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The Night Witches

2015-03-09 | 🔗

The Night Witches were an all-female bombing regiment in the Soviet Air Force. Flying biplanes meant for dusting crops and training new recruits, they dropped 23,000 tons of bombs on German forces in WWII. Read the show notes here.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Loser episode is brought to you by Maloney cookies work. Sometimes that longs in yoga classes just now in the cards, so maybe a cookie is peppered farm. Olano believes you should make some time for yourself once in a while. I know I have a particular space in my sewing room that I like to just take a few minutes. Every day I sit there. I think about things it's kind of like meditation and munching at the same time, Yummy beautiful cookie flavour, it makes it luxurious and delightful and I always feel recharge. Mulatto cookies are truly a treat worthy of your me time, their delicate and crispy, with luxuriously rich chocolate in the middle. You really want to keep these just you so remember, to save something for yourself with peppered farm Olano. How do you find a new way forward when suddenly you have two ready or not, maybe or relocating, or having your first baby or leaving relationship just starting or just starting over?
on the road to somewhere. We talk about all of it, getting really honest and we definitely laugh our way through it. That's the big If this journey, I'm LISA and I'm Joe Herzog join us as we navigate our own big life changes honour, podcast, the road to somewhere, listen to them. somewhere on the I hurt radio up on apple podcast or work, You got your podcast continued. You missed in history. Has that works that can allow unwelcome briefly and I'm Holly, that food problem the most requested, one in Hollywood than might have been possible if possible. We ve said this about some other apathy and at this we're liars. This time we mean it has far,
superseded anything else. We might have said that about so our first. request for it actually became before we even started hosting Michel. It was from a listener named Alison It was one of the last listener emails that Sarah answered before she passed the reigns over to us. If he copied us on her answer since then, just from our email that I still have lying around, we got request. from Mallory, though he Eric afford Aaron Susie end Jeanette, there are many many many many many other requests that have come in by a by a facebook and twitter and even tumblr, but those are all way less searchable. Then, like the archive email locks oh I. Finally, I am Polly and in all capital letters that ok doing one on the night witches, and I think
the young we weren't avoiding them before we vote, we just had other things going on. Well, I'm part of it to you is that you know we try to avoid sort of cultural redundancies of there being talked about a lot on other sites. Where adding play, and so- and there have been a few times in the last couple years, where they have sort of their suddenly been a lot of buzz about them, legal when there have been deaths amongst the women that remain. You know those kind of pop up, so that that point it seems extraneous, for us too, then add to the pile and like it's. This can get spread death, especially because our production timeline means that we are like two weeks behind that. So, instead of feeling like here's, the thing this often to learn about it's more like here. We are just a little late to the party, but so
A little bit of backgrounds moves flying was actually a popular hobby in the Soviet Union in the years leading up to one or two, and at that point, paramilitary flying clubs were training people to become pilots. There were about a hundred and fifty of these clubs and about quarter of their members were actually women. This was important because a marine arrest over she had become an idle the teenage girls and young women after she set a record for women's nonstop distance flying in nineteen thirty eight and she was twenty six of them. Let's they have set this record along with two other women. After flying a twin engine, plain about six thousand kilometers, which is roughly thirty seven hundred miles, and that was from Moscow to firms the on a more which is in the Russian Far EAST during the flight the plane started. I. And the three women started to jettison everything that they could in an effort to lighten the load and doing attitude. But it wasn't enough. It's they were gonna crash.
and so finally, Rusk over took a compass herding, sheep the destination on a map, and then she generally herself she bailed out. Survived in the forest for ten days before a hunter found her, and then she made a way back to Moscow where she was going, by a cheering throng of supporters. This attempt to set a record Andrew, discovers consequent disappearance, got widespread coverage on the radio, and people were absolutely glued to it. All three of the women became heroes. They became known as the sisters. They were all named. Heroes of the Soviet Union, but Rusk over was particularly beloved. People often make comparisons to the United States, love for Amelia Erhard when they talk about risk over So, thanks to all this interest and lying when Germany attack the Soviet Union and nineteen forty one, there were lots and lots of soviet pilots with lots and lots of airtime who all came to volunteer for service and a lot of them work
age, girls and young women roughly a third of the train soviet pilots at this point where women, but when it came to combat at first all the female applicants were rejected and sent, home, but that change thanks to Marina risk over. It was then major risk over who put out the call for women to volunteer to become combat pilots. They would be placed into all female regiments. Anyone interested was instructed to write directly to her, and she got about two thousand volunteers: a pool of candidates that Sheath personally sifted through narrowed down and she interviewed them herself, and it wasn't just the pilots. They would need it frequently. The mechanics and other support personnel in these regiment regiments would be women as well the valley, Here's travelled to Moscow from some of the most remote parts of the Soviet Union, starting in the fall of nineteen, forty one and after gathering in Moscow. They moved to and airfield at angles to train and they came with. Basically,
ever they thought they were going to need for as long as they would be out there if they made the cut, because they had their pretty sure that anybody, who did make it was not going to get to go home again before they left Loretta Russia Nova was one of the women who made it to the interview state. She had actually pact one of her favorite dolls before leaving home, but her mother saw it in her suit case and said darling. You can't take that with you to the war you're eighteen years old. Now and I love you too, but I might take the doll. It's fine Loretta rising over an additional pop over who went by not yeah we're risk of us. First tube recruits to be officially selective when they started their official training in October and forty, they would be sorted into three all female regiments. Twenty were composite five hundred eighty six They would be sorted into three all female regiments, which were the five hundred eighty six spider regiment, the five hundred eighty seven bomber regiment and the five hundred eighty eight night bomber regiment, each of them
about four hundred women, and most of them were between the ages of seventeen and twenty six and we're gonna get into the details on these regiments and how they were trained up a first. Should we have a little word from a sponsor. We should do that. Stupidity people get listeners. Have you ever wanted to share a love story with someone, but you may be wanted to do it in a really unique in interesting way, or you were struggling to get the exact rate words in place. Will you not always have to worry about that? You can put it into a book, and that is where love book comes in love, books help customers exe. Those sentiments that their working To make their own unique thing and each book Completely customizable most customers use them to list the reasons why they love someone, but you can you kinds of things Can create characters. It look like yourself in cypriot, redundant outfits and accessories. You, personalized each page as much as you want, but you
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Oh, I have them imply that the entire soviet military command saw these women recruits as a giant joke and that's not really accurate. The soviet military. in ITALY, was not prepared for a bunch of women training training for combat. They had never done that before at this kind of scale, and there were, of course, people who were opposed to the idea of women serving in combat all through the ranks. But a lot of the things that modern coverage wreathed with a huge insult to the women was. This is really a byproduct of that being the first time that women, a large group of women, had been recruited into the armed forces and the Soviet Union and the fact that this happened during wartime, so things were being assessed tight. So, for example, there was no women's barracks at the airfield where they trained so they had to be housed in a nearby school and there were Oh no women's uniforms. They had to make do with men's uniforms. These were generally too big for them. Although- and I love this so
Many of the women new had a so they could alter those uniform so that they fit more properly. The boots were much bigger issue since they couldn't be altered. The women would stuff the toes with magazine pages to kind of fill them out, so there wasn't sliding around that the women who are the best it tailoring wound up with uniforms that really looked quite smart on them. I am, I told Tracy, as we were looking at pictures getting ready for this absurd that I want to be the night which is for Halloween. and then we can get everybody to be night, which is for Halloween, and then I said step one start with men's uniforms. That's not a problem! You I did that. my dad's, beautiful, so busy precludes, went through a highly compressed six training period and, although all of them knew how to fly already, most of them had absolutely no real military experience at all. So it really
was not unusual for their classroom and white training, plus basic military instruction to stretch beyond fourteen hours a day they were evidently immersed in what was widely regarded as a world for men, which made it very important to many of them that they maintain their femininity. Many have brought one pretty outfit with them when they reported for training and they decorated their planes with flowers. They died there, silk Underhill. it's in really pretty colours and they called one another by their first names, trying to remember to use surnames in official ranks when the men were about, but they kind of developed. This more casual, camaraderie amongst just the women the women were assigned into their regiments in April of nineteen forty two and from there they finished their training with the actual planes that they would be flying. So they had to get familiar with
controls and the handling of their specific aircraft. The five hundred eighty six fighting regiment flew you're, cobbler, yak ones, which were the best soviet fighters, The first years of the war, although the way they were constructed, made it a little hard for the more petite women's you both reach the petals and handle the controls they got used to it there. They were all extremely adaptable. The fighter pilots also have to do two working as a tea while flying in aeroplanes by themselves the yak ones where single seat planes, unlike the bombers and train the planes that they have a training on the five hundred and eighty seven day bombing regiment, flew Polar Karpov, P two's, which were armoured bombers with a bubble protected machine and station. In both cases, their actual aircraft were a complete departure from what they had been training on, not, though, for the night, which is their planes were
Hola Karpov P, O two's, originally known as you to use, and these were the same planes they had already been training on, they were never actually meant to be. Bombers were slow flooring, wooden canvas biplanes with open cockpits that were mostly used for training and for crop testing, and they were so slow that they could only five why missions to targets that were relatively nearby. Otherwise they would waste waited much time mayor and getting back so the plane, had to be moved from one location to another during the day to give the women access to their targets at night, because these were training planes that have impressed in the military service. They had complete sets of controls for both the front and back seats retro fitted with bomb racks and a small machine gun at the rear seat. Those same
articles we referenced earlier will often say that the parties could only carry to Bob's, but in fact some of them could carry up to eight. So while there were three units are focused really here as I'm a night which, as they were gonna just about their time enrolled or to you for a little bit although they became more famous than either of the two women's rights regiments, they didn't really get off to the greatest start, all Women were really capable pilots, but their military experience that this point was frankly pretty minimal la flying to the front to report for duty three fighters that had been tasked with scorning the night witches dive. We therefore nation and most of the women believe they were under attack by the Germans, and so they panicked and scattered. This is basically a tests and they did not pass it.
they arrived safely at their destination, but most of the women haven't seen the fighters coming or recognise them as soviet planes. They panicked instead of maintaining their formation when they were inspected the next morning, their commander told them that they were not ready for combat, so the night, which is spent another two weeks in training to make things worse there first housing at the front, was an account which was not currently sheltering any cows that it had done so recently enough that it's not horrible, no matter how much they cleaned it. Once there can decided that they were in fact ready the night, which has finally flew their first combat mission. On June eighth of nineteen forty two, the three most experienced crews of two women each were tasked with bombing the headquarters of a near by german division. On that first mission, they employed a practice that would earn them
The aim that we ve used several times now appear to was a really really noisy aircraft. It makes a lot of popping noises as it flies, and these pops are accompanied by visible flame in the engine and the exhaust, and so it's extremely easy to hear and extremely easy to spot. So, as the pilots approached their targets, they would cut their engines. July, the rest of the way and drop their bombs in comparative stealth and silence up here We, the rush of air over the wings, reminded the Germans of the sound of a witch firing on her broom, while that first mission was successful. Sadly, too, of the women Luba Old, Cove, skier and vera terrorists over were killed in action after a navigation error, steered them over a heavily defended part of the front and they were shot down.
recognising the losing two of their own right, literally at the very very beginning of their time and combat was really threatening to shatter the rest of the regiments morale and confidence. Regimental under major. You have docu version. Skier made a case to send to the rest of the bombers out. at night on a mission at once. They were given a relatively easy target, which was I'm a railway junction and artillery battery and the rest of the remaining teams having completed this mission, did return successfully after that flying out to the target returning for more fuel and bombs and then taking off again and night, which plain took off on a bombing run, every three minutes from sunset, the sunrise- and this was in just about destroying german target. There was also about disrupting the sleep of any german troops who were in the area and keeping them on it. straying german targets. It was also about disrupting the sleep of any german troops who were in the area and keeping them on it on edge german
troops on the ground could hear the night which is coming until they killed their engines and the women, also why, in pairs with one of the plains, leaving the engine on to serve as a decoy said, the other one could proceed in an more silence so where the night witches were active, the Germans on the ground we're not getting any sleep. They were constantly being awaken, wondering if they were the target and then being kept on highly whole time, purportedly because this. The night witches became so hated that any German who shot one down was automatically awarded the iron cross. I found lots of modern new sources of this, not so much historical sources, so take that with a grain of thought, but it's still a good story and the night, which is, as you probably know, if you have seen any of the coverage of them, became very, very good at their jobs. But what is sometimes not I was talked about as much is that they also have their share of tragedy
and we are going to delve into that after we have another word from sponsor this episode of stuff. You missed in history class is brought to you by Norton three hundred and sixty with Lifelog. Let's just say Your shopping online with your smartphone. I do it all the time. They sure feels that your personal info is right there in your hand, but that's not always the case yes, because as soon as you hit submit, your personal information could start going. Other places, in fact, sharp bank or browse online. Your personal info can get out your control, which can leave you vulnerable to cybercriminals, more threats demand more protection Why? Norton and lifelong are now part of one company, Norton three six He would lifelong is an all in one membership for your cyber safety that gives you device security, identity theft, protection and of GPS for online privacy. No one can Van all cyber crime and identity theft, but Norton three sixty with life lock is your ally in today's connected world, because your info is out there sign up for
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from home. That would include. Clippings of new story is talking about their missions, as well as letters from friends and family. You started talk about their friends as heroes, general marking and Papa visited the five hundred and eighty eight during the early winter of nineteen. Forty three during that visit, he announced that the five hundred and eighty women's night bomber regiment would be given the title. Forty six, ten and guards Bomber regiment guards units were elite units in the soviet military. So, with this reorganization, the night witches were not only in the same league with man, but they were in the same league with the most skilled and honoured of them in the night, which is where the first read. in their division in the first women's, a regiment in all of the soviet military to earnest honour, while they were doing really outstanding work in the air, it was still clear that they were not experienced when it came to general military protocol on the ground. After becoming a guard
regiment. A major who was on a site visit, managed to steal maps and signal rockets from the meat which is unguarded cockpits. He demanded they demonstrate their marksmanship skills after this happened in, because that wasn't a scale that they were actually using. That often they didn't do very well. So we again. They were assigned to remedial military basics, while also maintaining their night bombing schedule. and they also lost several of their own on one particular catastrophic night. On July. Thirty, first of nineteen, forty three, the An army tried a new tactic against the night witches up until that point, they had mostly relied on searchlights and flag cannons. Is this pilot stage out of the way they were really difficult to hit. However, on that particular night, the Germans shot tracers after them and then deployed fighters when the tracers hit the night, which is planes they set, the canvas
rings on fire and from that point there is virtually no hope for the afore escape for the women on board. The plane itself would just go up like kindling, and the women who were fine had didn't have any parachutes. Some reports say that this was because they flew low during their missions but in reality, parachutes just weren't assigned to them. Until the following year, Loretta Nova. Who we mentioned earlier is one of the first recruits was one of the pilots flying that night. She was the fourth in line and after watching in horror as the planes ahead of her caught fire and crashed, she decided that her only option was to go as low as possible in the home. Of evading the Germans night fighters. She flew so low that she spoke to her navigator in a whisper afraid that the enemy troops on the ground would be able to hear her and from a height of only a few hundred feet, she dropped her bombs, the expense
and through her plain up into the air. But she and her navigator made it back safely. The most experienced pilots who were out that night, six, similar maneuvers, but many of the less experienced ones who were or when the tracers came out were hit and the rest of the regiment on the ground could see it all happening from their position. Eight women were killed and that one night, the night which is their last mission in May of nineteen, forty five against some of the last, resisting german forces outside of Berlin when they got the word, a victory against Germany. They their own fireworks display with their flares and their signal rockets and and the night. Witches were the only one of the three regiments formed from their original air group to remain entirely composed of women throughout the entire duration of the war. They were more highly d.
Rated than either of these other to women's flying regiments. Twenty three of them were named here is that the Soviet Union? Five of those words came posthumously. They flew roughly twenty four thousand combat missions between May of nineteen. Forty two in May of nineteen forty five thirty of their pilots died over the course of more than a and night of combat, and although they did not really talk about it during the war- and it may not have been entirely conscious even on their parts, many of the women who had been part isn't that they face from some of the men in the military. They all push themselves really really hard to prove prove that they could work on an equal footing with men and similarly, the other to women's regiments had a lot of successes in the war as well. The five eighty seven days, Similarly, the other to women's regiments had a lot of successes in the war as well. The five eighty seven days,
My regiment was commanded by major marina risk over until she was killed in action and nineteen forty three and night like Birthnight, which is the data. Were eventually named the guards regiment, which was a credit to their work. The five hundred and eighty six fighters, mostly flew defensive missions, Lydia lit the AK. The most famous of the fighter pilots became known as the white lily of stolen grab which became the white rows of Stalingrad in English report. So you'll see it both ways she earned the title of flying. Ay said she shot down twelve german aircraft in a year of combat flying. This is also sometimes reported with a different number you'll see it as eleven, sometimes thirteen. She was eventually transfer to amends regiment, along with seven other women fighter pilots. She was shot down in the summer of nineteen, forty three and presumably killed, because this was the focus of seven
of the articles that have prompted people to ask us to talk about the night. Witches were goin to wrap up with a little bit on not yet proposed specifically proposed a flu. Eight hundred fifty two missions during her time with the night, which is on August second of nineteen, forty two she was reported missing after her fuel tank had caught fire after it was hit by flag. After leaving she became separated from her navigator and witnessed a german air strike against a convoy of russian tanks, but the bombs miss the tanks instead, mostly hitting a nearby column of fleeing refugees, but try to make our way back to her unit for Parliament's Simeon Carl evolve and injured fighter pilot, and they tried to kill in touch during the war. He propose the day the war was over and the two married soon thereafter near We every article about the might witches and one of the what's that I read ends with a quote from the polar in a twenty thirteen interview. She said I sometimes stare into the blackness in closed my eyes.
I still imagine myself as a young girl up there in my little bomber, and I ask myself not yet how did you do it? Many of us probably have that question, but Having done it, she's still has that question. There are also so how many more stories of heroism and tragedy among these women and among them, other soviet women's flying regiments as well, and if you are interested in more of them, I recommend these two books that I read for this episode. One is night, which is the untold story of soviet women. In combat
He smiled and the other is a dance with death soviet air women in World WAR, two which is compiled by an not all that would include the lot of personal stories by the women who were still surviving when you put the book together from there's, also a tabletop game in the works. This was funded through Kickstarter very successfully, bringing almost ten times as much as they asked for and as of this recording, that project was in the proofing stage. I really love tabletop games until now. I want it to be done and I want it to be good yeah. Do you also honour its listener main idea, and it is on a completely different track, then than this episode was these are two different but related closely to another emails about our recent episodes on rumours of board of Education, the first as from Chris and he says- hey. I just heard your brown versus board episodes. I lived for you,
using Clarendon County South Carolina and taught in a neighbouring county. You didn't hear, don't recall, that's one of the school systems that was part of Brown versus board. I can assure you that schools in the area are probably ninety five percent, the factor segregated all, but the tiniest Townsend South Carolina have private schools, most of them from the MID sixties, too, early. Seventy used to circumvent integration, Private schools are almost totally white and the public schools are even more totally black. I talked about a hundred and twenty five students great six there, ten at a public charter school and only one was white, because the tax base in these areas is so small. The public schools are also criminally under funded, although the products I'm at schools are much better. Segregation is alive and well and felt Carolinas small town schools, so that was from Chris.
and then I also have one from Emily and Emily says: I'm a senior in high school who, ironically, first learned of stuff. You missed in history class pie cast from my AP. U S! History feature: we had several assignments that extra credit opportunities involving listening to you summarizing and expanding expounding upon select episodes over the past year have become an avid listener. Listening, listen to the pipe casts while working in driving I drive to and from my father's house in Springfield Tennis, You were my fifteen year old brother attempt high school. The brief mention of lasting segregation and the recent the road to ground versus board episode brought the mind a current controversial issue and Robertson County Tennessee after a department of Justice Investigation, the federal government, determined that Robertson County schools have yet to integrate ravishing, and W C p. President is quoted as saying
in November Fourteenth twenty fourteen issue of the Tennessee in what the community needs to be concerned about is that, sixty years after the boundaries of border medication decision and after the law was put into effect, they still have made any progress. The total community should be concerned about that in order to avoid litigation by the: U S: Department of Justice and the cessation of federal funding to schools. The county must review school districts
several members of the community are up in arms over the revolting, because many filled their children will be forced to go to it in an inferior school than that of which they currently attend. Many of these complaints are from green by briar parents, whose children attend to the predominantly white schools who are reasons to attend. Springfield schools, Green Briar, high school student population is ninety six percent white, two percent hispanic and one percent Black Springfield High School is sixty four percent white, eleven percent hispanic and twenty four percent black. The state averages are sixty seven percent white, seven percent hispanic and twenty three percent black Easter. I was in high school- is ninety two percent White Serbians high with ninety five percent white and White House heritage. High school is ninety two percent white, all data from great schools, dot org. This battle has been waiting for months now over the rezoning and there are in county border education has agreed to adopt the elementary school attendance zones as proposed by the: U S: Department of Justice for the twenty fifteen twenty sixteen academic year with the promise,
resumed middle and high school attendance zones for the twenty. Sixteen twenty seventeen academic year, much to the chagrin of some parents antidote of others. The minority student population should become more balanced across Robertson, county schools to still be fighting over. Segregation seems absurd to myself and many students, my age, who have spoken with many students are willing and ready to change schools of necessary. However, the parents are at the root of the backlash with every passing generation. More progress is made for them. The quality and I and my peers are ready to usher in change. There is some of the older generation may not be. I thought you'd be interested in this current. These segregation controversy as it applies to Brown versus board and the local who take on it. Thanks for the wonderful podcast Emily. Those are both great letter in that they give, sort of a current perspective to the segregation and how, as we talked about an issue, the episodes of still a big struggle in a lot of places, but
How does get letters because of the same thing? The fact that, as you know, as we talked about for a number of reasons, there are lots and lots of school systems that are still basically segregated, and we got letters and facebook statuses from other folks as well, who talked about other parts the United States there were outside of the south and other racial and ethnic groups, besides african African Americans and an Caucasians If, though, we may read more of those in future episodes, but for now I wanted to start with these two because they were so immediate. What we have just talked about yeah there's some sort of hard data in the minutes. I think sometimes it's hard for people that may be are in a more integrated place too. understand the level to which this is still a problem. So when you have those hard numbers, it's a little bit
clearer, like what really is still the case, even in twenty fifteen in school systems still figuring this out today. Yes, if you would like to write to us about this or any other episode, weren't history by gas, that hushed up works, I come for also on Facebook, at Facebook, back home, Flash Miss than history and on twitter I missed in history. Our tumblr is Lisbon history. That time would also Hendricks defenders, dot, com, flash mist and history. We have spread store Foah, T, shirts and firm cases. An awesome stop at that missed in history, tat, spreadsheet, dot, com? If you like to learn a little more about what we talked about today, you can come to our parent companies website. That is how stuff works that put into the search bar were to women, and you will find the article did, women volunteered a serbian Robert you, and that's mostly from an american perspective here, getting kind of look at what it was like in other places. Soviet union. You can also
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