Saturday, August 07, 2021

a tiny band of RAF pilots shot down over a dozen Luftwaffe planes, including 11 Messerschmitts and three Junkers Ju 88 bombers when secretly defending Murmansk in 1941 because Soviet dictator Stalin would not admit to asking the RAF for help. (thanks Steve!)

 Murmansk was one of Russia’s last remaining lifelines after the Nazis invaded in the summer of 1941. If Murmansk fell Russia’s resistance might crumble, allowing Hitler to focus Germany’s military might on the Western Front.

Stalin asked for Spitfires but Churchill refused, insisting they were too precious. He hatched a plan to instead ship out 550 Hawker Hurricane fighters — less agile than the Spitfire but more heavily armed.

“They had eight machine guns,” Eric recalled of the Hurricane. “A two–second burst was a heck of a thing. It would blow a hole through a battleship.”

They were based at the Vaenga aerodrome ten miles outside the port.

Yet despite the daily Luftwaffe attacks, they launched a staggering 365 sorties — averaging three missions a day — while also training Russian pilots to fly their Hurricanes.

One of the Russian fighter pilots, Zakhar Sorokin, downed a Messerschmitt by ramming it with his Hurricane before crash-landing miles from their base, and it took Sorokin a week to find his way back in -40C temperatures. He lost both feet to frostbite but was fitted with prostheses and continued to fly, shooting down nine more Luftwaffe planes.

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