OAN for a diver in Berlin 1945

You might have seen a somewhat iconic photo with Reichstag on the background and a diver being bestowed by rear admiral KRYLOV in (May?) 1945 for mine clearing of the river Spree.

Now you can find the name of the diver and see the award he received on the photo. Diver’s name is GREKHOV Aleksander Dmitrievich 1910 born in town Tyumen’, USSR. He graduated from school in 1927. In 1932, he served as an electrician in 2 submarine brigade. 20 October 1935, he became a cadet of the diver school of EPRON in town Balaklava, Crimea. EPRON – “Special Expedition for Underwater Works” —Special-Purpose Underwater Rescue Party, was a government agency of the USSR to salvage valuable cargo and equipment from sunken ships and submarines. From September 1936, GREKHOV is in reserve and back to civilian life. He was married and had already one child. He lived in Moscow until he was drifted back to service on 27 May 1942 and was assigned to the Moscow branch of EPRON for river underwater technical operations (he got his “Moscow defence medal” in 1946). He served as a diver team leader in a river salvage and rescue units. In June 1943, his unit seems to had been reassigned to Volga Flotilla most likely for raising sunken ships after Stalingrad battle. In November 1943, team leader chief warrant officer GREKHOV was bestowed with order “Red Star”:

Chief warrant officer diver GREKHOV has raised from under water 19 ships. His team, despite the lack of equipment and supplies, disregarding harsh weather – rain, slush, and frost – worked uninterruptedly. 19 ships were salvaged ahead of scheduled time. He fully deserves to be bestowed with order “RED STAR”.

On 27 November 1944, GREKHOV is promoted to the rank of Junior Lieutenant. GREKHOV seem to had been specialising in underwater gas torch metal cutting as part of the salvage operations, as from August 1945, he is acting engineer for underwater gas torch metal cutting in his unit (12th team of the main river military directorate). But otherwise the description of the photograph, is that the bestowal was done for mine clearing of the river Spree. As a divers team leader and officer, GREKHOV was bestowed with order “Aleksander Nevsky” (a little unusual award for such circumstances). His unit was stationed in occupied Germany, when GREKHOV‘s Victory medal was handed to him on 12 December 1945.

GREKHOV continued his service in various units responsible for salvaging operations in the rivers of the western area of USSR. He was discharged from the service in the rank of Lt. Captain according to the article 59″a” (due to age) on April 1955. Lived in Leningrad, had 4 children.

Such an unusual and notable award: Naval award for the Berlin battle and for diving operations…

Another diver, GREKHOV’s mate, bestowed on the same occasion by rear admiral KRYLOV.

Remarkable story of the bombardier Sgt. GUBIN

Jr.Lt. GUBIN (assay “In the Polar night” by Konstantin SIMONOV )
from newspaper “Red Star” on 20.12.1942.

Please, meet Master Sergeant bombardier GUBIN Nikolaj Denisovich 1922. His remarkable and dramatic story, although with a happy ending, is a fascinating facet of the WW2 history. GUBIN served in the Polar region in the 668 night tactical bomber aviation regiment, 258 all purpose aviation division, Karelian front. He was a bombardier in a 2 men crew flying R-5 aircraft (the ground assault version R-5CCC). The pilot occupied the forward cockpit. Bombardier sat behind him in the second cockpit. The second cockpit was wired for aircraft control, but to a limited degree (f.ex. fuel tanks could only be controlled by the pilot).
In September 1942, GUBIN was bestowed with a “RED BANNER”order for a night air strike mission against the airfield in Luostari, which seems to had been utilised by the Jagdgeschwader 5 unit of the Luftwaffe.
Now, see that happened during the mission…

Citation: On the night of 28.09.1942, comrade GUBIN (in the crew with the pilot Lt. BASHKIROV) flew a mission against the enemy airfield in Luostari. In the hurricane of the enemy AA fire, the crew went into the bomb run and released the bomb load precisely. At the moment of the bomb release, comrade GUBIN was wounded by a large shrapnel fragment of an AA shell. The pilot Lt. BASHKIROV was hit in the head and killed. The uncontrollable aircraft fell into a spin dive and was about to crash on the enemy airfield. Master Sergeant GUBIN quickly realised the situation and assumed aircraft control from his cockpit. He managed to recover the aircraft from the spin dive at 300 meters altitude and utilising evasive manoeuvres diverted from the target. Now, comrade GUBIN – a freshman bombardier, who had no piloting, nor landing training – had to singlehandedly take the aircraft in the difficult night conditions along 150km route to the home base and land it. Master Sergeant GUBIN exercised his strength of character and heroism. He excellently managed and achieved, impossible for him, task. After successfully arriving to his home airfield, he made three landing attempts and finally successfully landed the aircraft. Despite the fact, that the avionic controls were jammed by the body of the killed pilot, comrade GUBIN managed to land such, that the aircraft only received some insignificant damages, which were easily reparable in the field conditions by the local regiment technical team. During the course of his combat service since 15.01.1942, comrade GUBIN has made 44 successful night combat missions with confirmed results on a R-5 aircraft (total flying time 70h 20min). He executes all his missions perfectly and is eager to go to combat missions. He is an exemplary serviceman in his area of expertise.
For excellent execution of the combat missions assigned by the command with the aim of destroying the enemy ground forces, for heroism exhibited on 28 September 1944 during a combat mission and saving his life and aircraft, for bringing home the body of his heroically fallen commander, Master Sergeant GUBIN deserves state award – order “LENIN”.
Signed by the commander of 668 night tactical bomber aviation regiment Major ARKHIPENKO. 30 September 1942

For this feat GUBIN was promoted to Jr.Lieutenant, bestowed with Red Banner order, and sent to a pilot school.

Karelian front dispatch №0153 on 12.10.1942

BASHKIROV’s and GUBIN’s mission was specifically mentioned in the dispatch №0153 on 12.10.1942:
DECREE №0153 , Karelian front.
RESUME: On the landing of R-5 aircraft in difficult conditions by the pilot-observer M.Sgt.
On the night of 27-28.09.1942, the aircraft crew (pilot Lt.
BASHKIROV, pilot-observer M.Sgt. GUBIN) of 668 night tactical bomber aviation regiment was on a night bomb mission against the enemy airfield in Luostari and was subjected to AA fire. As the result of the enemy fire during the bomb run, the pilot Lt. BASHKIROV was killed instantly in the head by a shell fragment.
The aircraft fell into a spin dive. Quickly accessing the situation, the pilot-observer
GUBIN acted resourcefully and switched the controls to the second cockpit. He went around for the second bomb run, released the two remaining bombs at the target, and flew the aircraft back to the regiment home base. This was accomplished, even though GUBIN had no pilot training, neither during the day nor the night conditions. During the night landing, the aircraft was damaged insignificantly. Comrade GUBIN is unharmed.
1. On behalf of the Supreme Soviet USSR,
GUBIN is to be bestowed with order “RED BANNER” for excellent execution of the combat mission, for exhibited determination and cool conduct in a difficult air mission, for landing safely in night time the R-5 aircraft at his regiment home base.
2. Master Sergeant
GUBIN is to be promoted to the rank “Junior Lieutenant” and sent to a pilot school.
3. This dispatch is to be announced to all the personnel.
Commander of the Karelian front Lt.Gen. FROLOV

A plan of a strike ar Luostari airfield by the 258 aviation division on 25.03.1943.

Three month after his mission, on 20 December 1942, an article written by the renowned Soviet writer K.SIMONOV was published in the “Red Star” newspaper – “In the Polar night”. The article illuminates on some other details of GUBIN faithful mission. Apart from describing how the strange the situation looked like from the ground during GUBIN’s landing (3 attempts), it also mentions, that the aircraft nosed over came to a halt standing tail up. It also mentions, that GUBINhad” pilot training. Well, his pilot BASHKIROV encouraged him and allowed him to steer the R-5 during straight level flights. Those witty lessons proved to be indispensable for GUBIN on 28.09.1942.

Having finished his pilot training in 1944, GUBIN returned to the front line as a Lend-Lease Mitchell B-25 pilot in the 890 heavy bomber aviation regiment, 45 long range bomber aviation division, 18 Airforce. Among other missions, the 890th regiment supported the Berlin offensive with the targets around Tiergarten. GUBIN survived the war, having made 111 combat missions by March 1945. Plus an unknown additional number of missions in the remaining war time.

GUBIN Nikolaj Denisovich
1922 – 1991

In the post war era, he had a fruitful career as a test pilot. 1945-1955, he served in the unit stationed in the city Kazan. 1955-1961, he was a test pilot attached to the military quality control commission at the Kazan aircraft plant №22. 1961 – 1972, GUBIN is the senior test pilot of of the same quality commission. He participated in the test of the aircrafts: Tu-16, Tu-104, Tu-22, IL-62. In 1971, the test pilot 1 class GUBIN was discharged to the reserve and began his civil carrier still linked to aviation. During 1972 – 1979, GUBIN is the senior flight operation controller at the Kazan aircraft plant №22. During 1979 – 1981, he works as a radio engineer at the flight test centre. 1981 – 1988, he is an electro-mechanic of the landing lights signalling systems. 1988 – 1990, he is an electro-mechanic of the in flight lights signalling systems. GUBIN retired in September 1990 and lived in Kazan city.

GUBIN is mentioned several times in the interview by test pilot NIKONOV printed in the May 2020 issue of “Aviation and Cosmonautics” magazine.

GUBIN passed away in May 1991 and buried in Kazan city.

There is another remarkable feat in the course of the WW2, which is very appropriate to mention here: RAF Aircraftman 1st Class later Sergeant A.A. MEADOWS, who “assumed control of the aircraft, and showing great determination and ability flew it to Sidi Barrani and landed it safely.

The recommendation for Meadows’ award was officially detailed in an RAF Middle East Command letter of 8th July 1940:
On the return of an aircraft of No.113 Squadron from a bombing attack on M.T. concentration south of Bardia at 1820 hours on 5th July 1940, the aircraft piloted by Flight Lieutenant A.M. Bentley, and in which 612422 A.C.1. MEADOWS, A.A., was air gunner, passed over the north end of the Bardia defences and received a burst of machine gun fire which killed the observer and wound the pilot in the arm, rendering him inoperative. A.C.1. MEADOWS, the air gunner, came forward in the machine and applied a tourniquet to the pilot’s arm. Although the aircraft was damaged and A.C.1. Meadows had not been trained as a pilot, he assumed control of the aircraft, and showing great determination and ability flew it to Sidi Barrani and landed it safely. By his cool and gallant conduct he undoubtedly saved the machine.

Order Glory III found the veteran 44 years after WWII

It took 44 years, until Sgt. EVSEENKO Dmitry Zakharovich received his order of Glory III class bestowed upon him on 16 May 1945. The award was handed to him in June 1989.
Sgt. EVSEENKO was the 45mm gun battery commander, 887 rifle regiment, 211 rifle division, 1 Guards army, 1 Ukrainian front.

Award citation:
In the combat engagement for the settlement Gorzyczki on 30 April 1945, he fired from an open sights position and eliminated 2 enemy snipers hiding in a house.
When the platoon commander was wounded and taken out of the action, he replaced him and continued the pursuit of the retreating enemy.

Signed by the commander of 887 rifle regiment Lt. Col. ANTONOV on 14 May 1945.

Map 211RD on 30Apr1945 near Gorzyczki, Poland.
Observation posts 211RD on 26 Apr 1945.

BLITSHTEIN served on cruiser “Aurora”

Please, meet Quartermaster III rank BLITSHTEIN David Isaakovich 1906, who served as a sailor on the cruiser “Aurora” during 1928-1931. The cruiser “Aurora” is currently preserved as a museum ship in Saint Petersburg. Aurora was one of three Pallada-class cruisers, built in Saint Petersburg for service in the Pacific. All three ships of this class served during the Russo-Japanese War.

The FCM 60197 medal bestowed for the period of Odessa defence by decree of 29.12.1941 by the Black sea Navy.

Citation: “He reliably provided refuelling capability to the vessels and other units in the difficult circumstances of the constant enemy air raids, bombardments, and artillery barrages against our fuel depots.
Close proximity of the front line required proper fuel supplies, which was provided by his department.
During the Odessa defence, the fuel was always supplied in time despite the difficulties, like f.ex. delivery to the town Ismail, to the artillery batteries, and to the ships; despite enemy artillery barrages and barges being damaged, or barges personnel being wounded and taken out of action. The supplies were delivered in time despite large quantity of ships in the port.
I recommend comrade BLITSHTEIN for a state award medal “For Combat Merits”.

Cruiser “Aurora”

OAN order for Lt. Col. BALASHOV, the THREE times OAN cavalier.

three times OAN cavalier BALASHOV

Please, meet the bestowed: Lt. Col. BALASHOV, the commander of 144 mortar regiment of the Supreme Command reserve, for the action in March 1945 near Ostrava (Moravia).
The special about this OAN # 27795, is that the cavalier was bestowed in total with THREE orders of Aleksander Nevsky. There were only 5 men like him ever.

Citation: “He provided fire support to 315 Guards rifle regiment, 128 Guards rifle division in the operation for enemy defence breakthrough north-west of Ostrava (Moravia) and commanded the infantry artillery support group.
He arranged for efficient operation of the artillery support group and the coordination with the supported rifle units. As the result of this effort, the fire delivered by the support group on 14 April 1945 completely disabled the enemy firing positions on the first line and in to the close depth of the enemy defence: destroyed 10 machine-guns, 2 mortar batteries, 2 guns on open sight positions, suppressed 105mm artillery battery, annihilated 50m of trenches. Our rifle units took control of the settlement Gorzyce practically without any losses, and later on crossed the river Olza.
He acted bravely and courageously during the engagement. He was severely wounded while being present at his commander post in immediate vicinity of our rifle combat formations. He deserves a state award – order “RED BANNER”.

The initial recommendation for ORB was changed to OAN. He was bestowed by the decree on 04 June 1945 by 4 Ukrainian front.

Decrees for all 3 BALASHOV’s orders “Aleksander Nevsky”.
Decrees for all 3 BALASHOV’s orders “Aleksander Nevsky”.

Naval award for Stalingrad battle, November 1942.

Please, meet Lt. SHICHKO Gennadij Andreevich (1922-1986), the commander of the 2nd combat station (gunnery) of the gunboat “USYSKIN” of the Volga Flotilla. Severely wounded during the artillery fire correction mission on 15/10/1942 defending the northern face of the Stalingrad city. 1,5 years in hospitals. After the war, he graduated as a psychologist and became known in the area of substance misuse prevention and treatment, developed his own sobriety method.

SHICHKO Gennadij Andreevich (1922-1986)

Red Star citation: 
Lieutenant SHICHKO Gennadij Andreevich has been the interim commander of the 2nd combat station (gunnery) of the gunboat “USYSKIN”. Being on the observation post under enemy fire, he excellently corrected the gunboats artillery fire and exhibited courage and bravery in the struggle for Stalingrad. With the gunboats firepower, he provided mighty fire support to the Colonel GOROKHOV’s land force.
During the combat period between 26/Sep/1942 and 15/Oct/1942, lieutenant SHICHKO inflicted the following losses to the enemy:
3 tanks set ablaze and 4 tanks were hit; 2 six barrel rocket launchers and one 105mm artillery battery suppressed; 11 loaded trucks destroyed; eliminated up to a company of the enemy troops.
On 15 October 1942, while manning the observation post in the settlement RYNOK, lieutenant SHICHKO corrected the gunboats artillery fire being subjected to constant enemy artillery and mortar fire. Utilising the gunboats firepower, he fended off an enemy attack directed at the settlement RYNOK and inflicted them sever losses. But, he himself sustained severe wounds in both of his legs in this combat engagement. At present, he is undergoing medical treatment in a hospital. Lieutenant SHICHKO deserves state award – order “RED STAR

Gunboat “USYSKIN” delivers fire near Stalingrad.
Painting “Gunboat USYSKIN delivers fire defending Stalingrad.”

SHICHKO’s both legs were severed and the danger of amputation was looming due to inflammation. The chief doctor insisted on amputation, SHICHKO denied. “No need to waist medicine on the doomed man” – replied the doctor. But the medics managed to save his both legs. After the recovery in 1944, SHICHKO began pedagogical work at the Naval Department of the Institute of Precision Mechanics and Optics in Leningrad. In 1954, he graduated as a psychologist at the Leningrad University, and achieved Ph.D. title in 1956 with the work “On the question of the higher nervous activity of an adult“.

NASA’s Scientific and Technical Aerospace Reports journal 1967 featuring SHICHKO’s paper.

Some of the paper titles authored or collaborated by SHICHKO: “On dosage of air jet during the production of conditioned blinking reflexes” 1959, “On the mechanism of the formation of conditioned reflex” 1965, “Changes in the ultrastructure of the cerebral cortex in rats during learning and in disorders of higher nervous activity” 1975.

SHICHKO’s grave site in St. Petersburg.

For 32 years, SHICHKO worked in the Institute of Experimental Medicine in Leningrad. He developed his own none-medicinal psychological method of substance misuse (drugs, alcohol, smoking) treatment and prevention.

Dog handler MAZEPA – rescuing wounded from the battlefield

Please, meet Sgt. MAZEPA Fedor Mikhailovich 1925. Dog handler of 58 separate dog medic transport detachment.

War service history: Kalinin front 08.1942 – 12.1943 at rifle ski battalion of 90GuRD; 2 severe wounds 26.12.1943; Recovery; 3 Belorussian front since 02.1945. Due to his wounds, he was acknowledged as limitedly capable for active duty. On 16 August 1944, he was transferred to the dog handler unit.

Citation for the Bravery Medal 2279579 awarded in May 1945: 
“During 13-17 April 1945, he participated in the engagements of 87 Guards rifle division for elimination of the German group in the Eastern Prussia, which was encircled at he Baltic sea coast. As a dog handler of dog medic transport unit, he evacuated 17 severely wounded soldiers with their weapons from the field of enemy fire. Hi bravery and skill allowed for fast evacuation of the wounded and reduction of the casualty rate. He deserves a state award – medal “For Bravery”.
Signed: Commander of 58 58 separate dog medic transport detachment. 
Captain VASILIEV15 May 1945.”

MAZEPA’s dog medic transport detachment supported the 87 Guards rifle division in 13-17 April 1945. This was just after the fall of Koenigsberg and the actions took place just West of the city (around Gross Heydekrug).Nice little war grunt group with all the documents. Bravery medal, Victory medal, Koenigsberg capture medal, Jubilee OPW2.

About medic dogs: From a veteran’s interview.
STRELKOV Georgij Aleksandrovich 1924:
I tell you a story. Once we were to make passages in minefields. Five hundred meters to our line, two hundred meters to the the German line. Suddenly, one of the guys accidentally touched the barbed wire to which the tin cans were wired. The Germans heard a noise and started shooting at the sound. It was winter, we were lying in the snow in camouflage coats. One of the guys was killed in front of us. We, seeing this, did not dare to move back, a kept laying and freezing in the snow. We were dressed quite warm: underwear, a quilted jacket, felt boots, and even on a belt, each had a flask of alcohol, for an emergency. But, I always remembered the commander’s instructions not to drink on the mission, so I didn’t even dare to bask in this way.
But two hours later, my Uzbek partner, began to lament and sigh, and I could do nothing to help him. Soon he went silent, passed away. And I also started feeling my arms and legs beginning the get numb. But to get up means to immediately fall under enemy fire. I continued to lie down. I understood that in such frost temperature, I will be finished by the morning hour.
I was already starting to doze off, and this is a sure way to die of cold, when suddenly something wet and warm passed over my face. I was stunned – there was a wolf in front of me! Having come to my senses a little, I noticed a red cross on his side, and I realized that it was a medical shepherd dog. But my hands were so cold that I could not do anything. The dog soon ran away. I thought to my self: “That is it. Now, now one, for sure, can help me”.
But soon I saw a nurse girl crawling towards me. She had a shepherd dog and a wooden boat with her. The nurse put me on a sled with a dog harnessed, and the two of them pulled me out of the no-man’s land. I was taken to a field hospital, put in a ward. First, they gave me the sniff of ammonia and hundred grams of vodka. Then they cut the boots and freed their legs. But in a warm room, I immediately lost consciousness.
My hands quickly recovered, but my legs were worse and worse. Soon the surgeon announced a disappointing sentence: my legs would be amputated – gangrene started. But his colleague, a Georgian dude, because he spoke with a strong accent, asked for an awl. He stuck it in my leg, there are still traces left, I cried out in pain. “It’s alive! It’s alive!” – said the Georgian, and I realized that they will heal my legs instead of an amputation.

Guards captain BELYAEV: Leningrad – Stalingrad – Prague

Please, meet Guards captain BALYAEV Sergej Grigorievich, 1900. The veteran volunteered to service in Leningrad front in June 1941.

The Red Star № 1848016 was bestowed in May 1945. At this time, the veteran was the head of finances of 278 Guards rifle regiment, 93 Guards rifle division. Finances – not much shooting, is it? But, in fact, the reason for such position was a severe wound sustained on 05 March 1942 during the Leningrad battle, when BELYAEV was a rifle platoon commander.

It is, unfortunately not known which rifle unit BELYEV served in March 1942. Maybe officer service record contains the answer? But after recovery in October 1942, it appears, he was sent to either 92nd or 97th (13GuRBr) separate rifle brigades (7RC, 64A). Both were Naval infantry units and played very important roles in Stalingrad battle. 92nd was defending Mamayev Kurgan, 97th – Lysaya Gora.

In April 1943, the new 93 Guards rifle division was formed out of the 92RBr and 13GuRBr (97RBr). BELYAEV served in the newly formed 278GuRR through the remainder of the war.

Sgt. MALIENKO: ambushed near Cottbus, 22 April 1945.

Please, meet Sgt. MALIENKO Petr Vakulovich, 1911. He was an ammunition supply squad leader of the 199 separate light-artillery brigade. Wounded in 1941.

During the combat period since 16 April 1945, comrade MALIENKO worked as ammunition supply squad leader. He proved himself as a courageous and brave commander.
On 22 April 1945 near town Cottbus, the supply truck column was subjected to unexpected attack by the enemy submachine-gunners. Comrade MALIENKO, being in the in the leading vehicle, jumped out and braced for defence against the enemy submachine-gunners. The fight resulted in MALIENKO personally killing 3 enemy submachine-gunners and one officer.
He deserves state award – order Patriotic war II class.
29 April 1945. Battery commander 199 separate light artillery brigade Guards Sr. Lieutenant /NESTEROV/

The veteran also earned a Bravery medal in December 1943 for the actions during the Dnieper crossing.
But shortly before that, MALIENKO was in a penal company of 195RD and was declared MIA on 27 October 1943.
As the document states: “During the assault one the village Grushevka, an enemy force broke through and the contact to the penal company was lost.
But MALIENKO didn’t perish as we know from this later citations. The veteran lived at least until 1985, when he got his Jubilee OPW2.

Signals squad leader KLOCHKO. August 1943.

Please, meet signals squad leader KLOCHKO Sergej Sergeevich, 1920.
302 rifle regiment, 29 rifle division, 23 rifle corps, 47 army, Voronezh front.
The veteran also earned order Glory III class in August 1944.

The Bravery medal bestowed for the actions during Belgorod-Kharkov Offensive Operation (direct continuation of the Kursk battle southern side).

Signals squad leader of the 1st rifle battalion Sr.Sgt. KLOCHKO Sergej Sergeevich is awarded for his action during the period 17-20 August 1943, in which he managed to provide uninterrupted communication lines between the battalion commanders and the rifle companies.