Joined the Red Army, 1937. Fighter pilot during World War II. Shot down over enemy territory, March 1942. Heavily wounded, crawled for 18 days back to the front-lines.
Both legs were amputated, but he returned to service with artificial legs, and continued to serve as a fighter pilot. Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, 1952. Secretary of the Soviet War Veterans Association, 1956, and Vice-chairman, 1983.
Became a cult figure in the post-war years. B. Polevoi’s biography of him, Povesl' о Nastoiashchem Cheloveke, Moscow, 1946, was later turned into a film.