Nazi-Fighting 'Night Witch' Dead at 91
Nadezhda Popova flew 852 missions in WWII
By Kate Seamons, Newser Staff
Posted Jul 16, 2013 8:58 AM CDT
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(Newser) – There can't be too many World War II heroes with a better nickname than this: The "Night Witches" were a group of Russian women who piloted bomb-laden crop dusters over the invading German army, and their story is getting a fresh look in the wake of the death of one of the first and most celebrated women to join their ranks. Nadezhda Popova, who died in Moscow on July 8 at age 91, can claim 852 of the 30,000 missions the women flew in a 4-year span. (PRI's The World shares this amazing counterpoint: US bomber pilots were generally "rotated out" of combat after completing 25 missions.) During that time the "Night Witches" unleashed 23,000 tons of bombs on the Nazis, helping push them out of Russia.

They got their name from the Germans, who likened what the New York Times calls the "whooshing" of their planes to the sound a witch's broomstick might make; the Washington Post explains they killed their engines right before unloading their bombs to up the surprise factor. And they were good at what they did, so much so that Germans spewed rumors that the women relied on pills and injections that gave them cat-like night vision. Popova, who became a "Night Witch" at age 19, was shot down a number of times and, on one occasion, ended up meeting her future husband amid the retreating troops she joined. Said Popova in 2010, "I can still imagine myself as a young girl, up there in my little bomber. And I ask myself, 'Nadia, how did you do it?'" (Click for another fascinating obituary.)

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Showing 3 of 23 comments
slammer
Jul 17, 2013 9:34 PM CDT
rip! a true hero!
Johnny_ReduxII
Jul 16, 2013 6:18 PM CDT
Russia (Bolshevik Communist Russia, under that devil Stalin) was set to invade Europe as soon as the Axis and Allies killed each other off a little more. Read about it. Stalin had thousands of tanks and planes ready to go, and Hitler knew it, so he struck first (Operation Barbarossa). So, to hell with all of you misinformed German haters. If it was not for Hitler, all of the Europe would have been conquered by the Soviets."The critical moment of World War Two – if not of the twentieth century – is generally regarded as Adolf Hitler's decision in 1941 to launch an unprovoked assault upon a hitherto neutral and peaceful Soviet Union. Operation Barbarossa, as it was called, is perceived as the great tactical mistake which doomed Nazi Germany to defeat. Icebreaker, by Russian historian Victor Suvorov, exposes this scenario as nonsense. This extensively researched piece of historical revisionism provides compelling evidence that Operation Barbarossa was a reluctant pre-emptive strike against a massive Soviet military machine which was at that time poised to invade not just Germany, but the whole of Western Europe."
Johnny_ReduxII
Jul 16, 2013 6:09 PM CDT
It is great to defend your nation against invaders, but she unwittingly (with her Russian 'sisters') helped keep alive a disgusting, murderous regime that killed directly and indirectly (before and after the war) approximately 100 million people throughout Eastern Europe and Russia. Not a hero...just another pawn.