Defending the Motherland
Plucked from every background, and led by an N.K.V.D. Major, the new recruits who boarded a train in Moscow on 16th October 1941 to go to war had much in common with millions of others across the world. What made the 586th Fighter Regiment, the 587th Heavy-bomber Regiment and the 588th Regiment of light night-bombers unique was their gender: the Soviet Union was creating the first all-female active combat units in modern history.
Drawing on original interviews with surviving airwomen, Lyuba Vinogradova weaves together the untold stories of the female Soviet fighter pilots of the Second World War. From that first train journey to the last tragic disappearance, Vinogradova’s panoramic account of these women’s lives follows them from society balls to unmarked graves, from landmark victories to the horrors of Stalingrad. Battling not just fearsome Aces of the Luftwaffe but also patronising prejudice from their own leaders, women such as Lilya Litvyak and Ekaterina Budanova are brought to life by the diaries and recollections of those who knew them, and who watched them live, love, fight and die.