Escape from hell. Captured pilot Devyatayev, hijacking a plane from under the nose of German rocket men

Published on May 09, 2018

Escape from hell. Captured pilot Devyatayev, hijacking a plane from under the nose of German rocket men



It is believed that rocket science is one of the most romantic industries. However, during the war years, the work of not only romantic engineers, but also tens of thousands of concentration camp prisoners was involved in German rocket production. They also worked in the galleries of the plant in Mittelverka in the production of jet technology (5,946 V-2 ballistic missiles were manufactured, which can be considered the "great-grandmother" of the legendary R-7), and in the Peenemünde rocket center.

Many prisoners, not wanting to put up with their fate, sabotaged the work and organized an escape. I would like to tell you about the most unique case of escape from the “cradle of world rocket production”, organized by the Devyatayev group. In short - 10 prisoners of the camp at the Peenemünde training ground on February 8, 1945 hijacked a German He-111 bomber and flew it across the front line. Details of this feat are presented below.

Polygon peenemünde


Since 1937, the Peenemünde Rocket Research Center , located on about. Used in the Baltic Sea, intense work was carried out on the development and testing of missile weapons, in particular, the world's first serial ballistic missile V-2 (chief designer - Werner von Braun). The scale of the work is indicated by the number of personnel of the center: in 1943 it exceeded 15,000 people.



On the left is a diagram of the research and development rocket center at Peenemünde during the war years, where 1 is the starting position of the missiles; 4 - airfield; 5 - power station (now - the Historical and Technical Museum); 6 - aerodynamic laboratory, the concentration camp Karlshagen was located next to it; 9 - Fau-2 test benches; 10 - rocket factory; 11 - residential town. The right is a snapshot of Google Maps in the same part of the island these days. With the naked eye visible contours of the former test bench V-2.



On the left is a Google Maps snapshot of the Peenemünde Historical and Technical Museum today, where 1 is the V-1 projectile, 2 is a copy of the first V-2 rocket, 3 is a memorial stone to prisoners running from the Devyatayev group. On the right is a close-up photo of the memorial stone, which lists all the participants in the escape.

Despite the most severe destruction and death of hundreds of specialists after the airstrike on August 17, 1943 (597 heavy bombers of the British Air Force participated), and subsequent air strikes, intensive work in Peenemünde took place almost until the very end of the war. The last V-2 rocket was launched from the test site on February 19, 1945, a total of 264 A-4 launches from the island. Also, the accelerated development of the Wasserfal, Schmetterling, etc., was significantly accelerated ahead of its time. Boris Chertok in his book “Rockets and People” recalled that the buildings of the landfill in June 1945 were in satisfactory condition and, for the most part, the Peenemünde landfill could function if the equipment had not been evacuated / destroyed by German specialists.

“Echo of War”

The north coast of the island Usedom, which was bombed, still resembles a lunar landscape. Google Maps snapshot.



Also, the Allied air raids are reminiscent of a British bomber corps at the bottom of Lake Kölpien, located near the airfield of Ozed. Link to its location on the map.

Since 1943, thousands of prisoners have worked in the Karlshagen concentration camp at the Peenemünde rocket center, including neutralizing unexploded bombs and eliminating the effects of the bombings. The inhuman conditions of detention and labor of the prisoners of this camp are described in detail in the memoirs of Mikhail Devyatayev himself “Escape from Hell” and another organizer of the escape - Ivan Krivonogov “The Motherland is calling. Notes of an officer of the Soviet army ”. These books also present the events of the combat path of captured Soviet officers, some of which I cite below:

Fighting path of Mikhail Devyatayev and Ivan Krivonogov before escaping with Uzedom

Mikhail Petrovich Devyatayev


Михаил Петрович свой первый боевой вылет совершил утром 22 июня 1941 года. Имея за плечами 9 воздушных побед, тяжелейшее ранение в воздухе, долгую реабилитацию, после которой — запрет на управление истребителями, два года полетов в санитарной авиации за штурвалом По-2, Девятаев, при помощи своего бывшего командира В. И. Боброва, попадает в 9-ю истребительную авиадивизию под командованием Александра Покрышкина. Истребительная авиадивизия Покрышкина была одной из лучших в Красной Армии, а встречи с самим талантливым комдивом немецкие летчики опасались, передавая в эфир открытым текстом: «Achtung! Pokryshkin ist in der Luft!» («Внимание! Покрышкин в воздухе!»).

Впоследствии, Покрышкин высоко оценил подвиг Михаила Петровича (текст представлен в воспоминаниях Девятаева):
По обстоятельствам боевой жизни на войне можно оказаться в плену, но не стать пленником...
К тому же, в воспоминаниях А. И. Покрышкина “Познать себя в бою”, представлено подробное описание подвига. Также примечательно, что на интервью 1985 года лётчики дивизии Покрышкина и сам её командир засчитали угнанный самолет Михаилу Девятаеву в счет сбитых.

13 июля 1944 года, в ходе воздушного боя с превосходящими силами противника, истребитель Bell P-39 Airacobra под управлением Девятаева был сбит над вражеской территорией. Очнулся летчик уже в землянке, будучи захваченным в плен.

После безрезультатных допросов, оказавшись сначала в Лодзинском, а затем, в Кляйнкенигсбергском лагере, с простреленным плечом, вывихнутым коленом обгоревшими руками и лицом, летчик начинает планировать побег. Михаил Петрович находит единомышленников и первой попыткой становится рытье подкопа из барака за лагерное ограждение. О почти завершенном туннеле узнает охрана лагеря и участников побега отправляют в концлагерь «Заксенхаузен». В застенках лагеря Девятаеву спасает жизнь заключенный, работавший парикмахером. Он подменил карточку летчика, обвиненного в попытке побега и саботаже (за это полагалась смертная казнь), на карточку погибшего ранее узника по фамилии Никитенко, а также заменил нашивную бирку с индивидуальным номером заключенного. Товарищи из подпольного сопротивления поспособствовали, чтобы Девятаева, желающего осуществить побег, отправили в лагерь на о.Узедом, который располагался вблизи аэродрома.

Иван Павлович Кривоногов


image
Иван Павлович начал войну в звании лейтенанта командиром гарнизона приграничного дота вблизи г. Леско. Гарнизон держал оборону в течение 13 дней, пока немецкие части не окружили дот превосходящими силами и не осуществили несколько подрывов казематов и крыши дота. После чего, раненый Кривоногов (у него сильно обгорела голова) и три его товарища смогли с боем вырваться из разрушенного дота. Примкнув к группе военных, при попытке раздобыть продовольствие, лейтенант попадает в плен 6 июля 1941 года. В первые дни военнопленные прятали Кривоногова от немцев, которые по характеру ожогов на голове приняли его за танкиста и пытались его разыскать. Далее он был отправлен в лагерь в Лотарингии на юге Франции, откуда, за попытку побега и убийство надзирателя, этапирован в несколько тюрем и концлагерей. В конце 1943 года Кривоногов попадает на о. Узедом, где начинает организацию нового побега.

In October 1944, after Mikhail Devyatayev arrived on Uzedom, the backbone of the group was formed, which included Devyatayev, Krivonogov, Sokolov, Nemchenko and Kutergin himself. The group abandoned the old plan to escape to the mainland with the help of a boat and finally focused on hijacking the aircraft at the aerodrome.

Directly for hijacking the prisoners had to solve a number of problems:

  1. Team members needed to be on the airfield team in order to gain access to the aircraft. To do this, they throw a stolen ring to the current team leader (capo), who collaborated with the Germans. Kapo is accused of stealing and executed. One of the organizers of the group (Nemchenko) becomes the head of the aerodrome team, which makes it possible to transfer to the team of the remaining escape participants.
  2. Mikhail Devyatayev did not have the experience of piloting German aircraft, especially bomber aircraft (the fighter was not suitable due to the large number of groups), therefore, it was necessary to collect the available information about the enemy’s aircraft technology bit by bit:
    I began to carefully look at the German cars, using the slightest opportunity to get acquainted with them. <...> I began to study the details of the broken aircraft, although without the risk of being shot, they could not be taken. Often we were assigned to clean up the wreckage of the aircraft. During this work, I tore out various tablets from the dashboard, hid them in my pockets, in a cooking pot, and when I returned to the barracks, I tried to figure out what was happening, I studied the purpose of the instruments.
    <...> On one of the January days, we were forced to rake the snow from the planes, to mask them. I was really lucky: I cleared the wing of the aircraft from the snow and watched close by as the crew uncovered engines with familiar movements, connected the battery trolley to the onboard network, as the cabin doors opened. And when the motors started to roar, I wanted to look at least with one eye on the actions of the pilot, who started the motors for heating. Climbing up on the wing, I saw how he handles the cockpit fittings, which he does during the launch of the aircraft. A pilot, apparently wanting to boast of his skill, then turned on, then turned off the motors ...
  3. It was necessary to choose the optimal escape time when the plane would not have an enemy. Taking advantage of German punctuality, the Devyatyeva group chose a lunch break for escaping:
    “... At this time, the fascists weaken their vigilance, and they leave their jobs. We noticed that if a German hammered half a nail, and at that time hit the bell for dinner, he quits his job and leaves. Lunch, and then finish this nail to the end. ”
    Successfully get to the plane was only the third time. The previous attempts failed due to the snow-covered landing gear (Dornier-217 bomber) and because of the engines that had been muffled by the crew (Heinkel 111 bomber, at that time Devyatayev did not know the engine start algorithm and wanted to seize the plane with running engines). In both cases, the crew and the aerodrome team were near the aircraft, which also reduced the chances of an inconspicuous capture of the bomber.
  4. At the right moment it was necessary to remove the guard guarding the group. With this task, with the help of pre-stored metal stick, Ivan Krivonogov coped. Before that, the guard was deceived by the allegedly previous order of the master, which consisted in the repair of the destroyed bunker near the airfield. The transition to the repair of the bunker allowed to get as close as possible to the selected aircraft.



    The choice of Mikhail Devyatayev fell on the newly-fueled Heinkel He 111 bomber. As it turned out later, he was equipped with radio equipment for testing missiles.
  5. 10 prisoners of the camp were engaged in the repair of the bunker, five of them were not aware of the escape, so they indignantly reacted to the killing of the guard. Ivan Krivonogov with a security guard rifle in his hands promptly brought up the knowledge of the uninitiated participants, after which, the whole group moved to the plane.
  6. It was necessary to get into the cockpit, which, surprisingly to the prisoners, was locked up. Mikhail Devyatayev had to make a hole in the dural body of the fuselage with a metal block in order to reach the door handle inside the aircraft.
  7. It was necessary to start the aircraft engines without batteries on board. Once in the cabin, the Devyatayev first of all took off the prisoner's striped robe, so that the Germans from afar could not understand that the prisoner was driving the plane. Sitting at the helm and turning on the power on the electrical equipment panel, the pilot discovered the absence of current in the bomber’s on-board network. The battery box located behind the armor frame was empty. The prisoners did not lose their head and drove a trolley with batteries found nearby, after which they connected it to the plane’s network, by analogy with the actions of German technicians. This allowed to start the engines.

    Further, according to the plan, a masking cover was removed from the aircraft, the landing gear was released from the supporting pads, and the prisoners were located inside the fuselage. Despite the mortal danger, the plane began taxiing to the runway only after the engines were warming up (hello to some modern automakers who say that, from a technical point of view, the engine is not required to warm up).
  8. The first take-off attempt did not succeed, because the exhausted pilot alone could not keep the helm in the desired position “over” after accelerating on the runway, with increasing speed, he began to push Devyatyaev more and more onto his chest. A bomber moving at take-off speed was threatened with a slide onto the Baltic coast at the end of the runway. The pilot manages to release the gas and try to stop the plane with brakes, and when he realizes that this does not help, he does the following:
    “... I pressed my foot on the left brake pedal with incredible force and increased the speed of the right motor. As if in a whirlwind, the plane acquired a frantic rotational movement of the left turn with the right roll, made a turn around the very steep coast of the sea that the cantilevered part of the right plane plowed the ground and the left landing gear wheel went up. ”
    After the turn, the plane returns to the starting position for the second attempt. All these actions attracted the attention of airfield personnel and the Germans began to flee to the aircraft.

    The weakened captive pilot, who then weighed less than 40 kilograms, could not cope alone with the helm at the second attempt at takeoff. For separation from the strip took the effort of three people. Finally, after four chassis strikes on the cement path, the plane took off and began to climb.

After takeoff, Devyatayev and his comrades encountered the following difficulties:

  1. The pressure on the steering wheel was still transcendental, as soon as the comrades eased the pressure, the plane went into an uncontrolled climb at a high angle of attack. Devyataev had to distract his comrades from the singing of the "Internationale", and they zealously leaned on the steering wheel. The effort turned out to be excessive, the plane began to swoop down and almost touched the Baltic waves before the pilot managed to correct the pressure on the steering wheel, sufficient for horizontal flight without sharp fluctuations in pitch. During the flight, Devyatayev, studying the instruments of the aircraft, came across a wheel of the elevator trimmer, which was in the landing position. This was the cause of excessive pressure on the steering wheel, after adjusting the trimmer, it became possible to control the aircraft alone.



    The red line marks the elevator control trimmer wheel, which is designed to lift the balancing forces from the aircraft steering wheel. A photo of the cockpit of the He-111 bomber from a similar angle could not be found; an image from the game reality
  2. During the climb, Devyatayev noticed enemy fighters taking off to intercept. The pilot, having no advantage in speed, goes to the clouds heading north-west. The fighters lost sight of the stolen He-111, and could not find it in dense clouds, not knowing the exact course of the bomber.
  3. After the stabilization of the bomber and out of the clouds, the question arose about the direction of flight. The Devyatayev group did not manage to get a map of Eastern Europe, in connection with which it was decided to fly east and then south before the location of the Soviet troops. Oriented the plane by the sun.
  4. After crossing the Baltic coast 300-400 km from the airfield, over the front line the plane came under fire from Soviet anti-aircraft artillery. As a result, a gaping hole in the plane of the right wing and two wounded from the escape team. Mikhail Devyatayev decides to land on the loose snow of the nearest field. After a hard landing (the landing gear was broken down as a result of a strike on the ground), the escaped prisoners find themselves in the Soviet 61st Army, where, seeing their emaciated bodies, the soldiers first fed the prisoners in the canteen. Unique escape has been successfully completed!

After escape


The officers (Devyatayev, Krivonogov, Emets) were sent by counterintelligence to confirm their military ranks, and did not take part in the hostilities. After the operational check, the remaining seven participants in the escape were enlisted in the company of the 777th rifle regiment, and all but Fyodor Adamov were killed at the front in 1945.

Mikhail Devyatayev promptly handed over information to the 61st Army commander Peenemünde. It is difficult to say how this information and the ensuing bombing affected the curtailment of the missile program on Uzedom, because, according to the memoirs of Von Braun’s colleague Dieter Hutzel, the decision to evacuate the island was made on February 3. One way or another, the evacuation from the Peenemünde test site began on February 17, 1945.

To complete the check, Devyatayev was transferred to the “Special Camp No. 7” of the NKVD, located on the territory of the former Sachsenhausen concentration camp. According to the memoirs of Devyatayev, in September 1945, he was summoned by Colonel Sergeev for consultations during the inspection of the Peenemünde test site. Inspection took a few days. Only many years later, Devyatayev learned the real name of the colonel - he turned out to be the general designer S. P. Korolev.

Edit: As a user of Teecat rightly noted , Sergei Pavlovich in the fall of 1945 had the rank of lieutenant colonel, as evidenced by the memoirs of Boris Chertok and photos from the family archive presented in Natalya Koroleva’s book “We must live with passion”:

Photo by S. P. Korolev in 1945-1946.
С. П. Королёв, Берлин, ноябрь 1945 г.


С. П. Королёв на полигоне Пенемюнде в звании полковника, 1946 г. Возможно, что в воспоминаниях Девятаева имеется неточность в датировке повторного визита в Пенемюнде.

At the end of 1945, Devyatayev was demobilized, however, the all-union recognition of the feat of the Devyatayev group took place only 12 years later, in 1957. On August 15, 1957, Mikhail Devyatayev was awarded the Honored Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union.

In one of his last interviews, Mikhail Devyatayev explained why he considers initiating the title of Hero of Sergey Pavlovich Korolev as the initiator:

In the summer of 2002, Mikhail Devyatayev visited Uzedom and met with Günther Hob, a fighter pilot sent to intercept a stolen bomber.

Instead of PS , it is difficult to overestimate the significance of the escape of the Devyatayev group; it is the liberation of people from the harshest conditions of captivity, and the hijacking of a plane with unique equipment, which had no analogues in the USSR, and the punishment of the camp and polygon bosses infuriated by Goering. But the most important thing is one of the most striking examples of the achievement of a goal, courage, professionalism and triumph of fortitude over seemingly insurmountable circumstances.

All the Victory Day!

User comments about the fate of relatives who have been in German captivity
katok535: Горжусь тем, что мой дед, Анатолий Иванович Тюрин, командир минометного взвода, получал награду (медаль) вместе с Девятаевым (тот Героя получал). Дед дважды бежал из лагеря, за побег приговорили к расстрелу, но он сумел сбежать. Приговорили за первый, повели на расстрел — спасла, как ни смешно, буржуазная частная собственность, с которой дед боролся. Поставили к стенке их, пять человек, выскочил хозяин стенки и стал возмущаться. То ли не хотел, чтобы пули попортили кладку, то ли просто расстрела у себя не стал допускать. Конвоир повел их в лес, а пленные, понимая, что смерть неминуема, решили по сигналу врассыпную бежать — мол, всех не убьют, кто-то имеет шанс уцелеть. Что интересно, выжили все! Дед считал, что немец намеренно стрелял в воздух. Не хотел бессмысленно убивать людей в конце войны. Правды никто уже не узнает…
Вышел к американцам — до этого никогда не видел негров, решил, что попал в ад. Это был крайне опасный для его жизни момент — закормили шоколадом, а он голодал, мог заворот кишок случиться… По возвращению в СССР был репрессирован, так как не только попал в плен, а еще и к американцам вышел. Потом реабилитирован и вот, вместе с Девятаевым, был награжден. Самолет не угонял, поэтому только медаль. Спасибо, дед!
vershinin: Репрессирован — это как? Сел в тюрьму? В лагерь? Или задержали в фильтрацилонном?
katok535: Лагерь. Не знаю точно, сколько по времени сидел. Вернулся потом домой, постепенно восстановили в правах — по гражданской специальности, он в Гипромезе (металлических изделий) инженером работал. Как-то не особо рассказывал… Надо сказать, что оба деда, в отличие от сказок по ТВ, при воспоминаниях о Войне всегда хмурились. Не любили рассказывать. А уж за «можем повторить!» могли бы и пощечину отвесить… Сам хорошо помню ветеранов-калек, с пустым рукавом, на костылях и с орденскими планками. Да и мои «оба деда», вернувшиеся с войны, пусть не вводят в иллюзию — у деда по отцу в семье было 10 сыновей. Вернулись двое, включая его. Хотел бы он «повторить», как считаете?.. Дед по матери — контузия, плен, лагерь, побег, приговор, второй побег, снова лагерь — уже в СССР. Хотел бы он повторить?..

Vanellope: Мой дед, простой солдат, получил от плена по полной. Фашисты предположили, что он офицер, переодетый в солдатскую форму. Выправка была офицерская. Поэтому сначала гестапо и пытки. Потом, не добившись ничего, отправили в концлагерь. Потом батраком у бауэров до конца войны. Потом освобождение американцами и предложение не возвращаться к своим, ведь пленных ждали лагеря на Родине. Но он вернулся к своим и получил путевку в лагеря. За то, что в окружении выполнил приказ командира и не застрелился вместо плена. А командир запретил брать оружие, сдал весь полк в окружении, да и из винтовки трудно застрелиться. Но не смотря на такое прошлое, после освобождения в 53м, почти сразу позвали работать в МГБ.

Stirliz85:… Мой дед, по его же собственным словам, дольше пробыл в плену, в госпиталях и на допросах, чем в реальных боевых действиях. Первый раз бежал сам почти сразу, потом контузия и госпиталь, затем еще один плен, из которого освобождали уже свои, потом еще одна контузия. Между побегом и возвращением на фронт несколько месяцев дознаний и прочих проверок. Но он не был офицером. Возможно так «легко» не отделался бы, будь звание повыше.

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