At 3:40 we heard the gradually intensifying sound of aircraft from the west again. It was getting lighter. In five minutes we could define a group of 19 planes 2-3 km to the north. Now we saw that the planes were German. I looked through my field glasses and identified U-88 bombers with yellow and black crosses on them. They passed us by.
For example, Pokryshkin flew more than 500 sorties. Participated in 84 dogfights. Shot down 59 aircraft. I also have 84 combat sorties. But if you translate our effectiveness into money, I wouldn't be short of him. Be sure of that. Of course, ground attack pilots' hands are covered in blood up to the elbows. But it was our duty, and I think we did a first class job. Did everything we could. Well, and God didn't pass us by with "crosses".
There my papers were checked and in December 1943 I was serving in a separate army front-line penal company attached to the 69th Division of General Batov's 65th Army. I don't like to remember this period,,, Later on I fought in Shturmoviks, but it was far worse in the infantry. After the war I had a recurring dream: a German was pointing his sub-machine gun at me - and about to open fire at any moment. I'd wake up with a start thinking 'Thank God I'm still alive.'
I too immediately dived into the clouds - almost out of fuel and no longer able to continue the fight. I reported in to an observer. Ground control told me, " No Soviet losses. Execute a 555 (return to base)." There was no way of finding my wingman. About five minutes later, breaking out from the cloud I saw a Me-109 ahead flying a parallel course. I ducked back into the clouds and when I emerged a few minutes later he had disappeared. I returned to base.
I do not know who really shot us down, but we caught fire and began to fell. Our aircraft fell down in the region of railroad station Karachev. I and the pilot Leytenant Pavel Radenko got out of the aircraft, which was standing at its nose. We asked each other about wounds and, having made sure that we were unharmed, decided to come away from the aircraft.
Once I saw what the “psych-attack” was. It happened in late November 1943, shortly after our arrival in the Yelets area. The Germans were drunk and attacked us in rank with their SMG rattling. All of our wagon train men momentarily skedaddled sitting in their wagons but we remained in the trenches. I shot my rifle killing at least five Germans and I didn’t feel any pity for them.
I’ll start with the head-to-head fighting. The Germans forced their way to our mortar emplacements. Instantly we all, setting aside the mortars, entered into a scuffle. I had luck to come through it. But it was a horror to see how the enemy pierced my friend with bayonet! We managed to hold our positions. Did I kill somebody? I think so. As he fell on me, I struck him with my rifle butt. He fell as if being knocked out, and I ran farther. Who knows, did I kill him or not? Besides, everyone fired endlessly: was it my bullet or someone else’s? Who knows?
We had the right to advance, but if we wanted to retreat - sorry. We would stand to the death. The Germans counterattacked frequently. After there was an unsuccessful attempt near Narva, they struck Libava. And when they retreated, they didn't spare ammo, burned everything. By that time only eight of the twelve soldiers in my platoon remained. It was then necessary for me to get behind a machinegun. The no man's land was only sixty meters on my right flank. On the left flank it was 600-700 meters. All of a sudden, a splinter fragment that was shot by a "donkey" mortar tore between my legs. So I lay there. It went through my wadded trousers, a couple of centimeters more and it would've been the end of me. And so I could feel something warm, I looked - and there was the "visitor" lying there. The wadded trousers, the greatcoat, and the underpants were all torn.