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Man Nicknamed ‘The White Death’ Was One Of The World's Deadliest Snipers

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Man Nicknamed ‘The White Death’ Was One Of The World's Deadliest Snipers

A Finnish sniper is largely regarded as one of the deadliest in the world and his efforts during World War II have been recognised in a viral social media post.

Simo Häyhä earned the nickname 'The White Death' for picking off more than 500 soldiers with his sniper rifle and a submachine gun.

Prior to joining the army ahead of the war, he was a skilled hunter, so he knew his way around a weapon and how to track and kill his target.

He received proper sniper training in 1938 at a training centre in Utti and that is where he honed his skills before unleashing on Soviet soldiers.

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Major Tapio Saarelainen said Simo's accuracy was incredible and he was able to hit a target 150 metres away 16 times in under a minute in training.

"This was an unbelievable accomplishment with a bolt action rifle, considering that each cartridge had to be manually fed with a fixed magazine that held together five cartridges," he wrote in a book about Simo's life.

Credit: Finnish Military Archives
Credit: Finnish Military Archives

He was deployed in the field during the 1939-40 Winter war between Finland and the Soviet Union, where he was able to pick off soldiers one by one.

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Simo would wear several heavy clothing layers and sit perfectly still amid temperatures that plunged to -40 degrees Celsius. He would find a spot early in the morning and stay there until well after the sun had set and wouldn't move all day.

He was given a Civil Guard rifle, an early series SAKO M/28-30, and he wouldn't even use a telescope to aim.

He instead used the weapon's iron sights, which were good for two reasons: they wouldn't fog up in the incredibly cold environment, and it wouldn't reflect off the sun and reveal his position.

In addition to that, he also would have ice in his mouth when he was sniping to ensure the condensation from his breath wouldn't give him away.

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While there are some discrepancies as to how many people Simo officially killed, it's largely believed he sniped between 219 to 259 soldiers.

He also used a submachine gun to kill 259 soldiers, which takes his total body count to 542 people.

Simo managed to achieve this in less than 100 days, with 21 December 1939 being his deadliest day with 25 confirmed kills. This was fairly impressive considering there weren't that many daylight hours during this time.

He was hit in the face with an explosive bullet on 6 March 1940, which blew off his upper jaw, most of his lower jaw, and most of his left cheek.

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Credit: Finnish Military Archives
Credit: Finnish Military Archives

When his body was found he was presumed dead and was tossed on a pile of other perished soldiers. News of his death quickly spread around Finland as he had become quite the celebrity for his marksmanship.

However, he regained consciousness on the day that peace was declared between Finland and the Soviets. It took Simo 14 months and 26 surgeries before he was able to leave hospital.

He was awarded first and second class Medals of Liberty and the third and fourth class Crosses of Liberty for his efforts.

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The sniper was also nominated as a Knight of the Mannerheim Cross, which is the most distinguished Finnish military honour.

After the war, Simo didn't speak about his military accomplishments and he noted all his kills in a memoir, which he classed as his 'sin list'.

When he was 96, he was asked whether he regrets killing all those soldiers.

"I did what I was told to do, as well as I could. There would be no Finland unless everyone else had done the same," he replied.

Featured Image Credit: Finnish Military Archives

Topics: News, Interesting

Stewart Perrie
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