Name: Simo Häyhä
Born: 17th December 1905, in the Grand Duchy of Finland
Country of Service: Finland
Years of Service: 1925 - 1926 , 1939-1940
Battles and Wars: Winter War
Military Rank: Lieutenant
Honor: 1st and 2nd class Vapaudenmitali (Freedom Medal)
3rd and 4th class Vapaudenristi (Cross of Liberty)
Family background and Younghood
Simo Häyhä was born in Rautjärvi, Karelia and was the second youngest child in an eight-person family. He attended elementary school and farmed his home together with his eldest brother. The family was active in fishing and hunting.
Finnish White Guard and Military Service
As soon as he turned 17, Häyhä joined the Rautjärvi Protectorate, where he practiced his shooting skills successfully in the shooting competitions of the Vyborg Conservation District. In 1925, Häyhä began 15 months of military service in Raivola, Bicycle Battalion 2 in Valkjärvi. Häyhä attended the non-commissioned officer school and served as a conscript officer at the Bicycle Battalion 1 in Terijoki. However, Häyhä only received training as a sniper more than nine years after his military service in Utti.
During the Winter War (November 30, 1939 - March 6, 1940), Häyhä was assigned as a sniper, and he served in the mission until the wounding that occurred at the very end of the war. Häyhä served on the front line of the Infantry Regiment 34 in Aarne “The Horror of Morocco” Juutilainen 6th Company.
Winter Achievements as a Sniper
According to some sources, Häyhä fired a rifle at as many as 542 Red Army soldiers.
In his role as a sniper, Häyhä used his Sako M / 28-30 “Pystykorva” rifle of the early production model (Civil Guard number S60974), and unlike his Soviet opponents, he favored open sights instead of a binocular sight. With the help of an open sight, it was possible to get a faster sight than with a binocular sight, the glass of which, in addition, was easily misted in winter. The binoculars also sometimes reflected light, revealing the location of the shooter. A binocular sight would also have required raising your head a few inches higher, which could be fatal. To equip himself for cold conditions, he put on a lot of clothing. The worst frost in Kuusamo, for example, was 37.6 degrees.
Häyhä knew nature and knew how to use it effectively in battles as well. For example, he moved to the carefully prepared position well in advance of the day and only left them after sunset. He stored pieces of sugar and pieces of bread in his pockets for the day, which made it possible to get energy when he had to be stationary in the fire stations for hours. Häyhä said that despite the thick clothes, he was lying on the floor at the end of the day.
Häyhä also developed shooting tactics and techniques especially suitable for winter conditions. Among other things, he froze the snow with water so that the snow would not fly during the shot, and he kept the snow in his mouth so that the water vapor from his breath would not expose him. Thick clothing equalized the pulse and breathing. Even the small size of Häyhä was useful in hiding from the enemy. The longest distance that Häyhä reportedly fired at an enemy sniper is about 450 meters.
After the Wars
Häyhä spent his last years in a war veteran nursing home in Hamina. Shortly before his 96th birthday, when asked by the interviewer if he felt any conscience about his shooting,
Häyhä replied, “I did what I was told to do as well as I could”. Häyhä died in 2002.