The Second World War saw military tactics, technology, and training that carried military science into the modern age.
Where entire armies once met for battle on a pre-selected field, World War II saw an increase in guerrilla tactics, counter-intelligence activity, and urban warfare. Because of this, the highly-developed skills of the sniper were in high demand.
Of the many successful snipers of WWII, five, in particular, stood out above the rest:
1. Fedir Dyachenko
Fedir Dyachenko was a Ukrainian-born man, drafted into the Red Army in 1942. After his training, he was immediately sent to the Leningrad front. He quickly learned to endure the most difficult terrains and weather conditions in his hunt for Nazi targets.
By December of 1942, he had already managed to get 220 confirmed kills, taking many enemy troops unawares on Christmas Day.
Dyachenko finished his career with 423 confirmed kills and retired at the rank of major, granted the prestigious honor of Hero of the Soviet Union.
2. Matthäus Hetzenauer
Matthäus Hetzenauer fought for Nazi Germany during WWII. Entering the war late in 1944, he finally saw action against the Red Army. He religiously used either his sniper-variant Karabiner 98k rifle or his Gewehr 43.
Before he suffered a head trauma from artillery fire in late 1944, he had racked up an impressive confirmed kill total of 452, some of which were impressively accomplished at distances of over 1,000 meters.
After the war, he spent five years in grueling conditions at a Soviet prison camp and was released to live the rest of his life in Austria.
3. Ivan Sidorenko
Ivan Sidorenko also fought for the Red Army during World War II. Sidorenko impressively taught himself how to snipe during the long Battle of Moscow in 1941. His success convinced his superior officers to assign him to the training of other snipers.
As part of the training, he would bring his students with him on campaigns, where he accumulated the majority of his nearly 500 enemy kills using his favorite Mosin Nagant Rifle.
After the war, he retired and lived in the Ural and Caucasus mountains until he died.
4. Fyodor Okhlopkov
Fyodor Okhlopkov, another Soviet Army sniper, managed to rack up an impressive 429 confirmed kills and was one of the most decorated soldiers in the Soviet Army, with one Hero of the Soviet Union award, an Order of Lenin, an Order of the Red Banner, an Order of the Patriotic War, and 2 Orders of the Red Star, although there were some who were opposed to these awards due to his ethnicity (Yakut… an offshoot of Turkish ancestry).
5. Simo “Simuna” Häyhä
Simo “Simuna” Häyhä was, and still is, the world record-holding sniper with 505 confirmed kills for Finland against the Soviet Army.
All of his kills were accomplished within 100 days during the Winter War, which took place in 1939, in temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Even more impressive was the fact that he preferred iron sights over scopes, which had a tendency of fogging up in extreme temperatures.
The Soviet Army sent artillery strikes and counter-snipers against Häyhä, who managed to escape the war with only a minor injury to his cheek and jaw.