If there was one person the Soviets truly feared while attacking Finland during World War II, it was Finnish super-sniper Simo Häyhä, also known as ‘The White Death’. Apart from his ominous title, the fact that he had 505 confirmed kills to his name might have had a little something to do with his reputation.
Born in a village close to the Russian border in 1905, Simo was a farmer and a hunter since childhood, using the harsh, cold and unforgiving terrain of the Finnish wilderness to the best of his abilities.
Simo became an expert marksman while undergoing intensive training in the Finnish Civil Guard, which was also where he was introduced to his favourite Mosin-Nagant M28/30, a gun he managed to make notorious with his consistent use.
The Winter War erupted in 1939 with the Soviet invasion of Finland, and the mild-looking Simo was called into service.
Despite vastly outnumbering the Finns, the Soviet Army suffered massive casualties thanks to their inexperience, the freezing temperatures and of course, Simo Häyhä, all of 5 feet tall.
Simo was credited with 505 sniper kills in less than 100 days, which averages to around 5 kills per day.
He achieved this by using white camouflage to blend into the surroundings, as well as carrying only a day’s worth of supplies.
He used iron sights on his rifle as a telescope glass can fog up easily, and he’d usually conceal himself behind dense mounds of snow.
Simo even kept snow in his mouth while sniping, in order to prevent steamy breaths from giving away his position in the cold air.
He instilled such fear in the Soviets that they even resorted to using counter-snipers and full-blown artillery strikes.
On March 6, 1940, Simo was struck by an explosive bullet, an injury which crushed his jaw, blew off his left cheek and put him in a coma. He awoke on March 13, the day peace was declared. Simo made a full recovery, save for some facial disfigurement, and went on to become a successful moose hunter and dog breeder later in life. Death finally caught up to Simo Häyhä in 2002 at the age of 96.