In the history of the Great Patriotic War there are various pages - tragic, glorious and even, imagine, humorous. As a rule, these "components" are present in each of the chapters of this heroic chronicle, they are simply mixed in different proportions ... Our trouble, the descendants of the great Victors, is that some of the lines of the military chronicle soaked in gunpowder and blood remained undeciphered , smeared, or even blotted out. This deprives us of the main thing - the opportunity to get an idea of the entirety of the picture of those epoch-making events and truly imbued with their true meaning and essence.
Alas, there were times when the history of the War was subjected to merciless censorship, imposing on it completely inappropriate gloss and retouching, as if the horror and pain of the terrible months of its initial period at least in some way detract from the greatness of the Victory. However, then it became even worse - the stupid desire to "conceal" our defeats was replaced, alas, by attempts to smear mud and completely devalue the entire feat of the Great Patriotic War, presenting it only as a series of all sorts of mistakes, blunders, absurdities, mediocre decisions and senseless sacrifices. Fortunately, this vile time is over, I want to believe, forever and irrevocably. However, the poisonous "seeds" generously scattered then, alas, gave much more abundant shoots in the minds and souls of our compatriots than one might expect. It is all the more important these days, recalling certain episodes of the Great Patriotic War, to talk about them without any omissions and cuts.
"Not a single bomb will fall on the capital of the Reich!"
Today we will talk about an enterprise unprecedented in its complexity, audacity and success - the bombing operation on the main Nazi lair, Berlin, which began on August 8, 1941. This is not to say that these events belong to the category of little-known - a lot has been written and told about them. But in the overwhelming majority of descriptions of this glorious deed, some of its moments are carefully "removed from the frame." We will tell you the whole truth ... You should start here by remembering the situation that reigned in those, without exaggeration, nightmare weeks and months. The crushing blows of the Wehrmacht, under which our defensive lines were sagging and torn, despite the completely unparalleled heroism of their defenders. Somewhere - steadfastness and courage, and somewhere - chaos, confusion, and even clearly smacking of betrayal "oddities", at times crossed out the clear, well-coordinated and successful actions of the Red Army in other sectors of the defense. The worst thing is that the enemy is rushing across Soviet soil with a steel roller and his movement, aimed at the heart of our Motherland - Moscow, to some is already beginning to seem unstoppable in principle. The overconfidence of the invaders, their conviction that the war unleashed by them is actually already won, is increasing day by day, despite the first, extremely painful retaliatory strikes received by the Nazis from the Red Army and the militia. The dates for the "parade of the victorious Wehrmacht on Red Square" are already being set, at Hitler's headquarters they are already deciding the fate of millions of Soviet people, considering them to be their slaves, and discussing various ways of destroying our cities.
Business is not limited to plans - the first flocks of Nazi vultures descend on Moscow exactly one month after the start of the Great Patriotic War, on July 22, 1941. On that day, the defenders of the capital managed to drive them away, but very soon an armada of aircraft with black crosses on their wings reappeared in the Moscow sky and dropped hundreds of tons of bombs from it. In Moscow - the first fires and casualties among the civilian population ... In Berlin - unrestrained jubilation and new explosions of boasting. “The Bolshevik aviation no longer exists! The domination of the Luftwaffe in the Russian sky has become absolute, and not a single enemy bomb will ever fall on the capital of the Third Reich! " - such statements were poured by the Reich Minister of Aviation and Chief of the Luftwaffe Hermann Goering. How did this figure, later very aptly nicknamed "the flying hog", know that a surprise of the most unpleasant character is already being prepared for the Nazi scum, who believed in their impunity, at the Headquarters of the Supreme Command? It should be noted that initially, they did not even think about air raids on Berlin - due to the rapid advance of the enemy by the end of summer, the distance from our nearest airfields to the enemy capital had increased so much that most of the winged machines in service with the Red Army could not overcome it. However, as it turned out, not everyone ... However, the plan bordering on suicide arose in the minds of not army generals, but naval leaders. And even then to say - the forces and means, as well as the positions later used for a surprise air attack on the capital of Germany, at first were intended for something completely different. The Red Navy planned to strike at the base in Pillau, where the Nazi naval forces were concentrated at that time. However, later they had a better idea.
"From here we will bomb a German!"
According to available data, the first with the idea to "fry in Berlin" instead of German ships was the Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force of the USSR Navy Semyon Zhavoronkov (later - Air Marshal, and then Lieutenant General), who made such a proposal to the naval Admiral Nikolai Kuznetsov. The airfield "Kahul" at the disposal of the naval aviation, located on the island of Ezel (now - Saaremaa), was the extreme point in the Western direction, accessible for the use of long-range aviation. It was quite possible to reach the enemy Capital from it! In principle ... In theory ... "Only" some nine hundred kilometers in flight one way. However, there were no alternative options at all. For the second time, Zhavoronkov had to announce his plan, which looks like a natural gamble, already in the office of the Supreme Commander, where Kuznetsov dragged him (since he was so smart!), Who warmly supported the subordinate's intentions. Here it is impossible not to mention one nuance - whom else Stalin with such "enticing" proposals, perhaps, would have sent to hell. Each plane counts, and here it is proposed to risk the best of the available long-range bombers, and even in business, the chances of success are, frankly, scanty. However, it was Admiral Kuznetsov on June 21, 1941, instead of regaling his subordinates with stupid tales about orders allegedly coming from Moscow to stand with open mittens and “not succumb to provocations”, brought all the forces and means of the Soviet Navy on full alert. The result is well known - such horrific losses as the Red Army, whose whole units and formations were destroyed literally in the very first hours of the war, the Red Navy did not even get close. Stalin had something to respect Kuznetsov for, and he listened to his words.
Moreover, it was vitally important for the Soviet people to show that there really was a right for the presumptuous invaders. And not once "later", but right now. Better, speaking in modern terms of a PR move, than a strike on the enemy capital that had declared itself inaccessible for retaliation, it was impossible to think of. From that moment (end of July 1941), Joseph Vissarionovich took the preparation for the operation under the strictest personal control - all orders to Colonel Yevgeny Preobrazhensky, commander of the 1st mine-torpedo aviation regiment of the 8th air brigade of the Baltic Fleet, come directly from him. In addition to Preobrazhensky, the commanders of the Baltic Fleet and its aviation are devoted to the subtleties and essence of the plan. The rest, of course, had no idea of any impending strike on Berlin. The naval convoy, which broke through on August 3, 1941, through the mined Gulf of Finland, delivered to Ezel the necessary for engineering work to expand and lengthen the runways machinery, everything you need for an autonomous stay there for pilots and airfield staff. A supply of bombs and fuel for the upcoming raid was also brought to the airfield, Operation Berlin was entering the practical stage. By the way, about the "stupid attacks" and "throwing to the slaughter" ... Preparations for the air attack were carried out with such scrupulousness and thoroughness, as if German tank wedges did not rush into the interior of the country, the front line did not move to the East every day. The option "it was smooth on paper" in this case was completely unacceptable and everyone understood this - from the Supreme Commander to every pilot of the regiment, who was entrusted with the most important combat mission.
"My place is Berlin!"
The first reconnaissance flight, during which the cars loaded with a full supply of fuel and bombs for the "long track" simply checked the take-off conditions and clarified the weather conditions, was carried out on August 3, the day of arrival at Ezel. Well, in order not to drive cars in vain, they simultaneously bombed Svinemunde, occupied by the Fritzes since 1939 - do not take the "gifts" back ?! Three days later, 5 crews from the formed special strike group soared from the airfield into the sky, which in practice had to bring Herr Goering his wrong. This time we “hit the road” almost to Berlin. The intelligence information obtained as a result of the raid made us think hard: the Nazi capital, as one would expect, was surrounded by rings of well-organized air defense within a radius of hundreds of kilometers. It was unrealistic to descend below 6 thousand meters for bombing - you will run into not only the blinding beams of super-powerful searchlights and anti-aircraft fire that "finish off" this height, but also the balloons of the air defense system. Fly, as already mentioned, was to be in absolute darkness at night, that is, exclusively by instruments. "In both directions" the length of this flight was almost 1800 kilometers, of which 1400 were on the vast expanses of the sea - navigation will fail and navigate as you know. From the calculation of the amount of fuel required for a successful throw to the target and the subsequent return of the amount of fuel (calculated with an accuracy of a liter!), The bomb load could not exceed half a ton. In the end, we settled on FAB-100 bombs, each weighing a centner. It was perfectly clear that aiming strikes were out of the question - they decided, against the habit of "taking by numbers", increasing the chances of hitting important targets.
On August 7, 1941, at 21.00 Moscow time, a group of 15 DB-3s of the Baltic Fleet rose from the "Cahul", which was personally commanded by Colonel Preobrazhensky. We walked in three units of 5 vehicles each, the other two were commanded by captains Vasily Grechishnikov and Andrey Efremov. They passed through the airspace of Europe like a sharp knife - a piece of softened butter. The most interesting thing is that the Nazi anti-aircraft gunners found our planes more than once, but they did not even think that these might be Soviet bombers! They took them for their own, who were leaving the mission or "got lost", they cordially illuminated the road to the nearest airfield with searchlights. At 1.30 on August 8, Berlin was already spread out under the wings of our cars - carefree, brightly lit and not even thinking about blackout. One can only imagine what our pilots thought when they made their way at a seven-kilometer altitude, where frost reigned at -40 ° C and one could breathe only in oxygen masks, looking at the sea of lights spread out below. "Do you mean frolic? Are you having fun, you fascist bastards !? Well, right now ... "A hundred-kilogram high-explosive" greetings "fell on the heads of Berliners, and at the same time bales of propaganda leaflets, in which it was explained to them in pure German that they had attacked the USSR in vain and would regret it very bitterly. So they did not lie a bit, which is typical ... Actually, the capital was bombed by five cars, the rest worked on the outskirts and the city of Stettin. The blow was so unexpected, so overwhelming that the lights began to go out on the streets and squares of the city almost a minute after the start of the attack. And then the "awakened" anti-aircraft guns were thumped from the ground with all their might ... The fire was so dense that for some moments it seemed: the end. It was then that, violating the strictest ban on broadcasting, the radio operator Vasily Krotenko issued his historic: “My place is Berlin! Mission accomplished. Let's go to the base! " And after all, they reached the same - every single one, without losses.
Best the enemy of the good
As a rule, this is where they try to round off the story of the bombing of Berlin in 1941. Well, unless they mention that the raids on Nazi Germany from the "Cahul" lasted almost a month - until September 5. In total, 86 sorties were carried out, including 9 airstrikes on the enemy capital, during which they managed to drop 21 tons of bombs, which led to more than three dozen fires and many other destruction. Thus, other, less successful moments of the operation remain behind the scenes. But during it, 17 aircraft and 7 crews were lost. To keep silent about the reasons for these losses is to betray the memory of the victims. On August 10, 1941, which became a "black day" for "Kahul", some are trying to explain almost by "Stalin's personal tyranny" - this, they say, he ordered to use for further raids not low-power DB-3, but newer aircraft: TB-7 (Pe-8) (which could carry 4 tons of bombs to Berlin, half on an external sling) and DB-240 (Er-2). Well, nonsense, of course. The fact that for strikes it is preferable to use machines with almost ten times more bomb load is a hedgehog, forgive me, it is understandable, and not something to the Supreme. What does "tyranny" have to do with it ?! But no one reported to Stalin that between the performance characteristics of the new aircraft and their real state, as they say, there is "a huge distance." Instead of sailors, army aviation was involved in the operation, in particular the 81st Bomber Aviation Division under the command of a living legend - brigade commander Mikhail Vodopyanov, Hero of the Soviet Union, participant in the rescue of the Chelyuskinites and Arctic expeditions. Alas ... It didn’t end well - the very first Er-2, which tried to take off with an increased load, "hit" the runway fence, damaging the landing gear. With the second car - TB-7 it turned out even worse. Both of her engines failed immediately after takeoff and she simply crashed down. After that, Zhigarev, who was present at the emergency, forbade the other cars to take off. As a result, only 10 bombers went to Berlin that night instead of 26. However, as it turned out, the troubles were just beginning.
In those early years, the Internet, I recall, did not exist. The air defense fighters received information about the difference between their own and enemy aircraft from special albums, according to which they were required to study their silhouettes. So, the corresponding edition, where the latest TB-7 and DB-240 were presented, was signed for publication ... June 21, 1941. He simply was not in the troops. As a result, our defenders of the sky, who, of course, were not informed of the top-secret operation, saw their legitimate targets in unfamiliar vehicles. As a result, several bombers were attacked by their own fighters (including the car of Vodopyanov himself), several came under fire from Soviet anti-aircraft guns - in addition to German ones. One of the TB-7s crashed on landing as a result. Vodopyanov and his crew were also forced to sit in the occupied territory, narrowly escaping captivity. But the team of Senior Lieutenant Panfilov did not have such luck - their TB-7, seriously damaged by German anti-aircraft fire, reached Finland, on whose land the pilots, having time to dig in and remove their weapons from the aircraft, took their last battle, holding out for four days. Only the radio operator survived the Finnish captivity and told about the fate of his comrades. Ultimately, out of a dozen bombers that left the Cahul, 6 reached Berlin, and only two returned to the base (in Pushkino). Vodopyanov (who for some time was listed as missing, but successfully returned to his own), no one, despite the liberal nonsense, "put up to the wall" or "dust the camp" into dust. Even the title was not stripped. Withdrew from the division, of course, then fought as a simple crew commander and fought gloriously. Further sorties were carried out for the most part by the aviation forces of the Baltic Fleet.
Was this dearly costly bombing necessary? I don't think doubts are appropriate here. Of course, they did not break the backbone of the Third Reich - neither the Reichstag nor the Reich Chancellery were destroyed (this had to wait another four years), the bombs did not hit the heads of the NSDAP or the High Command of the Wehrmacht and SS ... However, the arrogance of the Nazis was shot down very qualitatively - they no longer pampered with illuminations, but looked into the night sky with the most bad presentiments. The island of Ezel was recaptured with great difficulty, having killed a lot of people. And as far as we know, Hitler yelled at the disgraced Goering so that his ears were blocked, recalling his promises. I just didn’t beat him on the head with a luxurious Reichsmarschall staff. Or maybe he beat him - who knows ... Until the moment when the Fuehrer declared the "flying hog" an enemy of the Reich and took him under arrest, it was still far away, but the first step towards this was made after those very night bombings, this is not not a shadow of a doubt. At the same time, a good signal was given to our "allies": "The USSR is not broken and will fight to the last!" Tellingly, initially the Germans announced the first attack ... the work of the "insidious British", while surpassing themselves in a lie: they say, an armada of 150 planes flew into Berlin, 15 broke through to the city, of which we shot down 9! In response, London, with the maximum dose of poisonous malice, officially announced that on the indicated date not a single aircraft of the Royal Air Force of Britain took off. I had to admit the obvious: the Russians were bombing.
The main thing is that the Soviet people, who were bleeding to death during these difficult war days, received weighty confirmation that their desperate struggle was not hopeless. You can beat the Nazis, including on their territory! We are already beating and crushing completely - just give a time! Hold on, brothers and sisters, Victory will be ours! Comrade Stalin understood this perfectly, and therefore all the participants in the first flight were soon marked "by the highest standard" - four became Heroes of the Soviet Union, 13 received the Order of Lenin, and more than fifty orders of the Red Banner and the Red Star. Subsequently, the circle of those awarded expanded according to the number of participants in the operation - five more Heroes, well, there are a lot of orders with medals. The material side, by the way, was also not forgotten - by order of the Supreme Commander, each participant in the bombing of Berlin received 2 thousand full-weight rubles (four times against the usual remuneration of bomber pilots for operations).
Four years later, hundreds of thousands of bombs will fall on Berlin, which gave birth to the "brown plague". However, the first will still be those heroes, true Stalin's falcons who managed to break through to him in the summer of 1941. Eternal glory to them and our gratitude!