World War 2: Soviet Union
In World War 2, many women served in both support and combat roles on both sides of the conflict. One of the most notable were the women of the Soviet Union. When Germany invaded, 800,000 eventually became part of the Soviet Armed Forces, and of these almost 200,000 were decorated, with 89 receiving the highest award their country could bestow, “Hero of the Soviet Union”. They served their nation as fighter pilots, bomber crews, snipers, machine gunners, tank crewmembers, partisans, and also in more traditional auxiliary roles. One of the more colorful female units to serve the Soviet Union were the aviators of the 586th Night Bomber regiment, nicknamed the “Nachthexen”, or “Night Witches” by their German adversaries. Piloting fragile Polikarpov P-02 Biplanes, the women of the 586th mercilessly pounded the enemy during daring night-time raids and became one of the most decorated units in the Soviet Air Force. As one German officer put it, “We never got any sleep!”
(Images, left to right: A group of unidentified female snipers during the Great Patriotic War, Tatiana Barmazina, Lilya Litvak)
Spotlight: Tatiana Barmazina
In the Sisterhood series, Kaly n'Deena names her sniper rifle after this courageous woman. Born December 12, 1919, she served in the Russian army until July 5, 1944 (aged 24).
From Wikipedia: "In June 1943 she was sent to the Central Women’s Sniper Training School outside Moscow and, upon graduation in April 1944, she was sent to the 3rd Belorussian Front. Within her first three months, she had killed at least 16 enemy soldiers, while serving in the 3rd Battalion of the 252nd Rifle Regiment (70th Rifle Division, 33rd Army).'
"On July 5, 1944 Baramzina's battalion parachuted behind enemy lines as part of a larger attempt to seize the crossroads near the village of Pekalin in Smalyavichy, hoping to block the retreat of German forces. An engagement broke out before they reached the crossroads, and the battalion took heavy casualties. After killing 20 German soldiers, Baramzina was re-assigned to care for the wounded personnel, due to her medical training."
"The trench that was being used to hold the Soviet wounded was re-taken by German forces, and after being wounded by artillery fire, she was captured and subjected to torture in an attempt to have her divulge information. After her eyes had been gouged out, Baramzina was subsequently shot point-blank with an anti-tank rifle."
"In addition to a monument in the local Gaslov park, Proletarskaya Street, on which she had grown up, was renamed in her honour, as well as streets in Minsk and Izhevsk and outside the Podolsk Central Women's Sniper Training School. The Young Pioneers group at the school in which she had been teaching, was also renamed in her memory. A diorama at the Belarusian Great Patriotic War Museum depicts her last stand."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanya_Baramzina (after whom Kaly’s rifle is named)
Spotlight: Lilya Litvak
Born 18 August 1921
Died 1 August 1943 (aged 21)
At the age of 14, Lilya developed an interest in flying and joined a club. She soloed at 15, and went on to graduate the Kherson military flying school. When the war broke out, she had become an instructor. Turned down by a conventional military aviation unit, she joined the all-female 586th Fighter Regiment of the Air Defense Force, formed by Marina Raskova. Her fist combat flight was in 1942 over Sartov, and then she fought over Stalingrad. In one victory there, she shot down a German pilot. When he was captured, he demanded to meet the ace who had downed him. Meeting Litvak, he thought the Soviets were joking, but when Litvak was able to recount every move of their dogfight, he was forced to believe. Lilya went on to score many other kills and eventually became known as the “White Rose of Stalingrad” (actually the White Lily, owing to her nickname, Lilya, and the lily that she had painted on her aircraft). Her career was not without injury; on 15 March, 1943, she was badly wounded and only returned to the war after two months of convalescence. But on 1 August, 1943, Litvak disappeared on an escort mission. It was not until 1979 that her death was finally confirmed and 1990 before Mikhail Gorbachev awarded her the Hero of the Soviet Union medal. Later Boris Yeltsin followed up by declaring her to be a Hero of the Soviet Union.
Lilya Litvak is featured in the “Sisterhood of Suns” series as part of a ‘Realie’ presented by Lilith ben Jeni to illustrate this turbulent period in women’s military history.