Women’s History Month: Designated Marksman

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To show my support for Women’s History Month, I’ve decided to highlight one of the greatest snipers in history — Lyudmila Mykhailivna Pavlichenko (a.k.a. “Mankiller”).

In June 1941, Nazi Germany was invading the Soviet Union and at twenty-four years old, “Mankiller” was among the first volunteers, and she asked to join the infantry. Her wish granted she was assigned to the Red Army’s 25th Rifle Division. Due to her time on a shooting team before the war, she became one of two thousand soviet female snipers.

Originally Pavlichenko had the option to become a nurse but refused; “I joined the army when women were not yet accepted.” There she became one of two thousand female snipers in the Red Army, of whom about five hundred survived the war. She made her first two kills as a sniper near Belyayevka, using a Tokarev SVT-40 semi-automatic rifle with 3.5X telescopic sight.

The first action she saw was during the conflict in Odessa. She was there for only two and a half months but  put  an impressive 187 notches in her belt. When her unit was forced to move, she spent the next eight months fighting on the Crimean Peninsula. There she upped her total body-count to 257, and for this feat, she was cited by the Southern Army Council. Pavlichenko’s total confirmed kills during World War II was 309, with thirty-six of those being enemy snipers.

In June 1942, she was wounded by mortar fire. Because of her growing status, she was pulled from combat less than a month after recovering from her wound.

Pavlichenko was sent to Canada and the United States for a publicity visit and became the first Soviet citizen to be received by a US President when Franklin Roosevelt welcomed her at the White House. Pavlichenko was later invited by Eleanor Roosevelt to tour America relating her experiences. While meeting with reporters in Washington, DC, she was dumbfounded about the kind of questions put to her. “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.

As a Navy SEAL Sniper instructor, I’d be proud to have been her spotter!

Chris Sajnog