The White Rose of Stalingrad, Bill Yenne

The White Rose of Stalingrad, Bill Yenne

The Real-Life Adventure of Lidiya Vladimirovna Litvyak, the Highest Scoring Female Air Ace of All Time

The Soviet Union was the only country to officially allow women to join front-line combat units during the Second World War. Amongst those units were three all-female air units - one day bomber, one night bomber and one fighter unit. Lidiya Litvyak was one of the most capable pilots to join these units as they were being formed, and went on to become the highest scoring female fighter ace in history, first serving in the all-female unit and then in largely male units.

There isn't quite enough information about Lidiya to support a full length biography. The author has tackled this problem in three ways, both of which add to the value of the book. The first is a look at the early history of the Soviet Union - Lidiya was born in the year of the revolution so the dramatic changes under Lenin and Stalin directly impacted on her and especially on her father, who became a victory of Stalin's purges. Second is to look at the wider context of female aviation within the Soviet Union - this provides some context for Lidiya's fascination with aviation and is also directly relevant to her career. Marina Raskova, the founder of the all-female combat units, was also a famous pre-war aviation pioneer with a background in long distance flight. Finally Yenne includes material on some of Lidiya's fellow female pilots, in particular Nina Kosterina, whose diary survives.

There is a certain amount of uncertainly about Lidiya's exact number of victories, so Yenne has chosen to look at every possible victory she was involved in, making a note of which ones were certain and which ones were more dubious. The author has used a certain amount of imagination to produce his accounts of aerial combat, although stays within the bounds of credibility.

This is a fascinating, if inevitably rather melancholy (especially as we reach the inevitable end of the story) tale of a talented fighter pilot who had to overcome more barriers than most before even entering combat. When combined with the examination of the impact of the early years of Soviet rule on the people of Lidiya's generation the result is an excellent and very valuable biography.

1 - Born into a Season of Darkness and Promises
2 - Growing Up with the Man in Red
3 - Mother and Father
4 - Bright, Happy Years
5 - Bonfires of Paranoia
6 - Heroes in the Sky
7 - Heroines in the Sky
8 - From Behind Dark Clouds
9 - Enemies at the Gates
10 - Women at War
11 - Marina' Falcons
12 - Operational Assignments
13 - Lilya at War
14 - Stalingrad, the Very Hell of the War
15 - A Time of Heroines
16 - Springtime in Moscow
17 - Romance and Tragedy
18 - The White Lily of the Donbass
19 - Twilight of the Falcons
20 - Lost Lily

Author: Bill Yenne
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 320
Publisher: Osprey
Year: 2013

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