Women war heroes prove that bravery and endurance are not reserved for male military personnel. Many women have served on the front lines, in the resistance, behind the wheel of convoys, in the cockpits of outdated planes, and in hospitals patching up the injured with little more than a standard first aid kit. Here is the list of Top 10 female war heroes you’ve never heard about.
Female war heroes you’ve never heard about
10. Aleda Lutz: Flight Nurse
Ist Lt. Aleda E. Lutz volunteered with the unit inaugrated by Elsie Ott which was designed to carry out the wounded soldiers away from the war area. Lutz carried out 196 rescue missions and saved lives of 3,500 soldiers. No one in her unit was capable of doing the amount of work which she used to do. Lutz was the first woman ever awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, conferred posthumously. This was in addition to the Air Medal (earned four times), the Oak Leaf Cluster, the Red Cross Medal, and the Purple Heart. In 1990, the Veterans Administration Hospital in Saginaw, Michigan was named in her honor.
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9. Lyudmila Pavlichenko: Russian Sniper
Lyudmila Pavlichenko was the most accomplished sharpshooter before joining the military. She was in the Fourth year of study at Kiev university when the war broke out. Russian Army sent 2,000 Female snipers out of which only 500 survived. Pavlichenko was the best among all and had the best record among all. 309 confirmed kills, including 36 enemy snipers and accomplished this milestone till 1942. She is considered to be a war hero by Soviet Union. She was also wounded by a mortar shell and after that she was never send to war front. She then continued to be sniper trainer for the rest of her life. She also Finished her university degree and became historian and served Soviet Committee of the Veterans of War.
8. Krystyna Skarbek: Polish Spy
Krystyna Skarbek (later Christine Granville) was the daughter of a Polish Count and the granddaughter of a wealthy Jewish banker. Skarbek’s second husband was a diplomat, and they were together in Ethiopia when World War II broke out. She signed up with Britain’s Section D and went to Poland via Hungary to launch her resistance work. Her main role was to pass communications between allies. Under the guidance of the British, she organized Polish resistance groups and smuggled Polish pilots out of the country. Granville and the prisoners made it out alive, which secured her reputation as a legendary spy. After the war, Granville was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the George Medal, and was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE). She was also considered to be inspiration of Ian Flemming’s two bond girls.
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7. Ruby Bradley: POW Nurse
Colonel Ruby Bradley was a career Army nurse well before the war began. She was a hospital administrator on Luzon Island in the Philippines when the U.S. was attacked at Pearl Harbor. Bradley hid in the hills with a doctor and another nurse when the Japanese overran the island. Turned over by locals, they were taken back to their former base, which had been turned into a prison camp. They once again went to work aiding the sick and injured, though with fewer supplies and hardly any equipment. Bradley spent over three years as a POW, performing surgery, delivering babies, smuggling supplies, and comforting the dying in the camps. Bradley’s 34 medals and citations included two Legions of Merit and two Bronze Stars from the Army, which also promoted her to Colonel. She was also awarded the International Red Cross’ highest honor, the Florence Nightingale Medal. Bradley retired from the Army in 1963, but continued to work as a supervising nurse in West Virginia for 17 years.
6. Eileen Nearne: British Spy
Eileen Nearne joined the Special Operations Executive in Britain as a radio operator. Two of her siblings also served the SOE. Only 23 years old, Nearne was dropped by parachute into occupied France to relay messages from the French resistance and to arrange weapons drops. After the war, Nearne was awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French and was made a a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) by King George VI. She suffered some psychological problems and lived a quiet life with her sister Jacqueline. After her death Nearne was then given a hero’s funeral.
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5. Reba Whittle: POW Nurse
Reba Whittle the only U.S. female solder to be a POW in the European theater of World War II. Whittle served in the 813th Medical Air Evacuation Squadron and her plane was shot down over Aachen, Germany in September of 1944. Whittle was one of only a few survivors and the Germans didn’t know what to do with her. The Swiss discovered her among the POWs and arranged for her release, along with another 109 male POWs, on Jan.25th,1945. Whittle’s status as a POW was undocumented by the U.S. military. She was awarded the Air Medal and a Purple Heart, and promoted to lieutenant, but was denied disability or POW retirement benefits. Her injuries kept her from flying, so she worked in an Army hospital in California until she left the service in 1946. Whittle applied for, and was denied, POW status and back pay for ten years. She finally accepted a cash settlement in 1955.
4. Susan Travers: French Foreign Legionnaire
Englishwoman Susan Travers was a socialite living in France when the war broke out. She trained as a nurse for the French Red Cross and became an ambulance driver. When France fell to the Nazis, she escaped to London via Finland and joined the Free French Forces. Some of her awards were the Légion d’honneur, Croix de Guerre and Médaille Militaire. Susan Travers was driving the lead vehicle with Koenig, Travers took off at breakneck speed under machine gun fire and broke through the enemy lines, leading 2,500 troops to the safety of an Allied encampment hours later. Her car was full of bullet holes. Travers was promoted to General, and served in Italy, Germany, and France during the remainder of the war. Susan is Considered to be a Female War hero due to her accomplishments.
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3. Natalia Peshkova: Combat Medic
Natalia Peshkova was drafted into the Russian Army straight out of high school at age 17. She was trained with weapons that didn’t work. Peshkova spent three years at the front, accompanying wounded soldiers from the front to hospitals and trying to fight disease and starvation among the troops. She was wounded three times. Once, when the Germans moved into an area the Soviets held, Peshkova was separated from her unit and had to disguise herself. She could not discard her weapon because she knew the Soviet Army would execute her for losing it! Yet she made it back to her unit undetected. As the war dragged on, Peshkova was promoted to Sergeant Major and given political education duties further from the front. After the war, she was awarded the Order of the Red Star for bravery.
2. Noor Inayat Khan: Spy
Princess Noor-un-nisa Inayat Khan’s father was Indian Sufi master and musician Inayat Khan, and her mother, Ora Ray Baker, was the niece of Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy. Her paternal great great grandfather ruled the Kingdom of Mysore. Although she was born in Russia, Khan held a British passport. She was living in France when Germany invaded. Khan and her family managed to escape to England where she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF). She also worked for the British spy agency, SOE, as a wireless operator. The SOE sent her back to France in June of 1943, where she transmitted information back by Morse code. Even as other radio operators were discovered and arrested, Khan was determined to continue her work. She was arrested by the SD (German intelligence) in October of 1943 and aggressively fought back. She refused to give up information under interrogation and sent a coded message to the SOE, which they ignored for some reason. When the Germans discovered her coded messages and notebooks, they used it to lure other British spies to France for arrest. Khan escaped briefly and was held in shackles for ten months after being caught. She was sent to Dachau concentration camp in September of 1944 and immediately executed. She was also awarded with British George Cross (posthumously), French Croix de Guerre with Gold Star, Member of the Order of the British Empire.
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1. Nancy Wake: Guerrilla Fighter
Nancy Wake was a world traveler before the Second World War began. She was born in New Zealand, raised in Australia, and then lived in New York and London working as a journalist. She was living in Marseille with her French husband when Germany invaded the country. Wake didn’t hesitate to work for the French resistance. She hid and smuggled men out of France, transported supplies, and falsified documents. The Germans captured Wake and interrogated her for days, but she gave up nothing. After her release, she escaped to Britain and joined the Special Operations Executive (SOE). With the SOE, Wake received weapons and paratrooper training. She dropped back into France as a spy. She blew up buildings, engaged in combat with the enemy, and killed an SS sentry with her bare hands. The Gestapo tortured Wake’s husband when he refused to give up any information about his wife. He died as a result of the torture. Wake would discover this after the war. She ran for office in Australia and published her biography, The White Mouse (the Germans’ nickname for her), in 1988. She died in 2011 at the age of 98. She was awarded with George Medal, Medal of Freedom from the U.S., Médaille de la Résistance, Croix de Guerre (three times).