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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Nadezhda Popova, b. December 27, 1921

Hero of the Soviet Union, Ace Pilot and and Night Bomber.

Hero of the Soviet Union, Nadezhda Popova, ace pilot and and night bomber was born December 27, 1921. (A few sources date her birth as December 17).

Popova was the daughter of a railworker and became enamored with flying as a teenager, joining one of the Soviet Union's many flying clubs that were formed in the 1930s. She enrolled in a military flying academy at age 18 and graduated to become an instructor.

When the Nazis and their allies invaded the USSR in 1941, famed Soviet aviator Marina Raskova gave a speech calling for the formation of women's air combat groups and in October Stalin and the military command agreed. In the end three all-women air regiments were created.

Popova, whose brother was killed in action in the early days of the war, volunteered and was assigned to a night bombing regiment which would become known as the "Night Witches". Often piloting an open cockpit converted crop duster she flew over 800 combat missions, a staggering number. She was shot down several times yet always went back into action. The Night Witches dropped over 23,000 tons of bombs.

Popova was promoted to command of the 2nd Women's Regiment and survived the war to become a lieutenant colonel in the Soviet air force. In addition to being named a Hero of the Soviet Union she was honoured with the Gold Star, the Order of the Red Banner (3 times), the Order of the Patriotic War and the Order of Lenin.

She died at age 91 in Moscow.



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