View Full Version : Mikhail Devyataev- The Greatest Escape

12-23-2004, 02:25 PM
Sorry if this story has been told before, but I've been reading Max Hastings excellent book "Armageddon, The battle for Germany 1944-45" and came across this remarkable story.

Mikhail had been a Yak-7 pilot with 200 sorties under his belt when he was shot down by a FW190 in 1944. He ended up as a POW in Peenemunde, the island on the Baltic coast where Hitler's "Wonder weapons" where developed and tested.

Treatment of POW's was pitiless and brutal, so Mikhail hatched an escape plan with fellow inmates. Ivan Krivonogov managed to kill a guard and steal his uniform which Petyor Kutergun put on.

The work gang, apparently escorted by a guard (Petyor) managed to make their way to the Commandant's personal Heinkel. Mikhail struggled with the unfamiliar controls of the twin engined plane, but managed to get it airborne, with eight fellow comrades on board. They almost crashed to their death when Mikhail was unable to work out how to raise the undercarriage and due to the starvation rations he had been living on, lacked the strength to operate the flap handle.

After surviving friendly fire from AAA they crash landed in russian controlled land. Sadly due to the paranoia of Stalin's NKVD, their story was not believed and they were all considered part of a German plot. The other escapees were drafted into penal battalions, 5 were killed advancing into German minefields at the crossing of the Oder.

Mikhail survived but was only released from solitary confinement in 1946 when German POWs and former Soviet POWs confimed his story. Even in freedom he suffered the "stigma" of being a POW and could not find work.

Finally in 1957, after the death of Stalin, the truth was told and Mikhail was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union.

All I can say is respect to the men who had the balls to go with such a risky plan - shame they were treated so badly by their own country men.



12-24-2004, 02:18 AM
Great Posting weeksy! Very Sad ending to a Couragous and Brave Pilot.
Thank's for the Story!

12-24-2004, 11:08 AM
Interesting story. I know of two other truly amazing escapes, both linked to WW2. In March of this year the following question appeared in the Readers Letters page of the UK's Daily Mail newspaper:

"In WW2 Polish cavalry officer Slavomir Rawicz escaped from a Siberian labour camp and walked through Mongolia, China and Tibet before crossing the Himalayas to freedom in India. What happened to him then?"


There were two replies:

"When I was a small boy, I was enthralled by a story my father told about a group of fugitives. The basis of the story is that Slavomir Rawicz, a Polish cavalry lieutenant, was arrested by the NKVD (Soviet secret police) following the redrawing of the Polish border. Rawicz came from Pinsk, a small town on the Polish side of the original border. Consequently, he was accused of crossing the old border and spying on Soviet Russia.
Rawicz was convicted, despite his 'not guilty' plea, and sentenced to 25 years in a labour camp.
At Camp 303, Rawicz, because of his ability to repair the camp commandant's radio, became friendly with the commandant's wife, whose father had been shot by the Bolsheviks.
The commandant was there on a punishment posting and his wife, sympathetic towards the prisoners, suggested escape and gave Rawicz an axe head, which was to become his main survival tool. With six companions, Rawicz escaped and set off in a southerly direction, this being the least likely route of escape. They encountered a young girl, Kristina, who had escaped from a women's labour camp and she joined the group.
Kristina succumbed to thirst and scurvy while they were crossing the Gobi Desert. Another of the group died a few days later. The remaining six struggled on, but one was to die in his sleep and another was lost over a sheer drop near the Indian border.
Throughout their journey, they received generous help from villagers and shepherds, without which they would undoubtedly have perished."
John A Hulme

"After his escape, Mr Rawicz came to Britain. He trained with the RAF until the war ended and married an Englishwoman. They
had five children, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. His wife of over 50 years, Majorie, sadly passed away in January 2004, aged 91. Slavomir Rawicz's book about his escape, The Long Walk, was written in 1958 and published in many languages. It is still in print. He is now 88 years old and lives quietly in the country."
Krzjstyna Cole (his daughter)

I've yet to obtain a copy of the book, but I intend to do so.

Another great escape is the story of Clemens Forell, a German paratrooper captured on the Russian front who was imprisoned in a slave labour camp in the far east of the Soviet Union, near the Bering Straits. Most of the inmates were former German soldiers captured at Stalingrad and elsewhere. They were being slowly poisoned by the lead they were forced to mine and escape was the only option. One man managed to get across the Bering Straits to Alaska but the Americans sent him back and he was executed. Forrel decided to try to get back to Germany by trekking west, through Mongolia, into China. This was impossible because the border was very heavily guarded so reluctantly he continued walking west through virtually the entire Soviet Union. He was helped by Yak herders, shepherds and others along the way before finally, with the help of a jewish dissident, he managed to cross the Caucasus Mountains into Turkey. He arrived back in Germany on 22nd December 1952. None of the men he left behind survived.
The story was filmed by a German company a few years ago.


12-24-2004, 01:41 PM
Thanks for those two stories. Amazing feats of stamina by both men.

I'll certainly keep an eye out for those books.



12-24-2004, 02:16 PM
thats insane !

what people are forced thru is amazing