MY FAVOURITE AEROPLANE IN 200 WORDS #28: Yakovlev Yak-1 by Anna Morózova
There have only ever been two female fighter aces: ‘Katya’ Budanova and Lydia Litvyak. These two Soviet air force pilots fought in World War II, battling Germany’s Luftwaffe over Stalingrad.
Litvyak was a lover of flowers, and she painted a white lily on the side of her Yakovlev Yak-1 fighter, leading to her popular title- the ‘White Lily of Stalingrad’. Her good friend and comrade, Budanova, was a cheerful, energetic woman. For a time they fought in an all-female fighter unit, an elite force equipped with the Yak-1. Another operator of the formidable Yak was the Normandie-Niemen, a Free French fighter squadron (later three), that fought on the Eastern Front with Soviet forces. An official statement from this ferocious unit to the female Soviet pilots read: “If we could pick all the flowers of the earth and lay them at your feet, they would not suffice as recognition of your valour.”
The Yak-1 spawned the Yak-3, -7 and -9, and if they are counted together as one aircraft type (there is more similarity between a Yak-1 and 9, than there is between a Spitfire Mk. I and F Mk. 24), it is the most produced fighter in history (as noted by Bill Gunston), with over 37,000 built.
Anna Morózova is studying history in Russia
Let’s remember that the basic design of the Yak-3 was retained for Yakovlev’s first jet fighters, as well as for the Yak-11 trainer and its derivatives. It’s influence was enormous.