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

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Of all the major air forces that were engaged in the war, only the Red Air Force had units comprised specifically of women. Initially the Red Air Force maintained an all-male policy among its combat pilots. However, as the apparently invincible German juggernaut sliced through Soviet defenses, the Red Air Force began to rethink its ban on women. By October 1941, authorizat Of all the major air forces that were engaged in the war, only the Red Air Force had units comprised specifically of women. Initially the Red Air Force maintained an all-male policy among its combat pilots. However, as the apparently invincible German juggernaut sliced through Soviet defenses, the Red Air Force began to rethink its ban on women. By October 1941, authorization was forthcoming for three ground attack regiments of women pilots. Among these women, Lidiya Vladimirovna Lilya Litvyak soon emerged as a rising star. She shot down five German aircraft over the Stalingrad Front, and thus become history's first female ace. She scored 12 documented victories over German aircraft between September 1942 and July 1943. She also had many victories shared with other pilots, bringing her possible total to around 20. The fact that she was a 21-year-old woman ace was not lost on the hero-hungry Soviet media, and soon this colourful character, whom the Germans dubbed "The White Rose of Stalingrad", became both folk heroine and martyr.


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Of all the major air forces that were engaged in the war, only the Red Air Force had units comprised specifically of women. Initially the Red Air Force maintained an all-male policy among its combat pilots. However, as the apparently invincible German juggernaut sliced through Soviet defenses, the Red Air Force began to rethink its ban on women. By October 1941, authorizat Of all the major air forces that were engaged in the war, only the Red Air Force had units comprised specifically of women. Initially the Red Air Force maintained an all-male policy among its combat pilots. However, as the apparently invincible German juggernaut sliced through Soviet defenses, the Red Air Force began to rethink its ban on women. By October 1941, authorization was forthcoming for three ground attack regiments of women pilots. Among these women, Lidiya Vladimirovna Lilya Litvyak soon emerged as a rising star. She shot down five German aircraft over the Stalingrad Front, and thus become history's first female ace. She scored 12 documented victories over German aircraft between September 1942 and July 1943. She also had many victories shared with other pilots, bringing her possible total to around 20. The fact that she was a 21-year-old woman ace was not lost on the hero-hungry Soviet media, and soon this colourful character, whom the Germans dubbed "The White Rose of Stalingrad", became both folk heroine and martyr.

30 review for The White Rose of Stalingrad: The Real-Life Adventure of Lidiya Vladimirovna Litvyak, the Highest Scoring Female Air Ace of All Time

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Morgan

    An exhaustively boring work which rarely mentions Lidiya Litvyak, contains nothing pertaining to her early life, but focuses instead on the author's knowledge of Soviet history. There are no facts here, just frustrating speculation on the part of the author. which forced this reader to abandon this text book of Soviet history after over 100 pages. This "biography" has no information about the principle character. It is like trying to find the Invisible Man by throwing flour in the air in a vain An exhaustively boring work which rarely mentions Lidiya Litvyak, contains nothing pertaining to her early life, but focuses instead on the author's knowledge of Soviet history. There are no facts here, just frustrating speculation on the part of the author. which forced this reader to abandon this text book of Soviet history after over 100 pages. This "biography" has no information about the principle character. It is like trying to find the Invisible Man by throwing flour in the air in a vain attempt to discover something of his silhouette. Give it a pass.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Xavier Alexandre

    Lidiya Livyak is probably one of the purest heroes of WW2. Flying solo at age 15, she punched through the "glass ceiling" and then some: shooting her first Messerchmitt 109 at age 19, then becoming a Soviet ace fighter, with at least 12 victories, by the age of 21. This, at a time when women in Western armies were still mostly nurses and phone operators. She was shot down in 1943. One can only wonder what would she have become if she had survived the war.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    The author does an admirable job of piecing together source materials from Soviet and German sources to tell the story of Lidya and other female Soviet pilots from what it was like growing up during the years under Stalin, the obstacles they faced as women entering a "man's domain" right up to detailed descriptions of the combat sorties they flew. Most touching was the toll it was taking on Lidya as the years went on; she lived more in her (almost) 22 years than most will face in a lifespan of 1 The author does an admirable job of piecing together source materials from Soviet and German sources to tell the story of Lidya and other female Soviet pilots from what it was like growing up during the years under Stalin, the obstacles they faced as women entering a "man's domain" right up to detailed descriptions of the combat sorties they flew. Most touching was the toll it was taking on Lidya as the years went on; she lived more in her (almost) 22 years than most will face in a lifespan of 100 years.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Leanna

    Impressively researched, and with a lot of interesting details, this book is overwritten and undermined by a number of flights of fancy, which Yenne could not possibly have verified. Additionally, it is best approached as a book about women pilots more in general and not specifically Lidiya Litvyak since Yenne writes with a much wider scope than one subject.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Randall Mccoy

    Herstory I missed Russian/Chinese history in high school. This book does a great job piecing some of that in for me. Once I realized that, I dug in and enjoyed the lesson. Tragic times for a young lady turned warrior. Superb research into the details.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Cyndi Cascone

    I was expecting more details and info about Lidiya.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Peter Holford

    I can see why some reviewers have scored this book poorly. Perhaps a third of it (the first third, really) is a social history of the first 20 years of the Soviet Union. I suspect that is because there is so little documentary evidence concerning the early part of Lilya's life - but then again, how much detail is there of any children living in the 1920s and 1930s, especially in soviet Russia? And Lilya only became a public figure in the last year or so of her life, dying at age 21. Consequently I can see why some reviewers have scored this book poorly. Perhaps a third of it (the first third, really) is a social history of the first 20 years of the Soviet Union. I suspect that is because there is so little documentary evidence concerning the early part of Lilya's life - but then again, how much detail is there of any children living in the 1920s and 1930s, especially in soviet Russia? And Lilya only became a public figure in the last year or so of her life, dying at age 21. Consequently, Bill Yenne has relied on contemporary accounts left behind by others of the era, including girls living in Moscow at the time, just like Lilya. Fortunately for me, I am interested in Russian history in general, and was not put off by the long early chapters covering this part of her story. Moving beyond this, however, I found this an engaging and exciting account of this remarkable young woman who loved her motherland (the Rodina, as the Russians called it) and her leader (Stalin was thought of as 'Father') despite all that she and her family suffered during that time. Her own father had been a victim of the purges in the 1930s and Yenne speculates that the disgrace associated with this was a motivating factor for Lilya. As the author points out, Lilya would have hated the Germans with a passion shared with all her people, and this passion gave her an edge in aerial combat that took the Nazi pilots by surprise. I particularly enjoyed the account of the German ace (Erwin Meier) shot down by Lilya and captured by the Russians. He demanded to meet the pilot who had ended his career and 'took umbrage at the insult of such a ridiculous practical joke' when they told him that he had been shot down by a young woman. She was brought to meet him and she described with meticulous detail the dogfight that had brought him down, in such a way that he knew she was the pilot. Apparently he couldn't even look her in the eyes! This woman was an extraordinary fighter pilot, whose score has never been equalled or exceeded in the 60 years since her death.

  8. 4 out of 5

    David Hill

    If I could rate this book 3.5 stars, I would. The story of Lidiya Litvyak is a difficult one to tell. She was not a public figure; there's really not much documentary evidence of her life. Yenne tells her story by telling the stories of other girls of her age who lived near her in Moscow or the other women pilots. This includes some general history of the Soviet Union between the October Revolution and the war. Some other reviewers here didn't like this technique but I think it worked quite well If I could rate this book 3.5 stars, I would. The story of Lidiya Litvyak is a difficult one to tell. She was not a public figure; there's really not much documentary evidence of her life. Yenne tells her story by telling the stories of other girls of her age who lived near her in Moscow or the other women pilots. This includes some general history of the Soviet Union between the October Revolution and the war. Some other reviewers here didn't like this technique but I think it worked quite well. We can't know what she said or thought because there's very little record of it, but we can deduce what she must have experienced based on events and conditions that were common with other people. The book has an index and bibliography but no source notes. From this, I deduce there was no original research done. But there are many sources referenced in the text that don't appear in the bibliography, so my deduction may be incorrect. Many places in the text Yenne reconciles conflicting accounts - this magazine article says she had x victories in this time period, that article says y. It's clear he's done a fair amount of research and tells a story not often told. Having read the book, I see I could have learned about Litvyak by reading two or three of these other sources, but had I read just one, I wouldn't have gotten as accurate a picture as Yenne compiles.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mark Lisac

    Three stars (a generous rating) because there's a fair amount of interesting information here but the book has problems. Nominally it's the story of Lidiya (Lilya) Litvyak, who from late 1942 to mid-1943 became the highest-scoring female fighter ace of all time. Actually, little seems to be known about her aside from a handful of letters, some official records and some recollections from surviving war veterans. Nearly the first half of the book consists of a historical sketch of Stalinist Russia Three stars (a generous rating) because there's a fair amount of interesting information here but the book has problems. Nominally it's the story of Lidiya (Lilya) Litvyak, who from late 1942 to mid-1943 became the highest-scoring female fighter ace of all time. Actually, little seems to be known about her aside from a handful of letters, some official records and some recollections from surviving war veterans. Nearly the first half of the book consists of a historical sketch of Stalinist Russia up to the start of the war. Some of the remainder sketches Soviet aviation history, particularly the role of women, and the course of the great Soviet-German battles from 1941 to 1943. The sections dealing directly with Litvyak are both stirring and poignant. But Yenne strays well beyond his survey of secondary sources and indulges unfounded speculation or imagining presented as fact. His breezy tabloid prose also far too often turns purple, as in: "Lilya exiled all sensitivity and compassion to a Gulag deep inside her being, sentencing it to an internal exile that would last until no more German airplanes prowled the skies above her beloved Rodina." Thought it worth the short time needed to read, though.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    Pros: An actual book about Lidya Litvyak! A lot of detail about her life, many names mentioned. A solid bibliography mentioned throughout the book = good pointer for further reading. Cons: Impossibly melodramatic, to the point of making stuff up (usually "cinematic" details like people's emotions). Factual errors, usually in the technical topics. The Czech translation has extensive notes with additional details and corrections - some of it is nitpicking, but usually they're on point. I am really glad Pros: An actual book about Lidya Litvyak! A lot of detail about her life, many names mentioned. A solid bibliography mentioned throughout the book = good pointer for further reading. Cons: Impossibly melodramatic, to the point of making stuff up (usually "cinematic" details like people's emotions). Factual errors, usually in the technical topics. The Czech translation has extensive notes with additional details and corrections - some of it is nitpicking, but usually they're on point. I am really glad I bought the Czech edition - not only are the editor notes valuable but the editor has a distinct 'catty' voice and it's just hilarious to read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Relstuart

    Technically this is supposed to be a biography but the actual biographical details available must be pretty sketchy. So it's more history then biography. The author needed an editor to reign in his purple prose and fiction writing. The author, doubtless under temptation to write a compelling story and get the ready to feel like they are entering into the experience of Litvyak, writes fiction details about his main character feels or how she screwed the side of her lip up to one side while doing Technically this is supposed to be a biography but the actual biographical details available must be pretty sketchy. So it's more history then biography. The author needed an editor to reign in his purple prose and fiction writing. The author, doubtless under temptation to write a compelling story and get the ready to feel like they are entering into the experience of Litvyak, writes fiction details about his main character feels or how she screwed the side of her lip up to one side while doing this or that. Then it becomes clear later there is no info about her in some particular described circumstance. Good work by the design team on the cover layout and colors.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Pancha

    Where information on Lilya is sparse, the author turns focus to other young women in similar circumstances in order to flesh out what Lilya's life might have been like. Only after she beings her fighter pilot career does the narrative focus more closely on her. Readers who are looking for a tight biography might be disappointed, but those looking for information in general on the Soviet female aviators and Night Witches will probably enjoy this.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Martin

    Absolutly great book about famous women ace at WWII. Book also describes atmosphere and backround in Soviet Union in the begining of Stalin's dictature and how it affected life and mind of young people living there.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Alice

    Because details of Lilya's life are sparse, much of the book is taken up with generalisations about post-Revolution Russia, and the subject's childhood is extrapolated from the lives of her contemporaries. Once we get on to her war service, things hot up and the story becomes a real nail-biter.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Robert

  16. 5 out of 5

    BAR BARA

  17. 5 out of 5

    Melinda

  18. 5 out of 5

    Azia Bolos

  19. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Casemore

  21. 5 out of 5

    Drokka

  22. 5 out of 5

    Brian Kupfer

  23. 4 out of 5

    len mahony

  24. 5 out of 5

    Brett Goguen

  25. 5 out of 5

    Diane Ward

  26. 4 out of 5

    Timothy Sanders

  27. 5 out of 5

    Preston DeShan

  28. 5 out of 5

    Amy

  29. 5 out of 5

    Zuzana Fialová

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

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