On 8th October 1941, Stalin issued a secret order forming a female aviation unit. Known later as the 46th “Taman” Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment, a unit like this had never existed before.
Their operational record began at the Salsk Steppes and the Don battles and ended in Nazi Germany. Flying PO-2 night bombers or ‘mules’, these brave female pilots flew harassment bombing and precision bombing missions, which successfully destroyed the enemy’s river crossings, fortifications, machinery and manpower. The regiment flew over 23,000 sorties and is said to have dropped 3,000 tons of bombs. The most highly decorated female unit in the Soviet Air Force, each pilot had flown over 1000 missions by the end of the war with twenty-three pilots awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union. Fighting with equal bravery and skill as their male counterparts earned them the name ‘Night Swallows’ by the Germans.