Military Review

Penalty sky

It has been many decades since the end of the biggest military disaster in stories humanity, and researchers and chroniclers are constantly discovering more and more unknown pages of the war. One of such little-studied and for a long time closed stories is the existence of penal units in the Red Army in general and in aviation in particular.

The concept of penal battalions and companies appeared at the end of July 1942, when the order was issued by the People’s Commissar of Defense I. Stalin No. XXUMX, better known in the world as the order “Not one step back!”. The document itself dealt mainly with the formation of infantry penal battalions and companies. To avoid being unfounded, the text of the order itself should be given in terms of creating penal divisions: “To the military councils of the fronts and, above all, the commanders of fronts ... to form within the front from one to three (depending on the situation) penal battalions (eight hundred people) where to send medium and senior commanders and relevant political workers of all branches of the armed forces ... Military councils of armies and, above all, army commanders ... to form within the army from five to ten (depending on the situation) penal companies ( that fifty to two hundred people in each), where to send the ordinary soldiers and junior commanders ... ».

By the way, in the fascist army there also existed penal units, the most terrible of which were the Feldstraflager field camps. The prisoners in them were no longer considered people, there was practically no chance of survival, and many were sent straight to concentration camps. In second place were field penal battalions Feldsonderbatallon. Those who got here were engaged in labor only at the front and did not fight against the regular forces of the Red Army. The period of stay was usually four months and, on the condition of good behavior and diligence, the servicemen were sent to the part to be reformed. Later, the “test units”, which received the letter of the five hundredth battalions (500, 540, 550, etc.), were attributed to them. They resembled our punitive rules most of all, were armed and sent, as a rule, to the most dangerous sectors of the front. Losses in them were monstrously large. More than eighty thousand people passed through these battalions. Such units existed in all German arms of the army: land, naval, air, and even the SS, the penalty box of which, after serving themselves, became famous for their cruelty. The third type of German penal units were the 999 battalions and institutions of the organization Todt. This sent the soldiers recognized unworthy to wear weapon (the so-called second class soldiers). They continued to fight, but at the same time lost all ranks and awards, and it was possible to forget about rehabilitation or amnesty. It is estimated that about thirty thousand men passed through the 999 battalions. At the end of 1944, the penal units began to disband, but there is evidence that they existed until the end of the war.

As can be seen from the text of the order number XXUMX we are talking about the creation of infantry units, which sent representatives of all the armed forces, including aircraft. However, the training of pilots and aircraft technicians required much more time than the training of, say, tankers or gunners. The commanders of the Air Armies were well aware of how irrational it was to send skilled aviators to rifle penal units, where they, not being masters of ground combat, could easily be killed or wounded without good for a common cause.

Training in military pilots' schools lasted about six months with a mandatory flight of twenty hours for bombers and twenty-four hours for fighters. And in the aviation schools of the commanders-pilots the training period was one year, and only those pilots who served in the ranks for at least two years were sent to these schools. Speaking of training time, there are in mind the terms of wartime. The same was true for navigators, aircraft technicians, air communication commanders and Air Force headquarters commanders. This is stated in the order under the number 105 of March 3 of 1941 of the year issued in pursuance of the decision of the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR and the Central Committee of the CPSU (B) of February 25 of the year 1941. Of course, this order has undergone many changes during the war, but the timing of training and the flight time of the clock remained unchanged. It is also necessary to remember that in the 1942 year, new types of aircraft began to flow into the arms of aviation and their development, even under the most difficult conditions of that period, was still allotted at least six months.

It is clear that the idea of ​​leaving the flawed pilots and workers from among the aerotechnical personnel directly in the Air Forces was in the air. It is not surprising that the command of several air groups at once appealed to the commanders of the fronts with the proposal to create fighter aviation units. But since such a question was beyond the competence of the front commanders, they, in turn, forwarded these petitions directly to the Headquarters.

The order for the creation of penal air divisions in all air armies was issued in 1942. It was based on a special directive from 4 of August of 1942 of the Headquarters of the Main Headquarters, signed personally by Stalin and Chief of the General Staff A. Vasilevsky, issued for the development and specification of the general provisions of the order No. XXUMX. However, even earlier, three weeks prior to the appearance of this directive, legal documents appeared in the air armies, developed at their own peril and risk directly in the army headquarters and on the basis of which penal aviation divisions subsequently existed. Thus, the appearance of the directive of 227 August actually became the legalization of the highest authority of the already existing state of affairs.

According to the developed position, the aviators were sent to the aviation aviation units independently of their previous position on the basis of the order of the division commander, which, in turn, was then subject to clearance by order of the Air Army personnel. The return from the penalty box was also carried out only on the proposal of the division commander and was issued by order at the level of army command.

It is known about the existence of three types of penal air divisions: assault (armed with IL-2), fighter (on LaGG-3 and Yak-1, soon replaced by Yak-7) and light bomber, night (on Y-2, which after their death Designer Polikarpov N.N. began to be called Po-2). All squadrons of penalty box were taken out for staff in direct submission to the division commander. The time spent in the penal aviation units was not determined by three months or “first blood”, as in similar rifle, mechanized units or in unique cavalry penal squadrons. The duration of stay for pilots was measured by the number of combat sorties, and for aircraft technicians - by the quality of trained aircraft. Pilots and vehicles were not presented with state and government awards, in contrast to rifle penal units, in which this was possible. The planes shot down by the penalty boxers, as well as the targets covered by the bombers and the attack aircraft, were recorded in the general list of the air unit to which the penal unit was assigned. Wounding was not considered a pretext for returning to the drill squadron. But the percentage of the deaths of the pilots in the penal air divisions only slightly exceeded the average level of losses in ordinary units, despite the fact that the guilty received the most difficult and dangerous tasks to complete.

There may be an opinion that punitive air squadrons were a noticeable phenomenon in the USSR Air Force. However, it is not. The same Eighth Air Army at the time when it began to recruit fighters, had ten airborne divisions and a number of individual units. A total of forty-nine air regiments and forty airfield service units, among which three penal squadrons out of ten aircraft (often not fully staffed) were like a drop in the ocean. Thus, despite the particularly difficult tasks that were assigned to fighter squadrons, they could not have a significant impact on the course of the hostilities. However, not one experienced pilot, navigator, engineer, technician, mechanic helped to avoid judicial responsibility and save his good name.

Penalty air units were headed by five "full-time" drill commanders - the unit commander himself, the deputy commander, commissar, senior adjutant and technician. The rest of the composition is completely formed from the penalty box. It is curious that, on the basis of the evolving situation, the command often resorted to a kind of “castling” between penal and regular units. For example, a navigator-penalty box could be temporarily transferred to a regular crew and vice versa. Often this happened with the arrow-scorers on the "celestial slug" U-2.

One eloquent fact as an illustration of the activities of aviators penal aviation parts. Penalty Mukhamedzian Sharipov, a former battalion commissar (later reinstated in rank), made ninety-four combat sorties within one month. And by order of the People's Commissar of Defense of the USSR No. XXUMX, the Order of the Patriotic War of the II degree was presented for fifty combat sorties, to the Order of the Patriotic War I degree for sixty, regardless of the time period for which these sorties were carried out. But for Sharipov and his comrades in misfortune, the best reward was the return to the “own” part, the restoration of the former rank and the return of the deposited rewards.

The provision of the personnel of the fighter units was determined by several orders of the USSR People's Commissar of Defense under the numbers: 0299, 0489 and 0490. According to these orders, products, uniforms and front hundred grams were provided according to the norms of ordinary combatant units. But the pay was determined solely by his position in the penalty unit, and not the one that this or that person occupied, serving in the "normal" part. But what did not get the penalty box compared with the builders, so it is field money, that is, surcharges to the salary for each day spent at the front. Service in the penalty part was not counted as the time required for submission to the next military rank. Penalties received awards were obliged to deposit in the personnel department of the front or the army. They did not receive any monetary reward for the downed planes or the destroyed targets, which was assigned to ordinary pilots.

A disability pension received as a result of an injury, to the penalty box was calculated on the basis of the position that a person held before he got into the penalty part. Pensions are also accrued to the families of the lost soldiers-penal officers, based on the salary of their last position in the usual part, that is, on a general basis.

Technical experts got into the penalty box for various reasons. Someone abused his official position by removing the missing parts from the plane of the neighboring regiment, someone violated the security measures that led to damage to the aircraft entrusted to him. Several technicians and mechanics paid for the fact that due to personal negligence they did not provide the aircraft with everything they needed for the flight, disrupting their combat sorties.

Military historians have repeatedly drawn the attention of front-line soldiers and amateur researchers to the confusion of two concepts - penalty boxers and convicts, followed by a postponement of the sentence. The convicts were sent not only to the penal units, they were often left directly in their air units, where they served their sentences. Usually, according to the verdict of the tribunal, the fighters with the current postponement of the execution of the sentence were sent to the radio arrows on the attack planes, so it was the place of suicide bombers. These convicts were not considered penalties. So the future commander of the Soviet air defense A.L. Kadomtsev, was sentenced by the tribunal for ten years for the breakdown of the Yak-1 fighter during a landing. And although the fighter was restored in two days, the sentence remained in effect until the end of the war, and Captain Kadomtsev, already as a private soldier, was sent to serve in the bomber regiment. Penalties for their crimes, both imaginary and real, were paid with blood in infantry and airborne penal battalions.

Despite the creation of airframe units, many representatives of the flight and technical personnel of aviation (especially from the air forces of internal districts, individual formations and aviation units) were still sent to fight in the ranks of penal battalions and companies. The leadership of the same Eighth Air Army sent only “its own” to penal squadrons, and even then not all. Commanders who committed wrongdoing, incompatible with the honor of the officer, were sent to the infantry penal battalion.

Penalty units in aviation did not last long. The existence of the penal squadrons was extremely incredulous and with the utmost suspicion were treated by the political directorate and special officials. And although the front-line soldiers, in most cases, did not like either political workers, or, especially, special people, in that they were at one and the same time. Many ordinary pilots did not trust the penalty box, believing that only reliable and proven fighters should take to the air. And those who were at fault were sent to the infantry, where, by the way, there was the highest percentage of casualties of all the arms. However, the existence of airframes in all air armies is a documented fact. Yes, and distrust of the penalty pilots was groundless. Many of them subsequently became Heroes of the Soviet Union, well-known generals and marshals emerged from their ranks. Former penal aviation pilots honored the title of Hero of the Soviet Union, for example, Alexei Reshetov and Ivan Zanin. Although it happened so that the owners of the Golden Star went to the penalty parts (Georgy Kostylev and Philip Gerasimov).

For a long time, many front-line pilots denied the fact of the existence of fighter air units. Even the deserved test-pilots, Heroes of the Soviet Union S.А. Mikoyan and A.A. Shcherbakov. Although they admitted that they had seen with their own eyes a copy of the Bids directive, which prescribed the creation of fighter units (squadrons), they themselves had never encountered them at the front. In their opinion, the directive was signed in a hurry, ill-conceived, and that is why it was never implemented. Honored veterans believe that soon Stalin was explained all the dangers of this undertaking, since no one could prevent the pilots who had been sentenced and practically sentenced to death to the flight to the side of the enemy.

However, this is an objection. First, the information about the existence of the penalty parts of the information has never really spread. And secondly, how much is the flight to the enemy possible in combat conditions? Soviet aircraft for the Germans were the goal that needed to be destroyed. And the “penalty” is a plane or “normal” the Germans did not know and could not know, they simply attacked it. The chances of success of such a flight seem very dubious, the pilots were waiting for almost certain death. By the way, for the entire period of existence of the aviation aviation parts, the transfer of penalty pilots to the side of the enemy has never been fixed. Although opportunities for trying to combat pilots was even more than enough.

You should be wary of the stories told by the front-line soldiers themselves, either by chance or through their own fault, who ended up in penal divisions. Do not forget about one psychological peculiarity of people well described in Vasily Terkin: “Let them be confined at least a hundred times, We are ready for that ...”. To impart, to embellish a real event, and then to submit it in such a way that even direct participants only opened their mouths with admiration - this was the highest “aerobatics”. Such oral stories, bikes were often the only entertainment in the heavy, monotonous front-line everyday life. And the good storytellers were at a special price.

From this point of view, it is necessary to approach the stories of the famous I.E. Fedorov, nicknamed "Anarchist." He was repeatedly caught in excessive boasting by his colleagues, this was also reflected in his description of the times of the Great Patriotic War. Later stories tried to document LM. Vyatkin, but failed.

Of course, it is an obvious exaggeration to ascribe some remarkable successes and special courage to the penal pilots. In fact, the pilots of the penal detachments solved their tasks with the same courage as the combatant pilots flew selflessly, trying to atone for the blame and return to their unit quickly. However, it is also impossible to blame the front-line soldiers for lying, untruth, fantasies on the “theme”. These people suffered their stories-tales, paid for them with blood, and many with health. They are with us all in the calculation. But we are still indebted to them. And we will pay the debt only when we tell the whole truth about the people - both the dead and those who survived that terrible war.

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  1. avt
    avt April 25 2013 08: 43
    good Briefly and to the point. +
    1. Mikhado
      Mikhado April 25 2013 09: 16
      Quote: avt
      good Briefly and to the point. +

      I would even say - without squealing and hysterics about "throwing corpses", "one rifle for three" or "sending a plane with concrete dummies of bombs into battle."
      Penalties are an opportunity for a person who has just stumbled to correct the "joint", and not to be irrevocably and uselessly shot in wartime conditions.
      And the degree of risk, as it turns out, is not much greater than in the usual parts.
      And so the war is not a holiday at all, it is a complete injustice itself, in principle, just in that war, moral law was entirely on our side in any way.
      1. Gamdlislyam
        Gamdlislyam April 25 2013 14: 35
        Dear colleagues, unfortunately, I have to disagree with you. The article put a minus. It is chaotic and without reference to specific orders and instructions.
        The second complaint is that they were sent to PENALTY ESCADRILES on the basis of the ORDER of the divisional commander and above (and not on the basis of sentences). The pilots sent to these units did not lose their titles and awards and did not hand them over to anyone. The presence in these units (and in reality there were only three of them for all air armies) depended on the number of sorties set for a particular pilot. These units lasted only about 3 months and at the beginning of 43 years were reorganized into normal combat units. The service life in these units was counted on a common basis, including for the service of awarding the next rank.
        The author Igor Sulimov took as a basis the article by Colonel of Justice Andrei Moroz "PENALTY STROKE FROM THE SKY" published in the newspaper "Krasnaya Zvezda" on January 16, 2008 ( But there Moroz, quite often, ranked the units to which the convicted pilots were sent to the penalty squadrons (this applies to units that flew on the U-2, and not only).
        In this case, it is better to read the source.
        1. Gamdlislyam
          Gamdlislyam April 25 2013 14: 58
          In addition to the above:
          Order of the NPO of the USSR
          September 9, 1942 No. 0685 Moscow
          On the establishment of the concept of sorties for fighter jets
          The facts on the Kalinin, Western, Stalingrad, Southeast and other fronts established that our fighter aircraft, as a rule, work poorly and often do not fulfill their combat missions. Our fighters not only do not engage in battle with enemy fighters, but avoid attacking bombers.
          In carrying out the task of covering attack aircraft and bombers, our fighters even with a quantitative superiority over enemy fighters evade battle, go on the sidelines and allow our attack aircraft and bombers to be shot down with impunity. ...
          Any flight on the battlefield is incorrectly considered a sortie, regardless of whether or not the fighters assigned the combat mission assigned to them ....
          ... I order:
          4. Fighter pilots evading combat with an air opponent, put on trial and transfer to penal units in the infantry. ...

          People's Commissar of Defense I. Stalin
          Source site "Anatomy of the Army - Y. Veremeyev" -

          Is it because the penal squadrons did not receive distribution, and the created ones lasted several months.
  2. individual
    individual April 25 2013 09: 21
    I consider it unacceptable in the "Voennoye Obozreniye" to pick up and savor all the dirt and shortcomings during the Second World War. With this we are pouring in the already successful obscuration and understatement by Western political strategists of our Great Victory. It is necessary to look back so that the vestibule apparatus does not lose its functions, but we must look ahead and coordinate our progressive movement towards the progress of the country, the armed forces and the development of the people.
    1. George
      George April 25 2013 15: 20
      Quote: individ
      I consider it unacceptable in the "Voennoye Obozreniye" to pick up and savor all the dirt and shortcomings during the Second World War. With this we are pouring in the already successful obscuration and understatement by Western political strategists of our Great Victory. It is necessary to look back so that the vestibule apparatus does not lose its functions, but we must look ahead and coordinate our progressive movement towards the progress of the country, the armed forces and the development of the people.

      Where did you see the dirt? In my opinion this is a vital, or rather a military necessity.
      1. Setrac
        Setrac April 25 2013 21: 03
        Quote: GEORGE
        Where did you see the dirt? In my opinion this is a vital, or rather a military necessity.

        The filth that is covered up by talking about the "truth"
  3. pinecone
    pinecone April 25 2013 09: 49
    Quote: Mikhado
    Quote: avt
    good Briefly and to the point. +

    And the degree of risk, as it turns out, is not much greater than in the usual parts.

    The degree of risk in penal companies and battalions was much higher than in "normal" units, since, first of all, they were used when performing the most dangerous tasks, such as reconnaissance in force, taking heights, strong points, etc.
    1. George
      George April 25 2013 12: 34
      Quote: pinecone
      Quote: Mikhado
      Quote: avt
      good Briefly and to the point. +

      And the degree of risk, as it turns out, is not much greater than in the usual parts.

      The degree of risk in penal companies and battalions was much higher than in "normal" units, since, first of all, they were used when performing the most dangerous tasks, such as reconnaissance in force, taking heights, strong points, etc.

      Hello all.
      Alexei, in my opinion they are penalties to always be in the thick of it. Nobody would send them to the convoy. By the way, the penalties often worked together with the ordinary units, so it seems incorrect to separate who got the most fire.
  4. Naval
    Naval April 25 2013 11: 42
    Honor and Glory to the Heroes! Whatever it was, but they WIN !!! And that's it. hi
    1. stroporez
      stroporez April 25 2013 15: 02
      Yes sir. low bow ..............
  5. knn54
    knn54 April 25 2013 13: 03
    On September 1942, 8, the commander of XNUMXVA General T. Khryukin issued an order in which he specified the tasks and determined the commanders of penal air units. -
    - commander of a fighter penal squadron - Art. lieutenant G.E. Burenkov;
    - captain P.F.Zabavskikh, commander of the assault penalty squadron;
    - commander of the light-bombing penal air squadron - Art. lieutenant I.M. Semergey.
    In addition, the commander of the 8th VA approved the Regulation on penal squadrons, the appointment of which
    ≪to provide the opportunity for pilots, gunners, scorers, technicians and mechanics caught sabotaging, manifesting elements of self-interest and evading combat missions by completing critical combat missions in the most dangerous areas and directions - to atone for their own guilt≫
    The real combat use of penalties - pilots in the 8th VA took place only in the autumn of 1942. November 15, 1942 by order of General T.T. Khryukin’s penal squadrons were disbanded — the command concluded that it would be more rational to leave the pilots punished for flight accidents, in their units so that they serve as living examples for the rest. In addition, in the combat regiment it was easier to keep track of the actions of the guilty pilots. Penalties for good combat work returned to their former duty stations.
    As part of the 3rd VA, there are references to the actions in September 1942 of only ... a separate penalty link armed with Yak-1 fighters
    In the 1st VA. General Khudyakov ordered the creation of penalty squadrons in the following air divisions:
    - in the 204th hell - the squadron of Pe-2;
    - in the 232nd hell - the squadron of IL-2;
    -in the 201st hell squadron Yak-1≫
    Around the middle of the fall of 1942, the idea of ​​a penalty squadron no longer enjoyed the support of the “Upper Bodies” and gradually “fizzled out”. Only a few such units survived by the beginning of 1943, and after about another six months, the latter were disbanded.
    PS September 26, 1942, Deputy People's Commissar of Defense G.K. Zhukov approved the regulations on penal companies and battalions, while the “centralized” regulations on the penal squadron never appeared.
    PPS The influence of the “fines” on the course and outcome of the war can be considered completely insignificant, which, however, does not cast the slightest shadow on THEY who fought no worse than their counterparts from the “usual” air units, especially those who laid their heads in the HEAVYEST period of the struggle with German Nazism.
  6. Terrible ensign
    Terrible ensign April 25 2013 14: 40
    Very interesting facts are covered in this article. I realized that I really didn’t know much. Thanks to the author!
  7. luka095
    luka095 April 25 2013 18: 44
    The main thing when discussing such topics is not to give vent to emotions and bias.
  8. xomaNN
    xomaNN April 25 2013 19: 25
    The practice of serious violations and even crimes not to send to camps, but to give the opportunity to fight as a finesman, even in aviation, is quite a common idea. Therefore, it took root.
  9. воронов
    воронов 3 May 2013 00: 32
    It went to our grandfathers and fathers, but they won !!!