Drachenko portrait
Sturmovik IL-2 divebomber
Above: Sturmovik IL-2 divebomber, which helped Drachenko earn the Title of Hero of the Soviet Union and all three classes of the order of Glory. Below: Drachenko's Flight Logbook, purchased by author Henry Sakaida in 2001.
Drachenko's Flight Log
The word "hero" seems too inadequate to describe a man whose incredible war exploits would make a great Hollywood war movie. In January 2001, I was fortunate enough to purchase a flight logbook belonging to Cavalier/Hero, Jr/Lt Ivan Grigorevich Drachenko. He was only one of four men who won all three Orders of Glory, and the Gold Star of a Hero of the Soviet Union.
Drachenko was born on 15 November 1922 to a peasant family in the village Velikaya Sevastyanovka, of the Cherkassy Region, in Central Ukraine. After finishing high school, the young Ukrainian entered the Leningrad Air Club. He joined the army in April 1941.
In 1943, Drachenko graduated from the Tambov Military Pilot School and participated in the Battle of Kursk.
On 14 August 1943, he was seriously wounded in his right eye and was captured with five other comrades. While being transferred to a prison camp, they strangled the guard and escaped. He returned to the unit after a brief hospital stay, but concealed that he had a prosthetic eye, and flew for seven months undetected!
On 4 June 1944, Guards Lt Drachenko, senior pilot of the 140th Guards Ground Attack Air Regiment, flew a photo reconnaissance mission in his Sturmovik IL-2 divebomber. Over the Rumanian town of Tyrgu-Furmos, he discovered a large German tank column. On his return flight, he was attacked by nine FW-190s. Drachenko skillfully out maneuvered the enemy and returned to base in his badly damaged aircraft. The following day, he received the Order of Glory 3rd Class.
On 26 June, Drachenko flew another recon mission. Near the city of Yassy, he strafed and set fire to an enemy train, and then shot down an enemy aircraft. He was recommended for the Order of Glory 2nd Class. When his award did not materialize, another request was made. He received the decoration on 5 September 1944. (continued...)
 

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