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Il- 2 “Mstitel”, Berlin, 1945: new material.
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Author Topic: Il- 2 “Mstitel”, Berlin, 1945: new material.  (Read 1879 times)
Full Member
Posts: 100

« on: May 18, 2020, 01:10:16 AM »

   Dear friends,
   One of my favorite Il-2, but I believe not only mine, is the airplane that is represented in this photo, taken from Getty Images:

   I have seen this image for the first time in the seventies, and it is the photo number 23 in the book “Избранные фотографии: Альбом — Москва: Планета, 1978” a series of photographic albums with favorite photos from famous photographers, and the date of the photo is 29 April 1945.
   At the time, I used to make black and white photographs, to print and elaborate them by myself.
   It was clear to me that the photo was a photomontage, sticking a photo planes to a photo of the ground, using some clouds to mask the two photo borders.
   Only recently I have found, in the Internet, that the Il-2 “Mstitel” meaning “Avenger”, appeared for the first time in the magazine “Фронтовая иллюстрация №9-10 Май 1945”.
   “Front-line illustration” was the magazine of the main political directorate of the Red Army, with a format of 30x23 cm.
   There is no circulation information, but as I understand it, it was a widely distributed propaganda magazine, like the American “Victory” magazine.
   This is the page with four photos.

   In the photo captions, we have several names: the first is of the Colonel General of Aviation Sergey Ignatievich Rudenko, at the time the commander of the 16th Air Army.
   Then we have the Hero of the Soviet Union Guard Colonel V Vladimir Ignatievich. Belousov that at that time commanded the 198th Assault Aviation Division.
   The hero, and the pilot of “Avenger”, is the 22 years old Senior Lieutenant Vladimir Bondarenko, commander of the 3rd Squadron of the 567th ShAP, 198th ShAD, 6 ShAK, 16 VA, that in April 1945 had been awarded the “Order of the Patriotic War, 1st degree” that in the last photo is seen congratulated by Colonel Belousov.
   If you are curious about the tall building seen behind the planes in one of the photos, it was at the time the “Deutsches Haus”.
   Today it is called with its original name, “Ullstein Haus”, from a family of Yewish magazine publishers, that was “aryanized” during the Nazism, and that during the war was the editor, among other magazines, of “Signal”!
   Thanks to the site we have another photo, which seems taken in the same occasion, where we have another name, that of the squadron commander Boris Karlovich Sbirs.

   From Frontline Illustration we have the names of the two war correspondents, the famous Capitan M. Redkind and Lieutenant A. Archipov, the authors of these photos.
   Recently, Getty photos has presented several other photos from this photographic session.
   The one I prefer:

   The one used for the famous photomontage:

   Another one not showing N.25:

   Please note that in the third airplane is just visible what seems to be part of a tactical side number.
   Of course, you have noticed that 25 is a rather special plane, as it has not only the partial white rudder and dot of the 567th ShAP, but also white tip of tail and counterweight, white stripes on the rudder flap, white stripes on the spinner, and white tip of the undercarriage container.
   We also have a couple of other photos, one showing the right side:

   And another one taken from, were the airplane has no white dot on the tail:

   I suppose that you have noted that in Front line illustration we can see up to ten planes, while in the TASS photos the airplanes are 5 or 6.
   Then, while searching “Pamyat Naroda” for interesting documents, and I can assure you that there are thousands of interesting documents, I found the entry for that particular photo session:

   I hope that some of our friends familiar with Russian handwriting could give us a complete and correct translation of this text, but from it, we have that on the first of May 1945, 7 planes, six from the squadron and one from the high quarters, departed for a special mission.
    They flew with photographers Redkind and Archipov, and several pilots, the high brass was a Neberov, of whom I am not able to decipher the grade or the unit, and among the other six pilots, we find Bondarenko, Sbirs, and Metelev.
   The mission went on smoothly, no enemy fighters, only some flack, no losses, no weapons used.
   Now we can say that all the photos from this photo session have been retouched, in one way or another, in some case just to show more planes, like in Front-line Illustration, in other maybe for censorship, as we had an high brass plane, or maybe just for esthetical reasons, as the planes had not uniform insignia.
   Moreover, in the years, 25 has been represented without the name, without the name and bolt, and without name, bolt and number.
   It could be easy to imagine that even the plane in foreground has been retouched, but from and Massimo site we have the following information:
“Newspaper: "Soviet Belarus" # 49 from 16.03.2006
DEFENDERS of the FATHERLAND: Goering promised dominance in the sky. Volodya Bondarenko defeated the Reich Minister - An unusual picture from a front-line newspaper was brought to the editorial office by Boris Prokofievich Shablinsky, a former mechanic of the 567th assault aviation regiment, which was part of the 1st Belorussian front. Il-2 attack planes over the defeated Berlin on May 1, 1945. In the foreground-a plane with the inscription 'Avenger'. - So, - says Boris Prokofievich, - this IL-2 was driven by my comrade Volodya Bondarenko.”
   And then we have, through il2sturmovik forum, the following information:
“From the letter of the participant of the Second World War V.I. Sinitsyn to the editorial office of the newspaper Belgorodskaya Pravda of 20-02-1968:
"Dear editors!
You made me a good present for the 50th anniversary of the Soviet Army by publishing M. Redkin’s picture “Retribution”.
The fact is that over Berlin - the planes of the 567th assault aviation regiment of the Berlin 198th assault aviation division “Warsaw”, which I served as a master of aircraft since 1944 and participated in the assault on Berlin. The history of the picture is as follows.
Our regiment was based these days at an airfield near the village of Buchholz, 7-10 kilometers from Bernau and twenty kilometers from Berlin. After continuous flights to attack Hitler’s fortified positions in Berlin, there was a sudden lull at the airport. On the morning of May 2, correspondents arrived at our regiment. Just at that time, the order came in again to prepare the six “Ils” for departure. The regiment commander Major Svirs Boris Karpovich, our fellow countryman, from Kursk, led them to attack.
In the cockpit, the shooter was replaced with M. Redkin’s apparatus, which photographed planes before approaching the target. The plane in the foreground, twenty-five, is the plane of the commander of the third air squadron, commanded by Captain Vladimir Bondarenko. On board is the word "Avenger", which was true: we took revenge on the Nazis for all their atrocities.
But, it seems, this time the senior lieutenant Boris Metelev flew with "twenty-fifth" with his inseparable friend gunner Volodya Basharin.
The picture of M. Redkin in those years went around many newspapers and magazines. I remember well that it was published in “Ogoniok”.
For the heroism and courage shown by the pilots and technicians during the battles for the capture of Berlin, our regiment was given the name "Berlin".
Thank you very much for the picture.
Sinitsyn Vladimir Ivanovich, director of the evening school number 8 of the city of Belgorod, captain of the reserve.
February 20, 1968. "
   If you are interested, at you can find a longer biography of this soldier, but it adds little to the previous assessment.
   And so?
   If we want to know what has really happened to the photos of this famous photo session, we should be able to find the original negatives, if they still exist, and look to them with a magnifying glass, but if I have to look into my heart, I can clearly see a “Mstitel” flying low over Berlin.
   Best regards

Massimo Tessitori
Hero Member
Posts: 6530

« Reply #1 on: May 18, 2020, 07:55:34 AM »

Hi Daniele,
you've made a great research on this episode.
I've tried to find out numbers or other common features on these photos by playing on the lightness, but without results. It seem really that only 25 and one other plane had some kind of numbers.
I suppose that there were numbers, but painted in red and covered by stains.
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