|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 Interactive Map
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 MÃ¼ller 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 GrÃ¼nberg 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-JÃ¶rg 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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Visitor Submitted Comments
22 Nov 2008 06:56:32 PM
There is absolutely no evidence that Litvyak was killed. Her body was not found and exhumed. She was seen in a PoW camp by a fighter pilot she knew. The commander of the 586th Fighter Regiment she had served in initially heard her speak on German radio after she was captured. His handwritten note about this is preserved in the Monino Air Force Archives. (See Ekaterina Polunina, Devchonki, podruzhki, letchitsy. Moscow: 2004.) Former Chief Mechanic of the 586th Fighter Regiment, Polunina looked after the archives pertaining to all Soviet women fighter pilots.
22 Nov 2008 07:11:58 PM
I just noticed another common error in your text. (There is something about Litvyak that lends itself to sensationalism and false information.) Litvyak, whose final rank was Senior Lieutenant, never married Solomatin. She initially disliked him and asked to be transferred to another squadron. It was only after he was killed in an accident that she realized she loved him. She confessed this in a letter to her mother. (See Reina Pennington, Wings, Women & War. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2001, p.139.)
10 May 2009 03:21:21 PM
Litvyak was killed.Her remains were found!
21 Aug 2009 12:06:43 AM
I heard a story about Lily shooting down a Nazi pilot and when he was captured they told him what happened. He couldn't believe he was shot down by a woman. Lily went into the interrogation room and told him exactly what happened and how he was shot down. He stood up and saluted her for her bravery. That's what I had heard about her on a tour. Lily flew a Yap 9 that had a white lily on the side of the fuselage.
15 Nov 2010 07:54:12 AM
Anonymous says Litvyak's remains were found! A group of Ukrainian school children did report founding a body of a female combat pilot and she was supposedly interred in a common grave near Krasnyy Luch. The alleged body was never dug out and properly examined including the testing of its DNA. Ekaterina Polunina, former chief mechanic of the women's fighter regiment, ordered that a plaque with Litvyak's name be put on that grave, so as to make Litvyak a legitimate candidate for the award of Hero of the Soviet Union. This was a means of rehabilitating her, as rumours circulated that she allowed herself to be captured by the enemy and was thus a traitor to her country.
15 Nov 2010 01:23:45 PM
I re-read my contribution of yesterday, noting that my comment was somewhat ambiguous. I intended to say that the plaque was put on the grave so that Litvyak be judged by the authorities worthy of the award of Hero of the Soviet Union, the highest Soviet military decoration, and would thus be rehabiliated, no longer an enemy. There is absolutely no proof that Litvyak was in fact buried in that grave. In fact, we are told by a reliable source that she was seen by a fellow fighter pilot in a German war prisoner's camp after her crash landing. Furthermore, there is a distinct possibility that she survived her incarceration, emigrated to Switzerland, married a Swede and was the mother of three children.
15 Nov 2010 07:39:48 PM
In Item #6 "founding" should read "finding". In Item #7 "rehabiliated" should read "rehabilitated". I apologize for having missed these spelling errors. I should add that after Lidya Litvyak was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union, allegedly posthumously, all Soviet major newspapers dated May 6, 1990 reported her rank to be that of Senior Lieutenant. I still have some of these newspapers, which I brought home from Moscow, where I attended the very interesting reunion of Soviet women air force veterans with the American WASPs (Women Airforce Service Pilots).
28 May 2011 02:51:09 PM
Because of an unusual set of circumstances...(I am not Russian, a professional historian, or even a military war buff)...I have spent parts of the last three years working on a coming-of-age book about "Lilia" Litvyak. All the key facts are correct, but there is also some fill in, that was declared "acceptably plausible" by my Russian and Ukrainian collaborators. That is why, the book is categorized a "based on a true story."
With all due respect to the contributors, many of the well-meaning comments on the internet are simply guesses or unverified conjecture....
For example, the young lady's real name was "Lilia". That fact has been verified by her mother Anna in letters to the one woman in the world who has collected all the facts during the past 68 years, my friend and collaborator, Valentina Vaschenko.
By the way, my book, "Call Sign, White Lily" was published earlier this year in English and Russian. I hold all the copyrights for both versions. As part of the project, I've visited her grave-site, interviewed her last living childhood friend, spent time at the museum in her name, worked with Russian and Ukrainian officials, spoken at the Russian Cultural Centre in Washington D.C., and established the Lilia Litvyak Fund to raise money to expand the modest museum in Krasny Luch.
Excerpts of the book and reader reviews are at my website, www.mgcrisci.com. The book is available for purchase (or download), at the site, as well as at Amazon.com/m.g.crisci. It's sprinkled with some rare pictures and posters.
There are also a number of illuminating video interviews at the website and atyoutube.com/worldofmgcrisci.
Gotta go, in Venice working on another book. Love to chat further with any/all interested.
Great lady, and, we all want her unique story to be more broadly known. By the way, book title is her actual pilot call sign...hence the name "Call Sign, White Lily."
5 Jul 2012 08:11:58 PM
Lydia Litvyak is alive and well in 2287 in my upcoming novel Ace of Aces. She, along with 4 other notable fighter aces of WW2 have been forcibly conscripted to do battle against an alien race that threatens humanity's survival.
Look for Ace of Aces in 2013.
17 Jul 2012 09:32:34 AM
That Litvyak survived her crash-langing is a fact. It is also quite possible she emigrated to Switzerland. I am not going to repeat myself, see the comment above. Why is the dubious credibility of Soviet sources so cherished? Because sensationalism is attractive, and Litvyak alive is less interesting?
17 Jul 2012 10:06:43 AM
Livyak has never been called "The Rose of Stalingrad". There is no justification whatsoever for this. There was a lily painted on her fuselage. As to her alleged death I have had to battle The Wikipedia, only partially successfully, whose writers prefer to embrace the Soviet version of Litvyak's early death. Obviously, the Wikipedia writers do not understand the Soviet mentality. According to Ekaterina Polunina, a co-participant with this author in a reunion at San Diego (2005), who appeared to be a reliable, primary source, Litvyak was taken prisoner by the enemy, was subsequently heard speaking on German radio by the commander of her original unit, and was likely the woman interviewed on Swiss television in 2000. Although this woman didn't give our her maiden name, still fearing the persecution of relatives in Russia, everything points to her being Litvyak. The broadcast was seen by Nina Raspopova, former pilot of the Night Bomber Regiment, who subsequently contacted Polunina. Wikipedia writers assume that possibly Raspopova and Litvyak didn't know each other and questions my version of events. It is noteworthy that Litvyak, a fighter pilot, didn't serve in the same regiment as Raspopova did, but all the regiments trained together before their departure for the front. Wikipedia spokesmen seem to be unaware of this. Thus Raspopova and Litvyak were bound to know each other. Moreover, I don't understand why Wikipedia is so keen to believe the discredited Soviet sources as well as the earlier accounts of Litvyak's death by Western authors that had incomplete information about Litvyak's alleged death. The evidence that Litvyak survived the war, but failed to return to the Soviet Union, is very strong. The evidence is documented in Ekaterina Polunina's book: Ekaterina Polunina, Devchonki, podruzhki, LETCHITSY (Moscow, 2004). Kazimiera J. Cottam, PhD.
17 Jul 2012 06:26:03 PM
M.G. Crisci says that he visited Litvyak's gravesite. I know on the basis of my conversation with Ekaterina Polunina (who ordered the cemetery to identify an alleged Litvyak's gravesite by placing an appropriate plaque on it) that Litvyak's body wasn't there. This alleged identification was done to make Litvyak eligible for receiving the Hero of the Soviet Union posthumously. If her capture by the enemy were known this would have immediately disqualified her! People in North America have absolutely no perception of the Soviet or post-Soviet mentality or Soviet citizens' gullibility in such matters. The interviews conducted by an American citizen in the former USSR with people who had no direct knowledge of what really transpired and played no direct role in this case would not have been very helpful.
10 Sep 2012 04:55:40 PM
Quick question. Does anyone know of Lydia Litvyak's living relatives in either Russia or Ukraine? One my book is out in January, I would love to send them a copy for their keeping.
9 Dec 2012 05:30:06 PM
Information about Litvyak is likely to be found in the WWII Archives in Podol'sk near Moscow. They are not currently at Monino. An Italian writer who does not reveal his name was in Russia this past summer in the area where Lilya Litvyak supposedly had crash landed and he was told by an elderly peasant that he had seen a young girl military pilot come down alive and well via parachute around the time Litvyak went missing. Both the writer and the peasant are convinced it was Litvyak, since there were no other female combat pilots in that area at the time. See his testimony discussed on AbsoluteAstronomy.com. From the very beginning rumours were circulating that she was seen walking accompanied by German troops, i.e. was captured by the enemy.
9 Dec 2012 05:38:20 PM
Information about Litvyak is likely to be found in the WWII Archives in Podol'sk near Moscow. They are not currently at Monino. An Italian writer who does not reveal his name was in Russia this past summer in the area where Lilya Litvyak supposedly had crash landed and died; he testified he was told by an elderly peasant that he had seen a young girl military pilot come down alive and well via parachute around the time Litvyak went missing. Both the writer and the peasant are convinced it was Litvyak, since there were no other female combat pilots in that area at the time. See his testimony discussed on AbsoluteAstronomy.com. From the very beginning rumours were circulating that Litvyak was seen walking accompanied by German troops, i.e. was captured by the enemy.
P.S. According to Ekaterina Polunina's book, Devchonki, podruzhki, letchitsy (Moscow, 2004), it was Ekaterina Budanova who was the top Soviet female ace. She had more kills than did Litvyak!
9 Dec 2012 05:45:52 PM
Lydia Litvyak's close relatives are no longer alive. Her brother died about ten years ago. She may have some distant relatives, but I am not sure whether they would be interested in Chris Berman's book.
19 Jan 2013 04:08:24 AM
Italian writer Gian Piero Milanetti's made several trips to Russia and visited the area where Lydia Litvyak was allegedly killed when her fighter was shot down by the enemy. Milanetti reports his conversation with an old peasant who have been told by a witness of Litvyak's safe parachuting, from her disabled aircraft, that she landed alive and was likely captured by the enemy. See Milanetti's contribution published on AbsoluteAstronomy.com on July 17, 2012. His book titled Soviet Airwomen of the Great Patriotic War will be available in February 2013. To my knowledge, the Wikipedia has been updated to take into account recent data concerning Litvyak. It is now indisputable that she wasn't killed and may still be alive. There is some evidence she may have emigrated to Switzerland. Unfortunately, many enthusiasts of Lydia Litvyak have embraced Soviet propaganda by maintaining that she was killed. Litvyak's friends supported this only because they wanted her to be awarded the Hero of Soviet Union medal that would not have been given to someone who allowed herself to be captured by the enemy or someone who escaped from the USSR to settle abroad.
19 Jan 2013 05:32:21 AM
Dr. Cottam, thank you for sharing the latest on Litvyak.
24 Jan 2013 07:42:13 AM
I again discussed with friends the likelihood of Litvyak's choosing to parachute to safety from her disabled aircraft. After all that's what the parachute is for and pilots everywhere, including the Soviet Union, were expected to use it in an emergency. It would have been very strange for Litvyak to elect to stay in her doomed aircraft, and go down with it, when she had the option of parachuting to safety. We don't really know the extent of her injuries, and it would seem that Litvyak did prove capable of abandoning her doomed aircraft despite of her injuries.
8 Oct 2013 02:38:25 PM
In her book published in 2004 Polunina, Chief Mechanic of Litvyak's original fighter regiment, mentions Monino as a place where military archives concerning Litvyak were kept. This may have been true initially. However, currently all Russian military archives are kept in Podol'sk near Moscow.
6 Apr 2014 03:48:10 PM
Please note that two individuals have submitted comments here under the pseudonym "Anonymous": one maintains that Litvyak had perished while the other (myself) has solid evidence that Litvyak successfully came down with her parachute.
13 Nov 2014 07:00:15 AM
I would like to find somebody from her family.
Waiting for your answer,
20 Nov 2014 03:22:14 PM
in town of Engels, that is right across the Wolga river from Saratov, I visited school n. 5 named after Valeria Khomiakova. She was also from Moscow and the first Russian women to down Ju 88 on Sept.24, 1942 , she served with Lydia. There is a small museum dedicated to the women pilots in the school. They may have some info.
24 Mar 2015 05:27:02 AM
In May 1990 I was in Moscow attending the reunion of Soviet Women Airforce Service Pilots with Soviet airwomen veterans, and on May 6 was invited to the official ceremony of awarding the Hero of the Soviet Union medal to Litvyak. Until very recently I also had the Moscow/Soviet newspapers dated May 6, 1990. As I recall Litvyak was promoted to the rank of Senior Lieutenant in the winter of 1943.
6 May 2015 08:04:53 AM
Regarding my Item No. 25, "In May 1990 I was in Moscow attending the reunion of Soviet Women Airforce Service Pilots with Soviet airwomen veterans,...should have read: "In May 1990 I was in Moscow attending the reunion of American Women Airforce Service Pilots with Soviet airwomen veterans,"... I apologize for this unfortunate error.
13 Oct 2019 08:04:17 PM
On 2-11-1943, Lit yak shot down a German dive bomber piloted by Gerhard Weber. My father,a German bomber pilot was Gerhard Weber. I do not know if he was the Gerhard Weber that Litvyak shot down. Where can I find out more info about him?
15 Jul 2020 01:39:54 AM
Is it really difficult for a historian to find a TV show from Switzerland in 2000? Or she really wasnâ€™t, this is fake
17 Jul 2020 06:31:24 AM
Lydia Litvyak marked on the slabs of two burials - in Kuibyshevo and Dmitrovka
29 Mar 2021 07:39:23 AM
Wait... when did she join the 73rd Regiment?
Also, I've seen mixed content on if she actually did die or not. Can anyone clarify for me?
25 Aug 2021 10:55:30 AM
Did Oberfeldwebel Erwin Meier shot by Lidya Litvyak survive Soviet captivity and the war?
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21 Dec 2007 04:28:36 AM
On the 1st March 1943 Litvak and her friend, Katya Budanova, flying as part of a four-ship flight intercepted a dozen Fw.190s on a ground support mission near Stalingrad. Two of the Focke-Wulfs were shot down , one of them claimed by Lllya Litvak in a Yak-1. The German pilots broke of the fight, at which the Russian pilots fell upon a flight of Ju-88s. Litvak claiming a kill for one of the four Junkers aircraft that were subsequently shot down.