Stalin agreed with Mariya Oktyabrskaya's request and the eager fighter was quickly sent off to complete three months of training. Her male superiors were skeptical of the 38-year-old widow, but she soon proved herself and became a mechanic and driver in the 26th Guard Tank Brigade.
Whatever doubts Soviet officers had about Oktyabrskaya's combat skills quickly dissipated following her first Nazi encounter. During that first skirmish, the newly minted soldier obliterated dozens of Nazi soldiers and anti tank guns and was the first service member to breach the German line of defense. For her heroic performance, Oktyabrskaya was promoted to sergeant.
The vengeful widow proved herself again during a night raid in November 1943 when a bazooka team blasted the tracks of her tank.
Instead of holing up in her machine's cockpit, she risked life and limb by hopping out. As her peers covered for her, Oktyabrskaya was able to fix the tread and climb back into the tank to continue her war path. She would do this twice more in battle.
Oktyabrskaya's final battle took place the following year. The Soviet sergeant led the unit into the Nazi's line of fire with such skill that she made it across two enemy trenches before her tracks were blasted by enemy guns. One last time, Oktyabrskaya hopped out to fix them. As she was working, a German artillery shell exploded close by and the widow was struck with shrapnel that sent her into an immediate coma.
Two months after "Fighting Girlfriend"'s final battle, Sergeant Mariya Oktyabrskaya succumbed to her injury and joined her husband in death. Five months later, she was posthumously awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union award, the highest honor bestowed upon service members who fought in combat.