6. The Soviet sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko is the most successful female sniper in history. Initially denied entry into the army due to her gender, she went on to record with 309 confirmed kills during WW II. Her terrifying skill earned her the nickname “Lady Death” from the Germans.
Born in 1916 in a small town in Ukraine, Lyudmila Pavlichenko was independent and opinionated from a very young age. At the age of 14, she joined a paramilitary sporting organization and made her mark in the shooting range. In 1941, when German troops started entering the Soviet Union, she went to join the Soviet army but was rejected due to her gender. Then, her constant pestering earned her an ‘audition’ in which she killed two German soldiers with ease. She got accepted into Red Army’s 25th Chapayev Rifle Division.
She soon distinguished herself as a fearsome sniper when she killed 187 Germans in her first 75 days at war. With each kill, she became a well-known and fearsome figure in the war. Such was her terror and skill that the Germans addressed her over a loudspeaker, offering her comfort and candy if she defects and joins their rank. She has a total of 309 confirmed kills to her credit, which makes her one of the most successful snipers in the history. (1, 2)
7. The most capable female spy in American history is the CIA and OSS veteran Virginia Hall. She spent 30 years working behind German lines and did it all with a wooden leg! Gestapo referred her as “the Limping Lady” and considered her “the most dangerous of all allied spies”.
Born in 1906, Virginia Hall had a flair for language from a very early age. At the age of 20, she moved to Paris and Vienna to finish her studies and hoped to join the Foreign Service. But due to an accidental shot in 1932, she lost her leg and was replaced with a wooden appendage. The injury foreclosed her chance in a diplomatic career.
After the outbreak of WWII, she volunteered to serve with the British Special Operations Executive (SOE). SOE trained her in weapons, communications, security, and resistance activities. During the next few years, she became legendary for her exploits, first with SOE and then with the OSS. While physical disability is usually considered as a hindrance, for Virginia Hall, it was a blessing in disguise. It gave her an unassuming appearance which allowed her to be one of the most successful spies in France. The German Gestapo became desperate for her, and “The Limping Lady” entered their most wanted list. After the war, she was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for her courage and ingenuity, and she became the only civilian woman of her time to be so honored.(1, 2, 3)
8. Nancy Wake was a World War II special agent, saboteur, and resistance commander who survived four days of Gestapo interrogation. She saved over two hundred downed Allied pilots from falling into the clutches of the Nazi penal system. Also, she blew up a couple German supply depots and had a bounty of five million Francs placed on her head. Further, she killed an SS stormtrooper with her bare hands by apparently dishing out a judo chop to his throat.
Trained by British intelligence in espionage and sabotage, Nancy Wake served as a British Special Operations Executive agent during the later parts of WWII. She had the uncanny ability to escape capture due to which the Nazis codenamed her “The White Mouse”. She helped to arm and lead 7,000 resistance fighters in weakening German defenses before the D-Day invasion in the last months of the war.
While distributing weapons, money and code books in Nazi-occupied France, she evaded capture many times and reached the top of the Gestapo’s wanted list. Gestapo put a bounty of five million francs on her head, and she topped their most wanted list. She was once on a raid that destroyed the Gestapo’s headquarters in Montluçon, leaving 38 Germans dead. She was equally deadly without a weapon. During one raid she reportedly killed an SS guard with her bare hands to prevent him raising the alarm. She had been honored with the George Medal, the Croix de Guerre with palm (twice), the Croix de Guerre with star, the Médaille de la Résistance (a rare decoration for a foreigner), and the US Medal of Freedom with bronze palm.(1, 2)
9. When her husband was killed fighting the Nazis, Mariya Oktyabrskaya sold all of her possessions to buy a T-34 tank. Then, she donated it to the Red Army under the condition that she would be allowed to pilot it. She used to get out of the tank to repair it in the middle of a battlefield. Her bravery during the war earned her the Hero of the Soviet Union award.
Until 1942, Mariya Vasilyevna Oktyabrskaya was just the wife of a Soviet Army officer. But in the year 1943, she learned that her husband was killed in August 1941 while fighting the Nazi forces. The news angered her extremely, and she became determined to take revenge. She sold all her possesion and decided to buy a tank. She then donated the T-34 medium tank to the Red Army on two conditions: the first condition was that the tank should be named “Fighting Girlfriend” and the second condition was that she should be allowed to drive it. They agreed.
In her first battle, she and her fellow crewmen destroyed machine gun nests and artillery guns. When her tank was hit, she jumped out of it and repaired it amidst heavy fire. Due to her bravery, she was promoted to the rank of Sargent. A month later, during a night battle, German artillery shell exploded into her tanks track. She once again jumped out and repaired the tank while her fellow crew members provided the covering fire. Two months later she again took her tank into war. But this time Mariya was not so lucky. She was hit in the head by shell fragments as she went down to repair the tank. She was brought back to the Soviet military field hospital where she remained in the coma for two months before finally dying. Mariya Oktyabrskaya was posthumously awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union award.(source)
10. The great-great-granddaughter of Genghis Khan, Khutulun was taught the inner workings of the military by her father. For her marriage, she set forth a challenge—she would marry any man who could beat her in a wrestling match, but any man who she beat would have to give her a horse. She wound up with 10,000 horses.
Genghis Khan’s great-great-granddaughter, Khutulun was a wrestling badass. She got military training from her father and even accompanied him on military campaigns. Marco Polo had described Khutulun as a superb warrior who could ride into enemy ranks and snatch a captive as easily as a hawk snatches a chicken.
When she reached the age of marriage, she set forward a challenge. The challenge was that anyone who wished to marry her must defeat her in a wrestling match. But if she defeats that person, then he has to give her a horse. Following this challenge, she won about 10,000 horses.(source)