If there is a God, He will have to beg my forgiveness.
Dust in the wind
A Russian soldier in the Reichstag surrounded by walls covered in Russian graffiti, the Soviets having left their mark on the Third Reich’s headquarters. May, 1945.
A Soviet soldier leaves a simple message; “Goodbye Afghan”. That war has often been described as the “Soviet’s Vietnam”, where a larger more technologically superior military got muddled down with guerrilla warfare and mounting anti-war sentiments back home. Afghanistan’s nickname as the “Graveyard of Empires” is well earned.
Seth Tara has shot an inspiring series for the History Channel entitled, “Know Where You Stand.” The set depicts modern people revisiting historic landmarks, with a black and white layer from the past.
“Shellshocked Reindeer, Murmansk”—Yevgeny Khaldei, 1941
At the first glance, it is a typical image from the Ukrainian-born photojournalist Yevgeny Khaldei, who was famous for his photograph of the red flag above the Reichstag. He loved to document everyday life juxtaposed against images of war: he photographed a sunbathing couple next to a destroyed building, a traffic director next to a sign with German towns written in Russian, etc.
However, the above striking image differentiating the killing machines and the nature grace of the reindeer was not ‘natural’. Like the flag picture, it was faked, according to “Witness to History: The Photographs of Yevgeny Khaldei”. During the bombing, a reindeer (later named Yasha) came out to be with the soldiers–the shellshocked creature didn’t want to be alone.
During one of the air raids, Khaldei took the reindeer shot, but it wasn’t as dramatic as he assumed, so he later superimposed British Hawker Hurricanes, flown by RAF pilots to relieve Murmansk, and an exploding bomb to form a composite image.
Why did he do that? It was Khaldei’s take on the German offensive to capture Murmansk, codenamed Operation Renntier (Reindeer).
Simo Häyhä “The White Death”
The most deadly ace sniper of all time.
highest recorded number of confirmed sniper kills in any major war – 505 (542-unconfirmed)
He killed a confirmed 505 Soviets with his rifle and some 200 more with a submachine gun. He did this all in 100 days flat.
During the Winter War (1939–1940), between Finland and the Soviet Union, he began his duty as a sniper and fought for the Finnish Army against the Red Army in the 6th Company of JR 34 on the Kollaa River. In temperatures between −40 and −20 degrees Celsius, dressed completely in white camouflage, Häyhä was credited with 505 confirmed kills of Soviet soldiers.
A daily account of the kills at Kollaa was conducted for the Finnish snipers. Remarkably, all of Häyhä’s kills were accomplished in fewer than 100 days – in other words, an average of 5 kills per day – at a time of year with very short hours of daylight.
Häyhä used a Finnish militia variant of the Russian-made Mosin-Nagant rifle, the White Guard M/28 “Pystykorva” (literally Spitz, due to the sight’s resemblance), because it suited his small frame (5 ft 3 in/1.60 m). He preferred to use iron sights rather than telescopic sights to present a smaller target (the sniper must raise his head higher when using a telescopic sight), for reliability (a telescopic sight’s glass can fog up easily in cold weather) and for aid in concealment (sunlight glare in telescopic sight lenses can reveal a sniper’s position).
The Soviets tried several ploys to get rid of him, including counter-snipers and artillery strikes. On March 6, 1940, Häyhä was shot in the lower left jaw by a Russian soldier during combat. The bullet tumbled upon impact and exited his head. He was picked up by fellow soldiers who said “half his head was missing”, but he was not dead: he regained consciousness on March 13, the day peace was declared. Shortly after the war, Häyhä was promoted from Alikersantti (Corporal) to Vänrikki (Second Lieutenant) by Field Marshal Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim. No one else has gained rank so quickly in Finland’s military history.