The Death of Lidiia Litviak

I am presently in the process of revising a 14,000 word draft article, "The Death of Lidiia Litviak: Rumor, Hearsay, and Evidence about the Death of the World's First Female Fighter Ace,” for publication. The article will examine the evidence concerning Litviak's last flight, whether she bailed out or crash-landed, whether she survived after August 1, 1943, the search for her remains, the role of the NKVD in perpetuating suspicion and rumors, and official identification of her remains and award of the Hero of the Soviet Union in 1990.

More information will be posted here when the article appears.


Soviet pilot Lidiia Litviak was the first woman in the world to shoot down an enemy aircraft in combat, and has the highest documented score of any female pilot. She achieved this in fifteen and half months of combat service before she disappeared on 1 August 1943 during a dogfight over southwestern Ukraine. Her remains were identified in 1979 and in 1990 Mikhail Gorbachev named her a Hero of the Soviet Union. A rumor that Litviak was not killed in the war but miraculously survived and defected to the Germans has gained widespread attention. What is myth, and what is truth, about her last flight, disappearance, and death?

Litviak has become the focus of popular books and web sites in English, German, Italian, and Russian. These sources tend to favor sensationalism and rumor over evidence-based history. This article highlights how history can be distorted when it ignores the standards of evidence.

My thesis is that based on tests of plausibility, credibility and reliability of available sources, the preponderance of evidence shows that Lidiia Litviak died on 1 August 1943.