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About World War 2: Night Witches-- All-Female Night Bomber Regiment

Updated on May 24, 2016
UnnamedHarald profile image

I try to make history readable and interesting, warts and all. We must look to the past to understand the present and confront the future.

WW2: A Polikarpov Po-2 biplane, similar to the aircraft operated by the Night Witches during their night bombing missions.
WW2: A Polikarpov Po-2 biplane, similar to the aircraft operated by the Night Witches during their night bombing missions. | Source

The Night Witches Flew Biplanes That Couldn't Reach 100mph

When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, Marina Raskova, a famous Russian aviatrix, used her influence with Joseph Stalin to form regiments of women pilots. In October, three were formed: the 586th Regiment of fighter pilots, the 587th Regiment of dive bombers and the 588th Regiment of night bombers. The 588th struck such fear into the enemy, the Germans called them Nachthexen, “Night Witches”, a name the women adopted with pride.

At its largest strength, the 588th Regiment consisted of 40 two-person crews. Most of the young women were around 20 years old. A 28-year-old was referred to as “grandma”. They flew Polikarpov Po-2 biplanes, basically militarized crop-dusters and trainer planes made mostly of wood and canvas. The pilot and navigator sat in open cockpits, with only small glass windscreens to protect them from the savage Russian winters; there was no radio or machine gun. The Po-2 could carry two 100kg (220lb) bombs at a maximum speed of 94 mph; it cruised at 68 mph.

Commemorative stamp on the 100th anniversary of the birth of Hero of Soviet Union Marina Raskova, Russian aviatrix who organized the 3 female air regiments. She died in a crash in 1943. Her ashes are interred in the Kremlin Wall.
Commemorative stamp on the 100th anniversary of the birth of Hero of Soviet Union Marina Raskova, Russian aviatrix who organized the 3 female air regiments. She died in a crash in 1943. Her ashes are interred in the Kremlin Wall. | Source

Bombing and Harassing

The women were assigned to night harassment and bombing missions against supply depots, command centers, etc. They quickly adapted to their mission and their aircraft. Despite the Po-2's obvious shortcomings, it was surprisingly effective in their hands as a night bomber. While even a pencil could pierce the Po-2's fabric, bullets usually did no damage other than making holes that could easily be patched. The women flew so low that antiaircraft shells would actually pass through the airplane and explode harmlessly high above them. Because of their primitive construction, German radar could hardly see them.

WWII: Evgeniya Rudneva, navigator in the "Night Witches". KIA.
WWII: Evgeniya Rudneva, navigator in the "Night Witches". KIA. | Source

Striking Fear Into the Germans

When they approached their target, the pilot would turn off her engine and glide the bomb to its destination. When gliding, the plane dropped at a rate half the speed of a parachutist. On the ground, there was no warning until the Germans heard the sound of wind against the plane's wing-bracing wires followed by the bombs exploding. At first, rumors spread among the Germans that the Russians had a silent night plane that hovered in the air, dropped its bombs and reversed back to its lines. When they learned the truth, that they were being attacked by 20-year-old women in biplanes, it unnerved them even more. Many refused to smoke cigarettes outside at night for fear of revealing themselves to the “Night Witches” and, when darkness fell, stress and tension rose. Years after the war, survivors were still traumatized when woken up abruptly.

Besting Messerschmitts and Focke-Wulfs

The women were even able to use the Po-2's speed (even slower than most World War 1 planes) to their advantage. The plane's slow speed gave it astonishing maneuverability, allowing them to make tight twists and turns. The German fighters sent against them were too fast. The Po-2's highest speed of 94 mph was so much slower than the Messerschmitts' and Focke-Wulfs' stall speed (the speed below which sent them plummeting to the ground), the enemy fighters only had a very short time to shoot at them before having to make wide, lengthy turns for another run. In the meantime, the women were usually able to disappear in the darkness. The fact that they also flew at treetop level also caused some German fighters to slam into hillsides.

The “Night Witches” were so effective and so hard to bring down that German pilots received the Iron Cross and a cash award of 2,000 marks if they shot one of them down.

WW2: Nadezhda Popova. As a Night Witch she was shot down several times. She flew 18 missions in one night. Standing with Russian president Medvedev in 2009
WW2: Nadezhda Popova. As a Night Witch she was shot down several times. She flew 18 missions in one night. Standing with Russian president Medvedev in 2009 | Source

Multiple Missions Per Night

After releasing their bombs, the women returned to their base and immediately got ready for another mission. The 588th Regiment-- it would later be re-designated the 46th "Taman" Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment in honor of their heroics on the Taman Peninsula-- was the only regiment made up entirely of women. This included its pilots, navigators, electricians, technicians and armorers.

When a plane landed, the armorers had three to five minutes to rearm them. They had to unload the bombs from their crates, set the fuses, manhandle two 220lb bombs and attach them underneath the plane. Each armorer might be involved with loading 3 tons of bombs in one night. Once refueled and rearmed, the women would take off for their next mission. It was not uncommon for each crew to fly ten missions in a night. One crew flew 18 missions in one night.

Some of the Women of the 588th/46th

  • Yevdokiya Bershanskaya - Regimental Commander
  • Yevgeniya Zhigulenko, Hero of the Soviet Union - Flight Commander
  • Tat'yana Makarova, Hero of the Soviet Union - Flight Commander
  • Nina Ul'yanenko, Hero of the Soviet Union - Flight Navigator
  • Nadezhda Popova (1921), Hero of the Soviet Union – shot down several times; flew 18 missions in one night.
  • Natalya Meklin (1922 – 2005) Hero of the Soviet Union – 908 missions
  • Evgeniya Rudneva (1920 – 1944), Hero of the Soviet Union, posthumously – 645 missions
  • Vera Bjelik (1921 – 1944), Hero of the Soviet Union, posthumously – 813 missions
  • Irina Sebrova (1914 - 2000), Hero of the Soviet Union – 1008 missions
  • Polina Gelman (1919 – 2005), Hero of the Soviet Union – 860 missions
  • Rufina Gasheva (? - 2000), Hero of the Soviet Union - 848 missions, shot down twice

Searchlights and Parachutes

Searchlights were the women's worst fear, but again they adapted. Flying in pairs, one plane would become a decoy as the searchlights locked onto it. As it dodged and weaved while the lights tried to hold them in sight-- all the while being shot at by antiaircraft guns-- the other plane slipped through the dark and dropped its bombs. Then the two planes would meet up and re-enter the target area with their roles reversed.

The women didn't get parachutes until 1944, which didn't make a lot of difference when over enemy lines because they flew too low for parachutes to open in time, but they did appreciate them as cushions which also provided some protection from ground fire. At least on one occasion, a pilot and navigator were saved by parachutes when they jumped from their burning plane on the way back to base. Unfortunately, the navigator stepped on a mine and only the pilot survived.

More Than 24,000 Missions

While Allied bomber crews might fly 25 to 35 combat missions before being released, Soviet pilots usually fought from the moment they joined up until they were killed or the war ended. Many of the women of the 588th/46th Regiment flew 800 to 1,000 missions during the war; as a regiment they flew more than 24,000 combat missions and dropped 3,000 tons of bombs and 26,000 incendiary bombs. Twenty-four of them were made Heroes of the Soviet Union. Thirty-one women in the regiment died in combat-- more than 25% of its aircrew.

The regiment also participated in the final assault against Berlin. When the Soviet Air Force was deciding what units should participate in Moscow's Victory Parade flypast, however, it was decided to only have fast planes, so the women of the 588th/46th Regiment stayed at their base. In any case, bad weather canceled the flypast portion of the parade.

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    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image

      Pavlo Badovskyi 4 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      Nothing critical to say. Interesting hub with interesting information. Voted up!

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Wow, that was quick, Pavlo. Thanks for the thumbs up!

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image

      Pavlo Badovskyi 4 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      i was simply waiting for it :) just felt you have to publish a new hub :)

    • Schatzie Speaks profile image

      Schatzie Speaks 4 years ago from US

      "When they learned the truth, that they were being attacked by 20-year-old women in biplanes, it unnerved them even more" haha I love this! Interesting article, I enjoyed the read! :)

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Thanks, Schatzie. It drove the Germans crazy for literally years. Meanwhile the Soviet male pilots dismissed the women pilots as a stunt... at first. When they proved themselves in their frail, slow biplanes, the men came around 180 degrees-- and then some. The male pilots started showing off over the women's airbase so much during the day when the women were trying to sleep that the Soviet leaders had to declare the airspace over the base as completely off-limits.

    • rcrumple profile image

      Rich 4 years ago from Kentucky

      Tremendous article! Had absolutely no knowledge of these brave women at all. To believe in their country so strongly as to take these missions in such stride is remarkable. Thanks for sharing this story with us. It's a great one, for sure!

    • xstatic profile image

      Jim Higgins 4 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      This is astounding! I had no idea that this ever happened. Those women were incredibly brave and did a lot of damage with their bombs, not to mention to the morale of the German troops.

      This was great info.

      The number of missions they flew blows me away.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      rcrumple and xstatic, thanks for your kind comments. At first I couldn't figure out how they could have done so many missions, but when I discovered they would each do 4 or 6 or a dozen missions a night, it blew me away, too. I wish I could have found more public domain images but the video is quite good. I'll have to reconcile my text sources which said their Po-2's had no machineguns with what the video shows in a couple of brief shots.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Harald......Never heard of these night witches......totally unknown to me until this hub. I'm going to break from the crowd and perhaps go out on a limb with my reaction to this information.....I couldn't help but see that a couple of comments from male readers, referred to these women as "brave." Their bravery probably must not be denied......BUT

      I can't even imagine a single reason that a woman would WANT to engage in these activities/missions. I'm not buying the "Patriotism" thing....Baloney. There had to be a number of reasons, but I doubt any of them were less than self-serving.

      Maybe I'm way off.......but personally & truthfully, in a word, I would say they were NUTS.......(I would also say they all must have suffered from a certain P_ _ _ S Envy. ) I'm not a sexist. But perhaps I am a little too female to be impressed with this. Did they adjust their athletic cup and spit too? Sorry.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      fpherj48, thanks for commenting and I appreciate your point of view. In my opinion men don't have a monopoly on "manly" feelings, just as women aren't always what they are typecast to be. There are women murderers, heroes, ruthless business people, nurturing, caring, selfish... in other words human, be that for good or ill. So, I guess I'll close with this thought: if they were men, I'd still say they would have had to be a little nuts, but war makes people nuts, but it doesn't detract from their accomplishments. I'd just as soon there be no need of heroics, but there you are. But I do value your comments and insights, so thanks again.

    • MG Singh profile image

      MG Singh 4 years ago from Singapore

      A wonderful hub, but I doubt these women affected the outcome of the war. It can just be called an act of bravado. We have women pilots in most air forces but their performance is more as camp followers. All the same an interesting post.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Thanks for reading and commenting, MG Singh.

    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 4 years ago

      Wow what a wonderful informative hub on the women flyers. Something I was only vaguely aware of - well done and thanks. Up, interesting and useful.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Hi CyberShelley. Thanks for the comment. Glad you liked it.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia

      Voted up and interesting. Thanks for another fascinating piece of history and hats off to the Night Witches. Wonderful tribute. Passing this on.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Hi Gypsy. I thought it was interesting when I discovered the Night Witches, but I knew I had to write about them when I saw the biplanes they flew and how they adapted to flying such anachronistic planes. BTW, the women fighter regiment flew modern YAK fighters and the women dive bomber regiment were given the newest dive bombers (even before their male counterparts). But it was the Night Witches who did the most damage to the enemy. Thanks for commenting and sharing.

    • aethelthryth profile image

      aethelthryth 4 years ago from American Southwest

      Regarding fpherj48's comment, it's been pointed out to me that women are much more likely than men to say (and mean!) they want to die for their country. What men are more likely to say is in the opening speech in the movie "Patton". There really are women who join for patriotic reasons; I knew one. There are also a whole lot of self-serving women and camp followers. And there are also a lot of women who like adventure, at least for a few years, and that type would be flattered by a name like Nachthexen (in another life, it could have been me.)

      But I think MG Singh has a good point that in war, what matters is effectiveness.

    • xstatic profile image

      Jim Higgins 4 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      Russians in general were very dedicated to the defense of their homeland against the hated Nazis. It seems entirely fitting to me that these women were motivated by patriotism over everything else.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      @aethelthryth and @xstatic, whether it was patriotism or adventure or whatever (I believe they felt very patriotic defending the Motherland), to my mind it took more fortitude on their part to fight because they also had to deal with the attitude that women belonged in the kitchen-- a familiar theme throughout the world. As far as effectiveness, remember there were only a few hundred pilots, navigators, armorers, etc that made up their regiment and they kept it up for four years. Based on the Germans' reactions, I'd say they were more effective than most other groups of a similar size, or larger, given such a titanic struggle of millions. Thanks very much for your comments-- I always enjoy hearing from you both.

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      Kieran Gracie 4 years ago

      Fascinating Hub, UnnamedHarald. I knew that the Soviets had many female soldiers but not that there were all-women air squadrons. Your description of the planes flying too slowly for the 109s and 190s to get to grips with them is also interesting. Echoes of the Fairey Swordfish in WW2 and, later, the Harrier in the Falklands. In dogfights often the slowest aircraft wins. Great story, voted accordingly and thank you for bringing it to us.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Thanks very much for commenting, Kieran. The key to success of the slow biplanes versus the fast fighters was that the biplanes were flying at night. During the day, when transporting supplies, mail, etc, they were much more vulnerable. Now, the Harrier vs the faster Mirage (I believe) achieved success because they could suddenly reverse their thrusters leaving the Mirage to roar past them.

    • joanveronica profile image

      Joan Veronica Robertson 4 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      Hi UH a fantastic read! I had never heard specifically about this all women regiment, so I enjoyed the article all that more! I love these offbeat rarities to be found within the general massive war movement and activity.

      As to men versus women, as you say human nature is not specific to sex, and I have always had the perception that the Russian culture has always included the possibility of women fighting alongside the men.

      At least that's what my communist friends always expounded to me here in Chile when I was at University. Just think for one moment about the siege of Stalingrad. There was no doubt that the women would be fighting shoulder to shoulder with their male comrades. The whole Russian defense of their Motherland was an admirable effort, regardless of what came later on. I feel it should be recognized as such.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Hi joan. Thanks for reading and commenting. I always enjoy your input. I thought I read somewhere that 700,000 or so women fought in the Red Army, as in "fought", but don't quote me on that. I think the Russians just started earlier-- there were a few battalions of women soldiers formed in World War 1, at least one of which actually fought on the Eastern Front. Also, given the millions of male Soviet soldiers killed in World War 2, there would have been less resistance to women fighting.

    • peternehemia profile image

      Peter Nehemia 4 years ago from Jimbaran, Bali, Indonesia

      I think Russian called their country "fatherland", just like the Germans during the World War II. (Just saying, CMIIW) By the way, I voted up for this hub. The subject is interesting indeed. Honestly, I hear about these female pilots only after reading this hub. :)

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Thanks very much for commenting and voting, peternehemia. It is very much appreciated. I do believe, however, most Russians called it the "Motherland", while German-speaking countries tended to call their country the "Fatherland". I'm glad you liked my article.

    • old albion profile image

      Graham Lee 4 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi UH. Another first class effort, with your usual first class presentation. I had not heard of 'the nightwitches' before and this hub has been a revelation. Brilliant.

      Voted up and all.

      Graham.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Thanks again, Graham. One of those "females -flying-biplanes-germans shaking? oh yeah, I have to write this" articles:

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      What a fantastic hub! I had never heard about this before and I love reading about females in historical roles. It shows that they were not all sitting at home wringing their hands. Well done and congrats on your HOTD. Awesome, Interesting and Up!

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 4 years ago from sunny Florida

      My Father was in WWI and told me many stories about what it was like. I was not born until many years later so what he told me and what I have read is what I know about this time in history. This information about amazing accomplishments by women that needs to be shared. Thank you for doing so. ps

    • The60life profile image

      The60life 4 years ago from England

      Congratulations on your H.O.T.D! At the risk of repeating a little of the many comments you have received about this tough, intrepid, and to my my understanding little known ( unless you were a German being attacked) female Russian fighting force, I found this a riveting read and amazing history. Recently, I read something of the exploits of British women pilots ferrying around and testing aircraft of all types during WWII. Again, little known,given little credit, and apparently often shunned by their male counterparts, these young women did a 'man's' job for their country. A big vote-up from me.

    • Cathy Fidelibus profile image

      Ms. Immortal 4 years ago from NJ

      Very interesting, thanks for the history lesson and an entertaining story.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Hello Glimmer and thanks for your enthusiastic comment. Your comment was the first inkling I had that I'd won HOTD, so you really started my day off with a smile.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Nice to meet you, pstraubie48. I, too, was amazed at what these women went through and accomplished. It was a fun and easy hub to write and the research was engrossing. Thank you for your comment.

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England

      Congrats on getting Hub of the Day, David. Well deserved! Excellent WWII articles. Voted Up.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Good to hear from you, The60life. Getting the HOTD sure started my day off right. Apparently history hubs aren't all that commonly chosen so I'm doubly pleased. As you said, like the British women, the Russian women also were shunned and disdained. After a while though, the Night Witches base had to be put off limits from all their "admirers". Of course, it didn't hurt that they were 20-something females at the front, but they were genuinely respected as soldiers. Thanks much for commenting.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Hi Cathy Fidelibus, I'm glad you enjoyed it and thanks for commenting.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Hey, Steve. Always good to hear from you and thanks for your comment. Yeah, it does put a spring in your step!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 4 years ago from North America

      Congratulations on receiving the HOTD! I enjoy discovering these lesser known but incredibly successful fighting groups in the major wars. You do them a huge service by highlighting them in your writing. I look forward to more of your work. Rated Up and more.

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Hahahaha. Of course the Soviets sent women out in biplanes! I shouldn't even be surprised.

      Even though I have a degree in modern European history, I somehow missed learning about the Night Witches. Awesome hub and congratulations!

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Thanks very much, Patty. I have just as much fun researching them and enjoy trying to turn dry facts into interesting reading.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Natashalh, I was amazed how the women turned the biplanes' shortcomings into positives. Covered in canvas? Hey bullets and shells pass right though, usually doing no damage and hard to spot by radar. Cruise at 68 mph? Wave at the German fighters roaring by trying to stay aloft at 140 mph. It seems odd that the Night Witches got the crappy biplanes while the 587th women regiment (who also performed well, but not nearly to the extent of the Night Witches) actually got advanced fighter bombers before their male counterparts. Thanks very much for commenting.

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 4 years ago from Iowa

      Fabulous hub. It taught me something new. Congrats on HOTD!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

      An interesting read that has generated compelling questions. Certainly, there's more to the story, but your look at the night bomber regiment highlights more than a historical event. Thanks for a fascinating explanation of how these women worked in the air. Congrats on your Hub of the Day, as well!

    • joanveronica profile image

      Joan Veronica Robertson 4 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      Hi there, congrats on your Hub of the Day! A well earned attribute, my friend. Well done!

    • sharewhatuknow profile image

      sharewhatuknow 4 years ago from Western Washington

      What an awesome hub. How in the world is it that I have never heard of these very brave Russian women and what they did to help defeat the Germans??

      Hollywood, hello?! Why has a movie or two never been made about what these women accomplished during WWII?

      I have researched quite a bit about WWII, and have never heard of the

      "Nachthexen." Coming upon this great hub certainly caught me by surprise.

      Voted useful, up, and awesome.

    • thumbappoo profile image

      thumbappoo 4 years ago from Kerala, India

      A very interesting and informative hub. Thanks UnnamedHarald.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Thanks for the comment and congratulations, DeborahNeyens. Writers, as you no doubt know, get a little thrill when people learn something from their writing.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Hi RTalloni. They certainly made lemonade out of the lemons they flew. Thanks for commenting and the congrats! BTW, is that your cat in your icon? Beautiful.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      joanveronica-- always great to hear from you. Hope you're enjoying your ascent to summer while we descend into winter!

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Hello sharewhatuknow. Thanks for the awesome comment. I agree... the Night Witches could make a hell of a movie. But, like most people, they probably never heard of them.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Thank you, thumbappoo . I'm glad you enjoyed it and I appreciate the comment.

    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judith Hancock 4 years ago from UK

      So glad to see a history hub get HOTD, even more delighted that it's yours. Great subject, as usual, and well told.

    • Steel Engineer profile image

      Steel Engineer 4 years ago from Kiev, Ukraine

      It's always nice to see and cheer for people breaking cultural paradigms. However, when I think of the application... kind of disappointing regarding humanity.

      They flew 24,000 missions to kill people. Why do we allow war to begin? What should we be doing differently?

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Judi, always nice to hear from you. This was one of those "hmm, this seems interesting" stories when I came across the name "Night Witches". But when I dug deeper and saw what they had to fly, it turned into "oh yeah, I've got to write about this" stories. This was fun to research and write. Thanks for the comment and the compliment.

    • xstatic profile image

      Jim Higgins 4 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      Perhaps those 24000 missions spared thousands more lives by slowing the German army's advance, sparing untold civilian casualties.

      Congratulations on the Hub of the day. This was a great one, as are many of yours.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Hello Steel Engineer. Thanks for reading and commenting. Despite my interest in the world wars, I'm no fan of war either. At the risk of generalizing, it would seem that women have made great strides when men have needed them for the war effort-- whether it's getting out of the kitchen and into the factories or actually getting onto the battlefield. You're right-- what does that say about us?

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Hi xstatic. My take is that the 588th regiment of women night bombers made a difference far exceeding what their numbers were (several hundred pilots, navigators, armorers, etc). They may have been driven by patriotism or boredom with home life or selfishness or wanting to prove themselves, etc or a combination of any of these but they more than proved their worth. Thanks for your kind comment.

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image

      Pavlo Badovskyi 4 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      Congratulations again with Hub of the Day award! You are a talanted writer. Glad to follow you!

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Hi Pavlo! Thanks for that kind comment. It's always good to hear from you.

    • annerivendell profile image

      annerivendell 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Interesting as always-and congratulations on Hub of the Day. You're hubs are always so readable.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Hi annerivendell. False modesty compels me to say "Ah shucks", all the while basking in your compliment.

    • Just History profile image

      Just History 4 years ago from England

      Wow! This is new to me- an example of how the Russians used everything that they had. Over 1000 missions makes the mind boggle amd when you mentioned about the parachutes not being of use when they eventually got them my mind jumped out of its settings! Maybe these women could not see themselves as producing children for Mother Russia so they flew bombers? I know every woman is not cut out to be a mother but this is to the extreme? Thanks for a great hub and something to think about...........A lot of our women pilots were taxi drivers during the war- flying one plane to another aerodrome- I wonder if given the chance they would have been up for the challenge.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Just History, yes, the 1000 missions some of them flew made my jaw drop and then I read that they each usually flew multiple missions in a single night. Another fact I didn't mention was that they couldn't fly as many missions in the summer (because the nights were so short) so there were more winter missions than summer missions. Thanks for your great comment.

    • profile image

      Sarah Robbins 4 years ago

      Great role models. Thanks for sharing.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Thanks for reading, giftedkids. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 4 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      That's girl power! WW2 was a nasty time. But it was also a time when many people were at their best. Congratulation on th HOTD.

    • Keith Sutherland7 profile image

      Keith Sutherland Author 4 years ago from Brixham, Devon

      A most interesting Hub - Plus the fact f I loved the photograph of the aircraft.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Thanks for for commenting, jpcmc. Yep, at their best, at their worst and everything in between.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Hi Keith-- yeah, it looks more like a vintage WW1 plane rather than a night-time terror of WW2.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

      Yes, that's our kitty cat. She's amazing and I think a good deal of her sweet nature and sometimes stunning insight is because she was raised by our precious daughter. My husband enjoyed your hub very much, but it's definitely not just a guy hub!

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Well, I'm a cat-lover myself (we have three) and that is a great picture of her. Thanks to both you and your husband for enjoying my hub.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

      I asked him what he liked best about the hub and he said it was the nuts and bolts of it…your description of how the women were willing…and of how they flew low in the night…

      I agreed with him, you give a great description of their work here, but then I asked him if he completely missed the fact that it was apparently the women's idea… We had a great discussion about whether it was chivalry that kept the men from thinking of it, or if it simply had not occurred to them that the women could. I realize, of course, that our discussion was mostly supposition, but it was interesting to ponder the possibilities.

      That said, war is a terrible machine and I'm glad people are recording the history, both to keep the facts of the horrific seasons of war alive as a warning and to honor those who bravely did their duty.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      What a great comment, RTalloni-- especially your last thought, which sums up the duality of my interest in the World Wars: to expose the horrors and evils that come from waging war and hold up to the light individuals caught up in its machinations.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

      Fascinating hub! Congratulations on Hub of the Day.

      Voted Way Up

      In His Love, Faith Reaper

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Faith!

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

      Your hub was absolutely mesmerizing. I welcome and thoroughly absorb anything to do with WWII and I am even more pleased when I learn about a new subject, such as this.

      Stellar and superior hub. voting up

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Thank you very much, shiningirisheyes. And thanks for following me-- as I now follow you.

    • RoxyLou profile image

      RoxyLou 4 years ago

      Very interesting, I had never heard of the Night Witches Regiment before.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      RoxyLou, I hadn't either until I started researching. Thanks for commenting.

    • laidbacklady profile image

      Linda 4 years ago from Plumsted Township, NJ

      UnnamedHarald, that was awesome! I am woefully ignorant of most of the world's wars, except perhaps WWII (still limited in knowledge and only know some because I had relatives who fought) and the Civil War. It is interesting to note that this is not an element of WWII that is discussed in classrooms today. Admittedly that particular battle regiment dealt with Germany and not the US, but still, extremely interesting and very fascinating. I look forward to researching some of those women to see who they were before they took to the skies. And their name? Night Witches? How cool was that! Great hub! Voted up, interesting and awesome!

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Hi laidbacklady. Anytime the enemy has a nickname that is embraced by the "target" force-- that's cool. It's a great name, isn't it-- Night Witches? It's sort of like the Americans embracing the name "Yankee" Doodle when the Brits tried to show their scorn, or when the German's dismissed the British Army as contemptible and so the Brits started calling themselves the "Old Contemptibles" at the beginning of WW1. Thanks for commenting!

    • ahorseback profile image

      ahorseback 4 years ago

      My friend I don't know how I've missed so many historical hubs as this and so many of you're others , , You are an artist ! And I've got to catch up ! The Russians , my god there are so many true heroes in their midsts , Leningrad , Stalingrad ....on and on.... the invasion of Russia was a huge mistake for hitler I think he knew it very soon too ! The Media and the writers of history have shortchanged the Russians, I fear . To have your homeland invaded and possibly 11 million killed , sacrificed , civilian and soldier alike ? Awesome write up !

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Thanks for your great comment, ahorseback. I think we in the West need to do a lot of catching up on Russia's history. The Cold War colored everything.

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 4 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      well written and wee laid out Hub. You obviously know your stuff regarding the two great wars

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
      Author

      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Thank you, ethel. I'm sure you understand it's a labor of love.

    • mizjo profile image

      mizjo 4 years ago from New York City, NY

      This is an amazing record of a terrible period in Russian history. That these young women were willing and eager to protect their motherland from Hitler's advancing forces is a testament to the love of home and country. Granted, it could have been exciting, but who in their right minds actually would want to possibly be shot out of the skies by Hitler's gunners? Not to mention the incredibly cruel tortures they could expect if caught alive.

      These women deserve their place in Russian History.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
      Author

      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      mizjo, I couldn't agree more, although I would go so far as to say they deserve their place in world history. Thanks for commenting.

    • mizjo profile image

      mizjo 4 years ago from New York City, NY

      Right!

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

      What an amazing story! It is difficult to comprehend flying in a fuselage that could be pierced with pencil! It must have been lighter than air. I think these women were amazingly brave, especially flying so low and having searchlights trained on them whilst being peppered with anti-aircraft fire. The parachute as a cushion was an interesting fact - if they were shot down, the parachute would have been useless! Great article, really enjoyed reading.

    • old albion profile image

      Graham Lee 4 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi UH. I have come back to this article to read it again. It really is a first class effort. Your research and presentation are spot on. It is surprising that only 31 members of the regiment were killed.

      voted up and all.

      Graham.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
      Author

      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Thank you, Jools. Yes, not quite lighter than air! But much of the "solid"-looking plane would have been like shooting at air, unless the bullet/shell struck something solid.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Hi Graham. Welcome back-- that is a high complement indeed. Sometimes I think I might be overdoing the amount of time I put in on some hubs, but then I shake my head and think "It's the way I want to do it". Then I get a comment like yours and know I'm right. Thanks.

    • expertscolumn profile image

      Stanley Soman 4 years ago from New York

      Nadezhda Popova still looks strong and valiant, wow

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
      Author

      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      expertscolumn, I agree-- I wouldn't want to get on her bad side!

    • brownella profile image

      brownella 4 years ago from New England

      Another great historical hub. I have to say I have a soft spot for stories about women who defy tradition especially when they do it with flair. I've never heard of the night witches but after reading this I added the book about them to my amazon cart, can't wait to read it.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
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      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Thank you for your kind comment, brownella. I'm sure the book will be filled with interesting information that I haven't even touched on.

    • krillco profile image

      William E Krill Jr 4 years ago from Hollidaysburg, PA

      Wow, great bit of history once again. It seems that the Russians made much more front-line use of women soldiers than any other country.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
      Author

      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Hi, krillco. Thanks for commenting. Yes, some 800,000 women served in the Soviet Armed Forces in WW2, many in actual combat. Some were very notable snipers.

    • JPSO138 profile image

      JPSO138 3 years ago from Cebu, Philippines, International

      I am a fan of world war 1 and World War Two movies. I always thought that only males pilots were utilized during those wars. Reading your hub surely gave me more insights. Up for this one!

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
      Author

      David Hunt 3 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      JPSO138, I'm glad you enjoyed it. Of course the vast majority were males, but there were some very effective exceptions. Thanks for your interest.

    • profile image

      kaming tadar 3 years ago

      Realyy its intresting hub......

    • profile image

      CSwanc 3 years ago

      Really incredible story! I had never heard about these young women until I read your Hub. This is just begging to be made into a movie. Thank you!

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
      Author

      David Hunt 3 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Hi CSwanc. I agree... that's a movie I would definitely go and see. Thanks much for reading and commenting.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      I was not familiar with this aspect of history at all. Fascinating and well-written. You have a real knack for finding engaging historical information.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
      Author

      David Hunt 2 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Glad you liked it, Larry. Hub page articles are the right size for me and if my articles can spark an interest in the bigger picture, then I've done my job :)

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E. Franklin 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      This is another of those "I never heard any of this before" hubs. Fascinating. I wonder why these women and their achievements aren't more widely known. I really enjoyed reading this.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
      Author

      David Hunt 2 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Hi Ron-- thanks for the comment. I think there are a lot unknown stories (unknown in the West, that is) from the Eastern Front. As I'm sure you know, most of the fighting during WW2 was between Germany and the Soviet Union, but after the war the West and the Soviets became bitter enemies and it's not popular to laud your enemy-- and it looks more and more like we're on our way to being enemies again. I didn't admire what the Soviets did at the beginning of the war and Putin has destroyed what is now being called the "Interregnum" in the Cold War, but I am a firm believer in telling the historical truth, whether that means exposing awful deeds of the West or heroic deeds of enemies (and, of course, vice versa).

    • Pawpawwrites profile image

      Jim 2 years ago from Kansas

      Thanks for sharing this important bit of little know WWII history. And the number of missions they flew, was amazing.

    • handymanbill profile image

      Bill 2 years ago from western pennsylvania

      Great read. Fantastic story. Spent a whole hour watching the video

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 2 years ago from North America

      I'd like to see an exhibit about the Night Witches at the National USAF Museum, so I am going to suggest it. I'll include a link to this Hub, if you don't mind, UnnamedHerald.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
      Author

      David Hunt 2 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Handymanbill, glad you enjoyed it. I assume you watched additional youtube videos shown at the end of the video in the article. I also found them very interesting. Thanks.

      Patty: What a great idea. I'd be flattered to have a link to my hub included. I think their exploits cross national boundaries.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 2 years ago from North America

      Wonderful! I'll write them soon. The museum is an hour away from me and I am due for another visit.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 23 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      This was very interesting to know about these Russian night witches during World War 2. This was a compelling and fascinating hub. Voted up!

    • UnnamedHarald profile image
      Author

      David Hunt 23 months ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Thank you, Kristen. The night witches were indeed formidable. I was especially impressed by the number of missions some of them flew-- 800 to 1,000-- compared to US air crews that generally rotated out after 25-35 (if they survived, of course).

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 23 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      You're very welcome David. I was amazed by them, too.

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