Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Quick hit: Russia's WWII fighter pilots

by Molly Borowitz

If you're at all interested in feminist history or women in the military, the BBC has an amazing audio exposé on Russia's version of Rosie the Riveter. Did you know that the Soviet Union's Air Force had three all-female regiments during World War II? They were called Stalin's Falcons, and all told these female fighter pilots flew more than 30,000 missions along Russia's Eastern Front during the war, inspiring such terror in their enemies that they acquired the nickname "Night Witches."

The audio, a compilation of interviews with some of the Russian pilots, accompanies photographs of the women at their camps, in their planes, and in the skies. There are also sneak peeks at an upcoming graphic novel by an Irish-American author, telling the story of the prejudice they overcame to become legends. The all-female regiments, originally the brainchild of world-record-setting female pilot Marina Raskova, were recruited exclusively from volunteers eager to assist their country in the war effort. While beset by tragedies (at times the women were not allowed to wear parachutes, and many died in air), their military prowess was such that rumors spread amongst the German troops that Russian scientists had injected these women with powerful chemicals to improve their night vision.

All told, the piece is about 3 minutes long, and well worth your time. Definitely check it out if you get the chance!

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