Lydia Litvyak


Lydia Litvyak

Lydia Vladimirovna Litvyak, (Лидия Владимировна Литвяк, August 18, 1921 – August 1, 1943), also known as Lydia Litvak or Lily Litvak, was a female fighter pilot in the Soviet Air Force during World War II. With 12 victories and four shared [Bergstrom 2007, p. 83.] , she is one of the world's only two female fighter aces, along with Katya Budanova.

Ealry Life

Born in Moscow, she was keen on aviation from her youth. At 14, she entered an aeroclub, and at 15, flew an aircraft for the first time. In the late 1930s, she received her flight instructor licence.

World War II

After the German attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941, she tried to voluntarily join a military aviation unit, but was turned down for lack of experience. After deliberately exaggerating her pre-war flight time by 100 hours of flight, she joined the all-female 586th Fighter Regiment (586 IAP), which was formed by Marina Raskova. She trained there on the Yakovlev Yak-1 aircraft.

She flew her first combat flights in the summer of 1942 over Saratov. In September, she was assigned, along with other women (including Katya Budanova), to the 437th IAP, fighting over Stalingrad. She flew a Lavochkin La-5 fighter, and on 27 September, 1942, she shot down her first aircraft—a Junkers Ju 88 bomber, piloted by "Oberleutnant" Gerhard Maak of "7./Kampfgeschwader 76". In the following months she shot down several further aircraft.

In late 1942, she was moved to the 9th Guards Fighter Regiment (9 GIAP), and in January 1943, to the 296th IAP, renamed later into the 73rd Guards Fighter Regiment. On February 23, she was awarded with the Order of the Red Star. Two times she was forced to land due to battle damage, and she was injured twice (on March 22 and July 16, 1943). In early 1943, she was made a second lieutenant. At the beginning of 1943, she married fighter ace Aleksey Solomatin, flying in 73rd GIAP, who was killed when crash-landing his plane damaged in action on May 21, 1943. Lydia became a famous press hero, but she was physically and mentally worn out.

On August 1, 1943, Lydia's Yak-1b fighter was shot down during combat, and she went missing. She was 21 years old. The authorities suspected that she might have been captured, so they decided not to award her the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. Only in 1979 was it determined that her aircraft had come down near Dmitrovka, a village in Shakhterski district and that she had been killed in action. After further verification, on May 6, 1990, USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev posthumously awarded her Hero of the Soviet Union and promoted her to full lieutenant. It is unclear if reported circumstances of her death are accurate. [ [http://www.redarmyonline.org/FI_Article_by_KJ_Cottam.html Redarmyonline] ]

There are conflicting claims about Litvyak's victory score in different publications, with no official records. Most often 11 individual kills and 3 team kills are quoted, but also 8 individual and 4 team, or other numbers. She shot down an observation balloon on May 31, 1943. She was awarded with the Order of the Red Banner, Order of the Red Star, and Order of the Patriotic War (twice).

She was known as the White Rose of Stalingrad (in other sources as White Lily of Stalingrad, white lily may also be translated from Russian as Madonna lily). A play about her, "White Rose", was performed once in the Belgrade Studio Theatre in Coventry. [ [http://www.guardian.co.uk/notesandqueries/query/0,5753,-18520,00.html "The Guardian"] ]

References

External links

*Bergström, Christer (2007). "Barbarossa - The Air Battle: July-December 1941". London: Chervron/Ian Allen. ISBN 978-1-85780-270-2
* [http://wio.ru/aces/gal-f.htm A photo gallery of Russian Female Aces]
* [http://www.redarmyonline.org/FI_Article_by_KJ_Cottam.html Article by Kazimiera J. (Jean) Cottam]
* [http://www.soviet-awards.com/digest/litvyak/litvyak1.htm Lydia Litvyak Memorial]
* [http://www.elknet.pl/acestory/litvak/litvak.htm A tribute]
* [http://www.guardian.co.uk/notesandqueries/query/0,5753,-18520,00.html The Guardian's "Notes and Queries" entry]


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