Last month, June 8th, it was exactly 100 years since the birth of one of the greatest military pilots not only of the USSR, but also, with good reason, it can be said of all times and peoples - Air Marshal, three times Hero of the Soviet Union Ivan Nikitovich Kozhedub. This date has passed, alas, quite quietly and imperceptibly - either the pandemic is to blame, or the amnesia, because of which we are gradually starting to forget the real heroes of the Great Patriotic War ...
Well, let's try to make up for this omission a little. However, the topic of our conversation will not be the whole long and glorious battle path of the Soviet ace, but rather, some of its little-known pages that have been carefully hushed up for a long time.
In truth, the life and service of Ivan Kozhedub, if you think about it, is a completely phantasmagoric interweaving of failures, each of which, for another person, would most likely become fatal. However, if you look closely and figure it out carefully, a simple “luck” in the career of the famous pilot was an absolute minimum. And the maximum of talent, titanic work and the ability to turn every painful blow of fate into a support for a new takeoff - in the literal and figurative sense. All this began, perhaps, from early childhood, when little Vanya miraculously survived after a boat overturned on the Desna River, on which he sailed with the same boys. From his water, already choking, his older brother Alexander pulled out. Some argue that the word "spellbound" has been imprinted on Kozhedub since that time. Perhaps this is so, but rather, about the incredible luck of the pilot, who throughout the Great Patriotic War did not receive a single wound and was never shot down (despite the fact that the machines on which he flew often turned literally into a sieve), they started talking afterwards. No matter how many enemy bullets and shells hit Kozhedub’s plane, he always reached the airfield at least “on parole and on one wing”, and planted the tortured car, albeit tightly, “on the belly”, but planted it. But such an ace might not even appear on the lists of the best “Stalinist falcons”! This is despite the fact that Kozhedub, who was so unlucky with the water element, was “on you” with the air element already at the age of 20 when he became an instructor in the Chuguev Military Aviation Pilot School.
With the beginning of World War II, the school was hastily evacuated to distant Chimkent and Ivan Nikitovich, who was tearing to the front, seemed to be firmly stuck in the deep rear. To the piles of reports with which he bombarded the higher authorities almost daily, the fathers-commanders reacted with one objection: "Everyone wants to fight ... And who will cook the" young "?!" In 1942, a stubborn instructor, whom, according to rumors, the cadets called him by the eyes in the most merciless manner for his eyes, “Trisudub” did his job - at the end of the year he was seconded to the fighter aviation regiment formed in Ivanovo, and in March 1943 he was finally in the army in the Voronezh Front. It was there that Kozhedub ... no, did not perform the first of his many feats, and almost forever said goodbye to aviation. The first flight on a combat mission almost became the last for him, and at the same time he definitely turned into the worst defeat, which for the rest of his life he remembered as his biggest failure. Not only did he manage to lose sight of his own host, having lost orientation in space, he also “slammed” the Fritz, who had safely entered his tail at that time. From imminent death (the line from the Messer air gun that arrived as a “greeting” did not leave any chances) was saved only by the pilot-seat armor plate available in La-5. But this misadventure did not seem to be the former as a newcomer to Kozhedub’s flight business. When he tried to return to the airfield (the machine was already completely unsuitable for the combat mission) he turned up under the fire of his own - the anti-aircraft battery, without understanding, added a couple more shells to the plane that was falling apart in the air. How he sat down - only God knows ... After such a "debut", Kozhedub was almost blamed to hell for the airfield service staff. However, it cost a lot of luck for both the pilot himself and the entire Soviet military aviation.
Third Golden Star - for the "allies"?
If you want - believe it or not - but some researchers of Ivan Kozhedub’s life and career seriously put forward the version that the third Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union, which adorned the ace’s chest after the Victory, on August 18, 1945, became an estimate not so much of its heroic struggle with Goering vultures (for which he was awarded the first two), how much courage and skill shown in clashes with completely different opponents - pilots of American aviation. I’ll make a reservation right away — from this moment on, we are entering on rather unsteady ground, entering areas where the author intends to build not only and not so much on official documents, but on those versions of events that are presented in the memoirs of Ivan Nikitovich’s comrades-in-arms and even oral legends about him who are alive to this day. It should be remembered that, in general, estimates of the exact number of victories of the ingenious pilot, recognized as the most successful pilot among all the fighter armies of the anti-Hitler coalition, by themselves differ from the authors and in various sources by almost orders of magnitude. The officially recognized number is 62-64 downed enemy aircraft. However, many historians claim that the figure is almost underestimated by half and attribute at least 107 air victories to Kozhedub. The point here, they argue, is that Ivan Nikitovich stubbornly did not count the planes he shot down as part of the group. And also mention is also made of some “unaccounted for”, which remained such for purely political reasons. We are, of course, talking about American cars, of which Kozhedub on the account by the end of World War II had, again, according to various sources, from two to five.
Single-engine single fighter La-7 Ivan Kozhedub
The first aerial battle of our ace with the “allies” who lost coast in the German sky is beyond any doubt - in April 1945 (either the 17th, or the 22nd) Ivan Nikitovich saw how the American bombers attack Hitler’s “Messers” . Kozhedub "burst" of bursting Nazis with literally a couple of bursts fired in his "signature style" of the super-sharp shooter - from 300 meters. But what was his surprise when the Mustang cover fighters arrived just in time, why didn’t they beat the firing fritzs, but according to the savior of their compatriots! Offended to the limit, offended by such black ingratitude, Ivan Nikitovich, whose plane was not even scratched (the Yankees shot badly), decided to teach the impudent mind. He taught in a quality manner - one fighter turned into a ball of fire right in the air, the second, frantically desperate, went off somewhere to the saving earth. According to the memoirs of Kozhedub himself, he did not expect any positive consequences for himself from this battle. After all, the Allies, “Lend-Lease”, “Second Front” and all that jazz ... Nevertheless, after watching the fascinating chronicle of these events (by the time Kozhedub’s plane was already equipped with a photo-machine gun, which impartially recorded everything that was happening in the air), which were attended by very high ranks, from the regiment’s command to the corps’s command, not the slightest “organizational conclusion” was addressed to him. Moreover, he received the films in his own hands from Pavel Chupikov, the commander of the 76th Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment, in which he served. Kompolka advised to hide the footage ... for now. And the commander of the division that included the regiment at that time, Yevgeny Savitsky, added without any hindsay: “This is for the account of a future war!”
Tragedy in Nis - First Blood
To some, this story may seem like nonsense fables, but it is in this version that it is set out in the introduction to Kozhedub’s memoir, “Fidelity to the Fatherland”. It doesn’t seem strange to you anyway that a Soviet pilot, when meeting with allies in the sky, even if they had recklessly opened “friendly fire”, like this, without any hesitation, smashed them to smithereens without any consequences for himself and earned almost the gratitude of the command ? Do not rush to conclusions. The thing is that at the time of these events, the relations of our pilots (and not only) with the Americans were already overshadowed by more than a nasty and extremely “muddy” story. This is the so-called “Nis incident”, which was extremely disliked to recall after the war on both sides of the ocean. In brief, the situation was as follows: on November 7, 1944, an American B-6 Mitchell bombers suddenly collapsed on a column north of the Yugoslav city of Nish on a column of the 25th Guards Rifle Corps under cover of heavy P-38 Lightning fighters. The latter confused our fighters because they resembled German Fw-189, called "frame" at the front. However, looking at the wings of white stars instead of black crosses, the Red Army men were surprised and shocked - “allies” beat them! Our people tried to wave red banners, making it clear that the Wehrmacht forces were definitely not on the road — however, the American vultures were overwhelmed by a strange “blindness” and they continued to point blankly shoot Red Army soldiers from cannons and machine guns, and bombard them. As a result of the vile blow, at least 20 cars were burned, 34 of our soldiers and commanders were killed, including the corps commander, Lieutenant General Grigory Kotov, who died with the words “Damned imperialists” ... Dozens were injured.
Fortunately, there was an airfield in Nis, on which the 866th fighter regiment was stationed, the duty link of which was lifted into the air and began to beat uninvited "guests" in the tail and mane. During takeoff and at the beginning of the battle, three of our cars were shot down, but the insidious raid cost the Americans much more - two B-25s and five P-38s. The consequences of what happened were the most unpleasant - the "allies" began to bustle, dodge and lie recklessly. From their ridiculous "explanations it followed that the pilots, you see," got lost "- were going to attack the Germans either on the Skopje-Pristina highway (150 kilometers from Nis), or even on the territory of Greece, to which this city is all 400 kilometers Yes, a little confused. And the Soviet troops with the Nazis confused exclusively slylep and thoughtlessness. All these ridiculous "excuses" could not stand any criticism, not even because of the fact that in that case I would have to admit that in the USA some clinical idiots were put at the helm of combat aircraft, but because after the first air strike after half an hour later one! This time, the Yankees finally drove too presumptuous away without loss, but were they really not informed of their own error by radio? In truth, I can easily believe in the story that in the pilot's cabin of one of the downed American planes, our fighters subsequently discovered a flight map, where it was Nish who was designated as the object for the attack. By the way, Averell Harriman deigned to bring an official apology for the incident to the US ambassador to the USSR on December 14th. And then he got out with the proposal "in order to prevent similar incidents in the future" to send US Army officers to all the headquarters of the advancing fronts of the Red Army "for coordination and communication." Where Iosif Vissarionovich sent him with such ideas (enraged to the utmost by the tragedy in Nis), you, I think, guess. Here are some more American spies, wandering around our headquarters, not enough!
“Wherever we want, there we fly ?!” No matter how ...
All these stories are built into a single and extremely logical chain, if you add to them the "Unthinkable", "Dropshot" and other plans of the "allies" to attack the USSR, which they began to develop from the end of 1944 - beginning of 1945. The barbaric bombing of Dresden and other German cities in which the Americans and the British “tested” the tactics and strategy of destroying the enemy from the air, considering our cities as future targets ... Evidence of the most arrogant and provocative American warriors, in 1945 already clearly seen in We find in the memoirs of the Red Army anyone, but not an ally, in the memoirs of Georgy Zhukov, who wrote about his extremely unpleasant conversation with the commander of the U.S. Air Force General Karl Spaats, who, in response to a proposal to delimit flight zones in the skies of Germany, arrogantly answered our Marshal of Victory that "US aviation has flown and flies wherever it sees fit and without any restrictions." It was within the framework of this completely non-allied approach that a whole squadron of B-17 Flying Fortress came into the airspace over the Soviet occupation zone of Germany just a few days before the Victory, clearly following with a full bomb load and stubbornly ignoring all warnings from the Soviet side from the ground . To explain in detail to the "allies" their true capabilities and "the right to fly wherever they like," Ivan Kozhedub's plane was lifted into the air. The official sources of this battle do not confirm, however, according to reports, the yankees who were stunned hurriedly retreated after our ace sent three “flying fortresses” to the ground in the form of smoking fragments. Not so fortresses, and not so flying ...
As I said, Kozhedub’s victory lists do not list these aircraft. However, there is great confidence in the sources claiming that this battle, which put an end to the question of who can fly where, nevertheless took place, I personally have the fact that in 1951, when the American intervention in Korea began, Comrade Stalin sent precisely the same Kozhedub to land all the same vaunted “fortresses”. Rather, the 324th Fighter Aviation Division, which Ivan Nikitovich headed at that time. Naturally, the most famous ace at the helm of a combat aircraft was strictly forbidden to land. If he had been shot down, the loss would have been too great. And if Kozhedub was captured, the consequences could have been the most catastrophic - right up to the full-scale war of the USSR with the United States and its allies. Moreover, by that time the Soviet command had every reason to believe that the Americans had been “hunting” for our ace since 1945. The incident described above with the "blinded" Mustang pilots attacking him, from some time some began to consider it not a "tragic mistake", but a very carefully prepared special operation to seize or destroy it. However, some particularly zealous admirers of Ivan Nikitovich claim that “Comrade Krylov” (namely Kozhedub fought in Korea under this pseudonym in Korea) nevertheless violated the Moscow ban, and more than once. And they ascribe to him at least 17 more downed American cars - both fighters and bombers. It is difficult to say how much this can correspond to the truth - too much in that campaign has remained to this day under the heading “top secret”. In any case, Kozhedub was not awarded combat awards for the war in Korea (unlike many of his subordinates), but he was awarded the title of Major General for talented leadership.
In addition to his admiration for the highest military skill and heroism shown during the years of World War II, Ivan Nikitovich evokes tremendous respect for his unbending spirit and fundamental character. This best of the best Soviet military pilots became an air marshal already in Brezhnev's time, in 1985. And all because he sent Khrushchev's lackeys away, demanding from him to participate in the infamous "debunking of the personality cult." He did not betray Stalin. Moreover - the intuition for Jude, traitors and enemies of the motherland, as well as a solid life position, has remained until the end of his life. It was he who, during the treacherous extraordinary III Congress of People's Deputies of the USSR, addressed the Heroes of the Soviet Union and front-line soldiers, in which he openly demanded to stop mud-spraying the Soviet country and army, called for "to launch an attack on the counter-revolutionary forces." Alas, they did not hear him ... The last success of Marshal and Hero Ivan Kozhedub was that he retreated to Eternity on August 8, 1991, without ever seeing the tragic death of a great country, which he devoted his whole life to protecting.