The World’s Deadliest Sniper the ‘White Death’
When World War 2 broke out in 1939 the Soviet Union decided to invade Finland while everyone else was preoccupied with the war in Europe. A sniper named Simo Häyhä known as the ‘White Death’ came to Finland’s defence. ‘The White Death’ allegedly eliminated a staggering 505 enemy soldiers, which would make him the deadliest sniper in history.
As you might imagine the invading Soviet soldiers were straight up terrified of the ‘White Death’ having to Patrol the blanched Finnish Wilderness with the knowledge that this deadly sniper could be out there waiting to engage them with a spectacular long-distance shot earned him the nickname ‘Belaya Smert’ which is Russian for ‘White Death’, however Simo Hayha’s fellow Finnish soldiers had a completely different name for him. They called him ‘Taika-Ampuja’ which means ‘Magic Shooter’ for that they may have been as accurate as he himself we have to admit that is is less intimidating than ‘White Death’.
His exact sniper account varies depending on the source. Some suggested down as many as 542 Soviet soldiers with his rifle, but no one claims he eliminated any less than 505; this makes them the most effective sniper in any war involving snipers.
with Soviet Sniper Ivan Sidorenko sitting at the close second with 500 kills however the ‘White Death’ kills count may even be higher. Rather than stay comfortable distance behind a sniper rifle for the entire war The ‘White Death may have also cut down several hundred enemy combatants with a submachine gun. If true that would put his count at approximately 800. That is a frightening number that is impressive considering the cold winter conditions.
The Winter war lasted for a single winter, but just as his nickname suggests this means the ‘White Death’ was putting in serious work. In order to achieve his staggering record he was eliminating an average of 5 to 6 soldiers everyday. Some hunting days were better than others; he wrapped up a terrifying 40 confirmed kills in a single day and eliminating 25 and 20 on two other record days.
A Rifle Without a Scope
The cloud of perpetual death in which he lives saw him promoted from corporal to second Lieutenant, the biggest prank jump in the history of Finland’s Military. Simo Hayha did not use a scope to forge is legendary sniper kill count. He prefered to use the plain old iron sight on his rifle. yeah that’s right! No scope! He's just an all-around old fashion Badass!
There was a strategic reason for this. The ‘White Death’ recognised that scopes made his enemies an easy target. The scope would make the target slightly bigger and also cause them to glint in the sunlight cause him to spot enemy snipers before they spotted him.
At the time every Finnish Citizen was required to do one year of military service and Simo Hayha had done his 14 years earlier back in 1925. That was the extent is military experience. He did join the Finnish Civil Guards as a Reservist, which is essentially the equivalent of the US National Guard, but he's stuck to a civilian life of hunting and farming right up until the Soviet Army decided to invade in 1939 at which point he was summoned back to service.
If his hunting record was anything like this war record we suspect the deer he hunted would of had a nickname for him too.
In 1925 Simo Häyhä the ‘White Death’ was given the option to purchase his service weapon. A standard bolt action rifle. He bought the gun and spent the next in the decade and half mastering it.
When he was called back to duty during the winter war he brought his old bolt action rifle turning down a more modern rifle with advanced optics. The extreme cold which ranged from -20 to -40 degrees fahrenheit caused frequent weapon malfunctions amongst fellow soldiers.
But the ‘White Death’s previous experience with his personal bolt action allowed him to keep the gun functional throughout the winter war.
The Competitive Shooter
Whilst only having minimal Military Experience Simo Häyhä wasn't possessed by the Lord of Incredible Aim. He developed his skill from being a competitive Sharpshooter having grown up a few miles away from the Civil Guard Shooting Range which held annual contests.
He regularly participated in these competition packing his house full of trophies. Among his accomplishments was the ability to hit a target 16 times in a minute at a range of about 500 feet. A talent best described as supernatural!
31 Finnish Snipers Vs. 4000 Soviet Troops
Simo Häyhä was deployed to the Battlefield where he and 31 other soldiers were tasked with holding off an invading force of 4000 Soviet Troops.
Despite having fewer man on the roster with a college football team he has group managed to hold, their ground for the entire winter that's some good goal line defence right there.
He and his fellow Finnish Soldiers had other advantages beyond his Angel of Death status as a sniper.
The Soviet troops all wore bright green uniforms which made them stand out like decorated Christmas trees against the snowy white landscape.
What also did not help the Soviets Was that they lacked any leadership skills mainly because Stalin had them all executed when he purged the USSR from any potential political opponents.
Even though the Soviet invasion of Finland was technically successful they only managed to capture a relatively small amount of border territory, leaving the rest of the country in tact.
The Soviets suffered nearly 400000 Casualties during the winter war compared to the 66000 Casualties of Finland.
An Unusual Firing Position
Most Snipers shoot while lying flat on the stomach because it gives enemies a smaller Target to shoot at. Simo Häyhä the ‘White Death’ prefered to shoot from a sitting position because he felt the position was better for his aim he didn't worry too much about making himself a bigger target because he was much higher than 5 foot tall. He would also use snow in unique ways to conceal himself from the enemy.
He would hide himself in snow banks, he would place snow in his mouth to hide the steam coming from his breath. He would also place snow on his barrel so when he did fire a shot there would also be no steam rising from the after shot. The true definition of taking a cold shot!
The biggest departure from sniper etiquette, he would not aim for the head of the targets but would simply aim at centre mass, which is effective for wartime; but won't do any favours on the online first person shooter leaderboards.
Taking a Shot to the Face
Simo Häyhä the ‘White Death’ had the reputation of being the John Wick of Finnish Snipers eventually the Soviet commanders grew tired of his nonsense and tried targeting him directly with artillery strikes. When that didn’t work the Soviets sent teams of Counter Snipers in to try and hunt him down. The ‘White Death’ was a sniper’s sniper and dispatched them with ease.
However one Soviet sniper got lucky and he sent a shot that struck the ‘White Death’ with an exploding round to the face which tore half his jaw off.
He refused to die and after days of reconstructive surgery he finally regained consciousness the day after the winter warhead ended
A Long Life After the War
The deadliest sniper in World War 2 lived long enough to have witnessed the rise in popularity of the modern era and lived a quiet for life.
In the winter of 1939 Simo Häyhä the ‘White Death’ became the deadliest sniper in history with over 500 confirmed kills without even using a scope before returning home to live the rest of his life in the 20th century in peace.
Simo Häyhä died in a war veterans' nursing home in Hamina in 2002 at the age of 96,and was buried in Ruokolahti.