with Aleksandr Vasylyevich Dudakov,
Hero of the Soviet Union, Major General of aviation
Interview by Oleg Korytov and Konstantin Chirkin ©
Editor: Igor Zhidov ©
Translation: Oleg Korytov and Ilya Grinberg ©
Special thanks: Svetlana Spiridonova
Monino, Russia, December 2008
Vasylyevich Dudakov: On 7 March 2009, I will celebrate
my 90th birthday. I was born in 1919 in a village
Soglasovka, Berkovskii rayon, Penza district where I
spent my childhood. My mother was a peasant, father was
a laborer, and an old soldier: he fought in three wars:
WWI, Civil war and this one (GPW). During GPW he did not
fight as a soldier with a rifle, but as a carpenter with
an axe, he built railway stations… Right before I went
to school, our family moved to Rtishev in Saratov
district. By the way, I hold a title "honorary citizen
In Rtishev I graduated from 10th grade, and was sent by
Komsomol to Engels VVAUL (flight school).
you learn to fly in aeroclub?
9th grade we all were called to raikom (regional
committee of Komsomol) and sent to medical commission. A
lot of boys in Rtishev were called in. Almost every one…
But only six were found fit.
After finishing 9th grade I went to Soglasovka. But when
I came there I received a letter from my father:
"Return, you are called to raikom". When I returned, all
six of us were sent to Saratov. There we went through
another medical commission, even more rigorous then
previous one. There also was a mandate commission. I
didn’t understand the difference between pilot and
technician. At mandatory commission they asked:
— Would you like to become a pilot or a technician?
— Why technician? You have only 5-s? (In Russia grades
are numerical and 5 is the highest one). Go to the
I agreed – there was no difference to me.
year it was?
1936. We were sent from Saratov to Engels. Once again we
were checked by medical and mandate commissions. Then
there were exams. Russian language – written dictation
and written exam in math. We had three hours for math. I
finished it in one hour. They checked it and I got five.
I was sent to the most advanced class at 111th
department. It consisted of only 30 men. No one was
asked to be a navigator, we all were accepted as pilots.
Transition period started, so called “grinder”. We were
— You will not go to kitchen duty, you will study: eight
hours with a teacher and six hours by your self.
It was tremendous pressure. As I remember now, the most
difficult subject was “aerodynamics" or "theory of
flight", as it was called. Captain Krashevich, our
instructor in aerodynamics, introduced himself and
familiarized himself with each of us. So we started. We
finished “the grinder” in one winter. At spring we
aerodynamics was tought to you? Was it all in
theoretical sequence or applied one related to specific
aerodynamics there are plenty of formulas, but
Krashevich called his subject "theory of flight" and the
emphasys was on what is needed in practice.
— Which airplane you studied first?
theory we studied U-2 — very nice, simple for primary
training airplane. We studied it and begun flying.
Flight program was called initial flight training. First
flight was with instructor, but we flew together. First,
second flight… From now on cadets flew and instructor
would only correct them when needed.
he correct you by word or by action?
There was a communication device; it was attached to the
ear. Instructor told how we should act. We both had a
stick. If there was something wrong — instructor would
interfere immediately. He helped by both, advice and by
showing what to do.
I can't help but to admit that I flew the best in my
flight unit. Out of thirty men several cadets were
expelled as they were unfit to fly. As I remember now,
one was expelled, so he returned to the third course of
Saratov Economical Institute, from where he was drafted.
Four more people were transferred from our advanced
course to a regular one. Only 21 most educated and best
cadets remained in our class.
I was ready to fly solo, when I suddenly got sick with
malaria. You know, I already had suffered from malaria
in my childhood. Not a single other disease. Now I got
sick again. We were in the field, when body temperature
rose, they sent me to hospital and begun to stuff me
with quinine. I was there for over one week, before I
could return. I was very worried, since I thought that I
might be expelled. Vladimir Kukarskii, my instructor,
suggested a “box” flight to me. I made it. Then he
ordered a second flight. I made it as well. Flight
commander Lushik came:
— Well, Dudachkov, lets make a box.
He said Dudachkov instead of Dudakov, affectionate form
of pronouncing my name— he liked me for good piloting.
I made another “box”.
— Make one more.
I made it again. Instructor came. Kukarskii and Lushik
talked among them. Kukarskii then orders to technician:
— Borodulin, bring a sack.
That’s to keep center of gravity in place, they put a
bag of sand in the front cabin instead of instructor. I
made two flights, and reported. Instructor and flight
commander congratulated me. It was a tradition to buy a
box of “Kazbek” (cigarette brand) and to present it to
all on such occasion, starting from instructor and
flight leader. One box was not enough and I bought one
more. By the way, I wasn’t smoking then yet.
It was such a joy! I was the second in class to fly
solo, only Aleksandr Maksimov flew before me. It was an
many training flights did you make before you soloed?
remember now. But I remember that I haven’t flown a
single extra flight. The program consisted in some 20
it in 1936?
It was at
the beginning of 1937. Then, when I still was a cadet, I
completed training in R-5.
Actually, training time those days was three and a half
years, but I studied for two years. Our course
contingent was very special. We all – 21 men, were left
to work as instructors, because we were most educated
theoretically and flew better then the rest. Aleksandr
Maksimov was signed off flying duty because of poor
vision later, even though he flew well. They promoted
him to a rank of lieutenant, and he became physical
training teacher. He was good sportsman. He was a good
— During those days a war was going on in Spain. Some of
your instructors might be…
Absolutely correct, one comrade came from Spain, and he
became a commander of our unit (there were 3 flights in
getting difficult to memorize. Captain Perlov was a
company commander… No, I forgot the name.
Of course he told us about Spanish war, but I have very
little in my mind: our I-16 fighters were there, and
that our aviation kicked the enemy well, including the
Germans. But then Germans sent Messers there. Those
Messers got even. And that we needed another aviation.
That kind of talks stays in my mind.
— While you trained did you master two or three airplane
cadet I mastered U-2 and R-5. Then I worked as an
instructor for a year. I graduated a group of 10 or 12
cadets on U-2 and not a single one was expelled. Then I
graduated a similar group on R-5. One cadet was
— Could you have trained him?
completely expelled; some were transferred to the main
course. I think, that one was completely expelled. When
I was an instructor for the third year, the war erupted.
I was training my cadets on SB.
did you find out about the war?
It was a
weekend. Youngsters went where they wanted, I went to
Saratov. I heard: "WAR", and quickly returned. We kept
flying as usual. I kept training my cadets on SB…
We were seriously beaten in 1941.
All instructors, who were not married, demanded to be
sent to the front, I also asked to be sent. But I was
not allowed, and I kept flying as SB flight instructor.
A group was formed, and they left for the front. Another
group was formed on R-5. I again asked to be sent with
them, and again I was not allowed. That group also flew
By the end of 1941 B-25 Mitchells begun arriving at
Monino, and at the beginning of 1942 several instructors
were sent for training on them. We came to Monino and
started training in new airplanes. We all previously
studied German language, but here equipment was
American. We made inscriptions with translation. Some
instruments were as usual: artificial horizon — is
artificial horizon everywhere.
there problems with altimeter, it must have been in
problems. It was twin arrowed.
B-25 equipped with American guns?
American and very good too. At first we had B-25C. It
was the same airplane as C, D or G, but C had the
following armament layout: lower extendable turret with
two large caliber machine guns, upper turret with two
.50 caliber machine guns. I have to say it – good guns.
about four machine guns operated by a pilot and a gun in
the nose for navigator?
every plane. Most commonly there was only one gun for
navigator in the nose.
When we started flying, it became clear that the lower
turret was completely blind, and useless. We asked to
move the guns to the tail. Americans reacted quickly,
next type – D had a machine gun in the tail. (Version
D-25 and D-30 were equipped with such gun arrangement –
Somewhere in 1944, I think, it was G type, they placed
two guns in the tail, completely removed the lower
turret and added two waist guns. Gunners could fire them
to the sides. That was the armament. And crew consisted
of six men instead of five…
There was difficult situation. Battlefront was near
Moscow then, at the Gzhatsk area, now it is called
Gagarin. We bombed, for example, Vyazma or Smolensk,
searchlights caught airplanes, AAA begun firing at them,
but they rarely actually shot somebody down. Germans
used to have twin-engine airplane Me-110. It had good
range and its armament consisted of 2 cannons and 2
large caliber machine guns. It was crewed by a pilot and
navigator. So, our airplane is caught in the
searchlights, AAA fires. Meanwhile Messer gets behind
it, tracking it by exhaust flashes, and follows it. We
were based at Chkalovsk, Monino and Serpuhov. He
followed us there. Just imagine: our airplanes are
coming to the home base, situation awareness drops, and
machine guns are put in transport positon. Me-110 comes
close and shoots them down. They downed several
airplanes this way. Can’t say exactly how many, but no
more then five. We were informed about new tactics.
Thanks God I was never attacked.
After the war ended I was the 22nd BAD commander, I had
4 regiments under command, three flew Tu-16 and the
fourth flew Tu-22. This regiment commander was Alexei
Grigoievich Gomola. He was one head taller then me,
wider in shoulders, handsome man. He also flew during
We sat and talked, and then he told me:
— A was shot down near Serpuhov. Right after the fourth
turn the enemy fighter approached us and gave us a burst
of fire. Our gunner was killed right away. Thanks God
bullets and shells passed me. I had to force land. I
lowered landing gear, but it collapsed on touchdown, so
I made belly landing…
I told him how I shot enemy fighters during return.
There were cases. There were three regiments in our
division. Our regiment was sent to Chkalovskoe…
were division and regiment numbers?
125th regiment later became 15th Guards (in March of
1943), and even later became 15th Guards Red Banner,
Sevastopol. The 37th regiment became 13th Guards.
Another regiment, I forgot it’s former number (16th BAP
- IG), became 16th Guards (14th Guards – IG). (From July
1942 they were part of the 222nd Bomber Division of
Long-range Aviation (4th Guards Division from 26 March
If we returned from the North, we overflew Klin,
Zagorsk, and then some went to Chkalovsk, some to
Monino. If we returned from the South, we flew over
Serpukhov, then along Oka River, and once again back to
our fields. I do not remember now, where we bombed,
Vyazma or Smolensk... Here (at Monino) the ground level
is about 400 meters above sea level. So we were
returning to base, passed Klin. Gunner- radio operator
— Commander, below-behind an airplane trails us.
— Ye-e-e-es?! Daddy, look out!
Vasiliy was seven years older then me, so I called him
“Daddy”. I switched-on radio altimeter. 450 meters, 420
meters, I cant descend lower then that. I asked:
— What’s behind us?
— He is at the same altitude as we are, and closing.
— Ye-e-e-es?! Look out. I’m going to play “Suliko” now.
(Suliko is the title of a popular Georgian song with a
rather slow rate)
And I extended flaps. Minimal speed, at which I can stay
in the air is lower, then the fighter’s one. In order
not to overshoot me, he banked to the right, The moon
had lit the fascist symbols on the wing. Daddy couldn’t
contain himself, and fired a long burst. I asked:
— You didn’t fire at one of ours, did you?
— No, commander. It was Messer, and I clearly saw
swastika. There he burns, on the ground!
I told to the navigator: “Mark the spot”.
The fighter was very close, and the long burst must have
killed the pilot. The pilot fell on the stick, but the
earth was too close and he fell and caught fire. We
returned and reported about this.
The regiment commander took our navigator and the
gunner, and they flew to Klin in Li-2. They took a Jeep
to get to the crash site. Upon their return they
— The 110th was shot down.
The gunner was decorated with an order and I received a
citation. That's how it was.
Later we shot down the second one, I saw it myself. We
were told that we shot down the third one, but I never
saw it myself, so I do not want to talk about what I did
not see. I saw two myself.
— Let’s return to SB. This airplane had good handling
characteristics, was considered to be easy and nice in
handling. Would you agree?
nice in piloting characteristics. It had a good speed
too. When it was used in Spain, even Messers sometimes
couldn’t catch up with him. But it became obsolete.
you fly Pe-2?
throughout the war I flew on B-25 Mitchell.
aircraft was flown by Aleksandr Fedorovich Popov
— Standard bomb load for Mitchell was 1,500 kilograms,
if I remember correctly. Is that true?
carried 2 tons all the time. Normal load was 2X500 and
4X250. We also carried small bombs in containers,
instead of FAB-250s. When container was dropped, it
opened and small bombs were spread over large area.
long did it take you to master Mitchell?
appointed as co-pilot to Deputy Squadron Commander
Karasev. He was already experienced in flying it. We
made one flight. Taxied to the parking. Our regiment was
based in the forest. We came to canteen, had something
to eat. Then I heard:
— Dudakov, regiment commander summons you.
I arrived to the Commander.
— Where did you come from?
— From Engels. I was an instructor there for 3 years.
Flew U-2, R-5 and SB.
— Really? Tomorrow we will go together for inspection
On the following day that same Karasev flew with me to
the zone, we made one or two box flights, and he allowed
me to fly solo.
B-25 was such a nice and simple airplane, that I think
it was easier to fly than U-2 trainer. Two engines and
two tail fins. It was an obidient aircraft. And it had
tricycle landing gear too. I loved this airplane. It was
my luck that I was sent to fly it.
— Americans recall that there was a severe vibration?
felt any vibration.
— Wasn’t it uncomfortable at first to fly a plane with
feel myself uncomfortable at all. Nose wheel simplified
the handling. On take off: push throttles, gain speed,
pull steering wheel, cleared from the ground, raised
landing gear and off you go! On landing: touched down,
it runs, nose wheel touches the ground, slightly apply
brakes and that’s it. It was so simple to pilot it that
I have nothing else to say.
tolerable was B-25 to the quality of a landing strip?
from ordinary concrete runway. I never flew from grass
strip, but there was a regiment that did. It required
larger distance to take off then. It was much easier to
fly from concrete strip.
an ADD pilot were you under command of Golovanov?
that you remember this man. People have forgotten him by
now, while he is the one to be remembered. He did a
great job: organized 18th Long Range Air Army, became a
commander of long range aviation. (18th Air Army was
established in December 1944 and was subordinate to the
VVS Commander, while disbanded ADD (Long Range Aviation)
under command of Golovanov was a separate force
reporting directly to Stavka – IG)
Golovanov was reporting to Stalin, and due to heavy
losses he suggested to him to reassign Long Range
Aviation to night actions. Stalin had agreed. The crews
were transitioned and retrained to night missions on
B-25 and DB-3F, which was later renamed as Il-4. Losses
were immediately reduced. Golovanov should be credited
Apart from that he wanted to be subordinate not to VVS,
but to Stalin personally, and to receive all orders from
the Supreme Commander. However, VVS Commander did not
like this. I think that Golovanov went too far with
(It was not Golovanov who wanted to report directly to
Stalin, but it was Stalin who made this decision and was
in sole control of this strategic arm untill he decided
otherwise in December 1944 and changed the status of
Long Range aviation from an independent force to one of
the Air Armies subbordinate to VVS Commander – IG)
you begin to fly night missions straight away, or day
God, I did not fly day missions. I did make several
flights, but not combat ones. Some of us flew
reconnaissance missions during day time. It was good
when the weather was bad. B-25 couldn’t outrun Messer,
so they returned back with holes. They escaped in the
clouds. Then we retrained to fly at night. First combat
mission was to Kursk. There I got it all!
was operational range for your regiment sorties?
flew for about 5-6 hours. Then, when we added extra fuel
tank in the bomb bay, we could fly for over seven hours.
Usually we flew at about 200-220 miles per hour. One
mile is equal to 1,6 kilometer. When extra fuel tanks
were used we carried 4X250 bombs on external hard
points. But we did not like it, and begun flying with 4
FAB-250 or 2 FAB-500 in bomb bays with this tank. And we
flew for more then seven hours.
Very long missions were for “special assignments”.
What’s that? This is for parachuting agents in the
enemy's rear. We were not allowed to talk about it
before, but now everybody talks about it, not knowing
what actually was done, they even publish articles in
Regiment commander summoned me:
— Choose five crews, yours will be sixth. You will be
We got extra fuel tank, so I could fly for about 14
hours without landing. I carried agents from Ramenskoye
I dropped an old man with a big belly and very beautiful
young women 16-17 years old 12 kilometers east of
Mzensk-Mozarezkii, that’s near Warsaw. I got an order to
drop them only if I will have a signal – 3 bonfires. I
took this mission myself. We flew there, and I dropped
them precisely — they landed just at these signals.
Then we dropped them all over Poland, Germany and Baltic
from an altitude of 300-400 meters so that they will not
get carried away to far by wind.
When we started dropping agents to the deep rear of our
enemies and allies, we received briefings and drop-off
points from some General from Chief Intelligence
Directorate of General Staff. Once he told us:
— We have very important agent — SS Major, that same
one, who guarded Paulus during the war and when he was a
POW in Suzdal.
— Give this mission to me.
This general took out a large scale map of Berlin:
— You have to drop him 80 kilometers West of Berlin.
Into this forest, here is a small glade.
— Give it to me.
I asked my navigator:
— What do you think, will we be able to find it?
— Commander, it’s a full moon night, the only thing to
wish is for no low clouds. I will find it, no problem.
We arrived, Berlin was lit by electricity, and trams
were running. We made one pass, another one, and from
the third pass we dropped him. How we did it – there
were two hatches in B-25, inner and outer. When we were
going to drop agents, the outer hatch was removed
completely. Then we opened the inner hatch, an agent
would sit with parachute, a co-pilot would get out of
his seat, attach the extending cord and push the agent
out. He would fall, parachute would open, and that is
all. That’s how I dropped him. I transmitted by radio:
— Mission accomplished.
They replied to me:
— He already communicated with Moscow.
Just imagine: he had to hide his parachute, set-up a
transmitter… But he already had sent a message. Very
efficient! Maybe because of his SS background… When I
dropped him and returned to base, the General met with
me. He thanked me.
Can you imagine, how many agents did we drop? Let’s say
we made 12 flights each. I made a lot of these missions
myself. And I picked best crews too, because we dropped
people, live people, instead of bombs. It was not an
option to drop them somewhere else.
We were thanked for this SS Major, for those poles.
Hungarian beauty with gorgeous eyes, I dropped east of
Brno in Czechoslovakia. I took this mission for myself
too. I said:
— Well, darling, goodbye!
— Goodbye. — She shook my hands — We will meet after the
— Near Lenin mausoleum.
For four years, while I studied in the Academy, I used
to come to Moscow and wait there. For two years I
studied in the General Staff Academy in Moscow. Almost
every day I came to Mausoleum. But we never met. Ten or
fifteen years ago my friend, General Silovoy , Chief
Navigator of Long-Range Aviation, called me:
— Aleksandr, Slovaks invited us. We are assembling at 10
o’clock at metro station.
We gathered together, and went to the Embassy, where the
Ambassador and some girls met us. Oh, and there were 10
or 12 civilian people with us, including 3 women. It was
a reception. They served met us with cognac, champagne,
white wine, hor d'evres, some other stuff. I got myself
a drink. For the first time in my life I was called
“Mister”. The Ambassador announced me:
— Mister General Dudakov!
Speeches begun. Chief Navigator Fedor Stepanovich
Silovoy gave me the word. So I said:
— Besides what Mister Ambassador said as well as our
Chief Navigator, I will add a bit.
And I told them what I said to you…
One woman looked at me, and turned around, looked again,
and turned around. Slovak officer, a Captain, who stood
besides me said:
— What if she is here?
— Maybe she is here, but over 50 years had passed, I
might be unable to recognize her.
When we were about to leave, I wanted to talk to that
women, but the Ambassador stopped me and we talked a
little bit. When I left him, I couldn’t find her. I
wanted to talk to here so much, I believe that she was
one of those I dropped there. She couldn’t hold herself
and left. I left too… Can you imagine this? That’s how
— Let’s return to your first combat mission, when you
“got it” over Kursk.
was frightening. We bombed Kursk. My navigator was
Aleksandr Popov. Before the mission we received an
order, where it was stated from which altitude we should
drop bombs. 3000-4000 meters, I do not remember now. We
were coming close to target, when the navigator said:
— Commander, you know, the altitude will be about 500
meters lower then required.
So what? Not so critically lower! But I pushed throttles
forward. Sound volume increased, and searchlights
immediately caught us. Antiaircraft artillery commenced
fire. Shells were exploding around and we could feel the
smell of explosives in the cockpit. Can you imagine? For
the first time in my life my hair stood up. I pushed
throttles fully forwards, speed increased, and I begun
to make small turns. The gunners reported:
— Commander, shells explode above-behind, again
I increased speed, and, thanks God, made it away. I
escaped, engines were working fine. From Kursk I set
course straight to Chkalovskoye. When I returned,
everybody kept asking:
— How come they did not shoot you down?
It was my luck they didn’t. And what was the difference
from which altitude to bomb, three, three and a half or
The target was about three kilometers long, 500 meters
wide. Get over it, open the bomb bays and drop the
But I was frightened. There was another frightening
mission. All of our missions we flew at night. But by
the end of the war we had to fly day missions. We had
complete air supremacy by this time. Regiment commander
never actually flew, such a dumb. I can't even think of
him calmly. Only because of him I received a title of
the Hero of the Soviet Union (HSU) only after the war.
He ordered me:
— You will lead the regiment.
So I did… We bombed Wroclaw in Poland. The altitude was
about 3 000 meters. Near the target a small caliber AAA
hit me. One shell hit me in the left engine and exploded
there. Gunners shouted:
— Commander, left engine and fuel!!!…
But it was my luck – fuel pipe was fractured, but on the
opposite side from the exhaust. The fuel leaked, but on
the opposite side. Oil and hydraulic fluids leaked too.
I gave full throttle to another engine and switched the
damaged one off. The airplane loaded with two tons of
bombs flew with a descend. We were descending more and
more… AAA kept firing. I said to the navigator:
— Do not drop bombs on our troops, or we might get shot.
Navigator shouted in reply:
— Commander, a few more seconds.
Then AAA fire stopped in an instant. Our troops on the
ground saw that I was going on a single engine, and they
shelled the German AAA sites. The altitude was 1000
meters by this time. Minimal altitude of bomb release
was 500 meters. Then I finally saw that bomb bays
opened, a lamp flashed. Thanks God, bombs away… I turned
in a “pancake” manner, and went to our territory. I flew
on one engine for almost an hour and landed in
Chenstokhovo. My wingmen, Alexei Fadeev and Petr Bobrov
asked for a permission and landed too. I checked a
pressure in hydraulic lines, extended landing gear and
landed. A thought appeared that I had to clear landing
strip, so I pressed right brake and left the runway. Can
you imagine such luck! Both, the airplane and the crew
were safe! No one was shot down and I made it back too!
I switched off the engine, left the co-pilot and the
gunner to guard airplane. All others boarded Fadeevs
airplane and flew with him back to our home base. On a
second or a third day I flew my airplane back to base.
and regiment commander (in a Jeep). Uman airfield,
well B-25 flew on a single engine?
well without bombs. When bombs were loaded it couldn’t
maintain level flight and flew with descent.
there problems with spares for B-25?
really say, they sent us all we needed. I have to admit
that it was a very reliable airplane. Our best engines
worked for 300 hours, Wright-Cyclones on B-25 had a life
up to 500 hours.
crew consisted of…
six men. Pilot, co-pilot, navigator, radio
operator-gunner and one or two gunners. Six men were
enough. There was no need to increase or decrease the
number of crew members. Otherwise there would be not
enough people to operate machine guns.
Two pilot cockpit was a good decision; we also came to
this later. The one who sat in the right seat was
studying. I, as an instructor pilot believe that it was
easier to teach the co-pilot from right seat to fly in
poor weather conditions, blind landings… It was really
— During the war did you fly according to the flight
manual? Were there regular checks of flying technique?
course, before I certified any pilot, I checked him in
the air personally and checked how he flew. If I, as an
instructor, was fully satisfied with his capabilities, I
would let him fly combat missions. If I was not happy I
kept flying training missions with him.
I couldn’t let fly a pilot, who was not ready, if I felt
that he might perish. Then I will be not a squadron
commander but a dumb. How can I let my comrade to get
unprepared and get killed?
your regiment suffer large losses during war?
regiment flew SB from the first day of the war. In one
month it was totally wiped out. I do not know how
exactly they flew, most likely day missions. After that
our regiment was sent to Samara and received Pe-2. It
went to Leningrad, there it lasted longer – it lost all
it’s planes in 3,5 month. When I arrived at Monino and
crews were training to fly B-25, it was the third set of
crews. We did suffer losses on B-25s too, but very few
were shot down, most of them crashed on landings in
complex weather conditions. Up to 10 crews were lost
about the airplanes?
counted them… New airplanes would arrive when needed…
else do you remember from Lend-Lease program?
We had everything ours.
— Didn’t you have American leather coats?
We had no
American clothing at all, everything was our.
Fur-lined overalls? Or cotton-filled jackets and
very warm. But we did not like them. They were heavy and
somehow restricted movement.
did you fly in during summer? In overalls or regular
we flew in blue overalls.
you receive American food? Usually canned meat is
remembered as a “second front”
recall anything. I believe we had everything ours.
you eat anything during long flights?
rations. We also took tea with us and a sandwich. That’s
you have chocolate to boost your concentration?
received chocolate for long range flights. But for very
— Flights were long, and you had to relieve yourself?
How did you solve this problem?
leaving our seats. Each had a device. Of course there
was no way to solve “big” problem.
— Where the relationships within a crew friendly or
the crew becomes so cohesive that relationships were
very good, closer to friendly. Each one clearly
understood that his mistake could cost lives of all
crew. You must understand that everybody went over the
top. After landing we discussed how everything went, I
would say who made a mistake and which one exactly. But
without too much noise.
talked to the HSU Titovich, he said something like this:
"The State erected a monument to me, but I would like to
have a monument for my crew chief nearby". Could you
agree with this? That is, heroism of the flight crew is
not possible without heroism of the ground crew.
wouldn’t say so. Relationships between commander and
technician are good, because he looks after the airplane
like after himself. But to make such a statement is an
overshoot. Not every hero gets a monument.
told that you flew on a B-25 with 75mm cannon?
airplane with such cannon was given to me for
experiment. The cannon was placed where navigator used
to sit. I flew day mission to the shooting range and
tried to fire from it. Then I flew at night. I usually
gained 3000 feet, that’s 1000 meters. (One foot is 32.5
centimiters). Then I entered a steep glide, looked for a
target and pressed a trigger. When I pressed it for the
first time at night, a muzzle flash appeared, 15-20
meters of flame. I got blinded by it. On the right seat
there was a navigators working place. I pulled the
steering column, the earth was very close. I pushed
throttles forward, switched landing light on, and
noticed tree tops. Another second or two and we would
I made a second run, again gained altitude, entered a
glide, found the target, aimed, closed my eyes and
pressed the trigger. When I opened them back I could see
the tracer from the shell. I got used to it…
you like it?
kind of shells did you have for this cannon?
I do not
know, there were 24 shells for one mission. A Corpse
engineer (4th Guards Air Corpse of Long Range Aviation –
IG), a Colonel, flew with me. He was loading the cannon.
And here we made a mistake. He loaded the cannon and I
fired. He hurried to insert another round while I pulled
the trigger of the machine gun. The breach struck his
lag. Thankfully, he was hit at soft tissue, otherwise he
could end up with broken leg.
Test flying is a very dangerous work. There are so many
test pilot graves in Zhukovskii… It’s terrible. It is a
result of this dangerous work.
you test this cannon in real combat?
tested it at shooting range, I received an order to try
it out in combat conditions.
Our troops were getting close to Dnepr. We received a
mission to block a railroad that went from Kiev to
South-East, to Dnepropetrovsk, and went parallel to
Dnepr. Train movement there was very intense. It was a
train on each section. I had four machine guns and a
cannon. I aimed at the locomotive, pressed a trigger… It
was a sea of fire, and - Pshhh – steam was going out of
a locomotive. So I kept flying and shooting trains. In
all I made four such flights, in two of the trains I
shot at there were powerful explosions, they must have
carried ammo or fuel. When I accomplished four flights,
I was asked:
— What should we do with this aircraft?
— Send it to the naval aviation, to use against ships.
Its armament is excessive to all kinds of ground
In final report we made a conclusion: "Could be sent to
Navy for use against ships". And that was the end of the
you fly strategic reconnaissance missions?
made night photos to fixate results of our strikes. But
we couldn’t do it some times. For example at the end of
war I bombed Berlin two times, at the beginning of
Berlin Operation on April 20th 1945 and on the 26th.
When we bombed Berlin there was no time to make photos.
you fly over sea?
you experience discomfort while flying over sea?
never, because I flew in B-25 - very reliable airplane
with two engines. Probability of loosing two engines at
the same time was quite low. Then I flew over sea in a
Tu-4. It had four engines, so if I would loose one
engine there were 3 more to go. There was not even a
thought in my mind, not to speak of fear… I flew over
Northern Sea (after the war). In general, I flew from
Moscow to North Pole, and to the South to Africa, and
from the West to the East from Atlantic Ocean to Alaska.
I never thought about any fear flying over water.
you fly missions against Helsinki?
Helsinki five times.
was special in those missions against Finland?
supreme military and political command has to be
credited. After Stalingrad and Kursk it was clear that
Hitler’s coalition was shattering. To speed up Finland’s
decision to leave it we were ordered to bomb Helsinki.
But our political leaders were very wise. All targets
for the mission were given in Helsinki suburbs.
When the Finns left Germany our special commission
visited the town. All Helsinki was safe, meaning that
kids and elderly people were also safe. The suburbs were
severely destroyed. I remember we bombed them three
times and they asked for peace talks. Meanwhile we
bombed towns at the Baltic Sea coast. We bombed those to
could you say about Finnish artillery?
had good AAA artillery, but it was located inside of the
city, so we flew just outside its bounderies.
you choose yourself how to get to your targets, or you
were given the route?
given a route. Usually we flew from East to West along
you fly with cover?
fighter cover? We flew at night.
you fly from Leningrad, Pushkin?
these missions from Novodugino near Smolensk.
— Weren’t such long flights too expensive? Longest part
of the route was our territory, you could fly from
B-25 500-600 kilometers was not a long route.
you fly bombing missions against Berlin and other German
cities in 1943-44?
say exactly. I bombed not only Berlin, but Warsaw,
Konigsberg, and cities around Berlin… I bombed Port Hel
in the end of war. But I did not bomb Berlin in 1943.
Then we most commonly bombed our own towns. I bombed
Kiev three times, Minsk. Hitler flew to Minsk, and we
were ordered to drop bombs straight at the city center.
I flew as a target illumination crew then. When we
bombed Kiev railway station, one bomb fell right into
the restaurant, where a lot of German soldiers and
officers were killed. Our people also got kileed. You
understand how it was. We bombed a lot of our own
railway nodes. We destroyed Bryansk, Orsha, Orel
you bomb Vienna, Budapest, and Sofia?
against Budapest five times and I bombed Sofia only
once, if I remember correctly.
about the Austrian capital Vienna?
did not bomb Vienna, not a single time. We protected
Vienna as as Center of music, Straus…
We also never bombed Krakow. Warsaw was bombed many
is known, that when the British bombed German cities
they bombed the whole town without any actual targets.
Did our long-range aviation bomb towns or targets
bombed Berlin and Budapest there were no precise
targets. But when we bombed Bryansk and Orel, we tried
to hit railway stations precisely.
you receive special missions to destroy some small
had. It was a bridge over Dnepr near Kremenchug. Our
troops were getting close to Dnepr, and Germans were
fleeing. Our task was not to allow them to cross the
river. We destroyed the bridge. We were coming in at low
altitude and hit it. I was given a task to make photos
of the damage. That was perhaps, the smallest target of
you fly anti-shipping missions?
Specifically against ships I did not. When our troops
got close to Sevastopol, Germans were escaping by ships.
We were ordered to bomb both the town and ships. There I
not only bombed the ship, but even got so angry that
turned around and strafed it with machine guns. I have
no idea why I did so, but I hit it hard…
made you so angry that you decided to return?
explain really. I was extremely angry at Germans in
general. I used to live in Engels, that’s German Volga
Republic. We lived alongside with Germans very
peacefully, without a single fistfight between kids.
Just imagine – not a single one! Soviet officials were
standing at celebrations together with German officials.
Germans always thought good of us, sometimes, if some of
our young men, a cadet or an officer would drink to
much, they would pick him up and bring him to the
Newspapers wrote that the Nazis had killed a lot of
Jews. A lot of them were shot. And not only Jews. I
wasn’t introduced to my wife, Lyudmila Sergeevna then,
but her family was lucky to be evacuated. If not, they
would all be executed for sure. Her father was a
communist party member from 1919.
there cases in your regiment when shot down crews would
return from the enemy held territory?
know, there was one case. But it happened in the end of
the war. A crew of Bochin was shot down over Budapest.
(According to TsAMO, Bochin Aleksey Alekseyevich, whose
plane was shot down on 20 January 1945, returned to his
unit on 18 May 1945. Other crew members: co-pilot
Korolev, N.F., navigator Bander G.I., gunners Shatskiy
M.F., and Pulkov V.A. are consodered MIA). Bochin bailed
out, Germans captured and interrogated him. He then told
— Germans wanted to execute you.
— Me?!? — I asked — What for? What so special did I do
It appears he told them how I strafed German trains from
the cannon, that it was a squadron commander Dudakov.
— We will execute him, when we will get our hands on
That how it was. And they did not execute him, Bochin.
it true, that Golovanov personally asked Stalin not to
filtrate, that is, not to send for checking ADD crews
returning from the enemy territory, but to send them to
the regiment straight away?
filtration? Never heard about this. But knowing
Golovanov, I’m ready to believe it. Golovanov was a very
modest man. I remember how he shook my hand when we
your airplanes were painted?
And blue or gray from below. I begun to forget it all,
and I can be incorrect…
— Where tactical numbers were painted?
fins and fuselage.
— Serial numbers were left in place or were overpainted?
I do not
remember. We kept tactical numbers, but I forgot them
there nose art or insignias on the airplane sides?
you wish. It was not prohibited, and we painted if we
about “Sevastopol” insignia?
“Sevastopol” was written on all our airplanes.
airplane came to the regiment how tactical numbers were
assigned to it? Was it common to re-paint it?
came to the regiment, and it received tactical number in
it. In my first squadron the numbers were from 1 to 12.
you recall your personal aircraft number?
them all, and I can’t say which one more often. I had to
teach all pilots. I made 2 or 3 combat flights with him
and when he was ready I would leave this airplane to
him, and switch to a new one…
missions results were confirmed?
We took a
made it? Did each crew make his own photo?
flew a lot of missions making photos after our regiment
bomb run. I brought photos, they were deciphered and
checked how many bombs exploded at the target area.
a target illumination crew always provided?
always. I flew many target illumination missions myself.
It was the hardest job… But commanders trusted me.
was it the hardest job?
flying first and it is your task to locate the target.
When you found it, you drop SAB and searchlights usually
locate you soon.
kind of SABs did you have?
I do not
know. 100 or 50 kg.
you flew target illumination missions did you carry
you make photos too, or was there a separate crew?
It was a
separate crew, they made photos.
— Which job was harder?
complex. Photo crew had to bring a photo at all cost,
target illumination crew had to illuminate a target at
— If a
photo crew was shot down, would this mission be
considered complete for all other crews (without photo
If it was
really important, a second photo crew would be sent. By
the end of the war there were cases when we bombed
there pilots who didn’t want to fly?
I had one
such pilot – Ivan Blakitny. I arranged his transfer to
another regiment. I barely got rid of him, such a …
Coward! But apart from Blakitny I heard about no one
like this in the regiment.
a pilot would explain his refusal to fly?
not refuse, he flew. We were given a task to bomb some
town. For example - Smolensk. He never refused, he flew
missions. But he dropped bombs long before the target.
this fact was uncovered?
a pilot who drops bombs, but a navigator. So, we always
knew those who were afraid.
there a political officer in your regiment?
flew. They usually flew.
was their position? Were they pilots or navigators?
navigators and pilots. But more commonly they where
they good specialists?
navigator like a navigator, a pilot like a pilot. He was
an ordinary man, like the rest of us, but then somebody
ordered him to become a political officer.
it some sort of a prejudice towards political officers?
those who flew. All of ours did fly. And we liked them.
did you find out that the war is over?
in Litza, Poland. Poles found out before we did. I was
sleeping, and woke up because my pilots started shooting
in the air.
— Why do you shoot?
— The war is over!
— So what? And stop pulling my leg!
— Don’t you understand? The war is over!
you celebrate a lot?
drink alcohol? I’m still alive by now, and I’m almost 90
years old because I almost never drunk or smoked. During
the war we were given “Belomor” (brand of cigarettes)
for free. But there was no place to spend it, so I
smoked. When free Belomor ended, I stopped smoking.
During the war after each mission we received 100 grams
many flights did you make per night?
we made one sortie, rarely two.
you receive 100 grams for a sortie or for all sorties
during that night?
after the first sortie we received our 100 grams, and
then the second mission was announced. You know, when I
gained altitude my eyes kept closing. I took oxygen mask
and breathed. When I returned back I told the regiment
— Do not issue alcohol if second mission is expected.
And all this stuff had ended almost in an instance. We
flew the second mission and only after it ended we
received our 100 grams. That’s half a liter of alcohol
for a crew.
if somebody wanted more?
were those who added up. But they either had to buy it
or ask for it. In my crew no one ever bagged and never
asked for more.
gunner shot down a Me-110, did he receive monetary prize
your crew shoot down 2 fighters?
did you shoot down the second one?
way we shot down the first one. We were in a good
position – enemy fighter couldn’t stay with me...
your gunners draw victory stars for shot-down fighters?
common for fighter pilots. I did not draw that.
for and when did you receive a HSU?
my work in summary. There was no singled-out heroic act.
did you receive a title, and how did you find out about
when the documents were sent. It happened in 1944. But
there was a real story. When the nomination for the HSU
was sent, the regiment commander Major Sergey
Alekseyevich Ulyanovskii was promoted to a higher
position (in September 1944). Another one was sent in.
(Lt. Colonel V.S. Tsyganenko). At this time my soldiers
went AWOL and beat-up some civilian. The new commander
decided to delay my nomination. My friend Silovoy
received a HSU, then he became Chief Navigator of ADD. I
did not get the title then. The regiment commander
received an order to submit a nomination for me by the
end of April 1945. However, the Decree of the Presidium
of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR was issued on 23
February 1948. Why did it take so long, I do not know.
— Which award was treasured most at your regiment?
Lenin and Order of Combat Red Banner.
lot of pilots told that Order of Lenin could be given
for military achievements and for milking cows, and for
this reason they preferred the Red Banner.
of the Red Banner was a highly valued award, but I also
value the Order of Lenin.
few questions from our colleagues-historians. During the
night of February 6 - 7, 1944, a crew consisting of
commander Kokin, navigator Kotenko, and Dudenko had
force landed two kilometers away from the town of Belev
in Tula District. Were Chernenkov or Romanenko in this
I do not
know. I do not remember. Ivan Kokin was in my squadron.
I taught him to become airplane commander. I do not know
how high he rose later. He graduated from the Academy. I
was studying there when he also came to study. He should
have become at least a deputy squadron commander by that
time, if he was accepted there.
did Lieutenant Orlov crew perish, the crew where Hohlov
was the navigator?
I do not
remember the navigator, but I knew Nikolai Orlov well,
he was already a flight commander. We were supposed to
bomb Helsinki, I do not remember now, which flight it
was, first, second or third… We told him:
— The engine life of your airplane had come to a limit,
so take another one.
— No, I want to work the engine life out completely.
I remember this discussion as if it took place just now.
Who needed it? By this time he was not in my squadron,
but in the second one…
He took off, can you imagine: he took off, one engine
fails, and the airplane loaded with 2 tons of bombs fell
to the ground and exploded. I took off right after him,
and when I flew over the crash site I saw how the
ammunition from his plane was exploding… Can you
imagine… Oh, God, Nikolai perished! I took off, went on
my mission, but he perished...
Nikolai was a very nice guy. Why did he do such a
foolish thing? His engine had almost completely used its
service life, only a couple of working hours were left.
It was such a tragedy! (According to OBD Memorial, Lt.
Orlov A.P., flight commander, was killed in an accident
on 16 February, 1944 and is burried in Novo-Dugino,
— Couldn’t it be a situation when a pilot got so used to
his airplane that he did not want to fly a new one…
they got used.
understood that there were several extra airplanes?
I had a
squadron of 10-12 airplanes. The regiment had 30 +
airplanes. Extra airplanes? Yes, there were. New
airplanes arrived. Some of them were given to our
regiment. When a young pilot was ready, I test-flew him
in a new airplane, and then allowed to leave this plane
for himself. I took a new one.
March 9/10, 1944 an airplane of Lieutenant Dolmatov was
shot down by Me-110 during a raid on Tallinn. What
happened to the crew? It is not clear from available
damn him, I wanted to court-marschall him, but did not
do this. It was somewhere over Ukraine, after
accomplishing a combat mission he decided to fly at low
level. Youngster! He had no experience… His navigator
was Druzhinin. They hit something on the ground and
turned over… The airplane was destroyed, he and his
navigator stayed alive, while the rest of the crew were
killed. It was somewhere in Ukraine. But I do not know
what happened over Tallinn.
he was alive after March 1944?
appears this way. I am condeming this Dolmatov! His
navigator and himself survived and the guys were killed!
he in your Squadron?
you fly low level yourself?
were cases when I did.
— Maybe he tried to follow your example?
talked about it, but I also had such a case in Ukraine.
I was returning from a mission, when I saw a hay pile in
front of me, and some men were working on it. One of
them was standing on the top of the pile with a
pitchfork. I pulled the column sharply, and blew him
away from the pile. The gunner reported:
— Commander, he flew off the hay pile.
But I never talked about it. I usually didn’t violate
you drop agents to Finland?
one or two times north of Riga. There were three agents
in one mission.
But I do not remember that I dropped agents to Finland.
raids. Turku, Kotka, Helsinki. I personally bombed
Helsinki five times.
many missions did you fly?
missions flown, 218 noted in the flight book.
did you feel when the Americans dropped A-bomb? What
were your thoughts?
describe. They dropped, so what? I understood, even knew
that we were not going to be too far behind…
there a feeling in the end of the war that we will
felt it. Capitalism is Capitalism. I lived in another
state, and it was clear that we are together until we
have a common enemy.
how many years did you fly?
for over 30 years. During the war I commanded a
Squadron, after the war for five years I commanded a
regiment, then the 22nd Air Division — Two years deputy
commander, then 6 years as a commander. The division
consisted from 4 regiments. Three regiments flew Tu-16s
that could drop bombs or launch missiles. I was the
first to launch a KSR-2 missile that directly hit a
naval target 152 kilometers away. Another regiment flew
supersonic long range bombers Tu-22. This regiment
sucked all my blood from me, damn it! We were rearming
and I rearmed all our VVS. You see? That is it, I flew
for over 30 years.
A.Dudakov's Flight Log&Record book