Interview with V.N.Zabelin

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5. After Korea

— What happened to you after you returned to the Soviet Union?

As I had become a deputy commander of 256th regiment, and at the same time actually being the regiment commander, I returned to Kamen–Rybolov in August 1952 with the rest of the regiment.
My wife was in Stalingrad, so I went after her, as I had 40 or 50 days of official leave.
When we were fighting, the pressure on us was tremendous. Can you imagine what it was like? Even the flights themselves. Two or three times you get as high as 12000–15000 meters. The temperature up there is –50 centigrade, and in spite of the pressurized cabin you froze until your knees shook. Then you went down, where it was +30… We usually went down in a steep dive, so that our ears were in pain. My nose was running, and my ears were aching. Many of us knew how it felt. But I was embarrassed to say that my ears were aching. In the end, a regimental doctor was standing near my aircraft, and when an order came to take off he would apply some ear and nose drops so that I could fly. Many of my flights were made with such help from our doctor.
After two or three months of my tour in the position of regiment commander at Kamen–Rybolov, the commander in chief of the air army, HSU Senatorov, summoned me to his office. He had fought in Spain in an SB bomber. By this time they had promoted me to lieutenant colonel. As if I had a magic wand. We talked alone in his office. The commander-in-chief said:
— I have decided to listen to your response to the question “What would you think if we confirmed you as the commander of this regiment.”
I replied:
— As I know, there were candidates to this post, but none of them came. If there are no others - I agree.
Well, that was it. In one week time I became a regiment commander. It was in 1953.
Later I was sent to Minsk, to the post of 911th regiment commander. It was armed with «MiG-17».

— Were there MiG-17s in Korea?

We didn’t see a single one.

— But if you were asked to compare MiG 15 with the -17?

The MiG-15 Bis was better in a fight. The MiG-17 was heavier, and it did not have such outstanding vertical maneuver… It was better during peace time…

— But many pilots praise the MiG-17. In Vietnam they managed to shoot down many modern Phantom IIs.

Agreed. But what type of MiG-17 were they? Ththe were the MiG-17F with afterburners. When we arrived at Kamen–Rybolov I received a single MiG-17F for the whole regiment. It flew quite well, but fuel economy was non-existent. But it allowed me to climb up to 16,500 meters. If we had had this modification of the MiG-17 in Korea, we would have been kings! But all we could have received was the plain MiG-17 which was worse than the -15 in combat.

— How long you were a regiment commander in Pruzhany?

First Pruzhany, then Kobrin. It’s not far from Brest. About three years. Then командующий Rykachev transferred me to the post of the first deputy commander of 229 division, whch was under command of HSU colonel Likhobabin. He was signed off due to the poor health condition, and I remained as a Deputy Division commander of 229th Division.
One regiment was based in Pruzhany and flew MiG-17, Chubarovs regiment was based in Kobrin and was equipped with MiG-19. Third regiment, also in Kobrin flew MiG-17. For several month I commanded 229 Division, when suddenly, our unforgettable Nikita Khruzev the Communist Party leader suddenly decided to cut down the Soviet Air Force. We received the strict orders to disband the whole division totally. The all ground personal were sent to missiles regiments. The combat ready planes were crashed in scrap metal! Hundreds of planes! It was unimaginable! New airplanes were just torn to pieces and scrapped! Our country could have made a fortune if they were sold abroad! And after all a lot of first-class pilots were fired. Just fired to a street! I finally was sent to Lida airbase as the 1st Guard fighter-bomber air division deputy commander. The division commander was the twice Hero of the Soviet Union two-star General Beda. The 1st Guard division begun to re-equip with a supersonic fighter-bomber plane Su-7. One regiment was based in some 300 kilometers from the division HQ. It was very difficult to command this unit. Second regiment was stationed at Postavy, which also wasn’t close, but it’s commander was HSU Lev Shukin. (Lev Schukin was awarded HSU on 13.11.1951being a Squadron commander of the 18th GIAP. I Seidov). Then General Beda was promoted as the Air Army deputy commander I became the division CO and have being working on this position for some years up to 1965.

Lida, 1 GvADIB. Deputy division Commander Zabelin

— Did you become a division commander in Leningrad?

In 1965 I was promoted to the position of the Air Army deputy commander. I was responsible for combat training the whole Army. During that time I was graduated from the Monino Air Force Academy, where I took a distant 4-year course and was appointed as the chief of air safety control department of the 76th Air Army. I was retired in 1971.

Acting commander GvADIB Zabelin

© Oleg Korytov, Konstantin Chirkin, Igor Zhidov 2007-2009

Дата публикации: 22.08.2010
Авторы: Олег Корытов, Константин Чиркин, Игорь Жидов

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