Nadezhda Popova
Nadezhda Popova
Anonim

The legendary Soviet pilot Nadezhda Popova, who was one of the best and one of the luckiest pilots of the Second World War, died. Popova and her friends were called "night witches" who were part of the elite of the Red Army.

Nadezhda Popova, who died at the age of 91, was a member of the female elite of the Red Army. Popova and her friends were called "night witches" because they flew bombers and waged an air war with Germany. She was the only one of them who was three times awarded the Order of the Patriotic War for bravery.

Unlike men, women in the USSR were not drafted into the army. They were volunteers. But after the defeat of 1941 in the bloodless Red Army, women began to be taken on a massive scale. They played an extremely important role in that war. More than 8,000 women fought in the terrible battle of Stalingrad.

Tatyana Makarova, Vera Belik, Polina Gelman, Ekaterina Ryabova, Dina Nikulina, Nadezhda Popova. 1944 (46th guyu nbap)
Tatyana Makarova, Vera Belik, Polina Gelman, Ekaterina Ryabova, Dina Nikulina, Nadezhda Popova. 1944 (46th guyu nbap)

Tatyana Makarova, Vera Belik, Polina Gelman, Ekaterina Ryabova, Dina Nikulina, Nadezhda Popova. 1944 (46th guyu nbap)

At the end of 1941, Stalin signed an order to create three female aviation regiments: fighter, dive bombers and night bombers. Over the next four years, these regiments flew a total of more than 30,000 sorties and dropped 23,000 tons of bombs. Nadezhda Popova, who was 19 at the time, became one of the first women to be admitted to the 588th Night Bomber Regiment (it was later renamed the 46th Taman Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment).

The 588th regiment was poorly equipped and armed. The women were given worn men's flight uniforms, and they flew on the well-worn 1920s Po-2 (Polikarpova) aircraft. These two-seater biplanes had a plywood fuselage with fabric stretched over it, and the instruments there were the most primitive.

There was no radio communication. Aeronautical navigation was carried out using a stopwatch and a map. The vehicles had no weapons, no parachutes, and only two bombs could be placed on them, which is why the pilots had to make several sorties (Nadezhda Popova once flew 18 sorties per night). Returning to the airfield, they took new bombs, which they hung under the wings and dropped using a cable.

Since the planes were not protected by anything, the 588th flew only at night, and it was mainly engaged in the exhausting bombing of German military fortifications, rear bases and warehouses. From the point of view of strategy, objects for striking were not particularly important, but the psychological impact of such attacks was significant.

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Multipurpose biplane Po-2

Since the Po-2 was light and flew at low altitudes, the pilots often flew unnoticed over enemy radars. Their tactics were as follows. They flew a certain distance to the target, and then turned off the engines. After that, the plane silently planned, the pilots dropped bombs, started the engines again and flew home. The Germans called them "Nachthexen" (Night Witches) because the noise of their flying planes sounded like the sound of a broom - "like a witch's broom in the night." It was said that the Luftwaffe pilots were promised the Iron Cross for the downed night witch.

To get away from the German anti-aircraft guns, the pilots of the 588th regiment built their battle formation in three aircraft. The two made a distraction, attracting the attention of the searchlights, and then diverged in opposite directions and began to make sharp maneuvers, avoiding the anti-aircraft fire. At this time, the pilot in the third bomber quietly flew in the dark after her combat friends and struck at the target. Then she got out of there and joined the others. After that, the planes changed places and again made a bombing approach - and so on, until all the bombs were dropped. To make a deceptive maneuver, one had to have nerves of steel, but, as Nadezhda Popova recalled, "it worked."

One of the most massive aircraft in the world Po-2 (U-2)
One of the most massive aircraft in the world Po-2 (U-2)

One of the most massive aircraft in the world Po-2 (U-2)

Most often, she recalled how cold it was: “When a strong wind blew, he threw the plane from side to side. In winter, when you looked out to get a better look at the target, you got frostbite, your feet in your boots were very cold, but we continued to fly. " There was no time for fear: “I had to focus on the target and think about how to bomb it. There was no time for emotions … Those who succumbed to fear were shot down, and they burned alive in the planes, because there were no parachutes."

Popova recalled one particularly difficult task when, having bombed an ammunition depot, she found herself in the crosshairs of searchlights. “I made a maneuver, and suddenly I saw them switch to another plane, which was going behind me. The enemy planes took off and knocked him out. It caught fire and fell. It was one. Then I turned my head and saw the second plane engulfed in flames. And then a third car lit up like a torch in the sky. By the time I returned, four of our planes had burned down, and eight of our girls had been burned alive in them … What a nightmare, poor girls, my friends, just yesterday we slept together on the same bunk."

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Vera Belik and Ira Sebrova are sitting, Nadezhda Popova is standing. Pilots at the front dugout in Gelendzhik.

Nadezhda Popova, who was promoted to lieutenant colonel, was one of the best female pilots in the 588th regiment - and one of the luckiest. She made 852 sorties, fought in the Ukraine, near Rostov-on-Don, in the North Caucasus near Grozny, near Novorossiysk, in Sevastopol, Minsk, Warsaw and Berlin. She was shot down several times and made a forced landing on several occasions. But each time Popova returned safe and sound. And once she had a romantic story.

When Popova was shot down in the North Caucasus in July 1942, she joined the retreating column to return to the regiment and met another pilot, Semyon Kharlamov, who was also shot down in action. Through the bandages, only his eyes were visible, but he charmed the girl with his jokes. In the war, they later met more than once, and both became Heroes of the Soviet Union in February 1945, when they were awarded this title by one decree. When they reached Berlin at the end of the war, they wrote their names on the walls of the Reichstag.

Nadezhda Popova and Semyon Kharlamov
Nadezhda Popova and Semyon Kharlamov

They married shortly thereafter and lived together until the death of Semyon, who died in 1990.

The daughter of a railway worker, Nadezhda Popova, was born in the village of Shabanovka on December 17, 1921, and grew up and studied in Donetsk, Ukraine.

She decided to become a pilot as a child, when a small plane landed near her house, and a pilot got out from there. “Then I thought: my God! He is an ordinary person! We touched the wings of the plane, his leather jacket … and I thought they were some kind of Hercules. And then I thought it would be great if I learn to fly like a bird."

When Nadezhda was 15 years old, she entered the flying club. In 1937, at the age of 16, she made her first parachute jump and her first solo flight. Then she went to study at the Kherson Aviation School and became an instructor pilot.

Popova decided to volunteer for the front in the bomber aviation when her house was captured by the advancing Germans, and her brother Leonid died in battle. “He was 20 years old and never kissed a girl,” she recalled. - Mom sobbed and said: "Damn this Hitler." I saw how German planes flew over our roads, along which refugees who had abandoned their homes were walking, how people were shot from machine guns. They blew up our school."

After the war, she again began working as an instructor pilot.

Among other awards, Nadezhda Popova received the Order of Honor, the Order of Friendship, the Order of Lenin, as well as three Orders of the Red Banner.

Dmitry Medvedev and Nadezhda Popova
Dmitry Medvedev and Nadezhda Popova

Dmitry Medvedev and Nadezhda Popova

After her, she was left with a son who serves as a general in the Air Force of Belarus.

Nadezhda Popova - born on December 17, 1921, died on July 8, 2013.

"The Telegraph UK", inosmi

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