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The Commander’s Timely Rescue

Pictured: Document for Guards Private Nikolai Efimovich Yakushchenko. The document "For the Capture of Berlin" was signed by Hero of the Soviet Union, Commander of the 216th Guards Rifle Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Ivanovich Semikov on 16 October 1945.

Due to his communication efforts with his soldiers, Marshal Chuikov was known for taking risky actions during the Great Patriotic War. Unlike other commanders, his HQ was close to the front lines and at times he was in the trenches right along with his men. A visual person, Vasily Ivanovich could "read" the enemy, find their weaknesses, and devise tactics to neutralize them. Commander Chuikov was in constant contact with his soldiers and studied the enemy's position and behavior at great length, even from the air.

On 23 July 1942, Lieutenant-General Chuikov requested a trip with a pilot to conduct a flyover of the battlefield on the steppe. However, his plane did not go unnoticed by the enemy… Captain Semikov saved Chuikov’s life when his PO-2 plane was shot down by a Junkers Ju-88 near Stalingrad. Quick in action, Semikov jumped into his Willys vehicle with a couple of machine gunners and rushed to the crash site. There he picked up Commander Chuikov and his pilot, breaking away from the German pursuers with their attack dogs, with machine guns ablaze at the enemy. Vasily Ivanovich wrote about his timely rescue by Captain Semikov in his book titled The Battle for Stalingrad:

“Our pursuer, seeing our plane burst into flames, presumably decided that we had been killed. Circling around, he headed west and was lost over the horizon. We were soon picked up on the steppe and taken by car out of the danger area by Captain A. I. Semikov, an officer from the operations section at 62nd Army HQ, afterward made a Hero of the Soviet Union” (33).

It is impossible to say what the outcome of the Battle of Stalingrad might have been if it were not for Semikov's quick action on Chuikov's behalf. More of Semikov’s story is found here:

“The Commander of the [62nd] Army V. I. Chuikov went by plane to personally determine the configuration of the enemy's front line of defense. One of the Fascist vultures spotted the PO-2 plane and rushed towards it. Everyone who watched this picture, including Captain Semikov, did not know that Commander Chuikov was in the PO-2. The German pilot managed to knock out their plane, and it fell near the forward edge. Semikov was the first to reach the downed plane. To his surprise, General Chuikov was the passenger. It was impossible to hesitate—a minute of delay and the commander could be in the hands of enemy soldiers. Disregarding the danger, Captain Semikov carried the commander to the rear.

In the period from September 1942 to 2 February 1943, the day of the complete liberation of Stalingrad, Captain Semikov, at the risk of his life, had to go many times with orders through the besieged city to the units conducting street battles. A dozen times he was in the area of the Tractor Plant, the same amount in the area of the factories ‘Barrikady’ and ‘Red October.’ […]

[Following the war,] Lieutenant-Colonel Semikov served in Germany for several years, and then returned to his homeland where he was appointed Military Commandant of the Khimki District of the Moscow region. From this position at the end of the 1950’s, Colonel Semikov was transferred to the central apparatus of the USSR Ministry of Defense, in which he worked for almost 15 years alongside his former commander, Marshal of the Soviet Union V. I. Chuikov.”

Special thanks for the review/contribution by Vyacheslav Chyorny.


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