were met with neglect there. Did you get any training?
At first we were checked for flying technique, flying in pair and in
We were eager to get to the fight. There were three or four “young” pilots, “yellow mouths”. We walked around and whined:
— Let us fight... Let us fight…
But regiment commander announced, that he will not let unprepared pilots into the air. In other regiments “green” pilots were sent into the
air, so they perished pretty soon. Our regiment was special — we were trained for a long time, but we stayed alive.
- What about breaking the flight rules?
To show our expertise each pilot had his own “hook”, as we called it.
It could be performed only if mission was successfully accomplished. My
“hook” looked like this: I would raise speed at descent, fly over airfield
at very low altitude, and made Immelman. Then I would fire a short burst
from all guns, lower landing gear and land straight after it. My friend
Vasilii Kononenko had a “hook” with and ascending barrel roll.
My Squadron Commander, Captain Avekov perished while performing such “hook”: he would come in at very low altitude, rolled his plane on its back and flew upside down over airfield. Plane couldn’t fly for a long time inverted, because engine would soon stall. He flew no higher than 20 meters above ground. But once he caught ground and burned alive. After that a harsh discipline was placed upon us... And to be honest, I got frightened myself.
— When you were given a pair leader?
A bit later. HSU Stepan Kolesnichenko chose me to be his wingman. He
kept flying with me for a long time, until I became pair leader
myself. Unluckily, he perished after Kursk Battle had ended…
— According to archive data he was shot down on 30/08/1943 in a dogfight. How did it happen?
He flew out for “free hunt” and did not return.
— There is a note: Lieutenant Kolesnichenko died in a hospital on 02\09\1943. He must have fallen somewhere still alive, where infantry picked him up, but he died later. It is a common situation for our research: pilots who did not return from combat mission could end up in infantry hospital, where they died or were transferred to other regiments, while no one in their old unit knew what happened and listed them dead.
I didn’t know it. And by no means could I have found it out, because I was transferred to reconnaissance regiment then. Kursk Battle had ended.
— Did you participate in it? Or you trained?
I trained… I arrived to the regiment on 4 May. Kursk Battle begun on 5 July, I was training, but training was done between combat missions.
— When you flew your first combat mission? Do you remember how you were introduced to battle?
I can say approximately. We came to Kursk on 4 May. Ten days later i
flew out in a dual-control fighter with experienced commanders.
Approximately in the mid June I already flew combat missions. It took very little time, really. I shot down Junkers before Kursk Battle began.
— Do you remember how you did it?
That’s interesting story. Do you see this medal “for bravery”? It was
given to me by General-Colonel of Aviation Rudenko, a famous commander
of 16th VA. Later he was a chief of VVA named after Yurii Gagarin. Rudenko
came to our airfield (he episodically flew to the front airfields, as a
passenger, of course). When he finished his official business, he would
talk to simple pilots. When he talked to us, an inversion trail appeared
in the sky above. A lone enemy airplane was flying there. Rudenko looked
at regiment commander:
— Do you see it?
— I do, comrade commander!
And he gave an order:
– Alert-1 pair take off!
My pair leaders’ airplane did not start — engine was stalling. I took off alone. Reconnaissance airplane flew very high, so I put oxygen mask on. At first he pressed on towards our rear. But when they noticed me, they turned around. Then a fight began. It was not a beautiful fight. I approached him from one side, from another. Their gunner fired at me, so holes started to appear in my plane. But I shot it down eventually. I landed, reported, Rudenko slapped me on my shoulder, took out a medal “for bravery” and pinned it to my chest. I was a fool, and did not ask
for any document… Thus I have a medal, which is the only award that I received without any document of proof…
And that medal was very valued then.
— Why do you think that that fight was not beautiful?
Because I had no experience, and was chasing it like puppy could chase an elephant. I flew around it for a long time and shot poorly… Wasted almost all ammo I had. When their gunner fired at me, I began maneuvering, breaking aim. Then I tried to attack him once again, but they dove trying to escape from me, so I had to gain on him. It was not a beautiful fight at all.
— How you understood that you shot him down?
What was there to understand – it had a trail of thick black smoke pouring out of left engine.
— But it could have escaped to the German territory even on one engine?
Well, I’ll tell you the rest of the story then. I wanted to show off
in front of Commander. When German went down smoking, I did not wait for
it to crash, but went straight home. When I landed, information about crashed
Junkers-88 already came. It was not so far – may be 30 kilometers. A car
was sent there, and I asked Commander to go there and take a look. Junkers
was lying on its belly; whole crew was alive, but covered in blood. Crew
commander was wounded by my shells, and soldiers on the ground beaten them
up pretty good... They were not
speaking Russian, so we talked via translator…
I came towards them.
— This is the pilot, who shot you, bastards, down. – Said one soldier.
German navigator defiantly replied:
— You would have never shot us down, but we had inexperienced gunner.
Another crew member said something insulting towards me. Could I have let it go? So I hit him in the face and took away his pilots hat as a souvenir. I used to keep it for a long time. It seemed interesting at that time, a hat with a hacken. I also took parachute. I brought it home for
our girls. They sawed blouses and scarves out of the silk. It was very fashionate thing. One large parachute was enough for everyone.
— Didn’t you have manufactured scarves? I even saw one of them, striped like zebra.
No, we had silk helms, but not scarves. At least not in my regiments…
— How long you were in 519th IAP?
I precisely remember, when Kursk Battle had ended, there was a firework
in Moscow to celebrate the victory. I was directed to 48th regiment for
further service. Only select pilots were chosen to be sent there. I was
one of them.
48th Guards reconnaissance long range air regiment was of mixed structure. One squadron was equipped with fighters, second with American Bostons and Boeings. Longest range had two-keel Boeing B-25s. They flew very far. They were stationed in Kubinka, near Moscow, but flew to Konigsberg, Berlin, frightful even to imagine.
— How pilots were selected?
I don’t know. An order came: "Lieutenant Krasnov to be directed to 48th Guards, order of Suvorov regiment". At first I thought that it will be temporary duty, but I stayed there till the end of war.
— In 1943 officers ranks were introduced and shoulder boards. What was your attitude towards them?
Yes, it’s true… But we felt no joy. Shoulder boards were a part of tsar army officers’ uniform, we did not have them. Commanders ordered to carry them, so we did. Later we got used to them, as if it always was this way.
— Did you smoke?
It was impossible to live at the front without smoking. When you got
out of Yak, all wet like a mouse, Messers and Fokkers still in front of
your eyes, how could you live without a cigarette? Tobacco was divided
by strict hierarchy. Regiment commander smoked “Kazbek”, pilots
“Belomorkanal”, technicians received tobacco called “Light”. Soldiers got tobacco called “Morshanskaya".
— What about Narkoms' 100 grams…?
There also was a strict order. You flew that day, one or twenty missions
– get your 100 grams, no more. Who didn’t fly, didn’t get it.
Another story from real life. It happened in 519th IAP during Kursk Battle. A squadron navigator from Monino Academy came to us for temporary duty. In the evening we came to the canteen, starshina pours 100 grams to everyone who flew that day. Trainee, even though he did not fly combat missions yet, haughtily notices:
— How weak are you, if you drink 100 grams only.
— Comrade Captain, we are not given more.
— You won’t get more.
— And you?
— When I will fly combat missions, I’ll give my 100 grams to you today, you will give me yours tomorrow.
Guys burst in laugh. He was trained for a long time, as he was poor pilot, and, finally, he flew his first mission – Sturmovik escort.
Regiment commander said to us:
— Let “humpbacks” burn, but this Academic should return safely.
We covered this trainee all flight long, if Germans would have shot him down – we would be never cleared of shame. We returned, in the
evening Starshina brings vodka out, and divided it by 100 grams to everyone who flew. I asked:
— Comrade Captain, give me your glass.
— No, you give me yours.
I don’t understand:
— What’s the difference?
— What if I’ll get killed tomorrow!
And he did not give me his 100 grams.
— For combat missions – 100 grams. What if you shot enemy plane down?
We received money. 1000 rubles for fighter. If I remember correctly – 2000 for bomber.
— Did you receive Guards straight after your transfer to Guards unit?
No. After 12 reconnaissance flight in 48th Guards.
– Which planes you flew during your reconnaissance missions?
In 48th IAP I flew Yak-9r – long range reconnaissance airplane. It was
built on the basis of Yak-9, had extra fuel tanks and reduced armament.
But most noticeable difference was not armament, but photo camera. Where
should be second cabin, a photo camera was placed with large focal distance.
It was planar, not perspective one.
We, long range reconnaissance crews flew in pairs against large objects. Budapest, Bucharest, large airfields.
— Were you trained in photography when you came to 48th regiment?
I was trained, but briefly, making photos was easier then fighting in air battles.
— You were pair leader then?
No, wingman at first. My leader was a former Pe-2 pilot. He was as weak in dogfights, as I was in reconnaissance missions. Pilots were gathered from different regiments. My first mission was noted, because I forgot to open camera bay doors, and brought home “black” film. I got it all from commander, and never again I forgot to open them. But everything was fine, because my role was secondary, since my wing leader made main photos, while I covered him. In fighter regiment leader shoots enemy down, while wingman covers him. Here it was the same, but with photos.
— From which altitudes you usually made photo runs?
We had to gain high altitude. 6 000 meters typically. The higher you fly, the wider the shot.
– At which distances you flew in a fighter plane?
We flew quite far; Yak-9r had extra fuel tanks, which provided us with combat radius similar to Pe-2. The question was: Send in one Pe-2 or a pair of fighters? Peshka had three crewmembers and made photos of better quality.
— Fighters had better chance of at least one plane returning.
Of course. And we were harder to shoot down, because we did everything we could to evade dogfight, and it was easier to do in a fighter.
— How active were German counteractions against our reconnaissance flights? By which means: fighters, or AAA?
AAA placed fire barrage only over most important objects, so we were more worried about enemy fighters. We were much less afraid of AAA. They could have brought us down only by first burst, but when we noticed first explosions we evaded them with counter AAA maneuvers.
— Which enemy plane was more dangerous, «Messerschmitt» or «Focke-Wulf»?
You asked incorrect question. At the beginning of the war there were
no Fokkers in German inventory. But when they appeared, Messers still didn’t
lose their importance. There were different versions. First series was
«Me-109 E», and further on by alphabet. «Me-109 G»,
was «F» with supercharged engine. Focke-Wulf improved too. There is no simple answer for your question…
— Messer was mostly equipped with three-point armament, while FW with six-point armament. We talked to bomber pilots; they all said that there was no worse enemy than Fokker 190.
And they are right, as they are bombers, they lack maneuverability. I didn’t notice any difference.
— How many enemy fighter you usually met? Two of you against how many of them?
Differently. It depended on where, when and how. Near frontline they usually had 1-2 flights. If we were in the enemy rear, there we were intercepted by pairs.
— Did you have secondary targets?
Of course. If main target was closed by clouds or if it was not located in defined area.
— Was this mission accounted for as combat one?
We were credited with combat mission if we came back with any target on the film.
— How many missions you flew per day?
One-two, we had to fly for a long time.
— Let’s imagine that you received an order to make photo of some object in the enemy rear. You cross front line, and suddenly find a dozen of Ju-52s in front of you. Unmaneuverable aircraft…
«Ju-52» – transport airplanes, they didn’t fly in dozens.
We had a rule: independent of enemy plane type not to get engaged into
main task had highest priority.
— But what if enemy gets into your gun sight himself?
I shot down one plane that way. We were going to our target, when 9 light bombers Ju-87 appeared, they were the weakest of all. We called them “Laptezhnik”, they had a rear gunner, but it was very easy target. And when we saw 9 of them with no escort… It was simply too much to let them go…
— How recce pilots confirmed kills?
In order to get a credit for downing of enemy airplane, we either had to provide confirmation from ground forces, or gun cam footage, which we didn’t had installed. That’s why we didn’t try to hunt in the enemy rear too much – we would not get the credit anyway. But when we flew over front line we kept sharp lookout for possible prey, as it could have been confirmed from the ground…
— Did reconnaissance pilots claim downed enemy planes at all? With such confirmation restrictions?
Yes, of course. With pride, because, I, not a fighter, had fulfilled
main task and gained extra achievement.
Pe-2 gunners also shot enemy planes down, but it was not so common. Pe pilot also had machine guns to fire in front of him, but I don’t
remember a single case when he would shoot at enemy.
I would like to stop this “shooting” discussion, and tell you that: reconnaissance pilots achievements are not enemy planes downed, but photographs brought home.
For 100 successful missions a pilot should be presented for a Hero title. By the way, at the end of war I had 137 combat missions…
— Why you were not presented?
I was, as order said.
— If there was a presentation list, you should have received something, even if Hero was not issued.
Yes, I received a “Combat Red Banner”… I even have a copy of presentation list.
— Let’s see. Chief of staff of 5th VA had signed, Commander, Goryunov
had signed. There is no signature of Malinowski,
Commander of 2nd Ukrainian Front.
Monino Academy and Veterans Council had sent a presentation for me, but I received an answer which is nothing more but an anecdote.
— "Senior Lieutenant Krasnov was really presented for a title of
Hero of the Soviet Union on 16 May 1945", …. "From ethical point of view
it would be incorrect to revise wards issued to participants of GPW60 years
after its end. 473 pilots had repeated Captain Gastellos act, but only
78 were awarded a Hero’s title. 552 pilots repeated Talalikhins act, but
only 110 were awarded with Hero’s title.
Heroic act similar to Matrosov was performed by over 400 men, but title of the Hero of the Soviet Union was issued to less than half. The rest were awarded by Orders of Lenin, Red Banner, Slava and Patriotic War."
So, what do you have to say? No logic…
— What can we say? Let’s return to war… Could you perform any maneuvers while on photo run?
Under no circumstance. Or scale of the photos would not match each other.
— What if you felt that a bit more, and you will get hit by AAA?
Then we aborted run and started all over.
— Did you have film counter in the cockpit? Did you know how much film was left?
There was more film than enough. Maybe there was a counter, but I never
looked at it, so I don’t remember.
We invented a way to make photos from bank, to avoid making second run at the same object. First shot was made in straight flight, and then one wing was raised slightly… We had 8-9 seconds between photos. Thus we made two-route photographs. By the end of war I was so keen on this method, that I made tree-route photos. Later, when our photogrammetrists made photomaps, it was very interesting to take a look. As if three different planes made runs. This invention was widely used, but only by fighter-reconnaissance pilots.
— Weren’t you tempted not only to make photos, but to blow some train up, for example…?
Of course we were, but later, in 1944-45, we even received orders to make reconnaissance mission with strafing, "to establish target type"… It’s an interesting description of the task. We found a train, flew over it, made photos, turned around, and strafed it to tear tents away, then we made one more run with photographs. No photos – no accomplished mission.
— Did you fly Yaks till the end of war? And when you begun flying Yak-9s?
That I forgot. It is absolutely definite that I flew Yaks. My last mission
was made not on 9 May, but on 11. We were stationed near Bratislava. Germans
were fleeing to Americans… on 9 May a firework was made to commemorate
the end of war, and we went to our canteen to celebrate, I even drank a
large glass of wine. There was no vodka. Then, suddenly an order came:
— Get a pair of planes in the air to find retreating enemy.
So I took off… I’m afraid to remember this till these days. I was drunk. Germans were walking in crowds. A crowd. Trucks, tanks, horse drawn carts, people and so on. There was no way I could refuse myself a pleasure to strafe them, especially since I was under effect of alcohol…
When I came back, all technicians came to take a look at my plane – I brought tree branches, blood, pieces of clothes in my radiator intake. They kept asking:
— How did you manage to stay alive?
It was on 9 May. Some missions were flown on 10 May. There were no German fighters in the air, and AAA fired rarely. War was completely over on 11 May.
— Were there fights with Americans in the air?
We haven’t seen them.
— Were you given such information?
It was none of our business. No such information was provided.
— Did you fly over Dresden or other German cities?
Take a look at the map. We went by the southern route: Bucharest, Budapest, and Vienna. Dresden was far to the side!
— What about naval bases? Or it was naval aviation area of expertise?
There was no such strict division. I flew in pair to Salonika. That’s Aegean Sea.
— That is, you had to fly over sea? What were your feelings?
If at high altitude, over 6 000 – no problems… But if at low altitude,
very uncomfortable, hard to define altitude. I had to fly over sea a lot.
When I flew at 6 000 meters even if engine fails I can make it to the shore, Yaks had high aerodynamic quality. Even if I would land not too far from shore, I could swim to it.
It was much more frightening to fly over mountains. The mountain peaks were around us, with no place to land in case if engine fails.
One mountain in Greece was called Olympus; it was mentioned in many myths of ancient Greece. All mountains had sharp peaks, while this one was flat. This was very good landmark.
Let me tell you another interesting story. Quite often we escorted shturmoviks. They were based on another airfield, so we never actually saw each other, only heard voices. We were returning from a mission, one Il was coming back with a large hole in the wing. I positioned myself over him, and said:
— Humpback, humpback, through a hole in your wing I’m viewing landmarks.
— F.CK YOU…!!!
I never saw this pilot. Then, in 1947 when I was applying to academy, he also applied. We walked past each other, and then he asked:
— Hey, were you at Kursk curve?
— Where your unit was stationed?
— In Dmitrov-Lgovsk.
— Mine in Fatezh.
— That’s why your voice seemed so familiar to me?
— What was your tactical number?
— I’m that Sashka! What’s your name?
We hugged, glad to see each other.
There was some kind of celebration, I described this situation at the meeting, and then I announced that this Yakov about whom I talked was present there. I asked him:
— Yakov Ilyich Boreiko, please, stand up, let people take a look at you.
People present there applauded us…
— Were you ever shot down?
Unluckily, yes. I burned during Kursk Battle. In 519th IAP. I was shot
down by AAA.
We covered Shturmoviks, which were strafing tanks, we, fighters, were flying above them, defending from enemy fighters. But there were no fighters in the air. I saw how Ils were getting hit one after another. My conscience tortured me, so I went in a dive willing to strafe an AAA site…
— Were AAA guns visible?
Only when they fired. I saw three flame tongues from three guns. I aimed,
opened fire and silenced one gun. When I started to change aim at second
gun, my plane caught a shell! Engine was ruined, water temperature went
over 110 degrees. I was covered in hot oil and wounded.
I turned away from the target, trying to reach our forces, which were about 80 kilometers away. Engine was working with long pauses: «Tr-r-r, Tr-r-r-r…». But I was so uncomfortable with the idea of staying behind enemy lines… At this same time just a bit below me an Il with long trail of black smoke was going towards our lines, this poor pilot was on fire. He also was trying to make it home. Two of our planes were lost on that mission, mine, and someone else. Our pilots returned and reported:
— We saw how Krasnov was flying towards front line, there was a lot of smoke we saw an explosion, and possibly a parachute…
In real life it was Il gunner, who bailed out. I saw, how pilot tried to maneuver, banked his plane. Sturmovik crashed into a trench at the front line. Gunners parachute carried by the wind landed at German territory. My boys decided that it was me. Then… Then story was long…
I should have landed with landing gear up… But I was young and brave, I wanted to save airplane despite an order — we had very few airplanes left in the regiment, so if I would have returned home without an airplane, I would have to wait for new one to arrive from the rear.
I lowered landing gear, flaps, aimed for landing. Chose an even area. For 50 meters I was running smoothly, but it was front line, and I caught an old trench with my wheels, airplane over rolled, covering me from above. I laid upside down, hot water and oil pouring at me. My right hand was pressed by cabin side. I moved it two times and lost conscience due to pain. Soldiers came running… When I got well, I came to
the crash site to take a look, they told me how it happened:
— You crashed here. Airplane over rolled, we gathered around, and stood there thinking how to get you out. Shovels were brought in,
and we started digging. Earth was like a rock, digging was done slowly. One soldier, who used to serve with airfield service battalion said:
— If you lift one wing, pilot will fall out.
We lifted one wing, but you didn’t fall out.
This “pilot”, as we called this soldier, said:
— He is fastened by belts, cut them off.
At first we cut parachute belts, not safety ones…
When I finally fell out, they poured a few buckets of water at me until I got back to my conscience. Then I was sent to hospital. That’s the story.
— It was the only case when you were shot down?
Once I had to bail out over our territory. In a fight I lost SA, a burst hit my plane; there was nothing I could have done to save the plane, so I bailed out.
— From which altitude?
1000 — 800 meters.
— There were rumors among our pilots that Germans were killing parachutists in the air?
Why rumors? That actually happened. And I saw it with my own eyes. We were returning home from some mission… There was a flight of us, one was shot down. We didn’t even notice how it happened. When we looked back, one was missing; we turned back, and saw a parachutist, being fired at by a pair of Fokkers. It was clear that a trace crossed the parachute cupola. Our pilot tried to evade being executed by pulling strings. We chased Germans away, so he landed safely.
— Did our pilots fire at German parachutists?
I don’t know such cases.
- One of our pilots said: I executed Junkers crew.
If I shot fascist down over our territory there is no sense in killing
the crew. It is much better if they got caught by our ground troops.
In 519 regiment there was another case. If I remember correctly, it was Alexandr Loginov. This pilot was boiling with hatred – Germans had killed all his family. He shot down one Messer in a fight. German pilot made an emergency landing at the green field. Our pilot landed his plane nearby. We were flying above. Avekov shouted:
— What are you doing? Why did you lower your landing gear?
Pilot landed, got out of the fighter, German also left his Mess, raised hands and walked towards Alexandr. He was not into any more fighting. But Alexandr got his TT pistol and fired at German. Then walked to the body and fired two more rounds at his head. After all this he took off and followed us to the field. Squadron commander Avekov asked him after the evening:
— Why did you kill him?
Alexandr almost cried:
— They killed my mom, raped and killed my sister, hanged my father for helping partisans. I will kill all these bastards to avenge my family.
This is my answer for your question. I can talk endlessly about this.
I thought that I forgot all this, but I keep recalling more and more when you ask me. Now I’m into other problems. War is so far away from me now.
— You flew with open canopy or with closed?
It depended on pilots’ opinion. Our 16th Air Army commander Rudenko
demanded to close the canopy because speed would rise by 40 kilometers
instantly. When he came to our field he always talked to us and demanded:
— Close canopies’.
But I didn’t, because it obscured the view.
— Plexiglas quality was poor?
Not too bad, but a bit yellowish, so visibility worsened. Besides, I got used to flying I-16, where there was no canopy at all, and always opened it, till the last day. Those 40 km\h was nothing when speed was measured in hundreds of kilometers.
— Before Battle of Kursk began, there was a large scandal with wing skinning ripping off Yak wings. Did you hear anything about it?
Skin was ripped off? May be somewhere else? Kursk curve was large. I only read about such cases, but never had actually seen any.
— Do you know about marauding when our troops crossed border line?
There were such events, undoubtedly. But not by pilots. Again real life
story. It happened in Austria. We pilots, were flying, and had no time
to go trophy hunting. Our technicians were searching through the houses.
A tail wheel of my airplane was broken once, so my plane was sent for repairs.
I asked technicians to take me with them. They were clearly displeased, but pilots were much respected, so they did not object.
— Fine, comrade lieutenant. But please, don’t bother us too much.
They must have found a place where to look for trophies. We came to some castle, like the ones shown in the movies. Sharp spikes… We got out of the truck. The oldest technician was walking in front of us… We went inside that castle; an elderly woman was standing there with two little girls by her side. He shouted:
— Gold! – And some other words in German, which I forgot.
— Nicht, nicht, nicht, – she was shaking and crying. There were different pictures and weapons on the walls.
That bastard grabbed a curved saber and showed that old woman that he was about to kill her. She fell to her knees crying… I got so
disgusted by this picture that I took saber away from him and slapped him by this same sabers flat surface at the neck.
— Go away — I said, — you...
We returned home:
— We will never take you with us again, comrade lieutenant.
That was an attempted marauding.
I was not an angel either. When technicians went for another search, i asked them:
— Bring me a carpet.
They brought me one. We cut it in half, and placed on both wings of my Yak, so that it would not suffer from moisture.
That was my only trophy. When I returned to Kirovograd, guys asked me:
— Alexandr, show us your trophies!
I had nothing! I didn’t even think that I would need them. I came home with that same suitcase that I had when left home.
Second was not marauding, but… In that same Vienna there was hunger; people sold everything they had for food. Our pilot traded an accordion for a loaf of bread.
— Well, that’s not marauding, that’s trade.
May be, may be... But getting benefit from other people problems…
— Did you look through captured German equipment? At liberated areas, may be?
At the end of war Germans abandoned a lot of equipment, but in poor
I saw airplanes, tanks, lots of tanks. Whole cemeteries of tanks. Both our and German, especially near Kursk. There was fierce fighting!
We walked among them; looked at tanks, got inside; saw burnt carcasses of tank crews. There were less planes then tanks, but there were. So what?
— Did you sat in the cockpit of German planes?
I sat in the Messerschmitt cockpit. It seemed less cramped than our
plane. Instruments were pretty close to our. It was possible to take off,
if this Mess was airworthy. There were cases when our pilots flew in German
aircraft, Kozhedub did it. I met him often, starting from first days,
when he graduated as sergeant. He used to be my instructor in Chuguev, and then I met him during war, later we studied here at Monino Academy together. Finally, we met when he became Marshal.
Once Kozhedub was a chief of state commission at exams when I presented my group. He said:
— I’ll come to your group.
I couldn’t object to Marshal:
— Yes! Please, come, comrade Marshal.
He came. Our commission of five moved to give him place to sit in the middle. I sat near him, as I presented my group of officers. They prepared and began answering. One officer answered for a third question: «Fighter tactics at hitting ground targets».
— I had finished answering.
— Comrade Marshal, do you have extra questions? – I asked Chief of State commission.
— Yes, — said Kozhedub, — I have. Tell me, what is most important for fighter pilot to achieve success in strafing ground targets?
— Correct pilot training, type of ammunition, unexpectedness of strike, knowledge of weapons characteristics...
— What else?
I thought to myself: I have no idea what else to say. Then Marshal says:
— Fool, most important thing is to strike YOUR TARGET!
— There are rumors that he flew combat missions in Korea?
My friends, who were there, deny such possibility.
— Did you meet Savitskii?
In 1952 or in 1953. Not in person. I graduated from academy and served
in PVO fighter unit. It was difficult time, when we had to fend off intruders.
We were on duty day and night. Savitskii, whose call sign was “Dragon”,
tested PVO readiness in person, he would overfly airfield at tree-top level
— I’m Dragon, flew past you.
How could we intercept him at low altitude…?
He was so glad when he made it unnoticed.
— He really was so tough pilot?..
I haven’t seen him in person. But rumors were that he was very harsh commander.
— How your further service went?
After the war I applied for a place in Air Force Academy. There was
one year that was called “Golden horde”. It’s when only Heroes were accepted.
I passed all exams, but was invited only next year. After graduation I
received a suggestion to write a PhD, but denied it.
Flew MiG-15s for two years. When I returned to 762 IAP regiment, all problems with it were over, so I easily mastered it.
Then I received a new invitation, which I accepted. I defended my PhD, and had to quit flying soon afterwards. Then I defended second dissertation. Now I guide adjuncts and work with military research problems.