Military Review

Vitaly Popkov - the legendary commander of the "singing squadron"

Vitaliy Ivanovich Popkov carried away aviation childhood, he made aircraft models in the flying club. In the spring of 1941, he became a graduate of the Chuguev Military Aviation School, where he was left as an instructor. In the early days of the Great Patriotic War, Popkov’s wards were transferred to the Bataysk aviation school, and then to the Azerbaijan SSR. Five times in a row, the young flight instructor asked him to be sent to the front, and his desire was granted. In the fall of 1941, Popkov was assigned to the 5th Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment. Vitaliy Ivanovich went a glorious battle path, fought near Moscow and Stalingrad, on the Don and on the Kursk Bulge, participated in the operation to force the Dnieper, participated in the liberation of Poland, Romania, Hungary, Yugoslavia and Austria, and took part in the Berlin operation. The legendary maestro fought until the last minutes of the war, having met the final victory over the enemy in the sky of Prague on May 12, 1945.

Under the command of V.I. Popkov, in a unique squadron consisting of 14 pilots, 11 received the title of Hero of the Soviet Union, and Popkov V.I. became the Twice Hero of the Soviet Union. After the creation of an amateur orchestra, the squadron was called "singing".

During the Great Patriotic War, V.I. Popkov, who became the prototype of the legendary squadron commander Titarenko, the hero of the film “Only Old Men Go To Battle”, made 648 sorties, participated in 117 air battles, shooting down 47 enemy aircraft personally, and 13 airplanes in the group , 123 times stormed the airfields and enemy ground targets.

During the Korean campaign, V.I. Popkov, who served as deputy division commander under I.N. Kozhedub, independently shot down the 4 of the aircraft, in addition, it was he who forced the B-29 to land, which was carrying the secret equipment.

24 July 1945, the commander of the "singing squadron" V.I. Popkov took part in the Victory Parade, held in Moscow on Red Square. After the war, he became a cadet of the Red Banner Air Force Academy in Monino, and graduated with honors in 1951. Then he continued his studies at the General Staff Academy, after which, in 1964, V.Popkov was awarded a gold medal.

Prior to his dismissal in 1989, the air ace continued to serve the Motherland, taking various command positions in the USSR Armed Forces, where he shared his combat experience with young pilots and commanders.

A bust of the hero is installed in Moscow, but V.Popkov is considered an honorary citizen in such cities as: Kiev, Odessa, Dnepropetrovsk, Sochi, Gagra, Magadan, Prague, Parndorf, Vienna, Budapest, Bratislava, Krasnik (Poland).

Like any front-line soldier, Vitaly Ivanovich had something to tell about the war, and, apparently, he liked to do it. At least this is evidenced by the presence of a significant amount of his front-line memories on the pages of Soviet magazines and modern Internet sites, both in the form of interviews and in the form of artistic retellings. Here are just some of the stories that happened to the legendary maestro during the Great Patriotic War.

Vitaly Popkov - the legendary commander of the "singing squadron"

One day, at the end of March of the heavy 1942 of the year, such a thing happened with Vitaly Ivanovich история. One of the regiments, of which there were countless, was assigned to accompany a pair of transport aircraft LI-2, which flew to Leningrad. Difficult it was the aircraft and with uneasy passengers. The First Secretary of the Leningrad Regional Party Committee A. Zhdanov himself flew on them and in the future one of the main heroes of the war, Marshal, and at that time General of the Army, Commander of the Leningrad Front, Georgy Zhukov. Of all the regiments, it was no coincidence that this was the main character in our history, Vitaly Ivanovich, often in times of peace went to his aunt in Leningrad, where she worked in one of the orphanages. On the way, he really enjoyed seeing the churches, which in spite of everything is rich Russian land. And it was precisely in the churches that Vitaly Ivanovich always determined the route. During the war, this technique helped him more than once - in flight it was often necessary to determine exactly where you were. Vitaly approached the other pilots and said that he was flying to an aunt who works in an orphanage. Naturally, there are few products there, and where are there many in the war? But the soldiers gathered and the pilots did everything they could - after all the children are starving, you can’t calmly think about it. Two bags of crackers, a bag of black bread, canned meat, dry potatoes, carrots - they found something they brought with them. Yes, and collected everything that was practically, did not regret. Kilogram 150 has accumulated. The planes were supposed to fly right over the notorious "dear life", which at that time saved the inhabitants of Leningrad from starvation, of course, the German aircraft did not sleep, and shelling was almost always. But the task was successfully completed.

Landed on the "Commandant" airfield. The bosses had already gone about their business, and Vitaly asked the commandant to give the car to take the food to the orphanage and visit her aunt. When Vitaly arrived at the orphanage, there was no limit to the joy of the children, such a gift! The aunt showed the guest the orphanage and the kitchen, showed that they cooked horse harnesses, and added dry grass. Harsh times were ... I saw Vitaly and some very thin, emaciated children. They lay in the room, crouched, lifeless, could not even move - just watched, 30 pairs of wonderful children's eyes ... Fighting pilot could not contain tears. Vitaly tried to encourage the children - but how, he himself was no longer cheerful at all. He gave the boys egg powder, some did not even have the strength to suck it, to such an extent they were exhausted. Vitaly decided to do something - he returned to the airfield and persuaded his colleagues to drain some of the fuel so that they could take the children with them, the wounded soldiers and officers were already loaded onto the planes. 30 children were delivered to Moscow, who were saved lives, thanks to Vitaly, a formidable combat pilot, imbued with children's suffering.

The story had an unexpected continuation. Many years later, on the anniversary of the liberation of Leningrad, Vitaly accompanied the army general Lyashchenko, whose division made a significant contribution to breaking the blockade. During one of the pauses, Lyashchenko told filmmakers that he, too, was in Leningrad at the same time, albeit in other circumstances. Those found a few people from the group of those children. They were already adults who even preserved the memory of life in besieged Leningrad - an aluminum plate with an engraving of the names of all 30 children saved, which they presented to their rescuer at the meeting. This plate is very significant for Vitaly and takes place in his archive, but the main thing is in his heart. "Angel from the sky" was called a military pilot Vitaly rescued children. And not only those that were transported to Moscow - but every one of them from Orphanage # XXUMX, because until the very end of the blockade they ate food brought by Vitaly then.

Vitaly Ivanovich said that during the war he felt that something above him was protecting him. There was another interesting episode in his life. After the Stalingrad crucial battle, he managed to fly to his grandparents in the village Buturlinovka Voronezh region. Grandfather and grandmother were devoutly religious people. Vitaly flew over the village and decided to land on the field near one of the temples, and then just find out about the fate of his relatives. In the church at that time was the service. As soon as the landing gear touched the ground, the people immediately rushed to the plane. And the father came up. Vitaly talked with him about what was happening at the front, found out that his grandmother and grandfather were alive and well. Batyushka suggested to the dear guest to consecrate the plane - Vitaly agreed, of course. And the father sprinkled the car with holy water and said: “Even if the car was shot down, you will remain alive. War with God! Protect your homeland. And after all the truth, God Vitaly's coast was the whole war, and he also celebrated Victory Day as his personal holiday.

Vitali's life was rich in events. In August, 1943 of the year, driven by Alexander Pchelkin, drove Vitaly from the factory to the regiment of the brand new La 7. Somehow they flew over the wonderful Black Sea and saw the motor ship “Georgia”, which was transporting the wounded from Mala Zemlya to Sochi. And suddenly he sees that German planes are flying to this motor ship with signs of the Red Cross! But such vessels cannot be attacked! But that the international conventions of the Germans at that time ... The aircraft being overtaken by Vitaly and Alexander were not carried, it was necessary to figure out what to do. A great idea was born. On the new aircraft were installed signal lights. Vitaly gave the command to Pcholkina, so that he simulated the tracing firing at the enemy with the signal lights of his car and went to a rapprochement with the German aircraft. By that time, the Germans already had lessons of air battles on the Kursk Bulge, even a bike went - if there are two Russian fighters in the sky, then you can only fight with them with a double margin. And the Germans had only three planes. They saw the tracing lights and went away, leaving the ship alone. And Vitaly and a friend flew around the ship and greeted the wounded on the deck and the captain on the bridge. The captain recorded everything in the logbook and on arrival at the port reported on the incident and found out the names of his rescuers. For this feat, Vitaly Popkov was awarded the title of Honorary Citizen of the city of Sochi.

Most of all the famous pilot, by his own admission, I remember the battle with Johann Genn, colonel of the Luftwaffe. This fight was for Vitaly Ivanovich the most difficult. Genn was considered one of the best pilots in Germany. The air battle lasted more than 30 minutes, but none of the opponents made any mistakes. The fight went in the so-called "vertical maneuver." The difficulty of the maneuver was that the plane, moving at great speed, went vertically upwards, while attacking its enemy. Vertical maneuvers continued time after time, one more swiftly than the other, but no one wanted to concede. At the exit of the next maneuver Popkov still managed to set fire to the fascist with a queue. However, to him to help another Messerschmitt. The appearance of another enemy was so unexpected (the plane emerged from a cloud of smoke that Vitaly did not have time to react to a sudden attack, and the line fired from the Messer flashed Popkov's plane. The car caught fire, Popkov himself was burning, but, having managed to find himself forces, jumped out of the burning car and opened the parachute. But this did not help either - the parachute burst. Vitali was saved by a viscous swamp into which he was lucky to fall.

The pilots of the first air squadron, which I commanded from 1943, shot down 236 enemy aircraft in the air, conducted 436 air battles, carried out 481 attack, 21836 sorties, 4032 bombing. I am proud that the whole war has passed among these wonderful people. Our squadron was called “singing” because of our attachment to the song, and my call sign was called “Maestro.” From our squadron of pilots 11 received the title of Hero of the Soviet Union, this honor fell to me twice. And each rank, each combat award was paid at the cost of risk, skill, military superiority and real victories.

Vitaly Popkov after the war continued to serve in the Air Force. In 1951, he graduated from the Air Force Academy, in 1964, the Military Academy of the General Staff. Lieutenant General of Aviation with 1968 of the year. Since 1980, she has been teaching at the Air Force Engineering Academy. 6 February 2010, Vitaly Ivanovich Popkov died. 10 was buried on February 2010 of the year at Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow.

Based on materials: [/ i]
Only old men go into battle. History domestic aviation

Documentary film prepared by the IPO “Flight Brotherhood” on the Day of Memory dedicated to the 90 anniversary of the birth of the twice Hero of the Soviet Union, Honored Pilot of the USSR, honorary citizen of Moscow, graduate of the Chuguevsky Aviation Military Pilot School, Lieutenant General Aviation Vitaly Ivanovich Popkov .


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  1. Yarbay
    Yarbay 16 June 2012 08: 59
    Honor and Glory to the real MAN !!
  2. erased
    erased 16 June 2012 09: 07
    Glory to the Hero! Sorry, those are not born now!
    1. wk
      wk 16 June 2012 22: 16
      are not born .... and the heroes of Afghanistan and Chechnya, the peacekeepers of South Ossetia ... ".... there is always a place for feat ..." Bitter ... Glory to the Heroes of Russia, the USSR, the Russian Empire!
  3. rexby63
    rexby63 16 June 2012 09: 11
    Glory to the heroes!

    Pilots, participants of the Victory Parade. Vitaly Ivanovich fifth right
    1. Vito
      Vito 17 June 2012 14: 03
      Nice photo! FROM the awards and epaulettes, the eyes scatter, the faces of OUR officers are good-natured and open in their eyes full confidence in themselves and their flight business! THIS IS THE REAL GUARD OF THE SOVIET UNION, well, you can win these warriors! Sorry for the photo is not color.
  4. Tirpitz
    Tirpitz 16 June 2012 11: 08
    On the first photo Kozhedub, or am I wrong?
    1. rexby63
      rexby63 16 June 2012 11: 16
      Kozhedub, and who else. Article plus, but the author must know the Heroes. Such carelessness is offensive.
  5. Ilhar
    Ilhar 16 June 2012 11: 14
    The article is definitely a plus. The country must know its heroes. Especially the younger generation. Only in the article I found two inaccuracies. Zhukov in the spring of 1942 did not command the Leningrad Front. LA-7 entered service in 1944.
  6. Sakhalininsk
    Sakhalininsk 16 June 2012 14: 09
    Low bow to the hero and many thanks.
  7. Born in USSR
    Born in USSR 16 June 2012 14: 27
    What an amazing generation was raised !!! Glory to the heroes!
  8. Vyalik
    Vyalik 16 June 2012 15: 04
    Glory to the RUSSIAN SOLDIERS.
  9. Cadet787
    Cadet787 16 June 2012 19: 14
    Vitaly Ivanovich is our battle heritage and you need to keep it as the apple of an eye. Eternal glory to him.
  10. suharev-52
    suharev-52 16 June 2012 23: 06
    And now there are such guys. Just it was not their time. And God forbid that you do not have to give your life. Glory to the Heroes of Russia, the USSR and the Russian Empire. Sincerely.
  11. mind1954
    mind1954 16 June 2012 23: 33
    Amazing man!
    Boarded the plane and fled to the front!
    For the whole war, this is probably the only case.
    such audacity !!!
    1. Vlaleks48
      Vlaleks48 17 June 2012 17: 13
      My wife's uncle, being an instructor in Frunze, accompanying the young to the front, "stayed" in the unit. In a little over two months, he shot down 11 personally and three in the German team. When the hero was introduced, his unauthorized absence from the training unit in Frunze was revealed. Instead of the hero, he almost ended up in a penal battalion. He continued to teach the boys. So not everyone was released to the front.
  12. passmel32
    passmel32 17 June 2012 16: 13
    Did you see it? what is done with the country?
    Imagine, they made the project a national data search
    Here any information about each of us. As I found myself here, I was simply stunned, and the main thing is accessible to everyone.
    Addresses, phone numbers, my correspondence in the social. networks, even photos.
    You can delete the information, which is very good - you go through authorization, find it for yourself and delete it.
    And then there is nobody who is looking for ...
  13. Ruswolf
    Ruswolf 17 June 2012 16: 57
    We like to blame the army, refer to the war, and so on.
    But all these links - the army, the war - are only the developer of what is inside you.
    As a photographer - there is a film - while you don’t show it - you don’t know what is there and what will be in the photo.
    And if there are heroes now, then this means that not everything is so bad in our state and not all .................... and that there are still people who can equal and take examples from the real patriots of their homeland!
    1. Vlaleks48
      Vlaleks48 17 June 2012 17: 07
      I apologize for the minus, it's me troll passmel32 put!
      Sorry I got excited. The article is definitely a plus!
      1. Ruswolf
        Ruswolf 17 June 2012 17: 29
        Do not pay attention - it happens!
        The meaning of what was said is not hurt!
  14. Srgsoap
    Srgsoap 18 June 2012 09: 33
    Eternal Memory and Glory to the Hero !!!
    When I read about children, I shed a tear ...
    I will tell my son when I grow up so that I know the true heroes of the Motherland.
  15. nirab
    nirab 18 June 2012 09: 49
    The bust of twice Hero of the Soviet Union Popkov Vitaly Ivanovich was installed in Moscow, in the park near Samotechnaya Street (he lived there either in the fifth or in the seventh house). For ten years I passed him to work, and did not realize that he was the prototype of the awkward lieutenant Grasshopper from the movie "Only Old Men Go to Battle". Here is a small quote from the history of the film: "Actors and musicians were frequent guests of the pilots. Composer Dmitry Pokrass wrote a song for the pilots, which became the anthem of the 5th regiment. In November 1943, the 2nd" singing "presented records with Leonid's jazz orchestra The squadron was especially proud of the gramophone, which Sergeant Vitaly Popkov brought with him in March 1942. In 1985, Vitaly Ivanovich, Hero of the Soviet Union, Lieutenant General of Aviation, recalled: “I was engaged in aircraft modeling in my youth and was awarded a gramophone for a copy of a bomber ... Arrived at the front with him - for which he immediately received the nickname "Maestro". Once he told about this to the actor Leonid Bykov. He made a film, and there he showed me in the image of a young pilot Grasshopper. "Largely thanks to Vitaly Ivanovich and Leonid Bykov's personal acquaintance with him, the film" Only "old men go to battle" took place. In the squadron of Captain Laveykin, the frontline biography of the young pilot Popkov began. The squadron commander Laveykin, looking at how quickly Vitaly grasped the wisdom of flying, more than once with admiration shared with the commander of the 5th Guards Regiment of the Guards Major Vasily Zaitsev: “I’m looking at him and wondering if he was born in the sky? he is doing great! "

    It all started with a curiosity, almost exactly like the Grasshopper in the film. For daring aerial recklessness over the airfield, the regiment commander appointed Popkov as the eternal duty officer, but not at the airfield, but in ... the kitchen. One early morning, when Vitaly was once again peeling a hateful potato, four German planes suddenly appeared over the airfield. As he was in an apron, he jumped into the cockpit and took off towards the Fritz. And, as the film says, "against all the laws of physics," he shot down his first plane - the Dornier-217 bomber. It was then that the legendary phrase sounded: "You, comrade commander, scared away all the Fritzes with your underwear." After that, Grasshopper-Popkov was allowed to fly and smashed the enemy until the victorious 45th. "
    1. justas-xnumx
      justas-xnumx 19 June 2012 22: 33
      There was another similar case, described by the Hero of the Soviet Union Lugansk (I don't remember the title of the book, if anyone needs it, I can call my father he has it). There, a pilot from a young replenishment also gouged his car when landing, and it hooked another one. As a result, he was appointed runway duty officer. And he was also nicknamed the Grasshopper for "hunting" these insects! During the raid of FOUR "Fokkers" on takeoff, he lifted his nose and shot down one, with a climb went into the clouds, from where the second fell out, everyone also thought it was Grasshopper. When the whole squadron took off, the Germans left. Lugansky also has a moment about underwear. During the war, the pilots mostly shaved in the evening, after flights, and Lugansky began to shave when a signal was received that a German reconnaissance officer had passed. Without fastening it took off. Found. He approached the pistol shot - the shooter was surprised to see the soapy face of the pilot in a T-shirt in the cockpit of the destroyer, hesitated and got a turn. Lugansky realized his appearance only after landing. The fact that the book was written before the film was released - I can guarantee, because the first time I read it somewhere in the year 72-73, but we had it before.
  16. Sehiru san
    Sehiru san 18 June 2012 14: 05
    Thank you for the interesting information.