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Insane Soviet Sniper, 242 Kills In Four Months


The roar of a passing Messerschmitt above
is enough to make Vasily Zaitsev's teeth clack together- yet he does not move from his hidden
position in a destroyed water main. He doesn't even flinch when seconds later,
the Messerschmitt's machine guns find home on the soft top armor of a Soviet tank and
the whole thing explodes with enough force to shake the rubble surrounding Vasily. A hundred yards away, a German officer falls
over, dead. The gunshot that killed him cleverly concealed
by the death of the Soviet tank. Vasily had just moments to make his shot,
and as usual, it was true. The deadliest sniper in the Soviet Union scans
the battlefield for a new target, setting his sights on another Nazi officer. He waits. Stalingrad is in flames all around him, and
the heavy combat soon provides him with another opportunity. Somewhere close, a mortar round explodes,
and Vasiliy fires, his rifle's roar completely covered by the exploding mortar. Another Nazi officer keels over, dead before
he even hits the ground.

His is the story of most of history's most
legendary snipers. A poor boy growing up in the rural Ural mountains,
Vasily Zaytsev would often be forced to hunt for his next meal, honing his skills on an
old Russian-made rifle his father owned. Learning to shoot with first iron sights,
and then a simple telescopic sight, Vasily quickly grew to be an expert marksman, mastering
skills in the inhospitable mountain passes that would one day serve him well in the defense
of his homeland. Young Vasily wouldn't have to wait long to
put those skills to the test. After graduating from high school, Vasily
went on to enroll in a trade school where he learned to become a fitter and work on
a construction site.

Vasily however also took accounting classes,
which would see him become a clerk upon joining the Soviet Navy in 1937. The Soviet military of the late 1930s was
one in dire need of good officers after political purges overseen by Stalin, and thus Vasily
got the opportunity to train at a military academy and upon graduation was assigned as
head of the finance department of the Pacific Fleet. Initially happy to plan the budget of the
Soviet Navy's pacific operations, Vasily's life seemed destined for peace and quiet,
which suited the budding artist well. Yet the world had other plans. At 0100 hours on Sunday, June 22nd, 1941,
telephones at Soviet unit headquarters all across the Western military districts begin
to ring. The message, known as NKO Directive No. 1
is simple- bring all forces to combat readiness, but avoid provocative actions of any kind. Hundreds of Soviet officers in command of
tank, infantry, and air forces are stunned- the order can mean only one thing: Germany
is preparing for an attack. As the initial shock wears off, military aides
rush off to alert other units and to rouse men from their sleep.

The homeland is about to be under attack. Just two hours and fifteen minutes later,
with most of the Soviet Union's border forces still scrambling to assemble, a single codeword
is flashed on German radio nets all across the border to the Soviet Union. With typical German efficiency, a coordinated
and simultaneous assault begins against the dumbfounded Soviet forces. German artillery hammers down on Soviet positions,
covering the advance of vast columns of tanks and infantry. Overhead, German bombers and dive bombers
deliver thousands of bombs on military and civilian targets as far east as Stalingrad. Despite having the numerological superiority,
Soviet fighters are caught completely unawares and any that manage to fight their way into
the sky are quickly shot down. Operation Barbarossa has begun, and in three
hours the Germans have effectively destroyed the entire capability of the Soviet Red Army
to resist the coming invasion. It is a strategic and national disaster, one
of history's greatest defeats- and the war has only just begun. Vasiliy, along with many of his comrades,
immediately volunteers for frontline combat duty. Soviet forces have been in a constant fighting
retreat since the war began, and Soviet command is only too happy to turn desk clerks into

Vasily is granted permission to leave his
position as head of finance behind and join the Soviet Army. The Soviets were losing badly though, and
Vasily's first unit, the 284th “Tomsk” Rifle Division was all but completely destroyed. Vasily and the survivors were quickly absorbed
into the 62nd Army helping to defend Stalingrad. The city which bore Stalin's name must not
be allowed to fall, and Stalin's orders on the matter are deadly serious- anyone caught
retreating was to be immediately shot. One of history's bloodiest battles, and one
of the Soviet Union's proudest moments, was about to begin. The Red Army had attempted to stop the Stalingrad
siege before it even began, by attacking the invading German thrust outside of Stalingrad
proper. Each battle ended in a sound defeat of Soviet
forces, but did manage to slow down the advancing and seemingly unstoppable Germans.

This gave time for Vasily and Stalingrad's
other defenders to dig in and prepare for the coming assault. Before a single German stepped foot in the
city though, the Luftwaffe would have its way, dropping over 1,000 tons of bombs in
just two days. The vast majority of the city was reduced
to rubble, making it difficult for large formations of troops or vehicles to advance on either
the German or Soviet side.

For Vasily though, the Luftwaffe had just
set the stage for one of the greatest sniper battles in history. Having already distinguished himself as a
marksman, Vasily had been tasked with teaching other Soviet soldiers to be snipers. As the battle for Stalingrad raged on though,
Vasily took to the post-apocalyptic ruins of the city to hunt his quarry, proving a
terribly effective predator. Day after day, Vasily prowled the shattered
buildings, often with the help of a scout. The two men would sit across from each other
in a dedicated kill zone and confuse German infantry by firing in succession. The Germans would thus not know which direction
exactly the deadly sniper fire was coming from, a tactic so effective it is still in
use today. To hunt his quarry, Vasily would cover himself
in white rags to hide in snowbanks, or in filthy gray and brown rags to better blend
in with the rubble of a destroyed building.

Patience, much more so than marksmanship,
was Vasily's greatest strength, and he would sit silently for hours, waiting for the perfect
target to present itself. For Vasily, the hunt was a thrill, and nothing
beat scoring a high value target. As Vasily himself would go on to say, nothing
was better than watching a German officer exit his tent or vehicle, strutting around
all self-important and giving orders, not realizing he had only seconds left to live. Vasily would go on to rack up an impressive
kill count of around 248 confirmed kills, though this is not without some controversy. In the madness and chaos that was the Battle
for Stalingrad it would have been difficult to truly confirm Vasily's total kill count,
though many sources claim that Vasily's prowess was exaggerated for the benefit of Soviet
propaganda. One such exaggeration comes from the tale
of Vasily's duel with a German officer and sniper school instructor, a Major Erwin König. According to Vasily's own memoirs and Soviet
accounts, the Major was dispatched on a mission to hunt down and eliminate Vasily personally,
who was proving to be a deadly threat to German commanders in the field.

The two men engaged in a sniper duel lasting
hours, with Vasily at last emerging the victor after the Major gave his position away by
the glint of light falling on his rifle scope. A heroic tale, yet one that has no historical
backing, as the Germany army had no records of this Major Erwin König. The Soviets claimed that the Germans simply
hid the event so as to avoid embarrassment, but even the Red Army itself was never able
to procure the documents allegedly found on the Major's body identifying him as the head
of a German sniper academy. No historical proof of Major Erwin König
's existence has ever been discovered, and it's almost certain the story was Soviet propaganda
meant to boost morale. While many Soviet war heroes would find themselves
pulled off the front lines so as to avoid the blow to morale news of their death would
bring, Vasily carried the fight all the way into the heart of Germany itself. It was there, just outside of Berlin, that
Vasily would see the war that made him one of history's most legendary snipers come to
an end.

Vasily would earn the rank of Captain and
earn the title of Hero of the Soviet Union, a well deserved award. Dying just 11 days before the fall of the
Soviet Union in 1991, Vasily requested that he be buried at the monument to the defenders
of Stalingrad in the now renamed Volgograd. Yet when he was buried in Kiev instead, he
would be reburied in 2006 with full military honors at his chosen resting place, where
he and other heroes of the Soviet Union rest to this day, at the exact spot that they turned
the tide of the war that nearly claimed their nation.

Think you got what it takes to be a legendary
sniper? Check out How To Become a US Army Sniper! Or click this other video instead!.


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