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Book One World War Three 1946

Book One World War Three 1946
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Friday, August 24, 2012

Ilyushin Heavy Attack Fighter Pilot # 6

Our training continued and we were ground pounding day after day. We learned to navigate and patched our flight maps together until they became as big as bed sheets. We had a very long flight to the front.

Finally we received our brand new silvery-painted planes with seats for gunners. The innovation was a much welcome sight. We can now defend ourselves from the rear and the 109s will not be able to attack us with impunity from the stern. If they did they would have to deal with a large caliber machine gun reaching out to shoot them down.

On the way to the front our second part of the route took us to Saratov-Borisoglebsk. My left undercarriage refused to come down and I was ordered to belly land my new plane. I decided to land on just the right wheel only. I kept the plane level until there was no more lift and when my left wing tip touched the ground I was spun around. I drew a half circle in the ground before my plane finally stops. There is no more fuel.

People mobbed the plane and I was in kind of a stupor. My beautiful plane was now dented and bent. I was very distraught. That very day my ground crew replaced the prop, painted and fixed up the wing and my plane looked no different than the others in a matter of hours.

The next morning we landed in the little Cosak town of Kuban. The same town where a woman still lived that has sent off 9 boys to war. Alexander, Nikolay, Vasilly, Filipp, Fedor, Ivan, Ilya, Pavel and the youngest Sash, who became a Hero of the Soviet Union in 1943…posthumously. None of her sons came back home alive. Nine sons give to the cause of defending the motherland.

The next day my only thought was of my upcoming first combat flight in a Surmovik. I was not scared. I was a Sturmovic pilot! There were five regiments of our 230th Ground Attack Aviation Division: four of ground attack and one fighter.

We were sitting in our planes waiting for the green flare. My mechanic asked one more time if there was anything he could do and I responded “No I need to be alone with my thoughts.” I thank him and just as he had jumped off my plane the green flare shot into the air.

I was given the honor of being the wingman of the flight leader. During the flight I did my best to stay in formation. When he made a maneuver I followed. When he dived, I followed. We he shot, I shot. When he dropped his bombs I dropped mine yet after the fourth pass I lost him as well as the rest of the group. I turned into our territory and found myself witnessing a huge aerial fight with dozens of planes. Planes were falling from the skies, pilots hanging from parachutes and all landing in the water of the Tsemesskaya Bay. It was not easy for a novice to make sense of the melee taking place over the Taman Peninsula.

Two fighters dashed towards me like black vultures. For some reason I took them for our Yaks until their machine guns started spitting tracers. The Germans were extremely insolent and took no care for their own defense. They attacked from different directions without effect. One of them overshot and filled my sights. I pressed the firing triggers and nothing happened. I was out of ammunition. I was saved by my fighter cover who even shot one of the bastards down.

A few missions later we witnessed a heroic sight. It was during a dogfight with the Hitlerites that pilot Rykhlin put on quite a show. He was hit by a tank shell, his own fault for flying too low. As he turned towards Glendzhik he was pounced on by 4 Messerschmitts. He had no chance to but to accept combat. Knowing the power of the front firing guns of the Sturmovik two of the Messers slowed down to attack from the rear. They were so confident that they even lowered their landing gear to slow down even more.

Rykhlin put his plane in a tight turn and unexpectedly they found themselves facing those guns. Both fell very quickly from the fire power display that tore their planes apart. The other two were driven off smoking by the already wounded aerial gunner Efremenko. This victory was won by a pilot who was only flying his second combat mission.

We flew mission after mission from then on and it was exhausting. We had many losses. We hit airfields, ammo dumps, trains, railway junctions, enemy troops in trucks and trains and even bombed ships on the Black Sea. This kind of pace was only possible with preparation by us and the supply section.

Soon we lost our flight leader, a fearless pilot and an honest and gallant man, Tit Kirillovich Pokrovskiy. Why him we wondered? But on we flew with the second in command taking over. He just exploded in mid-air from a lucky shot by some anti-aircraft barge probably manned by some heartless Nazi pig. By the time he became our flight leader he had been shot down 9 times by 1941. Once we started to get the two seaters and were assigned gunners our survival rate went up dramatically.

We flew on stunned and we lost our fighter cover as they became embroiled in a fight at higher altitude. Then we say them…Messerschmitts trying to take off lined up oh so nicely right in front of us. “Smash the bastards!” Pasha was yelling into the air over and over again. We poured every piece of lead and anything that would explode into them. We lost five of our own but that squadron was no more…just piles of smoking rubble and stinking Nazi flesh. For the second sortie that day we were led by the Moscovite Timofeevich Karev. There was no better leader and he had instigated a change.

His idea was to maneuver within the flight. We were now constantly changing positions and altitudes within certain limits. This kept us more alert and hindered the attacking fighters and ack ack gunners. No more strict formations and easy pickings. With our constant changing of speed and altitude it made life hell for the gunners on the ground and for the stalking fighters above. Once again our survival rate increased.

This is our little secret, but on the way back I still had two bombs. We were not supposed to land with bombs and there were some fighters on our tail. I saw a barge below and just couldn’t help myself. I pulled the emergency release and wiggled my wings back and forth to make sure the bombs fell. Mostly by chance I hit the barge squarely. Only then did I start to think that for all I knew it might not be an enemy barge I had just sunk and decided to tell no one.

One of the fighters radioed that I had sunk a barge full of soldiers and tanks so my secret was out and I received a decoration. I was never so glad in my life that it was an enemy barge and not one of ours.

At the end of 1943 the Regimental Commander lined us up and asked for volunteers. We all stepped forward. “No, no that won’t work he laughed.” I was one that was eventually picked. Our mission was to lay a smoke screen just in front of the German lines. No bombs no rear gunner just smoke cylinders. We had to fly for 7 kilometers in strict formation at low altitude. After the General had briefed us on the plan we were offered a chance to refuse the mission. Not one of the 19 did.

A sea of fire met us. Shells were bursting all around and I pressed myself into my armored seat back. The seconds counted down so slowly. Finally the plane ahead of me began to smoke. Thankfully it was only the smoke canister doing its job. I counted to three and turned mine on. It took so long to fly that 7 kilometers. Finally our mission was done.

As we were landing a call came from the commanding General. “Attention Hunchbacks!”

“Hunchbacks” meant us- it was the frontline name given to the Sturmovik.

“All pilots who flew the mission are awarded the Order of the Red Banner.”

Our hearts were bursting with pride as we landed and to the cheers of our comrades.

Later we found out that the smoke screen had worked and we had broken through the Blue Line. Moving towards the enemy it made him blind and allowed our troops to advance unmolested until they were virtually on top of the enemy. The Hitlerites fled in panic. The German does not like to fight close in. The Soviet loves it.

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