Simo Häyhä, “White Death”, Sniped Over 542 Soviet Soldiers in WWII
Today I found out Simo Häyhä, arguably the greatest sniper to ever live, sniped over 542 invading Soviet soldiers in World War II using nothing but a bolt action rifle that had no scope. He also has the distinction of having recorded the highest known number of confirmed kills by any sniper in any major war; with the runner up being Soviet Ivan Sidorenko with 500 in WWII. In addition to his 542 confirmed sniper kills, he also managed another couple hundred kills with a Suomi 9mm machine gun bringing his total for the “Winter War” to just under 800 kills. Even more amazing is that he did all of this in under 100 days with his personal best sniping 25 Soviet soldiers in one day.
The “Winter War” was a conflict between Russia and Finland beginning on November 30, 1939, three months after the start of WWII, with the Russians invading Finland. The Winter War officially ended on March 13, 1940 with the Soviets having captured most of Finland.
Simo Häyhä was a member of a group very similar to the old American “Minute Men”. He served his required one year with the military in Finland and went home, back to farming and hunting. When the Soviets invaded he grabbed his standard issue M/28 rifle and gear and reported for duty. He preferred his rifle, which only had an iron site rather than a scope, over Swedish sniper rifles as it allowed him to keep a slightly lower profile over a scoped rifle; the scopes made you raise your head an extra inch or two making a nice target for other snipers. In addition to this, scopes on sniper rifles tended to reflect the sunlight which is how he says he was able to kill so many of the Soviet snipers who were sent to specifically take him out. The really amazing thing about just using the iron sites was that many of his kills were shot at people over 400 yards away.
Simo was assigned to the Kollaa battlefield where an estimated 32 Fins held off over 4000 Soviet Troops at one point and indeed even by the end of the war which the Soviets won, never conceded that particular ground. Temperatures there typically ranged from around -40 F to -4 F. As such, Simo would go out by himself to snipe dressed in white camouflage with nothing but a few clips of ammo and food provisions for a day.
Tired of getting their heads blown off all the time by Simo, the Soviets eventually dispatched a group of snipers and a series of artillery strikes to try to get rid of “Belaya Smert” (“White Death”) as they nicknamed him. He managed to get the best of the snipers sent against him and apparently wasn’t where they thought during the artillery strikes.
He was however finally shot in the jaw with an exploding bullet in a pitched battle against a large group of Russian soldiers. Some of his fellow Finish soldiers pulled him from the battle and he survived even though, as they said, “half his head was missing”. He was then in a coma for nine days, during which Finland lost the war (Coincidence? I think not!). He didn’t regain consciousness until March 13th, the day the war ended (presumably the Soviets heard he woke up and decided to stop trying to take any more of Finland and just ended the war right there). It took Simo a few years to fully recuperate from his wounds, but he went on to live to the ripe old age of 96, dying April 1st, 2002.
During the war, the Soviet army lost close to one million soldiers, close to forty times the number of Finnish casualties.
Simo credited his incredible sniping ability to knowledge of the forests, patience, and practice. He typically liked to snipe from a sitting position, normally not used by snipers due to giving a larger profile to be seen from. However, he was very short (5 foot 3 inches), so he was able to sit and still make a very small profile and he felt it gave him a better platform to shoot from. He would also pack the snow in front of him so that when he shot, none of the snow would waft up giving his position away. In addition to this, to get around the problem of his breath potentially giving away his position in that frigid place, he would breath through his mouth but keep snow in there to keep his breath from showing up in the air.
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Too bad the winter war was completely unrelated to WWII – Finland was completely neutral to all other countries at the time.
Too bad you haven’t read your history. WWII consists of several conflicts this being one of them.
In Soviet Russia, Simo shoot YOU.
Soviet did not take over most of Finland. Only area where they really got land was around middle “waist” area of Finland, but finnish were able to cut that attack force to pieces and into small pockets and completely destroyed them. Perfect winter/forest tactics. Finland kept the Soviets at bay for the whole war, but if the Soviet would have kept going for extra months or even few weeks the lines would have broken simply coz there weren’t enough men or those who were there were so tired they started to fall asleep standing. Soviets never really got any standing inside Finnish territory, they got until the Mannerheim line and were stopped there. Sadly tho, we knew we couldn’t keep them at bay forever so we signed peace and gave them 10% of our land, including our second biggest city. We wish we could get it back too, Russia gave land they took in WW2 to other countries, but they are still keeping ours.
Also, how was Winter War unrelated to WW2? If you think only the war between allies and axis was WW2 you are mistaken. Its as much related to WW2 as Polish and German war or the Chinese war with Japan. WW2 isn’t just one war, its timeline where whole world was pretty much fighting someone. And Winter War had some big part related in Soviets war machine, they realized how bad it was after the horrible war with Finns so when Germany came marching they weren’t completely ill-prepared.
Finland had volunteers in SS-Viking so it was not completely neutral, and German had some dealings with them before, we did join them against Soviets in Operation Barbarossa. The Finnish in SS did some awesome stuff also. Finnish were seen as elite soldiers so they got lot of very difficult missions cause of that.
Himmler – “Where a Finnish SS-man stood, enemy was always defeated.”
As though I needed another reason to be proud of my Finnish heritage ! The Finns who collaborated with the Nazis has been brought up to me. ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend.’ Ergo, the Russians and not the Germans were Finland’s enemies. Weren’t the Finnish troops considered ‘elite’ by the Nazis ?
During the Winter War the russians were able to advance on the main front, The Karelian Istmus, up to Vipuri/Vyborg which they reached on March 12, 1940. However Finland lost some 10 -12% of its territory in the peace agreement, much more that the russians were able to conquer during the war.
The volunteers in Waffen-SS Viking had nothing to do with the Winter War but the so called Continuation War that started on June 25, 1941 whith the russians once again attacking Finland.
Iron SIGHTS, not iron sites, for crying out loud! Huge difference.
After studying the military history of WW2 and finding some interesting chapters about condition of Red Army of 1943-44 i’m not so much surprised that the Finns could beat then very badly in their five latest battles in summer 1944: in Ihantala, Vuosalmi-Äyräpää, Bay of Vyborg (Viipuri), U-line (north of Lake Ladoga) and finally in Ilomantsi (north from U-line).
While not very well armed, soldiers of Finnish Army were better trained, got used to fight especially deep forest terrain. Besides their arthillery got reputation of splendit fast and sharp fire. The defence was deep so the soviets couldn’t break it. Finnish pilots were excellent in dogfight, well organized and capable to execute modern type joint-fire operations with ground forces.
One more thing – reconnaissance of signal corps (radio) was very important. As early as 1942 they had managed to open to code of Soviet radio traffic so they were ready to gave information for troops of coming major breakthrough operations of Soviet forces.
Because the Finns could beat Soviet forces in Karelian Isthmus and Karelian Fronta and because Stalin and Stavka didn’t have enoug strategic reserve troops in that very import moment Finland was saved. Though Soviet Union never told the real numbers of their military losses their is were strong evidence that Leningrad Front lost about 130 000 – 140 000 soldiers dead, wounded, missing, captured during june-july 1944. Meretskov lost most likely some 80 000 soldiers.
Interesting piece of data. The official figures of losses from 5th of July to 31st of July of Leningrad Front in 40 129. However even when you use official figures of each units the figure is 58 125. That’s one example how unrealiable those soviet casualty numbers really. BTW – the most bloodiest stage of that battle was from 10th June to 6th of July. So those numbers of Leningrad Front came from time when the biggest combats were almost over coz soviets were short of men and tanks.
i trained my cat to use the toilet…. but seriously, you gotta give this guy credit.
And THIS , boys and girls, is why Hollywood continues to lose money
Dying is mispelled as dieing.
@Cody: Thanks for catching that. Fixed!
It’s wrong to say Russia Invaded Finland. Russia never invaded Finland, only tried to invade. Finland was never Invaded as the Russians were stopped before they got that far. Finland was one of the lucky countries that Russia failed to invade. The winter war was a lesson for Hitler, and showed how a small country of 3.5million (at that time) people could beat the hell out of a country run by a stupid dictator that thought Finland would be a danger to Russia. Hitler used this knowledge as a gateway to attack Russia. The Russians even today do not know how many of their soldiers died in the Winter War. Some estimated are close to 1 million. My father fought in that war. His war photo album is full of dead Russian soldiers. As soon as a soldier was hit, their body snap froze and some were still standing up in the position holding their guns, frozen. Temperatures were in the -20 to -40°C. The Russians charged in their hundreds only to be mowed down by well placed machine gun fire. Finns at the beginning of the war had only very little and very obsolete tanks and plains. The Molotov Cocktail became a new weapon and hundreds of Russian tanks were destroyed with that weapon. The winter war was only part one of the Finland v Russia war, as the continuation war was just as damaging to the Russians. The 10% of land that Russia forcefully took and still today has not returned it back to Finland (this should be treated as war crime) is now a holy land to the Russians as so many of their soldiers had died there. PUTIN, GIVE BACK ALL THE FINNISH TERRITORY that STALIN so criminally took from Finland.
“Finland was never Invaded as the Russians were stopped before they got that far. ”
So the Russians never crossed into Finnish territory? The whole war was fought on Russian soil? They never broke the Mannerheim Line and occupied Viipuri?
Yes, Russia should give back all Finnish territory, all Japanese islands, and the American Presidency they helped steal for that illiterate moron Donny Drumph
They should definitely make a movie out of this..
1939 Finlands population was about 3.5 million. USSR about 190 million. Leningrad, across Finnish border had population larger than whole of Finland. If anyone is interested, get a DVD called “Fire and Ice”,” The Winter War of Finland and Russia”. Available from http://www.masterworkmedia.com
This is a factual documentary produced by Ben Strout a US made Documentary and it is in English/Finnish and some Russian.
Russians don’t know even today how many of their troops were killed there. There were no Germans fighting in this Winter War and most people in Russia don’t know anything what happened there.
The Continuation War little later was started against Finland by USSR because the Germans got the bright idea that if little Finland can beat the shit out of the Ruskies, Hitler will just march in. Finland fought back the lost lands but refused to go any further where as Hitler wanted to take whole of USSR.
When the peace treaty was signed, one condition was that the Finns fight the Germans out of Finlands Lapland, which they did. Again Finland was not Invaded by neither USSR or Germany, the Germans were let in just to fight the Ruskies in Lapland. P.S. England, Australia, New Zealand and Canada declared war against Finland because Finland was on German side fighting the Commies. G.B even sank a Finnish Cargo Ship. Finns were not in war with anyone else but the Russians and there are many, many more war heroes who have killed almost as many Ruskies as Simo Häyhä. I solute these heroes.
I’d say BEAT THAT RAMBO!!! LOL
I once got a 3 pointer backshot off my wife’s head with an empty beer can into the garbage….but i guess this guy’s pretty good too
The title of the article says “Sniped over 500 German Soldiers”, but the war was with Russia and not part of WW2 – Simo Hayha never fought the Germans.
@Richard Roma: The title says nothing about Germans, and specifically says “Soviet Soldiers”
I don’t think you’re reading the same article as us… It doesn’t say German, at all
The first picture is definitely not Simo Häyhä, that’s not a M/28-30 “Pystykorva” (spitz) rifle or overall any of the Mosin-Nagant related rifles – and why a sniper would need a bayonet, futhermore that guy barely see ’cause of the stupid mask. The dude’s gun seems rather as a carbine… Hmm. perhaps it’s a Carcano carbine and the dude is Lee Harvey Oswald.
The rifle in the first photo is a Swedish M96, 6.5x55mm. The Swedes provided 20,000 as well as thousands of “volunteers.”
And one point that only people in northern parts or world know, during wintertimes it is only like 6 hours of daylight, so Simo has unbelievable kill/servicetime record.
Coming from this page: http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2010/02/a-japanese-soldier-who-continued-fighting-wwii-29-years-after-the-japanese-surrendered-because-he-didnt-know/ did indeed guide me through the headline “– German soldiers–“.
@Seconding: Ah, I see. That’s a typo likely the result of having typed “German soldiers” in the line preceding that link as well. Fixed! 🙂
Confirmed “Kills”–542–why not 1042–who confirmed the number–one of those German aces who shot down 1500 planes. He must have hit some of his targets in the body–and they don’t all die-did he shoot everyone in the head above the eye line.–and even the best snipers miss. How many rounds did he fire in 3 months–3000.. Did he have his own ammo dump Was his barrel on the verge of melting I am sure these claims cheered up the folks on the home front.
The war lasted 3 months, over 120 000 soviet soldiers were killed and 26 000 finnish soldiers. Highest daily tally was 25 and confimed in this instance means that shot was observed by other person. So he couldn’t make the claim by himself. Of course it is impossible to verify 100%, but what i know of Simo Häyhä, he was very modest person (finns tend to be) and he didn’t ever brag about what he had done, his words “i did my duty the best i could” when asked about the issue. He was excellent sniper, target rich environment -> lots of kills.
Interesting points raised Bruce. ‘Never trust statistics unless you fiddled the figures yourself.’ Maybe, just maybe the term ‘kill’ is being misapplied. Sometimes (often) a sniper is a bigger nuisance if he injures a target person bad enough for a couple of people to be tied down carrying him off the battlefield if that’s what the given enemy is expected to do. In a war where the Finnish air force claimed a 30-1 attrition rate and the Red army had just finished shooting most of it’s competent officers it was killing season for some. The NKVD were doing a lot of the leading often from behind and many of the Russians were freezing beyond the point they could function properly, so I’m sure he had a huge success rate but did he ever get a chance to sally forth and prod the body to be sure?
I think he played too much Call of Duty 🙂
Well, what Markku said, Finns tend to be modest and usually understate accomplishments. Trust me I know this, my wife had to tell my father once that I had been promoted to manager in my job. My wife asked me why I did not bring it up, I told her its a Finnish thing. So pretty much if a Finn says it is so, then by God it most likely is so, at least most of the time. Finns just are not braggarts, except for maybe being a braggart about not being braggarts. Sorry cant help my self of my self deprecating humor, yet another Finnish trait.
If anyone is visiting Finland, Simo Häyhä’s history is visible in a museum:
and quite lately, his Winter War notebook with very conservative kill figures per day popped up summer 2017 from a cabinet drawer of a close relative. He had got it in 2002 and stashed away.
Here is a well-written narrative by an American meeting Simo Häyhä in 2002:
My personal memories on Winter War and Continuation War are quite limited inasmuch I was only 2 months of age at the end of the first war. With regard to latter war, I have some glimpses. In 1944 during the bombing of Helsinki, the windows of our apartment were smashed and a building 30 meters down the street was entirely demolished while I was sitting in the cellar shelter of the opposite building.
As an ex-Chief Editor of two technical magazines, I really adore people interested in the history of a small Nordic country and at the same time, I wonder how some people can take a stance just by reading ill-based articles from the net.