World War II: Night Witches

Did you know: almost one-third (23, to be exact) of the women in the Night Witches were given the Hero of the Soviet Union award, which was the country’s highest combat distinction?

And by the time World War II was over, thirty of the eighty women in the Night Witches were dead.

An unforeseen side effect of writing this book is that I’m actually starting to get interested in military history. “War makes the state,” as sociologist Charles Tilly (1985) puts it, and so the question of whose contributions to war and military conflict get publicized is a big one. Whose narrative does it serve when the efforts of the Night Witches, and other women who have actively engaged in combat and armed conflict throughout history, remain lesser-known? Who benefits from hiding the fact that women have always contributed to “making the state”?

I mean, we know who (hint: the patriarchy). But by putting these stories out there, at least we can start standing against it.


(From Battlefields: Night Witches, art by Russ Braun)