I aspire to be like the Night Witches

I aspire to be like the Night Witches

The sound of a broom sweeping against a wooden floor echoes through the night sky. The German Nazis run for cover, awaiting the large impact that always follows that sound.

The Night Witches, the women who I aspire to be like, have arrived. 

The Night Witches were a group of women that were a unit in the Soviet Air Force during WWII. Their name was given to them by the Nazi troops that hated and feared them.

They only came in the night. The only warning that they were coming was the sound of their planes, hence the name.

Any Nazi that successfully shot down one of their planes and killed their pilot was automatically awarded an Iron Cross medal. Only 30 out of over 1,000 women were killed.

Despite being the most highly decorated unit in the Soviet Air Force, they were not included in the victory-day parade in Moscow.

24 of those flyers were awarded the title of “Hero of the Soviet Union,” yet I could find no record of those women’s names.

When the women began their training, they were expected to learn in a few months what it took most soldiers several years to learn. They had to perform as pilots, navigators, maintenance, and ground crew.

The planes they were given were crop dusters that were composed of plywood. They were used as training vehicles and were never meant for combat. The planes were nicknamed “coffins with wings” by the women that had no choice but to fly them. The planes provided little to no protection from enemy fire and would even burst into flames when hit.

The men were given parachutes, guns, ammunition, radar (GPS), and radios. The Night Witches were given rulers, stopwatches, flashlights, pencils, maps, and compasses.

The women’s engines had a habit of giving out and smoking mid-flight. When it happened, they would have to climb out onto the wing of the plane while in the air and fix them.

They faced skepticism from the men that believed they added little to no value to combat and were sexually harassed. There were even some reports of women being beaten and abused to prove how worthless they were at combat.

The only benefit they had was that their planes were too small to show up on the German’s radar. The Night Witches weren’t given any radios, so the Germans couldn’t track them on those either.

The first plane would dive down, attracting the Germans’ attention. The second plane would drop a flare on the target. The third and final plane would dive down and drop a bomb.

After over 30,000 successfully completed missions, the Night Witches, for one last time, attacked the German forces in Berlin. Three days later, Germany officially surrendered to the Allies due in large part to that late night attack.

During their time on the force, the Night Witches created a list of 12 commandments they had to follow. The very first one being to“be proud that you are a woman.”

I have only just learned of these brave women that played a large part in the reason why Germany surrendered in Berlin. Why haven’t I heard about them before? I know that I had to learn about the most important groups of people during WWII, but why not them? It’s because they were women. At the time, their country deemed them to be less important than the men that fought in the war.

The Night Witches should be seen as feminist icons, but hardly anyone knows they exist.

I aspire to be like the women who survived, even when all of the odds were against them. I aspire to be like the women that proved themselves to be better and stronger than what anyone thought they could be. I aspire to be like the women who fought for what they believed in, even when people rejected them. Most of all, I aspire to be like the Night Witches, whose number one rule is, “be proud you are a woman.”