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During the Second World War, women pilots were given the opportunity to fly military aircraft for the first time in history. In the United States, famed aviatrix Jacqueline Cochran formed the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program, where over one thousand women flyers ferried aircraft from factories to airbases throughout the United States and Canada from 1942 to 1944. The WASP operated from 110 facilities and flew more than sixty million miles in seventy-eight different types of aircraft, from the smallest trainers to the fastest fighters and the largest bombers. The WASP performed every duty inside the cockpit as their male counterparts, except combat, and thirty-eight women pilots gave their lives in the service of their country. Yet, notwithstanding their outward appearance as official members of the U.S. Army Air Forces, the WASP were considered civil servants during the war. Despite a highly publicized attempt to militarize in 1944, the women pilots would not be granted veteran status until 1977.
In the Soviet Union, Marina Raskova, Russia’s “Amelia Earhart,” famous for her historic Far East flight in 1938, formed the USSR’s first female aviation regiments that flew combat missions along the Eastern Front. A little over one thousand women flew a combined total of more than thirty thousand combat sorties, producing at least thirty Heroes of the Soviet Union. Included in their ranks were two fighter aces. More than fifty women pilots are believed to have been killed in action. Sharing both patriotism and a mutual love of aviation, these pioneering women flyers faced similar obstacles while challenging assumptions of male supremacy in wartime culture. Despite experiencing discrimination from male aircrews during the war, these intrepid airwomen ultimately earned their respect. The pilots’ exploits and their courageous story, told so convincingly here, continue to inspire future generations of women in aviation.
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During its titanic military struggle with Germany, the Soviet Union received a major boost with the arrival and deployment of nearly 5,000 Bell P-39 Airacobra fighter planes-courtesy of America's Lend-Lease program. The impact was dramatic, as the Soviets quickly adapted the planes into a devastatingly lethal force. Dmitriy Loza's account, admirably translated and edited by James Gebhardt, vividly re-creates the battle campaigns of this odd coupling of capitalist planes and Marxist pilots and shines a bright light on a little known part of the air war on the Eastern Front.
The P-39 proved to be the right plane at the right time for a beleaguered Red Air Force. Built for short range and relatively low altitudes, the P-39 was equipped with a powerful engine and weapons that enabled it to outduel and eventually dominate the Luftwaffe from the Caucusus foothills to Berlin.
Continue reading “Attack of the Airacobras: Soviet Aces, American P-39s, and the Air War Against Germany (Modern War Studies (Paperback))”
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No single volume in English has ever appeared in the West dealing with this intriguing subject area, but now that restrictions have relaxed in the former Soviet Union, records of the deeds of the elite pilots of the various Soviet Air Forces are coming to light. Although initially equipped with very poor aircraft, and robbed of effective leadership thanks as much to Stalin's purges in the late 1930s as to the efforts of the Luftwaffe, Soviet fighter pilots soon turned the tables through the use of both lend-lease aircraft like the Hurricane, Spitfire, P-39 and P-40, and home-grown machines like the MiG-3, LaGG-3/5, Lavochkin La-5/7/9 and the Yak-1/3.
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The Soviet Union began assisting the People's Republic of China in its establishment of a modern air force in 1950, when Soviet Air Force regiments were sent to train local pilots. China's involvement in the Korean War in late October 1950 inevitably drew Soviet pilots into the war. A total of 52 Soviet pilots scored five or more victories in the Korean War. The history of these covert actions has been a long-buried secret and this book will be the first English publication to detail the only instance when the Cold War between Russia and the US became "hot." This book uncovers Soviet combat experiences during the Korean War from detailed unit histories and rare first-hand accounts. With access to extensive Russian archives, the authors offer an enthralling insight into an air war that has been largely covered up and neglected, illustrated with previously unpublished photographs and detailed full-color profiles.