Libmonster ID: VN-1228
Author(s) of the publication: N. KOLESNIK


It's been more than 30 years since the guns went silent in Vietnam. The intervention launched by the United States under the slogan of fighting "communist aggression" in Asia ended in complete failure for them. Across the ocean, a lot of memoirs of participants in the Vietnam War were published, and films by outstanding American directors told about it. The changes experienced by our country in the 1980s and 1990s made it possible to remove the "taboo" over one aspect of the history of this war - the participation of Soviet soldiers in the air defense of Vietnam. Today we offer our readers the memoirs of Guards senior sergeant of the Reserve Nikolai Nikolaevich Kolesnik, who was in Vietnam from July 1965 to March 1966, was a platoon commander in the Vietnamese People's Army (VNA).

In February 1965, a Soviet government delegation headed by Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR A. N. Kosygin visited Hanoi and signed an intergovernmental agreement on military assistance to Vietnam. And in early March, our 3rd division of the 236th Guards Kirov-Putilov Anti-aircraft Missile Regiment withdrew from its permanent position near the village of Korostovo, Krasnogorsk district and marched to Dmitrov district to perform training tasks: radar tracking of real targets, imitation of missile launches, protection of anti-aircraft missile systems C-75.

The division was assigned a battery of 57 mm anti-aircraft guns (the same ones that were also in service with the anti-aircraft gunners of the Vietnamese People's Army) to practice the techniques of covering the SAMs with anti-aircraft guns. Of course, we guessed that we were not mastering anti-aircraft guns by chance - the Vietnam War forced us to look for new methods of combat and effective protection of air defense systems from enemy air strikes.

At the end of the exercise, the division commander-a front-line soldier, Guards Major Ivan Konstantinovich Proskurnin-together with our starting platoon was called to the regimental headquarters. We and soldiers from other units (about 15 people in total) were offered to go on a business trip to a country with a humid tropical climate, where military operations are taking place. We immediately realized that we were talking about Vietnam. They were given time to think, then all those who gave their consent were sent to a medical commission. The cardiologist asked:

- How do you handle the heat?

"I can stand it fine," I said, " but I'm sleepy."

"Well, that's true for everyone," the doctor reassured me.

At the dentist, someone complained about bad teeth. "New" teeth promised to insert within a week.

Those who passed the medical examination were sent to the Military Council of the army, where after a brief conversation, the chairman asked if we had any questions, requests, etc. One of us asked to help fix the roof of the house of his elderly mother, because he is the only son, his father died at the front and there is no one else to help-after After the war, there are few men left in the village. They wrote down the address and promised to help through the military enlistment office.

For about a month, we, 80 people selected from different parts of the Moscow Air Defense District, were training in the military camp of our regiment in the village. Mitino. A few people who decided not to push their luck went AWOL. This became known to the command. Unauthorized players were immediately expelled from the team.

Two days before departure, we were given civilian clothes: a suit, cotton light trousers, 4 shirts, a tie, a demi-season coat, a duster raincoat, 2 pairs of shoes, 4 pairs of socks, a waist belt, handkerchiefs and a panama hat, for some reason sand-colored.

The colonel who was handling our equipment said almost enviously::

- You are very lucky, you are still so young, you will visit abroad, and this does not happen to everyone in life, especially in the army.

And only on the day of departure we were issued foreign passports and officially announced that we were going to Vietnam, but we were strictly forbidden to write about it home. I told them that I was leaving for a long business trip.

Major Proskurnin was appointed senior of the decreasing group. We took off from the Chkalovsky airfield with intermediate landings and an overnight stay in Irkutsk.

From Irkutsk we flew to ras-

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the light. A little over an hour later, we crossed the state border of the USSR with Mongolia, and two hours later-the border of Mongolia with China. The weather was clear, and we could see the Great Wall of China coiling like a dark snake on the ground below. Unfortunately, the wall was also "coming" in our relations with China...


In Beijing, we were met by employees of the Soviet embassy and official Chinese representatives. We were taken to the city and placed in a beautiful hotel in double rooms with a floor fan, bath and radio, which at that time in China was an extraordinary luxury. The radio didn't work for some reason.

In the evening, we were taken to the summer theater for a concert of Chinese artists. It was very stuffy, and it was nice to refresh ourselves with the steamed terry napkins offered to us at the entrance to the theater. When we entered the hall, we were greeted with restrained animation. The concert program consisted of Chinese folk songs and dances. It was as if we were transported to another world, a fabulously unusual one: this is how I imagined China as a child, when reading Chinese folk tales.

The night passed quickly. In the morning we went to the city in groups. The Chinese, a little apart, looked at us with undisguised curiosity. The shops were full of various products, but no one bought anything - everything was very expensive.

After lunch, we were taken to the airport. It was a hot day, and our plane was so hot in the sun that it looked like a sauna. Takeoff was delayed for almost an hour, and I had to sweat a lot in the stuffy interior. But it was just a light rehearsal for the heat-resistance tests that we later had to endure in Vietnam.

Finally, they took off. About three hours later, they began to descend and landed at the Changsha airport. The landing was unplanned: that day there was a massive raid on the territory of the DRV, and the Chinese were not allowed to cross the border with Vietnam.

We were taken to the city for a guided tour. Changsha, of course, was no match for Beijing. Neither the grandeur of ancient architecture, nor the exceptional cleanliness of the streets, nor the countless number of cyclists. A relatively small and rather dirty town with rare Chinese-made ZIS-150 trucks and a complete absence of trash cans on the streets.

A hotel was being urgently vacated for us, but in the meantime we were offered to visit an art embroidery factory. Some of the factory's employees had studied in the Soviet Union, spoke good Russian, and were happy to see us. Craftsmen, mostly women, showed their unfinished works and embroidery techniques. They were friendly and helpful. It is difficult to describe in words their amazing works: animals, birds, and plants embroidered with the finest silk thread moved like living things on silk canvases at the slightest breeze. I still have an embroidered light gray kitten in front of my eyes, on which every hair seemed real, and the whiskers seemed to move.

When asked where their works are sold, we were told that almost everything is exported, and only huge portraits of Mao Zedong and banners with embroidered columns of hieroglyphs of his poems go to the domestic market. We learned that embroiderers receive no more than 40 yuan a month for their jewelry work, but by the age of 40 they lose their eyesight and lose the opportunity to work as hand embroidery artists. It remains only to embroider the hieroglyphs of the verses of the great helmsman.

After visiting the factory, we arrived at a completely empty hotel. All the delegates of the provincial trade union conference who lived in it were urgently moved to another one, as we understood, in order to avoid contact with us.

During the day it was very hot (the air temperature was kept above +30°), and at night it was stuffy, but the Chinese comrades "reassured" us that "it is even hotter in Vietnam".

The next day, while waiting to board the plane, we saw farmers working in a field near the airfield and were amazed that in such a hot, sunny weather they were hoeing the dry ground, simultaneously swinging their hoes like mowers.

Finally, our plane is taxiing to the runway and heading due south. After about 20 minutes, a pair of fighter jets suddenly appeared on the left. We were worried: who knows whose they are and what their intentions are. But the alarm was immediately dispelled when they saw the identification marks of the Chinese Air Force on the wings and recognized the silhouettes of our MiG-17s. They were Chinese pilots who guarded us to the border with Vietnam. Then our plane was taken under the protection of Vietnamese fighters.


We fly up to Hanoi. By the way the crew of the plane landed expertly, it was clear,

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that the Hanoi Zalam airfield and the local air situation were well known to him.

And here we are for the first time setting foot on the land of Vietnam. We were met by a line of soldiers of the Vietnamese People's Army. After a short formal ceremony, we were invited to tea. Although it was already 6 p.m., it was unbearably hot. We settled down under huge "umbrellas" made from the domes of American parachutes, raised high on bamboo poles. The tea was green, without sugar. It was unusual for us, but later we realized and appreciated the exceptional advantage of such a drink in quenching thirst.

It took us quite a long time to get to our future location by car, because the road was pitted with deep bomb craters.

The Vietnamese landscape is characterized by some kind of calm and harmony. Fields marked with straight lines of embankment paths-between and narrow channels of irrigation systems, with figures of working peasants in cone-shaped hats. A herd of buffalo hiding from the heat in the water of a shallow lake bordered by a row of slender palm trees with lush crowns and bamboo thickets. Small villages with wooden buildings covered with palm branches and a cemetery on the outskirts. Each homestead is densely surrounded by a living palisade of bamboo hedges with a high arched gate at the entrance and a mandatory fish pond and water pool located behind them.

I was also struck by the lotus thickets that covered the ponds with a thick carpet of soft pink flowers. It was time for them to bloom.

And so we finally arrived at the big bridge over the Red River. Anti-aircraft machine guns are installed right on the bridge railings, every 50 meters. Lieutenant Tuan, who accompanied us, explained that this bridge is one of the most important in the DRV. Almost all cargo goes through it to the south of the country, so protecting the bridge is a matter of national importance. Anti-aircraft crews guarding the bridge are on duty around the clock.

The Krasnaya River is one of the main rivers of Vietnam, and although its banks are covered with thickets of bamboo, and not birch groves, it somehow subtly resembles our Volga - just as full-flowing, majestic and smooth. Its water has a brown-red hue. This is because the river flows through red clay lands.

Driving through the streets of Hanoi, we noticed wells located every 4-5 m on the sides of the sidewalks closer to the roadway of the streets. Thinking that these were ordinary wells for repairing underground utilities, they could not understand: why are there so many of them, moreover, on both sides of the street? They asked Tuan. He explained that these are not wells, but individual bomb shelters for passers-by in case during the bombing one of them does not have time to take shelter in a major protective structure. They are also used by fighters of self-defense units, which directly from these shelters can fire at low-flying American aircraft with small arms.

We thanked Tuan for what turned out to be useful information. Later, many of us had to use these simple shelters, which were well protected from shrapnel and ball bombs, and which were located on the roadsides of all the main roads in North Vietnam.

On the first tropical night, almost none of us slept. Sweating profusely, we occasionally talked and shared our impressions. It wasn't until morning that I finally managed to fall asleep. In the morning, we were surprised to find that our clothes hadn't dried out at all during the night...

It got even hotter in the afternoon. If the temperature was around +30° at night, then by 12 o'clock in the afternoon it rose to +37° in the shade. Our guys, who arrived from the Union before us, said that this is not the hottest day yet...


The next day passed without incident, except for the sudden disappearance, just before dinner, of our favorite and jovial Lance-Corporal Tarzan Chirkviani. We went to lunch without him, and when we came back, he wasn't there. They were worried... Have you begun to remember who and when saw Tarzan last? It turned out that they saw him about 30 minutes before lunch, he complained about the heat and thirst, dreamed of "Borjomi". In response to the remark: "Do you have to complain about the heat, Tarzan? You're from the Caucasus...", he said:

"What are you doing? The Caucasus is like Yakutia and Tashkent compared to Vietnam.

We broke up into groups and walked around the entire nearby garden area, in the depths of which there were one-story brick buildings reserved for us to live in. The search didn't turn up any results. Tarzan of the Apes was gone...

So it really was - to escape the heat, he climbed into a barrel of water standing under the awning near the dining room and, feeling a pleasant coolness, quietly fell asleep in it... Only an hour later, it was accidentally discovered by Vietnamese chefs who were collecting water from barrels to water the concrete floors in the dining hall. Our newfound "water" did not know where to go from embarrassment...

Fat people and those who suffered from kidney disease, although they did not even know about it before, suffered especially hard from the heat. By the end of the second day, I estimated that I had drunk about 8 liters of water during the day, but the thirst still did not stop tormenting, but my appetite completely disappeared. We still ate the first one somehow, mostly liquid, but the second one remained almost untouched, and we immediately started eating the third one, if it was compote or lemonade. Well, beer, as it should be, was drunk before lunch. Beer, by the way, was good ("Chuk bat" or "Hanoi"), but, as a rule, warm and did not quench thirst.

Most often they drank tea, the most famous green viet-

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namsky tea without sugar, which we were first treated to at the airfield. In terms of thirst quenching, only Borjomi can compete with it, which not only Georgian Chirkviani dreamed of. Only two weeks later, my body gradually adjusted to a heavy heat regime, my fluid intake decreased to 3-4 liters per day, and my appetite appeared.


During the night, we were woken up by the alarming, frequent bangs on the gutted steel hull of an American high-explosive bomb suspended from a tree and used to send an "Air Alert" signal. I grabbed my clothes and helmet and followed the others out through the open window. There is darkness in front of me, and above me is a black tropical sky with quivering points of bright stars and a heart - chilling howl that is rapidly approaching me from above. "Bomb" - flashed through my mind.

I fell forward, my chin buried in the warm, wet grass. I put my helmet on my head, put my hands over my ears, and wait for the explosion. Something huge, with a high-pitched, angry howl, is rushing straight at me. I lie flat on the ground in a daze. It seems like forever.

"From what height did you drop this damned bomb, if it takes so long to fall?" - I thought, and automatically began to count the seconds:

- 121, 122, 123...

Suddenly, yellow flames simultaneously illuminate the long barrels of anti-aircraft guns slightly to my right. The sharp, whipping sound of the volley hits the ears and momentarily drowns out this soul-washing howl.

- 124, 125, 126...

Thudding bursts in the air, one dry as a whip for some reason. The howling sound suddenly changes its angry tone to a plaintive subsiding and, as if exhausted, stops. I listen in surprise to the sudden silence. So it wasn't a bomb, I realized.

- The plane was shot down! someone shouted. "Hooray!"

As I rise slowly, I see something rushing toward the horizon like a flaming candle. I follow him to the ground with my eyes. A bright flash lit up the sky for a moment. Then came the muffled sound of a distant explosion....

After about 20 minutes, the call ended, and we, excited, in a kind of nervous chill, wearily dispersed to our places, hoping that before dawn we might still be able to sleep. I didn't succeed. In the morning, it became known that an American plane shot down during a night raid fell 8 kilometers away from us. His pilot didn't need a catapult.

So ended the night flight of one of the US pilots, who found his death many thousands of kilometers from his home in the hot skies of North Vietnam.

Until recently, reports about the victims of the brutal bombing of peaceful cities and villages of the DRV, about the number of American planes shot down by Vietnamese anti-aircraft gunners, were perceived by us as something terrible, but distant and therefore not dangerous. It's like a war movie: you always remember that it's not real, but only on the screen. And now we are becoming participants in this war, not fully realizing the severity of all the upcoming trials.


Two days later, in the Hanoi suburb of Hadong, we received equipment - a six-cabin version of the S-75 air defense system and began to fulfill our main task: to prepare the VNA soldiers for combat work in a very short time and put the 1st Vietnamese anti-aircraft missile Regiment into operation.

The training was conducted on the principle of "do as I do" - first you had to tell how to shoot down American planes, and then show how it is done. The task is very difficult, given the level of technical training of trainees and communication with them only through translators. After all, among the soldiers there were village guys who had never seen anything more complicated than a bicycle before.

Each Soviet team was assigned a Vietnamese team, and in the launch battery, due to a lack of instructors, each team was assigned a platoon. The commander of the first squad I trained was Sergeant Van Thanh. A native of the south (his hometown of Saigon), he stood out among others for his tall stature, strong build, concentration and accuracy. Thanh was learning Russian on his own, and soon we were easily communicating without an interpreter. He very quickly grasped the essence of what he was studying, whether it was a mechanism or an electronic unit, and then, clarifying certain points with me, he explained everything to his calculation.

1st number - Lance Corporal Sean, a silent, slightly shy and very diligent young man.

2nd number-Lance Corporal Thien, a former tankman, short, fast, tenacious, knowing his own value. Later, in a combat situation, he acted exceptionally quickly and competently.

Number 3-Private Lai, you-

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She is of medium height, thin, and graduated from the 10th grade before being drafted into the army, and was engaged in a small private trade in Hanoi. He was an inquisitive guy, but lazy. At first, he responded to any command with a retort and even tried to get into arguments with Thanh, who firmly and calmly insisted on his own. But by the end of the second week, the complications with Barking stopped by themselves. He, as they say, "understood the service" and tried with interest to delve into all the wisdom of rocket technology, sometimes "professionally" interested in how much a particular rocket block, launcher, and the entire rocket costs. When I found out, I compared it with the cost of an American plane. I made a joke about it once:

"Lai, aren't you going to be a rocket merchant?"

To which Lai replied:

- No, I just feel sorry that such a smart and expensive rocket equipment will be destroyed after it explodes, and I have long dreamed of a simple radio for a sick mother. She can barely see and can't read the newspaper herself to get the latest news and the fact that we now have rockets.

The training process was organized as follows: military equipment was deployed on a site well disguised as residential and outbuildings, not far from Hanoi. There, in tents and light bamboo sheds, the Vietnamese crews were located. Our habitat remained the same for the time being.

Daily rise at 5 am, at 5.30 am - breakfast, from 6 to 12 - classes: study of material parts, instructions on combat work, then practical work on equipment-working out standards, carrying out routine maintenance. From 12 to 14 - at the hottest time of the day - lunch break. From 14 to 17.30 - continuation of classes. At 18 - dinner, from 20 to 22 - self-training.

On Sunday, classes were only until lunchtime.

Of course, this routine was not always followed. There were retreats, most often associated with American air raids.

Explanations were given through interpreters, who were mostly graduates of the Hanoi Institute of Technology. A lot of new technical terms made it very difficult for them to translate, especially at the beginning of their training. All the interpreters were officers in the NA. They were prominent and respected men in the regiment. Their opinion was taken into account by both our and Vietnamese commanders.

The best among them in our division were Lao and Hao (Hep). Lao was intelligent and serious, while Hao was more democratic, liked a joke, especially liked to listen and retell jokes, and always laughed heartily at the same time. He often asked about life in the Soviet Union, about the customs of our peoples, and in our group there were children of 13 nationalities: Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Latvians, Estonians, Tatars, Kazakhs, Georgians, Yakuts, Kyrgyz, Uzbek, Azerbaijanis and even one Bulgarian from Moldova.

But everyday communication often took place without translators, so we tried to learn to understand Vietnamese, and the Vietnamese-in Russian, and I must say, not without success. I quickly learned commands in Vietnamese, words that provide orientation in space and time, for example: "Ready", "Up", "Down", "Faster", "Slower", "Straight" , etc.

Vietnamese people also quickly mastered these and such concepts as:" Come on, come on"," Faster"," Stop!"," Now","Then". Sometimes, however, there were misunderstandings. For example, during the development of the standard for transferring a launcher from a combat to a stowed position, I hurry the guys: "Come on, come on, hurry up!", and they, tired to the limit and not having more strength to meet the standard, dejectedly answer: "Later, later." I had to explain to them that in battle, if you do not change your position in time, then" it may not come... The guys start moving faster.


The air situation was such that the training of the first regiment had to be reduced from the originally planned three months to one. American aviation has so intensified massive attacks on the territory of the DRV that barrel-mounted anti-aircraft air defense systems and fighter aircraft were not able to effectively resist these raids. Especially brazenly and almost with impunity, the Americans acted over the provinces located in the very south of North Vietnam.

The bombardment continued day and night. In small groups of 3 or 4 planes, the Americans suddenly dropped bombs or unleashed a barrage of machine-gun and rocket fire on cities and villages, and even on defenseless peasants working in the rice fields - it was harvest time. Often, American pilots arranged a real "hunt" for cars walking alone on the highway. Some cities, such as Fuli, were completely destroyed by massive, periodically repeated bombardments.


In the second half of July 1965, our 61st Division took up a position on the No. 32 road, 35 km west of Hanoi in the vicinity of Shontai. The Americans provided the intensity of the "educational process" in full, and there was no need for training alarms - there were enough combat ones. The target reconnaissance station (SRC) was practically driven for days. While teaching the Vietnamese rocket men, we learned a lot ourselves: we studied the tactics of American aviation flights, the map of their routes, and the types of interference used.

It is clear that in a month of this rocket launcher is not prepared-

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you see, that's why we had to rely only on ourselves for everything. Since we were not supposed to participate in combat operations when we were sent to Vietnam, we arrived there with incomplete crews, according to the peacetime state. The acute shortage of people created great difficulties in ensuring the combat capability of the division and regiment. Many Soviet officers, sergeants and soldiers had to perform duties for two, and sometimes for three. My incomplete (without the 2nd number) Soviet launch team had to split up and serve two launchers of the neighboring platoon together.

In addition, as a platoon commander, I had to help the battery commander, and sometimes work for the operator of the "C" cabin. The situation was exactly the same in all the calculations and divisions of the first regiment. Therefore, each of us did everything possible to ensure combat readiness.

Manual escort operators and the personnel of the radio engineering battery sometimes did not leave the tightly sealed cabins for 12-14 hours a day. The temperature in the cabins reached + 70°C. The guys were sitting at the remote controls in their underwear, but even this did not save them from the heat and stuffiness. There was a pool of human sweat under each rotating operator's chair.


It happened on July 24, 1965, in the afternoon, 30 km northwest of Hanoi. With a powerful missile strike, the divisions under the command of Majors Boris Mozhaev and Fyodor Ilyin shot down 3 American fighter-bombers traveling with a bomb load at an altitude of more than two thousand meters in the direction of Hanoi. Their Vietnamese understudies were captains Nguyen Van Thanh and Nguyen Van Ninh.

These were the 399th, 400th and 401st American aircraft shot down over the territory of North Vietnam, starting from August 5, 1964 - the day of the beginning of the US aggression against the DRV. From the wreckage of the 400th plane, the Vietnamese made commemorative signs: against the background of a burning American plane crashing into the mountains, the number "400", on the block the inscription in Vietnamese" First Victory "and the date"24.07.65". This badge was awarded to all the rocket men of the 236th anti-aircraft Missile Regiment of the VNA (my badge is now in the Central Museum of the Armed Forces).

The first anti-aircraft missile regiment of the VNA entered service. Together with our Vietnamese friends, we celebrated this first victory of Soviet missile weapons. Later, the day of July 24, 1965 was celebrated in Vietnam as the Day of the anti-aircraft missile forces of the VNA.


The most difficult thing after the transfer of the launcher (PU) from the "combat position" to the "marching position" was refueling the missiles with an oxidizer. Before refueling, you put on a blind protective suit made of overcoat cloth, lined with rubberized fabric in front, high rubber boots under your trousers, a gas mask, over the gas mask - a tightly tightened rubberized hood, rubber gloves. And here in such a "beach" outfit in 35-degree heat, you wield keys, hoses and fans for almost an hour. Sweat runs like a stream. After about 20 minutes in boots and gloves, it starts to squelch.

As always, there is complete calm. Oxidizer, with pe noise-

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pouring into the mouth of the rocket's tank, a thick brown cloud of highly toxic fumes gradually envelops you from head to toe, soaking into the sweaty fabric of your protective suit. Through the glasses of the gas mask, you can see that everything around you is also turning brown. Just a little more, and the refueling is finally finished. The air and acid valves of the transport-charged vehicle (TZM) are blocked. The hose is disconnected, the tank neck is closed with a stopper and tightened with a special key, the filling gun fitting is lubricated, a protective membrane is installed, hoses and tools are purged, washed and laid. You take off your gloves, remove your gas mask, draining the sweat from the mask, then pull off your wet and sweat-heavy protective suit. From each removed boot, you also drain half a glass of sweat. His face is red, as if scalded by boiling water. My whole body burns like nettles. After each refueling and draining, the refueller lost almost a kilogram of his own weight in 40 minutes of work.


During the period of relative calm, we had a misunderstanding about the peculiarities of the generally accepted expressions of the Russian language.

The Vietnamese driver of the cab" C " Minh, monitoring the serviceability of the car, started the engine every morning and once, forgetting that the connectors of the electric cables of the starting battery were docked to the cab, decided to check the reliability of the clutch and the smoothness of starting off. Just a little more, and the cables would have been finished. It is good that our battalion commander, Captain Vladimir Sirenko, was nearby:

"Stop!" What are you doing?" Where are you going?! "Stop it!" he shouted.

Min cut the engine and jumped out of the cab, looking around guiltily. The battalion commander continues to chastise him. Kim, the new Vietnamese translator, came running at the noise.

"If you do that again," the battalion commander continued, choosing his words more convincingly, "I'll... I'll rip your head off," he finally found himself. The translator, as best he could, translated the battalion commander's monologue, possibly adding something from himself for the benefit of the cause. Min was silent and blinked in fright.

All the cables, fortunately, were intact, and we were sure that the incident was over. Classes and everything else went on as usual, but the battalion commander noticed that Minh did not appear in class for the second day in a row, and asked the reason for his absence from the Vietnamese battalion commander Kin. He answered vaguely:

"You know... He can't.

- why? Is he ill?" Captain Sirenko asked.

"No," Kin hesitated. He's healthy. You see, he's afraid of you.

The answer puzzled the captain:

"Why is he afraid?" I'm not... I don't bite, " he says, discouraged.

"The thing is," Keene continued, " you promised to rip his head off, and he doesn't want to...

The battalion commander and everyone standing nearby roared with laughter...

Soon I also had a little misunderstanding with the new translator Kim. By that time, I already understood quite a lot of Vietnamese and was able to control the content of the translation to some extent. On that day, I conducted classes with all the personnel of the battery of the division. I explained, and Kim translated. He did this slowly and hesitantly, constantly asking questions and clarifying the words. The Vietnamese didn't understand him very well. The work was slow. I noticed another gross mistake and said rather sharply::

"Comrade Kim. We're wasting a lot of time. You can't work like this. If you feel that you are not able to perform the quality of the translator's work, cancel it.

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Kim was very offended:

- I didn't study translation, but I'm a communist and I'll learn Russian myself, so I'll read Lenin. I want you to work as a translator." I touch it, but there is no other translation, so I work with translation. I want to work hard! Because I'm a communist! Kim's thick accent betrayed his undisguised excitement.

I confess that I was ashamed of my words.

"Kim, I'm sorry. I didn't know that. If you've managed to learn Russian on your own, you're doing great. I thought you were a professional translator.

After this incident, none of us had any more problems with Kim. He tried very hard and soon became quite good at translating.


Anyone who has not seen the roads of wartime Vietnam can hardly imagine all the difficulties of our journey, passing through rice fields, jungles and, finally, mountains. The equipment hardly overcame the swamps of rice fields - a kind of man-made swamp. Only Vietnamese "water buffaloes" are able to move with some grace in this thick, viscous mass.

The smooth outlines of low mountains, densely overgrown with bushes, occasionally broke the monotony of the flat landscape, and it was a complete surprise and dissonance that powerful reinforced concrete pillboxes suddenly appeared around the bend, standing on a hill and looking into space with the dark, unseeing eye sockets of rectangular loopholes. With the help of these structures, the French expeditionary forces tried to protect their positions.

It was a little easier in the jungle. But in some places, in order to pass the launchers, we had to cut down the branches of trees hanging over the road, densely intertwined with vines and forming a solid tent over the narrow road. Thanks to this natural disguise, we moved through the jungle even during the day, without fear of being detected from above.

Countless different birds and animals of the Vietnamese jungle, disturbed by the appearance of such an unusual caravan, showed an exceptional interest in us, and we reciprocated them, but were afraid to enter into close contact. The most unceremonious were forest mites. Like tiny dark-red leeches, they fall from the branches of trees on their victims, suck on their clothes with surprising speed, and then bite through them and dig into the body. At the same time, you do not feel the moment of the bite: the tick, biting through the skin, secretes an analgesic substance. Try to pull it out if it has sunk deep into the body and only a small tip remains on top, for which nothing can cling. It was a good thing that our doctor had a few tweezers and quickly taught us how to extract these insatiable bloodsuckers.

Despite the complete secrecy of our route, in each locality, at any time of the day, we were met by all its inhabitants - from young to old.

Adults looked with interest at the unusual outlines of the sheathed launchers and animatedly exchanged impressions about what they saw. The children, their eyes flashing and hiding behind each other, pushed the bravest ones forward, closer to the llenso, so big and not at all scary.

"Llenso! Lienso! Ho-ro-sho! Draw a line! Mast-kua! Do-wee-da-nya! Sipa-sibo! Lienso! their clear voices rang out.

Our driver Vanya Shlanchak, a tall, slender, brown - haired guy with a beautiful wheat moustache, attracted special attention of Vietnamese people, especially girls. As soon as he got out of the tractor cab, he immediately fell into a dense ring of "encirclement". Everyone tried to shake his hand or even touch his clothes. Within a minute or two, Vanya's good nature and affability removed all language and psychological barriers. There was a lively, interested conversation between us and the locals. We tried to answer the traditional questions: "What is your name?", "How old are you?", "Do you have a wife, children?", etc., in Vietnamese, and this made an indescribable impression on our interlocutors. There was no limit to their surprise: lienso - and suddenly they speak Vietnamese?! This is incredible!

The command "To the cars!"sounds. We say goodbye to the villagers, and again on the road.

..Behind a thick palisade of live bamboo hedges, caught out of the dawn twilight by the narrow beams of car headlights, the vague outlines of village buildings can be seen. At the entrance barrier, built of a long bamboo pole, the figure of a teenage sentry with an old berdan in his hands moved hesitantly. To the question of the commander who came out of the lead car: "What kind of village is this?" - he answered: "This is the Zashon community. We've been waiting for you all night, and only recently did people go home."

With the onset of dusk, observing full blackout, we began work on preparing the position. About three hours later, American planes began bombing the town of Fuli, located 8 km away from us, and on the return course they turned just above us. Glowing aerial bombs dropped over the city on parachutes were clearly visible, and powerful explosions were heard.

The position was successful, but very difficult in engineering terms: the mountain had a slope of more than 25°, and for each launcher it was necessary to make ledge-shaped horizontal platforms. The ground was rocky, and it was necessary to dig into it with the help of ordinary picks and shovels, so preparing the position took a lot of time and effort.

At the call of the uyezd party committee, everyone who could come to our aid - women, children, and hundreds of people-came to our aid.-

* "Lienso" (Vietnamese) - "Soviet".

page 61

Ricky. With baskets on yoke handles for carrying earth, hoes, kiles, and shovels, they joined in the work together. Some of them were residents of the Zashon community. Here is the elderly old man Wu An who gave me a wash basin in the morning. He asks you to show how deep the ground should be removed in the center of the future site. As I explain, Wu Anh shakes his wispy beard knowingly and shakes his fist at the roaring plane overhead.

Here's a young, pretty woman named Lien. She came to help us together with her 12-year-old son Don. Using her hoe deftly, Lien chops away chunks of the rocky ground, and Don quickly fills the baskets that are suspended from the yoke. Another woman carries them and pours the soil into the dump. The work became more fun, and people kept coming and coming to help. The position resembled a large disturbed anthill.

In total, at least 300 civilians helped us that night, and only thanks to their help was the position ready by morning. We started to deploy the equipment. Tired people did not leave, but watched with interest what was happening, the boys showed special curiosity, as always. They didn't even see a car very often in these parts, but this is a real rocket that you can even touch with your hands. It was a real celebration for them. But fatigue was taking its toll, and by five o'clock in the morning, lines of people were moving out of the position. When they left, they asked us very much to shoot down at least one plane and make sure to show them the wreckage, because, as Lien said:

"They don't give us anything to live on. Bombed and bombed every damn day and night.

We promised to fulfill their request without fail. As a parting gift, I gave Don a badge with the image of Gagarin, which he was immensely happy about. Holding the badge in his small fist, Don waved at us and shouted::

"Llenso! Gaga-rin! Hey, ho-ro-sho! Do-wee-danya!

.. The clock read 5: 30 a.m. On the phone, I reported to the commander: "The fifth is in a combat position. The launcher is loaded." "Accepted. Check on the sixth floor." Help me if you need to."

After making sure that everything is in order on the sixth floor, I go back to my room on the fifth. From fatigue, my legs give way, my back aches, and my fingers can't straighten. It was already quite light. And at that time, the siren wailed:

"Battle alert!

I look at my watch. They show exactly 6 am. We quickly prepare the rockets for launch and go down to the foot of the mountain. After half an hour, they gave the command "Hang up" - the targets left without entering the launch zone. Twenty minutes later, the siren started again. This aerial carousel continued all day. Eighteen times on alert, we took up our combat positions and waited for the "Start" command, 1-2 minutes before entering the zone, the planes abruptly changed course, bypassing us first to the right, then to the left, or even turning back.

By evening, the Americans began to appear in the air less often, and they did not come close. It was getting dark. The weather forecast transmitted the day before promised a tropical downpour with a squally wind, and we carefully covered the rocket launcher with all the fasteners. We're tired and sleepy - we've only managed to take a half-hour nap in the last twenty-four hours.


I fell asleep instantly... In my sleep, I hear a siren wailing and I can't tell if I'm dreaming or if it's real. After all, she's been "all ears" for us all day. I know this isn't a dream. I jump up and push the guys: "Wake up! Ready N 1!"

We grab our clothes, hard hats, and get dressed quickly as we run to the launchers. By touch, I begin to unbutton the clasps. Your hands act automatically. After 15 seconds, all the fasteners are free. You need to drop the cover, but where is the Thanh with the calculation? You can't lose the case by yourself. I run for the crew to their tent. But it's not there. Not far away, I hear the sounds of rattling pots. I run to that sound. There should be a tent for Vietnamese military platoon cooks. I run up to her and ask:

- Where is the starting crew?! Where did their tent go?!

The Vietnamese look at me in surprise, then, realizing what's going on, point to the side:

"There! There!

I run in the indicated direction. After about forty meters, I actually come across a tent. The phone is ringing in it, and the tent itself is shaking. I realize that the guys are half asleep and can't find a way out in the dark. I pull back the corner of the tent, and the Vietnamese jump out one by one into the opening.

- Run to the installation! I shout. "Hurry up!" Faster!

Thanh and his crew, feeling guilty for being late, run as fast as they can. We run up to the launcher.

"Unpack it!" One-two, take it! Poles together drop a huge cover on the ground. It counts for seconds.

"Moth saum! ( The first one is ready!)

"Hi saum! (The second one is ready!)

"Ba saum! (The third one is ready!) - clearly report the calculation numbers.

I check the position of the sensors, report to cabin C:

"The fifth is on alert!"

"Acknowledged!" I'm giving you training. In the handset, you can hear conversations on the GGS (speakerphone). I command you:

"Take cover!"

I barely have time to hang up the phone and slam the hatch cover shut when the "Sync" command passes, and the rocket launcher begins to work out the set angles. Head over heels, we roll down to the crevices.

- Destroy the group target! Three, in a queue! First - start! - I can hear Commander Major Proskurnin's bass on the GGS.

- Yes, first launch! "This is guidance officer Lieutenant Karetnikov reporting."

A deafening explosion pushes us to the ground. The rocket, like an arrow piercing the dark sky, is rapidly moving away in a southerly direction. Then a second and a third...

page 62

Rocks rained down on us from above, hurled several dozen meters by the rocket jet. Blows to the back are quite noticeable, it is good that the head is protected by a helmet.

Three reddish dots of rockets go up one after the other.

"There's a KZ!" (Command to start the radio fuse).

A bright flash stung his eyes.

- First, there is an explosion! Target destroyed! Karetnikov's excited voice is heard.

- Second, there is an explosion!

- Third, there is an explosion! Group target destroyed!

Planes, exploding, fall apart into burning pieces, a smoking plume tracing the trajectory of the fall. Half the sky is engulfed in flames. Gradually, the flames are replaced by a huge column of smoke, brown in the glow. The picture is impressive.

From what they saw, the guys can not come to their senses. We shake hands happily.

- Happy first victory! But time is precious.

"To the launcher!" "I give the order, and we're off to the launch pad again."

During the launch of the rocket, a gas jet tore off one of the access bridges and threw it far to the side. We find it about fifteen meters away and quickly put it back in place. It's taking a long time for TZM to arrive with a new rocket. I run to the TZM parking lot. It's close by, downhill.

TZM stands still. The cab door is not locked. The driver is not in the cab. "What the hell! I swore under my breath. "Now we'll have to find the driver somewhere."

I get in the cab. The key is in the lock. I turn on the ignition, push the starter. I turn on the first one, give the signal, and then the frightened driver of High jumps out from under the car. He took the missile launches for bomb explosions and hid in a "safe place" - under the rocket.

I give him a seat in the cab. We drive the TZM to the access bridges. After 3 minutes, everything is ready. I submit a command to the calculation: "Load it!"

"The fifth is ready!" "reporting to Cabin C."

"Acknowledged." Everyone stay put! - a command has been received. But I didn't have to shoot - there were no more targets in the air.

Four planes coming at us in a tight formation at an altitude of 3 thousand meters were shot down by three missiles. It happened on August 11, 1965 at 23: 50 in the village of Zashon, Siktho Parish, Zavien County, Ninh Binh Province.

After waiting another half hour, the commander decided to leave the position. They were doing their best when they rolled up: my chest was burning, I was sweating profusely, and my heart was pounding so hard that it looked like it was about to jump out of my chest. From all sides of the darkness came the Russian " Come on! Come on!" and the Vietnamese " Hi! Bah!" Forty minutes after the "Hang up-hike!" command, the division was already on wheels and heading off into the jungle. (According to the regulations, it took 2 hours for the division to collapse.)

This was the first battle and the first victory of our 61st division, which later became the first to receive the title "Heroic".


While we were filming, residents of the surrounding villages came to the position, awakened by the roar of the battle. They congratulated us on our victory and thanked us heartily. Many carried gifts: oranges, bananas, breadfruit. We were touched by the attention. I still remember the sad look in the eyes of the woman named Loan, the warm pressure of her overworked peasant hands, and the excited story she told me:

- Thank you! You have avenged my sons. Last fall, the Americans bombed our village. The first bomb hit the school directly... No one had time to jump out. Everyone died... Two of my boys were also killed."

page 63

I was 11 years old. Their father, Zien, was killed in the 1954 war with the French. He never found out I was having twins... Damn the Americans! she said with anger and trembling in her voice. "Take the tangerines, please." Very tasty tangerines. Ting and Nam loved tangerines very much...

How could we help this unfortunate woman, how could we comfort other mothers of the dead schoolchildren? Only effective launches of our missiles.

As we left, we saw that the position we had just left was occupied by a "rocket division" on peasant wagons.

The hulls of these "rockets" were made of bamboo rods covered with mats of rice straw. Painted with lime, they had an almost ceremonial appearance and from above they did not differ much from the real ones. In equipping false positions, the Vietnamese have achieved a real art. Even from a distance of more than two hundred meters, we could not always distinguish these mock-ups from real rockets. Just as plausible were the false batteries of anti-aircraft artillery equipped not far from the real ones. The next day, taking the bait, the Americans lost 3 more planes shot down by Vietnamese anti-aircraft gunners.


The entry into action of anti-aircraft missile divisions shocked the Americans (they stopped bombing the territory of the DRV for two weeks) and forced them to change the tactics of attacks. If earlier the planes went at an altitude of 3-5 thousand meters and descended only when approaching the target, now the missiles pressed them to the ground at a height of 50 to 200 meters. To their credit, they flew well at low altitudes, were harder to detect and shoot down with missiles, but now they were more vulnerable to anti-aircraft guns and machine guns. Paired 14-mm anti-aircraft guns and 4-barrel anti-aircraft machine-gun installations (ZPU) were especially effective at low-flying targets, which literally cut the plane with a dense line of fire, as if from a fire hose.

Further events developed as follows: the Americans tried to suppress the missile divisions, using all sorts of technical means and tactical techniques, while we, constantly maneuvering and acting from ambushes, groped for their weaknesses, did our job. I wrote a short poem about it later.


We avoid fate by the night path
And the soot has eaten into the sky.
Fire tornadoes walk,
Not like Russian forests.
Here the jungle is a solid thicket,
And we have learned to understand.
We took care of them as best we could,
why bother them before the deadline?
We didn't dare tell them the truth:
We remember our mothers.
Covering our heads with a Panama hat,
Far from our homeland,
In the humid tropics of Vietnam
reliably protect the rear.
And we, the Soviet guys,
Anxious, restless world,
distant year 65, -
Its dangerous turn;
Swamps, hills, jungles, mountains...
Ambush - " Start!". "Ascent-hike".
The division is being prepared for battle,
dawn is already rushing us.
And it is not given to us to know with you
That the battle will begin in an hour.
The heat is as thick as a steam bath,
And the humidity is even higher than a hundred,
And the salty sweat eats
Our parched mouths.
At the start it is dull, the ground like a stone.
Pickaxe spark torits the way.
Coulter last scoring,
hope to take a little break.
The "Alarm!" signal. Rush targets,
Trying to get into the interior of the country.
Got it! Everything is ready! We managed
around Them for a few seconds.
The "Start!" command Pressing time,
Tearing space into silence,
Rocket rushes exactly to the target,
To those who started the war here.
We won battles more often,
But not always and not everywhere,
And we lost our fighting friends
On that scorched land.
Not everyone had to go home
and meet those who are loyal to us.
May the burning Vietnam never happen

The fall of 1965 was coming to an end. The raids became more frequent, and we got our fill.

The first Soviet military specialist to die was Private Vitaly Smirnov of the 82nd Division of the 238th (second) anti-aircraft Missile Regiment.

Located in the foothills, the division found and prepared to meet with fire a group of targets coming from the north. Unexpectedly, the division was hit by enemy aircraft coming at low altitude from the south. The diesel engine caught fire, missile guidance stations and four missile launchers were damaged, including the launcher that was serviced by Private Vitaly Smirnov. He was badly wounded - a piece of shrapnel tore his kidney.

Within an hour, the division was ready for battle with two serviceable launchers, went on the air and found that a group of targets was approaching the launch zone from the north. With the two remaining missiles, we shot down two planes, and the rest went home.

The wounded Smirnov was immediately sent to the Hanoi Central Military Hospital. He underwent surgery to remove the affected kidney. But the remaining kidney could not cope with the load in the hot climate of Vietnam, and after a few days Vitaly was gone.

War is a terrible, cruel, destructive tragedy created by the will and hand of man. For each warring party, the joy of victory never covers even a thousandth of the bitterness of loss and the severity of suffering experienced by the warring and subsequent generations, and the genetic potential of future generations is set back several decades. The War of liberation in Vietnam lasted almost continuously for 30 years: from 1945 to 1975.

(The ending follows)


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