Marina Mikhaylovna Raskova was born on March 28 1912. Her maiden name was Malinina. When she was born, Russia was a backward empire. However due to the abject Russian failures during the First World War, and both revolutions of 1917 she was not a subject of the Tzar for too long. Under communism Marina Raskova, like many of the women she would go on to command. Benefited from being trained in normally masculine job roles. In her case that was becoming a navigator.
Facts About Raskova:
- Originally she had wanted to become an opera singer, just like her maternal aunt who had been famous in Russia. Her father’s premature death in 1919 changed those plans, although she remained passionate about singing for the rest of her life.
- Whilst at school the young Marina discovered that she excelled at studying the natural sciences, especially chemistry. When her education was finished she decided to get a job within heavy industry.
- The Soviet regime wanted to greatly expand industry and gave women roles in factories opportunities that their counterparts in capitalist countries simply did not have.
- It was at her job at a dye factory in 1929 where she met her husband, Sergei Raskov.
- Her only child, a daughter the couple named Tanya was born in 1930.
- By 1931 she had left the dye factory and started her career in aviation, which would make her famous throughout the Soviet Union. Her first role was as a draftswoman of the Aero Navigation Laboratory of the Air Force.
- Two years later Raskova made history by being accepted as the first woman navigator in the Soviet Air Force. She spent her time wisely, quickly learning to fly.
- In 1934 she achieved another first by becoming a teacher at the Zhukovskii Air Academy, before her personal life witnessed her divorce in 1935.
- Her fame increased during her stint teaching at the academy, especially after being involved in setting flight records. The most famous flight was when she was the navigator in a three woman crew that eventually set a long distance. Yet disaster almost struck as they could not find an airfield to land on. Kaskova had to bale out and for eight days survived on minimal rations. On their safe return they were all made Heroes of the Soviet Union.
- Using her connections with Joseph stalin she convinced the russian military to form three fighter regiments of women.
- Of these three regiments, one was commanded by Tamara Kazarinova. And the other two were commanded by Raskova herself, and Yevdokia Bershanskaya(Commander of the night witches regiment) respectively.
- It was the hard hitting German blitzkrieg of June 22 1941 that led to her playing an important role in resisting the invasion.
- For the Soviet Air Force she was the natural choice to place in command of the women only air regiments.
- Raskova and her comrades allowed the Soviets to recover from their disastrous losses sooner than the Germans expected.
- Despite flying obsolete biplanes at night, these regiments inflicted a lot of damage on German units. As 1942 progressed they were given more modern planes.
- Raskova took a keen interest in training her new recruits. It was on such a training flight when tragedy struck. During one of these flights her aircraft crashed while trying to make a forced landing and the whole crew including Raskova herself died.
- She was held with such high regard that she was honored with a state funeral.