Alexander Shats was born in 1923 in Minsk, Belorussia. In 1940 Alexander was drafted into the Red Army. After the outbreak of the war between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, Shats was assigned to be a commander with a transport regiment of the Soviet Air Force. As a transport pilot he delivered provisions, ammunition, repair parts, and fuel to the Soviet troops on the front lines. He also transported several hundred Soviet Air Force men, including from some elite units, to frontline airfields and supplied air crews with ammunition and various items of mechanical and technical equipment. Shats participated in the crossing of the Dnieper River Soviet offensive (August-December 1943). By July 1944 his flight log had recorded 560 sorties (809 hours in the air).
In her article "Our New 'People of Air'," published in the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee (JAC) Yiddish newspaper Eynikayt on October 14, 1943, Mira Aizenshtadt (Zheleznova), although writing in accordance with the prevailing Soviet pathos, explicitly stressed Shats' Jewishness. She clearly presented him as a prototype of a new Soviet Jew by contrasting him with the Jews of the shtetls under the tsarist regime. In a literary pun she referred to those Jews by the Yiddish term Luftmentshn (literary "people of air"), alluding to the shtetl Jews described by Sholem Aleichem. Those Jews often had no definite business or permanent occupation or income and, also, were not permitted to work on the land. Thus, she constructs the image of Alexander Shats as a pilot or "air man" - the most modern type of profession during World War II:
"The people of air" (Luftmentshn] – this is how they were ironically referred to, those Jews of the shtetl, who had been deprived of rights, [and] who were deprived of any possibility of becoming the people of the land. [But now] here is a new Jew of the free Soviet country! Here are new men of air, Stalin's falcons who have conquered the air of skies…."
Aizenshtadt ends her article by emphasizing that Shats is a source of pride for Soviet Jews: "We are sending you, young pilot, warm, sincere greetings. Such people of the air [like you] – are the pride of the Jewish people."
On November 5, 1944 Alexander Shats was awarded the Order of the Red Star.
Mira Aizenshtadt's Article about Alexander Shats
An excerpt from the article by Mira Aizenshtadt (Zheleznyova) prepared for the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee (JAC) Yiddish newspaper Eynikayt, depicting Alexander Shats's mission as a transport pilot and, especially, his participation in the battle at the Dnieper:
"… Alexander Shats is still very young. He is only 20 years old. In his fight log are recorded 900 hours in the air in battles for the [Soviet] homeland. … Shats flew two hundred thousand kilometers while carrying out his missions. He provides ammunition to the [Soviet troops on the] frontlines. He participated… in the significant event of these days – [for example] the crossing of the Dnieper River. During this time our pilot worked day and night! Forgetting all sleep or rest, the young patriot continued to transport ammunition to the frontline troops who were crossing the Dnieper. This pilot participated in fierce battles on more than one occasion. The Fascist aces repeatedly tried to set the plane of Alexander Shats on fire. But fate is protecting this fine young man! …"
From: GARF 8114-1-30, copy YVA JM/ 26082, published in Mire Aizeshtadt, "Undzer naye 'luftmentshn'" (Our new people of air), Eynikayt, October 14, 1943.