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Female Pilots of WWII

Female Pilots in World War II - From WASPs to Russian aces.
Latest hand-picked WWII news. See also: Hanna Reitsch, Flying Aces & Pilots, Scale Models, WWII and Women, Amelia Earhart, WASP.

Nadezhda Popova, celebrated Soviet Night Witch WWII aviator, dies at 91
Nadezhda Popova, one of the so-called WWII `Night Witches,` female military pilots who terrorized Germans with their nocturnal air raids during World War II, has passed away at 91. Popova was among the first female pilots to volunteer for service in the Soviet military during World War II and became a squadron commander in her swashbuckling all-female regiment. She flew 852 combat missions . including 18 during one night - and was honored as a Hero of the Soviet Union. Led by Marina Raskova, a renowned aviator who would later die in a plane crash, three women`s aviation regiments were born of necessity. While other nations employed female pilots in support roles, the Soviets dispatched their female aviators on delivery and reconnaissance missions, as well as daring raids to take out enemy targets.
(washingtonpost.com)

MP3 interview: Author of White Rose of Stalingrad: Lidiya Vladmirovna Litvyak, the Highest Scoring Female Air Ace of All Time
It wasn`t until after the Cold War ended that the United States began enlisting female fighter pilots, but during World War II, the Soviet Union had no fewer than three all-women aviation regiments. Now the story of one its greatest heroes is told in the new book "The White Rose of Stalingrad: The Real-Life Adventure of Lidiya Vladmirovna Litvyak, the Highest Scoring Female Air Ace of All Time." In this MP3-interview Rob Sachs speaks with historian and author Bill Yenne about his new book.
(voicerussia.com)

Bomber girls - The women fliers of the Second World War
Known as the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), the quasi-military organization of 1070 American women served in stateside roles. WASP missions included ferrying warplanes from plants to bases and overseas embarkation points, towing areal targets for gunnery training and even transporting cargo. --- The British fliers of the 1,300-strong aircraft Air Transport Auxiliary (166 of which were women) were credited with helping win the Battle of Britain. All of the pilots in the ATA, both men and women, held equivalent military rank. And the female fliers were paid equal to their male counterparts - it was the first instance of equal pay for equal work in the history of the British public service. WASPs on the other hand were paid less than 2/3 the salary of male pilots. --- Shortly after the German invasion of the U.S.S.R., Russia`s famous woman pilot Marina Raskova lobbied Stalin to let her train a number of all-women squadrons. Three were established. They featured not only female aviators, but women ground crews and mechanics too. The 586th Fighter Aviation Regiment even had two aces: Lydia Litvyak and Katya Budanova.
(thisiswarblog)

Maureen Dunlop de Popp, who flew Spitfires during WWII and became magazine cover girl, dies at 91
Maureen Dunlop de Popp, a WWII female pilot who flew Spitfires, Lancasters and Hurricanes, has died aged 91. Dunlop joined the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) in 1942 and became one of a small group of female pilots who were trained to fly 38 types of aircraft between factories and military airfields across the country. She was not allowed to fly in combat but her duties were still not without danger: Once she had to make an emergency landing when av Spitfire cockpit canopy blew off after take off, while another time she had to land in a field after the engine of her Argus aircraft failed in the air. Dunlop clocked up 800 hours during her time with the ATA, she lamented the fact women were not allowed to fly in combat: "I thought it was the only fair thing. Why should only men be killed?"
(dailymail.co.uk)

WWII pocket watch that stopped a bullet may have saved the life of an RAF servicewoman
A military charity launched a worldwide hunt to track down the owner of a damaged pocket watch which may have saved the life of an RAF servicewoman in WWII - by stopping a bullet. The silver timepiece was discovered in a box of donated items left at a forces charity shop. A perfect bullet-shaped crater is evident in the protective flip cover of the watch. The case of the watch is inscribed with the name "Pte Hodgson" alongside the number 2055250. Military experts have identified the bullet which caused the dent as a 30mm calibre round - ammunition used in the MK108 auto-cannon which was mounted on German aircraft fighter planes.
(dailymail.co.uk)

WWII WASP recalls: Men put sugar in fuel tank or cut the wires to stop female pilots from flying military planes
Millicent Peterson Young is one of the few surviving Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPs. Some of the men the WASPs worked with didn`t want women flying military planes - they would put sugar in their fuel tanks, or cut the wires on their planes. "I flew into Carlsbad one time. This young dude comes up in the tanker truck... just as I slid back the canopy and fluffed up my hair, he said: `What are you doing in there?!` And I said: `Well, I`m flying the airplane.` He said: `You should not be flying that airplane! I should be flying that airplane! I`m the man!` And I said: `Honey, if you were, I would have noticed.`"
(ksmu.org)

Night Witches - Russian female combat pilots of 46th Night Bombers Guards Regiment
One spring day in 1943 junior lieutenants Tamara Pamyatnykh and Raisa Surnachevskaya were on a patrol flight when they saw 42 German bombers. The women fired on the Junkers formation, both downing 2 planes. Tamara ran out of ammo and planned to ram another bomber with her airplane, but her wing was shot off. She bailed out, landing in a field. Civilians rushed over to help: "They undid the parachute straps and offered me a glass of vodka, which I refused. Nobody couldn`t understand why the brave lad who had taken on a Nazi squadron wouldn`t drink vodka." Then Tamara took off her helmet and the amazed crowd saw that the dashing aviator was a woman.
(bbc.co.uk)

The only sisters to fly Spitfires in World War II are reunited with the aircraft
Even away from the cockpit, the girls of the World War Two Air Transport Auxiliary turned heads. In their hastily adapted military uniforms (one had her jacket tailored in Savile Row) they became the darlings of the air – and the unknown heroines of the Battle of Britain. This was the forgotten army of women who delivered Spitfires for service in the front lines. It was a work that suited the Attagirls. Recently the only two sisters to fly Spitfires during the war recalled those exciting days – after reuniting with one of the aircraft that gave them "such a thrill".
(dailymail.co.uk)

Diana Barnato Walker flew Spitfires and was the first woman to break the sound barrier
From 1941 Diana Barnato was one of a handful of women who moved Spitfires and Hurricanes, Wellingtons and Lancasters from factories to front-line squadrons. Known as ATA-girls (Air Transport Auxiliary) they endured all weathers, flew without radio, guns or armour-plating, radar and navigation aids. They were prey to storms and German Messerschmitts. In 3 years, she flew 260 Spitfires and mastered dozens of other warplanes, including a huge Walrus flying boat that most male pilots avoided. She was shot at, hammered by storms, stricken by engine failures, but she never lost a plane.
(dailymail)

Spitfire heroine Margaret Frost`s joy over medal
Margaret Frost, who flew replacement fighters (spitfires, hurricanes and mustangs) to WW2 RAF bases, has spoken of her joy at the recognition for her work. She is one of 15 women and 100 men who are to have a special merit award for serving in the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA), which had an important role in ensuring the RAF got the planes it needed as fighter pilots fought dog fights with the Luftwaffe. Made up of old WWI pilots, injured airmen and women, it moved aircraft from factories to frontline. "We were not allowed to fly above 600m and there was no radio contact so it could be quite lonely."
(bbc)

Spitfire’s unsung flying heroines - The Air Transport Auxiliary
The living members of a group of women who flew Spitfires in non-combat WW2 tasks are expected to be rewarded with a badge. The women of the Air Transport Auxiliary may not have taken part in the Battle of Britain but, without their skills in delivering the aircraft to the RAF bases for their male counterparts to clear the skies of Luftwaffe bombers, the battle would never have got off the ground. There are about 15 female pilots left. They also flew Hurricanes, Lancasters, Mosquitoes and other wartime aircraft. Margaret Frost - formally too small at 5ft 3in to become a Spitfire pilot - spent 3 years flying the aircraft, and welcomed the suggestion of a badge.
(timesonline)

Female Aces - From world wars to modern times
Before the 1990s, the majority of female combat pilots were those who flew for the Russian World War II air force. Most flew combat support aircraft, in some degree because many of the WWII-era warplanes did not have power-assisted controls. But where this was not a factor, many of the Russian female pilots showed a talent for winning air-to-air battles. Russia stopped using female pilots when WWII was over. The same thing had happened during WWI, when the few female pilots were dismissed once peace came. After WWII American researchers did a lot of work to determine what characteristics made aces: It was discovered that many women were potential aces.
(strategypage)

The Spitfire Women Of World War II by Giles Whittell - Photos
Wearing a summer uniform she slung a parachute over her shoulder and shook out her long blonde hair. Pilot Maureen Dunlop looked glamorous. And when the picture appeared in 1944, the world was convinced the Air Transport Auxiliary, ATA, was an-all woman outfit. The ATA, "legion of the air," performed an essential WW2 role delivering British warplanes from the factories to RAF airfields. Its death rate was higher than in RAF Fighter Command. Of 1,124 pilots nearly 1/6 was killed. Scandalously, one woman`s aircraft was even thought to have been sabotaged by male rivals, threatened by the sight of attractive women emerging from the cockpits of huge heavy bombers.
(dailymail.co.uk)

World War II women flyers to be honored at Dorr - Civil Air Patrol (CAP)   (Article no longer available from the original source)
During World War II, the U.S. Civil Air Patrol, a civilian group of pilots and volunteers, assisted the war effort in many ways, including flying coastal patrol missions or transporting people and materials. According to The US Air Force Auxiliary Civil Air Patrol site, www.cap.gov, CAP evolved during the late 1930s and was established on Dec. 1, 1941, as part of the Office of Civilian Defense. It became an auxiliary of the U.S. Army Air Forces under the War Department in 1943. 40000 people, from movie stars to everyday people, joined CAP after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, according to www.caphistory.org.
(bolivarcom)

Female pilot Hanna Reitsch pitches suicide squad to Hitler   (Article no longer available from the original source)
Hanna Reitsch, Nazi Germany`s celebrated female test pilot, suggested that Adolph Hitler should create a suicide squadron of glider pilots. Hitler was skeptical, believing that such a squadron would not be a good use of Germany`s limited resources. The blonde`s enthusiasm finally won Fuehrer over: he agreed to look into the adapting the V-1, which was designed to be a pilotless bomb, to a kamikaze vehicle. Reitsch promptly formed a Suicide Group, and was herself the first person to take the pledge: "I hereby... apply to be enrolled in the suicide group as a pilot of a human glider-bomb. I fully understand that employment in this capacity will entail my own death."
(News of the Odd)

Marina Raskova and the Soviet Women Pilots of World War II
On June 22, 1941, Hitler`s Wehrmacht invaded the Soviet Union, and Operation Barbarossa was under way. In the summer of 1941, Marina Raskova, a record-breaking aviatrix, organized the 588th night bomber squadron - composed entirely of women, from the mechanics to the navigators, pilot and officers. Most of them around 20 years old. June 8, 1942, three planes took off on the first mission. The target: the headquarters of a German division. The raid was successful, but one aircraft was lost. "It was a miracle we didn`t lose more aircraft. Our planes were the slowest in the air force. They often came back riddled with bullets, but they kept flying."
(monash-edu)

Jacqueline "Jackie" Cochran
During her aviation career, Jackie Cochran set more speed and altitude records than anybody else at her time, male or female. In 1942, Cochran got her wish as she was asked to organize the Women`s Flying Training Detachment (WFTD) to train women pilots to handle basic military flight support. The WASPs were essentially two groups in one: WFTD, and the Women`s Auxiliary Ferry Squadron (WAFS), a group responsible for delivering planes to their base of operations. The WASPs proved invaluable to the war effort. They transported planes overseas, tested various aircraft and taught aerial navigation.
(centennialofflight)

Soviet Women in Combat
Number of Soviet women combat veterans reached nearly one million, a small portion of which were involved in combat. Eugenia Ustimchouk was one of the rare women pilots. She was admitted in Jan of 1942 in the same unit as her husband. "We had a women`s bomber pilot regiment who flew heavy planes called P-2. I remember one, Liuba Gubena, who studied with me and flew that plane. German planes were pursuing her and her plane caught on fire. She gave her crew the command to bail out, but her navigator`s parachute got caught. Liuba started to do all kinds of maneuvers to throw off the navigator, to save her. She perished herself in trying to save her navigator."
(neh)


See also:
Hanna Reitsch
Flying Aces & Pilots
Scale Models
WWII and Women
Amelia Earhart
WASP.