Moscow's hero worshipers fast week heard the latest: Major Alexander Pokryshkin had shot down his 59th enemy plane, was still beyond challenge, the ace of all Allied aces.
Muscovites guessed the tight-knit, blond, blue-eyed ex-mechanic scored his latest triumph over Rumania, where in 1941 he began his fighting career. He was then 28 and middle-aged by U.S. or British fighter-pilot standards. Since then he has fought more than 500 air battles, has been shot down thrice.
Today Pokryshkin commands a regimentrough equivalent of a U.S. groupin Russia's most famous fighter unit (its other aces: Richkalov, 46; Glinka, 38; Lugansky, 32; Alelyukhin, 29).