In the winter of 1939, while much of the world was involved in WWII, Finnish sniper Simo Hayha was fighting the Winter War. This lesser-known conflict occurred when the Soviet Union successfully invaded Finland after entering a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany. However, the Finnish soldiers of the Winter War did not go quietly into the night in the face of overwhelming Soviet numbers. While they ultimately lost the war, the Finns had ferocious soldiers who fought tooth and nail for their country.
One of the most famous snipers in history emerged during the battles of the Winter War. Simo Hayha mercilessly exacted a heavy toll against all Soviet forces he caught in his crosshairs. In fact, if his alleged kill count - 505 - is proven, it would be the most sniper kills in any major war. Read on to discover fascinating facts, stories, and feats of the one of the most effective sniper of all time.
During the time, it was required for all Finnish citizens to do a one-year tour of duty with the military. During his training, Hayha was promoted to "Upseerioppilas Officerselev" (which is equivalent to a corporal). Once his stint of duty was up, he was honorably discharged and returned to civilian life.
He later joined the Finnish Civil Guard, similar to the US National Guard, as a reserve. When the Soviets invaded in 1939, it was all hands on deck. Hayha was summoned from his day job of farming and hunting and told to go shoot some Soviets. That he did.
The weapon of choice for the famed sniper was a standard bolt-action, Finnish-made Sako Mosin-Nagant Model 28-30 rifle. At the end of his year of mandatory active duty in Finland, he was given the option to purchase his rifle. He ended up buying the gun, which became the rifle that he used during the Winter War. Hayha turned down a more modern Swedish gun with optics.
Hayha was adamant about good gun maintenence. With temperatures ranging from -20 to -40 degrees Fahrenheit during the Winter War, weapon malfunctions were common. His familiarity with his gun and ability to keep it functioning in severe conditions served him well.
Being outnumbered by more than 100 to one is a tough row to hoe, but apparently, Hayha was up for it. He was a farmer, after all. Hayha was assigned to the Kollaa battlefield, where a handful of Finns and one Simo Hayha managed to hold the ground for the entirety of the war against an enemy force 4,000 men strong.
Besides having Hayha, the Finns were helped by Soviet ineptitude. They decided to show up to snowy fields wearing green uniforms, making them easy targets. The Soviets also lacked leadership because Stalin killed most of the ranking officers during the purges of the 1930s.
Even though the Soviets "won" the Winter War, they only managed to capture a small bit of territory along the border, leaving the rest of Finland intact. The modest gain for the Soviets came at a high price: 391,783 Soviet casualties compared to 66,406 for Finland.
After a while, the Soviets got tired of losing so many men and decided to try to get rid of Hayha. They launched artillery strikes in his general direction, but were unable to pin him down. They also sent counter-snipers to kill him, but usually, Hayha got the better of them. Entire sniper teams would be taken out by the lone Hayha.
However, someone got lucky on March 6, 1940, when they hit Hayha in the jaw with an exploding bullet. The friend who found him remarked, "“he had half his head missing.” Simo underwent reconstructive surgery and remained in a coma for several days. He regained consciousness on March 13, the day the war ended.