|Born||21 June 1910
Yeysk, Russian empire
|Died||19 July 1953
Moscow, Soviet Union
Timofey Timofeyevich Khryukin (Russian: Тимофе́й Тимофе́евич Хрю́кин; 21 June 1910 [O.S. 8 June], Yeysk – 19 July 1953, Moscow) was a Soviet aviator, Spanish Civil War volunteer, and colonel-general of the Soviet Air Force. Emerging from an impoverished working-class background, he rose to command the 8th Air Army and 1st Air Army during the Second World War, being twice decorated as a Hero of the Soviet Union before his death following a period of illness caused by a road accident.
Khryukin was born on June 21, 1910 in the southern town of Yeysk in the Kuban Oblast (present-day Krasnodar Krai) of Imperial Russia into a poverty-stricken family. Khryukin's father worked a mason; his mother assisted supporting the family as a laundrywoman working for petty wages.
At the age of eight, Khryukin began working for well-off cossacks, but eventually ran off, spending several years wandering the countryside in the years preceding the Bolshevik Revolution. His formal education, which did not began until at age 15 in the midst of the socialist campaigns to eradicate illiteracy; around this time he found employment in various jobs involving manual labor, including as a porter and railway depot employee. After joining the Komsomol at age 16, the young Khryukin made his way to regional secretary of the organization and joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1929. Following a brief stint at a school of agriculture he joined the Soviet armed forces in 1932 and was sent to for training to an army aviation school in Luhansk, which he completed the following year.
Khryukin went to Spain as a volunteer for the Spanish Republican Air Force in August 1936. There he participated in the Spanish Civil War as a Tupolev SB bomber pilot, remaining until March 1937 and receiving the Order of the Red Banner upon his return to the Soviet Union. The following year he went to China to lead a squadron of Soviet-piloted Tupolev SB-2 with the Chinese Air Force, sent by the Soviet Union to aid the Chinese forces in the Second Sino-Japanese War. Khryukin received the title of Hero of the Soviet Union on February 22, 1939. He served as the Air Forces commander of the 14th Soviet Army during the Soviet Army's Finnish campaign in 1939-1940 before being named Assistant General Inspector of the Air Force in 1940.
In May 1940 Khryukin was promoted to division commander – becoming Major-General Khryukin of the Air Force when the classic generals' ranks, abolished following the October Revolution, were brought into the Red Army the following month.
World War II years
Khryukin was appointed commander of the Air Forces of the 12th Soviet Army (based in Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic's Kiev Special Military District) on 27 May 1941, twenty six days before to the German invasion of the Soviet Union. Khryukin was placed in charge of the air units attached the Karelian Front in August 1941: these were tasked with securing the Murmansk Railway and the Kirov Railway, significant to the Soviet military and war effort as the connection between Karelia and the rest of the European territory of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. In June 1942 he was reassigned to the Soviet Southwestern Front, just in time for the Nazi advance against Stalingrad. The Air Force units of the Southwestern Front were subsequently reformed as the Eighth Army Airmy under Khryukin, as announced by the People's Commissar for Defense on June 9.
Khryukin's Eight Army participated in the Battle of Stalingrad from the very beginning of the German assault. Stalin personally ordered General Vasily Gordov of the Stalingrad Front to instruct Khryukin to launch a massive aerial assault against the Germans to the right flank of the Soviet forces during a conversation by direct wire on July 23, 1942. A less-than-desirable number of aircraft translated into insufficient resources for aerial reconnaissance, while Il-2 Shturmovik units had to fly without fighter escort. Although it could not stop the German forces from advancing into the city, the Eighth Air Army would continue to provide key support during the Stalingrad Battle until the battled turned in the Soviets’ favor. In early October Khryukin decided to form an Eighth Air Army unit of elite fighter pilots, to be led by World War II ace Lev Shestakov, fellow Spanish Civil War veteran. By the end of 1942, Khryukin increased the count of enemy aircraft pilots had to destroy in order to attain the status of ace; simultaneously, he promised a recommendation for the Hero of the Soviet Union title to each of those who could succeed in doing so. On December 30, 1942 the Eighth Air Army became part of the Southern Front; Khryukin’s efforts turned in the direction of Rostov and the Donbas (Donets Basin), where major Soviet victories followed the surrender of Germany's Stalingrad forces after the success of the Soviet counterrattack – Operation Little Saturn – in early 1943.
With successful Soviet advances in the Donbas, Khryukin's airmen won praise from Stalin, who called for artillery salvoes to commemorate the Soviet triumph in Moscow in September 1943. After supporting the Red Army on the Mius River and in the retaking of the Donbass (Donets Basin) region of eastern Ukraine, the Eighth Air Army lent air superiority to the Soviet liberation of the Crimea in April 1944.
Khryukin took charge of the 1st Air Army from Colonel-General Mikhail Gromov's command in July 1944, following his promotion to colonel-general in May. Its performance under the freshly transferred Khryukin during Operation Bagration in Belarus was noted as "excellent" by Marshal of the Soviet Union Vasilevsky, an eyewitness, in his memoirs, The Matter of My Whole Life (1973). Khryukin commanded the 1st Air Army for the remainder of the war, leading it for the remainder of the war and commanding it during the key Battle of Königsberg in the last stages of the war (6–9 April 1945). His second Hero of the Soviet Union title was awarded on April 19, 1945, ten days following the Soviet victory in the offensive.
Khryukin held various positions after the war. He graduated from the Soviet Army's Voroshilov Academy of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the USSR and was appointed to oversee the training of the Soviet Air Force under Air Force chief Konstantin Vershinin in 1946-1947 and under Vershinin's successor Pavel Zhigarin in 1950-1953.
Khryukin's health was seriously undermined after a post-war car accident following the Second World War, although his life was saved by a successful surgery. He died on July 15, 1953, after to a sustained period of illness.
His body was laid to rest at Moscow's Novodevichy Cemetery.
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- Boyd, Alexander. The Soviet Air Force Since 1918. London: Macdonald and Jane's, 1977. P. 179.
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