Georgii Timofeevich Beregovoi credits his proven success as a combat pilot, test pilot, and pilot-cosmonaut to flying skill and good luck! The youngest of three brothers, Beregovoi was born in 1921 and lived in Enakievo, Ukraine. He grew up at a time when Soviet aviators were making spectacular flights, even blazing air routes over the North Pole. Like other boys, Beregovoi became a skilled aircraft model builder and also thrilled at the exploits of Soviet combat pilots.
In 1937, he joined an aero club and in 1938, soloed in a Polikarpov biplane. Later that year Beregovoi entered a military flying school at Voroshilovgrad and flew a variety of aircraft. Leaving school within 1 week of the German attack on the USSR, he joined a combat unit equipped with a Yakovlev bomber and trained as his squadron retreated. In late 1941, the squadron was withdrawn and sent to retrain on a new aircraft, the Ilyushin Shturmovik ground attack bomber. He returned to combat in the spring of 1942. On his sixth combat flight in the Shturmovik , the aircraft was hit by flak; he coolly guided the bomber to a landing on Red Army held territory. His squadron excelled in attacks on German rail transport and specialized in "locomotive busting." During the Battle of Kursk in August 1943, his aircraft was hit again; when fire began to burn his gunner's clothing, Beregovoi and the gunner jumped at less than l000 feet.
He was hit again in March 1943, and once more, just made it to friendly territory. On 26 October 1944, after 108 combat sorties, Beregovoi received his nation's highest award for valor, the Gold Star and title, "Hero of the Soviet Union." He ended the war as a squadron commander with 185 combat sorties and had risen from sergeant to captain. When the unit returned to the USSR, he became "navigator" of a Bell P-63 King Cobra fighter unit. He later requested assignment to test pilot school, was accepted, and graduated in 1948. For the next 16 years, he tested fighters including more than 60 types developed by nearly all the Soviet design bureaus. Beregovoi rose to Colonel, became Deputy Chief of the Test Department, and was named "Honored Test Pilot of the USSR."
In 1962, after sitting in the Vostok spaceship, he successfully requested assignment to the Center for Cosmonaut Preparation. After the death of Vladimir Komarov in Soyuz 1, Beregovoi was selected to test Soyuz 3. He rocketed into space on 26 October 1968; four days later he returned to Earth. He was named "Pilot-Cosmonaut of the USSR" and received his second Gold Star as a "Hero of the Soviet Union." In 1972, as a Major General, he became Director of the Center of Cosmonaut Preparation.
In December 1940, the Soviets produced the first production Ilyushin 2. This armored, single-seat Shturmovik would be modified to a two-seat configuration in the heat of battle. As the Soviets moved their factories east beyond the Volga, production of the Ilyusha climbed from a few hundred in 1941, to several thousand in 1942, to more than 11,000 in 1943. The crews (pilot and rear gunner) pressed home their attacks through lethal walls of flak and swarms of Messerschmitt Me 109s and Focke Wulf FW 190s. In 1943, when the Il-2M3, fitted with a more powerful engine and heavier armor, began to operate in regimental and even divisional strength, the Luftwaffe no longer had enough fighters to counter them!