Häyhä “Simuna” Simo, “White Death”.

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Häyhä “Simuna” Simo, “White Death”, born 17-09-1905, nicknamed “White Death” born 17-09-1905 in the municipality of Rautjärvi near the present-day border of Finland and Russia, and was a Finnish marksman in WWII. He was the seventh of eight children in a Lutheran family of farmers; His father, Juho Häyhä, was the owner of the Mattila farm while Simo’s mother, Katriina (born Vilkko) was a loving and hard-working farmer’s wife. He attended school in the village of Miettilä in Kivennapa parish and cultivated his home farm together with his eldest brother. He was a farmer, hunter, and skier prior to his military service.

Häyhä joined the Finnish voluntary militia White Guard at age 17. He was successful in shooting competitions in the Viipuri Province; his home was reportedly full of trophies for marksmanship. He was not keen to hog the spotlight, and correspondingly in the photos of his younger years he usually stood at the very back in group photos, until his later success started to force him to take centre place.

In 1925, aged 19, Häyhä began his 15 months of compulsory military service in the Bicycle Battalion 2 in Raivola, Viipuri Province. He attended the Non-Commissioned Officer School and served as a conscript officer in the Bicycle Battalion 1 in Terijoki. However, he did not get sniper training until a year before the war in 1938 at a training centre in Utti.

According to Major Tapio Saarelainen, who wrote Häyhä’s biography, Häyhä was able to estimate distances with an accuracy of 1 metre (3.3 ft) up to 150 metres (500 ft). Saarelainen notes that during his Civil Guard training, Häyhä once hit a target 16 times from 150 metres away in just one minute. “This was an unbelievable accomplishment with a bolt action rifle, considering that each cartridge had to be manually fed with a fixed magazine that held together five cartridges

A marksman, or sharpshooter, is a person who is skilled in precision shooting, using projectile weapons, usually with a rifle but most commonly with a designated marksman rifle or a special application rifle, to shoot at long range targets. He used Finnish M / 28-30 rifles, which is based off of the Mosin-Nagant rifle , in the Winter War  , he killed at least 505 men, the highest recorded number of confirmed sniper kills in any major war. Häyhä  started his military service in 1925. Before entering combat, Häyhä was a farmer and hunter. At the age of 20, he joined the Finnish militia Suojeluskunta and succeeded with his marksman skills in shooting sports in Viipuri province. His home was reportedly full of trophies for marksmanship.

During the Winter War (1939–1940) between Finland and the Soviet Union, Häyhä served as a sniper for the Finnish Army against the Red Army in the 6th Company of JR 34 during the Battle of Kollaa in temperatures between −40 °C (−40 °F) and −20 °C (−4 °F), dressed completely in white camouflage. Josef Stalin purges of military experts caused chaos, and Soviet troops were not issued with white camouflage suits for most of the war, making them easily visible to snipers. Häyhä was credited with 542 confirmed kills of Soviet soldiers by Finnish military historian Robert Brantberg, while the documentary shown on Finnish channel MTV Oy stated 505 sniper kills. A daily account of the kills at Kollaa was made for the Finnish snipers. All of Häyhä’s kills were accomplished in fewer than 100 days – an average of just over five kills per day – at a time of year with very few daylight hours.


Häyhä used an M/28-30 with serial number 60974, since it suited his small frame (1.6 m (5 ft 3 in)). He frequently packed dense mounds of snow in front of his position to conceal himself, provide padding for his rifle and reduce the characteristic puff of snow stirred up by the muzzle blast. He was also known to keep snow in his mouth whilst sniping, to prevent steamy breaths giving away his position in the cold air.

The Soviets’ efforts to kill Häyhä included counter-snipers and artillery strikes, and on 06-03-1940, Häyhä was hit by an explosive bullet in his lower left jaw by a Russian soldier, blowing off his lower left cheek. He was picked up by fellow soldiers who said “half his face was missing”, but he did not die, regaining consciousness on March 13, the day peace was declared. Shortly after the war, Häyhä was promoted from Under-Sergeant to Ensign by Field Marshal Carl Gustav Emil Mannerheim.  It took several years for Häyhä to recuperate from his wound. The bullet had crushed his jaw and blown off his left cheek. Nonetheless, he made a full recovery and became a successful moose hunter and dog breeder after World War II, and hunted with Finnish President Urho Kekkonen.

When asked in 1998 how he had become such a good shooter, Häyhä answered “Practice.” When asked if he regretted killing so many people, he said, “I only did my duty, and what I was told to do, as well as I could.”

Death and burial ground of Häyhä “Simuna” Simo, “White Death”.

   Simo Häyhä spent his last years in Ruokolahti, a small municipality located in southeastern Finland, near the Russian border. Simo Häyhä died in a war veterans nursing home in Hamina on 01-02-2002 at the age of 96 and is buried in Ruokolahti, Church Graveyard, Karelia, Finland.


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