By Friedrich Seiltgen
Copyright © 2022
In the world of snipers, the names Carlos Hathcock and Chris Kyle quickly come to mind. Few people outside of the sniper brotherhood, however, know the story of Simo Häyhä. Simo was a Finnish army sniper who amassed over 500 kills in less than 100 days between November 30th, 1939, and March 13th, 1940, during the Russian invasion/winter war of Finland. Although there are questions as to kill confirmation, Simo is widely regarded as the most successful sniper in history. Interest in Häyhä’s war exploits were renewed when his private memoir was found in 2017.
Standing 5’3”, Simo was a modest man who did his compulsory military service in 1925 and later joined the civil guard. His service with the civil guard gave him the training that propelled him into history. Simo was a big fan of target shooting and learned a great deal in the service. He was able to hit targets with iron sights from 500 feet on average of 16 times per minute.
Winter War Weapons & Tactics
When the Soviet Union invaded Finland and launched the winter war in December 1939, Simo was called up. One would think the Finnish guard would be no match for the Soviet Union and its 1.5 million deployed troops. The Finnish guard took advantage of the ineffective directives created around Stalin’s purges. One such directive was the Soviet soldiers wearing dark, standard issue uniforms for battle in the white background of December in Finland. Simo wore his white winter uniform and picked off soviets armed with his Finnish produced SAKO M28/30, a variant of the Mosin Nagant rifle and a Suomi KP/31 Sub gun. Simo was not trained to use optics and preferred iron sites, but he managed 259 of his kills with the SAKO. All his kills were taken in a period of less than 100 days. At that rate, Häyhä was averaging 5 kills a day with a one-day record of 25!
Simo’s success did not go unnoticed by the Soviets who gave him the “White Death” moniker, and who placed a bounty on his head.
Simo’s tactics were to hide in a snow pit with built up front berms to conceal himself as well as reduce muzzle blast. He also kept his mouth full of snow, to prevent his breath from disclosing his position.
Wounded in Action
Simo’s sniper career ended short of 100 days on March 6th, 1940, when he was severely wounded by a Red Army soldier. Simo was believed dead after being shot. The soldiers who found him said half his face was gone. They put him on a stack of dead bodies collected after the day’s battle. One of Simo’s fellow soldiers found him in the pile of bodies with his leg still twitching. Simo laid in a coma for 7 days, regaining consciousness on March 13th, the day peace was declared. Simo endured multiple surgeries and 14 months of recovery. Simo wanted to continue his military service, but his injuries and disfigurement prevented his return to service.
Life Post War
Simo was given a farm for his heroism and spent his life hunting, breeding dogs, and undergoing more surgeries. He was a very humble man and when asked by his critics if he was remorseful for the men he killed, replied “I did what I was told to do, as well as I could. There would be no Finland unless everyone did the same.” Simo spent his last years in a soldiers’ nursing home where he passed away in 2002 at the age of 96.
That’s all for now folks! Please keep sending in your questions, tips, and article ideas. And as always – “Let’s Be Careful Out There.”
Friedrich Seiltgen is a retired Master Police Officer with 20 years of service with the Orlando Police Department. He conducts training in Lone Wolf Terrorism, Firearms, First Aid, and Active Shooter Response. He now has a second career as a Freelance Writer, and his writing has appeared in RECOIL, The Counter Terrorist Magazine, American Thinker, Homeland Security Today, and The Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org