*Several* Woman to Know: The Night Witches

There was no time to give away to emotions. — Nadheza Popova, Night Witch

(Image via Vanity Fair)

It all started with Marina Raskova. The legendarily talented Soviet flight commander knew the Allied forces in World War II needed more manpower in the sky — or rather, more womanpower. If they were to defeat the Germans, she argued publicly, the Allies needed female pilots.

And Stalin listened (Stalin!!!). He gave Marina the OK to create the first all-female flight regiment. The women flew antiquated biplanes on more than 25,000 European missions. But what's more — they were really good at their jobs. The Nazi pilots so feared them that they give them their notorious nickname: "The Night Witches." Flip through the obituaries published for many of the most awarded Night Witches — many remembered their air-time accomplishments with extraordinary insight. "We had an enemy in front of us," Nadezha Popova once told an interviewer. "We had to prove we were stronger, and more prepared."

But Marina was most proud of another distinction: the three "Night Witch" regiments remained entirely staffed by only women throughout the duration of the War, even as multiple male pilots asked to join their decorated cadre.

But no, Marina assured them, this was woman's work.


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