Friday, October 5, 2007

That’s the way to shoot

That’s the way to shoot – every shell is a foe.
V. Koretsky, 1943

This is my rifle. There are many like it but this one is mine. My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. Without me, my rifle is useless. Without my rifle I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than my enemy, who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will. Before God I swear this creed: my rifle and myself are defenders of my country, we are the masters of my enemy, we are the saviors of my life. So be it, until there is no enemy, but peace. Amen.

US Marine Corps Rifle Creed (Full Metal Jacket)

Amazingly this poster features a real person – this is Vasiliy Zaytsev, a Russian sniper, who made 242 verified kills including 11 snipers between October 1942 and January 1943 during the battle of Stalingrad. He is the protagonist of famous Enemy at the Gates film.

He was born in Siberia, where hunting had always been one of the main sources of food. Since the age of four he accompanied his grandfather during his trips to taiga. His main weapon was a bow which he used to shoot squirrels for its fur. Short firing range and targets’ natural agility required excellent composure, persistence and a quick eye. At the age of 12 he was given his first rifle as a present. The shells were scarce so every shot had to be accurate. These two things – extensive bow shooting experience and lack of ammunition were the keys to Vasiliy’s excellent sharp shooting skills. In the beginning of WW2 he served in the Navy, but soon volunteered for front-line duty. There he gained fame as a perfect sniper and received order to establish a sniper school. Very soon the Germans got seriously annoyed by the sniper success, and sent a famous German sniper to stop Zaytsev. This very duel was portrayed in Enemy in the Gates. It took four days and lots of cunning and persistence of Zaytsev and his fellows to define the hideout of the German sniper and make the final shot.

In 1943 his eyes were seriously injured by a landmine blow. He got blind, but after several surgeries carried out by famous Russian medic Antonine Filatov he recovered and returned to the battlefield. He managed to survive the War and died peacefully in 1991. He was awarded a Hero of the Soviet Union medal for his courage.

On the poster Vasiliy Zaytsev is pictured with SVT-40 rifle in sniper version which replaced his famous Mosin-Nagant. Vasiliy is dressed in a camouflage cloak, which is a standard uniform for winter warfare. In his hand there are several empty shells. In the background the graves of German soldiers are marked with crosses and helmets.

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