FROM THE HISTORY OF RUSSIA’S PACIFIC FLEET

     AFTER  THE  WAR  AND  TODAY

Atomic submarine

Atomic cruiser Frunze

Pacific Fleet aviators

    World War Twowas over. But like all the USSR’s armed forces that had emerged victorious,the Pacific Fleet could not rest on its laurels.  One year after therout of Japan, the so-cold “cold war” began, and recent allies in the warwith Hitlerism—the USSR and the United States and their allies--found themselveson opposite sides of the barricade harboring concealed aggressive intentionsagainst each other. In fact both superpowers had unleashed a runaway armsrace in preparation for possible hostilities.
     In the Pacific Fleet, all thisshowed in increased assimilation by post-war seamen of the experience ofWorld War Two. The tasks involved were solved successfully, since the participants in combat operations both in the West and East, officers and petty officers, sailors and admirals, were still active. Heroes of the Soviet Union M.Malik, K Kazachinsky and G. Kiknadze, for instance, trained torpedo boatcrews what was necessary in war, Heroes of the Soviet Union G. Shchedrin,M. Gadzhiev and others taught submarine crews their basic skills and knowledge,and Heroes of the Soviet Union E. Preobrazhensky and B. A. Guliaev taughtairmen their own combat skills.
     At that time the author of theselines served in the 781st fighter air regiment, Pacific Fleet air force. Both the regiment commander and chief of staff, as well as all the squadron commanders and most of the pilots, engineers, technicians and mechanicswere also former participants in World War Two. So, when the local, butnonetheless fierce war between North and South Korea broke out, Russianair fighters provided what at the time was termed international assistanceto North Korea to display flying skills that were a cut above those oftheir adversaries, U. S. and South Korean pilots. 
    After World War Two, not only the Fleet’s air force operated in frontline conditions. Minesweepers also actedin the same way. For many post-war days, they acted in true combat-like conditions, clearing Pacific waters of mines and securing safe navigation on sea communications. Not infrequently, such “work” became mortally dangerous. 
    One time, when depth bombs were loadedon board a warship, one of them fell overboard. The explosion, if it occurred,could have detonated depth bombs on neighboring vessels. Motor mechanic Piotr Mikhailov volunteered to render the bomb harmless. Having donneda light diving suit, he vanished under water. Even the slightest carelessnesswas fraught with big trouble. Having looked around in the underwater darkness, Mikhailov saw the depth bomb nearby. Observing caution, he extracted thefuse from the bomb case to thus eliminate the danger to his own and neighboring ships. For this truly heroic exploit, Mikhailov was awarded the Order ofthe Red Banner, then regarded a high decoration.1 
    At that time, the Pacific Fleet beganto practice interaction of warships with frontline and long-distance aviationand with ground and air-borne troops. Training also involved navigation of surface warships in severe winter conditions and remote ocean expeditions by submarines. Torpedo shooting and mine laying in wintertime were alsopracticed. Fleet units and warships acquired experience in organizing anti-atomicand anti-chemical defense. All this happened against a background of afundamental military-industrial revolution. New surface and underwaterships equipped with up-to-date combat technology and arms were commissioned.In combat aviation, propeller planes were replaced with jet planes, andwarships, coast guards and marines were equipped with missiles. 
Remote cruises of battle ships and their calls at foreign ports added another page to the modern history of the Russian Pacific Navy. In 1956 the cruiser “Dmitrii Pozharsky” and torpedo-boats “Vdumchivy” and“Vrazumitelny” (under the command of Vice-Admiral V.A.Chekurov) paid afriendly visit to the Peoples Republic of China. In 1959 the cruiser “AdmiralSenyavin” and torpedo-boats “Vyderzhenny”and “Vozbuzhdenny” (under thecommand of Fleet Admiral V.A.Fokin) visited Indonesia… 
  In 1973 the floating base “Ivan Kucherenko” and tanker“Vishera” made the first voyage to Peru and Ecuador in the history of Russia’sPacific Fleet. The author of these lines happened to take part in this105-day-long expedition as a special correspondent of “Boevaya Vakhta”,the Pacific Fleet’s newspaper. Having traversed over 20,000 miles, theships crossed the Pacific Ocean along the arc of the big circle to crossthe equator twice. Cadets of the S. O. Makarov Pacific Higher Navy Collegereceived their practice training during that expedition. The seamen visitedthe Peruvian port of Caliao and the capital of that exotic country, Lima,and also the Ecuadorian port of Guayakil and the capital of Ecuador, Quito.Wherever they were the navymen and residents of those countries greetedthem very warmly.  Tens of thousands of Peruvians and Ecuadorians visited the “Ivan Kucherenko” to invariably speak of Russian sailors andRussia in complimentary terms and with admiration. At the farewell banqueton board ship, Captain Peredes Crespo, Commander, First Zone, Ecuadorian Navy, said: “Your visit and your navymen impressed us, Ecuadorians, morethan would have an A-bomb explosion.”2
      In the nineteen sixtiesand seventies, Russia’s naval ensign could be seen very often in the southern and northern latitudes of the Pacific, in the tropics of the Indian Ocean, and among ice floes in the Arctic and Antarctic Oceans. And everywherePacific navymen were specimens of organization, discipline and high navaltraining. They appropriately maintained the honor and lofty title of citizensof our great country, reliable defenders of our Homeland. In remote expeditions, during training and flights over the ocean, the crews of naval vesselsand planes acted with initiative and creatively in situations full of acutemoments, avoided conventional decisions, and took timely and proper decisions.Again, when needed, they acted boldly and resolutely, even risking theirlives.
     Once a submarine was performingits training task in the ocean. Petty officer A. Velichinsky, having boundhimself with a thick rope, was working on deck. A big wave burst the rope,and Velichinsky was washed overboard. Then Captain V. Ushakov grabbed alife buoy and jumped in the sea. Time and again, high waves covered bothmen to fling them to the submarine. Ushakov to put in every effort to supportVelichinsky in the storming ocean. He succeeded, and finally strong sailorhands seized both men to lift them on board.3
Fleet Admiral of the Soviet Union S.G.Gorshkov  Having fulfilled its task, the submarine was approaching a buoy. A strongwind was blowing. The air temperature was 30 below. Ice blocks made themooring gang’s work difficult. When several meters were left to go to thebuoy, senior sailor IGOR
Shurin and petty officer Yuri Sorokin saw how one ofthe officers slipped and fell overboard. Without hesitating a second, Sorokinjumped into the ice-cold water. Shurin instantly rushed to his aid. Theice-cold water burnt his body, and his clothes were instantly covered withice. Still, the sailors managed to save their officer.
  From 1968, expeditions of Pacific Fleet vesselsin the Pacific and Indian Oceans became quite common. The nation’s new ocean-faring nuclear-missile fleet, one of whose powerful units was theRussian Pacific Fleet, became a component element in Russia’s reliabledefense. The fleet’s warships and planes were equipped with different-purpose cruise missiles, and Russia significantly surpassed the West in this respect. Russian atomic submarines operating in the World Ocean could  “reach” with their missiles virtually any region of the earth. Quantitatively and qualitatively, the Soviet Navy was almost on par with the U. S. Navy.4
Big anti-submarine warship Admiral Panteleev    A special page in the activity of the Pacific Fleet in the nineteen-seventiesinvolves aid to residents of different countries in critical situations.In 1972 at the request of the government of Bangladesh, a salvage expeditionwas sent there from the Russian Pacific Fleet. For over two years, a largegroup of Pacific navymen worked in Chittagong, clearing the port of explosiveobjects and sunk vessels.
    This proved to be a very difficulttask. The divers had to work in zero visibility, in strong currents andhigh water temperature. Danger of mines was also probable. Divers spentunderwater over 40,000 hours. They cut 1,500 running meters (!) of steelstructures, performed about 200 cumulative explosions, and lifted 26 vesselsfrom the ocean floor. The efforts of Pacific navymen were assessed highly.At the time, Bangladesh Communications Minister declared: “At the mostcritical moment, Soviet sailors did not let the Republic die of hungerby restoring the gates to life”.5
  In summer 1974, the Egyptian Government askedthe Soviet Government to help in clearing the Gulf of Suez of mines. OnJuly 15, a detachment of Pacific Fleet warships under Captain A. N. Apollonovbegan sweeping the gulf. The operation lasted from sunrise to dawn, inany weather, and sometimes even round the clock. On November 11, a minesweepercommanded by Captain V. Tikhonov made its last tack. The task of clearingthe gulf of mines was successfully fulfilled.  An area of 1,250 squaremiles swept by Soviet vessels, which covered over 17,000 miles with minesweepers attached, was open for safe navigation.6
 On February 11, 1975 Pacific Fleet cruiser “Dmitri Pozharsky”, which was performing training and combat tasks in the Indian Ocean, arrived in Mauritius Island at the order of the Fleet Command tohelp its population. The tropical cyclone “Jervez” had razed the island to inflict huge damage. Thousands of its inhabitants were left homeless,power and telephone lines were put out of action, and water supply wasdisrupted. In twelve days, the Pacific navymen restored 232 kilometersof power lines, switched power supply to hundreds of homes, restored telephonecommunications, repaired a local hospital and performed other reconstructionwork.7
     Unfortunately, warship expedition, plane flights and tank marches did not always end safely. Alas, sometimes tragic accidents happened. In 1962, during celebrations in honor of USSRNavy Day, several Ty-16 missile carriers, having flown to Vladivostok overAmur Bay, did not all return to base. Two of the huge machines entereddense clouds over Russky Island and in total absence of visibility clashedin the air to crash down. The disaster took the lives of simultaneouslytwelve excellent air fighters.
     A tank in the mid-seventiesat large-scale Pacific Fleet marine maneuvers crushed Alexander Karelin,a young and capable Senior Lieutenant. Again, two marine sapers died ofcarelessness in disposing mines and artillery shells in the eighties.
      A serious tragedy occurred in the early eighties on cruiser “Admiral Seniavin”. Several dozen sailorslost their lives due to an explosion in the ship’s munitions compartment.
   On February 24, 1968, the K-129 diesel submarine under Captain V. I. Kobsar left the snow-covered shores of Kamchatka onits last expedition. On March 12, Kobsar was supposed to reply to radiogramfrom Moscow. The reply never came the same day. Neither did it on March17. Search for the submarine began. Four weeks of intensive efforts gaveno result. It was almost clear that the sub had sunk.
   On May 5the K-129’s expedition term had expired. But she never returned to base. Why? If she had sunk, then how?Everything was fully classified. Only in the late eighties, news infiltratedinto the press of an ocean accident. Naval intelligence reported that a damaged U. S. Swordfish submarine had arrived in Yokosuka, Japan, onMarch 17, 1968. At that time, all reports about this were also fully classified.But according to later reports of Rear-Admiral A. Shtyrov, veteran PacificFleet counter-intelligence officer, the following events happened. At thattime, in March 1968, an American submarine (presumably that very “Swordfish”)had dived under the “K-129”, sailing in half-submerged state, to cut intothe bottom of Kobsar’s submarine with its conning tower. The “K-129” gotpunctured and crashed down into the ocean depths.
    In mid-July 1974, the “Glomar Explorer”, a special U. S. vessel, lifted the K 129’s fore section from 5,000 m deep.This was also kept a secret. But in spring 1975, in his talk with V. Dobrynin,Soviet Ambassador to Washington, U. S. Secretary of State Henry Kissingerofficially declared the results of an American operation involving thesearch for and lifting from ocean depths of the “K-129”. Kissinger passedto Dobrynin sensational information that the bodies of three Soviet submarinershad been identified. Their documents and personal belongings allowed toidentify them as Victor Aleksandrovich Lokhov, Vladimir Mikhailovich Kostiushko and Valery
Grigorievich Nosachev. 8
  Yes, very regrettably occasionally serious accidents occurred on the Pacific Fleet like those described above. However, thesewere not commonplace happenings. Never! They were in effect very rare exceptions. By and large, after World War Two, during the first post-war decades andin the seventies and eighties, the Pacific Fleet kept trouble-free watchto serve the nation nobly. Many scores of surface vessels, whole flotillasof atomic and diesel submarines, navy airforce regiments and divisions,and hundreds of marines solved all their tasks with high professional skill.The Russian Pacific Fleet, like the entire Soviet Navy, was the nation’screation and pride for many long years. And Pacific navymen fulfilled theirduty to Russia always and everywhere in the best possible manner.

                                                                                                                    ***
 And yet, as Admiral V. I. Kuroedov, Commander inChief of Russia’s Navy, notes, the political and economic events that led to disintegration of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, had substantial impact on the state and development of Russia’s Navy, in general, and thePacific Fleet in particular. Today the possibilities for its basing and solving required tasks have sharply worsened. Due to poor financial support by the government, the Navy is experiencing destructive processes. As aresult, it has decreased almost two times. In recent years, Russia virtuallyno first- or second-class vessels were laid, and only very few of thoselaid previously are being completed. Warships, armaments and equipmentare naturally aging. Let’s face it: Russia’s Navy and its Pacific Fleetare undeservedly and unjustifiably entering the third millennium and the21st century in poor state. However, Russian navy personnel, Pacific sailorsinclusive, are overcoming present-day difficulties together with the entirenation courageously and staunchly, serving the Fatherland in the best possiblemanner. This is evidenced by the recently fulfilled plans of combat exercisesand by results of traditional navy competitions. The Russian Navy continuesto live due to the great patience and loyalty of Russian sailors to theirmilitary duty.9
 

Footnotes

1.The Pacific Fleet. Moscow, 1981, p.p. 237-238 (in Russian).

2. Journal of Military History, 1979, No. 4, p.50 (inRussian).

3. Red  Star. 1972. March 13. (in Russian).

4. V. Kuroedov. Rhumbs of Naval Glory. Russia and theAsia-Pacific Region. 1966. No.3.
   (in Russian).

5. The Red-Bannered Pacific Fleet, p. 267 (in Russian).

6. T. Ammon. Navy Memorial Dates. Moscow. 1987. P.p. 368, 369 (in Russian).

7. Ibid. p. 370 (in Russian).

8. Boevaya Vakhta. 1999. May 15 (in Russian).

9. V. Kuroedov. Rhumbs of Naval Glory. Russia and theAsia-Pacific Region. 1966. No.3
    (in Russian).
 
 

PHOTOGRAPHS:

Fleet Admiral of the Soviet Union S. G. GORSHKOV, Commander-in-Chief, USSR Navy, 1960s-1980s;
Admiral V.A. FOKIN, Commander, Pacific Fleet, 1960s;
Admiral V. I. Kuroedov, Commander, Pacific Fleet in 1997, now Commander-in-Chief, Russian Navy;
Heavy air-carrier cruiser “Minsk”;
Atomic submarine on the move;
Atomic cruiser “Frunze”;
Big anti-submarine warship“Admiral Panteleev”;
Pacific Fleet aviators, 1990s;
Marine landing.


Photos by V. ANKOV and M. RODINA.
 

BORODIN, Leading Editor, Institute of History, Archeology and Ethnography of the Peoples of the Far East, Far East Science Center,Russian Academy of Sciences, Colonel (Retired), Pacific Fleet Veteran.

Tel. (7-4232) 26-11-15 (Office);
       (7-4232) 46-26-42(Home).
 
 

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