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The White Rose of Stalingrad

The White Rose of Stalingrad Book Review

By Rachel E. Veres

Date of Review January 2013 Title The White Rose of Stalingrad
Author Bill Yenne Publisher Osprey Publishing
Published 2013 ISBN 9781849088107
Format 336 pages, hardbound MSRP (USD) $27.95


Here's another exciting Osprey account of aerial combat – with a twist!

Of all major powers in WWII, only the Soviet Union fielded all-female combat units.  And despite Red Air Force propaganda, necessity truthfully guided Stalin's decision as Germany decimated Soviet defenses beginning in June 1941.

Author Bill Yenne regales readers with the fascinating history of Lidiya "Lilya" Vladimirovna Litvyak, from birth in August 1921 to air ace during WWII.  In The White Rose of Stalingrad, Yenne intertwines Litvyak's life story with the Soviet empire's bloody history.

Volunteering out of love for her Rodina (Motherland) – and possessing natural skill, courage, tenacity and warrior spirit – Litvyak in her Yakovlev Yak-1 became a nemesis to the seemingly invincible Luftwaffe.  Mistaking her aircraft's lily nose art for a rose, Germans dubbed her "The White Rose of Stalingrad".

She frequently downed seasoned enemy opponents.  In fact, her first victory occurred when Soviet fighters jumped Junkers Ju 88 bombers escorted by Messerschmitt Bf 109s in September 1942.  As German ace Erwin Meier locked sights onto a Yak-1, he felt 20-mm cannon rounds shredding his tail.  Taking evasive action, he barely escaped when the attacking Yak returned.  Meier abandoned his doomed aircraft deep inside Soviet territory.  After surrendering to Soviet troops, he reportedly requested to meet the "man" whose phenomenal skills bested his.  The Soviets honored his request – and introduced him to Lilya Litvyak.

When Litvyak's young life tragically ended in early August 1943 – just shy of her 22nd birthday – records credited her with 12 solo kills.  Shared kills brought her total to 20.  Yet, despite this, she was not awarded "Hero of the Soviet Union" until, ironically, the Soviet Union's final days.

Historical photographs and campaign maps enhance Yenne's gripping narrative.  Covered, too, is Maj Marina Raskova, Lilya's role model and commander of the first all-female air force combat units.  Unfortunately, if any pictures of Lilya's famous Yak-1 ever existed, they have since disappeared.

Highly recommended!

My sincere thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review sample!