Saturday, January 10, 2015

Deadliest sniper in history: 700 confirmed kills in 100 days

With the 160 confirmed kills that Kyle has (American Sniper), you might wonder who can top that. And we’re going to answer that for you, since you probably never heard of Simo Hayha, the Finnish marksman that has a total of 700 confirmed kills in 100 days during World War II, making him the deadliest sniper in warfare history.

The Finn was born in 1905 in Rautjarvi, a municipality in Southern Finland close to the present-day border between Finland and Russia. Before joining the Finnish military in 1925, Hayha was a farmer and a hunter, frequently taking part in shooting competitions and winning many of them. All this “training” proved to be of immense help after the outbreak of World War II, when the Russian Red Army invaded Finland on November 30, 1939 and started what was later called the Winter War. The conflict ended on March 13, but these months were incredibly tough, with combat taking place at temperatures that ranged between -40 and -20.

Our little friend Hayha (he was just 5 ft 3 in/1.60 m tall) was part of the 6th Company that fought in the Battle of Kollaa and due to his small frame, he used an M/28-30 rifle, which was a shorter version of the popular Mosin-Nagant rifle. Besides being easier to handle, the rifle also had iron sights instead of telescopic sights, which seemed as a disadvantage to other snipers, but not to Hayha. He preferred this type of sight for several reasons. First of all, it was less risky, because a sniper must raise his head higher when using a telescopic sight, exposing him more. Also, when you’re fighting at -40 degrees, the less “advanced” your equipment is, the less chances of something going wrong. And telescopic sights could easily fog up or break in the extreme weather. The iron sights alsooffered another advantage, eliminating the risk of the sniper getting spotted due to sun flare in the telescopic lens.

However, the major disadvantage an iron sight has is accuracy, because aiming is a lot more difficult and requires a lot of experience. But that was not a problem to Hayha, his training allowing him to record a total number of 700 confirmed kills, 505 of which were made with the sniper rifle (the other 200 he killed with a sub-machine gun he carried around to defend when enemies got closer). But accuracy was not his only skill. He was also very good at hiding from the ones he hunted. For example, he usually packed the snow before him, where his rifle stood, so that the snow was not disturbed by the muzzle blast and also to increase the rifle’s stability. He also frequently put snow in his mouth, to avoid steamy breath that could possibly give away his position.

All these quickly made him public enemy number one among the Soviet forces fighting in the area, earning him the nickname “White Death”. The Russians actually sent several teams of counter-snipers after him and frequently had artillery strikes in the areas they thought he was hiding, just so they could get rid of him.

And they finally got to him on March 6, 1939, when Hayha was seriously injured by a Russian soldier. According to the Finnish soldiers that found him, half of his face was missing, as he was shot with an exploding bullet that blew off his lower left jaw. But he was a tough guy and survived, gaining consciousness a week later, on March 13. The same day, the peace treaty between Finland and Russia was signed, Finland losing some of its territory but managing to keep its independence. There was actually a joke going around in those days, that when the Russians found out that Hayha still wasn’t dead, they got scared and asked for peace.

Hayha’s wounds took several years to heal and when the war ended he was promoted from corporal straight to second lieutenant. Later, he left the army and became a very successful moose hunter and dog breeder, dying in 2002 at the venerable age of 96.


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