The Soviets soon found that women could make good snipers. They tended to have the qualities that a sniper needs, like patience and attention to detail. Pavlichenko was one of about 2,000 women who served as snipers during the war. And their job was to stalk the battlefield looking for German officers and eliminate them with deadly efficiency. It was a job they did so well that the Nazis lived in constant terror of Soviet sniper teams. And as the German army moved into Ukraine, they quickly learned that there was no one on the battlefield they should fear more than Lyudmila Pavlichenko.
Pavlichenko got her first “official” kill a few weeks after being sent to active service. She was in position near the front when the Germans began hammering the area with artillery. Deciding that nothing could have survived the explosions, the Germans sent scouts in to take the position. But Pavlichenko was still alive, and she quickly sent the German scouts back to their lines, but not before forcing them to leave the bodies of two dead comrades. Over the next two months, Pavlichenko racked up more kills as the Germans pushed the Soviets back to Crimea.
Pavlichenko described one incident when the Germans set a trap for her along a road. As five soldiers with submachine guns waited for Pavlichenko, she decided to turn the tables. “I detected the trap,” she said, “got into a position where their bullets couldn’t reach me and poured lead into what became a trap for them.” With deadly accurate rifle fire, Pavlichenko killed three of the soldiers in a few seconds. As the others decided it would be better to run than face Pavlichenko, she killed another as they fled. She then picked up the submachine guns and returned to base.
By the time the Soviets were preparing to defend the city of Odessa, Pavlichenko had already killed 187 of the enemy with her sniper rifle. This made the young sniper a hero for the Soviets and a target for the Germans. The Germans, of course, had their own snipers. And they immediately sent them to hunt down Pavlichenko before she could do any more damage. This led to a dramatic series of duels as Pavlichenko and the German snipers began hunting each other in the ruined streets of the city. And the Germans pulled out every trick in the book to bring Pavlichenko down.
There were a lot of different ways that snipers could try to get the enemy to reveal their position. For instance, they would take a helmet and mount it on a stick. Then, they would let it slip out of cover, giving the enemy sniper a tempting shot. When the sniper fired, the shot would reveal their position. Pavlichenko quickly learned not to fall for this trick in her duels with other snipers. So, the Germans hunting her had to get even more creative. Pavlichenko recounted one incident where an enemy sniper released a cat to lull her into a false sense of security.