"...await the right moment for one, and only one well-aimed shot"
The story of Vassili Zaitsev has long been believed to be a historical fact. However, there
has not been any documented proof that the legendary sniper duel between Zaitsev and Konig ever took place. As a matter of
fact, Beevor's account mentions Koning and other accounts mention a Thorwald. I am inclined to believe that the Soviet Command
invented this story to inspire the beleaguered troops of Stalingrad in their darkest hours of fighting the German onslaught.
As a matter of fact, I had an occasion to interview an elderly Russian gentleman who claimed to have trained under Zaitsev
in Stalingrad. When I asked about the duel, he replied something to the effect of, "Its true if that is want you want to believe".
I don't doubt that many duels occurred between the snipers of both sides. However, to believe that the German High Command
went to the trouble to commit the chief instructor of their sniper school to finding and killing one Soviet sniper is a lot
to accept. That being said the story goes like this.....
To study the 91/30 Sniper rifle, it's useful to understand it's role in the
critical stages of the Great Patriotic War. One of those critical stages was the battle for Stalingrad. The Sniper was key
to harassing and demoralizing the attacking German forces. As the struggle for Stalingrad ensued, the snipers involved became
Soviet heroes. One of them was Vassili Zaitsev. He became famous after the press had discovered that he accomplished nearly
40 kills in a ten day period. He was renown for taking out his targets using a single round. It was a skill he had learned while shooting
deer in the forests around Elininski, his home in the Ural Mountain foothills. On September 20, 1942, Zaitsev went to Stalingrad
with the 284th Rifles Division. As his accomplishments made him a national hero, and as his fame spread across no-man's-land,
the Germans took an inordinate interest in him. Major Koning was dispatched to Stalingrad from Berlin for the express purpose
of eliminating the top Soviet snipers. Vassili Zaitsev, was high on his list. The Soviets learned of Konig's mission
through interrogating a prisoner. Antony Beevor wrote, "Like Zaitsev, Koning first made a careful study of the terrain and
of his victims before attempting a kill. When two Soviet snipers were killed by single rifle shots, Zaitsev began counter-stalking
Koning himself. The duel lasted for several days. During this time Koning shot a political officer named Danilov who was "covering"
the duel for Soviet propaganda (Danilov accompanied Zaitsev and stupidly gave away their position). Zaitsev finally got Koning
by offering another sniper, his assistant Zulikov, as bait. Zulikov positioned himself and lifted his helmet over a wall,
where Koning put a bullet through it. Kulikov cried out as if hit. Koning made the fatal mistake of exposing himself to confirm
the kill, and Zaitsev shot him dead. The telescopic sight of his prey's rifle, allegedly Zaitsev's most treasured trophy,
is still exhibited in the Moscow armed forces museum, but this dramatic story remains essentially unconvincing. It is worth
noting that there is absolutely no mention of it in any reports.* "*Antony Beevor - Stalingrad, The fateful siege : 1942 -
Vassili Zaitsev - 400 kills (149 Kills at the battle of Stalingrad)
The highest scorer only identified as "Zikan" killed 224 Germans by 20 November 1942.
Sergeant Passar of 21st Army was credited with 103 kills.
Kucherenko, an Ukrainian, killed 19.
An Uzbek from 169th Rifle Division killed five Germans in three days.
Anatoly Chekov killed 17 Germans in two days !
Corporal Studentov killed 170 Germans.
"Noble Sniper" Ilin, a commissar from a Guards rifle regiment, was credited
with 185 kills.
Ludmilla Pavlichenko like many other Russian women was trained as a sniper. She is credited with
killing 309 Germans.
Lance Corporal Maria Ivanova Morozova also served as a sniper with the 62nd Rifle Battalion and
won 11 combat decorations. She survived the war and became a senior accountant at a factory in Minsk
Sniper V. Kozlov, just being decorated for his 30th kill. A sniper reaching forty kills would
receive the "for bravery" and the title of "Nobel Sniper"