Thursday, August 2, 2012
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's mass attack on the Soviet Union. And some attack it was! Four million troops along a 3,000 kilometer front supported by more than half a million motor vehicles and three-fourths of a million horses. Almost overnight, three million Russians were taken prisoner, the Red Army was in shambles and the air corps was on the ground.
Then, Marina Raskova sold a solution to Joseph Stalin: three regiments of in-your-face women. The pilots, navigators, officers, ground crews and mechanics would all be women (1,200 of them) who would be issued ninety aircraft. With his back to the wall, Stalin agreed. And Raskova slammed into action.
A few months later, the three regiments were ready, having learned what normally took four years to master. Hitting the skies, these three groups of women warriors (most of them about twenty-years-old or so) racked up a total record of 30,000 combat missions dropping tens of thousands of bombs and responsible for the destruction of dozens of enemy aircraft. The 46th Tamar Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment alone -- who were called the Nachthexen ("night witches") by the Germans -- produced twenty-four Heroes of the Soviet Union, while flying fifteen to eighteen missions per night for months in second rate aircraft, planes that were usually only used for training.
The regiment Marina Raskova personally led, of course, commandeered the best equipment the Air Corps had to offer, which didn't set well with their male counterparts. But then, they hadn't turned the war around. She had. Those who are jealous don't understand that in-your-face women aren't better at what they do because they're women. They're just better. Period.