Lydia Litvyak was a Russian fighter pilot during World War II and the first female pilot to shoot down an enemy plane.

Born to a Jewish family in Moscow in 1921, Lydia was fascinated by airplanes from a young age. She enrolled in a flying club at age 14 and was flying solo by 15. Lydia became a teenaged flight instructor who trained 45 young pilots.

When Germany attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941, Lydia immediately joined the air force. She flew her first combat flights in September 1942.

Over the next two years, Lydia flew 66 combat missions, with 12 solo victories. One of the German pilots she shot down was a decorated ace and relative of the Red Baron. When Lydia was pointed out as the pilot who defeated him, he thought it was a Soviet joke. It wasn't until she told him every detail of the flight that he believed it was her.

Lydia had a rebellious character and loved to do flashy airplane acrobatics, which infuriated her commander. She was a feminine woman who kept her blonde hair perfectly dyed despite the privations of war. She loved flowers, and carried fresh bouquets with her in the cockpit. Lydia was known as the “White Lily of Stalingrad."

On August 1, 1943, Lydia left on a solo mission over southeastern Ukraine and never returned. She was shot down by German bombers. Lydia was only 21 years old.

For being the living embodiment of girl power, we honor Lydia Litvyak as this week’s Thursday Hero at Accidental Talmudist.

Originally published on Facebook

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