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Snipers - how reliable are the huge claims?

Discussion in 'Eastern Europe' started by scipio, Oct 18, 2012.

  1. scipio

    scipio Member

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    I have been reading an old but excellent book on Stalingrad - Enemy at the Gates by William Craig.

    The Russians ran a sniper training school in the Lazur Chemical Plant and the star pupil was Vassili Zaitsev. He claimed 200 kills during the siege.

    So concerned at the losses were the Wehrmacht that they called up a Specialist from Germany, Major Konings.

    These two played cat and mouse with each other but finally Zaitsev tracked Konings down. Zaitsev sent a shot in Konings direction to advertise his presence (or that is what he claimed).

    Neither moved all day, with Konings hiding behind a pile of bricks and piece of tin. Zaitsev waited until the the sun was setting behind him. When Konings shot a Russian, he made the small mistake of raising his head to have a look.

    Zaitsev shot him right between the eyes.

    Zaitsev was not alone in bagging a huge score. One of his pupils Tania Chernova claimed 80 kills before a landmine seriously injured her.


    I thought the above totals pretty fantastic and probably Soviet propaganda but searching the Web, I found a Fin who claimed 700 kills and a German with 500 kills.
     
  2. Hufflepuff

    Hufflepuff Semi-Frightening Mountain Goat

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    The Finn was Simo Hayha, who had anywhere from 700 to 850 kills in the course of less than half a year. The Russians called him Белая Смерть (Bjelaja Smert') - The White Death. He conducted all of his operations with an optical sight bolt action, and was only stopped after a Russian sniper shot him in the face... Simo killed the enemy sniper, but was taken off the front line because he had lost half of his face to the round that almost killed him. He lived for a long time after the war.

    The Zaitsev stories have been mixed around to the point where about 50% of what you hear has a chance of being fiction, although a very talented sniper he was. There are even doubts as to the existence of Major Koenig at all. The Soviets DID have one sniper, Surkov, with over 700 kills. But most of these are unconfirmed.

    If you are looking for lists, here is a website I found; the figured may be off in some cases, but it shows that Zaitsev was only a small part of the story... quite a lot of young lads and lasses behind the sights.

    WW2 Snipers - Kill Numbers, Flight Numbers and more.

    Very interesting thread topic! I did read a book on the Zaitsev/Koenig tale called War of the Rats. Although a lot of the book was fictionalized it was a very entertaining read and gave a good representation of what life in Stalingrad was like for both sides because of the sniper activity.

    Zaitsev's confirmed total kill count is 242, of which 11 were enemy snipers. Either way you look at it, myth or no myth behind Koenig, that is one heck of a good record.
     
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  3. scipio

    scipio Member

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    Incredible list - but a not a single sniper from a Western Army. Did the Americans and British not keep a score?


    Amazing number of Soviet Women.
     
  4. rprice

    rprice Member

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    Yes, coup was counted among the Americans, too. For an American sniper to get credit for a kill it must be confirmed. This is usually done by having a witness to the shot, but there are other means.

    Sniping is a characteristic of defensive fighting and there was a lot of that on the eastern front. The infantry of the western allies was more often on the offensive, so sniping was a less important aspect of their operations.

    For your perusal, I've attached an article about the snipers in the U.S. 79th Inf. Div. It's from the June 26, 1945 edition of their division newspaper, The Lorraine Cross, and is based on interviews conducted in Hagenau, France, at the end of Operation Nordwind - when they were very much on the defensive. I transcribed it from a copy of the newspaper that I found in my fathers WWII scrapbook after he passed away.
     

    Attached Files:

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  5. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    My score of >= 0 is undisputed.
     
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  6. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    I must admit, I have not seen any evidence to the contrary. :cool:
     
  7. Hufflepuff

    Hufflepuff Semi-Frightening Mountain Goat

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    Scipio,

    Not sure if this list was for ALL of world war two or simply for the eastern front snipers. So that may explain it... half of the website was in Russian so I think the latter is pretty likely, although when compared to the German and Soviet snipers, the Allied snipers, while talented, simply didn't get as many kills. The same is true for aircraft aces; while Erich Hartmann and the other high aces who fought on the Eastern Front got hundreds of kills, the US and British pilots were lucky to get a cap of twenty in a career. I guess the math is true for snipers as well :?
     
  8. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    A small note about Simo Hayha: he has the highest "kills to combat days" ratio, and is likely the only sniper to have used a sub-machine gun to get a large number of his kills. Depending on the source, Hayha killed between 500 and 700 Soviets in about 100 days of combat (5 to 7 kills per day on average). In addition to his well-known Mosin-Nagant, Hayha also carried a Suomi KP-31, making him (likely) the only "sniper" to have used a sub-machine gun. Most sources I've seen tend to credit Hayha with 500 kills using his Mosin-Nagant, and 200 with the Suomi.
     
  9. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member

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  10. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    I am not sure if Simo used the Suomi MG for the kills, actually. It is incredible that with time some ghost persons can develope, and some years back there was this other Finnish sniper Suko Kolkka, who seems to have vanished now and I never found anything on him, like a meaner version of Simo Häyhä. I think Suko was only in someone´s imagination.

    "Suko Kolkka. Finland, 1939 - 1940.
    During 105 days of combat Suko was credited with 400+ enemy kills as a sniper in the Winter War (30 November 1939 14 March 1940). He used an iron sighted Mosin-Nagant rifle. He often took the war to the rear of the Soviet lines, causing much fear and frustration as this area was supposedly safe. In addition to the kills he made as a sniper, Kolkka also was apparently quite fond of the submachine gun as he made an additional 200 kills with it during this same time frame. Hunted often by the Soviets, he outlasted them all, killing the sniper sent to hunt him at 600 yards with a single shot after a running duel of several days. Like Simo Häyhä, Suko Kolkka exhibited the hard determination and skill that kept Finland a sovereign nation even after its inevitable defeat. At the end of the Winter War a Soviet General is said to have quipped, "We gained 22,000 square miles of territory. Just enough to bury our dead".
     
  11. Tamino

    Tamino Doc - The Deplorable

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    The Zaitsev high kill-score is one of many unnecessary little lies. German Heer personnel records make no mention of any German sniper called König.

    This reminds me to official Soviet superlatives about record harvests and never-ending shortages of food in the same time. I am sure Russia will re-write some segments of their history because the significance of their victory against Nazis itself is large enough without such “embellishments”.
     
  12. Tamino

    Tamino Doc - The Deplorable

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    There is one sad record related with the Great Patriotic War: 80% of men in the USSR born in 1923 did not survive the war, that is, an entire generation of people has perished!

    Whether Zaitsev killed 2 or 2.000 is of much, much lesser relevance.
     
  13. aussyss

    aussyss Dishonorably Discharged

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    Do you think the Snipers had it easy through WWII? Like a cop out? Snipers never really face any enemies during a full battle.
     
  14. Markus Becker

    Markus Becker Member

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    I take any Soviet claims from the war with A BIG sack of salt unless they are checked and confirmed by western sources/experts. Soviet propaganda was routinely exaggerating anything several fold.
     
  15. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    If you like hanging out with little or no support and the knowledge that there might be a scope on the other side watching you, while squatting in the boonies waiting for your target to appear, and then having to make it back to your lines with an alerted enemy, who will be rather PO'd at you, hunting you on the return trip, yeah, they had it easy.
     
  16. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    A lot of the things I read on the Suomi KP31 (I picked one up a few weeks ago) mention Hayha, and a few specifically say he got 200 kills with it. Whether its accurate, I don't know. Indeed, 200 kills with an submachine gun does seem kind of far-fetched for a sniper.

    I've also heard stores of Suko Kolkka. There was a reporter in the winter war named Kolkka I forget his first name), and this story might have been "invented" by him. I did find this article, though (from the axis history forum):

    "Staff Sergeant Suko Kolkka whom you mentioned is indeed "forgotten" in domestic literature of the field. He began to keep a record on his "confirmed kills" right after the outbreak of the Winter War, when targets still were mostly "easy", and a single shot into a herd of enemy marching in closed formation could penetrate up to three individuals. Simo Hayha obviously did not begin keeping his own account until he had heard stories of Kolkka's achievements.

    Kolkka maintained a "low profile" after the Winter War (if he survived the war. I know nothing about his personal history, which let be confessed wearing a sack & ash).
    "

    The similarities between Hayha and the "Kolkka" described in your article are evident, so I lean towards the idea that he was an "invented" figure -- much like "Major Koenig". I just can't see how a man with so many kills can live out the rest of his life under the radar. On the other hand, if he was killed in action (ie: behind Soviet lines), I can see him dispersing into the history books. Interesting story, none-the-less.
     
  17. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    If I were to make an educated guess, I'd say probably not too far off the mark. If you compare them with modern "Kill" counts, adjust for the more lax confirmation requirements (use modern probables vs confirmed), figure in the terrain/rules of engagement and the fact that the snipers in question operated in a target rich environment, and it is not improbable.

    1.) Modern counts require that the kill be verified by a third party, someone in addition to the sniper and the spotter.

    2.) In Vietnam and the current/recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, rules of engagement and terrain played a key role in limiting kills. In Vietnam how often were you engaged in combat in urban or open terrain? In Vietnam you next had to identify the target as hostile. Not hard if they were NVA, much harder if they were vietcong. In the more modern conflicts it is even harder to differentiate between combatants and non combatants. In order to shoot in the current environment it's not enough that the target is carrying a weapon, they must be exhibiting hostile intent. In Stalingrad anything that moved that didn't immediately appear to be a friendly was fair game.

    3.) A target rich environment. In WWII you had divisions and armies being thrown against one another. In Vietnam there were some regimental sized operations, but most of the combat took place at the company and platoon level. The enemy were experts at camoflauge and concealment, with the terrain favoring their ability to move relatively safe from detection. If a sniper did have the opportunity, it was normally an individual or squad sized element, sometimes a platoon and occasionally a company. Then they still couldn't take the shot more often than not. SOP was to call in artillery or air as not to expose your position. Often the ranges were so short and the terrain so close that to fire was to insure that the enemy could maneuver against you and in all likelyhood prevent your escape. There were notable exceptions, like the time Carlos Hatchcock capped the NVA general, but these types of engagements were rare.
    Again, in the recent wars, when the bad guys come out to play it's never in large groups. During the battle of Fallujah, one of the favored tactics of the terrorists, was to fight from a protected position, when it looked like the Marines had managed to maneuver into position to assault the position, drop your weapon, place your hands in the air and run out into the streets to a fall back position where more arms and ammo was stashed. Initially, the Marines didn't fire because of the rules of engagement and the possibility that the individual was a non-combatant trapped in the city by the fighting. They'd take the spot the enemy had run from and find the weapons and expended ammunition. Though I do not know for sure if, or when the ROE was changed or relaxed to account for this. Unofficially, the individual Marines and small unit leaders decided to drop these turds like a bad habit and the use of the tactic quickly fell out of favor. Still, how many kills would some of the snipers in Fallujah have had if they were able to shoot who they thought needed to be shot when the opportunity presented itself. Still, you never had large offensive movements of troops where you could take multiple shots.
     
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  18. Volga Boatman

    Volga Boatman Dishonorably Discharged

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    I would like to clarify Opana's view.....

    Snipers must not only squat in the boonies figuratively, but literally. Before you open fire from a position, you must have sat there waiting for as long as it takes for the 'right' target to appear. Once you open up, you really must move on. Going back to the same position invites your death. So, whilst waiting, you really can't advertise your position, so you must wait in a pile of your own waste matter as well.

    If you think that sounds easy, sitting for days in a pile of your own shite, waiting for a shot, then try it in your own backyard sometime. Captured snipers have a poor chance of being fairly treated, so it's sometimes a guaranteed death sentence to become a prisoner....still sound 'easy'? ..........:D


    This could explain why Japanese snipers favoured trees so often for their snipers........fastidious people, the Japanese;)
     
  19. aussyss

    aussyss Dishonorably Discharged

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    Just seems a waste of time for any man to sit and wait to shot one soldier every couple days and weeks. Like, you shot one solider but the rest of your enemies know where you are.

    One sniper V's one whole unit! Its safer in numbers.
     
  20. ptimms

    ptimms Member

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    My Grand Father spent some time as a Sniper, although on the offensive in the British Army he was called on than less than other Army's. You look down your scope and see the face of the man you will kill. He told very little of the time he sniped.
     

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