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The Female Soviet Snipers Who Helped Defeat Nazi Germany

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Lyudmila pavlichenko, famous 26 year old russian guerrilla sniper who has killed 309 germans, for which she was made a senior lieutenant and given the order of lenin, a former historian, she participated in the defense of odessa and of sevastopol where she remained until the last, she has been wounded four times. (Photo by: Sovfoto/UIG via Getty Images)
Lyudmila Pavlichenko, a famed female Soviet sniper who reportedly killed 309 Germans. (Sovfoto/UIG via Getty Images)

 

Understandably, Americans tend to be more knowledgeable about World War II’s Western Front than its Eastern one. (Why wouldn’t we focus on where we fought?) Yet this causes us to overlook extraordinary episodes from the struggle to stop Nazi Germany. For one, Soviet women played a vital role in direct combat. Indeed, over 2,000 were trained as snipers. These women killed large numbers of Germans while risking death themselves.

The Soviet Union needed both genders to contribute to the war effort due to the massive number of casualties. (Estimates suggest up to 11 million soldiers and 20 million civilians lost.) These included the snipers, women who would lie still while hidden for hours, waiting for the chance to take a shot at the Nazis. Many proved remarkably effective, such as Tanya Baramzina, who killed 36 invaders before being captured and executed.

The Red Army Soviet female snipers gathered before leaving to the front in 1943. (Krasutskiy/AFP/Getty Images)
The Red Army Soviet female snipers gathered before leaving to the front in 1943. (Krasutskiy/AFP/Getty Images)
The Red Army Soviet sniper in 1942. (Ozerksy/AFP/Getty Images)
A Red Army Soviet sniper in 1942. (Ozerksy/AFP/Getty Images)

 

The most famous, however, is Lyudmila Pavlichenko. (Also known as “Lady Death.”) Alex Q. Arbuckle recently reported on these remarkable women for Mashable, with a particular focus on Pavlichenko. She is credited with an incredible 309 kills, including 36 enemy snipers. Yet she was eventually pulled from the field for other duties. Arbuckle writes:

“Pavlichenko was sent on a tour of the United States, Canada and Great Britain to rally Allied support of a second European front to relieve the pressure on the Soviets. While touring the United States with Eleanor Roosevelt, Pavlichenko was bombarded with absurd questions from the press about fashion, hairstyle, and whether she wore makeup into battle. She endured them at first, but as the tour progressed her patience thinned, and she began to boldly chide the Americans for their condescension.”

The Red Army Soviet sniper Lyudmila Pavlyuchenko defends Sevastopol from the Nazis, on June 06, 1942. (Ozerksy/AFP/Getty Images)
The Red Army Soviet sniper Lyudmila Pavlyuchenko defends Sevastopol from the Nazis, on June 06, 1942. (Ozerksy/AFP/Getty Images)
Sniper Lyudmilla Pavlichenko, a Soviet lieutenant, examines the rifle of a member of the Home Guards while on a trip to London with other young Soviets. She serves as a sniper in the Soviet army and has shot 309 Germans. (Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis via Getty Images)
Sniper Lyudmilla Pavlichenko, a Soviet lieutenant, examines the rifle of a member of the Home Guards while on a trip to London with other young Soviets. She serves as a sniper in the Soviet army and has shot 309 Germans. (Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis via Getty Images)
The Red Army Soviet sniper Lyuba Makarova at the meeting of the 3rd Shock Army's at the Kalinin front in 1943. (Ozerksy/AFP/Getty Images)
The Red Army Soviet sniper Lyuba Makarova at the meeting of the 3rd Shock Army’s at the Kalinin front in 1943. (Ozerksy/AFP/Getty Images)
A group of young women, Soviet snipers who have 2,000 German kills between them, inspecting a small town in East Prussia after it was taken by the Soviet Army, in February of 1945. (Sovfoto/UIG via Getty Images)
A group of young women, Soviet snipers who have 2,000 German kills between them, inspecting a small town in East Prussia after it was taken by the Soviet Army, in February of 1945. (Sovfoto/UIG via Getty Images)
The Red Army Soviet sniper Anastasya Stepanova defends Stalingrad from the Nazis, in 1942. (Ozerksy/AFP/Getty Images)
The Red Army Soviet sniper Anastasya Stepanova defends Stalingrad from the Nazis, in 1942. (Ozerksy/AFP/Getty Images)
The Red Army Soviet sniper Lyudmila Pavlyuchenko defends Sevastopol from the Nazis, on June 06, 1942. (Ozerksy/AFP/Getty Images)
The Red Army Soviet sniper Lyudmila Pavlyuchenko defends Sevastopol from the Nazis, on June 06, 1942. (Ozerksy/AFP/Getty Images)
The Red Army Soviet snipers shooting from a trench in 1943. (Ozerksy/AFP/Getty Images)
The Red Army Soviet snipers shooting from a trench in 1943. (Ozerksy/AFP/Getty Images)
Volunteer women snipers of the Russian Army R. Skrypnikova (right) and O. Bykova returning from a combat assignment during the Second World War on November 21, 1943. (Daily Mirror Library/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images)
Volunteer women snipers of the Russian Army R. Skrypnikova (right) and O. Bykova returning from a combat assignment during the Second World War on November 21, 1943. (Daily Mirror Library/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images)

 

Indeed, an indignant Pavlichenko once announced: “Now I am looked upon a little as a curiosity, a subject for newspaper headlines, for anecdotes. In the Soviet Union I am looked upon as a citizen, as a fighter, as a soldier for my country.”

To read more about these incredible snipers and the huge toll they took on Nazi Germany, click here.

RealClearLife Staff