Between 1943 and the war’s end, the 125th Guards Bomber Regiment moved its operations as the front moved westward through Belorussia, the Baltic area and eastern Prussia; it was based in German territory when the Third Reich surrendered. Its members flew up to three sorties a day, dropping 980,000 kilograms of bombs, attacking enemy positions, and harassing troop concentrations. Five of its pilots were named Hero of the Soviet Union. In contrast, 23 of the 46th Regiment’s flyers received that award.
Of that disparity Markov commented, “From the present viewpoint I can see that very few of my girls were awarded the highest title. If I could turn time back, I would have promoted more of them for that award. Now I have a grave sentiment about that, because many of them deserved it.”
By the end of World War II as many as 18 percent of the personnel in the Red Air Force were women. Even before Marina Raskova’s legendary call for female volunteers in 1941, women were serving in various parts of the Red Air Force. Her organization of the three women’s regiments and their outstanding performance lured even more women to serve. They came asking only to serve the country they loved. Month after month they faced tremendous danger. They endured the harsh demands of combat service, survived disasters and life-threatening sorties, and suffered sickness and wounds. Yet they always remained to perform their duties in service to their country.
Socrates explained to Crito about his obligation to obey the call of the state: “This is the voice I hear in my ears, like the sound of the flute in the ears of the mystic. Its humming prevents me from hearing any other.” That same voice must have hummed in the ears of those heroic women whom the Nazis disdainfully called Night Witches, but in the end contributed so much to toppling the Nazi dictator who had envisioned conquering the Soviet Union.
George Tipton Wilson is a resident of Memphis, Tennessee. A veteran of World War II, he received the highest possible intelligence clearance while working as a cryptographer at the Pentagon and on the staff of General Douglas MacArthur in Australia.
This article first appeared at the Warfare History Network.