Boy, the Russians really did get something right, didn’t they? (Simmer down… this isn’t yet another AK article). I’m talking about how they knew that women are more resilient, patient, observant, and often better learners. That is how over 2,000 women served as snipers in WWII for the Russian military. In fact, women snipers accounted for over 12,000 kills! One of these women, one of the most famous snipers in the world, was Lyudmila Pavlichenko. History writes that she was the most successful female sniper of all time. It’s a shame that American women can’t serve in combat, right? I am sure our ladies could blow Lyudmila’s number out of the water, because we’re so badass.
Nevertheless, I digress.
Lyudmila had 309 confirmed kills. There could have been more, but we will never know for sure. For a kill to be official, a witness had to record it. It is highly likely that Lyudmila shot more than her official record. Records show that she actually got 100 kills at the Port Of Odessa alone in August of 1941. For which, she was promoted to Senior Sergeant. In only a year and a half, she killed 306 enemy personnel, 36 of which were snipers.
Lyudmila Pavlichenko was born in July of 1916 in the Ukraine. At age 14, she moved to Kiev where she joined a shooting club. In 1937, she entered Kiev University and worked on a master thesis on Bohdan Khmelnytsky, who was a big-deal Cossack revolutionary rebel dude. It is clear she started out feisty.
In June 1941, Lyudmila went to volunteer for the 25th Infantry Division. The Red Army issued her a Mosin Nagant. It was with this Mosin Nagant, outfitted with a 4x scope, that she took her first two kills.
Lyudmila received her fourth wound at the Battle of Sevastopol, where she fought with her husband, who did not survive. It was not that much longer, in 1943, the Soviet Army took Lyudmila out of battle permanently to work in recruiting and training fresh women snipers.
She received high honors from the Soviet Government. In 1943, Lyudmila received the Gold Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union, the Soviet Union’s highest military honor.
The Western Media fell in love with Lyudmila and folk singer Woodie Guthrie wrote a song titled “Miss Pavlichenko”: “Miss Pavilichenko[SIC]’s well known to fame; Russia’s your country, fighting is your game; The whole world will love her for a long time to come, For more than three hundred Nazis fell by your gun.” Franklin D Roosevelt greeted Lyudmila during an official visit to the United States. There, the President awarded her an engraved Colt 1911 pistol.
Lyudmila went on to finish school and become a historian. She passed away in 1974, and the Russian Government buried her in Moscow. Out of the 2,000 Russian women snipers, only about 500 of them survived the war. Their legend lives on in stories and pictures; and more importantly, have proven that women can hold their own in combat.