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Simo Hayha - the White Death

By Edited Jun 10, 2014 2 2

Widely considered to be the greatest sniper in history, Simo Häyhä served in the Finnish military during the Winter war between the Soviet Union and Finland. With his specially modified sniper rifle, Häyhä has the highest recorded number of sniper kills in any war in history: 505.

Simo Häyhä

Background

Simo Häyhä was born in 1905 in a small municipality near the current border of Finland and Russia. Before joining the military at age 20, he was a farmer and a hunter, with a passion for marksmanship. Having prevailed in several shooting sports in his province, there was no question how he would best serve his country in the military.

Winter war

It was during the Winter war in 1939-1940 that Häyhä started his position as a sniper, fighting in the war against the Soviets' Red Army. Using the inhospitable arctic terrain, in which the war was fought, to his advantage, Häyhä managed to engage the Soviets and get away over and over again, all the time eluding the much slower enemy soldiers. Using his cross-country skis, he was able to outrun and outmaneuver both the enemy soldiers, who travelled on foot, as well as their heavy war vehicles.

Using this tactic of evasion, Häyhä was able to kill over 500 enemy soldiers, which still stands as the record for any single soldier in the history of warfare. And perhaps the most remarkable thing about this is the fact that he pulled it all off in a matter of 100 days - before his sniper career was tragically cut short.

Tragically, on march 6 1940, only a hundred days into his military service, a defective bullet blew up in the chamber of Häyhä's rifle, sending fragments into his lower jaw and face. Badly wounded by the accident, Häyhä fell into a coma, only to wake up a week later to the news that the war was won.

The Awesomeness

There are many things that separate Simo Häyhä from other snipers, besides his impressive kill count. Since the war was fought during the winter (hence; the Winter war) and far up in the north, the conditions were extreme. Dressed entirely in white camouflage, Häyhä spent most of his field time laying in the snow in temperatures between -40 and -20 degrees Celsius. To add to this, he was often unable to use any methods to warm himself, besides the clothes he was wearing, as that would mean the risk of discovery.

Häyhä also took a lot of precautions to decrease his odds of being detected. For example, he allegedly chewed on snow to reduce breath vapor, and poured water on the snow under his rifle so it wouldn't spray into the air from the recoil. He also stubbornly used the old iron sights instead of the new telescopic lenses, mainly to avoid the sun reflecting off the lens and giving away his position.

And in these harsh conditions, he was still able to pull off his 500 kills in less than a hundred days - which says a lot, considering that the days so far up north are extremely short during the winter months.

After the war, when asked if he had any regrets from killing so many people, Häyhä simply replied: " I only did my duty, and what I was told to do, as well as I could".

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Comments

Jun 8, 2012 6:14am
JudyE
Interesting story. Pretty ironic that his own gun blew up in his face.
Jun 8, 2012 10:27am
vicdillinger
Amazing person -- never heard anything about him. Good piece.
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