“The Nazis called them “Night Witches” because the whooshing noise their plywood and canvas airplanes made reminded the Germans of the sound of a witch’s broomstick.”
“The Russian women who piloted those planes, onetime crop dusters, took it as a compliment.
In 30,000 missions over four years, they dumped 23,000 tons of bombs on the German invaders, ultimately helping to chase them back to Berlin.
Any German pilot who downed a ‘witch’ was awarded an Iron Cross.
These young heroines, all volunteers and most in their teens and early 20s, became legends of World War II but are now largely forgotten.
Flying only in the dark, they had no parachutes, guns, radios or radar, only maps and compasses. If hit by tracer bullets, their planes would burn like sheets of paper.”
One of the most famous “Night Witches,”was Nadezhda Popova.
Popova, who flew 852 missions during the war, passed away in 2013 at the age of 91.
For a gripping historical fiction novel that explores the history of the Night Witches, take a look at “The Huntress.”
For a fascinating young adult historical fiction novel based on the Night Witches, for ages 13 and up, see “Among the Red Stars.”
For those of you who would like to learn more about the role of Russian women combat pilots during WWII, there are several excellent books including “The Unwomanly Face of War.”
For an inspiring book about more courageous women who stood up to the Nazi regime, I recommend “Women Heroes of World War II: 32 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue” for all readers.
If you love reading about heroic women of WWII, you can find more of the best fiction and non-fiction books in the blog post, “Telling Her Story: 30 Books for Adult Readers About Women Heroes of WWII.”
And, for books for all ages about girls and women living through the WWII period, visit “WWII & Holocaust.”