From kite to airplane
Pavel Vasilyevich was born in early November 1911 of the year in the small village of Nizhnye Likhobory not far from Moscow (now, by the way, this is already the territory of the capital). His parents are ordinary peasants, so there was nothing outstanding in childhood Rychagov. He was like all the village boys - he helped his parents, and spent his free time with friends. But already then Pavel Vasilyevich had a serious passion - kites. Launching "gizmo" in the sky, he imagined that this was a plane, and he was a pilot. Friends laughed at him, because no one then could not imagine that Paul had a bright future, connected with the sky.
After graduating from junior high school, Rychagov got a job as a packer at a local factory. But he did not work long and in 1928 went to serve in the army. First, he graduated from the Leningrad Military Theoretical School of the Air Force, and then - Borisoglebsk Military School of Pilots. Moreover, Pavel Vasilyevich became her best graduate. And thanks to this, he was sent to the 109th fighter aviation Squadron of the 5th Zhytomyr Fighter Aviation Brigade of the Kiev Military District. Initially, Rychagov was considered only the youngest pilot, but promotion through the career ladder did not take long. Soon he became a commanding officer, and then began to command a detachment.
With his courage bordering on madness, Rychagov surprised and admired his colleagues. Here is what Dmitry Panov wrote about him in the book “Russians in the Snow”: “Pashka Levers was flying great: bold, calculating and at the same time relaxed. He was one of the first to master the I-15 fighter with the M-25 engine and soon promised to show us what he can do. We podnachal him in response, claiming that on our "coffins" you will not show much. But the next day, during the flights, I immediately recognized the flying handwriting of Rychagov on takeoff. It was this dense burly always always so sharply and confidently raised the car up. The start of the airfield was divided in the direction of Post - Volynsky, to the west. Levers flew to Post - Volynsky, made a box around Zhulyan and, coming from the side of the bomb storage, put the plane on its side, with a roll in 90 degrees, the motor slightly up with a little tail lowered. It was in this position that Pashka raced off at an altitude of 20 meters above the parking of our planes at the aerodrome, raising an oblong cloud of dust - it was July of 1936. Then, rising to 50 meters, Pasha made 2 barrels. ”
Rychagov had to repair his plane right in flight. Once, together with his partner, he flew to Y-2. After completing the assignment, they were going to land, but suddenly it turned out that one ski was not in a horizontal, but in an upright position. This is not to touchdown. The co-pilot took the wheel in his hands, and Levers went to fix the problem. He climbed out of the cabin, grabbed the rack and kicked in a limping ski. And then he returned to the place.
There were legends among pilots about the pirouettes and frills of Pavel Vasilyevich. This is what his colleague Ivan Rakhillo recalled: “Not a single pilot is able to withstand such a crazy load that Levers sustained. For one flight without landing, he performed in the air to 250 aerobatics. 40 figures at a height of 5000 meters. Then he climbed on 6000 - and here again 40, 7000 - another 40. Flying - without an oxygen mask, the other would have lost consciousness at this altitude even without figures. Having completed the 40 figures, Levers rested a bit and carried out more 40 loops, coups, turns and combat turns: from the ground through binoculars it was obvious that his tiny plane was raging in a transparent, inaccessible height. Then he went down on 6000 meters and here again twisted 40 figures. One floor below is 40! On the ground, in order of rest and easy entertainment, he easily performed 20 - 25 figures and, finally, sat down. What kind of mighty health one must have to endure such a flight! ”
There are a lot of episodes that demonstrate his overwhelming professionalism. Here is another example. One winter, one of Rychagov’s colleagues made an unsuccessful landing. But he didn’t want to admit his mistake, instead blamed skiing for embarrassment. Like, because of them, an exact fit is impossible. The levers merely grinned, and then, throwing his glove onto the strip, jumped into the cockpit. Describing the circle, Pavel Vasilyevich planted the car. And he did it so skillfully that he pressed his very glove into the snow with a ski. The pilot had to apologize to all his colleagues for the miscalculation ...
Career, personal life and the war in Spain
At the end of May 1936, Senior Lieutenant Pavel Vasilyevich was awarded the Order of Lenin. Leverage celebrated the award in an original way. He flew upside down only 5 meters above ground! After the show, fellow servicemen asked him: “Isn't it scary?”. And proud Rychagov replied: "It is terrible for someone who is not confident in his car and in himself."
Successes were waiting for him not only in a professional field, but also personally. Here is an excerpt from the book “Russians in the Snow”: “Soon in the life of Pashka, 2 had serious events. First, he married Maria Nesterenko’s pilotess, a puny, dark-skinned and dark-skinned, not so hot beautiful woman sent to their squad, during a noisy campaign that began when women took possession of tractors and airplanes. According to the ideological idea, these unnatural and dangerous to the health of women occupation, but very useful in case of war, should have meant a complete triumph of women's equality in the world's first country of victorious socialism, which recently adopted such a glorious Constitution, which, however, few people read and converted attention to it. Secondly, Pashka was sent to Spain, where he stayed for a short time, but managed to show himself well in battle. Our politicians labored with foam on their lips that Pasha had shot down in Spain either 10 or 20 or 30 aircraft. ”
Levers went to Spain in October 1936, heading a squad of 14 pilots. On the Iberian Peninsula, he had the pseudonym "Pablo Palankar". Levers together with his squads became part of the Air Group Pumpura. And by November there were about fifty I-15 and I-16 fighters in it. Levers also headed one of the units operating near Madrid.
The baptism of fire was not long in coming. Already 4 November Pavel Vasilyevich had his first fight. On this day, he and his group made several combat missions, in which they were able to shoot down 5 enemy aircraft. The next day, the Soviet pilots destroyed another enemy winged 4 vehicles. And the 6 numbers already personally Levers managed to win a couple of aerial duels.
During the month of 4, which held the Levers in Spain, he was beaten down 3 times. But this did not prevent him from becoming the best sniper among the Soviet pilots - he managed to shoot down 6 enemy planes. And for the destruction of one enemy machine he needed about 7 hours of flight time. This was a record for productivity. I must say that for certain it is not known how much exactly he shot down enemy aircraft. Because there is information about 8, 15, and even more than 20 winged cars.
Here is an excerpt from the book by Panov, which well demonstrates the situation: “Pashka himself, who returned from Spain with the rank of captain, visited Paris, where he looked, according to his stories, in a brothel (he saw it there), the Order Lenin and the "Golden Star" of the Hero of the Soviet Union shone, in response to our questions, he kept silent and only waved his hand. It spoke of Pasha's decency and his sober head, although he liked to drink. Too many comrades died next to him: my good friend Kovtun, many of our other mutual friends. Against this background, the bitter tales of the exploits of the “Spaniards” sounded blasphemous. Although some of these pilots who were pulled out of the Spanish meat grinder as exemplary exhibits completely lost their heads and weaving unbelievable things. ”
Levers did not tell exactly how much he shot down the aircraft. He thought it was a foolish boast. As for the Hero of the Soviet Union. This award "for courage and heroism shown in battles with enemies," Pavel Vasilyevich was awarded the December 31 1936 year. Together with the "Golden Star" he received the second Order of Lenin.
Georgy Zakharov, a colleague of Rychagov in Spain, recalled in his memoirs (he, by the way, speaks about 20 downed aircraft): “We were lucky with the leader. Many knew how to fly perfectly and fought well, but not every pilot could be the leader. Paul was created by nature for this role. What he did in battle was completely beyond explanation. Pavel was able to determine the only right moment to attack, always chose the direction of the blow to the enemy’s most vulnerable spot, and the capabilities of the lead combined in it with the high skill of an ordinary fighter - this was vividly indicated by the 20 aircraft he had shot down. As soon as Levers came into view, he was immediately surrounded by many people. I can say with confidence that in 1937, there would hardly have been another such squadron commander who enjoyed such authority with his pilots and fame in the country. The Golden Star of the Hero, two orders of Lenin, the Order of the Red Banner for combat work - in those days we had few people with such awards. ” It should be remembered that at that time Rychagov was just something 26 years ...
In early February, Pavel Vasilyevich’s 1937, was unexpectedly recalled from Spain. Together with him it was necessary to return to his homeland and the rest of the pilots of his squad. When Levers arrived in the USSR, in addition to the awards, he was given an extraordinary rank of major. Then Pavel Vasilyevich took the post of commander of the 65 th fighter squadron of the 81 th air brigade. And in December of the same year, he was elected to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR 1-th convocation.
But the peaceful life for Pavel Vasilyevich ended as suddenly as it began. In December, he was sent to China, as a senior adviser on the use of volunteer pilots from the USSR during the war with Japan. Here he received the pseudonym "General of the Battle". True, Rychagov himself did not have to fly this time. He commanded from the land. Pavel Vasilievich planned and coordinated the strikes unexpected and unexpected for the Japanese. He commanded airstrikes on airfields in Hangzhou and Taiwan. Moreover, the attack on the Japanese base in Taiwan 23 February 1938, was very painful. The enemy lost the order of fifty cruise cars and fuel reserves, calculated for several months. Therefore, for several weeks the aircraft did not take off from there.
In the summer of 1938, he managed to demonstrate his outstanding professionalism during the battle with the Japanese at Lake Hassan. This time the enemy dared to attack the territory of the Soviet Union. The Japanese managed to occupy the Nameless and Zaozernaya hills. Pavel Vasilyevich, who served as commander of the Air Force of the Primorsk group of the Far Eastern Front, wanted to deal with the enemy as soon as possible. Therefore, he tried to get permission to conduct a massive strike. Forces would be enough, because Levers had 180 bombers and 70 fighters.
And 6 August Soviet aircraft still flew to the position of the enemy. Pilots dropped bombs on the Japanese from extremely low altitude, despite the dense fire of anti-aircraft batteries. By the way, Vasily Konstantinovich Blucher personally observed the action of aviation. And on the phone he reported on the attack on Zaozernaya Hill, saying that it “gives the impression of not only being exploded, but literally scalped.” The success of Soviet aviation greatly helped the ground forces.
For successful operations in China, Pavel Vasilyevich received the Order of the Red Banner, as well as the medal "XX years of the Red Army." After these events and his career sharply rushed up. He received the title of kombriga. In the same year, 1938, Rychagov was accepted as a member of the CPSU (b) at the suggestion of Stalin. And he passed the period of the candidate's experience, the recommendations of Joseph Vissarionovich himself, as well as Voroshilov, affected.
To be continued ...