Red Army all-female fighter regiment?
Today I'm delighted to welcome C. S. Taylor, author of Nadya's War, to my blog. His novel tells of a young pilot with the Red Army's 586th all-female fighter regiment! Having never imagined such a regiment existed, I'm eager to know where his inspiration came from. So find yourself a coffee, sit back, and read on. Welcome C. S. Taylor!
The Inspiration Behind ‘Nadya’s War’ by C.S. Taylor
Some nameless, late night many moons ago, I was doing what I do best when trying to write, namely surfing the web and finding every excuse—and inventing a few more—I could to not look at MS Word and actually type something out. Somewhere between articles telling me that “These ten unexpected, cuddly things will kill you” and “which type of mason brick are you?” I stumbled upon an article dealing with the Night Witches and was mesmerized.
For those who know little or nothing about them (and most don’t) the Night Witches were a group of female pilots in the Red Army Air’s 588th night bomber regiment during World War 2. The group was one of three all-female regiments that had been put together by Major Marina Raskova, a national heroine at the time and a fantastic pilot. The young women of the 588th flew the Po-2 biplane, which was made in the late 1920s and was really only good for training and crop dusting. It wasn’t a combat aircraft by any stretch of the imagination. But they flew it nonetheless to drop bombs on the Germans. They got the name Nachthexen (Night Witches) by the Germans because the girls quickly learned to cut their engines just before they went on a bombing run, so they were completely silent until the bombs exploded.
Fascinating stuff, I thought, and something that deserved a book or two. Also, since I love flying and in a prior point in my life, I was intent on flying for the USMC, I thought writing a book that centered around the Night Witches seemed to be a great idea.
So with that thought in mind, I began fleshing out a plot and characters, but the more I did my research into the Night Witches, I realized that their sister regiment, the 587th (who flew the Pe-2 medium bomber), met my needs in terms of the story better. So I shifted my focus to the 587th and kept at it.
I kept at it for a few weeks and soon discovered that some of the historical characters I wanted in my book didn’t survive the timeline I was after as the 587th didn’t see combat until 1943. And since I was writing historical fiction, I couldn’t exactly have one of them pop up in the story when he or she was supposed to be dead.
It was about that point when I realized I really wanted more dogfights in my book overall, and thus, settling on the 586th fighter regiment was an easy choice. My decision to go with the 586th was reinforced even more when I realized that there weren’t any books on these women at all, at least on the historical fiction side. There were a few dealing with the Night Witches and some female pilots who were in male units, but the 586th was untouched, which is very appealing as a writer.
So with the 586th firmly settled, it was just a matter of changing a few things from my rough outline because my main character, Nadya, was going to be a fighter pilot and not a bomber pilot.
Building Nadya as a real person took a lot of work, and the details of her life came from a variety of sources, mostly interviews that had been recorded with surviving members of the 586th, 587th and 588th.
The stories I read were not only from the pilots, but the navigators, bombardiers, mechanics, and ground crews, and I drew a lot of inspiration from all of them as their tenacity and bravery was nothing short of legendary. I really wanted to capture that with Nadya’s War with not only Nadya herself, but with all of the supporting characters, too. Most of all, I wanted to ensure that Nadya was crafted in such a way that her story would slide neatly in between all the others I read, not overshadowing any of them in terms of what she goes through, heroics, etc., but accurately mirroring what each young woman in all three of these regiments dealt with day in and day out.
I like to think I managed to pull that off. Hopefully readers will agree.
So the all-female regiments really existed! I'm excited to learn about them, and eager to read more. Thank you for your book and for visiting my blog today. And now, here's some more information...
Title: NADYA’S WAR
Author: C.S. Taylor
Publisher: Tiny Fox Press
Genre: Historical Fiction
Nadezdah "Little Boar" Buzina, a young pilot with the Red Army's 586th all-female fighter regiment, dreams of becoming an ace. Those dreams shatter when a dogfight leaves her severely burned and the sole survivor from her flight.
For the latter half of 1942, she struggles against crack Luftwaffe pilots, a vengeful political commissar, and a new addiction to morphine, all the while questioning her worth and purpose in a world beyond her control. It's not until the Soviet counter-offensive at Stalingrad that she finds her unlikely answers, and they only come after she's saved the life of her mortal enemy and fallen in love with the one who nearly kills her.
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Seven of us zipped through the overcast sky, a dozen meters beneath the cloud layer. Gridnev flew lead and a girl named Tania from First Squadron flew on his wing. Alexandra and I cruised next to them about thirty meters away. I pictured myself as a modern version of my ancestors who rode into battle on horseback, courageous and strong. If only they could see me now, sailing through the air to drive off the invaders. I wondered if they’d be proud or jealous. Maybe both.
The four of us escorted a flight of three Pe-2s from the 150th High-Speed Bomber Regiment across the snowy landscape. That unit was led by Lieutenant Colonel Ivan Polbin who I’d heard was quite the commander. I’d also heard he enjoyed music and sang well, like me, which made me think we’d get along—even if he was a die-hard communist and loyal to Stalin.
The twin-engine Peshkas flew nearly as fast as our fighters, something I was grateful for. I’m certain the three crew members inside each bomber were thankful as well, since unlike the German Heinkels and Stukas, these planes were tough to catch for any aircraft. That being said, I was glad I was in my Yak-1. I wouldn’t have wanted to fly one of those bombers at all, no matter how prestigious they were. They were still big targets, and far less nimble than the fighter I had. I prayed we’d keep them safe.
All the Pe-2s, however, did have fresh, winter paint jobs. Their off-white and tan colors hid them well in the surroundings, and if I wasn’t paying close attention, I’d even lose sight of them from time to time. Their target was a rail depot the Germans were using to bring in supplies and troops headed to Stalingrad. Obliterating it would disrupt logistics and force the Luftwaffe to keep it safe once rebuilt.
With luck, the Germans wouldn’t spot the Peshkas until the bombs were already dropping and they were headed home. I fantasized about how easy of a mission this could be as we went deeper into enemy lines. Those thoughts almost turned into dreams as the drone from my fighter’s engine combined with the dreary sky nearly put me to sleep, despite the digging pain in my arm.
“Tighten up, Little Boar,” Gridnev called out over the radio.
My eyes snapped to the formation. I’d drifted away from the bombers by a good fifty meters sideways and at least that in altitude. I glanced over my shoulder to see Alexandra off to my right. She’d stayed with me even as I wandered. “Reforming now. Thought I saw something below and wanted a better view.”
C.S. Taylor is a former Marine and avid fencer (saber for the most part, foil and epee are tolerable). He enjoys all things WWII, especially perfecting his dogfighting skills inside virtual cockpits, and will gladly accept any P-38 Lightnings anyone might wish to bestow upon him. He’s also been known to run a kayak through whitewater now and again, as well give people a run for their money in trap and skeet.
His latest book is the historical fiction, Nadya’s War.