In its past ARTICLES about the legendary fighter pilot who fought and shot down Hitler's vultures after the wound that cost him the amputation of both legs - Alexei Maresyev, I promised to tell also about those who managed to repeat it, which now seems incredible way. About those who have found the strength and courage to return to duty after injuries that seem to be categorically incompatible with the career of a military pilot - especially with the successful conduct of air battles with quite healthy, well-trained and experienced opponents.
Saying that his fate is not at all unique, and that the Victory in the Great Patriotic War was a feat not of bright "loners", but of a "whole generation" of heroes, Maresyev was not in the least modest and did not cheat, trying to play along with the "official propaganda." The pilots who lost in battle not only a leg or two, but an arm or an eye, and, nevertheless, continued to beat the Nazi evil spirits with all their might, there were not two or three - much more. Let's remember their names and destinies.
Reading the biographies of these people, little by little you begin to wonder: "What were they made of at all?" Many Soviet pilots, long before Maresyev, experienced severe wounds and injuries - in order to return to duty, continue flying, and then repeat his feat. Leonid Belousov also came to aviation earlier than the hero of "The Tale of a Real Man". The first time he was on the verge of death was in February 1938, when, during a forced landing, his I-16 fighter flashed on the ground with a torch. Severe burns ... 35 plastic surgeries on the face - moreover, transferred without any anesthesia! Belousov, who was not fully treated, escapes from the hospital and participates in the "Winter War" with Finland. In the Great Patriotic War - at the front from the very first days. As a squadron commander of the 13th Fighter Aviation Regiment, he takes part in the toughest battles for the Hanko Peninsula, then provides air cover for the famous "Road of Life". At the end of 1941, trouble comes from an unexpected side - the legs burnt during an accident three years ago begin to fail. The body does not withstand the tests of severe cold and excessive loads. Doctors at a hospital in Almaty are desperately trying to save the pilot's legs, but in vain. Both have to be taken away - one below, the second above the knee. The return to the sky turns out to be a long one ... Belousov returns in 1944 to his native regiment, which at that time had already become the Guards regiment. At first, he was trusted by the "Kukuruznik", but after a short time the pilot mastered the high-speed La-5 aircraft. During the war, he makes three hundred sorties, shooting down three enemy aircraft. Remains in the ranks until the last days of the war, until the Victory. The title of Hero of the Soviet Union was awarded to Belousov only in 1957.
For Alexander Grisenko, the Great Patriotic War was already the third war in which he participated. Born in 1904, he managed to fight in the Red Army in the Civil. He came to aviation in the 30s and after graduating from the flight school was, as the best of the best, sent to "help the fraternal Chinese people." He provided assistance effectively - he chalked up four samurai and was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of the Battle. The attack of Nazi Germany was met by the commander of the 2nd Fighter Aviation Regiment, with whom he went through the entire difficult period of the Great Patriotic War - right up to Stalingrad itself. It was there that his plane was shot down, and Grisenko himself was seriously wounded in his left leg, which had to be amputated. He returned to service less than 10 months later. True, now it was necessary to "saddle" not the "native" car, but the American "Airacobra", but this did not change the matter. Despite the status of the commander of the fighter air division, Alexander Grisenko continued to fly, participated in almost three dozen air battles and personally shot down two more Messers and two Junkers.
Ilya Malikov also flew without one leg, amputated after an anti-aircraft shell exploded near Rzhev in the cockpit of his bomber in 1942. In spite of everything, he managed to save the plane - bleeding and losing consciousness from unbearable pain, he reached out to his own people and landed the crippled, landing gearless car “on its belly”. He also sat at the helm less than a year after being wounded, and began with the tasks of providing communications on the U-2 "sky slug". However, over time, he obtained permission to resume flights on the Pe-2 dive bomber, on which he smashed the Nazis until Victory, having made a total of about two hundred sorties. Co-workers and commanders called him "a sniper of bomb strikes." The last target of Malikov was the lair of the Nazi beast - Berlin. The title of Hero of the Soviet Union was awarded in 1946.
The most consonant with the fate of Alexei Maresyev can be considered the path of another legendary fighter pilot - Zakhar Sorokin. In the early days of the war, part of it was transferred from the Black Sea to the Arctic, where fierce battles were fought with the Nazis, who sought to cut off the USSR from the supply routes there, along which help from the allies would subsequently be delivered. In October 1941, Sorokin clashed with four fascist aces in a battle over the Kola Peninsula. One plane set fire to, the second snapped back with a burst that pierced the cockpit. The ammunition ran out, and Sorokin went to the ram. Both planes - his and the German one - fell side by side. As it turned out, the fascist also survived - but not alone. Not only did our pilot have to engage in battle with two "Goering's chicks", in addition, a huge Great Dane tried to pounce on him, jumping out of the cockpit of the downed "Messerschmitt". The Nazi aces had such a fashion - to take their own favorites on the flight. Sorokin shot two enemies - four-legged and two-legged. However, in a fight with the last enemy, the pistol misfired. It came to hand-to-hand combat, and it cost the fighter teeth, knocked out by the blow of the enemy "finca". However, the fascist was in a hurry to celebrate the victory - despite the injury, Sorokin reached out to the TT that had fallen into the snow and, knocking out the misfire cartridge, put an end to this battle. However, the most difficult confrontation was ahead of him - here his opponents were frost, endless tundra, wounds in the leg and face (because of the latter, the pilot could not even eat and threw away the ration he had taken at first).
70 kilometers and six days ... Sorokin walked, crawled, rolled, but got to his own. The result is third degree frostbite, the removed feet of both legs. To return to aviation, Sorokin had to go to the legendary People's Commissar of the Navy Nikolai Kuznetsov. He reached - and took off again. 117 air sorties, two dozen successful battles with Nazi aces (including the famous Rudolf Müller, who was considered one of the best pilots of the Reich), 11 shot down enemy aircraft. Personally presenting to Zakhar Sorokin the Knightly Order of the British Empire for the heroism shown in securing the escort of naval convoys, the British military attaché said: "Russia is invincible as long as there are such people in it!" Sorokin, who became a Hero of the Soviet Union in 1944, later became friends with Yuri Gagarin, who called him his teacher.
The incredible life of another hero-pilot could well (and should!) Become a plot for a fascinating movie. These are the fates that our directors and screenwriters should film instead of “sculpting” articles about “evil specials” or “heroic convicts”. Grigory Kuzmin was drafted into the Red Army in 1930, and received his first Order of the Battle Red Banner for his participation in the events on Khalkhin Gol. By the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, while in the rank of senior lieutenant, he was already considered an experienced fighter pilot and fully justified this opinion. On the fifth day after the Nazi attack, he sent two Junkers to the ground, one of them ramming. I didn’t lose my car - I put it on the turned up field. The collision with the same "Junkers", which happened in November 41 near Yelets, was fatal for Kuzmin. However, in this battle he was opposed by nine fascists ... After they managed to overwhelm two reptiles, the damaged car had to be planted - and again not on the airfield, but wherever it was necessary. This time, the landing turned out to be much less successful - the fighter riddled with bullets and shells jerked so that Kuzmin was thrown at a very decent distance. Recovering himself, the wounded pilot moved to the East. Exhausted and unconscious again, he was picked up in the forest by peasants from a local village, where Kuzmin managed to lie down in warmth and peace for at least some time. What's next? Of course, make your way to your own, even crawling, even dashing ...
Alas, this time, luck changed again in the fate of Kuzmin's "black stripe" - on the way to the front line he was captured by the Nazis. Captivity, bullying, torture, concentration camp ... Is that all? It was not so! By simply strangling the gaping sentry, the pilot escapes. In the very near future, he is already fighting in a partisan detachment, continuing to mercilessly beat the invaders. At the same time, Kuzmin understands that his place is not in the forest, but at the helm of a combat aircraft. On the third attempt, but he still breaks into the location of the Red Army. And then ... No, he is not thrown into prison as a "traitor" and is not sent to the camps. Until that time, the pilot who had died heroically during a combat mission ends up in a hospital, where the doctors are horrified - everything that he had to go through (captivity, camp, partisan war) Kuzmin suffered with severe wounds and severe frostbite on both legs. Alas, the verdict of the surgeons is inexorable - amputation of the left foot and almost half of the right one. Well, here I will not even ask leading questions ... Grigory Kuzmin was in the cockpit of the fighter by the summer of 1942. Since the fall of the same year, he commanded a squadron, in 1943, Hero of the Soviet Union, Major Kuzmin - assistant regiment commander for airborne service, he has 270 sorties, 15 enemy aircraft shot down personally - and 6 in a group. One of the defeated enemies was Chief Lieutenant Hans Schulzer, who was awarded the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves for 100 downed planes ... He shot down the last Messerschmitt in the sky over Snezhnoye in the Stalin (now Donetsk) region. It was August 18, 1943. The hero's car also flared up. From this flame, the parachute of Kuzmin, who left the dying fighter, also opened up too early. He passed away just as he lived - a winner.
The story of the pilot of the Il-2 attack aircraft Ivan Drachenko is also phenomenal. In addition to the title of Hero of the Soviet Union, he is also a full holder of the Order of Glory - an example, the only one among the pilots of the Great Patriotic War. In 1943, in an air battle, he accomplished an unprecedented thing - covering the regiment's car, he rammed an enemy fighter. The damaged attack aircraft crashed - and, alas, in enemy territory. In an unconscious state, Drachenko was captured. Moreover, the fall cost him his right eye. In a concentration camp, he fell not into the clutches of the Nazi-aesculapians-sadists, but on the operating table to our Soviet military doctor, who was in captivity. He saved his life, but his eyesight was shaken very seriously. Literally a month and a half later, Drachenko and his comrade, also a military pilot, make a daring escape, killing two guards and soon find themselves with their own. It is not known what measures of persuasion the pilot resorted to in the Moscow hospital where he was sent for treatment. However, the medical records received at discharge did not mention the loss of an eye. In Drachenko's eye socket there was a prosthesis, made so skillfully that it was almost impossible to distinguish it from the real one. The deception was revealed only at the beginning of 1945, and quite by accident - the pilot unsuccessfully shook his head and the "eye" turned over, assuming a completely unnatural position. By that time, the pilot was already wearing on his chest the Golden Star of the Hero and the "complete set" of the Orders of Glory. The commander of the air corps, who was informed about the "disgrace", having "examined" Drachenko for the sake of order, only waved his hand - let him fight until Victory! And so it was ...
About each of these heroes one could write not just a story, but a novel, a multivolume saga. And each of these works deservedly deserved to be called "About a real person." Words about the mass heroism of the Soviet people during the Great Patriotic War are by no means an exaggeration. This is a statement of a fact, one of the most significant and majestic in the history of our Motherland, the memory of which we must keep forever.