Simo Häyhä was born in the year 1905 in the farming town of Rautjärvi. He used to work on a farm during his childhood days. His childhood was filled with plenty of hard work on the farm, which coupled with the Finnish wilderness of Finland ensured that young Häyhä grew up to be an extremely patient yet tough man.
Later in the year 1925, Häyhä served a mandatory one – year service in Finland’s army. While one year may not be a long time, he obviously made the best of it: by the time he was honorably discharged, he had been promoted to the rank of corporal within a year. As soon as completing his required year in Finland’s army, Häyhä decided to join a military organization known as the Finnish Civil Guard.
His Shooting Skills
The Winter War
In the year 1939, the Soviet Union attempted to invade Finland and made their move in late 1939. Being a member of the Civil Guard, Häyhä was called into service under the 6th Company of JR34, which was deployed on the Kollaa River. Commander-in-chief Major General Uiluo Toumpo and they were up contrary to the 9th and 14th Soviet Armies. The Finnish forces were up against extreme odds and were hugely outnumbered.
Being so outnumbered they should have lost the war quickly and decisively, but they put up an admirable fight and managed to cause severe losses to the Red Army. This was largely possible because the Soviets weren’t well organized. They spoke many different languages and were poorly trained. To make matters even worse for the Soviets and even out the odds for the Finnish, the winter of 1939-40 was exceptionally harsh, with snow falling every day, and temperatures plummeting to -40 degrees Celsius.
The Finns took advantage of the harsh conditions and used smart tactics. They used the famous “Motti” tactics, where they would hide in the in the wilderness surrounding the roads, which the Soviets had to use in order to invade the land. Though, after restructuring and acceptance of different tactics, the transformed Soviet offensive overcame Finnish defenses at the borders. Finland formerly settled to cede more territory than originally demanded by the Soviet Union in 1939.
Becoming “The White Death”
The impact of Simo Häyhä towards the Winter War was quite ordinary. With his Mosin-Nagant M91 rifle, he would dress in white camouflage, and carry along a day’s worth of supplies and ammunition. Whereas hiding out in the snow, he would then take out any Russian who entered his killing zone. He prefers to use iron sights on his gun, put snow in his mouth to hide his breath from being seen in the cold air. While he may sound like any of an ordinary sniper, this was quite different. Over the passage of 100 days during the winter he racked up over 500 kills, earning him the nickname “The White Death”.
The Soviets were terrified of him so much that they mounted numerous counter sniper and artillery attacks to get rid of him, all of which failed miserably. Whereas, on 6th of March, 1940, when the Soviets were casually aiming artillery fire at the area where they thought Simo Häyhä was camping, they managed to get a lucky shot; he was hit in the jaw by an explosive round from a counter sniper. The effect of the hit knocked Häyhä unconscious, and he fell into a coma for eleven days, waking up on the day the war ended.
Simo Häyhä was given numerous awards and was promoted from Corporal to Second Lieutenant. In the face of being slightly disfigured, he recovered from his injury and went on to live until the age of 96. Apparently, he attributed his deadly sniping skills to practice.