This Soviet Sniper Was A Nazi-Killing Machine with 242 Confirmed Kills in 4 Months

Soviet sniper Vasily Zaytsev was Russia’s most skilled marksman immortalized in the movie “Enemy at the Gates.”

Vasily grew up in some of the roughest inhabited terrain in the Ural Mountains, which runs from north to south through western Russia. As a child, Zaytsev became acquainted with the finer points of marksmanship from a young age, hunting deer and other wild animals for food.

Vasily Zaytsev in action during the Battle of Stalingrad.

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When the Nazis invaded Russia, Zaytsev joined the rest of his countrymen in taking up arms to defend the motherland. He initially served as a Navy clerk filing papers in an office, but Zaytsev later requested a transfer to the front lines.

The request was granted and he joined a rifle regiment that would soon be deployed to the war’s most important and deadliest battle: defending Stalingrad.

Vasily Zaytsev in Battle

Stalingrad was the biggest and fiercest battle in World War II, perhaps even in all of history. In just 7 months, more than one million Soviet soldiers would lose their lives. Vasily’s nerves of steel would soon be tested in a trial by fire and mayhem.

Vasily and a group of snipers camouflaged against the snow.

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Vasily wasted no time to make a name for himself killing 40 German soldiers in his first 10 days as a soviet sniper. High command noticed his impressive skills that they commissioned him to trained other Soviet snipers.

Nazis and Soviet troops fighting against each other in close quarters among the ruins of Stalingrad.

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Vasily taught recruits that marksmanship wasn’t always a sniper’s most important asset. He emphasized the value of patience and observation. He vividly described the unique thrill of hunting unsuspecting prey:

“You watch a Nazi officer come out of a bunker, acting all high and mighty, ordering his soldiers every which way, and putting on an air of authority. The officer hasn’t got the slightest idea that he only has seconds to live.”

The Nazis would soon be frustrated with Vasily’s deadly success. The Germans called in their own best sniper Major Erwin König to hunt down Vasily.

Vasily later gave his account of the duel of sniper skills to writer Vasily Grossman, which would become part of the author’s book Life and Fate. As Vasily told it, he engaged in a deadly game of hide-and-seek with König for several days.

Vasily waited patiently, biding his time in a ditch when König killed a Russian soldier very close to his hiding spot. Neither sniper moved as another German strolled by the fallen Russian’s body: König waiting to see if Vasily was close enough to kill the exposed soldier. But Vasily was waiting to see if König would check to see if his bullet had found its mark.

After 15 minutes that must’ve felt like an eternity, König decided his prey must be elsewhere and stepped out to examine the fallen soldier. Vasily immediately put a bullet through his head.

Vasily “The Man of Iron Will” Chuikov, Commander of the 62nd Army during the Battle of Stalingrad, inspecting Vasily Zaitsev’s rifle.

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Vasily Zaytsev would emerge from the chaos of Stalingrad with 242 confirmed kills in just 4 months. Many believed that the total number could be much higher.

He was later injured in the war by a grenade that affected his vision. But Vasily returned to battle and fought on all the way into Germany.

Vasily Zaytsev was awarded the highest distinction the Soviet Union had to offer for his valor and exploits in the battle of Stalingrad. He spent his life after the war as an engineer in Kiev before he died in 1991 at the age of 76.