I’m Indy Neidell and i’m Joakim from Sabaton and this is Sabaton History. The most prolific sniper, in any war, was a Finnish soldier fighting in Finland’s winter war against the Soviet Union. The man is Simo Häyhä, and the Russians knew him as the White Death. Simo Häyhä was born December 17th 1905, in the small Finnish municipality of Rautjärvi, near the Russian border. His pairs described him as a friendly, mild mannered, introverted man who kept to himself, and to his daily work as a farmhand. Rautjärvi is surrounded by the tough Finnish wilderness, So although Simo grew up in quiet times, away from city life, His own life was far from easy. The harsh, unforgiving Winters forced the people of southeast Finland to come to terms with the wilderness around them Early on, Simo excelled as a naturally gifted hunter, spending most of his youth outside in the forest, shooting small game with an old bolt-action rifle. By the age of 20, He had undergone his mandatory military service, and had been promoted to corporal. He took part in several skiing and shooting competitions. He was a real biathlete, and he was especially renowned for his skills with the rifle. Like most Finnish men, he had joined the national militia after his compulsory service. This was the Suojeluskunta, a service for young men that dated back to Finland’s declaration of independence in 1917, And the Civil War the following year. The service trained men like Häyhä, to be prepared for those times when Finland most needed them. Such times came November 30th 1939, as the Soviet Union declared war on Finland. A man from a simple upbringing, like Simo Häyhä, cared little for world politics nor much about the ambitions of dictators of the time, like Joseph Stalin. But, like many Finns, he was fiercely independent and valued his and his country’s liberty above, pretty much all else. That liberty would be lost, if the Finnish people did not stand up to defend it, regardless of the size of the enemy. So as the call to arms came, Häyhä, like many of his countrymen, answered. He joined the 34th Infantry Regiment in the Kollaa region, north of Lake Ladoga. The Soviet Eighth Army aimed for a quick breakthrough across the Kollaanjoki river, but they were utterly unprepared to fight in such a region. Heavily wooded with barely any infrastracture, at the best of times, the Soviets tried to advance now, in one of the worst winters in modern history. With snow up to two meters deep and temperatures down to minus 30. Häyhä was given a Finnish Mosin Nagant M28:30, which had been in production since 1928. A bit shorter and a bit heavier than the Russian manufactured rifles. But with the typical mosin-nagant reliability and accuracy, the M28 was an excellent sniper rifle Nicknamed the Pystykorva, Pointy Ear, for the large ears on the front sight. It would perform well in the hands of an experienced marksman, like Simo Häyhä. The Finns could not hope to win against the might of the Soviet Army in a straight-up pitched battle. The Soviets simply had more of everything. Tanks, men, artillery… Instead, the Finnish Art of War relied heavily on hit-and-run tactics, With men on skis, who knew the terrain, outflanking, infiltrating and ambushing the sluggish Soviet invaders. Many of whom had no skis or did not know how to ski, ruining mobility, while the Finns were naturally familiar with the winter conditions. The Soviet forces were woefully not. Many came from the military district of Leningrad and had not even been supplied for a long, drawn-out conflict. The winters in Finland are harsh and unforgiving. And even when the Sun is out, during the short days, it is still bitterly cold. Häyhä wrapped himself in a thick and heavy snow suit, insulating himself as much as possible from the snow and the cold winds, and he wore fur mittens and a sniper mask. The white color of his clothing blended in perfectly with the winter environment and the snow-covered forest of Kola. He preferred to work alone, being accustomed to stalking the deep forests on his own and he knew to rely on his instincts. Patience was vital, as was leaving as little trace of his passage as possible. A hunter had to be cunning and precise in his actions carrying only a day’s worth of food and around 50 or 60 rounds with him. Häyhä relied on his knowledge of the wilderness to find a good spot from which he could establish his sniper’s nest. Once he found his position, he would build a little snow fort around himself to blend in with the environment. He placed his rifle on a snow bank, that both stabilized his aim and prevented any snow from being thrown up by the recoil and waited for the enemy to march into his killing field. When Soviet soldiers, struggling and freezing in the snow, would cross his path, Häyhä put a handful of snow in his mouth to hide his breath. Then he pulled the trigger. It is said, that during his training in the army, he was able to hit a target 150 meters away up to 16 times a minute. So now, the marching routes were full of dead Soviet soldiers, who fell prey to the hidden marksman, without ever knowing what had hit them. Soviet positions were soon discovered deserted of the living but, packed with bodies frozen in their last positions, before being shot and killed. Sometimes they were found still standing up, and in the sub-zero temperatures, even a minor wound was often fatal, as the weakened body would have a harder time surviving the elements. And Häyhä is believed to have not missed his target very often. In his short time at the front, his kill tally would rise to unprecedented levels. Hundreds fell to his rifle, so many, in fact, that his superiors did not believe the stories at first. Apparently just before Christmas, he killed 25 soldiers in just one day. While many Finnish and Soviet snipers used modern sniping rifles outfitted with telescopic lenses, Häyhä relied on the old-fashioned iron sights. Not only did he feel that this gave him a better picture of his target, but more importantly, it would allow him to keep his head down lower, and in turn lower his whole profile, making him harder to spot. And Llenses could reflect the light, and reveal position, as was the case with many Soviet Marksmen, who were sent out to counter snipe him, and instead met their fate to his “Outdated Rifle”. But Häyhä was also trained with a nine millimeter Suomi submachine gun, and depending on the fighting at hand, he also carried hand grenades and a traditional peugeot army knife as a last resort. As a sniper, acting often alone, beyond the front lines, Häyhä had to be careful, and often forfeited obvious targets, if they would endanger his position. The Soviets began beefing up their own counter sniping activity, especially after his kill tally gained him both fame and infamy. If they suspected him of being somewhere, they would order artillery strikes, in his general direction, in the hope of finally neutralizing him. There’s even a story, that a Soviet commander asked to be sent a famous Soviet sniper to eliminate Häyhä. After that sniper had killed several Finnish soldiers and officers, he waited for Simo to react, and eventually show himself. He waited, and waited, and as the sun went down, he decided to call it a day, and was about to get up. That was when Simo Häyhä shot him right through the head. Another story was that Soviet soldiers began carrying large iron shields into the field, to help guard them from sniper fire. The Finnish Snipers, like Häyhä, were accurate enough, that they simply shot them in the kneecaps. Such stories began to circulate more and more, as Simo Häyhä became famous to friends and foe alike. The Finnish Propaganda portrayed him as a symbol that embodied the struggle of little Defiant Finland, while the Soviet propaganda called him Белая смерть, White Death. The legend of white death spoke of a ghost-like figure, that was both everywhere and nowhere, creeping tirelessly through the woods. It freaked the Soviet soldiers out and it boosted Finnish morale. On February 17th 1940, 80 days after the invasion, Simo Häyhä was officially proclaimed a hero of Finland by the Finnish government. And with hundreds of kills to his name already then, was awarded the Kollaa Cross. He was promoted and gifted a custom-made Sacco M. 28-30 rifle. But despite the legends, Simo Häyhä was not invincible and was not a ghost. He was a man, just like any other Finn manning the defenses. In early March 1940, As the winter receded, it became clear that though Finland had had astonished the world by holding off the mighty Red Army, they could not hold out forever. Soviets were learning, were gathering more firepower and more competent leaders and tactics, and as the winter ended so too did the Finnish advantage with the weather. No matter how valiantly they resisted, the numbers would eventually crush them. On March 6, Häyhä was caught up in the middle of a renewed Soviet offensive against Kollaa. Fighting with the regular troops, Häyhä had again killed at least a dozen that day, an exploding bullet hit him in the jaw, and ripped his lower face apart. Saved by his comrades, he was dragged out of the fighting and into hospital. He spent several days in a coma and when he awoke, on March 13th, peace had been signed. The war was over, for both him and his country. For around 25,000 square miles of territory, The Soviets had paid a high price. Most estimates of the Soviet dead are around 130,000 but it may actually have been as high as a quarter of a million dead men. Finland had David-and-goliathed the USSR on a scale no one imagined possible. Finnish independence had been saved. Simo Häyhä would bear the wounds to his face for the rest of his life. But otherwise, fully recovered. He could not go back to his own home though, which was now on the other side of the Soviet border. But, he found a new home and lived a long peaceful life, until his death in 2002. In later interviews, Häyhä repeatedly emphasized, that during his service in the Winter War, he simply did what he was told. But he was the best at it. And not even in a hundred days, his official score was 505 kills. Making him the most successful sniper in history. That’s just the official tally. Unofficially, it was higher. Now, of course those numbers will always be debatable, such is the nature of war, but the legend of white death is very much alive today, and not just in Finland. When asked what it was that made him such a great sniper, Häyhä simply answered: practice. So why, of all the military figures available throughout the history of humanity, did you pick Simo to write about? The story of Simo is one of the most inspiring in military history, at least for me. Personal opinion, of course, but that song and that story is kind of important for sabaton history, because without that song, maybe we wouldn’t even have the album Heroes that came later. Okay, but his song isn’t on Heroes. Oh, no, no that’s on coat of arms. That was the first time we asked our fans, that’s you guys (its a me :D), about sending in… uh… Well, basically giving us ideas for songs. Okay, but you see you guys still do that. Yes. This was the beginning? That was the first time. We got a lot. Pär’s past mailbox was you know… Totally full. That was one of the stories that really, you know, only by reading, kind of, the name makes you want to find out. Now so if they’re sending, in you know, it’s several thousand suggestions. You obviously can’t read whole biographies about all of these people, right? Oh, no, no, no, obviously, Pär is the one who is going through it all, basically. Is that right Pär? (long distance yeaaaaah) Alright. Well, i mean, Pär is sitting over there, i mean hes probably doing that right now, looking at suggestions. How many do you have per day Pär? Fifty or something? Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Pär. The latest one is this, okay, a song topic global conquest? Okay, there are many good tales of heroes and people from Portugal and Spain. Oh, this is interesting… Okay, Portuguese and Spanish explorers… Okay, Sebastian, Elcano and Magellan, right? Travelling around the world for the first time. Pizarro. That would be interesting, although… hmmm… Okay, and who sent this to you? Adrian… Adrian Chris Bo. Hey, Adrian Chris Bo! From me and from Sabaton, okay, So Pär actually is looking at your ideas, to try and figure out what they’re gonna write more songs about. Well so he chose from or he picked maybe made a short list, and you saw a white death? You thought: “I want to learn more about a guy whose nickname is the white death-” and it’s a good metal title. It really is a good metal title No, seriously though, for us at that point, i don’t think we had that many songs about a single individual. I mean we covered a lot… On the bigger scale, all the battles and stuff, but zooming in so much was really inspiring to write the lyrics. Okay. We didn’t even know we were gonna do Heroes, but me and Pär basically said the man, maybe one day we should do a more personal album, you know? Now when you were… You know reading up about Simo and stuf,f Were you also studying the winter war in general or we just really more focusing on just the individual? We’d already covered the winter war, in a way, in the song Talvisota on the art of war. Which we did an episode on. Yeah, if you haven’t seen it, check it out. And what was the reaction then, since you didn’t do really any individuals, before I mean, what was the reaction among the Finns, for example, to this? For the Finnish people, well, i mean most people in Finland would know about Simo Häyhä. However, us coming from Sweden, we didn’t. Yeah, it’s true. Every nation has its own histories. (warning, incoming indy neidell joke) Yeah, I think there’s a lot of people in Pakistan, who don’t know who Fonzie is, but I grew up with Fonzie. Important part of military history! We’re gonna do an episode on Fonzie one day. Yes. That would be kind of cool if you guys wrote it. You should have Pär play the pirate, you know as well. Oh, the pirate doing the thumbs up in the letter. Yeah, he could be bonzi! Yeah, yeah, give him a haircut and everything is fine. Alright well that was the White Death and this is Sabaton History for today. See you next time English Subtitles, brought to you, random Sabaton fan, by Peyancenda. Thanks, everybody for watching this week’s episode of Sabaton History Channel, don’t forget to subscribe to the YouTube channel, Don’t forget to support us here on patreon, and we will see each other very soon again, okay? (with a russian accent) What is that, come patreon? Better for your health.