Thursday, April 16, 2015

N is for the Night Witches

The Night Witches

This is a kick ass bunch of ladies! The 588th Night Bomber Regiment was the mostly highly decorated all-female unit of the Soviet Air Forces. Over the course of 4 years, they flew over 30,000 missions and dropping a total of 23,000 tons of bombs on the invading Germans.

These ladies flew at night, with no radar and no parachutes, idling their engines as they approached targets and gliding to where they released their bombs. Their plywood and canvas cropduster planes made minimal noise - just a soft whoooosh as they went by, reminding the Germans of a witch flying by on her broomstick. Thus they earned the name Nachthexen, or Night Witches.

The Witches had to fly multiple missions per night. Due to the weight of the bombs, their little planes could only carry 2 at a time, plus the pilot & navigator.

The Atlantic says "The Night Bomber Regiment was one of three female fighter pilot units created by Stalin at the urging of Marina Raskova -- an aviation celebrity who was, essentially, "the Soviet Amelia Earhart." Raskova trained her recruits as pilots and navigators, and also as members of maintenance and ground crews. She also prepared them for an environment that preferred to treat women as bombshells rather than bombers. One general, male, initially complained about being sent a "a bunch of girlies" instead of soldiers. But the women and their flimsy little crop-dusters and their ill-fitting uniforms and their 23,000 tons of ammunition soon proved him wrong. And they did all that while decorating their planes with flowers and using their navigation pencils as lipcolor."



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