with Yuriy Sergeevich Abramov
Oleg Korytov and Konstantin Chirkin
Editing of Russian version: Igor Zhidov
Special thanks to Svetlana Spiridonova,
Ilya Grinberg and James F. Gebhardt
Abramov, Yuriy Sergeevich, Chirchik, 1942
Yuriy Sergeevich: I was the youngest navigator in Navy
aviation during the GPW (Great Patriotic War). I was
lucky: I was sent to the 1st Mine–Torpedo Aviation
Regiment (MTAP), which had a long and glorious history.
I met a lot of heroes there.
In 1944 its commander was Ivan Ivanovich Borzov, a very
famous man. He was such a great commander: he would run
toward each plane returning from a mission, waiting for
the crew to begin leaving the aircraft. He really was
unhappy when losses had been suffered. He knew all of
his men, and sometimes up to 5 men would be killed in a
There were few pilots of his level. My friend HSU
Alexandr Razgonin talks in very respectful tones about
him – they began flying together before war broke out.
It is not an accident that he later became a Marshal of
Sergeevich, lets start from the beginning.
born in 1925, in Tashkent. My ancestors on my father’s
side were exploring Central Asia. Dad was born in
Tashkent. Mom moved there with her parents in the
beginning of the 20th century. My family tragedy has to
be described here – my dad was a monarchist, while my
uncle, who was a lawyer, turned to the communists. He
held a high post in the Red Army. One brother was
“white,” while another was “red.” (The selection of the
colors “whites” and “reds” was based on the heraldic
significance of the color white—honor and dignity, and
on the arbitrary significance of the color red—the blood
of oppressed by capitalism. Respectively the “whites”
were monarchists, and the “reds” were communists.)
Grandfather received a document signed by Ulyanov
(Lenin), stating that he should not be touched.
Meanwhile my dad was hiding from the authorities, and
only sometimes appeared at home. That’s how I was
conceived. For a long time I saw my father only
infrequently. Later he was pardoned by the government
and was permitted to return to a normal life. When war
broke out, he was drafted into the army as a private and
later went missing in action. He was over fifty at the
My older brother was born in November 1916 and fought as
a tank crew member. He was severely wounded, became
severely disabled, and returned home to die. I was also
wounded in 1944, and also became disabled.
was your father drafted at his age?
first days of war, the government issued an order: in
the territories that were close to the enemy, the
conscription age range was set at 16–55. By the end of
1942, the area covered by this order was expanded, and
my father was called to arms.
did you end up in aviation?
common at the time to try to get into aviation. In 1940
I made an attempt to apply for Chkalovsk pilots school.
Later it was renamed to Orenburg School. I was highly
trained and rather well built. At the age of 16 I
weighted 80 kilos with no body fat at all. The medical
commission passed me through, but I was halted at a
“mandatory” commission. Those who lived in the city had
to have passports, but I didn’t have one, as I hadn’t
reached 16 years of age yet. I stole my birth
certificate from my mother and changed the date of
birth. But this was discovered, and thus I was not
allowed to go to this school.
This did not reduce my urge to fly. I had to wait for
another year. But when I grew up to the required 16
years war begun, I went to the Voenkomat [military
commission] and demanded to be inducted into the army.
“It is too early to call you to arms.” was the reply.
“We cannot call you. But, if you wish, we can put you on
the list. Meanwhile, you can undergo some extra
Soon I completed my general studies, and passed the
documents to the voenkomat. It was rather easy for me –
we used to have a “military training” class at school.
“Wait,” was the reply.
As I understood it, they did everything in order not to
abuse my feelings. By this time our men were dying on
the Volga. I was very upset that I had not been called
to help. This feeling was widespread among young men.
Finally I was called to the voenkomat. Mom said:
“It is a bad time; everybody must go, and so you have to
And she let me go without crying. At the voenkomat I was
ordered to go to Chirchik. It is a small city near
Tashkent. The first military man that I met was in
uniform with a “chicken” on his sleeve. It happened that
I was sent to the flying school, and everything matched.
It was autumn of 1942.
For some reason I was noted, and was appointed as deputy
commander for operations of my company. We spent a month
or two in quarantine. Then I was sent to 2nd Squadron.
Its commander was Major Popovich.
There was a movie, “Two fighting men” [Dva boytsa]. We
were extras in the “crowd” as riflemen, while Major
Popovich advised the director on aviation questions. I
remember well, that we made friends with famous actors,
and they used to come to us freely.
you know that you would become a navigator?
gave our oath, another month passed, and only then it
was announced that our squadron was preparing
gunners–bombardiers. It was formed on the basis of an
evacuated gunner–bombardier school. I forgot its name.
It used to be on the Dniepr River
you not disappointed that you would not become a fighter
No. I was
so eager to get to the front that I would have been
happy to get there as a rifleman.
talked to Grigoriy Avanesov, and he said that men were
picked by the results of the exams: those who were good
at math were sent to train as navigators, and those who
were not so good were sent to train as pilots.
know Avanesov. They also tested us. Navigators usually
had a complete middle education. (A full secondary
education included 10th grade in school, which in
principle allowed one’s application to be submitted to a
VUZ [institution of higher education]. An incomplete
secondary education consisted of 8 years at a secondary
school and permitted one subsequently to obtain
professional–technical training. Thus, navigators were
associated with a higher education, and pilots with a
Pilots were normally older, but very few of them had an
eighth grade education.
German bomber aviation, the crew leader was the
navigator. In our air forces, wasn’t it the pilot,
irrespective of the navigator’s rank?
navigator’s rank did not matter. In reality, the
navigator did all the work. How to approach the target,
how to return home after the attack. But you know, a
crew is an entity, and it is difficult to separate the
pilot from the navigator.
were you taught?
things. Mostly navigation and bombing. This is difficult
to explain in two words. Radio. The navigator had to be
able to receive no less then 60 characters of Morse code
per minute. We were taught meteorology. But the most
important thing for the navigator was steering the
airplane. Not piloting, but navigating.
In the flight school I first flew the U-2, then, for
about a month, the R-5. After that came the SB. We flew
it for about six months. The SB was considered to be a
new plane. It was a great plane, but it had a serious
drawback – it was slow. We passed our final test on the
SB in early 1944.
you given any pilot training? Did you have a chance to
fly the plane during the war?
fought only on the Boston, and there was no possibility
to fly that plane.
Several questions about flight school. How was it
type of uniforms were you issued?
given new clean clothes of a very simple fabric. We wore
the pilotka on our heads. Initially we had boots with
footwraps, and later English boots. These boots were the
same as ours but were lace-up. They were produced
especially for the desert – British soldiers used them
in North Africa, and when they did not need them any
longer, they sent them to us. They were really
By the way, we had to run for thirty kilometers with one
stop, carrying a backpack loaded to thirty kilograms.
“Faster, faster, don’t fall back!” shouted Senior
Lieutenant Chislov. Yes, Chislov! It’s strange, how
forgotten names reappear in the memory.
were you fed in flight school?
times we were fed exceptionally well! Almost flight
norm. Porridge with meat, white bread with butter, and
tea with sugar for breakfast. I don’t remember anyone
who would be hungry.
Before we graduated, we were given officer rank – Junior
lieutenant, and we were sure that we would be given
senior sergeant. But a new order came out. We were
issued new army field uniforms, officers’ boots, and
After finishing flight school, instead of the front I
ended up at the Levanevskiy Military-Naval Flight
School. Naval pilots were in short supply, and we were
retrained to be naval navigators.
were sent there alone?
our school, 25 men were sent to Levanevski School, but
we were sent to the front separately, as our commanders
thought that we were ready.
We had no idea that we were going to the other school.
We were given a document, and we were told to ask the
military commandant at Kuybyshev, who would open our
documents and direct us further.
Levanevskiy School, 1944.
long did it take for you to reach Kuybyshev from
traveled by rail. On the third day we reached Kuybyshev
and reported to the commandant. He had opened an
envelope, and told us that our next stop would be
Bezenchuk. He gave us another envelope. Everything had
to be secret then.
We arrived at our destination point, and started
wondering: There were a lot of naval officers there, but
there was no sea near by! We asked someone: “Where is
the commanding officer?”
“Go over there, and there will be a building. You will
sort it out.”
We saw people there in both navy and army uniforms. I
think that all aviation servicing units were dressed in
army uniforms, and even in naval aviation, all
supporting units were dressed in army outfits.
Finally, we came to our destination. A duty officer
dressed in a navy uniform came out.
— Line up! Number!
As usual, he opened the envelope and confirmed our
— You are now at the Levanevskiy School. You will study
here. As you are officers by now, you will live in the
So we started studying again. We started studying the
navigator’s tasks on the sea. But the closest we had to
the sea was the Volga River. We were taught a theory of
torpedo bombing and passed state exams.
you study mast-top bombing?
long did you study in Levanevskiy School?
long — four months. We studied really fast.
planes did you fly there?
Bostons. We had A-20s with 6 machine guns in the nose.
you have A-20s with other weapon configurations?
Where was your workspace?
school we had ordinary planes, and the navigator sat
behind the pilot. He had only SPU [aircraft intercom]
connection with him.
Our planes at Levanevskiy School were not specialized.
We were told that the A-20 was designed as a night
fighter and a ground attack plane, not as a bomber.
the instruments original — American? Or had they been
changed over to ours?
American and they were calibrated in feet. We were
young, and we got used to it quite quickly. Three
hundred and fifty feet is equal to one hundred meters.
you have bombing practice?
bombs cost a lot, and they were dangerous, so we used
concrete ones for practice.
kind of aiming device did you have?
sure… OPB, I think [optical sight, bomber]. Definitely
do you think—was the amount of training you received
sufficient, or was it not enough?
in mind that war was going on, it was sufficient. To
enhance our training I had to jump with a parachute
twice. The first time was from a Li-2 [license-built
C-47], and then from Po-2. It was really interesting.
You had to gather up your courage, get out of the cabin
to the wing, and step down. It was not so easy, though I
was not afraid.
did you complete your training at the Levanevskiy Flight
finished training and was sent to the regiment in May
1944. This was exactly when the 51st MTAP was being
formed. The unit didn’t take much time, and it was done
on Grazhdanskiy airfield in Leningrad. The newly formed
regiment was sent to Klopitsy. We placed a monument
there: “From here the 51st MTAP started its combat
path.” Every year I go there with my wife. This is my
sacred burden that I will carry in spite of all my
Part of our regiment was sent to Ladoga, and started the
war from there.
Here is the photo, where I’m present.
you fly torpedo bombing missions?
only flew bombing missions.
there a distinction between torpedo-bombing crews and
mast-top bombing crews?
no real distinction, but some planes were rebuilt. All
armament was removed from the nose, and the navigator’s
position was moved forward. This modification required a
lot of work. The main reason for these changes was the
need for free-hunt missions. Though, there were quite a
few such missions.
was unable to find any description of how the navigator
would aim. But everybody told me that there were some
difficulties for the navigator if he sat in the center
of the fuselage, because he was unable to see what was
going on in the front.
had windows and an astrohatch.
you would take the aiming device out of it and aim?
were different measures navigators used to help pilots.
One of our Hero navigators would look down through the
hatch in the floor of the fuselage, and control the
height to the water this way.
was responsible for aiming?
modification, the pilot was responsible.
there cases when the navigator would fall out of the
plane through the cabin hatch?
happened in 1944, when we were stationed at Novaya
Ladoga, and trained for the Svirskaya Dam mission. It
was Grigoryev who fell out of a Boston.
[Perhaps he is referring to Junior Lieutenant Boris
Vasilevich Grigorev of 51st MTAP, the details of whose
death on 4 August 1944 are not recorded in the regiment
It happened near our airfield. There were forests and
marshes all around. He was killed instantly – he fell to
the forest from 300 meters. We knew approximately where
he fell, and finally we found him. We buried only bones
– wolves had eaten him. His body was identified only by
the remains of Navy high-collar black jacket.
what altitude did you normally fly?
then 100 meters. We could see a vapor trail behind our
planes. Both torpedoes and bombs were dropped from the
altitude of about 30 meters.
did you maintain an altitude of 30 meters above the
were different methods. Apart from instruments at the
Shepelev Lighthouse, there was a white stripe which was
painted at 25 meters above water level.
kinds of bombs were used for mast-top bombing?
FAB-500. The FAB-1000 was used only by the most
the Boston had good payload characteristics?
lift up to 1800 kilos. There were many reasons to use
one type of bombs and not another. It greatly depended
on the vessel type we were going to attack. If we would
take too heavy bombs, they would simply fly through the
ship and blow up on the opposite side, not inside of it.
We would discuss the situation and take the best load
Recently several books have been published about our
torpedo bombers, and there are serious concerns about
reality of our pilots’ claims. As an example, authors
say that German U-boat crews for a kill of a merchant
vessel used 3–4 533mm torpedoes, while our pilots had
one less powerful 450 mm torpedo at best. And the
average time of sinking, according to their claims, was
5 minutes. What is your opinion?
sink even faster. It depends on what was the target and
where it was hit. Military vessels on average would be
able to sustain more damage. We mostly attacked
you completed a mast-top bombing run, did you see if
your bombs hit the target and the vessel was definitely
This is a
good question. Yes, I saw a hit. Yes, I saw an
explosion. But there definitely was no time to wait for
a ship to sink. Ivan Ivanovich Borzov also asked us:
“Was it so difficult to stay there and watch?”
Let’s read this note I got from the archive. A short
one. It will give you an idea about what we could do
“…During a right turn, while attempting to fly away from
the target, the aircraft was hit. One crew member was
Mast-top bombing is a very, I’d say in 90 or even 95
percent of cases it is a successful strike against enemy
shipping. What is left of 100 percent - it’s your chance
to return unharmed.
To be honest, we were not trained for this method of
bombing. It came from the Americans.
Americans. They had great practical experience. They
trained on old barges and ships. They dropped bombs from
different altitudes, speeds and approach\departure
When you are leaving the convoy you have to fly low, but
not so low to hit the ship. Some merchants had very high
sides. It was the perfect target, but how to get away
from them? We tried to turn around, and that’s when we
got hit. Or you can “jump up” to 300 meters.
then wouldn’t you show your belly to the AAA?
was the option? Americans trained to attack “boxes”
(ships) in peace time. We had to study in combat. And it
cost us dearly. When you read books you will see
three–four names. Those are mostly crew commanders. But
in reality there were a lot of losses during mast-top
I was the youngest, and fought so briefly.
you were lucky to stay alive. How many bombing missions
did you fly?
Once I flew a reconnaissance mission, and once we
dropped mines. Those were not bombing.
Eight times! Eight times you flew straight into the AAA!
I think the Germans on those ships were also willing to
course! When I am asked if I was afraid, I answer: “No,
I felt no fear.” I became crazy when I saw red balls
flying toward me.
If we were discovered from long range, then we would
come under fire as far out as 18 kilometers away from
the target. When we got close, large caliber guns would
fire at the water in front of us to raise a wave. Some
planes would collide with a column of water and burrow
into the sea. The Germans were very smart…
was the main task for the navigator during mast-top
I had to
correctly define the distance to the target ship.
far from the target did you release your bombs?
depended on many factors. For example, for the FAB-500
bomb — one distance, and for the FAB-1000 — another. You
had to drop the FAB-250 really close. I keep seeing
Piskunov’s crew in front of my eyes. His navigator’s
name was Valya. We did not call him Valentin, but Valya.
He was so young.
Their plane was set on fire near the target ship, but
they managed to ram the enemy ship. It was not a
collision, but a real ramming attack. Their heroism was
widely broadcast, but later everybody forgot about them.
Later, when I talked to Pioneers (Pioneers- organized
group of children, similar to scouts) about war, I
always mentioned this crew.
I also saw how Ivanov’s and Kazakov’s crews were downed.
Could you tell us how it happened?
very important how you are going to depart the target
after your bombing attack, because if you do something
wrong, their gunners will get you. Our gunners were no
match to theirs.
So, I saw how our plane was shot at. It was not burning,
but went into a shallow dive. It went lower and lower
and then, suddenly, it just disappeared into the water.
It was Kazakov.
I don't know the reason for this. And this is the way I
reported to Borzov. He replied: “It is good that you saw
at least this.”
We didn't have any means to help our downed crews. In
the second case, the damaged airplane managed to ditch.
Something was burning inside of it – there was a lot of
smoke, but no open fire could be seen. I just saw that
they managed to get out of the plane and tried to get a
life boat from the upper fuselage [a rubber raft was
stowed on the floor behind the pilot’s seat] But the
plane stayed afloat for just one minute. They never
returned. All the crew perished. But I never told anyone
that I saw them still alive – it was better to be listed
as KIA than MIA. (Family members of MIA did not receive
pensions for expenditures on food that were equal to the
pension received by families of KIA.)
kinds of life-saving means did you have?
usually say — «капка». But we actually never had those,
where a Пробка (дерево) was sewn into the fabric. We had
only inflatable life jackets. It was made in such manner
that you would never float upside down. It inflated
automatically. But if it would inflate inside the
aircraft, you would be unable to get out. There also was
a special hose to inflate the jacket, if for some reason
it didn't work automatically. We had jackets of
different colors, mostly yellow, but I wore orange. The
color was specially selected to be seen from a distance.
We also had an inflatable boat with some food supply in
the upper fuselage.
it the LAS-10?
would you get it out of the plane?
If we had
to ditch? On calm water the aircraft floated for no more
then one–two minutes, and then sank. During this short
time we had to drag the boat out of the plane. Thus, in
reality all we could hope for was our life jacket. We
didn't even wear parachutes. Or to be exact – the pilot
had to wear it, because he sat on one. I never wore a
parachute, and the gunners also didn't wear them. Our
altitude was way to low; attempts to use parachutes were
senseless, and all we had to hope for after landing was
our life jackets.
you remember tactical number of your plane?
never tried to remember it.
you remember what color your Boston was painted?
below, gray–brown from above. Our stars were
painted-over American ones, but those were still
drawings or insignias?
your Bostons come equipped with a radiocompass? Or did
you use ours?
equipped with American ones. We also had American
altimeters. They were calibrated in feet. In some planes
the instruments were changed over to ours. But we mostly
trained to convert feet to meters. It came to us quite
quickly. One hundred feet — thirty meters.
many gunners were in the crew? Two or one?
crew there usually was one gunner-radio operator.
Bostons were mostly crewed by 3 men, quite rarely 4.
many missions did you fly?
But a reconnaissance mission was not even close in terms
of danger to an anti-shipping strike. You didn’t fire
your guns, you didn't drop bombs. Quite the opposite –
you had to get to your target as quietly as possible.
Sometimes our ground forces would start AAA fire at us,
since they didn't quite distinguish who we were, and
then I would launch an identification flare – red or
you tell us, how effective were your strikes?
attacked as a single plane. Only in a group and our
place in the group was designated earlier. Other crews
were assigned to identify the effectiveness of our
strikes; they would report, and then we would get
Groups were formed on the basis of reconnaissance data:
target group composition, ship types, escorting ships’
AA strength. All these factors were taken into account,
data were analyzed, and finally a combat plan was drawn.
Ivan Ivanovich would announce: “We will do this and
that. Is it clear? Everybody understood? Good! To the
reconnaissance plane spotted the target, then it flew
home; the film was processed, then an attack plan was
made, and finally, you had to fly to the convoy. It was
a long time, and meanwhile ships had moved, they changed
order, more escorting ships could appear. What did you
do in such cases?
the situation could change. Then the attacking group
commander would order over the radio to some crew:
“Semenov, do you see the target? Attack!”
Since all crews listened to the same radio frequency,
everybody heard the order.
you see the movie “Torpedonostsy” [torpedo carriers]? Is
saw it. Something like that.
did you fly your first mission, and what was its
MTAP I made two sorties from Klopitsy airfield. For the
first mission we had an order to reconfirm
reconnaissance data. Two or three merchants were seen
without escorts in the Gulf of Riga. Preliminary data
gained from different planes were unclear, and we were
ordered to fly and clear up the situation. The second
mission was to drop mines.
there the capability to hang mines under the Boston?
Wasn't the distance from the fuselage to the ground too
them. A-1-4 (British mine supplied via Lend-lease). But
our crew in this second mission was used as a decoy:
During night time we had to fly at the given altitude
and fly barrage. It was believed we would distract the
enemy from the real threat. We got credit for a "mining
mission," although another crew did all the work. There
was a 1st Squadron navigator, Alexey Renzyaev, in that
plane. They were killed in 1945, and it was pilot's
(Crew: Major Merkulov V.S., Captain Renzyaev Aleksey
Ivanovich, Starshina Gribovskiy A.P, and Sergeant
Rastyapin V.S. were killed in action in the plane hit by
antiaircraft fire in March 1945. Renzyaev was awarded
Hero of the Soviet Union on 6 March 1945, other crew
members – Hero of the Russian Federation
(posthumorously) on 23 February 1998 – comments by Igor
1st Squadron was sent to 1st GMTAP.
Renzyaev was like an older brother for me. He wanted me
to get the taste of everything. He also lived in
Tashkent, and he used to say to me: “Tashkent! You are
going to fly!”
of 10 missions flown, you were downed three times. Did
you ditch every time?
of three we made it to the solid ground. During our last
mission we came down in the water.
shot you down, fighters or AAA?
cases we were shot down by AAA. We never saw enemy
fighters. To be exact, I never saw them. We usually
tried to get away from them. But sometimes they gained
on us, and shot down our damaged planes. For example,
the crew with navigator Gabrielyan. Fighters got them,
and no one managed to bail out.
(On 22 September 1944 A-20 wit the crew: Junior
Leitenant Baranov Aleksandr fedorovich, Junior Leitenant
Gabrielyan Georgiy Konstantinovich, Sergeant Zakharov
Aleksey Andreevich were shot down by an enemy fighter –
comments by Igor Zhidov).
It was a bad day – we lost 5 crews then. We gathered
together in the evening, brought cognac and vodka to the
table. We couldn’t settle down for a long time. We saw
it – a moment, and they perished.
you remember when this event took place?
think. It was when Stalin's son, Vasiliy came to us with
his fighter division. His own pilot stayed with us, and
Borzov gave him our Boston to fly to Moscow.
us, what happened when you were shot down?
time we were shot down on a "mining mission." We got
hit, and very seriously. We barely made it, and had to
make a forced landing. Luckily we all were unharmed.
The second time we were hit in the Gulf of Riga. We were
in the mast-top bombing group, and we were hit just when
we released our bombs.
Our right engine started to smoke...
I shouted: “Feather the one that’s smoking. It is going
to catch fire!”
The group commander shouted: “Turn toward land!”
And we flew, and flew, and flew. And then we dropped to
the ground. Made a forced landing.
the Boston fly well on a single engine?
overheat very quickly. Our pilot, Petr Chistakov, also
"overheated": “I can't keep it in the air anymore!”
I kept repeating: “Petya, a bit more, a little bit more.
There is no place to land here, no place. I'm looking
for a spot, I keep looking. I see one! Get there,
And we got closer… “Carefully, don't stall…”
We landed with our wheels up, and the hit was fierce.
The plane stopped just two or three meters before a
ditch. If we had fallen in...
I don't remember who got out of the plane first, most
likely Petr. He was a good man, and quite bulky. We took
the emergency axe and started to chop through the
fuselage to the gunner’s cabin. The gunner was stunned
from shock, and just kept repeating: “I won't chop, I
We finally got him out, and my friends chose me to go
for help. Just a couple of days before, our first troops
had passed through this territory. I said that in no way
will I go into the night. In the morning I went to the
nearby road: our Studebakers loaded with military loads
were passing by. My face was scratched, pistol hanging
on my butt, and even though I had no documents, my
clothes clearly showed who I was. I raised my hand, and
some truck had stopped. There was some highly ranked
I told them that I needed help, but he replied: “Sorry,
we have such a load, that we just can't.”
Several times I tried to stop Studebakers with the same
result. Finally I stopped a ZiS. We rode a bit, and then
driver told me: “Get off! I have to go the other way.”
It was autumn, and it was getting dark quite fast, and I
had to go back to the plane by foot. As I got close, I
heard: "Halt! Who's there!" My friends had arranged a
defensive position with a Colt-Browning 12.7mm (.50
caliber) machine gun. On the second day we still had no
luck. On the third day, some Army aviation truck driver
picked me up. My two crew members stayed with the
airplane. Luckily a flight was about to take off from
army airbase to our airfield, and I finally arrived at
our command post. I reported to Ivan Ivanovich. He
looked at me with a worrying expression on his face:
“Are you alone?”
I replied: “Two others stayed here” — and I showed him
where on the map.
“Good. Now you have to rest. Call the medics!”
And they took me to the medical ward. Ivan Ivanovich was
very great leader.
did this happen?
When... Porokhnya was shot down on August 27th. (The
plane was shot down by enemy fighters on 27 August 1944.
LieutenantPorokhnya Pavel Arkhipovich, Senior Lieutenant
Dyachuk Viktor Timofeevich, Junior Sergeant Dyrin Ivan
Vasilyevich, and Senior Sergeant Korolev Anatoliy
Karpovich were killed – comments by Igor Zhidov).
That means… In September 1944? I never had a chance to
meet with Petr after the war. He died... After I was
captured, he was shot down three more times. Khramov,
who was chief of staff of our fighter regiment, told me
about it. It was our fighter regiment from the start. By
the end of war two more fighter regiments were added to
Yuriy Vasilievich Khramov became a PhD in military
science, Professor… He left a lot of notes.
Khramov used to be a fighter pilot and a squadron
commissar in the 21st fighter regiment?
talking about him. He flew 600 missions. He used to be
squadron commissar, and later became the chief of staff.
you were shot down the third time?
for a long time I remember only feelings. I felt a hit,
the right engine caught fire, and that's all. I shouted:
“Misha, to the left, to the left! To the left, go to the
left! Go to the left!”
I saw where "boxes" (ships) were, and I knew that we had
to go away from them.
But he didn't answer, and I didn't hear our gunner
Sergey. He most likely had been wounded or killed.
I continued: “Move to the left! To the left! To the
There was noise from explosions and "Tya,tya,tya" –
shell fragments were hitting our plane.
I understood that we were going to die.
My comrade, Alexey Zakharovich Skryabin, watched how our
plane landed on the water. He died some time ago, but he
left documents. I don’t remember anything – I was thrown
out through the astrohatch.
By this time my body was full of shell fragments. I was
bleeding, several teeth were punched out, my tongue was
cut to pieces by fragments. I even got a piece of metal
in my butt. And a lot of small ones. They were hitting
I can't blame Mikhail. Our pilot was not guilty. They
both perished – Mishka and Sergey.
(On 12 October 1944 the plane was shot down by
antiaircraft fire from enemy ships. Junior Lieutenant
Krylov Michael Alekseevich and Sergeant Kurovennyi
Sergey Petrovich were killed – comments by Igor Zhidov).
happened next? Did the Germans pick you up?
I have to
say honestly – when the security organs asked me about
this, I replied: I don't remember, I don't know. If I
just told them the truth...
The Germans picked me up, gave me some schnapps. And I
came to my senses.
knew that you were soviet pilot?
course. I was dressed in our uniform.
you were wearing?
naval uniform. During winter we wore winter issue:
woolen underwear, high-collared jacket, trousers, and a
sweater under our jacket, a down sweater. We wore a wool
cap or a forage cap. I did not have a helmet. My helmet
liner was white silk. My earphones were small and
separate, and I wore a throat microphone.
So, they returned me to my senses, passed me to the
other ship, where I was thrown into the brig, and from
here began hell.
you operated on? Did they manage to get the fragments
joking? No operations! No medical aid, except for
returning me to my senses. I was wounded; they beat me.
Blood was pouring out of me, and no one tried to stop
it. I lost consciousness again. I started shaking. I was
Then they dragged me somewhere, and some young German
tried to talk to me. There was no translator, and we
were unable to converse. He made a sign to take me away.
I decided that they would kill me now.
I faded in and out of consciousness, and I suddenly felt
that I was being dragged across the ground. I heard some
noise, a yelp, and shouting in Russian. Those were POWs
who had lived in German custody for 2 or 3 years. They
were used as a construction team. These POWs dragged me
under German machine-pistol armed guard. On the next
day, when I started to see some things, I saw who were
our guards – one was cross-eyed, another one had lost
one hand. But they were “SS,” so there was no joke about
them. For any reason or without one they simply killed
prisoners. I saw how our POWs suffered from them.
Then they brought me to Koenigsberg by train. I had a
high temperature, and didn't understand what was going
on. They dragged me somewhere; I felt that I had fallen
down. That was the gestapo. After some time they loaded
me onto the truck. Two guards were sitting across from
me, but those were not SS, but ordinary Army. I didn't
know where they were taking me. I was confused. They
brought me to some place where there were many tables,
and someone was eating. There were pilots.
wanted to talk to you?
likely to take photographs. Those two, who brought me
there took me to their table, and spoke to each other.
One said, showing to me: “Fliegemarinen”
And gave me some food. One brought apples.
I never told about this before, because if I would have
told the KGB, some sergeant-hohol, they immediately
would accuse me: “Traitor! You sold out our Motherland
Or something like that. That's why I never talked about
The Germans looked at me, and they didn't even talk to
me. They returned me to the camp.
is, they saw that you were so young.
I was 19
years old. Juniour Lieutenant. Besides, imagine my
condition. I thought that they would interrogate me, but
they looked at me, and sent me to Vaiden. It is at the
border of Austria and Germany. Stalag-13, personal
it a special aviation camp?
were different people there. Even different
nationalities, but all nations were separated. There was
a special corridor for English, French, German, and
Russian. The Russians were held in the worst conditions.
Only German prisoners were held in a little bit better
conditions, but still close enough.
Could Russian go to, for example, the English sector?
never. We were separated by barbed wire. They were
listening to the music, they received parcels from home,
they even received new ranks… For this reason they would
make festivities. They lived in totally different
conditions. And they understood it.
I remember an episode. It was cold outside, and I didn't
had a hat, and once, we marched past the French. One of
them shouted something, and threw something at me. It
was a warm naval hat. It was a present. He still shouted
something to me…
Such events immediately raise one’s spirits.
you get medical attention in the end?
prisoners saw that I was barely alive. Luckily there was
a Russian surgeon in the camp. He was working under
supervision of his German assistant. They brought me to
the camp hospital and undressed me. Here was something
black, there was something sticking out of my body, I
was covered with dirt.
— What is this! How can you hold on? You are rotting
And he took all fragments out. For a long time they
discussed if one fragment had penetrated my skull and
damaged my brain, but then they decided to take it out.
When he pulled it, it was so painful. Right after
operation I felt much better. Then they applied some
medication. As there were no medications for further
treatment, we had to wash my wounds with urine; instead
of bandages, we used dirty pieces of fabric.
No more about this... It is too hard to recall.
There are a lot of interesting episodes I have forgotten
to mention. I was in captivity for a rather short time,
but I witnessed a lot. I was at the place where Vlasov's
officers selected traitors.
They took me from the prison camp and brought me to some
place. There was a beautiful valley, a castle and German
guards everywhere. This castle was used to try and
persuade our POWs to join the ROA (Russian Liberation
Army). It is a not so commonly mentioned historic fact.
I don't know where this castle was exactly. It was
surrounded by beautiful oak trees. Many of our POWs went
through it. I learned this when we discussed our
imprisonment in detention camp at Alkino.
As we were brought to this castle, we were directed to
different rooms. In each room were two-level beds, with
hay mattresses. Each one of us received a basic
soldier’s ration. For those who had been through
concentration camp, it was more then we would even hope
for. Potatoes, bread, some kind of porridge with meat.
The same for supper. Each time we were given tea. Some
officer came to us, and read lectures on a daily basis:
— You are now on General Vlasov's territory. Soon our
government will be established.
Then he would try to scare us: he told us what would
happen to us if we did not join them. This went on for
ten days. The same lectures. Then they started to call
us for discussions separately. Mostly we talked to
Russians, but once some Armenian came. He was well
dressed, and told us that he was very rich, but then the
communists came and took everything from him. Or another
thing: they would give us some book, and after we
finished reading it they would ask:
— What was this book about? What you understood?
Thus, by all means possible they tried to make us think
as they needed. They were unsuccessful. Their lectures
and discussions were so stupid, that it became
irritating. They felt that we were not responding, and
became nervous. They were about to start beating us;
they started insulting and threatening us.
We, POWs, were afraid, and we didn't trust each other.
But one of us, more experienced, once whispered: “I'm
major Kudryashov, long range bomber pilot. I was shot
down. I know what is going on here: they will not beat
you up. Don't be afraid. Sometimes they try to scare
people by imitating execution, but this is only
imitation. Keep this in mind.”
I don't know why he told me this, and I thought: “Is he
Kudryashov or not? Was he telling the truth, or did he
lie to me?”
It was a great evening. A guard came to me, dressed in
German uniform but with the ROA emblem on his shoulder:
“Move! — He punched me in the back — Forward, forward!”
He took me to some dark room. Then they switched the
lights on, and I saw brick wall, with bullet marks on
it… Someone shouted: “Line up! Load! Turn around!”
Even though I remembered what Major Kudryashov had told
me, I decided that they were going to kill me. I turned
around. The lights were switched off, some lamps started
flashing, and then I heard shots. Some dust rained on
“Stop it!” someone shouted. “Stop it! Motherf...ers!”
That was some comedy: first they shot at me, and then
“Stop it!” As soon as dust started falling on me, I
understood that they had fired over my head.
They grabbed me and dragged me to another room. There
were a dozen of us. In the morning they let us out. Soon
their chief, the one who annoyed me the most, came to
talk to me: “So? It was me who saved you, I gave an
order to stop. I took pity on you, you are too young.
So, what do you think? They will kill you like rabid
dogs. You have to agree. Say yes.”
I just said: “I want to remain a POW!”
At this moment someone hit me on the back of my head.
Then they sent me to another room. On the next day they
stopped feeding us, and soon they returned us to the
labor camp. And from there I escaped.
you know if they were successful?
sometimes they were. At times we knew that it was a
"comedy." Some people would sign up, but they clearly
were set up to give an example to us. I think there were
people who betrayed the Motherland because they wanted
to live. Most of us knew that the war was going to an
end, and didn't want to die.
you heard about Soviet pilots who flew on the German
Vlasov made a speech where he named all the members of
his government. There was a minister of aviation –
Malnik, no, not Malnik... Maltsev.
He used to be an aviator, then he became a GVF [civilian
air fleet] sanatorium director in Crimea.
There were 24 generals in German custody, but they
didn't betray our country. Some of them died in
concentration camps, but they didn't join the ROA.
I knew only one pilot, a Major Kitaev, HSU. I remember
him from filtration camp. There were mostly officers,
and they made a "court of officers’ honor". What
happened to him? I don't know, but there were rumors
that he was shot.
the filtration camp?
we could hear shots there. Perhaps a fifth category of
punishment was carried out.
Please, explain this category to us.
through filtration with the first category: fully
trustworthy, with a right to return to the active
service. Though soon after my return, I was discharged.
Second category — those who had no right to serve in the
army and had to stay under surveillance.
Third — imprisonment for terms of various lengths.
Fourth — life sentence. There were rumors that these
people were sent to uranium mines. My sister was married
to a truck driver, who voluntarily worked at uranium
mines "Altyn-Abkan combinat". They didn't last long.
First her husband died, then she followed. But they
earned 10–12 thousand rubles each month, while the
average salary was no more then 150 rubles.
was fifth category?
for military crimes.
you liberated by our forces?
liberated ourselves. There was a whole group of us who
planned to escape. Maybe 5 or 6 men. We escaped from the
labor camp. Me, Sergey Chepyshk, an army Il-2 gunner...
And I can't recall who was the third one. We moved
toward Czechoslovakia, and made it to the Mladotycy
station, where some armed men stopped us. They were from
Smirnov's partisan detachment. This multinational unit
controlled a noticeable part of the territory. One of
those who stopped us shouted: “Hey, I know them!”
Two men were there who had managed to escape before us.
I remember one unsuccessful escape attempt. Seven men
were caught; we were lined up and they were beaten to
death one after another in front of us. But this didn't
stop prisoners, and they kept running away. This is how
I became a partisan.
At first we were properly dressed, then I was issued a
rifle and 3 or 4 magazines of bullets. But I never
fought, because by the time of my escape I weighted
about 48 kilos, and could walk only “on the remains of
my willpower”. I was used only as a sentry.
did you escape?
Where you meet the Red Army?
the Red Army at the town Rakovnice. A tank corps or
division marched in. By this time we were real owners of
the town. We had a full school building packed with
captured Germans. They simply came to us and gave up.
did they give up to—your unit or to the Red Army?
unit. There was no way for them to fight further, and
they just dropped their weapons. I remembered that our
Party issued an order that POWs were not to be executed
without a fair trial. When our partisans, especially
those who had been in German concentration camps, got
their hands on German prisoners, they started taking
revenge. I remember someone called me to hang an SS man:
“You suffered from them, let’s hang this bastard.”
I refused – it made me sick. I always thought that
abusing prisoners was a great sin. When our tank
division came, they ordered the executions and tortures
to stop. Not everybody understood it – Germans were
hated very intensely.
didn’t the Germans torture and kill our POWs?
should be tried. Germans were different. For example, I
worked at the coal mines, and I still remember our
master Max. He used to bring us sandwiches in the
morning. A German fed us! He even shouted at me only
once – when I tipped over a coal cart on purpose. He
knew why I did it, but he even helped me to put it back
on its wheels.
Let's return to the Red Army.
ordered to become a tank desant [assault force], and
were sent to Prague. Some of our soldiers even stayed in
Czechoslovakia. But I went to the filtration camp, and
underwent filtration for almost a year. In 1946 I
returned to the Baltic Fleet. I returned to the same
division, but to the 51st MTAP. 1st MTAP was a Guards
unit, and I was not allowed to return there. But in
about two months an order came: discharge me from active
duty. And I went home. In Moscow I met Yurchakov – a
navigator from Grizodubova’s regiment. We were in the
same concentration camp. And we got into some fist
fights together with someone in the queue.
When I returned home the situation was grim. I had no
job, my mother was 56 years old, my brother was disabled
– he had been burned alive almost fatally in his tank in
1943. I also was signed as disabled, and I also had a
"stamp" – I had been a POW.
But eventually everything worked out. In 1958 I was
returned to the party. But until Stalin’s death, I was
constantly called to the KGB and they asked questions
about those, whom I had seen in captivity.
Not long ago, Putin issued an order, and at the age of
86 I received a new military rank. Now I'm a lieutenant!