The crew was sent to Khabarovsk, where they met with the commander of the Far Eastern Front, General Iosif Apanasenko, who informed them about the
internment. Since then, the odyssey of the Americans began, who were taken on trains, planes and ferries across all Siberia to the Urals and the banks
of the Volga, leaving them to live for weeks in different cities and small villages. The US Embassy received regular information on all movements of
The servicemen spent eight whole months in the small town of Okhansk on the banks of the Kama River, languishing with idleness. “Four months after
we got there, the last of our escorts left, and we lived in the house by ourselves. We were allowed to walk freely around the city. By this time, we
had learned a little Russian, so that if we were stopped and asked for documents, we could explain to them who we were. Of course they knew it
themselves. Most of the city's residents knew, ”York recalled.
Several times American diplomats were allowed to meet with the crew. In September 1942, they managed to talk with General Omar Bradley, who at that
time in the USSR was in charge of the Alsib air route (Alaska-Siberia), through which military aircraft were sent from the United States to the
Upon learning that the pilots were contemplating an escape, Bradley strongly recommended abandoning this idea and not violating the conditions of
The escape eventually took place, only it was not the Americans who organized it, but the Soviet special services.
The situation with the interneed B-25 crew began to change in early 1943. Captain York's wife petitioned President Roosevelt to release the crew, and
he, in turn, made a personal request to Stalin. And the Soviet leadership itself began to treat the problem less tensely, first of all, because of the
outlined turning point in the war associated with the defeat of the Germans at Stalingrad and the Japanese in the Battle of Guadalcanal.
Nevertheless, it was still impossible to let the pilots go just like that, and the NKVD authorities were instructed to organize an escape for them
across the Soviet-Iranian border. At the same time, the Americans themselves had to consider that they were acting on their own initiative.
In March, the crew was sent to the south of the USSR, where they were to work at one of the airfields in Ashgabat. On the train to the capital of the
Turkmen SSR, NKVD Major Vladimir Boyarsky, posing as Red Army Major Alexander Yakimenko, managed to make friends with the pilots, and then kept in
touch with them on the spot. He soon convinced the Americans that he had entered their plight and that he truly wanted to help them return to their
“From the first days of my stay in Turkmenistan, together with the border guards, I prepared the Americans to cross the border,”
: “The main thing was that they believed that they themselves had
prepared their escape from the USSR. For this purpose, about 20 km southeast of Ashgabat, closer to Iran, we equipped a false control and trail strip,
supposedly marking the Soviet-Iranian border. "
Boyarsky introduced the Americans to another NKVD officer who was playing the role of a smuggler. That for 250 dollars had to deliver them by truck to
the "border", which they had to secretly cross themselves, and then pick them up on the other side.
“You should have seen how in the moonlight, looking around and kneeling in order to crawl under the wire fences of the Russians, the Americans fled
to freedom. On the ground, we skillfully created a real situation of illegal border crossing by violators ... ", Boyarsky recalled the night of the"
escape "from 10 to 11 May.
Having picked up the Americans on the "Iranian" side, the "smuggler" freely smuggled them through the real border checkpoints, which was not at all
difficult to do: after the joint invasion of pro-German Iran with Great Britain in August 1941, Soviet troops were in the northern part of the country
and control at the border almost completely absent. Having reached the city of Mashhad, the crew members who had not noticed anything turned to the
British consulate, and on May 24 they were in Washington.
Years after the end of his 13-month odyssey in the USSR, shooter David Paul suspected that their entire escape was rigged by the Soviet General Staff
and the NKVD. Co-pilot Robert Emmens, however,
disagreed with him
: “Our escape was
real. He cost us every cent we had ... [Yakimenko] kissed each of us as we left him ... There were tears in his eyes. "
Here's an interesting story)))