During the Second World War the Soviet Army employed more women soldiers than any other nation, and far more of them were involved in direct combat with the enemy than on any other battlefield. More than 800,000 women soldiers served in the Soviet Army between 1941 and 1945, with one in four of them being decorated for bravery.
While initially the Soviet High Command believed there was ‘no place for girls on the front line’ the desperate struggle on the Eastern Front made it a necessity. They served as combat soldiers, in tank crews, pilots in the Soviet Air Force, drove trucks and vehicles, worked as medics and a large number were also employed as Snipers.
Some 89 women were decorated with the Soviet Union’s highest decoration for bravery, The Hero of the Soviet Union.
In the Soviet Air Force was the so-called Night Witches squadron, a bomber unit equipped with old two-seater bi-planes. The women in this unit flew more than 24,000 missions and dropped over 23,000 tons of bombs. One of these Night Witches was Evdokia Pasko, a Moscow University Mathematics student who flew over 800 missions and was decorated with the Hero of the Soviet Union.
Thousands of these women fell in combat and their bravery, sacrifice, and service should never be forgotten.