|Born||18 Aug 1921|
|Died||1 Aug 1943|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseLydia Vladimirovna Litvyak, also known as Lily Litvak, was born in Moscow, Russia. At age 14, she entered a club of flight enthusiasts, and by 15 she was piloting small aircraft. In the late 1930s, she earned a flight instructor license.
ww2dbaseAfter Germany invaded the Soviet Union, Litvyak attempted to join a military aviation unit, but was initially turned down for lack of experience; she forged her records by adding an additional 100 hours of flight time, and was eventually admitted into the 586th Fighter Regiment consisted of all female pilots. She trained in a Yak-1 fighter with a white lily (mistaken for a rose) painted on the side of the fuselage. In the summer of 1942, the 586th Fighter Regiment flew over Saratov, Russia, where the blonde-haired, grey-eyed young pilot flew her first combat flight. In Sep 1942, she was transferred into the mixed-sex 437th Fighter Regiment at Stalingrad in southern Russia. Her chauvinistic commander initially refused to let her fly, but finally backed down largely due to the demands of the war. On 13 Sep 1942, she flew her second combat mission in a La-5 fighter; she shot down a Ju 88 bomber and an unidentified fighter, marking her first and second kills of her career. She quickly gained the nick name "the White Rose of Stalingrad", referring to the mis-identified lily found on her training fighter.
ww2dbaseIn late 1942, Litvyak was transferred to the 9th Guards Fighter Regiment, and then very shortly after, in Jan 1943, she was transferred again to teh 296th Fighter Regiment, which was later renamed to the 73rd Guards Fighter Regiment. On 23 Feb she was awarded the Order of the Red Star. During her combat career, she scored 11 solo kills and 3 shared kills. Many German pilots she shot down were in shock that they were shot down by a woman. A German fighter ace shot down and captured outright refused to believe a woman had shot him down until he was brought before Litvyak, who described to him the details of the dogfight that only the two pilots engaged in the combat would know. She was not invincible, however. She was shot down two or three times (22 Mar 1943, 16 Jul 1943, and possibly another time) and at least one time she sustained serious injury to her legs, but she refused to be sidelined.
ww2dbaseIn early 1943, Litvayk was made a junior lieutenant. On 1 Aug 1943, Litvyak flew a Yak-1b fighter on a combat mission. She was shot down by a group of eight German fighters. Because her body was not found, Soviet leadership assumed she was captured. Since Joseph Stalin had always believed that a captured Russian was to be automatically considered a traitor, she did not receive the award of the Hero of the Soviet Union like some thought she deserved. Her remains were not found until 1979. On 6 May 1990, Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev finally granted her the Hero of the Soviet Union award with a posthumous promotion to the rank of senior lieutenant.
Armchair Reader World War II
Last Major Revision: Dec 2007
Lydia Litvyak Timeline
|18 Aug 1921||Lydia Litvyak was born in Moscow, Russia.|
|13 Sep 1942||Lydia Litvyak shot down a German Ju 88 bomber and the Bf 109G-2 fighter piloted by Oberfeldwebel Erwin Meier over Stalingrad, Russia while flying a Yak-1 fighter.|
|14 Sep 1942||Lydia Litvyak shot down a German Bf 109 fighter over Stalingrad, Russia while flying a Yak-1 fighter.|
|27 Sep 1942||Lydia Litvyak shot down a German Ju 88A-4 bomber and shared the credit for downing the Bf 109G-2 fighter piloted by Horst Loose over Stalingrad, Russia while flying a Yak-1 fighter.|
|11 Feb 1943||Lydia Litvyak shot down the German Ju 87 Stuka dive bomber piloted by Gerhard Weber and shared the credit for downing a Fw 190 fighter while flying a Yak-1 fighter.|
|17 Feb 1943||Legendary Russian fighter pilot Lydia Litvak (The White Rose of Stalingrad) was awarded the Order of the Red Banner.|
|23 Feb 1943||Lydia Litvyak was awarded the Order of the Red Star and was promoted to the rank of junior lieutenant.|
|1 Mar 1943||Lydia Litvyak shot down a German Fw 190 fighter while flying a Yak-1 fighter.|
|22 Mar 1943||Lydia Litvyak shot down the German Bf 109G-4 fighter piloted by Leutnant Franz Müller and the Bf 109G-2 fighter piloted by Unteroffizier Karl-Otto Harloff while flying a Yak-1 fighter. She was wounded during this engagement.|
|5 May 1943||Lydia Litvyak shot down a German Bf 109 fighter while flying a Yak-1 fighter.|
|7 May 1943||Lydia Litvyak shot down a German Bf 109 fighter while flying a Yak-1 fighter.|
|31 May 1943||Lydia Litvyak shot down a German observation balloon.|
|13 Jun 1943||Lydia Litvyak was made the commanding officer of 3rd Aviation Squadron of Soviet 73rd Guard Fighter Aviation Regiment.|
|16 Jul 1943||Lydia Litvyak shot down the German Bf 109G fighter pilot by Oberfeldwebel Hans Grünberg and another Bf 109G fighter while flying a Yak-1b fighter.|
|19 Jul 1943||Lydia Litvyak shot down a German Bf 109G-6 fighter while flying a Yak-1b fighter.|
|21 Jul 1943||Lydia Litvyak shot down a German Bf 109 fighter while flying a Yak-1b fighter.|
|1 Aug 1943||Over Ukraine, the Red Air Force's leading female pilot Lydia Litvyak shot down the German Bf 109G-6 fighter piloted by Feldwebel Hans-Jörg Merkle and another Bf 109G-6 fighter while flying a Yak-1b fighter. She was in turn shot down in this engagement. Her body was never found, and the Soviet Union presumed her to have been killed.|
|6 May 1990||Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev posthumously awarded Litvyak Hero of the Soviet Union.|
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Winston Churchill, 1935