Compilation of the most impressive and historically-rich images from the World War Two era
With coming celebrations of the historic victory over the Nazis, we present the first installment of DRB History Issue dedicated to the World War Two. Such highly-visual overviews of certain periods in history will regularly appear on DRB, so give us your input or more fascinating information and facts that you happen to know, to include in the future installments.
Soviet Russia: Female Fighter Pilots and Female Soldiers of the WW2
There are many things wrong with putting "women" and "war" together in one terrible reality, but such was the order of things during World War Two that female soldiers (and often even child soldiers) joined the fight during the bloodiest battles and became heroes, either nameless or immortalized in war chronicles:
(left: female Yugoslav partisans from the Kozara mountains; on the right is a good photograph of female sniper Roza Shanina; image via)
Here is Captain Maria Smirnova of the "Night Witches" air squadron, smiling for the camera:
This deceptively cheerful girl flew 950 missions (!) braving mortal dangers - here are her recollections of these times:
"We faced risks every night. You shouldn't interpet my words and think we faced death openly and bravely - it is not true. We never became accustomed to fear. Before each mission and as we approached the target, I became a concentration of nerves and tension. My whole body was swept by fear of being killed. We had to break through the fire of anti-aircraft guns and also escape the searchlights. We had to dive and sideslip the plane in order not to be shot down. All this affected my sleep enormously. when we returned from missions at dawn, I couldn't fall asleep: I tossed in bed and had anxiety attacks. Fear was always an inseparable part of our flights, but we knew we had to go through with it for we were saving our Motherland." (source)
Another brave Soviet fighter pilot was Lydia Litvyak. This Jewish girl was often called “the White Rose of Stalingrad”, or "White Lily" - info:
This brave girl "had at least 12 solo victories four shared kills over a total of 66 combat missions, over about two years of missions. She was the first female fighter pilot to shoot down an enemy plane, the first female fighter pilot to earn the title fighter ace, and she holds the record for the greatest number of kills by a female fighter pilot" (source)
Shown with her airplane, Soviet pilot Mariya Dolina was a member of the 125th Guards Bomber Regiment "where she ferried infantrymen and supplies to the front lines of Stalingrad. Soon thereafter, Dolina made her first bombing run, hitting German ground forces at Stalingrad. She flew seventy-three missions during WW2 and continued to serve in the Soviet Air Force after the war ended."
Along with Lydia Litvyak Katya Budanova also was one of the bravest and seriously "kick-ass" pilots during World War Two; starting as a flight instructor in 1937, she ended up with eleven victories as part of the 586th Fighter Regiment, battling over Stalingrad and Saratov. After downing so many aircraft, and due to her aggressive piloting skills, she was soon given the highly-coveted right of "solo hunting" -
Shown below, another Russian girl soldier takes a few moments to relax (left); on the right is a Soviet sniper Roza Yegorovna Shanina. She was only 21 when she died in 1945; however during her short life she was responsible for "fifty four confirmed kills, including 12 enemy snipers, during the Battle of Vilnius" - more info:
Here are the Soviet sniper girls together in one glowing photograph:
A lovely nurse (as well as a reconnaissance officer) Ekaterina Mikhailova-Demina was helping soldiers at the front lines of Stalingrad and been scouting German lines during the counteroffensive in 1944. According to some sources, his gentle-looking girl personally assaulted a German position and took fourteen (!) prisoners while fighting in Ukraine. This lady is still alive today:
Russian photographer Natalia Bode volunteered to the front lines after her husband died in the war; she took many highly-praised photos of fighting at Stalingrad for the Soviet Army newspaper:
A nameless girl looking out of the army truck in 1944:
Operation Overlord commenced on 6 June 1944 (together with "Operation Neptune" better known as D-Day). Here you see tank landing ships unloading supplies on Omaha Beach, preparing for the break-out from Normandy - click to enlarge:
Carpet bombing of Dresden - and the resulting firestorm
American writer Kurt Vonnegut famously compared the view of Dresden after the Allied fire-bombing as being like the "surface of the Moon". Dutch city of Rotterdam also suffered the similar devastation from carpet bombings. Here is the view from the Dresden city hall (Rathaus) over the destroyed city:
For comparison, here is the same area of Dresden before the war (the city was often called "Florence on the Elbe", Elbflorenz):
Read this harrowing tale of surviving the destruction of Dresden and the resulting fire-storm: written by Victor Klemperer, the book of his Nazi years diaries can be ordered here; it is probably the most unsettling and extreme witness account of this event available to us today.
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