At first look, standing at just over five-foot tall, Simo Häyhä might not look like a killing machine. But he is the most badass of them all, being one of the deadliest killing machines in history. A humble farmer and hunter from Rautjärvi, southern Finland, Häyhä became the unlikely Finnish national hero of the Winter War of 1939-40. The war took a heavy toll on both sides, resulting in death of 25,900 Finns and 126,900 Russians. The war also witnessed Finland successfully defending its newly acquired independence despite being vastly outnumbered by the Soviets.
During the war that lasted only 105 days, Häyhä fought for Finland against the Soviet Union and had 505 confirmed sniper kills for his country. This comes out to be around 5 kills per day.
A sniper’s role is to create casualties among enemy troops, slow enemy movement, frighten enemy soldiers, lower morale, and add confusion to their operations. Häyhä’s presence used to instil fear in enemy troops and influence their decisions and actions. His signature attire was a white hood and a long coat jacket and his amazing skills earned him the name Belaja Smert, or “White Death” among Russians.
The Finnish war hero used to spend days hiding in the woods, exposed to temperatures between -20 and -40 Celsius, waiting for his victims. His extraordinary skills made him lethal and unstoppable in those circumstances. His colleagues appreciated his quality of judging the distance between two objects and said that nobody did that better than Hayha.
Some of his tricks included stuffing snow in mouth, so there wouldn’t be any fumes from his breath; freezing the snow around his position, so that it would not fly around upon firing. He also placed gloves between his rifle and the ground so as to dampen the jolt of the weapon.
He used a simple M28 sniper. When he was asked what was the secret to his success, he simply said that he liked hunting and trained a lot.
When questioned about whether he regretted ending so many lives, he said: ‘I only did my duty, and what I was told to do, as well as I could.’