They called him “Dead Eye Plotnikov,” and he was the man h s regiment commander called for as the last resort. This remarkable Russian bomber pilot was born in March 1920 in the village of Gonba in the Altai region of the USSR After dropping out of secondary school; he was employed as a metal worker until he enlisted in the Red Army in 1938. In 1940, he graduated from the Novosibirsk Military Aviation School. Plotnikov received his baptism of fire in October 1941, when the Germans advanced on Moscow while flying the Pe-2 medium bomber on a reconnaissance mission, he was attacked by two Me-109s. The overconfident Germans flashed past and gave him a thumbs down signal, then circled to finish him off Plotnikov brought his plane down to zero altitude, skimming over trees. As the two enemy planes closed, he suddenly lowered his flaps, throttled his engines down, and stalled almost to a stop. The pursuers were taken by complete surprise and Plotnikov’s gunner shot down one of the 109s; the other fled. Plotnikov was the first bomber pilot in the unit to score a victory over a fighter. During the Battle of Stalingrad in the summer of 1942, Lt. Plotnikov’s reputation as an expert bomber pilot came to the attention of the regiment commander. In a desperate attempt to destroy a concealed fuel depot used to fuel Panzer tanks, Plotnikov was ordered to lead three Pe-2s on a daring raid. He found the target and placed four bombs squarely in the center. “They can now fuel their Panzers with water!” he exclaimed as they raced home. The mark of a veteran bomber pilot was his ability to keep formation during a bombing attack while buffeted by intense flak and tracers. When Pavel Plotnikov flew his first combat mission, he could not bring himself to hold a straight line. He eventually overcame his fears and became one of the greatest dive-bomber pilots of the Red Air Force. In early 1943, a large German supply ship arrived in Taganrog Harbour. The port bristled with antiaircraft batteries and enemy fighters constantly patrolled the perimeters. “If any pilot could sink that ship, it would be Plotmkov,” exclaimed Col. Ivan Polbin in a planning session with senior officers. Rather than sending in a large formation, only one plane was to be used, so as to fool the enemy into thinking that it was only on a recon mission. Plotnikov arrived high over the target, dived down through a hail of flak, and dropped his bombs. The ship disappeared in a thunderous blast and the pilot made good his escape. In November 1943, Lt. Plotnikov amazed hs comrades by shooting down another fighter. Two Pe-2s were assigned to destroy the railway station at Smela along the Dnieper River. Due to icing on h s aircraft’s wings, Plotnikov was forced to fly at 160fi (50m) altitude. He then saw two Me-109s attacking h s wingman and went to h s aid. Plotnikov entered a cloud, caught one of the enemy from behind and, with four solid bursts, sent the fighter down. When the downed 109’s wingman turned to attack him, he flew into clouds. Plotnikov’s wingman dropped his bombs on the station. As the German searched for him in vain, Plotnikov dropped h s bombs on the burning station for the coup de grace. Medal of the Gold Star (Hero of the Soviet Union) In 1944, Col. Polbin was leading nine bombers back to base after successfully attacking an enemy armoured column. The regiment commander saw nine German bombers and fighters on their way to bomb the Soviet positions. Polbin ordered an attack using the “Plotmkov Method” Plotmkov, flying in the first formation, lit up a fighter with two bursts, achieving his third fighter victory. The Pe-2s shot down five Germans and scattered the rest, preventing the enemy from reaching their target. By May 1944, Sr. Lt. Plotnikov, now an assistant squadron leader of the 82nd Guards Bomber Regiment, had flown 225 missions and was credited with three aerial victories. On August 19, 1944, he received the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. After the Second World War Plotnikov rose to the rank of General Major and retired in 1975. He died in December 14th 2000. He was buried on the Ivankovskoe cemetery, in Moscow.