The Night Witches (Russian female flying aces of the second world war)

by zeph

“No parachute, no radios, and an open cockpit; imagine what that was like on a freezing moonless night!

The night witches regiment flew a total of 24,000 combat sorties, in their Polikarpov biplanes, these were flimsy wood and canvas contraptions which looked a bit like crop dusters, and were sometimes nicknamed sewing machines. No wonder more than 50 women were killed in action including their Great mentor and idol Marina Rascova.”

We are not voiceless shadows at all.
We are wind, we are calls of cranes.
We are those who died in the skies for the motherland,
We have become the skies.

Lyrics written by the celebrated Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko; for a song about the night witches.”

The French pilots, who fought along side the Soviets, were so impressed by the women’s flying ability (being unable to fly the difficult Pe-2 bomber planes themselves) they said they wanted to bow down in respect before the bravery of these women. ” We want to pick all the flowers in the world and lay them at your feet”.

After the war the women were honoured, but asked not to talk about their flying achievements (unlike the men) and were almost forgotten. Women’s herstory, however courageous and victorious, vanishes into a world of silence.

So women have little idea how amazing they are, it is concealed from them by the perpetual lies of academic men, who, are all to willing to claim for their sex, unearned credit for the achievements of women. Women are so good at everything; that men need only to be good at one thing! Exploiting us; and they exceed themselves at that.

Put your feet up for twenty minutes and listen to the amazing feats of the Night Witches! So called because under the cover of dark, they dared to fly dangerously low over Germany,  idling their engines and sounding, to the terrified men beneath, like the whooshing of  great broomsticks across the sky. Holding their nerve until they were in perfect range, they poured their devastating bombs into the night,  as enemy fire exploded around them.

Complete story from BBC worldservice: here

Natalya Meklin

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13 Comments to “The Night Witches (Russian female flying aces of the second world war)”

  1. THank you Zeph. Fascinating. Yes, let’s begin reclaiming it ALL. Everything they tried to “dissappear”

  2. Glad you liked it Cherry. Every young woman should know what amazing pilots and fighters these women were, women have always done so much more in wars than is ever recorded. Do you know there were women dressed as men fighting in the battle of Trafalgar? We have, since ancient times been great warriors, yet it is always denied in the history books, or just left out of them.

  3. Hurray for the heroines!

  4. And they were fighting for the patriarchy without even questioning the male tyranny they were fighting for. Disgusting and unheroic.

  5. Who says they didn’t question it airica? This article is about men erasing women’s contributions, and men do erase them. And these women are no more “disgusting” than any of us who support the patriarchy daily, and we all do. Calling any woman “disgusting” for supporting patriarchy, when there literally is nothing else, is shortsighted, and unfeminist.

  6. “Disgusting and unheroic.”

    This would be more appropriate as a description of your comment.

    They were fighting a defensive war, although the Russian system at the time was under Stalin and therefore terrible, Hitler and his invading armies would have hardly been preferable. As to patriarchy, they were the only women allowed to become fighter pilots among the warring nations, who were all, as they still are, patriarchal.
    None of this lessens the achievements of these women. You obviously have not listened to the programme or you would have found it harder to dismiss such heroic sacrifice.

    All women live in patriarchy, if we use that as a reason to dismiss women’s achievements we will never be able to admire their courage and ingenuity. Perhaps that is your intention. Women’s achievements must be disregarded because we live under a male supremacist system!

  7. HA! Hahahahaa!

    The French pilots, who fought along side the Soviets, were so impressed by the women’s flying ability (being unable to fly the difficult Pe-2 bomber planes themselves) they said they wanted to bow down in respect before the bravery of these women. ” We want to pick all the flowers in the world and lay them at your feet”.

    Night witches! I LOVE IT! I haven’t listened to the program yet, either, but I can’t wait to find out WHY the menz couldn’t fly them! Take that, haters!! Women are amazing. Men will never learn.

    Also, “we want to pick all the flowers”?? What a male idea! You cannot capture beauty; it is not to be caught. Flowers, in particular, exemplify *fleeting* beauty. What a slap in the face! Maybe “bow in respect” and “lay them at your feet” was meant to be deferential…though I find such a sentiment hard to take seriously in light of patriarchy.

    Thanks for the news, zeph!! This is a great story. 🙂

  8. “bow in respect” and “lay them at your feet” was meant to be deferential…though I find such a sentiment hard to take seriously in light of patriarchy.”

    Yes, flowers are a rather old fashioned way of falsely flattering women, but I think the respect for their awesome achievements was genuine, the French pilots and the Soviet pilots had just fought a long and bitter war together.

  9. “Hurray for the heroines!”

    Thanks Feuerwerferin.

  10. “let’s begin reclaiming it ALL. Everything they tried to “disappear”

    I second this proposal. 🙂

  11. “On a more sombre note, the number one fear expressed by nearly all female aircrew was what might occur if they were ever captured alive by the Germans. Galina Beltsova, a navigator with the Dive Bombers regiment says: “All of us were provided with one extra bullet and if I could see I was being circled by the enemy of course I could take out my pistol and shoot myself – as a last resort.”‘

    Taken from the write up to the piece. Rape. The women did fear it if captured, these fearless women who proved their valour in the Russian victory against the Germans.

    Fantastic article and thanks for highlighting it. I’m currently reading The life and death of Mary Wollstonecraft by Clair Tomalin and it’s fascinating that some women contributed so much intellectually, and were valued for their considerable contribution, when it came to revolution and dissent.

  12. Thanks Maggie, the part about the final bullet being kept for themselves was very moving. As was the part about the woman who hit the ground with too much impact to use her bullet, and was taken to a concentration camp. When her own forces finally broke through, they assumed she must have survived by giving information, and attacked and beat her. I think she implies gang rape in this story though it is difficult to be sure. She said, from that time on, she was broken inside and felt only numbness.

  13. Half of the Russian population (not soldiers) was killed in World War II!!! A defensive war. How can anyone blame these women for fighting back? The Russians did awful things after winning and I will not defend those. But rape of German women is men’s fault and not that of Russian women who were not in command. Neither is the occupation.

    Btw. the largest documented amount of fighting women was in the West-African tribe of the Dahomey. Around 1/5 of all fighters were women because there was a shortage in men due to frequent fighting. The Dahomey captured other Africans and sold them into slavery to the whites… THIS I wouldn’t call heroic.

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