“Snipers came of age during World War II.” Snipers throughout the war became instruments of death. During World War I, snipers had been used to kill from a distance between trenches but they had not quite been used to their full lethal potential until further advancements with the usage of increased optics and weaponry as well as deployed on a mass scale. Snipers of World War II, were employed by all the belligerents of the war and became highly effective throughout the war. The Soviet Union, was the only military that specifically trained a portion of its soldiers to be snipers prior to the war. They specialized in utilization of terrain and concealment, as well as becoming experts in urban combat. Almost 10,000 Russians received specialize training to become snipers in the Red army before and during the war with almost 2,000 women specifically having been trained as well. The Russians became experts in their tactics of sniper warfare having some of the most effective and deadliest snipers of all time. The best example of sniper warfare used during the war was in the Battle of Stalingrad when Soviet Russia was facing almost inevitable defeat against the Germans. The Soviets were able to employ many tactics during this battle in regard to new infantry level tactics but most effective were “guardians of the city…” Soviet snipers. The snipers were implemented into infantry level units and assigned as pairs. Because of the conditions of the city, Soviet snipers were able to take full advantage of the ruins and be extremely effective. One of the most impressive snipers during this conflict was Vasili Zaitsev who just in the Battle of Stalingrad had over 100 confirmed kills.
During the progressive area of the 1930’s, women began entering the workforce and participating in the economy of the Soviet Union. Over 800,000 women had served in the military during WWII, which was twice as much as women who served in the military in the United States. Having almost 2,000 women deployed to the battlefield as snipers, many of them played a vital role to the success of the Soviet Union. One of the most notorious snipers of all time was Lyudmila Pavilchenko, “Lady Death.” She began shooting at a very young age and volunteered into the military during the onset of the war. She was assigned to the 25th Chapayev Rifle Division fighting off the invading Germans in Odessa, Moldavia, and Sevastopol. “In less than a year of combat, she had made 309 confirmed kills, including 36 enemy snipers, making her one of the deadliest snipers in history.” She was invited to the United States and to meet with delegates of the other allied countries. Eventually, after the war, she was award the title of “Hero of the Soviet Union.”
Snipers of war provide protection, intelligence, chaos, and overall morale boosts to the men and women on the ground. This development during World War II is not something that is taught specifically in a classes on World War II, but I have found to have made a distinct significance on the overall turnout of the war. The ability for the Russians to have perfected the art of snipers on the battlefield allowed them to better fight off the invading Germans and slowed their progression into Russia. Due to the use of Germany’s blitzkrieg tactics, they were able to quickly and effectively capture territory in Russia, however, places like Leningrad and Stalingrad they were quickly stopped and the Russians prevented them from continuing their assault to Moscow and eventually achieving their goal of pushing the Russians past the Ural Mountains. The German’s had planned to take out Soviets in a matter of six weeks, but due to the difficulty in capturing the main cities, six weeks turned into six months and eventually could no longer continue the war in the east.
In 2001 there was a film made about Soviet Snipers during the Battle of Stalingrad depicting Vasily Zaytsev called, Enemy at the Gates. Here is a clip from the movie to give you a good visual on what the city looked like at the time. Be advised some scenes are graphic.