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Simo Häyhä
December 17, 1905(1905-12-17) – April 1, 2002 (aged 96)
Simo hayha second lieutenant 1940.png
Simo Häyhä in 1940 with his jaw deformed from an enemy bullet.
Nickname White Death
Place of birth Rautjärvi, Finland
Place of death Hamina, Finland
Allegiance  Finland
Years of service 1939–1940
Rank Second Lieutenant
Unit Infantry Regiment 34
Battles/wars Winter War
Awards 1st Class Medal of Liberty
Simo Häyhä after being awarded with the honorary rifle model 28.

Simo Häyhä (December 17, 1905 – April 1, 2002), nicknamed "White Death" (Russian: Белая смерть, Belaya Smert; Finnish: Valkoinen Kuolema; Swedish: den Vita Döden; German: der weiße Tod) by the Red Army, was a Finnish marksman. Using a standard iron-sighted, bolt action rifle in the Winter War, he has the highest recorded number (505) of confirmed kills in any major war.[1][2]

Contents

Early life, World War II service

Häyhä was born in the municipality of Rautjärvi near the present-day border of Finland and Russia, and started his military service in 1925. Before entering combat, Häyhä was a farmer and a hunter. His farmhouse was reportedly full of trophies for marksmanship.[3] It was during the Winter War (1939–1940), between Finland and the Soviet Union, that he began his duty as a sniper and fought for the Finnish Army against the Red Army.

In temperatures between −40 and −20 degrees Celsius, dressed completely in white camouflage, Häyhä was credited with 505 confirmed kills of Soviet soldiers,[2][4] - 542 if unconfirmed deaths are included.[4] The unofficial Finnish frontline figure from the battlefield of Kollaa places the number of Häyhä's sniper kills over 800.[5] A daily account of the kills at Kollaa was conducted for the Finnish snipers. Besides his sniper kills, Häyhä was also credited with over two hundred kills with a Suomi KP/-31 submachine gun, thus bringing his credited kills to at least 705.[4] Remarkably, all of Häyhä's kills were accomplished in fewer than 100 days.

Häyhä used a Finnish variant, M/28, of the Soviet Mosin-Nagant rifle (known as "Pystykorva" rifle, meaning "spitz"), because it suited his small frame (5 ft 3 in/1.60 m). He preferred to use iron sights rather than telescopic sights to present a smaller target (the sniper must raise his head higher when using a telescopic sight), to prevent visibility risks (a telescopic sight's glass can fog up easily), and aid concealment (sunlight glare in telescopic sight lenses can reveal a sniper's position). Another tactic used by Häyhä was to compact the snow in front of him so that the shot wouldn't disturb the snow, thus revealing his position. He also kept snow in his mouth so that when breathing he wouldn't reveal his position.

The Soviets tried several ploys to get rid of him, including counter snipers and artillery strikes. On March 6 1940, Häyhä was shot in the jaw during combat by a Russian soldier. The bullet tumbled upon impact and left his head. He was picked up by fellow soldiers who said "half his head was missing". He regained consciousness on March 13, the day peace was declared. Shortly after the war, Häyhä was promoted straight from corporal to second lieutenant by Field Marshal Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim. No one else has ever gained rank in such a quick fashion in Finland's military history.

Later life

It took several years for Häyhä to recuperate from his wound. The bullet had crushed his jaw and blown off his left cheek. Nonetheless, he made a full recovery and became a successful moose hunter and dog breeder after World War II, and hunted with Finnish president Urho Kekkonen.

When asked in 1998 how he had become such a good shot, he answered, "Practice." When asked if he regretted killing so many people, he said "I did what I was told to as well as I could." Simo Häyhä spent his last years in a small village called Ruokolahti located in the south-east of Finland near the Russian border.

References

  1. ^ The Sniper Log Book—World War II
  2. ^ a b Rayment, Sean. "The long view". The Daily Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1517044/The-long-view.html. Retrieved 30 March 2009. 
  3. ^ Gilbert, Adrian (1996). Sniper: The Skills, the Weapons, and the Experiences. St. Martin's Press. pp. 88. ISBN 0312957661. 
  4. ^ a b c "Sotasankarit-äänestyksen voitti tarkka-ampuja Simo Häyhä" (in Finnish). MTV3. http://www.mtv3.fi/uutiset/arkisto.shtml/arkistot/kotimaa/2007/11/584680. Retrieved 30 March 2009. 
  5. ^ Fire and Ice: The Winter War of Finland and Russia

Further reading

  • P. Sarjanen, Valkoinen kuolema ISBN 952-5170-05-5
  • Tapio A. M. Saarelainen, Sankarikorpraali Simo Häyhä ISBN 952-5026-52-3 http://www.apali.fi
  • Tapio A. M. Saarelainen, The Sniper - Simo Häyhä ISBN 978-952-5026-74-0 http://www.apali.fi

External links

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Simple English

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