Building On the Past: Soviet Resolve in World War II
Everybody loves a good story, like a tank driver taking revenge for a lost lover, a sniper with over 300 kills, or a regiment of bomber pilots flying daring night raids in outdated aircraft. These are all true stories from World War II.
When Mariya Oktyabrskaya lost her husband to fascist invaders, she gave 50,000 rubles and her devotion to the Soviet cause. Soon a tank commander and Senior Sergeant, Oktyabrskaya was determined to rid her homeland of Nazi pestilence. Her remedy? A T-34/76 tank and a vendetta. Sgt. Oktyabrskaya demonstrated bravery with wild abandon in her quest to avenge her husband.
A student before the war, Major Lyudmila Pavlichenko became one of the 2,000 Soviet female snipers deployed during World War II. At 25 years old, she was credited with 309 confirmed kills, earning her the nickname “Lady Death”. Although her combat tenure ended in 1942 after she was wounded, she went on to train Soviet snipers through the end of the war. The first Soviet citizen to be received by a U.S. President (Franklin Roosevelt), Major Pavlichenko once visited Chicago and pushed the crowd to open a second front in Europe: “Gentlemen, I am 25 years old and I have killed 309 fascist invaders by now. Don’t you think, gentlemen, that you have been hiding behind my back for too long?”
In the same spirit of determination, the Soviet 588th Night Bomber Squadron flew 30,000 missions in their outdated Polikarpov Po-2 biplanes. The women who piloted these aircraft used the slow-flying plywood-and-canvas construction to make some of the first stealth bombings in history. Right before they reached their targets, they would idle their engines and glide in to release their bomb payload. German soldiers soon named these women pilots the “Night Witches”. Feared by the Germans, any pilot who shot down a Night Witch was awarded the Iron Cross.