The Russian Nachthexen, or Night Witches, as the Germans named them, were the stuff of Nazi nightmares. Every night they flew quietly through the air, raining bombs on supply depots, base camps, and armories. In reality, the night witches were young Russian women, some of them still teenagers. They were an elite group of bomber pilots who flew more than 23,000 missions and dropped more than 3,000 pounds of bombs. The Night Witches would fly close to their target, and then cut their engines to reduce the noise. After they dropped their bombs, they would start the engines and fly away. The first clue the Germans had that a bomb was coming was the sound of the engine starting back up. At its largest, the Night Witches regiment had 40 two-person crews. At the end of the war, 23 airwomen of the Night Witches regiment were awarded the Gold Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union.