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This was also the young woman—she was 19 or 20 then—who could turn her aircraft over and dive full-throttle through raking German searchlights, swerving and dancing, acting as a decoy for a second plane that would glide in silently behind her to drop its payload of bombs. That done, the second plane would act as decoy while she glided in to drop bombs herself. She made 852 such sorties in the second world war as a pilot in the 588th Night Bomber Regiment, later named the 46th Guards in honour of its courage. Once, over Poland in 1944, she made 18 sorties in a single night. The aircraft were old two-seater biplanes, PO-2s, originally training planes, made of canvas and plywood with open cockpits. When it rained, water ran over the instruments; when the planes were shot at, shrapnel tore the wings to shreds. There was no radio and, to save weight, she never wore a parachute. If you were hit, that was it.
... she eventually wore on her smart dark suit the medal of a Hero of the Soviet Union, the Order of Friendship, the Order of Lenin and three Orders of the Patriotic War. With enormous pride she sported them, a beaming blonde among the men. She admitted she stood gazing at the night sky sometimes, wondering how she had ever managed to perform such feats up there. Well, came her down-to-earth answer, because you had to; and so you did.

http://www.economist.com/news/obituary/21581962-nadezhda-nad...
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