The Night Witches...

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Torch, Jan 24, 2014.

  1. Torch

    Torch Well-Known Member

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  2. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
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    Interesting read! Thanks for sharing.
     
  3. tengu1979

    tengu1979 Member

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    #3 tengu1979, Jan 25, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2014
    Thanks for the Post.

    Good read but two myths.

    1. On another forum (or maybe this cant remember) we agreed that if they turned the engine off it would be impossible to turn it on again. Most likely this refers to leaving it on tickover.

    2. Never heard of promising Luftwaffe Pilots Iron Cross to someone shooting down Po-2
     
  4. Thorlifter

    Thorlifter Well-Known Member

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    Very interesting!
     
  5. l'Omnivore Sobriquet

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    #5 l'Omnivore Sobriquet, Jan 25, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2014
    I read a book about it all in France shortly after it was released in the early nineties. "Les sorcières de la nuit" I remember it was, Night Witches quite obviously.
    It was written not by a Frenchman, but neither a Russian I think. I think a woman, who interviewed survivors and collected the story, which was well known in Russia in its main lines anyway.

    Among the 586th Women's Fighter Regiment there was a famous successful pilot, an ace I think, flying some Yaks. She was an attractive looking blonde, young, rather small sized, nervous, and began collecting exploits when in the sector of Stalingrad during the epic days there. She became a propaganda figure-head of national prestige almost overnight.
    It shouldn't be difficult to trace her on the internet.
    Her comrades were very positive to the author that the German airmen learned to indentify her and did set-up a trap for her one day, with 'a full squadron', when they killed her.

    Another, terrible, episode concerning the 'Witches themselves in their Po-2 is surprisingly not mentionned in the link above (which is quite complete and matches and recalls finely the memory I've had of my former read.) One night, the Germans put a night-fighter in the preditable path of the Po's.
    Either by luck or through some ground direction I don't know, a Me-110 I've always remembered it was, although this may be an afterthought. The night fighter simply took them off one by one. To a lucky survivor's description (not attacked), they were flying singly separated by about one mile or some minutes flying time, in line one behind the other (no 3-tactic then.)
    The evil '110' picked them 'all' one by one in the simplest way and quickly set them on fire. The link above mentions that "Most women declined to carry parachutes, deciding they would rather die than become the Germans' POWs", although this may have varied certainly... but I remember well this point in connection with the survivor's tale to this episode, as she purposely mentionned it too.
    To her horrified eyes they went burning one after the other, looking like standing still, well up in the air and she knew her comrades could do nothing. Their unseen tormentor speeding on to the next victim. To her descrition the sky fleetingly showed a line of suspended torches, slowly burning away.

    The kind of WWII story you don't easely forget.
     
  6. Erich

    Erich the old Sage
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    LW NJG 5 and NJG 100 shot these poor women to pieces.

    the Po's not sure where the idea came from to get an EK 2 as they were not hard to shoot down.
     
  7. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    At the altitudes the Night Witches were usually flying at, if something catastrophic happened, they couldn't get out of the aircraft in time to use a parachute .
    That and the fact that they were operating behind German lines, they probably didn't expect any chivalry if they got captured.

    Most people wouldn't wear a parachute when faced with those facts.
     
  8. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    The blonde was Lidiya Vladimirorovna Litvyak, aka "The White Rose of Stalingrad".

    __________________________

    Besides Night Witches by Bruce Myles there is another excellent book titled "Soviet Airwomen of the Great Patriotic War" by Gian Piero Milanetti. It
     
  9. Wurger

    Wurger Siggy Master
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    No wonder, there wasn't the engine starter. The engine was started by hand.


    [​IMG]

    po-2.jpg
     
  10. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    The pilots interviewed for the books I have read repeatedly state they would turn off the engines, drop bombs, then restart the engines.

    If the engine is still pretty hot, could they restart them?
     
  11. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    A lot can be lost in translation from one language to another. There's not a lot a difference between cutting the engine back ( to idle ) and cutting the engine off , to a translator that may not be technically up to it when it comes to mechanical terms.
    But most prop aircraft that I know of can be restarted in the air without use of the starter, but it takes altitude and a few seconds. I wouldn't think you'd want to do it flying low level.

    But if you've ever been around a small airport and hear a aircraft coming in to land, the engine noise greatly decreases when they go to idle.

    I've read both of those books about the Night Witches and the other Russian women pilots, when they talked about cutting the engines, I thought it meant they were cutting them back to idle, not off.

    I sure wouldn't want to flying around some cold winter night at 500 ft. or lower, and cut my engine off and hope I could get it restarted later.
     
  12. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    Those old biplanes they were using were probably like an old Volkswagon Bug. You could push start it dang near at a walk, took hardly any effort to get it going.

    As far as them cutting out their engines at 500ft., weren't they at a slightly higher altitude en route to target and then cut off their engines for their approach? If so, then they'd certainly have enough FAS for restart, as those biplanes had a extremely low stall speed.
     
  13. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    It's been years since I've read the books, but I think their usual operating altitude was well under 500 ft.
     
  14. Torch

    Torch Well-Known Member

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    Wow,amazing women....
     
  15. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    I do know what happens if you just cut off the ignition, on any carbureted engine, and keep the clutch engaged , and coast in a car for just a few seconds.

    When you cut the ignition back on you get a huge back fire thru the exhaust, you can blow a muffler apart.

    It will even happen to a lesser degree when coasting with the ignition on.

    So however these women did this, they got either a small flame or a big flame out of the exhaust when they went back to power.

    They might have been stealthy on approach, but not when they were trying to leave the target area.
     
  16. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    Agreed

    Being around aircraft over the years, I do know that an approaching aircraft that's "idling" does make some sound. Of course, it's much quiter than bearing down on the target with the throttle wide open!

    It seems to me that the Po-2's wing strut/support wires would also be making noise if they were travelling at any significant speed.
     
  17. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    I don't know what the Vne is on a PO-2, not that the Russians would pay attention to it anyway.
    But the max speed is just over 90, and the cruise speed is about 70 mph.

    You can hear even well streamlined gliders from 100 yards or more, if there's not any background noise.
    All those wires and struts had to make some noise.
     
  18. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    This Poli is on display in the Central Aviation Museum at Monino and was used in a Russian film titled "Night Witches in the Sky":

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  19. Wurger

    Wurger Siggy Master
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    #19 Wurger, Jan 26, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2014
    And this is correct. The engine wasn't cut off but cutting back to idle. If you want to re-start a such engine in the air either it needs a starter or keeping a prop rotation. This is the only way for working of a fuel pomp, fuel injection with compression in a cylinder by a piston and then ignition. So without the prop rotation ( the dead prop ) the restart isn't possible.

    "An attack technique of the night bombers was to idle the engine near the target and glide to the bomb release point, with only wind noise to reveal their location. German soldiers likened the sound to broomsticks and named the pilots Nachthexen - Night Witches and the plane the Nähmaschine - Sewing machine."

    The source .... Wikipedia and Nocne Wied?my

    Lildya Litvyak
    Lildya Litvyak.jpg

    Po-2 of the unit...
    Po-2 Nocne wiedzmy.jpg

    Night Witches...
    Night Witches.jpg

    Н. Меклин and И. Себрова. 1943
    НМеклин и ИСебр.jpg
     
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  20. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    #20 tyrodtom, Jan 26, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2014
    Most aircraft engines is going to keep rotating from the propeller being out there in the wind.

    The only way for the engine to stop completely turning over is if there's a mechanical fault in the engine that physically locks it up, or you've got a controllable pitch propeller and it's feathered.

    But it does take a certain amount of airspeed to turn that propeller against the engine's compression, the PO-2 may have been below those airspeeds.
     
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