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Stories of Soviet Warriors: Lieutenant Kanishchev
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Pilots! We continue our section - Stories of Soviet Warriors by Artyom Drabkin. Today we would like to introduce the story of Lieutenant Vasily  Kanishchev, a fighter pilot.

 


Lieutenant Kanishchev, Vasily Alekseevich, Fighter Pilot. 86th Guards Fighter Regiment

I was shot down on September 7 – my ninth mission. How did it happen? Prior to that, I had flown quite well. And so our squadron commander Zaitsev (if I remember correctly that was his last name) was reading the assignment. I was watching – and I saw that his hands were shaking. What's this, a squadron commander who has the jitters? But evidently this was because he had recently been shot down. It actually happened over our own territory so he was not captured, but it still shook him up. The mission  allowed us to pick and choose targets ourselves. Before this, I had always flown as a wingman, but this time the squadron commander said to me, “Comrade Kanishchev, you will take the lead.” Ok then, I am in the lead so I will lead. We flew the Yak-9T which had a powerful 37mm cannon. At that time, only the leaders' aircraft had radio transmitters and receivers – the wingmen's aircraft only had receivers. As a result, I had to move from my plane to the squadron commander's plane – aircraft number 72. 

They sent us to the Dukhovshchinsky district – “the  Death district” as we used to call it. The fascists had been there quite some time and managed to make its defenses quite formidable. There were a lot of anti-aircraft batteries. As we crossed the front line, everything was normal. I saw a train going from Smolensk to the front at Yartstevo – its cars had anti-aircraft guns on the platforms. I told my wingman, let's attack this train. We made two passes. As they shot at us, I could smell the burning fumes from the exploding shells. Suddenly, on the third approach my plane was hit. The shell hit the engine, and just like that the motor died. But the propeller was still spinning and hadn't been jammed. I yelled to my wingman, “Go back to base,  I've been hit!” But he turned around. I yelled to him again “leave!”

I thought about what to do, where to land. I knew that the closest part of the front line was to the north. So I decided to fly perpendicular to the front in order to cross it and land in safe territory. If I would have been smarter and made a more tactically sound decision andif I had realized that I could not make it across, I would have flown along the treetops and made a belly landing, burnt the plane and escaped to the partisans. But things turned out differently. I looked and saw anti-aircraft batteries in front of me and they began to pummel me. Those red disks seemed to be flying straight at me. I thought – I am dead, I am headed straight for them. I put my finger on the trigger and fired every round I had at them. Well, we used the 37mm cannon as a landing brake in cases when the brakes failed – if you start shooting, it will stop the plane. So as I was shooting I was losing speed, and I was still one or two kilometers from friendly territory. I wasn't sure whether I would make it back safely or whether these anti-aircraft guns would kill me....In short, I plopped down on the caponier of an anti-aircraft gun and the plane nosed over, and that's the last thing I remember.

 

About the author:

Artyom Drabkin ( born 25.07.1971) — Russian public figure, leader of internet project  «I remember»,  author of collections of memoirs of soviet veterans of World War II,  series of veterans interviews «Soldiers' Diaries» and «Trench Truth».  Script writer of documentary movie series.

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