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     Home > FEATURES > WW2 Soviet Pilots

    Order of Lenin, Type 4, Variation 2, #10372, awarded on 29 March 1942 to Captain Georgiy Surochan, a LAGG-3 fighter pilot who shot down 3 German airplanes and destroyed a number of Ju 52 transports in strafing attacks on enemy airfield at Demyansk.

    Order of Lenin, Type 4, Variation 2, #10372, awarded on 29 March 1942 to Captain Georgiy Surochan, a LAGG-3 fighter pilot who shot down 3 German airplanes and destroyed a number of Ju 52 transports in strafing attacks on enemy airfield at Demyansk.

    In 23 K gold, platinum and enamels. Measures 40.2 mm in height from the top of the banner to the bottom of the wreath, 38.5 mm in width; weighs 36.7 g without the screw plate. Features two-word word "Monetnyi Dvor" mint mark and single tier screw post base. The number is stamped in standard manner above the screw post.

    In very fine condition, uncommon for a screw back type. The enamel on the banner in particular is in much better than average condition. There are surface chips and minor flakes along the upper edge and an area of flaking and rubbing at the fold of the banner. The damage however does not penetrate to the gold and therefore not too conspicuous. The enamel on the banner shows very little overall wear and shows beautiful luster. The red star has only microscopic contact marks, no wear visible to the naked eye. The red band around the center medallion has a tiny chip at approximately 10 o'clock and some miniscule, nearly unnoticeable flakes elsewhere. The hammer & sickle emblem likewise has a single tiny chip and a few flakes, the latter practically unnoticeable to the naked eye. The grey enamel on the background is perfect.

    The platinum bas-relief has only negligible amount of wear; its details are exceptionally crisp, essentially perfect. The golden wreath is also extremely well-preserved, free of noticeable dings or bumps. The order has never been converted to suspension and retains its original, full length screw post approx. 10 mm long (measured from its base.) Comes with original screw plate in silver. Overall, this is a very nice, completely unaltered example of the early wartime issue of the Order of Lenin.

    Georgiy Surochan was born in 1915 in the city of Dnepropetrovsk (then Yekaterinoslav) in the Ukraine. In October 1934 he joined the military, probably by enrolling in an Air Force school. Even before engaging in combat, he excelled in training and even received a monetary reward and a bas-relief of late Red Commander Sergo Ordzhonikidze for winning 1st place in an aerial shooting competition. He took part in the Patriotic War literally since its first day on 22 June 1941, and soon earned another monetary reward, this time for shooting down an enemy airplane. Flying an obsolete I-153 Chaika ("Seagull") biplane and later, a LAGG-3, with the 253rd Fighter Regiment, 106th Fighter Aviation Division, Surochan made a large number of strafing attacks on enemy armor and vehicle convoys. His early missions were in support of the hard-pressed Soviet Southwestern Front, then in the defense of Crimea, and starting from December 1941, as part of antiaircraft defenses of Moscow. By February 1942, he also took part in 18 dogfights and personally shot down three German airplanes: two Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters and a Henschel Hs 126 reconnaissance airplane. The three-airplane flight Surochan commanded was also credited with downing a Heinkel He 111 two-engine bomber.

    In one of the earliest actions of the war on 26 June 1941, Surochan attacked an enemy armored column. In the middle of the dive the engine of his I-153 received a direct hit by an enemy antiaircraft shell. Showing exceptional composure and skills, Surochan completed the bombing run and then flew over the front line making a forced landing on a field. He managed to return to his unit on the following day and continued to fly combat missions. In the subsequent award recommendation, it was especially noted that Surochan always sleeked out the enemy and engaged in dogfights completely disregarding the numerical or qualitative superiority of enemy aircraft. On 20 February 1942, Surochan, then already a deputy squadron commander, was recommended for an Order of Lenin by the command of his regiment. The award was downgraded to Order of the Red Banner by the division command; this decoration would be belatedly bestowed upon him a year later, on 14 February 1943.

    In the meantime, Surochan continued to show exceptional perseverance and heroism in action and was soon promoted to captain. By late February 1942, his regiment had been transferred from Moscow air defense to the Northwestern Front in response to a special order by Stalin. Its mission was to assist in the destruction of the German 16th Army. This army's II Corps had been completely cut off in the Demyansk pocket south of Lake Ilmen as the result of Soviet general offensive of winter 1941 / 42, and it was now in the crosshairs of the Soviet high command.

    Within a month from the first award recommendation, Surochan had completed additional 17 combat missions at Demyansk bringing his total to 135 sorties - an extremely high number for a Soviet combat pilot in the early period of the war. This overall total included 19 bombing and strafing attacks on enemy airfields and armor, 20 flights to escort bombers and Shturmoviks, 5 reconnaissance missions, and 91 sorties to intercept enemy airplanes and protect Soviet ground troops. Within the period from February 20 - March 23, pilots of the flight commanded by Surochan shot down an additional Bf 109 fighter.

    On 27 February, Surochan flying in a group of five LAGG-3s attacked an enemy airfield in Glebovshchina. Located on the northeastern outskirts of Demyansk, it was one of only airstrips available for the Germans in the pocket. Since no other means of supply were available, their survival totally depended on the daily airlift by large formations of slow flying Junkers Ju 52 trimotor transport airplanes. Thus the airfields had become absolutely vital for the troops in the cauldron and were vigorously protected by AAA emplacements and Luftwaffe fighters. Considering the near total Nazi dominance in the air at that stage of the war, flying bombing missions against such targets was an exceptionally dangerous, almost suicidal task.

    Despite the near impossible odds against them, Surochan and the other pilots of his unit fulfilled their mission to the utmost. In their first attack on Glebovshchina on 27 February, the five-airplane LAGG formation suppressed six antiaircraft emplacements and destroyed five Ju 52s on the ground. In the follow-up attack, Surochan flew in a group of ground-attack Shturmoviks and fighters destroying further 17 Ju 52s. On the following day, Surochan's airplane was damaged in a dogfight against numerically superior enemy fighters. Surochan was seriously wounded but thanks to his willpower and superior skills, managed to land the airplane on friendly territory. On 23 March, he was once again recommended for an Order of Lenin by the commander, commissar and chief of staff of the 253rd Fighter Regiment. This time, the award was promptly approved by the 106th Fighter Aviation Division, and on 29 March 1942, in a near record time for award of this level, it was bestowed upon Surochan by a decree of the Northwestern Front.

    Poorly equipped Red Army failed to wipe out the Demyansk pocket in the winter of 1942, and the Germans were eventually able to restore an overland link to it making it a bulge, a near permanent feature of the eastern front that would last until March 1943. This was of course not due to the lack of trying on the side of the heroic Soviet pilots such as Surochan. Indeed WW2 German archives show that attacks on their airfields in Demyansk significantly impeded the supply efforts in the early 1942, with only half the required daily cargo reaching the hard pressed II Corps. Volume 2 "Resurgence" of the book "Black Cross - Red Star. The Air War on the Eastern Front" by Bergstrom and Mikhailov also mentions the highly successful Soviet air raids in late February, stating that "The landing strip at Demyansk was soon littered with the burned-out husks of transport planes." Although the Nazi pocket ultimately survived the winter, it did so just barely, with Hitler and Goering learning all the wrong lessons from it. A year later, an attempt to conduct similar airlift in Stalingrad would end in complete failure.

    During the rest of the war, Surochan went on to shot down an additional five airplanes making him an air ace and bringing his overall wartime total to eight aerial victories. His combat career apparently ended in August 1944 - possibly to the serious wound he received in combat in March 1942 - when he was appointed to command a squadron in a reserve regiment. In this capacity he trained a large number of air crews for light night bomber and liaison aircraft, and in June 1945, was awarded for this achievements with an Order of the Patriotic War, 2nd cl., his last decoration of the war. In November 19 45, Surochan was awarded with a Medal for Combat Service for length of service in the military and retired soon thereafter. As of 1946, he resided in the city of Saransk, the capital of the Autonomous Soviet Republic of Mordovia, where he became a deputy minister of the republic's Ministry for Social Welfare.

    Research Materials: photocopy of the award record card and award commendations for the three orders.


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