Alexey Maresyev

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Alexey Maresyev
Born 20 May 1916
Russian empire
Died 19 May 2001(2001-05-19) (aged 84)
Allegiance  Soviet Union  Russia

Hero of the Soviet Union Order of Lenin Order of Lenin

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

He was born in Kamyshin. 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, then occupied by Nazi Germany.

Despite being badly injured, Alexey managed to return to the Soviet-controlled territory on his own. 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 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 became the basis for a novel by Boris Polevoy, Story of a Real Man, and a subsequent film, where his name is changed to Meresyev. The novel was the basis of Sergei Prokofiev's last opera, The Story of a Real Man.

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