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“A female fighter-pilot during WWII?
Impossible!”

-US Navy Airforce Commander

 


Circa 1942. America’s WWII workhorse fighter-plane, the US built P39 Airacobra

A few years back, I was aboard the celebrated World War II aircraft carrier, the USS Midway, dry docked in San Diego, to celebrate the accomplishments of the US Naval Air Force in war. The guide stood in front of a restored P39 as he recounted the “successful completion of tens of thousands of missions” against the Japanese and German air forces.

When he finished, I introduced myself to the Midway’s retired commander standing nearby. I mentioned I had written a book called Call Sign, White Lily, about the world’s first female-fighter pilot. He glared incredulously. “Impossible. There were no women fighter pilots in WWII.”

I persisted. “Her name was Lilia Litvyak. She flew about 270 missions in a P39 like the one behind you.”

“Litvyak, that sounds Commie. You a Commie?” he asked.
“No sir,” I replied. “My parents were Italian American immigrants.”
He started to walk away, then paused. “Why the hell would an American want to spread old Commie propaganda. We’ve got some brave ladies training to fly in combat, someday. Now those are role models!”


Circa 1943. Lt. Lilia Litvyak, 21, boards her P39 at an airfield field on the outskirts of Moscow

I never got to tell the incredulous officer that Lilia not only ran 270 successful missions, she also recorded 15 solo kills, and assisted on 22 others. And, as I learned during my travel throughout the old Soviet Union and my many interviews with Lilia’s friends, there was a lot more to Lilia, the warrior; she was a woman with the same hopes, dreams and wishes shared by so many women around the world.

I’m happy to report that thousands of readers around the world have now discovered Lilia. Some of their comments can be found on my Amazon page. I would be honored if you decided to pick up a copy of the enlarged 5th edition. I guarantee the book and it’s many photographs are a one-of-a-kind read. In fact, the prestigious Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg said, “Call Sign, White Lily ranks among the greatest book and stories ever told about World War II.”

While the kind words and reader comments are cool, I think Lila is pleased that she finally received her just due. I say “received” because Lilia died 17 days before her 22 birthday, her remains and plane fragments not found for more than 40 years, and the entire story of her life and times story lost in history’s dustbin for 70 years.


Lonely grave marker sits in a field near Dmitrovka, Ukraine, thousands of miles from anywhere

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