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Solitary voyage. As the soldiers of the Soviet construction battalion shook the world
Material posted: Publication date: 25-10-2014

After 49 days drifting in the Pacific ocean exhausted Soviet soldiers told the American sailors: we need fuel and food, and the house we'll swim yourself.

The Barge T-36

"Heroes are not born, heroes become" — this wisdom is perfectly suited to the history of the Soviet four lads that shook the world in the spring of 1960.

The young men are not eager for fame and glory, never dreamed of the feats, just one day life had placed them before a choice: to become heroes or die.

January 1960, the island of Etorofu, one of the island of the South Kuril ridge, which to this day dream Japanese neighbors.

Due to the rocky shallow waters to deliver cargo to the island by ships is extremely difficult, and therefore a transshipment point, "floating dock" at the island performed the LST of a self-propelled barge T-36.

For a formidable combination "LST barge" was hiding a small boat with a displacement of one hundred tons, length on waterline was 17 meters, width — three and a half meters, draught — slightly more than one meter. The maximum speed of the barge was 9 knots, and away from the coast without risk T-36 could not more than 300 meters.

However, for those functions that a barge performed at the Iturup, she was a good fit. Unless, of course, was the sea storm.


And on January 17, 1960, element was played in earnest. About 9 am the wind that reached 60 meters per second, tore the barge from the mooring and began to carry her out to sea.

Those who remained on the shore, could only observe the desperate fight waged by an angry sea with the people aboard the barge. Soon T-36 disappeared from sight...

When the storm abated, began the search. On the shore were found some things from the barge, and the military command concluded that the barge together with those on her people died.

On Board the T-36 at the time of her disappearance there were four soldiers: a 21-year-old Junior Sergeant Askhat Ziganshin, 21-year-old member Anatoly Kryuchkovsky, 20-year-old private Phillip Poplavsky and another soldier, 20-year-old Ivan Fedotov.

Relatives of the soldiers reported their loved ones missing in the performance of military duty. But the apartments still found observation: suddenly one of the missing is not dead, but simply deserted?

But most of the guys co-workers believed that the soldiers disappeared in the depths of the ocean...

Gone with the wind

Four caught on Board the T-36, for ten hours struggling with the nature, until finally the storm abated. The struggle for survival went all scarce fuel reserves, a 15-metre waves battered much of the barge. Now it was just taken farther and farther into the open ocean.

Ziganshin Sergeant and his comrades were not sailors — they served in the engineering corps, which in slang are referred to as "construction battalion".

On the barge they were sent to unload a cargo ship that was about to come. But a hurricane decided differently...

The situation faced by soldiers, looked almost hopeless. Of fuel from the barge is no more, communication with the shore there, in the hold the leak, not to mention the fact that the T-36 is not suitable for such "travel".

From the food on the barge was a loaf of bread, two cans of corned beef, a jar of grease and a few spoonfuls of cereals. There were two buckets of potatoes, during the storm scattered to the engine, causing it to become impregnated with fuel oil. Knocked over and the tank with drinking water, which is partially mixed with the sea. Was on Board a wood-burning stove, matches and a few packs of "Belomor".

Captives "currents of death"

Destiny over them like scoffed: when the storm subsided, Askhat Ziganshin found in the wheelhouse of the newspaper "Red star", which stated that in the district where they were claimed to be training missile launches, therefore the whole area was declared unsafe for navigation.

The soldiers came to the conclusion: look for them in this direction nobody will be until the end of the missile launches. So, you must hold out until they were finished.

Fresh water was taken from the engine cooling system is rusty, but good for consumption. Rain water was also collected. The quality of the food was cooked stew — a bit of corned beef, a couple of fuel-smelling potatoes, very little cereals.

On such a diet were required not only to survive but also to fight for the survival of the barge: to chip ice off the sides, to prevent its coup, wringing out the water gathering in the bilge.

Slept on one large bed they had built, — clinging to each other, took care of the heat.

The soldiers did not know that within that bore them farther and farther from home, was called "for the death". They generally tried not to think about the worst, because such thoughts could easily fall into despair.

A SIP of water and a piece of boot

Day after day, week after week... Food and water. Somehow Ziganshin Sergeant recalled a story of a school teacher about the sailors, the victims distress and suffering from hunger. The sailors cooked and ate leather things. Sergeant's strap was leather.

First cooked, crumble in noodles, belt, then the strap is broken and non-working radios, then began to eat the boots, pulled off and ate the skin with trapped onboard accordion...

With water things were very bad. In addition to the soup, it got everyone's throat. Once in two days.

Last potatoes cooked and ate on February 23, Soviet Army Day. By that time the pangs of hunger and thirst were added auditory hallucinations. Ivan Fedotov started torturing panic attacks. Comrades supported him as they could, reassuring.

For the time drift in the foursome, there have been no quarrel, no conflict. Even when strength is almost gone, no one tried to take away at comrade food or water to survive. Just agreed: the last man alive, before I die, I'll leave the barge on the record about how he killed the crew of the T-36...

"Thank you, we do!"

On March 2 they saw a ship passing in the distance, but, it seems, do not believe that before them is not a Mirage. March 6, a new ship appeared on the horizon, but desperate signals for help, which served the soldiers, it is not noticed.

7 March 1960 aviation group with the aircraft carrier USS "Kearsarge" discovered the barge T-36, about a thousand miles Northwest of midway island. Waterlogged barge, which should not be removed from the shore to a distance of over 300 meters, took place more than a thousand miles across the Pacific, breaking half the distance from the Kuril Islands to Hawaii.

Soldiers of Philip Poplawski (left) and Askhat Ziganshin (center) talking with an American sailor (right) on the aircraft carrier "Kearsarge", who took them on Board after a long drift on a barge

The Americans in the first minute did not understand: what for a miracle in front of them and what kind of people sail on it?

But an even greater shock sailors from the aircraft carrier survived when delivered from the barge by helicopter Ziganshin Sergeant said: we all normally need fuel and food, and we will reach home.

Actually, of course, to swim soldiers was not able. Then as the doctors said, four to live, we had very little: death from starvation could occur in the coming hours. And T-36 at that time remained one of the boots and three matches.

American doctors were amazed at not only the resistance of the Soviet soldiers, but also the amazing self-discipline: when the crew of the aircraft carrier began to offer them food, they ate quite a bit and stopped. They eat more then once would have died, how many died, survived a long famine.

Heroes or traitors?

Aboard the aircraft carrier, when it became clear that they were saved, the forces finally left the soldiers Ziganshin asked for a razor, but fainted near the sink. Shave him and his fellow sailors had "Kearsarge".

When the soldiers slept off, they began to torment the fear of a different kind — in the yard-that was the cold war, and help them provide not just anybody, but "potential enemy". In addition to the Americans fell into the hands of Soviet barge.

The captain of the "Kearsarge," by the way, could not grasp why the soldiers so zealously require him to immerse aboard the aircraft carrier this rust bucket? To appease them, he told them, barge in the port would tow the other boat.

Actually Americans have sunk T-36 — not out of a desire to harm the USSR, but because a half-submerged barge posed a threat to navigation.

To honor the U.S. military, the Soviet soldiers behaved very decently. No one tormented them with questions and interrogations, moreover, to the cabins where they lived, set a guard so they won't bother curious.

But the soldiers worried that they will say in Moscow. But Moscow, having received the news from the US, been silent for some time. And this is understandable: in the Soviet Union waited, not asking whether saved for political asylum in America in order for their statements not to be trapped.

When it became clear that the military is not going to "choose freedom", about the feat of four Ziganshina started talking on television, on radio and in Newspapers, and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev sent a telegram of greetings.

"Like the taste of boots?"

The first press conference of the heroes took place on an aircraft carrier, where helicopters delivered about fifty journalists. I had to finish it ahead of time: Askhat Ziganshin nose began to bleed.

Later the guys gave a lot of press conferences, and virtually everywhere asked the same question:

— How the taste of boots?

"The skin is very bitter, with an unpleasant odor. Do you taste it? Wanted only one thing: to deceive the stomach. But just the skin do not eat too hard. So we cut a little piece and lit it. When Kersey was burnt, it turned into something similar to charcoal and becomes soft. This "delicacy" we've been smeared with grease to make it easier to swallow. Several such "sandwiches" and was our daily ration," recalled then Anatoly Kryuchkovsky.

Already at home the same question was asked of the students. "Do try," he joked as Phillip Poplavsky. I wonder how many boots welded after the boy experimenters in the 1960s?

By the time of arrival of the aircraft carrier in San Francisco heroes a unique voyage, which lasted, according to the official version, 49 days, it's a little stronger. America greeted them enthusiastically — the mayor of San Francisco gave them a "Golden key" from the city.

"Europska four"

Soldiers welcoming hosts dressed in costumes of the latest fashion and Americans fell in love with Russian characters. On photographs taken at the time, they really look great — neither give nor take "the fab four".

Specialists admired: the young Soviet guys in a critical situation not lost their human face, not insane, not yet entered into conflict, not down to cannibalism, as has happened with many of those who fell into similar circumstances.

And ordinary U.S. residents, looking at the photo, wondered: is it enemies? Dear guys, a little shy, which only adds to their charm. In General, for the image of the USSR four soldiers during their stay in the United States has done more than all the diplomats.

Incidentally, with regard to comparisons with the "fab four" — Ziganshin teammates did not sing, but in the history of music has left a trail using songs called "Ziganshin Boogie".

Domestic dudes, now glorified in movies, created a song to the tune of "Rock Around the Clock" on the drift of the T-36:

As in the Pacific
Sinks barge with dudes.
Guys do not lose heart,
Rock throw on the deck.

Ziganshin rock Ziganshin-Boogie,
Ziganshin — the guy from Kaluga,
Ziganshin-Boogie Ziganshin rock,
Ziganshin ate his Shoe.

Poplawski-rock, Poplawski-Boogie,
Poplavsky ate letter girlfriend,
While Poplawski showed their side teeth,
Ziganshin ate his sandals.

The days of sailing, sailing week,
The ship is on the waves,
Boots in the soup I ate
And with an accordion in half...

Of course, to write such masterpieces much easier than to survive in such conditions. But modern Directors hipsters closer.

The glory comes, glory goes...

On his return to the USSR heroes waited for reception at the highest level — in their honor, a rally was organized, the soldiers personally took Nikita Khrushchev and defense Minister Rodion Malinovsky.

All four were awarded orders of the red Star, about their voyage made a film, wrote several books...

The popular Quartet from the barge T-36 start to go only to the late 1960s.

Shortly after the homecoming of demobilized soldiers: Rodion Malinowski noticed that the guys have served their full.

Phillip Poplavsky, Anatoly Kruchkovsky and Askhat Ziganshin, on the recommendation of command he entered the Leningrad naval technical school, which he graduated from in 1964.

Ivan Fedotov, the guy from the banks of the Amur, he returned home and worked all his life by riverman. He passed away in 2000.

Phillip Poplavsky, who settled near Leningrad, after graduation he worked on big ships, going to foreign navigation. He died in 2001.

Anatoly Kryuchkovsky lives in Kiev, worked for many years Deputy chief engineer at the Kiev plant "Leninskaya Kuznitsa".

Askhat Ziganshin after graduation he studied mechanic in an emergency rescue team in the city of Lomonosov in Leningrad, married, raised two beautiful daughters. After retirement, he settled in St. Petersburg.

They didn't ask for glory, and did not survive when fame, touching them for a few years, disappeared, like it wasn't there.

But heroes they remain forever.

PS According to the official version, as already mentioned, the drift T-36 lasted 49 days. However, the checking of dates gives a different result — 51 day. There are several explanations of this incident. According to the most popular, about the "49 days" the first said Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. Voiced data is officially no one to challenge was not solved.

Andrew Sidorchyk


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