of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion,
the first all-African-American, all-female unit to serve overseas in World War II, take part in a parade
ceremony in honor of Joan d'Arc at the marketplace where she was burned
at the stake. Rouen, France. May 27, 1945.
Female welder, Tyneside, UK, 1942, a photo by Cecil Beaton taken when he worked for the Ministry of Information during World War II. As in the US, during the war women, by necessity, took over men’s jobs.
“A girl of the resistance movement is a member of a patrol to rout out the Germans snipers still left in areas in Paris, France, on August 29, 1944. The girl had killed two Germans in the Paris Fighting two days previously.”
Some of the British actresses of colour suggested for Peggy Carter. The MCU could have used this opportunity to introduce historically accurate chromatic women in period television shows, especially since it wasn’t just British white women that fought in World War II.
Angel Coulby Oona Chaplin
Gugu Mbatha-Raw Karen David
“The first "Women Guerrilla” corps has just been formed in the Philippines and Filipino women, trained in their local women’s auxiliary service, are seen here hard at work practicing on November 8, 1941, at a rifle range in Manila.“
That uniform makes you look fat! —
Lyudmila Pavlichenko in America
One of the most celebrated snipers in history as well as the deadliest female sniper in history with 309 kills , Lyudmila Pavlichenko goes down in history among the great Soviet snipers during World War II. Lyudmila was certainly one who was tough and cool under fire, however it would be her experiences in America that would prove the most challenging. After being seriously wounded by a mortar in June of 1942, she was sent on a propaganda trip to the United States to drum up support for the Soviet War effort while she recovered. She toured the country, speaking about the war, her achievements, and most importantly how women were every bit as tough as men when it came to fighting. In Chicago, she stood before large crowds, chiding the men the men to fight in the war saying, “Gentlemen, I am 25 years old and I have killed 309 fascist occupants by now. Don’t you think, gentlemen, that you have been hiding behind my back for too long?”
During her tours she visited or was visited by many important and famous people; including Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, and New York City Mayor LaGuardia. She became especially good friends with Eleanor Roosevelt, another larger than life woman in history who originally invited her to America and accompanied her throughout most of the tour. Throughout her tours she was given many awards, usually presentation pistols and rifles. Even the popular folk singer Woodie Guthrie wrote a song about her entitled, “Miss Pavelichenko”. By the end of her American tour she had visited 46 major American cities.
Despite her popularity and reputation, she was viewed more often than not as an oddity rather than a war hero, and the prejudices against women common in 1940′s America became apparent. Press reporters asked her questions about her nail polish, how she curled her hair. One reporter criticized how she didn’t wear any makeup. Another commented, “Isn’t it a part of military philosophy that an efficient warrior takes pride in his appearance? Isn’t Joan of Arc always pictured in beautiful and shining armor?” When one dipshit commented that her uniform’s skirt was too long, stating that American women’s uniforms were shorter, and that her uniform made her look fat, she angrily responded,
“I wear my uniform with honor, it has the Order of Lenin on it! It has been covered with blood in battle! It is plain to see that with American women what is important is whether they wear silk underwear under their uniforms. What the uniform stands for, they have yet to learn.”
“U.S. nurses walk along a beach in Normandy, France on July 4, 1944, after they had waded through the surf from their landing craft. They are on their way to field hospitals to care for the wounded allied soldiers.”
Born to a Russian peasant family in 1916, Anna Yegorova was one of the deadliest and most celebrated Soviet pilots of World War II. While working as a factory worker before the war, Yegorova received pilots training and eventually became a flight instructor. When the Germans invaded in 1941, she volunteered for the Soviet Air Force, however Soviet commanders at the time were slow to accept women for combat service. Instead, she was assigned to fly an aging rickety biplane as a reconnaissance pilot. Between 1941 and 1942 she flew 100 reconnaissance missions, many of which were very dangerous. On her 100th mission, her plane was intercepted by a German fighter. Completely outclassed in her puttering antique biplane, she was easily shot down by the fighter. Having no parachute she was forced to crash land as her plane erupted into flames around her. After the crash, she hid in a corn field as the German fighter straffed her with machine guns until running out of ammo and flying away. Despite suffering horrific burns over much of her body, she returned to base and personally delivered her maps. For her actions she was promoted to Lieutenant and assigned for training at a combat aviation school.
While in combat training Yegorova gained a reputation as one of the best pilots of her class. She was trained to fly the Ilyushin IL-2 Sturmovik, a heavily armed and armored ground attack aircraft nicknamed “The Flying Tank”. Throughout the war, the IL-2 was used as a close air support craft, and was specifically used to destroy German tanks. After graduating combat aviation school in 1943, she was assigned command of an IL-2 squadron that was part of the 805th Attack Aviation Regiment. Over the next year she commanded 177 combat missions, destroying scores of German tanks, armored vehicles, and trucks. A true terror of sky, she was known as a superior pilot and a fearless combat leader. Among the enemy she was known as the “Flying Witch”. During her combat duty, she was awarded the Order of Lenin, two Orders of the Red Banner, and two Orders of the Patriotic War 1st Class.
On an attack on a German column in Auguast of 1944, an anti craft shell exploded below the seat of her cockpit, the force of which blew her through her cockpit canopy. Before falling unconscious Yegorova pulled the rip cord or her parachute. However the parachute failed to open completely, and she was sent screaming to the earth until she slammed into the ground. Soviet officials believed she was dead, and posthumously awarded her the title “Hero of the Soviet Union”.
As if by miracle, Yegorova was alive, but she was seriously injured with several broken ribs, dislocated arms and shoulders, severe spinal fractures, a concussion, burns, and numerous internal injuries. Barely alive and slipping in and out of a coma, Yegorova was sent to Kustrin Prison Camp in Poland, where she was dumped in a prison cell and left to die. Fortunately, she was tended by another prisoner, a Russian physician named Georgy Sinyakov. Amazingly, working 20 hours a day with little food or medical supplies, Dr. Sinyakov was able to nurse her back to health. A selfless healer who treated thousands of POW’s with what little he had, he even sacrificed some of his own rations so that Yegorova would live. Despite his care, her wounds never completely healed and she suffered physical disability the rest of her life. When she was barely strong enough to stand, the German SS and Gestapo began to interrogate her, often resorting to beatings and torture. During her imprisonment, she told nothing to her interrogators.
In January of 1945, Kustrin Prison Camp was liberated by the Red Army. The guards of the camp had planned to shoot all the prisoners before leaving, however Dr. Sinyakov convinced the Germans to leave without firing a shot. While she was free of German imprisonment, Yegorova’s ordeal was far from over. Under Stalin’s orders Soviet soldiers, sailors, and airmen were forbidden from surrendering, and to Stalin there were no Soviet POW’s, only traitors. Upon liberation, Yegorova was arrested by the Soviet NKVD and interrogated for 11 days on suspicion of being a spy and a traitor. She was also stripped of all her awards and titles, with her combat record being erased from all official Soviet documents. After all the combat, her life threating injuries which left her body permanently wrecked and disfigured, the torture at the hands of the Germans, and having all of her life’s accomplishment revoked, the moment of her life which brought tears to her eyes even decades later was when an NKVD interrogator called her “a fascist bitch”. One the 11th day of her interrogation she finally made the demand, “You can shoot me, but I will not let you torture me!”. Later that day, she was cleared of charges and released when Soviet Air Force commanders intervened on her behalf. She was declared an invalid and released from military service.
After the war, Yegorova married, raised a family with two children, and desperately petitioned the Soviet Government to restore her service record and awards. Finally, in 1965 her awards were returned, including the coveted title “Hero of the Soviet Union”. On a side note, Dr. Simyakov, an earthly saint IMO, received no recognition for his work at Kustrin Prison Camp while he was alive, despite the accounts of thousands of Soviet servicemen who he had treated while at the camp. He returned to his life as a doctor, and passed away in 1978. Anna Yegorova passed away on the 29th of October, 2009, at the age of 93.