On 24–25 September 1938, Raskova, with pilot Valentina Grizodubova and copilot Polina Osipenko, took part in a nonstop pioneer flight from Moscow to the Pacific in an ANT-37 aircraft named Rodina (Homeland). The three aviators became the first women to receive the Hero of the Soviet Union, the highest Soviet military decoration. As a major in the Soviet air force, Raskova persuaded Soviet dictator Josef Stalin to form three women's combat wings at a time when there was no shortage of male aircrews. She then trained her new 122nd Air Group at Engels, near Stalingrad, in 1941 and 1942. In late 1942, she received command of the 587th Dive Bomber Regiment (which was renamed the 125th M. M. Raskova Borisov Guards Dive Bomber Regiment after her death).
On 4 January 1943, Raskova died in a plane crash at an undetermined location while making her way to the Stalingrad Front during a heavy snowstorm. Members of her unit pledged to make it worthy of bearing her name and qualify for the honorific "Guards" designation, attaining both in 1943. The tactics of this wing's 2nd Squadron, applied in the air battle of 4 June 1943 (during which the unit shot down several German fighters), became a model for Soviet bomber aviation. Raskova's ashes are immured in the Kremlin Wall beside those of fighter pilot Polina Osipenko, who was killed in a training accident in 1939. Kazimiera J. Cottam
Cottam, Kazimiera J. Women in War and Resistance: Selected Biographies of Soviet Women Soldiers. Nepean, Canada: New Military Publishing, 1998.; Cottam, Kazimiera J., ed. and trans. Women in Air War: The Eastern Front of World War II. Rev. ed. Nepean, Canada: New Military Publishing, 1997.; Markova, Galina. Vzlet: O geroe Sovetskogo Soiuza M. M. Raskova. Moscow: Izdatel'stvo Politicheskoi Literatury, 1986.; Raskova, M. Zapiski shturmana. Moscow: Molodaya Gvardiia, 1939.
Kazimiera J. Cottam