NADEZHDA POPOVA...Dec. 27, 1921/ July 8, 2013
"I sometimes stare into the blackness and close my eyes", Ms. Popova said in 2010. "I can still imagine myself as a young girl, up there in my little bomber. And I ask myself, 'Nadia, how did you do it?"
To the Nazis, they were the Night Witches. The noise their canvas and plywood planes made had the sound of a witch on a broomstick. So they said.
This was a compliment to the Russian women who piloted these planes, which previously were crop dusters. They flew 30,000 missions over four years, dropped 23 tons of bombs on the German invaders of Russia, forcing them back to Berlin.
The volunteers were mostly young women in their teens and early 20's. They became legends, but now mostly forgotten. They flew only at night, had no parachutes or radios. Because they flew in open cockpits, they could count on frozen faces. If hit, their planes burned like paper.
Nadezhda Popova, one of the first volunteers, was inspired by revenge and patriotism. Shortly after the Nazis invaded Russia, her brother and father were killed. She flew 852 missions, and became a deputy commander of what was the 588th Night Bomber Regiment. When Ms. Popova first volunteered she was turned down, as women were. But an order was issued in 1941 to deploy three regiments of female pilots. Thus were born the Night Witches.
Their ability caused the Nazis to spread rumors that they were given pills and injections to give them "a feline's perfect vision at night", Ms. Popova said. "This, of course, was nonsense."
To read more about Nadia, and the Night Witches, refer to "Flying For Her Country: The American and Soviet Women Military Pilots of World War ll. " by Amy Goodpaster Strebe (2007).
Thanks to The New York Times for info in an article by Douglas Martin.
NADIA, standing amidst the "Night Witches".
COPYRIGHT/ All rights reserved/ 2013