An accompanying note written by the Deputy Chief of the Red Army Air Force, Commander Smushkevich, addressed to USSR Commissar for Defense Marshal KE Voroshilov, October 8 1939.
“I am sending you material, once compiled by Comrade Serov, on the creation of a special fighter group at the disposal of the command. The experience of our further combat work fully confirmed the need to have at the disposal of the high command a strong fighter maneuver group that, by its appearance on the decisive section of the front, would make a turning point in the air and together with the rest aviation "this front gained air supremacy, while in peacetime such a group would serve as a development and dissemination of fighter culture among all parts of the Air Force."
And then follows the attached detailed letter of Serov, where he proposes an idea that will be implemented during the second world war - first by the Germans in the person of the famous “cheerful guys”, and then by ours. In particular, one of these elite regiments will be assembled by Vasily Stalin under his wing (I think I already said that he liked to do team building?). But more than the very advanced idea, I was pleased with the names, its surrounding. Serov (about which I will definitely tell sometime) is, of course, bright and beautiful, but in this case his authorship raises serious doubts. No, it was written, of course, with his hand, but who owned the idea was actually a big question. For Smushkevich ... However, first things first.
For the first time about him talking after a civil war in Spain, in which he participated as a volunteer. Under the pseudonym "General Douglas" he not only led the Soviet and republican aviation, but also personally participated in air battles. Under his leadership, our fighters successfully fought off air attacks on Madrid, for the first time conducted a night battle. Hermann Goering appointed the German pilot, who will kill General Douglas, a prize in the 1 000 000 marks. For the successful organization of the fight against enemy aviation, personal courage and heroism in battles, Yakov Vladimirovich Smushkevich 21 of June 1937 was awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union. Then there was Khalkhin-Gol, where Smushkevich actually directs Soviet aviation and for which he receives the second star of the hero. During the break, there was a severe accident, a leg injury, an operation from which Yakov Vladimirovich never recovered. He continued to work in hospitals, because he was appointed assistant to the chief of the General Staff of the Red Army for aviation.
And in 41, a few days before the war began, they came for him. He did not wait for the trial: the troops retreated from Kuybyshev and it was not with the hand to take out political prisoners. According to some versions, Zhukov had a hand in his arrest, removing too dangerous competitors who had shared Khalkhin-Gol glory with him, while others were the work of Beria, against whom Smushkevich had the imprudence to come forward defending the repressed comrade.
I will not go deep into the biography of this wonderful man, for I wanted to tell you about something else. I talked about the letter Serov. I will not say anything myself, I will cite one episode from Golovanov’s book, noting in brackets that the letter that will be discussed gave rise to the creation of ADD, at the head of which they put just Golovanov and which became one of the most successful units in the Soviet military aviation. The candidacy of the commander, admittedly, was chosen just perfect ...
31 December 1940 was noisy and festive in the House of Pilots (now here is the Sovetskaya Hotel). Pilots with their wives, comrades, relatives and lovely heart girls met a new, 1941 year.
Behind many - Khalkhin-Gol, the liberation of Western Belarus and Western Ukraine, the war with the White Finns. There was something to talk about: most of each other had not seen for a long time.
The People's Commissar of the Aviation Industry Alexey Ivanovich Shakhurin and his wife sat with us at the table, Air Force Inspector General Yakov Vladimirovich Smushkevich, who recaptured in Spain and Khalkhin-Gol in the rank of the actual commander of our Air Force and enjoyed great authority and love among the flight crew; as well as Mikhail Fedorovich Kartushev, new deputy chief of the Civil Air fleet, also with his wife.
Here I must say that our crew, with whom I happened to take part in two military campaigns, was carrying the dream of making a distant, in any weather, non-stop flight or flying around the globe in the shortest possible time. We have already trained, having made, in particular, a flight from Mongolia to Moscow in less than a day, including here the time of all landings and gas stations. At that time it meant something. In Mongolia, more than once we have been in the air eighteen hours a day.
An unexpected acquaintance with the People's Commissar of the aviation industry excited me. I didn’t stop thinking about that cherished thing that our crew lived. But how to approach this now, which side to approach? Having thought it over, I decided that since I’m a bad diplomat, I’ll not be able to come up with a subtle approach, but immediately put the “selfish” question before a person with whom I had just met, found it indecent. I decided to postpone this matter, consult with the crew and in the near future ask Alexei Ivanovich to receive us. These were the thoughts that wandered in my head that night, and the mood made them even better.
Mikhail Fedorovich Kartushev and I have sometimes met before in various cases directly related to our crew. During the Finnish campaign, he somehow even flew with us and was interested in how we were on an unarmed aircraft - after all, we were pilots of the Civil Air Fleet - during the day, hiding behind clouds, we perform tasks over the territory of Finland. But this, in fact, our relationship ended. Ya. V. Smushkevich was more familiar to me at our table than others. With his simplicity, he somehow surprisingly quickly attracted people to him. With him it was possible to start a conversation on any topic, without fear that you will be misunderstood.
Having apologized to my wife, I sat down beside Ya. V. Smushkevich and, picking up courage, without any frills, I began to state the essence of the matter, asking Yakov Vladimirovich to help us, begging for us. I even began to prove to him that we would not let him down - he knows our crew - that we are capable of more difficult things, and so on and so forth. Apparently, champagne has done its job. But having looked at the pensive and silent Smushkevich, I realized that I hadn't said anything too much?
For a while we both sat in silence. Turning around, I saw my wife shaking her head in disapproval. The light hops immediately evaporated, everything fell into place, and I was about to apologize for being indiscreet, get up and leave, as Yakov Vladimirovich raised his head, looked into my eyes and said:
- Have you ever thought about our aviation, its combat capability during the battles on Khalkhin-Gol and in the Finnish campaign?
It seemed to me that Smushkevich did not listen and did not hear my hot speech just delivered: his question was from a completely different area.
Thank God, I thought. “A man, even now, on New Year's Eve, is busy with affairs, and I climbed to him, albeit with an important question for us, but not at the right time.”
Without being prepared to answer such an unexpected and very serious question, I was silent.
- Did you, Comrade Golovanov, knowing all the subtleties of flight, never thought about it?
“It’s good that he didn’t hear anything!” I rejoiced.
- You are dreaming about long-distance flights, about flying around the globe ... I have no doubt you can do it. But it seems to me that in the interests of the business you should take up another, more important issue. I myself thought to talk to you about it. But since you started talking about flights, let's discuss it now. Fortunately everyone is dancing and busy with themselves.
I looked where my wife was sitting. She was not there.
- Do not you mind? - asked Smushkevich.
- What do you! - I replied, and all turned to the ear.
Yakov Vladimirovich began to talk about Spain, about what excellent combat pilots we have, how bravely they fought aerial battles, how bombers flew to bombing almost without any cover. I knew this from the participants of the battles themselves.
“However,” continued Smushkevich, “everything was fine while the weather was good. Meteorological conditions deteriorated - and everything looked different. Blind flights, flights out of sight of the earth are our stumbling block, and although we still from there, from Spain, raised these issues, the war with the White Finns again confirmed the poor fitness of the flight crews to fly in bad weather, their inability to use radio navigation equipment. Practically, as you know, ”concluded Smushkevich,“ our bomber aircraft did not take any serious part in this war.
Yakov Vladimirovich was silent. The silence lasted for quite a while. All thoughts flashed through my head, but no matter how hard I tried to understand why he started talking about this to me, I didn’t think of anything.
- Yakov Vladimirovich, and what, actually, should I do? What do I have to do with all this? I am a civilian pilot, Aeroflot chief-pilot, and nothing more.
- You, Comrade Golovanov, must write a letter to Comrade Stalin.
I was amazed. At first I even thought that I had misheard.
- Comrade Stalin ?!
“Yes, to him,” answered Smushkevich calmly.
Finally, I clearly understood that a serious, important conversation was being conducted with me, which had been thought out beforehand, and not just originated here, under the influence of champagne or a good mood.
- What should I write to Comrade Stalin? - I asked.
- You are obliged to write that for two years you are in contact with the flight work of the Air Force and understand that the issues of blind flights and the use of radionavigation means do not give proper importance, that the comrades at the head of this case are weak in these matters. As a confirmation, cite as an example the poor use of bombers in the Finnish campaign. Next write that you can take up this matter and put it to the proper height. That's all.
Simply put, I was dumbfounded. Write such notes, and even Stalin! Who knows me there? That way you can pass for blessing and insolent.
In general, the questions about which Yakov Vladimirovich spoke, really matured and had important state significance, but I considered them, at least, indecent, to put them, as he suggested, straight in the forehead.
All this I expressed immediately Smushkevichu. In conclusion, asked why he himself, the inspector general of the Air Force, would not take up this business? He is twice a Hero of the Soviet Union, a deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, he is of great authority among the pilots, behind his shoulders Spain and Khalkhin Gol!
After a short silence, Yakov Vladimirovich replied that he does not have such an opportunity now, and it is unlikely that serious attention will now be paid to his report.
His answer surprised me and puzzled me ...
“As for you,” Smushkevich continued his thought, “you should not think that no one knows you.” Your amazing flights (he put it this way) during the Finnish events were more than once described to Comrade Stalin and Kulik, and Mehlis, as direct participants and witnesses of these flights. Your note will attract attention ...