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Soviet Female Combat Aircrews: By the close of World War II almost 1,000 Russian women had flown combat missions in every type of Soviet warplane.

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  1. CестрыSESTRY (cess-tree) n. Russian: meaning SISTERS. An Original Documentary TreatmentWritten byRoy McShane Registered - WGA Websites: www.hwelte.com www.phuketdir.com (Turn on Speakers – Press “Enter” to advance Slide Show)

  2. The Best Kept Russian Secret of World War II By the close of World War II almost 1,000 Russian women had flown combat missions in every type of Soviet warplane. This was kept hidden, not by the Soviets but by the Allies, from the general public in the West. Here is a documentary that sheds light on this amazing arcanum.    When one shares blood and death in combat, dissolving all barriers and petty obstacles, one becomes closer than family. This was why the Russian women in the flying regiments constantly referred to each other as “sister” -prompting the title Sestry, or “Sisters.” Please appreciate that the following material presented here is only the tip of the iceberg. Note: The GSS, orGeroy Sovetskogo Soyuza (Hero of the Soviet Union), is the equivalent of the Victoria Cross or the Medal of Honor, and is Russia's highest award for valor. VVS – (Voyenno-vozdushnyye sily) - the Air Force of the Red Army. Soviet Yak taking out a German Heinkel.

  3. The 587th Bomber Aviation Regiment The Soviet Female 587th initially trained on the Sukhoi Su-2, single-engined Light Bomber, then transferred to the new, twin-engined, Petlyakov Pe-2 Dive Bomber, which had a crew of three: Pilot, Navigator/Bombardier and Rear Gunner/Radio Operator. It carried 3,520 pounds of bombs, plus four 7.62mm machine guns, and was fast for its day having a top speed of 580 kph (360 mph). After the changeover in bombers was made there was no time to train female rear gunners, so men were used until 1944 - then replaced by women. Major MARINA RASKOVA Pilot - Regimental Commander - Awarded the GSS The cause of it all – a remarkable woman with a dream: “Women in air combat.” Petlyakov Pe-2 Dive Bomber. The foundation for Raskova’s dream began on 24th September 1938, when she and two other women left Moscow in an ANT-37 to set a record endurance/distance flight. Due to an ice storm however, andbeing short-changed on fuel, it nearly ended in tragedy when they were forced down in Siberia. During which Navigator Raskova had to bailout – losing her charts and emergency rations – requiring her to struggled on her own in the Siberian wilderness for nine days before locating her downed aircraft and crew.

  4. Despite her injuries it was a brilliant feat of navigation and survival. Ultimately, this flight crew became the first women to receive the GSS. But of far more importance – it gave Raskova access to Stalin – which paid off later when Russia was invaded.  According to author Alexander Magid:  “Raskova conceived the idea of the all-female flying regiments against an unwilling military.” Risking being shot, she went over her superiors heads and sold the idea to Stalin, and, with his backing, she got it pushed through by sheer will and determination. Resulting in the People's Defense Committee issuing Order Number 0099, 8th October 1941: "On activation of Female Air Regiments for the Air Force of the Red Army: The 586th IAP, 587th BAP and the 588th NBAP.” Thus thethree Female Aviation Regiments were born. Following Raskova's selection of the women volunteers, on 16th October 1941 she set up training "Group 122" at Engels. It was here that Raskova had to deal with temperamental schoolgirls – training and forging them into the three fighting regiments - while at the same time personally commanding the 587th Bomber Aviation Regiment.  Sadly, upon completion of training, while moving her regiment to the front at the controls of a Pe-2 on 4th January 1942 - due to bad weather, little flying time in type, and exhaustion – Raskova’s rising star was brutally snuffed out. The Female 587th was staggered by her loss. Petlyakov Pe-2 Dive Bomber.

  5. Lt. Colonel VALENTIN MARKOVPilot - Regimental Commander GALYA Navigator/Bombardier - Awarded the GSS     Raskova was replaced by a tough as nails Major Markov, who led his women flight crews from the cockpit into combat, inspiring discipline, a belief in themselves, and trust in each other. The 587th at this point really needed this shot in the arm, and consisted mainly of women with a few male rear gunners and mechanics.  At first the women feared Markov and longed for Raskova, calling him secretly "Bayonet" behind his back. Later, after successfully leading them on missions and looking after their needs, both on the ground and in the air, they affectionately called him Batya, or "Daddy." He regularly barked orders at the men, but never raised his voice to his sestry. Markov developed a terrible crush on Navigator/Bombardier Galina "Galya" Dzhunkovskaya, who experienced several close calls: Once nearly burning up alive while bailing out of a flaming shot up bomber, and ultimately being awarded the GSS. He never revealed his feelings for her until the day after Hitler killed himself – discovering, much to his surprise, that she felt the same way. In the end, they flew away together in a sport plane to his next command in Poland... and were married.

  6. LYUBOV GUBINA – Pilot  On a 14th October 1943 bombing mission, in the usual nine-ship Pe-2 squadron formation, Gubina lost an engine to antiaircraft fire and both of her wing-women were shot down by German fighters. Then her bomber was also attacked by fighters and badly damaged, prompting her to order the navigator and gunner to bailout. But the navigator's parachute harness snagged on a gun turret, which trapped her. By this time the bomber was spiraling towards the ground, as Gubina had little control because of the battle damage. However, she deliberately stayed with her aircraft, jerking the control stick around, trying to free her navigator. Eventually her navigator slipped free, but Gubina by this time was too low to bailout... and crashed inside her bomber. Galina Chapligina was the regiment's "Liaison Pilot." She flew a Ut-2, which was a transport version of the little open-cockpit Po-2 biplane, and was an incredible pilot who could put her light craft down on any road or pasture. Her job was to retrieve bodies, and body parts, from the regiment's crashed bombers. Upon collecting the body parts from Gubina's bomber, and the bombers of her wing-women, was the day Galina thought seriously about giving up flying.  NINA KARASEVA – Navigator/Bombardier This curly, fair-haired teenager lived through every bomber crew's nightmare. She was shot down, captured, beaten, and spent roughly eighteen months in the hell of Ravensbruck and Buchenwald concentration camps. Her story of survival against all odds is inspiring. Petlyakov Pe-2 cockpit.

  7. MARIYA DOLINA Pilot - Awarded the GSS Mariya in front of her Pe-2 Dive Bomber. During bombing missions - on three different occasions - this outstanding young woman was shot down. Astonishingly, despite disabled controls and being on fire, all three times she refused to bailout and successfully landed her bombers intact! She completed 72 combat missions - totaling 2,800 hours.  YEVGENIYA GURULYEVA-SMIRNOVA Navigator/Bombardier

  8. While dive-bombing German tanks under heavy antiaircraft fire, a shell burst directly under Smirnova’s bomber; causing a 25-centimeter shell splinter to lodge in her thigh.  The pilot's chair was armor plated, but the navigator/bombardier’s chair (her chair) wasn't. She fell to the floor semiconscious, fumbled for and found a bottle of liquid ammonia - breathed deeply - and got herself fully conscious. The pain was incredible with her blood spilt all over the cockpit floor! In spite of this she released the bombs on target, photographed the target... and finally passed out.  Smirnova’s greatest fears was being captured or not completing the mission. If the mission wasn't fulfilled she could be imprisoned; hence the importance of the photograph as proof of the strike.  Smirnova spent three months in a hospital and - when she eventually went back to work - discovered her entire squadron had been killed in action. Smirnova was one of the "new" replacements. Smirnova was constantly on the move from one airfield to the next. When it was warm enough, she would cover one wing with a tarp and sleep under the wing of her bomber - always with her Tokarev automatic handy. This was an especially necessary practice in spring and fall, as their underground bunker floors were usually flooded by mud and water. Petlyakov Pe-2 Dive Bomber.

  9. In September 1943 a special ceremony was held by the Red Army, re-naming the female 587th Regiment the 125th Guards Bomber Aviation Regiment; the official "Guards" designation being a great honor due to extraordinary service.  Two Views of the Petlyakov Pe-2 Dive Bomber.

  10. The 588th Night Bomber Aviation Regiment

  11. The all-female 588th flew the antiquated workhorse of the VVS, the wood and fabric Polikarpov Po-2, with a cruise speed of 110 kph (68mph) and top speed of 152 kph (94 mph). It had a crew of two: Pilot and Navigator. Its purpose was that of night bomber and carried six 50 kg bombs. Later, during the last year of the war, it was armed with a single, rear-firing, 7.62mm machine gun operated by the navigator.  Po-2 Night Bomber Working out of an open cockpit, the women operated their flimsy craft at night in minus forty-degree weather and below – covering every portion of their bodies in winter gear.  Polikarpov Po-2 cockpit at night. “Night Witches” going to work.

  12. Lt. Colonel YEVDOKIYA BERSHANSKAYA Pilot - Regimental Commander Although she reluctantly accepted the position of the regiment's commander, Bershanskaya commanded well, remaining its sole commander throughout the war, while maintaining a strictly all-female compliment. Even though it was offered during the war, no male help was ever accepted or required. From pilots & navigators, to mechanics & technicians, the 588th was strictly an all-woman show. Compared to the other bomber and fighter regiments, which accepted male help, the 588th distinguished itself by being awarded the most GSS medals (25) and, due to the high risks required by their job, lost the most crews. Because the fragile Po-2 biplane was made largely of cloth and wood that prevented radar detection, and since the pilots cut their engines prior to attack - gliding quietly to the target from 3,000 feet - the women flew perhaps the truly first "stealth bomber." Operating one at a time over the target at night, in five-minute intervals, they successfully harassed the Germans -basically denying the enemy sleep. Hence the Germans called them Der Nachthexen, or "The Night Witches."

  13. In spite of being unaccustomed to giving orders, and unfamiliar with military discipline, Bershanskaya wasn’t afraid to innovate; creating a unique in-house system of training to provide qualified replacements for flight crews, which meant the 588th was never out of action during its three years of unbroken combat service. Although being somewhat unorthodox, Bershanskaya's style of leadership was effective, making the 588th one of the top regiment's in the Red Army, and singling out Bershanskaya as one of the twelve most "remarkable air regiment commanders" in the VVS. Her flight crews would have followed her into the very jaws of hell itself. NATALIYA MEKLIN Pilot - Awarded the GSS Sometimes one becomes a "hero" for merely surviving the same engagements that cost the lives of other close sestry. While flying a mission one night against the "Blue Line" on the Kerch Peninsula, Nataliya encountered a heavy concentration of German night fighters hunting for her squadron.

  14.   On that night the squadron's best pilot, Dusya Nosal, took a bullet in the temple - her navigator, Irina Kashirina, brought them back to the airfield and landed safely. A few nights later Irina was also killed by a German night fighter. Nataliya's regiment had taken over a village and was using its high street as a runway. They were ordered to bomb German stragglers hiding in a forest who were attempting to breakout and link up with their main force. This was highly risky as they were required to bomb in daylight. One of the regiment's veteran aircrews, Tanya Makarova and Vera Belik, each with 700 missions, volunteered. Nataliya watched them make their bomb run at1,300feet, and saw their little Po-2 being shot to pieces, but the stragglers surrendered and the aircrew was untouched.  Tanya & Vera: Both received the GSS posthumously.  Later in Poland, Nataliya engaged in another mission involving German night fighters. Before going out on this mission she observed Tanya and Vera adamantly refusing to be broken up when asked to fly with different crew members.  Nataliya detected they had a “look” about them... as if they knew this was their last mission and didn't want to be separated. The next day ground troops reported finding their charred bodies. A German night fighter had downed Tanya and Vera.

  15. NADEZHDA POPOVA Pilot - Awarded the GSS Rufa Gasheva & Nataliya Meklin in front of their Po-2 Night Bombers. In the dead of winter, 1944, Nataliya was bombing a railroad station north of Warsaw. Upon flying mission after mission all night - 14 hours straight - she learned of another top aircrew and good sestry, Lelya Sanfirova and Rufa Gasheva, being shot down and ultimately parachuting into a mine field!  Lelya was blown up by a land mine!  By some miracle, Rufa crawled out and was rescued by ground troops.

  16. Popova had a big personal score to settle with the Nazis. As a teenager she witnessed them strafing roads swollen with Russian refugees - killing and maiming the defenseless - and watched the Nazis take over her parent's house; making it into a police station and its garage into a torture chamber.  At nineteen she went out on a bombing training mission with two other Po-2s - at night in a heavy snowfall - resulting in the other two bombers going down. She and her navigator were the only ones to survive the training mission.  By the war's end she had flown 852 combat missions and became her squadron's commander. In the process she was shot down several times, but pulled off her forced landings successfully even though her fragile bombers were burning fiercely. She was born under a lucky star and never wounded. Her favorite mission was dropping containers of supplies to trapped naval troops on the Black Sea's coast; Popova had a soft spot for sailors. She came in so low at night - to pinpoint the drop so the German's wouldn't get the supplies - that her little biplane was shot to rags by antiaircraft and small arms fire. Escaping at low-level across the Black Sea, Popova brought her craft back to base with a huge hole in one fabric wing and bullet holes everywhere; including in her leather helmet! German Fw 190 Night Fighter attacking a Po-2 in 1945 – when the Navigator had a Machine Gun.

  17. NINA RASPOPVA- Pilot - Awarded the GSS Nina flew 857 combat missions and was shot down twice. On a night mission to Mozdok, the antiaircraft fire was so extreme it blew out the floor of her cockpit - wounding Nina and Navigator Larisa Radchikova – and disabled her engine. Nina glided to a landing, but the German gunners could still see her Po-2 and kept firing at it. Incredibly Nina and Larisa got out in time before it blew up, and crawled away. However, both had shell splinters protruding from their bodies! Despite being severely wounded, they helped each other limp along until meeting Soviet troops. Hours later they were delivered to a field hospital and placed on a bench awaiting treatment. In front of them was a huge, communal grave, where bodies wrapped in sheets were being stacked. Also seated on the bench were several mortally wounded soldiers, who whispered to Nina and Larisa to jump the line and go ahead of them for surgery, because the soldiers’ minutes were numbered. POLINA V. GELMAN Navigator - Awarded the GSS

  18. Gelman claims that the book Night Witches, by Bruce Myles, "... is fictionalized; only the names are real. The book by Raisa Aronova of the same title was written during the war, tracing our path... a true chronicle. She herself flew in the regiment as a pilot and carried out 960 combat missions.“ In May 1945 the regiment was operating off a temporary airstrip inside Germany. Gelman and her pilot began a long-range night mission, but their engine overheated and blew two cylinder heads. Vibrating and rattling back to base on three cylinders, they should have dropped their bombs, only fog had rolled in and they were afraid they'd hit their own ground troops. So they hobbled back to their airstrip, using a church steeple as a reference, and landed in the fog with their armed bombs. Once on the ground, much to their horror, they discovered they were nowhere near the runway and had managed to stop just one meter short from entering a dense forest, which would have blown them sky-high. Out of sheer joy, from cheating certain death, they jumped down from their cockpits and performed a "Red Indian Dance!" RAISA ARONOVA Navigator & Pilot – Author - Awarded the GSS

  19. On a black March night in 1943, Raisa was acting as navigator for Pilot KatyaPiskareva. They were good sestry and Katya would occasionally give the controls to Raisa; encouraging her to qualify as a pilot, which she later did. On this night they were attacking antiaircraft batteries at the dreaded "Blue Line," which was heavily defended. The first two missions went successfully, with the girls "neutralizing" several antiaircraft batteries. But on the third sortie they were abruptly caught in the beams of ten searchlights - activating the "Devil's Sabbath" - as the airspace about them lit up with glowing tracers and exploding Flak! Stubbornly, Katya held her course as Raisa lined up her bombsight on the brightest searchlight. Then the lower port wing was shattered! Raisa was hit by shell splinters in the hip, banging her goggles against the compass... as her boot filled with blood! But Raisa got back on the bombsight and dropped all six bombs – obliterating a searchlight and its antiaircraft guns. Katya then broke right and dove the shattered Po-2 to ground level. They were so well lit up that other aircrews in the squadron saw them being shredded by antiaircraft fire, then falling earthward, and reported them shot down. However, Katya and Raisa fooled everybody - friend and foe alike - and ultimately staggered back to base. After the war Raisa Aronova published Nochnyye ved'my, or "Night Witches," in 1969 (Moscow: Sovetskaya Rossiya). This is the definitive, accurate biography of the 588th/46th Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment. Later, Presidio Press published Bruce Myles’ inaccurate biography, Night Witches, in 1981. Polikarpov Po-2 Night Bomber The all-female 588th Regiment flew an incredible 24,000 missions and delivered 23,000 tons of bombs in their fragile biplanes. Of all the female regiments this one suffered the highest mortality rate, and was awarded the greatest number of GSS medals. In February of 1943 they were honored by the Red Army and received their "Guards" designation – being renamed the 46th Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment.

  20. The 586th Fighter Aviation Regiment The 586th trained in the twin-seat Yak-7 trainer, then graduated to the Yak-1, which had a top speed of 585 kph (363 mph), with one 20mm cannon firing through the propeller's drive shaft, and one 12.7mm machine gun mounted in the engine cowling and firing through the propeller. Later in the war they were issued the Yak-7B and eventually the Yak-9D. Major TAMARA A. KAZARINOVA Pilot - Regimental Commander . On 16th April 1942 the all-female 586th became operational under the command of Major Kazarinova. By all rights the 586th had a brilliant combat record, which oddly enough was never recognized by the state, because of its first regimental commander – the female Kazarinova. During Stalin's purge of the officer corps in the 1930s, it appears that Kazarinova and her boyfriend, Osipenko, received the Order

  21. of Lenin for "... denunciations and exposures of the enemies of thepeople."In other words,they were a pair of finks for the Party and became politically correct, un-talented officers in the Red Army. Unfortunately, because of her political pull, Kazarinova was made commander of the 586th, which was assigned to the 144th Fighter Aviation Division commanded by her old boyfriend, now a general, Osipenko. Neither had flown the Yak, nor understood fighter tactics, but both were politically correct. Previously, Kazarinova had suffered a leg wound in an air raid before taking command; apparently it hadn't healed properly, and she used this as an excuse for not checking out in the Yak fighter. However, her female pilots sensed something else about her: Kazarinova had lost her nerve. This observation – coupled with the fact that she hadn't a clue regarding fighter tactics - ultimately led to serious friction with the fighter pilots of the 1st Squadron containing the best in the regiment. Prompting her to complain to her CO and old boyfriend, General Osipenko, who then "mysteriously" transferred eight "trouble makers" from the 1st Squadron to male regiments at the Stalingrad Front on 10th September 1942.  Among these "bad girls" were Litvyak and Budanova who, within a year, became the top scoring female aces... and were both killed in action. A Yak-7B polishing off a German Fw 190.

  22. Despite this, during the following October of 1942, Kazarinova's sins finally caught up with her. On 24th September 1942, Valerya Khomyakova became the first woman to shoot down an enemy aircraft at night; bagging a Ju 88.  Valerya was sent to Moscow on the 29th to be feted - returned to the regiment on 5th October 1942, and wasimmediately assigned to "Night Alert" by Kazarinova - even though Valerya was severely fatigued. Tragically, Valerya crashed on take off that night and was killed. This, and several other incidents, was the straw that broke the camel's back. Shortly after Valerya’s death General Gromadin, Osipenko's boss, decided to step in and remove Kazarinova - ordering Osipenko to have her "investigated." Instead, Osipenko quietly had Kazarinova assigned to his staff. From that point on all recognition of the 586th Regiment's accomplishments were doomed. Whenever the recommendation for a GSS, or the paperwork entitling the regiment to "Guards" status, came across Kazarinova's desk she would either lose or destroy it. In her case the tired cliché held true: "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." Kazarinova's “Trouble Makers” Valerya Khomyakova (2nd from right). Kazarinova not only got her killed – but blocked her GSS. "Bad Girls":  From left to right – Litvyak and Budanova.

  23. Lt. Colonel ALEKSANDR V. GRIDNEV Fighter Pilot - Regimental Commander On 22nd October 1942 the 586th ceased to be an all-female fighter regiment by receiving a male commander, Major Aleksandr Gridnev, and later, in the summer of 1943, by the assignment of a third all-male squadron.  Now women and men were flying, fighting, and dying side by side in the 586th. Fortunately for the 586th, Gridnev was a politically incorrect "bad boy" on the NKVD's blacklist - having been previously arrested twice by them - because he proved to be a talented officer, tactician and fighter pilot, who thoroughly understood fighter tactics. Leading his regiment into combat from the cockpit of a Yak, instead of from a desk like his predecessor, Gridnev solidified the fragmented, coed 586th into a solid fighting unit. Both male and female fighter pilots held him in high regard. On 26th June 1943, Gridnev and one of the girls, Valentina Lisitsyna, attacked a formation of Ju 88 bombers and their Fw 190 fighter escorts.  Valentina shot down a bomber, and Gridnev bagged a fighter, preventing the bombers from reaching the target. Running out of ammo, Gridnev then led two German fighters on his tail into a cloud - whereby the Germans collided – destroying themselves. Pravda wrote Gridnev’s and Valentina’s mission up, and they should have received the GSS for attacking superior numbers, but Kazarinova at GHQ blocked the paperwork. In late March of 1944 Gridnev and his wing-woman, Galina Burdina, each shot down an Me 109 escort fighter, and then both shared a Ju 52 transport. High altitude battle was very rare on the Eastern Front, all the same Gridnev and his wing-woman, Raisa Surnachevskaya, “Scrambled” on 11th May 1944 to intercept an unidentified aircraft at 30,000 feet. In time they caught up with it and discovered a twin-engined German He177. Taking turns, it tookthem seven attacking passes to bring the huge, heavily armed bomber down.

  24. Valentina Lisitsyna - standing "Alert" in summer. Note the umbrella to keep her cool. RAISA SURNACHEVSKAYA Fighter Pilot Standard Cockpit of a Yak Soviet Fighter In April 1943, Raisa and her leader, Tamara Pamyatnykh, were “Scrambled” to intercept two German aircraft approaching an important railway depot at Kastornaya that the regiment was assigned to defend. Upon intercepting the enemy aircraft, much to their horror, both girls discovered the "two aircraft" had mysteriously multiplied to 42 German Ju 88 and Me 110 bombers!

  25. The Germans’ target was the railway depot, crowded with soviet troop trains and fuel supplies bound for the Battle of Kursk.Tamara radioed regimental HQ, advised them of the situation, and asked for "instructions." Gridnev was there at the time and radioed back one word: "Attack!" Maneuvering to place the sun on their backs, Tamara led them in a diving attack from out of the sun into the German bomber formations. They attacked the leaders and each shot down one bomber. After climbing for position - they dove again and shot down another two bombers. All the while the rear gunners in the other 38 bombers kept blazing away at the girls. After the second pass Tamara's Yak caught fire - dropped away trailing black smoke - then entered a spin. Raisa lost sight of her and went sick inside. Afterward she became very angry, climbed for position, and attacked again. She did this several times, also taking hits, while setting several bombers on fire, until her own cockpit filled with steam and smoke; forcing her to retreat. Raisa made a successful, fiery belly-landing on the side of a hill. Later, much to her joy, she learned Tamara had parachuted to safety. Ultimately ground crews counted 43 bullet holes in Raisa's Yak. The two girls broke up the 42-bomber formation - causing them to jettison their bombs early and run for home - thus saving the railway depot and Russian troops. Representatives from Great Britain happened to be at the train depot - witnessed the action - and filed a report about the incident with the King of England! Who later sent both girls inscribed gold watches. Gridnev wrote the girls up for a GSS; Kazarinova again blocked the paperwork. OLGA YAMSHCHIKOVA Fighter Pilot Olga (extreme right) briefing her squadron.

  26. Olga came to the 586th a seasoned pilot, with the rank of captain in the VVS, and held a military aeronautical engineer's degree.  She also came with revenge in her heart... the Germans had killed her husbandserving at thefront. She was immediately made a squadron leader and participated in numerous air battles over the cities of Voronezh, Kursk and Kiev. During these large air battles Olga "claimed" 17 kills. Unfortunately the 586th didn't have gun cameras and confirmation of kills in dogfights was always a dodgy problem. Either Olga's wing-woman, other members in the squadron, or ground troops were required to "confirm" kills - a truly hit or miss proposition. As a result she was only credited with three "confirmed" kills. After the war Olga became a test pilot, experienced several close calls, and was the first Russian woman to fly a jet fighter – she also raised two daughters. 

  27. The 586th Fighter Aviation Regiment flew 4,419 Combat Missions, engaged in 125 Air Battles, and shot down 38 enemy aircraft. The regiment should have received a "Guards" designation, and several of their male and female pilots should have been awarded the GSS.

  28. The SESTRY That Flew With Male Regiments In 1936 the Soviet Union signed an agreement with the Douglas Aircraft Co. to produce, under license to Lisunov, a modified version of the DC-3. It was called the Lisunov Li-2 and carried a crew of six, four machine guns for defense, could drop bombs or paratroopers, tow gliders, deliver cargo and evacuate the wounded - the Red Army getting a lot of bang for their ruble out of this airborne workhorse. Fully loaded it could cruise at 245 kph (152 mph) at 18,000 feet, and land on a postage stamp. Colonel VALENTINA S. GRIZODUBOVAPilot - Regimental Commander - Awarded the GSS Valentina Grizodubova got the idea for a record-setting, long distance flight for Women, and sold the concept to Stalin. Valentina set out with Polina Osipenko and Marina Raskova (founder of the three female aviation regiments) in their big, twin-engined ANT-37 from Moscow on 24th September 1938. It was a near disaster. They ran into bad weather with icing conditions and, ten hours into the flight, lost all radio contact. As they neared their destination the bad weather concealed all possible landing airfields - then they realized the ground crew screwed up and hadn't topped-off their fuel tanks - requiringthem to make a forced landing. Raskova was thenavigator on thisflight and "sealed-up“ in the navigator's compartment. If the ANT-37 nosed over on touch down she stood a good chance of being crushed. Raskova had to bailout.

  29. (Left) Pilot Grizodubova & (Extreme Right) Navigator Raskova in front of their record-setting ANT-37. Lisunov Li-2 “Dooglas”   Valentina successfully landed the cumbersome aircraft, but it ended up in a swamp.  Eight days later, after a huge airborne search and 16 rescuers losing there lives, Valentina and her co-pilot, Osipenko, were found at their aircraft. The next day Raskova wandered in dehydrated, starving and with both legs injured. In spite of all these hardships, these three ladies set an airborne endurance/distance record for women of 26:29 hrs/min and 6,450 kilometers, thus becoming the first women to receive the GSS.  After the war broke out Valentina was given command of the 101st Bomber Aviation Regiment flying the Lisunov Li-2;  nicknamed the "Dooglas."  She was the only woman in the regiment, but despite this Valentina flew over 1,000 clandestine  missions, re-supplying partisan units fighting the Germans behind the lines in occupied Ukraine and Belorussia. She was another regimental commander that led from the cockpit, guiding the 101st to a distinguished wartime record, which earned the regiment its "Guards" designation: Becoming the 31st Guards Bomber Aviation Regiment.

  30. YEKATERINA "Katyusha" ZELENKO Pilot - Awarded the GSS Zelenko was one of the few women to participate in the Soviet-Finnish War in 1939-1940. When WWII broke out she was the only woman assigned to the 135th Bomber Aviation Regiment and flew the Su-2. She became deputy commander of the 5th Squadron, and later married Capt. Pavel Inatenko who was commander of the 4th Squadron. On 12th September 1941, she flew two sorties bombing German tanks near Konotop. But in the process her light bomber became so badly shot up from antiaircraft fire, Zelenko barely made it back to her base at Berestovka. The situation then became desperate when German tanks broke through Soviet lines, requiring Zelenko to borrow another Su-2 to help stop the tanks. She flew wing on Capt. Vladimir Lebedev's Su-2, and they bombed and strafed the tanks successfully.  But as they completed their mission, and headed back to base, they were jumped by a gaggle of Me 109 German fighters - four going after Capt. Lebedev and six attacking Zelenko! Sukhoi Su-2 Light Bomber The Sukhoi Su-2 Light Bomber, nicknamed the "Ivanov," carried a crew of two (pilot and rear gunner), plus six 7.62mm machine guns and 400 kgs (882 lbs) of bombs at a top speed of 485 kph (301 mph) – with a service ceiling of 28,000 feet. However, it was under armed for combat, and was eventually replaced by the IL-2 and Pe-2.

  31. Her rear gunner, Nikolay Pavlik, damaged two Me 109s with his upper turret machine gun, while one Me 109 happened to fly across Zelenko's nose and she gave it a long burst with her machine guns into its belly - the Me 109 flamed and went down.  During the ensuing fight both Zelenko and Pavlik were wounded, their aircraft became riddled with bullet holes, and eventually they ran out of ammunition. With her Su-2 smoking badly, Zelenko ordered Pavlik to jump. Reluctantly, he bailed out. After which Zelenko deliberately performed "Taran" - ramming another Me 109 - chopping its tail off with her propeller. The German pilot bailed out, but Zelenko’s wounds prevented her from getting out of her crippled bomber in time. Both aircraft crashed outside the village of Glinskoye.  Pavlik, the wounded rear gunner, helped villagers pull Zelenko's body from the wreckage, wrapped it in her parachute, and hurriedly buried her. German troops took the village that day, and occupied it for the next three years. In spite of this the local schoolteacher, Anastasiya Marchenko, hid Zelenko's burial site and her identification papers. Due to the chaos of the war, and the Soviet Government's bureaucracy, it took many years to compile eyewitness reports regarding Zelenko's demise in combat, and the actual recovery of her documents. Finally, in 1990, she was at last posthumously awarded the GSS. Me 109 hammering on Zelenko’s Su-2.

  32. ANNA TIMOFEYEVA-YEGOROVA Pilot - Awarded the GSS Ilyushin IL-2 Ground Support Aircraft The Ilyushin IL-2 Shturmovik (Flying Tank) was heavily armored, had a pilot and rear gunner, could carry 600 kgs (1,320 lbs) of bombs, and was armed with two 23mm cannons, plus one 12.7mm and two 7.62mm machine guns.  Its top speed was 414 kph (257 mph) and was one of the best ground support aircraft of WWII. In September of 1941 Anna was assigned to a male communications squadron and flew an unarmed Po-2 biplane - delivering messages and conducting daytime reconnaissance work that proved highly dangerous. After being shot down and strafed by German fighters in the spring of 1942, Anna decided she wanted to shoot back. So she transferred to the 805th Ground Attack Aviation Regiment, becoming the only female pilot in the regiment to fly the heavily armed IL-2 Shturmovik. As the war dragged on, and she proved herself on mission after mission, Anna eventually became the regiment's deputy commander, and in time married the division commander. In the summer of 1943, Anna's regiment lost over a third of its pilots and gunners operating missions across the Black Sea. During those missions, Anna's lips would dry out, crack and bleed - she never overcame her fear of the sea.

  33. On 20th August 1944, Anna's regiment was ordered to protect the bridgehead at the Vistula River from German ground attack. During her very first pass over the target, Anna encountered heavy antiaircraft fire which badly mauled her Shturmovik. Her flight controls were so badly shot up that she could barely operate her aircraft. Members of her squadron pleaded with her over the radio not to make a second pass. Gritting her teeth, Anna ignored their pleas and attacked the target again! The antiaircraft maelstrom cranked up once more - the glass dividing the two cockpits was spattered with blood as Anna's rear gunner (a woman) was killed - instruments in the cockpit were smashed - the engine caught fire and filled her cockpit with smoke and steam. Ilyushin IL-2 Shturmovik Now totally blind, Anna attempted to open the canopy to bailout... but it jammed, trapping her! Then her Shturmovik exploded! When Anna came too... she was free falling... Anna pulled the ripcord on her parachute. After an eternity… it only partially opened! She hit the ground very hard and passed out. When she came too, a German soldier was standing over her with his hobnailed boot on her chest. Anna suffered a broken spine, broken arms, ribs and a broken leg, plus head and neck injuries, along with burns on  both legs and feet. The Germans never gave her proper medical treatment. Instead, she was shipped directly to a prisoner of war camp in Poland and treated by Russian POW doctors with inadequatemedical supplies. As the Red Army advanced on this POW camp, the Germans moved the healthyprisonerswestward, while they began to shoot the POWs, like Anna, who couldn't be moved. Suddenly she was in a race with the Grim Reaper and the Red Army. On 31st January 1945, the Red Army won, liberating the camp before Anna could be shot. Ironically though, Anna's ordeal was just beginning.

  34. "We do not have prisoners of war... only traitors!" - Joseph Stalin. Because over a million Russian soldiers defected to the Nazis, and fought for them against the Red Army, all liberated Russian POWs were sent to Lansberg to be "tested." Anna however, was sent to SMERSH (an acronym for Smert' Shipionam, meaning: "Death to Spies") a division of the NKVD, where they sent only hard core Nazis. She was kept in a basement with Nazi prisoners and interrogated every night for ten days. It had been only a little over five months since her shoot down and, due to the lack of proper medical attention and food, Anna hadn't healed properly from her injuries and was weak as a kitten. Finally, on the eleventh night, she broke out of the basement and ran upstairs to see the colonel in charge, while being chased by a guard threatening to shoot her. She reached the colonel's quarters and collapsed. Upon coming too, she pulled herself together and read the colonel the riot act. Being ashamed of her treatment, he released her. She returned to her regiment, served there until the war ended, but was classified as "invalid" and never flew again. Anna's squadron had seen her shoot down and no parachute, hence she was awarded the GSS "posthumously" in 1944, but it was withheld when she was discovered in the POW camp alive. It wasn't until 1965 that the GSS was finally granted to her again.  After the war Anna returned to college and got a master's degree in history, and later her master's in technical science. She raised two sons; one of which became a pilot in the VVS and,whenever her son flew a mission, Anna would never sleep.  The Yak Soviet Fighter As mentioned before, Kazarinova, regimental commander of the 586th Fighter Regiment, had problems with eight female fighter pilots in the 1st Squadron and leaned on her old boyfriend, General Osipenko, to have these "bad girls" shipped off to a location  they'd have little chance of returning from. On 10th September 1942 they were ordered to the Stalingrad Front.

  35. Historically this proved to be the worst period of the six-month Battle for Stalingrad - because the German Luftwaffe controlled the skies. These eight young women were ultimately assigned to aviation regiments that were badly outnumbered, poorly supplied, and suffering heavy casualties that left them totally demoralized. Kazarinova and Osipenko deliberately sent these fighter pilots to their deaths... some of these young ladies didn't disappoint them. The eight "bad girls" of the 1st Squadron were broken up into two flights.Flight A: Lebedeva, Nechaeva, Blinova and Shakhova - were assigned to the male 434th Independent Fighter Aviation Regiment, which was upgraded to Yak-7s and Yak-9s about the time the girls arrived.Flight B:Belyayeva, Budanova, Litvyak and Kuznetsova - were assigned to the male 437th Fighter Aviation Regiment, which flew the LaGG-3. This meant the Yak-1s that the girls brought couldn't be properly maintained! Their assignment made no sense to the 437th's Commander, Major Khvostikov. He had been waiting for "real pilots." Instead command sent him a bunch of girls with the wrong aircraft to the hottest section of the front - it was lunacy! YEKATERINA "Katya" BUDANOVA Fighter Pilot – Awarded the HRF Before the war Katya had worked in an aircraft plant and joined a flying club at Moscow, ultimately becoming a flight instructor. When the war broke out she volunteered for the VVS and was delegated to Raskova's "Unit 122."  At Engels she was assigned to fighters and became a member of the 586th.  Katya was an outgoing person who often led the girls in song as they marched to their meals during training.

  36. Because of her previous flying experience, enabling her to check out in the Yak-1 fighter quickly, Regimental Commander Kazarinova perceived her as a threat, sending her and the other seven "bad girls," in the 1st Squadron, to the brutal Stalingrad Front.  Upon arrival, Katya and the other three girls in B Flight were really bounced around at Stalingrad. First they were assigned to the 437th flying the LaGG-3, while the girls brought their own Yak-1s and had to overcome a lot of male resistance. However they weren't there long and were reassigned to the 9th Guards, which was being outfitted with Yak-1s. Katya and the girls liked the 9th, where they were more readily accepted by the men, and got to fly with some of the top aces. Then an order arrived instructing Katya, and the girls of B-Flight, to return to the all-female 586th. Two of the girls, Kuznetsova and flight leader Belyayeva, returned to the 586th, but Katya and her good friend "Liliya" Litvyak pleaded with the regiment's commander to stay with the 9th. Their request was granted, but after only three months with the 9th both Katya and Liliya were transferred to another all-male fighter regiment in January of 1943: The 296th (later the 73rd Guards). Despite all this reshuffling, Katya got on with the business of war. On 2nd October 1942, while flying wing on "Raya" Belyayeva, she followed her leader down and attacked 12 Ju 88s. These two girls took turns making attacking passes on the lead German bombers, breaking up their formation and causing them to jettison their bombs before reaching the target. Four days later, Katya was sitting in her fighter on "Alert" with Raya, when they got the signal to “Scramble."  Katya fired up her engine, but Raya's wouldn't start - ignoring that “little detail” Katya launched alone. She single-handedly took on 13 Ju 88s despite their rear gunners blasting away at her. Breaking up the formation - causing the Germans to jettison their bombs early –she alsoshot down one bomber in the process.   During the following month, November 1942, Katya bagged two German Me 109 fighters and another Ju 88 medium bomber.Later, in March of 1943, Katya was ordered to accompany her close friend Liliya to a hospital in Moscow; Liliya had been wounded in air combat.  While there, Katya paid a visit to her old aircraft plant and spoke to the women workers. She told them of her shooting down an armed, twin-engined, Fw 189 – forcing her to run a gauntlet of antiaircraft fire - which caused her to run out of fuel and glide back to base. Katya didn’t “flower” her story up – telling the workers she barely got back by the skin of her teeth. Katya bouncing the German Fw 189.

  37. On 18th July 1943, Katya was part of a fighter escort shepherding a formation of IL-2 Shturmoviks. Upon completion of the mission, Katya brought up the rear, as her squadron broke up and flew at different levels to protect the Shturmoviks. Three German Me 109s suddenly appeared and Katya intercepted them before they could get to the Shturmoviks. She downed one Me 109 and damaged another that retreated trailing smoke; except in the process of this desperate dogfight Katya got shot up herself. Villagers on the ground at Novokrasnovka observed the fight, saw Katya's fighter roll inverted, fall earthward, then recover while streaming black smoke and flame. She touched down in a field dug up by foxholes, trenches and bomb craters – snapping off one of her landing gears - causing her Yak to nose over. The villagers pulled the mortally wounded pilot from the burning fighter. An old woman took Katya's Party Membership card for identification, and she was laid to rest on the outskirts of the village. During her brief career as a fighter pilot, Katya my have shot down 20 enemy aircraft, but without the benefit of gun cameras such claims were difficult, if not impossible, to "confirm." According to YekaterinaPolunina, the archivist for the 586th, Katya is officially credited with six "confirmed kills" and four "shared kills." On 1st October 1993, Katya was awarded the  "Hero of the Russian Federation" posthumously. LIDYA "Liliya" LITVYAK Fighter Pilot - Awarded the GSS

  38. Unlike her close friend Budanova, who was tall and outgoing, Liliya was petite, quiet and thoughtful. Still, despite the demons that drove her, she possessed a mischievous little imp that from time to time would escape. When returning from a mission with a "kill,“ despite her aircraft being shot up, Liliya would buzz the airfield and perform a victory roll before landing. Victory rolls - being a big "no-no" when having battle damage - caused the regimental commander to be furious. Liliya would hang her head and act contrite when he ranted at her, but then do it all over again when she shot down another "Nazi." This is my favorite photo of her. Pilot-to-pilot, I know those eyes - I’ve flown with that "imp." Liliya punching a German Ju 88’s ticket – making her the first women to shoot down an enemy aircraft.

  39. While in school, at the age of 14, Liliya secretly attended the Chkalov Aeroclub, in Moscow, without her parents’ knowledge to begin her flight training in 1935. In 1937 three dramatic events occurred in this schoolgirl's life: Liliya turned "sweet sixteen,” she soloed her first aircraft... and her father, an employee of the state railway, was arrested as "an enemy of the people" and executed! In truth, he was merely another innocent victim of a Stalin purge. Liliya “hid” in the study of geology; volunteering to go on a geological expedition. In time though, she “healed” and reverted to her first love: Flying. Continuing her flight training at the Kherson Flight Academy, Liliya ultimately returned to the aeroclub in Moscow as a flight instructor. Except, in order for her to advance in aviation, Liliya had to keep the blemish of her father's execution a secret; later becoming the demon that drove her to take such incredible risks in combat. Before the war Liliya had volunteered for the VVS with little success - only after the war broke out was she accepted and assigned to Raskova's "Group 122" based at Engels, on the Volga River, in October of 1941. One morning, while standing formation, Liliya was ordered by Raskova to step forward. Liliya was the only girl that had a fur collar on her flight suit - she had cut the tops off her high fur boots to make this stylish collar. Liliya was placed in the guardhouse until returning the fur to her boots.  From the get-go, Liliya always pushed the envelope. Liliya excelled in her flight training and was assigned to the 586th, which meant fighters. At that time the 586th had only two squadrons; Liliya easily checked out in the Yak-1 and was assigned to the 1st Squadron, which contained the most talented pilots. Unfortunately Liliya, and seven other girls in this squadron, got on the regimental commander's hit list and were sent to the Stalingrad Front - taking their Yak-1s and mechanics with them. This was not a reward... it was a blatant death sentence. Liliya 's YaK-1, "Yellow 44," of the 437th IAP, Stalingrad, 1942. Liliya arrived at Stalingrad on 10th September 1942, with the three other girls of B-Flight, at an airfield assigned to the 437th Regiment - only to discover it was being shelled by the Germans in preparation for an assault, and that the regiment had already left! Quickly they caught up with the regiment at another airfield, and then found out that the men were flying the LaGG-3, and most definitely didn't want either the girls or their Yak-1s!

  40. This conundrum never fazed tough little Liliya - she badgered Regimental Commander Khvostikov until he let her fly a mission as his wingman. Three days after her arrival, on 13th September 1942, she followed Khvostikov as they dove on a group of Ju 88 bombers. He nailed one… and Liliya bagged another - making her the first woman in the world to shoot down an enemy aircraft!  Then Liliya spotted one of her sestry, Beliaeva, blasting away on the tail of an Me 109. Beliaeva ran out of ammo and broke off the attack, but Liliya took over and shot the fighter out of the air. The Nazi pilot bailed out, was captured and brought back to the regiment - turning out to be a distinguished German ace winning the Iron Cross three times. When he asked to meet the pilot that shot him down, he at first thought the Russians were playing a joke on him when they presented a petite, 21-year-old, "schoolgirl."  Liliya quickly straightened him out though, giving him a blow-by-blow description of their dogfight. Liliya and her Yak-1, “Yellow 44.” Shortly after that, Liliya and her three sestry were then transferred to the 9th Guards, which was being re-equipped with Yaks. The Girls liked the 9th, because they were not only readily accepted by the men, but got the chance to fly “wing” with some of Russia's top aces.

  41. Three months later, in January 1943, Liliya and Katya Budanova were transferred to the 296th Regiment (Later becoming the 73rd Guards). The highly respected, and accomplished, Nikolai Baranov was the regiment's commander and readily accepted the women pilots. Liliya and Katya had at last found a "home," achieving the bulk of their aerial "kills" with this regiment.  Baranov chose Katya as his wingman, and the talented Squadron Leader Aleksey Solomatin chose Liliya as his wingman. Liliya 's YaK-1B, "White 23," of the 296th IAP/73 Gv.IAP, 1943. On 11th February 1943, Liliya bagged a Ju 87 dive bomber and shared an Fw 190 fighter with Baranov. Then came a really tough day - 22nd March 1943 - when Liliya nailed a Ju 88 bomber, then was jumped by a pair of Me 109s and wounded in the leg. Four more Me 109s joined the pair, and for the next 15 minutes she fought off the six fighters single-handedly – bagging one Me 109 in the process. Somehow giving them the slip, Liliya limped back to base in her shot up fighter - landed and passed out. Ultimately Liliya was sent to Moscow for surgery, accompanied by her good friend Katya to help out on the journey. She eventually got permission to recuperate at home, but after only a few days Liliya wangled transport and rejoined her regiment; returning to combat duty in less then six weeks after being wounded. Liliya loved flowers, placing little bouquets in her cockpit, and had a white lily (her namesake) painted below the cockpit of her Yak. The Germans mistook this for a rose; hence labeling her the "White Rose of Stalingrad."  However, as she knocked down more of their aircraft, they also came to fear her. Whenever her white number "23," or “White Rose,” was spotted they'd issue a warning over their radios: "Achtung... Litvyak!"

  42. Liliya 's YaK-1b: Note white lily mistaken for a “rose” by the Germans. Liliya bagged two more Me 109 fighters on the 5th and 7th of May. But despite these victories May 1943 was filled with tragedy.  On 6th May, Baranov, the regimental commander she highly regarded, attempted to bailout of his flaming Yak - the chute opened – then caught fire, streaming behind him as he fell to his death. Later, on 21st May, Aleksey Solomatin was breaking in a new pilot and - while Liliya sat in her cockpit, standing by on "Alert," watching the mock dogfight overhead - she observed Solomatin fatally crash on the airfield. Squadron Leader Aleksey Solomatin was a talented fighter pilot, who had been awarded the GSS two weeks before his death. He was also in love with Liliya, but in her words: "... he was a fellow not to my taste."  Despite this they had made a deadly pair in combat, with Liliya guarding his tail and vice versa, causing her to greatly admire his ability in the Yak. However, on the ground the magic ended, leading to "unpleasantness," prompting Liliya to change squadrons. But after his death Liliya confided to her mother in a letter: "... his persistence and his love for me compelled me to love him..." I think this photo accurately sums up their relationship: Liliya in the foreground, as usual the center of attention, while Aleksey broods in the background atop the car's roof. Aleksey Solomatin

  43. Some who were there have reported that after the deaths of Baranov and Solomatin, Liliya became more reckless. On 13th June 1943, while flying wing on Golyshev - the new regimental commander - the pair got into a fight with ten Me 109s. Golyshev was wounded, but Liliya covered his escape, bagged another Me 109, got shot up herself, and had to bailout of her burning fighter.July 1943 was another month fraught with victories and tragedies. On the 6th Liliya and five other Yaks jumped 30 Ju 88s and six Me 109s. Early in the ensuing battle Liliya was wounded, but stayed in the fight and shot down a bomber and a fighter. Upon returning to base she was attacked again, wounded a second time and shot down - belly landing behind enemy lines. A Soviet fighter pilot from another regiment spotted her, landed and picked her up, returning her to base. She refused to be sent to a field hospital for her leg and shoulder wounds - insisting they weren't that serious. Then, on the 18th, while escorting a group of IL-2 Shturmoviks, Liliya shot down another Me 109, but her good friend, and sestra, Katya Budanova was also killed on this mission.Later, on the 20th, Liliya barely survived a fierce air battle when she and Golyshev encountered ten enemy fighters - Golyshev was killed. Finally came that fateful 1st of August 1943; the day her luck ran out. Liliya flew four sorties that day - on the third sortie she shared the "kill" of an Me 109. Upon commencing her fourth sortie, Liliya participated in an air battle involving nine Yaks against 30 Ju 88s and 12 Me 109s. Liliya bagged two Me 109s, then disappeared diving into a cloud deck, while trailing black smoke, with another pair of Me 109s on her tail. Ivan Borisenko saw her go down and dove beneath the cloud layer in an attempt to find her – in spite of his efforts he was unable to locate any trace of Liliya or her Yak. Her worst fear had at last become a reality: Liliya was listed as MIA.

  44. Thus the mystery surrounding Senior Lieutenant Lidya V. Litvyak began. For years following the war Liliya remained MIA and was not awarded the justly deserved GSS. Then, in 1979, an unidentified body of a female pilot was discovered, buried at the village of Dmitriyevka, who had apparently been originally found in the cockpit of her aircraft with a mortal head wound. She was a small woman, in a flight suit, without any identity papers. On 31st March 1986 the Ministry of Defense acknowledged that the remains were Litvyak's and amended her category to KIA (Killed In Action). In May 1990 Soviet Chairman Mikhail Gorbachev at last awarded the GSS to Liliya, which was presented to her brother, Yuri Kunavin, who passed away shortly thereafter. Rest in peace "Lilka“. Liliya returning from a mission in her YaK-1B,"White 23.” NOTE:  According to subsequent research by Dr. Kazimiera J. Cottam, PhD, Editor/Translator of the biographical Women in Air War, and a former employee of the Canadian National Defense Headquarters at Ottawa, the following information has surfaced regarding Sr. Lt. Lidya V. Litvyak.

  45. Liliya 's Memorial in front of School No. 1, and her museum, at Krasnyy Luch, Ukraine. As detailed by Yekaterina Polunina, archivist for the 586th IAP, Liliya had five "confirmed" kills and one "shared" kill, plus an enemy observation balloon. Liliya may have easily had more, but without gun cameras her additional claims would be almost impossible to "confirm." Autonomously she’s always been credited with 12 kills, three shared kills, and the balloon. Liliya 's purported body, still buried in a common grave near Dmitriyevka, has never been positively identified, or undergone DNA testing. There is a large margin of doubt as to who is actually buried there. After Liliya crash-landed behind enemy lines she was seen accompanied by German soldiers.  Initially, Liliya was formerly charged by the Red Army of defection to the enemy. Liliya was also claimed to have been seen by a Soviet fighter pilot in a German POW camp.  Shortly after Liliya's shoot down Lt. Col. Alexandr Gridnev, Regimental Commander of the 586th IAP, claims that he was told by Field Headquarters that they heard Liliya speaking over the German radio. His handwritten note on this matter can be found in the Monino Air Force Archives. Around the time of the 55th anniversary of VE-Day, Russian television featured a broadcast from Switzerland, during which a correspondent introduced a former Soviet woman WWII pilot, and a mother of three children, who was twice wounded during the war and resided abroad since the war. Though the maiden name of the woman was not given, Nina Raspopova, a veteran of the 46th Taman' Guards Night Bomber Regiment, assumed that this must be Lidya “Liliya” Litvyak, who supposedly perished on 1st August 1943. This incident was reported in a recent book by Yekaterina Polunina, former senior mechanic and historian, plus archivist of the 586th Fighter Regiment in which Liliya initially served (Polunina, Yekaterina. Devchonki, podruzhki, letchitsy. Moscow, 2004, p. 146).

  46. Senior Lieutenant Lidya V. Litvyak - GSS The mystery surrounding this little imp, and most amazing fighter pilot, still continues. THE END For Roy McShane’s Novels – Please Continue:

  47. Roy McShane’s Historical Trilogy HWELTE(whell-`tay) n. Navajo: meaning fortress or place of refuge. Please Continue:

  48. This trilogy is based on a little known historical footnote: During the Battle of Stalingrad, in 1942, an all-female Soviet fighter squadron operated out of a classified air base - grappling on a daily basis with Hitler's murderous Luftwaffe.  By chance, one of these female fighter pilots intercepted a crippled American lend-lease B-25, leading it to her air base and saving the bomber pilot's life. However, the bomber pilot's Navajo grandmother, a Listening Woman, had foretold this event - revealing it in a vision to her grandson before he left the States for the war. She also foretold that her grandson and this same Russian woman, amidst the chaos and bloody carnage of war,would find their refuge, their HWELTE, in each other - forming a bond of love that not even death could destroy. Lend-Lease North American B-25 to Russia. For a synopsis, literary reviews and distributors on each novel, please access: www.hwelte.com

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