National Geographic : 1945 Apr
Crimea Reborn BY EDDY GILMORE Moscow Correspondent of the Associated Press Illustrated by Photographs from Sovfoto T HE old Kremlin clocks were striking through the early night when my tele phone rang. "We're arranging a trip to the Crimea," said an employee of the Russian Press Department. "Would you like to go?" Would I like to go! Was Red Square red? Was the world round? Why, no foreign corre spondents had been into the golden Crimea this land of sunshine, shining sand, pine trees, flowers, of the hospitable Black Sea and heroic Sevastopol-since the war began. "Then be at the airport Monday morning at six o'clock," said the employee. This was Saturday. I began looking for my bathing suit. Monday morning the greatest caravan of foreign correspondents to take a trip in the Soviet Union was about to get under way. There were eleven Americans, several Brit ishers, two Czechs, an Egyptian, an Australian, two Chinese. One of us was a Negro born in Minneapolis. Two green American-made Douglas trans port planes awaited us at the spacious Mos cow civil airport. We piled in, off for the Crimea. Before I had finished half a detec tive story, we were in Kharkov. I remembered the first time I had stopped at this airport. Hangars were smoking ruins, runways were full of bomb holes, snow was everywhere. The mercury in the thermometer was down, and over there behind an armlike ridge was battered, mauled, almost-dead Khar kov. Now the airport was repaired. The sun was shining, and smoke was rising from this industrial city of the Ukraine.* American Tin Cans and Baseball in Kharkov Someone picked up a tin can from the grass where we were sprawled awaiting refueling. It was American, from a Chicago meat-pack ing company. "Anybody want to play catch?" Thus we opened the 1944 baseball season in Russia. Half an hour of this and we were on our way. From my easy seat in the Douglas I watched the rich Ukrainian steppe slide be neath me. Like a glittering stream of sugar lay the Dnieper (Dnepr) River, spread out over the landscape in unchecked flood. We were flying to Dnepropetrovsk.F We soared over history, for beneath us lay the Dnieper Bend, famous for many battles. But now it looked quiet and peaceful; the only note out of place in an otherwise pastoral scene was the flooding river. I saw we were flying straight downstream. I dived for my NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC map which my friend Fred Simpich had sent me. I saw we must be getting close to the great Dnieper Dam. I didn't have to wait long, for the Dam soon came into view. Here again I knew I was looking at history. Here was what is left of the Dnieper Dam-biggest hydroelectric installation in Europe and one of the biggest in the world-which supplied the Ukraine with its power and furnished electricity to turn the mighty wheels of the Donets coal basin. I looked at it as I might have looked at the White House from the Washington Monu ment. It was that close. I saw three huge, ugly holes in the dam, extending from the water's edge to the lofty top. Through them moved the weighty Dnieper, flooding the flat treeless steppe as it rolled on to Nikopol, Kherson, and the Black Sea 200 miles away. Within recent months contracts have been placed in the United States for equipment to repair the installation, increasing its capacity to 670,000 kilowatts. Slowly we passed the Dnieper Dam by and came to the city of Zaporozhe, where Gen. (now Marshal) Rodion Y. Malinovsky's Third Ukrainian Army spread across the Dnieper and drove the Nazis from the bend. We couldn't tell much about the city, but on its outskirts were unmistakable grim evidences of the Zaporozhe-Melitopol Line. One of the strongest fortifications the Germans erected on the Russian front, the long line of zigzag trenches, barbed wire, cement pillboxes, and tank traps extends for 55 miles. This was the line that Gen. (now Marshal) Fedor I. Tol bukhin's Fourth Ukrainian Army smashed be fore it poured southwestward to reach the Perekop Isthmus and Sivash salt marshes be fore the Crimea. We bumped on over the airways until we *See "Liberated Ukraine," by Eddy Gilmore, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, May, 1944. t See first detailed modern map, with 8,016 Eng lish names, of Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, a 10-color supplement to the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for December, 1944.