Thursday, May 14, 2015

Sturmovik Aces

Senior Lieutenant Anna Yegorova piloted 243 Il-2 missions and was decorated three times. One of these awards was the Gold Star of Hero of the Soviet Union that she had received "posthumously" in late 1944, as she was presumed dead after being shot down. She managed to survive imprisonment in a German POW camp. Junior Lieutenant Ivan Grigorevich Drachenko, another Il-2 pilot, was reputedly one of only four men who were decorated as both Heroes of the Soviet Union and also won all three of the Orders of Glory.

Hero of the Soviet Union recipient T. Kuznetsov survived the crash of his Il-2 in 1942 when shot down returning from a reconnaissance mission. Kuznetsov was able to escape from the wreck and hide nearby. To his surprise, a German Bf 109 landed near the crash site and the pilot began to scrounge around the wrecked Il-2 possibly to assist Kuznetsov or to look for souvenirs. Thinking quickly, Kuznetsov ran to the German fighter and used it to fly home, barely avoiding being shot down by Soviet fighters in the process.

Lt. Col. Nelson Stepanyan flew an Il-2 and participated in a number of aerial battles and bombing sorties. He was shot down once but managed to return to the Soviet lines. On his final sortie in Liepāja, Latvia on December 14, 1944, his plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire and, though wounded, was able to steer his plane and ram it into a German warship. Soviet sources assert that Stepanyan undertook no less than 239 combat sorties, sunk 53 ships, thirteen of which he did alone, destroyed 80 tanks, 600 armored vehicles, and 27 aircraft.

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