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     Home > FEATURES > WW2 Soviet Pilots

    Order of the Red Banner, 2nd award, Type 2, Variation 2, Sub-variation 1, #2395, awarded on 17 August 1943 to Major Konstantin Vasilevsky.

    Order of the Red Banner, 2nd award, Type 2, Variation 2, Sub-variation 1, #2395, awarded on 17 August 1943 to Major Konstantin Vasilevsky.

    Silver gilt, enamels. Measures 40.7 mm tall from the lowest point of the number plaque to the top of the banner, 36.7 mm wide; weight 25.6 grams without screw plate. The mint mark is two-word, Monetnyi Dvor". According to Durov & Strekalov classification, this is Sub-variation 1, featuring smooth counter-relief. Manufactured in 1942 at the Krasnokamsk Mint /See V. Durov, N. Strekalov, "Order of the Red Banner" , pp. 140, 195/

    In fine to very fine condition. Unlike many other early Red Banners, the order has not been converted to suspension and retains its original full length screw post, over 12 mm long (measured from its base). The enamel on the banner has two small repairs: in a thin strip about 5-6 mm long along the right edge (to cover what looks like relatively minor flaking) and an even smaller spot on the lower edge of the banner, immediately above the center medallion. The enamel also has a few tiny flakes in the same areas, but overall impression is quite good. The repair was done very professionally with epoxy-based enamel matching the color and translucency of the original, and it becomes apparent only under a UV light. Additionally, the center arm of the star has enamel replaced in the same fashion, and there are surface chips to the right arm. The red plaque has minor surface flakes not penetrating to silver, almost unnoticeable. The white enamel is practically perfect having just tiny contact marks to the numeral plaque.

    The details of the wreath are perfect and crisp; most of its original gilt is still present. The reverse is pristine, shows very nice even toning to silver, and still has original gilt "spillage" along the edges - a characteristic feature of some of the early screw back specimens. A period silver screw plate is included. Overall, this attractive piece is nicely preserved for any screw back type Order of the Red Banner - let alone a Second award!

    Konstantin Vasilevsky was born in 1907 and joined the military in 1929. He took part in the Patriotic War since its first days in June 1941. In the initial period of the war he served as a flight leader with the 719th Bomber Air Regiment and in this capacity flew numerous night missions on an R-5 light bomber. He especially distinguished himself by designing a special bomb rack that allowed the R-5 to carry up to 60 small bomblets, an innovation which was apparently successfully adopted by the rest of his unit.

    Vasilevsky's first decoration, an Order of the Red Banner, was bestowed upon him for flying 11 combat missions in the Rostov area in late 1941, in support of the first successful Soviet counteroffensive of the war (the German retreat from Rostov on 28 November 1941 was their first major setback in WW2, a harbinger of things to come: Moscow in the following month, Al-Alamein and Stalingrad a year later). It is interesting to note that although the commendation for his first Red Banner could not be found in the archives, a later award document quoted it as being "for the destruction (sic!) of the Kleist's group [of German troops]". The award was conferred on 9 December 1941 by a decree of the Southwestern Front - just days after the start of the great Soviet counter-offensive at Moscow. Vasilevsky earned his next award by flying an additional 40 bombing missions. On one occasion, he also took off in his R-5 in extreme weather conditions to deliver urgently needed documents to Army Commissar 1st cl. Mekhlis, at the time a Stalin's trusted deputy and his special representative in the southern area of the front. For completing this assignment Vasilevsky was promoted to Captain and given a monetary reward. Vasilevsky's bombing strikes were equally successful, and their results were repeatedly confirmed by the ground forces, specifically the units of the 40th Army that his air regiment supported. In April 1942, he was recommended for another Order of the Red Banner, but on 23 June 1942 was given a lower award, an Order of the Red Star.

    By February 1943, Vasilevsky had been promoted to major and given command of the 370th Night Bomber Regiment of the 262nd Night Bomber Air Division, 17th Air Army. In summer 1943 his regiment performed brilliantly at Belgorod during the Battle of Kursk where it flew 1169 missions without losing a single airplane. By August of that year, the regiment had a total of 5354 completed combat missions in which it had demolished 215 buildings occupied by the enemy, caused 150 fires, and damaged or destroyed 170 motor vehicles. Vasilevsky and his pilots wiped out 107 artillery and mortar positions, burned down 4 railway trains, and destroyed 7 river crossings. Beside bombs, the regiment's pilots dropped 118500 propaganda flyers aiming at damaging moral of the Nazi troops. At the time of his recommendation for an Order of the Red Banner (2nd award), Vasilevsky had a personal total of 254 completed combat sorties on U-2 and R- 5 biplanes. For the staggering number of missions as well as his masterful leadership, he was awarded with the second Order of the Red Banner on 17 August 1943.

    Vasilevsky would go on to receive four other orders making it a Great Patriotic War total of seven. Among them were Order of Alexander Nevsky #6369 (awarded in September 1944) and Order of Suvorov 3rd cl. #10193 (April 1945). He ended the war with the rank of Guards lieutenant colonel, and as of February 1946, was still serving as commander of the 370th Air Regiment, then a part of the 6th Air Army of the Odessa Military District.

    Research Materials: Xerox copy and English translation of the award commendation for the Order of the Red Banner 2nd award and award record card; photocopy of the award commendation for the 1942 order of the Red Star.


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