Lydia Vladimirovna Litvyak is one of, if not the most famous female fighter pilots in history. During World War II she was a fighter pilot in the Soviet Air Force. Over a period of around two years in active missions she became the first female pilot to shoot down an enemy plane.She’s the first female pilot to earn the title ‘fighter ace’. Lydia also holds the record for the greatest number of kills by any female fighter pilot.
Here are some interesting facts about Lydia Litvyak and her military career:
- Lydia Litvyak completed over 66 combat missions, recording at least 12 solo kills and 4 shared kills.
- On 13th September 1942 three days after arriving in the 437th regiment, Lydia Litvyak made her first two kills. This day made her the very first female fighter pilot to shoot down an enemy plane.
- During the summer of 1942 she flew her first official combat flights. She was part of the men’s regiment 437 IAP in Stalingrad.
- In Soviet press releases she was referred to as the ‘White Lily of Stalingrad’, later referred to as ‘White Rose of Stalingrad’ in English publicized reports.
- Born on August 18th, 1921 into a Jewish family Lydia Litvyak became interested in aviation at the young age of 14.
- At only 15 years old she performed her first solo flight. She later graduated and became a flight instructor at Kalinin Air-club and went on to train 45 pilots before the war started.
- After the Soviet Union came under attack from Germany in June of 1941, Lydia Litvyak attempted to join an aviation branch of the military but was turned away due to lack of flight hours. She soon re-applied through a different base and exaggerated her flight experience to ensure she was accepted.
- She also fought for the all-female 586th Fighter Aviation Regiment which was founded by the famous Marina Raskova.
- On February 23rd 1943, Lydia Litvyak was awarded the Order of the Red Star, a military medal issued in recognition of bravery. She was promoted to junior lieutenant and selected as part of an elite air tactic team called ‘okhotniki’.
- Lydia Litvyak was attacked and shot down by German planes during the Battle of Kursk on August 1st, 1943. She was returning to base near Orel when two Bf109 German fighter planes ambushed her. A fellow pilot nearby at the time saw them all disappear into the clouds, but she never returned.
- A search party later looked for the remains of Lydia Litvyak. Assisted by volunteers and the media, for over thee years the area believed to be where she crashed was throughly searched. In 1979, after recovering numerous remains from the area the search party found the remains of a female pilot buried in a near by village.
Although Lydia Litvyak died at just 21 years old, her accomplishments have cemented her legacy as one of the most well known female fighter pilots in history.
Her story has been fictionalised in novels, using her character and experiences as a base for romantic war time stories. Also, a stage play portraying Lydia Litvyak’s character and political thoughts was first performed in 1985 at the Edinburgh festival, and a newer production as recently as early 2013 in Glasgow, Scotland.