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Lydia Litvyak
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    (August 18, 1921-August 1, 1943)
    Born in Moscow, Russia
    Soviet fighter pilot during World War II
    Flew 66 combat missions
    Nicknamed 'the White Lily of Stalingrad'
    Officially died when her plane was shot down during the Battle of Kursk
    She lied about her pre-war flight time to get accepted by the Soviet Air Force.
    After a successful mission, she would buzz the tower and perform unauthorized aerobatics, knowing it ticked off her commander.
    Because of poor record keeping (and sometimes deliberate exaggeration), it is uncertain how many enemy planes she shot down, with figures ranging from a low of five solo kills and two group kills to a high of twelve solo kills and three shared kills.
    As a result, it is also unclear if she or fellow Soviet pilot Katya Budanova is the top female fighter ace.
    She was reportedly seen in a German POW camp, and the possibility that she had been captured instead of killed in battle kept her from being named a Hero of the Soviet Union.
    She made her first solo flight when she was 15.
    Her commander called her 'a born fighter pilot.'
    She was the first female pilot to notch the three kills needed to become an ace.
    She shot down German pilot Erwin Maier, who bailed out, was captured and asked to meet the pilot who had outflown him. When he was presented with Litvyak, he thought it was a joke until she described their dogfight in detail.
    She was wounded twice in battle.
    Her crash site and suspected grave were discovered (1979) and her remains exhumed, convincing Mikhail Gorbachev to belatedly name her a Hero of the Soviet Union in 1990.

Credit: C. Fishel

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