The Night Witches

Next week marks the orgin of these total badasses. I first learned about the Night Witches from a podcast Stuff You Missed in History Class some years ago and have always been fascinated by them. They got their nickname by the German soldiers. Apparently, since the women aviators weren’t as highly regarded as their male counterparts they were given older, inferior Yak 2s (I could be wrong, this is all off memory). They were regulated to nighttime raids which made matters worse as the nighttime air made the sound of the loud planes that much louder so they became AA fodder. To survive the pilots learned to cut their engines on their approach and glide in, drop their bombs and then restart their engines and fly off. To the German soldiers the sound of the planes gliding was a common sound of their childhood stories of witches, hence their name.


That is the same story I heard. However when I toured Monino in 2014 an 82 year Soviet Air Force veteran told me that men flew the biplanes as well AND women flew fighter and bombers. I think it was the “Western” perspective that forgot about the wide roles of women and of course the biplane women gained the most fame. One of the fighter pilots Litvyak shot down 15 enemy planes and still is the topscoring female ace.

Dr. Reina Pennington Dit some great work on digging up the Soviet view which confirms what I heard for a 100%. Moscow is a fantastic place to visit and Monino has a truly unique collection of planes (once Covid is gone I gues)


There is a whole TV series about them “Night Swallows” (The Nazi’s called them Witches), pretty cool actually (and not just the weather).

By the way high drag/low power biplanes are pretty difficult to fly. A lot of Airline Pilots end up pretty humiliated after their first lesson. The are very susceptible to wind/ground loops etc.

I have massive respect for the men and women who flew those!


Here is the story of a real LTC Night Witch/Swallow who sadly passed away in 2013.

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