The White Rose of Stalingrad

Lydia Vladimirovna Litvyak (Лидия Владимировна Литвяк) 18 August 1921 – 1 August 1943. She was known to everyone as Lilya. ‘The White Rose of Stalingrad’ was a female pilot who terrorized the Nazis.

Litvyak was only 20 years old when Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. The young girl rushed to the recruiter and tried to join to be a fighter pilot. The recruiters sent her packing. In their minds, she was just a small, young girl.

In truth, she was flying solo at 15 and was an experienced pilot. A biographer estimated she trained more than 45 pilots on her own. She knew she could do this. So instead of giving up, she went to another recruiter and lied about her flying experience, by more than a hundred hours. That did the trick.

She flew a number of missions in an all-women fighter regiment, but was later transferred to a mixed gender regiment over Stalingrad.

The Wiki says she was the first female pilot to shoot down an enemy fighter in combat, and she was the 2nd woman pilot to achieve the title “Ace.”

Back to “We Are the Mighty.” On August 1st, 1943:

“The White Rose of Stalingrad” was last seen being chased by eight Nazi ME-109 fighters on an escort mission south of Moscow. Her body was lost until 1989 when historians discovered the unmarked grave of a female pilot in the Russian village of Dmytrivka.

The next year, Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev awarded Lydia Vladimirovna Litvyak the title “Hero of the Soviet Union,” the USSR’s highest military honor.

Badass of the Week’s story on Litvyak is fairly colorful, and worth a look as well.

For the next year, the White Rose of Stalingrad ignited enemy fuselages up and down the Eastern Front. She was transferred to a Guards Regiment, the elite of the Soviet military, and flew as a Junior Lieutenant and Flight Commander in the recently-established all-female 586th Fighter Air Regiment. She flew bomber escorts, attack missions, and was so ridiculously awesome that she was given a James Bond license to kill at will – she was assigned “Free Hunter” status, meaning that she was free to go balls-out into enemy airspace without orders to do so. Over that year she flew 66 combat missions, sometimes four or five a day, including one attack when she busted through a gauntlet of AA guns and fighters to shoot down an observation balloon that was fucking with the Red Army and helping Nazi artillery range their shells on Russian positions outside Stalingrad. So fuck those guys. She notched twelve solo kills – the most of any woman ever – and had four or five more assisted kills. Basically, she kicked some Fascist ass.

Lilya Litvak was one of only 2 female fight-pilot, aces in history. The other was her wingman Katya Budanova.

This video is 10 minutes, longer than I like for something like this, but interesting enough to be worth your time. It isn’t perfect, but there you go. YouTube will choke on the privacy settings in your browser; use the link when that happens. (You do have privacy cranked up to 11, don’t you?) And no, the video isn’t perfect, but then what it?

A NOTE: Several people have asked me, “Why all this Soviet history?” Well, I love WWII history, and I’ve studied a lot of the American and British involvement, but the Russian side of things I hadn’t studied until just recently. I also love stories about strong women, and given that the Russians were the only country who deployed women in combat in WWII, it seemed natural to look into it.

It is sad really that the some of the same people who will defend studying Lee’s Army of Virginia and what they managed to do during The Civil War will give you grief, if you apply the same standards elsewhere. The Soviet Union was a horrible country, but some of the things its citizens and soldiers did were amazing.

It is also nice to throw some sand on the people who say women have no place in combat, by pointing out the pilots and snipers who did amazing things. History can teach you a lot, if you bother to look.


“Ministry of Truth” Marches on College Campuses

The erasure of history proceeds. And I’m not saying you have to like every monument. But if we remove everything that “offends someone” then there will be nothing left.

Are we surprised that Yale is at the top of the list? Yale’s controversial stone carving remains censored.

In August 2017, Yale University announced its decision to move a controversial stone carving from its library entrance and pledged at the time to make it “available for viewing and studying” elsewhere.

Two years later, the stone carving remains covered up at the entrance to Sterling Memorial Library

And removing evidence of Revolutionary War. (And what came after.) University of Virginia considers removing statue of Revolutionary War officer.

David Swanson is petitioning the public university to remove a nearly 100-year-old statue that depicts an American revolutionary on horseback clashing with Native Americans in combat.

God forbid that anyone should have to reflect on the complex nature of history.

And if you don’t think that this country is starting to look like Nineteen Eighty-four, you aren’t paying attention.

Bonus Musical Interlude (And History Lesson)

Courtesy of OldAFSarge – Chant du Départ: Bismarck.

I didn’t think I’d like Sabaton at first, but they are growing on me, I mean, a metal band who loves history? What could be bad about that?


He has some info about the Bismark, and the Fairey Swordfish torpedo plane that was pivotal in stopping it. And the video for “Bismark” by Sabaton.

Enjoy, indeed.

(I may have to revisit Sabaton. I hadn’t heard many songs by them, and a few I didn’t like. But this one has possibilities.)

The Evolution of the Destroyer

And the evolution of the torpedo, and how the one brought about the other. So Sarge, what exactly is a destroyer?

The Whitehead torpedo, which could be launched at a distance, revolutionized naval warfare. Now a small, rather inexpensive boat could carry a weapon which could sink a much larger (expensive) warship. (I’m sure the Royal Navy pronounced this as barbaric and unsporting.)

Nice piece of artwork that depicts US destroyers from the Clemson-Class (1918) through Zumwalt-Class (2016). And a couple of photos that are of interest. One of an early torpedo boat, and an early destroyer.

Sarge also has a post on the Honda Point disaster, where seven Clemson-class destroyers of DesRon 11 were destroyed, and 5 were damaged.

Rwandan Genocide: 25-year Anniversary

This was exactly the kind of thing that the UN was created to stop. Didn’t do such a good job. 25 Years Later: A look at that genocide in Rwanda and the woman who tried to prevent it.

500,000 people were butchered, all while “The International Community” as a whole did nothing. Warnings came a couple of years before 1994, at least. Ignored.

Des Forges was particularly aggravated by the tendency of both the American government and the media at large to try and minimize the conflict in Rwanda into easily digestible soundbites.

“Press coverage was limited, superficial, and often sensationalistic,” Des Forges complained in an HRW paper years later. “Major media outlets gave more attention to the problems of sports stars O.J. Simpson and Tonya Harding than to the deliberate slaughter of more than half a million people.”

Clinton’s foreign policy was in disarray after Somalia. (See Black Hawk Down.) And so that administration wouldn’t utter the word “Genocide” because then they would have to act.

The Clinton administration feared that if they said ‘genocide,’ they would be obliged to act. So they ended up resorting to just using the formulation, you know, ‘ethnic slaughter’ or ‘age-old ethnic animosities,’ anything that would avoid what they saw as a legal obligation to act. But the words didn’t matter; the legal obligation was there, and they simply flouted it. They did nothing.

It’s an interesting look at bad time.

Margaret Hamilton: Lead Software Engineer on the Apollo Project

People forget that women were very much involved in software in the 1960s. Meet Margaret Hamilton: The Woman Behind the Apollo Project.

Hamilton was born in 1936, and received a B.A. in math from Earlham College. She taught herself to program before becoming the director of the Software Engineering Division of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, which developed software for the NASA Apollo programs.

The photo is of Hamilton standing next to a printout of the Apollo Guidance Computer program. The photo was taken for the Apollo 11 mission. Clicking on the image will take you to the NASA site that commemorates her receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016.

The very first contract NASA issued for the Apollo program (in August 1961) was with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to develop the guidance and navigation system for the Apollo spacecraft. Hamilton, a computer programmer, would wind up leading the Software Engineering Division of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory (now Draper Labs). Computer science, as we now know it, was just coming into existence at the time. Hamilton led the team that developed the building blocks of software engineering – a term that she coined herself. Her systems approach to the Apollo software development and insistence on rigorous testing was critical to the success of Apollo. As she noted, “There was no second chance. We all knew that.”

And that code reflects the personality of designers. The routine that controls Master Ignition for the Command Module is headed by a comment that says…


If you’re confused on how women got pushed out of computing, you aren’t alone. How Women Were Pushed Out of the Tech Industry.