interview by Oleg Korytov
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Interview with Pomorov Mikhail Georgievich, pilot of 12-th IAKP VVS BF.
Taken on 16/07/2006
Interviewer and translator: Oleg Korytov
Redactor: Alexei Pekarsh
Please, tell us who you are and where are you from.
I was born on 18 of November 1920 in a Bolshaya Olshanka village, which
is located in Balandinskii region of Saratov district. My father used to
be a railroad worker, and he had four classes of religious education. After
revolution he was sent to organize collective farms in Saratov district.
There he met my mother.
Our family was large – 12 kids. By 1929 my father taught me to read and write, and I started working at 9 years old. No hard stuff of course. The village was completely uneducated, and I worked as an accountant at milk farm. There was a book, where we should note how much milk was milked, how much was given to the workers, how much was sent for separator… But there was no one, except me, who would be able to make notes.
My dad had difficult times. At first he was a head of the collective farm, but later he gave up the post, and became a brigadier. After some time he was accused of the cattle deaths, and sentenced for fifteen years with property confiscated to cover for losses. He built Belomorcanal, but returned in five years. And what I remember – he was always supporting Soviet state. He used to tell us: Children, this state is great, it had given you what you would never get with the old regime – you have education, you can go further than we could… Please remember, for whatever bad happens there is no blame on state, but on it’s leadership… Generally speaking, he never was a communist, but he for all of his life was a…
As time passed, I decided that I need to move further. At 1934 I went to the regional center, and joined to Komsomol, what was not so common in a village area. A U-2 plane used to land there, and as a member of Komsomol I was given a chance to look at my home village from above. Then I got an urge to become a pilot, but it was extremely difficult to complete it. I had to study at aeroclub, but they were only in city’s, villages would not provide enough students, but the idea remained.
As time passed, I finished 7-th class. What I was to do? My father was imprisoned, my mother had too many kids to support.
Near Saratov there is a small city – Hvalynsk. I joined “rabfak” there. It was of agricultural direction, so by the time I finished it in 1939 I was accepted as a student into Saratov agricultural institute. But I decided the other way. I applied for a place at Molotov Naval Aviation Technical School which was located at the Molotov city (Perm now). In the end of 1939 I had given an oath, 1940 I spent in studying, and in 1941 I prematurely finished the school with a degree of plane mechanic.
How long was the educational program?
Can’t remember really, somewhere around two years. We were supposed
to become officers, but we got the degree of senior sergeants.
After Finnish campaign, the conditions of military service were close to the wartime. We were stationed on eastern shore of Kama, there we had an airfield, where we had some practice. There were aircraft of all types, even flying boats. They were disassembled, and we studied how to repair them. We had some condition – the planes were damaged by our teachers, and we were shown the ways to repair the damage.
We fixed the planes independently of the weather conditions and outside temperatures. Of course we had frostbites and stuff… But we got all the knowledge we needed, and I still have a good memory about my teachers. I finished the school with “good” and “exceptional” marks.
I remember, it was holyday, in June… I was on the leave with my friend, when we heard Molotov’s speech about the war’s beginning. In September we were sent to the active army. I was given an order to 64-th IAPON VVS VMF, which was just organized. Later it was renamed in to 65-th IAPON VVS VMF.
Let’s return a little bit? What types of aircraft did you learn?
We studied engines M-105, AM-34 and 35, M-82. I finished school as a mechanic of the MiG-1. it was a very perspective aircraft, but it did not participate in the war in large numbers. Its development was MiG-3, but it was good at large heights, but main air fights were at low altitudes, where it was not good enough against “messerschmitts”. So I finished the school as a specialist at servicing these planes. When I arrived to the 65-th IAP it was located in Mordovia, near Saransk.
What kinds of aircraft were in the regiment?
Regiment had no specific aircraft. We used to get LaGG-3, Yaks and MiGs from factories, pilots flew them to combat units, we were transported by Li-2 to service planes on the intermediate stops. First flight was to Novorossiisk.
Your special IAP was used for plane transporting only?
Yes. What I remember… at Gorkii we would get LaGG-3, fly it to Saratov, and further to Novorossiisk. Of course we had no experience. We were kids eighteen to twenty years old…
What pilots told you about Yaks, LaGGs and MiGs?
Well, LaGG-3 was difficult for pilots. Not in terms of piloting – it was quite good. It’s water cooling system failed way too often, for example I stayed at Saratov for LaGG-3 repairs. It was during winter time. As pilot steered to the landing strip the radiator froze. He took off and planes engine failed. He landed on the Volga’s ice. It was also a bit heavy. From one point of view – same as Yak… But air cooled engine completely changed the aircraft. MiGs were not common in air regiments. We had one, regiment commander colonel Petrov used to fly it.
What pilots used to say about Yaks?
Very well! It was an exceptional machine!
Photo: Yak-9 of 12-th IAP being prepared for combat mission.
Even when you were a mechanic?
About Yaks I have very good memory. Pilots liked the plane/ Among pilots
there were a lot of talks, to which front they would fly, meaning, which
planes they are going to get. There were not enough planes, Yaks were manufactured
mainly at Novosibirsk and Saratov, LaGG-3 and La-5’s were made in Gorkii.
What was good in the regiment, there were pilots there, who participated in war. They were given to our regiment after wounds. They were transferring planes, while underwent treatment and rehabilitation. I remember them, they used to have one or two orders. We had a lot of talks, since we prepared aircraft for them. They used to tell in very respectfull tones about German pilots.
We had some cases when pilots would not return even from transfer flights… For example at spring of 1942 a Li-2 with four or five pilots of ours was shot down on return flight from Leningrad to Moscow. They were shot down near Tihvin and were imprisoned.
I would like to return to your technical work?
I used to service regiment’s commanders planes. He had MiG-1 and UTI-4.
He used to train on daily basis in this double-seater – he expected to
be sent in to action. Usually we used to put a sandbag into the frontal
cabin for centering. And I asked him, if he could take me into the air
instead of this bag. So it happened that at least once a week I was in
the air. At first I couldn’t understand, what he was doing, but in time…
By may 1942 I was able to land I-16 by my self. I was already dreaming
about going to flight school… Another techs at our airbase used to say
to me: “Are you mad? If you will become a pilot you will get shot down!”.
But I was in love with the sky.
After some time the regiment commander summons me, and says: “Pomorov, by the order of Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin we have to uphold the flight schools. We had heavy losses, so we need to transfer two U-2’s to Krasnii Yar near Kuibyshev.”, – that is, we had to give our regiment’s U-2. “When you will give them away, come back”. I told him that I want to become a pilot! He answered that he will think some way to help me.
In the evening I was preparing an airplane for him, he came to me and said: “Well, my best friend is a chief of the school there, so take this note to him”. Only god knows what he wrote in that note. Pilots flew U-2’s to Krasnii Yar, we were sitting as passengers. Once we arrived where we were supposed to arrive, chief engineer told us that by the order of I. V. Stalin we have to stay at the school. Everybody was using Stalin's name at the time… I said: “I am working with military planes”. “It does not matter! If you know how to service military planes, you know how to service civil ones”. They had U-2’s, UT-1 and 2’s…
As I saw it – the things were not too bright for me… Chief of the school, general-major do not remember his name now, was absent for the time… So, I had to wait for his return. He was back in a few days. I came to his office and introduced myself. “Yes, I was informed about you. We would like to leave you here”. I said: “Comrade general, I cannot stay here as a mechanic without a permission of my current commanders”, and at the same time I handed over the letter to him. He read it. I still do not know what was in there. So, I’m standing there, my knees are shaking, not knowing what to expect… “Yes, – he says, – How is he”? I described colonel Petrov to him. “Well, Friendship has to be a Friendship, I will permit you to stay as a student…”
That is how I became a student in Krasnii Yar in the First Naval Flight School of primary education. By the way, it was there, that I met Vladimir Tikhomirov for the first time. He was an instructor there.
I finished UT-2 training program quite soon. My first instructor was tatar David Boychurin. We flew with him, and I have to say that he was very respectful to me. First of all, I already could fly, secondly, I was awarded a medal “for military service”, what was not so common at the time. We had only one person with the order of Lenin, he came from the Northen Fleet, but his career ended very soon. He thought that with this order he was exceptional, and became too keen for alcohol. He was discharged and sent back to his original unit.
Wasn’t he welcome?
Yes! The rules were very strict.
I finished theoretic part fast, UT-2 I also finished fast, and was transferred to UT-1, which was a bit more difficult to fly. I also had to make 4 parachute jumps, my first one was on 15/07/43, from Po-2 with Boychurin as a pilot. I was sitting in the first cabin, and by command “get out” I had to go overboard. Then pilot would throttle down, and I had to go down. I was so afraid first time, that I even could not let my hand go, so I flew with the plane for some time. Thanks to God I managed that.
What next? To get a qualification of military pilot I had to finish full military aviation school. Yeisk school at that time was stationed in Borskoye, 60-80 km north-east of Samara. I graduated as a Yak-7 and Yak-9 pilot…
In the end of 1943 we got our pilots licenses and were sent to Baltic Fleet. At first we were sent to Ladoga, for “limited runway” practice, and I got to the combat regiment in June or July of 1944.
I was appointed to 12-th IAKP, first squadron. First check was made by now deceased Sergey Nikolayevich Aleshin, a priceless commander and teacher. He was a pilot of the “old school”, to say so. He even maneuvers called the old-fashioned way, for example instead of “immelmann” he said “melman”. There were some some things that he said that I remember even now. He made me wear a silk scarf, and when we returned he said: «What kind of a pilot you are, if after flying with your commander you don’t have blood on your scarf? You are not looking around, you will get killed!”. The other thing he said, was «You have to land by your ass, not head!» «How’s that?» «You have to feel the distance from the ground by your ass. And remember – your butt is the most important gauge in the cockpit. If something will go wrong, you will have this funny feeling down there long before gauges will react…». And you know what? He was right!
And in terms of education he was just as a village boy, as most of us... I think that war as whole was won by village boys, although most of the pilots came from the cities – it was easier to get to aeroclub there.
Photo: Adjutant of 1-st Squadron, SqC-1 Aleshin, Provotorov
How were you met when you arrived?
Squad Commander called us to decide whose wingmen we will be…
Do you remember who came with you?
Of course I do. Georgii Krutyakov, Evgenii Galenich, me and Boris Nazarov.
I was closer friend to Galenich and Nazarov. They were younger than me,
and naturally they turned to me as a leader. We were eager to get to the
fight, remember when we came – it was if not the end of war, then at least
it was not so harsh any more. Besides of that all of pilots had a lot of
awards, and we envied them: – my flight leader – 4 Red Banners, squadron
commander – 4 Red Banners, regiments commander Belyaev Sergei Sergeevich
– full chest of awards. Vladimir Tikhomirov had 2 Red Banners at the time…
We envied them, but we also were proud to get to such regiment…
So, I was appointed to Petr Gaponov’s flight. We had some tensions, of course. I was older, he was more experienced combat-wise. It is of course difficult psycologically. We were friend and competitors at the same time. First thing – Gaponov said to senior pilot to check me, if I was any good in the air. He told me – we are not going to fight, just try to hold on my tail. So it happened.
Squad commander, Aleshin, said that I fill make two combat sorties with him, so we flew two recon missions from Oesel to Libava. After that I was considered batte-ready and started flying with other pilots. On 15-th or 14-th of April 1945 I remember there was a tragic moment. A week before I had some food poisoning and did not fly. We were supposed to fly to Dutch island of Bornhgolm for recon with Alexei Shkurko. He was Ilya, but for some reason we called him Alexei…
We scrambled to runway, and were just about to take of, when we saw a red rocket – an order to stay on the ground. Aleshin comes towards us with Krutyakov. I could not even understand that it was Georgii at first – he was so unhappy… “Pomorov, get out of the plane, the weather is bad, you did not fly for a week, Krutyakov is going to fly instead of you on this mission.”.
Last time I spoke with Aleshin – it was just one or two days before his death, he was sitting at my kitchen, I asked him: “Sergei, why did you change us for that flight?”. He said to me: “You did not fly for a week, and I did not want to send you straight in to the bad weather”. But I still remember how Georgii was going with his head down. But order is an order, and we changed places. In about 20 minutes from shore line Shkurko reported over radio that 94 is going down in flames. Krutyakov burned with the plane… (Krutyakov Georgii Grigoryevich 25/04/1945 bailed out of burning aircraft. Location unknown, most likely drowned.)
It was my fate. As long as my legs allowed me I used to bring flowers to our memorial in Lebyazhye. We built a memorial there with all of the names there, to commemorate our friends… You know, naval pilots most often have no graves…
What was the reason for the planes to burn? Some enemy action?
No, some time before the fuel tank was punctured, and after repairs some kind of fistula was left. Benzin fumes accumulated in the wing and ignited for some reason. Alexei told us that there was no fight. He did not even see how the plane hit the water – it just disappeared in the clouds...
Photo: Mechanic Solncev (with naked torso) prepares Yak for sortie.
What is your opinion about German pilots?
What kinds of missions did you fly?
Well, I can not brag that I shot someone down… Mainly recon and Sturmovik escort. It was quite difficult, we could not leave the Ils… We would get a lot of trouble if we lost some due to our fault! So we were with them until they dropped their load. Then we could cross our hearts – mission complete!
Photo: Going to fly…
So your main job was Il-2 escort?
Yes, that was the main. I also made about 15 flights to recon, since my leader at one time was Valentin Poskryakov. He was very gifted man in terms of recon.
Did you shot someone down?
I do not want to lie. No, I did not. I participated in only 2 dogfights, and only once fired my guns at the enemy plane.
Do you remember Libava and Memel air raids? There were a lot of losses from our side there?
Yes… A lot of losses, for example we lost HSU Stepanyan there... But
our regiment did not fly there at that time. I remember we were sitting
in the diner and drank “for eternal fog over Libava”.
We had confidential talks that there were our pilots as well.
You mean, Russians on the German side?
For example while I was in transfer regiment some of our pilots were
captured… Gavrilov, commissar was in prison with them, but he denied the
German offer, managed to escape to the partisans… He was a witness to the
would be trial...
Some of these pilots committed suicide when they were presented with the charges after war's end…
How do you think, what was more dangerous for Il’s, fighters or flak?
Both, but flak from ships still was worse. AAA shot at the planes and at the water, on purpose. For low flying aircraft water columns are the same as a direct hit by large caliber shell. Anatolii Romanov was hit by flak over Helm when we were already going home. Any way, Germans started to flee from their airbases in the beginning of 1945, so we hadn’t had much trouble with fighters.
Wasn’t it a pity for you that you had to fly recon and escort missions instead of free hunting? I read an interview with other pilots, and someone said that Pokryshkin and Kozhedub may have shot down a lot of Germans, but war was won by ordinary pilots with a few or none at all kills on their account? That is, shooting down an enemy plane was not a priority in our airforce?
Of course! You hit the spot. When I was meeting with children in schools
they often asked me usual questions: How many? How it happened? But for
me – I would like to take my hat in front of a Sturmovik pilot, and I won’t
sit until he does.
On the other hand we also were there. We were doing the same job, and what we thought of as unjust were awards. It depended mostly on your relationship with commanders, and less on the job that someone had done. For example why Vladimir Tikhomirov did not get HSU?
I am not speaking about awards, I’m speaking about work that you done during war… It was your job, wasn’t it?
Yes! But we understand it now, after so much time has passed. It was
simple and difficult at the same time… Some images still appear in my mind…
Winter, coast of Baltic Sea… And a pilot who was running to the toilet
to pee every ten minutes because of stress… Death was very close to us,
not even because of Germans – if the engine fails in the open sea, you
are dead! Although Pavel Sapozhnikov fell almost at the shore line and
Or the other image – we got drop tanks to escort bombers, and from certain point we had to drop them, and return home. And we could not wait until this moment comes! But fear has another side – if you won’t keep it in you, your friends will help to overcome it.
Do you remember about the story with army pilots?
I think it was on Marienburg AB… April of 1945. I think it was Vasilii Stalin’s regiment, he himself did not fly at that time. Pilot were fed at our canteen, and saw orders on our pilots chests… Well some loud mouth started insulting our men, supposing what we had to do to get so many awards… Our planes were worn out, so they were ordered to fly escorts instead of us for a few days to let us repair our planes. So they made two flights to Hel. And after that their attitude changed: «How can you fly? If you get shot down, you are dead! And water! It bouls because of explosions!». Land is land. At any time when you return, and see the shore, you feel better. When you get to the sea, all pilots shut up immediately, but everybody was quite verbose when we crossed the shoreline…
Do you remember your planes?
Yak-9 “94”, in which Krutyakov died and “82” were the main… actually if my plane was in repairs I would fly any other aircraft. About camo – not sure… Blue-gray, maybe?
What about spinners and rudders?
Rudders were different. Either white or same as whole plane. Spinners were of the squadron color, I think. We had red, 2-nd had white and 3-d blue, if I remember correctly.
Photo: S.S. Belyaev at the regiments line-up.
Were your Yaks standard? No field modifications?
No, repairs only.
What armament they carried?
Cannon of 20 mm and Berezins machine gun. We also had some planes with 37 mm cannon, but they were given only to most experienced pilots, like Vladimir Tikhomirov.
Photo: 12 IAP commander Belyaev in Yaks cockpit.
Was there some competition among squadrons?
It was not spoken loud, but it was. Mostly in games, not in combat.
There is no time for this in a battle.
What else… We were stationed at Kolberg, on Polish territory. Very comfortable AB Bodenhagen, with heated runways. Here the war ended. It was something unexpressable… At 4 o’clock in the morning I was in my room with Boris Nazarov. He was supposed to fly with Dmitrii Shabashov on a recon mission. When we heard about war’s end, he jumped to the window and started shooting… War is over! Boris flew and got killed on 9-th of May 1945! Germans were fleeing with their goods to Switzerland and Denmark, and did not miss a chance to shoot at our planes… But the war was over! (Nazarov Boris Vasilyevich, 09.05.1945 shot down. Most likely dead).
How were the relationship between local population and our soldiers?
Our first base at German territory was Elblong, and we asked our commander
for an official leave. There were four or five of us: me, Petr Lomakin,
Petr Gaponov and somebody else. It was not common to go for the leave even
at our territory, but first time in Germany… We just had to go! We were
told to have weapons with us, just in case. We decided to go into the houses
and take a look inside. Most of the buildings were empty. Of course we
took somethings, but it was not real maraudering – I, for example ripped
curtains down if they were soft enough to make “socks” out of it. There
could not be real maraudering, simply because there were no places to spend
the stolen goods, and there was no possibility to carry heavy stuff with
us. Perhaps rear units did some “trophy hunting”… We went into one of the
buildings. I found a curtain, which I wanted to rip down. Petr Gaponov
went into the bedroom and found a full set of SS uniform. He dressed himself,
came behind me and shouted “HALT!”. I turned around and saw a German officer
in front of me… He scared shit out of me. Petr went to scare others, and
I stood there leaning against some case, which suddenly opened. There I
saw a dead naked woman with a German spade in her crotch. Do not know who
did this, German SS officer whose uniform Gaponov found, or some soldier
of our forces… but this was something that should not be. I shouted with
fear, and my friends came to me. Evgenii Galenich said: ”Why did you call
us? This is not something we would like to see!”. I do not know why I called
them myself… I simply was afraid…
Well, we went home, and suddenly found a house with a signature on the door: “Please, do not touch this man, he is a doctor and helps us.”. We went in, I knew German language, and started speaking. He showed us a photograph of his diploma work, a big black man with a totally destroyed face, which he reconstructed. We drank some tea and set off to base. When we came home, one man comes to me and says “Mikhail! Save me, but quietly…” “What happened?” “I heard that you saw a German doctor? I caught something somewhere and I already can’t walk…”. Germans left a lot of infections after occupation. Before their invasion we did not even heard about them… I said: «I’m not sure about the way, let's ask Lomakin.». He said: «Yes, I remember how we went! Let’s go.». So we came back to that doctor. He asked me: «Krank?».
I answered: «Ja-ja…». He checked and said: “If he would jump from a chair to the floor, his “device” would fall of, I’ll have to operate.”. He made everything that was required… We gave him some money and left. That was about relationship with Germans. The Poles were a lot worse…
So on 9-th of May Boris Nazarov was killed, and war ended.
Here you have to understand: people changed… We never noticed this during war time, but those who had awards were better off than those who had not… As usual – portfolios were to be distributed, and that became a problem… I got a position of political deputy to the squadron commander in 1947. It was quite hard – I had to be a pilot, and at the same time I had to work on the political front, besides of that, at some points I had more power than my flight commander – as a pilot I was a wingman.
Our regiment was the one first to fly in a MiG-15…
You were transferred directly to MiG-15?
Yes, I was serving with 14-th regiment. We flew Aircobras, and then we were transferred. From there I was sent to Riga, to flight and tactics courses. After finishing them, I was sent to the Northern fleet, to the former Safonov’s regiment. About this time Americans flew from Murmansk to Leningrad. Our commanders created “aces squadrons”, I was included in to one of them… Everybody were laughing at us: “Stand up, aces coming!”
Did your squad shoot someone down?
No, we did not have early enough warning. Soon I had some health problems
and was signed off active in 1954 I was given the post of regiments deputy
on political education, and worked there until 1960. I was included into
party comity of VVS SF, and even participated in Yourii Gagarin’s acceptance
to the communist party! Of course I did not know who he will become later,
he was just a boy like many others.
Yes… Those were the days… It is nice to know that someone is interested in our life nowadays…