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Vasily Grigoryevich Zaitsev

Discussion in 'Russian WWII Medals and Awards' started by Jim, Jun 23, 2012.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    The most famous Soviet sniper of the Great Patriotic War was Vasily Zaitsev, born in the village of Elino in the Chelyabinsk region in March 1915, the son of a peasant. As a youth, he was a shepherd during the summers and became an expert deer and small-game hunter. Although Zaitsev was not one of the Red Army's top snipers, his name and deeds have become well known through the Hollywood film Enemy at the Gates. Zaitsev joined the Soviet Pacific Fleet in 1936. When the war started, he made his combat debut in September 1942 in the Battle of Stalingrad with the 1047th Rifle Regiment. His superiors took note of his sharpshooting skills after he had killed more than 30 Germans as an ordinary rifleman. Given a sniping rifle, he began to amass an incredible number of kills during a three-month period. For morale purposes, his successes were heavily publicized. When a good sniper began to take a large toll, the opposing side would send in their own sniper to eliminate the menace. Thus, snipers often had to fight personal duels with counterparts, in a deadly cat-and mouse game. Although these sniper duels were quite common, in the case of Zaitsev, one engagement with a German super sniper took on mythical proportions.

    Vasily Zaitsev's accomplishment in Stalingrad was portrayed in the 2001 action movie Enemy at the Gates. Sniper duels were very common, but the story of Zaitsev's duel with the head instructor of a German sniper school was a myth.

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    The story goes that Zaitsev's successes became known to the Germans. They sent their best sniper, supposedly the top instructor from their sniper school (often identified as a Waffen-SS Colonel Heinz Thorwald or a Major Koenig), to kill Zaitsev. The story, which had mass appeal, ended with Zaitsev killing his opponent, but despite intensive research, the identity of his opponent has never been verified. Jr. Lt. Vasily Zaitsev was credited with 225 kills at Stalingrad between October 10 and December 17, 1942. Among his victims were 11 German snipers. He was seriously wounded in January 1943, with an injury to his shooting eye. A skilled surgeon saved Zaitsev's eyesight, but as far as his career was concerned, he was not allowed to return to his combat specialty. Instead, his skills were put to use as a sniper trainer. He helped train 28 snipers, and wrote two textbooks on the art of sniping, which are still studied today in the Russian military. On February 22, 1943, he became a Hero of the Soviet Union.

    After finishing the war as Capt. Zaitsev, he was demobilized and went to work at a textile factory in Kiev. He died on December 15, 1991 and is buried in Kiev's Lukyanivski Military Cemetery.

    Medal of the Gold Star (Hero of the Soviet Union)

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