The Best Kept Russian Secret 
of World War II

By the close of World War II almost 1,000 Russian women had flown combat missions in every type of Soviet warplane. This was kept secret, not by the Soviets but by the Allies, from the general public in the West. Using historical fiction based on fact, Roy McShane’s exciting novel, HWELTE, reveals for the first time what truly deadly hunters these women fighter pilots proved to be. It also chronicles the adventures of a young American pilot who stumbles across this secret at the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942.

The White Rose and the Night Witches


Decorated three times for valor, Shturmovik pilot Lt. Anna Yegorova

Because Hitler’s “Operation Barbarossa” caught the Soviet Air Force on the ground in June of 1941, nearly annihilating it, Stalin, out of desperation created the 122nd Composite Air Division, which was strictly made up of women combat pilots. By the War’s end nearly 1,000 Russian women had flown with valor and bravery in every type of Soviet combat aircraft, ranging from fighters to bombers.

Additionally, many women pilots served in all-male Red Army Air Force units: such as the “White Rose of Stalingrad”, Lilya Litvak, a petite, blonde, gray-eyed beauty who shot down 12 enemy aircraft and served with a crack male “Guards” squadron.

Then there was the all-female 586th Fighter Air Regiment credited with 38 kills – 17 of which were brought down by top ace Olga Yamshchikova.

However, perhaps some of the bravest women combat pilots were found with the all-female 588th Night Bomber Air Regiment, known as the “Night Witches.” Despite being equipped with slow, obsolete PO-2 biplanes, during the course of the War, they conducted an incredible 24,000 missions behind enemy lines, and delivered 23,000 tons of bombs from their fragile wood-and-fabric aircraft. Though their casualty rate was high, so was their recognition by a grateful nation. A total of 30 citations for “Hero of the Soviet Union”, Russia’s highest honor, were given to women in the Soviet Air Force, 23 of which were earned by the 588th “Night Witches.”

Lieutenants Lilya Litvak (left) and Katya

Lt. Valeria Khomyakova (2nd from right).
Lieutenants Lilya Litvak (left) and Katya Budanova (center) shot down a combined 22 kills before both of these fighter aces in turn were killed in vicious dogfights. The first Luftwaffe aircraft to be shot down by a woman, a Ju 88 Fighter-Bomber, was achieved in Sept. 1942 by Lt. Valeria Khomyakova (2nd from right).

HWELTE (whell-'tay) n. Navajo: meaning fortress or place of refuge

Roy McShane
ISBN 0-595-21782-6
426 Pages, Size: 6”x 9” 
Price: $22.95

Distributed By

1-800-THE-BOOK  (843-2665)


Twenty-two-year-old First Lieutenant Chuck Hewitt, of the U.S. Army Air Corps, is in big trouble. While attempting to deliver a lend-lease B-25 medium bomber to Stalingrad, in 1942, most of his crew is killed, he’s badly shot up, and becomes hopelessly lost. Eventually he’s intercepted by a mysterious Russian fighter and led to a secret airbase where he crash-lands. Before passing out, Chuck sees the Russian pilot exit this fighter – discovering the pilot to be a beautiful woman.

Two days later, Chuck regains consciousness in an underground bunker where he is held prisoner. As the days pass he gradually discovers there is something terribly wrong with this airbase – there are no men, only women.

For Chuck Hewitt has stumbled onto one of Stalin’s best kept secrets. He is the “guest” of a Soviet fighter squadron attached to the 586th Fighter Air Regiment, an all-female regiment, which daily takes on the best pilots Hitler’s Luftwaffe has to offer – snaking across the battle-torn skies of Stalingrad in a macabre aerial-dance of death. These Soviet women fighter pilots are known as the “Free Hunters.”

In time, Chuck is accepted by the all-female fighter squadron and is taught a lesson in courage and valor that will change the direction of his life. He also falls in love with one of the squadron’s top aces, the woman who led him to this airbase – saving his life - and who patiently teaches him the art of air combat and survival.


"… though a novel, McShane tells a story largely hidden and untold in the history books. I guarantee you a terrific reading experience."

Alan Caruba – Bookviews, National Book Critics Circle

"Extraordinary fiction based on fact. These Russian women fighter pilots were amazing - aggressive and highly successful. I certainly hope McShane has a sequel in the works. His story and writing style demands a Hwelte II."

Dr. Robert N. Cleaves,  Major General, U.S.A.F. (Ret. )

"Who would have thought that (Hwelte) a work of fiction would be the hottest commodity on this island".

Bruce Stanley – Columnist for The Phuket Gazette

"I found McShane’s writing style to possess that rare quality of appealing to both men and women. It literally hooked me from page one. I understand McShane has a sequel in the works – sign me up, I can’t wait for it to be released."

Olivia Davis - Columnist for The Olympian

"In my humble opinion, McShane is a good writer, who has written a good book, which will make a good movie. What more can I say?"

James Newport – Producer/Director, Hollywood


To contact the Author by e-mail, please use the following:

Web design by Andaman Graphics Phuket