During World War II, decades before the U.S. military deigned to consider women for front-line combat jobs, Russian teenage girls and young women dropped 23,000 tons of bombs on German invaders while commandeering crop dusters. The Nazis called them the "night witches."

The volunteer's stories do sound straight out of Harry Potter: they flew in pitch black darkness, maps and compasses were their only weapons, and their planes were as flimsy as sheets of paper if hit by a bullet.

Nadezhda Popova, one of the first volunteers (she flew 852 missions) died on July 8th in Moscow at age 91, according to the New York Times. In 2010, she told RIA Novosti that she was just doing her job: “We bombed, we killed; it was all a part of war," she said. "We had an enemy in front of us, and we had to prove that we were stronger and more prepared.”

Popova and her coven were so skilled that the Germans thought they were given magical potions to give them "a feline’s perfect vision at night." Popova called that "nonsense."


“I sometimes stare into the blackness and close my eyes,” she said back in 2010. “I can still imagine myself as a young girl, up there in my little bomber. And I ask myself, ‘Nadia, how did you do it?’ ”

[New York Times]