Lyudmila Mikhailovna Pavlichenko (née Belova) (1916 – 1974) was a Red Army, Ukrainian Soviet sniper during The Great Patriotic War (World War II). Major Lyudmila Pavlichenko sniped a confirmed 309 German soldiers, including 100 officers and 36 snipers. Officially credited with 309 kills, she is regarded as one of the top military snipers of all time and the most successful female sniper in history. Pavlichenko’s true total number of kills was probably more than 309 because in order for a kill to count, an independent party had to witness it. Her true total is estimated to be closer to 500.
In June of 1941, when Germany invaded the Soviet Union, 24-year old Pavlichenko was studying history at Kiev University. Her immediate response was to go to the Odessa recruiting office to enlist in the infantry. The recruiter suggested she would be better suited as a nurse or in a clerical position. Really? Liudmilla showed him her Voroshilov Sharpshooter badge and a marksman certificate, both earned while a teenager member of the OSOAVIAKHIM society that trained people as young as 14-years old in military tactics should they ever need to be called into service to Defend Mother Russia.
After seeing her credentials the recruiter signed her up for combat duty. Given the rank of private, she was assigned to a subsection of the 25th Chapayev Rifle Division, the 54th Stephan Razin Rifles Regiment, in the Red Army. Owing to her prodigious skill as a marksman she was assigned to the 2nd company sniper platoon. And the rest as the say, is history.
The Mosin-Nagant model 1891 bolt-action rifle fitted with a 4X PE (Emelyanov) telescopic sight was her favored weapon despite the advent of the semi-automatic SVT-40, which was not its equal for accuracy, range and reliability.
In 1942, as a public spokesman, Pavlichenko traveled to the England, Canada and the United States, becoming the first Soviet citizen to be received at the White House by a U.S. President, Franklin Roosevelt. She was unimpressed by the U.S. media who were more concerned with her attire and makeup than with her war experience. Of them she said:
"I am amazed at the kind of questions put to me by the women press correspondents in Washington. Don’t they know there is a war? They asked me silly questions such as do I use powder and rouge and nail polish and do I curl my hair? One reporter even criticized the length of the skirt of my uniform, saying that in America women wear shorter skirts and besides my uniform made me look fat… This made me angry. I wear my uniform with honor. It has the Order of Lenin on it. It has been covered with blood in battle. It is plain to see that with American women what is important is whether they wear silk underwear under their uniforms. What the uniform stands for, they have yet to learn."
Hero of the Soviet Union
The highest distinction in the Soviet Union.
Order of Lenin (Twice)
The highest civilian decoration bestowed by the Soviet Union.)
Medal For Battle Merit
A Soviet military medal awarded for combat action resulting in a military success.
Numerous campaign medals
After the war comrade Pavlichenko finished her education at Kiev University and began a career as a historian. At age 58, on October 10, 1974, Lyudmila Mikhailovna Pavlichenko died of a stroke. She is buried in Moscow's Novodevichye Cemetery.
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