Stepping into Immortality: Lesser-known Heroes of the Great Patriotic War

During the Great Patriotic Soviet the highest Soviet award — the Gold Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union — was awarded to 11,657 soldiers and officers of the Red Army, and 3,051 — posthumously. The feats were performed on land, sea, in the air. Not all heroes are widely known. RIA Novosti offers a reminder about some of them.

Tank crew member

The Guard Captain Vladimir Bochkovsky – a real ace of tank combat. During the war years, he destroyed 36 enemy armoured vehicles. More than once he came close to death, was seriously injured four times, and burned five times.

On March 21st 1944, the Deputy Commander of the Battalion of the 1st Guards Tank Brigade, Captain Bochkovsky personally led the troops into an attack – they crossed the Trena River and captured the bridgehead on the enemy bank. His tanks turned 16 enemy cannons, four assault guns, and more than 200 vehicles into a pile of metal. The next day, the Germans counterattacked. And they lost three tanks, five mortars, up to 50 armoured vehicles, and a platoon of soldiers from the fire of Soviet vehicles. For these fights Vladimir Bochkovsky was awarded the title of Hero.

During the Vistula-Oder offensive operation on January 15th 1945, Bochkovsky’s tank rammed a railway echelon of German Tigers. The Т-34’s pushed off the embankment the locomotive, which was going at full speed, and it crumpled, dragging behind it the platforms with armoured vehicles on them. For this feat the hero-tanker was presented with the second Gold Star, but eventually replaced the award with the order of Suvorov of the III degree.


Anatoly Nedbailo was considered one of the best stormtroopers in combat aviation. He flew more than 220 missions in his Il-2.

Nedbailo personally destroyed dozens of tanks on the battlefield, hundreds of objects in the near rear of the enemy, and countless Nazis. He participated in the Mius, Donbass, Melitopol, Nikopol-Krivoy Rog, Crimean, Vitebsk-Orshan, Minsk, Vilnius, Kaunas, Memel, East Prussian, Königsberg, and Zemland operations.

The captain was twice awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union – in April and June 1945. His “Il-2” was shot down three times, once he miraculously survived, colliding with a wingman in the fog.

The stormtrooper crashed to the ground, the pilot suffered serious fractures and lost consciousness. The infantry who arrived at the crash site pulled him out of the cockpit seconds before the plane caught fire. Nedbailo returned to service after only a month and a half.


Lieutenant Captain Valentin Starikov served in the Northern Fleet, commanding a submarine of the “Malyutka” М-171 type. His crew carried out 23 combat missions and sunk 13 enemy ships: seven transporters, a tanker, two submarines, two trawlers, and a boat. “Malyutka” became a real theat for Kriegsmarine sailors – they hunted the Russians, but each time Starikov got away from the depth bombs.

The elusive submarine twice infiltrated the enemy’s well-protected naval bases. Thus, on October 2nd 1941, the М-171 covertly passed through a narrow fiord into Linhammar harbour and torpedo two enemy transporters literally under the noses of guard ships and coastal batteries. At the exit of the bay, where enemy boats with depth bombs were prowling, “Malyutka” entered the anti-submarine trap. Starikov managed to escape from the trap, float up unnoticed, and pass over the barrier.

By January 1942, there were seven enemy transports on the M-171’s account. And in April the crew of the boat for combat services received the honorary name “Guards”. The commander was awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union.


Senior Sergeant Gennady Barykov met the war as an armour piercer in the rifle regiment, fought on the Central, Bryansk, and South-Western fronts, burning German tanks in the Kursk direction with an anti-tank rifle. In December 1941, he was seriously wounded.

The soldier recovered, passed through retraining, and from July 1943 commanded a gun in a battery of 76-mm guns of the 753rd rifle regiment, having met Victory in East Prussia. Barykov was particularly distinguished in the Königsberg Operation. On April 6th 1945, during a breach of the enemy’s defences near the village of Vargen, his team destroyed three anti-aircraft guns, five machine guns, and two dozen enemy soldiers with direct fire.

The next day, Gennady resisted a counterattack of German tanks. One of the shots seriously injured the gunner and the loader. The senior sergeant, replacing his combat comrades, stood behind the panorama and single-handedly destroyed two heavy tanks and four 76-mm guns. And when the ammunition supply ran out, he took out his personal weapons and, together with the infantrymen, went on the attack.

In June 1945 senior sergeant Gennady Barykov for this fight was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.


The Guard Senior Lieutenant Mikhail Kuznetsov fought from the first days of the Great Patriotic War, miraculously breaking out of the besieged Brest Fortress with several soldiers.

From August 1941 he served as the political commissar of the mortar company of the 537th Rifle Regiment on the Western Front. In November, he was transferred to the South-Western Front in the 622nd Rifle Regiment, where Kuznetsov proved to be an excellent scout. He went on night raids on the rear of the enemy, organised sabotage, and took prisoners. After delivering his sixth tongue to the headquarters in December, he became the commander of a company of submachine gunners.

Kuznetsov spent the whole of 1942 beyond the front line. His submachine gunners distinguished themselves on November 20th at the offensive on the farm of Srednetsaritsynsky. The company went unnoticed into the rear of a convoy of fascists and overran all the personnel of the artillery division, capturing the commander with staff documents, 16 serviceable guns, and 96 horses.

The raid didn’t end there. Kuznetsov sent two gunners together with a “trophy” German to his own, and he decided to oust the Nazis from of the farm himself, using captured artillery. His soldiers fired at the enemy’s fortifications with cannons and quickly suppressed resistance – the Germans were not ready to attack from their own rear. The gunners captured Srednetsaritsynsky in just 15 minutes.

They eventually destroyed up to an enemy infantry battalion, captured 27 cannons, 196 horses, 27 hand machine guns, four mortars, 17 assault rifles, seven vehicles, and an ammunition depot. The company suffered no losses.
For this fight Senior Lieutenant Guard Mikhail Kuznetsov Mikhail Kuznetsov in February 1943 was awarded the Golden Star Hero of the Soviet Union. As is noted in the award sheet, by that time the officer had personally destroyed 88 Nazis, delivered 64 tongues from beyond the front line, and was wounded five times.

Andrey Kots

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