Matthaus Hetzenauer may not have gotten the most hits of any sniper in World War II, but to him that was not what was important when it came to being a sniper. Hetzenauer believed that “The best success for snipers did not reside in the number of hits but in the damage caused the enemy by shooting commanders or other important men.” This was the reason why both the Germans and the Soviets highly prized their snipers and even took steps to protect them when necessary.
Hetzenauer was born in Austria in 1924 and entered basic training in 1943. It wasn’t until March of 1944 that he began training as a sniper. He spent three months in specialized sniper training before being assigned to the 3rd Gebirgsjager Division. Hetzenauer chose to use a Karabiner 98k with six-power telescope sights, and a Gewehr 43 with four-power telescope sight. His preferred gun was the K98 because it had the highest accuracy for regular use and did not jam easily. The G43 was not as precise and therefore only good for shorter distances. He fought against the Soviets in Hungary, Slovakia, and the Carpathians.
When it came to fighting, Hetzenauer was used to take out the commanders and gunners so that the German army could advance. Without someone taking out the command and stopping the gunners, the German army would not have had the manpower to overtake the Red Army. On November 6, 1944, he was wounded but returned to battle.
On April 1, 1945, he was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross having been credited with over 343 kills. He was also credited with the longest kill of WWII at 1,200 yards. He was captured by the Soviets in May of 1945, and was held for five years. He eventually returned home to Austria where he lived until 2004.