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How Soviet pilot Mamkin saved children in a burning plane: Operation Star
How Soviet pilot Mamkin saved children in a burning plane: Operation Star

The period of the Great Patriotic War has more than one thousand feats that Soviet people performed while defending the country. Alexander Petrovich Mamkin became a hero after risking his life, he managed to save all the passengers of his plane. Driving a wrecked car and being in a burning cockpit, according to the instructions, he had the right to gain altitude and jump off with a parachute. But the pilot hardly thought about it even for a moment, knowing that on board there were defenseless children and seriously wounded, who trusted and believed him.

How Soviet pilot Alexander Mamkin took part in Operation Zvezdochka

Airplane R-5 designed by Polikarpov N.N

Operation "Zvezdochka" was planned by the command of the partisan detachment. Chapaev, with the aim of transporting the children of the orphanage to the rear, which ended up in the territory occupied by the Nazis. To carry out the task, in addition to the partisans themselves, they attracted, by order of the commander of the 1st Baltic Front I. Baghramyan, part of the 3rd air army. The evacuation of the wounded and educators with children began at the end of March 1944; It was carried out by pilots of the 105th Civil Aviation Regiment, which was at the disposal of the Red Army during the war.

Single-engine biplanes flew several times daily to the airfield built by the partisans near the village of Kovalevshchina to take on board small passengers to send them to the rear through the front line. Among the pilots was also the 27-year-old guard lieutenant A. Mamkin, who was in charge of the P-5 aircraft converted for cargo transportation.

How was the evacuation of children and the wounded from the village of Belchitsa

Evacuation of a wounded Red Army soldier

In February 1944, children from the orphanage lived near Polotsk in Belchitsa, a small village occupied by the Germans. Having received reconnaissance information about the location of the fortifications, the number and armament of the enemy, on February 18 the partisans began to implement the plan, codenamed "Zvezdochka". After dark, 200 fighters from the Shchors detachment made a march, overcoming at an accelerated pace more than 20 km to the intended village.

First of all, the partisans provided cover in case of a possible collision with the Germans: they dug trenches in the snow, made machine-gun cells, organized an ambush. After that, a reconnaissance group went to the village, which, bypassing the guard posts of the fascists, began to take the educators with the children to a predetermined place. Another part of the detachment, dressed in camouflage white coats, met the orphanages and transported them to the forest, carrying in their arms those who could not move on their own due to illness or young age.

The plan was executed flawlessly - there were no time delays or a fight with the Germans due to the discovery of soldiers. The children and adults taken out were placed on carts and transported by train to the location of the partisans of the Shchors group. From there they were sent to a short-term stay at the residents of the village of Yemelyaniki, where the children of the orphanage were fed, washed in a bathhouse, dressed in clothes collected by the local population, and provided medical assistance if necessary. After that, the rescued were transported to Slovenia - the village of the Polotsk-Lepel zone, which was completely controlled by Belarusian troops.

In March 1944, intelligence reported on the plans of the Germans to clean up the Polotsk-Lepel zone from the bases of the "people's avengers" located on the territory. It became dangerous for children to stay in this area, so the command decided to send everyone to the deep rear - to the mainland.

How a Soviet pilot, engulfed in flames, managed to land a plane

During Operation Zvezdochka, pilot Mamkin transported more than 90 people by plane

Until April 10, almost all children and adults in need of help were evacuated by air: only 28 pupils and several employees of the orphanage remained in the partisan zone. Alexander Mamkin by this time had already made 8 flights, carrying the maximum possible number of wounded and children on board. On April 11, the pilot went on his ninth flight, having 13 passengers on the plane - two wounded partisans, one teacher and ten orphanages, of whom seven were placed in the navigator's cabin, and three under the fuselage in the cargo hold.

The night flight went well, but in the morning the plane was discovered and first fired at by anti-aircraft guns from the ground, and then by a fascist fighter in the air. As a result of the last attack, the biplane engine was damaged and caught fire, while the pilot was wounded in the head by shell fragments. However, despite the severity of the condition, Mamkin continued to fly the aircraft and managed to cross the front line, already in the cockpit completely engulfed in fire.

By the time Alexander landed at the location of the Red Army unit near Lake Bolnyr, his clothes had practically burned out, and the pilot himself received 3rd and 4th degree burns. The last thing he did while awake was to get out of the cockpit and ask if all the children were still alive. Mamkin was taken to a military hospital, but the wounds were incompatible with life: after spending six days unconscious, A.P. Mamkin died on April 17, 1944. Of the passengers who were on board that tragic day, no one was hurt - they all survived.

What awards did pilot Mamkin receive for his exploits?

Pilot Mamkin Alexander Petrovich

Alexander went to the front as a volunteer at the beginning of the war. Before his death, he managed to make more than seventy night flights, during which he removed 280 wounded soldiers to the rear and delivered over 20 tons of shells to the war zone. For fearlessness and courage shown in combat conditions, the pilot was repeatedly presented for awards.

So in 1943 Mamkin was awarded the Order of the Patriotic War of the first degree, in 1944 - the medal "Partisan of the Patriotic War" of the first degree and the Order of the Red Banner. For the feat shown in Operation Zvezdochka, the command of the 105th Separate Guards Aviation Regiment of the Civil Air Fleet presented the pilot posthumously to the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.

Unfortunately, for some unknown reason, neither the highest award, nor a well-deserved title, Alexander Petrovich was never awarded. But for the people he saved - during the last operation, Mamkin transported more than 90 people by plane - the pilot remained a hero forever. The orphanages who have become adults have preserved the memory of the pilot, naming their own children as a sign of gratitude, the name of their own, in the literal sense of the heavenly savior.

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