Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • 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 infantrymen.

  • 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 284thTomsk

  • 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 Erwinnig.

  • 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 Erwinnig.

  • 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 Erwinnig '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!

The roar of a passing Messerschmitt above is enough to make Vasily Zaitsev's teeth clack

Subtitles and vocabulary

Operation of videos Adjust the video here to display the subtitles

B2 soviet german sniper soviet union union army

Insane Soviet Sniper, 242 Kills In Four Months

  • 23 1
    Summer posted on 2020/08/29
Video vocabulary