An Unusual WW2 Aviation Squad: The Night Witches

Bogdan U. February 25, 2019 0
An Unusual WW2 Aviation Squad: The Night Witches

It’s a story about a full-female Russian aviation squad – Night Bomber Regiment 588 that acted in the silence of the night, changing the whole path of World War II.

Women of war

It all began in 1941. World War II is on its culmination. The pressure of the Nazi army over Soviet land is astonishing. The story of brave women began when a Soviet female Major Marina Raskova came to Joseph Stalin with an offer: To deploy a full female aviation squadron, to sabotage the Nazi foe. She was supposed to hire the women, who lost their loved people or just the ones who desired to see the Germany burn. Despite some misunderstandings, Russia was the first country, which allowed female pilots to fly. Marina Raskova was the one who charged the lines.

On October 8, 1941, there were initiated three squadrons of female aviation crews with age between 17-26 years old, one of them being the famous 588th Night Bomber Regiment.

A picture of Night witches and their brave female pilots


Silent through the night, the witches joined the fight. 

Since the regiment inauguration, the women had to take care of their uniforms and equipment. There were no dedicated clothes and boots for women. They had to wipe out their bedding, to put in oversized boots, to fit them. Furthermore, women got a lack of respect from men and Soviet soldiers. Women faced sexual badgering and punishing conditions. Even their planes made from canvas and wood were able to catch fire just from a few shots or to freeze in the cold winter nights. Named Polikarpov Po-2 – planes designed earlier, in 1928, intended to be crop-dusting airplanes or even training ones. They weren’t minding for war activities, and were called “Coffins with wings.” They were upgraded, to carry by two bombs, one under each of the wings.


The crew of 40 planes and two women by each were attacking Germany, mainly in the night, starting from June 28th, 1942, while Adolf Hitler was running his Barbarossa Operation. During this period, young lady-aviators flew more than 24.000 times, almost by 8 to 16 times per night. They’ve dropped over 23.000 tons of bombs over Nazi’s heads.


Pitting against German aircraft that were away more numerous and advanced than Russian ones, they had one great prevalence: Their tactics. They slowed down the aircraft engines, being quiet and flew very low, almost sliding on the ground, to avoid the radar detection. No radios used, to prevent the radar and infrared locator detection. All the operations were accomplished in silence, and the only scary sound was the one made by planes when they left in the dusk. As a result, Germans were terrified, and called them “Nachthexen,” that is translated as “Night Witches.”

During World War II, Nazi soldiers attempted to take down Russian Night Witches. It was an actual call for them all. Everybody who accomplished taking down a Night Witch got an Iron Cross – a prestigious German award for special duties.

Wings of glory tell their story.

The last flight of Night Witches took place on May 4, 1945– just three days before Nazi surrender. Later, 24 of the young women got the title of “Hero of the Soviet Union.” But no awards and no trophies can describe the true story of one of the most remarkable forces of World War II.

They were young.

They were proud.

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