My grandfather was an “air war worker”

By old metrics and references

I wrote this little essay about my grandfather, a veteran of the Great Patriotic War, not without the help of my family. It is supplemented by materials and excerpts from documents about those units and formations in which my grandfather had a chance to fight during the war.

Alexander Grigorievich Smola – that was the name of my grandfather. He was born in the village of Kholmskaya, Abinsky District, Krasnodar Territory on August 13, 1923. This was written in his metric, which has not survived, and in all later documents.

Alexander Smola, who was not yet 18 years old, joined the army in 1941, having entered the Bataysk Flight School. At the very beginning of the war, my grandfather studied to be a navigator and a combat pilot and graduated from this school with honors. Two and a half years of the war had already passed, when in February 1944 my grandfather was sent to the 2nd Belorussian Front – there his combat path began.

He served in the famous 373rd Bomber Aviation Regiment of the 15th Air Army, formed back in 1940 under the command of Major Alexander Ivanovich Kobets. He died even before Alexander Grigorievich was in the regiment, who during the war made more than 300 sorties as part of his regiment.

Talking about the war veteran, it would be worth mentioning the hero’s place of service. The path of my grandfather’s regiment, as well as its name, was not monotonous. At the beginning of the war, the 125th Aviation Regiment suffered heavy losses; by the second month of the war, there were only seven serviceable aircraft in the regiment. The pilots were killed one by one under the fire of the German invaders.

As a result, the main command of the Air Force decided to reorganize and retrain the personnel of the regiment in Kazan. The pilots mastered new machines, including planes supplied under Lend-Lease from the USA and Great Britain. After retraining, the regiment began sorties as part of the air force of the Leningrad Front in the areas of the settlements of Sinyavino, Mga, Tosno, Izhora, Uritsk, Sablino and Siverskaya.

The reorganization played a significant role not only for the 373rd regiment, but for the course of the entire war as a whole, so it seems to me. Then many regiments received the Red Banner and orders, beautiful names in honor of famous battles and commanders. The 373rd bomber is well known as the Guards Sevastopol and Red Banner.

My grandfather was an

Until the end of the war, the 373rd regiment as part of the 2nd Belorussian, and later the 1st Baltic and 1st Belorussian fronts smashed enemy ground forces and strategic facilities of the Germans. Until the battle for Berlin, the regiment’s pilots made combat missions day and night, sparing no effort, not sparing life itself. For this they were rightfully called “air workers of war”.

Most of the combat path of the 373rd regiment passed as part of the 15th air army of Colonel-General N.F. Naumenko, which from the banks of the Don from Voronezh reached, more precisely, flew to Courland and Klaipeda, then still German Memel. My grandfather was lucky – he was not wounded, but once (our family knows very well and is proud of this heroic fact in his biography) he managed to land his burning plane far from the concrete strip of the airfield and saved the entire crew.

Among other things, he had 13 parachute jumps on his account. Today I also know that my grandfather was personally acquainted with the legendary Marshal of the Soviet Union Georgy Zhukov, although no family legend about such an acquaintance in the family, alas, has survived. And he finished the war in Berlin, received a medal “For Victory over Germany in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945.”

On the deadly “Pawn”

Lieutenant Smola was also awarded the Order of the Red Star – the first high award that even ordinary Red Army soldiers began to present during the Great Patriotic War. However, Lieutenant Smola received the Red Star at the very end of the war, when, in fact, many were awarded, but each submission for a medal, and even more so an order, had to be adequately substantiated.

The regiment commander immediately recalled that the Pe-2 dive bomber, the famous “Pawn” of Lieutenant Smola, had flown 45 sorties since August 13, 1944, with a combat flight time of 79 hours. In these sorties, almost 30 tons of bombs were dropped on the enemy, and the commander was awarded the Order of the Patriotic War of the 1st degree after only 30 sorties.

Until the end of the war, Lieutenant Alexander Smola had 15 more sorties, and often in bad weather conditions, and all his actions were confirmed by cover fighters and photographic tablets. 4 of these 15 sorties were for dive bombing to destroy enemy personnel and equipment.

Only during the Berlin operation, the Pe-2 combat crew managed to make six sorties, and in one of them, in the direction of Alt-Rosenthal, it engaged the German Focke-Wulf FW190 fighter. Boldly and deftly maneuvering, Lieutenant Small helped the fighters to shoot down the annoying fascist.

On April 25, as part of nine dive bombers, my grandfather flew to the bombing of Berlin, after which there was Victory. On the account of Lieutenant Smola, the same Order of the Patriotic War, 1st degree: I know that for a long time this was the only Soviet order that was passed on to the family as a memory after the death of the recipient.

In the order on awarding the Order of the Patriotic War, which is sacredly kept in our house, the grandfather was listed at number 7, along with his friend and colleague in the regiment, junior lieutenant Sokolov Georgy Pavlovich, who in the same order was at number 8.

Navigator Georgy Sokolov

But for some reason my grandfather especially loved the modest medals “For the capture of Berlin” and “For the victory over Germany.”

After the war, until 1954, my grandfather served in the army. After 1954 he lived in Kiev and worked at the famous Arsenal instrument-making plant. And shortly before his death, our retired grandfather worked as a chief mechanic at a motor depot in the city.

Unfortunately, my grandfather died a long time ago, on October 19, 1975, for me this is a very distant past, and how good it is that among my relatives there are still those who remember him. Everyone in our family is very proud of our famous military pilot, a veteran hero. I did not know my grandfather personally, but I will always remember him, and now not only from the stories of my relatives. Eternal glory and eternal memory to the heroes of the Great Patriotic War !!!

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