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     Home > FEATURES > WW2 Soviet Pilots

    Order of Alexander Nevsky, Type 3, "Deep Dish" version, #24384, awarded on 13 March 1945 to Senior Lieutenant Nikolay Gekov for flying a large number of combat missions, including numerous missions as a leader of Il-2 Shturmovik formations during the Jassy-Kishinev Offensive and the liberation of Yugoslavia.

    Order of Alexander Nevsky, Type 3, "Deep Dish" version, #24384, awarded on 13 March 1945 to Senior Lieutenant Nikolay Gekov for flying a large number of combat missions, including numerous missions as a leader of Il-2 Shturmovik formations during the Jassy-Kishinev Offensive and the liberation of Yugoslavia.

    Silver gilt, enamels; measures 51.3 mm in height, 50.3 mm in width; weighs 40.2 g not including the screw plate. Features a distinctive concaved "deep dish" shape, mint mark in almost straight lines, and comparatively wide bands at the lower ends of the battleaxes.

    The order is in outstanding, excellent condition. The enamel is practically perfect having only some tiny contact marks, no chips, flaking, or significant wear of any kind. The center medallion is essentially pristine, completely free of any dings visible to the naked eye; the details of the bas- relief are absolutely perfect and exceptionally crisp - a very uncommon case.

    There is extremely attractive patina to silver throughout, while some of the original gilt is still clearly visible on the wreath, quiver, sword, and especially axes. The screw post is approx. 13.5 mm in length, has not been shortened. Appropriate original silver screw plate of WW2 period is included. Overall, this is a truly superb example of WW2 "Deep Dish" Nevsky, nearly impossible to upgrade.

    Nikolay Gekov was born in 1917 in a village of the Donetsk Region. After finishing 9 grades of high school and a vocational school at a factory where he worked, he joined the Red Army in August 1940 as a cadet of Voroshilovgrad School of Military Pilots. He completed an expedited training program in less than a year, and starting from July 1941, served as flight instructor at the same school (soon evacuated to the Ural region.) After spending the initial period of the war in the rear, Gekov was eventually appointed as a pilot to 374th Combined Aviation Regiment of the 2nd Air Army and in January 1943, started his combat career as a dispatch pilot of the 38th Army, Voronezh (and later, 1st Ukrainian) Front. Gekov soon earned a reputation as an exceptionally reliable flyer capable of completing his assignments even in the most adverse weather conditions. On one occasion, on 3 March 1943, he was carrying a high- ranking staff officer of the Front when his airplane got caught in a blizzard. Thanks to Gekov's extraordinary skills, he managed to complete the mission and land the airplane in the designated area thus saving his VIP passenger, his own life, and the machine. During the next month, Gekov was appointed a flight leader of the dispatch airplane squadron and recommended for an Order of the Red Star. The recommended award was however downgraded to a Medal for Valor.

    In mid-1943, Gekov started flying nighttime bombing sorties and in this capacity, proved particularly effective during the Battle of Kursk and the follow-up offensive in the Ukraine. By September, he had completed 70 bombing missions on a U-2 biplane in addition to 92 dispatch missions over the course of which he had made over 100 landings in close proximity to the front line. For his flawless execution of various assignments he was once again recommended for an Order of the Red Star by his squadron commander. This time, the award was sharply upgraded rather than downgraded: based on this recommendation, in October 1943 Gekov received an Order of the Patriotic War 1st cl.

    Following an additional 67 bombing missions on a U-2 and a six-month hiatus for re-training in the rear, Gekov returned to the front in April 1944, this time as an Il-2 Shturmovik pilot with the 166th Guards Ground Attack Aviation Regiment, 10th Guards Ground Attack Aviation Division, 2nd Air Army. Within the next several months, he completed 15 strafing sorties on Il-2 assisting the ground troops during the offensives in Trans-Carpathian Ukraine and eastern Poland. On 7 July, while flying with a group of Il-2s he spotted an enemy antiaircraft emplacement and on his own initiative attacked it with rockets, cannon fire and machine guns. He silenced the enemy AAA nest and thus allowed his comrades to proceed unimpeded with bombing their primary target: camouflaged tanks and trucks. Gekov's diligence and attention on several occasions saved the lives of other Shturmovik crews. For example, on 21 July a group of German fighters comprising two Focke-Wulf Fw 190s and one Messerschmitt Bf 109 tried to execute a surprise attack on his formation. Gekov however spotted the enemy in time and deduced their plan warning his comrades and taking necessary measures to successfully repeal the attack. On 8 August, Guards Lieut. Gekov was promoted to an Il-2 flight leader and on the following day, recommended for an Order of the Red Banner by his regiment commander. On 11 August, the recommendation was approved by the 2nd Air Army Commander, Col. General Krasnovskiy; and on the same day, an Order of the Red Banner - Gekov's highest award to date - was officially bestowed by a decree of the air army.

    Gekov remained with the 166th Guards Ground Attack Regiment through the remainder of the war. Reassigned with his unit to the 17th Air Army, he took part in the battles in Romania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, and was awarded with a Yugoslavian Order of the Partisan Star, 1st class in gold - a very uncommon decoration awarded to only 627 people in total (including all the post-war issues.) By late February 1945, he had completed an additional 24 ground attack missions on Il-2. Among them were three missions he flew on 20 August 1944 assisting the Soviet ground troops on the first day of the Jassy - Kishinev offensive. On this single day, Gekov destroyed a German tank, 4 automobiles, 3 heavy machineguns, and as many as 15 horse-drawn wagons. He also eliminated up to 45 enemy soldiers.

    On 22 August, Gekov's airplane came under intensive ground fire during his approach to the target. Undeterred, he skillfully maneuvered and made two highly accurate strafing runs destroying an antiaircraft artillery battery and an armored personnel carrier. In another mission on 19 January 1945, he flew as the leader of a formation four Il-2s and made two attacks destroying with his group 5 motor vehicles, suppressing a field artillery battery, and eliminating up to 40 enemy soldiers.

    On 22 February 1945, Gekov was recommended for these exploits for an Order of the Red Banner, 2nd award. The proposed award was approved by his division commander but later changed to Order of Alexander Nevsky - technically a downgrade - by the command of the 17th Air Army. This award, bestowed on 13 March 1945, was his fourth and final decoration of the war.

    Gekov remained on active duty after the war reaching the rank of Captain in 1948. After completing a higher school of Air Force navigators in 1949, he was assigned as deputy regiment commander to the 159th Ground Attack Aviation Division, 29th Air Army stationed in the Khabarovsk Region of the Soviet Far East, in close proximity to the Soviet border with China. Interestingly, his service record shows that starting from February 1950, he was in a "far away area" identified only as Sakhalin Island - which leads us to suspect that he was involved in the Korean War. During the early 50s, Gekov was decorated with a Medal for Combat Service and Order of the Red Star, both apparently for length of military service. On 23 July 1953 (incidentally, just a few days before the Korean War armistice), he was transferred from active duty to reserves, apparently due to reaching the current age limit.

    Research Materials: photocopy of the award record card, full service record (which includes two very nice photos of Gekov, taken at the beginning and end of his military career), and award commendations for the Order of Alexander Nevsky and three other WW2 decorations.


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