Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Soviet Women's Combat Wings (1942–1945)

Soviet women's combat aviation regiments evolved from the 122nd Aviation Group, established in Moscow in October 1941 by Marina Raskova. The first of these was the 46th Taman' Guards (initially designated 588th) Bomber Regiment. Commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Evdokiia Bershanskaia, it remained all-female throughout the war and produced 24 Heroes of the Soviet Union. It consisted of one training and three operational squadrons, with two-woman aircrews. The regiment flew about 24,000 short-range sorties in converted U-2 biplane trainers (renamed Po-2 in 1944). The unit became operational in the Ukraine and reached Berlin at the end of the war.

The 125th M. M. Raskova Borisov Guards (initially designated as the 587th) Bomber Regiment was commanded first by Major Marina Raskova and then Major Valentin Markov. It produced five Heroes of the Soviet Union. The unit consisted of two Pe-2 dive-bomber squadrons. These aircraft were armed with five machine guns that were fired by the pilot, navigator and gunner. Initially, the gunners were mostly male. The regiment flew 1,134 medium-range sorties. It became operational near Stalingrad, and by the end of the war, it was stationed in the Baltic.

The 586th Fighter Regiment was commanded first by Major Tamara Kazarinova and then Major Aleksandr Gridnev. It included some male technicians and one men's squadron, formed as replacement for a women's unit sent to Stalingrad. The regiment flew Yak-1 and Yak-9 aircraft and was charged with protecting Soviet industrial centers, rail junctions, and bridges, including those in Voronezh, Kastornaia, Kursk, Kiev, and Budapest. It became operational in Saratov and by the end of the war had reached Vienna.

Also noteworthy were Il-2 pilots Senior Lieutenants Tamara Fedorovna Konstantinova and Anna Aleksandrovna Timofeeva-Egorova, both Heroes of the Soviet Union. Konstantinova was deputy squadron commander of the 999th Ground Attack Regiment, 277th Ground Attack Division, First Air Army, 3rd Baltic Front. Timofeeva-Egorova was chief navigator of the 805th Ground Attack Regiment, 197th Ground Attack Division, Sixteenth Air Army, 1st Belorussian Front.

No statistics as to how many Soviet women flew combat missions were kept, but by the end of the war, women constituted 12.5 percent of all Soviet fighter aviation personnel, including ground support.

Kazimiera J. Cottam


Further Reading
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.; Noggle, Anne. A Dance with Death: Soviet Airwomen in World War II. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1994.; Pennington, Reina, ed. Amazons to Fighter Pilots: A Biographical Dictionary of Military Women. 2 vols. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2003.; Pennington, Reina. Wings, Women and War: Soviet Airwomen in World War II Combat. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2001.
 

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