Personal Finnish War Stories

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Re: Personal Finnish War Stories

Post by Lotvonen » 13 Dec 2020 06:30

T.O. Kuusela

In battle at Ihantala
Journal "Kansa Taisteli", 03, 1962

The author was serving in the 3rd Coy of JR6, and the company war diary has survived.

Midsummer nights were beautiful and the days nice and warm. Birds were twittering, even the cuckoo, every time the noise of war abated even for a moment, disregarding whom was holding the ground there. Wild rosemary was smelling. The stench of gunpowder and explosives, exhaust gas and smoke of wildfires were mixed with natural smells creating a sweetish bouquet, characteristic of summer war theatre. I had fought my war in the ranks of JR6 on the Carelian Isthmus, I had suffered from snowstorms and oppressive heat . I had killed more lice than enemies, had been hungry a lot of the time and had not slept enough at least at the time I am now telling about.

It was June 1944. We had been fighting at Midsummer in the area between Portinhoikka and Viipuri. The midsummer day had been rainy and wet. Water would flood our trenches at the edge of a bog, every now and then more earth had to be put on the bottom, finally we did not get enough protection against enemy fire. The grey and tired 3rd Coy led by Capt. Pelttari, a born soldier and a brisk man, kept resisting, and fighting but dwindling. We found our selves partially surrounded on an isthmus between two lakes by a huge chain of tanks. The only escape would have been the lake on our left but we were lacking boats – and any desire to start swimming. We preferred to try something else, and our breakthrough was successful albeit with great casualties. We left behind several destroyed enemy tanks after breakout from the pocket.

Then it was the 28th June 1944, a sunny day. In front of us there was an open field and the enemy was firing on the far side. Our Platoon Leader Lt. Salo opined that there were men of an outfit that had recently retreated scattered.

There was a big shell hole in the middle of the open field. We started creeping for it making use of ditches and high grass, Lt. Salo, Pvt. Rantanen and I, while the rest of the Platoon stayed in the positions firing at the enemy that had taken cover at the edge of the forest. Our SMG fire became more effective as we approached the enemy, causing disorder among them.

Finally Lt. Salo shouted the assault order. Men rushed past us, some of them dropped down never to rise again. Lt. Salo signalled us, too, crouching in the hole, to go over the top. I ran for the edge of the forest, shooting off the hip as if a gunman in the Wild West. I was burdened by a dozen of drum mags that were beating my sides. I threw myself down in the grass and crept the rest of the way. Abandoning one's ammunition was equal to giving up one's life, I did not want to get rid of them. I inserted a full mag in my gun and adjusted the rest of them. I kept creeping until I found myself at the edge of the forest where some fallen men were lying. Now most of the sound of shooting was coming from the left, bullets were hitting pine trunks, tearing splinters out of them.
I run a little curve, my heart was pounding wildly due to effort and fear. I was fearful of losing contact with my platoon.

My bent crouching was suddenly turned into lying down. I pushed my head behind a small turf and fumbled at my weapon with shaking fingers. The mag was emptied by itself. I closed my eyes because I was sure that the Ihantala earth would be sucking my heroic blood to the last drop. I had dropped down because I had spotted three gun muzzles in front of me. I did not ponder any more as I spotted a boulder next to me and threw myself behind it. When peeking I saw something brown flashing between pine trunks. Those three gun muzzles had fled...I remember laughing. I also remember that I called Lt Salo and my shout was responded at a short range. The same moment a hand grenade, a familiar object, landed with a thud next to me. A dud? Or thrown by one of my pals? No, it came from the front. A man, an enemy officer, was staring at my boulder. The light penetrating the forest canopy was reflected at his Officer cockade.

Amazing enough my gripping fear was turned into desire for action – bot something potentially lethal happened. My SMG jammed.

At the very same moment another stick grenade landed next to me with a thud. I made a desperate move, rolling my body away. I felt a dull explosion, a pressure wave pushed me against the boulder – then another crash. I pulled my sheath knife and decided to take out with that all my adversaries – everyone, up to the man throwing these hand grenades. But then I tasted blood in my mouth, I was soaked in blood all over and my legs did not feel like my own. I was not able to move from the spot because my legs did not obey the orders of my brain. A hand grenade had torn up my left side and savaged my left leg.

I was screaming for help:
-Paramedics here! Don't you hear me, fools – I am dying!
I started crying of anger and pain. As I tried to creep a searing pain surrounded my body like barrel hoops. I had enough sense to open my belt, the magazines ripped up by the hand grenades were left behind as bloodied signs. I crept one meter, maybe two and then passed out.

Shooting woke me up. Someone rushed past me – an enemy maybe? I was wailing and staring at the blue sky looming between tree branches. I cannot tell how long it lasted. Shooting had stopped and men came to me.

I did not recognize them – although I think I saw the stubble grown face of our Platoon leader. I was taken away. Paramedics took me in their charge and administered first aid.

The journey from Vakkila to the C.C.S. in the rear was a miserable one. The village road was rocky and the cart hard. I did not have the strength to yell. The driver, wearing a Sergeant's stripes, offered me a smoke, I was not a smoker, but the water for drinking was a wonderful gift. The horse kept walking on. The Sergeant tried to steer past the worst bumps, pitying me

The C.C.S. Was busy with wounded – and dead. I was placed in the row of badly wounded. A paramedic NCO gave me a morphine shot in muscle. A cigarette was placed between my teeth. I was lying there as the last man of the row – not too bad, I was thinking. I felt so light – actually wonderful. What the heck – there was a cuckoo calling. The golden cuckoo of Ihantala. I was smiling. Was it just a dream ?

3rd Company War diary, written by the Coy CO himself, extract:

AM fairly calm. [JR6 was stationed in the area of Kivennapa parish, E of the main thrust of the enemy.]
Lively firing activities to the right of the Coy Sector started.
During the day we continued improving our battle positions and the Admin Squad was building the C.P. dugout for the Coy CO.
Coy CO in briefing by the Btn CO. Btn CO issued orders to retreat from the defence line.
The disengaging was to start according to the orders but a new order was telephoned to delay the disengaging by two hours.
Disengaging started so that at first the MG s were removed from the positions and soon thereafter all four Platoons disengaged while the Coy reserve was left to secure until the entire Coy had disengaged.
Disengagement took place unnoticed by the enemy.
The Coy marched through Riihisyrjä village where they joined the Battalion.
The Coy marched to Pihlainen village and on to Jaarila village where a halt was made.
Morning tea
The Coy started the march back to Pihlainen village where they were stationed in the delay positions on the E side of the main road, where positions building was started.
Positions manned.
2nd Coy on our right reporting that all our troops have withdrawn from the area in front of us.
Rain started in the afternoon continuing all night, negatively affecting the fighting ability.
2nd Coy, engaged by the enemy, opened intense fire whereby the enemy withdrew having suffered casualties. Our mortars fired at several spotted enemy troop groupings.
The liaison officer of the outfit on our left liaised with the Coy CO reporting that our troops on the left had disengaged and started pulling back for the delay line some 3km in the rear.
The Coy received orders on disengaging.
The Coy found themselves in delaying positions at Jaarila village.
The Coy disengaged by the order of the Btn CO after the main force of the Btn had disengaged. The Coy marched at the end of the Btn column and the III Platoon was securing the rear.
The march went on in one go except two 10 minute halts on the road on the E shore of Keikkojärvi in Muolaa to Selkkölä – Peitola, in the terrain of Punavuori village in Ala-Kuusaa where the Coy arrived at 1700hrs.
Meal and march break.
Briefing by Btn CO who informed that the Btn shall continue to march to Viipuri.
March started. As soon as we had got started and the Btn arrived at an airfield situated about 1 km off overhead flew several enemy ground attack planes who however did not spot the Btn on the field. After a moment in cover the march was continued, the first objective being the Soudenharju crossroads terrain.
Arrived at Soudenharju terrain. We had a 3 hour break and a meal.
Start. March went on on the road Mälkölä – Kaustila – Harvankylä to the Kauppila train stop where we embarked on a train.
Train journey started. The train stopped at Pero station and there was an order to disembark. A break near the statin, during which the Btn doctor carried out foot inspection. In the Coy six men with such bad feet that they were relieved of the march. Only two of them stayed on the lorry acquired by the Btn CO. Immediately after the march had started it began to rain which made the march more difficult.
Started the march on the Pero – Sammunsuo – Ventelänjärvi lake, S tip to Suodenoja village where we bivouacked.
We arrived at the bivouac area where the men washed their feet and swum.
Company vehicles arrived.
Meal, then tents were set up and we turned in for the night.
Weapons maintenance started.
Btn CO ordered: Take down tents, Coy in ½ hour alert readiness. The Coy took a sauna bath.
2nd Lt. Petman, Cpl. Ruotsalainen, Järvensivu and Puttonen were ordered to participate in an AT course at the Btn HQ. The course took one day.
Order to Coy: Set up tents and get some sleep.
Enemy aerial activities were extremely lively, also the enemy artillery was shooting very heavily up to the bivouac area due to the fact that there were our artillery batteries placed in the neighbourhood of our bivouac area. Coy cook Pvt. Honkasalo was wounded.
Briefing by Btn CO to the Coy CO s, order to start field fortification work was issued.
Briefing to Platoon leaders on field fortification work start.
Departure to f.f. Work with two Platoons (II and III)
I and IV Platoons joined the work.
Alert. Coy CO was summoned to the Btn C.P. Where the CO issued an order: the Coy is to set out at once for a counterstrike to the sector of 3.Pr and as soon as the Coy has arrived at Kostiala report to the 3.Pr CO Col. Haanterä.
Departure on lorries to Kostiala where the 3.Pr CP was situated.
En route the Coy was subjected to enemy shelling at the terrain of Saarela Manor but survived without casualties.
Admin Platoon stayed behind in the bivouac area.
After the Coy CO had reported the arrival of the Coy to Col. Haanterä he ordered one Platoon to be sent at the disposal of Col. Lt. Selinheimo in the terrain of Kärstilä manor.
I Platoon led by Sr. Sgt Veintie set out to Kärstilä manor where Col. Lt Selinheimo issued orders for a task to set up defensive positions at the S tip of Kärstilänjärvi lake on the N edge of the open ground at Mustalahti.
After the entire Battalion had arrived at Kostiala Col. Haanterä issued orders to shift the Btn in the terrain of Tammisuo cemetery As the Btn set out the main parts of the Coy joined the Btn.
Briefing by Btn CO.
1.K was tasked to sweep the ridge called Alustamäki S of Kärstilänjärvi. IV Platoon was tasked to secure the left flank of 1.K on the W edge of Mustalahti open ground.
IV Platoon led by 2nd Lt. Vuori headed for the said terrain. At the same time 1.K started carrying out their task.
Btn CO order: Advance on the same route as 1.K and having reached Mustamäki support the attack of the Battalion with a counterstrike there. At this stage the Coy had only two Platoons.
The Coy started their attack operation at Mustamäki so that II P was attacking on the left wing taking by assault a small commanding hill. So this “bridgehead” had by the by been widened enough to enable continuing the attack . As it was found out to be vital to take a prominent commanding hill some 200m S of Mustamäki, Coy CO started preparations to take it. The said hill was subjected to a mortar strike and the outfit assigned to take the hill was placed by the Coy CO as close as possible.
Immediately after the fire strike an assault was launched so fast that the strong enemy outfit on the hill was thrown into confusion. At lest 29 enemies were taken out at once during the assault, war booty included two MGs and two AT rifles. The rest of the enemy manning fled.
The attack outfit was led by 2nd Lt. Pelkonen who was wounded in his leg. Detachment Pelkonen held the hill despite heavy casualties inflicted by the extremely heavy enemy artillery and mortar fire. After 2nd Lt. Pelkonen had to be evacuated Coy CO posted Lt. Salo as the CO of the said hill stronghold.
Due to casualties the stronghold manning had to be supplemented at the cost of I Platoon. Taking the stronghold and keeping it had a decisive effect on the holding of Mustamäki ridges by our troops. The enemy also realised this and several times they tried with counter-strikes to retake the hill but without success. In the action at the stronghold and in counter-strikes at it the enemy lost as KIA by low estimate 70 men.
Also 2.K had arrived at Mustamäki and their purpose was to spread and deepen the breakthrough point. After the Coy CO Capt. Laaksonen had been wounded Capt. Haikonen was posted as the 2.K CO but he too was wounded. At the very beginning of their advance the 2.K was subjected to heavy shelling and the heavy casualties made the 2.K attack stall.
Battalion CO who had been informed on the situation by phone in his CP N of Tammisuo cemetery issued orders to hold the positions as they were. The enemy pressure was very hard and their mortar fire very intense and in the rocky terrain great casualties were suffered.
Btn CO issued orders to Capt. J. Pelttari whom he had posted as the task force CO by telephone to withdraw to the E edge of the open ground W of Mustamäki. The withdrawal was to be executed by the suggestion of Capt. Pelttari after the onset of twilight.
Enemy started a heavy shelling at Mustamäki. Yet it did not cause any major casualties since it was directed farther in he rear than our positions and partly at the open ground W of Mustamäki. Due to the heavy artillery fire a dense fog was created in the terrain, which was next to impenetrable. This weather phenomenon was made use of by Capt. Pelttari and he issued to the Battle Group the order to move to E perimeter of the said about 150m wide open ground. Basing on preceding reconnoitring the grouping was as this:
1.K on the right wing, 3.K in the middle and on the left wing 2.K of which only shreds remained.
Having received an artillery F.O.O. Capt. Pelttari agreed with him on artillery fire support.
Manning on the new defence line was completed. This was reported by phone to the Btn CO .
Btn CO summoned Capt. Pelttari to briefing.
Battle group received orders to disengage.
Disengagement was to have started now but it did not because the Coy CO had not made it back to the Battle Group until 0010 hrs. That is why the disengagement started ½ hrs later.
Battles at Mustamäki had ended. Our casualties include:
KIA Cpl. K. Reponen, Pvt. Hellqvist V.,Pvt. Hellgren, A., Pvt. Torniainen S, Pvt. Lehtonen, S., Pvt. Harju, V., Pvt. Makkonen, J., and Pvt. Väisänen, S.
MIA Pvt. Hamberg, O.
WIA 25 men. 2nd Lts Pekonen and Vuori. Sr. Sgt. Meritie, V., Cpl. Järvensivu, H. Cpl. Eerola, A., Pvt. Tiittanen, M., PFC Jokivarsi, E., Järvinen, J., Ojala, P., Auvinen, J. Perälä, A.,Niemimäki, V., Elfengren, J., Liukkonen, V., Tiira, V., Putkonen, A., Kupari, K., Syrjälä, E., Hatanen, R., Partala, K., Soininen, V., Masain, H., Järvinen, P. , and Vääränen, V.
Coy arrived at the terrain N of Saarela manor where there was a meal.
Coy CO received orders to take defensive positions on the Suokkaanvirta line. The Coy was placed on the extreme right wing and the positions were handed over by 6./JR6.
Coy grouping for defence completed.
Day broke clear and fresh. It was a calm day but for the enemy aerial activities which were very lively, specially ground attack a/c were in action.
Coy had before the action at Mustamäki carried out bush cutting on this sector, consequently the shooting area was good except on the left limit. As soon as we had arrived at the positions we started digging firing foxholes and splinter shelters. PM the enemy launched a heavy shelling at the forward stronghold of 2.K on the left. The enemy launched an attack there and managed to break into the said stronghold. They were repelled by our counterstrike next morning.
Coy arrived at the terrain N of Saarela manor where there was a meal.
Coy CO received orders to take defensive positions on the Suokkaanvirta line. The Coy was placed on the extreme right wing and the positions were handed over by 6./JR6.
Coy grouping for defence completed.
Day broke clear and fresh. It was a calm day but for the enemy aerial activities which were very lively, specially ground attack a/c were in action.
Coy had before the action at Mustamäki carried out bush cutting on this sector, consequently the shooting area was good except on the left limit. As soon as we had arrived at the positions we started digging firing foxholes and splinter shelters. PM the enemy launched a heavy shelling at the forward stronghold of 2.K on the left. The enemy launched an attack there and managed to break into the said stronghold. They were repelled by our counterstrike next morning.
Btn CO order issued by phone: keep an eye at the goings-on on the right side of the Coy sector.
Rainy all day.
Coy kept improving their positions Weapons cleaning carried out.
Enemy launched very heavy artillery fire at the Coy sector. Due to the fact that good splinter shelters and weapons nests had been dug there was only one KIA in action : Pvt. Eino Varantaa and one WIA: PFC Pakkanen Eero.
Coy CO received orders by Btn CO to liaise with the battalion on our right.
A patrol led by Sgt. Rinta, V. set out to establish liaison to the W side of the river, with the Btn CO Maj. Ikonen.
Patrol established liaison with Maj. Ikonen reported that his defensive positions were as before. The patrol brought this report to the Btn CO then returning to the Coy.
Coy CO received orders to detach one Platoon led by Aspirant Peurasuo to the disposition of the Btn CO to carry out patrolling in the direction of the roads in the Battalion rear.
The patrol returned. During the mission were WIA were Aspirant Peurasuo and Pvts Raasi, K. and Mattila, A.
A very quiet day.
Clear weather.
Enemy was spotted moving about on the W side of Suokkaanvirta. They were taking direct-fire field guns and mortars in position. Also on the road on that side several lorries were driving. Having confirmed this the Coy CO requested for artillery fire but the artillery did not have any connections which means they were unable to act at all. The Artillery F.O.O. On the Coy sector, Lt. Klockars managed to liaise with the Rgt Mortar Coy that fired at the lorries standing on the road, one of which took a bullseye hit resulting in a violent explosion and fire.
Arrived Lt. Hämäläinen of JR50 to familiarize himself with the Coy sector. At the same time the Btn CO informed that Lt. Hämäläinen shall take over the sector with his Coy.
Relief started. Enemy artillery was shooting a lively harassment fire during the relief at the Coy positions and also in the rear.
Relief completed without casualties.
Coy marched to the rear to Ylivesi village arriving there at 1810hrs.
Coy bivouacked in a bushy meadow N of the village.
After the meal we were given four tents which were set up [implying that the company comprised some 80 men now, tr.rem].
Already the same evening fired at the bivouac area with auto weapons and direct-fire guns without making any casualties.
Enemy launched a heavy shelling and aerial bombardment at the entire Btn bivouac area. The Coy had received six men late in the previous night as replacements and they ran away without permission.
Btn CO order that the Coy is subordinated to Maj. Elovaara. The Coy set out at once for Maj. Elovaara's C.P. Which was situated some 2km N of Portinhoikka at the road to Imatra.
Coy set out for the terrain of the Btn C.P. Where detailed instructions were given. 1.K that had been the nearest one had received their orders sooner and set out for Maj. Elovaara's Btn C.P.
As the Coy arrived on the Imatra road and liaised with Maj. Elovaara's Btn also arrived the 3rd Btn CO who was promptly issued orders by the Rgt CO to send one Coy to Vakkila to attack in the flank of an enemy force of about three platoons. This task was ordered to the Coy.
Coy set out.
Coy reached the tip of a patch of forest S of the Vakkila road where they grouped for attack.
having proceeded some 700m the enemy was engaged. An assault with loud yelling was launched and the enemy started hesitating and retreated having suffered some casualties. Pvt. Kuusinen [SIC!] was badly wounded.
The attack continued up to the road. There we encountered two men of III/JR63 Jaeger Platoon who had been engaging the enemy. By interrogating them the Coy CO gained a more realistic idea of the enemy manning.
Scared by intense shooting a van taken by the enemy from III/JR6 stopped and the driver and his assistants escaped by running. In the van there were two Finnish POWs who were freed in this manner. There were another 15 enemies in the ditches of the road feigning dead. They were all destroyed, three officers, led by one Sr. Lieutenant.
As the road was cut off the Coy CO left half of the Coy in defence along the road with the task to prevent the enemy from getting reinforcements from the Imatra road.
Coy CO himself set out with the other half of the Coy and lead them to sweep the terrain at the road leading to Vakkila village.
Having approached the village we stopped at a patch of forest and after a while shooting was heard in the direction of the village. Soon at the opposite edge of the forest some enemies appeared on their way away from Vakkila village to the Imatra road.
They were destroyed.
At the same location a patrol f JR12 was met, they had been tasked to secure the road to Vakkila. Now the Coy could return to the place where the other battle detachment had been left in defence. Now the war booty was collected, including the ambulance van with a largish quantity of medical supplies, five bikes etc. In the terrain were found two horses and their vehicles taken by the enemy on which the liberated POW s were sent to the rear. War booty weapons include one MG, two LMG and one AT rifle plus a number of rifles and SMGs.
JR12 Jaeger Platoon arrived to take over the positions of the Coy.
Having been relieved of the front responsibility the Coy started marching for Vakkila village.

As to the surname discrepancy:
The translator's guess is : When the author of the story was wounded his family name was Kuusinen but later, not wishing to share the surname of the arch-traitor Otto Wille K., changed his to Kuusela.

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Location: Finland

Re: Personal Finnish War Stories

Post by Lotvonen » 17 Dec 2020 06:10

Väinö Salonen

Running trains

Journal “Kansa Taisteli”, 02, 1962

Memoir of a locomotive engineer from the Continuation war. The place names are the ones used during the war.

For two and a half years I had been running trains on the line Matkaselkä-Äänislinna until I was transferred to the line Kemi-Rovaniemi. Sometimes I was posted to the line Äänislinna-Syväri. The work was hard because in war-time the working hours are not limited by law. Yet the job had something positive in it. It was far from monotonous and often there were moments of thrill.

Not a lot has been told of us train crews although we were responsible for the transport of hundreds of men and valuable war material in one go. Now I wish, on the pages of this publication, to be allowed to recount on some of my experiences during that period of time.

Our experiences varied each day. Our trains were strafed by aircraft. We were subjected to aerial bombardment. In the dark night there were enemy patrols, bridge miners and saboteurs. We were in danger night and day.

It was a cold winter night in the year 1942. The train was pulled by a heavy locomotive though snowy terrain. Rails were squeaking and the wagon wheels clanking at the rail joints. The file of wagons was long. Tens of freight wagons laden with bales of hay, vehicles, field guns, long wagons, short box wagons that could be laden with anything from explosives to large calibre artillery shells. The file of wagons rolling through the night was completed by a small admin wagon. There were soldiers whose task it was to protect this train in the war zone. It was a Finnish war material transport on the East Carelian rwy line heading for Äänislinna.

We had passed Veskelys and Säämäjärvi. The speed of the heavy transport was slowed down. The rail line was in bad condition, the rails were bent and haphazardly laid. A few months ago the rail line in this occupied territory had been totally destroyed by the retreating enemy but the Engineers of the advancing troops had fixed it, and the first Finnish steam loco had blown its whistle in the Carelian landscape.

Once on the line Matkaselkä-Äänislinna our tender was out of firewood and we faced the risk of collision with the Helsinki express.
It was a February night and it was snowing.- We were slowly going to Äänislinna. Firewood was needed, anyway it was consumed in a huge quantity being not the best in quality.

We were sitting in the Engineer's cab with the stoker, staring into the raging snowstorm. My pal, Pvt. Tuunanen got up every now and then to throw some green branches in the firebox.
-We really should economise the firewood, I remarked. They should be somehow made to suffice until the next depot.
-Economise, Tuunanen scoffed.
-What is there to economise?
I took a look in the tender. My colleague was more than right. On the steel bottom of the tender there were but a few round bits of firewood. It was glaringly empty even in darkness.
I did not respond him. I was aware of the consequences in case we had to halt the train in the middle of the dark storm ridden wilderness. Kutisma station was the nearest one where firewood was available bit it was a long distance away. Our locomotive was puffing like a sick cow and a glance at the manometer made cold shivers running down my spine.
- Yeah, we should economise, what nonsense. First the firewood is loaded in the tender like branches and secondly they are rotten and green. Let us econimise, Mr. Engineer.
Again I refrained from answering. After a while I saw how the last piece of firewood was thrown in the dying fire. I was sweating...

We were going downhill and I was sparing steam. I was praying for the downhill to last up to Kutimsa. No way ! We were out of steam at the next uphill. Our locomotive puffed one last time and so the Finnish war material transport laden with explosives and ammunition was standing in the middle of Eastern Carelian night.

I descended from the cab. Passengers from the admin wagon came to us, some officers and men plus a couple of Lottas. I explained what the matter was, and they were not amused. We discussed at the engine but we could as well have gone in the admin wagon to sleep. There was nothing to be done.
-Let's go find some firewood, one of the Lottas suggested.
What a ridiculous idea. To find firewood in the Carelian forest – a pile of it, actually – an impossibility. Where did she get her wisdom I wondered. She went on:
-There often are piles of sleepers by the line. Let us go and find one.
There was some sense in that. We set out and kicked in the snow on the sides of the rail line. We were sweating in the waist deep snow looking for a needle in a haystack.

Gotcha! Less than ten minutes later a Lieut called out:
-Here, a trainload!
The pile was buried in snow. We got some snow shovels and moved the snow aside. We uncovered resinous sleepers. We dragged a number of them to the engine and cut them in two with the blunt carpenter's saws that were included in the train accessors. Soon we had amassed a pile of good firewood in the tender. We did not delay much longer. I poured some paraffin on the firewood shoved in the firebox to make them burn better and soon we were heading for Kutisma station. There we let the Helsinki express run past us.
This was one of my experiences, but there were others, more dangerous.

Once again we were on our way from Matkaselkä to Äänislinna. It was a light and beautiful summer night. When approaching Paloviina station fighter aircraft appeared overhead. They were enemies that were flying along the rail line and then started their nasty rattling.
My train was a freight train. I stopped it in a suitable spot and with my stoker we stayed in the cab waiting what would happen, watching the movement of the birds of destruction. Then it started cracking. Bullets were hitting sleepers, clinking on rails and puffing sand. Our train was not equipped with any AA weapon. The freight was not worth of such an expensive weapon. The planes were encouraged and kept getting lower. Now the engine was taking hits, We ducked behind the thin cab steel walls hoping that the pilots would get tired of strafing a worthless freight train. This is what happened. Now they were firing intensely at the two sides of the rail line while flying quite low. I was wondering why they were wasting their ammunition in the forest. My pal guessed:
-They believe this is a passenger train and the passengers would have jumped in the forest . Bad observation, isn't it?
I admitted he was right. Why else would they have taken forest under their fire. Finally the pilots may have believed they had created enough “mincemeat”. After making another full circle they gave a burst that chimed at the steel side of our engine, and flew away, probably contended.
My stoker repeated:
-Bad observation!

The enemy did not always have bad observation. We were to find it out once on the Äänislinna – Syväri line. Our pea-shooter, sticking out of the roof of a wagon was fairly useless. Our passengers were soldiers returning from furlough and Lottas. There was an alarm and soon it was raining bullets. Also small bombs were falling down. There were six planes, they were fast and tenacious like devils.

To our amazement our AA hit one plane that struggled away. Yet the five remaining ones were a big enough nuisance. They fired at the wagons and the terrain on the sides of the train. Paramedic Lottas got work to do. One of them got a small scratch as a memento of that 3rd of August 1942.

It was the aircraft that were the worst enemies of trains. They came and surprised while scattering their bombs. A good hit would stop the train on its tracks, maybe forever if the engine should be hit. Airmen know that and that is why there shall be more bomb holes, and sometimes duds, next to the engine.

This is what once happened on the route Matkaselkä-Äänislinna near Suojärvi. A projectile fell almost in front of the bow of our engine, maybe at a distance of 20 m right between the rails. Splintered sleepers were flung aside but the actual bomb was stuck in the embankment, the tail pointing at the sly and the nose buried in the embankment like a huge bug trying to hide in the bosom of Mother Earth. After the situation was over we stood quite clueless at that thing watching it with fearful awe. Fortunately there were Sappers among us. They pulled the “shuttle” rather hard-handed out and rolled it down the embankment in the forest. It was the only aerial bomb I have seen as a dud. Had it not been one, the result would have been quite destructive.

Trains hauling arms and ammunition to the war zone were in traffic mostly at night. But it was not safe then, either. Desants and other saboteurs could be aware of the train schedules. One hand grenade under a wagon would have been enough. Nothing like that happened to me but on the line Äänislinna - Syväri the following incident took place:

We were doing a night ride. Cold weather generated frost on the sides of our engine and the rails and sleepers were making snapping sounds under us. I was looking down the rail line where the low temperature had created one inch gaps at the rail joints. Coldness penetrated in our cab where our birch bark knapsacks were swaying in the rhythm of the train movement. There was a scant moonlight. Yet we did not use our own lights, but were satisfied with the “outdoor lighting”.
We were approaching Tokari and my stoker was already dreaming some warm tea and warm bed.

Then I spotted something: it was just not right on the rail line ahead of us. An odd spot was looming there, a spot darker than the rest of the rail embankment. As soon as my eyes had registered the apparition I turned on the brakes. The heavy wagons kept pushing the engine on. They swayed and the engine, too, as if drunk. The dark spot kept getting closer. Now I could see as clearly as possible what the matter was. I told my stoker to jump out but at the same moment the train stopped, and the wagons clanked against the bumpers, stopping dead.
-What the heck now? The stoker enquired, nonplussed.
-Why did we stop here??

I climbed down and walked to the dark area. Why had snow been mixed with sand? I groped into it between the sleepers. It was loose, as if laid there recently. Soldiers came to us from the admin wagon They took a look at the spot and finally their Lieut pronounced:
-There is a mine!
Indeed it was one, a skilfully placed one. If a heavy train would have passed the spot, the rails would have bent down enough to push the pin placed on the mine and our engine would have been blown up alongside with several ammunition wagons The stoker swore. He did not appreciate at all this terrible possibility.

I would like to say my heartfelt tanks and greetings to the Lottas who were hauling the sleepers with us in the engine tender en route to Äänislinna one February night 1942, in snowstorm and cold weather.

(1977 words)

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Re: Personal Finnish War Stories

Post by OldBill » 17 Dec 2020 16:10

Thanks for posting this. It is important to keep these stories alive.

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Re: Personal Finnish War Stories

Post by subskipper » 18 Dec 2020 16:47

Indeed. Brilliant stuff.

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Re: Personal Finnish War Stories

Post by Lotvonen » 20 Dec 2020 08:42

A. Ojala

Defending Viipuri in March 1940

Journal “Kansa Taisteli”, 03, 1962

The author was the Commanding officer of 6./JR7, he also wrote the original Company war diary.

Having retreated from the hellhole of Summa the 6./JR7 (hailing from Sääksmäki and Valkeakoski) and the MG Platoon (from Toijala) subordinated to them had had about one week to fortifiy their positions at the E edge of Viipuri down-town, the defence of which had been assigned to the troops of the 3.D. 2nd Lt Päiviö Oksala's Platoon was building up their position at the embankments of the railway line to Terijoki and 2nd Lt. Hannu Voipaala's Platoon at the edges of the Eastern cemetery. Sgt. Arvi Laurila's Platoon was building an on-ground fighting position on the Maaskola railway yard of sleepers and 2md Lt. Risto Talvisto's Platoon a rear stronghold behind the Voipaala Platoon on the E edge of the large cemetery. The cemetery area comprised a tactically important piece of terrain between the main roads and the rail line. That line had to be defended unless one wanted to fight on the streets and in the houses of Viipuri, something the outfit was neither trained nor experienced to do.

In front of the defensive positions there was a kilometre of open ground with an AT obstacle line of stone in the mid-way. Also building material for seven dugouts had been made available. In spite of the extremely low temperature and the harassment shelling of the enemy “Ghost cannon” the field fortification work proceeded in a laudable rate although due to the casualties caused by the said cannon we had to resort to working at night.

It was the 1st March 1940 at 1000hres as our last delaying outfit retreated through our line and our reinforced Company shouldered the responsibility of defending the capital of Carelia on this important sector. On our right there was the rifle Coy 4./JR7 hailing from Lempäälä and on our left in front of the Karjala suburb JR15 of the 8th D.

At 1340hrs the first enemy outfit appeared at the crossing of Kannaksentie road and the Koivisto rail line, simultaneously tanks came to the area of the Maaskola poorhouse. The enemy attempts to advance were initially forced reconnoitring by small forces that were easily beaten back.

On the 3rd March the enemy launched an attack in the direction of the railway with a force of about 250 men. A stronghold of JR15 to the left of us let the enemy, marching in an almost closed formation, advance just in front of our positions where they were wiped out to the last man with common effort.

The same day at 1030hrs our Coy took a heavy blow as our greatly trusted and brave Platoon Leader 2nd Lt. H. Voipaala was killed by shellfire. His task was handed over to Sgt. August Laurila from Sääksmäki and after he had been wounded, 2nd Lt. T. Talvisto.

On the 5th March the enemy launched a shelling heavier than before, also infantry attacks were stronger, yet they were easily repulsed. This went on during the next days until on the 10th March at 0830 a tremendous shelling started covering the entire sector of the Company. Twice the enemy grouped their troops at the Poorhouse terrain and attacked with a force of a battalion. Our artillery fire harassed the grouping effectively and our mortars hit them hard.
The CO of the mortar platoon supporting our Company was Lt. Esa Lahtinen who was present every time his weapons were needed and who always turned up in his ragged snow camo blackened by the smoke of burst shells in the focal point of fighting. He saw to it that the enemy was not able to push their attack past the AT hindrance. A rain of mortar bombs made every attack stall. Also the Company contributed to the action with their weapons.

At the dawn of the 11th March a hell of a shell rain was directed at our smashed positions Shells were ploughing up the cemetery and our fighting positions. Direct hits tore our sentries into pieces and on the cemetery pieces of rotten caskets and bones of the deceased were flung around. Skulls were rolling about on the battleground. Gravestones were pushed over.

This was the worst hour of the Company. A soldier who was going to do sentry duty could only hope that, to avoid unnecessary suffering, he would either be slightly wounded or would fall. 2nd Lt Talvisto reported to the Company CO: “Murderous shelling. Sentry duty impossible. Heavy aerial bombardment going on now. Again more dead and wounded. Situation extremely difficult. I need more men, also paramedics. The enemy has reached in great number the wire.”

Talvisto received as reinforcement two Squads and one paramedic from a stronghold in the rear but his stronghold could not withstand the deluge of steel but collapsed. An enemy force of a platoon managed to break into our stronghold where the men had to retreat meter by meter to the direction of the Kannaksentie road. Cpl. Tiura, a Squad leader in 2nd Lt. Mauno Helpiö's MG Platoon, placed his MG on the parapet and with murderous burst blocked the entry of enemy reinforcements in our stronghold. MG fire mowed down everyone rushing at our positions Also Lt. Lahtinen with his F.O.O. Gear was present, and the barrage was completed. Enemies fell in piles, and the small number of riflemen completed the work.

After the enemy break-in their murderous shelling was shifted away from the stronghold. It was as peaceful as in a Sunday despite the sound of infantry weapons fire everywhere. Talvisto had a cache of satchel charges in the part of the stronghold that he still was holding at the Kannaksentie road. He distributed them to the nine men he had there and led them to the most terrible battle duty, counterstrike.

A merciless battle ensued. Some of the men of the stronghold had withdrawn behind gravestones after the enemy break-in and from there they made sure that no enemy putting up his head from the trench survived. By the orders of Talvisto satchel charges were thrown by PFC H.Jokio, brothers Y. and A. Hissa and other wild men in the trench where the enemy was waiting to kill them. Now the enemies were killed instead. PFC Raivio swept the trench with his SMG meter by meter and men with satchel charges rushed time and again to throw another charge. So these death defying soldiers of Valkeakoski and Sääksmäki retook the recently lost part of the stronghold. Lahtinen and Tiura eliminated the enemy on no-man's-land and the men behind the gravestones contributed by instinct forcing the enemies to keep their heads and weapons down which doomed them to death.

The Coy CO was observing the situation in a rear stronghold where he had arrived with every man he had been able to scrape together as reserve. Thrilled but proud he was watching the brave performance of his soldiers, the elite of the Finnish Army. It was a schoolbook example of a strike force action. Talvisto and Jokio were wounded but they completed their task.

The Battalion CO, Capt. T. Inkilä could be liaised only by Runners which was a very dangerous duty. But the Rgt CO who had his C.P. In a concrete cellar near the Castle bridge received a message via artillery radio, in code : “trousers torn”. Some 21 minutes later another message could be sent: “Trousers mended”.

On the 12th March another shell storm comparable to the one yesterday started. The enemy launched four different attacks with a force of one Battalion. Tenaciously and bravely the Finns stood their ground. Our task was considerably easier due to the fact that we had been reinforced the previous night by the Vesilahti Company (6./JR7). So the honourable men of three Häme parishes were gallantly co-operating in the defense of Viipuri

At 2215hrs the same night we received orders to pull back from our positions and settle in Papula as reserve. The front line was pulled back to the Patterinmäki hill level and manned by other outfits. A little after midnight the relief was completed and the Company withdrew platoon-wise through the burning town.

13th March 1940 dawned as a clear frosty day. Viipuri was covered by black and grey clouds of smoke and explosion gas. Artillery was active as usual, strong enemy bomber formations contributed to the noise of war and tanks were rumbling in the Maaskola rail yard while covering masses of their infantry.

Our direct fire cannons and AT weapons were fired from the town houses at the enemy tanks, igniting them, and infantry. The Grim Reaper was busy swinging his scythe on the battlefield like a farmer on his ripe grain-field but here the crop consisted of strong young men of both nationalities, the bloom of their countries

At 1100hrs the expectations of some of the last hours were fulfilled. Fighting ceased and deep silence set on. Peace had arrived.

War diary extract:

2nd Lt. Voipaala reported that the delaying company in front of us had withdrawn behind our positions.
I ordered half of Platoons I, II and III and II Platoon to man the positions, just in case
, and also for the purpose of test alert.
2nd Lt Voipaala blocked the “molotoff” on the road.
I gave 2nd Lt. Voipaala and the other Platoon leaders permission to let the men from the positions into dugouts if the situation allowed that.
I issued order on supplying to the Staff Sergeant.
About 10 enemies showed up at the direction of the road 3oom from Voipaala's stronghold. Snipers took out two the rest pulled back.
Simultaneously two tanks showed up on the road at a range of 1500m.
I reported this by phone to the Battalion, it was also the situation report.
During PM some Russkies were shot the directions of the road and the rail line.
During the night the hindrances and dugouts were being improved.
Sparse artillery and mortar fire on the Coy sector.
IV Platoon reported: Our left side neighbour's battle fore-post retreated from the Maaskola poorhouse and the enemy was advancing in the direction of the rail yard. The Platoon and the I platoon exchanging shots with the enemy.
Fighting ceased. The enemy had been eliminated in co-operation with our left side neighbour.
I reported this by phone to the Battalion.
During the day sparse artillery and mortar fire.
During the night f.f. Work for a part of the Coy and mortar fire on the entire sector.
2nd Lt. Voipaala KIA.
I sent out a patrol to the Maaskola poorhouse terrain. The patrol found about 150 KIA and the following war booty:
2 LMGs
1 autoloading rifle
27 rifles
1 radio transceiver
3 phone sets
4 reels of cable
14 LMG mags
20 MG belt cans with full belts
4000 rifle cartridges
No enemies found alive.
During the night work to improve the positions.
During the day sparse artillery and mortar fire.
During the night work to improve the positions.
Enemy tank spotted at the poorhouse.
During the day sparse artillery and mortar fire.
During the night the Company was working to improve the positrons
Day and night artillery and mortar fire.
In the night the Coy was at f.f. Work.
During the day artillery and mortar fire at the entire sector of the Coy.
In the night the Coy was building hindrances.
Increasing artillery and mortar fire at the II Platoon stronghold.
In the night building hindrances.
Artillery barrage started. ( For I Platoon less intense).
Enemy tried several times during the day to shift men from the poorhouse hill to “molotoff” in which they were only partially successful. It was prevented by our mortar and artillery fire.
In the evening the enemy drove a train to the Liimatta train stop and disembarked about one battalion. Shelling directed at them but too late because our report on the train was disbelieved.
The Russki grouped in the cover of twilight at “molotoff” most likely for the purpose of attacking but was beaten back by shelling.
The night was calm.
Cpl. O.Virtanen
Pvt. M.Katila
Sr. Sgt. A.Laurila
PFC E. Kari
K.Peltonen (deceased in hospital)
S.Numminen (deceased in hospital)
A most intense artillery barrage started.
Report by IV Platoon leader (Sgt. Laurila) (1.)
Report by Talvisto received. (2.)
Stronghold from the cemetery
I sent out paramedics.
Requesting artillery support to “molotoff”
I received it and Russki pulled back some.
Report received (3.)
Forwarded this to the Battalion by phone
Report by Sgt. Laurila received. (4.)
Report by 2nd Lt.Talvisto received. (5.)
Report by Sgt. Laurila received. (6.)
I requested a barrage at the “molo”. Got it.
Russki ran for the poorhouse hill from the rail line direction.
At the road on “molotoff” some 100 Russkies remained. (KIA)
I sent 2 squads to Talvisto for reinforcement.
Report by Sgt. Laurila received. (7.)
Spoken report by Sgt. Laurila received, informing that Russki is attacking at Talvisto. I hurried to the Coy observation post. Russki had managed to penetrate in the trench with a force of about 40 men who were immediately beaten back by a counterstrike. Every enemy including the ones just advancing, 60 to 70 of them, were wiped out to the last man.
Trench rolling up was completed.
Our artillery shelling the Talvisto stronghold. Firing most likely because the neighbours (IIIBtn) saw the Russki penetrate in the stronghold and did not see them retreat – because they were all annihilated.
By radio it was immediately reported that the stronghold was ours whereby shelling ceased. No casualties inflicted.
I reported all of the above to the Btn CO.
Again the Russki grouped at “molotoff” for attack but was beaten back by artillery and mortar fire.
Cpl. Ahonen, Leo
-”- Pihalehto, P
Pvt. Estlin, M.
-”- Koivumäki, V.
-”- Niemi, A
Total : 5
0+3+14, total: 17
Sgt. Laurila reported (8.)
I requested a barrage at “molo”.
Got it. Most of the enemies withdrew to the poorhouse hill.
Talvisto reported (9.)
I forwarded the report to the artillery
They gave another barrage.
Good effect.
Russki rallied at the Poorhouse hill and advanced up to “molotoff”.
Beaten back by an artillery barrage.
Sgt. Laurila reported (10.)
I requested a barrage at “molo”. I got it.
I requested heavy artillery fire at the Poorhouse hill.
Got it. Good effect.
Sgt. Laurila reported (11.)
Requested artillery fire. Got it.
Good effect.
Russki launched an attack against the Talvisto stronghold.
Russki beaten down at “molotoff”
Enemy attack from the railway yard launched.
It was beaten back by inf., art., and mortar fire.
Russki still tried to infiltrate their infantry at “molotoff” but was discouraged by MG and LMG fire.
Cpl. Tähti, K.
PFC Salminen, R.
Pvt. Alanen, E.
-”- Selenius, S.
WIA 1+2+8 = 11
Order to retreat received.
Retreat to Papula started platoon-wise.
The last platoon of the Coy withdrew.
In Papula accommodation, sentry placement, positrons reconnoitring.

At 11.00hrs exchange of shots ceased. Peace took effect, an oppressively tough peace for the men under my command who had during the war carried out the tasks I had ordered to them without complaint and very bravely.

Convinced that the 26 heroes whom my Company lost, did not bleed in vain but our dear Fatherland shall one day be compensated for their sacrifice. In faith and hope,
in Viipuri the 13th March 1940
Lt. A. Ojala

Company casualties in the war:
KIA 1+5+20 = 26
WIA 2+15+51 = 68
Total 3+20+71 = 94

Stricken by illness 1+6+20= 27

Total casualties 4+26+91 = 121
(End of diary. No attachments available)
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Re: Personal Finnish War Stories

Post by Lotvonen » 27 Dec 2020 06:41

Erkki Saramo

Defending Limosaari

Journal “Kansa Taisteli”, 03, 1962

Our Battery, Er.Lt.Ptri, (Er.Linn.Ptri?) that had been subordinated to KevPsto 12 hailing from Tampere during the attack phase of the Continuation War was ordered to support JP1 in their sweeping of Aänisniemi after Kontupohja and Käppäselkä had been taken. After this task had been accomplished our Battery was sent to Suurlahti at Äänisniemi and from here on to the Klimetski island S of Äänisniemi (later named Limosaari).

We had to wait in Suurlahti for a few days until the ice of lake Onega grew stronger, until on the 18th December 1941 we marched over the ice to a village called Jeves-Navolok, situated on the NW shore of Limosaari island. From there we moved on to Gurgenitsa on the N shore of the island, placing our guns on the open ridge on the E side. The C.P. And our supply was left at Gurgenitsa, a well-to-do like village with painted houses. The local people had remained there. The nearby Olenin islands village was abandoned, because the American Finns who had been working in the limestone quarry had preferred to flee.

As we arrived at Limosaari it was manned by only one reinforced Fortifications Battalion platoon led by 2nd Lt. Toivio. As the island was about 20km long and 10 km wide with partly hostile local population, the manning was by no means strong as by now the ice had become solid. The island was also difficult to observe because the infantry had only three bases on the E shore. The C.P. Was situated at Heinälahti, on the W shore with a reserve force comprising a mere Squad. During the very first days we were able to observe that the Neighbour patrols had visited the civilians in night-time. It is possible that enemy patrol-men stayed in the villages.

By Christmas 1941 the enemy patrolling activities considerably increased. Due to a skirmish on our supply road our Christmas rations did not arrive in time. While elsewhere the men started to sample the meagre Christmas eve dinner I was tasked to check a suspicious village on the island. At this time our F.O.O. team had been moved to the Olenin island on the E side of Limosaari. To start with they had to engage in an intense fight to keep their stronghold. To be spared from surprises during the extremely cold nights our Battery CO Lt. Åke Kuhlefelt ordered to set up a telephone line on the ice E of the island. Continuous patrolling along this line was to be carried out at a distance of a couple of kilometres from the shoreline.

This securing activity was launched on the night of 9th January 1942 as the Battery officer on duty was was Lt. Hautanen. The rest of us officers were having a nice evening in our C.P. in Gurgenitsa. Our in-house comedian, 2nd Lt. Lumme was providing the entertainment until late in the night. Our festive mood was also partly due to the fact that our request for reinforcement had been accepted. Maj. Nysten of the Cavalry Brigade H.Q. Had arrived from Heinälahti to find out about our needs. That night we did not want to interrupt our Lumme, who was telling entertaining stories with his near Slavic temperament.

We were indeed about to get distracted into a civilian mood as a phone call at 0300hrs shook us awake. Our ice patrol was reporting that they were watching a strong enemy skiing detachment advancing for the shoreline. The man reporting could have been a radio reporter – he described the scene in such a lively manner. At least one Company of enemies was coming from the Olenin island to the road leading to our C.P. And was now turning to our village. Quickly I alerted the battery, Heinälahti and our village. Due to supply problems we were at that moment deplorably short of ammunition which immediately started worrying us. 2nd Lt. Toivio promised to send us reinforcement and cartridges.

It was a freezing cold moonlight night, somewhat shrouded in fog. We donned the white camo suits we had been issued earlier that night and were assigned our duties. My task was to set up the defence of the village soonest. Since the village was large and our lodgings scattered it could not be entirely defended. Since the enemy must have been convinced that they would successfully surprise us, I decided to set up the focal point of our defence at the perimeter of the village at the road to Olenin island, and just leave sentries in other directions.

The terrible cold and tension of waiting made us tremble in our positions that we had dug in the snow. Soon we heard an increasing sound of skis on snow, apparently from a very close range. We strained our vision but nothing was seen. Fog was drifting on the ground, we had to keep waiting. In the meanwhile I was informed that the enemy had passed the battery without spotting it, but there was no movement heard on the perimeter of the village. There were about twenty supply men of us in the fighting line, but the spirit was kept up with quiet whispering. We, too, wanted to surprise. That is why I had posted at the “gate” as a lone sentry Cpl. Salo, who was a good fighter by my experience, but the rest of us were ducking down in our snow holes.

Soon enough Salo shouted:
-Halt, who is that ? - No answer
-Kto tam ? [The same in Russian, tr.rem.]
The skiing outfit stopped for a moment, as if surprised in hearing their maternal language. We knew it was the hour. The outfit had managed to approach undetected very close. The first ones found themselves at a distance of some 20m as we opened fire. The enemy had been skiing in double file, now they took a hard and surprising blow. The first ones dropped and remained there. The ones in the rear started fanning out grouping behind the piles of stones on the field. Soon we were taking ever increasing enemy fire whereas we had to slow down our fire because Toivio's reinforcement had not yet arrived.

A brief positional warfare ensued, during which the enemy regrouped and we were waiting for more ammunition.

At dawn our battery, that had been left behind the enemy backs, opened fire using open sights – unfortunately they only had impact fuzes which meant that the effect of their fire in thick snow was just moral. We also remembered that Lumme's good skill in Russian could be utilized now. Lumme did arrive and started talking about our superior number and shouting exhortations to surrender, but the enemy responded with loud laughter and greetings in Finnish that cannot be reprinted here. Yet this mutual exchange of greetings won us time to wait for Toivio.

After the day had broken our friend Sato started opining that this kind of stationary war cannot lead into success, instead it would be time to shift to offensive. Then he stood up, starting to fire at the enemies he spotted with single shots of his SMG. I warned him and he was just objecting to me as he took a bullet through his cheek. The bullet extracted some of his teeth, too. Sato, who actually was a paramedic NCO, withdrew, cursing and spotting blood, but promising to be soon back and then we would start, he said.

Sato did not linger and also Toivio had managed to arrive with a few men and ammunition. Sato was wearing a white turban-like bandage around his head as he came to me, saying that he would get going by himself. Yet he did not have to. We started a counter-strike with a few men and the enemy started pulling back from the stone piles. Some enemies stayed behind in depressions of the terrain attempting to shoot us in the back. Every time one of us was faster and our attack progressed up to the commanding terrain while the enemy fled to the ice pursued by our cannons. Several enemies more fell in this part of the skirmish and the number of the KIA was fairly large. Our casualties consisted of Sato's lost teeth.

Thus we managed to evict the enemy from the N tip of Limosaari island. The battle of the island was not over yet, because at the same time the enemy was breaking into every one of our infantry strongholds with great force. The enemy won these engagements. During the fighting 2nd Lt. Toivio was on his way to us with his ammunition and he found the Heinälahti village almost abandoned. The on-duty operator of the telephone exchange called our C.P. alarmed, reporting that the enemy was entering the village. He promised to stand his ground and fight to the end. We managed to make a call to the Brigade HQ but having hung up the exchange reported that the enemy was coming in and our connection was cut off.

Maj. Nysten and his Runner had been billeted in Heinälahti also was involved in fighting and he had to beat a retreat in a hurry, using his SMG. He arrived at our C.P. as our fighting had died down. By that time the fighting had ceased. The S and middle parts of our big island were taken by the enemy. Some of our stragglers could be there still.

Since the island was mostly lost, and we were unable to liaise anywhere with ammunition low, Maj. Nysten as the oldest officer considered it impossible to stay on the island. At dusk we started to prepare for our departure. We left behind our cannons having hidden the breech blocks and ammunition in snow. We departed from the island after the onset of darkness.

Having arrived at an abandoned village on the shore of Suurlahti bay we tried to stay overnight in the cold houses. We did not manage to fall asleep before a riding officer came up with an order to retake Limosaari island. We learned that HRR had set out from Tipinitsa in the North to aid us and the Aunuksen Heimosoturipataljoona on lorries from Äänislinna. Everyone was given a dose of refreshing medicine and our Battery set on skiing for the Gurgenitsa village on Limosaari island. At dawn we had made it up to the island shoreline but we did not know anything about the situation on the island.

Again we landed at Jeves-Navolok and from there we kept advancing in formation. Arriving at the slope of a nearby ridge we heard some rustling and saw men taking positions. We were expecting a battle and about to fire until we heard familiar Finnish curses from ahead of us. They were friends, we soon were shaking hands with HRR men. Soon we found ourselves in our old C.P. In Gurgenitsa where a friendly local lady fired up her samovar and treated the boys with some good “tchai” (tea).
(1834 words)

There is no war diary for Er. Linn.Ptri in the archive. Also the diaries of the Cavalry Brigade were lost in June 1944.
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Re: Personal Finnish War Stories

Post by Lotvonen » 02 Jan 2021 06:24

Sulo Pasanen

Duel at Saarimäki

Journal “Kansa Taisteli”, 03. 1962

The author was serving as a PFC in the 6. /JR34 in the early phases of the Continuation War.

Our Company, part of JR34, had by the 4th September 1941 marched in Southern Olonez to the E side of Saarimäki village, cut off the road leading SE from the village and was preparing to fan out to take the village. During the night the sound of heavy artillery fire from the South had woken us up in the forest where we were lying down, rolled in our greatcoats waiting for the dawn. The earth had shaken although the distance to Tuulosjoki river where the shelling was going on was some twenty kilometre. I had heard the artillery at Summa during the Winter War but this was more intense than that.

My infantry squad was the limit of my world at this moment of the H hour. The horizon was even closer as there were moments as the man next to you was the limit of the world you were able to grasp. My personal experience was still minimal, but there was some. At Hanko I had lost every man in my boat to enemy MG fire. A couple days ago we had, with a force of six men, stormed an enemy field fortified position, finding ourselves by accident in front of it, fearing that we would be unable to retreat without getting wiped out. Fortunately the position was unmanned and we survived all right. Also I had participated in a few patrol missions. But I also had read a lot and listened to the experienced men.

Now we were listening to the artillery fire preparation and watching our fighters gracefully cruising overhead. Today it was different from the Winter War, now we had the material that was most urgently missed in that war, that is artillery, ammunition and aircraft. This boosted the confidence of every man.
-Strike outfit, get ready, was the order given by Sr. Sgt. Karppinen
We called him the Second Terror of Morocco because he had served in the Foreign Legion for 15 years. We were proud of him

We were ready to set out. I had a LMG and an odd sort of mag pouch, the strap of which passed over my neck and the ends were tied to my legs. In the pouch pockets I had six mags on each side and the thirteenth in my weapon, a Lahti-Saloranta, a good acquaintance. The other LMG of the squad was used by Nummenpää, hailing from Pertteli, a trusted patrol-man. The others were riflemen armed with rifles and (hand) grenades, also some satchel charges were carried. Only the scout had a SMG.

Our “going over the top” was nothing special. The men of our Company stood quietly watching us. We were out to break the trail for the others – as an elite force. The Squad settled behind the SMG gunner in a file and we started to move slowly for the round-topped ridge in front of the village. My world narrowed down – now comprising the terrain nearby, a few tens of meters both left and right. What was happening on the flanks beyond that was no more concerning us.

It was about mid-slope that the SMG gunner fired for the first time. When advancing again we passed a foxhole with an enemy sentry sleeping in it.

Some bullets were coming our way as the roofs of the first houses of the village emerged behind the ridge. We started fanning out. Our MG s started at that moment to fire at the bunkers far from the edge of the forest. They were firing breath-taking long salvoes. Rifle fire chimed in and somewhere farther off an “elephant gun” [20mm AT] fired a sharp set.

I and Nummenpää stayed in the centre while the rest of the Squad fanned to the right and left. We kept creeping slowly up the ridge slope covered by long stubble of harvested rye. Then the slope started descend in front of us until the first houses were visible down to the fundament. At that very moment a MG burst fired from the village started beating the stubble, spilling straw and earth. Karppinen crept to my side.
-You shall dash first, he said, observing the terrain.
-As soon as Nummenpää opens up you shall get up and run at least in the middle of that potato patch.
-Once there you shall open fire and sweep the trench over there, be there targets or not.
-Stand by !

I flexed one knee under my body and leaned on the ground with my straight leg. I held the LMG hard in my hands. My assistant on my side was preparing likewise. Now Nummenpää opened fire. I bounced up and started running ahead, crouched, past the ridge top, then dropped down in a small furrow in the middle of the potato patch. A bunker could be seen to the right, it was firing at me, I still found myself in its field of fire, dirt was flying up just in front of me. I should have run further in one go I was thinking while opening fire at the sandy parapet of the trench. The kicking of the weapon butt at my shoulder was reassuringly and it was better still to see the burst hit the sand. I moved the point of impact and spent the mag in brief bursts. Then a quick magazine change and again I opened fire.

At the edge of my field of vision I saw Nummenpää dash past me and dropping down ahead and to the left of me. After he had opened fire I got up and ran as fast as I could the the edge of the potato patch. There were some thin alders, also a small hillock to provide moral support to me. The nearest building was about 100m from me at that spot. The trench had been dug just in front of the house, the gavel towards me.

I was firing at the enemies in the trench, actually at the heads that showed up. They vanished as my bullets were hitting near them. Karppinen crept next to me and shouted:
-Left corner of the house!
I turned my weapon and aimed at the LMG firing at the corner of the house, the man was showing only his head and right shoulder. I saw my bullets strike sparks at the cornerstone. The enemy was thrown backwards and vanished while his LMG remained there on its bipod.

Where was my assistant tarrying? I looked back and saw immobile men on the stubble here and there. Dead or wounded ? They were all on the spot where both enemy bunkers were able to cover and I had passed it by running. Now the closest one got up and going. He was a lad from Lohja, my assistant. Having dropped down next to me I saw him smile in a kind of stiff manner. His face was almost white but he appeared to be calm as he took his rifle in position and started observing.

Now Nummenpää appeared on my left side. His arms and hands were moving fast and purposely as he swapped the mag and loaded. Suddenly I pulled my head down, there was hissing and whining in the air, something touched my helmet, making the hair in my neck to rise. Karppinen was yelling in a loud voice behind him, telling the men to hurry up. As the noise of battle was spreading all over I knew that the Companies had started moving. I had to spot the LMG or MG that was firing at us. I was observing intensely starting from the right, my eyes were sweeping the contour of the terrain, the trench parapet and the entire building that was constantly being hit by bullets.

Another burst, it hit the ground ahead and to the right. The hits told me that the burst was fired from right ahead of me. At the same moment Lt. Hirsto shouted behind me:
-LMG, fire at the roof on the left !
I took a look to the left while replacing the mag. I saw a row of helmets on the roof of the building to the left.
-Quick, Karppinen shouted. -They are shooting at us.
I had to expose my right flank to the hidden MG to be able to fire at the roof. I aimed accurately and fired brief bursts. I could see black splinters flying off the shingled roof and the helmets just vanished. Quickly I turned to my previous position and started observing. I heard that the weapon firing at us was constantly active but the burst passed overhead. Maybe it was firing at the crest of the ridge that was higher than us. I glanced behind me. Four men were still lying immobile on the stubble. No others were seen. We were four men who had managed to cross the ridge while the rest except those four had pulled back.

Suddenly I heard the sound of a bullet hitting a human body. I recognised the sound, turned and saw Karppinen fall on his back. He may have risen too high while watching the enemy. Nummenpää looked at me over Karppinen's body. I could see his teeth and knitted brows. Then again swishing and hissing, straw bits were flung up and the stubble swayed as if hit by a gust of stormy wind. I laid low but as soon as the enemy stopped firing I put up my head and watched. The only thing that I was then interested in was that cursed MG. Nummenpäää was shouting me and Lt. Hirsto was calling for LMG fire but I did not listen any more. My world consisted of me and that weapon, firing from concealment, and the very moment I did spot it.

Behind the trench there was a small bush of raspberry canes and milkweed, in the middle of which I imagined spotting the round disk of a MG water jacket. Carefully I aimed at it and fired controlled brief bursts. Immediately I saw the white milkweed fluffs floating in the air, some of the stalks fell and the same moment I clearly saw the MG and the head and the shoulders of a man. The range was some 100m so I could not miss. I felt cruel satisfaction as the man stopped but while I was replacing the mag, the man – or his replacement – got up and I had to drop down. Something hit the bipod leg and threw my weapon down. I rolled to the side and heard how bullets beat the earth by my side. Most war veterans have heard a burst of bullets as it whistles, whines or buzzes past near you. The sound is different depending on the distance from your ear. The burst sounded to me now like someone would be constantly cracking a whip overhead. It was then my turn to shoot and I fired one mag, but the battle was unequal because against my mag – about eighteen bullets – the enemy was firing at least a half of a belt MG ammunition, or more. He also had for his advantage the MG carriage and the lockable adjustment wheel.

I changed position thrice and twice rolled enough to the left to escape the field of the MG fire but then I was unable to fire at it any more.

At some point of time Nummenpää took a hit right at his LMG muzzle cone, losing in one go the bipod and the front sight: his weapon had become useless. He volunteered to evacuate Karppinen and get help for us. Then I took a look at my assistant. A while ago he had been firing his rifle every now and then, now he was lying with his face to the earth like a dead. Nummenpää crept next to Karppinen and settled prone on the ground. I crept on the other side and started to roll the Sr. Sgt on his back, the man was totally listless but was breathing with difficulty. On the back of his tunic under the left shoulder-bone there was a blood-soaked spot as wide as a tea saucer, a red bubble was emerging at every breath. Nummenpää started to take him away, creeping low under his heavy load.

I was alone now but I did not even think of escaping. My state of mind was one that a psychiatrist might call numbing. All I felt was a desire to exact revenge at that sneaky MG. I returned to the alders and called the name of my assistant. He did neither respond nor move, he looked like one in deep sleep, and his rifle was in front of him, leaning on a clod.

The very same moment as I had set up my LMG and I had started aiming at the bush I took a heavy blow at my head and lost consciousness for a moment. I found myself lying under my weapon and stroking my face. I did not see any blood and actually I did not know if I was hit at all. My ears were ringing like a hundred shrill organ pipes and spots of different colours were spinning in my field of vvision, but then I was all right again. I found that my helmet was gone: the chin strap had hurt my jaw. I started emptying my mag pouches, I set four mags next to the LMG, then stood up and with the weapon under my arm I started firing the very moment the muzzle was pointing at the cursed bush. I managed to swap mags twice before the MG retaliated, whereby I rolled to the side and listened while lying on my back. The sky was blue and clear, and high overhead I spotted a hawk turning in a small circle.

As soon as the hissing, crashing and thumping on the ground ceased I was again up, aiming and shooting. The same moment I spotted a man behind the MG to wave his arm while falling down, and I was overcome by malicious joy for winning. I had killed my enemy, the pals could freely walk over the open ridge. As if in a dream I fired a few bursts at the trench, sweeping the parapet and enjoyed seeing my bullets kick up fine sand. Someone called my name but I did not care to listen, I somehow was in a hurry to end this foolishness, spend my ammo and get out, home.

Just as I was swapping a mag I saw that the MG had again come alive. Now I spotted a lively dancing spark at the circular end of the water jacket. Thin blue smoke was rising from the bush that my fire had cut just recently. So there is someone still, I thought cruelly and aimed carefully. But I spent too much time at my final aiming, I found it out not until I was lying on my back on the stubble. Something had hit my jaw and shoulder, there was blood in my mouth and my shoulder was heavy, as if a bag of cement would have been placed on it.

I had taken a hit, the cursed MG had revived and taken me down like every other man of my squad. I tried to move my right arm, it did not obey me any more, it was glued to my body , lower arm along my belt, and something was weighing on it. I tilted my head and spot out something hard among the blood. A fear that I might not get away from this cursed shallow hole started to emerge in my mind. Again someone called my name. I saw my assistant still lying there where he had fallen, but now his eyes were open and he was looking at me, terrified. So he was not dead.

Fear started taking me over, I longed to get away. I was bleeding, and it was my own precious blood. No man's blood was as precious for me as my own. I had to get taken care of, I had done all I was able to, although maybe not very well. There was again an enemy at the grips of the MG, maybe aiming at me, but I was no more afraid of the enemy.

Now I was fearing to bleed dry. No one would laugh at me any more even though I would run as fast as my legs would carry me. So I started creeping to the rear, to the top of the ridge, past the bodies. Every moment I was expecting a burst of bullets to beat the dirt around me and every moment I feared that the blood would run out of me, because a warm flow was running under my garments all the time. I also found my helmet. I took it with me to show it to my children at home and to my suspicious neighbours. While resting on the far side of the hill I took a look at the helmet feeling wild joy for the fact that so many deaths had almost touched my skull yet without any trace. On the front of the helmet there were four neat holes in a row close to each other, but the bullets had been fragmented penetrating the steel plate and when exiting they had torn up the helmet top so that it resembled an opened metal can with the lid turned up.

Someone came creeping to me, he was the leader of the second squad, Cpl. Saari. He took care of me and walked me to the C.C.S. Where the doc carefully took the helmet and threw it in the bush. He explained me that I could not take it with me home and even if I could no one would believe that I had been wearing it as the holes were punched. Then he administered to me some morphine, wrapped up my head and torso, and with an assistant packed me on a stretcher for evacuation. I learned from him and a paramedic that the attack had been stalled due to too hard resistance but it would be continued. I was the seventh wounded of the strike outfit, the rest were left on the stubble. Nummenpää who had taken Karppinen to the C.C.S. Was the only undamaged. I was thinking that this would be the end of my war but I was mistaken.

It continued for another ten hours in the alder bushes surrounding Saarimäki where the stretcher bearers had lost me, having escaped an imaginary enemy and then looking for me and another wounded whose wailing I had to listen for several hours.

It was not an easy struggle because the fear and terror was worse than anywhere, fear of sneaking enemies and their gleaming bayonets, fear of being left behind, fear of perishing of thirst or sunstroke. I could not get off the stretcher, shouting was useless because the noise of battle emerging from the village covered up every sound. Explosive bullets fired from the village were bursting in the forest, and that may have frightened the stretcher bearers.

They found me and the other man, savaged by a mine, his thigh had been compressed by bandage for ten hours, at 0600hrs PM. They said that they had been looking for us all the time and offered their apologies, but the other man was beyond help by now. He had met his fate just before the help arrived.

In due time I was sent to a hospital in old Finland, I recovered and was demobilized just to be remobilized once more before the end of the war.
When thinking back at my duel I have been annoyed for losing. But I have stated in my own defence and that of the others that the enemy did not defeat me by accuracy but by the number of bullets spent.
Saarimäki was taken the next day and the troops headed next for Koivumäki and the Svir river but many a man did not see the final objective.

Squad leader Karppinen survived his wound, he is not listed in the KIA database unlike these of the author's squad buddies:

Laasto, Emil Aleksander ; PFC ;B. 04.12.1898 Uskela ; KIA 04.09.1941 Utkinanmäki ; Age 42 ; JR34, 6.K ;Buried at Salo, Uskela ; Labourer, no children
Oksanen, Paul Rafael ; Pvt; B.10.01.1904 Perniö ; KIA 04.09.1941 Utkinanmäki ;Age 37 ;JR34, 6.K ; Buried at Salo, Perniö ; farm labourer, no children
Toivonen, Frans Mikael ; Pvt. ; B. 18.11.1904 Kiikala ; died on 04.09.1941 38.KS ;Age 36 ;JR 34, 6.K ; Died of his wounds .;Buried at Somero, Somerniemi; farmer .

LMG gunner Nummenpää's fate:
Nummenpää, Yrjö Valdemar. PFC. B.14.04.1914 Somero; Deceased 08.10.1941; 38.KS;
JR34, 6.K; Died WIA. Buried at Salo, Uskela cemetery. Occupation labourer, one child.

6th Coy war diary has not survived, and the II Battalion war diary is very condensed, written in a school notebook. So this story is the only document of the battle of the 6th Company that day.

II Battalion war diary extract:
5.K and 6.K continued their advance to Utkinamäki in accordance with the attack order. At Utkinamäki a strong enemy force was detected, dug in . Grouping took time, darkness descended and the attack was delayed to the next day.
All the afternoon a Russki armoured car was shooting at Vehkaselkä with direct fire.
(in the margin: Vehkaselkä – Utkinamäki)
Artillery concentration at Utkinamäki and Saarimäki was started.
Enemy was shooting very intensely at Vehkaselkä with direct fire guns.
5.K and 6.K attacked at Utkinamäki while 4.K was in reserve with the Jaeger Platoon at Vehkaselkä. The enemy resistance was very tough.
Heavy mortar fired at the enemy armoured car, it caught fire.
4.K and the Jaeger Platoon were ordered to man the brook line in the terrain between Vehkaselkä and Utkinamäki.
III/JR34 attacked from Vehkaselkä right to Saarimäki.
Saarimäki was taken. The village burned down.
Utkinamäki was taken.
Our casualties: 19 KIA (blank) WIA.
Among the KIA was 2nd Lt. Vartio who fell in front of his Platoon. Lt. Lehtinen took a splinter in his arm from a direct fire shell at Vehkaselkä.
Enemy casualties:
(big blank)
The night was calm. The gained success was secured. R&R during the day. Guided by a POW the minefields between Saarimäki and Utkinamäki were found out.
Marching order. Battalion shall start marching for the main road Olonez-Petrozavodsk, from there to Novinki.

End of the day.

This is what happened on there 30th June 1941 at Hanko, according to the II Battalion war diary:
AM calm except the S-Russian air activities resulting in some
18.00hrs casualties. 3 WIA plus and one horse
One half-platoon of the 6.K and signalling squad led by Lt. Rouvari and 2nd Lt. Virta set out at Kampholma (western) on four (rowing) boats past Åbyholma to Rajholma and from there to Svedjeholma (northern). On the S shore of Svedjeholma they were taken under fire by the enemy resulting in three men being WIA. After the reconnoitring had been carried out the outfit returned at 00.45hrs. -At the same time on the “Isthmus” [Hanko peninsula] there was lively artillery activity-
-that lasted up to 0500hrs. Any casualties are not known of.
S-Russian troops have pulled back from the border.
The rest of the day was uncommonly calm.
(end of extract)

PFC Pasanen distinghuised himself in the operation.
JR34 was transferred on the 17th July from Hanko to Carelia, North of Lake Ladoga.

II/JR34 was officially disbanded in Salo on the 19th March 1942 and the men demobilized due to their age.

Posts: 704
Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
Location: Finland

Re: Personal Finnish War Stories

Post by Lotvonen » 06 Jan 2021 06:28

V. Vierimaa

In the hands of the Almighty One

Journal "Kansa Taisteli", 04, 1962

Civilians in the Lapland War. The author, Capt. Vierimaa, was the CO of 6./II/JR11.

It was the 9th October in Paakkola, Kemi. Mrs. Rantalankila, a farmer's wife, could not get anything accomplished that day. Maybe it was the nightmare she had had the previous night, maybe of a premonition of evil things that might be happening. In the dream she found herself on a raft with her children Heikki, Juhani, Liisa, Jussi and Marja. Suddenly the raft had disintegrated into pieces and she had fallen in the water, yelling for help and holding the children. She had woken by her own scream and then staying awake listening the noise from the road, a constant rumble of vehicles and tanks that was shaking the farmhouse.

In the morning the old neighbour farmer Jaakko had visited them with a message:
-It is best, Maija, that you round up your offspring and join us for our journey in the forest – nothing good is going to happen. It was told in the wireless that Kemi has been taken [by Finnish troops] and Tornio, too. Soon there is going to be fighting here in Paakkola. We shall be leaving for the sauna at Käreoja after one hour, why don't you join us. You know the road.
-Having said that Jaakko left.
-Oh, good G*d, only if Kalle would be here. It was at least the hundredth time as her thoughts were seeking the man who was among all the other able-bodied Finnish men and of whom nothing had been heard of due to the confusion reigning in Lapland. He might have been killed on top of everything.

Their situation had not been improved by the fact that early in the morning a German had entered their house. Angrily he had been talking in a foreign language, and every now and then beckoned to the direction of Kemi. Then he had gone out and started digging a hole on the ridge behind the stable.
-Would they have to leave behind the cattle in the shed and the horse, too. Evacuation controllers had visited them but now there was no one.
Heikki, the boy, had enough initiative as to retrieve a backpack from the attic and now was stuffing in it some food advised by his mother – bread, butter and salted fish.

They were interrupted by a loud bang, followed by stones falling on the roof and the window been blown in--
-Good G*d, are they now shooting at this hill, too!

The mother grabbed the youngest one, the girl Marja, in her arms, ordered the other children to follow her and headed running for the dense alder bushes behind the house. She heard another three or four explosions while running. She was the last inhabitant of Paakkola to leave the village that October day

JR 11 had had a hard time at Tornio. Many a brother had drawn his last breath and many had been sent to be fixed up, but the German had not been able to push the Finn into the sea or in the hotel at Haaparanta [in Sweden] although they had proudly boasted so in Kemi. The landing operation at Tornio had been a success and it was now the turn of the Jerry to head their columns for Rovaniemi and Muonio with the Finns snapping at their heels.

Col. Lt. Halsti, the Rgt CO had been tasked to pursue the enemy in the direction of Rovaniemi. Most of the Regiment used the road Tornio-Laurila-Paakkola-Rovaniemi. The Division Jaeger Company was directed via the Arpela road to Paakkola followed by II/JR 11 through the forest aiming to cut off the German withdrawal route at Paakkola.

II/JR 11 had managed to advance to Kaakamo and from there they headed for Arpela across the forests and from there on to Paakkola. On their way the Battalion met war refugees from the Alatornio area in the farmhouses in the forest. 5th Coy men were struggling with their burdens among the others and 2n Lt Hirmu found out how cold an October day could be for a man wearing a summer tunic and other less than ideal gear. So it occurred to him when passing a house full of civilians to shout in and ask if anybody had a pair of gloves to spare. Immediately a granny offered a pair of woollen gloves to the Lieut. He put on the gloves on his freezing hands, grateful, and turned to follow his platoon.
-You did not pay, the granny shouted, three hundred marks!
The confused Lieut who had believed to get away with it by thanking, pulled his wallet and read the banknotes on the Granny's hand. The Company CO who had happened to witness the scene, was angry:
-There is no Winter War spirit any-more, by heck, I am surprised we are not expected to pay an entrance fee to this Lapland theatre.

In the afternoon about after 2 o'clock in the afternoon the Battalion caught up wit the Jaeger company that had stuck some four km from the Paakkola-Arpela crossroads. Immediately the Companies fanned out on both sides of the road and started traversing the open ground but were met with such a mortar, artillery and MG fire that the attack had to be interrupted due to casualties and the troops pulled back to the edge of the meadows.

When jumping off for the attack at the edge of the meadow the men had heard an odd sound ahead. It had been like a child crying but the men did not have a chance to pay more attention to it at that stage. The Jerry was taking care of the programme. With a great deal of trouble our men wounded in mortar and MG fire were saved. Then as shooting had died down the sound was heard again.
-What is that, even the Coy CO wondered having arrived with his Runner to the spot where the sound could be heard.

An odd wailing, at times increasing, could be clearly heard emerging from the direction of the enemy. The men listened quietly – when the rapid firing German MG s allowed, sweeping the edge of the meadow with their accurate fire. The Coy CO was soon summoned to a briefing by the Btn CO, who was also informed of the case.

As the CO had issued the order to attack at nightfall he set out to see for himself. Indeed, arriving at the edge of the meadow weeping could be clearly heard. As darkness fell every German weapon opened up for half an hour and again the meadow was raked by MG fire, cutting down bushes in the Finnish positions. The Finnish line was taking casualties in a nasty rate, because the German fire was accurate. Stretcher bearers were sent for here and there. Our rate of fire went up, too, and as the H hour approached there was no reason to hold back the attack.

Some ten minutes before the H hour the firing ceased and at the same time a sound like a child crying could be heard again.
-What the heck is that? May men were wondering about it. It was an unnerving sound.
The CO's Runner arrived at the same moment informing that the Germans were disengaging and the attack was to be launched immediately. Platoon leaders ordered their men to start off and they started traversing the open ground, running in the dark and stumbling on ditches.

The Company CO was running with his Runner about in the middle of his company line happened to pass a hay barn, and there being no shooting going on just then, their ears picked up a human voice emerging from the barn. The men glanced at each other surprised but it was not a moment to examine this matter – they had to push on. The opposite side of the meadow was reached.

The very moment two or three explosions were heard on the right flank followed by a shout:
-Bouncing Bettys – Mines!
Stretcher bearers were needed very much. Another explosion right ahead and then to the left – there indeed were mines. By experience gained we knew that there were not just one or two but hundreds of them, and since there was no more incoming fire from the bush the attack stopped and the Company CO sent a Runner to report to the Commander. It did not make sense to make more casualties that night.

Then the Company CO remembered the barn they had passed during the attack and he beckoned to his Runners and half-a-dozen of men to join him to return to the barn. They grouped quickly in front of the door, then Sgt. Tikkanen went to the door and yanked it open.
-Who is there?
-Oh dear G*d, are you Finns? -It was a weepy female voice intermingled with children crying at full volume on top of the hay.
-Sure we are Finns, just get out of there, the Coy CO told in a reassuring voice.
From the top of the dry hay in the barn climbed down a woman carrying a two year old child and five others, the oldest of which was barely in his teens. They swarmed around their mother, freezing and weeping.

-For G*d's sake have you been in the barn all the time? The nonplussed officer asked.
-I have, the woman explained, I was on my way to the Käreoja farmhouse to escape the war with my children and as they started shooting at the road we found ourselves on this meadow and we did not know where to go. Then we climbed on top of the hay.
-Listen missus, if you can pray so cross your hands and thank – there has been a heavenly miracle. Two companies have been firing at each other across this meadow with every weapon they have for hours and you did not get a single nick. Your fate was in the hands of the Almighty One.

The men standing around were silent. The poor mother with her children was standing in the middle of them, shaking. Something had happened, such as a front line soldier is at loath to name but in that he does believe and trust.
-It cannot be helped, war is war. Can you find your way to the Käreoja farmhouse? You shall get three men to carry the children, and Tikkanen, you have got a torch, go and show way.

Mrs Paakkola and her children vanished in the darkness, and found her way to the farmhouse that was already packed full of refugees, the soldiers told having returned. She and her children did get some rest and peace unlike the Company. They spent the night freezing at the edges of the meadow, huddling at campfires, and continued their advance for Rovaniemi as soon as the road was sufficiently de-mined.

Extract from the 6.K war diary:

(JR11 has been shipped to Oulu by rail and bivouacking in tents near the town)
Reveille. Weather: rainy
AM : Camp area clean-up, totally
Lecture on behaviour and gear maintenance.
Training in saluting.
Sr. Sgt Oikarinen's evacuation command returned.
Weather: varying
Reveille and preparation for marching
Coy started the march to the new location in Hentanperä where the rest of the Btn was.
March started with lightened backpacks probably to Toppila but retuned en route. Departure delayed. Still, one hour alert readiness.
Reveille. Weather: cloudy
Weapons cleaning and inspection.
Camp area cleaning and inspection.
March to the harbour in Toppila started and by 1800hrs the Coy was in Toppila. Embarkment took so long that not until 2200hrs every man was on board. (S/s “Norma”) . She immediately sailed out to North.
Weather: rainy
09.10hrs “Norma” arrived at Röyttä harbour in Tornio.
Coy started advancing via Pirkkiö on the Tornio-Kemi road.
Coy advanced to the direction of Kemi, managing to cross Keräpudas river arm.
Firefight broke out there, whereby our Coy suffered casualties.
A patrol comprising an AT squad was sent to the direction of “Little Berlin” [German camp area]. The patrol did not return.
War booty included e.g. two lorries, one motor cycle. 16 POWs taken.
Our casualties:
Capt. Viljo Vierimaa WIA,
Cpl. Uuno Juntunen (KIA)
Cpl. Veikko Karjalainen (WIA)
Cpl. Yrjö Nyystilä (WIA)
Pvt. Väinö Haikara (WIA)
Pvt. Arvo Haapamäki (WIA)
Pvt. Väinö Nygård (WIA)
Pvt. Veikko Teerelä (WIA)
Pvt. Matti Nyyssönen (WIA)
Pvt. Heikki Koskimies (WIA)
Pvt. Urpo Hannus (WIA)
Pvt. Uuno Kaartinen (WIA)
Pvt. Eino Turpeinen (MIA)
Pvt. Einar Björkllund (MIA)
Pvt. Kaarle Isomaa (WIA)
Pvt. Aarre Kangasharju (WIA)
Pvt. A.Vilmi (WIA)
Pvt. Eino Tornela (MIA)
PFC Viljo Evesti (MIA)
Pvt. Valter Pukki (MIA)
Pvt. Ernest Miikkala (MIA)
Coy was relieved by IIIBtn and we were admitted to rest.
Coy was tasked to march 3,5km North to a river line. Assignment carried out without battle.
Coy returned to the Btn C.P. And set up bivouac at the parsonage.
Moved to the vicinity of Keroputaa for reserve. Accommodation in houses.
Lt. T. Andersson returned to 5.K.
Capt. Vierimaa in briefing by the Btn CO.
Coy assembled for a flanking operation, the entire Battalion participated.
Grouping E of Rauna next to the rwy line.
Btn started off at 1000hrs. 5.K, marching to the left of 7.K, was left as reserve as 7.K and 6.K headed out to cut the road.
2nd Lt. Hirmu set out to patrol while Lt. Haglund and IIIPlatoon tried to cut off the road on the right from 6.K but did not get to the road because the Germans had secured the road. The Germans had tanks, at least 6 or 7, which may have been “Tigers” [sic!].
Since Capt. Toivonen, our Btn CO, was wounded, Capt. Vierimaa became the temporary Btn CO.
Coy started pulling back. Wounded were carried away. Germans had cut off our retreat route so we had to make a big bypass to North to get out of there.
WIA PFC Moilanen Jaakko
Pvt. Hautala Heikki
MIA PFC. Tuomela Martti
Coy arrived at Keropudas.
Coy was billeted in the houses on the shore of Kyläjoki river for rest.
To the above-mentioned place arrived a part of the admin platoon led by Cpl. Manninen.
Coy was subordinated to III/JR11 and set out grouped for a counterstrike.
In the evening the Coy took over the positions on the W side of Kyläjoki at the ford led by Lt. Andersson.
in the morning the enemy prepared for their attack with heavy shelling.
The enemy attacked at the ford in the afternoon. Having suffered considerable casualties the enemy managed to establish a beachhead on the W shore where they had to pull back from at twilight.
Our casualties:
KIA PFC. (no name)
WIA: Sahonen, pvt., Marjamaa, pvt.,Räisänen.
The previous night Lt. Vesterinen had relieved Lt. Andersson.
0400hrs the enemy attacked at the ford across the river to the W shore supported by heavy weapons, also using “Panzerfausts” to destroy weapons nests.
The battle went on for five hours at a close range, e.g. hand grenades were used.
The platoon was reinforced with one Squad.
0900hrs the platoon had suffered such casualties that gaps had appeared in their line. The result was that the enemy was able to penetrate in our rear whereby Lt. Vartiainen considered it best to abandon the positions and save the remaining men from total destruction. It was impossible to get reinforcements.
Coy moved to new positions.
After a counterstrike by our troops the Coy retook the previous positions. II Platoon took over the positions led by 2nd Lt. Hirmu.
KIA PFC Karppinen, J.,
PFC Kukkonen, V.
Pvt. Karjalainen, T.,
Pvt. Vilppula, K.,
Pvt. Suokoski, M.,
Sgt. Kulkki, R.,
PFC Heikkilä, N.,
Aspirant Valtonen, S.
Pvt. Härkönen, M.
Cpl. Suikkari, M.,
Pvt. Pitkänen, A.,
Pvt. Anttila, G.
PFC Heikkilä, M.,
Pvt. Halmetoja, A.,
Pvt. Häpilä, M.,
Pvt. Ylitalo, M.,
Pvt. Korhonen, A.,
Pvt. Kosunen, V.,
Sr. Sgt Aittarinen, E.,
Pvt. Mikkonen,
Pvt. Anttonen, M.,
Cpl. Korismäki, H.,
Sgt. Mustonen, V.,
Cpl. Ryten, V.,
PFC Kukkola, L.,
Pvt. Alatalo, H.,
Pvt. Holappa, H.,
Pvt. Hyttinen, U.,
Pvt. Juuttinen, P.,
Pvt. Kanervikko, A.,
Pvt. Meriläinen, Toivo,
Pvt. Säkkilä, N.,
Pvt. Kakko, N.,
PFC Karkunen, H.,
Pvt. Pakkala, A. (died in KS)
Pvt. Anttila, R.,
Pvt. Korppinen, Eino,
Pvt. Halmentoja , G.,
Pvt. Hirvelä, P.,
Pvt. Holappa, V.,
Pvt. Kerkman, V.
In the evening the Coy was admitted to rest in “Little Berlin”. All day our positions were subjected to heavy artillery and mortar shelling.
KIA Pvt. Syrjälä, N.
WIA Pvt. Manninen, Väinö,
PFC Annala, J.,
Pvt. Nuojua, E.,
Pvt. Tauriainen, V.
Coy set out to march for Petäjänmaa where we stayed overnight.
Coy marched as spearhead to Paakkola where in the evening we were engaged by the enemy.
KIA Lt. Haglund, U.,
Pvt. Mikkola, N.
PFC Evesti, V.,
Pvt. Pukki, V.,
Pvt. Kaikkonen, A.
Coy bivouacked at Paakkola.
Coy advanced in the direction of the road to Rovaniemi and reached Loue the same evening. Lt. Vesterinen was assigned the task of the Coy CO. Capt. Vierimaa was posted as the CO of 9.K/III Btn.
(End of day)

The patrol sent to "Little Berlin" did not return until later which is left unrecorded. Most likely the men joined looting of the German stores, which included alcohol...

Dear reader.
You may think that to list the names of casualties is unnecessary and tedious, but I beg to disagree. These men died and suffered for the country, the only thing that I can do is to publish their names.

Posts: 704
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Location: Finland

Re: Personal Finnish War Stories

Post by Lotvonen » 10 Jan 2021 06:11

Matti Polojärvi

Straggling at Kuuterselkä

Journal “Kansa Taisteli”, 04. 1962

A Runner in action at Kuuterselkä. JR53.

Sunshine was the most beautiful on the 14th June 1944 and the air was full of birdsong. Just single shots and occasional bursts could be heard from the front line, reminding of the ongoing war. The I Platoon [120mm] of the Mortar Company of JR 53 was on the VT line near Kuuterselänjärvi lake between the Kuuterselkä village and the Mustamäki railway station. My duty was to be the Runner for the Company CO and my Platoon leader. We had been billeted in the Villanen farmhouse near a pond.

It was about 0700 hrs as I was fetching water for our surrogate coffee from the pond as distant rumbling started and soon the entire district was turned into a hellish shelling. The Kuuterselkä fields on the far side of the pond were just a sea of flames. “Stalin's organs” accompanied this orchestra in their own manner. At the same time also ground attack aircraft appeared, flying low in endless formations, firing at targets on the ground. For a while I was lying under a pine, and branches cut by bullets kept falling on me.

Soon our Company CO Lt. M. Hieta and our Platoon leader Lt. S. Holviala came to me on their way to the mortars. I joined them. Enemy shelling went on for hours but there was a relative calm in our positions compared with the open ground at Kuuterselkä where there seemed to be hundreds of shells bursting every moment. The village was well visible to the place where we found ourselves.

It may have been about 1000hrs as from the front line across the open field came a Senior Sergeant whom I knew with 10 to 12 men. They told me that they had had to abandon their positions under hard pressure, which had created a gap in the line where they had been.

A little later I met the Company CO and mentioned him that those men had retreated, but he did not believe it and I preferred not to talk about it to anyone. Yet our CO ordered me, just in case, to load the stuff at our lodgings to the baggage train. Also he sent two men to liaise with the Btn CO in Kuuterselkä.

When carrying the stuff for the fourth time from the house situated on an open field a burst of LMG fire landed just next to my boots. I thought then that it may have been indirect fire from the front line and did not pay any attention. Later it was obvious that there may have been enemies by then at the perimeter of the field that I was crossing. After this incident I returned once more to our billets with the Coy CO to look for our little dog called “Nana” but did not find her, she may have escaped in panic under the house. We returned with the rest of our stuff.

Men were constantly trickling from the first line, singly and in small groups. The liaison runners did not return from the Battalion C.P. Heavy enemy shelling had continued all forenoon and destroyed all our communications. Therefore our Platoon was totally isolated. Despite that our mortars were firing at pre-determined targets at full rate. Due to lack of F.O.O. our firing was not fully effective. One mortar took a hit and among others Pvt. Koivuniemi was wounded.

Since a considerable number of infantry had already passed our firing positions and there was the obvious risk that the mortars could soon no more be disengaged, our CO decided to pull our Platoon to the rear. Later it was found that our departure took place just in the nick of the time. The Platoon retreated behind the Labour company barracks at the roadside. When traversing the road there as a very beautiful house aflame at a bridge.

The enemy may have spotted our departure from their observation balloon because harassment shelling was launched just at the terrain at the road, super-heavy shells kept constantly coming in. A little later three Supply Platoon horsemen had arrived at our abandoned mortar positions with ammunition but the enemy was already there. Two of them were taken POW but the third one escaped, having been lagging behind due to his slow horse.

Having arrived at our new positions our Company CO ordered me to liaise with the Regimental CO Col. Lt. J.A. Ravila whose C.P. was situated in Liikola village some kilometre farther off, at the end of a poor cart road. I set out about at 1100hrs.

The Regimental C.P. was busy so it took time before I was allowed to present my message to Col:Lt. Ravila. Among other matters I mentioned him that there may be gaps in the front line. Judging by circumstances the CO may have been informed about the situation in the front line, because he mentioned that the matter may actually not be so but in case there should be minor breaks the Er.P.11 led by Maj. Loimu had been sent there to prepare for a counter-attack if one was necessary. I saw the CO's worried countenance and I also had heard from others about the seriousness of the situation. Finally I was provided with detailed instructions on the future task of the Company and I soon set out to return.

There was one matter that occupied my mind: the road on which I had arrived at Liikola was now totally abandoned, whereas on my incoming journey it had been full of men and vehicles. Having proceeded some I met a Lieut sitting by the side of the road with an outfit of about half a platoon. He enquired if I knew anything about the situation. I briefly told him what the Regimental CO had said. Having heard this he returned for the Kuuterselkä village but I do not know how far he made it.

It was about 1400hrs as I arrived at my destination riding a rickety bike, but there was no one of our Platoon. Having erred around for a while I spotted a note on a tree trunk, with an arrow and text: “This way”. I set out at once but having proceeded one kilometre I lost the track and returned to the said note, sat down and thought which way to go. Some 200m off was the Mustamäki – Kuuterselkä road, sounds of traffic and people talking emerging from there. I was tempted to go and check if they were friends or foes, but abandoned the idea and headed back to the Regimental C.P. Along the path.

Having proceeded about one kilometre two Finnish soldiers armed with SMGs came my way and after them the Er.P.11 CO Maj. Loimu. I reported in detail to him about my journey and showed on the map the spot where I had bee, but he did not believe it. I continued my journey.

Having reached the area of the Battalion it was under attack by dozens of ground attack aircraft, continuously firing at our troops. Stretcher bearers were requested in two locations. Later I learned from my friends in the battalion that they were able to advance just a little before engaged by the enemy. At that moment the enemy probably was setting up their attack.

On the night of 14/15th of June at 0100hrs I found my Company in the village of Kanneljärvi and reported to my Platoon leader. He shook my hand, sincerely happy, having feared for the worst. There were many a man MIA of our Company, among them 2nd Lt. Olavi Kuussaari, well liked by everyone, who never returned. Thinking about it afterwards it was just a miracle how good luck I had when I was unable to follow the road taken by my Company. Enemy would have been there to meet me because they had taken by 1900hrs the positions at the Vammeljoki river next to Kanneljärvi village.

Database of the war dead:
Kuussaari, Olavi Erik ; 2nd Lieutenant ; Born 01.11.1923 Oulu ; KIA 14.06.1944 ; age 20 ; JR 53, I Mortar Platoon ; MIA, declared dead ; Symbolically buried in Oulu ; student.

I Mortar platoon war diary has not survived unlike those of the II and III platoons.

War diary extract, II Platoon

A concentrated shelling and aerial bombarding began which lasted more than two hours after which the enemy broke through on the Battalion sector, the Platoon was scattered in the villages of Kanneljärvi, Liikola and Hämeenkylä. In the battle were wounded 2nd Lt O. Ahola who was left in the hands of the enemy as well as wounded Cpls Niemi V. and Aho P. and PFCs Alaräihä J. and Turunen K., the first-mentioned PFC being MIA. The (heavy) weaponry of the Platoon and most of the supply gear were lost to the enemy.
The Battalion in positions in the terrain S of the Liikola – Kanneljärvi road. The Platoon was in the role of rifle infantry.
(end of day)

War diary extract, III Platoon
Fire activities.
Fire activities and enemy air force bombarding objects farther in the rear.
Some 475 projectiles spent.
In the morning the enemy launched an artillery concentration followed by enemy attack and enemy air force was in lively action.
Meal, carried out during live action.
Our supply has been harassed by enemy air force and shelling that wounded three of our men
19.00hrs (7.40PM) meal.
Today 970 projectiles spent.
Returned from furlough Cpl. Aro, O., and PFC Huhtela M.
Early meal due to the situation. Aerial activities specially lively.
Returned from furlough Pvt. Ihalainen
Platoon Ldr in terrain reconnoitring
Weather turned rainy.
Total some 170 projectiles spent.
(end of day)

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Joined: 04 Mar 2012 09:19

Re: Personal Finnish War Stories

Post by OldBill » 10 Jan 2021 16:51

The Soviets were using an observation balloon, interesting! I'd never considered someone still using those in WWII.

Seppo Koivisto
Posts: 653
Joined: 20 Nov 2006 22:49
Location: Finland

Re: Personal Finnish War Stories

Post by Seppo Koivisto » 13 Jan 2021 07:46

Wikipedia gives the following information about the Soviet use of observation balloons during WWII, but without any sources.
The Red Army of the Soviet Union used Observation Balloons for artillery spotting. 8 "Aeronautical Sections" existed and 19,985 observation flights were performed by balloonists of the Red Army during the Second World War, clocking up 20,126 flight hours. 110 Soviet Observation Balloons were lost.

Posts: 704
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Location: Finland

Re: Personal Finnish War Stories

Post by Lotvonen » 13 Jan 2021 09:28

Veikko Soinela

“Unofficial visit at Saarimäki”

Unpublished hand-written manuscript from the archive of “Kansa Taisteli”, undated.

The author was serving in the ranks of III/JR44, NE of L. Ladoga, probably in the III Battalion Jaeger Platoon.

It was a rainy September day in 1944. I was summoned to briefing by my Company CO. I was tasked to get from the Saarentaa hill next night one or more Russians. There was no time for any major preparation. My capture group leader was Cpl. L.. With him I reconnoitred the best possible route to advance. Having received all the relevant information to enable our mission from the stronghold CO and the local F.O.O. We were satisfied and returned.

My task was to find good brave men to join me. I selected quickly among the men I was familiar with. Later I found out that my selection had been correct. Two Sappers and a paramedic were added to support me. After briefing all the men started their preparations for the mission.

At 2000hrs the task force of 20 men had assembled in a wide trench behind our positions. It was full moon. Fortunately there was some cloud on the sky which covered the moon occasionally. Also the wind was quite strong which appeared to enable us advance quietly. Having agreed with the F.O.O. About signalling and having informed the front line manning about us “going over the top” it was the moment to go. A quick check proved that everything was O.K. While giving the last advice on the covering squads the capture squad and the Sappers climbed over the top to the wire. I hurried in the darkness after them.

At the wire the Sappers expertly cut a gap in it and in succession every man passed to no-man's-land. Now the thrilling moments were at hand. At first we advanced crouching, but soon I ordered to proceed creeping. Weapons and magazines were reflecting the moonlight, so they had to be covered up as one best was able to. While watching in every direction we were advancing at a snail's pace. Every one of our senses was working 100 per cent. I was pleased to see that our advance went on smoothly and the orders were relayed from mouth to ear.

A scratching sound emerged from our left. Every man stopped with a finger on trigger. Did the adversary spot us? Nothing unusual was heard, however. The sound ended and we went on advancing. Afterwards I learned that the sound was caused by the men sent to follow us. However they did not catch up with us.

Suddenly our file stopped. I crept to the lead and found that we found ourselves at the perimeter of a minefield. The Sappers set to work which was slow but finally the mines were rendered harmless. There was a 20m deep open ground in front of us which could be traversed with confidence. Soon there was a sloping side of a rock in front of us. We stopped at its foot to consider the situation. I started to doubt if we would be able to scale the rock unnoticed. This is what we would have to accomplish to carry out our mission successfully. Having thought of the matter I sent Pvt. M., renowned as a quick and resourceful man, to report to the Mortar F.O.O. Our current position. Pvt. M. carried out his task and was back 15 minutes later.

Now we started scaling the slope with extreme care. Another stop. There was the enemy Spanish rider line. With the help of the sappers our route was open soon again. Their task was now completed and I left them there with the order that the rider is to be thrown totally aside as soon as they hear the first shots. To enable the evacuation of eventual casualties and quick withdrawal I left another two men to secure at the hindrance line. Thus our rear was secure from sudden surprises.

Our task appeared to be proceeding successfully in every respect. Man after man had passed through the last hindrance. True enough in front of us and under us was the hardest terrain, bare even rock. As moon emerged from the cloud one started to feel uncomfortable. We kept on creeping, quickly, in open double file. We passed the crest of the rock. But we also had reached the point where our operation stalled. Our right wing was forced to open fire at a string of enemies that by surprise appeared at a distance of ten meters. Now the situation got serious. We opened intense fire and we did not have to wait long for retaliation. Now the primers of hand grenades started snapping on both sides, tarrying on the rock could soon become fateful. The matter was decided quickly by an enemy SMG which opened p from a weapons nest on the left, completely covering the area where we found ourselves. Fortunately the SMG fire just swept past overhead but as it was hitting unpleasantly near, bullets whining and exploding on the surface of the rock I issued orders to pull back to the hindrance line while firing. It appeared that our mission was aborted, however well it had seemed to proceed in the beginning. After a 10 to 15 min firefight with the enemy getting reinforcements we had reached the wire. With a flare signal I requested mortar fire and ordered the boys to withdraw to our trench soonest possible.

I was expecting that the enemy would soon give us a good shelling. While running across the bog with long strides the enemy was shoving bombs down their mortar barrels as fast as they were able to. Again we were lucky. The bombs hit 200m to our left. The enemy had guessed wrong our withdrawal direction, so we soon found ourselves in our positions, taking a breather. However now the air was soon thick with steel. Shelling hit our trench. As it finally ended we were able to state with satisfaction that we had got away with it without casualties.

Our prisoner taking mission had ended this time without result, yet providing us with several important lessons.

(signed) Sr. Sgt. V. Soinela.

Character description of the author, most likely by his Company Commander:

Sr. Sgt. Soinela, Veikko, born 14.7.1916 in Uskela, son of a teacher.
Having completed junior high school and folk high school war interrupted the studies and future plans of this always keen and energetic man. Five and a half years service in the military has not much affected his positive character. Being a warrior constantly ready for action he has found himself in charge of several different tasks. His hobby is finding good tobacco blends and characteristically he has a pipe between his teeth constantly.

His character is energetic and fair, he lays out his opinion about a matter directly as he finds it to be, without regard to the rank of the man he is talking with. Maybe that is why he has been assigned as the “propaganda minister” of his outfit. Sometimes he may flare a bit but a second later he is laughing at the incident.

Signed: Capt. (illegible signature)

III/JR44 war diary extract:
During the night inf. arms action more lively than usually all along our line.
02.10– 02.40hrs
Enemy mortar fired at Pällä some 100 bombs.
Nothing special during the day.
Our patrol (out) (Ref Appx. no. 4) [Not there, alas!]
During the action Russki fired some 500 shells at Pällä and the rear with artillery and mortars.
Our patrol that set out from Teippa returned due to moonlight.
Regimental CO arrived at the C.P.
Div. CO arrived at the C.P.
Div and Rgt CO s headed for the I Btn sector
22.25hrs and on
Enemy (loudspeaker) propaganda – News from German Eastern front, landing in France, greetings by POWs
Radioed speech of the Prime Minister
(End of day)

Posts: 704
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Location: Finland

Re: Personal Finnish War Stories

Post by Lotvonen » 17 Jan 2021 06:52

Toimi Taipale

Rendezvous with Death

Journal "Kansa Taisteli" 04, 1962

Pasurinkangas is situated in the Carelian Isthmus near Salmenkaita.
The author was a Jaeger Platoon Squad Leader of I/JR2

In the violent attack battles of the year 1941 the I Btn of JR2 had advanced as far as Pasurinkangas. The marks of the Winter War battles were still visible. There were anti-tank ditches and weapons nest after another which the enemy was able to utilize. Our Battalion found it out during the next days as we were attacking in the direction of the road to Valkjärvi.

It was the evening of August 27th and the dusk was falling. Our Battalion Jaeger Platoon in which I had been posted as a Squad leader had assembled to have a moment of rest near the road bridge traversing the railway line. We were kind of privileged the way Battalion Jaeger Platoons were, we usually were getting our orders directly from the Battalion CO. But our campaign had not been an easy one, because our Battalion had lost one third of their men and the number of squads had been shrunk to two.

While resting and smoking at the bridge our Platoon CO, 2nd Lt. Kupiainen, studied his map and said:
-If we manage to dislodge the Vanya early in the morning so by night we shall see Valkjärvi.
-Is it a long way?, I asked
-Twenty plus kilometres, our CO measured the distance.
-There is some distance to catch up, I am telling you. But then we shall find ourselves in the home village of our Sarge Marila.
-He may distribute extra tobacco rations if we get so far.
-Sure he shall, Marila is such a decent guy, opined Pvt. Romu, another man of the Isthmus.

While chatting we spotted a man approaching us, striding fast.
-Rest period over, Pvt. Kakkonen remarked.
No mistake, it was the Battalion CO runner heading our way.
He stopped in front of our Platoon Leader and said so that all of us could hear it:
-Lieutenant, Sir! Order by the Battalion Commander: The Jaeger Platoon is to send out a patrol comprising eight men to establish contact with the enemy. You are going to advance even up to Valkjärvi unless you do not find them sooner.

There was a clear order.
Ensued a moment of silence during which the Platoon leader directed a questioning glance at us the Squad Leaders. The First Squad leader blurted out that he is not one to join such a mission. Pvt. Kakkonen seconded him with his opinion:
-It is going to be a rendez-vous with death for any man going there.

I saw that our obedient team was turning into a gang of grumblers, so I volunteered:
-Count me in. Who is going to join me?
I may have succeeded in gaining the trust of my lads during our previous missions since Pvt. Mäkinen said:
-Let's go since it is Taipale who is the leader.

The Platoon Leader did not have to order any man before a patrol consisting of eight men was assembled. Pvt. Kakkonen was not one to fear a rendez-vous with death since he, too, volunteered.

During the day the sky had become overcast and it had started raining at the dusk. We saw just the surface of the road gleaming with rain water as we mounted our bikes to start the mission. Our plan was to ride up to the 3rd Coy of our Battalion ahead of us securing the road. There we would get up-dated as to the situation and continue on foot.

We kept pedalling in a file. Only the sound of bike chains and the rustling of tires in the rain revealed our movement. I had been leading the patrol for some 300m and I just had thought that the Company securing the road should be somewhere here as someone shouted on the right side of the road:
- Stoi! Rukiveer! Itisutaa!
The same phrase was repeated on our left next to the last lads of our Squad. We realised that we found ourselves among the enemies, the contact had been established completely.

There was no time to consider. My bike fell on the road with a crash and I threw myself on the bottom of the ditch to the right. Not a moment too soon because a MG opened up at a distance of 6 to 7 meters.

I pressed myself as flat on the bottom of the ditch as I ever was able to. My damp clothing sucked the water in the ditch but I did not have a chance to fret about it because a carpet of tracers swept a few inches overhead into the forest on the other side of the road. Bark was flying off the trees, one burst scraped some gravel and moss from the ditch embankment in front of me.

Since the Vanyas had securing on the left side of the road the machine gunners obviously did not want to endanger their own men by shooting at the rest of the men of our squad down the road behind me. A part of the patrol was able to withdraw making use of the ditches and the darkness.

Pvt. Kakkonen did not get away with it quite so easily. When diving off his bike he found himself on the left side of the road which had been closer to him. Having got away from the road he dashed into a hole where two enemies were hunkering. There was no time to greet the occupants because the hole was now overcrowded. When Kakkonen recovered from his initial surprise his SMG had been snatched from him. Then the Finn started using his fists and a wild melee started. Due to the darkness the blows were mostly mutually ineffective. One of the enemies decided to call it a day and whacked with the SMG as hard as he could. Yet the blow barely touched Kaikkonen's shoulder, instead landing on the second opponent who screamed with pain and was incapacitated for a moment. The first enemy must have been perplexed a little since our man managed to snatch back the SMG. He used it as a club for a moment and finally escaped with a bloodied face.

- Later, when recounting the story of his struggle, he regretted not having remembered his sheath knife: there would have been opponents and he would not have been fined!

Sounds of shooting were heard in our point of departure and they guessed that we had been engaged by the enemy. Our Platoon Leader set out at once to follow us. Then the patrolmen started returning one by one. Finally also Pvt. Kakkonen arrived, opining:
-We did contact the enemy and close indeed.

I was the only missing one. But under the MG fire I had not been able to leave the ditch. Finally silence reigned and I started planning how to get out of there. I knew that there were Vanyas in addition to the M gunners lurking in the direction I had arrived from and they must be on their guard very much. Considering my chances I spotted some movement on the gleaming wet surface of the road. Finally I was able to make out at least three shapes, creeping from the left seen from my original direction, across the road for the same ditch where I found myself in. They were creeping very carefully, stopping every now and then to listen, as if sensing that some “Tshuhontsi” may have remained there.

I was armed with an autoloading rifle [SVT-40], a Nagant [revolver] and some hand grenades. The enemies had reached the ditch and they continued to creep to my direction. I decided to use the Nagant and a hand grenade the pin of which I already had pulled out. I also had fumbled around to find a stone on which to activate the grenade.

Still I felt I was in a tricky situation: Three Vanyas were approaching my position and on the flank there was a MG guarding with at least two men. The balance of power was at least five to one. I was sure that if I should budge they would spot me and I would be a goner. I was thinking that if I only had a SMG the chances would be much more even, but in this situation I have to make do with what I have. I reckoned that if I should throw the hand grenade they could shoot before the grenade would burst. That is why I decided to just observe the situation, allowing the enemy get at an arm's length before trying to use the Nagant.

Then, as the enemies were just a few meters off, I noticed that they were creeping out of the ditch up the embankment. There they stopped for a while to listen – and went on creeping along the side of the ditch in my direction.

The situation had turned much to my favour since I was able to see them and their movement against the night sky. The Vanyas creeping closer on the embankment were under lethal threat because the barrel of my Nagant was training their movement and I was prepared to be the one to fire the first shot in case they would spot me. During one of our earlier patrol missions with the lads we had decided that however tough a spot we would find ourselves in we would not surrender. I made up my mind to sell my life as dearly as possible.

The nearest man was hardly farther than three meters as they again stopped to listen. Obviously they had not yet detected me, since they went on in their previous direction. The tension kept increasing. I really was living the most memorable moments of my life. The first man was already creeping by me, slowly dragging himself past me – and again they stopped to listen. Their breathing and bodily odour hit my face, since the first man was within arm's reach. I did not dare to breathe, instead I was holding it as much as possible.

But the M gunners may have spotted or heard some movement because they were calling for their comrades to assemble. The attention of the men next to me was now turned at the talking men and they kept on creeping past me, soon stood up and started walking to the MG, and immediately quiet talking was emerging there. The nerve-wracking moment was over and I sighed with relief. I was thinking: I shall make it now. Now is my hour to act.

I smacked my hand grenade at a stone next to me and threw it at the sound of speaking. Then I dashed across the road into the other ditch. I just had time to get in cover before my grenade burst and I heard a pitiable cry. I did not linger any more, but started running and stumbling down the dark ditch in the direction of friends. My passage was not disturbed by one single shot.

Having fumbled for some time I heard a muffled cry:
-It is Kupiainen here, are you Taipale?
I admitted being the one and hurried in the direction of the voice. It was my Platoon leader who had arrived to find out what had happened with me as I did not return with the others.

He was much delighted by my return, shook my hand and said:
-I want to congratulate you for a mission well accomplished!
He also said that he had told the lads that Taipale shall surely return if he is alive. He also had heard the snap as I armed my hand grenade and the ensuing explosion, he had thought that it was my warm goodbye.

As to me, I enquired about the lads and to my delight I learned that everyone had got away with it. When leaving with Kupiainen we met two of the 3rd Coy securing men. When asking them where they had found themselves as we rode our bikes past them, they told they were a little off from the road but they had heard our passing by. We left the boys in their securing task and went on.

There was a kind of “debriefing” after we had arrived at our outfit. We agreed that the total darkness had been the cover and salvation for us. If the enemies had not shouted before opening fire the result would have been lethal for our patrol. Now we only lost six bikes and Pvt. Kakkonen had bloodied his face.
Three days later the Battalion had taken the battleground and I set out to check the place in daylight. I measured the distance from my position in the ditch to the overground MG nest, it was no more than eight strides. The grenade I had thrown had burst about one and a half meters to the left of the MG, apparently with good effect – as proven by bloodied rags on the scene.

Despite our good luck favouring our patrol mission our outfit was decreased also at Pasurinkangas. As we restarted our advance our well liked Platoon Leader 2nd Lt. Kupiainen fell in front of his outfit. He was young, as well as the rest of our Platoon, we were all still conscripts except two reservists. Despite his young age our CO had been able to create a bond with his men by his action and his demeanour. -We had a silent moment at his dead body. We had lost our Lieut and did not get another one like him. [Not mentioned in the Battalion war diary.]

War Dead database:
Kupiainen, Sulo ; 2nd Lt. ;B. 07.11.1921 ; KIA 30.08.1941 Salmenkaita, Äyräpää ; Age 19 ;JR2, I Btn ; Buried in Lappeenranta ; no children.

I Battalion war diary extract:
Btn CO issued orders to Lt. Maijala to advance across the Salmenkaitajoki river at its mouth and then on to South, the road being the objective. The Sapper Coy subordinated to JR2 shall set up four floating bridges for the crossing. Lt. Viljamaa shall guide the sappers. A Mortar Platoon, a MG Platoon shall be subordinated to 1.K and 3.K – 2.K (Lt. Alppisara) shall advance in the direction of the road. When the crossroads at Pasurinkangas has been taken, the CO is to be liaised and he is to join Lt. Maijala. A F.O.O. Team shall join the Coy.
H = 0600hrs
Lt. Viljamaa set out to guide the Sapper Coy hauling the pontoon boats.
2nd Lt. Kuusi had set out again to liaise with Capt. Toiviainen.
Mortar Platoon set out to move to the Salmenkaitajoki terrain.
1.K set out to move to the Salmenkaitajoki terrain.
The CO, the Orderly officer and 2nd LT. Tuuri moved to the new C.P. Near the Salmenkaitajoki river.
Lt. Maijala started the crossing with perfect success. It was not until at the perimeter of the forest that he was fired at. Advancing went on but slowing down until stalling.
LT. Alppinen received orders to arrive at the crossing that the 1.K had used.
Lt. Viljamaa liaised with Capt. Simia (?) who arrived at the Btn C.P.
New targets were defined for the artillery for artillery preparation.
Lt. Alppisara set out on the same route as Lt. Maijala.
Lt. Maijala reported that Alppisara and Jansson have been liaised, advancing is fast. Alppisara had reached the road from the left, Jansson in the middle and he himself on the right but they were not yet on the road.
One Coy of III Btn was subordinated to I Btn and was ordered to support Alppisara who was now under Russki counterstrike.
Lt. Alppisara reported: the road is free up to his positions.
2nd Lt. Kupiainen was ordered to maintain contact with the enemy in the direction of the road. However he advanced too far and was ambushed. The bikes were abandoned on the Russki side.
Naula 5 orders received: I Btn is to secure from the road to Vuoksi river and III Btn from the road up to Punnus, relieving Btn Toiviainen.
CO received orders to be ready for lorry transport on the 28th at 0700hrs to the direction of Jauhola after Kev.Os.12 and III/JR2
C.P. Was moved in the old position in the rear.
Order: the Coy of III Btn was to be relieved. It was relieved already because they had not been used at all.
(end of day)

Posts: 704
Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
Location: Finland

Re: Personal Finnish War Stories

Post by Lotvonen » 24 Jan 2021 06:49

Antti Vintola

One day of a Machine Gunner at Viipuri

Journal “Kansa Taisteli”, 4, 1962

In the journal “KANSA TAISTELI” no.3 in 1962 Col. Lt. Arvo Ojala [rank in 1962] recounted on the defensive battles of his Company in the strong-points at the Eastern perimeter of Viipuri during 1st to 14th March 1940.
Published in this website and this topic on the 20 Dec 2020, 09:42 hrs as “A. Ojala, Defending Viipuri in March 1940”

The following memoir is by a MG Platoon Squad Leader Antti Vintola on the 11th March, the MG platoon was subordinated to Koala's Company (6./JR7).
Since the beginning of March heavy fighting had been raging at the strong-points on the Eastern perimeter of Viipuri city. Russians had been launching attacks supported by strong artillery and at times by tanks mostly from the direction of the Maaskola poorhouse in the direction of the railway line and the road at the Finnish positions in the terrain of RRistimäki .

The line at the Ristimäki cemetery was defended by Lt. Arvo Ojala's Company 6./JR7 reinforced by 2nd Lt. Mauno Helpiö's MG Platoon. At the SW corner of the cemetery was the position of Sgt. Lauri Tiura's MG, firing direction Kannaksentie road and on the E corner in the ruins of a concrete foundry a platoon of men. In the W corner of the cemetery was the position of the MG of the author, firing direction to the harness race track. Next to this weapons nest was situated Lt. Esa Lahtinen's mortar F.O.O. Post.

Enemy attacks had been thwarted by fighting time and again and the cemetery positions had been held. Now it was the 11th March and fighting continued. Starting at dawn the enemy had launched most destructive artillery strikes at the Company positions, the entire cemetery area with its graves and headstones was upturned and smashed , resulting in a great number of casualties.

At the same time the Russians appeared to be grouping and preparing for another repeated attack. Lt. Lahtinen, in his forward observation post, directed mortar strikes at the terrain where the enemy was grouping. Unfortunately there was a shortage of mortar ammunition, because the firing position reported finally that they only had thirteen of them. At first Lahtinen planned to save them for the “rainy day” but since the enemy traffic at the poorhouse kept increasing, he sent the last bombs there. Now Lahtinen, having nothing to do there any more, told Vintola who was at his MG:
-Now we are out of mortar ammo, but in case the Neighbours should launch an attack, then put the MG on the stone fence because you won't be able to cover the direction they will be coming from.

Lahtinen was right, since my MG nest was right next to the stone fence looking at the direction of the race track. Actually the defence of the direction of the poorhouse would have been the task of the outfit at the concrete foundry ruins but we did not know that the strong-point had taken a direct hit , its positions were destroyed and abandoned due to high casualties. The wounded had been taken to a dugout at the N side of the cemetery because they could not be evacuated in daytime.

Suddenly the enemy shifted their artillery concentration away from our positions, shelling decreased and then totally ended. Silence was something so exceptional that I was about to get out of the weapons nest to survey the expected enemy attack direction. Before I could do this two men dropped on me from the top of the stone fence. They were Sgt. Tiura and Pvt. Selin hailing from Tampere, they had been in sentry duty.

-All right, what's up, I asked the men.
-As I got up from my weapons nest to take a look on the flanks they were rushing in our trench with “rat tails” mounted, we lost my MG to them, Tiura told me.

So the situation was quite shocking. One dugout full of wounded could not be evacuated, one MG lost, the terrain in front of the cemetery was teeming with enemies in brown greatcoats and my MG was in such a weapons nest that was not able to fire at the enemy. The enemy was not fired at by anyone.

Then I remembered Lahtinen's advice. I dashed in the MG nest. First I threw two ammo canisters to the future MG position. Then I separated the MG from its tripod and told Pvt. Erkki Marjamäki to bring the tripod after me. In a jiffy the MG was placed on the stone fence and Tiira opened fire. As the first belt had been spent I told Tiura:
-Go get men from Viipuri for a counterstrike, I shall keep shooting.

Tiura left, leaving three men able to fight in the strong-point They were PFC Olli Vuorenmaa from Tampere, Pvt. Marjamäki from Toijala and the author. Vuorenmaa saw to it that there always were ammo cans at the stone fence and observed the flanks so that we should not be bayoneted from there.

Battle went on. The MG was working without issues, and Marjamäki would place another belt in the feeder as soon as the previous one had passed through. The coolant was boiling, steam rose in the cold air exposing our open position We had no cover from observation nor fire. Instead the shooting field was excellent. The disabled tank on the Radio Station Hill in SE was activated and started shooting at us with the main gun. However there was no time to pay respect to this dreaded weapon.

Then I heard behind us snow creaking under hurried steps. It was Sgt. Tiura arriving with long strides accompanied with a few men. There were not many of them, but anyway fighting power that was sorely needed here. The men crouched in the cover of the stone fence to gain their breath.
-What is the situation like, was Tiura's first question.
-No more enemies have been able to get into the strong-point, and by now there are not many in it, I explained, although actually l did not know for sure.
-They are subjected to my fire all the time, I said and went on shooting.
-Let's go, then, Sgt. Tiura uttered and dashed over the fence to start the counterstrike. The others followed him. I had to keep providing fire support, because now it was more necessary than ever. Tiura proceeded up to his own MG position and probably restarted using his gun with satisfaction.

I stopped finally shooting and estimated the ammunition situation. Before the battle started there were six thousand cartridges in my weapons nest and I had spent some five thousand. So only about one thousand remained, the situation was problematic.

Suddenly it was as if a sharp spike would have been thrust through me. I fell down from the stone fence. I heard Marjamäki say to Vuorenmaa:
-Antti has copped it..

Assisted by Vuorenmaa I managed to get in a nearby dugout with no other wounded in it. A paramedic came and presented his diagnosis:
-this one is a bad case. His chest is pierced by a rifle bullet. It cannot be bandaged without tearing off his clothes and now the temperature is very low. Maybe the wound is going to be spontaneously coagulated for now.

Again the Russians launched a heavy artillery strike. Some men withdrew in the dugout for cover. A moment later the men were alerted back to the trench and the dugout was empty again. I was left alone thinking about my situation: what will happen if the front should break. Blood was constantly rising in my mouth and there was a burning sensation in my side because one rib had been ´broken and one lung damaged.

When the situation had stabilized men started returning into the dugout. Out there may have been more men than just a while ago. I enquired:
-Anybody leaving for Viipuri as soon as the shelling decreases a little?
-I am going, said Jussi Järvinen from Messukylä (in Tampere).
-Just recently a shell burst just next to me, the pressure hit my ears and they started bleeding. I am not fit to fight anymore.

-How about trying again ? I asked as the shelling was calming down.
We stopped at the entrance corridor to the dugout just to check the situation.
That moment a heavy projectile burst just next to us at the edge of the entrance. I was thrown backwards, falling over but got up immediately and crawled on all fours to Järvinen. He was almost covered in lumps of frozen earth and he did not answer to my questions. I returned in the dugout and told the others what had happened.

At nightfall on the 11th March I left the Ristimäki cemetery heading for Viipuri in quite a poor state. The rest of the journey to the C.C.S. I fortunately was pulled in a sled. Then on the 13th as I found myself in an ambulance somewhere W of Vainikkala, a man entered and said:
-Now, boys, it is peace!
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Posts: 704
Joined: 25 Jun 2007 11:17
Location: Finland

Re: Personal Finnish War Stories

Post by Lotvonen » 31 Jan 2021 06:28

Y. Särkkä

Wood artillery of SissiP 5

Journal “Kansa Taisteli” 04, 1962

The author tells he was serving in the ranks of SissiP 5 in the Winter War at Suomussalmi and Kuhmo. Problematic is the discrepancy with the memoir and the official history.

(snip )

I am going to tell about the battles at the Raate road and Kuhmo from my personal point of view, leaving the rest for the historians. I just mention that in early December 1939 the enemy had advanced from Raate and Juntusranta up to Suomussalmi village where they had been beaten by the end of December. Our outfit joined the action against the enemy stuck in snow on the Raate road in the first days of January 1940.

Sissipataljoona 5 arrived at the Suomussalmi theatre on the 3rd Jan 1940 led by Maj. Hämäläinen. It was dark already. Artillery muzzle flashes were licking the horizon of the cold sky, shells were bursting near and far. The mood was frightfully real, shocking for a greenhorn. I think most of the Battalion men experienced this mood, except the oldest officers among whom there may have been experienced men skilled in their trade, maybe also among the NCOs. The war of the 1918 year was just some 20 years ago.

We bivouacked in tents and slept if it could be called sleeping. We tried anyway although the best way to stay warm was to keep moving. The temperature was about -30ºC, maybe more because it was biting through our thin clothing. By the way the thin snow-suit was an admirably good insulation against cold, everyone was to find that out.

We were up and about early the next morning. One's ear had soon got used to the background noise of the war. We had some coffee made in our field kettles and then we were ordered to assemble for departure.

There were bivouacs all over the place. It was as if the entire Finnish Army would have been camping there. Men in white camo and skis were moving everywhere and tents had been dug in snow. I do not remember the names of the other outfits but I believe they were under the command of General Siilasvuo (then Colonel) just as we were.

We mounted on our skis led by our Platoon Leader 2nd Lt. Hannula. We were among the youngest men, good skiers and and undergone complete Sissi training. On skis we felt ourselves safe, and not without good reason, skis provided us with better mobility even in case of retreat, even if urge for action is not mentioned. War was still something new and the thrill of it removed any feeling of fear. Dangers were disregarded and it was experience that taught us to be careful and at times fearful.

A flanking attack against the enemy stuck on a stretch of 20km of the Raate road started on the 5rh Jan 1940 and ended a couple of days later as the enemy resistance completely collapsed.

I can tell about the taken baggage train that it included any kind of stuff. Tanks, lorries, horse carts, even ahkio type sledges maybe. We rummaged the material, looking and wondering. There also was a lorryload of musical instruments: accordions, balalaikas, fiddles and wind instruments. Enough for the amateur orchestras of one province. Why was that stuff there? What use would they have in a war? It is unlikely that the Finnish army was to be defeated with them ?

Our Platoon leader suggested:
-They intended to set up a parade in Kajaani.
That is true, the POWs confirmed it.


After the battles of Suomussalmi action had moved to the Kuhmo front where the Russians had invaded with two columns, threatening Kuhmo by the end of January 1940. Our Battalion arrived there on the 13th February.

We outflanked the enemy to the area of Saunavaara -Löytövaara which were in the enemy rear although I was not aware of it, the area being unknown to me. There we reached a road. It was a winter road made by the enemy, created with crawler tractors and tanks, an even surface. I received my first enemy contact at the road. In the same occasion I took my first POW, actually three of them. They were apparently suffering from cold and did not seem to mind even though they were caught. The cold weather and fear of politruks had prodded them to get out, they really shuffled at my arms in their felt boots.

This is what happened:
I was standing in a listening post at the perimeter of a small open place. There were willow bushes white with condensed snow, it concealed me in my white snow-suit quite well. There was a lull in the war, a brief quiet moment with no shooting by either party. Lull before storm, as it is said.

I was listening and keeping an eye at the open ground in front of me. Then I spotted some movement on the opposite side. Something dark was on the move there, and pretty soon I spotted three men wearing brown greatcoats sneaking at the edge of the open ground. The shooting range was just perfect for a SMG. I switched the safety off and was about to pull the trigger as I saw the men were holding their hands up. Even though I was lacking experience I understood that it is a no-no to shoot at a target like that. I let the men trudge across the open ground yet I was on the standby. There had been stories on fake surrenders but these fellows were not among them. They almost bumped on me before they spotted me and started babbling, any of which I of course did not understand. I saw their frostbitten and totally frightened faces. They could also have done with a washing although that was something out of place then. I pointed my SMG at the men and signalled them to get moving. Three POWs for a recruit...I considered it a good catch and expected my name to be mentioned in the dispatches next time. I handed over the POWs and returned to my duty.

Fighting raged on and it was somewhere near Saunavaara that the following incident mentioned in the headlines happened

We were ordered to cut a piece of forest. The tree stumps were left chest high. We set up an entire fake artillery battalion at the edge of the ensuing abatis. We dragged there suitable logs and built supports for them. When set up on the supports the logs created an credible imitation of field guns pointing threateningly to the East. It was like a joke but actually a very serious matter. We were aware of that and were waiting for the effect our our creation. It did not take long. Scarcely had half an hour passed before spotting aircraft appeared on the sky. They cruised all over the area and suddenly became quite active. The “field guns” had been spotted by them. The aircraft flew several times over the area. They recorded their observations and then disappeared.

We were ordered to get away from the wooden guns to a safe distance. It turned out to be necessary because soon a tremendous shelling started. The area was hit by projectiles of several calibres and the enemy was blazing away with gusto. As if they had had reinforced concrete bunkers to be pulverized. Yet the artillery strike was not enough to wipe out the strong-point, a couple of bombers appeared. “laying their eggs” on the fake artillery battalion.

This is a kind of war, we were thinking. We admired at the resourcefulness of our commanders. This operation had had a certain purpose, called deception of the enemy. We guessed that the Neighbour's bulletin to-morrow would state that “Our artillery and air forces destroyed with their excellently controlled firepower several strong field artillery batteries of our enemy” or something of that sort.

The next day we skied through the “artillery battery” position. The place was not recognizable any more. Firing had really been strong and also “Well controlled”. Even the stumps of the abatis were gone.

At the end of January 1940 the “motti” collapsed [probably Reuhkavaara on 25. Feb. 1940]. The roadsides were full of abandoned vehicles and dead horses.


Our Battalion was first in action at Hamaravaara where we fought in just a couple of skirmishes. But it was at Kiekinkoski that the fighting started at full revs. A memorable incident happened there

It was the coldest period of February. Enemy shelling was quite accurate. They must have placed an observer in a place where our movements could be seen. We were told to find him.

We set out on patrol led by our Squad leader to find the enemy observations post. We came to a piece of hilly terrain, and our squad leader considered it worthwhile to check the top of the hill. We climbed on our skis up a smallish hill which was unlikely to provide a view of our ground. We were about to turn back as someone spotted some movement between two snow covered boulders. That made us alert and we approached the spot from the rear.

All right! There between the boulders were huddling two men in sheepskin coats, peacefully rolling their cigarettes. We surprised them totally. They bounced up as if powered by spiral springs, put up their hands while staring stupefied at the muzzles of our weapons. Just then one of them put his hand in his pocket and I was just about to pull the trigger as he produced out of his pocket, not a hand grenade as I expected but a dirty piece of sugar. He offered the titbit to me with a sweet smile.

We laughed, and the man, too, seemed to be happy. He pointed his finger at the too of a pine near by. We understood at once what was the name of the game. There was an F.O.O. Up the tree and the men between the boulders had forwarded the data with a field telephone. It was nothing short of genial.

-Get down! I shouted to the pine top.
No reaction. I could see something dark and fired a few shots with my SMG in that direction. At once we started hearing babbling and soon a warrior clad in wadded uniform and fur coat descended. He did not have a weapon...if he had had one we may have been killed. We led the three POWs away from the place and left behind a smashed up field telephone set as a mute witness of the incident. The generous F.O.O. had to pocket his dirty piece of sugar.

SissiP5 was set up on 23rd Dec 1939 and it was made up of volunteers, 2/3 being Carelian refugees from Viena, Olonez and Ingermanland. The CO was Jaeger-Major Aarne Hämäläinen. Half of the Battalion comp raw recruits so express training started in Kemi

the Battalion strength comprised on the 5th Jan. 1940 566 men, the Battalion was sent into action on the 5th Feb.1940. The Battalion saw mostly defensive action, despite the name they were not used in Sissi warfare, most likely due to the high average age of the men,

SissiP5 war diary extract:
(actually more interesting than the memoir above)

Hyrynsalmi. Disembarkation from train and march 3km from Hyrynsalmi village to the Suomussalmi road . The entire Battalion bivouacked for the day.
Lorry transport to the Raate road, Likoharju terrain.
(9 to 11 February: some patrolling)
Weather. -15º C. Cloudy.
Detachment Kari issued orders to stand by for the eventual transferral of the Battalion.
Entire battalion except Platoon Mylly in a field stronghold and 3.K patrol 2+8 remaining at Raate is ready to embark which started. 20 lorries, 8 buses.
The first vehicles started
The last ones started. Route: Hyrynsalmi -Ristijärvi -Sotkamo -Kuhmo.
The baggage train was left at Raate.
The first outfits started arriving at Kuhmo. The journey had been very stressful and difficult. Organising had been deficient. The roads were narrow yet traffic into opposite direction was allowed. This resulted in derailments etc. Some lorries and gear were therefore left behind between Kuhmo and Rajavaara. Cold weather, -35 to -40 º C
The men were quite stiff with cold when at destination. The gear was mixed up and the bivouac area unknown. This hampered the action greatly since the men did not get their skis and their gear.
The last motor vehicles that were able to complete the journey, arrived.
One Coy was supposed to be ready to attack N of Pirttijärvi. Cancelled.
Report: Enemy Coy moving about at Kesseli. Two Platoons to be sent there to wipe out the enemy. 3.K.
Rgt HQ report: Enemy Battalion with baggage train spotted at Kesseli.
Entire Battalion in standby to move to Kesseli for attack.
Cancelled. “Jokeri” reported that the enemy has been destroyed.
Platoon Laitinen set out to Mäntyvaara subordinated to Capt. Kekkonen [yes, the brother of U.K.K.].
Platoon Hallavuori set out to Kesseli in order to set up a field stronghold at Kesseli and liaise with “Jokeri” (Mäkiniemi). The Platoon was in the end totally subordinated to Mäkiniemi's troops and fought in the battles of Kälkäisjärvi totally detached from the Battalion.
Rgt order to use 2.K to sweep the N side of Pirttijärvi lake. Coy CO and Platoon leaders to report at the Btn C.P. On the 14th Feb. at 03.30hrs for detailed orders.
One POW of the enemy 34.Battalion was taken.
2.K set out to carry out their mission.
A patrol was sent to Kesseli.
Adj. Immel and two Runners set out for Kesseli where no one knew about 3.K.
Adj. Returned having learned that 3.K is W of Kesseli engaging the enemy.
A patrol was sent to clear the roadside Raajavaara – Kesseli of straggling Russkies.
Pvt. Harju of 1.Coy brought 2 POWs, both of 13th Battalion (Volunteer Ski Battalion).
3.K patrol returned having checked the W side of the road. Nothing seen.
Rgt HQ reported: 2.K have carried out their task and reached Lehto, having swept the area.
3.K has been all day engaging the enemy and suffering casualties:
2 KIA, 8 WIA, among them Coy CO 2nd Lt. Saastamoinen.
One squad of 1.K was sent to secure the field stronghold situated N of Kesselinjoki.
Casualties in the battles during the day:
At Kälkäsenjärvi, 1.K, Platoon Hallavuori: KIA 9, WIA 5.
At Kesseli, 2.K: KIA 2, WIA 8.
3.K: KIA 2, WIA 8.
Ammunition supply column arrived from the direction of Kesseli. Platoon Hallavuori was sent to secure their passage.
Ammunition supply column tried to return in the direction of Kälkäisjärvi via Kesseli, but soon returned and reported that our fighting line was just at the edge of the road which was under enemy fire. The Column was not able to proceed via Kesseli .
The rest of the Battalion ready to head for Kesseli.
The rest of 1.K and 2.K., Signalling detachment and Sapper Detachment set out for Kesseli. Enemy a/c harassed them all the way.
Troops led by Capt. Arponen assembled to destroy the enemy, . After fighting all the night the enemy, already settled in dugouts, was destroyed totally. Three enemy Battalions were annihilated; 9th, 13th and 34th, all detached volunteer ski battalions comprising a great number of Communists and Candidates and Applicants. The aim of the Battalions was to get to aid their surrounded troops. The aid did not reach the destination.
Casualties: 2.K: KIA 1 WIA 2.
Bivouac at Rajavaara: There was a MG position at the road to Kesseli and a separate enemy group appeared in front of it. Every man in the bivouac was alerted, cooks, horse drivers etc. Two enemies fell.
Troops from Kesseli started returning to the bivouac The enemy had been annihilated there. Scattered separate groups of enemies were scattered in the forest and they were erring about in the vicinity and our troops destroyed them even next to the bivouac and the Rgt HQ Raajavaara. In the last mentioned place a nine man enemy group was eliminated. The skirmish was participated by a Signalling squad one of whom was slightly wounded.
During the day troops kept returning to the bivouac by and by, simultaneously cleaning up the area.
Rgt order: take over the Kiekinkoski line at 0600hrs with one Rifle Coy.
Cancelled the previous order. New order: Two Rifle Coys to move to Kiekinkoski and report there to Capt. Hirvonen. 1. and 2.K deployed.
Signalling detachment relocated to Mäntyvaara.
3.K and Sapper detachment moved to Mäntyvaara.
HQ moved to Mäntyvaara which means that the entire Battalion was assembled in the Mäntyvaara terrain
Battalion CO Maj. O.Hämälainen was posted by the 9.D to serve for now as the deputy CO of JR35. The Battalion remained subordinated to Capt. Hirvonen's outfit.
The planned attack was delayed by 24 hrs.
Companies were in securing duties and partly in R&R
Briefing. (ref. Order) ´. Of SissiP5 in the attack participated all of 3.K, parts of 1.K and 2.K and the Sapper detachment.
1.K sent a Platoon (Bengst) to Kusiovaara to secure the direction and to patrol there.
Weather windy.
Lively enemy aerial activities
Troops started grouping for battle.
Battle started. Mortars fired at enemy dugouts.
Report from Kusiovaara: nothing special seen.
Our troops reached the first enemy line at Haikola.
We made it up to the dugouts but as we ran out of hand grenades it was not possible to take them.
Det. Keskinen sent a Runner with a report that the terrain at Lehto an Saapasniemi was free from enemies at 07.00hrs. The enemy is holding their field fortified positions at Kiekinniemi and has not disengaged. The Platoon shall continue their task.
Report from Kusiovaara: Two deep ski track from East to West, our small patrol is set to follow up the enemy.
Weather -18ºC Thin layer of high cloud.
Attack is partly stalled. Enemy aerial activities lively all day.
Report from Kusiovaara: Enemy is approaching Kusiovaara from South, distance about 2 km. Patrols out. Kusiovaara securing platoon has been ordered to engage the enemy and destroy them. At “Jokeri” (JR27?) there is a contact with the enemy.
Patrol returned from Laukkujärvi, nothing has been seen there recently.
Sgt. Rissanen's patrol returned from Hukkajoki river, nothing special seen there. Another patrol was sent to secure that side.
Report: “Jokeri” is engaging the enemy S of Kusiovaara, there are some Platoons of Russkies, some of which retreating to the direction of Kusiovaara, Platoon Bengst is ready to destroy the enemy retreating to Kusiovaara.
Order of a new attack.
“Jokeri” reporting: The enemy detachment that passed Kuusiovaara is heading for the Kiekinjoki river bend,
Kusiovaara reporting: Enemy detachment to the South. Sgt. Moilanen and his platoon are in the Kusiovaara direction finding out about the enemy detachment ssecuring Kusiovaara from the Kiekinjoki side. Russkies are donning quite white snow-suits.
Report from Lahto (2.K.). The securing squad set to Hukkajoki arrived at the Company and reported that there is a platoon size enemy outfit in the Hukkajoki direction. The Squad was immediately ordered to return to Let. Leskinen to report the matter.
Capt. Kekkonen reported that advancing is going to demand great sacrifice.
Rgt order to halt attack. The enemy is to be kept surrounded by battle fore-posts placed in suitable locations: In the North side Perttijärvi 1 platoon. Lt. Rainio's Coy is to stay in positions at Kiekinkoski as well as one MG. The other MG is to be subordinated to 1.K. 3.K. Is to move to Kesseli after having a meal.
2nd Lt Leskinen is engaging an enemy outfit coming from Hukkajoki. Due to darkness the strength could not be determined, also it was not sure if the positions could be held.
He has received orders to destroy the enemy.
Cpl. Sarava arrived right at the C.P. From the N side of Kiekinkoski reporting that an enemy outfit had surrounded his squad whereafter he and his men broke through and returned to the C.P. The enemy strength was at least one platoon.
Capt. Hirvonen was ordered to be transferred somewhere and his deputy was to be Capt. Kekkonen.
Sapper detachment and radio men set up a securing platoon to Riihijärvi patrolling to Limavaara (in the South) and Mäntyvaara (in the North) .
Sapper detachment and radio men headed out to Riihijärvi.
HQ was transferred in the terrain W of the Mäntyvaara farmhouses.
Companies are in their previous securing duties.
Enemy aerial activities very busy. Clear weather
Weather windy
Weather cloudy, snowing.
No flying activities.
Platoon Särkkä of 3.K. Transferred South to Riihivaara. The other outfits in their previous locations and tasks. Nothing special.
Capt. Kuistio arrived to replace Capt. Hirvonen.
The Companies are in their previous positions.
During the night a patrol N of Kiekinniemi destroyed an enemy outfit comprising 6 horses and 20 men between Hamaravaara and Heinävaara.
Platoon Bengot was patrolling in the direction Vammalampi -Maanselänjoki.
The patrol operating in the Hamara -Heinävaara direction tasked to check the results of the skirmish in the night destroyed there 14 enemies. Of our own 1 KIA, 1 WIA.
Det. Moilanen transferred to Mäntyvaara, N of Pirttijärvi.
Patrol Kuutti (2.K.) intercepted on the road , N of Heinävaara “v” an enemy outfit of one horse and 26 men coming from East. The patrol fired at the outfit but they are ignorant of the result having been forced to disengage quickly.
The patrol to Linnavaara managed to liaise with the patrol from Riihijärvi. Nothing special detected.
Det Moilanen sent out a patrol to the Russki supply road starting at the E end of Hukkajärvi.
At Heinävaara an enemy supply column of 8 horses was destroyed, by mines.
Det. Moilanen returned from the patrol mission to the E end of Hukkajärvi although they were expected to spend two days there. No traffic on the road. They had mined the road.
The patrol to Linnavaara returned, reporting that they had liaised with the Riihijärvi patrol and the ski track up to Riihijärvi was undisturbed [by the enemy].
2nd Lt Laitio's patrol had proceeded to Linnavaara, and fond that the incident the preceding night had caused total destruction. All mines had exploded and body parts were hanging on telephone poles and wires. The patrol also encountered an enemy outfit of some 40 men of which 2 horses and some 20 men were destroyed. They were forced to retreat having been surprised and surrounded by a skiing Russki outfit.
Clear weather. Enemy aerial activities less intense than before.
The regular patrols to Linnavaara, Hiisijärvi and Hukkajoki did not find anything.
S of Rutkupurot brooks a 20 to 30 man enemy det. Had skied a circle and continued to South.
The patrol sent to N of Kiekinniemi encountered 8 Russkies at a campfire. 6 were destroyed.
Weather cloudy and windy with some snow.
Regular patrols carried out their missions and encountered nothing.
2nd Lt. Bengst reporting from Kusiovaara: the enemy patrol spotted yesterday was skiing to the direction of Kauvasapuro “pu” and some 200m from the previous spot another ski track joined this track from East.
Weather cloudy, mild.
Report from Riihijärvi: Daily liaison N to Mäntyvaara and S to Linnavaara. Nohing special.
Sgt. Moilanen's patrol returned and reported that the mines placed on the Russki road had exploded and destroyed enemy transports.
Sgt. Saari's patrol to the direction of the road encountered 2 horses and 40 men, 1 horse destroyed and a MG shot the second horse firing from Pirttiniemi.
No enemy aerial activities all day.
Clear weather. Enemy a/c flying again.
Regular patrols carried out their missions. 2.K. Patrols N of Kiekinniemi .
Rgt HQ report: Capt. Kuistio has been transferred to Southern Finland and Capt. Arponen is posted as the detachment CO .
Clear weather, -15ºC. Enemy aerial activities not particularly active.
Maj. Hämäläinen and Capt. Arponen arrived at the Btn C.P.
In accordance with the 9.D order SissiP5 and Det. Moilanen set up a Sissi company to be led by Res. 2nd Lt Nikkilä, 3.K. CO. (ref. Order).
Patrols out as ordered, nothing special.
The order to set up a Sissi Coy was cancelled by 9.D and 2.K. Was issued orders to move to the terrain at Kesseli in the camp area of 3.K. C.P. Transferred there as well. Of 2.K. Only 2nd Lt. Kuutti with his troops remained to do the tasks of the Company.
Departure for Kesseli.
Signalling detachment stayed in the old location as well as Capt. Arponen with the Signallers. Also 1.K. Stayed in the old place.
Maj. Hämäläinen was posted as the CO of JR35 where he also led the action of SissiP5 .
Nothing special during the day.
Weather cloudy, some snow.
Snowing increased, aerial activities ceased.
Maj. Hämäläinen reported: SissiP5 is to be subordinated to “Ruutu” (Mäkiniemi) and 2.K. Is to be on the standby.
HQ with their baggage set out for the new location, Löytövaara. Also 2.K. And 3.K. Except platoon Laitinen who remained in Kesseli in the local field stronghold.
Maj. Hämäläinen left for Löytövaara in advance.
The outfit arrived at Löytövaara an was accommodated in dugouts but some of the troops had to spend the night out of doors.
Moving to jump-off positions started.
Grouping: On the left Coy Segerstråhle, 3.K.(Nikkilä), 7.K. And 8.K. On the second line 2.K. In the seam between Segerstråhle and Nikkilä, Coy Vaaraniemi in the seam of Nikkilä and 7.K.
2.K. Tasked to secure the left flank.
Enemy was engaged some 300m from the supply road.
3.K. Reached the enemy dugouts and emptied four dugouts. Segerstråhle and the other Coys did not make it up to the dugouts.
As the attack proceeded a 2.K. LMG squad /Nygrén) supported the attack.
2.K. Men shot an enemy Lieut who had a Sissi instruction book in Russian, translated from Finnish.
The objective of the attack was reached although the SissiP5 troops were about to be surrounded, enemy pressure to the road decreased.
Enemy diversion attack.
Grouping: on the left 2.K., on the right Segerstråhle, 3.K. Securing 2.K.
Moving took place from the supply road up the hillside the objective being the terrain between the old supply road and the road, where an enveloping attack turning to W was to be launched. About 100m from the old supply road the enemy was engaged. At the same time enemy pressure started in our rear on the left where 3.K. Was securing. After a minor exchange of fire the old supply road was reached. Then strong enemy force was engaged on the left front whereby about 100 Russkies were annihilated.
2.K. Took two 50mm mortars as war booty.
There are enemy LMG nests on the left.
Under threat of surrounding the troops were pulled back.
The aim to decrease the enemy pressure in the direction of the road was attained.
Liaison with Maj. Kahvanen's patrol N of Kylmäjärvi.
2.K: (Kilpi) was alerted to secure the isthmus Silmälampi -Kylmäjärvi.
2.K. was transferred to be used as the counterstrike reserve on the main defence line on the sector of Kärkäs Coy. (Kylmälampi, S side) Enemy did not manage to break through.
The entire Coy (2.) was thrown in the threatened spot and after a heavy battle the enemy was pushed back and the previous positions were regained. During fighting four MG s were taken from Russkies and they suffered casualties of about150 men.
1.K. Arrived from Kiekinkoski to Löytövaara. Also platoons Kunta and Laitinen. Thus for the first time after arriving at Kuhmo the Battalion was in action as one outfit.
The Battalion had a 300m stretch of front to defend and the Coys were in turn in the line. The enemy fired intensely HE shells and shrapnels with quite destructive effect, quite a lot of wounded. On the entire front quite lively aerial activities, also enemy shelling. Hallavuori was slightly wounded and was granted 14 days of furlough, he was tasked to go to Kemi and report to the Committee (some civilian body) . Also our mortars saw lively action.
Weather in the morning slightly cloudy, snowing, clearing during the day.
2nd LT. Nikkilä was WIA and 2nd Lt. Särkkä was posted as the Coy CO.
Weather cloudy, in the day more clear
2nd Lt. Kuutti defending the line, he was relieved by 2nd Lt. Särkkä (3.K-). Enemy is launching every now and then minor assaults supported by shelling but without result, the positions are held. Communication between the C.P. And front line by runners, lively traffic.
2.K. In standby.
Lively aerial activities and artillery fire, retaliated lively by our artillery
On our sector intense shelling continuing to make casualties (mostly WIA).
3.K. CO 2nd Lt. Särkkä fell, square hit by a shell, 2nd Lt. Laitio of the 2.K. Was posted as the CO.
A new sector was ordered for the Battalion, more favourable than the present.
Order by “Humaus” to SissiP5:
“As planned a Company of the present strength (some 40 men) shall man the old sector S of Kylmäjärvi.
The Companies in the rear shall field fortify the isthmus Silmälampi -Kylmäjärvi by clearing bush and setting up firing nests and accommodation dugouts behind the line.
I have made note of the casualties of SissiP 5 and the rest they have been able to take, which is the same as the other troops in action at Löytövaara.
“Humaus” “.
1.K. Received the front line positions.
Aerial activities minor, increasing PM.
Report by phone: Enemy has launched breakout at the direction of the road .
A patrol comprising 1+5 was sent by 2.K. To find out about the aforementioned.
Patrol returned and reported that the situation was unchanged.
3.K. Received the positions.
Weather: some cloud
Weather cleared, sunshine.
Companies in their previous duties.
Quite calm a day.
1.K. And 2 squads of 2.K. Received the front line positions.
Weather cloudy in the morning, clearing in the day. All day artillery activities. Also lively aerial activities.
“Humaus” informed that f.f. Work is to be increased and sapper material is to be acquired.
Sapper material ordered: pickaxes, shovels, axes, saws, wire etc.
Positions unchanged.
“Humaus” informed about the arrival of sapper material to “Silmä” in about 2 hrs, 7 (horse sled) loads.
“Silmä” reported that the sapper material was there. 2. K. sent their Armourer NCO and one man to receive them and guide them to the defence line, and there distribute them at least in two places in cover for air raids.
Telephone message by “Ruutu”:
In accordance with the treaty between the governments of Finland and the Soviet Union hostilities shall cease on the 13th March 1940 at 1100hrs.
Starting that moment all fighting is to cease absolutely. Use of weapons allowed for self defence only. Eventual parliamentarians to be sent by the enemy, identifiable by white flag ,must be received and reported to “Ruutu”. Detailed orders shall be issued later
Received “Potti” at 0930hrs sent by “Humaus”.
Order to abandon positons.
Weather cloudy.
F.F work continued at the main defence line, Silmä -Kylmäpuro line.
Battalion baggage train that had been all the time in Raate, Suomussalmi, was on its way to Kuhmo, now 17 km off.
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