Home Articles Interview with Colonel (Retired), Hero of the Soviet Union Grigoriy Yevdokimov

Interview with Colonel (Retired), Hero of the Soviet Union Grigoriy Yevdokimov

by Oleg Korytov

Grigoriy Petrovich Evdokimov in 2006

Short Biographical Sketch

Grigoriy Petrovich Yevdokimov was born on 2 September 1919 in the village Ozhga, Udmurtiya ASSR. He entered military service in the Soviet Army in 1938, at the age of 19, and in 1940 graduated from Chelyabinsk Pilot-Observer Aviation Academy. In August 1941, Yevdokimov was serving in the 449th Bomber Aviation Regiment (244th Bomber Aviation Division, 17th Air Army, 3rd Ukrainian Front), and for much of the war served as navigator for his squadron. He became a member of the Communist Party in 1943. By April 1945, he had flown 270 combat sorties in reconnaissance and bombardment of strategic enemy targets. He was awarded the rank Hero of the Soviet Union on 18 August 1945. After the war, Yevdokimov continued to serve in the Soviet Air Force until his retirement at the rank of colonel in 1966. His memoir, 300 Vyletov za liniyu fronta (300 sorties behind the front line, Izhevsk: Udmurtiya) was published in 1979.
This interview was conducted by Oleg Korytov and Konstantin Chirkin in St. Petersburg [Leningrad], and transcribed for translation and publication by Igor Zhidov.


G.Ye.: I was born at noon on 2 September 1919, out in a field. They carried me home and tended to me. This was in Udmurtiya, in a small forest village in the Ural Mountains.

O.K., K.Ch.: Who were your parents?

G.Ye.: Initially they were farmers, and later kolkhozniks. My father was educated as a veterinary assistant. He attended some courses. Mother worked in a kolkhoz her entire life, to her last days. My father died at the age of 80 and mama at the age of 89. They lived in the same village their whole lives. I went to school through third grade in the village and to fourth grade in a neighboring village. I completed seventh grade in a larger village. That school was called a “School for Kolkhoz Youth.”

O.K., K.Ch.: This “School for Kolkhoz Youth,” what was your impression of it? Many have bad memories of this experience, that they went hungry, it was cold, and so on.

G.Ye.: No, they fed us normally, and it was a dormitory, nine kilometers from the village. On days off, my sister and I “ran” home. It was not quite a boarding school, of course. In the teachers’ college I attended after the “School for Kolkhoz Youth,” I studied alone, without my sister. One time a week I walked home, 35 kilometers. After that — Chelyabinsk Military School. At that time Chelyabinsk Navigator School was called the Chelyabinsk Pilot-Observer School.

O.K., K.Ch.: How did you get in there?

G.Ye.: At the end of the school year, in the last course, perhaps, a pilot officer came to our classroom. The uniform was quite attractive then, a dark blue suit with a service jacket, white shirt, service emblem, and a “bird” [wings] on the sleeve. In those years, our aviation was glamorous: Chkalov, Gromov, the Kokkinakki brothers.i All six male students in our class (the rest were females) applied for aviation school. I was the only one who passed the physical examination. All the remainder, except one, went to military schools — one to armor, another to naval. All six fought in the war. Of these six men, I am the only one to survive the war.

Valeriy Chkalov (1904–38) was a Soviet Air Force test pilot most famous for a non-stop flight in June 1937 with two other aviators in a single-engine aircraft from Moscow over the North Pole to Vancouver, Washington, 8,500 kilometers in just over 63 hours. Mikhail Gromov (1899–1985), also a Soviet Air Force test pilot, flew with two other pilots from Moscow over the North Pole to San Jacinto, California in 1937. Gromov reached the rank of Colonel-General of Aviation, and retired in 1955. Vladimir Kokkinaki (1904–85) and Konstantin (1910-1990) were famous Soviet Air Force test pilots whose careers extended from the 1930s into the jet age. Vladimir was a Twice Hero of the Soviet Union (1938, 1957) and Konstantin was a Hero of the Soviet Union (1964).

O.K., K.Ch.: Were you disappointed that you became a navigator rather than a pilot?

G.Ye.: Of course not. It’s true that “pilot” has a good ring to it. But as far as the duties are concerned, in bombers the principal load falls on the navigator. We used to say, “The pilot is a taxi driver who drives the navigator to work.” The pilot flies the aircraft, but without the navigator, he can do nothing as a bomber pilot. But the pilot stood higher in the pecking order and the navigator was subordinated to him. I flew primarily as the lead navigator of the squadron. This was a heavy responsibility — there were eight crews behind us. I had to hit the target, and this involved large and complicated calculations. I had to execute them with precision.

O.K., K.Ch.: We have talked with navigator Grigoriy Tarkhanovich Avanesov. He explained how he became a navigator: a selection occurred based on the results of examinations; those with lower scores became pilots.

G.Ye.: It was something like that. Because they selected for navigator people who were “friendly” to mathematics. Frankly speaking, navigators are “aerial accountants.”

ChVVAULN (acronym for Chelyabinsk Navigator School), 1938

O.K., K.Ch.: Which planes did you fly in the navigator’s school?

G.Ye.: U-2, later the R-5, R-Z — this was a reconnaissance aircraft. They trained us to be scouts. Later the TB-1, TB-3 — these were heavies at that time.

O.K., K.Ch.: On the TB-1 and TB-3 — you also flew these aircraft?

G.Ye.: Yes, both of these aircraft.

O.K., K.Ch.: In addition to navigator training, did you receive any pilot training, any at all?

G.Ye.: Yes, but not very much. Purely navigational. We also studied bomb dropping, maintaining radio communications, and photography.

O.K., K.Ch.: How was navigational training carried out?

G.Ye.: Well, at first, of course, simple flights — all within the limits of visibility of the airfield. After that we followed routes, then closed routes, then in complex conditions, and at night, in clouds, and above the clouds, and so on. I completed the school with top scores and became a lieutenant (generally the school graduated junior lieutenants) and ended up in the Far East. They sent three of us to a reserve regiment there, and until the war we trained on the SB as crew navigators.

O.K., K.Ch.: Did Timoshenko issue a prewar order that required pilots to live in the barracks?

Marshal Semyon Timoshenko (1895–1970) was appointed to the post of Peoples’ Commissar of Defense in May 1940 and served in that position until July 1941.

G.Ye.: There was such an order. We were getting ready for graduation. We were preparing our uniforms — commander’s uniforms, handsome. They released all the graduates to get apartments. Then the order came down — “Everyone will be placed in the dormitories, get haircuts, and so on.” Of course, this was a heavy blow. Even lieutenants lived on two bunk beds, in the barracks. It was a good thing that we didn’t have families.

O.K., K.Ch.: After the navigator school, how did they assign you out to units?

G.Ye.: Do you think they announced it to us? I don’t know. They distributed us in accordance with an order of the commander in chief. Of course, depending on the requirements of the regiments. Theoretically, they gave top graduates the possibility of choosing [their assignments]. But this was not a factor during the war. In fact, during the war, pilots arrived with very low qualifications.

O.K., K.Ch.: What level of qualification did pilots have before the war?

G.Ye.: Before the war, qualifications were very good. On Sunday, 22 June 1941, we were competing at Spassk, where the regiment headquarters was located. We were playing soccer, when at 1500 a runner arrived and announced: “War!”
For the time being we went to our airfield (the village was 15 km from Spassk). Our maintenance personnel were preparing the aircraft: they had dispersed them and removed the camouflage, just as had been foreseen in our plan. They gave us a target — a Japanese railroad station. Now I don’t recall its name, but I wrote it down in my book. They did not release us from the airfield again.

O.K., K.Ch.: Were your aircraft camouflaged or silver-colored? How were the numbers of the aircraft displayed?

G.Ye.: The aircraft were silver-colored. When the war broke out, we began to repaint them. In the summer, the upper portion was green and the lower portion was blue. There were two numbers — on the fuselage and on the vertical stabilizer. So we sat on our airfield. They brought us food, and later an order came down: “Remove the bombs! You have two hours to get ready to leave!” They briefed us and we flew here, to the west. This was on 5 July 1941.
My pilot was Sergeant Ivan Romakhin. It was a bit awkward, a lieutenant subordinated to a sergeant! Recall that the pilots were the crew commanders, although we were responsible for all the navigation. It got even sillier — the chief navigator by rank was a general, but if he was flying with a junior lieutenant, then he was subordinated to that lieutenant in the air… Our first misfortune occurred over Lake Baykal. Our airplane — “Blue 7” — had just come out of repair. We had not even had time to test fly it. We lost an engine to fire and were forced to land in the taiga. The pilot recommended — because as a sergeant he could not order an officer to do anything — that we bail out of the aircraft. We did not bail out, and went down with him. We were really banged up, especially me, because the cabin was in front and I was sitting in it. It turned out that some lumberjacks were not far away. They cut into the cabin and took me to a hospital in Achinsk, where I lay for 20 days. I took a heavy blow, twisted my kneecap, and injured my spinal column. I made it to my regiment on crutches.

O.K., K.Ch.: Can you more specifically identify your regiment number?

G.Ye.: 55th Aviation Regiment, bomber. It was a five-squadron regiment. (The regiments were larger in the Far East.) We were able to flee the hospital thanks to our gunner. During the accident he was not injured — the rear portion of the aircraft fell off, and the gunner was untouched. He became acquainted with a nurse, and asked her to give us our clothing, and we fled. In fur-lined boots and leather coats it was hot in July. The four of us (a mechanic also flew with us in the airplane) made it to Moscow.
We arrived at the main headquarters at about the same time as Konstantin Stepanovich Dubinkin, the former deputy commander of 55th Regiment, and now the commander of the a second regiment that had been extracted from the 55th. It turned out that while I was recuperating, the regiment had been divided into two. The 55th Regiment main body, with Nikiforov in charge, had left here for the north, around Leningrad, and the second — “55-A” — was reformed in Tambov and filled with young aviators. Dubinkin assigned me to that group. We reached Tambov, and then flew to Poltava. The regiment was there. We arrived on 5 August. Our first combat sortie was on the 7th — the entire regiment. We bombed a tank column at Belaya Tserkov. On the training range it was still possible to make a second run with impunity; but in combat — this was unusual. The SB airplane was not armored, and burned quite easily. At the beginning of the war, the fuel tanks also were not protected. They began to protect them in the second half of 1941.

O.K., K.Ch.: Which SBs were these — with the M-100 or the M-105?

The M-100 radial engine produced 830 h.p., the M-105R engine (supercharged) 1,100 h.p. [JG]

G.Ye.: The 105… I’m stretching the truth a bit. We mainly had M-100s. But our leadership had 105s, the regiment and squadron commanders.

O.K., K.Ch.: And the Ar-2 aircraft?

The Ar-2 was a dive bomber created by Alexandr Arkhangelskiy, based on the SB (which was itself a Tupolev design). It was designed before the war and produced in limited numbers. [JG]

G.Ye.: They were stationed together with us at Poltava, but they did not belong to us. We fought for only 29 days on the SB, and neither a single aircraft nor a full crew remained. I have in mind an “intact crew.” Here there was a pilot, there was another crew member. Some bailed out and some made forced landings…

Pilots of 449th Bomber Aviation Regiment, 1941
From left to right, first row (sitting): Chemeris (deputy commander 3rd Squadron), Tyushevskiy (commander, 2nd Squadron), Orlov (deputy regiment commander), Dubinkin (regiment commander), Panov (deputy regiment commander), Nikishin (commander, 3rd Squadron), Andreev (commander, 1st Squadron)
Second row (kneeling): Tkachev (pilot), (unidentified), Dokukin (pilot), (unidentified), Khakhel (pilot), Asalkhanov (pilot), Tokarev (pilot), Krivosheev (flight commander), Borovkov (flight commander) Kudryavtsev (flight commander)
Standing: Tsiplenkov (pilot), Romakhin (pilot), Posdnyakov, Stefanenko, Linkov, Nikishin, Yenanchuk, Kozlov (deputy squadron commander), Bulyshev, Kubko, Mayorov

O.K., K.Ch.: What did bombing by an entire regiment look like in real life?

G.Ye.: As a rule, we flew unescorted, because our fighters had a somewhat smaller range. We assembled the regiment over the airfield and flew along the route, depending on the target.

O.K., K.Ch.: What formation? Did you form up in a wedge, a wedge of squadrons?

G.Ye.: The regiment on the whole flew in a wedge of flights, and a wedge or column of squadrons.

O.K., K.Ch.: How did the SBs cover one another?

G.Ye.: We had aerial gunners with a turret-mounted machine gun. We used staggered altitude, both in flights and in squadrons, 100–200 meters difference in altitude, in order not to interfere with one another.

O.K., K.Ch.: Did you drop bombs “on the leader” or did each bomber take aim individually?

G.Ye.: “On the leader,” always on the leader. Well, when we went out on free hunt, then of course we aimed for ourselves.

O.K., K.Ch.: Which caused you greater losses — fighters or antiaircraft fire?

G.Ye.: More from fighters, primarily from fighters in 1941. Because we had very few fighters for cover. There were I-16s in Poltava. But by the time we arrived, their number had already been halved and the remaining were in poor condition. And, as a rule, they gave one or two aircraft to the squadron, and frequently none at all. We flew in flights at that time — three aircraft in a flight. Pairs were implemented at the end of 1943. Before that we mostly flew in flight formation, which was very unfavorable for the fighters.
By the way, on one occasion an I-16 fighter defending us executed a ram. We were bombing a German crossing site between Dnepropetrovsk and Dneprodzerzhinsk. When we turned around to head back to our own territory, a shell fragment struck the bomb bay. Thank God we had already released our bombs. It broke the tie rod, and we were unable to close the bomb bay doors. We were losing speed and fell behind. A flight of four I-16 fighters was escorting us. I do not remember the regiment number, but they were stationed at Poltava. Three of them departed with our group, and one remained to escort us. We were already 10–15 km within our territory when some Bf-109 attacked us. I do not know how many there were. I saw in my astrohatch how our I-16 collided wings head-on with the German fighter. We landed and reported. Our squadron commander took a Po-2 and flew to the scene. The German, an oberleutnant with Iron Cross, was killed, and our pilot lived through it (he parachuted to safety). I don’t remember the exact date, 10 or 12 August. That is what happened… (for the present, none of the researchers has confirmed this incident; it should be noted that the scene was chaotic, which explains the lack of documentation).

O.K., K.Ch.: Where did they send you after all the aircraft were used up?

G.Ye.: They sent the regiment to Salsk to be re-trained on the Pe-2. I was wounded and was laying in the hospital at Poltava; I made it to Salsk in September, 11 September 1941… They wounded me on 14 August 1941. We were flying reconnaissance along the Dnieper from Dnepropetrovsk to Kremenchug to photograph crossing sites. At that time the Germans were building crossings and crossing to the right bank of the Dnieper. I managed to photograph the first crossing site [downstream] from Dnepropetrovsk. Then the antiaircraft fire was such that we had to depart in a dive. Around Kremenchug the gunner announced: “Looks like a MiG is following us!” But he was wrong. I thought to myself, “Why would he be coming up on our tail?”
There was a second crossing site beyond Kremenchug, and the Germans were moving on wagons and motorcycles. No one was disturbed and no one was firing at us. They looked up at us like we were one of their aircraft. We began to photograph and the fighter made its first pass. I looked out — the right wing showed damage immediately, then the engine. The pilot lost the bearing and the photograph was spoiled. The gunner-radioman reported the situation to the ground, and they ordered us to return to base immediately. When we were crossing the front line, a shell fragment struck me — a round had exploded in the cabin. My parachute had taken the bulk of the fragments, but many small pieces struck me in the stomach, back, and legs. I began to lose blood, and asked the pilot to report and land as quickly as possible. After landing they quickly transported me to the hospital.

O.K., K.Ch.: From what altitude was photography conducted?

G.Ye.: From various altitudes. It depended on the target. On the whole, we took pictures of crossing sites from low altitudes. The most uncomfortable altitude was between 1,000 and 1,500 meters. This was the most accurate range for all forms of weapons.

O.K., K.Ch.: We have been able to talk to a Baltic veteran — regiment reconnaissance pilot. He said that on his particular aircraft, the camera was set up for taking photographs at from 3,000 to 5,000 meters. He did not fly below that…
G.Ye.: We did not have “forward-looking” cameras in 1941. They appeared later. Let me return to Poltava. I spent 21 days in a hospital bed, and then traveled to Salsk by train on crutches. They bombed us on the road three times.

Pe-2 bombing

O.K., K.Ch.: Was the SB more comfortable than the Pe-2?

G.Ye.: It was more comfortable; the cabin had more room, and it was more convenient for the navigator. The visibility was very good. On the “Peshkas” the navigator was also the gunner, responsible for the rear hemisphere of the aircraft along with the gunner/radio operator.

O.K., K.Ch.: What machine gun did the navigator have when you trained on the Pe-2?

G.Ye.: The Berezin [12.7mm] already at that time. The ShKAS [7.62mm] was only on the SB, a pair of ShKASs.

O.K., K.Ch.: Tell us, please, about the sighting equipment. Where was it more suitable and more accurate?

G.Ye.: The sighting equipment, of course, was more suitable on the SB. We had an optical sight and a collimator sight. On the “Peshkas,” the pilot basically laid the sight, and the navigator gave him the command to dive. The pilot took aim during the dive. For horizontal bombing on the Pe-2, the navigator had an optical sight; it was the OPB-1.

O.K., K.Ch.: We have conversed with navigator Mikhail Andreevich Sukhanov, also Hero of the Soviet Union.

G.Ye.: I knew him well. He has already passed away.

O.K., K.Ch.: You knew Mikhail Andreevich? We talked with him for a long time. We even took a picture of us together. He said the following: “When I take aim in a dive, I capture the target in the sight. The pilot is sitting slightly in front of me and I tap him on the shoulder: ‘Now!’ And he puts the aircraft in a dive.”

G.Ye.: This is absolutely correct. That is how it was done. But he does the pullout himself. Well, sometimes you tell him, of course.

O.K., K.Ch.: On the DB-3, the navigator was capable of steering the aircraft, just in case. He had a stick, minimal instruments, and a throttle. Did you have this capability in the SB or the Pe-2?

G.Ye.: No, we did not. But it did happen that the navigator of a killed pilot moved [into the pilot’s seat] and steered the aircraft. There were also such cases in the Pe-2, when the navigator brought the plane home and landed it. On the SB this was not possible, nor on the Boston.

O.K., K.Ch.: So if the pilot was killed, it was over?

G.Ye.: Yes, there was no one else.

O.K., K.Ch.: Did you train long on the “Peshka?”

G.Ye.: I think it was from September until November. This was in Salsk. Later they sent us to Kirovobad to retrain on the Boston. This was in November 1941. The technical name of the Boston was “A20B.”

O.K., K.Ch.: Did you encounter the name B-3 or B-4 anywhere?

G.Ye.: No. I do not recognize those aircraft. We trained until the end of 1942; we trained to fly at night. The sights and machine gun mounts were removed from the Bostons being delivered to us. They ferried them to us with only the collimator sight. Sometime in early 1943, we flew to Moscow to be refitted.

O.K., K.Ch.: Did they have radio equipment and radio-compass gear?

G.Ye.: Yes, they did.

O.K., K.Ch.: After the SB and the “Peshka,” how did you find the Boston?

G.Ye.: Very good. The cabin was roomier than on the SB, more comfortable. It had very good air-cooled engines, Wright Cyclones. If the engines on our Peshkas and SB had a service life of 90–100 hours in combat, then these engines were good for approximately 500 hours, if they were not damaged, of course. And the crew was not three, but four men — pilot, navigator, gunner-radioman, and gunner. The lower hemisphere was given a gunner, since most of the defeats by fighters occurred in the lower-rear hemisphere, where the dead space was located. If we went out singly during the day, we could not see below and behind. We were essentially blind. Therefore, attacks also principally were conducted from that aspect. There were already gunners on the Bostons, armed with Berezin machine guns.

O.K., K.Ch.: They had removed the American M-2 [Browning .50 caliber] machine guns, right?

G.Ye.: Generally speaking, they did not send aircraft to us with these machine guns. We were refitted in Moscow. They renamed the regiment to the 449th Bomber Aviation Regiment. The 55th remained under its title, and they gave us the number 449. We began to fight at Stalingrad in February 1943.

O.K., K.Ch.: Did you fight on the Bostons long?

G.Ye.: I flew it until the end of the war.

O.K., K.Ch.: Are you familiar with the A20G?

G.Ye.: What is that?

O.K., K.Ch.: In the nose portion, in place of the navigator, were either four cannons or eight machine guns.

G.Ye.: I’ve never even heard of it.

O.K., K.Ch.: At Stalingrad, you supported the offensive of our forces?

G.Ye.: Yes, but in 1943.

O.K., K.Ch.: What missions did they assign to you?

G.Ye.: Well, we very rarely bombed front-line positions; as an exception. We bombed the enemy in the deep rear; we primarily bombed his reserves. And when we did work the front line, it was the most difficult target. It was simpler for the shturmoviks — they were guided in. They had their own forward observers at the front line, and they still dropped bombs on our own troops. We had to aim by ourselves.

O.K., K.Ch.: Did they tell you from the headquarters what to bomb? Or did you have your own reconnaissance? Who did the photographs?

G.Ye.: It depended on what the target was. If the target was stationary, they gave us some kind of data: the cover and a description of the target characteristics. When the target was moving, then normally reconnaissance aircraft flew out from our squadron.

O.K., K.Ch.: How many cameras did a reconnaissance aircraft have? One, two, three?

G.Ye.: We had one. In the hatches — vertical shot. I can’t recall its name — it is already gone from my memory.

O.K., K.Ch.: In Zholudev’s book, it is written: “…“The Polbintsy went up in Bostons and attempted to dive them. The aircraft was very difficult to handle in a dive…” And I have read Yermakov. He writes: “…It was a pleasure to see how straight and true the Boston goes in a dive…” Were there any problems? Or did you never attempt do conduct dive-bombing?

Ivan Polbin was an experienced dive-bomber pilot, veteran of Khalkhin-Gol in 1939, who was an air regiment commander in 1942 at the rank of lieutenant colonel and an air corps commander at the rank of guards major general in February 1945. He was awarded Hero of the Soviet Union rank in November 1942 and again in February 1945. He was shot down and killed over Breslau, Poland on 11 February 1945. Men under his command were called “Polbintsy.”

G.Ye.: We tried, of course. The longerons bent — we flew home with bent longerons. We were forced to dive. In March 1945 at Sekeshfekervar [Hungary], they shot us up, and we, along with the squadron commander, had to break off by diving. We pulled out near the ground and landed at the nearest airfield. It turned out that our longerons were bent. We experienced a very great [wing] load during the pullout.

A-20B from 449 BAP during summer-autumn of 1944. Zhukov, Rudenko, Yegorkin, and Smetanin.
Unidentified person in the cabin. Note repaired damage at the side of the navigator’s cabin.

O.K., K.Ch.: Where were the bombs in the Boston? Where were they hung?

G.Ye.: Both under the wings and in the bomb bay. We had standard bomb hangers, just like on the Peshkas, also in the bomb bay and under the wings.

O.K., K.Ch.: Did our bombs fit? Or was some type of modification required?

G.Ye.: The hangers had to be modified; they were installed at the airfield. We dropped 100-kg bombs for the most part—FAB-100 [high-explosive (general purpose) aerial bomb, 100-kg]. We did not have hangers for 250- and 500-kg bombs. We hung German 70-kg bombs on some aircraft. We had English Bostons and the American A-20s. The engines on these two variants burned different fuels and had different bomb hangers. It would happen that there were German bombs on an American A-20, but no fuel, and a British Boston was ready to fly, but they could not hang the bombs. So we sat around doing nothing. We sometimes used small fragmentation bombs in containers. Two hundred bomblets…

O.K., K.Ch.: This was the AO-25, AO-16?

G.Ye.: Yes.

O.K., K.Ch.: What about the RRABs — rotating-dispersing aviation bomb? It was stuffed with small bomblets…

G.Ye.: No. We didn’t have any of those. The Germans sorely tormented us with these small cassette bombs. They threw them out over our airfield, especially at night. This meant we had to draw straws to determine who among us would go out first… One person goes ahead, and everyone else walks in the same tracks. If you trip on one of these, it springs up to approximately chest level and detonates in small fragments. This was absolutely frightening, especially at night. And you could not spot them on the ground.

O.K., K.Ch.: What about the defensive armaments on the Boston? Did the navigator have a machine gun?

G.Ye.: No, not on the Boston. The pilot had two [forward-firing] machine guns, on the flanks of the cabin.

O.K., K.Ch.: The forward-firing machine guns were 12.7mm? Were they used for strafing?

G.Ye.: Yes, the 12.7. We did close air support only near the front line. In the rear areas we flew higher.

O.K., K.Ch.: Of the aircraft you flew during the war, which one would you choose?

G.Ye.: The Boston, of course. It was reliable, very reliable. It flew with a bomb load even on one engine, in horizontal flight.

Left to right (in military uniform): Squadron commander, Komissar Panov, Komsorg Emelyanov, regiment chief of personnel and supply records department Medvedev, Partorg Artamoshin, squadron signals officer Karnashin. May 1944,Tuzly Airfield.

O.K., K.Ch.: In the guidance for use of the Boston, it says: “…In the event of engine disablement, shut it down, feather the propeller, and continue to execute combat missions…”

G.Ye.: Yes, that’s true. And on our aircraft, on the Pe-2 or the SB, this was impossible. Our engines did not have this kind of power.

O.K., K.Ch.: Do you think the Boston influenced our technical culture?

G.Ye.: By all means. We acquired Bostons earlier, but we were also familiar with Liberators and B-17s.

O.K., K.Ch.: According to American sources, they did not supply us with the B-17.

G.Ye.: They did not send them to us. But there were aircraft that had landed on our territory — if it lost an engine or some kind of critical instrument, as a rule they did not take any chances. They landed on our territory and called for a new aircraft. We ferried four of these abandoned aircraft, from Pech airfield in Hungary.

O.K., K.Ch.: What did you ferry?

G.Ye.: B-24, B-17. Then some inspectors arrived from Moscow.

Left to right: (unidentified), Technical Lieutenant Lebedev, deputy regiment commander Major Nikolay Vasilyevich Kozlov, (unidentified), chemical chief Pismennyy, regiment senior engineer Kuzmin, regiment commander V. F. Tyushevskiy, regiment chief of staff Major Ugolnikov, chief of operations section Captain Neymark, regiment chief of intelligence G. P. Golovanenko. B-17 of 449th BAP

O.K., K.Ch.: What was the Liberator?

G.Ye.: This was an “intermediate” between the medium bomber and the Fortress. Somewhere I had pictures of these aircraft. I will look; perhaps a photograph remains… [Translator’s note: The B-24 Liberator was not an “intermediate” bomber — in fact, it carried a heavier bomb load (8,800 lb.) [3,991 kg] than even the B-17F and G models (7,983 lb.) [3,621 kg].

449th BAP: Kozlov, Kuzmin, Ugolnikov, Golovanenko. Note American elements of rapid recognition on B-24: checkers on the tail, shark mouth, and remains of the inscription on the nose. Most likely this B-24 belonged to 459th BG.

O.K., K.Ch.: Do you have many photographs from the war? How did you manage to take pictures, “on the sly,” or otherwise?

G.Ye.: It was permitted to photograph personnel, but of course not equipment. So any aircraft photos I have are “clandestine.” The photography of equipment was prohibited.
On one occasion, the commander of 17th Air Army, Sudets, assembled the leadership: regiment commanders and their deputies. We had Kozlov, the deputy regiment commander (later, in peacetime, he became an air army commander. He died not long ago, here in Leningrad). And Sudets says: “Here’s the news: The Americans have left us damaged aircraft. We repaired them. Who among you is able to ferry them to our airfields?” Well, the fighter pilots and shturmoviki, of course, refused immediately. “Well, what about you, Kozlov? You fly the Bostons? These have the same engines, except that there are four instead of two. Why don’t you ferry them?” Kozlov responds, “Fine, comrade commander, we will try it.”
He took me and a mechanic, and the three of us went out. It seemed like an enormous aircraft to us, of course. We walked around it, and everything seemed to be in its place. We taxied around the airfield two times and everything seemed normal. We were to take off from Pech airfield and, I clearly remember, land in Sambor. We went to take off, but it did not make it. Damn it! The end of the runway was coming up and it had not lifted off! We aborted the takeoff and tried again. Finally, on the third try, we got it off the ground. It barely cleared the trees. We were flying. Kozlov says to the engineer: “What’s wrong! There’s no power. Four engines, and it has less power than our two-engined aircraft?”
Well, it had superchargers. We had never used them on the Bostons. He forgot to turn them on. More to the point, he did not know how to turn them on. This is how we flew it.

O.K., K.Ch.: Tell us, please, you ferried a B-17, yes? But did you execute combat missions on it?

G.Ye.: Only reconnaissance. We never dropped bombs. They forbade us to fly combat missions on the B-29, as we called it. Only reconnaissance.

O.K., K.Ch.: Where did you fly it?

G.Ye.: We flew it over several countries.

O.K., K.Ch.: This was during the war, or afterwards?

G.Ye.: During the war, of course. Around March – April 1945. We did not take pictures. We simply did not have a chance to mount cameras. This continued, perhaps, for two or three weeks. Then the aircraft were ferried to Moscow.

O.K., K.Ch.: Each B-17 had, how many, six firing positions, I think? Where did you find crewmen?

G.Ye.: We used our crews. We combined crews — two pilots, one navigator, and we added in the gunners.

O.K., K.Ch.: Where did you sit?

G.Ye.: In the forward cabin.

O.K., K.Ch.: Not behind the pilots? There was a navigator’s position there — a table with charts.

G.Ye.: Of course not. The compartment for flights was forward, and in the middle position was the navigator-operator, that is, the navigator. The Americans had a navigator-operator [bombardier], and a navigator. We combined these positions into one. [Translator’s note: The navigator’s table and equipment was in an intermediate compartment below and in front of the flight deck (pilot/co-pilot positions). The bombardier position was farther forward in the nose of the aircraft.]

O.K., K.Ch.: Did you fly with parachutes on all the time?

G.Ye.: Yes, all the time. Our own [Soviet] parachutes, of course…

O.K., K.Ch.: Tell us, please, for you as the navigator, particularly for the navigator, what were the most difficult missions?
G.Ye.: The most difficult were the crossing sites. The target was narrow. We had to bomb them from low altitude, and this was dangerous. In order to hit the target, we flew at altitudes from 600–800 meters, no greater. From high altitude it was possible [to hit these targets] only with the Pe-2 in a dive. As a rule, you could not hit them [from high altitude] in horizontal flight. Or we had to send a large armada of aircraft to amplify the bomb density.

O.K., K.Ch.: Tell us, in your unit did you employ special “bridge bombs”?

G.Ye.: No, we did not use them. We used 100- and 250-kg bombs.

O.K., K.Ch.: A “bridge bomb” — this was the same as a conventional bomb, but it was suspended from a parachute, on straps, onto which the hooks (the hooks would catch on the bridge elements and the bomb would stay on the bridge) were sewn.

G.Ye.: I have heard of them. But we never had such bombs. We never used them.

O.K., K.Ch.: How developed was the antiaircraft coverage of your normal targets?
G.Ye.: The covered targets were primarily those with strategic significance, for example: crossing sites, airfields, and ports. The coverage was significant. And troop columns were almost the same as ours, only rifled weapons, dual-mounted machine guns, and small-caliber cannons.

O.K., K.Ch.: And that kind of target was, let’s say, more “suitable” for you?

G.Ye.: Yes, of course. Already the probability of hit on us was small at an altitude of 1,500 meters.

O.K., K.Ch.: How often did you have to bomb airfields?

G.Ye.: Rarely. We flew against Stalingrad airfield, later to Stalino, as it was previously called — now Donetsk; it was a heavily used airfield. Later we flew against Kramatorskiy airfield. All in Ukraine. These missions were prepared ahead of time. In order to reduce our losses, we flew at dusk. The day had already ended and it was not yet night. We dropped our bombs and then it was dark. They could not send their fighters up, as the number of night fighters was limited on both sides.
Initially an experienced crew flew to the airfield and marked the target. If there were fighters, it dropped small fragmentation bombs on the landing field to prevent the fighters from taking off. This is the type of preparation I referred to. But an airfield — this meant not only fighters but also antiaircraft systems — very dense fire. We had losses even during the night bombing of airfields.

O.K., K.Ch.: Everyone — the Americans, Germans, and British — all strove to conduct strikes against airfields, to destroy as many aircraft as possible on their stands. It turned out that the effectiveness of these strikes was not high. That opinion is out there, and it was voiced after the war. Statistical studies have been done of the effectiveness of airfield strikes.

G.Ye.: Yes, the effectiveness was very low. Only shturmoviks could bomb from low altitude. Shturmoviks could not reach distant airfields, nor could fighters. In order for bombers to be most effective against airfields, they needed to drop from 1,500–2,000 meters. But losses were very high and could not be justified. Therefore we had to go up to high altitude — 3,000–4,000 meters, and the dispersion was great and the effectiveness not so good at those altitudes.

O.K., K.Ch.: Did you bomb Stalino airfield to get the transport aircraft or the fighters?

G.Ye.: The purpose was to destroy the bombers.

O.K., K.Ch.: How did you determine the destruction of an aircraft from the air?

G.Ye.: If the bomb fell on an aircraft, nothing remained of it but pieces. If the aircraft continued to stand — upon observation its configuration was preserved — then the aircraft was not considered to be destroyed. If the wing remained, the cabin, hull, the large components of the aircraft, it meant that the aircraft would be counted as damaged. Not destroyed, but damaged.

O.K., K.Ch.: And if aerial photography showed an aircraft had burned where it was parked after a strike?

G.Ye.: This was damage — that is, it was not destroyed.

O.K., K.Ch.: Here in your recommendation for the rank Hero of the Soviet Union, it is written “15 enemy aircraft were destroyed.” What should we take this to mean?

G.Ye.: It is written incorrectly, of course. The squadron destroyed 15 aircraft. But I was acting in the capacity as lead [navigator]. They were destroyed on an airfield.

O.K., K.Ch.: Talk about strategic targets — area targets. Did you bomb these? Like plants, ports, oil storage facilities.

G.Ye.: Yes, but only in Romania.

O.K., K.Ch.: And were you to bomb the territory of the port, or specifically, some type of targets in the port?

G.Ye.: The port. It was very heavily protected. We could not do anything at low altitude against a port, nor at medium altitude.

Acknowledgment to crew for successful strike on the enemy in the town Mor.

O.K., K.Ch.: From what typical altitudes did you bomb a port?

G.Ye.: From 3,000–4,000 meters. As a rule, at those altitudes small-caliber antiaircraft guns and machine guns could not reach us. We flew reconnaissance at an altitude of 6,000–7,000 meters. But bombing at those altitudes was ineffective.

O.K., K.Ch.: Tell us, at these altitudes, 6,000–7,000 meters, did you use oxygen equipment?

G.Ye.: Yes, of course. We began to use it at 4,000 meters. It was standard procedure.

O.K., K.Ch.: Were there “heroes,” who said, “Well, why should I use oxygen?”

G.Ye.: Quite a few, really. Especially the fighter pilots; they were not in love with their masks. You see, when this thing is hanging on your nose, it interferes. You understand?

O.K., K.Ch.: By the way, did you have masks, or mouthpieces?

G.Ye.: Masks, of course. I don’t remember what we had on the SB. We never flew the SB at high altitude.

O.K., K.Ch.: Did you ever see mouthpieces?

G.Ye.: No. I had a smoking tube — to show off.

O.K., K.Ch.: Were masks of one type, or were there various types?

G.Ye.: I can’t say — I don’t remember.

O.K., K.Ch.: How do you explain the reams of orders regarding the “wandering” of aircraft, including bombers?

G.Ye.: Are you speaking about loss of orientation? These orders were very strict, naturally. They mentioned disciplinary responsibility, and so on. Many crews lost orientation — more often in combat, especially with single-seat aircraft.

O.K., K.Ch.: There was an occasion, during an overflight on the front, when a leading Pe-2 led some Yaks of 3d Fighter Corps to the Germans at Taganrog.

G.Ye.: I know about this. It happened in 1943. The crew was inadvertently appointed as leader, in an unfamiliar front-line situation, and got confused about the airfield.

O.K., K.Ch.: Can you tell us what happened with that crew?

G.Ye.: The order, of course, was very strict — a death sentence. I don’t know if it was carried out. More likely they were sent to a punishment unit.

O.K., K.Ch.: Speaking of shtrafniki [soldiers sent to punishment units], do you know in general if punishment [air] squadrons existed?

G.Ye.: No. I have heard of punishment units, but only in the ground forces.

O.K., K.Ch.: Did shtrafniki fly as gunners on shturmoviks? Did you ever hear of this?

G.Ye.: I have heard of this. There were shtrafniki gunners, but they were the exception.

O.K., K.Ch.: This was an exception, and not the rule?

G.Ye.: It was the exception, of course.

O.K., K.Ch.: Do you know of any examples?

G.Ye.: Well, at the front you heard stories, rumors.

O.K., K.Ch.: Are you able to provide the last name patronymic, and first name of a commander, commissar, and engineer, if you remember? Whom can you recall?

G.Ye.: They changed. Our regiment, which was 55A, became 449. The regiment commander initially was Major Konstantin Stepanovich Dubinkin. He led us until the end of 1942. When we were relocated, there were several accidents at night and they relieved him of command for this. They sent in Lieutenant Colonel Ivan Ivanovich Malov. He came “from the rear,” but he had combat experience. He even had been shot down. He led us until the end of 1944. He was killed.

O.K., K.Ch.: How did this happen?

G.Ye.: In September 1944, they were intending to transfer him to deputy division commander. They had already cut the order. He went out “for the last time” to supervise flight operations. A German reconnaissance aircraft dropped some bombs and one fell directly at the point from which he was controlling flight operations. After him came Major Viktor Frolovich Tyushevskiy, and he stayed to the end of the war. We had one commissar — completely worthless. He was a pilot, but a frightened coward. He made two combat sorties, rushed about in flight, broke up the formation, and looked for where the antiaircraft fire was the weakest. The regiment commander took away his aircraft and he never flew again. He busied himself, like any normal commissar, in “talking shop.”

O.K., K.Ch.: Did you believe that commissars were needed? What was your personal opinion?

G.Ye.: They were needed at the beginning of the war, because we had many young and inexperienced commanders. They made mistakes not only of a military but also of a political nature. It’s possible they were needed in the first days, but later they were absolutely unnecessary.

O.K., K.Ch.: I have a very negative attitude toward commissars.

G.Ye.: Well, my attitude is worse. When we went abroad [left the borders of the Soviet Unioin], they busied themselves with plundering. The chief of the division political department and the commissars of all the regiments…

O.K., K.Ch.: Did you have commissars in the squadrons?

G.Ye.: No. We had zampolits, and they all flew. They were good pilots. I have nothing bad to say about any of them.

O.K., K.Ch.: The zampolits — were they selected from among the pilots, or sent to you?

G.Ye.: It happened, but it was rare that they were sent to us. They were our own, with the agreement of the pilot himself.

O.K., K.Ch.: Theoretically, what was included in the work of the political worker?

G.Ye.: Naturally, and first of all, the high moral spirit of the personnel, especially the flight crews. The pilot should believe in victory. He should not have a nervous breakdown. And he should monitor thoughts and verbal expressions. You understand, well, for example, one of our comrades would be shot down, and our hands would shake. Especially of the younger men. The zampolit should monitor these things. He should report this so that crewmen in this condition are not released for flight duty.

O.K., K.Ch.: Was there a sufficient basis for a pilot himself to report to the regiment commander that he was not in a condition to fly because of his morale condition?

G.Ye.: We never had such a case, not once. It happened in the movies — “Only the old men go into battle.” Remember that one? One hero succumbed, began to be afraid.

O.K., K.Ch.: Just the same, would this be the basis for removing someone from the flight schedule?

G.Ye.: It would, absolutely. No one could be forced to fly. It would have been pointless to force someone, and would bring nothing but harm.

O.K., K.Ch.: What about SMERSh, the Osobisti. In your opinion, were they needed?

SMERSh was an acronym for Smert Shpionam! [death to spies]. This was a military department whose primary function was the exposing of spies, the prevention of diversionary-sabotage activities, desertion to the enemy, violation of commanders’ orders, and investigating friendly-fire incidents, and so on. The party cell and NKVD were occupied with political issues. Osobisti is the common name given to representatives of both SMERSh and the NKVD, but it did not include the party component. [JG]

G.Ye.: My opinion is absolutely negative, but they were needed. In the beginning of the war they were needed because the situation was very critical and completely incomprehensible. There were many Germans wearing our uniforms, both soldiers and officers. Someone was required to be specially engaged in establishing identity. This was their primary work. Later, when we had gained the upper hand in 1943, their missions changed. In 1941 there were a great number of POWs, more than two million. They all had to be evaluated — who gave themselves up voluntarily, who was forced into captivity, that is, who was caught in circumstances over which he had no control. This work was necessary. But they stuck their noses in places where it was not needed, for any reason. Let’s say a pilot, as a joke, expressed himself improperly. They might hold him responsible in accordance with the “last paragraph of the instructions.”

O.K., K.Ch.: In your book, you wrote in complimentary tones about your osobist?

G.Ye.: Yes, ours was a very good person. After the war our families were very close for a long time. But this was an exception.

O.K., K.Ch.: Now let’s turn to the engineers and mechanics.

G.Ye.: This was the gold fund; these were the toilers, the heroes.

O.K., K.Ch.: We have already heard the pilots say, several times, “A monument must be established for the mechanics!” What is your opinion?

G.Ye.: Absolutely correct. They were exceptionally modest, exceptionally conscientious, and exceptionally responsible. They labored much more than the pilots. A pilot flew a mission and then he had a break, a rest period. They did not rest. They did not leave airbases for days; they ate and returned to the airplanes. Their schedule was tough. And such feats they accomplished, that even now I am amazed. They replaced an engine overnight. Completely changed out an engine! I have my technical personnel listed in my book.

O.K., K.Ch.: Do you recall the names of any of these men, can you list your engineers?

Of course. Regiment engineer Kuzmin was an outstanding specialist; he practically never left the airfield. Yerdyakov was the engineer for 1st Squadron. Now the names are floating around in my head. I would have to look in my book — I have them there.

O.K., K.Ch.: How was the system for servicing the Boston, in your opinion, in comparison with our aircraft — with the Pe-2 and SB?

G.Ye.: Well, in comparison with the Pe-2, at first, of course, it was much more complicated, because the equipment was new. And all in English.

O.K., K.Ch.: Could you say that work with the Lend-lease aircraft positively influenced the raising of the technical culture of our engineer and technical personnel?

G.Ye.: Of course. A high technical culture could not but impact on the readiness of our technical personnel.

O.K., K.Ch.: By the way, were your instruments calibrated in meters or…?

G.Ye.: In feet, everything in feet.

O.K., K.Ch.: How did you do the conversion from feet back to meters?

G.Ye.: It’s not complicated. You need two or three numbers [conversion factors]. We quickly mastered that. Now the technical servicing — that’s an entirely different matter. The mechanics went through special training. And not all the bombs fit our airplane. We had to make transition rings in order to use the locks.

O.K., K.Ch.: Was that installed in the units or at the factory in Moscow?

G.Ye.: This all was done in the units.

O.K., K.Ch.: Do you remember the gunner’s compartment? Did you have our ball-shaped or the purely American with the sliding canopy?

G.Ye.: It was the ball-shaped, from the very beginning. It was later, sometime in 1942, when they began to release the modification with the two-machine gun turret. The Americans began to listen to our “complaints.”

O.K., K.Ch.: Do you recall any memorable moments associated with the Boston? Something that immediately comes to mind?

G.Ye.: Well, when we successfully bombed in the Boston, the American press attributed it to the Americans. Especially on strategic targets, the “Americans achieved such-and-such results.” They did not give us any credit. But in addition to successes, we had this as well. In 1944, in Romania, I was acting as lead. They gave us the time and a target — a crossing site. I forget now what its name was; I would have to look in my book. We were trying to bottle up the [enemy] forces that remained on our side of this river. We very successfully covered the crossing site in three places. And we did it at the appointed time. It was absolutely on time, because we fixed the time in our photography. But it was our troops on the crossing site at that exact moment! They had formed up ahead of the appointed time, and no one redirected us in the air. When we landed with the commander, they immediately took all the camera film and us in a “paddy wagon” to division headquarters. They began to clear up the situation, and of course they figured it out. Then some generals were punished.

The Russian word used here refers to the special vehicle used by the secret police to transport prisoners for interrogation.

O.K., K.Ch.: So then, for you this incident had no consequences?

G.Ye.: Absolutely, it passed.

O.K., K.Ch.: In a similar situation, the commander of a shturmovik squadron endured a long investigation and numerous tribunal hearings. In the end, it was revealed that he was not guilty. But he was not restored to his position, and had to fly as an ordinary pilot at the rank of major. Here is another example: They sentenced two shturmovik pilots with around 100 combat sorties against naval targets to fly as gunners. They did several sorties as gunners. Of course, despite their sortie numbers, they were not made heroes. You were very lucky.

Flight crews were entitled to the award Hero of the Soviet Union based on number of sorties flown. The number of sorties that earned the HSU varied in accordance with type of missions flown and results achieved.

G.Ye.: We had everything precisely documented: time and place. I can’t tell you exactly, but I won’t lie to you. Another situation was described in the press — shturmoviki bombed their own airfield. In bad visibility they could not find their target; they arrived at their own airfield and bombed it. The punishment was very severe. I don’t know what it was, but it was very severe.

O.K., K.Ch.: Tell us, you were the lead navigator, you are going to the target, leading the group, and you bear complete responsibility for that which…

G.Ye.: Although I led the regiment often, I was the squadron navigator. Yes, I answered for the results and all the actions.

O.K., K.Ch.: Naturally, a question immediately comes to mind. If, let’s say, something were to happen to you, to your crew… Frequently you hear, “They got the leader, and disorder ensued.” Did this happen?

G.Ye.: The hunt for the leader was everywhere, in all armies. If they shot him down — the deputy took over. Everyone plotted the course and prepared for individual bombing. The lead navigator was responsible for this, and the second degree of responsibility was assigned to be the deputy. We had an official deputy who, the same as the lead navigator, prepared himself, and occupied his place immediately. We never experienced this “disorder.” For some reason, this often occurred with the Germans. Their leader got shot down and they fell into disarray. They mixed up their formation and dropped the bombs off target. This I saw. What happened, happened.

O.K., K.Ch.: Tell us, did you ever cross paths with German bombers?

G.Ye.: Not often, but we did cross paths, of course. Especially with large groups. It was like following the protocol: we passed them on the right side. The next thing would be to waggle our wings and salute them, which we did not do, of course.

O.K., K.Ch.: Did your fighter cover ever engage each other?

G.Ye.: No. Because this was a situation when all the fighters had the same mission — not to lose their aircraft.

O.K., K.Ch.: Was the desire there to engage them in combat?

G.Ye.: How could it not be? This was a natural desire, especially for fighter pilots.

O.K., K.Ch.: You had machine guns in the SB and Pe-2, but when you transitioned to the Boston, you did not have machine guns. Did you take this as some sort of insult, or was something missing; did you have that feeling?

G.Ye.: For a long time we had a feeling of vulnerability — you sit there and you can do nothing. The compartment is open, it’s large, and you sit… You want to shoot back. We had flares, true, but they weren’t afraid of flares.

O.K., K.Ch.: Did you have the AG system?

G.Ye.: What’s that? This is the first time I’ve heard of it.

O.K., K.Ch.: Aviatsionnaya granata [aviation grenade]. It was dropped on a parachute, right behind the airplane, and it drove the Germans away from their favorite position.

G.Ye.: I’ve heard of that, but we never had it. In my time we took regular grenades and the gunner-radio operator simply threw them to the earth. But we never had the AG, and I don’t know why. I can’t say.

O.K., K.Ch.: Did you ever encounter our Allies in the air?

G.Ye.: Yes, and if our courses coincided, we even got “under their wing.”

O.K., K.Ch.: Were your stars already red, or were they American?

G.Ye.: Our technicians painted them over.

O.K., K.Ch.: Did your stars always have white edging or not?

G.Ye.: Always with edging. But in the winter the edging was blue.

O.K., K.Ch.: Yellow serial numbers were on the vertical tail fin. Did you keep them or paint them over?

G.Ye.: We painted them over, of course.

O.K., K.Ch.: Where were the aircraft numbers placed on the Bostons? They are not visible in photographs.

G.Ye.: On the fin and on the fuselage.

O.K., K.Ch.: Do you recall tactical numbers of your aircraft?

G.Ye.: Whew. I flew many aircraft — I can’t remember the numbers.

O.K., K.Ch.: Do you remember the numbering system for aircraft — by squadrons?

G.Ye.: No, I can’t tell you the system; we did not have a system. My impression is that it was random.

O.K., K.Ch.: How were your aircraft painted?

G.Ye.: The Bostons? In the summer, the upper portion was green and the lower was blue. But I would not say that it was pure green. It was a mixture, so that it would not be visible against the ground. I can’t say now what kind of coloration. Brown-green, something like that.

O.K., K.Ch.: Did you have elements of rapid recognition on the airplanes, that is, were certain structural pieces painted?

G.Ye.: No. In 1944, when we were already sitting in Sofia, and the airfield was exposed, they began to paint them. Because at that airfield, when we came in on approach to land, we lost several aircraft in the air. Therefore each day we painted rapid recognition elements. This was sometime at the end of September–early October 1944. This was not a systematic effort.

O.K., K.Ch.: Where there any paintings on the aircraft, emblems, slogans, for example, “For the Motherland!”, “For Stalin!”?

G.Ye.: This was a feature of fighters. We did not have it in our regiment. It was forbidden. The Germans had a lot of this, it was very popular there.

O.K., K.Ch.: The reason I am asking is that I have discussed this with pilot Pirogov. About inscriptions he told us that he asked the commissar: I want to inscribe ‘Za Stalina!’ [for Stalin].” The commissar responded, “No Comrade Pirogov, you are not yet a communist, you are only a candidate for membership. Therefore you cannot use ‘Za Stalina.’ Then he painted ‘Za Rodinu’ [for the motherland].

G.Ye.: Well, there were all kinds of deviations. It was different for us. A typical story: “At 3:00, everyone come to a party meeting.” The commissar goes out on the pad, and the mechanics are working. “Why are you not at the meeting? Why didn’t you complete your work?” Then the pilot intervenes: “It’s good to have a job like yours: when you close your mouth the job is finished and the working place (or equipment) is in order.” [This is a sarcastic comment made by the pilot to point out that they have a job to do, while the commissar talks and interferes with others’ business – I.G.]

O.K., K.Ch.: ‘The equipment is in order.’

G.Ye.: Yes, ‘the equipment.’ What can you say? In general we did not pay any attention to this commissar. He was busy with his own affairs: newsletters, brochures, banners, and wall postings. He was involved in the party organization, documents, and so on.

O.K., K.Ch.: How was your daily existence organized?

G.Ye.: It varied. In Poltava, when we began to fight, everyone lived in one place — a school; later they recognized this error. Because a bomb fell on the school, and fortunately we were all out at the airfield. When it was possible, they placed flight crews in apartments. I don’t remember if the maintenance personnel were distributed in apartments. They were always at the airfields, in dugouts. Very often the local village was far away, and it was difficult to transport the flight crews. It took time, so everyone lived in dugouts on the airfield. We were in dugouts until the end of the war. And when the war ended, we still lived in dugouts.

The practice described here was the placement of flight crews as roomers in communal apartment buildings or private homes.

O.K., K.Ch.: Tell us, please, did you have a problem with lice? With parasites?

G.Ye.: No, not to that degree. More precisely, there were cases, but they were rare. Because we were not at the front line. We landed, and we had time for a bath or shower. Not always, but as a rule.

O.K., K.Ch.: I showed you a book. In it the fighter pilot writes that there where cases when they settled into dugouts and were infested with lice.

G.Ye.: I have already told you that it happened. But was it a big problem — no, it was not.

O.K., K.Ch.: What did you do in your free time? If the weather was bad, for example, and you weren’t flying.

G.Ye.: People did different things. Some wrote letters, others played chess. The majority drank vodka.

O.K., K.Ch.: What did you do, personally?

G.Ye.: I drank vodka.

O.K., K.Ch.: You do not look like you drank a lot of vodka…

G.Ye.: Do not look like? Even at the Victory Parade [July 1945 on Red Square] I recall, we each drank 700 grams that evening. A bottle cost 800 rubles.

O.K., K.Ch.: Did any concert groups visit you at your airfields?

G.Ye.: They came, of course. But not famous ones.

O.K., K.Ch.: How many different airplanes did you fly during the war?

G.Ye.: Oh my. That’s a difficult question. Mainly because of damage. We were not shot down, not once. Well, four or five times severely damaged, perhaps. Not more. One SB, we did not have any replacements there, and our first combat tour ended in 29 days. Approximately four or five Bostons.

O.K., K.Ch.: Tell us, please, many believe that the SB burned like, well, like a match. It burned much better than other aircraft.

G.Ye.: This is absolutely correct. Because the fuel tanks were not protected. This airplane was our first all-metal bomber. It was not developed with fires in mind. They did burn like matches. But the Bostons were protected from the very beginning.

O.K., K.Ch.: Here is a question about awards and incentives. When, for example, and what did you receive? I can see your awards: Order of Lenin with gold star (HSU), two Combat Red Banners, two Orders of the Red Star.

G.Ye.: And in addition, two Orders of the Patriotic War, and two medals Za Boyevyye Zaslugi [for combat merit].

O.K., K.Ch.: Za Boyevyye Zaslug — how did you receive these, as an officer and as a pilot? [This medal was usually given to soldiers, not officers – IG]

G.Ye.: They awarded these medals to pilots in the first years of the war. I received one at the very beginning of the war. After my 13th sortie I was wounded, and didn’t fly for a while. I received it some time after my 10th sortie, perhaps. And the second, in 1943, when we had already begun to fly Bostons. I wore them with satisfaction. I considered them to carry more weight than this Red Star. Now they are not considered to be valuable. But then they were deserved. O-o-oh how the kids ran after us in 1941 and looked at the award Boyevyye Zaslugi. But now no one pays it any attention.

O.K., K.Ch.: Did you receive any payment for the Hero Star?

G.Ye. After the war we did, and for orders as well. But Khrushchev withdrew these payments, ostensibly on request of the veterans. We did not receive it any longer.

Here Yevdokimov is referring to other high decorations, such as Order of the Red Banner, Order of Suvorov (three degrees), Order of Ushakov (two degrees), Order of Kutuzov (two degrees), and others. [JG]

O.K., K.Ch.: How many Heroes of the Soviet Union did you have in your regiment?

G.Ye.: There were two pilots, in addition to me. They did not exactly shower us with awards. As a matter of fact, when we switched over to night actions, it was practically impossible to confirm the destruction of enemy equipment.

O.K., K.Ch.: Did you fly night photo-reconnaissance missions or not? What did you use? FOTABs, or something else? What was used for illumination?

Fotoaviatsionnaya bomba (photography aviation bomb). It was a device of instantaneous flash or flare (for 100 kg of bomb weight, with the strength of 4.8*109 candle power).
Svetyashchayasya aviatsionnaya bomba (illuminating aviation bomb). SABs of various calibers burned for 3–10 minutes with a strength of 2–2.6 million candle power. Both FOTABs and SABs employed a parachute to slow the rate of fall of the incandescent element.

G.Ye.: We used SAB, of course, primarily 50- and 100-kg. The 100-kg burned for five minutes, and the 50 — I don’t precisely recall, perhaps four minutes. We also had FOTABs. Well, when the target was a port, we dropped one SAB. If it did not provide sufficient illumination, we dropped a second. We could carry several. If we were unable to photograph using SABs — they would die out or the enemy shot them down — then we might make a pass with a FOTAB in order to see the target. By then we knew the configuration of the target, and we could determine the type of pass and then use FOTABs. The enemy expended a great deal of ammunition in order to down an illumination bomb. But he rarely hit it.

This refers to aircraft crew members who had been shot down outside the front line, had been picked up, and were being returned by various means to their units.

O.K., K.Ch.: Did you ever encounter German night fighters?

G.Ye.: It happened only one time; he passed by close to us.

O.K., K.Ch.: What about day fighters?

G.Ye.: O-o-oh. Almost every time we went out. The majority of our losses were to fighters, approximately 80 percent. And in 1941, I would say almost all — 90 percent.

O.K., K.Ch.: How would you characterize the German pilot? How did he appear to you?

G.Ye.: In the early years of the war, he was highly effective, very well trained. Beginning in 1943, we saw pilots who were well qualified, the same as ours at the beginning of the war. In the tactical sense, naturally, they sharply differed from pilots of the initial years of the war. Our attitude toward them from 1943 on became scornful.

O.K., K.Ch.: Scornful?

G.Ye.: Well, of course. These were young pilots, and if they did not have double superiority, as in two-on-one or three-on-one, not less — they did not engage. They fled.

O.K., K.Ch.: So, they “blew it off,” enemy bombers might bomb or they might not bomb, just leave?

G.Ye.: Absolutely correct. I am not lying. Not once did we break off of our drop heading. No matter what our losses were — three, even four aircraft — on the bomb run. The Germans did not have such fortitude.

O.K., K.Ch.: To what degree, in your opinion, was this in fact necessary? Perhaps it would have been possible just the same to come back later?

G.Ye.: Of course it was better this way. We had limited time. We did not have time to go around — the result would have been quite different. Ask anyone. And then, we hardly had armored aircraft. As a rule, we could not afford a second pass during the day. A shturmovik might be able to make a second pass.

O.K., K.Ch.: Tell us, please, how much time was taken in the bomb run?

G.Ye.: It depended on the training of the crew, on the leader. From one to three minutes. Well, if you managed to pop out, perhaps 30 seconds; it might happen. But that was an exception — if you had a good reference point, you picked a good start point. And the resistance was not great. Up to three minutes, not more.

O.K., K.Ch.: Some are of the opinion, and I don’t know if it’s justified, that German fighters often knew where the zone of antiaircraft fires was. And if they were engaging bombers that were approaching the boundaries of this zone, they diverted to the flank — they did not fly into their own antiaircraft fires. Is this true?

G.Ye.: Of course that happened.

O.K., K.Ch.: Was it a case where the antiaircraft crews were relying on the fighters, and the fighter pilots were relying on the antiaircraft gunners, and you at this moment would strike them?

G.Ye.: Yes, it was. And not once, not twice, and not five times.

O.K., K.Ch.: If a crew perished. A crew — that was said too strongly; there was always a chance for someone to survive. Would this be observed by the crews of other aircraft? And did the Germans have a practice of shooting crews? Parachutists?

G.Ye.: O.K., K.Ch.: Yes, all the time…

O.K., K.Ch.: Shot them?

G.Ye.: Yes, hunted them. They hit them or they didn’t hit them, but absolutely they hunted them. Our pilots did not engage in this conduct.

O.K., K.Ch.: Well, perhaps they did not do this in front of you, but in general did they?

G.Ye.: Well, in any case, not every time; but the Germans would never pass up an opportunity.

O.K., K.Ch.: Even if the parachutist was landing on German territory?

G.Ye.: Yes, even then, even then.

O.K., K.Ch.: The navigator in fact was not locked into a specific crew, right?

G.Ye.: Why? My primary pilot was Kozlov — the deputy squadron commander. As the squadron navigator, most of the time I flew with him. But I flew with others as well. If he was sick or something else happened, then [I flew] with his deputy. I also flew with young pilots, when I inspected them, many times. I flew on their aircraft, naturally.

O.K., K.Ch.: It’s possible this next question might seem a bit naive to you. Were “hero stars” [Hero of the Soviet Union] awarded not for sorties, but for some specific action?

G.Ye.: Of course, of course. If you bombed a German headquarters, for example, and important general officers were there — naturally, they decorated you. But we had only three people who achieved this rank.

O.K., K.Ch.: How was confirmation of the results of a strike conducted? Let’s say you took photographs and there was a fire on the target. Smoke and dust, and the features of the target were not discernible.

G.Ye.: Yes, sometimes a combat sortie was considered as fulfilled and the result was not indicated. It might happen that the target was in the enemy’s rear area — reconnaissance reports the result. But in most cases, of course during daylight, photographs were taken. Naturally, dead soldiers were not visible. At night, if it was possible, they also photographed for control.

O.K., K.Ch.: I read this in memoirs; it was specifically addressed. That all pilots during a sortie reported on the number of explosions and fires on the target.

G.Ye.: Yes. But this is not the result. It is simply a report.

O.K., K.Ch.: The photographs — how much time elapsed before someone photographed the results of a bombing raid? To whom was this photography entrusted? The most experienced, or just anyone?

G.Ye.: In the first place, the lead pilots themselves took pictures, before the bombing. And after the bomb drop we did not turn the camera off. Our task was to determine the condition of the target before bombing. After the strike, we personally could do little about it. A special, experienced crew was sent out for this. It came along in the column behind us, as a rule, at a short distance. This gave the possibility of comparing the results using the “before” and “after” photographs.

O.K., K.Ch.: Did you fly over the sea? What was your impression?

G.Ye.: We flew on Bostons over the Black Sea and after that over the Aegean. In Greece, so that they did not shoot us down, we went around across the Aegean Sea. We came in from the sea at low altitude, and before the release point climbed to an altitude safe for bomb release and then dropped our payload. It was then that a round struck my compartment. I wasn’t real comfortable when we flew over deep water. It was bleak.

O.K., K.Ch.: Pilots say that when you go out over the water, the sound of an engine immediately changes.

G.Ye.: This is a psychological thing, really. Because you are afraid that if they shoot you down, then…

O.K., K.Ch.: A naval pilot said, “We landed one time in Prussia. We were all decorated with orders and with medals. The Army pilots spotted us, and said, ‘You picked up a few [decorations].’ Well, we suggested to them, ‘Guys, why don’t you accompany us?’ They flew with us one time and we came under antiaircraft fire from some vessels. They said, ‘To hell with decorations — who needs’em!’

G.Ye.: Barrier fire was concentrated. Especially when we worked large targets. It was the most unpleasant thing. The most fearsome was the first salvo. When they fired the first salvo, immediately it was easier on our psyche, because we knew what measures to take. They say, you must flee, there are more shells ahead. Of course the opposite is true. One must dive into the shell. Where there are more, where they are thicker, there one must go. They are continuously changing aim point…

O.K., K.Ch.: Very often it is written that our own antiaircraft gunners, and the Germans, “flogged the lead aircraft and shot down the trail aircraft.”

G.Ye.: That’s how it was, as a rule.

O.K., K.Ch.: Did you work against naval vessels?

G.Ye.: Against ships in ports. We bombed ships in the port Salonika on the Aegean Sea. We flew two sorties there. One time against a station, one time against vessels. Our 1st Squadron dropped the first bombs on the ships, and the other two squadrons bombed the railroad station. The second sortie, on another day, went the same way.

O.K., K.Ch.: Which target did you personally bomb?

G.Ye.: We bombed the railroad station. We took 250-kg bombs.

O.K., K.Ch.: Did you use 500-kg bombs often?

G.Ye.: We primarily had 100- and 250-kg bombs.

O.K., K.Ch.: What were the payloads of the aircraft you flew?

G.Ye.: On the SB — 600 kg. [The maximum] 1,500 kg was an overload, on account of fuel. The basic load of the Pe-2 was 1,000 kg, and the maximum was also 1,500 kg. You had to take off from a good airfield; they were difficult to lift off from an unimproved airfield. The Boston had 14 rack positions. 1,400 kg was normal, and up to 1,800 kg — this was overload.

O.K., K.Ch.: Tell us, did you have any occasions when the bombs did not drop — where the electric switch failed or something else happened? When you landed the aircraft with bombs?

G.Ye.: There was one case, at the beginning of the war, in an SB. I don’t remember any other times.

O.K., K.Ch.: This is an unpleasant question: did you have any occasions when pilots avoided a fight or avoided execution of a mission?

G.Ye.: There were a few rare cases.

O.K., K.Ch.: What happened with these pilots? Did they “beat their heads in?”

G.Ye.: Nothing like that happened. One feigned illness, sickness, and remained on the ground. There was another, they assigned him to a sortie, especially solo flight at night, and he stalled, and stalled, until dawn. We were “night crews” at the time. The commander saw through this person, and said to him: “You can stall until noon, I don’t give a damn. But that means you will go on the mission during daylight!” The pilot immediately turned to his ground crew chief, “What are you stalling for? Launch!”

O.K., K.Ch.: If a pilot took off on a mission, and suddenly he began to move about, broke from formation, and flew home?

G.Ye.: This happened one time, and he never flew again. It was our commissar — Panov.

O.K., K.Ch.: Any ordinary pilots do this?

G.Ye.: No, we didn’t have any.

O.K., K.Ch.: On average, how long did a crew live? How many sorties on average?

G.Ye.: O-o-oh. If you take 1941, a crew was able to remain together for about a month. Something like 12–15 sorties. These were daytime sorties, I have in mind, more at night.
From 1943 onward, more, of course. Approximately 30–40 sorties. And in 1945, even more. They shot us down, but rarely. Much less often.

O.K., K.Ch.: Did you have any instances when crews went out comprised of “returnees,” or you carried them on other aircraft?

Aircraft brake fluid was alcohol-based. These airmen strained it through protective-mask filters, added syrup for flavor, and called the resulting mixture “liquor.” The process was popularized in a movie released in the late 1960s—Chronicles of a Dive Bomber—and since that time the term “liquor chassis” has been used to denote what is known as “moonshine” in the USA.

G.Ye.: We did not have any cases of that. This could happen with fighter or shturmovik crews. We had a heavy aircraft and it simply could not take off easily. We did not do this. They came back themselves, everyone who could.

O.K., K.Ch.: Did you have a night paint scheme for the Boston for night sorties?

G.Ye.: No, just our normal paint — camouflage on the upper surfaces and blue or gray on the lower surfaces.

O.K., K.Ch.: Did you have special equipment for night flights?

G.Ye.: No.

O.K., K.Ch.: Radio compass?

G.Ye.: There were no transmitting stations.

O.K., K.Ch.: What were Boston losses?

G.Ye.: Not very great — 70 or 78 aircraft. The loss ratio was much higher for the SB. I made my first sortie on Bostons on 10 February 1943. We had isolated losses from accidents. By the end of the war, our losses were primarily due to antiaircraft fire.

O.K., K.Ch.: What distinguished the fighting over Hungary?

G.Ye.: Intensity. We had very heavy fighting there for about a month.

O.K., K.Ch.: Did the Germans resist in Bulgaria?

G.Ye.: There was practically no resistance. We reached Sofia easily. The locals consumed two glasses of wine a day. They “entertained” us there. We drank a glass, then another. The locals gathered in, watched us, and were amazed. There, by the way, we eventually developed a recipe for a “liquor chassis.”xiv

O.K., K.Ch.: Tell us, please. You found yourself abroad at the end of the war. How did your relations develop with the local population?

G.Ye.: Our relations with the locals varied. There were Germans, Bulgars, Romanians, Hungarians… We had very good relations with the Bulgars and Czechs. Our relations developed very well.

O.K., K.Ch.: With the Czechs or the Slovaks?

G.Ye.: Czechoslovakia — this was one country. And we considered the people to be one nation.

O.K., K.Ch.: And how was it with the Germans? Was it an “eye for an eye?”

G.Ye.: It was very good with the Germans as well. “Eye for an eye?” No, no, not at all. Absolutely not. The Germans very quickly recognized themselves as defeated, and conducted themselves with honor. Their relations with our pilots were neutral.

O.K., K.Ch.: We recently spent some time with a communications person. He told us that for a long time it was dangerous to walk the sidewalks of Berlin — they walked in the center of the street, because every kind of object was hurled at them from the upper floors of buildings.

G.Ye.: Well, we were there in 1948… And the situation was absolutely unlike that.

O.K., K.Ch.: Tell us, how did you know that victory had been achieved?

G.Ye.: We were listening on the radio on the evening of 8 May. Someone announced that the act of capitulation had been signed, and we immediately abandoned our dugout. We began to shoot [our weapons], to hug one another, and to kiss each other. On the 9th, the deputy division commander flew in and said, “This is a good thing, of course, to celebrate. But it is still early! We might still have to fight.” Several garrisons in Austria had not surrendered. We flew our last sortie on the 13th or 14th — I don’t remember exactly. So our victory was somewhat “soiled.” Fortunately, we did not lose a single crew.

Assembly of the personnel of 449th BAP in recognition of the conclusion of the Great Patriotic War, 9 May 1945. Yevdokimov is holding the regimental banner.

O.K., K.Ch.: Did you participate in the Victory Parade?

G.Ye.: Yes. I was the senior person among a group of flight crews.

O.K., K.Ch.: Are you visible in the newsreel? Did you find yourself?

G.Ye.: No. You can’t see it clearly. It poured heavy rain. I was somewhere in the back. We were arranged by height, by rank. No, you can’t distinguish anything there [in the film].

O.K., K.Ch.: What did you do after the war?

G.Ye.: What did I do? The same thing as I was doing before the war.

O.K., K.Ch.: Judging by your logbook, your regiment transitioned to the Tu-2?

G.Ye.: By this time, I had already left the regiment. I completed Krasnodar school in 1947, a course for improvement of the qualifications of flight personnel. After that, I went as a replacement to Germany. I was a regiment navigator in Strausberg. I flew the Tu-2 there. If my memory serves me correctly, it was the 28th Regiment. Not guards, just an ordinary regiment.

O.K., K.Ch.: Later on your logbook shows the Il-28. This was approximately what year?

G.Ye.: Yes. This was the basic bomber after the war, after academy. I flew on the Il-28 from 1954 until the very end, in 1967.

O.K., K.Ch.: What was it like to be the navigator on this aircraft?

G.Ye.: It was a very good, successful airplane, in its overall design, its flight characteristics, and even its equipment — navigational and bombing instruments; it was durable and simple to fly. Pilots mastered it quickly. If you will, it was the favorite aircraft from among our bombers that I flew.

O.K., K.Ch.: Why, then, in your opinion, was it withdrawn so quickly from the inventory?

G.Ye.: By the absurdness of our leadership. “Moron” Khrushchev ordered it to be destroyed. They cut up brand new aircraft; our pilots wept.

O.K., K.Ch.: Pikul wrote that Khrushchev attempted to do something, but he was unable because he was not very bright. Why did he do this?

G.Ye.: He was an idiot. For his glory abroad: “We will set an example — we are destroying equipment, various vessels…” Even new equipment was destroyed. The commander of aviation of Odessa Military District refused to follow this order, and he was relieved. So many young pilots had gone through training, and the aircraft could have served for decades. These aircraft could have been sold for a good price. Instead they were crushed by bulldozers. Idiocy. Absolute idiocy.

O.K., K.Ch.: Tell us, please, how you found out that you had become a Hero of the Soviet Union?

G.Ye.: We were at Focsani in Romania. The recommendation for the three of us had been submitted in January 1945. We already thought that nothing had come of it, but suddenly on 18 August a messenger came running up to us. “You have been awarded the rank Hero!” I said, “You are lying!” He said, “No! Here is the telegram from the political department!” They gave us a choice: receive the star in place or go to Moscow. Of course, we all said, “To Moscow!” Kalinin handed me my Hero star on 7 September 1945. And as was the custom, the zvezdochka [the gold star medal] was drowned in a glass of vodka. There is one more thing. After the war, when I retired, they suggested that I participate as a consultant in the shooting of the movie “Chronicle of a Dive Bomber.” It was very pleasant to work with the young men, but also challenging. I recall that even a patrol attempted to arrest these men for a disheveled appearance.


Oleg Dal’ in the gunner’s compartment of the Pe-2 in a snapshot from “Chronicles of a Dive Bomber.”

Written on the reverse side: “Esteemed Grigoriy Petrovich! It is a pity that I did not play [the role of] the navigator, but just the same, many thanks for the assistance I received as a member of a Pe-2 crew. 12 November 1967. O. Dal’.

Award Recommendation (copy)

1. Last name, first name, patronymic: YEVDOKIMOV, Grigoriy Petrovich
2. Rank: Captain. 3. Duty position, unit: Squadron navigator, 449th Bomber Aviation Lower-Dnestr Regiment is recommended for the rank “Hero of the Soviet Union.”
4. Year of birth: 1919.
5. Nationality: Russian.
6. Party affiliation: member VKP(b) – 1943 [Communist Party]
7. Participation in civil war, subsequent combat actions in the defense of the USSR and in the Patriotic War (where, when): In Patriotic War since August 1941.
8. Wounds or contusions in Patriotic War: None
9. Date of entry into Red Army: October 1938.
10. Drafted by what RVK [rayon military commissariat (draft board)]: Mozhga RVK, Udmyrtiya ASSR.
11. Previous awards, for what achievements: Medal Za boyevyye zaslugi [for combat merit] 9.12.41, as mentioned in order Southwest Front No. 58 for 12 combat sorties; Order Krasnoy zvezdy [red star] 11.5.43, as mentioned in order 224 Aviation Division 106/n for 30 combat sorties; Order Krasnogo znameni [red banner], 30.7.43, as mentioned in order Air Army No. 25 for 30 combat sorties; Order Patriotic War Second Degree, 25.10.43, as mentioned in order 17 Air Army No. 045 for 57 combat sorties; Order Krasnogo znameni, 20.9.44, as mentioned in order 17 Air Army No. 053/n for 63 combat sorties.
12. Permanent home address of person recommended for award and address of his family: Udmyrtiya ASSR, B. Uchinskiy rayon, village Ozhgi (father Yevdokimov, Petr Iosifovich).
Brief specific account of personal combat feat or service:
Recommended for outstanding execution of 270 combat sorties on the Boston aircraft, of which 76 were daylight and 194 were night sorties, including 112 combat reconnaissance sorties.
Having been at the front since 7 August 1941, as a member of the 449th Bomber Aviation Regiment, he actively participated in the Belgorod operation, for the liberation of the Donbas, in the breakthrough of the Dnepr defenses, and for the liberation of Nikopol and Odessa. Was active participant in breakthrough of Dnestr defenses, liberation of Bessarabia and Romania.
During the period of the Budapest operation in the 3rd Ukrainian Front, conducted 12 combat sorties against the capital of Hungary — Budapest.
During the period from 6 through 25 March 1945, executed 27 combat sorties for the destruction of personnel and equipment of the enemy force that had penetrated between Lakes Balaton and Belenets.
As navigator, was highly trained, possessed [skill of] aircraft navigation by day and by night in any weather conditions. Executed all combat missions only in outstanding manner. During execution of reconnaissance missions, delivered valuable reconnaissance data on the enemy. More than one time his effort led to exposure of movement of enemy troops and equipment, and accumulations of rail cars [trains] at stations.
As squadron navigator, was highly trained. Trained well the navigational personnel of the squadron for the fulfillment of their combat missions. There was not a single incident of loss of orientation, day or night, in his squadron. By his personal example, instilled in young navigational personnel a [desire for] outstanding execution of combat missions. Squadron always occupied first place in the regiment in combat work.
During period of Patriotic War, executed 270 (exact number is 330 – this recommendation was filled in April 1945) combat sorties, destroying: 15 enemy aircraft, blowing up 6 fuel and ammunition dumps, destroying and damaging up to 135 train cars, 10 loaded tank cars, up to 180 enemy trucks with troops and cargo, and many other items of enemy equipment.
Typical combat sorties:
19.11.44, during operations of forces of 3rd Ukrainian Front for expanding bridgehead on right bank of Danube river, executed bomb strike in capacity of lead group against enemy artillery positions and defenses at Zmaevets and heights north and northwest of that locale. As a result of bombing, 6 powerful explosions were noted and 2 fires. According to assessment of ground command and commander, 17th Air Army, strike was outstanding, resulting in congratulations to all group participants. On same day, follow-on strike against railroad station Knyazheva Vinograda, 2 direct hits on train, hit on station building, and hits on roadbed were noted as a result of bomb strike, along with explosions and fires, which were confirmed by photography.
24.1.45, flew blockade over Papa airfield at night; was over target for 27 minutes, made 7 passes with 1–2 bombs dropped on each pass. As a result of bombing, 3 twin-engine aircraft were destroyed on airfield, two of which were completely consumed by fire. Crew conducted 3 attacks and engaged enemy aircraft who were over airfield, returning from combat missions.
29.1.45, as group leader, bombed accumulation of enemy tanks and trucks at Gordon. As result of bombing, 12 fires and 4 direct hits on tanks and trucks were noted.
12.2 45, as leader of group of nine, bombed accumulation of enemy tanks and trucks at Beshne. As result of bombing, up to 12 tanks and 5 dugouts were destroyed, 5 direct hits on railroad bed were noted, which were confirmed by photography.
8.3.45, as leader of group of nine, bombed accumulation of enemy troops and equipment on southwest outskirts of Nadbayom. As a result of bombing, according to photographic evidence, 11 fires were created, 14 trucks, 1 tank, and 2 armored transporters were destroyed.
19.3.45, as leader of group of nine, bombed accumulation of enemy troops and equipment at Berkhida. As a result of bombing, 60 enemy trucks with troops and cargo were destroyed and damaged, which was confirmed by photography.
25.3.45, as leader of group of nine, bombed accumulation of trucks at Topolcha. As a result of bombing, up to 55 enemy trucks with troops and cargo were destroyed, which was confirmed by photography.
For outstanding execution of 270 combat sorties, excellent and competent leadership in the training of squadron navigational personnel in the execution of combat missions, for displayed courage and heroism during execution of combat missions, he is recommended for the rank – Hero of the Soviet Union.
18 April 1945
Deserves awarding of rank – Hero of the Soviet Union
Deserves awarding of rank – Hero of the Soviet Union
12 May 1945
Deserves awarding of rank – Hero of the Soviet Union
13 May 1945
Flew 270 combat sorties for bombing on Boston aircraft, of which 76 sorties were during daylight and 194 were at night.
Lieutenant Colonel – [signature]
By order of 18.08.45, awarded the rank Hero of the Soviet Union with Order of Lenin and medal “Gold Star.”

Archive of the Ministry of Defense USSR, collection 33, series 793756, document 15, sheets 8, 9
True copy: Chief of records
October 196…

Valeriy Chkalov (1904–38) was a Soviet Air Force test pilot most famous for a non-stop flight in June 1937 with two other aviators in a single-engine aircraft from Moscow over the North Pole to Vancouver, Washington, 8,500 kilometers in just over 63 hours. Mikhail Gromov (1899–1985), also a Soviet Air Force test pilot, flew with two other pilots from Moscow over the North Pole to San Jacinto, California in 1937. Gromov reached the rank of Colonel-General of Aviation, and retired in 1955. Vladimir Kokkinaki (1904–85) and Konstantin (1910-1990) were famous Soviet Air Force test pilots whose careers extended from the 1930s into the jet age. Vladimir was a Twice Hero of the Soviet Union (1938, 1957) and Konstantin was a Hero of the Soviet Union (1964).
2 Marshal Semyon Timoshenko (1895–1970) was appointed to the post of Peoples’ Commissar of Defense in May 1940 and served in that position until July 1941.
3 The M-100 radial engine produced 830 h.p., the M-105R engine (supercharged) 1,100 h.p. [JG]
4 The Ar-2 was a dive bomber created by Alexandr Arkhangelskiy, based on the SB (which was itself a Tupolev design). It was designed before the war and produced in limited numbers. [JG]
5 Ivan Polbin was an experienced dive-bomber pilot, veteran of Khalkhin-Gol in 1939, who was an air regiment commander in 1942 at the rank of lieutenant colonel and an air corps commander at the rank of guards major general in February 1945. He was awarded Hero of the Soviet Union rank in November 1942 and again in February 1945. He was shot down and killed over Breslau, Poland on 11 February 1945. Men under his command were called “Polbintsy.”
6 SMERSh was an acronym for Smert Shpionam! [death to spies]. This was a military department whose primary function was the exposing of spies, the prevention of diversionary-sabotage activities, desertion to the enemy, violation of commanders’ orders, and investigating friendly-fire incidents, and so on. The party cell and NKVD were occupied with political issues. Osobisti is the common name given to representatives of both SMERSh and the NKVD, but it did not include the party component. [JG]
7 The Russian word used here refers to the special vehicle used by the secret police to transport prisoners for interrogation.
8 Flight crews were entitled to the award Hero of the Soviet Union based on number of sorties flown. The number of sorties that earned the HSU varied in accordance with type of missions flown and results achieved.
9 The practice described here was the placement of flight crews as roomers in communal apartment buildings or private homes.
10 Here Yevdokimov is referring to other high decorations, such as Order of the Red Banner, Order of Suvorov (three degrees), Order of Ushakov (two degrees), Order of Kutuzov (two degrees), and others. [JG]
11 Fotoaviatsionnaya bomba (photography aviation bomb). It was a device of instantaneous flash or flare (for 100 kg of bomb weight, with the strength of 4.8*109 candle power).
Svetyashchayasya aviatsionnaya bomba (illuminating aviation bomb). SABs of various calibers burned for 3–10 minutes with a strength of 2–2.6 million candle power. Both FOTABs and SABs employed a parachute to slow the rate of fall of the incandescent element.
12 This refers to aircraft crew members who had been shot down outside the front line, had been picked up, and were being returned by various means to their units.
13 Aircraft brake fluid was alcohol-based. These airmen strained it through protective-mask filters, added syrup for flavor, and called the resulting mixture “liquor.” The process was popularized in a movie released in the late 1960s—Chronicles of a Dive Bomber—and since that time the term “liquor chassis” has been used to denote what is known as “moonshine” in the USA.

Interview was conducted by Oleg Korytov and Konstantin Chirkin © in St. Petersburg, Russia
English translation by James F. Gebhardt ©
Translation edited by Ilya Grinberg ©

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