World War II ‘Night Witch’ Dies at 91

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Born in 1921 in a small coal-mining town in Eastern Ukraine, Nadezhda Popova dreamed of becoming a teacher or a nurse when she was young. Then one day a pilot was blown off course and landed in a field near her school.

"We all rushed out of the school and we saw him landing," she told the BBC in a 2009 interview. "We touched his jacket; we touched his hands. We thought the men who were flying were absolutely extraordinary—as if they were coming from another planet. My dream was not only to fly, but to man the plane myself. To fly like a bird."

Popova went on to achieve that dream, joining the Soviet Union’s first all-women division of fighter-pilots in World War II. The Nazis called them “Night Witches” because their plywood and canvas airplanes sounded like witches’ broomsticks, and because they carried out their raids exclusively at night.

In 30,000 thousand missions over four years, the Night Witches dumped more than 20,000 tons of bombs on the Germans. Popova herself flew 852 missions. She died last week in Moscow at age 91.

Amy Goodpaster Strebe, author of “Flying for Her Country: The American and Soviet Women Military Pilots of World War II” explains Popova's legacy, and the forgotten  history of these courageous women fighter pilots.

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Amy Goodpaster Strebe

Produced by:

Mythili Rao


T.J. Raphael

Comments [2]

Tom from St. Louis

Thank you for this fascinating story!

I have put this link on my Facebook page, but some of the errors on the page are a bit embarrassing, and I wonder if you could please make some corrections to the page?

For instance, the summary speaks about women on bombing missions, but then they are referred to as "fighter pilots" at the end of the article. Most of the time, fighter and bomber pilots were very distinct units that flew different planes. So, that is confusing.

Also, one of the paragraphs begins, "In 30,000 thousand missions over four years..." so that appears to be a typo.

In the radio story, the host refers to "dogfighting," but it's not at all clear that there were dogfights between the women pilots and the Luftwaffe pilots - they likely flew at night to avoid dogfights, given that their planes were from WWI era...

I appreciate this great story, but would also appreciate more care in the write-up, and the writing of the segment.

Thank you!

Jul. 17 2013 12:53 PM

Jul. 17 2013 12:47 PM

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