They Refuse to Return Home When Requested to Do So by Chief-Sergeant Goes Back- 'Voice of America' Called Factor

New York Times October 21, 1948
By ALBION ROSS, New York Times

Vienna, Oct. 20--Two Soviet air force lieutenants deserted their post in the Ukraine and crash-landed their two engine bomber Oct. 9 at Camp McCauley airport (Horsching) near Linz the United States headquarters disclosed today.

soviet bomber
The Russian bomber in which the Soviet
officers fled to the west. The plane overshot
the runway at Horsching field and crashed.
The plane was later returned to the Russians

The Army announcement said the two lieutenants and a sergeant had held a nine-hour talk yesterday with representatives of the Soviet commander in Austria, Gen. Vladimir Kurasov. The sergeant, who had been informed the fliers were leaving Russia only after the plane was in the air, decided to return to Russia. The two lieutenants refused to go.

The United States command informed Soviet officials last week that it was prepared to return the plane anytime but that it would not use force to compel the fliers to go to the Soviet zone.

Soviet mechanics went to the United States airport yesterday, dismantled the plane with the aid of the United States equipment and took it to the Soviet zone.

The plane had certain modern equipment that, it is said, the Western Allies were not aware the Russians possessed. Reports as yet unverified also said that the two men had brought with them documents and other information of considerable interest.

Investigation of the circumstances surrounding the landing revealed that the two officers had taken the plane during a training flight with the intention of leaving the Soviet Union. They said they had been planning the flight for a year.

The two air officers said "Voice of America" broadcasts had been the inspiration The Associated Press reported. They said "quite a number of the men at their base had listened to the broadcasts secretly."

They evidently seized the moment when they were stationed at the Rumanian frontier only a few hundred-flight miles from the frontier of the United States zone to make their getaway. Their maps, however, covered the area only up to the western frontier of the Soviet zone.

Though they had intended to fly to Munich or some other city in southern Germany they decided to land at Camp McCauley field only a few miles from the Soviet zone boundary. It was understood they feared they would lose their way if they attempted to go farther without maps.

Though the United States command did not immediately inform the Russians, six days later General Kurasov showed he had full information of the incident. The negotiations then began.

Both the Untied States and the Soviet officials took great care during the negotiations to prevent information regarding the matter from reaching the public to avoid having the incident become a question of prestige.

(Editorial excerpts from an interview with defecting Russian flyers, Lt. Anatalya Barsof, pilot and Lt. Piotr Pirogov, navigator.)

Both were candidates for membership in the Communist party during past years. Lt. Pirogov explained that officers of the army practically had to become candidates for membership for party membership. style="mso-spacerun: yes">  They themselves "did not implement their candidacy," Lt. Pirogov said because their personal ideals ideology were not in agreement with the Communist Ideology." He was asked if other Russians agreed with him in his rejection of communism. He said: "I think that 70 per cent feel the way I do."

Lt. Barsof added that the elections in the Soviet Union were not free. He said that voters had been taken to the polls practically at the point of a gun.

Returning soldiers returning from occupied areas are forbidden to discuss any of the good part there, Lt. Pirogov added.

Both men refused to discuss detailed family matters in the interest of their relatives. Lt. Pirogov was understood to have left a bride he married three and a half months ago, and Lt. Barsof is believed to have left a wife and a child.

Asked what impressed him the most since his arrival at the United States airbase here, where he has been staying now for ten days. Lt. Pirogov said it was the fact that all Americans had asked him questions in regard to ways of helping him to set up his new life."

L/R: Lt. Melvin Farber, Capt. Robert Carpenter,
Pirogov, Barsof, and Lt. Henry Young. All three
officers are based at Tulln

United States officers, who have been with them at the base where they were housed and treated as visiting foreign officers, said the thing that seemed to have impressed them most was the modern bath. They never had seen modern bathroom fixtures and were delighted as children with a new toy, these officers added.


BARSOF, Anatalya Porfirarich, pilot of the aircraft - born on 24 April 1917.  Studied at a technical school specializing in factory management. Enrolled in a civilian flying school in 1938 and graduated as a Senior Sergeant in 1839. Served in the air reserve unit until 1943, when he was placed on active duty with a long range reconnaissance unit stationed in Moscow. He was a candidate for the Communist Party but never admitted as a member. His escape was motivated by "Voice of America" and by the influence of his navigator. (NOTE by Horace Ray - After a couple of years, Barsof became disillusioned with the life here and went back to Russia.Probably got his just due when he went back.)

PIROGOV,Piotr Afanasnievic, Navigator of the aircraft - born 23 December 1920 in Reskaga, Oblast Tambov - His escape was motivated by the "Voice of America" and by the fact that he was "fed up" with the Soviet army life. He stated that as an officer, he lived "like a king". But he resented the treatment accorded the enlisted men. Pirogov was a schoolteacher before he was drafted into the army late in 1939. He attended several aircraft schools and was graduated as a lieutenant junior grade, at which time he was recalled to active duty. (NOTE by Horace Ray - Pirogov died in February 1987. He met a woman sometime after he defected and was happily married until he died.His wife lives in Virginia. Pirogov wrote a book "Why I Escaped", the story of Peter Pirogov. The book has been out of print for years, but Horace has a copy.

Back to More Tulln Tales menu