Simo Häyhä: The ‘White Death’ Sniper Of World War 2 Finland

At the start of World War II in 1939, Josef Stalin unleashed a massive army into Finland, expecting an easy victory. However, the underdog Finns emerged triumphant after three months of intense fighting, thanks in part to the legendary sniper Simo Häyhä.

Despite being vastly outnumbered, the Finns possessed a crucial advantage: their familiarity with the harsh winter terrain. Despite being outnumbered and outgunned by the Soviet forces, Finland had a secret weapon in Häyhä. Standing at just five feet tall, Häyhä was an unassuming figure with a deadly aim.

Unlike his comrades using modern scopes, Häyhä preferred iron sights, believing they offered greater precision. He also developed ingenious tactics to avoid detection. He built snowdrifts around his firing positions, both for concealment and to muffle the sound of his shots. He even held snow in his mouth to prevent his breath from revealing his location.

These strategies proved chillingly effective. Over the course of the 100-day Winter War, Häyhä racked up an astonishing kill count, with estimates ranging from 500 to 542 Soviet soldiers eliminated. His reputation as the "White Death" spread terror within the Red Army, while among the Finns, he became a national hero, a silent guardian spirit whispered about in propaganda.

The Finnish High Command, recognizing his prowess, gifted him a custom-built sniper rifle. Tragically, just days before the war's end, Häyhä's luck ran out. A Soviet soldier spotted him and inflicted a serious jaw wound with an explosive bullet.

Although he survived with half of his face missing, Häyhä continued to lead an adventurous life, eventually recovering from his injuries and living to the age of 96. After the war, he continued to hone his marksmanship, becoming a renowned moose hunter, often accompanying Finnish president Urho Kekkonen on hunting expeditions.

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