soviet air forces

flickr

Soviet Air Force officer Rufina Gasheva (flew 848 night missions as navigator in a U-2/Po-2) by Olga
Via Flickr:
Герой Советского Союза, штурман эскадрильи 46 гв.НЛБАП, гв. ст. лейтенант Р. С. Гашева. Лето 1945 г.

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The Story of the Flying Lady Badass Anna Yegorova

 Born to a Russian peasant family in 1916, Anna Yegorova was one of the deadliest and most celebrated Soviet pilots of World War II.  While working as a factory worker before the war, Yegorova received pilots training and eventually became a flight instructor.  When the Germans invaded in 1941, she volunteered for the Soviet Air Force, however Soviet commanders at the time were slow to accept women for combat service.  Instead, she was assigned to fly an aging rickety biplane as a reconnaissance pilot.  Between 1941 and 1942 she flew 100 reconnaissance missions, many of which were very dangerous.  On her 100th mission, her plane was intercepted by a German fighter.  Completely outclassed in her puttering antique biplane, she was easily shot down by the fighter.  Having no parachute she was forced to crash land as her plane erupted into flames around her.  After the crash, she hid in a corn field as the German fighter straffed her with machine guns until running out of ammo and flying away.  Despite suffering horrific burns over much of her body, she returned to base and personally delivered her maps. For her actions she was promoted to Lieutenant and assigned for training at a combat aviation school.

While in combat training Yegorova gained a reputation as one of the best pilots of her class.  She was trained to fly the Ilyushin IL-2 Sturmovik, a heavily armed and armored ground attack aircraft nicknamed “The Flying Tank”.  Throughout the war, the IL-2 was used as a close air support craft, and was specifically used to destroy German tanks. After graduating combat aviation school in 1943, she was assigned command of an IL-2 squadron that was part of the 805th Attack Aviation Regiment.  Over the next year she commanded 177 combat missions, destroying scores of German tanks, armored vehicles, and trucks.  A true terror of sky, she was known as a superior pilot and a fearless combat leader. Among the enemy she was known as the “Flying Witch”. During her combat duty, she was awarded the Order of Lenin, two Orders of the Red Banner, and two Orders of the Patriotic War 1st Class. 

On an attack on a German column in Auguast of 1944, an anti craft shell exploded below the seat of her cockpit, the force of which blew her through her cockpit canopy.  Before falling unconscious Yegorova pulled the rip cord or her parachute.  However the parachute failed to open completely, and she was sent screaming to the earth until she slammed into the ground. Soviet officials believed she was dead, and posthumously awarded her the title “Hero of the Soviet Union”.   

As if by miracle, Yegorova was alive, but she was seriously injured with several broken ribs, dislocated arms and shoulders, severe spinal fractures, a concussion, burns, and numerous internal injuries. Barely alive and slipping in and out of a coma, Yegorova was sent to Kustrin Prison Camp in Poland, where she was dumped in a prison cell and left to die.  Fortunately, she was tended by another prisoner, a Russian physician named Georgy Sinyakov.  Amazingly, working 20 hours a day with little food or medical supplies, Dr. Sinyakov was able to nurse her back to health. A selfless healer who treated thousands of POW’s with what little he had, he even sacrificed some of his own rations so that Yegorova would live. Despite his care, her wounds never completely healed and she suffered physical disability the rest of her life. When she was barely strong enough to stand, the German SS and Gestapo began to interrogate her, often resorting to beatings and torture.  During her imprisonment, she told nothing to her interrogators.

In January of 1945, Kustrin Prison Camp was liberated by the Red Army.  The guards of the camp had planned to shoot all the prisoners before leaving, however Dr. Sinyakov convinced the Germans to leave without firing a shot. While she was free of German imprisonment, Yegorova’s ordeal was far from over.  Under Stalin’s orders Soviet soldiers, sailors, and airmen were forbidden from surrendering, and to Stalin there were no Soviet POW’s, only traitors.  Upon liberation, Yegorova was arrested by the Soviet NKVD and interrogated for 11 days on suspicion of being a spy and a traitor. She was also stripped of all her awards and titles, with her combat record being erased from all official Soviet documents.  After all the combat, her life threating injuries which left her body permanently wrecked and disfigured, the torture at the hands of the Germans, and having all of her life’s accomplishment revoked, the moment of her life which brought tears to her eyes even decades later was when an NKVD interrogator called her “a fascist bitch”.  One the 11th day of her interrogation she finally made the demand, “You can shoot me, but I will not let you torture me!”.  Later that day, she was cleared of charges and released when Soviet Air Force commanders intervened on her behalf. She was declared an invalid and released from military service.

After the war, Yegorova married, raised a family with two children, and desperately petitioned the Soviet Government to restore her service record and awards.  Finally, in 1965 her awards were returned, including the coveted title “Hero of the Soviet Union”.  On a side note, Dr. Simyakov, an earthly saint IMO, received no recognition for his work at Kustrin Prison Camp while he was alive, despite the accounts of thousands of Soviet servicemen who he had treated while at the camp.  He returned to his life as a doctor, and passed away in 1978. Anna Yegorova passed away on the 29th of October, 2009, at the age of 93.

oh good God

i just found out that in 1944, during WWII, there was a point where Soviet and American airforces fought each other in Serbia because both sides mistook the other for Germans

like this is what great wartime cooperation and amazing military intelligence services give you (Americans were the first to shoot down a Soviet plane, and none of them thought that ‘hey, maybe that giant red star on the planes’ wings could mean those are soviet planes’)

and to top that off, this has been the only time ever the US and USSR had a direct military confrontation (i find some bittersweet irony in that seeing the sixty years of cold war that came after that)