October 8 - The Night Witches Begin!

Posted October 8, 2018

Young women harassing Nazi troops? Young women making tactical strikes on Nazi targets?

Yep! The "Night Witches" flew tens of thousands of harassment bombing and precision bombing missions during World War II!

On this date in 1941, the Soviet Union began a program of recruiting and training young women (late teens and early twenties, for the most part) to fly military planes such as this one:

The Soviets didn't call their women's air force units "the Night Witches," but because the women flew at night, and because they made very little sound as they approached their targets, the Nazis gave them this name. 

If you know anything about old-timey planes, you are probably wondering how they made little sound. The women would idle their planes' engines when they were near the targets, and then simply glide to the bomb release points. That way, only the wind noise would point to their existence or location.

The Night Witches dropped more than 3,000 tons of bombs and 26,000 incendiary shells. Some pilots flew more than 800 missions. Unfortunately, 32 women died in the war. By the end of the war, 33 pilots were awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union title. 

The unit destroyed or damaged 17 river crossings, 9 railways, 2 railway stations, 26 warehouses, 12 fuel depots, 176 armored cards, 86 firing points, and 11 searchlights. 

Also, the unit performed a lot of drop-offs of supplies and food to Soviet forces.

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