The diary of Simo Häyhä

There was already a sense of war in the air and so I was called on 10/10 1939 to the house of the Rautjärvi White Guard and from there to Huuhanmäki to the barracks of the Viipuri regiment. 

There we were assigned into companies and I was assigned to 6/JR 34 under Lieutenant (now Captain) Juutilainen's, "the Dread of Morocco's" company. The leaders of the companies were: I. Lieutenant Salo, II. Lieutenant Suuronen, III Lieutenant Lehelä and IV Lieutenant Liimatainen.

I was in III platoon and III group. The regimental commander at the time was Lieutenant Colonel Teittinen and the division commander was Colonel L Tiainen. From Huuhanmäki we went by train to Roikonkoski and from there to the terrain.

The White Death

Simo Häyhä.

A farmer. A hunter. The deadliest sniper of all time.

Nicknamed Valkoinen Kuolema, the White Death by later generations, this is his only recently discovered diary of the 105 days of the Winter War. For his friends he was Simuna.

Häyhä joined the Finnish White Guard voluntary militia at the age of 17. He completed his mandatory military service in 1925 on the 2nd Bicycle Battalion. In 1938 Häyhä was chosen to receive training as a sharpshooter in the Utti regiment.

As an already older active reservist at the age of 33, Häyhä was called up among other Finnish reserve soldiers for refresher training as the Soviet Union had on 17/9/1939 invaded Poland and made ultimatums on the Baltic states.

His war diary has been contextualized with wartime photographs from Finnish army archives and information related to the characters and events of the journal.

The Winter War

Winter war began at the end of November 1939 when the then-largest army in the world, the Red Army of the Soviet Union, invaded Finland.

The Soviet Union aimed to swiftly conquer Finland as they had taken over Poland after the signing of the secret protocol in the Molotov-Ribbentrop treaty between Adolf Hitler of Nazi Germany and Josif Stalin of the Soviet Union which divided Europe into spheres of influence.

Finland was alone, waging a defensive war against an enemy that had the Finnish troops heavily outnumbered in both men and modern weapons of war.

The Soviet Union had in secrecy built a railroad to the Finnish-Russian border which would be used to transport up to 65 000 soldiers and hundreds of armored vehicles and artillery against the Finnish defenses on the minor river of Kollaa and the few border roads nearby.

The Kollaa Front

Häyhä served on the Kollaa front in a company with other reservists gathered mostly from his home village of Rautjärvi and those of Merikarvia. The 378 men of Rautjärvi included people close or familiar to Häyhä as was common with the Finnish reserve forces.

On Kollaa the Red Army's goal was a breakthrough in order to strike behind the Mannerheim line.

Mannerheim line was the main Finnish defensive line on the Karelian isthmus located between the second biggest city of Finland, Viipuri, and the great ice age formed border lake Laatokka. Holding Kollaa on the Northern side of the lake was vital for the overall Finnish defenses.

At the beginning of the war Finns would line up 4000 men in defense against the 15 000 Soviet soldiers on Kollaa. Finnish defense would rise up to 15 000 men on Kollaa as the war went on while the Soviet Union would invade with an advantage of tens of thousands of soldiers more.

The Dread of Morocco

Aarne Juutilainen was the commander of Häyhä's company on the Kollaa front. Marokon Kauhu, the Dread of Morocco was a nickname given to Juutilainen by those serving under him for his harsh style of leadership inspired by his five-year service in the French Foreign Legion at the Moroccan Atlas mountains.

One of the most famous sayings of the Winter War was created when lieutenant general Hägglund asked Juutilainen if Kollaa will hold. Juutilainen replied, "Kollaa will hold, unless were are ordered to run away in retreat".

Kollaa kestää

Juutilainen's younger brother was the pilot ace with the most air victories in World War 2 besides any German pilot, Ilmari, with 96.

Häyhä's sleeping quarters during the Winter War were situated in the command tent of the Dread of Morocco.

On 30/11 at 3 o'clock the Russians started firing with artillery the village of Hautavaara in Hyrsylä bend. I was in Pyhäjoki at the time.

On 2/12 Iivana attacked on 2 nights in a row, and during the three days Janne Rautio and Lauri Kustaa Leminen fell. That night the order was given to retreat to Suvilahti. After burning Suvilahti during the night we retreated to Kollaa at about 6/12. There we started the making of barbed wire barriers and positions.

When the Russians attacked on 6/12 we hit them at dusk. We were able to repulse them, gaining 1 field gun, 6 anti-tank guns, 12 machine guns, light machine guns and other munitions. To my delight, no one was even wounded. The small attacks we made were as dense as ash with our company gaining about 40 machine guns.

The Burning of Suvilahti

Suvilahti village of 400 houses was part of the scorched earth policy employed by Finns to halt the Soviet advance on Kollaa. By burning and trip-wiring buildings on the way to the defensive line of Kollaa the Red Army was forced to reside for weeks only in ditches dug on snow.

Due to a lack of time and problems in communications not every planned burning or demolition of a bridge or power plant in the region was successful. But Suvilahti did not provide any help, warmth or food for the invading Soviets.

Teams of local volunteers were more willing to burn local houses down than the more cautious outsider reservists in order to not leave anything for the invaders.

Before Christmas, Reverend Rantamaa, the author Mika Valtari and some of the headquarters' officers visited the camp to photograph Juutilainen and me as if we were some kind of miracles.

My sin list then was 150 Russians with a pystykorva. They wanted our autographs and we were also printed in the Finnish photo magazine (Suomen Kuvalehti). Gradually Christmas arrived when we shaved our beards and transformed from almost of a moor to more ordinary-looking.


Mika Waltari is one of the most known Finnish authors.

His most famous epoch is Sinuhe Egyptiläinen, Sinuhe the Egyptian, which was published in 1945. The historical novel taking place in ancient Egypt is one of the classics of Finnish literature. It was made into a Hollywood film the Egyptian in 1954.

Everything returns to the way it was and there is nothing new under the sun, and man does not change, even though his clothes change and the words of his language change. Therefore, I believe that in the times to come, writing will not change from what has been written until now, because man himself will not change.

Waltari was one of the post-war cultural icons of rebuilding, industrializing Finland who worked in the entertainment troops of the Winter War. Others included Tapio Rautavaara, the singer, actor and 1948 Olympic gold medallist in javelin throwing and world champion in archery. Who was even considered for the role of Tarzan in Hollywood films.


Pystykorva meaning 'up ear' as a name for The Finnish Spitz, Suomenpystykorva, was the nickname of the Finnish White Guard SAKO manufactured and modified Russian Mosin-Nagant rifle used by Häyhä.

The front sight of the rifle was Finnish made with the two spitz-like ears on the sides guarding the sight. The barrel of the rifle was also of Finnish Lokomo-made steel.

Without ever using already then popular scope for his sniping in either White Guard practice training, war or hunting Häyhä trained for years with his own SAKO M28-30. The maximum operating range of its bullet was around 450 meters or 0,28 miles. Aiming without a scope allowed him to a keep lower profile than the enemy snipers, staying almost invisible to the eye when in position.

SAKO m/28-30

A good rifle is the pride of a white guard member.

Let us refurbish your rifle to the latest requirements.

These changes and improvements are included in the 'pystykorva' m/28-30.

Closer instruction is given by the local chief of your white guard.

The weapon and machinery shop of the White Guard, SAKO, Riihimäki.


Häyhä's reference to looking like a moor is probably based on the appearance of the king of the Moors, one of the central figures of medieval Christmas play traditions popular also in Finland.

The other characters are king Herodes, Knihti a knight and Mänkki, the one without a sword carrying the stage elements.

War Reverend Rantamaa

Antti Rantamaa, a newly chosen member of the Finnish parliament, took shelter among his fellow citizens under the Finnish Post building when the Soviet Union began bombing the Finnish capital city of Helsinki on the opening day of the Winter War.

The Finnish parliament was soon evacuated to Western Finland but Rantamaa decided to instead join the front lines as a volunteer non-combat military chaplain.

In his diary Rantamaa likened war to the snakes of the Helsinki Museum of Nature that were let loose during the second air bombing of Helsinki on the opening day of the Winter War.

In the photo the Christmas prayer was hastened by the Russian artillery continuing to fire behind them.

I myself was not in this picture but I was in the vanguard teasing the Russians snapping 20 Russians and three more on the leg. We didn't fire our artillery all day on Christmas Day at all. We spent the evening in the barracks with good Christmas food.

After Christmas, we caught a Russkie, blindfolded him, spun him all confused and took him to the Dread of Morocco's tent for a good feast. The Russian was happy to be held and when he was sent back, having to return felt very repulsive to him.

the white sniper

Major Tapio Saarelainen who interviewed Simo Häyhä dozens of times has written a book called the White Sniper about Simo Häyhä. Which is the most authentic long-form source available in English regarding Häyhä so I can recommend it if you want to learn more.

The White Sniper

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A Good Christmas is wished to you

A card for Christmas from Vaasa that was in a package from a stranger.

Häyhä at the Kollaa front received a Christmas card which he glued on his diary.

One day the Dread of Morocco said: "Let's go and see what the Russian is up to".

We crept under the cover of rocks and juniper bushes near the Russian campfire and saw them in the job of eating and stripped barefoot, drying their shoes. We unexpectedly opened fire, leaving at least half of the Iivanas by the fire, and the others panicked and fled, leaving their equipment and shoes behind.

When Captain Juutilainen noticed that even the machine gun was left behind, he ran to it and turned the barrel towards the Russians, making a clear aftermath. The spoils of war were again at least several submachine guns.

During the whole war I shot about 500 Russians. Around the beginning of February a rifle of honor was donated by a Swede, which was presented to me by the then head of the division Colonel Svensson, who commanded the division.

The Swedish Honorary Rifle

Häyhä was awarded a rifle on 17/2 for his accomplishments during Winter War. 

"This honorary rifle donated from Sweden is given to alikersantti Simo Häyhä in recognition of his great merits as a marksman and weapon user in combat. His actions - 219 enemies shot with a rifle alone and about the same number with a submachine gun - show what can be achieved by a determined, sharp-eyed Finnish man who does not flinch and whose hand does not tremble. This rifle of honor must be considered worthy of a medal of honor for exceptional merit.

Handed down from father to son, it will tell unborn generations of the deeds once performed by Simo Häyhä in the great war in which the men of Finland fought bravely and successfully for the freedom of their country, the future of their people and for the greatest ideal values of all mankind."

He would still prefer to use the same SAKO M28-30 that he had trained with as a volunteer white guard. Never using the Swedish-awarded rifle which Häyhä didn't find as accurate as his own rifle.

While Häyhä's relatives had gathered around in quiet as usual to listen to the nightly news on the radio the news report of Häyhä being awarded came as a total surprise. On his awarded and only vacation, between 26/2-1/3, off the front line to the home farm, Häyhä did not either speak of those things.

The entire regiment's casualty count was 1,667 killed and wounded.

I myself was wounded by an exploding rifle bullet on 7/3 in Kollaa while chasing Russians in the woods. I woke up a few minutes later when my comrades turned me over on my side by my arm and tied me up, screaming for the medics to come and get me.

The first place was a field hospital, 13/3 they brought me to Kinkomaa, to Keski-Suomen Surgical Sanatorium, (where I was given the Cross of Kollaa on 16/6).

28/6 I was moved to Helsinki to the Mehiläinen Red Cross war hospital. Already I have been operated 4 times and I am still being operated on. Now I have arrived on holiday in Karjaa at Dr Hartvall's farm in Lövkulla. 17/8 1940 [P.O. 14.8.1940].

Already I have been wondered and photographed for publicity purposes.

There even was an obituary in the newspaper about my death.

Simo Häyhä has fallen

The Kaukola-born freedom fighter Simo Häyhä of whose unique service the papers have told downright miraculous stories has fallen on the last battles of the war on the Kollaa river.

When Häyhä woke up from his injuries a week later on the day of the Winter War truce on 13/3 he was in a hurry to write a letter to home in response to the obituary already published.

"Stop the funeral, the deceased is missing", Häyhä wrote to his relatives.


Häyhä was given the command of a small group ordered to intersect with a Soviet group. In the ensuing close-quarters skirmish Häyhä had already snapped more than ten Russians while being on his knee when an enemy shot with an unlawful explosive bullet pierced him through the cheek.

Häyhä was discovered among the dead. The firefight was still raging on when his fellow soldiers put him on a sled and began pulling him toward safety. Häyhä was near to drowning in his own blood before being turned face down on the sled. He could still at that point think clearly but could not move a muscle.

He was forbidden from joining the front of the 1941 Continuation War due to the seriousness of his facial injuries, despite his pleas. He served at the home front in the selection of the horses to be sent to the front. His jaw would be reconstructed in 26 surgeries from part of his hip bone.

Häyhä's rifle was left behind on the frozen swamps of Ulismainen where he was wounded. His rifle with the serial number S60974 has never been found.


As our path took us to the battles,
where only the song of bullets plays,
we never knew as we departed,
who may ever return.
This life in the trenches is
to us only a command of the Fate
and maybe the destination of our journey
is to disappear into the din of war.

When the night arrives on the field of battles,
the silence is upon the trenches.
So droop the heads of the exhausted soldiers,
in their trenches the men can now sleep for a while in peace.

A man awake alone is remembering,
and his thoughts stray the long way home.
Mother there is probably still up at this moment
Sighing and praying on the behalf of her beloved child.


First you taught me romance, then you taught me how to love.

Now teach me how to forget. As you forgot me.

Life does not bring roses. It only allows a cold trench. Who would trade roses for tears. Who happiness for solace.

I only wandered in my dreams. I only cloaked the dreams of others. I only laughed at others always. I evaded the truth. Forgive me, my friend.


As the day turned to night,
came a moment for a brief rest,
everyone has fallen asleep,
where the bonfire grants its warmth.

I keep remembering you again,
I still see the tear on your cheek,
even if I were to fall on the fields of battle,
the image of you will be my last.

Life in the Trenches

Elämää juoksuhaudoissa (Life in the Trenches in English) a popular Finnish song of the war times, was how Häyhä decided to express his feelings about war in the latter part of his diary. Adding his own touch to the second chapter of the song.

His home farm was on the part of Rautjärvi lost to the Soviet Union on the 1940 Moscow Peace Treaty. Häyhä's parents and sisters had to leave their home on the day of the signing of the Winter War peace.

One-fifth of the men of Rautjärvi fell on the Kollaa front.

Häyhä would return to farm his land during the Continuation War until the evacuation of the summer of 1944 in face of the Soviet offensive would force 420 000 Finns to leave their homes as Karelian resettlers.

Häyhä would live from 1905 to the age of 96 to see the Finland of his birth first become an independent nation in the tides of the first World War and the Russian revolution in 1917 and the ensuing civil war in Finland in 1918 between the White Finland and the Red Finland, before himself defending its independence and people in Winter War.

He would become perhaps the most well-known and respected soldier of the internet era. Getting his own very popular song with Swedish war history metal group Sabaton's White Death.

Simo Häyhä is alive!

Simo Häyhä is alive! The information reported in newspapers that Simo Häyhä had fallen at Kollaa is not true.

The silent marksman from Kaukola of whose achievements we have been telling in this magazine is wounded and retrieving in a war hospital.

A good man was saved to live!

Letter from the Dread of Morocco

His fellow soldiers at the Kollaa front were too in the belief that Häyhä had fallen. War reverand Rantamaa had already said memorial words for Häyhä when the news of him being alive arrived.

The captain of Häyhä's company Aarne Juutilainen wrote to the wounded Häyhä:

"Simuna-well. We believed you were gone. We didn't hold a memorial feast but when we learned that you were alive then we held quite a party.

Hope your health returns but if it happened so unfortunate that it wouldn't happen then every Finnish free or unofficially attached "grandmother" will accept you as a bachelor, "scoundler".

I recommended you for a sergeant and as an IV freedom cross knight; slow are the hurries of misters, but maybe with time...

The scribe was to You of course an unknown "greatness" reserve vänrikki Mutikainen from Kollaa.

Feel thickly, keep the tongue in the middle of the mouth and get well soon", Aarne E. Juutilainen.

Häyhä was promoted from alikersantti to an officer, vänrikki, by the commander-in-chief of the Finnish defense forces Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim in a promotion of which like had not happened ever before in the history of the Finnish army.

Häyhä's collection of letters included two photographs and a letter from an Ostrobothnian girl.

Kollaa Kestää

The very popular book Kollaa Will Hold by Erkki Palolampi was published already soon after the Winter War in 1940. "I might know something as well, as I was there too", wrote officer Palolampi. The book features also gruesome descriptions of the even madness-inducing close-quarter war waged with grenades and machine guns on Kollaa.

The book further on spread the reputations of Simo Häyhä and the Dread of Morocco, Aarne Juutilainen, as heroes of Kollaa.

Palolampi's Kollaa Kestää also further popularized the saying, Kollaa Kestää. Which would reflect the spirit of the Winter War. Sisu is the Finnish word for showing resilience in difficulties. For never giving up.

On the last day of the war the constant firing of the artillery cut soon after the time of the peace at Kollaa. On the Russian side the soldiers began rising up. The Finns also joined in to look at the former enemy. Through a Russian-knowing Finn a Russian soldier asked "where are all your men?" The Finns showed that here. The Russian shook his head.

Tää on meiän maa

"This is our land and we have to defend it", were the words of Häyhä to his family when he left for the Winter War. Tää on meiän maa, in his Karelian dialect.

'Koti, uskonto ja isänmaa'. Home, faith and fatherland is engraved on Simo Häyhä's grave on Rautjärvi. He died in 2002 in the veteran soldier's retirement home in Hamina. Never marrying, living the rest of his life near the Finnish-Russian border.

After the war Finland transformed from a poor agricultural society into one of the most modernized welfare societies in the world with the rapid industrialization of the post-war decades. Häyhä lived through the birth and fall of the Soviet Union.

Simo Häyhä also has his own museum in Rautjärvi, near his birth home farm left on other side of the border, dedicated to Häyhä and the Kollaa front who both withstood the horrors of war till the signing of peace in March 1940.


Learn how the diary was found and made into a website. Discover resources and media related to Simo Häyhä, Kollaa and the Winter War.

Häyhä and The Winter War in Literature, Movies and MediaWinter War ResourcesHistory of the Diary

unknown soldier

Unknown Soldier is both the most beloved Finnish book and movie. The various humanized characters of the machine gun company can also be found in the recent modern movie adaptation of the Väinö Linna classic novel. If you ever want to truly surprise a Finn, try quoting lines from Unknown Soldier out of the blue.

Unknown Soldier

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