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Stories of Soviet Warriors: Lieutenant Andreev
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Lieutenant Andreev Ivan Ivanovich


Ground Attack pilot in the 810th Ground Attack Aviation Regiment


My first mission as a part of the division was on the 5th or 6th of July. Three regiments participated in the mission. They took us to the airfield at 2.30 at night. They assembled us and read out the order. “at 4.45 attack the front line.” The commander of the regiment brought out the regimental colors. The pilots knelt, kissed the banner, and vowed to strike the enemy. The men were ready to tear apart the Germans. I must say, we had been raised properly. We took off. Imagine, an aerial armada of 90 planes! Our leader, it seems, became jittery and brought us to the target 5 minutes early. He tried to ease off the gas when he realized the formation had become so disordered he could not continue going at the same speed. We approached the front line, I saw the ground “breathe” with explosions. I raised my eyes – some “Peshkas” were hanging out above me at about three to five thousand meters closely circling the Germans. The artillery barrage had not finished yet. Rockets were flying with smoke and flames. We finished bombing and flew at an altitude of 400 meters to the assembly point over the city of Novosil.

Flying at that altitude, I met a Ju-87. Flying in different directions, we watched each other through our canopies. The gunner shouted, “Commander, a plane!” “So shoot!” Well, how could he shoot when the aircraft were closing so quickly?! While I was distracted by the German and talking with my gunner, I lost the flight leader. I managed to catch up to him after some difficulty, and he had already formed up the group. We flew home and flew two more sorties that same day. Usually, we didn't do more than three missions a day. It was physically demanding, and preparing a plane to fly again required a substantial amount of time. At the Kursk Bulge the regiment suffered heavy casualties. In the course of 27 days, we lost 18 crews. Practically every day someone from our squadron was shot down. We all slept together on grass mattresses thinking – if not today then some other day. You laid there and thought, “Who will be next?” By May 9, 1945, only three people were left in the division who were there when I joined: "Maksimcha", Eugene "White", and I.

I must admit up front that I wanted to be named a “Hero of the Soviet Union”. Back then, it was awarded after 30 combat missions. On the initiative of our regiment's commander, three of us - “Slim”, “Kholdibek”, and I “The Bashkir” - began to go on hunting missions by ourselves. I remember going to Unecha station. The Germans were loading a train. A locomotive was there under steam. The whole platform was crowded with soldiers. I came in flying low hoping to obliterate them! I blew up the locomotive, dropped my bombs, and hid. No one was protecting me; I had no cover. I didn't make my 30 missions at the Kursk Bulge, and when they began awarding people with “Hero of The Soviet Union” after 80 missions I did not get credit for those flights; ostensibly because the division commander had not ordered these sorties. Although I had 80 combat missions even without these flights, I still did not receive a “Hero”.

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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