On February 8, 1943, junior sergeant M. Kornitski saved his unit by tying hand grenades around his body and jumping into the middle of the German troops about to launch an attack.  He was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union Gold Star for his self sacrifice to save his comrades.

The Hero of the USSR (HSU) is the highest award for personal valor that a person can earn in combat, in defense of the USSR, or in the service of the USSR.  

    # 7348

Issued May 1944

Russian lady pilots receiving their awards.  Note that the second and third pilots from the right are recipients of the Hero of USSR gold star.

The female pilots would often fly without parachutes, preferring to crash with their planes rather than being captured by the Germans.


The star is of solid gold and the suspension of silver.  Many of the heros of The Great Patriotic War (WWII) were multiple recipients of this award.

Established: 1934;  No. issued: approx. 13,000; Metal Content (gr.) : gold: 20.5; silver: 12.2


The photo on the left shows the top Russian fighter pilots who were multiple recipients of HSU.  The Russia fighter pilots had a higher personal kill rate than other Allied pilots.

Major Ivan N. Kozhedub, center front row, is the highest ranking Soviet and Allied ace of WW II.  He is one of few Allied pilots to have shot down a ME 262 jet in aerial combat.


When the Wehrmacht invaded Russia, their officers and troops had been thoroughly indoctrinated by their government to look upon the Russians as nothing but “undermenchen” - incompetent subhumans undeserving of any human decency and kindness.  This indoctrination was considered necessary in order to condition the German soldiers to commit utmost brutality against the Russians.  Every man, woman and child who dared to resist the German occupation was conveniently declared a “bandit”.  People who were branded “bandits” were subject to midnight arrests, tortures in unknown prisons and public executions. The goal was to terrorize the population into submission. However, unbeknownst to the Germans, their arrogant “might-makes-right” mentality sowed their own destruction in Russia.   After their defeat at Moscow, the German soldiers began to look upon the Russians more as super humans than as the weaklings they were led to believe by their government’s propaganda.  No matter what strategies and tactics the Germans devised, the Russians were always able to eventually outsmart them and deliver punishing counter blows.  The HSU recipients, like those above, did their part in convincing the Germans that their beloved Hitler had made a terrible mistake in attacking Russia.                                                                        

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Below are portraits of HSU recipients from my collection.  I bought the collection of portraits from an individual in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Combat nurses with the Russian naval marines on the polar front in 1943.  These nurses were in the thick of all frontline battles dragging the wounded to safety and treating them.

Unknown number of Russian soldiers and naval marines owe their lives to these brave ladies who crawled under fire to save them.  Sometimes when a machine gun crew was killed, the nurses would replace them to beat back the attacking Germans.

Russian women also served as tank crews and in combat infantry battalions.  The entire nation rose up to fight the Germans.

“We Have Not Been Home a Long Time”.  Russian Army Chorus.

“For Motherland, For Honor, For Freedom”

Banner of the Red Army

“Death to German invaders”

“First Guards Infantry Division”

Left photo show a Russian fighter pilot who is a recipient of two HSU. After 1943, the Russian pilots began to gain superiority over the Luftwaffe and considered the Germans easy kills.  The new  Yak-3 was so superior to German aircraft at low altitude that the German HQ warned their pilots not to engage it in combat.

The pilot of the IL - 4 bomber above is  recipient of the HSU award.

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