the 588th Night Witches were a squad of russian bomber women who earned their name Nachthexen from the nazis because they would fly by night, turn off their goddamn engines to swoop in their outdated planes (often crop-dusters), whoosh over the target making this amazing sudden "witch's broom" RRSSSSH sound and manually eject bombs on german targets. they sometimes used their chart pencils as eyeliner and did not use radios and minimal metal so they couldn't be detected. No parachutes, no nothin. fuckin' ride or die. Marina Raskova assembled and trained this all-female team of fighters, many of whom were rewarded prestigious medals and in total over thirty thousand missions were completed. Thirty pilots were lost. They were hated and feared by the nazis who would receive high honors if they could actually take down one of the Night Witches and also assumed they had been experimented on so they could see in the dark. uh sorry, douchebags. but the witches are just better than you.

@roadkillcobra Polikarpov Po-2 biplanes. These were really maneuverable though outdated and, get this, going at top speeds at their usual altitude meant newer, faster fighters going after them would hit a “stall speed” due to “angle of attack,” so literally they were out flying much better planes!

The thing I *suspect* but don’t know is that the core group of pilots had flown crop dusting before the war, and that’s theoretically why they got assigned the Po-2s.

@Leucrotta @roadkillcobra From the published interviews with veterans, I think most of them learned to fly in glider clubs. Aviation was big in the Soviet Union in the 1930s and the Young Communists ran flying clubs for young people.

@Leucrotta @roadkillcobra (You can find the interviews in “A Dance With Death: Soviet Airwomen in WW2”. I’m not a military history obsessive but it’s fascinating stuff.)

@ghost_bird @roadkillcobra oooh, thanks! Holy crapton so that made them *perfect* for what they wound up doing!

There is an excellent award-winning role playing game by Jason Morningstar about the squadron, their hardships, success, lives etc. I assume it takes some liberties to be a playable game, but it has a lot of background notes and for anyone interested in the 588th and RPGs, I cannot not recommend it.


There's a (mildly good) french comic about it: Les sorcières de la nuit by Romain Hugault.

@roadkillcobra I love that this story is getting better known! But when I talked to a Russian friend she looked at me funny - she grew up hearing songs and stories about the Night Witches all the time.

@roadkillcobra And if you want to tabletop roleplay some Night Witches, Bully Pulpit games has you covered

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