My name is Aleksandr
Abramovich Freydson. I was born in the city Vitebsk on 24 January
1923. My parents were in the medical field—my father was a doctor
and my mother a pharmacist. Later she completed medical school.
did you go to school?
I completed secondary
school before the war, 10th grade. Later, in 1940, I was sent to
Vol’sk Aviation-Technical School, which I completed in 1942. After
that I initially ended up in a UTAP [uchebno-trenirovochnyy
aviatsionnyy polk – training aviation regiment], and then in ADD
[aviatsiya dal’nego deystviya – long-range aviation].
It was the 213d UTAP,
which was located in the city Petrovsk, Saratov oblast.
were you called up [drafted]?
I was drafted in a
special selection by Vitebsk gorvoyenkomat [city military commission
– a local draft board].
us how you reacted to the start of the war? Did you feel it coming?
Various rumors were
going around about the approach of war, but they were quite strict
in the school. I even remember something that happened. We were all
Komsomol members. And when one of the cadets began to express
doubts, that soon there would be war, they called him before a
Komsomol assembly. They wanted to kick him out of the school, just
for this! But he was right; he sensed the fact, more than the rest
of us, that war was coming.
We all listened to Molotov’s radio broadcast at noon on 22 June.
how did you react to that?
How were we supposed
to react? War is war. But I think that the people did not have any
Yes, some were
enthusiastic, but people did not understand what war was. They did
not comprehend what they would encounter when they found themselves
in the active army.
did you end up specifically in ADD?
I came down on
orders. After I completed my course at UTAP, they sent me to ADD
headquarters. I arrived there, then they sent me initially to
Monino, where at first I was in the ferry division, and later went
to the 37th Aviation Regiment DD.
us more about your training.
At school we studied
all types of technical support, the propeller-engine group,
[electrical] generator group, air frame, and so on. They taught
every technical specialty there. Later, in the UTAP, we studied
piloting, navigational training. They graduated us as
gunner-bombardiers—there was such a specialty, because we were all
sergeants after completion of these courses of the 213th UTAP. Then
there was a small break. They assigned me to an instructor company
after graduation and held me in limbo for several months. Then they
disbanded this group.
aircraft did you train on?
Our aircraft? The SB
and DB-3. Of course we did not have B-25s. Who would use combat
aircraft there? We also had Ar-2s. We had aircraft of various
vintages there—we were using old stuff. I became familiar with the
B-25 later, when I arrived in a combat regiment.
you fly much?
We did not fly a lot.
We were not involved with the pilot-training group—we worked with
the navigator group. Therefore on the whole the flights were for
training, and there weren’t many flights. They were conserving both
equipment and fuel.
Approximately how many hours?
I think somewhere
they training already assigned crews? [crews that had been formed]
They trained assigned
crews later, when the navigator school from Ivanovo that had been
evacuated to Mari was reassembled. Then they trained assigned crews.
On the whole, we had two groups of air crews—pilots and
gunner-bombardiers. And yes, the mechanics. But we were actually
mechanics as well! Who pre-flighted the aircraft? We readied
everything ourselves under the guidance of the aircraft mechanic. We
did everything with our own hands.
there some kind of special training for gunners?
In a manner of
speaking, yes, but not much.
was the regiment commander when you arrived?
When I arrived, the
regiment commander was Dmitriev. I got there in 1943. The zampolit
I arrived with my orders, reported to the regiment commander. The
commander looked at me, the deputy for flight operations (then it
was Karasev, later Gudimov) looked at me. “You are going to 3d
Squadron.” They sent me to the 3d Squadron, at that time commanded
by Captain Martynov. The squadron adjutant was Seleznev. He showed
me where I would live, what I should be doing, all the housekeeping
issues associated with rations, accommodations, and training (not
for combat, but initially for studying the equipment). We had to
pass an examination on the equipment, then there were flights on a
circuit, flights in the zone, and later combat missions.
what degree was the regiment combat-ready at the moment of your
I think that it was
at 100 percent combat readiness.
it fully manned with crews and did it have all its authorized
Well, no. At that
time there were 27-28 crews, because in this period before the
Kursk-Orel battle, when I arrived in the unit, there had been
relatively heavy losses during the attacks on airfields and railroad
stations where the Germans were accumulating equipment. These places
were well defended by PVO [protivo-vozdushnaya oborona—air
is a more precise date of your arrival at the front?
It was May 1943.
many crews and aircraft were in your regiment?
9 crews and 9
aircraft. We had no spare aircraft. There were two training
aircraft, but they had already been “stood down”—their weapons had
been removed. These aircraft had actually been taken off the
property book, but you know how it was with the increase of engine
hours. At first, as I recall, the regiment maintenance officer said,
“Well, lets go 200 hours.” Because it was 100 engine hours on the
Il-4. Then 300, 400, 500, 600, 700, 800, 900 (he laughs). The
engines held up! Therefore the circuit flights and flights in zone
were conducted not on combat aircraft but on aircraft that could be
used for training, but which already were unsuitable for combat use.
do you evaluate your own training at the moment of your arrival at
the front? Was it adequate?
I think I needed more
training, because the equipment was new. We were not familiar with
it. The speeds were so different from the old, slow-moving aircraft.
This was very significant because a person had to become oriented
and make decisions more quickly.
besides the training that you received in the combat regiment, was
your general training adequate?
It was sufficient.
do you evaluate the general level of training of your regiment’s
I think that the
pilot training was fully adequate. At a sufficiently high level. It
was obvious that people took their training quite seriously. This
included night flights, flights to various targets, and flights in
various atmospheric conditions in which the crews might find
themselves. And PVO coverage of targets, which was constantly
strengthened. Sometime in the second half of 1943, the Germans began
Excuse me, can you recall the names of your crew, your squadron,
your squadron commanders, or other squadrons?
My crew commander was
deputy squadron commander Guards Captain Chernov. Beyond that the
names change. Sometimes we flew with two navigators. Sometimes
Popkov, the regiment navigator, flew with us, sometimes Kimakin, the
regiment deputy navigator—this was additional. Possibly this was
because of conditions established by the command. But I don’t really
know. We had several different navigators. The radio operators were
Sergey Kochetov from Ivanovo, Kirin, Subotin. The squadron commander
was Martynov. He was a special person whom we dearly loved. Kozlov
was the 1st Squadron commander. Baymurzin later became the 2d
Squadron commander. But I had three squadron commanders—Martynov
died, then came Lazarev, and after him was Koryagin, who later
became the division commander. At the level above them were Karasev,
Gudimov. This was the deputy regiment commander for flight
operations—they changed over. Kozlov also later became the deputy
regiment commander for flight operations. The zampolit was Shkoda,
who was a unique person. You know what surprised me? That the
regiment commander conducted himself more correctly than the
zampolit. The zampolit was always dissatisfied, always had a gripe
about something. To this day I do not understand why he was this
way. A zampolit should be a little more flexible than the regiment
commander. They said that he and the commander were brothers-in-law,
but I wasn’t privy to the details. I only recall that Shkoda was
constantly unhappy. I had a friend, Ivan Yarkho. We were close
buddies. He was a navigator, but not on our crew. He was on the crew
of HSU (Hero of the Soviet Union) Mironov.
Because our crew was considered one of the best trained, we
sometimes flew on special missions, but this was relatively rare. If
there were difficult targets, we always participated in the combat
missions. The aircraft commander was an excellent pilot and handled
what modifications of the B-25 did you fly?
C model. This
aircraft was armed with . . . the on-board weapons consisted of one
machine gun up front by the navigator, two machine guns by the
commander and right-seat pilot, but they were fixed; a ball-turret
mounting—by the gunner-radio operator retractable turret, and the
gunner had an upper turret. This was the C-model. Later models did
not have the same armaments. But these guns were not ShKASes, they
were 12.7 mm [.50 caliber] heavy machine guns.
do you evaluate this aircraft’s engines?
I think that in their
level of manufacture, these engines were significantly better than
Soviet [engines]. It was a twin-row Wright Cyclone. I do not recall
any failures. There were no failures. As far as the flight controls
are concerned, I would say that they were at a high level as well.
As for all the rest, I think that the level was adequate.
was the standard for engine hours?
The documents did not
say. The engine hours were increased in connection with the fact
that the aircraft withstood a number of flight hours. So it was like
an experiment. The engine-hour ran for 200, 300, 400, 600, and 800
hours. They reached these numbers.
you have cabin heaters?
well was the aircraft equipped for winter?
Normally. But one had
to warm it up. There were special methods for warming. If an engine
did not start, the mechanics had to . . . It happened—a flight was
scheduled and delayed, the engines were warmed, and later they had
to be warmed by natural means, that is start them up, in order to
maintain the temperature in the winter time.
was the complexity of taking off and landing and control in the air?
Well, I think that
here the flight crew was sufficiently well trained. It was not just
a matter of training—they gave serious attention to training in
these matters at school. But here we had a conflict with our
navigator personnel. Klochkov came to us (he died, and is buried at
Uman’). . . Pavel Klochkov. He arrived from school, where he had
worked as an instructor. He wanted to go to the front. We had
conflicts with him because he lost orientation on more than one
occasion, even during training flights in the zone. He got lost! He
was used to low speeds. The speed of the B-25 was on the order of
450 km/h, and the SB—220-240 km/h, up to 300 km/h, no more.
what about the aircraft itself—was it complicated to control?
It was not
complicated to control. In the first place, it had two pilots.
Secondly, it had an autopilot. This was not the same autopilot
mounted in the Il-4 sometime in 1943-44, but an autopilot that was
built into the flight-control system. One could use it, but it was
not recommended for use when the aircraft was loaded down with
ordnance. There was a chance that the aircraft would come off of
autopilot. I do not think that the pilots used it during the flight
to the target. They used it on the return leg, but this also
occasioned moments of danger. Because at that time, during the
return from the mission, when we were still beyond the front line, a
person to some degree dropped his guard. When the load was being
dropped, you came into the zone of PVO fire, which placed no small
amount of stress on a person. So a person wants to rest. Music on
the radio, beaconing stations. Our communications were excellent.
The beaconing station worked very well, and ground support was also
outstanding. When we flew out on a mission, sometimes the target was
illuminated or the direction to the target was indicated. Various
means were used to accomplish this. So [on the return leg] one’s
vigilance sometimes dropped and the Germans of course did not let
the opportunity pass—night fighters shot down several aircraft,
mainly beyond the front line. I have an impression that they (the
Germans) were taught to use this to their advantage. Our crew
relaxes, and the Germans start working.
Compare the B-25 with our own ADD aircraft.
Our primary bomber
for long-range aviation during the war was the Il-4. In its layout,
I am comparing it visually, the B-25 was significantly better.
Because first you had two pilots as compared to one. Secondly, the
navigator was accessible through a passageway, he could come out of
his compartment. During landing it was forbidden for him to be in
his compartment—safety regulations had to be observed in these
conditions. But these were not the most important things. The most
important difference is that the aircraft [B-25] was more
comfortable, if one can use that expression. It was laid out better;
it was more appropriately built for flight from the point of view,
first, of accomplishing the combat mission, and second, the aircraft
was quite maneuverable.
Here is an example. Take the American Norden bombsight. This sight
could not be used because when the aircraft came into the zone of
PVO fires, we had to execute a counter-antiaircraft fire maneuver.
When the bombardier turned on this sight, the aircraft was now
guided “by the crosshairs” and you could get shot down. [The flight
controls came under the influence of the bombsight, preventing the
pilot from executing the required avoidance maneuver. JG]
Minimal time was allocated to the bombers for dropping the bombs. If
you came into the zone of PVO fire, then several things could
happen. Reshetnikov writes that they used one method. My commander
did something else. When we were approaching the target, he tried to
go higher. After gaining altitude he descended toward the target
with engines throttled back. For example, if the bomb-run altitude
was 4,000 meters, we went up to 5,000-6,000 meters. He came down
into the target, accelerating the aircraft. The main mass of bombers
had other flight parameters over the target—they went in on their
engines, while he throttled back the engines and used altitude to
gain speed. Bomb release was recomputed, we dropped our bombs, and
quietly departed. He had just one unusual habit—he liked to observe
understand that Soviet bombsights were installed. You didn’t use the
We did not use them
because they did not permit us to maneuver in heading or altitude
and this could lead to tragic consequences. If one were struck in
the bomb bay when they were open, the aircraft would blow up and
everyone would perish.
other deficiencies could you identify for the B-25?
I think that the
primary deficiency of the B-25 was the fact that it had less ceiling
than the Il-4. And the second deficiency was range. Though
Akvil’yanov, later to be the corps engineer, developed a special
plan by which the aircraft expended a minimum amount of fuel at
cruise speed. This was significant for extending the range. But
aside from this, of course, the Il-4 had a greater radius of action
than we did.
Recall for us, please, your basing airfields.
Monino, Kratovo, then
we flew to Novodugino. We were at Chkalovsk for a very brief time,
then Konotop, Uman’, Kalinovka near Vinnitsa. And from there we flew
to Poland and finished the war.
was your frequency of flight?
In regards to combat
work, the following should be noted. We had a very serious
problem—the fuel problem. Because the B-25 aircraft flew only on
American B-100 gasoline. The Soviet Union did not produce this fuel
and therefore they delivered this gasoline in small metal drums. For
this reason I spoke with our chief of airfield service battalion,
Major Notarius, whom I by chance met here in Yurmala many years
later. I recognized him by his protruding ears. We talked about it.
He said, “You can imagine how we scurried about, how we poured this
fuel initially into a storage tank, then into a fuel truck, and
finally into the aircraft.” This was a problem—we didn’t have enough
you had long breaks in combat work?
There were breaks.
Especially when we were parked at Uman’. We flew to Kalinovka for
refueling, and from their back to Uman’ and on a combat mission.
was the flight frequency when there were no fuel problems?
It all depended on
the target type—close, far, or in between. If it was a close target,
then we flew two sorties in one night. For example, during the
Kursk-Orel battles we flew two sorties per night. After we moved to
Uman’, we began to fly to deep targets: Constanza [Romania], Galats.
Then, of course, one sortie per night. But all depended on fuel. The
length of a sortie was 2-3 hours at a minimum, and 8-9 hours
was the maximum range of any sortie you had to make?
2,000 km there and
back, sometimes even greater.
kind of target?
Danzig, Budapest, Galats, Constanza. Budapest was especially far.
That is where they shot down Lazarev (D’or)—we were flying from
kind of supplementary or drop tanks did you have?
We had only
wing-mounted drop tanks. They were made from cardboard, specially
were your shortest flights? Did you conduct bombing along the front
Yes, we flew some of
those sorties. Golovanov writes about this. These flights were
connected with the breakthrough of the defenses by our troops in the
west. When the operation in Ukraine began, there were sorties in the
forward area, in specific regions where the Germans had
fortifications, DOT, and where we used special ordnance. We used
RRAB against airfields, 5-kg high-explosive or incendiary bombs that
were contained in a special casing. This RRAB was dropped, it spun
around, then exploded, and these bomblets were dispersed across the
ground. This ordnance was very effective against airfields because
it permitted the destruction of a greater quantity of enemy
load: type of bombs, weight of bombs, total load, influence of load
The normal total bomb
payload was up to 2 tons. The closer the target, the more bombs we
could carry so long as they fit into the bomb bays. We normally did
not use [external] hangers, because that would have reduced our fuel
load, and vice versa.
bomb load did you carry against distant targets: Koenigsberg,
A ton and one-half.
We could not carry any more—it would not be enough fuel.
against the closest targets?
Two tons, guaranteed.
But some carried two and one-half, although with some risk.
FAB, SAB, if we went
out as the leader, FOTAB if we went out as the photo aircraft, ZAB,
concrete-busting bombs, bombs with double explosive force, so-called
TGA, these are examples of the types. They came in various calibers
[weights]. Sometimes 500-kg were hung, but this was rare, when we
were going to a target like Koenigsberg, we used only 500-kg. The
special TGA were used to break concrete reinforcements. We usually
dropped RRAB on airfields because they had the greatest destructive
force for conducting strikes against the aircraft that were located
you (your regiment) conduct daylight bombing?
Our regiment began to
fly daylight raids only in 1945. At first this was interesting. No
one knew how to fly in the daytime—people were unprepared. Later we
began to train for it—we walked around the airfield; they showed the
crews how they would conduct themselves in the air. Flying to
achieve a level of coordination was not performed. It seems they
were conserving fuel.
your first daylight raid on Koenigsberg?
Our first daylight
raid was on Breslau. We made 5-6 sorties there, as I recall. But
this fact is not the most interesting. The most interesting fact is
that we worked on it for quite a long time. We had to fly to the
targets by squadrons. And when we approached the target, then we
actually dispersed. We were not used to flying “by squadron.”
(laughter) Incidentally, Baymurzin was shot down there. A “Messer”
or “Fokker” jumped up and cut into him. He landed his burning
Landed or bailed out?
one died in the crew?
No one died, but fact
remains fact—he was shot down there.
improvements did the Soviets make to the B-25? You have already
mentioned the sights. Did you make changes to the gun turrets?
No. But we did
install Soviet electrical bomb-releases. The Americans had their
approaches to this task, but it was believed that ours held the
bombs more rigidly.
can you tell us about the navigational equipment?
I think that the
navigational equipment was of quite a high caliber and supported
both day and night flight. Especially night flights. Sometimes the
aircraft entered conditions when we did not have visual orientation.
We could have used astrological navigation, but the navigational
equipment of the B-25 was good.
you often stray from the navigator’s course?
There were instances
of wandering off course, but they were very rare. If the navigator
got off azimuth, the radio operator took a radio heading and we came
to a specific point from which it was easy to reach our own
you ever land at someone else’s airfield?
There were such
cases, but they were very infrequent.
about aerial photo control? What cameras did you use?
We used Soviet
cameras. We conducted aerial photography with the aid of FOTABs. But
you are talking about the use of photographs to confirm the results
of the regiment’s work. There were no cameras on regular aircraft.
Only the regiment’s aerial photograph aircraft had cameras. It was
required to photograph the target depending on a number of factors
associated with altitude, heading, and the dropping of FOTAB, which
sometimes themselves did not detonate. This forced the crew to go
back over the target. As soon as the FOTAB went off, the photo
element was opened, the lens was uncovered, and 8-10-12 photographs
had to be taken. The time for this was very brief. The first pass,
then the second pass—that was all. One could not make a third pass
because the following regiment was coming and they were dropping SAB
[illumination bombs]. Then all the photographs would be overexposed.
Because I had to fly on photographic missions with Baymurzin, I
remember these times well. They were relatively serious and
complicated. When we got to the target, it was quiet over the
target. Our regiment had already dropped their bombs and left and we
were coming in to take the pictures. As soon as we dropped the
second FOTAB, immediately the enemy opened up with barrier fire in
order to shoot down our photo plane. It was clear why they were
doing this. We either had to depart or turn into the second circle.
But sometimes it was simply impossible to commence the second circle
because the [antiaircraft] fire had increased to greater levels. The
enemy’s desire to shoot down the aerial photo plane was, I think,
stronger than necessary. We needed to “thread the needle”, however
shells were exploding nearby. The engines were working and you could
hear a sound like BOOM-BOOM-BOOM—this meant the shells were
exploding close. But we had to and did pass through it.
there cases when the crew did not take the pictures?
I don’t know. It
never happened with us.
many combat sorties did you fly?
Somewhere around 105.
you ever shot down?
Suddenly, as if
something was beginning to tear—you know that sound, like fabric
ripping. And firing from the radio operator’s machine gun. What’s
going on? The commander says, “They have shot us down! Bail out!”
Well, we abandoned ship. I ended up in a medical battalion because I
had a contusion. How they landed the airplane—I had no idea. Had the
commander survived—we did not know. I spent about a week in the
medical battalion. I saw terrible things there, of course, things
that we rarely saw in aviation.
was your commander at that time?
Our commander was
Gerts—my last commander.
happened to him after that?
He safely landed the
aircraft. On its belly. He made a classic landing; he himself was
not injured. This was already in the morning, therefore it was
already possible to orient oneself on the ground. I figure that is
what saved him. Later they raised the aircraft up and flew it out.
Naturally, the propellers were bent.
did this happen?
It was while
returning from Sevastopol. Sevastopol was the target.
do you evaluate the counter-actions of the antiaircraft guns and
The German PVO
tactics varied. They included the following: there were three
elements—antiaircraft artillery (MZA worked at low altitudes),
fighters, and searchlights. The most important consideration was
that the Germans worked very effectively on searchlights, but fired
badly. This is an opinion shared by many, not only mine, perhaps
(laughter). The first salvo was crucial. If the first salvo did not
hit you, you were more or less safe. But if the first salvo struck,
consider yourself already on fire. There was a main searchlight.
They called it “Ivan”, “Vanyusha” [a diminutive of Ivan], or simply
“Main”. It was the most powerful and conducted the search for
When there were sound-distance stations, it was simpler for us. And
when radar appeared, then PVO operated with good coordination.
Fighters worked the approach and departure airspace if there were
any based in the area, and antiaircraft gunners covered the area
above the target. Or vice versa—they changed roles. If antiaircraft
positions suddenly ceased firing during a combat sortie, it meant
that there were fighters in the air.
kind of maneuver did you use to get out of the searchlight beam?
The escape maneuver
was a sharp reduction in altitude with departure away from the
target. This was the most favorable and successful way out.
do you evaluate the work of the enemy fighters?
I think that the
enemy fighters were quite active. There were cases when they were
engaged in “free hunt.” We used “free hunt” as well, but much less
often than massed raids. Individual crews were sent out on free
hunt—if there was a train moving or a small airfield (one could be
shot down in an instant over a large airfield).
often did you have to conduct aerial combat?
I will not tell you
that it was often, but there were cases. To some degree this was a
kind of game.
type of fighters did you encounter?
the 110? [The Messerschmitt Bf-110 was the Germans’ primary night
There were one or two
encounters. You know how they turned out? The commander immediately
threw the aircraft down and departed. He changed course, and then
again returned to course. We somehow encountered a Ju-88—we came out
of the clouds and there he was. He opened fire, we did the same, and
we both departed in different directions.
us about the time when Krapiva shot down an airplane.
This is only based on
stories I heard. He told it this way. “Returning from a combat
mission, we suddenly came upon an active German airfield. Bombers
were in the pattern—landing. I gave the command, ‘Get in the
pattern.’ We began to close up on a bomber. They turned on their ANO
and I turned ours on. I gave the command, ‘Fire!’ and opened fire
from the forward machine guns. The navigator also began firing. And
we shot him down.” This is what happened.
were your losses by periods?
relatively significant in the Kursk battle because the PVO over such
targets as Bryansk, Orel, Seshcha, Balbasovo, and other places was
very well supported by heavy antiaircraft artillery and fighters. At
the same time, trains with reinforcements, equipment, and fuel were
moving through station junctions such as Gomel’. The ADD staff
correctly planned the conduct of strikes, but losses there were
unavoidable because of the great strength of the PVO, especially
after that? During the liberation of Ukraine? Did losses increase or
Our losses decreased.
Well, there was Sevastopol, which now is also Ukraine. We had
significant losses there as well.
were your losses during sorties to long-range targets?
Koenigsberg—there were losses, but not too many. 2-3 crews were shot
was the level of losses during daylight sorties?
Well, we had Gorlov
blow up on the last sortie to Swinemunde. War is war—losses are
on the whole, losses did not increase upon the transition to
No, they did not
increase. They actually were reduced. Because Soviet aviation
already had air superiority and the Germans had limited
your regiment participate in sorties on Helsinki? What were the
targets? How do you evaluate the PVO of the city?
I will say this. We
had strategic targets: industrial facilities, the port. But in no
case the residential sections—it was forbidden to drop bombs there.
Regarding the PVO, I made 5-6 sorties there. At first the PVO was
disorganized. The [ground] fires were visible for 200-250
kilometers. Later the PVO worked more effectively, was more
coordinated. But there were no fighters there, only antiaircraft
from 13 GBAP, Kratovo, 1943.
Photo from A.Freydson archive. (Click to enlarge).
Describe the relationships between crew members.
I can only tell you
it was good. No scandals, no conflicts. And I’ll tell you the
something else that is not recorded in any documents. If something
happened within a crew or someone was guilty of something, then no
one anywhere ever reported it on an official level. We had a
situation develop in Novodugino. We took off, and 5-7 minutes later
our radio quit working. As we returned to base the regiment departed
on the mission. During our approach to the airfield the [aircraft]
commander said to ground control, “Our radio quit working.” “Are you
loaded with bombs?” “Yes.” By flight regulations we should have
jettisoned our bombs in an “unarmed” condition. They gave us
permission to land and we quietly landed [without jettisoning the
bombs]. The radio mechanic repaired the radio and we took off on the
mission. And no one knows anything about this incident. If we had
jettisoned our bombs in an “unarmed” condition, it would have been a
disaster. It would have been an uncompleted mission and our radio
operator would have been hauled before a military tribunal.
Then there was Prokhorov. I remember this incident because our
aircraft was parked nearby. He taxied to his parking spot, crawled
out of the aircraft, drew his pistol and said, “I’m going to shoot
them!” It turned out that the bomb handlers, when they hung his
bombs, had forgotten to turn out the overhead light in the bomb
bays. And when the navigator-bombardier opened the bomb bay doors,
the aircraft became a beautiful target. But Prokhorov did not place
anyone on report.
The happiest person in our regiment was navigator Aleksandr
Rustamyan (unfortunately, he has passed on). At the most critical
moments he could make a joke and brighten the mood, especially when
someone failed to return from a mission. This is what happned with
Gorbunov. When he received his third Order of the Red Star, he said,
“Guys, why do they treat me so disgracefully? Why can’t they give me
an Order of the Patriotic War?” Rustamyan stood up and said, “Kolya,
you know why? Because you have red hair!” And indeed, he did have
red hair (laughs).
did you accept the death of comrades?
It was a tragedy. We
worried sick for them.
you know pilots who were taken captive and returned after the war?
What was your attitude toward them?
For example, our
squadron navigator Semen Nechushkin, Lasarev’s navigator. He
received 25 years as a traitor to the Motherland. The
counterintelligence people were interested in making up his case.
Attitudes toward prisoners of war were bad. There was also Rud’yev,
Martynov’s gunner-radio operator. He also survived (but died later
in an automobile accident in Aleksandriya). When I met with him I
said, “Pasha, well, tell me what happened to you.” He simply broke
down crying and did not say another word.
was the attitude of the authorities. What was the attitude toward
them among their comrades?
I would not say that
it was negative. On the contrary, it was positive. Concerning those
who were shot down and not captured, what is there to say? They
returned to us and flew again. But in regards to the captives, take
Rud’yev, for example. They began to say that he ostensibly completed
some [German] intelligence school, but I could not imagine that a
person who had fought almost through the entire war could do
something like that.
us about the death of Lazarev.
I only know bits and
pieces of the story. We were flying to D’er, in Hungary, to bomb a
railroad station. How did this happen? I really can’t say. No one
expected it. When we arrived back from the mission the radio
operator reported that Lazarev had been shot down. No one knew the
details except his navigator, who survived but was captured.
the rest of the crew?
We heard nothing
I was acquainted with Lazarev’s son. He came to meet with us and
wanted to learn where his father’s grave was located. We raised the
question regarding Lazarev’s grave, and also about Nechushkin. When
it was revealed that Nechushkin had been convicted by a special
session [of the tribunal], it became clear that he was guilty of
you ever have to fly with serious damage: on one engine, with
damaged flight controls?
It happened a couple
of times. An antiaircraft round struck an engine over the target.
The engine seized and we continued on the other engine. But, thank
God, this was not too far from the front line. We landed on one
engine—it was a normal landing.
was the aircraft controlled with one engine?
commander feathered the propeller and attempted to hold the aircraft
on heading with the aid of the trimmer, but we lost altitude. One
can do this with sufficient altitude.
were the controls heavy?
Yes, heavy. But the
most important moment was in the landing. Normally in such cases the
flight director issued the command, “Everyone clear the pattern! A
damaged aircraft is coming in.” And this opened up the way for a
straight-in approach and landing. This was the correct decision.
Don’t even think of making a normal approach from a circle. One
could rollover or get into some sort of an accident [with damaged
us about your most interesting flight.
I think this was the
flight to Budapest. When we arrived at the target, the city was lit
up [as in “not observing” blackout]. They did not anticipate the
arrival of bombers. Even when the leader dropped an SAB
[illumination bomb], they did not turn out the lights. When we began
dropping our loads, then the antiaircraft guns began to fire. But
they were shooting wildly, not organized at all. The searchlight
operators were in panic mode—there was no unified air defence system
for the city.
airfield did you fly from for this mission?
From Uman’. It could
have been Kalinovka, but it seems to me that it was Uman’.
Then there was Radom airfield. What was interesting about this
sortie? The Germans had concentrated 250 bombers there, according to
some reports. Our division and two regiments of the neighboring
division operated against it. The peculiarity of this target was
that the airfield was relatively large in territory and our aircraft
were concentrated in regiment-size formations. Each division and
each subordinate regiment was assigned specific area targets. They
were illuminated by various SAB, for example SAB with green, SAB
with red, SAB with yellow—and the crews knew which target was
theirs. The altitude and course heading for the target were
determined in such a manner as to prevent mid-air collisions. The
timing of the attack was also calculated. This was all very
interesting. Resistance was not anything special, though the
antiaircraft crews, of course, did fire at us.
150 aircraft were
There was another incident, most interesting. It was at Osipovichi.
There in the woods, according to reports from partisans, was a
front-line artillery depot. We flew there three times. And three
times the photographs showed burning tar barrels and nothing else.
The corps commander gathered all the men together: “Comrades, why
can’t we find it?” The depot was located in the forest and it was
impossible to find it from the air.. We had a deputy regiment
navigator, Ivan Yevstaf’yevich Romanov, among the most experienced
navigators. He stood up: “Comrade General, may I say something?”
“Yes, what do you suggest?” “I will go as lead navigator.” “Well, an
old horse won’t spoil the furrow.” “And it plows deep.” Well, Ivan
Yevstaf’yevich, you will earn the Order of Lenin if you come out
precisely at this target.” This is how the conversation went. As the
members of his crew described it, it was a very interesting sortie.
They arrived over the target, the division was in the air, the time
of the strike had not been set because the SAB were not burning. The
leader flew a square and at each corner dropped a single SAB. No
reaction. Well, perhaps a battery of antiaircraft guns opened up,
but this was not an indicator. Then he decided to cross on a
diagonal. He flew across, again nothing. He turned around 180
degrees and made another pass, dropping an SAB. It all began there.
Then he dropped a whole series of illumination bombs. The very first
bomber made its pass. You know how the sun rises? That is the kind
of explosion that resulted. The rest of the bombers simply dropped
their loads, but it already did not matter where they fell.
you participate in the dropping of diversionaries?
carried out General Staff missions. But we sometimes executed these
sorties as well. There were flights to Germany, to Poland, a pair of
flights to Romania. The conditions were the following: when the
aircraft was to go on a special mission, the regiment commander
summoned the aircraft commander and said, “Today you are flying to .
. . “ Everyone else cranked up their engines and they asked us,
“What are you doing?” “We’re resting. Something is broken.” They all
taxied out to the launch point and then took off. When they had all
left, then the regiment commander came over, trailing a closed bus.
There were 2-3 persons on the bus that we were to drop. An officer
arrived with them. Right then and there our aircraft commander
received the mission: drop at such-and-such location, at that place
would be some kind of signals, and nothing more. These people
normally sat in the navigator’s compartment. There were several
instances when these people opened fire on the crew. Therefore the
right-seat pilot was to be on guard. We arrived at the target, where
we spotted some kind of light signals or fires, generally some type
of burning spots. We dropped them on a single pass or on two passes,
first their cargo on parachutes and then the passengers themselves.
about operations to supply the Slovak uprising.
This is a special
story. The operation unfolded in the following manner. Some kind of
crates and boxes, covered in canvas, arrived at the airfield. Later
talk went around that we would be flying a special mission. Where?
For what? No one knew anything. The best crews were selected out.
Some khaki-colored cigar-shaped bags containing ammunition,
medications, and weapons were loaded up. They stowed them in the
bomb bays, hung them on the electric bomb releases and these were to
be dropped over the target. But there was a complication. Zvolin
airfield, Tri Duba as the locals called it, was on terrain located
in the mountains. We flew from Kalinovka airfield; this was
September-October 1944. In order for us to reach the target, one
crew was sent out to mark with SAB the pass where we could get
through the mountains. Later we gained altitude above the mountains.
We came out, turned 90 degrees, and there was Zvolin airfield. We
could not drop the cargo from high altitude on parachutes for two
reasons: it could be damaged upon landing, or it might fall on enemy
territory—the Germans were nearby. Therefore the aircraft spiraled
down, dropped its cargo, and departed in the same manner. Normally
there was a leader over the target who directed specific crews by
radio command. This was to prevent mid-air collisions. Although the
operation was rather complicated, we did not have any losses there.
did you get along with the "osobist"?
We lived with one
unfortunate woman in the village Sliznevo, 22 kilometers from
Novodugino airfield (or Sychevka, they called it both). They drafted
her son. This had been occupied territory, and then a particular
procedure was followed. The military commission sent all the men of
draft age to the front, where they died for the most part. And this
woman asks me, “When will you go into the barrel?” Into what barrel?
I did not understand what she meant. “Well, you’ll see, all the
pilots now are going into the barrel.” We knew nothing. It turns out
that our counterintelligence agent [osobist] reported to the
regiment commander that in the forest tract, where we went to dance,
ostensibly Vlasovites had appeared and we have to set up a stakeout.
On the edge of this village (a small, poor Smolensk village) stood
two bottomless barrels. They began to stand guard at this barrel.
Well, who did not know about this? In the village everyone knew
everything! (laughs) Then on some night, at 4:00 in the morning,
firing! Well, everyone ran to the headquarters, where the regiment
commander lived. Dmitriev ran out, it was winter, in his great coat,
hat, fur-lined boots, and underpants. He had not managed to put on
his trousers. (laughs) The officer on duty at that time was this
same counterintelligence officer, Captain Kolomiyets. His hands were
shaking. He said, “Comrade Guards Lieutenant Colonel, Vlasovites
came at me and I fired!” The regiment commander walked straight over
to the barrel to see what had happened there. There were two friends
in the stakeout—Prilepko and Trotsenko. They are sitting in the
barrel and smoking. “Guys, what happened?” “How would we know? The
duty officer walked over, we were walking, we looked around, there
was no Vlasovites. And suddenly firing! What’s going on? We did not
understand what was happening.” The men will make up such a story,
you know how . . . And it turns out that when they saw that the
captain was coming (he used a flashlight at night), they crawled out
of the barrel, hid behind the barrel, took a limb from the woodpile,
and when he crawled to the barrel and began to call them, they began
to beat on the barrel with the limbs—this made a thumping noise and
the captain opened fire. The regiment commander said, “Comrade
captain, how you have misled us. . . Well, was this possible?”
(laughs) This actually happened! Our relationship with the osobist
developed from this. Reshetnikov writes that they were beasts. But
ours conducted himself more quiet than water, lower than grass. In
general he did not interfere in our business. There were times, men
have said, when he invited someone “to tea”, but what kind of
information could they have given him? About what? What could they
have said? What kind of a mindset people have? Well, someone loves
to drink—things of this nature. (laughs)
There was a case with Subotin, born in 1926 [a reference to his
youth—18 years old in 1944], gunner-radio operator (now he is a
colonel-engineer, lives around Moscow). He had just arrived in the
regiment and he made his first combat sortie in our crew.
Afterwards, we had already arrived on Studebakers from the airfield,
and were sitting around the table. We had already drunk our 100
grams [daily vodka ration] that the squadron adjutant had given us.
Our aircraft commander had a bottle, our “crew ration”, that was
used as a de-icing fluid. He poured us a drink, but not the radio
operator. “Commander, what about me?” “This was your first combat
sortie, there is no extra for you. You already had the vodka, so be
grateful for that” But he bragged and bragged, so the commander
poured him a little glass. When he had drunk this alcohol, he became
exceedingly drunk. His first sortie made quite an impression on him!
When he got up from the table, the osobist sat in the corner at a
small table. This radio operator was a big man. He knocked over the
osobist and his table. The osobist ended up on the floor. On the
next day, at formation, the squadron commander Martynov says,
“Sergeant Subotin, two steps forward!” The sergeant stepped out. The
squadron commander says, “Sergeant Subotin, did someone die?” “No
one, Comrade Guards Major.” “Perhaps someone is ill?” “No.” “Perhaps
you have fallen in love with someone?” “No.” “Well, how was it you
did not notice our esteemed captain?” (laughs) The entire squadron
broke out in laughter. This happened.
there any superstitious signs at the front? Had you ever been
confused by the number of your regiment?
Concerning the number
of our regiment, there was some talk. Well, 13th Guards. Everything
was OK. (smiles) There were signs. We went to the airfield by bus—we
did not take a woman with us, otherwise someone might be shot down.
We wouldn’t shave before a sortie—we might be shot down.
did you accept subordination of ADD to frontal aviation?
I think that this was
humiliating. The humiliation consisted in the fact that we did not
know the reason for this decision. People have written various
things about it. But I think that this was not correct. Subsequently
ADD was reestablished.
you remember any peculiarities about the aircraft painting?
Camouflage, numbers, their place, size, color? Were there stars on
top of and under the wings, painted propeller hubs or leading edge
of the tail assembly? Guards emblems on the sides, orders, emblems,
drawings [as in “nose art”], and so on.
Guards emblems we
had, and camouflage. In winter we painted the aircraft with a weak
solution, not quite pure white, like oil-based paint. We did not
paint the propeller spinners—they were normally black.
All sorts of emblems.
did you have, for example?
We had an eagle. It’s
still funny—a “wet flying chicken.”
else was there?
I remember a lion.
Lazarev had a ballerina. This was a gift of American artists to
Soviet pilots; they had given it this name—Ballerina. There were
many other emblems. Everyone thought of some kind of wild beast for
their emblems. On one side was the guards emblem and on the other—a
there a system for assigning bort numbers [not the factory-painted
tail numbers we are familiar with, but the unit tactical number,
normally between the cockpit and the tail]?
The regiment HQ was
responsible for this.
the pilots select their own numbers?
No. The command
determined this number. The aircraft number was its call sign during
conversations over the command frequency. Each aircraft was named
“Falcon”: “Falcon-9,” “Falcon-10,” and so on.
you receive later modifications of the B-25?
We did not have
“Dragons,” but we did get the C model. That is what Lazarev flew.
[According to the photographic record this regiment was equipped
with B-25D and B-25J aircraft as is evident from Red Stars 1 and Red
Stars 4 books. Another example of this is
where the serial 42-87594 was allocated to B-25D-30 –I.G.]
you have any aircraft that were completely painted in black?
your auxiliary fuel tanks only cardboard? Did you have any that were
mounted inside the fuselage?
you remember any specific cases when diversionaries [saboteurs]
fired at your crew?
They talked as if
there was such a case, when during the delivery of a special group
to a target area, one of the members of this group opened fire on
the crew. And after this incident, an order was issued that during
the insertion, when the hatch was opened, the right pilot should
exit with a pistol in his hand and escort the passenger(s) from the
were the HSUs [Heroes of the Soviet Union] in your regiment?
Baymurzin, Zhuravkov, Tyurin, Taygunov, and I’m not sure about
Mironov, whether he received it while assigned to our regiment. And
Krapiva. Eight men, I think.
[Editor’s note: Iosif Dmitriyevich Kozlov (13 March 1944), Ivan
Aleksandrovich Lazarev (5 November 1944), Gayaz Islametdinovich
Baymurzin (5 November 1944), Mikhail Vladimirovich Zhuravkov (19
August 1944), Leonid, Fedovovich Tyurin (19 August 1944), Nikita
Andreyevich Krapiva (5 November 1944). Taygunov and Mironov not
were the crews trained: in a UTAP, ZAP ? [UTAP is a training
aviation regiment and ZAP is a reserve aviation regiment-translator]
At that time we had a
special school in Central Asia where they trained crews for ADD.
This school where they trained crews was created on the initiative
of Golovanov. I did not get training there.
everyone you trained with at the UTAP go to another place?
long did you have B-25s in your regiment after the war?
It was somewhere in
people come to the regiment who had flown on the Il-4, Er-2, Li-2?
In my experience,
this is how the crews were made up. A portion arrived from civil
aviation, pilots of GVF [civil air fleet]. And military pilots who
had completed flight school. Navigators? Our navigators were from
the Chelyabinsk navigator school.
crews come in from other regiments?
there anyone left in the regiment who was there at the start of the
war? Chernov, for example?
Chernov was in
another regiment. But he flew with us all the time, from the moment
when the regiment was equipped with the B-25.
was there anyone left in the regiment who had flown on the SB?
Dmitriyev was a
political officer—our regiment commander. He was in
Kuybyshevka-Vostochnaya, where the regiment was based in the Far
East, and arrived at the front together with the regiment. There
were just very few others who stayed behind and survived, because on
the whole the regiment lost its entire complement of personnel.
the corps’ formations based in close proximity to each other?
I think so, on
two-three airfields. Only not the corps but the division. The corps
only appeared at the end of 1943. Just the same, we were not far
from each other: we were stationed at Uman’ and they were stationed
at Kalinovka (neighboring division), and the headquarters was in
you exchange visits with the pilots and ground crews of other
co-mingled with the pilots of other regiments and even form other
divisions. Here is an example. At Kratovo, a regiment of TB-7s was
on our left side, Pusep was remarkable. By the way, Vodop’yanov
served there, whose sons were mechanics on his aircraft. They had a
saying, “Well, Mikhail Vasilich, why aren’t you protecting your sons
” His response was, “This is my guarantee, since they are with me—it
means my aircraft will be in tip-top shape.”
you sortie on a mission in a mixed group?
the work with foreign equipment raise the general “technical
culture,” as one would think it would?
I think so, yes. It
about flight clothing. What did you fly in?
That’s an interesting
story. The Americans sent the aircraft with a complement of flight
suits—jacket and pants—made of monkey fur.
Yes, monkey fur. But
we largely did not receive this clothing. It was a rare person who
had the American gear. We flew in our coveralls with high boots.
Then there were helmets as well. Many said, “Look at me, I’m putting
on my helmet.” We didn’t have anything like it. You wore earphones
and on top of them a simple hat. It was more comfortable. When you
wore a helmet, your ears were pinched. It was uncomfortable.
Ours, ours. They
issued us fur socks as well—“untyata” they were called.
this means that lend-lease didn’t quite make it to you?
Well, we saw that
when some higher brass arrived—they were walking around in these
you fly in your coveralls in the winter?
In the winter. And in
the summer we flew in lighter coveralls, they were made of quilted
fabric, I think, and in boots.
other lend-lease equipment did you encounter? Trucks?
The Willys were for
the leadership. They hauled us around in the Studebakers, normally
to the airfield and back if it was any distance.
Of course. Our radio
operator had Bendix radios with removable blocks.
Norden was considered to be a quite modern sight. Why was it not
used, at the very least by the leaders?
The Norden sight was
an automatic sight, and as a result of its use the aircraft could
not make a genuine counter-antiaircraft maneuver. The aircraft could
be simply shot down.
But the leader flew in the lead and they opened fire on him when he
dropped the SABs.
We often worked as part of a division. The regiment might be the
leader, another time we could go as number 2 or number 3. Then
antiaircraft artillery worked everyone over. Therefore the Norden
bombsight was seldom, if ever, used.
have met Golovanov [Commander-in Chief of ADD]. How do you evaluate
him personally and his activities as a commander?
Well, what can I cay
about Golovanov? Reshetnikov [HSU, Il-4 pilot, in 1970 – 80’s –
Commander-in-Chief of Long-Range Aviation, author of several
memoirs] has written that in some respects, here comes someone whom
we did not know. I don’t find these remarks very convincing. He was,
after all, the commander. And there are contradictions in
Reshetnikov’s book. On the one hand he writes that we are “long
rangers” and here is someone who came out of the GVF [civilian air
fleet]. And on the other hand, he writes something else—first that
Golovanov built ADD on a broad base and second, with Golovanov’s
arrival and the creation of ADD, the aircraft were transitioned to
night flights, which sharply reduced our personnel losses. Some
people say that you can see during daylight and see nothing at
night. Rubbish! One could see at night as good as in the daylight if
there was good illumination of the target. Now about Golovanov
himself. Take his book, Dal’nyaya bombardirovochnaya [long-range
bomber (aviation)], which was published in the journal Oktyabr’, I
think sometime between 1967 and 1972. They did not publish the book.
He very objectively, very correctly, very fairly and honestly wrote
about what happened. I believe that his book is one of the best
books written by an air army commander. This is an indisputable
us about your meetings.
I will tell you about
Konotop. This was very interesting. During the daytime pre-flight
preparation, the aircraft stood in a line, and this line was located
alongside the landing field. Suddenly an aircraft landed with the
number “1” and a red and gold stripe. Everyone was bustling about:
“Golovanov has arrived! Now the fun will begin!” At this time they
were feeding us rice three times a day at Konotop. Rice soup, rice
porridge, and so on. The pilots spent several hours in the air and
rice will cause constipation – there is nowhere to go during the
flight. Golovanov taxied to the parking area and came over to check
on us. He asked us: “Comrades, how are your accommodations?”
“Everything is fine, comrade commander.” “How about your rations?”
No one said a word. Well, he was no fool. He understood that
everything was not fine in the rations department. Then it came time
to go to dinner. They fed us in two shifts—the dining hall was
small. A crowd of men walked into the dining hall with Golovanov in
the lead. As we later found out, Golovanov had forbidden the flight
operations officer from informing the division commander of his
arrival. And now a crowd has arrived at the dining facility. There
sat Prilepko, who at the time, I think, was a Starshiy Leytenant. He
was getting ready to eat when someone slapped him on the shoulder.
Prilepko [apparently not looking up] said, “What? You want to eat?”
Someone slapped his shoulder again: “Comrade Starshiy Leytenant!”
Prilepko turned around: “Comrade commander???” Golovanov tasted the
first course and then the second course. Then someone reported to
the division commander that Golovanov had arrived. The division
commander ran into the dining facility and commanded: “Attention!”
To which Golovanov replied, “Comrade Polkovnik, they do not issue
that command in a dining facility. At ease! Airfield service
battalion commander, report to me!” This officer reported. Golovanov
asked him, “Comrade Mayor, what are you feeding my pilots?”
“According to the fifth norm, Comrade Commander.” “Stop serving this
meal! And prepare a normal meal according to the fifth norm!” Then,
in a quiet voice, without shouting, he said, “Comrade Mayor, if you
repeat this practice, you will find yourself in a penal battalion.”
That settled that!
[Translator’s note: During the war, rations were allocated to units
in accordance with their assignment and proximity to the front.
Front-line units ate at the high end of the ration scale and
rear-echelon units at the low end.]
Here is what happened
after dinner. They assembled us at an open stage, where there were
long wooden benches. They set up a presidium, a table with a red
tablecloth. General Gur’yanov, who was a member of the ADD Military
Council, and the adjutant sat there. The adjutant had some kind of
bag. Golovanov sent the division commander and regimental commanders
away. Kozhemyakin asked, “Comrade Commander, why do I have to
leave?” “Comrade Polkovnik, I said ‘You are released.’” He did not
shout; in general he did not have a habit of raising his voice.
Quietly and calmly he repeated himself and the commander left the
area. Golovanov stood up at the lectern and asked, “Comrades, what
are your questions?” No one said a word. “Comrades, does anyone have
any complaints?” That is how it was: he first asked for questions,
and then complaints. A hand was raised. “Comrade Commander,
Leytenant so-and-so. My aircraft commander has completed [a stated
number of] combat sorties, and he has such-and-such awards.” “Repeat
his last name!” The officer stated his commander’s name again. “Come
up here!” And at this time the member of the military council wrote
something down. Then he said, “In the name of the Military Council
of ADD, I award you with the Order of the Red Banner.” He presented
the officer with the award. He dispensed additional awards using
this public forum. Then they invited the division commander back. He
asked, “Why did you give out these awards? That is my
responsibility!” To this Golovanov replied, “Polkovnik, I do so
because you are not fulfilling your responsibilities.” Kozhemyakin
was very stingy with awards. This was the first time I had laid eyes
on Golovanov. But I did not have the opportunity to speak with him.
The second time was
after the war. I was on vacation in Moscow. I arrived at the office
of General-Polkovnik Shchetchikov on Leningrad Prospect, at the
Directorate of the Ministry of Civilian Aviation. I gave him my book
that I had written in Latvia as a gift. He asked me, “Will you stay
for tea?» We drank tea. Then he said to me, “We will go for a drive
now.” But he did not say where we were going. We drove in his car,
somewhere on the Volokolamsk Highway, I think. Perhaps I am
mistaken, but I recall precisely that we went away from Moscow. We
arrived at a courtyard. “Let’s go in.” We climbed up to the second
floor. He opened the door. I looked in, and there sat Golovanov. At
that time, it turned out, Golovanov was working as the supervisor of
the flight-test station of the Civil Aviation Research Institute. We
had a conversation. Shchetchikov said, “Aleksandr Yevgen’yevich, I
have brought you one of your airmen. He is an author . . ..” We
greeted one another and became acquainted. Golovanov asked me, “What
do you think – should the history of long-range aviation be written?
The time has come. Who should write it?” I said, “I believe that
only that person who created and commanded it can write the history
of long-range aviation. Who else could write it? I can write only
about that which I saw in the regiment.” And Golovanov said,
“Khrushchev thinks I should write that he commanded long-range
Yes. Golovanov said
that Khrushchev wanted it to be written that he, Khrushchev,
commanded long-range aviation. This was completely absurd, since
Khrushchev had no connection whatsoever with long-range aviation.
And then Golovanov
told me this story. “In 1941, they appointed me division commander
in place of Vodop’yanov. At this time the division was subordinated
to the Supreme High Commander. I sat in his office. Stalin sat
behind his desk, with his telephone at his right side. It was a
system that allowed me to hear everything. Zhukov called and
reported: «Comrade Stalin, the Military Council of Western Front has
made a decision regarding the disposition of the front’s forces. . .
” And he reported in greater detail on the locations of the units.
Stalin listened to this and said, “Comrade Zhukov. Do you have
shovels?” There was a pause. After the pause, “Yes, Comrade Stalin!
What kind of shovels?” “Hand them over to the members of the
Military Council, so that they can take the shovels and dig
themselves graves! Stalin will never leave Moscow!” Golovanov told
me about this incident.
death, when the question arose about the publication of his book,
General-Leytenant Fedorov, who was the chairman of the ADD veterans
council, told me that the book needed to be published, but there was
resistance from the Central Committee [of the Communist Party] and
Ministry of Defense because Golovanov wrote much about Stalin in the
book. The book was not published for many years.
Then I met with Taran
at a meeting of ADD veterans. We were talking. “Pavel, you are a
Twice Hero of the Soviet Union; why are you only a
General-Leytenant?” Someone said to me, “You know, fellows, why he
is only a General-Leytenant? Because he is Taran! Because he never
bow-towed to the bosses.” After the meeting, I said to him: “Pavel,
let’s go sit down and talk.” “By all means!” We walked into a
restaurant, ordered a bottle of vodka and in the process of drinking
it began a conversation. “Pavel, you are aware of this
humiliation—they don’t want to publish a book about Golovanov.”
“What do you suggest?” “I recommend that you write a letter to the
appropriate authorities recommending publication of this book, but
it should be signed by Heroes of the Soviet Union.” “Who?” “Well,
you should be the first, as a Twice Hero.” And we wrote this letter,
and circulated it around. I have saved a copy of it. I further asked
him, “You should speak out at a session of the council of veterans
and say that this attitude toward Golovanov is disgraceful!” Taran
spoke out with very sharp criticism of the leadership of the council
of veterans regarding [problems with publishing] this book. I met
with Golovanov’s daughters—they thanked us and cried. Since that
time, for many years I have known Ol’ga Aleksandrovna Golovanov. The
book was finally published.
Golovanov – what kind
of a man was he? I think that Novikov [Commander in Chief of the
VVS] was not even a close match to him!
Written down and edited by Aleksey Edamenko, Riga, Latvia
Translated to English by James F. Gebhardt