supporting our forces that were involved in the Finnish
war. We were not participating in it directly. After
that I was transferred to the 81st Separate Squadron,
which was based at Grebnoy canal in Leningrad. Its
commander was Captain Kashtankin. He later became a Hero
of the Soviet Union by ramming an enemy ship.
Nikolaevich Kashtankin (1910–1944) entered
the Soviet Navy in 1929 and completed flight
training at Yeysk. He served in both the
Black Sea and Baltic Fleets and in the
Soviet–Finnish War 1939–1940. As the deputy
commander of the 7th Guards Shturmovoy Air
Regiment, Guards Major Kashtankin executed
36 combat sorties against enemy ground
forces. On 23 March 1944, he guided his
burning aircraft into an enemy patrol
vessel. He was awarded Hero of the Soviet
Union posthumously on 31 May 1944.
not fly combat missions there. As the Finnish War ended,
we were transferred to the newly leased Hanko Peninsula.
This event took place in March or April of 1940. Our
airdrome was called Podvalandet.
did you meet the war?
the war began in 1940. We flew several reconnaissance
missions. We painted over our red stars and flew over
the Baltic to see what the cargo ships sailing from
Germany to Finland were carrying. On 24 June, before the
start of the war was announced, the Finns shot down
Dubrovin’s aircraft from 18th squadron.
In actual fact,
this aircraft, crewed by Dubrovin,
Korchinskiy, and Bliznetsov, made a forced
landing on water at 1245 on 24 June 941 due
to a maintenance issue. The crew was
captured and the Finns later used the
aircraft in their own air force.
were you doing when the Great Patriotic War (GPW)
I was a
chief of the squadron’s parachute-landing service,
responsible for parachute training. It was my
responsibility to check the squadron’s parachutes, so I
woke up early. When I reached the airfield, I heard over
local radio that the war had begun. Someone flew in
reconnaissance at about 0800. Early on the morning of 25
June, large-caliber guns fired at us from Finnish
territory, but without result. Then we were moved to
Tallinn. Three crews were left behind – Ignatenko,
Streletskiy, and Volkov were the pilots. While in
Estonia, we were constantly under rifle and shotgun fire
from locals. From there I got my first combat order. We
were told that a submarine had left Helsinki or Kotka
with an escort of five torpedo boats, and two or three
crews capable of night flying were required. My pilot
Volodin stepped forward. And Kizenko — he later flew
Il’s and became an HSU.
This may be Petr
Yevdokimovich Kiselenko (1919–1975), an
aero-club graduate who entered the Soviet
Army in 1940, completed pilot training in
1941, and in 1943 was a deputy squadron
commander in the 237th Ground-attack Air
Regiment. By mid-November 1944 he had flown
106 combat sorties, and was awarded Hero of
the Soviet Union on 18 August 1945.
mission was to prevent the submarine with escort from
reaching Tallinn port. We scrambled in two MBRs with
four FAB-100 or PLAB-100 each.
aviatsionnaya bomba (high-explosive aviation
bomb); PLAB—protivolodochnaya aviatsionnaya
bomba (anti-submarine aviation bomb). The
“100” indicates 100-kilogram bomb weight.
the submarine right in the mid-route between Tallinn and
Helsinki, but it submerged. No surprise, our cruise
speed was about 160–180 km\h. But the escort boats began
shooting at us. We went into circles and shot back with
ShKASes, my gunner - Kirsanov, if I remember correctly,
and I. I fired all 750 rounds with no visible result, of
course. But we managed to sink one of the small boats
with FABs and PLABS, and that I saw with my own eyes –
the torpedo boat broke in two and sank in a matter of
seconds. The other four turned around and proceeded to
Helsinki. It was interesting that no damage was
inflicted on us. Those gunners were really bad!
from Tallinn we flew to Libava (Libau) port and bombed
some airbases. At night, of course. No real damage was
expected from these attacks, but if we could damage a
runway, this could already prevent enemy pilots from
taking off for a couple of hours, which in turn could
help save lives. Then we were moved to Ezel and Kogul.
From there we flew reconnaissance and anti-submarine
warfare (ASW) missions. Preobrazhenskiy arrived at Ezel
with his group some time later.
Nikolaevich Preobrazhenskiy (1909–1963)
entered the Soviet Navy in 1927 and
completed flight training in 1930. He was a
participant in the Soviet–Finnish War of
1939–1940. In August 1941, as commander of
the 1st Mine-Torpedo Air Regiment, Colonel
Preobrazhenskiy participated in the bombing
of Berlin. He was awarded Hero of the Soviet
Union on 13 August 1941. He went on to
command an aviation brigade and later the
VVS of Northern Fleet and after the war the
VVS of the Pacific Fleet. From 1950–1962 he
commanded the air forces of the Soviet Navy.
He personally flew the Lend-lease Douglas
A-20 in both the Baltic and Northern Fleets
in its role as a torpedo bomber.
him with weather recon and bomb supplies. We were happy
when they dropped bombs on Berlin!
In August 1941, we were told that tomorrow at 1000 new
fighters would come to the bases to show them to us, so
that we would be able to recognize them. We were
standing at the beach when we saw three planes coming
from the south. We cheered. But they threw bombs at us.
Those were Bf-109s! We dispersed and tried to hide. At
the same time the Messerschmitts strafed our planes on
the water. Several were lost. Our anti-aircraft
artillery (AAA) defenses were hiding with us, but we
threw them out of the foxholes. The AAA fire started
when they left. In about 10 minutes three planes came
back. We started firing, but those were the promised
Yaks! Someone shouted “Yaks!” We answered “Huyaks”!
(Word game – second is very rude swearing) and continued
firing. No one could remember what these Yaks looked
like. This led to some problems later. Luckily, we
killed no one! During the attack, Germans destroyed
three or four MBRs that were loaded with bombs and were
on the water waiting for take off.
After the evacuation from Ezel we were sent to Yeysk,
and as we were going there our train was hit by bombs.
The car next to ours was blown to pieces, killing and
wounding a lot of people. Anyway, we arrived at Yeysk
and were transferred to 60th Squadron of the Black Sea
Fleet. We arrived there in November 1941. Our squadron
was based at Gelendzhik, and from there we flew to
support Sevastopol. Our main work was ASW. We had a
special method of finding U-boats. They left trail of
oil on top of the sea. If it was cone-shaped, we dropped
a series of bombs slightly ahead of the trail. If it was
still, we dropped bombs in the middle of it. Of course,
we could not see the damage we inflicted. It was rather
then that you were transferred to Catalinas?
transferred later. I was in 82nd Squadron (Black Sea
Fleet) by this time. In 1943, the 26th of March, we were
sent after torpedo boats that had attacked Tuapse port.
They went to Kerch. We found them, or perhaps some other
boats almost at their port. Still, we bombed them, but
after the bombs were gone we were intercepted by
fighters. I don’t know whether we hit something or not;
we had to fight for our lives. Pilots went to from 400 m
to 10 m altitude; we shot at the fighters and they left.
Germans did not like low altitudes. We started gaining
altitude back almost at our shore. When I radioed to the
ground that we were arriving, they said that a fighter
was behind us. Our gunner Bui said that two are gaining
on us. Our second plane, piloted by Glushkov, was not
touched for some reason. Then everything exploded around
me. We fell into the water without parachutes, and when
I came to the surface I saw a Me-110, a twin-keel plane.
Its pilot strafed us and departed. (No claims were found
for this MBR downing in the german sources so far). I
shouted that I was sinking, when I saw my pilot,
squadron commander Vasilyuk, shaking his fist at me and
shouting something like “You God- ****ed m***er! If you
sink I’ll go down after you and I will torture you
instead of the devil, and I will do it better! All
demons will get in line to study!” That helped a lot.
When we landed in the water, our life vests inflated
with gas, and they helped us to stay afloat. We had
black vests, by the way. I lost consciousness in the
boat that came to save us. It took us to the AAA
battery, where soldiers immobilized my damaged knee. The
last thing I can remember, we were flying at
approximately 150 meters, and fell down without chutes!
The tail gunner was killed in the air or sank with the
plane. I was sent to the hospital at Tshaltuby, and
after a month I was sent to the training facility where
I studied to fly the PBN-1 Catalina (Nomad).
is your opinion of the Catalina?
It was a
marvelous plane! Best of all, it was able to carry 600
kg of bombs instead of the 400 carried by the MBR-2. We
patrolled the Black Sea and managed to kill three
U-boats with it. This was confirmed by intelligence
agents. Our squadron alone damaged four more boats. We
had almost no transition problems – all measurements
were made in meters already, and there was a bombsight
combined with the airplane’s controls, which meant that
I was able to control the plane while aiming. We even
had radars, although almost no one used them. The other
thing was radio compass – we used that one quite often.
long the Catalina could fly?
We had a
fuel tank capacity for 22 hours, but we never flew
longer then 18 hours, which is still a long time. We had
to leave at least 7 per cent emergency fuel on landing.
were the Catalinas painted?
all silver, no special paint. Original serial numbers
were removed and we had only stars and tactical numbers.
else you could tell us about the differences between the
PBN and MBR?
Differences? Everything was different! The first thing
you noticed was the luxury of the aircraft. It was
really pleasant to fly in one of those, the luxury still
was somewhat unnecessary. Speaking of my work space, I
had a turret with a 12.7-mm machine gun, and there were
two gunners on the sides – thus the Catalina had better
protection against enemy fighters.
Catalinas (Nomads) came equipped with the
Browning M-2 .50-caliber machine gun, it was
common in low-density units to replace it
with a Soviet UB (universalnyy Berezina),
also a 12.7-mm weapon. This was done
primarily for logistic purposes.
it was a really simple and reliable aircraft. What else?
The MBR was designed for water landing only, while the
Catalina had landing gear, which really helped ground
crews. Oh! I forgot the engines! Those were really
great! M-17s and M-34s on the MBR were good and
reliable, but they lacked horsepower. On the Catalina,
we had two engines with supposed possibility of
one-engine flight, which is always welcome. Last, but
not least – it was better built and had more robust
construction. Generally speaking, it would be better to
compare this plane not with the MBR, but with the MDR,
but I haven’t flown those.
The MDR-6A was a
twin-engine design by Chetverikov. It was
powered by two 960-hp M-63 engines, with a
top speed of 430 kmh, ceiling of 29,500
feet, and maximum bomb load of 600 kg.
do you think about fighters?
Germans were great! No, really. There were some tricks
that helped, but we lost a lot of pilots to their
fighters. Our pilots were excellent in 1941 and from
1944 onward. In between those years, they were rather
do you think about flak?
say anything about flak. Ground-based targets were not a
matter of our interest. The AA defenses of surface
vessels were not really good in the beginning, but later
they stiffened up.
May 9, 1945
remember correctly you said that you used some unusual
method of bomb aiming in MBR?
see, the problem in the MBR-2 was that the usual,
standard aiming device, the OBP-1, was designed to aim
from 2000 m only. Not higher or lower – otherwise you
had to make calculations, and there was even a special
chart for them, but there was no time for it in real
battle. What we did – we would draw differently colored
lines on the side of the cabin and aim with a machine
gun. It was an extremely precise method, and we did not
have to fiddle with the altitude change charts, which in
turn seriously shortened our attack time. Catalinas had
a good, precise, but mechanically complex and unreliable
sight. Or perhaps not everyone knew how to use them
correctly. The other big plus for the Catalina was the
fact that I was inside the aircraft for the duration of
flight. In the MBR, I had to stand in the wind all of
the time. To fight this I would sometimes switch places
with the pilot – there was a special hatch in MBR for
that. The pilot would stand in my place and rest, while
I would fly the plane and also rest. In Catalinas I
forgot about frostbites, wind, and peeling skin, but
there I had no chance of rest. If plane was in the air
for 18 hours, it meant that I was awake and on guard for
was a standard bomb load?
FAB-100 and three PLAB-100 with 10-, 30-, and 60-m
fuses. A hit within 10–15 m was a sure kill for
submarines due to hydraulic impact, especially at depth.
The PBY had the same load with an exception that we had
the capability to load two more bombs, and most often
they were OMABs.
Orientirovochnaya morskaya aviabomba (naval
aviation position-marking bomb). Equipped
with various colors of smoke, it was dropped
into the water through a special launch
tube. It came to the surface and created a
colored spot on the water. Another
variant—ODMAB (D for dymovaya
[smoke])—created a cloud of colored smoke
and was therefore less persistent.
were at sea and you found a ship, how you would confirm
that it was enemy?
ship would be at sea only because the captain wants it
to be there. We received possible areas of our fleet
positions for the duration of each flight. Enemy ships
would reveal themselves very soon, as they would throw
everything at you on approach. We lost one or two of our
planes to surface friendly fire. In July 1941 we lost
one from a two-plane flight to a patrol boat. We
assembled ourselves and went to that ship to beat up the
gunners and throw them overboard. But things like that
your defense good enough?
could cover the entire upper hemisphere in both planes,
but the lower part was undefended, of course. Our gun
had special interrupters to prevent us from shooting
through our own engines. Seriously speaking, one of my
colleagues managed to shoot down two Bf-109s with a
ShKAS in 1941. Their pilots were showing off in front of
our pilots and came too close.
When we flew PBNs we almost never saw enemy fighters, so
as I have already said, potentially we had better
armament but we had no chance to test it.
Meeting enemy planes was not really a common thing?
fighter would usually end up with us being shot down. No
surprise really. But usually we would encounter
four-engine FW-200 patrollers or Do-18 and Do-24 flying
boats. Then we would gallantly fly past to conduct our
business, not forgetting to notify our fighter
regiments. It was not our business to deal with them. I
remember, though, that a neighboring regiment’s pilot
flew under one of these Dorniers and a gunner shot its
belly seriously. Most likely it sank after landing.
would happen if you had a damaged belly?
landing we would have a fuselage full of water, so that
the plane would gradually sink. If the side floats were
damaged, we wouldn’t even have time to get out. On the
initial landing run we would loose some skin pieces.
difficult to land these planes?
On take off the most difficult part was the wild ducks.
There were lots of them, and at take-off speed of about
150 km\h, a duck would do the same damage as a 20mm
explosive shell. Landing on a force-3 sea was considered
dangerous, and 3.5 impossible. Surprisingly, most planes
were lost on calm water - pilots couldn’t see where the
water level was; so we had speed boats go cross our
landing approach to create waves. If we struck a
submerged log, the plane would disintegrate. Logs were
only visible in wavy conditions.
remember your last combat sortie?
1945. Don’t be surprised—we kept flying convoy cover
until 1946. The point was that we could see the mines
under water surface and warn ships. Even now, once in
three or four years, ships are damaged by those mines.
So our presence was needed. I ended the war with 380+
remember the war’s end?
course! I was asleep when firing began near my house. I
grabbed my machine pistol and ran to the street.
Everyone was shooting in the air. I asked what had
happened and someone shouted “The war is over, we WON!”
I started firing myself. We were drunk for two days, but
after that peace time service began with discipline and
all the other stuff included.
after the war?
was not too happy after the war. I had to leave flying
for teaching at the Military Naval Academy in Leningrad.
My son was a starpom [executive officer] on the
Komsomolets submarine and died on 7 April 1989, when it
sank near Medvezhiy Island. War was clear and easy… and
peaceful life is difficult. But war is so stupid, it
should not ever happen again. I do not understand what
happens nowadays, why so many wars are going on, why the
USA constantly puts its nose in other countries
business. Why do they think that bombing non-combatants
is so great a military achievement? Or perhaps Stalin
was right, saying that one man’s death is a tragedy, but
the death of millions is a statistic?