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12 May, 2010 14:51

“After flying the I-16 you are able to fly on a broomstick” – WWII veteran

RT presents War Witness – a special project dedicated to the 65th anniversary of the Victory in the Second World War.

World War II veterans recount their stories about the war, its effects and its human perspective.

Ivan Molchanov, Fighter Squadron commander, recalls with a sense of bittersweet humor the vast disadvantages that the Soviet army faced vis-à-vis Germany’s advanced armaments.

Our planes were nicknamed ‘Russian plywood’. There was lack of aluminum in the country, so the aircraft skin was made of plywood, or so-called birch veneer. That’s how the I-16 was,” Molchanov said. “As for armament, it was equipped with a ShKAS machine-gun: its capacity was 1800 rounds per minute, but it was like shooting with peas – it was hard to bring down a plane with it. That’s what the aircraft we fought on at the beginning of war were like. But, as one fighter pilot said, after flying the I-16 you are able to fly on a broomstick.”

Aune Rohola, member of Lotta Svärd, a Finnish paramilitary organization for women, recalls working for the home front during the war.

Women could not join the regular army and were never issued weapons. We could do only the work that did not require weapons… Right after I had joined the organization I went through preliminary training common for all members. Then I got special training. All of us had some special training. And all was on a voluntary basis.”

Henri Schaub deserted the German forces when he arrived at the Eastern Front and later became an Allied forces commando. He told RT about the time he surrendered to the Russian forces on the Eastern front.

Because I had decided from the very beginning: ‘The first day I arrive at the front, I’m going to desert it.’ We told Russians we wanted to surrender. We explained to them in Russian: ‘French, prisoners of war, go Red Army, surrender, French!’ We took off our belts and dropped our rifles.”