Wednesday, May 08, 2013

The Night Witches

In 1941 when Germany invaded Russia, a female aviatrix named Marina Raskova worked to form regiments of women fighter pilots. There were three: the 586th, the 587th, and the 588th.

The Germans came to fear the 588th so much they called them the Nachthexen, or the Night Witches.

Most of the pilots were approximately 20 years old.

They flew militarized crop dusters, a pilot and a navigator, open cockpits with no radio or machine gun. 

Largely due to the simpleness of the planes they flew, they were often undetected by German radar.  On approach, the pilot would kill the engine and float silently until she dropped her bomb. On the ground, there was no warning. 

Their planes' slow speeds and ability to make tight turns made it next to impossible for German fighters to catch them; the Witches had far more maneuverability. 

Over the course of the war, the 588th alone would fly more than 24,000 missions. 

Thirty-one members of the regiment died in combat. Twenty-four were made Heroes of the Soviet Union. 

The Night Witches. 
Not lost to history. 
Not today. 

"The bravest are surely those 
who have the clearest vision
of what is before them,
glory and danger alike,
and yet notwithstanding,
go out to meet it."


  1. I've never heard of this! Thanks for the lovely post. The pictures are a great find, and what an interesting story. :)

  2. What a shame that these women had anything to do with war. My mother was born in a part of Germany that was seized by the Russians and is now a part of Russia. It was all pretty awful, on all sides, for everyone.

    But I like how much these women accomplished as aviators.

  3. Anonymous9:33 PM

    Yes! I LOVE the Night Witches. Thanks so much for sharing these photos and the back story. I've read that Russian women in combat during WWII were some of the most fearsome fighters. I read an awesome article in a military magazine a few months ago about "lady killers" throughout history. It was a good read!

  4. Anonymous10:12 PM

    I had never heard of the gals before. What pioneers!

  5. Anonymous12:16 AM

    What a cool story I had never heard about before. Thanks for sharing.


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