Women in Combat during World War II - Stories about female warriors.
Latest hand-picked WWII news. See also: Female Pilots, Women in World War II, High-ranking Nazi women, Comfort Women, Women & wartime horrors.
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Lyudmila Pavlichenko: The Most Feared Female Sniper in History
The Soviet Union also allowed women to fight in the WWII front lines decades before nations in the West considered it. One of those women was among the most successful snipers of WWII: Lyudmila Pavlichenko.
Bund Deutscher Madel (League of German Girls) sent young girls to fight the Allies
Barbie Densk shivered under a blanket as she lay in a slit trench inside the barricaded German city of Aachen on the night of October 12, 1944. She was a member of Hitler's Bund Deutscher Madel – or League of German Girls – and had volunteered to defend her home and family from the American infantry encircling the city. The assault finally came at 9am. The reality of warfare came as a shock. 'There was a flash and a loud bang,' she recalled. 'I fell to the floor and saw the blood-spattered bodies of my friends. She was just 15. The Bund Deutscher Madel (BDM) had never been intended as an arm of the German war machine. Founded in the 1920s and compulsory for eligible – Aryan – girls from 1936, it was envisioned as a version of the Girl Guides, indoctrinating a new generation in the ideology of the Third Reich.
Red Army's 2,000 female snipers: Eager for duty, deadly accurate with their Nazi targets
Traditionally, the role of sniper had been filled by men. But all that changed with the advent of World War II. With men being called upon to fight, women began taking jobs in industries that had been reserved for men. The next step: women taking up combat roles within the resistance and the regular forces. When the Germans launched Operation Barbarossa and invaded Russia, the Red Army suffered huge losses. At this stage, the military hierarchy knew that they had to change their view on the role of women and recruit them into the ranks of the military. Estimates indicate that 800,000 women were recruited, and most filled traditional roles of nurses, drivers, cooks, or clerks. But a select few, 2,000 in all, were assigned the deadly duties of a sniper – a role at which they excelled.
Roza Shanina: The first Soviet female sniper to be awarded the Order of Glory
Roza Georgiyevna Shanina was one of the first women to join the Soviet army during World War II and was the first Soviet female sniper to be awarded the Order of Glory, also becoming the first servicewoman of the 3rd Belorussian Front to receive it. She is credited with 59 confirmed kills among which were twelve soldiers in the Battle of Vilnius. Shanina's talents as a sniper were praised and a Canadian newspaper in 1944 described her as 'the unseen terror of East Prussia.' She was capable of precisely hitting enemy personnel and making doublets (two target hits by two rounds fired in quick succession). The reason she volunteered in the military was the death of her brother in 1941.
Lyudmila Pavlichenko, the Nazi-hunting girl sniper who shocked Britain and America
Long before women were even allowed to serve in most armies, Lyudmila Pavlichenko became a 'hero of the Soviet Union'. She was a national hero of a sort unfamiliar in Europe since the semi-mythic queens of classical time: a soldier, and a good one. From the barrel of her sniper rifle, 309 Nazis were killed on the Eastern Front during the Second World War, and countless more were inspired to enlist by her overseas visits to the UK and the US. She was encouraged to become a nurse, but she refused, and wound up in a rifle division, one of 2,000 women who would end up serving as snipers. "I wear my uniform with honour. It has the Order of Lenin on it. It has been covered with blood in battle."
More than 2,000 women served as snipers in the Red Army in WWII
During World War II, the Soviet Union suffered from a dearth of manpower because of the terrible casualties on the Eastern Front. In response, 7.75 million women were recruited for industry and the military. 800,000 of these served in the armed forces. 2,000 were snipers. Female soldiers were also trained in infiltration, surveillance, reconnaissance, camouflage and target location skills. They used the Mosin-Nagant 1891 rifle with an optical PU Scope. It fired 7.62×54 cartridges, armor piercing B-30s, tracer bullets or P3 calibrated incendiaries. Soviet snipers were most successful during the defensive stage of the war with Germany (1941 – 1943).
Lyudmila Pavlichenko: Meet the world's deadliest female sniper who terrorized Hitler's Nazi army
In early 1941, Lyudmila Pavlichenko was studying history at Kiev University, but within a year, she had become one of the best snipers of all time, credited with 309 confirmed kills, 36 of which were German snipers. On June 22, 1941 German troops poured into the Soviet Union. Pavlichenko rushed to join the Soviet army and defend her homeland, but she was denied entry into the army due to gender. She looked like a model, with well-manicured nails, fashionable clothes, and hairstyle. Pavlichenko told the recruiter that she wanted to carry a rifle and fight. The man just laughed and asked her if she knew anything about rifles. Even after Pavlichenko presented her marksman certificate and a sharpshooter badge officials still urged her to work as a nurse. "They wouldn't take girls in the army, so I had to resort to all kinds of tricks to get in."
Susan Travers - The only woman in the French Foreign Legion
When France fell to the Nazis Susan Travers travelled to London and signed up with General De Gaulle's Free French - joining the 13th Demi-Brigade of the Legion Etrangere. In Africa, as a driver to the senior officers, she had such nerves of steel that she got nickname "La Miss" from her male comrades. Sent to hold the fort of Bir Hakeim in Libya in 1942, Colonel Marie-Pierre Koenig's forces were hit hard by Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps in one of the major sieges of the Desert campaign. With Stuka dive bombers and Panzers the Germans expected to seize the fort in 15 minutes, but the French troops held it for 15 days - and Susan was the only woman.
Audrey Roche - The only woman decorated for bravery at sea during World War 2?
Audrey Roche is believed to have been the only woman decorated for bravery at sea during WW2; as a Wren whose ship had been torpedoed, she saved a drowning seaman by giving him her lifebelt. As Third Officer Audrey Coningham, she was one of 1,135 passengers in the submarine depot ship Medway, which was torpedoed by Kapitanleutnant Heinz-Joachim Neumann's U-372 on June 30 1942. Audrey, who had been one of 3 Wrens on board, had been swimming for 15-30 minutes when she saw two men clinging together. Audrey pulled off her own lifebelt and put it on the drowning man - Leading Seaman Leslie Crossman.
The first UK female soldier to be killed during combat in World War II
Nora Caveney was just 18 when she died at the hands of Luftwaffe bombers on April 17, 1942. She was serving with the Anti-Aircraft Command in Southampton, operating the specialist Predictor computers which monitored enemy planes approaching Britain so gunners could be alerted. Historian Richard Doherty said: "She is a person who has been greatly overlooked in history... any account of women in the war really must include her... she was as close as women could get to the front line at this time." Doherty will pay tribute to Nora in his new text "Ubique: The Royal Artillery In The Second World War".
'Dynamite Girl' Rosario Mora blasted fascist forces in the Spanish Civil War
Rosario Sanchez Mora, a heroine of the Republican cause during the Spanish Civil War who was known as "The Dynamite Girl" (la Dinamitera), has died aged 88. As a combatant in the Republicans' struggle of 1936-1939 against the Fascist forces of General Franco, she became an expert in the explosives and was immortalised in a poem, Rosario, dinamitera. Mora enlisted as a volunteer in the defence of Madrid. In Sept. 1936, while setting a booby trap, she lost her right hand in an explosion. The next summer she was back to the front, as a sergeant, in a brigade that was defending Madrid.
Resistance fighter Countess Andree De Jongh set up Comet Line escape route
Countess Andree De Jongh, who set up the Comet Line escape route that helped hundreds of British airmen flee the Nazi occupation of Belgium during World War II, has died at 90. The escape route - which went through Belgium, occupied France and over the Pyrenees into Spain's Basque country - was set up in 1940 to allow downed British airmen to return UK and escape German imprisonment. By the time she was arrested, she had brought 118 people, including 80 pilots to safety. The Comet Line itself rescued more than 700 pilots. After her arrest in 1943, she survived German camps before being liberated at the end of WWII.
WW2 Red Army: Female T-34 tank driver in the battle (Article no longer available from the original source)
When the war began Alexandra Rashchupkina volunteered, but she was rejected. She had her hair cropped, put on man’s uniform and applied again - passing. After driving course she was moved to Stalingrad where she learned to drive a tank. She survived her first air raid: "Instead of being happy to be alive I was worrying about my new uniform, all turned to rags," she smiles. No one in her regiment ever suspected a thing: "You don’t get undressed often on the frontline." In Feb 1945 her secret was revealed. The Soviet tanks were ambushed by Nazi troops. Her tank caught fire, she wounded and a serviceman saved her from the burning machine.
War heroine Nancy Wake honoured - Led an army of 7,000
The Australian WWII heroine dubbed the 'White Mouse' by the Gestapo because they could not catch her has finally been honoured in the land of her birth, New Zealand. Nancy Wake has been awarded the NZ Returned Services Association's highest honour, the RSA Badge in Gold, as well as life membership for her work with the French resistance during the war. She is the first woman to be awarded the Badge in Gold. The RSA said as a saboteur and resistance organiser and fighter, the feisty woman led an army of 7,000 Marquis troops in guerrilla warfare against the Nazis in France.
17-year-old girl fighting with the partisans (Article no longer available from the original source)
She dragged herself out of the heap of bodies that had once been her family, shot to death by Nazi soldiers. Alone among the dead in the dark forest of eastern Poland, it would have been easy for a sickly 17-year-old girl to give up, to sink to the ground and die. But she found the partisan fighters in that forest, and convinced them that a girl was strong enough to fight alongside the men. Fighting with the partisans was Gertrude Boyarski's act of resistance. By the summer of 1940 the Nazis had already stolen her family and her childhood. She spent the next four years fighting them.
Woman who executed 1,500 people in WWII
Many years after WWII, the Soviet Interior Ministry and the KGB were still disclosing war crimes and exposed those who assisted the Fascist army. In 1978, the KGB found traces of a Soviet woman who executed partisans and their families by shooting by order of Fascist commanders. Within 1941-1943, Antonina Makarova worked as a machine gunner on the occupied Soviet territory. At that time she was just 20, too young and wishing to stay alive, so she chose to work for Nazis and carried out death sentences, instead of dying when defending the motherland from enemies.
The Warsaw Uprising - Women who took on Hitler
On August 1, 1944, thousands of Poles, among them young girls, joined the Warsaw Uprising – an attempt to expel the Nazis that led to terrible reprisals. 3 survivors recall the horror and the heroism of those days. --- A military nurse runs to reach an injured soldier. Suddenly, arms and legs fly through the air and blood spatters her clothes. A booby-trapped German tank has exploded, 700 metres away, killing 300 people. Marzenna Karczewska Schejbal was 20 that day. She and her sister, Ewa - the injured soldier - were among some 5,000 Polish female fighters of the Warsaw Uprising, a horrific yet largely forgotten piece of WWII history.
Soviet Women in Combat
Number of Soviet women combat veterans reached nearly one million, a small portion of which were involved in combat. Eugenia Ustimchouk was one of the rare women pilots. She was admitted in Jan of 1942 in the same unit as her husband. "We had a women's bomber pilot regiment who flew heavy planes called P-2. I remember one, Liuba Gubena, who studied with me and flew that plane. German planes were pursuing her and her plane caught on fire. She gave her crew the command to bail out, but her navigator's parachute got caught. Liuba started to do all kinds of maneuvers to throw off the navigator, to save her. She perished herself in trying to save her navigator."