The Night Witches: Female Russian Bombers of World War II


“Night Witches” is the English translation of Nachthexen, a World War II German nickname (Russian Ночные 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 flew harassment bombing and precision bombing missions against the German military from 1942 to the end of the war.

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.



There was a problem, however: the Polikarpov Po-2 was obsolete, slow and flew so low that parachutes were pointless to carry so…no parachutes, either.

The Night Witches turned this disadvantage on its head. Since the Polikarpov Po-2’s maximum speed was lower than the stall speed of the German Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Focke-Wulf Fw 190, they were ironically extremely difficult to shoot down. The Night Witches would often idle their engine and glide to the bomb release point to further avoid detection.

Field briefing photo via Photos of War.
Photo portrait is Natalya Meklin via Ravenswick.
Via Wikipedia. Also see the Russian page with many more photos and information.

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About Heretic

I design video games for a living, write fiction, political theory and poetry for personal amusement, and train regularly in Western European 16th century swordwork. On frequent occasion I have been known to hunt for and explore abandoned graveyards, train tunnels and other interesting places wherever I may find them, but there is absolutely no truth to the rumor that I am preparing to set off a zombie apocalypse. Nothing that will stand up in court, at least. I use paranthesis with distressing frequency, have a deep passion for history, anthropology and sociological theory, and really, really, really hate mayonnaise. But I wash my hands after the writing. Promise.

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