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     Home > FEATURES > WW2 Soviet Pilots

    Gold Star Medal of a Hero of the Soviet Union, #8880, awarded on 29 June 1945 to Guards Captain Semyon Chernovskiy, Squadron Commander of the 22nd Guards Bomber Regiment.

    Gold Star Medal of a Hero of the Soviet Union, #8880, awarded on 29 June 1945 to Guards Captain Semyon Chernovskiy, Squadron Commander of the 22nd Guards Bomber Regiment.

    The star medallion is in 23 K gold, mint marked and numbered; suspension device is in silver gilt. The medallion measures 32.4 mm in height including the eyelet, 30.3 mm in width; weighs 20.7 g not including the suspension and connecting link. The suspension measures 26.1 mm in width, 25.3 mm in height including the provision for the connecting link.

    The medal is in very fine to excellent condition, well above the average for a Hero Star. The obverse of the golden medallion is particularly well-preserved showing only minor dings, mostly to the upper arms. The ridges of the star are very nicely defined; the tips of the arms don't show significant bumps. On the reverse, there is a single small nick at the edge of the lower right arm (viewed from the reverse), apparently a result of testing for gold content. There are also a few small dings and scratches, but the raised lettering is largely intact and crisp. The stippling is also well preserved allowing clear view of the "idiosyncrasies" of the die that are a requisite of the original medal. There is only minimal wear to the raised edge near the tips.

    The suspension device is original and complete, with all of its parts present including the hexagon nut, rectangular back plate and screw plate with mint logo. There is attractive even patina to all parts of the suspension, while the original gilt finish is still visible everywhere. The nicely preserved ribbon is clearly quite old, although not of the same vintage as the medal itself. The ends of the connecting link are separated, although the link appears to be of the period and may well be original to the medal.

    Semyon Chernovskiy was born in 1908 to a peasant family in the village of Chernovskoe in Novosibirsk Region of Siberia. After completing 7 grades of school and a vocational school in Kemerovo, he worked as a welder at a metallurgical plant. While working at the factory, he joined an aviation club and completed a pilot training program. In 1938, he started military service by enrolling in the Novosibirsk School of Military Pilots from which he graduated two years later. When the war with Germany broke out in June 1941, Chernovskiy was serving as SB bomber pilot in the 1st High Speed Bomber Regiment stationed in Turkmenistan, far from the Soviet western frontier. Thus he escaped the fate of many Soviet frontline aviation cadres mostly annihilated in the first days and weeks of the Nazi Operation Barbarossa.

    Instead, Chernovskiy's unit soon deployed in the little- known Soviet Blitz invasion of Iran aimed to depose the Nazi-friendly regime and install the government favorable to both the USSR and Great Britain. Chernovskiy's first combat missions of WW2 were thus against Persian targets, flown while his unit was stationed at the Gorgan airfield inside Iran from late August - October 1941. After the victorious conclusion of the campaign, the Iran would not only deny the Germans the much-needed oil, but would also for the rest of the war provide a southern conduit for Lend-Lease supplies pouring into the Soviet Union. In mid-October, as the Germans were approaching Moscow, Chernovskiy's unit was hastily moved to the Western Front to take part in the defense of the Soviet capital as part of the 38th Bomber Division. In the beginning, Chernovskiy and the other pilots mostly flew solo daytime missions using low clouds as cover. They targeted German road traffic around the towns of Kaluga, Tarusa and Aleksin and within the first month since their deployment at Moscow, were credited with destroying as many as 21 tanks, 400 motor vehicles, and nearly 2100 enemy soldiers. As the Germans renewed their Operation Taifun in November in the last-ditch effort to sack Moscow, the 1st Bomber Regiment had to be redeployed to a different airfield, a small patch near the Oka River. Owing to the German supremacy in the air, the regiment's pilots had to learn and employ nighttime bombing techniques. Besides bombing, during this time many of their missions were for daytime aerial reconnaissance and photography, a task that grew both in importance and difficulty in the worsening weather conditions and then the unfolding Soviet counteroffensive.

    The regiment suffered terrible attrition in the Battle of Moscow as evident from the archival data: on 28 October, when it was reassigned to the 146th Aviation Division, it still had 18 SB airplanes (3 of them damaged.) A month later, there were only seven serviceable planes left - the number made even more stark taking into account any reinforcements the regiment probably received in the meantime. Within a week, the number of serviceable airplanes was down to one (with three more under repair), and in early January 1941, what remained of the regiment had to be pulled back for rest and refitting. At approximately the same time it was resubordinated directly to the Supreme Command of the Air Forces of the Western Front. During the same month of January, Chernovskiy was awarded with his first decoration of the war, an Order of the Red Banner, for completing 16 daytime and nighttime combat missions in the defensive phase of the Battle of Moscow. According to the award commendation, he and his crew destroyed 2 enemy tanks, 20 motor vehicles, and eliminated up to 120 German soldiers. During a recon mission on 23 November, Chernovskiy discovered a massive enemy armored column comprising as many as 100 vehicles; the information he conveyed to his command was instrumental in stopping the enemy attack. On 29 November, during a bombing strike that resulted in destroying eight enemy motor vehicles, his airplane was hit by antiaircraft fire. Despite having three holes from artillery shells in his airplane, Chernovskiy managed to bring it back and to land safely on his home airfield.

    By the end of February 1942, Chernovskiy's regiment was back in action flying the newly acquired SB and AR-2 bombers out of an airdrome near Serpukhovo. In May, the unit became a part of the 213th Bomber Air Division and later, 204th Bomber Air Division. In concentrated on bombing German airfields at nighttime and throughout 1942 alone, completed 280 such missions. During the same year, Chernovskiy and other pilots of the unit mastered the technique of nighttime aerial photography. In September of 1942, the regiment became embroiled in heavy fighting around Rzhev, a series of inconclusive battles that would become infamous among the ground troops as "Rzhev Meat Grinder." Within a month and a half, the unit suffered significant attrition losing 58 of its personnel and 25 aircraft; once again, it had to be rebuilt almost from scratch. During this period, the regiment was given Guards status in recognition of its performance at Moscow and Rzhev, and it was re-designated 22nd Guards Night Bomber Regiment.

    Starting from January 1943, the regiment started frequently flying missions to support resistance in the enemy rear. The pilots delivered ammunition and food supplies to partisan units operating in forests around Bryansk and Vitebsk, and on numerous occasions towed gliders with saboteur teams deep into the enemy-held territory. That of course was combined with the more conventional bombing and reconnaissance missions, in which Chernovskiy excelled. He was particularly successful in strikes upon enemy airfields south of Smolensk such as Shatalovo and Seshcha, as well as railway stations of Vyazma, Sychyovka and Yelnya. High effectiveness of his sorties was frequently confirmed by aerial photography and air crews that followed him on the bombing missions. By June 1943, he had completed a total of 139 missions and had been recommended for his second Order of the Red Banner; the award was bestowed in August 1943 by the command of the 1st Air Army.

    By the end of June 1943, the 22nd Guards Bomber Regiment had been again severely depleted and pulled back from the front. This time, the respite in fighting took much longer than ever before, nearly nine months. The personnel used this time for retraining to fly the newly arrived Douglas A-20B Havoc airplanes. These versatile and reliable US-built attack aircraft dubbed "Boston" were supplied by the thousands to the Soviet Union over the course of the war; they saw widespread service on the Eastern Front as ground- attack gunships, light bombers and naval torpedo carriers. The regiment returned to the front on 9 April 1944 having a total of 30 aircraft in its disposal, 27 of them the highly- prized Bostons. It joined the 321st Bomber Air Division with which it would stay through the end of the war, initially under the overall command of the 1st Ukrainian and later, 4th Ukrainian Front.

    The regiment was heavily engaged in supporting the Soviet ground troops by conducting precision strikes at Lvov, in the Carpathians, Slovakia and southeastern Poland. Chernovskiy, by then already a squadron commander, especially distinguished himself in attacking enemy railway hubs. For example, on 17 July 1944 he attacked the Lvov railway station protected by strong antiaircraft defenses and searchlights. Despite heavy enemy opposition, Chernovskiy scored direct hit that resulted in a large explosion and subsequent fire. On 7 and 8 October, he twice led a group of airplanes targeting the railway station of Chop at the Soviet border with Slovakia and Hungary. None withstanding the bad weather and antiaircraft fire, he made two bombing and strafing runs on the target on each mission, scoring devastating hits on the railroad locomotives, cars and station warehouses. In October, Chernovskiy was recommended for yet another Order of the Red Banner - which would be his third. The recommended award was changed however to Order of Alexander Nevsky, technically a downgrade, further up the chain of command.

    By the end of the war Chernovskiy completed 183 combat missions. Many of his bombing sorties resulted in significant damage to the enemy as independently confirmed and verified (to give just one example, after his airstrikes at Chop mentioned above, the Soviet ground troops that liberated the town soon thereafter tallied 10 destroyed locomotives at its railway station - as well as 140 stranded railway cars loaded with equipment and ammunition.) He also proved to be an excellent leader: the squadron he commanded became the best in the regiment judging by effectiveness of its bombing missions. On 26 April 1945, Chernovskiy was recommended for Title of Hero of the Soviet Union by his regiment commander. During the following month, the recommendation was approved by the chain of command of the 8th Air Army and on 3 June, given a final approval by the command of the 4th Ukrainian Front. On 29 June 1945, Chernovskiy was made a Hero of the Soviet Union by a decree of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. He stayed on active duty in the Air Force until his retirement in 1957 with the rank of colonel. In the last decades of his life he resided in Voronezh where he passed away in May 1983 at the age of 65.

    Research Materials: photocopy of the award recommendation for all four WW2 decorations including the Hero Star; Xerox copy and translation of the article about Chernovskiy in the official catalog "Heroes of the Soviet Union" (contains his photo.) Detailed information about his unit is available online


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