The “deadliest sniper in the world” terrorised the Soviet army and even survived being shot in the face.
Finnish soldier Simo Häyhä earned the terrifying moniker White Death for his brutal exploits against invading forces from the USSR. Simo’s extraordinary efforts were carried out during the 1939 Winter War between Russia and Finland.
Simo lived close to the border with the massive Soviet Bloc and soon proved his remarkable capability with a rifle. He was also an excellent skier. Simo used the SAKO M/28-30 rifle, a version of the Russian Mosin Nagant reworked for Finnish troops. With it he could fire 16 shots per minute, which he put to effective use by claiming the lives of scores of his enemies.
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Even though the war lasted just three months, Simo accumulated around 500 kills, according to his private memoirs. He has been accredited with 505 with his rifle alone – it didn’t have a scope on it.
Nearly silent on his skis and a master of wearing white-as-snow camouflage, Simo used his surroundings to attack his enemies stealthily. When stationary he would build snow around himself and even ram it in his own mouth so that his breath was not visible in the cold air.
As well as his rifle kills, Simo is accredited with killing around 200 Soviet troops with a Suomi submachine gun in fewer than 100 days.
During the war, he was shot in the face with an explosive bullet but managed to survive, leaving his face disfigured. At the time he appeared dead, and he was even placed on a pile of dead bodies after the battle.
He woke a week later as peace was declared at which point he read of his own death in the paper and wrote to it to correct the misunderstanding. He passed away in 2002, aged 96.
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