Deadly Skies: Soviet Women Fighter Pilots of WWII

Nearly eight decades ago, Soviet women fighter pilots proved they could be the Top Guns of their day.

We live in a time when shockingly regressive views can gain traction and popularity. Case in point: apparently some people aren’t convinced that women can fly planes. That deserves a “well, actually:” women have been involved with powered flight since the very beginning.

While pioneering early aviators like Amelia Earhart may have seemed like novelties or aberrations, that changed with World War II. Just as it was a time for women to prove in large numbers they could do “a man’s job” in science and industry, this was also when women proved they could fly planes just as well. Air forces on all sides employed women as test pilots and to ferry new planes to the front lines. Moreover, in the Soviet Union, women pilots were put to the ultimate test in combat.

Due to the Cold War, the contribution of Soviet women combat pilots was little known in the West. Thankfully, more and more, their history is coming to light. Most of the attention goes to the “Night Witches,” an all-female regiment of bomber pilots. Flying their antiquated biplanes in the dead of night, they are a plucky underdog story. But arguably more amazing is the fact that the Soviet Union also entrusted women with the most expensive and technologically advanced hardware the Motherland had to offer: fighter planes.

This is the story of Soviet women fighter pilots of World War II.

Stalingrad: A Legend at 75

On February 2, 1943, an entire German army surrendered to the Soviet Union at Stalingrad, marking the greatest military defeat the Nazis had suffered to date.

The Battle of Stalingrad was a defining moment of World War II. It stands almost apart from the war as a legend unto itself, like Pearl Harbor or D-Day. It dealt a critical blow to the myth of Nazi superiority, was a turning point in the war and the foundation for a national legend.

If people in the West know anything about the Soviet-German clash during WWII, it is likely through the story of this battle. It was perhaps the bloodiest of the twentieth century, costing the lives of over two million soldiers and civilians in the span of five months. Seventy-five years later, so much legend has been wrapped around the story that it often obscures the facts in favour of simple narrative. Here is a look at the meaning of both the battle and the legend, and some overlooked facts about Stalingrad.

Soviet Propaganda Art in Wartime


Amazingly, this famous wartime poster was almost completely unseen until 2000 because the government feared it seemed patronizing

This is my last post of the year as I put this site into a holiday hiatus as I prepare for my book launch. It’s also one of my favourite posts to write!

Before the popularization of the term “fake news,” we probably most associated the word propaganda with the insidious designs of Nazi Information Minister Josef Goebbels. He was famously, and perhaps wrongly, thought to have said: “If you repeat a lie a thousand times it becomes a truth.”

But propaganda was more than just a weapon in the Nazi arsenal. Propaganda was used by all sides during World War II. And it didn’t just involve censoring or altering the facts. Propaganda also involved visual art. While posters could inform, warning that “loose lips sink ships,” or deceive, by demonizing the enemy, propaganda art’s greatest power lay in evoking emotional responses. We might associate Allied propaganda with minimalist efforts such as the Keep Calm and Carry On poster. However, the Soviet Union treated propaganda as a true art form.

[editor’s note: This is the start of a tweak to my website’s format. I separated most blog items into Bookish and Historical. This allows for more straight up discussion of history, of which this is the first post. This way, I can take advantage of all the research I’m doing for the Aelita’s War books. There are also no more “Stray Thoughts” allowed on this site!]