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Night Witches: The Amazing Story of Russia's Women Pilots in WWII

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  262 ratings  ·  51 reviews
In 1941, as Nazi hordes swept east into the Soviet Union, a desperte call went out for women to join the Russian air force. The result—three entire regiments of women pilots and bombers—was a phenomenon unmatched in World II. Through interviews with these courageous pilots, the author uncovers their story. Soon to be a major motion picture.
Paperback, 272 pages
Published June 1st 1990 by Academy Chicago Publishers (first published January 1st 1981)
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Average rating 4.17  · 
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Start your review of Night Witches: The Amazing Story of Russia's Women Pilots in WWII
Diane S ☔
Mar 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lor-2019, 5000-2019
On 22, June, 1941, German bombers destroyed squadron after squadron of fighters and bombers, as Russia slept. These attacks gave Germany almost complete air control, but the Poliburo in Moscow, still thought they could reading with Hitler and get him to call off further airstrikes. The Soviet military was totally unprepared. With most of their sir power destroyed, and many Soviet bombers shot down, Russia suffered great losses. With not enough trained pilots left, those in power had no recourse ...more
Lewis Weinstein
Aug 09, 2013 marked it as to-read
There was an amazing obituary of Russian flyer Nadia Popova in a recent Economist. She was one of the "night witches" and just died at age 91. See the obit at ... http://www.economist.com/news/obituar...

...more
Kate Lynn
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, aviation
Bruce Myles has done a wonderful job weaving all of the interviews he conducted together to make a gripping portrait of WWII Russia.

Before coming across this work, I never knew women flew for Russia during the second war! It is a historically important story and should be more commonly known!
Pmalcpoet Pat Malcolm
Feb 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A thrilling account of Russia's women pilots in World War II. And really, in this country, who knew? The author conducted research and had personal interviews with several of the women themselves. Prior to the war Russian girls and young women participated in many private flying clubs, and in the early days of battle women were involved in training men in piloting, navigation and parachute jumping. Finally the word came that they, too, would be allowed to fly in battle, and three regiments of wo ...more
Leslie Jenison
Jun 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Here is another book that I love about flying because it is about a little-known group of Russian women pilots. Unlike the WASPs (for whom I have an enormous amount of respect, and many of these women lost their lives pulling live targets behind their planes for military student pilots to shoot at) these women flew combat missions. They were deemed more "expendable" than their male counterparts so were relegated to flying night missions. The enemy named them the "Night Witches", so good were the ...more
Laura
Nov 08, 2009 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Cyndie Todd
Aug 24, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: WWII history fans, feminists, pilots
Recommended to Cyndie by: patron of the library I used to work at
I'm not much on war history, but this is a good book about a little known bit of history. I never would have read it but for someone thrusting it into my hand and expecting me to tell him what I thought about it. I couldn't avoid it, so I just read it and got it over with. Not a waste of time in the end.
Megan
Mar 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this interesting read about an extraordinary group of women, but I read "A Dance with Death" afterward and a few of the women mentioned that much of this was fictionalized or exaggerated. So, while it was an entertaining and quick read, I'd take this work with a grain of salt.
Colleen
Oct 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Book 38 of my #2017readingchallenge is Bruce Myles' Night Witches: The Amazing Story of Russia's Women Pilots in World War II. It is incredibly powerful, emotional, terrifying and fucking badass. These young women enlisted after learning to fly at their hometown clubs, and they became national heroes. And when I say young I mean 17, 18, 20 year olds, fighting Nazis midair. They are SO inspirational.

This book was written in 1981 and is written by a man, so parts are a little sexist, but the crux
...more
Holly
Oct 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ww2, non-fiction
Lily Litvak is my new woman crush! This book reads like a narrative more than a textbook list of facts, which was enjoyable. I'm sure the Night Witches enjoy more fame in Russia but I barely knew anything about them and there isn't much English material about them. Their stories are so inspiring and ought to be told more.
Sara
May 19, 2012 rated it liked it
The writing isn't particularly good, but the stories about these women are so amazing that it is definitely worth reading. I decided to read this after going to yet another airplane museum with J and seeing one of the PO-2s that the Russian women flew during WWII.
Charlotte
At some point, somewhere along the line, I’d come to the arrogant assumption that there wasn’t much more in the modern history bracket that could interest me. There had been various brushes with WWII history in secondary school, specifically looking at Britain and the rise of Nazi Germany, which I’d happily researched around when particular areas caught my attention… Then my nonfiction historical reading skipped off to the distant past as I fell in love with archaeology and the Upper Palaeolithi ...more
Louis Barbier
Apr 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This story Night Witches by author Bruce Myles is a powerful account of what a few Russian women who had learned to fly in aviation clubs throughout Russia accomplished when the call went out for female volunteer aviators. Even though Nazi Germany had signed a peace treaty with Russia, which would guarantee peaceful coexistence Adolph Hitler broke it in a heartbeat by declaring all-out war on the world and Russia. Adolph Hitler wanted to dominate the world so at 3:15 a.m. on June 22, 1941 Operat ...more
Bob H
Aug 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book originally published in 1981 and had the benefit of first-person sources: the surviving women who had served and who provided many anecdotes, personal accounts amid the ongoing story of the women's bomber and fighter regiments. The stories of the PO-2 regiment -- biplanes engaged in night-intruder raids and enemy-territory drops -- are hair-raising. The other two women's regiments, flying Yak-1 fighters and Pe-2 attack bombers, proved to be brave and capable pilots, with several women ...more
Christine Van Heertum
Mar 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
The true story of Russian women pilots during WWII. When Germany invaded Russia and all men had been called to the front, Russian women massively answered « yes » when they heard that volunteers were needed to save the country. The courses that might have lasted up to 2 years had been compressed to 6 months and they learned to fly at night, to navigate with only the most rudimentary of instruments and without any radio communication with the ground. The women were smaller than men and needed cus ...more
Matt Wisecarver
Oct 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in Russian WW2 era history
As was similar with books such as A Higher Call, Night Witches delivers a fun, intriguing read. This is mostly delivered by a fair balance of historical data combined with interviews to make a beautiful tale that is fun for anyone to read, regardless on your thoughts of history. This book entails the tales of Russia's women pilots of World War 2, or, as they would be nicknamed by the Germans, Night Witches. The book gives a great attention to the sexism that at first existed for these women pilo ...more
Emily
Sep 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an absolutely incredible book, well-researched and taken from the first-hand accounts of the remaining pilots. It tells an interesting, empowering, and heart-wrenching story.

The only negative is that it is hard to follow at times - it's told in a linear fashion and it can be difficult to remember who is who.

The story of these women, however, is incredible. It thoroughly discusses how they trained, made mistakes, succeeded, loved, failed, lost... their incredible talent, skill, bravery,
...more
Justin Conder
Aug 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a solid work of history, and any one of the stories told here would make an incredible film filled with hair-raising feats and terrified Nazis. It is, incidentally, a window into mid-20th century Soviet Union and the gender politics present at that time (and how simultaneously progressive and backwards it was). Shoutout to Dan Carlin's Hardcore History podcast for making me aware of the Night Witches to begin with. Some of the language in the book is a bit dated, but nothing too off putt ...more
Chris Pramas
Nov 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Excellent book about the women's regiments of the Soviet Air Force during WWII. The title refers to the night bombers, who flew unarmed biplanes over German lines and bombed them in the darkness, but the book covers all the different regiments (night bombers, day bombers, and fighters). The pilots include the only two female fighter aces in history, both of whom flew Yaks over Stalingrad during that epic battle. Many of the stories come first hand from survivors the author interviewed in the 80s ...more
Carronade
Jul 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: author-m, nonfiction, 2017
A captivating insight into the lives of Russian women pilots during WWII, based on interviews with those who survived.

A general account of their many fights is interspersed with entertaining shenaningangs (involving at times alcohol, inappropriate and flowery additions to their fighting gear and, once, a wolf cub), love stories, as well as horrors of war. Said horrors thankfully do not overwhelm the whole narrative, but rather remind the reader of the dangers civilians and soldiers faced in the
...more
Olivia Waite
Jul 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, feminism, flying, war
The prose is a little plain, but sometimes the best thing a writer can do with a story like this is to get out of its way. I cannot believe they have not made a movie or three of this. There's romance, and fighting, and tragedy, and one of the greatest underdog stories I've ever seen drawn from real life. Much of the passages are drawn from witness accounts, and it shows, both in the spareness and the incredibly telling details.
Shannon Cahill
Jan 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Great book. It is nonfiction, but tells the stories of these brave women with so much detail and feeling that parts of it read like a great adventure novel. It made me feel like I was right there in the cockpit with some of these fascinating characters. This book was recommended by A Mighty Girl and I can see why.
Heidi
Jan 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
2015 Reading Challenge - A nonfiction book. I liked this book. I have never read anything from the Russian side of the war and it was very interesting to see things from their point of view. I was also really struck by how strong these women were. They never deviated from their purpose and only seemed to grow more passionate about their role in protecting their homeland as the war went on.
Leanna
Jul 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Amazing research in this book - I was really blown away by all the many details Myles got and the way he used them to emphasize the humanity and individuality of these women. Story lines got a bit cumbersome at times, but I think only because Myles was working with such great resources and so many great stories to tell.
Kat
Jul 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Honestly, I am not usually one for historical nonfiction. And it always takes me a really long time to read them; this took me nearly a year to get through, on and off. But it was supremely interesting and sufficiently -- uh, literary? story-like? -- to catch and keep my emotional attention as well as intellectual. Would definitely recommend to others.
Chris
Jan 30, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This is a book club choice.

I think this is the first time I've learned about WWII from the Russian point of view. It was very interesting, although I had some trouble keeping the women straight as he profiled so many of them chronologically.
Erin Leslie
Mar 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I found this book for a research paper on female pilots of the red army, but when I started reading it I couldn't stop! Thanks to this book, Lily Litvak is my hero. This book is very well written and a new unique cover in my bookcase and one of my favorites.
Dina
Nov 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, war
If you're interested in "women can do anything and better" this was awesome!
Academy Chicago
Mar 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The movie rights to this book have been optioned hundreds of times. At one point it was supposed to star Geena Davis, Wynnona Rider, and every '90s female actress in Hollywood.
Candy
Jun 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Wonderful book about some very courageous young ladies. My second time reading and it is hard to find.
I bought it years ago when I worked for a small bookstore in NEb.
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