Because of Alexander Pokryshkin, more than 650 sorties and 59 personally shot down enemy aircraft. “Shoot? He leans with all the fire, burns like a blast furnace,” war correspondents wrote about him. In one of the air battles in April 1943 near the village of Krymskaya, Captain Pokryshkin shot down four fascist Messerschmitts and at night destroyed three more, bringing the score to seven in one day!
As a master of aerial combat, he developed his own tactics, which differed significantly from those detailed in the letter. For his “masterful” tricks, Pokryshkin fell out of favor more than once, but after brilliant victories, his strategy was adopted on all fronts.
The Soviet ace formulated the formula for his success as follows: “Height – speed – maneuver – fire.” Dozens of articles and books have been written about his exploits in the skies of war, movies have been made. But this is only one layer of the life of the legendary pilot, and there was another, which few people knew about.
Many years ago, the “RG” correspondent was lucky to meet the wife of Alexander Ivanovich, Maria Kuzminichnaya Pokryshkina. Lovely woman. She invited me to visit – in a cozy apartment in the center of Moscow.
I noticed a very modest atmosphere. What abounded were books, paintings and photographs on the walls. And also flowers.
Here are excerpts from that old interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta:
“- The photos were given to us by fellow artists,” said Maria Kuzminichna. “The photographs, as you can see, are mostly military. They are fellow soldiers, mine and Sasha. Unfortunately, in the regiment where Alexander Ivanovich began to fight, only three survived the victory: Heroes of the Soviet Union Pavel Kryukov, Valentin Figichev and my husband.
– Did you fight too?
Yes, sister of mercy. At the front we met, at the front and got married. I was not even nineteen then, and Sasha was already a spinster: almost thirty. The captain was so brave… But by the way, he’s not a hero.
Why don’t you get married for a long time?
– He said he was waiting for me… But seriously, life turned out like that. First, ironically, instead of the flight school he dreamed of, he ended up in a technical one (as he arrived at his place of study, the school was redesigned). Then he worked as a technician and looked for an address for the flight department: he sent forty-four reports! And what a time it was… he Reasoned: if something happens to him, at least no one will have to cry. Once, in 37, in the flying city of his in Krasnodar, the squadron commander was arrested. When his wife and his three children were evicted on the street, Sasha was returning home from the airfield. He was pouring rain. Sasha, without hesitation, invited the woman with the children to move into her room. She lived with a friend. She didn’t want to hear the warning words.
Bell P-39 “Aerocobra” – Pokryshkin’s aircraft in 1943-1944. Photo: edwards.af.mil
– Maria Kuzminichna, some people consider Pokryshkin a favorite of fate. The first Hero three times, during the entire war he was shot down only twice! And after the Victory, they say, only glory and honor.
– I also heard: Pokryshkin, they say, was lucky. But even the great Suvorov said: “One luck, two luck. God have mercy, but put something in the skill!”
Alexander Ivanovich was, as they say, a pilot from God. And a very humble person. All my life I studied myself and taught others. His system of air combat tactical techniques, including “height-speed-maneuver-fire”, saved more than one red hawk from death, helped not only to survive, but helped to win. He is still being studied in military schools and academies, and not only in our country.
But who knows that because of this very system, Pokryshkin was once expelled from the party, almost brought to trial? He ended up being transferred to a reserve regiment, and the documents sent for the Hero’s assignment were urgently withdrawn. Yes Yes! Some of the superiors saw here a violation of the rules of engagement of combat aircraft, which means almost sabotage. In those days, it was enough to be shot before the ranks outside the court. ” Fortunately, this cup passed him … However, even later, after the war, inertia and routine, envy, ignorance they cost him considerable strength, health , gray hair Only self-righteousness and Siberian character allowed Pokryshkin to resist evil.
– For example?
– I will only tell you about the failed meeting with Vasily Stalin. In our opinion, it was she who largely predetermined the further fate of Alexander Ivanovich. It was in the 48th year. Sasha graduated from the Frunze Academy. One morning the phone rang in our house: “Tell your husband that at nine zero zero he must report to Vasily Iosifovich Stalin, commander of the aviation of the Moscow Military District. By the way,” they added into the receiver, “he can return from him as a general.”
Then it turned out that Vasily wanted to offer the position of his first deputy. For about an hour, Pokryshkin sat in the waiting room, and then he found out from the chief of staff that the commander had gone … to the stable to inspect the racehorses, and from there he would go to the players. My husband waited and waited and left. Later we learn that Vasily Stalin, with a dismissive wave of his hand, blurted out: “How I dislike these front-line heroes! And especially three times!”
The husband not only did not become a general, but this title was delayed for almost a decade. A stubborn eighteen-year-old front-line soldier kept in the shadows, far from the center.
Although it was he in the forty-fourth year that the Western press, mainly the American one, called him the best fighter pilot of World War II. Do you know that Pokryshkin was awarded one of the most honorary awards in the United States – the gold medal “For Special Merits”? Laurels were, but well deserved!
Three times Heroes of the Soviet Union, Marshal of Aviation Alexander Ivanovich Pokryshkin (left), Marshal of the Soviet Union Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov (center), and Colonel General of Aviation Ivan Nikitovich Kozhedub, June 1, 1967. Photo : Sergey Loskutov/RIA Novosti www.ria.ru
– Maria Kuzminichna, excuse me, what are you doing now?
– I confess, when Alexander Ivanovich died, I was afraid to be alone … No, we have wonderful children and even three grandchildren. I am friends and acquaintances. But I was afraid in vain. On the contrary, people came to our house who had not been here before. They write to me, call me, invite me to meetings, send me holiday greetings. Well, in the rest, I live like all retirees.
– What do your children do?
– Svetlana is an art critic. Sasha is an oceanologist. Both PhDs.