| The War That Came Early |
POD: July 20, 1936;
Relevant POD: September 29, 1938
|Appearance(s):|| Hitler's War|
|Type of Appearance:||Direct (POV starting in Coup d'Etat)|
|Nationality:||Russian citizen of the Soviet Union (born in the Russian Empire)|
|Date of Birth:||20th century|
|Military Branch:||Red Air Force, Red Army (World War II)|
Ivan "the Chimp" Kuchkov was a Sergeant in the Soviet Red Air Force and later infantryman in the Red Army during the Second World War. He served as the bombardier on Lt. Sergei Yaroslavsky's SB-2. He was a short, stocky and muscular man who was extremely hairy. This led to him being nicknamed "the Chimp" but not to his face after he broke a man's jaw for doing so. His short stature but great strength made his slot as a bombardier a good fit since the space on the bomber was cramped and one needed to be strong to handle the bombs. Kuchkov was a habitual user of mat, and some suspected this was because he had been a zek.
Kuchkov gave the impression of being a dullard but Yaroslavsky wondered if it were an act and he were reporting to the NKVD. Yaroslavsky was reminded of the commissar Nikita Khrushchev who also resembled a village pig butcher but who had been sharp enough to live through the various purges. The same might apply to Kuchkov.
When his bomber was shot down during a night raid in late 1940, Kuchkov managed to bail out and was rescued by Red Army forces. Effectively conscripted into the Red Army, Kuchkov soon found himself leading a squad. Successfully adapting to a different kind of combat, he proved himself an able soldier and squad leader, despite lacking any formal education. The company's political officer tried to interest Kuchkov in joining the Communist Party but Kuchkov refused, not wanting to draw any more attention to himself than necessary.
Serving in the western Ukraine, one of Kuchkov's soldiers shot an NKVD officer who failed to provide the proper password in time. Despite a harrowing interrogation session from the NKVD, the two NKVD officers investigating the incident decided that sending Kuchkov and his comrade back to their unit would take less paperwork than reassigning them to a penal battalion, and Kuchkov was returned to his unit, seemingly exonerated.
When the European war ended in 1944, Kuchkov's unit was shipped to Siberia. Anticipating service against the Japanese, Kuchkov's company was promised a transfer into a prestigious Guards unit. Instead, as they exited their train, the NKVD disarmed the company at gunpoint and began shipping the soldiers-turned-convicts into the gulag. Kuchkov glumly resigned himself to his new status, and wondered how he might make the best of his new circumstances.