Winter War losses -- a short historiography

Discussions on the Winter War and Continuation War, the wars between Finland and the USSR.
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Tero
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Post by Tero » 04 Jul 2006 15:51

By Juha Tompuri
Were the units short of men only because of the KIA?
That is not the relevant and totally beside the point. What is relevant at what point did the unit (of any size) cease to exists in a way which warranted it to be stricken off the Army High Command force roster.
Is the criteria "not destroyed before stricken of the roster" just your own idea or do you have anything to back up it with?
How many unit designations were stricken off the Finnish army force because of the formation was annihilated ?
During my conscription service IIRC the artillery had their "calculation system" where 50% casualities to the enemy forces ment the enemy unit was destroyed (the surviving were not at condition to operate ), 30% casualities ment the unit was lamautettu, stunned.
That refers to the fighting ability of the unit in guestion. What Uninen refers to is the wholesale annihilation of the formation a la 6th Army in Stalingrad
I don't know.
The information I've read about that case is a bit controversial.
For instance:
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 8&start=15 mentions 139-141 KIA & POW from 149 men at that single battle.
Kansa Taisteli magazine 3/1978 mentions from that same battle: +200 KIA & POW from 220men. From the "less than 20 survivors" most were wounded
The casualties are not the issue, the guestion is wether the unit designation was "retired" because of the formation was annihilated.

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Juha Tompuri
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Post by Juha Tompuri » 04 Jul 2006 23:13

Tero wrote:By Juha Tompuri
Were the units short of men only because of the KIA?
That is not the relevant and totally beside the point.
Well...I understand your statement as you forgot to add many/most WIA, panic stricken etc to the ~25k KIA.

Tero wrote:What is relevant at what point did the unit (of any size) cease to exists in a way which warranted it to be stricken off the Army High Command force roster.
Tero wrote:How many unit designations were stricken off the Finnish army force because of the formation was annihilated ?
I don't know. Do you?
Actually I've never heard of that kind of procedure existed.
Tero wrote:The casualties are not the issue
Well...I thought that the (high)casualties has someting to do if a unit is destroyed ?
So a unit which suffered in a few hours ca. 90-95% casualties as KIA & POW and more than half of the "survivors" were WIA was not destroyed?
the guestion is wether the unit designation was "retired" because of the formation was annihilated.
Well...this brings us back to my question you did not answer:
Juha wrote: Is the criteria "not destroyed before stricken of the roster" just your own idea or do you have anything to back up it with?
Regards, Juha

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ShinjiMimura
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Post by ShinjiMimura » 05 Jul 2006 15:36

For the continuation war, I think the Finns calculated that the Soviets had lost over 305,000 dead/wounded/missing from 1940-44/45.

I'll try and find the website that quotes this figure.

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Post by Tero » 06 Jul 2006 08:30

By Juha Tompuri

Well...I understand your statement as you forgot to add many/most WIA, panic stricken etc to the ~25k KIA.
I did not forget them. I singled out the KIA because the official term is irrevocable loss.

I don't know. Do you?
No. Actually, I know of no company+ unit which the Finnish army lost in its entirety in encirclements or as otherwise overrun.
Actually I've never heard of that kind of procedure existed.
But you know of the procedure where the High Command lists available units and their fighting capability when they are designing future actions ?
Well...I thought that the (high)casualties has someting to do if a unit is destroyed ?
Yes. But how many times did company size units "vanish" from the Finnish roster as a result of high casualties ?
So a unit which suffered in a few hours ca. 90-95% casualties as KIA & POW and more than half of the "survivors" were WIA was not destroyed?
The POW exchange rate of the Finnish army was among the best during WWII so to list the relatively few POW's as a pertinent factor when determining the effect of them as a weakening factor of the forces is not really relevant.

In fact the issue of the number of Finnish troops ending up as POW's is on the other hand relevant to the case in point when discussing the lack of larger Finnish units being destroyed in the field. ;)
Well...this brings us back to my question you did not answer:
Juha wrote: Is the criteria "not destroyed before stricken of the roster" just your own idea or do you have anything to back up it with?
Lets see: Can you list off hand any German brigade/division size units you know of were completely destroyed in encirclements and rebuilt afterwards under the same designation ? Then make a similar list from the Finnish units.

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Post by Epaminondas » 06 Jul 2006 18:19

Most of the divisions involved with Stalingrad for one.

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Juha Tompuri
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Post by Juha Tompuri » 06 Jul 2006 23:51

Sigh...
Tero wrote:I did not forget them. I singled out the KIA because the official term is irrevocable loss.
Ah, sorry. You didn't forget, you didn't know that those WIA sent to first aid stations and MIA are off from the Company rosters

Tero wrote:
Juha wrote:I don't know. Do you?
No. Actually, I know of no company+ unit which the Finnish army lost in its entirety in encirclements or as otherwise overrun.
Actually your initial question was:
How many unit designations were stricken off the Finnish army force because of the formation was annihilated ?
I take it covers all unit sizes. So, again, Do you know them?
Tero wrote:
Juha wrote:Actually I've never heard of that kind of procedure existed.
But you know of the procedure where the High Command lists available units and their fighting capability when they are designing future actions ?
Yes, that kind of procedure I know.
Tero wrote:
Juha wrote:Well...I thought that the (high)casualties has someting to do if a unit is destroyed ?
Yes.
I see here some progress
Tero wrote: But how many times did company size units "vanish" from the Finnish roster as a result of high casualties ?
From the little I have found about the events after the battle of Petäjäsaari 6th March 1940, the few "fit" surviving men from the strengthened Company that defended that island were after the battle sent to another unit. So I don't know which men formed the ex-Company or was it totally rebuilt.
Tero wrote:The POW exchange rate of the Finnish army was among the best during WWII so to list the relatively few POW's as a pertinent factor when determining the effect of them as a weakening factor of the forces is not really relevant.
The exhange rate has nothing to do with the fact that POWs were as much away (and off the unit roster) than KIAs


Tero wrote:
Juha wrote:Well...this brings us back to my question you did not answer: Is the criteria "not destroyed before stricken of the roster" just your own idea or do you have anything to back up it with?
Lets see: Can you list off hand any German brigade/division size units you know of were completely destroyed in encirclements and rebuilt afterwards under the same designation ? Then make a similar list from the Finnish units.
As you haven't been able to bring out any facts to backs up your posts, I'll take they just are your opinions.
About the off topic question, the answer (in your terms, where evacuated wounded, [like a´la Stalingrad], are not counted as irrevocable losses) is, I don't know units that were completely destroyed.

Regards, Juha

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Harri
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Post by Harri » 07 Jul 2006 07:56

It is a fact that any Finnish unit (Division, Brigade, Regiment, Battalion or any bigger or smaller separate units) were not totally annihilated by the Soviets during the war. Many battalions, companies and platoons although suffered very heavy losses in combat (either in defence or in attacks). During the Winter War for example Bicycle Battalion 7 (PPP 7) which fought at Bay of Viborg in March 1940 was used in a more or less stupid frontal attack (it stopped the Soviet advance) and was almost destroyed. Also Heavy Artillery Battalion which was behind the Summa front in February 1940 was overrun by Soviets and lost its old Japanese heavy howitzers. Unit was later re-equipped.

To me any unit is annihilated if its leaders or HQ have either been destroyed or somehow permanently disabled to lead their unit (for example when encircled, captured or if HQ is disintegrated for some other reason). Also when soldiers are not any more able to continue fighting (due to a desperate situation, lack of ammo or the lack of leadership), unit has lost virtually all of its main / heavy equipment and a unit is not capable for military operations led by its leaders. But that is only my own "criteria" for a destroyed unit. Using the same logic there is no limit for the minimum strength of a unit if it is under the command of its leaders, able to fight and can co-operate with other friendly units. In other words if a unit can fullfill its tasks it is not annihilated despite of its strength. There are many cases when smaller units (company, platoon) have been merged together due to losses and later re-formed.

One example is a coastal defence unit "Koivisto Sector". In February 1940 it had to withdraw partly fighting to the Bay of Viborg and either move or explode all of its coastal artillery pieces. The reason was not only the enemy attacks against the unit but the situation elsewhere. Unit losses were relatively low. At Bay of Viborg soldiers were used in forming of new units like Detachment Miettinen and Artillery Battalion Laaksonen. Basically units were re-formed. Almost exatly the same happened also in the summer 1944 for "Coastal Artillery Regiment 2" which after the withdrawal became "Coastal Regiment 2".

I'd remind that any unit can become also temporarily disabled if something serious happens. That kinds of cases did take place also to many Finnish units like the examples above indicate. Actually it was very common. Temporarily disabled unit was combat-ready again within hours or a few days (sometimes longer) when its leaders got their units back under the command or a unit received replacements (men, weapons, supply). In many cases disintegrated units were just gathered together and after a short rest they were combat-ready.

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Post by Juha Tompuri » 08 Jul 2006 08:39

Harri,

Thanks for the informative and very constructive post.

Regards, Juha

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Harri
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Post by Harri » 10 Jul 2006 09:32

Thanks Juha.

I red a book on Finnish Jäger Battalion 4 (JP 4) some time ago. The strengths of the battalion mentioned in several occasions are very illustrative. IIRC during the Winter War one of its companies had a strength of 3 men before it received supplements!!! And despite of that unit was basically "combat-ready" although not worth a company or even platoon... :lol: Still we can't say that this unit would have been destroyed.

Also legendary Finnish and US Army officer Lauri Törni (Larry Thorne) served in JP 4 during the Winter War and he was temporarily ordered to lead 1. Company / Separate Battalion 18 (1./Er.P 18) which didn't have any officers or higher NCOs left. Törni's was a conscript NCO and his actual rank was Corporal (Junior Sergeant). He had already been selected to Reserve Officer School and used a title "Officer Trainee". At that stage company had only about 30 mainly older men.

Units in combat were nearly always understrength and their combat strength was typically about 25 to 75% of their theoretical size. During the Winter War extreme coldness caused lots of frostbites and sicknesses which were more common to other losses and the main reason for the sometimes strangely low combat strengths. Most of these men although returned back sooner or later after recovering.

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Post by John T » 10 Jul 2006 15:49

Harri wrote: I red a book on Finnish Jäger Battalion 4 (JP 4) some time ago. The strengths of the battalion mentioned in several occasions are very illustrative. IIRC during the Winter War one of its companies had a strength of 3 men before it received supplements!!! And despite of that unit was basically "combat-ready" although not worth a company or even platoon... :lol: Still we can't say that this unit would have been destroyed.
May I just ask how many Finnish combat units did have the Norwegian Blue Parrot as unit mascot?
A company of three might be a crowd and uphold the flag and designation of a company but I'd say it ceased to exist..
:) :? :wink:
Best Regards
/John T.

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Harri
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Post by Harri » 11 Jul 2006 07:52

John T wrote:May I just ask how many Finnish combat units did have the Norwegian Blue Parrot as unit mascot?
I don't know. What is a "Norwegian Blue Parrot" anyway?
John T wrote:A company of three might be a crowd and uphold the flag and designation of a company but I'd say it ceased to exist.. :) :? :wink:
Only battalions had own flags.

The problem is that the unit was active all the time. It received occasionally new soldiers and soldiers who had recovered returned back one by one. That low number of men in company without doubt means that lots of men have temporarily been out of combat strength. In winter 1940 companies of the JP 4 had usually at least 30 to 50 men but the total combat strength of the battalion was hardly much over 200 men. Companies had sometimes only one officer and platoons were led by Corporals. No-one can although claim that the unit would have been destroyed despite of heavy losses because JP 4 retained its combat spirit and readiness all the time as odd as it may sound.

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Post by John T » 11 Jul 2006 09:35

Harri wrote:
John T wrote:May I just ask how many Finnish combat units did have the Norwegian Blue Parrot as unit mascot?
I don't know. What is a "Norwegian Blue Parrot" anyway?
It's from Monthy Python, a man who obviously have bought a stuffed parrot but thought it was living comes back to the shop and want a refund.
The shopkeeper (John Cleese) insists on that the Parrot is not dead, just sleeping (and so on)

I have no intention to joke about the Casualties of the winter war but I do see the humor in the way this discussion has gone.
I think we gone too deep into to a matter of semantics of Deleted versus no longer combat effective.
Harri wrote:
John T wrote:A company of three might be a crowd and uphold the flag and designation of a company but I'd say it ceased to exist.. :) :? :wink:
Only battalions had own flags.

The problem is that the unit was active all the time. It received occasionally new soldiers and soldiers who had recovered returned back one by one. That low number of men in company without doubt means that lots of men have temporarily been out of combat strength. In winter 1940 companies of the JP 4 had usually at least 30 to 50 men but the total combat strength of the battalion was hardly much over 200 men. Companies had sometimes only one officer and platoons were led by Corporals. No-one can although claim that the unit would have been destroyed despite of heavy losses because JP 4 retained its combat spirit and readiness all the time as odd as it may sound.
I Seriously do not care much about the definition of terms.
There is a deeper issue of Finnish army resilience in wich the lack of understanding that you company "is no more" in any sense of military effectivness, but still fight on as a company have a virtue of it's own.

Lets honor the dead and the survivors.

/John T

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Harri
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Post by Harri » 11 Jul 2006 10:21

I think Finnish commanders knew well the difference of a full company and a company with three men... :roll:

"Three men company" was just an extreme example and cannot be taken as some rule. The reasons for that low number of men in a company were not combat losses alone but the extreme conditions which occasionally effectively reduced the number of available men (and sometimes also the subordination of troops). During day time Finnish troops had to rest in cold houses (if available), in cold tents (usually available) or under the sky unless there were no combat duties. Especially during the later phases of the Winter War counter-attacks against encircled Soviet troops were carried out mainly at nights. Houses and tents could be heated only during nights.

Finns usually didn't fought until the last bullet because Finnish Army accepts withdrawing in a desperate situation as a necessity. But for example the later legendary Commander of JP 4 Major ["Motti-]Matti" Aarnio gave an order like this (from my bad memory): "Shoot all who will come straight towards your positions. Let the others pass you from the left and right. No-one will come into your positions as long as you keep on shooting." Against overwhelming superiority withdrawing was sometimes more sensible both for saving men and weapons. When the company strength was temporarily very low the reason for that was virtually always something else than direct combat losses (but there are exceptions on that too).

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Re: Winter War losses -- a short historiography

Post by Gamle Lode » 15 Apr 2014 08:55

Using some "methodological recursivity"... (meaning, going back from conclusions to the question itself)

I wanted to open this discussion but good that it was already here with an article that presents all the common figures. What I actually wanted to ask was that "Was Mannerheim right?". In his memoirs he first lists out the events at the Northern side of Ladoga, and he mentions the several divisions ( 44th, 163rd, 75th, 139th and 18th Infantry Divisions and 34th Tank Brigade) being destroyed or beat to near extinction. Then he adds the estimated casualties inflicted at the Isthmus. He says that "the real casualty figures will hardly ever be known, but with an estimation we can reach some figure." The casualties of all the forces fighting at the north amounts 75,000 and those at the Isthmus he estimates being about 100,000 to 125,000. These figures from the Isthmus he already has split into half from the actual wartime estimations, and he mentions the harsh conditions being an important factor in addition to the battle losses.

Krivosheev's numbers of the 'irrecoverable losses' seem to relate to the figures of given out by Mannerheim. Losses to sickness and frost are mentioned as irrecoverable, and I assume that the sickness here refers to some more serious than seasonal flu.

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Re: Winter War losses -- a short historiography

Post by tramonte » 02 Jul 2021 06:40

During Winter War and Continuation War (1941-44) Finnish armed forces were not able to destroy completely not a single Soviet division. Neither Red Army managed to destroy completely a single Finnish battalion.

When it comes to Soviet personal military losses in Winter War, namely deceased soldiers, it's relatively safe to claim that between 127,000 (Krivosheev) and 167,976 (Pavel Petrov) soldiers lost their lives. 200,000 deceased Soviet soldiers estimated by Mannerheim is likely too high. Finnish losses according database was:

25,268 between 30 Nov 39 to 13 March 40 + 618 died on wounds from 14 March 40 - 13 March 41. Also 34 persons mentioned died in captivity or MIA during one year just after 13 March 1940. So quite near 27,000 Finnish military persons died because Winter War.
"Military history is nothing but a tissue of fictions and legends, only a form of literary invention; reality counts for very little in such affair."

- Gaston de Pawlowski, Dans les rides du front

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