The Night Witches

The Night Witches were a group of female Russian pilots who dropped bombs on Nazi soldiers in World War II.

  • The world’s first female combat pilots, who fought on the Eastern Front.

  • A general who saw them said, “Are these little girlies going to fight at the front?  They have nothing to do there!”

  • They were called Nachthexen, or Night Witches, by the Germans, who thought their low-flying planes sounded like a witch’s broomstick.  They took on the title with pride.

  • The Germans feared the Night Witches so much, that any German soldier who shot down one of them was automatically given an Iron Cross.

  • Nadezhda Popova, one of the squad’s commanders, told the BBC that “The Germans made up stories, they spread a rumor that we had been injected with some unknown chemicals that enabled us to see so clearly at night.”

  • They flew in small open-cockpit planes called Polikarpov Po-2 biplanes that were  made of plywood and canvas and were usually used only for training and crop-dusting.

  • They decorated their planes with drawings of flowers.

  • To drop their bombs successfully and quietly at night, they would idle their engines as they neared the target to reduce sound, glide as they dropped a bomb, and then fly away.

  • The Night Witches flew without parachutes or radar, and dropped bombs, facing frostbite while “sail[ing] through a wall of enemy fire,” at least eight times a night.

  • Collectively, they flew 30,000 missions in four years.

  • Nadezhda Popova once flew 18 missions in one night, with a total of 852 missions.  She died in 2013 at the age of 91.


  • According to the Washington Post, Popova told her navigator, “Katya, my dear, we will live long” after finding 42 bullet holes in their plane.

  • The Night Witches, along with the women of the other 2 all-female regiments in World War II, were given pistols that they used to commit suicide, rather than allow themselves to be captured by the Nazis.

  • At least 30 of the Night Witches, including Popova, were deemed Heroes of the Soviet Union, the USSR’s highest honor



Show More
Back to top button