Birthday anniversary of Alexander Pokryshkin, renowned Soviet fighter pilot, three times Hero of the Soviet Union
6 (19) March 1913, in Novonikolayevsk (now Novosibirsk), Tomsk Province was born eminent Soviet pilot, three times Hero of the Soviet Union, Marshal of Aviation Alexander I. Pokryshkin.
Pokryshkin was born in the family of a factory worker, migrant from Vyatka Province. Childhood and adolescence of Alexander were poor; he grew up in the working-class suburbs of Novonikolaevsk called Zakamenka. His first contact with aviation Pokryshkin had at the age of 12, when he first saw a propaganda airplane. In 1928, after seven years of schooling, Alexander started working as a roofer at a construction site, and then entered the factory school. Sometime after the end of his studies, he worked as a toolmaker at Sibkombaynstroi - one of the leading Siberian giant enterprises that started to appear due to industrialization.
In 1932 Pokryshkin volunteered for the Red Army and in 1934 he graduated from the third Perm military school of aeronautical engineering and Leningrad military-theoretical flying school. From December 1934 to November 1938 Alexander served as a senior aircraft technician in the 74th Infantry Division in Krasnodar, while studying in the Krasnodar aviation club. During his service, he made a number of proposals to improve the design of aircraft armament and construction of the spy aircraft P-5. As a result, he received a letter from one of the leading Soviet aircraft designers N. N. Polikarpov.
Perseverance of Pokryshkin who had long desired to become a military pilot, and many times sent reports on his transfer to another service, soon produced an effect: in late 1938, he was sent to study at the 1st Kachin Air Force Pilot School n. a. A. F. Myasnikov, having graduated from it with honors a year later. Lieutenant Pokryshkin was sent to serve in the newly formed 55th aviation regiment of the Odessa Military District. In early 1941, he was promoted to lieutenant and was appointed a deputy squadron commander.
The outbreak of the Great Patriotic War caught Alexander in Moldova. On June 23 he opened his battle score: shot down a German fighter Me-109. July 3, Pokryshkin, who had by this time a few victories, was shaken down by anti-aircraft fire over the river Prut. With feet damaged due to his fall, he made his way for four days to reach his unit. After the treatment, Alexander returned to his regiment and continued to fight in the sky under the most difficult and dramatic circumstances of the first months of the war. Later, he said: "Thos who did not fight in 1941-1942, did not see a real war." October 5, 1941, Pokryshkin’s aircraft was brought down for the second time near the city of Zaporizhye, and a few days fought his way out of encirclement at the head of a group of soldiers. In November, in difficult weather conditions at low level flight Alexander alone managed to find and track down a large enemy tank group near Rostov-on-Don, and to transmit in time this important military intelligence. For this feat, he was awarded the Order of Lenin.
In early 1942, Pokryshkin’s regiment was transferred to the rear, in the Transcaucasia, to receive incoming through lend-lease American fighters P-39 "Aerocobra" and to re-train the personnel. The regiment returned to the front a year later, in April 1943, joining an air battle in the Kuban, which had no analogues in the density of fights and concentration of fighting aircrafts on a narrow sector of the front. In this battle the Soviet pilots opposed the selected Luftwaffe units and the best German pilots. In the first sortie on a new plane "Aerocobra" Pokryshkin brought down an enemy fighter, and the next day two more German aircrafts. In the sky over Kuban Alexander started to apply innovative techniques of air combat that he had developed. Totally, by the end of May 1943, the personal battle account of Pokryshkin listed 354 sorties, 54 air battles, 13 enemy aircrafts brought down personally and 6 crafts - in the group. It should be noted that aerial victories gained by him in the first months of the war were not included because of the loss of documents of the aviation regiment. May 24, 1943 by the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, the Guard Captain Pokryshkin was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union along with the "Gold Star" medal and the Order of Lenin.
In the summer of 1943, during the Battle of Kursk, Alexander, who by that time was promoted to the rank of major, continued to build up his military account. At the same time he efficiently introduced new techniques in the tactics of aviation, such as the new battle lines of fighters, the practice of "free hunting", the use of ground-based radars, as well as an innovative system of training pilots. August 24, 1943 for 455 sorties, 30 aircrafts brought down personally Pokryshkin was awarded the second title of the Hero of the Soviet Union. Alexander Ivanovich soon became a lieutenant colonel, and, in the office of the acting commander of the 16th pursuit aviation regiment participated in the battles of the Dnieper and the Black Sea. In February 1944, he was summoned to Moscow, to the commander of the Air Force A. A. Novikov who proposed him to take the position of Chief of the pursuit aviation training department of the Air Force, but Alexander refused the promotion and returned to the front, in the regular army.
August 19, 1944, the commander of the 9th Guards Air Division, Colonel Pokryshkin who had made 550 combat sorties and brought down 53 aircrafts, was awarded the third "Gold Star" medal and thus became the first three times Hero of the Soviet Union. At the head of the division, Alexander participated in the liberation of Poland, Romania, Berlin and Prague. He had his last air fight May 9, 1945 in the skies over Prague. In total, according to official figures, during the war he made 650 sorties, participated in 156 air battles and personally brought down 59 enemy aircrafts and six ones in a group. June 24, 1945 Pokryshkin participated in the Victory Parade in the Red Square, where he carried the military banner of the 1st Ukrainian Front.
After the war, Alexander Pokryshkin served in command positions in aircraft air defense. In 1948, he graduated from the Frunze ilitary Academy., and in 1957 – from the Military Academy of the General Staff. For ten years, from 1959 in 1969, he had been the commander of the Air Defense Army in Kiev; in 1968-1972 - Deputy Chief of the Air Defense Forces of the USSR, and later, until 1981, Chairman of the Central Committee of the DOSAAF. In 1969 Pokryshkin received an academic title of candidate of military sciences.
Alexander Ivanovich Pokryshkin died November 13, 1985 in Moscow at the age of 72. During his life, he was recognized with numerous awards, including six Orders of Lenin, the Order of the October Revolution, four Orders of the Red Banner, two Orders of Suvorov, two Orders of the Red Star. Streets in many cities and a number of educational institutions and enterprises bare the name of Pokryshkin.
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Based on the Presidential Library’s materials:
ГАНО. Ф. Д-156. Оп. 1. Д. 3474. Л. 74об.-75. Фрагмент из метрической книги Покровской церкви Новониколаевска за 1913 г. с записью о рождении Александра Ивановича Покрышкина. 1913 г.;
Человек из легенды. Александр Иванович Покрышкин : библиографический указатель. Новосибирск, 2013.