Lydia Vladimirovna Litvjak

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Lydia Litvyak, the "White Lily of Stalingrad".

Lydia Vladimirovna Litvyak, Hero of the Soviet Union, was an ace in World War Two. She was the "White Lily of Stalingrad" for the Soviets (Lily being her nickname since she was a child) and the "White Rose of Stalingrad" for the Western press.

Born in Moscow on 18 August 1921, maybe from a Jewish family, she was fond of flying joining an airclub when she was 14. She took her flying license at the Kherson military flying school. When the Soviet Union was involved in World War Two, she had already trained 45 pilots at Kalinin Airclub.

In early 1942 she started service with 586 IAP. It was an all woman unit where she distinguished herself, even if it was assigned to defensive missions only. In September she was then moved 437 IAP, together with Maria Kuznetsova, Katya Budanova, and Raisa Beliaeva.

Her first two victories were scorerd with that unit, at Stalingrad, at her second sortie. She shot down a Junkers Ju.88 and just after that a Messerschmitt Bf 109G. The pilot, 11 victories ace Staff Sergeant Erwin Maier, bailed out and parachuted safely but was then captured by ground troops. He asked to see the pilot who shot him down, getting agry when he met Litvyac since he tought it was a bad taste joke. But when she recalled every detail of the dogfight, he excused himself and offered his Swiss golden watch as a gift. That she refused, coming from an enemy of her homeland.

At 437 IAP she was flying on a Yakovlev Yak-1, "Yellow 44", even if the unit was equipped with Lavochkin La-5. This gave logistic problems. So in January 1943, with a tally of three victories, she passed to 296 IAP and next month she was promoted Junior Lieutenant. Later she was promoted Senior Leutenant and the unit renamed 73 GvIAP, "Guard", for the honor they earned. Here she flew Yakovlev Yak-1 "White 23". She flew many missions raising her score to a total of about 12 victories alone and 3 shared. On 1st August 1943 she was escorting a patrol of Il-2 coming back from an attack, durinfg the Battle of Kursk, when she was shot down ad killed. She was then not even 22 years old. Her body has been found and identified several decades later.


Planes

Yakovlev Yak-1 White 22


Units

73 GvIAP

296 IAP