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Russian history knows several military pilots who returned to the helm after lower limb amputations. The most famous of them, thanks to the Soviet writer Boris Polevoy, was Alexei Maresyev, who lifted a fighter into the sky without both legs. But the fate of another person - the owner of the star of the Hero - Leonid Belousov, is little known. His feat stands apart - this pilot returned to service after being seriously injured twice.
In the Soviet post-war period, residents of Leningrad, strolling along Dobrolyubov Avenue, met a man in large black glasses walking slowly with a stick. His painful gait did not arouse any particular interest in anyone, because there were many disabled front-line soldiers in those years. His combat experience was evidenced by the Gold Star of the Hero on his chest. The eyes were riveted by the strange face of the man, or rather, his likeness. The front of the head was covered with a huge burn, and the eyebrows, nose, lips and ears were clearly "cut" from scratch. It was evident from everything that the high title of Hero was given to the man at a terrible cost. Of course, on the street, no one dared to approach such a person with questions. Local radio, television and newspapers were also silent about him.
Do not drink water from your face …
The fate of Leonid Belousov tested him for strength from early childhood. In adolescence, which fell on a difficult post-revolutionary time, the boy left his Odessa home and fell into vagrancy. The dependent child soon joined the infantry regiment of the Red Army, where he responsibly carried out reconnaissance missions. When the Civil War ended, 16-year-old Leonid was educated at a local school and began to earn his living as a locksmith in a steam locomotive repair shop.
At 20 he was a graduate of the Odessa Infantry School, joined the ranks of the Red Army, and at the same time studied at the military flight aviation school. Pilot Belousov's career started in the Baltic Fleet Air Force. Somehow in 1938, he was chasing a state border violator on his plane. Non-flying meteorological conditions interfered with the control, and at the moment of landing "blindly" the car caught fire. The pilot received severe burns to his face, chest and arms. To regain his human features, Belousov had to undergo 32 plastic surgeries without full anesthesia.
The pilot, who showed incredible courage and gradually resigned himself to his mutilated appearance, joked, they say, "don't drink water from your face." Fortunately, his eyesight was not affected, and the fighter with a new "face" returned to duty. The Finnish war was going on, there were crazy frosts up to 40 degrees. Belousov flew in an open cockpit, smearing an already aching face with a thick layer of fat. He carried out combat missions on a par with his colleagues - reconnaissance, cover for troops, attack. For the flight campaign of that war period, he was awarded the Order of the Red Banner.
Shocks of the Great Patriotic War
Captain Belousov met the beginning of WWII as squadron commander on the Hanko Peninsula. Suddenly, my legs began to hurt and go numb - apparently, in a terrible accident in 1938, the fire seriously damaged blood vessels and nerves. Belousov flew through pain, continuing to shoot down enemy planes. For the protection of Hanko he received the second Order of the Red Banner.
In December 1941, Leonid Georgievich covered the blockade "road of life." After each landing, he was literally pulled out of the cockpit by the arms, because his legs already refused to obey. During a medical examination after a minor injury, the diagnosis burst out: gangrene of the right leg. Despite the efforts of the surgeons, the leg had to be amputated up to the hip. Soon, signs of gangrene appeared on the left limb. This time they decided not to tighten and took away the foot. The disabled person, strong in spirit, set a goal to return to the front at all costs. First I mastered crutches, then I stood on my prostheses, insuring myself with a stick. Satisfying the persistence of the "fireproof", as the friends of Belousov, a fighter, joked, in the spring of 1944 the medical board examined the case about his future fate.
One of Leonid's friends said that the chairman of the commission Janelidze, having apologized, reminded Belousov that he was disabled and could not lead a full-fledged lifestyle, let alone air battles. Then Leonid Georgievich quickly jumped out onto an open terrace above a deep reservoir, from where he dived right in the form into a pond, swam across it back and forth. After this attack, the legless pilot was assigned to the flight unit. Belousov had to learn to fly again, after which he was appointed the regiment's castle commander for flight training. Already flying without legs, Leonid shot down two enemy aircraft. After the war, Belousov headed the Leningrad flying club, was the head of the taxi company. Received the title of Hero in 1957.
On the eve of the Victory Day celebrations, veterans of the Great Patriotic War were traditionally invited to the Leningrad House of Officers. During one of these meetings in the mid-70s, the floor was given to Leonid Belousov. With an effort, he rose from his chair onto his prostheses and walked over to the microphone. For 40 minutes, the veteran spoke without sitting down. He was silent to himself, talking about his comrades in arms. Belousov named the pilots who desperately fought the enemy on plywood "donkeys" and "seagulls". He talked about how very young guys took off and landed under the shelling of Finnish artillery, how they shot down Junkers while saving ammunition, how they forgot themselves to sleep soundly from fatigue in the first second after landing, how bravely they gave their lives for their homeland.
It was evident that the purpose of his speech was the desire to preserve the memory of his comrades and at least try to convey the acuteness of the feelings of those heroic events. At the end of that speech, Leonid Belousov asked: “Be you worthy of them too. We did our best. We, the outgoing generation, want to see that it was not in vain that we fought and died. And the Motherland is in your reliable young hands, guys."
Some pilots managed to work miracles. Such as Boris Kovzan, who survived 4 rams.
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