July 27th, 2010
Originally Posted by Del Boy
Has any army in the modern world ever had a female regiment?
46th Taman Guards Night Bomber Regiment of the Soviet Red Army Air Force (nicknamed 'Night Witches' by the Germans)
Women-only combat regiment formed at the instigation of Marina Raskova and led by Major Yevdokia Bershanskaya. From June 1942, the 588th Night Bomber Regiment was within the 4th Air Army. In February 1943 the regiment was honored with a reorganization into the 46th Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment and in October 1943 it became the 46th Taman Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment. |
The regiment flew harassment bombing and precision bombing missions from 1942 to the end of the war. At its largest size, it had 40 two-person crews. It flew over 23,000 sorties and is said to have dropped 3,000 tons of bombs. It was the most highly-decorated unit in the Soviet Air Force, each pilot having flown over 1,000 missions by the end of the war and twenty-three having been awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union title. Thirty-one of its members died in combat.
The regiment flew in wood and canvas Polikarpov Po-2 biplanes, a 1928 design intended for use as training aircraft and for crop-dusting. The planes could carry only two bombs at a time, so multiple missions in a night were necessary. Although the aircraft were obsolete and slow, the pilots made daring use of their exceptional maneuverability; they had the advantage of having a maximum speed that was lower than the stall speed of both the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and the Focke-Wulf Fw 190, as a result, the German pilots found them very difficult to shoot down. A stealth technique of the night bombers was to idle the engine near the target and glide to the bomb release point, with only wind noise to reveal their location.
- Yevdokiya Bershanskaya - Regimental Commander
- Yevgeniya Zhigulenko, Hero of the Soviet Union- Flight Commander
- Tat'yana Makarova, Hero of the Soviet Union- Flight Commander
- Nina Ul'yanenko, Hero of the Soviet Union, Flight Navigator