White Death. The Finnish sniper with 500 Soviet kills in just 100 days (image heavy)

David Herold
 
 
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There have been many great snipers in history and who can take the title of the greatest is a topic of debate. However, if you are going purely on skill level, accuracy, and the overall kill record, there is no sniper in history as deadly as the man who was nicknamed “The White Death”. Yes, we are talking about none other than Simo Häyhä, the Finnish sniper, generally regarded as one of the greatest war heroes of our time.

He got his nickname from the Red Army, the very people he was fighting against, which just goes to show what a phenomenal sniper he must have been. Simo Häyhä was a Finnish marksman of the highest order, and his weapon of choice was the Finnish M/28-30 rifle, which he used in the Winter War (1939). He has been credited with a mindboggling 505 reported kills, which is actually the highest number of confirmed sniper kills in the history for any major war.

He was absolutely deadly with a rifle in his hand and is widely known to be the most successful and skilled sniper that the world has ever seen. He defended Finland from the invading Soviet Union, during the Winter War in World War II and was “The White Death” for over 500 men!

Häyhä after being awarded the honorary rifle model 28. Wikimedia commons / Public Domain
Häyhä after being awarded the honorary rifle model 28. Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

His life in the beginning

Simo Häyhä was born in the farming town of Rautajärvi in 1905, and he used to work on a farm during his childhood years. His childhood on the farm along with the wilderness of Finland ensured that young Häyhä grew up to be an extremely patient yet tough man.

In 1925, 20-year old Häyhä served in the Finnish army for a year, which was mandatory for all Finnish people. His one year in the army taught him a lot, and he made the best of his time there, even being promoted to the rank of corporal in only a year! After completing his mandatory year in Finland’s army, Häyhä decided to join a military organization known as the Finnish Civil Guard.

Finnish ski troops in Northern Finland, January 1940. Wikipedia / © IWM (HU 55566)
Finnish ski troops in Northern Finland, January 1940. Wikipedia / © IWM (HU 55566)

Honing his shooting skills

It was during his time in the Civil Guard that Häyhä was trained as a sniper. He used to get regular target practice, and shooting quickly became very interesting for Häyhä. He would practice shooting at targets in his free time, and used a Russian-built rifle, the Mosin-Nagant bolt-action M91. He then upgraded his rifle to the M28/30, which certainly performed better, and another of his favorites was the 9mm Suomi submachine gun.

His training and his passion for shooting ensured that Häyhä became a prolific shooter quickly, and was able to shoot and hit a target accurately 16 times per minute, at a distance of 500 feet. And he only got better and better, which led to the spectacular results during the Winter War.

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