The Fearless Young Soviet Women Who Played A Huge Part In World War II

Soviet women played a major role in World War II  on the Eastern Front. While most women worked in the industry, agriculture, transport, and other civilian roles. They often had to work double shifts so they could free up enlisted men to fight and increase military production. A large number of women also served in the army, the majority of those were in medical units as nurses.

800,000 women served in the Soviet Armed Forces during the great patriotic war, as it is called in the Soviet Union. Of those, almost 200,000 were decorated, and 89 eventually received the Hero of the Soviet Union, Soviet Union’s highest award. Some served as snipers, pilots, machine gunners, tank crew members and partisans, as well as in all other auxiliary roles.

So let’s take a look at some of the Female Soviet Fighters!

Irina Feodorovna Sebrova

Irina Feodorovna Sebrova

She graduated from the Moscow Aeroclub in 1938 and started training in military aviation 2 years later.

she completed her military aviation studies after joining the Red Army in October 1941, and in 1942 she was assigned to the 588th Night Bomber Regiment, which became known as the Night Witches. Sebrova took part in 1008 bombing missions against Nazi German forces and their allies.

Sebrova was awarded the Hero of Soviet Union with a Gold Star and the Order of Lenin, on February 23, 1945.

Lydia Litvyak

Lydia Litvyak

Lydia Vladimirovna Litvyak fought as a fighter pilot in the Soviet Air Force during World War II. She was the first female fighter pilot to shoot down an enemy plane and managed at least 12 solo victories and another four shared kills in a total of 66 combat missions flown in two years.

She was the first female fighter pilot to earn the title fighter ace and was the holder of the record for the greatest number of female fighter pilot kills. During the Battle of Kursk she was shot down and killed near Orel as she attacked a formation of German planes.

Marina Mikhailovna Raskova

Marina Mikhailovna Raskova

Raskova is credited with using her personal connections with Joseph Stalin to convince the military to form three combat regiments of women. After Raskova gave a speech on 8 September 1941 in which she called for female pilots to be allowed to fight, Stalin ordered the formation of the Aviation Group 122, the first to be all female. Not only would the women be pilots, but also support staff and engineers.

Raskovae died on January 4, 1943, when her aircraft crashed as she attempted to make a forced landing on the banks of the Volga river, while leading two other Pe-2s to the first operative airfield near Stalingrad. The entire crew was killed in the crash, after the war she was the first to received a first state funeral.

Natalya Krasova Meklin

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Natalya Krasova Meklin

Being just nineteen when she joined the Night Witches, she had previously been a member of a glider school in Kiev,  at war’s end Meklin had flown 980 combat missions.

Meklin (L) with Irina Sebrova

Other Soviet Female Fighters

Two Soviet female POWs at an assembly point on the Eastern Front. The woman in the foreground is wearing dress shoes, the most unlikely footwear for what lies ahead — long marches. Soviet female POWs were treated as harshly as their male counterparts by the German army engaged in a “war of annihilation.”
Female snipers of the Soviet 3rd Shock Army, Germany, 1945
The head of the Central Women’s School of Sniper Training’s political department talks to women snipers before they leave for the front. The school graduated 1,885 snipers and instructors during the war. RIA Novosti photo
Russian female soldier Berlin 1945
WWII Soviet Sniper Julia Petrovna. Killed 80 Germans.
Women, members of Sydir Kovpak’s partisan formation in Ukraine
Maria Limanskaya directing traffic at the Brandenburg Gate, 1945
Roza Yegorovna Shanina, the female sniper died in WW2 after having 54 confirmed hits, she is still remembered due to her skill as a sniper and her beauty.
Mariya Dolina, a female Soviet pilot, stands in front of her Petlyakov Pe-2. On Aug. 18, 1945, Dolina was awarded the title of the Hero of the Soviet Union.

Joris Nieuwint

Joris Nieuwint is a battlefield guide for the Operation Market Garden area. His primary focus is on the Allied operations from September 17th, 1944 onwards. Having lived in the Market Garden area for 25 years, he has been studying the events for nearly as long. He has a deep understanding of the history and a passion for sharing the stories of the men who are no longer with us.