White Sniper: Simo Hayha’ by Tapio Saarelainen

During the 1939-40 Winter War between Finland and the Soviet Union, a hunter and farmer by trade by the name of Simo Hayha returned to his reserve unit and picked up 542 confirmed kills with iron sights.

While versions of Hayha’s story is well known in the West, the 192 pages of Tapio Saarelainen’s White Sniper goes past the second and third-hand accounts and brings you, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story.

It should be noted that Saarelainen is a career military officer who spent two decades training precision marksmen for the Finnish Army and even helped write that Scandinavian country’s manual for snipers. Besides this obvious resume to prepare him to write the work on Hayha, the author also met and interviewed the Winter War hero dozens of times over a five year period.

That’s a good part of what makes White Sniper such an interesting read is that it is drawn largely from first-hand accounts from a man who has been referred to as the deadliest sniper in history, but also from those who lived next to, fought alongside with, and knew the man personally. As such, it sheds insight on the man not known in the West. Such as the fact that he used his own personal Finnish-made Mosin M/28-30 rifle that he had paid for with his own funds. That his outnumbered fellow Finns, fighting alongside him in the frozen Kollaa region during that harsh winter, called him “Taika-ampuja” which translates roughly as the “Magic Shooter.” That he took almost as many moose and foxes in his life as he did Russians. That he was unassuming in later life, spending most of his time calling on old friends in his yellow VW Bettle.

More of my review here.

To check out Saarelainen’s book on Amazon here.

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