Put simply, Simo Häyhä (7 December 1905 1 April 2002) was the deadliest individual rifleman in military history.
He was born in 1905, and prior to the Winter War of Finland, was an ordinary farmer who had served one compulsory year in the Finnish army. When the war began in 1939, he was called to action, and, taking his trusty Mosin-Nagant rifle, became to many an almost legendary figure over the next 105 days.
Using his extensive knowledge of the surrounding forest as well as a knack for camouflage (he dressed in all white and even kept snow in his mouth so as to mask his breathing and avoid giving away his position), he racked up to an incredible 704-742 kills-estimate (542 by rifle, and around 200 by submachine gun). While his Russian counterparts would spend a few days at a time in the field, he just stayed out there, taking food, ammonote , and whatever else he needed from the bodies of Russians he killed. All the more impressive was that he did all of this without a scope or a spotter. He instead used the trusty iron-sights on the rifle, as he noticed that using a scope presented a target due to the glint off the lens; when asked later in life how he had become such an incredible shot, Simo answered simply: "Practice. And clear days."note
The Russian forces were absolutely terrified of Häyhä, nicknaming him The White Death. They attempted numerous times to kill him, from sending teams of countersnipers after him (none came back alive) to artillery bombing any place they thought he was hiding. Each of these attempts was met with failure, and Simo continued to stomp any enemy who came within his sights. Eventually, the Russians had a stroke of luck when one sniper, after Simo had wiped out the whole team, managed to shoot him through the jaw with an explosive round, blowing half of his cheek away. Incredibly, Simo walked back to his nearest unit, where he was sent to the hospital, whereupon he slipped into a coma. A ceasefire was ordered, and eleven days later, on the day Simo awoke, the Russian army withdrew. While almost certainly a coincidence, it was nonetheless an incredible one. With the Winter War over, Simo returned to farming, where he spent the majority of his life breeding dogs and hunting moose, sometimes being the hunting guide of the President of Finland. When asked if he regretted killing so many people, all Simo had to say was: "I did what I was told to as well as I could". He passed away in 2002, aged 96.
Many people consider him to be one of the ultimate examples of a badass in real life, having racked up more confirmed kills than any other sniper in history. Despite this, he remained a very humble man who only considered his actions to have been doing duty by his country.
Tropes applied to Simo Häyhä:
- Ace Custom: Used an awarded custom-built Sako M2-28 later in the war.
- Beat Them at Their Own Game: The Russians are well-known for their fighting prowess in snowy environments. Apparently nobody told that to Hayha, who ripped through them like a blowtorch to a pile of snow.
- Boom, Headshot!: Dished them out in considerable numbers. Took one as well, and then killed the guy who did it, then lived through it.
- Boring, but Practical: As noted above, he became the best sniper in history using only a trusty Mosin-Nagant bolt action rifle. It didn't even have a scope because it added a lightshow target and higher silhouette for the shooter.
- Cold Sniper: If we are being strictly literal then the "White Death" carried snow in his mouth to prevent visible steam escaping his mouth. In terms of temperament, he was closer to Friendly Sniper.
- Conscription: Häyhä was a conscript, not a professional soldier.
- Cool Old Guy: Given that he lived to the ripe old age of 96, he became this by default. Also doubles as a Badass Grandpa.
- Death by Irony: Häyhä shot over 500 Russian soldiers using the Finnish version of the Russian-made Mosin-Nagant. Essentially, all Russians killed by him were Hoist by His Own Petard.
- Not to mention the ridiculous number of snipers he sniped.
- Massively subverted when he finally got shot. He was shot through the jaw (essentially a headshot)... And survived the coma that resulted.
- Finally, Russia's efforts to stop him become absolutely hilarious when you consider their other exploits. The common joke of "Never invade Russia in the Winter" has existed in some form or another for centuries, due to the incredibly harsh Russian winters making the Soviets adept cold-weather fighters. However, they apparently weren't prepared for a Finnish Winter, since Häyhä used it to his advantage to kill hundreds of them.
- Everything Trying to Kill You: The cold in the winter of 1939-1940 in Kollaa was even more bitter than an ordinary Finnish winter, and Simo had to lie perfectly still for hours to avoid detection. He used to suck on sugar cubes just to give the body some energy to keep warm enough - fainting meant instant death, turning into a statue. As plenty of unfortunate Soviet sentries found out.
- Determinator: See No One Could Survive That!. That is how determined he was to continue fighting.
- The Dreaded: The Russians were so scared of him that they tried to kill him with artillery barrages over vast forest areas just to be sure.
- And when he awoke, they left.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Conscripted, decided to spend months defending his homeland, gets shot in the face. He survives the war and lived happily till the age of 96. Death knew better than to come after him before he was Goddamned good and ready.
- Facial Horror: The bullet had crushed his jaw and blown off his left cheek, lopsiding his face◊ for the rest of his days◊. Through sheer willpower, he managed to walk back to base, where he fell into a coma due to this injury.
- Field Promotion: He went from Alikersantti (Corporal) to Vänrikki (Second Lieutenant) in four months.
- Friendly Sniper: He was apparently a very friendly person out of battle.
- From Nobody to Nightmare: For the Soviets. From a friendly farmer and hunter to a nigh-unstoppable killing machine.
- I Did What I Had to Do: "I did what I was told to as well as I could."
- Improbable Aiming Skills:
- Oh, yeah. All those kills? Done without a scope, for good reason.note Before the war, his home was full of marksmanship trophies. Also, check his entry on One-Hit Polykill.
- He even held the record for longest possible range kill (over 800 yards) until Carlos Hathcock beat it in Vietnam, using an 8x scope mounted to an M2 Browning. Again, Simo's record was set without a scope, surrounded by blinding snow, with blowing ice cold wind in his face, so his record is still damn impressive. Hathcock looked up to him.
- Made of Iron: Oh, yes. Simo's most inimitable feat might very well be tanking that sniper round in the face and living another 63 years after the fact.
- Memetic Badass: While it is very hard to exaggerate just how much of a badass he really was, it's not impossible, and he still became something of a Finnish folk hero in the vein of Davy Crockett.
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The White Death. It's also Fluffy the Terrible, since Russians also call sugar "the white death".
- Nice Guy: A Friendly Sniper, and quite humble.
- No One Could Survive That!: Shot in the jaw with an exploding bullet meant for tanks. Got back up and shot the guy who did it. Walked back to camp. Badass.
- No Pronunciation Guide: His name could be rendered phonetically as "see-mo how-hah" (click the listen button), which is rather counter-intuitive to English speakers (but makes perfect sense in Finnish).
- No Scope: Enforced and justified by him. Made his kills with iron sights at best, which he felt was more practical than telescopic sights because they reflected light and gave away his position. Something his enemies quite often did.
- One-Man Army: Over 700 Russian soldiers (admittedly, many were probably also conscripted) vs one Finnish conscript; the conscript wins.
- One-Hit Polykill: He once shot eight Russian soldiers with one bullet. They thought they were being attacked by multiple snipers, and ran away.
- Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Was only 5'3. (That is 160 cm for Finns and Russians alike.)
- Red Baron: "The White Death."
- Reality Is Unrealistic: There is no fictional character who can follow his achievement without using some sort of supernatural power.
- Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: After he had been shot in the face (with an anti-tank round), the information that got back to his hometown was that he had died. Häyhä read his own obituary in the newspaper while he was recuperating in the hospital and to correct the report, sent a letter to his family. According to his brother, it simply read: "Call off the funeral, you don't have a corpse."
- Retired Badass: After racking up the largest kill count of anyone in history, he goes back to farming.
- Simple, yet Awesome: He went to war with only a gun, ammo, and really good aim. He then managed to terrify the pants off one of the most powerful nations on Earth.
- Sniper Duel: He won all of them, even the one where he got shot, because he survived that one too. He prepped himself specifically to outmatch enemy snipers by not using a scope. Other snipers revealed themselves with the light glinting off of their scopes.
- Sniper Rifle: His Weapon of Choice. Without a scope, to boot.
- Superweapon Surprise: He was the superweapon.
- Taking You with Me: Subverted in a positive way (for him). He got shot through the jaw, and afterward sniped the one that did it and walked back to base before expiring... Except he woke up nine days later.
- 'Tis Only a Bullet in the Brain: Downplayed, in that while he was shot in the head, it his jaw rather than his brain. Still, even a headshot only put the man down for a week and a half.
- Violation of Common Sense: It's naturally harder to get headshots without a scope. However, the scope could glint and could very easily betray your location, which is why Simo didn't use one. That many of his enemy snipers died because of this probably supported this.
- Weapon of Choice: A Mosin-Nagant and, later on an Ace Custom Sako M2-28. He used a sub-machinegun as well.
Works featuring or referencing Simo Häyhä:
- He is one of the main characters in A Song of Ice and Fire fanfiction Three Badasses In Westeros, portrayed as a humble man who, nonetheless, is incredibly deadly by Westeros standards. Among his exploits, killing the Mountain and his men while singing the Finnish national anthem, shoot three copper coins cleanly by the center like it was nothing and tricking Littlefinger into believing he would fall for his bribery (while also taking advantage of the fact that Finnish is completely unknown to constantly insult him).
- As of March 2015, a movie is in pre-production about his feat, appropriately titled "White Death"
- Boom Beach has a Prototype defence called the S.I.M.O., a more damaging Sniper Tower that targets enemies with the lowest amount of HP and can see through smokescreens.
- In FTL: Faster Than Light, the default name of Stealth Cruiser Type C is "Simo-H".
- Mass Effect: Andromeda has a Shout-Out to Häyhä in a minor sidequest titled "The White Death", featuring an Angaran sniper on the Ice Age planet Voeld who contacts Ryder by radio to have him/her flush out a Kett Wraith he's hunting.
- Mosin-Nagant's exclusive equipment in Girls' Frontline is the Hayha Memory Chip, which grants her significant damage boost and a slight increase in evasion.
- One of the playable characters in Sanctum 2 is a white-bodied robotic sniper called SiMo.
- He has been featured on both Badass of the Week and Cracked's "5 Real Life Soldiers Who Make Rambo Look Like A Pussy".