"Night witches": the death of the Nazis!
The idea of creating a special women's aviation regiment was not born immediately. The command doubted for a long time whether it could fully fight aviation part consisting of women. But the famous pilot Marina Raskova, who stood at the origins of the formation of the "Night Witches", managed to convince the top leaders of the Soviet Union and the People’s Commissariat of Defense.
In order for the Soviet leadership to give the go-ahead to create female aviation regiments, Marina Raskova had to use all her capabilities, including her personal acquaintance with the all-powerful General Secretary Joseph Stalin. Marina Raskova really had authority at that time, and not a little one. Together with Valentina Grizodubova and Polina Osipenko, 24-25 of September 1938, Raskova, as a navigator, participated in a non-stop flight on the route Moscow-Far East (Kerby, Komsomolsk-on-Amur region) with a length of 6450 km. The flight lasted 26 hours 29 minutes, setting a women's world record for flight range. Pilots became folk heroines. Already 2 November 1938, Grizodubova, Osipenko and Raskova received the title Hero of the Soviet Union.
Unfortunately, in 1939, the 31-year-old major Polina Osipenko died in a plane crash, Valentina Grizodubova continued service in aviation, and Marina Raskova made a dizzying career, and in the same 1938 year, in the 26-year age, she headed the USSR International Airline Directorate. With direct access to the top leaders of the Soviet state, from the very beginning of World War II, she began to develop the idea of creating female aviation regiments. Raskov was supported by thousands of Soviet women who were rushing to the front. And Raskova was able to achieve its goal. October 8 The 1941 of the year issued an order by the USSR Commissariat of Defense of the USSR “On the formation of female air regiments of the Red Army Air Force”, which launched the famous “Night Witches”.
The first 588-th night legkobombardirovochny Aviation Regiment, which was assigned to command the 28-year old Evdokia Davydovna Bershanskaya was formed - pilots with ten years before the war he commanded aviazvenom in 218-m special applications squadron stationed in the village Pashkovskaya (Krasnodar region). The formation of the regiment began in the city of Engels, in the same place the staff was trained. Unlike the two other women's aviation regiments - the 586 th Fighter (Yak-1) and the 587 th Bomber (Pe-2), which had mixed personnel, in the 588 th aviation regiment only women served, and in all positions - and pilots and navigators, and mechanics, and political workers. At the beginning of the regiment there were 20 aircraft and 115 personnel, of which the flight crew was 40 people.
23 May 1942, the regiment flew to the front and 27 May was in the combat zone. The first combat departure of the regiment crews occurred on June 12 of the year 1942. Until August 1942, the regiment fought in the Salsk steppes, then on the Don and on Mius, where he suffered the first combat losses. For the whole year, the regiment participated in the battles in the Caucasus. 8 February 1943, the 588 th regiment was renamed the 46 th Guards night bomber aviation regiment.
On the night of 1 August, the 1943 regiment lost four aircraft at once, since the German command sent a special group of night fighters with trained pilots to stop the night bombing. The attack of German fighters was a complete surprise for the "Night Witches". The German ace Josef Kotsyok, the Chevalier of the Iron Cross, managed to burn three bomber in the air, and the fourth bomber was hit by anti-aircraft artillery. As a result, died 20-year Guard Second Lieutenant Anna Vysotskaya and her navigator 22-year-old second lieutenant Galina Dokutovich Guards Junior Lieutenant 22-year-old Eugene Krutov and her co-driver Elena Salikova Valentina Polunin and her navigator 22-year Glafira Kashirina, Sophia Rogov with his navigator Eugenia Sukhorukova. But the loss of the regiment only forced the "Night Witches" to fight even more fiercely. The German command, which at first perceived information about the appearance of a whole female aviation regiment as part of Soviet aviation, as a product of Soviet propaganda, began to fear our pilots as fire. And this is a very accurate comparison, because as a result of air strikes, various objects of the German military infrastructure, from transports to staffs, exploded to the ground.
One of the brightest pages in stories the regiment began fighting for the Kerch Peninsula, in which the "Night Witches" took an active part. The task of the regiment was to ensure the landing of the Soviet troops on the Kerch Peninsula. Since German artillery was firing at Soviet landing craft, Soviet bombers worked in pairs - one beat on the searchlight that illuminated the sea, the other - on artillery. In addition, the noise of the motors made for the Germans inaudible approach of the Soviet boats. Including thanks to pilots, the Soviet paratroopers managed to land and gain a foothold on a very narrow coastal strip. But they were immediately under German shelling. The paratroopers very quickly ran out of food, medicine, ammunition. Therefore, before the "Night Witches" was put a new task - the Soviet bombers dropped paratroopers cartridges, bandages and medicines, provisions. For Soviet soldiers defending on the coastal strip, such flights of the Night Witches became a real salvation. Night flights continued 26 days, with regiment bombers taking off every 5-10 minutes. The plane only had time to refuel, load bombs or ammunition and food for the Soviet paratroopers and again fly to Eltigen.
During the fighting on the Kerch Peninsula, the pilot Praskovya Prokopyev, who was just 24 of the year, was killed, and the Guard Regiment navigator, senior lieutenant of 23-year-old Yevgenia Rudneva, who was flying with her. The crew was assigned the task of bombing an object in the village of Bulganak north of Kerch. On the task of Rudnev and Prokopyev flew on the night of April 9 1944 of the year. For Evgenia Rudneva, this was her 645 flight. Despite her young age, Evgenia was the most experienced navigator, and before the war she studied astronomer at the Moscow State University. A third-year university graduate went to the front voluntarily, deciding that she would continue her education after the war. Rudneva was sent to the school navigators, and then - to the regiment of "Night Witches", where she served as navigator of the crew, squadron, and then the regiment.
Praskovya Prokopiev, despite the presence of flight education, very long tried to get to the front. She was sent to Mongolia - to transport civilian cargo, but she stubbornly pursued her goal. At the front of Praskovya hit only in 1943 year. The aircraft of Prokopiev and Rudneva was hit by German anti-aircraft artillery fire, but the pilots managed to drop bombs on the object. Only twenty years later it was possible to find out that some unknown female pilots were buried in Kerch. These were Rudnev and Prokopyev.
Pilots fought heroically during the liberation of Sevastopol, to which the Nazi units, driven out of the Kerch Peninsula, retreated. The main task of the regiment at this time was the bombing of German airfields around the city of Russian maritime glory. Later, after the war, the regiment's veterans recalled how difficult this task was, how terrible the barrage of German anti-aircraft guns was. But, nevertheless, the regiment not only managed to cope perfectly with the tasks set, but also to leave the Sevastopol operation without losses. Sevastopol was liberated on May 9 of the year 1944. After the liberation of the Crimea, the Night Witches were transferred to Belarus, where fierce battles with the Nazi occupiers also took place, and then began to fly to Poland. In January 1945, the regiment bombed German facilities in East Prussia, then was transferred to the liberation of Gdansk, and from April 1945 of the year until the victory participated in breaking through the defense of the Nazis on the Oder.
During the years of World War II, 23 military men of the regiment were awarded the high title of Hero of the Soviet Union. And they could be more. According to the established rules, they flew U-2 to the title of Hero of the Soviet Union with 500 combat missions. But practically every regiment pilots had such an impressive number of combat sorties that, especially for the Night Witches, they raised the bar higher and began to represent the title of Hero of the Soviet Union for 600 and more combat sorties. If the entire title of Hero of the Soviet Union was awarded to 59 pilots who flew U-2 bombers, more than a third of them were pilots of the 46 night bomber aviation regiment alone.
In 1995, the rank of Hero of the Russian Federation was awarded to Guards Senior Lieutenant Tatyana Nikolaevna Sumarokova, who made 725 combat missions, and Guards Senior Lieutenant Alexander Fedorovna Akimova, who made 680 combat missions. In addition, in Kazakhstan, the title of People's Hero was awarded to Senior Lieutenant Hiuaz Kairovna Dospanova, who served as a navigator-shooter and made 300 combat sorties. Khiuaz Dospanova managed to survive during the plane crash, when in the dark, returning to the airfield, one plane boarded another. The girl received the hardest injuries, became an invalid of the 2 group, but returned to service to continue the service.
Most of the sorties to the regiment during the war were made by the senior lieutenant Irina Fedorovna Sebrova (1914-2000), who commanded the regiment in aviation. On her account - 1004 combat night departure for the bombing of enemy troops. Of course, Irina Sebrovoy was awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union. The total number of departures regiment for three years of participation in the war - 24 thousands. But at the same time, although each of the pilots of the regiment made a huge number of combat missions, the losses in personnel were minimal for aviation regiments. So, for the entire war, the regiment lost 32 man, and this is not only the dead, but also those who died from wounds and diseases.
October 15 1945, the Taman Red Banner Guards, of the Order of Suvorov, the night bomber aviation regiment was disbanded. Since, in peacetime, it was decided not to take women into military pilots, almost all the heroic pilots of the regiment were forced to quit. Their fates have taken shape in different ways. Someone fortunate enough to make a serious career in the public service or in party organs, someone lived the life of ordinary workers. So, Khiuaz Kairovna Dospanova held the post of secretary of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Kazakh SSR, then secretary of the Alma-Ata city committee of the party, but was forced to retire in 40 years — the consequences of the gravest injuries received during the war made themselves felt. True, Khiuaz Kairovna lived in retirement for almost half a century and died only in 2008 year.
The regimental commander Evdokia Davydovna Bershanskaya married the commander of the 889 night light bomber regiment Konstantin Bocharova and changed her last name, worked after the war in the Soviet Women's Committee, and died in 1982 year at the age of 69 from a heart attack. Raisa Yermolaevna Aronova graduated from the Military Institute of Foreign Languages after the war, served as a translator in the organs of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the USSR, KGB of the USSR, in the apparatus of the CPSU Central Committee, went into reserve as a major in 1961 year.
Different people - different destinies. But they were all united by a single terrible and heroic, but very close past. Evdokia Yakovlevna Rachkevich, who served as deputy regiment commander for political affairs, after the war set out to unite the regiment's veterans, to perpetuate the memory of the deceased pilots. It was she who managed to find the burial of Evgenia Rudneva, who was killed near Kerch. She studied all the places of death of the missing pilots, having done a great job. It is thanks to this remarkable woman in the 46-th night bomber regiment there are no missing people, all the burials of the heroic pilots are established. The glorious battle path of the Night Witches from the Salsk steppes to Germany, the fearlessness of the Soviet pilots - very young girls - brought eternal glory to the regiment.
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