Alexey Maresyev

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Alexey Maresyev
Alexey Maresyev as depicted on the 2016 Russian postal stamp
Born 20 May 1916
Kamyshin, Russian empire
Died 19 May 2001(2001-05-19) (aged 84)
Allegiance  Soviet Union
Awards Hero of the Soviet Union

Alexey Petrovich Maresyev (Russian: Алексе́й Петро́вич Маре́сьев; May 20, 1916 – May 19, 2001) was a Soviet fighter ace during World War II.


Maresyev was born in Kamyshin to Russian parents.[1] His father was a skilled laborer who died shortly after he had returned from World War I. Before joining the army in 1937 Maresyev worked as a turner and then participated in the construction of Komsomolsk-on-Amur. In 1940 he graduated from Bataysk Military School of Aviation. He began his flights as a fighter pilot in August 1941. He had shot down four German aircraft by March 1942, but on April 4, 1942 his Polikarpov I-16 was shot down near Staraya Russa and captured by Nazi forces.

Despite being badly injured, Alexey managed to return to the Soviet-controlled territory. During his 18-day-long journey his injuries deteriorated so badly that both of his legs had to be amputated below the knee. Desperate to return to his fighter pilot career, he subjected himself to nearly a year of exercise to master the control of his prosthetic devices, and succeeded at that, returning to flying in June 1943.

During a dog fight in August 1943 he shot down three German Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighters. In total, he completed 86 combat flights and shot down 11 German warplanes. He was awarded the Golden Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union (August 24, 1943), the highest military decoration of the USSR. In 1944 Maresyev joined the Communist Party and two years later retired from the army.

In 1952 Maresyev graduated from the Higher Party School. In 1956 he obtained a Ph.D. in History and started working in the Soviet War Veterans Committee. Eventually he became a member of the Supreme Soviet.

He died of a heart attack on May 19, 2001, just an hour ahead of his official 85th birthday celebration.

His story served as a basis for the novel by Boris Polevoy The Story of a Real Man and a subsequent film (1948) directed by Aleksandr Stolper where his name was changed to Meresyev. The novel also inspired Sergei Prokofiev's last opera The Story of a Real Man. In 2005 a documentary called Alexey Maresyev. The Fate of a Real Man was produced by Channel Russia.

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