The Art of War iii: Lady Death and the Snipers of Stalingrad

Call of Duty wasn’t the first game to pay tribute to women’s sacrifice during World War Two but it still holds up well.

Upon starting Call of Duty you are a young private on a boat fighting your war up to the shore not unlike the start of hundreds of other WWII video games and films. But this time it’s not the D-Day invasion of Normandy.

Call of Duty: Finest Hour begins a little differently. You are a young Soviet soldier on a rowboat desperately trying to reach the war ravaged shores of Stalingrad. At this point in the war the Germans had captured a vast majority of Soviet territory. Much of Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic’s were under Nazi control.

Not only was Stalingrad (now Volgograd) a strategic target for the axis – the Nazi’s initially wanted to paralyze the industrious city while also cutting off access to the Volga River but it also became an epicenter for propaganda and morale. So much so that Hitler himself personally rewrote military strategy to occupy Stalingrad upon defeat. So sure of victory he even wrote that following the battle every Russian man is to be shot and every Russian woman and child deported because the population was “throughly communistic” and “especially dangerous”.

But that defeat was never realized in large part to T he battle of Stalingrad. Stalingrad is still considered one of the most violent and bloody battles in warfare history with an estimated two million casualties between both sides. Close quarter combat, building to building, room to room, brick by brick the streets of Stalingrad ran red.

The gravity of the situation was grave. With their backs to the wall Russian soldiers were fighting for everything. Stalin’s government telling every man, woman and child with a gun to step up against their German invaders. To lose Stalingrad would be to lose the war. But proud Russians refused to let that happen.

In the game during the second act of the “Eastern Front” you assume control of a female Soviet sniper named, Tanya Pavelovna. At first glance this may have seemed progressive for the time of its release. A female lead in a war game but this was no token nod to the fairer sex.

During the second war the USSR used more women in combat that any other country and many of these women were not only proficient soldiers but deadly snipers.

Following World War I which emphasized not only trench warfare but introduced short range combat with the machine gun, Soviet military minds decided to take an alternative route. Focusing on long range sniper attacks to counteract being out gunned by the Germans during the first war many of the top stand outs in these sniper trainings happened to be women.


For two years on the defensive these sharpshooters gave the Germans grief at every corner. Standard practice was to aim for the commanding officer first and pick off soldiers from there one by one with deadly precision.

Of these snipers one woman stood out from all the rest. The deadliest known female sniper in the history of war. Lyudmila Pavlichenko also known as, “Lady Death” had 309 confirmed kills by the end of the war. Of those 309 kills – 36 of them were enemy snipers.

Lyudmila Pavlichenko

Wounded by a mortar blast Pavlichenko was removed from combat in June 1942 and for her service she was promoted to Major and awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union.

Of the thousands of women who helped their nation achieve victory against pure evil only 2,484 were sharpshooters and only an estimated 500 in total survived the war. Each acting as a testament to the human spirit and bravery regardless of gender.

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