because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Lydia Litvyak

Having already learned how to fly at fifteen and becoming a flight instructor by only three years later, Lydia Litvyak didn't pause a minute when Adolph Hitler sent his troops into Russia in 1941. She marched right down to her friendly local Air Defense Force recruiter to enlist. When he turned her down for not having quite enough flight hours, she just went to another recruiter, lied about her flying experience, and signed up to serve her country.

She scored her first solo kill on her second combat mission, then turned around almost instantly and shot down a decorated German ace with eleven kills to his credit. Over the next year, she flew 66 combat missions -- sometimes four or five per day -- tallying up twelve solo kills in all and an additional half dozen or so assisted kills. No wonder the Lieutenant General who commanded her called her a "very aggressive person" (Russian for "in-your-face woman") and a "born fighter pilot."

Ultimately being awarded "Free Hunter" status, Senior Lieutenant Litvyak was given permission to fly missions on her own initiative. Wounded more than once, she'd fly bleeding back to base and, refusing medical leave, go right back out to fight some more. Hardly the type of woman to die in bed, the last time she was seen, on August 1, 1943, strapped into the cockpit of her plane, the 21-year-old "White Rose of Stalingrad" was being chased by eight German fighter planes. Of course.

1 comment:

  1. Lidya Litvyak didn't die in the summer of 1943. There is now reliable evidence showing that she parachuted to safety, according to Gian Piero Milanetti, an Italian writer. Milanetti visited the site of Litvyak's aircraft crash landing and was told by an elderly farmer that an airwoman was seen descending with a parachute at that time and at that location. No other airwomen operated in this area, so the airwoman was undoubtedly Litvyak. See Milanetti's comment published on, July 17, 2012. His book entitled Soviet Airwomen in the Great Patriotic War is scheduled to appear in February 2013. Litvyak was likely to have been captured by enemy soldiers. She may have settled in Switzerland after the war.