World War 2’s Soviet Night Witches

"Night Witches" is the English translation of Nachthexen, a World War IIGerman nickname (RussianНочные ведьмы), for the female military aviators of the 588th Night Bomber Regiment, known later as the 46th “Taman" Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment, of the Soviet Air Forces. The regiment was formed by Colonel Marina Raskova and led by Major Yevdokia Bershanskaya.


The regiment flew in wood and canvas Polikarpov Po-2 biplanes, a 1928 design intended for use as training aircraft and for crop-dusting, and to this day the most-produced biplane in all of aviation history. The planes could carry only two bombs at a time, so multiple missions per night were necessary. Although the aircraft were obsolete and slow, the pilots made daring use of their exceptional maneuverability; they had the advantage of having a maximum speed that was lower than the stall speed of both the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and the Focke-Wulf Fw 190, as a result, the German pilots found them very difficult to shoot down. A stealth technique of the night bombers was to idle the engine near the target and glide to the bomb release point, with only wind noise to reveal their location.

Above:

Marina Raskova - Founder

Yevdokiya Bershanskaya - Commander

Irina Sebrova - Commander

Nadezhda Popova

Natalya Meklin

Yevgeniya Rudneva

Vera Bjelik

Polina Gelman

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