Women Military Pilots of World War II: A History with Biographies of American, British, Russian and German Aviators
More than 2000 women in the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union flew military airplanes in organized units during World War II, yet their stories are largely unknown. These pilots ferried aircraft, flew targets for ground artillery practice, tested airplanes and equipment, and many of them flew in combat. The women pilots proved that they could manage bombers and fighters as well as their male counterparts, and several later remarked that “the airplanes didn’t care who flew them.” Topics covered include the training of female pilots, how female flight units were developed and structured, the hazards of conflict, and how these women reintegrated into civilian life following the war.
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Although I haven't had the opportunity to read this particular book cover to cover, I do feel that it does fulfil a need hitherto neglected--to write about female WWII military pilots, without limiting the scope of the book to a single country, and with the aim to provide an objective and well balanced account of womens' participation in the air war of WWII. Also, to her everlasting credit, the author apparently rejects the phony sensationalism associated with writing about Lydia Litvyak. (We are usually told that Lytviak was a beautiful blonde, was called "The White Rose of Stalingrad", was unconditionally in love with her squadron commander Solomatin and was killed on August 1, 1943.) As someone who specialized in writing about Soviet women in combat in WWII, I am unable to keep silent on this issue. To set the record straight, Litvyak was not called "The White Rose of Stalingrad", at least not in the USSR, as her nickname was Lily. She was ambivalent about her relationship with squadron commander Solomatin, realizing she loved him only after he was killed while practicing aerobatics. And finally Litvyak herself wasn't killed on August 1, 1943--she was seen safely parachuting from her stricken aircraft in an area where her remains were supposedly found. (See writer Gian Piero Milanetti's pertinent comment dated July 17, 2012 on AbsoluteAstronomy.com.) I am glad Ms. Merry mentions Ekaterina Polunina's book, Devchonki, podruzhki, letchitsy (Moscow, 2004) which tells us of the strong possibility that Litvyak herself was incarcerated in a PoW camp and may have escaped to Switzerland.