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Couldn’t shoot and went for a ram attack. Legendary Yak-7 bomber brought to the surface from a swamp in the Leningrad Region

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A massive special operation unfurled on the swampy banks of south Ladoga. Dozens of specialists from several regions united to bring a Yak-7 bomber to the surface. It was downed during the Great Patriotic War.

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A genuine tent camp was set up on the site. The group – which included rescuers, historians and folks from the Culture Ministry – were short on time

Weather conditions in these parts change very quickly. Just a little meddling may create danger for the crew – as swamps become harder to access – and the expedition members may require help. Alexey Zhukov reports from the scene.

The first to make surface is the chassis, followed by horizontal stabilizer of the rear fin – known better as a rear wing. That’s how – part by part – another war machine of the Great Patriotic War, Yak-7, is returning back to us after 70 odd years. It was one of the mass produced bombers of the Soviet fleet in those days.

Alexey Zhukov, reporter: “When someone talks of lifting one of the legendary “polutorka” truck or a military aircraft from the bottom of lake Ladoga, our imagination paints a piece of military history surfacing from the deeps, totally untouched by time and ready for museum exhibitions. In reality, it looks completely different. It would be a miracle if at least one part survived. This, for instance, is this aircraft’s seat – or, rather, what’s left of it”

The plane was torn into bits. Even specialists took their time to determine where all the parts were. Local forest keeper found the winged machine in the middle of a swamp, 20 kilometers off the Kobona village. The operation to lift it took weeks to prepare. Off roaders couldn’t get to the scene – and a special snow-and-swamp car was ordered. The prisoner was also in the firm grasp of the swamp. The plane was not simply underwater, but also under a meter-thick layer of algae and grass

Sergey Markov, head of “Kobona” sector of “Road of Life” museum: “When we submerged into this swamp to see whether the plane was there, it was hard to make the dive – because this layer was very thick. You could literally lay on it. That’s why before extracting the plane and pump water out of it, we had to chop this algae and grass and take it out”

Up until the late 1930s, Yak used to be a sport plane. But by 1943 was having even battles with Messerschmidts. Moreover, the Soviet plane had advantages in close combat and at low altitudes. Although, this particular plane lost its final battle. Pilot Alexander Khoroshkov was covering Volkhovskaya Hydro Power Plant, was hit from the ground and on the way back he saw a German Heinkel 111 bomber closing in on Kobona and the Road of Life. Considering his low ammo stock, it’s clear – he couldn’t shoot and went for a ram attack.

Sergey Machinskiy, head of search and reconstruction department at Russian military history society: “The back side of the propeller. See? There’s an impact spot. It can’t happen after a fall, because it fell on this side – and we can see impact spots here. But here is a sign of metal hitting another metal – meaning he rammed the German plane”

Co-servicemen and witnesses said that they saw the pilot eject, but records of the central archives of the Defense Ministry list him as MIA. It’s hard to establish today what killed the hero – a life-crushing wound or impenetrable swamps. He was awarded the red banner medal posthumously, and the main memory of him is his plane

Oleg Titberia, head of military history center: “It’s impossible to rebuild it in full, but all parts and fragments will be restored separately for an exhibition about this battle”

A private ‘Road of Life” museum already has parts of downed Heinkel German bomber. Maybe it was a different one, but that hardly matters. Those two exhibits will look at each other – the downed invader opposite the stern defender. The only task ahead of the search crew now – is to find the pilot’s family. They want to bring them to their ancestor’s place of death and present them with a part of the plane.  

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