Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Grizodubova, Valentina Stepanovna (1910–1993)

Russian air force colonel and sole woman commanding officer of a men's wing during World War II. Born in Kharkiv on 31 January 1910, the daughter of an aircraft designer, Valentina Grizodubova graduated from Penza Flying Club in 1929, Kharkiv Flying School, and Advanced Flying School in Tula in 1933. She mastered many types of aircraft, setting seven world records in the process. On 24–25 September 1938, Grizodubova flew nonstop from Moscow to the Pacific in an ANT-37. For this pioneer flight she, her copilot Polina Osipenko, and her navigator Marina Raskova received the award of Hero of the Soviet Union, the highest Soviet military decoration. They were the first Soviet women to be thus honored.

In May 1942, Grizodubova was appointed commanding officer of the 101st Long-Range Air Regiment (renamed 31st Krasnosel'sky Guards Bomber Regiment in 1944). She successfully demonstrated the suitability of the Li-2 (modified DC-3) for use as a night bomber. In June 1942, Grizodubova led her unit in delivering supplies to the besieged city of Leningrad. She was noted for flying more than her male colleagues and sometimes flew as copilot to monitor her pilots' performance.

In September 1942, Grizodubova's unit was placed at the disposal of Central Partisan Headquarters. Overcoming dense enemy flak and engaging enemy fighters, her aircrews flew more than 1,850 supply missions, and on their return they evacuated wounded partisans and children. In 1943, Grizodubova prevailed on her superiors not to decrease these flights.

Grizodubova flew about 200 wartime missions and was awarded many prestigious military decorations. A senior official of civil aviation after the war, Grizodubova also served on the executive board of several veterans' organizations, assisting numerous former prisoner-of-war camp inmates who were persecuted by Soviet authorities. As a member of the Soviet parliament, she courageously criticized Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's reign of terror. Grizodubova died in Moscow on 1 May 1993.

Kazimiera J. Cottam


Further Reading
Cottam, Kazimiera J. Women in War and Resistance: Selected Biographies. Nepean, Canada: New Military Publishing, 1998.; Verkhozin, A. M. Samolety letiat k partizanam (Supplying partisans). 2nd ed. Moscow: Izdatel'stvo Politicheskoi Literatury, 1966.; Verkhozin, A. M. "Polkom komanduet zhenschchina" (Wing commander). In L. F. Toropov, ed., Geroini [Heroines], vol. 1, 2nd ed. Moscow: Politizdat, 1969.
 

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