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Publisher's Summary

Hanna Reitsch and Melitta von Stauffenberg were talented, courageous, and strikingly attractive women who fought convention to make their names in the male-dominated field of flight in 1930s Germany. With the war, both became pioneering test pilots and were awarded the Iron Cross for service to the Third Reich. But they could not have been more different, and neither woman had a good word to say for the other.

Hanna was middle-class, vivacious, and distinctly Aryan while the darker, more self-effacing Melitta came from an aristocratic Prussian family. Both were driven by deeply held convictions about honor and patriotism; but ultimately, while Hanna tried to save Hitler's life, begging him to let her fly him to safety in April 1945, Melitta covertly supported the most famous attempt to assassinate the Führer. Their interwoven lives provide vivid insight into Nazi Germany and its attitudes toward women, class, and race.

Acclaimed biographer Clare Mulley gets under the skin of these two distinctive and unconventional women, giving a full - and as yet largely unknown - account of their contrasting yet strangely parallel lives against a changing backdrop of the 1936 Olympics, the Eastern Front, the Berlin Air Club, and Hitler's bunker.

©2017 Clare Mulley (P)2017 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"This compelling work has the drama and suspense of the best movie scripts. It is the perfect choice for lovers of narrative non-fiction, especially those interested in strong females." (Library Journal)

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  • Jean
  • Santa Cruz, CA, United States
  • 09-11-17

Vividly Told Duel Biography

This is a duel biography of two women aviators, Hanna Reitsch (1912-1979) and Countess Melitta Schiller Schenk Gafin von Stauffenberg (1903-1945). Hanna had Aryan looks and Melitta was a brunette from Prussian aristocracy. These women became brilliant pilots in the 1930s when few women were allowed to fly.

Hanna was a supporter of Hitler’s new regime and lent her image to a series of publicity articles and collectibles. She dropped out of medical school to pursue flying. She became a test pilot and also flew the famous ME163 rocket plane and was almost killed in the process. She flew all types of planes including helicopters and gliders. She set 40 flight altitude records. She was the first woman to fly a helicopter and was awarded the Military Flying Medal. Hitler awarded her the Iron Cross 1st Class for her courage and commitment to duty. She was the first woman to receive the honor during the war. She was also the first woman to receive the Luftwaffe Pilot/Observer Badge in Gold with Diamonds. and to be awarded the title Flugkapitan (Flight Captain).

Melitta was shy and more conflicted about the regime. Melitta graduated in 1927 cum laude from the Technical University of Munich in aeronautical engineering. She went on to obtain her Ph.D. She became one the Nazis most senior aeronautical engineer and the lead Stuka dive bomber test pilot. She did over 2,000 test dives during the war. Her father had some Jewish blood. She was married to Alexander von Stauffenberg (1905-1964) whose brother, Claus von Stauffenberg (1907-1944), was executed for Operation Valkyrie. She was arrested with all of the family after Valkyrie, but she was released and her husband was sent to a concentration camp. Melitta headed up her own military flight institute which was an unheard-of position for a woman in Nazi Germany in the 1930s. In 1944, she also received the Iron Cross. She was the second women to be awarded the title Flugkapitan (Flight Captain). She was awarded the Gold Front Flying Clasp for Bombers in 1944 for flying over 1500 test flights in bombers. Melitta was shot down on 8 April 1945 by an allied fighter plane.

The book is well written and meticulously researched. The author searches for the truth about the two female pilots, how they became successful pilots and how they felt about serving Hitler. The author does not go into depth about Nazism or the war except in how the women interacted with it. Mulley stated that the two women avoided each other and had a difficult relationship. Apparently Melitta, felt that Hanna was a Nazi. The author successfully portrays their passion for flying and their dedication to aviation.

The book is fifteen hours long. Christa Lewis does an excellent job narrating the book. Lewis is a voice-over artist and award-winning audiobook narrator.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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my opinion

I love this book. I heard about these women and this book told me everything .

1 of 1 people found this review helpful