HWELTE (whell- `tay) n. Navajo: meaning fortress or place of refuge.
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.
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 three Female Air Regiments. And 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," Lidya Litvyak, 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 Lidya Litvyak (left) and Katya Budanova (center) shot down a combined 22 kills before both of these fighter aces in turn were killed in vicious dogfights.
Decorated three times for valor, Shturmovik pilot Lt. Anna Yegorova.
The first Luftwaffe aircraft to be shot down by a woman at night - was achieved in Sept. 1942 by Lt. Valeria Khomyakova (2nd from right).
In my endeavor to use a writing style which will appeal to both men and women, and aviation oriented and non-aviation oriented individuals, apparently my efforts have met with some success, because many of my non-flying readers have actually expressed an interest in the aircraft I write about. Therefore I have decided to add this Aircraft Index to my website in order to clear up some of the mystery. Just Click on any of the following FLAGS:
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 air base - 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 air base, saving his life, and who patiently teaches him the art of air combat and survival.
Extraordinary fiction based on fact. These Russian women fighter pilots were amazingly aggressive and highly successful. I certainly hope McShane has a sequel in the works. His story and writing style demands a Hwelte II.
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 cant 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, Writer, Hollywood
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
426 Pages, Size: 6" x 9"
In Roy McShane's second installment of his trilogy, HWELTE, bomber pilot First Lieutenant Chuck Hewitt returns home wounded from Stalingrad, in 1943, to his parents ranch at Flagstaff, Arizona. He's a broken man looking for answers - ultimately finding those answers in the extraordinary history of his white grandfather's and Navajo grandmother's struggle to forge a life together against all odds in the 1880s.
Inspired by his grandparent's hardships, Chuck decides to get back in the war and transfers into fighters. He eventually winds up in England, in 1944, with the 354th Fighter Group - the first group to fly and fight over Europe in the new, revolutionary P-51 Mustang. Whereupon, after his initial mission escorting B-17s over Germany, Chuck makes a startling discovery about the common denominator fighter pilots and bomber pilots share: They are all condemned men living on death row.
“... McShane's descriptions of the American West, and the air war in Europe during World War II, are the best I've ever read.”
-San Francisco Bay Guardian
“The Old West collides with World War II. Strap in and hold on for the ride of your life”
-Los Angeles New Times
“McShane's, HWELTE The Mustang, is like entering a time machine - the characterizations are gripping.”
“... a western, a war story, a flying story and a love story, McShane pulls them all together with exciting realism.”
-St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Brilliantly researched... quality historical fiction based on fact. McShane is a strong writer.”
-Biscayne Bay Tribune
403 Pages, Size: 6" x 9"
In Roy McShane's third installment of his HWELTE trilogy, it is 1979 and his protagonist, quarter-Navajo Chuck Hewitt, is a 59-year-old captain flying for TWA, who’s currently on loan to SAUDIA (Saudi Arabian Airlines) to evaluate the Russian TU-144D Supersonic Transport at the Paris Air Show. He spots a Soviet demonstration-pilot climbing out of a MiG-25 fighter, discovering the pilot is a beautiful 26-year-old woman who uncannily resembles his old flame from World War II: a female Russian fighter pilot who saved his life at Stalingrad!
The next day Chuck begins the flight evaluation of the Soviet SST from Paris to Cairo, under the supervision of an Aeroflot crew, when the Russian first officer arrives to assist Chuck, and he finds himself face-to-face with the same female MiG-25 pilot he saw yesterday! Up close she’s even more like the woman pilot he fell in love with at Stalingrad so long ago.
Chuck doesn't realize that he's meeting his Russian daughter for the very first time!
“Pulse-pounding aerial combat sequences … sharply contrasting with a sensitive, moving love story.”
-The San Francisco Times
“McShane’s powerful writing explores the savage face of war with taught, chilling realism, while concurrently describing a remarkable story of love, loss and rediscovery … brilliant storytelling.”
“Once you start this book, plan on some late nights, it’s that hard to put down … spellbinding.”
-The Village Voice
“Despite the crushing reality of war, McShane’s characters deliver courage, survival and hope in the most extraordinarily surprising manner … hard-hitting and wrenching!”
“A fascinating and unusual love affair surrounded by the fast-paced world of aviation … sporting an array of twists and surprises that sucks the reader right in.”
403 Pages, Size: 6" x 9"
P-51B with Greenhouse Canopy & Drop Tanks 354th FG, 356th Fighter Squadron
P-51C with Malcolm Hood Canopy & Drop Tanks 4th FG, 336th Fighter Squadron
P-51D with Half-Teardrop Type Canopy 4th FG, 334th Fighter Squadron
The Air Transport Command B-25 ferried by Chuck Hewitt to Russia:
Curtiss JN-4 Jenny- Barnstormer and Trainer
Boeing PT-17 Stearman - U.S. Army Air Corps Trainer
Vultee-Stinson L-5 Artillery Spotter
North American AT-6 - U.S. Army Air Corps Trainer
Lockheed P-38 Lightning
Bell P-39 Airacobra
Curtiss P-40 in AVG Flying Tigers paint scheme
Republic P-47 Thunderbolt with Drop Tank - AKA: Thunder-Jug & T-Bolt
Douglas C-47 Transport
Douglas A-20 Havoc
Martin B-26 Marauder - AKA: the Widow Maker
Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress
B-17 Bad Check jettisoning its Bomb Load
Note: Battle Damage and puffs of black smoke from 88 mm Flak
Consolidated B-24 Liberator
North American F-86 Sabre - flown by Chuck Hewitt with the 25th Squadron, 51st FIW, Korea, 1952.
Sikorsky S-55 (H-19) Rescue Helicopter, Korea, 1952.
Jeff Hewitt's McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom bombing the Thanh Hoa Bridge, North Vietnam, 1972.
Rescue Team: a Sikorsky CH-53 Helicopter being escorted by a pair of Douglas A-1 Skyraiders, Laos, 1972.
TWA (Trans World Airlines) Boeing 707 flown by Capt. Chuck Hewitt, 1973.
SAUDIA (Saudi Arabian Airlines) Lockheed L-1011 TriStar flown by Capt. Chuck Hewitt, 1979.
Ju 87 Stuka Note: under wing 37 mm cannons for busting up Tanks
Me 109 Note: a Rotte, or Pair, workingover a B-17 in Coffin Corner
FW 190D Long Nose
Me 110 Zerstörer, or Destroyer, Fighter-Bomber
Ju 88 Medium Bomber
He 111 Medium Bomber
Me 163 Rocket Powered Fighter, AKA: Komet or Kraftei (Power-Egg).
>Me 262 Schwalbe, or Swallow, one of the first fighters to introduce the Jet-Age.
V-1 Fieseler Fi 103 AKA: Buzz Bomb, Doodlebug, or Flying Bomb
V-2, or A-4, Ballistic Missile
PO-2: Night Bomber flown by the all-female 588th Night Witches
Polikarpov I-16: Which perfected the art of Taran, or Ramming
LaGG-3: Lakirovanny Garantirovanny Grob, or Varnished Guaranteed Coffin
IL-2 Shturmovik, or Flying Tank:
The type Zelenko flew with the Penal Company of air-gunners.
Yak-1: The type flown by Tamara with the all-male 269th Fighter Air Regiment.
Yak-7B: The type flown by Tamara at the Battle of Stalingrad with the all-female 586th Fighter Air Regiment.
Yak-9: The type flown by Tamara in 1945 with another all-male fighter regiment.
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15, North Korean Air Force, 1952.
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21, North Vietnamese Air Force, 1972.
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25, Paris Air Show, 1979.
Tupolev 144-D Supersonic Transport, Paris Air Show, 1979.
Tupolev 144-D Supersonic Transport at Mach 2.0 over the Mediterranean, 1979.