Keeping up with the recent trend of female fighters, it would be remiss of us to leave out the Night Witches of World War II. The Night Witches were pilots of the Soviet Air Force, who were basically given the worst equipment to do the toughest job. They were bombers of the 588th Regiment, “the most highly decorated female unitin that force, flying 30,000 missions over the course of four years — and dropping, in total, 23,000 tons of bombs on invading German armies.”
What’s incredibly impressive were the aircraft they had to fly, which were made almost entirely out of plywood and canvas. Essentially they were the modern equivalent of a potato battery, glued to a plastic pinwheel, safety pinned to your pillowcase. No radar, no parachutes, just maps and compasses.
What’s more is that the Night Witches flew only at night.
This called for stealth mode: as they neared their targets, they had to idle their engines and glide their planes until they let loose the bombs, hoped, then high-tailed it back to base camp.
The Germans gave them the name of the Night Witches because of the sound their planes made while gliding, and the ladies fondly adopted it for themselves. [Ed. note: who wouldn’t?]
Compared to their male comrades, the Night Witches had much to overcome to do their jobs. Their uniforms were hand-me-downs from male officers. They endured “an environment that preferred to treat women as bombshells rather than bombers.”
But the Night Witches still managed to celebrate their status as female fighter pilots. They had to prove themselves first as women, then as soldiers, but eventually they did earn the respect they deserved. So here’s to the Night Witches, just some of the unsung heroes of WWII and women’s history.