In every conflict there are two types of battles. There are those that are delivered in the offices in front of large maps, moving figurines representing entire armies over countries such as Risk squares. But then there are the small-scale wars, the real ones, the ones between people of flesh and blood on a hill, a gorge, an observation post or a trench. The first one has a lot of virtual and nobody knows who sells until the reports arrive from the front. In the second, Simo Häyhä always wins . And who is Simo Häyhä? Plain and simple, the deadliest sniper in history.
Nicknamed by its Russian enemies as The White Death, it retains a hard-to-reach record: 505 enemy soldiers killed in just 105 days of the so-called Winter War (1939-1940) between Finland and the USSR, one of the tangential conflicts to the Second World War, and in a context as difficult and at the same time as favorable to its nature as the snowy landscapes in Scandinavia, with temperatures ranging from 20 degrees below zero to 40 below zero, an icy hell. That death toll was also achieved with a standard M28 Pystykorva rifle without using a telescopic sight, which multiplies the difficulty, but at the same time prevented the brightness of the glass from betraying its position and fogging by extreme cold. This and other tricks, such as compacting the snow from his shooter's hole so that it did not come off with the shot, or putting snow in his mouth so that the enemy could not see the mist of his breath , are reflected in his memories, Death Blanca, who has just published The Sphere. This book is written by Tapio Saarelainen from many conversations and visits the stages of the battle with the shooter. Not only is he an excellent narrator, but he is a sniper in the Finnish army, just like Häyhä, who was only a meter and a half and was slippery like a fox.
Saarelainen offers technical information on the successes of White Death on the battlefield, but says they are due more to instinct than knowledge: «Simo Häyhä had no information. He was a hunter and an elite shooter, not a mathematician . Each route, each movement, each wait becomes a thorough study of the terrain, each trunk, each snow deposit and each forest animal. The enemy hides but always changes something. There are footsteps, birds that stop singing, a piece of bark that falls at nine ... It memorizes everything. As soon as the enemy shows his face, he points and does not fail. They still don't see him. Load the weapon. The echo diffuses the sound and confuses. Another shot, another dead. Its success is overwhelming: 4.8 downcast every day. The enemy snipers look for him, but nothing moves. There are no glitters, no movement, no smoke. Nothing. Another shot, another dead. Häyhä was an official of death as cold as the environment in which he could lie hours and covered with a white coat. He learns to hunt thanks to his father, who teaches him that aim is as important as the moment of pulling the trigger. A good technique ensures a minimum deviation, but a bad practice condemns you. Bullet that is not right reveals your position and gives the enemy a chance. In his case, the enemy was Stalin's troops, superior to the Finns in a ratio of 10 to 1.
His fame provoked fear among the Russians, who sent him his best snipers to kill him, without even locating him, and threw huge artillery bombardments at him to get him out of his position. Obviously, they were always late. But so much hot steel was shot that it was a matter of statistics that some piece would end up reaching. An explosive bullet thrown at random wounded him on March 6, 1940, deforming the left side of his face. His companions rescued him when he was in a coma. It took a week to get back to himself, just when the peace was signed between the Soviet Union and Finland, so he didn't have to shoot enemy soldiers again and he went back to hunting elk in the forest, as his father taught him, right in The border with Russia.
A cult genre
The sniper literature makes its way among the populations dedicated to historical matters. The fascination for these lonely warriors, hunters able to keep hours with themselves to bring down their prey, has offered a few very remarkable books: 'The sniper', by Chris Kyle, taken to the cinema by Clint Eastwood; Kevin Lacz's 'Last Sniper' is the story of an elite shooter in the Navy Seals that killed Bin Laden; 'Stalin's sniper', an autobiography of Liudmila Pavlichenko translated for the first time for Spanish readers, and 'Memoirs of a sniper in Stalingrad', written by Vasili Záitsev. Among them they gather hundreds of dead enemies, but above all a hard and terrible experience on battlefields where life expectancy never exceeded 24 hours.
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