About 350,000 women fought in the Soviet military during World War II, and Russia was the only country to use female snipers in front line combat roles, where they performed exceptionally well. Over the course of the war, the 2,000 female snipers in the Red Army would amass 12,000 German kills.
On her first day on the battle field, she found herself frozen with fear, until the young Russian soldier beside her was shot dead. She wrote, “He was such a nice happy boy, and he was killed just next to me. After that, nothing could stop me.” In her first seventy-five days at war around Odessa and Moldova, she would kill 187 Nazis, including 100 officers.
To give just one example of her skill in battle, during the second German attack on Sevastopol, at one point, she had to fire on a 6-ton armored transport that was advancing on a Soviet trench. She had a minute to solve the ballistics problem. The heads of the machine gunners in the transport were two meters above ground level, and the parapet of her trench, where her rifle rested, was about twenty centimeters high, so she calculated that the target angle was 35 degrees. The transport was moving, so she had to aim at a point traveling ahead of it, and consider that, at a distance of 200 meters, her bullet would take a quarter of a second to reach the transport, during which time the vehicle would advance 4 meters. She fired so accurately, that she hit the Germans through the eye-slots in their helmets.
At the beginning of March, she was presented with a Sniper Destroyer diploma from the Military Council of the Coastal Army, certifying that she’d killed 257 fascists. Her platoon had not lost a single soldier.
On June 7th, the Germans began their third assault on the city. By this time, she’d been fighting there for eight months, and her exploits had made her famous. The Soviets called her “Lady Death,” and the Germans called her the “Russian Bitch From Hell.”
In America, she became the first Soviet soldier to be received by a U.S. president when she met F.D.R. at the White House, and Eleanor Roosevelt invited her on a tour to tell about her experiences as a woman in combat. She wasn’t cut out to be a diplomat. She was shy, and she said she just wanted to kill fascists.
She was disgusted by the sexism she found in America, where people seemed interested only in her appearance. She said, “Don’t they know there is a war?”
A man asked, “What color underwear do you prefer, Lyudmila?” She said, “In Russia, you would get a slap in the face for asking a question like that. That kind of question is usually only asked of a wife or a mistress. You and I do not have that relationship, so I will be happy to give you a slap. Come a bit closer.”