Vladimir Zorin
Fictional Character
The Hot War
POD: November, 1950
Appearance(s): Bombs Away;
Type of Appearance: Direct
Nationality: Russia, Soviet Union
Date of Birth: 20th century
Occupation: Pilot
Military Branch: Soviet Air Force (World War III)

Vladimir Zorin was Boris Gribkov's co-pilot during the first six months of World War III.

In January 1951, Gribkov and his crew, including Zorin, were transferred to an airbase in Provideniya, a location relatively close to the American west coast.[1] On January 23, 1951, the U.S. dropped several atomic bombs in Manchuria.[2] Joseph Stalin ordered retaliatory attacks in Europe on February 1.[3] The U.S. destroyed Pechenga and the USSR destroyed Elmendorf Air Force Base.[4]

Another round of bombs prompted the USSR to invade West Germany on February 17. After the Soviets launched a successful drive, the U.S. was able to disrupt Soviet supply lines with atom bombs a week later. In response, on March 1, the flyers at the Provideniya base were sent west in Tu-4s painted to look like B-29s. With tremendous luck the attacks were mostly successful.

Zorin, along with Gribkov and the rest of the crew, accepted the assignment to bomb Seattle. During the flight, Zorin joked that the Tu-4 was so similar to the B-29 that they could fly the latter without trouble. Gribkov agreed, even if the Americans used funny units on the gauges.[5]

After a successful bombing run, the Tu-4 turned back to the Pacific Ocean, and, after a tense flight that saw the fuel gauge fall into the red, they found the Red Fleet ships tasked with picking up the crew. Gribkov landed the plane in water and the entire crew survived the trip and the landing. They were taken aboard a destroyer called the Stalin.[6]

Zorin, Gribkov and the rest of crew received a hero's welcome in Korf.[7] They were taken to Kuibishev, the new capital of the Soviet Union, and received Hero of the Soviet Union medals and were extensively photographed.[8] In mid-April, the crew transferred to an airfield outside of Leningrad. They took a train to Moscow, and were able to see the damage to the heart of the city first hand. Zorin commented that the damage looked as though Satan got loose on earth. The crew were flown the rest of the way, and could also see the damage inflicted on Leningrad.[9]

In the closing days of April, Gribkov's plane was equipped with a new "Identification, friend or foe" (IFF) designed to confuse American planes and radar. The Soviets knew that the U.S. changed their IFF codes on the first of the month, and so they had some latitude.[10] The crew then took a circuitous route through southern Europe (including violating Yugoslavian airspace), finally delivering an atomic bomb to Bordeaux, France. The IFF let them get home safely,[11] although they did have a near-miss in early May when their airfield was bombed by the Americans using conventional explosives.[12]

In June, Zorin, Gribkov, and the rest of the crew were transferred to Soviet-held Munich. The base commander, Colonel Madinov, informed them that they would be attacking Paris.[13] The crew was assigned a new radioman, Klement Gottwald, a Sudeten German who spoke excellent English. No one was enthusiastic about destroying one of the world's great cities, but Paris was a critical transportation hub, and an attack there would hurt the Americans' ability to resupplying troops in Germany.[14] The next day, with the IFF and Gottwald providing cover, the crew was able to drop an atomic bomb near the Arc de Triomphe and safely return to Munich.[15]

For a brief period, Zorin, Gribkov and the others were treated as heroes by their fellow pilots in Munich. However, it was clear that their navigator, Leonid Tsederbaum was grappling with guilt.[16] Finally, one night Tsederbaum shot himself in a latrine. Zorin found Tsederbaum first, and informed Gribkov, who quickly went through Tsederbaum's pockets. He found a note from Tsederbaum essentially hoping that future generations would not hate Tsederbaum for the cities he'd helped destroy. Gribkov burned the note, realizing that the MGB would come down on Tsederbaum's family if they found it.[17]

It didn't do the crew much good: Zorin, Gribkov and the rest were grounded while the first the MGB and then the GRU investigated them. While neither agency expressed satisfaction with Gribkov's professed ignorance as to Tsesderbaum's motives, the crew was too valuable to keep grounded. They were soon assigned a new navigator, Yefim Arzhanov, and allowed to return to Prague.[18]

Finally, after a couple of months which saw the Soviet Union's forward positions in Europe destroyed, followed by a slow retreat back east, Olminsky gave Gribkov's crew a mission. This time, Antwerp, one of the key ports to which the Allies shipped men and materiel. The mission was similar to the Paris attack, with Zorin and Gribkov's Tu-4 flying as close to the sea as possible to fool Allied radar. The route took Gribkov's plane over Denmark, which while nominally a NATO ally, had done little to actually support the war effort. The mission was a success, and Antwerp was destroyed. Gribkov felt increasingly torn about his role in destroying cities.[19]

A few weeks later, a coup in Slovakia managed to seize Bratislava. Olminsky tasked Gribkov's crew with helping to put the coup down.[20] When Gribko informed his crew, Zorin and most of the others had the same unspoken concern about attacking a country that was supposed to be a Soviet ally.[21]

Their attack was launched just after midnight. While Zorin and Gribkov's crew was able to deliver their payload, their plane was hit by flak, and everyone was forced to bail out.[22] Gribkov landed safely, but he had no idea what happened to Zorin and the rest.[23]


  1. Bombs Away, pg. 25-29., ebook.
  2. Ibid., pgs. 55-58.
  3. Ibid., pgs. 64-65, 70.
  4. Ibid., pg. 93.
  5. Ibid., pgs. 141-145.
  6. Ibid., pgs. 155-159.
  7. Ibid., pgs. 179-180.
  8. Ibid., pgs. 215-217.
  9. Ibid., pgs. 243-247.
  10. Ibid., pgs. 307-309.
  11. Ibid., pgs. 310-311.
  12. Ibid., pgs. 337-340.
  13. Ibid., pg. 426.
  14. Ibid., pg. 429.
  15. Ibid., pg. 430.
  16. Fallout, loc., 138-173.
  17. Ibid, loc. 185-197.
  18. Ibid., loc. 868-925.
  19. Ibid., loc. 3094-3167.
  20. Ibid., loc. 3646-3682.
  21. Ibid, loc. 3694.
  22. Ibid., loc. 3706-3718.
  23. Ibid., loc. 4243-4267.