Lieutenant Colonel Aleksandr Vasilevich Gridnev
pilot, commander 586th Fighter Aviation Regiment 14 Oct 1942-May 1945

In his unpublished memoir, Gridnev writes that he grew up an orphan in the village of Isil’-Kul’ in the Omsk oblast. The Komsomol provided for him and he became a secretary of the Komsomol district committee. He was drafted into the army and served as a machine gunner in the Far East in 1929. He then went to the Stalingrad military aviation school and graduated in 1933. By 1941 he was commander of the 82nd Fighter Aviation Regiment in the 8th Baku Fighter Aviation Corps.

Aleksandr Gridnev had a checkered past: he was arrested twice by the NKVD in 1937 and again in 1942. The 1937 arrest was in connection with the “Tukhachevsky affair,” while in August 1942 Gridnev was accused of sabotaging an escort flight for NKVD chief Lavrenty Beria (the alleged sabotage consisted of refusing to fly in precarious weather conditions). Gridnev was never convicted, but was not returned to command of the 82nd. Perhaps as a form of punishment, he instead was assigned to take over the 586th when the previous commander, Tamara Kazarinova, departed. Gridnev arrived at Anisovka on 14 October 1942 and commanded the regiment until the end of the war.

Liliia Litviak had left the 586th before Gridnev arrived. He only met her once, when she visited the regiment in April 1943 to enlist his support in allowing her to remain in the VVS. He wrote about that meeting in his memoir. He gave me a copy of the complete manuscript when I interviewed him in 1993. I would love to see it translated and published.