Convinced the territory was necessary for the protection of Leningrad, Stalin sent over 450,000 men across the border, with the intention of conquering the entire country after the Finns refused to back down. Headstrong and arrogant, the Soviet dictator knew he possessed quantitative advantages in men and material, and he expected to win the day in short order.

Yet, due to his paranoia, the Soviet military entered into the war lacking the one element capable of seeing Stalin’s vision through. Competent leadership. A problem created by Stalin himself.

He had purged most of the officer corps in the late 1930s, suspecting them of disloyalty. The few not executed found themselves staring between bars of a gulag in Siberia, as their commands were taken over by nervous inexperienced hands under control of political commissars. And as the invasion started, this unknown situation would sorely test Lenin’s adage that “quantity has a quality all its own” in the most brutal of ways.

Simo Hayha
Simo Hayha

Finland realized its national survival was at stake, and volunteers swarmed to fill its military forces as they employed guerilla tactics and used defensive lines against the invasion. Among those volunteers was a young 24-year-old blonde, stubby fellow of just 5’3″ who had already served his mandatory year in service, and upon leaving, became a farmer and competed as a sport shooter. Now he was back and ready to help the cause. And this time, over a period of a hundred days, he would achieve a unique place in history and earn a nickname that instantly made him recognizable.

His name was Simo Hayha.

As the snows fell several feet deep, temperatures plunged and the daylight hours became few. Simo, like his comrades, dressed head to toe in white clothing, set off, often on skis, to meet the Soviets among the endless forests near the border.

Mosin - Nagant M28/30
Mosin – Nagant M28/30

His talent as an expert shot was recognized quickly and his scores rose, confirmed by observers watching him engage. Soon he was leaving his mark everywhere he lined up his sights, except he didn’t use scopes as he felt it exposed him more. Instead, he stared down the iron sights of his Mosin-Nagant M28/30 rifle, and picked off exposed targets at will. Then he would scurry away from the bush or snow bank serving as his hide and vanish as quickly as he appeared.