On a barge across the ocean: How four Soviet soldiers conquered America


Exactly 60 years ago, events took place that with good reason can be considered one of the most glorious and bright pages of the Soviet period in the history of our Motherland. Four military servicemen of the Soviet army won an unprecedented victory, without firing a single shot and not participating in hostilities at all. Nevertheless, their feat to this day is an example of both military prowess and the highest human qualities.


In a battle that lasted 49 long days, the enemy was not the invaders dressed in the uniforms of a foreign army, but a completely different opponent - cold and hunger, panic and despair, a vast ocean and a fateful combination of circumstances. Having gained the upper hand over them, the four most ordinary young men showed the whole world what a real Soviet man is. Let us recall them today ...

What is “bad luck” and how to deal with it


We will talk, if anyone has not yet guessed, about the heroic drift that has gone down in history and aboard the T-36 self-propelled tank-landing barge, which turned out to be its forced crew - junior sergeant Askhat Ziganshin and privates Philip Poplavsky, Anatoly Kryuchkovsky and Ivan Fedotov. Their unparalleled odyssey lasted until March 7, 1960, and it began with one of the winter storms, quite common for the Far Eastern latitudes, where they served. Or rather, one of the islands of the South Kuril Islands, Iturup, where a military unit was stationed, in which the guys served. Generally speaking, on that ill-fated day, the vessel should already have been pulled ashore - for this, even a tractor was fitted. Ahead was a winter in the warm barracks, due to which even the usually untouchable supply of drinking water and food was stored there from the barge. Subsequently, it’s oh, how it “pops up” with the people who appeared on it, but who could have guessed ... Literally at the last minute an urgent order came from the command: to unload the meat truck that had gone on the raid. In the Soviet army, orders, as you know, were not discussed, but carried out, and besides, this meat had to go to the cauldrons of the soldier’s canteen for the whole long winter — it was up to them to try. Yes, and what's wrong with that - trifling matter ... Alas, the affair turned out to be far from trifling. The barge didn’t reach the refrigerator - with a gust of hurricane blowing it tore it off the berth, and the waves that were gaining strength began to hurl a hefty iron vessel with a displacement of 70 tons along the bay, like a paper boat.

The implementation of the task was not discussed. There was nothing even to try to anchor the ship - the chains froze tightly, and no anchors in the rising crazy whistle would not have kept it. After 3 hours of desperate attempts to return to the pier, the former for the elder Ziganshin, perfectly understanding where everything was going, decided to throw himself ashore. This idea almost became fatal: the barge with all its might slammed into a rock with a very suitable name: Devil's Hill, after which, in addition to all the “joys”, its crew also received a hole that allowed it to flow not somewhere but into the engine room branch. Nevertheless, they decided to repeat the risky maneuver - because a gently sloping sandy beach loomed ahead, promising salvation. They didn’t reach anything at all ... Sneezing mockingly at parting, the engines “engine”, who had never been experienced sailors, but through the land building battalion, stunned, somehow did not calculate the fuel supply. Tanks with a solarium on the T-36 were, of course, not bottomless. The soldiers, clinging to the icy side, could only watch with mortal longing to watch the shore disappearing in the snow circle. The current dragged them straight into the open ocean, and to do at least something contrary to his evil will was completely impossible. The radio station, flooded with one of the waves constantly sweeping over the barge, finally and irrevocably turned into a useless piece of metal and plastic. In the resulting hole, slowly but inevitably accumulated water. And with this, something had to be done, and immediately. Otherwise, the chances of going to the bottom increased to the degree of inevitability. Position ...


General view of the self-propelled barge "T-36". Image: “Young Shipbuilder Modeler", S. T. Luchininov, 1963


By the Will of the Waves


With the leak, they managed in the evening. With the help of a jack, friendly work and a strong soldier’s word, the hole was closed, and the accumulated water could be dealt with later. In the morning, the crew of the T-36, which had drifted in drift, was faced with its main problem - a real estimate of the reserves on board. As already mentioned, a ten-day ration relying on the state remained on the shore, which means there was nothing to think about it. Available: a single loaf of bread, a handful of millet groats and peas, a can of fat and a bucket of potato. The latter, by the way, was found in the engine room, as a result of which it was smeared with fuel oil to such an extent that even cry. However, the situation with fresh water was even worse: the five-liter tank on the barge with it, during the storm, broke up completely. Luckily, the diesel engines were water cooled. You can try to imagine what the taste of this “aqua vit” was, but it was she who saved the lives of the soldiers - until they adapted to collect rainwater. In principle, it was quite possible to stretch for some time. But the question is, what ?! People who consider their actions in one or another emergency situation, as a rule, proceed from several scenarios: good, medium, and bad. There are, however, those who invariably “take as the basis” the most parsimonious of the options, multiply it in the mind by ten - and act accordingly. As a rule, they survive ... Poplavsky, Kryuchkovsky and Fedotov were lucky - Ziganshin was just one of them. From the very first day, as a commander, taking control of the distribution of super-scarce resources into his own hands, he initially introduced the regime on the ship, not just austerity, but austerity.

He personally cooked a terrifying "soup" from a couple of potatoes, cereals (while she was still) and handed out to everyone around a mug of this brew. In general, they drank water a couple of times a day, measuring out its drops with a razor glass - there was no less capacity at hand ... Subsequently, the water output was reduced to once. The younger sergeant pushed for such restrictions by a find that dazzled him to the core. A page of the Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper was found in the cabin with a published message about the upcoming rocket firing in the adjacent region of the Pacific, due to which this area was declared "closed" to all ships and aircraft until March! When it got dark, they got together, peering into the sky cleared of clouds - the stars came out, which is exactly in those places and carries them. Looking ahead, I’ll say that the soldiers were not mistaken at all: “falling out” of the Oyashio course, they landed in another - Kuroshio, which had a speed of 80 miles per hour and dragged the barge further and further from the coast to its coastal expanses of the Pacific Ocean. Moreover, they have already been buried in their hometown! The soldiers who went out to scour the coastline of Iturup reported that they had discovered a number of things that uniquely qualified as wreckage of a shipwreck and undoubtedly belonged to the T-36 that had perished. A lifebuoy, the wreckage of the ill-fated water tank and coal box, some kind of mercilessly shabby waves of junk. In the opinion of the fathers-commanders, all these findings clearly indicated that the barge was sunk. The crew did not have the slightest chance of escaping in the weather, even if it consisted of continuous Olympic swimming champions. And according to the performance characteristics of the landing barges of Project 306, the reserve of their autonomous navigation was two days maximum. The ship was declared dead, and the mournful news went to the houses of four soldiers: "went missing during execution ..."

Delicatessen kersey, delicious ...


The last meal, which, albeit with a stretch, could be called normal, ended on a barge on exactly February 23, on the Day of the Soviet Army and Navy. The festive dinner, so to speak, turned out. And as if farewell ... There was nothing more to eat. Well ... besides each other, of course. And do not roll your eyes in horror - when after 12 years in the Andes the plane crashes with a team of Uruguayan rugby players, the surviving passengers will eat those who are less fortunate for a sweet soul. Yes, and then admit that if the sudden avalanche had not killed eight more of them, the survivors would have been "not fed." I will not give other examples - this is enough. Truly critical situations that put a person on the brink of physical survival very quickly “clean” everything superficial and superficial from him, ruthlessly exposing the essence. Someone turns into a hero, someone into cattle. It is only those who can remain human in whom humanity was the foundation, the true core of his soul, and not individuals who were “held within” only by the external conventions of civilized life. Fedotov, Poplavsky, Kryuchkovsky and their commander Ziganshin universities, as they say, did not finish. As well as the Page or Cadet Corps. And the kind of troops to which they belonged was never considered elite in our army, to put it mildly. However, they were Soviet people, Soviet soldiers. The idea of ​​considering one of the comrades from the gastronomic point of view did not even knock on their minds. Moreover, no one has ever tried to arrange a squabble or “swing rights” when distributing crumbs of provisions and drops of water. All the political leaders, special officers, military and civil prosecutors in those days were for them the same as on another planet. It was not fear that decided the matter, but conscience and Soviet upbringing.

The extreme adventure after February 23 is over. From that moment, the Feat began. Yes, yes, exactly, with the capital letter itself. The first “dish” of the new menu of the prisoners of the barge was leather straps - from trousers, walkie-talkies, watches. Finding several pieces of chrome leather under the keys of the bride like an accordion on a ship, Ziganshin joked: “Oh guys! This is a delicacy! ” We tried to eat soap, toothpaste. In the end, it came to the soldiers' tarpaulin boots ... Anyone who has never dealt with this "miracle" of the Soviet military industry can decide: "Once the boots, then leather." What a skin! The bootlegs of these same boots (the author had the good fortune to leave full-weighted 730 days in them) can stiffen the modern drainpipe by stiffness. And nutritionally comparable to her. They were made by impregnating cotton fabric with chemical compounds based on rubber (artificial), stearic acid, paraffin and the like “sweets”. It is scary to sniff, not that it is! But they ate ... All attempts to fish, making hooks and tackles from nothing ended in nothing - the ocean didn’t abate, and for some reason there was no desire to peck at a piece of iron without bait. But flocks of hefty sharks began circling around the barge, as if inviting its crew: “One step overboard, and all the torment will end!” No suicidal tendencies were found in anyone, and toothy creatures were left with nothing. No one had panic, despair, tantrums, or nervous breakdowns. By the time of salvation, all the supplies of the crew were half an teapot of water, one boot and two matches. There was no strength left for anything — neither to scoop out water that was slowly seeping into the engine room, nor to fill out the ship’s logbook (before that it had been kept according to all the rules). I couldn’t even go out onto the deck. Wild headaches began to torment, hallucinations came. The guys knew that the end was near. And the more paradoxical was their behavior when help finally came!

Dumplings, Vodka and San Francisco Key


What do you think happened when the US Navy helicopters hovered over the T-7 deck on March 1960, 36 and rope ladders fell off them, opening the way to salvation? Our soldiers rushed towards them, stumbling and pushing each other away? Nah ... In those minutes, they thought that they had no right to abandon military property, the damn barge, which became their prison. According to the memoirs of Ziganshin, he waited in all seriousness for the Americans to go down to the deck to thank them for their help, ask for water, food, fuel and a map and ... go under their own power to their native shores! Only after twice having circled a ship with completely incomprehensible personalities on board (dirty, overgrown beards to eyebrows, but stubbornly unwilling to escape), the helicopters departed for the aircraft carrier that sent them, and the ship began to maneuver, indicating its intention to go on its own course , the guys raised a cry and began to ride on the barge with all the remaining forces. Nobody was going to die, besides so stupidly. Moreover, they have already won their battle. The second time they struck their own saviors when they did not attack the immediately offered food, but began to calmly and leisurely satisfy their hunger bit by bit, a sip. Here, again, the authority of the commander worked, explaining to the guys how the overeating ends after such as they have hunger. Then the tale began. The ship kok, a descendant of immigrants from Western Ukraine, indulged guests with dumplings, at the request of the “vodka” they immediately locked ... two bottles of Russian vodka (well, since they are Russian, they need vodka, right, sir ?!). Clearly, they did not drink vodka. It was funny ... The guys tried to arrange the first press conference right on board the aircraft carrier. However, at the very first attempt to start talking, Ziganshin poured blood over his nose - inhuman tension affected him. They were left alone before arriving on shore.


But in San Francisco they had a chance to find out what the “burden of glory” is! The mayor of the city handed them a symbolic key to the city, declaring him honorary citizens. They all dressed up with a needle and gave out as much as $ 100 "for pocket expenses." Oh, this American generosity ... More importantly, the consul of the USSR met the rescued in San Francisco, and with open arms. They finally were able to breathe a sigh of relief, finally making sure that instead of the stigma of "raiders" or, God forbid, "deserters," the Motherland was awarded the status of heroes. March 16 was followed by a congratulatory telegram signed personally by Nikita Khrushchev, in which they were called just that. "Tackles" from the Americans? But what were they. Unobtrusive such hints that having left the hospitable shores of the USA, “such nice guys” may bitterly regret the suggestions “to think”. But they had nothing to think about - after completing a full-fledged "round the world", the heroes ended up in Moscow, which met them almost the same as years later - Yuri Gagarin. They were not awarded the Stars of Heroes (Nikita Sergeyevich liked to hang them only on himself), but they received the Order of the Red Star. The Minister of Defense, Marshal Rodion Malinovsky, in addition, handed everyone a special “navigational” watch, doing it like every great military commander with a subtle note: “so as not to wander from now on”. Ziganshin was awarded the rank of senior sergeant. To the great surprise of the "travelers", not a single call "for conversation" to the State Security Committee, which they expected quite sincerely, did not follow. To denigrate the magnificent feat, which showed the whole world without any war the unbending stamina and fortitude of the Soviet people, no one dared to dirty even the shadow of some suspicions and proceedings.

Well, and as usual - a few details in the end. The crew of the T-36 was Tatar, Russian and two Ukrainians. Note - people of precisely those nationalities between whom they are trying to spread hatred and hostility today, in those years, could not think of anything like that. Where did it all go ?! After, let's say, a not-so-pleasant ocean odyssey, all of its participants were offered admission to the Leningrad Naval School on the most favorable terms. Three (except Fedotov) immediately agreed! These are those from whom, after everything experienced, one would expect a persistent reluctance to approach water bodies larger than a puddle on the asphalt for a cannon shot. The 49-day ordeals did not break them, they did not leave either fear or the now fashionable “phobias” or “psychological traumas”. Soviet people ... And the last, exactly on the same day when the "magnificent four" were rescued from the T-36, in the distant suburbs of Moscow the Cosmonaut Squad was formed. Coincidence? Of course! However, you must admit that it’s more than symbolic - simple soldier boys who did not save before the sea element seemed to pass the baton to future space explorers, those who were to raise the proud title of “Soviet man” even higher — to the stars themselves.
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  1. Regis Offline
    Regis (Sergey Kopan) 14 March 2020 16: 51
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    There were people, and now bloggers and other Internet users ...
  2. steelmaker Offline
    steelmaker 15 March 2020 09: 35
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    I first heard about this feat in the early 70s when I was in school. We were taught on the exploits of our people. Even labor lessons, physical education classes were compiled - you must be ABLE to do this! And not like now - just to spend time, to fool around. My son for 10 years at school never took a hammer with a screwdriver in his hands - did not take into account. I have never peeled potatoes in the army! And to teach him, I had to apply "extraordinary approaches." If earlier SCHOOL, the pioneer-Komsomol organization prepared children, and also for a feat. Now everything depends on the PARENTS!
    Our power does not even set PATRIOTIC films. Although our history and people have so much EXPLOITION - only make films!
    Our filmmakers, TV journalists hardly remember or dedicate films and programs to our heroes. THANKS to the author! At least someone recalls the feat of our people!
  3. The comment was deleted.
  4. They swelled there on a barge until the blackout. And when they came to their senses, there was water all around! If the Americans didn’t find them by any chance - everyone would have a lid!