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Catching a POW at Onihmajärvi
Journal “Kansa Taisteli” 08. 1962
Wilderness war at the Rukajärvi front section.
In the early summer of 1943 as the Russians attempted to launch a kind of spring offensive, the main objective of their most furious attack was the “Pallo” stronghold. To find out about the objective of the attacker patrols had been sent out to catch POWs from the enemy side but without success.
The intelligence officer of 14.D then tasked the Divisional Long-range patrol outfit to get a prisoner, the author being at the time the CO of that outfit. According to the issued order a POW was to be taken from the Russian main supply road running from Rukajärvi to Jeljär-vi, then on to the Murmansk railroad.
The actual spot was to be found in the terrain between Onihmajärvi lake and Jeljärvi village because the area W of Onihmajärvi was occupied by an enemy marine brigade while there was a heavily secured supply depot in Jeljärvi. There was no choice.
On the 6th June I briefed my detachment (1 + 4 + 30) on the task at hand and distributed rations for four days. We moved from our base to the front line at Ondajärvi. From there I set out with my outfit at 0200hrs 7th June for Onihmajärvi via Sakkaravaara, famous for various incidents. The distance was several tens of kilometres even if we could have used the direct route.
At the moment of our departure sun had risen like a fiery globe, promising a hot march for the Sissis. The first day did turn out to be very sweaty and painful. One of the men remarked during a break: “ Today I could have some ice in my cap”.
Setting up our camp at a small lake we were not disturbed. During previous patrols something had always happened, and also this enough to shake us awake and make us move to another spot.
In the course of the night Sissi Viisinen, due to his courage nicknamed “Horse”, was on sentry duty and he came to me, whispering in my ear:
-Guests are coming on the cut forest line. Do we shoot them or take them?
-At least one to be taken, I said and when heading for the sentry post I ordered my Runner Jahvetti to carry out a silent alert.
Reaching the sentry I spotted the first Russians approaching at 300m in a single file which was meandering like a snake. Sgt. Hirviniemi had come to me and I told him:
-It would be difficult to catch a POW in such a big outfit, there are so many of them that defeating them would make quite a noise.
I barely managed to advise the squads to yield as we saw that the Russians turned sharply to South. I sighed with relief and directed our march right to the forest line. We were treading the path of the enemy outfit, just in the opposite direction.
About at 0500hrs we reached our target area and immediately the spot was reconnoitred. The road sides had been clear-cut at a width of 50m. Tree trunks had been removed and the treetops had been hauled in the forest beyond the clearing. Else the terrain was advantageous for prisoner taking.
Launching the operation from 50m away was not feasible. Something better had to be thought up. The solution was that every man of the catching team took one treetop, hauled it at a distance of 10m from the road and went hiding under it. Sgt. Hirviniemi's squad was assigned the actual catching task. Sgt. T. Kyllönen's squad was tasked to support and secure the catching squad. The remaining two squads were ordered to mine the bridge E of the spot and set charges on every telephone pole on the area. The orders were carried out and everyone went into hiding as if underground. Taking a brief glance at the terrain one could not see that more than 30 men had set up an ambush.
The hot weather of the previous day persisted. The lads of the catching team had a hard time lying on the hot sandy soil. Dry tree needles that kept dropping on them did not make the men hiding under them feel any better, instead they felt even more miserable. They could not move, they could not smoke, they were as if buried alive.
My Runner, who was quite a wit, asked me_
-Do the Russians fear ghosts ?
-How the heck could I know that, why are you asking?
-Just imagining that when Russians have arrived to us, we would have to move the treetops, we would see a grand sight, terrible escape and loud noise.
Horttanainen spoke just to get a good taste in his mouth and also it was nice that at least someone was perking up our heat-oppressed mood
Lorries would pass us to the direction of the front, laden full of men. Then everyone withdrew like a hedgehog. The lorries heading for the front included at least 20 men each, every man was sitting with his weapon between his legs and they were sitting quietly, as if on a church pew, without glancing at their sides. The passing lorries kicked up a huge cloud of dust that penetrated our mouths, eyes and ears, increasing our discomfortable wait.
To pass the time the lads ate some chocolate and started a minor cone war. Someone threw a pine cone, hitting his pal in the ear, and a loud curse was heard. This play had to be suppressed as quickly as it had started. Everyone had to stay put and quiet in his hole to avoid detection.
The front line was alive with noise, Russian artillery was firing from the W side of lake Onihmajärvi. Every time an explosion was heard someone made an order for a butter ration or for a pair of boots [that an alleged casualty did not need any more, tr.rem.] Such joking was a sign of sound men.
Waiting is tedious, and especially that day. It was soon evening and we had not seen a single passer-by whom we could have picked up.
In the afternoon Sgt. Kiviniemi alias “sheriff” as the lads called him came to me and said:
-I wish to present my fine capture plan. I shall take off my tunic and cap, then sit on a tree stump at the roadside holding a captured autoloading rifle. As soon as a motor vehicle comes I shall get up and beckon with my hand as you do to stop one. When the vehicle has stopped the catching team shall see to it that one man shall remain in our hands and the rest who do not obey shall not continue their journey.
It was a brave plan, with uncertain possibility of succeeding but as an emergency solution I approved it, and we started our preparations. Yet I told Hirviniemi that he would have to wear his cap so that the cockade would be well visible. However we were not to execute this plan although we were very much thrilled by it.
A Hirviniemi was sitting on a tree stump at the side of the road and every man had a finger on the trigger ready to support this audacious plan the road securing on the left alerted us. Something was to happen. On the bend of the road appeared a horse cart camouflaged with birch boughs coming from the direction of the front line.
As the lads spotted the branch camouflaged vehicle they said to Horttanainen:
-Why don't you check if that boy is afraid of ghosts!
-F* you ! Was his answer.
The nicely camouflaged horse was hauling a field kitchen. On the driver seat was sitting a man, loudly egging his horse and glancing at his sides with a frightened mien.
Hirviniemi crouched a little sitting on the stump, preparing like a tiger for his bounce when the prey is in range. Now the horse was scared by Ansu's movement and sprinted in full gallop. The driver, too, was alerted , he screamed loudly and hit the horse with his whip as Hirviniemi rushed at him. Yet Hirviniemi's grip of the man somehow slipped, he was left behind with only the driver's rifle in his hands. Now we were in trouble. The horse and the man must not be allowed to escape! The capture team tried to catch the escapees by running. A dramatic sight was going on on the road in the enemy rear, a chase scene.
The support squad leader Sgt. Topi Kyllönen had spotted the situation in time and ran with some of his men to meet the escapee heads-on. They succeeded. The lads led the horse and the POW in the forest in our rallying point. But as soon as the incident on the road had died down the securing on the right yelled:
-Get the Hell out of the road, lorries are coming!
Immediately the lads landed on the open ground as if pulled by one string. There was no time to find treetops for camouflage, instead everyone dropped down on the spot he happened to be.
Two lorries were driving in high speed from Jeljärvi to the direction of the front, laden full of men. The same moment the charged bridge blew up, 25 SMGs opened up as if by a single trigger, rifles were cracking and some men were throwing hand grenades on the lorry platforms. Everyone was doing their best to effect quick and complete destruction. It was the music of war, sweet for my ears. The first lorry crashed in a ditch and the other one on top of it. Without orders the SMG fire was shifted at the lorry platforms, sweeping down everyone who tried to escape to be taken care of by the enemy casualty clearing. SMG fire ceased as quickly as it had started
Observing the situation I could see how the trained and faithful Sissis took care of a sudden incident quickly and thoroughly. There had been no need to command “take positions” or “fire”. Everything had happened as if by a single hand. It was our profession at the time.
The Sissis, having carried out their task, withdrew upon order. The lorries were burning. The telephone pole charges were lit one at a time, it was the final act. We had nothing to do left.
Having arrived at the rallying point the captured tall Soviet Corporal was sitting in the middle of a ring of men. One of them professing to represent the Finnish Society against Cruelty to Animals had started educating the POW on the Finnish law on animal rights via our interpreter. The law stipulates that a tired and worn out horse was not allowed to be driven by whipping or on gallop as tovarich Corporal had done. This was a terrible crime resulting in hard sentence and confiscation the horse. Taking these facts in account and as a defender of animal rights he had confiscation the horse and put it out, thus ending its terrible suffering. Now he assured the POW that despite the terrible crimes he had committed he would not be charged in court or made to suffer in any other manner because the law did not say anything about treatment of animals in the time of war.
Seeing that our POW was terrified of this defender of animal rights I told him to cut out banter and assured the POW that his well-being, life and dignity would be assured during our return march.
We were fearing an intense pursuit and considering that we set out. Yet nothing happened, we were able to take the tired Soviet Corporal on our side. The return march was carried out in one go and without rest, except for one coffee break. There was no reason to rest because our POW had to be taken home without sparing any effort.
The war diary of the 14.D Long Range Patrol Detachment :
On the 6th June 1943
16.00hrs 2nd Lt Blom's patrol, strength 1+2+5, set out. The task was to find out about the traffic on the road Kunsjärvi-Kalivolahti and Kalivolahti- ? And to take a prisoner.
It is obvious that the author has given a wrong date to his story.
19th June 1943:
18.00hrs 2nd Lt. Korhonen's patrol strength 2+3+14 with two radiomen total 21 set out. The task was to advance to the main road E of Onimajärvi. To observe traffic for 1 to 2 days and take a prisoner.
21.00hrs The patrol set out from field stronghold Rähinä, route as described in the appendix. They reached the objective on the 21st June at 0200hrs where they set up an ambush to take a prisoner. The patrol kept the ambush ready until 0800hrs where-after Cpl. Hirviniemi and his squad stayed on the location to observe traffic, strength 1+6. The main body of the patrol set up a base S of the river Kuivenajoki, relieving the ambushing squad at times.
A prisoner was taken on the 21st June at 19.00hrs.
22nd June 1943:
0830hrs the patrol returned to field stronghold Rähinä.
Rather less dramatic patrol than the author described !
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Photo taken in September 1942 as 2Lt (SA-kuva 108545, also 112108, 108555, 108554, 108546)
2Lt Korhonen leading a patrol in September 1942 (SA-kuva 108556)
Soviet prisoner taken in September 1942 patrol (SA-kuva 108547)
https://fi.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toivo_Kor ... in_ritari)
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Man of steel
Journal “Kansa Taisteli” 08, 1962
Incident during trench warfare.
It was the year 1942. JR25 was stationed on the Maaselkä Isthmus and the 1st Coy in a stronghold in the terrain of Suulahti schoolhouse hill, where lively action had been experienced. This is a true story of a strong Finnish soldier for the benefit of the present and future generations.
It was a September evening. Clouds were hanging heavy and wet in the sky but there were cracks from which the pale moonlight illuminated the sombre darkness. Men in double sentry duty were waiting for their relief which was already delayed.
This sentry post was set up so that one of the men was in a forward weapons nest 10 m in front of the hindrance line and the other one in the trench some 20 to 30m behind the wire. The man in the forward position was Pvt. Leo Myllynen alias Leksa, hailing from Viipuri, born 1923, “ a most handsome and easygoing chap”. The other one, Pvt. Mikko Nurkka, hailed from Valkeala.
As the relief had failed to arrive in time, Pvt. Nurkka went to the listening post to Pvt. Myllynen.
-Listen Leksa, I shall go and get the relief here, they have forgotten all about us when playing cards.
-Don't be impatient, boy, they shall come, we just wait here!
The discussion was cut off by a shell exploding just at the edge of the weapons nest, and the lads ducked . There was noise at the wire, as if it was being cut. Myllynen emptied one SMG mag there. Looking behind he saw that Nurkka had gone, presumably to “get the relief there”. The same moment Leksa remembered that he had emptied his last SMG mag, and he hurried to get some more, available at Nurkka's post.
Having advanced a few meters in the communications trench there was a sudden stop: two men were coming in his direction, one in the trench and another on the parapet. They were not friends, because they were wearing camouflage gear. What a rotten luck – empty gun and two men to deal with! He felt weak at the knees and empty in mind – but for a second only – then he decided to exact a maximum price for his life.
Leksa pulled back and found a foxhole where he retreated to wait what would happen. The situation progressed fast. Bang- a rifle bullet swished by his face. At least one of the enemies was aware of him. Then Leksa proved his mettle in a blink of an eye. He grabbed a helmet placed in the foxhole shelf and threw it at the enemy – and then wildly charged after it.
His fingers reached the throat of the enemy while the enemy grabbed his. No quarter was neither given nor requested in the furious struggle. Leksa was aware of his strength and felt that the enemy was the weaker one having been unable to strangle him so far. Then there was a SMG burst and the opponent dropped on his knees like a rag. The enemy on the parapet had jumped down in the communications trench and joined the struggle – but he had shot his friend with his tin gun.
Again Leksa reacted in a blink of an eye. He dashed forward – far enough to grab at the enemy SMG. Another fierce struggle ensued, resulting in the enemy fingers slipping off the gun, he started running to the wire. Leksa fired a burst with the enemy gun – the match was over.
During the skirmish Lt. Kurvi had ordered the positions to be manned and he found Myllynen collapsed on the bottom of the communications trench next to his opponent. He was taken in the dugout where it was found that four SMG bullets had pierced his right side and arm. Blood was flowing and Leksa was unconscious and as pale as a bed-sheet.
There was the man who, unarmed, first defeated his strong opponent and then, although badly wounded, took by force the other enemy's weapon and then finished him off. I is not hard to imagine what the other men were thinking when looking at the hero.
Next morning it was found that the hindrance line was stripped of wire at one stretch and the mines had been neatly laid in a pile against a birch. No dead men could be seen – except the two opponents of Leksa – but bloodied bandaging material was scattered here and there. When Myllynen's wrestling opponent was examined it was found that he could not possibly have survived the clutch of his thumbs.
When Pvt. Myllynen came to he enquired how he had taken the holes in his skin? He well remembered the entire match but he had not noticed he had been wounded.
-I passed out only after I had taken out the second neighbour, Myllynen stated with a smile. Surely he smiled out of his heart, because having survived the chance of war with one in one thousand, he was feeling good for his good luck, his resourcefulness and his brute force. Leksa was a man of steel, indeed.
Presumably Leo Myllynen survived his wounds and the war, too. He is not listed in the war dead database.
Extract of 1.K/JR25 war diary, pencilled in a school notebook:
At 0050hrs a Russki detachment of about two squads, managed by surprise to penetrate in our positions after a very intense fire preparation. Having spotted the Russkies in the´very last moment Pvt. Myllynen fired empty the mag of his SMG. Before he managed to swap the mag he took two bullets in his right arm and two in his right shoulder. The same moment two Russkies stormed in the weapons nest. Pvt. Myllynen acted in cold blood, he knocked out one enemy with the butt of his SMG then grabbed the other one in the throat while yanking away the enemy SMG with his other hand, then used the gun to deflate the Vanya. Alerted by the other listening post sentry our men arrived and evicted the Russkies causing them casualties. Enemy casualties included at least one officer and three men. Two SMGs were taken by us as war booty.
(end of day)
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Examining enemy bunkers
Journal “Kansa Taisteli”, 8, 1962
Carelian Isthmus, Ohta, 1941. KevOs 6 Recon patrol led by an overzealous officer.
Our outfit had crossed the old national border both at Tonteri and Termola and broken through the enemy defensive line protected by wide wire hindrance zones. Our advance had by the 4th September 1941 progressed to the line Ohta-Riihiö near the enemy main defence line equipped with large concrete bunkers. Our attack had stalled there. One Battalion had got stuck at Ohta in a dense bush area just in front of enemy bunkers. KevOs6, whose CO I happened to be at the moment received at about noon to relieve the mentioned Battalion, take over the positions and reconnoitre the location of the bunkers for eventual attack in future.
I rallied my tried strike outfit including among others Sr. Sgt Mikkonen and Cpl. Matikainen, men whom I never seen fearing and who used to say as their maxim: “This war is great fun, as long as it is not interrupted”. Whether they implied the war or themselves, I never came to ask. These lads had been on my side in many a tough spot, during patrol missions and attacks. Never had I seen them turn pale, instead they kept smiling however bad spot they found themselves in.
Hardly two hours from the issuing of our orders as we eight fellows found ourselves in rain-beaten bush crawling to the enemy bunkers. The terrain was covered by such dense alder, birch and willow bushes that one could not see farther than three meters.
Then we had infiltrated on the no-man's-land almost level with the bunkers and marked them on the map. On a whim I decided to keep crawling in the same direction and attack the bunkers from the rear although the mission orders did not include this kind of action.
We did succeed in creeping through high grass which covered the ground there, unnoticed by anyone about 30m behind the bunkers. Then I saw that there were soldiers, the bunker crews, who were standing about behind the bunkers, smoking and chatting. We bounced up from the grass like ghosts from graves and let our SMGs play.
The surprise was total. Men started emerging from the nearest bunkers and run away to the direction of their own, their wire. They crowded in a corner of the hindrance line just to meet the end of their journey there.
Having finished this incident we found that to the rear from these bunkers there was yet another big one. We headed for it. The bunker appeared to be unmanned but being bigger and different in construction our curiosity got the better of us. We all entered it just to have a look. Having smoked a fag each we got out of the door back to outside, Sr. Sgt Mikkonen leading, I behind him. I was alerted seeing Mikkonen go pale.
This was something that had not happened ever before and I did not at once realise what was going on. But as I had stepped out I could see that at a distance of about 70 m a dense line of enemies was approaching us, their one wing had already cut off our line of escape. I have not been able to find our where those enemy men appeared from.
Also, we were totally surrounded.
-What are we going to do, Sr. Sgt Mikkonen asked
Hurriedly I responded:
-We are not going to surrender, for sure.
The same moment an enemy opened up with his SMG, Mikkonen grasped his right shoulder, saying
-Get going, you, I do not have strength to follow you, I shall stay here and hold them back.
The enemy was closest to us at our entry route. We let go some bursts and then I stormed in the same direction followed by my men. The rapidity of our reaction may have surprised the enemy to the extent that we managed to pierce their line and continue to the same dense bush that had covered our entry. At that moment I lost contact with the other men except Mikkonen whom I supported as well as I was able to while we kept running.
We had not yet had time to check whether the enemy had started pursuing us. We found out just when we found ourselves in the bushes, panting, as judging by the sounds on our flanks the nearest ones may have been just meters from us. I let go the rest of my mag in that direction, swapped the last of my mags and started stumbling after the rest of my lads supporting Mikkonen under his arm with my left arm.
But our pursuers had not given up, some of them had already managed to get in front of us. Still supporting Sr. Sgt Mikkonen I kept firing off the hip , while my other men now also tried to cover our return with their fire. Suddenly an enemy bullet hit Mikkonen's head. Having found him lifeless, I eased him to the ground and started running.
Relieved of my burden I entered the cover of the bushes with some bounces and kept running for the cover of the forest beyond them where our positions were situated.
Extract from the database of war dead:
Mikkonen, Paavo, Ylikersantti B.02.12.1916 Kangaslampi D.04.09.1941 Lempaala 24 yrs of age Kevyt osasto 6, 1. komppania KIA, evacuated, buried Grave: Varkaus, Kangaslammi cemetery Civilian job; policeman
Mikkonen had bad luck. He should have been a Military Policeman, which were much needed, due to his civilian job.
Kevyt Osasto 6, 1st Coy war diaries have a gap from 3rd Sept to 19th October, unfortunately.
KevOs 6 war diary extract:
16.35hrs The crossroads situated about 3 ½ km NE of Termola was reached and our Detachment set up defences there About 900m N of the crossroads was a well fortified dugout camp which was patrolled. No liaison with 10.D.
Our casualties: Cavalry Capt. Silén slightly wounded
0830hrs The Detachment had been set in readiness to attack the dugout camp but the attack was cancelled by the JR7 CO. Patrolling and sweeping the terrain, we took 15 POWs. The dugout camp was pounded with artillery.
16.00hrs It was found that the enemy had started withdrawing form the dugout camp N of us. The camp was taken over. Enemy losses about 40 men KIA, our war booty included 1 MG and 10 autoloading rifles.
Our casualties: 1 NCO.
(End of day).
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Earthquake morning in Osta
“Kansa Taisteli”, 8, 1962
Svir front May 1944, JR 9
IT was a sunny morning in May [the 16th, tr.rem.] 1944 at the Svir front. There were no sounds telling that the war was going on. Birds were singing, sitting on the wire, and blossoming bird cherries were like foam on the enemy side at Sasona. Our front section, Osta, had been fairly quiet for a longer time. In daytime not a shot was heard. At night occasional SMG bursts were like mutual queries: are you sneaking in the no-man's-land? If the neighbour responded with a burst sweeping the ground, one could be fairly sure that they were not up and about. This kind of pot-shots was like dialogue without words. Even though enemies, we thus relieved each other's nervous tension and were able to breathe easier for a while. Fighting was limited during that period to patrol missions to take prisoners.
That morning I was in sentry duty with two brothers in weapons from 0600 to 0800, after being relieved we returned to the dugout. Only the corporal in duty was awake, the rest were asleep. Last night the men had been on sentry duty up to six hours, because at night there were six sentries. I and Eino Tumppila hit the hay while the third, Pvt. Toroskainen, started hunting his lice.
Half an hour later I was woken up by a heavy crash. The dugout swayed once, considerably. A hellish noise broke out as enemy heavy mortars, rocket launchers and artillery were pouring metal at our dugout area. Clay and sand were billowing in through the tunnel like window of our dugout. The stove was toppled over and the door flung open. A shell had hit just next to the window. Sleep-drunk men were collecting their gear. Someone shut the door. Finally the melee outside decreased a little.
-What the * is there now? Kuronen said while putting on his boots.
-Get in the positions and quick, said Cpl. Kuivalainen, known as a hasty man.
-No one is getting out before the shelling dies down, our Platoon leader 2nd Lt. Susi ordered, he tried to make a call with the field phone that had fallen on the floor. The lines were cut off.
We were standing near the door, ready to dash out. Then the dugout alert bell started clanking. We guessed that the sentries had detected enemy infantry being up and about.
-Let's get in the positions, but one at a time only. Each squad leader shall see to it that you do not bunch up.
-Lieut, do you think we are taking positions for the first time, said PFC Tankka.
-That is enough, now..
We were standing in queue to enter into the dugout entry tunnel and then into the communications trench. The idea was to spend a minimal time doing it but it was easier intended than carried out. There was still whine and whistle and explosions and crashing. The communications trench had caved in at places. It was not possible to poke one's head over the edge of the trench. Metal, wood and earth was flying in the air which was smelling of damp earth and bitter smoke of explosions.
To our surprise and fortunately we made it to the positions without mishap, at least the men of our Platoon positioned to the left of the dugout. Our Platoon, the I, was flanked by the III Platoon to the left and to the right the II Platoon. The last mentioned Platoon was holding a trench near the crest of a high knoll and their dugouts had been built in the side of the knoll. Our dugouts were situated about 100m off from theirs, and between us and them there was the AT squads' dugout.
The most dangerous spot on the front section held by our Regiment JR9 was the sector of the II Platoon. The distance to the enemy trench was about 40 to 50 m open ground. The embrasure of an enemy bunker was looming menacingly right to us. All observation had to be done by periscope.
Having made it up to our defensive positions the shelling of our dugouts still went on. Our positions were however fired at only by one AT gun and auto weapons. II Platoon dugouts were left alone by enemy heavy weapons. We soon found out why.
I was the assistant to LMG gunner Toroskainen in the dugout at the highest point of our sector. I saw how on the right Vanyas wearing brown tunics were rushing in our positions, vanishing in the II Platoon trench and communications trench. The enemy leading outfits were by now wreaking havoc at the platoon dugouts. Some of the enemy was spreading in the communications trench intending to destroy our dugouts as soon as the shelling would end.
From my position I was firing at the running Vanyas. To get more effect I put my weapon on the parapet and emptied some mags. I did not notice our Platoon leader until I heard him yell:
-Ahola, get down from the bank and quick. Runner, go to the MG and tell them to shift to nest number three.
The runner set out for the last time. A moment lather an AT shell hit his back. As the paramedics were lifting him on the stretcher he broke in two.
For some time now our mortar (code name Jussi) had been shelling the enemy with good results. But the enemies who had managed to penetrate by surprise up to the dugout and our positions. We were anxious to get our artillery support to beat back the enemy attack. We could not know how many enemies were coming through the gap they had broken in our line.
Tension and fear are in war familiar emotions for most. But there is also joy – although the correct name might be odd joy. Happiness is non-existent, because one can feel it only when helping his wounded pal. Actually, malicious joy is a real emotions and revenge is sweet.
We felt something like this as we heard how our “own” six inch howitzer battalion somewhere behind Levina started thundering. A moment later our shells were whining overhead. We were fearing that they might fall on us. Instead they hit where they should, stronghold “Kumpu” , the F.O.O. Had done a good job. Now the earth was billowing among the neighbour Between explosions we heard yelling and screaming. Rumbling went on in our rear and thundering in front of us. After initial disorder we had gained the upper hand. Enemy was caught in a bag where our shelling cut off their retreat.
The right wing of our Platoon was fighting in the communications trench to our dugouts. Otto Tankka, a fearless lad hailing from Vähäkyrö, was the first one to receive our visitors. He threw a hand grenade behind the trench elbow, an explosion, a dash and peppering with SMG. Other men volunteered to lead but Tankka hung on to his place. Enemy was pulling back stretch by stretch.
The entire situation lasted only about one hour even though the enemy harassed by shelling past noon. This did harm us a great deal because the wounded had to be taken to the C.C.S. The paramedics were trying to do their best because some of the wounded really had hurry due to their damages. Our casualty list included more than ten WIA, most of them of II Platoon. They had been in a really tough spot. They had been completely surprised by the enemy who had made it unhindered up to the dugouts.
How come was this possible? The sentry posts were manned and it was broad daylight.
All through the spring the II Platoon lads had heard on their sentry posts odd rumbling, as if underground. It had not occurred anyone to suspect that the neighbour was doing his mole work just under their feet. The fact is that Vanyas had dug from their side a tunnel reaching our positions. There they had piled – according to later estimate – about three thousand kilograms of explosives. When the charge went off our sentry post was totally covered underground. One of the sentries died at once. The other one, Cpl. Pohjola, survived in a corner
The explosion also touched off our minefield and wiped out the wire. The power of the explosion is illustrated by the crater, 15 m deep and 30m wide. One cube shaped lump of earth was flung up to the dugout of our Coy CO Capt. Paarmala, about 300m from the first line.
Following the explosion enemy strike squads dashed to our dugouts via the crater. They dropped a hand grenade down the chimney of one dugout. Our lads got out where the Vanyas, armed up to teeth, were waiting for them
A fight of life and death ensued at once. The first Finn getting out reached for his SMG from the rack outside the dugout, he fell on the spot. One of our men, against regulations, had taken his SMG in the dugout. Shooting at the roof where enemies were lurking he managed to distract them.
In a moment our lads did manage to get at their weapons. The men, after the rude reveille, were soon perked up in fighting condition. They had had years to get familiar with the terrain and that
helped them. Wherever a brown tunic flashed it was given a burst. The stupefied enemy was rushing here and there. Finns had been roused like a bear from hibernation, and they were angry. At this stage our artillery opened up with a thunder. Enemy was getting a foretaste of defeat as the route to their rear was cut off . The dugouts and the men therein were not destroyed.
Probably less than half of the enemies managed to withdraw to their side. It was estimated that a Company of well armed enemies had managed to pass the breach before our artillery opened up, but having become aware of their failure the enemy shifted from attack to defence and withdrawal. The rush of success died down replaced by agony and fear. This led to panic which made the soldiers affected by it easy targets.
Our men had no reason to be worried or fearful. Self-preservation instinct and years of war had made them constantly alert and able to react fast to new situations.
The failed enemy assault gave us a lot of work. Fallen enemies had to be collected and buried. Some of the casualties may have been taken away by the enemy. At least one badly wounded enemy soldier was abandoned in no-man's-land, because the next night our sentries heard quiet moaning in front of our wire. When this had been reported to the higher-ups volunteers to rescue the wounded were sought. The reward was set as ten days of furlough. Volunteers were easily found.
The task was dangerous. The men would have to creep right in front of the noses of the enemy who were not asleep. There were mines to be avoided and also every smallest noise. The most risky detail was the attitude of the wounded enemy. Would he still be stubborn and strong enough to reveal the Finns coming for him?
Two men were assigned to the task. A larger patrol would have been in vain, actually just worse. During the darkest hours of a night the lads crawled in no-man's-land which fortunately at this location was overgrown with low bush.
An entire Platoon was watching the operation. Inch by inch the men crawled to the direction of their objective, they found some dead men, too. Quiet wailing led the men to the wounded enemy. He did not betray the Finns, he just gave a frightened but grateful glance to the men helping him, maybe wondering why his own comrades did not help him. The return was slow due to the wounded POW. Yet the mission was completed before the light of the rising day revealed them. Due to loss of blood the POW was in a bad shape. Stretcher bearers were waiting and the POW was taken in the rear to be cared for. A day or two later he died, however.
If the clever enemy operation had proceeded as planned five of our dugouts with their occupants would have been destroyed and our line would have had a kilometer wide gap. Now our casualties were limited to four KIA and about ten WIA.
Finally I must mention that every man in Stronghold “Kumpu” was a tough one. Casualties happened even during “quiet” trench war.
11.K /JR9 war diary extract, in a hard to read flourishing handwriting:
09.00hrs Russki launched an attack supported by an artillery barrage against stronghold “Kumpu”. As the first shells exploded Russki released most likely in a mined tunnel an about 2000kg charge creating a gap in our defence positions Weapons nests 131-133 and the trench between them caved in due to the force of the explosion. On the spot of explosion was created a crater diameter 30m, depth 15m.
Immediately after the explosion in front of weapons nest 133 about one Coy of Russians dashed from the direction of the hill on the enemy side. Sine the sentries in nests 133, 132 and 133 were either wounded or killed due to the shelling or the power of the explosion, the Russkies ran right through stronghold “Tuki” and “Tuki_MG”. Some of them, about one Platoon, started rolling the trench to stronghold “Käki” and another Platoon to “Joutka”.
Then Cpl. Pohjonen , on sentry duty in nest 133, being stunned and wounded by the explosion, had started pulling back. Also his SMG was jammed due to the dirt rain of the explosion. Consequently he was not able to put up resistance, instead he ordered Pvt. Väänänen on sentry duty in weapons nest 132 to fight the enemy while the Cpl went on to alert the men in the stronghold .
Pvt. Väänänen stood his ground to resist the enemy attack and it was the last time he was seen alive. Later it was found that he had put up unyielding resistance, falling on his post. His body was found marauded naked, there were four enemies next to him one of which was still alive.
The enemy detachment facing for “Joutka” managed to take MG nest 134, the sentry being forced to abandon the MG to the superior enemy and withdraw to the dugout to alert since the alerting device had been jammed in the shelling. Enemy tried to use the MG at the dugouts of strongholds “Paju” and “Paukku”, advancing to a point about 30m from the “Paju” dugout. However due to the very rapid action of Sgt. Iivonen's platoon, manning stronghold “Joutka” the enemy was beaten back both at the dugout and the weapons nest where the enemy left 6 of their men KIA. Also the second wave of the enemy attack were checked with fire.
The enemy heading for “Käki” managed to advance up to nest 130 because the sentry in nest 131 Pvt. Lyhykäinen had been buried in the nest due to the explosion under lumps of earth. The sentry in nest 130 Pvt. Burman withdrew while firing at the enemy up to the F.F.O. Nest where he and the sentry of that nest Pvt. Tolvanen collapsed, wounded. Despite his wounds Pvt.Tolvanen (13/JR9) set out to break through the enemy encirclement, ending up caught by the enemy and he has not been seen since.
Enemy succeeded in getting about 30 m from the crossing of a trench and a communications trench between the artillery spotting nest “Häme” and weapons nest 129, measured from the “Varma” dugout, then attempting to continue to the dugout, but they were beaten back with SMG fire and hand grenades from nest 129, also a counterstrike was launched from the “Varma” dugout led by 2nd Lt. Laine, the CO of the stronghold. During this counterstrike Pvt. Vuojalainen and Pvt. Mala distinguished themselves, the last mentioned was wounded by a SMG burst.
The third enemy detachment (2 platoons in strength) advanced up to the “Tuki” dugouts where fighting went on in the dugouts and near them. The enemy managed to throw smoke grenades in the “Tuki” dugout and satchel charges resulting in one of our men falling, three getting wounded and one getting concussed. The dugout damages were limited to one window frame and the stove. Five enemies fell on the dugout roof, three most likely due to their own satchel charge exploding in the ventilation shaft. [there must have been a chicken wire barrier in the shaft just for this kind of case, tr.rem.]
At the same time enemy tried to dump an explosive charge in the MG men dugout nearby but Sgt. Laine, just dashing out of the dugout, shot the enemy who just was going to throw his ignited charge on the roof of the dugout.
In the meanwhile the “Kumpu” stronghold rear positions, “Kumpu2”, had been manned with men taken from the Coy command post and stronghold “Vesakko”, strength 2 rifle squads + 1 MG. The 11th Coy reserve platoon was also alerted and shifted in readiness to the Coy C.P.
Battalion mortars on the sector and the support battery opened barrage fire at the breakthrough spot very fast.
09.08hrs Coy CO requested the F.O.O. To fire barrage “Torjunta Kumpu”. Which was delayed because the artillery telephone cable connections were cut off.
09.25hrs Barrage was launched after the Battalion CO had issued an order to the artillery at 0920hrs. (Also the artillery radiophone connection were working at the moment.)
The situation had developed so that the sentries and our men in the “Tuki” and “Varma” dugouts were withdrawing W of “Kumpu” .So the enemy had managed to occupy the terrain up to Weapons nest 129 and the “Varma” dugout. Only one Company of enemies were in our positions in the area between Weapons Nests 129 (LMG) and 134 (LMG), now trying to pull back.
09.38hrs Artillery was requested to shell our own positions in the E part of “Kumpu” and an order for preparing for a counterstrike was issued.
09.30hrs [sic] an enemy detachment, advancing in the second wave, comprising at least 50 men was stopped as aforementioned by infantry weapons fire from Stronghold “Joutsa” and artillery barrage in front of our positions.
10.05hrs Artillery was requested to shift their fire in front of “Tuki” because artillery and mortar fire had effected that the Coy was able to launch rolling of the trench in enemy hands with their own forces. The enemy were defeated by the Counterstrike led by Lt. Tiilikainen.
10.35hrs By this hour the enemy had been forced out of our positions. While withdrawing the enemy detachment apparently had an intent to mine our trench, one armed mine and more in two bags , (a total of 30 “pencase” mines ) were later found. But pursued by our men the enemy had been forced to abandon their intent.
The attack had been supported by enemy heavy weapons by the following ammunition quantity:
4” field gun 200 shells
3” field gun 700 shells
Heavy mortar 300 shells
Light mortar 800 shells
AT gun 400 shells
50mm mortar 100 shells
In addition the enemy fired to support their attack salvoes with the “Organ gun” [rockets]
at “Joutsa” at least four times.
Our heavy weapons spent the following quantities of ammunition:
Artillery 1334 rds
Heavy mortar 245 rds
Light mortar 445 rds
Enemies abandoned in our positions a total of 20 KIA of which about 15 were killed by inf.fire. It was also found that the enemy carried out evacuations (at least 6 KIA) and wailing was heard from no-man's-land for several hours afterwards. Two days later we discovered one wounded enemy in front of our line who died, however, before he could be interrogated.
This must include also the enemy casualties created in no-man's-land by our artillery.
Our casualties in total include:
21 WIA of which 5 seriously
Of these in the main action at “Kumpu”.
4 KIA, 18 WIA of which 1 died when being evacuated and one MIA.
The aforementioned explosion was carried out by the enemy using a mine shaft because to create a crater of this size such a quantity explosives was needed that piling it in the actual spot unnoticed by our sentries would have been impossible, the terrain bing even and open, easy to observe.
The enemies involved in the attack were judging by the dead in age groups 18 to 22 yrs and probably crack troops. No documents were found, implying that their preparation had been thorough. Enemy equipment included : Summer tunic, wadded pants, summer cap (some were wearing fur caps), everyone was wearing a helmet and shoes with strings, armed with SMGs.
During the battle the enemy was found to have used messenger dogs, the remains of one dog, mauled by a shell, was found in a trench.
Our cable communications of infantry were working well up to the strongholds whereas the artillery phone connections were cut off. SW radiophones were working fine everywhere, which enabled the excellent co-operation between inf. and art.
15.05hrs Enemy attempted to evacuate their dead and wounded from no-man's-land supported by a barrage with about 500 shells . Of the 6 man enemy detachment five were left on the spot as casualties by the MG and LMG fire from Stronghold “Joutsa” .
18.00hrs From the Regiment, Maj. Paloheimo and Maj. Kumpula arrived to see the battleground.
21.00hrs Work to clear the trenches was started at “Kumpu”.
Weather clear, sunny, good visibility, a warm rainless day temp about 20 deg c. Tree leaves have not yet sprouted, earth is dry and the grass does not grow yet.
(End of day)
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“Kansa Taisteli”, 09, 1962
"Platoon-wise forward as before"
About the CO of a Company, 10th of JR 56. [Actually 8.K, tr.rem.]
In late summer 1942 we were transferred from the Personnel Replenishment Center in Karhumäki to front duty. It did not take many hours to ship us to Hiisjärvi, N of Karhumäki, first on lorries a some tens of kilomerers and the rest on foot. The terrain was disconsolate, a jumble of rocks, tree stumps and fallen trees.
Having stumbled criss-cross on uneven paths we wer directed to a dugout. A dark man emerged, he had dense black hair and stubble, he was looking at us with estimating yet well-meaning eyes. Lieutenant's rosettes were adorning the lapels of his unbuttoned tunic. Lt. Voitto Laine, CO of 10./JR56 was introduced to us.
We were told that Lt. Laine is a straight-talk man and it is not worthwhile to ask questions about his decisions. We alsolearned that the Coy CO was a very distinghuished soldiser. He had been badly wounded at least once and still sufferinfg from irt. He had been relieved from front lne duty due to his injures but rear line duties did not suit him, so he arranged himselfd a transfer back to front line troops
This was good to learn. We were but greenhorns, specially when compared to the men who had been fighting in the Wintrer War. Our CO had the world-view of a front line soldier and he stressed the personal fighting experience as the measure of the value of a man. Rear line duty was of secondary importance. It was war, and it cannot be denied that the very future of our nation was depending greatly on the fighting ability of the front line men.
Our Coy CO was well able to assess men, and he had no problems when selecting men to various duties. He did not need any cumbersome lists of names as he soon learned to know his men personally. He appreciated war experience greatly. For example as he drew up a list of men he recommended to the Officer School. There were three matriculated men in our Coy, their ranks were Corporal, PFC and Private. He recommended all of them but their order of superiority was just the opposite. The reason: The respective duration of their front experience.
Lt. Laine was a law student by civilian occupation, he had almost completed his studies, just the final exams were missing. As our Division was shifted into reserve, Laine was granted leave to complete his studies. Before we were transferred back to first line he returned – with a law degree and promoted to Captain.
I remember the Midsommer 1944 very vividly. We were expecting an enemy attack , withdrawal from the Carelian Isthmus had already started. We were still N of Karhumäki and my Squad was ordered to defend a forward stronghold. The atmosphere was vibrating with thension. Just then the Captain dropped in our dugout, chatted with us in a pleasant manner and left. Yet his presence had released the worst of our tension and as fighting soon broke out we were ready for it in the right manner. The next night the enemy did not manage to break our line [Ahvenjärvi – Vesmajärvi main defence line, Siltalampi sector. tr.rem.] despite being several times superior to us and pushing hard.
A little later we found ourselves in a situation when getting away from the way of the massive enemy onslaught was depending on every man himself. Orders to withdraw were not issued in time or did not reach us. Every man had to take care of himself to avoid being taken POW. We were still near Karhumäki. Enemy rolled on with irresistible force. Our artillery was retreating and unable to provide fire support. Machine guns had been taken out of positions. I was still in my foxhole. Men were running past me. I shouted them but no one listened. It was time to get out.
I checked a nearby dugout but finding it abandoned I headed for a forested area nearby where I found my outfit. Capt. Laine was rallying the Coy and issuing orders. They were clear and stron but not hasty. He spotted me, called me next to him and said:
-You shall be the spearhead of the Company, and take the path, we shall follow you!
He gave me the compass bearing:
-Directly to West!
I started leading the Coy. I was going fast because the enemy could strike us in the back at once. It was not an easy task to stay in course in the dense forest, and a reallly hard rain started, too. Finally the objecive loomed among the trees – a road. Our troops had created a defense line along it.
Withdrawal from Eastern Carelia went on and we reached Porajärvi. The bridge across Suunujoki was blown up into thousands of pieces after we had crossed it.
Capt. Laine gave one man as reinforcement to my Squad. It was noteworthy that the man's rank was Sergeant and now he was subordinated to a man with a lower rank. I took him in our positon and advised him which area to observe. Laine had ordered him in our Squad as a common rifleman, with corresponding duties and tasks, to gain fighting experience. This is something that could be expected from our Captain, because the Sergeant's past service had inclulded only home front duties.
The Sergeant did soon get fighting experience and wounds, too. When he returned to us from the Military hospital he was posted as a half platoon leader.
The first shots in our bridgehead positon at Porajärvi were fired by Laine himself. As the first enemy guides approached our bridgehead he scattered the group with a few rifle shots. Enemy took care of the follow-on. For some days we were subjected to continuous “blazing” in our positons which we had not been able to equip with a single splinter proof cover due to lack of time.
Enemy was firing with every weapon, from 50mm mortar to rocket launchers. During fire breaks we were setting up splinter shelters in great haste. Roof material was easy to find, because shelling had cut 3 to 4 inch diameter tree trunks around us. Despite considerable casualties our bridgehead positon held.
Afte yet another artillery barrage I found that I was alone on the sector assigned to my Squad. Some of my men had been wounded and the rest were evacuationg them. Hurriedly I went to seek our Platoon leader to get more men because after an enemy barage an attack at our positons could be expected. Quckly he assigned two men for me and with them I soonest returned to our positons. By that time the enemy was already approaching, three of the leading men were almost at my foxhole. We beat the enemy back with the fire of two SMG s and one rifle.
Our CO used to come and check the situation. During the hardest battles we often saw him in the first line. Once he fightened us baldy appeaing during enemy shelling right in front of us from no-man's-land. I was crouching in a foxhole with a pal as he ran fast up to our foxhole and jumped in as the thrid man. He had been reconnotering alone in no-man's-land and been surprised by a heavy barrage. He was about to swelter but he was still able to tell us:
-This is all right, try to hold out for a while, there is going to be a relief.
Indeed, soon after this there was a relief. Our Platoon was sent to a calmper spot in the flank and another Platoon of oru Coy took our posirtons. In our opinion the relief was jus in time because soon after the enemy broke trhorugh at the bridgehead. Not all of our men were able to get out in time, some were taken POW.
Of the battles in the bridgehead positions in my memories remains an incident which showed our sprit of brothehood in a beautiful manner. In the I Platoon of our Coy there were two pals, a Corporal and a Private, hailing from the same village and serving in the same Squad. I am not able tyo recollect the name of the Cpl, who was the Squad leader, but the private was called Karvonen. They had a mutual pact: if one of them should be wounded the other shall help him, whatever happens. It so happened that the pact was put to test. The Corporal was wounded in this battle and was incapacitated. Faithful to his promise Pvt. Karvonen, unscathed, remained behind to bandage his brother in arms. Both were taken POW.
Wilderness fighters met with several kinds of inconvenience and problems. In the boggy areas of Eastern Carelia gnats, mosquitoes, horse flies and other bloodsuckers were the greatest plague, attacking every possible spot of a man, nearly driving us out of our remaining minds. One of the antidotes was tar oil. Unfortunately it was in short supply because most of us already had used up the stuff we had received in packets from home.
Once when I was sitting at the edge of a bog Capt. Laine gave his tar oil flask to me. My face swollen by insect bite certainly was not anything pleasant to look at. I wiped my hands and face black with that strong liquid. Then I was ready to listen what the Captain wanted to tell. It was a piece of news from home. Beaming with satiscfactrion he told me that he had been informed that his wife had given birth to his first child – a boy. Our Captain was congratulated by many a wilderness warrior with a handshake.
By now we found ourselves already in Finnish terrain, near Lutikkavaara in Ilomantsi as our Coy was assigned to carry out a counterstrike. Platoon leaders summoned the Squad leaders.
We were just studying the map as Capt. Laine was came up, brisk and straight-standing, stopped to say:
-We shall do it in the old way, forward platoon-wise.
A leader who hs gained the complete trust of his men due to his courage and honesty, is an easy man to follow – anywhere. He took the lead of the compay colunm, the platoons followd him. First, second, third.
Then a shell burst followed by silence. I had not heard a shot or whine, which implies that an AT gun had fired [a supersonic shell] from the enemy side. Unfortunately it was a bullseye. No other shell was fired, and actually it was not necessary. The result was devastating. A dozen of men were made casualties: two fallen, 10 WIA.
-Who got it? Was asked.
-Captain Laine for one, was the answer.
Paramedics were called for. Personal bandage pack were passed from hand to hand to the tip of the Company column. I was like paralysed, neither was I able to think clearly. Information about the CO being killed was stunning.
-Go immediately to inform the Battalion CO that Capt Laine has fallen and the counterstrike has not been launched!. It is urgent! We must get instrucions by the Battalion CO!
I heard the words and remember that I muttered something like “I shall go but I need one man with me”. I summoned Pvt. Saavalainen whom I knew as a man with quick legs. Together we staerted running gor the Battalion CO tent. Saavalainen was there befoe me. Having received orders we returned immediately
The last journey of our CO Capt. Laine was about to start. The stretcher had been lifted on a horse cart that started slowly advancing along the forest road. I escorted the stretcher for a while. The entire Company had a quiet minute without order to do so. A lawyer was to meet the Supreme Judge.
War diary of 10.K does not include anything associated with the story.
The war dead database information :
Laine, Voitto Väinämö, Captain. B. 16.04.1913 Suolahti, D 27.07.1944 in Teppana.
JR56, 8th Coy. KIA, body evacuated, buried in Lokalahti.
8th Coy war diaries end May 1944. III Battalion, the same.
JR 56 HQ diary extracts
0600hrs Situation report to 1-D HQ:
2300hrs the enemy launched, having zeroed their artillery all afternoon, a very intense artillery, mortar, regimental cannon, AT gun preparation at our positons then attacking between Itäsilta and map woed Suvilahti. About 1 Coy of bicycle troops who abandoned their bikes on the opposite river bank. Covered by a ridge on the shore bank and their heavy fire the enemy managed to take one of our forward strongholds. About 800 Russkies penetrated from there in our positions, of which some 40 were annihilated there and more when they were retreeating. The rest were forced to pull back by our countersstrikes whereby they took heavy casualties. Of the 600 Russkies who crossed the waterway most were annihilated. For example, one bunker mounted MG about 100 of them. Several successful artillery strikes hit enemy outfits wading in water, who disregarding their losses were trying to run into our positions. Many of the Russkies who tried to return had undressed and tried to save themselves by swimming while under fire by all of our weapons.
Of the ones annihilated within our positons at least 3 were officers. Enemy fired during their attack about 1500 to 1600 shells. According to captured documents the enemy outfit was IR63/176th Div. War booty still in the terrain, uncollected. Our losses minimal. After the afternoon shelling and nightfighting we counted 4 KIA and 10 WIA. At 0350hrs we are holding our positions totally.
18:45hrs Situation report to 1.D HQ
13:05hrs Enemy opened up heavy fire at Itäsilta crossing the waterway at 1425 – 1445hrs with 2 boats S of the bridge which were destroyed and N of the bridge with 3 boats. Ssome 70 Russkies made it across. On the opposite shore there were some 200 Russkies ready for crossing. At pt. p=9990 I=5530 5 boats were shot up with AT gun and rifle At pt. P=9990 i=9940 our AT gun destroyed 5 pontoons that the enemy was bringing to the shore. The attack was repelled with our fire (heavy and light mortar, artillery, inf.). About 1000 shellls spent. Enemy casualties so far about 20 counted corpses. During the attack enemy fired some 3000 shells. Our casualties so far : 5 KIA (incl. Lt. Palo) and 30 WIA (incl. 2 officers)
17:55hrs two men wearing officer caps tried to crosss at the bridge. Attempt thwarted with inf.fire.
14:00hrs situation report to 1.D:
Our troops disengeaged as planned by 0900hrs, securing patrols 1 hrs later. Just a few Russkies pursued. One Russki shot at Metsäpirtti. Länsisilta bridge blown up at 1120hrs after the troops had crossed it.
13:30hrs Reinforced Körtti (I/JR56 + 28. Tyk.K + 2 Sapper pl. + 2 Art F.O.O teams + 1 mortar F.O.O team + ambulance + 5 paramedics) are placed on the Ahvenjärvi line, the bypass road secured by one reinforced Coy.
Reinforced Korsu (II/JR56 + 14./JR56 + 1 Sapper pl. + 2 Art F.O.O teams + Linn.J/20.Er.Linn.K + 5 paramedics).
12:40hrs First rear securning at the Krivi crossroads, CP 2km S with the main elements of the delaying Coy.
18.00hrs situation report to 1.D
Reinforced Körtti as before but command post in terrain at P=8950 i=4820.'
Reinforced Korsu bivouacking at 2km E of Vanha Kumsa.
Suovanjärvi front section.
11.02hrs Jansson reporting: Russki launched another attack supported by a/c- Requesting support.
11.15hrs Jansson reporting: Russki breakthrough at the road. Requesting barrage on both sides of the road
11.20hrs Jansson supported by Keinonen
11.30hrs Jansson reporting: Every stronghold between the railway line and the road are pulling back to rear positions
12.40hrs Jansson reporting: Entire support line in Russki hands. Russkies find themselves behind Janssons's crossroads
12.53hrs 7.D HQ order: Janssons subordinated to Laakso except the outfits to the North.
Limit S tip of Suovanjärvi lake – Suovanlahti,
12.55hrs Order to Rämä: Immediately block the isthmus Suovanjärvi – Loimolanjärvi with the Jaeger Platoon.
13.10hrs to 13.30hrs Russki ground attack a/c, bombers attacking the Command Post.
16.30hrs Rgt CP shifted to P:8575 I: 8490
20.50hrs Rämä reporting: Jaeger Platoon in the ordered line equipped with Panzerfausts.
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Kuuterselkä tank battle, a Paramedic's view
“Kansa Taisteli”, 09, 1962
J Pr paramedic in battle at Kuuterselkä in June 1944
A paramedic who actually does not participate in a firefight still has a chance to see and expeience a lot. He has to recover wounded men in a dense rain of bullets and administer first aid in the face of enemy without having a possibility to use his own weapon. He has to act fast and recover the wounded as soon as possible to the C.C.S. A paramedic has to dash, creep over soil under fire, drag a wounded man trying to protect him and himself, too. He gets to hear all the time: “Paramedics here and fast!” “Paramedic, get some aid and quick!” “Sani, this way here!”
The paramedic arrives, runs, creeps, dashes with his case and weapon. He bandages, creates makeshift splints of tree branches, administers morphine shots and tries to get the wounded in safety. The paramedic, if anyone, is the front line man who knows and sees the development of the situation in the actual front section, He is always hurrying to the spot where the enemy pressure is the highest. He is kept busy.
I was serving as a paramedic of the 1st Coy of our [Jaeger] Battalion. Our squad was led by Cpl, Kari hailing from Helsinki. Surgeon-Captain Pylkkänen soon trained us from riflemen to paramedics. He was a competent front surgeon who did not stand any barracks tricks in first line circumstances. His principle was that it was preferable to save one life than lose two by making too much haste.
As our troops were launched at Liikola on the 14th June 1944 at 2245hrs to the direction of Kuuterselkä road the C.C.S stayed at the crossroads. It was a cloudy night but no rain, it would have depressed further our not-so-high mood.
In the lead were Capt. C-B. Kvikant's StuGs with the covering infantry. They were advancing on the road. The rest of our outfit including the paramedics were advancing in the forest on both sides of the road, subjected by occasional enemy harassment shelling. We advanced some kilometres in this manner.
Then the stop signal was given and tanks took positions on both sides of the road. Reconnoitring proved that the enemy was waiting for us in the positions they had taken, and they, too, were supported by strong armour formations. We stayed there for a tense while. I filled my canteen in a small brook flowing to the direction of the font line. Another broader brook was in front of us and beyond it the enemy in their positions
Again our StuGs drove on the road and crossed the brook. Our infantry was advancing in a line. Enemy did not yet open fire but it must have spotted us and was waiting. As our tanks fanned out in the forested terrain the battle started.
This battle was brief. Due to our intense pressure enemy abandoned their positions and pulled back to their main nine situated at the perimeter of the Kuuterselkä village crossing the road. We passed the recent enemy positions. Enemy had not evacuated their casualties which were lying here and there, some of them. I did not spot any wounded among them. I did not see one single knocked out tank on either side although they had been vigorously firing at each other.
Soon we were taking nasty AT gun fire from the left side of the road. Now the battle for Kuuterselkä started, our counterstrike would decide it. Only the higher echelons were in the know about the significance of the objective. For us this was just war, fighting, the meaning of which was but to shoot and survive.
In the din of the battle I drifted to one flank where suddenly an enemy tank appeared. I identified it as a T-34, not as frighteningly large and clumsy as the KV, which was equipped with quite a large calibre gun. This T-34 was firing its MG s and was driving back and forth on our flank. Our tanks had not spotted it, instead it was left alone to fire at us. I did not have time to dig a foxhole for me and what would a paramedic, constantly on the move, do with one. I took cover behind a rock and kept watching the tank. It was in vain to fire at it with an infantry rifle, yet I tried because if a bullet would find its way through an observation slit it would have been a nasty surprise for the driver.
I was not the only one to try but our bullets were stopped by the armour. The T-43 Crew was encouraged, it started to approach us firing more than before until it was suddenly stopped. In its pride the tank wanted to show its might and crushing power. It was pushing over tall trees until a big pine became its fate. The tree, run over by the tank, lifted the tank chains off contact with earth and now they were treading plain air. The helpless tank swayed a little trying to escape, but in vain. Our tankers spotted it and evicted the enemy crew who slipped out just to fall next to their tank. The T-34 was captured fully functional by our men.
The battle at Kuuterselkä continued without respite for a long time. I had to drag several of our boys from the field to safety. A great help for the evacuation was a motorcycle with sidecar. Using it, a wounded man was being taken by a surgeon in a few moments. The less serious cases had to get along on their own after first aid.
-Paramedic, get here, was called once again.
I and my pal ran to the direction of the voice. There were several wounded and also fallen men. We treated them but being busy we did not at once find out the reason for this crop of casualties. We were surprised to see a big KV in hull-down position firing at us. My pal was badly wounded. I dragged him in cover and tried to bandage him as well as I could while the tank kept blazing at us with its cannon. I think I never had during the war found myself in a more ear-splitting din. From farther off another well camouflaged tank kept firing at this same spot – actually there were several of them. One or two tanks were not able to create such mayhem.
Finally our armour arrived. A violent duel ensued. Ground was torn by tank tracks, smell of burnt oil was intermingled with gunpowder smoke. It was machine against machine, in my opinion. Men could but watch and try to endure. Which party had the stronger steel, which had more ammunition to spend? Again our men gained the upper hand. The camouflaged KV obviously felt uncomfortable. It rolled out of its hiding and started wobbling along the bog perimeter with clanking chains.
That night the enemy tanks had quite a rotten luck. Even though we did not succeed in destroying them with petrol bottles and satchel charges, nature set up traps for them. As that KV kept going along the perimeter of the bog, still firing at us, it met a surprise just like its smaller brother T-34. It was not a tree but the surprise sprung up from the soil. The terrain was soft boggy ground and the tracks of the steel brute sunk deep in it, it seemed that the entire tank would sink in the mud of the bog. This did not happen, however. The tank was powerful enough to dig the soft soil under its tracks up to the bedrock . Laboriusly it kept going, still targeting us. When the distance to it increased our tanks started firing at the other enemy tanks. Those were hard to hit, however, being in hull-down positions. Just the turrets were seen, turning and firing furiously.
Again we saw something odd. One KV had run over a tree stump on soft terrain and stuck there for good. The tree stump supported the hull from below and the tracks were rolling in plain air. It was even funnier than the recent accident of the T-34. The KV was hanging in balance, bow and stern were rocking helplessly, the tank made a turn and was stuck there. Mud was splashed far and wide by the tracks, but the hull remained stuck. The tank found itself in a hopeless but ridiculous situation, we were really amused.
Finally the KV crew admitted that their situation was hopeless. The turret hatch was opened and a man wearing leather helmet peeked out. He pulled his head back quickly. It was not a good moment to try to get away, the tank was observed by hundreds of pairs of eyes and subjected to many different calibres of fire. I thought that the tree stump must have blocked the floor hatch since the enemy tankers did not try to escape their confinement through that, instead they tried to use the turret hatch, in the sights of hundreds of weapons.
The fate of the tankers was sealed. An enemy tank that had arrived to assist failed to help its comrades. As soon as someone approached the KV intending to fasten steel cables for towing we opened up such a blast that every attempt failed. There the KV monster was dangling like a dried fish side
The KV was caught by us fully intact and ready to be used in battle; the situation had progressed fast. It did not occur to the enemy to use the trick our men used. A push in the stern of the KV with another tank made it mobile again. -Such small successes boost battle spirit, The higher echelons may not appreciate capture of one or two tanks neither loss of them, but the rank and file were encouraged to fight on. Success brings joy but losses create low mood...
Fighting went on without respite on the 15th June up to morning. Paramedics kept running. They carried away the wounded, bandaged them, placed them in the cover of trees in a row. The row kept increasing although the WIAs were being evacuated as fast as it was possible. Tanks were rumbling about with clanking tracks, shooting all the time. One of ours was knocked out, another and the third booty KV and another T-34.
Taking and holding the village in front of us was important for both sides, that is why plenty of lives were sacrificed. Fighting for the village created several heroes that night. Finnish bunker line was situated in the middle of the village, it was there we stalled. We were subjected to the heaviest fire, the Jaeger Battalion was suffering casualties and losing strength. Tanks kept fighting each other.
II Platoon CO Lt. Aulanko was wounded. He had got out of his tank with Capt. Kvikant to reconnoitre and they took hits from a AT gun shell. The Captain was not so badly off but Aulanko took splinters in his face. I escorted the Lieut on top of a StuG to take him to the C.C.S. It was said that he would lose his sight but later we learned that it was not that bad after all. Eternal scarring was his reward...and promotion together with a Mannerheim cross. He was a tough one, we all remember him. Having escorted the Lieut to the C.C.S I returned with the StuG but the situation had changed by now.
After a couple kilometres of journey we met our troops on the retreat, by 1500hrs they had disengaged from the village. Roads and bridges were being mined while armour provided covering fire. At Liikola crossroads we were ordered to turn and proceed to Sormulankylä terrain. There we licked our wounds until next morning. No relevant war diaries exist.
Some background (Finnish Wikipedia)
Counter-attack by Detachment Puroma
Gen . Laatikainen decided on the 14h June at 1500hrs launch a counter-attack using only the 1. Jaeger Brigade who were issued orders at 1600hrs to retake the VT line at Kuuterselkä.
The brisk Jaeger brigade attack forced the enemy retreat. In the morning of 15th June 1944 Soviet troops attacked again and Finns were not able to resist it. Jaeger Brigade was ordered to disengage and retreat to the Suulajärvi-Onkijärvi line. Withdrawal was started at 1300hrs as the enemy was attacking.
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A counterstrike at Äyräpää bridgehead
“Kansa Taisteli”, 09, 1962
JR 7 Jaegers fighting at Äyräpää
On the 23rd June 1944 my outfit III/JR7 Jaeger Platoon was bivouacking on the N shore of Vuoksi river. We had actually no roof over our heads, just foxholes which we tried to equip with a sort of cover against rain. The next day we moved to a surviving house and its sauna but only for about two days because the house took a hit. One corner of the house was blown off and we had to leave double quick. Fortunately the boys in the house found themselves in the kitchen just then.
It was said that the enemy was active at the bridgehead S of Vuoksi and they sent artillery strikes also in our rear. We started digging a dugout on the Vuoksi river bank and it was soon completed because we were short of accommodation. I admit it was not a great one, just some logs covered by earth constituted the roof. Anyway it was a kind of home and good enough for us. Our joy was short lived because the enemy artillery and aviation activities were increasing and made us anticipate the worst.
It started on the 4th July with tremendous noise and din. Air bombs – shells – ground attack planes came in turn in waves. Earth was billowing everywhere and the bridgehead was shrouded in a hell of smoke and dust. The same had happened at Valkeasaari in the first line on the 10th of June.
As the Russian attack started one of us said:
-I think our lads in the bridgehead are in quite a jam!
Another one opined:
-Never mind, we shall find ourselves there one of these days!
It was a good prediction. At about 5 o'clock PM we received orders to proceed to the bridgehead S of Vuoksi. This piece of news made everyone's face serious, and no wonder. Ahead of us there was Vuoksi, hundreds of meters wide, fast flowing in this spot, and behind it narrow ridges that had to be defended or retaken with counter-strikes We did not know what the situation over there was at the moment. Judging by the sounds of battle it was not favourable to our men. I was just thinking: there might be the end of my war. There is no chance to get out of there even if you did not get killed there.
The majority of our Platoon comprised new, unknown replacements received a few days ago, either born in 1925 or older men, called up by the Fatherland for the third time during our independence. The youngest cohort was totally lacking war experience. Our Platoon CO young 2nd Lt. Hatakka looked almost like a child but the second in command Staff Sgt. Was an old hand in war (wounded the same day. KIA later at Vuosalmi). The old men I knew and had learned to trust had vanished from the ranks during patrol missions in the first line and during the rearguard action. Many of them were lying in military hospitals the others in the Fatherland soil.
We started crossing Vuoksi with two boats. Two timid men disappeared already then in the alder bushes of the riverside. Having proceeded off the shoreline shells started coming in, exploding at the surface of the river. Everyone pulled his head between his shoulders, waiting whether there would be a hit or not- but no hit, just a couple of near misses.
One of the lads said:
-How are we going to get back?
-We are going to our own funeral , just no one is singing psalms for us.
Dead fish were floating in the water but no one thought of making a fish soup. Without casualties we made it across but in the rocky riverside terrain we suffered the first casualties as three of us were wounded by shell splinters.
We climbed up the hillside to the nearest ridge where the Command Post was situated. There we received instructions and information about the confused state of the bridgehead. The opposite ridge with our forward line had fallen into enemy hands. Our task was just to retake our forward positions.
We started down the hill in a scattered line. What we saw was not encouraging. There were already ten men lying in a line. At one man's feet was the head of the next man. They had tried to run from an outpost but enemy weapons had finished them off. A counterstrike force that had arrived before us had taken a stretch of the lost trench. The trench was full of their men but we passed everyone to continue rolling the trench.
I thought I spotted a kind of spark of hope in the eyes of those men. Yet during the trench war period we were cursed upon, we were considered birds of ill omen because the stronghold we set out from and returned to always was shelled.
I had to reconsider my doubts about our leaders, they apparently did not fear, instead they pressed on relentlessly. Then the real melee started, and I shall describe it how it was indelibly printed in my memory!
Rolling the trench started with a heavy hand grenade war, combined with SMG bursts, stretch of the trench at a time. This hand-to-hand battle starts causing us casualties. 2nd Lt Hatakka is wounded and he exhorts the others to carry on, shouting:
-Boys, do not give up, forward!
SMGs start jamming because the positions have been dug in soft sandy soil. The SMG gunner in the spearhead is replaced frequently as his SMG gets jammed. I find myself in the spearhead already even though as the rolling started I was the fourth or fifth man. The fact is confirmed by a hand grenade thrown by the enemy, landing on the parapet next to me. Hurriedly I bounce back a few steps to take cover. Someone yells:
-They have got a MG nest near us!
Enemy starts a rain of hand grenades in front of us. We are retreating a little. What ensues was the worst hand grenade duel of my life. I throw at least ten grenades and the lads nearest to me also are throwing them as fast as they are able to but all without any result. Enemy retaliates likewise but fortunately none of them is falling in the hole we find ourselves. The men behind are passing us more hand grenades. We have to get forward. I am facing a dilemma: I am in the spearhead and I should be advancing. Fear is a human concept, I have felt it in the war but never shown it, that is why I cannot now step back and ask someone else to take my position.
Having considered a moment I made my decision. There are two alternatives: advance or die.
Five stick grenades are passed to me. My SMG is dangling from my neck as I step forward. I have taken a few strides as a Russian lemon shaped hand grenade drops at my feet, oozing grey smoke from one end. An idea to throw it back flashes in my mind, instead I dash over it and throw myself flat on the bottom of the trench. The hand grenade goes off behind my feet without damaging me. I get up in a crouching position The same moment another hand grenade falls just at my shoulder on the trench parados. I duck and I am safe. That one, too, was thrown too early and did not go off in the right moment.
Now I am getting really agitated, thinking: is it here, P*le, that I have to die? I start creeping forward to the enemy weapons nest. I can clearly hear how the fuzes of enemy hand grenades are snapping behind the trench bend. It is now or never, I must succeed. I take a grenade in my hand and concentrate in my task. Slowly I count in my mind one – two – three – four -this one they won't be able to throw back I am thinking. I throw all of my five stick grenades and as the last one bursts I am dashing forward, my SMG rattling. My hand grenades have done their job and silenced the enemy MG. Two men in shreds are lying on the bottom of the nest but the third, the gunner, is in a sitting position against the wall of the trench, still clutching the grips of the MG – an unforgettable sight !
Elated by success I am dashing to the next trench elbow. This was a mistake that almost cost me my life, since I was out of hand grenades. Behind the elbow I met at a distance of a few meters an enemy SMG gunner whom I surprise. We pull triggers about the same moment, mine just clicks and there is no shot, the enemy weapon fires but his fright must be monumental because his burst does not hit me, instead the dirt on the trench parados is billowing next to my shoulder. I try to point my SMG behind the turn of the trench but the enemy SMG buzzes and dirt is flying at the trench bend. I am estimating that it would be in vain to attempt to advance, I pull back my SMG , now I find myself being like a trapped rat. My contact to the rear is cut off and I am alone without a functioning weapon. I yell:
-Boys, P*le, My gun is jammed, this Vanya is going to kill me!
At once the enemy throws a hand grenade which blows off a piece of a corner of the trench bend and a piece of fabric of my trouser knee, scraping my skin. In the ensuing thick dust cloud I bounce at the enemy who, being sure having made a kill, is coming to check the effect of the hand grenade. I am trying to get a good hold of the man but he does a slick turn, escaping, maybe frightened by my large size. But the same moment a rifle shot rings out next to my ear, and the son of the steppes, although brave, does his last pirouette. The Sergeant-Major, our Platoon stand-in CO, had heard my shout and arrived in the nick of the time. Now every man of our Platoon is following their courageous leader and the enemy is caught by general panic. A manic pursuit over piles of bodies starts.
I grab a Finnish SMG lying on the trench parapet, test it – jammed – I grab a Russian SMG, test it – a working one. There is no lack of weapons, they are lying about on the bottom and the banks of the trench everywhere. Enemies are running, trying to get out of their foxholes but some are falling back having taken a hit. We are running and bouncing after them. I remember how one tall enemy , wearing a greatcoat and carrying a disconnected MG on his shoulder was running downhill to the direction of the railroad; one of the boys, I thing it was Jaeger Mielikäinen, sent a burst at his back whereby the fellow fell with a long arc.
The terrain is downhill from the trench line. Every enemy who makes it past the railway embankment is safe. So we have retaken our positions quite rapidly with small losses. The standard reaction will follow as soon as enemy finds they have lost the position.
A rain of shells begins and our casualties start mounting. Enemy tanks are positioned behind the railway embankment and they fire accurately at the slightest movement they detect. One of the youngest replacements pays with his life his carelessness. His torso vanishes having taken a bullseye from a direct fire cannon.
After the barrage ceases the trench provides quite a disconsolate view after two fights. There are fallen men all over the place, at places on top of each other. Our and enemy soldiers ale lying there in good agreement without asking who is on top of whom. The number of our dead proves that the lads did not give up the trench without a fight in the morning.
I and a replacement lad are sitting on a bottom of a foxhole sucking our cigarettes to soothe our nerves. The pal says he is hearing some rasping noises. I comment:
-There is nothing there, just dirt falling down from the trench side.
The next moment I spot an enemy face a couple of meters from a foxhole dug by our lads. We are beckoning him, threatening with our weapons:
-Idi sudaa, davai ! (Bad Russian, meaning: “come here, come on”tr.rem.-)
But the fellow is not getting up however we order him. I lose my patience, go and grab the man by the collar and pull him in our trench.
-Looky, it's a wounded Vanya, there is a flesh wound in his thigh but it does not look very serious. -Sit down, man, we are all right.
We are treating him with cigarettes. He is sitting down, but starts talking gibberish and won't accept a cigarette. Again I lose my patience, grab a SMG at the barrel and threaten him saying:
-Can't you be quiet for a while, you!
It is not until now that yelling really starts, the man is putting up his both arms and howling as loud as he can. I never seen a more wild face on a living person. I put aside my SMG and tell the lads who are there:
-Get that Vanya the Hell out of here, I am sick of listening.
Lads started escorting the POW to the Command Post but to this day I do not know if he managed to cross the river or if he vanished en route.
The task of the Platoon is completed here. Other outfits are manning the taken trench and we receive orders to return to the C.P. For new tasks. We are going in a sparse row, almost on all fours because the trench is at places very shallow and under observation by enemy AT guns. Suddenly there is a blinding flash and darkness engulfs me.
As I come to I have to scrape dirt off my neck because I am totally covered by a layer of sand and dust. I can see all right but I am not able to hear anything. I am feeling my head which is almost numb. No blood, my limbs appear to be intact. The man who had been in front of me is drawing his last breath on the bottom of the trench. An AT gun shell has hit the trench parados between us, the soft earth therein has directed the splinters in my favour. We are continuing our way to the C.P. Once there my ears crackle and I am again hearing and I get a terrible headache.
The lads are admiring my face. I am asking for a mirror, someone lends one to me. I am surprised and late amused, because my face is totally soot and dust covered, just the whites of my eyes were clean.
The chance of war did not end my war at Äyräpää, instead I was wounded during a counterstrike in the Vasikkasaari island of Vuoksi on the 8th July.
When I was released from the military hospital the armistice had been made.
For an average Finn the name “Äyräpää” does not mean anything but the oldest Carelians do remember this parish at the Vuoksi. In our both wars Äyräpää had a significant role and at least all the men who were fighting at the bridgehead in summer 1944 and survived, shall never forget what they saw and experienced there.
Many a Finnish soldiers found his final resting place in the Äyräpää battlefield because there were not enough boats to ship the KIA across. The boats were damaged by shells and the few available ones were needed for shipping WIAs and supplies.
(2683 words) Most likely the counterstrike was launched on the sector of II/JR7, next to the ferry ("lossi")
III/JR7 Jaeger Platoon war diary does not exist. III/JR7 war diary extract below.
(Neatly typed document !)
02.00hrs 5 enemy boats rowed to Ruokosaari from Pölläkkälä. Our artillery shelled them, later it was seen how one boat was taking WIAs to the mainland.
04.00hrs Enemy launched an attack against Harju sector. Shelling was very lively. Enemy ground attack planes raided with 4 to 5 a/c formations 8 times, bombing and strafing our line, also were we shelled. Our sector took during the battle about 2100 different kinds of shell and about 120 aerial bombs.
06.15hrs Order by Rgt CO: Battalion Jaegers and 10.K are subordinated to II Btn for counter-strike at the central section of Harju sector. Get moving immediately. Enemy ground attack a/c badly harassed our crossing of the Vuoksi.
09.05hrs Liaison patrol 1+1 from the right wing Coy of 15.D. Calm on the sector. The patrol reported that a drifting Russki raft had been taken, 7 decoy as men on it.
14.00-15.00hrs From Ruokosaari left 10 boats full of men, returned 6 boats and 7 men.
16.30hrs One boat and 2 Russkies from Ruokosaari to Pölläkkälä.
In aerial bombardment and shelling on our sector 1 NCO and 6 men were KIA, WIA 2 NCO and 14 men. Also 1 horse KIA and 3 WIA.
Our Jaeger platoon that had been sent to Harju sector for counter-strike retook one stronghold. Russkies were left there as fallen 1 Captain and 30 men, 3 MG s were taken. Platoon leader 2nd Lt. Hatakka was slightly wounded by shell splinters in his shoulders, vice CO Staff Sgt. Saaristo was wounded in one arm by splinter. Also wounded were Cpl. Ekman and Cpl. Ala-Risku. PFC Risku, a good fighter, was KIA. Btn mortar platoon fired in front of the adjacent sector during the battle as barrages a total of 587 bombs. Enemy was shelling their positions very heavily and a/c bombed them. One ammo dugout took a hit yet the bombs had already been expended. The hit did not cause any damages.
17.00hrs Enemy launched a new attack at the same spot as last night. Shelling was not as heavy as then. Our sector took only about 250 various shells. A/c also bombed and strafed the terrain.
(end of day)
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“Kansa Taisteli”, 9, 1962
Transporting recce patrol by sea in Petsamo
In the turn of September to October 1942 the Coast Guard Vessel “Turja” that was in my command was at Petsamo was ordered to ship a patrol to “Punainen niemi” situated at the end of Maattivuono fjord from Liinahamari. The patrol's task was to land and advance along the coast to the Kalastajasaarento isthmus. I was not informed any more.
The weather was constantly clear, and in such circumstances it was not feasible to try to carry our the task. Russian batteries and searchlight network saw to it that it was not good for one's health to approach too close. Moreover, Punainen niemi was situated quite near the coast of Kalastajasaarento on the S side of Maattivuono fjord end.
Finally the weather turned cold a few days later which meant fog. Soon was our base Liinahamari shrouded in a thick screen of fog. The hills, mouth of the fjord and even the nearest vessels at the quay were lost in thick fog. Now was the time to get going. I reported to my CO the harbour commandant Cdr. Capt. Thorfinn Fabricius that the “Turja” was on the standby. We were waiting for the patrol to embark.
It did not take more than one hour before the patrol comprising 30 men arrived and embarked. We placed them under the deck. The Senior Lt. (sic) who was the patrol leader stayed with me in the command cabin. His first question was:
-How are we going to find our objective in this porridge ?
-I am not quite sure about it but let us hope everything goes well, the ship has an experienced crew, all local lads, born and grown up in these parts, they know every rock of this coast. I, too, have been sailing these waters for more than one year and learned a lot. Senior Lieutenant, Sir, you need not worry. Good luck is always needed but it is often essential for navigation and sailing.
I meant this as a joke to relieve tension. Actually I was not so calm myself. Everything¨
was ready. Our Scandia [hot bulb] engine had been pre-heated and the crew in their stations, ready for action.
Having received the harbour commandant order to proceed we released the ropes and headed for the entrance of the fjord at slow speed. Navigating with clock, compass and the speed table attached to my watch the “Turja” sighted a small rocky island in the middle of the fjord, Rikulaassa. That was a good start to mission.
From Rikulaassa I headed for cap Paitahamina. Water at the shore was deep here, so it was possible to steer the “Turja” right at the shore rock, and the weather being still there was no risk of contact with seabed. Sound of waves was a good warning sign in darkness or fog when approaching the coast. Arctic ocean waves soon told me that the “Turja” had reached the entrance to Petsamo fjord.
Behind Cap Paitahamina opens first fjord Pikku-Maattivuono with the fishing harbour Paitahamina situated on the W shore whereas the E shore is high and steep. Only at the end of the fjord there is a small cove with a boat jetty for the Coast Guard.
We crossed Pikku-Maattivuono fjord whereby the bow of the “Turja” almost touched the Northeast rock, a sharp big rock situated about 10m from the shoreline. This rock was a good signpost in our journey in the fog. We had made it quite far by now.
Our engine was still throbbing evenly. I held a slow 2 to 3 knots speed and the patrol-men had relaxed after the initial tension. The patrol leader stayed on the deck, maybe he wanted to be sure that the ship crew stayed alert. I exhorted him to go below to stay warm but he refused.
We had behind us by now one half of our journey. Kalastajasaarento was quiet but we did know that should the fog dissipate, we would find ourselves served on a platter and subjected to broadside firing. It was about 1400hrs which means that there was still a moment of daylight left. On the other had the dark period of the day would not save us if the fog disappeared. Searchlights would find us and artillery would do the rest. We were trusting our luck.
IT was 1600hrs, Punainen niemi cap was still 4 miles away. Suddenly the bow of the “Turja” shot up. Patrol-men dashed on the deck nervous, and kept asking what had happened. I calmed them down b explaining that we were just defining our position and advised them to go below because there were no problems. Actually, despite trying to be very careful I had forgotten about the flat and smooth Kallenlaassat rocks, and on them was the “Turja” now stuck. I ordered the engine full speed to the rear but there we remained. Our only chance was at hand a little later and we had to wait for it. The tide was coming in and after a thrilling half an hour the “Turja” was afloat again.
We went on and soon the bosun standing in the bow reported that there is a bay to starboard. Quite right, Punainen niemi cape was right in front of us.
The engine was stopped and soon our bow touched the rocky bottom. Ropes were taken ashore from the bow and immediately the patrol-men started disembarking. The Sr. Lt.was the last to go, he shook my hand and thanked me for the thrilling journey. I said that he can expect something even more thrilling in the near future, and wished him success.
We released the ropes and turned back to return home. We had scarcely left the shore as the first “crack” hit the rocks of the shore about 50m from the “Turja”. Of course the enemy had heard the sound of the engine and fired in the fog. Another shot, uncomfortably close this time. I steered away from the shore and increased speed. That may have saved us because having proceeded between Punainen niemi cape and Maattivuono fjord the fog started dissipating. The enemy kept firing and surprisingly well they followed our course.
I could discern finally through the thinning fog the enemy searchlight beams criss-crossing behind our stern, approaching menacingly.
We found ourselves some way off the cover of the Pikku-Maattivuono fjord mouth as the fog suddenly vanished totally, as if blown by wind, and a new race started. The “Turja” was a mouse pursued by a cat. The last few hundreds of meters that we zigzagged constituted a real gauntlet. I estimated that we were fired at by an AA battery with direct fire. Searchlights held the “Turja” in their pincers all the time. I steered the ship making sharp turns so that every turn to board was sharper and longer than the following turn to starboard.
So we limped into the cover of Pikku-Maattivuono fjord. The only damage our ship took was some splinters that hit our lifeboat.
Having caught our breath in the fjord and after some tea we again dared to put to sea to pass Paitahamina cape and head for Petsamo fjord and Liinahamari.
The captain knew the waters of Maattivuono fjord that had been Finnish territory until the Winter War.
This may have been a German patrol, although the author does not mention it. Sr. Lt. Was a Navy rank in Finnish armed forces, and it is not likely a navy officer would command an infantry recon patrol. Also the front at Kola peninsula was held by Wehrmacht.
“Turja” dimensions: L 22,73 m, W 4,60 m, D 2,70 m. Photo:
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Fighting at the Svir and Tulemajoki rivers in summer 1944
“Kansa Taisteli”, 09, 1962
I was serving as a Jaeger in the 4th Coy of Rj.P 3 in Kuuttilahti at the Svir. We were once again “in the line” . It was the late spring or early summer of 1944. It was a period of relative calm in all our fronts except the active enemy reconnoitring, attempts to catch prisoners etc. This was a foreboding of the following enemy offensive.
It was rumoured that on the Carelian Isthmus the enemy was carrying out this sort of activities at top rate and it was also on the increase on the Olonez isthmus where we found ourselves. In one of those days a group of men of stronghold “Taimi” were sitting at the entrance of their dugout discussing the topic “When shall it start – when shall it be our turn”.
The men were no more young, most of them already middle aged. Rumours could not scare them, instead they discussed the topic like an actual daily matter is discussed in civilian life. This outfit had been retaking the Hanko “kettle”, then they had been transferred to Eastern Carelia. They were familiar with places such as Homorovitsa, Kaskana and Podporozhe.
Days went by and sentry duty went on as before, yet beefed up because the ominous calm had continued longer than usually. It was found that the enemy had been pushing downstream all kinds of junk such as pieces of log, bridge railing timbers and so on. The debris did not escape attention in daytime at least, and they were duly reported. Every soldier was aware that even the smallest observation may be worth attention, and this time it was.
Soon we, too, were ordered to intensify guarding. We, machine-gunners, were ordered to shift our MG nest a little down the river bank to improve field of fire. A tunnel had to be constructed to get access to the new weapons nest. Nights were fairly light by now, so the work had to be carried out during twilight.
We were one night just at this task. Heavy fog was hanging over the Svir. Fortunately visibility reached up to the hindrances although those were almost touching the weapons nest. The hindrances had to be built initially so close and not on the mud of the river bottom where they would not have made any difference being out of our monitoring.
Our entire squad was busy at our new weapons nest as someone whispered that splashes could be heard from the river. We listened, but since we heard nothing special any more, we went on with our work. Suddenly the enemy heavy and light mortars started bombing the hillocks among which they knew our dugout was situated. Of course they wanted to prevent our men from manning the line. Yet I do not think there were many men that night in the dugout because all of them had similar tasks – improving our positions. We were just digging the tunnel from the old weapons nest where our MG still was. Our Squad leader Cpl. Haikanlahti shouted:
-Boats coming across !
The same moment our MG started playing the old music. In a moment everyone of us was in their places and could note the fact that Haikanlahti had sounded alarm. Boats were indeed coming across, we counted at least five of them. I am sure everyone of us was looking at them like at ghosts because there was no sound of engine, neither were the boats rowed, yet they were slowly advancing. Now it was no time to wonder. We had to take up the work that Haikanlahti already had started and joined by our neighbouring strongholds. At the moment my task was that of the gunner's assistant and I was seeing to it that he always had a full belt at hand. Then I heard the gunner say:
-Now those b*s have managed to land!
It did look like it.
But the enemy was slowed down by the wide mud bank of the river shore through that they had to wade. Most of the enemies were killed the moment they disembarked from their boats, only a few made it up to our wire where they were exterminated to the last man. The fight did not take a long time but the results could be seen for a long time in front of our line. When it was again silent we left sentries in their posts and returned to our dugout. The enemy had made use of the river current and almost succeeded. The next time they were successful...
Our Battalion disengaged from the Svir line on the 22nd June 1944 forced by the course of events and started the heavy and strength-draining delaying action. With the help of diversion we managed to disengage and pull back without engaging the enemy in the direction Kuuttilahti - Segezha - Piltsu crossroads - Pisi – Alavoinen. This journey included most various kinds of action. It is the nature of delaying action that the situation is constantly changing. Every one has to do what can be done because the success of one's own outfit and maybe of others may depend on you.
From the very beginning we noticed that the enemy would not stay in front of our line but meeting any resistance – the first burst of fire – obstinately tried to bypass and surround us. The defence line of our Jaegers did not shake. I remember how the young Jaegers with SMGs allowed the enemy approach very close before opening fire. Afterwards they self-assuredly boasted how much each of them had dared. They did have self-confidence, if any.
We were just arriving at Alavoinen village as we met one of our Jaeger companies in R&R waiting for new tasks. We greeted them and learned that they were going to penetrate in the enemy rear. We wished them good luck and continued our journey. We met the same Company the net time at the Tuulos beachhead battles, on the W side of the battlefield.
We had left Rajakontu behind and arrived at Salmi village and Tulemajoki, the action during 3t and 4th July remain in my memory. On the 3rd July we received orders to man the delaying positions at Tulemajoki river. To begin with we saw that it was not just a matter of manning a completed defensive line. All there was were crumbling trenches from the days of the Winter War, completely filled up in the course of time. I do not think any one of us had been shovelling as busily digging trenches as now. We had to get something completed and fast. Many of us would have liked to sleep but no, we had to wait and stay prepared. From our right in the direction of the main road a constant din of battle was emerging. Soon a steel storm would fall on us again. I am sure many of us were thinking in these positions: This is ancient Finnish land, do we have to abandon this, too? We kept waiting, it was quiet, but for how long ?
It was at midnight as it started. It was as if the sky had fallen on us. Next the enemy did not wait for the end of their fire preparation before launching the infantry attack, sending their men in their own barrage. The first wave assaulted, the second one followed but that narrow river checked the advance of the enemy. Maybe they did not expect to meet resistance so soon.
It was quiet for a moment. Fallen enemies could be seen on the opposite shore and in the river – the chance of war had taken them. But our outfit had not been spared, either. Paramedics were called for. Who would be leaving our ranks? We were aware of our small number, I only there were more of us or at least all who had manned the line last night.
Our deputy Platoon leader Sgt. Albin Kuvaja had just arrived in our weapons nest, and finding everything quiet he suggested:
-What about making some surrogate ?
-Where would you get water?
Another one suggested:
-There is water just in front of us, you don't need to add much of anything to it, it is tinged already.
Kuvaja was indeed serious, he said:
-I'll get some water, really.
He started fumbling for his field kettle. Just as he was about to get out of the weapons nest a hand grenade was thrown from the waterfront between his legs. Kuvaja swept it back to the sender where it went off. The man who had thrown it must have copped it.
We took another look and found that some of the enemies who had recently attacked us had reached the vicinity of our weapons nest in the cover of the bushes of the waterfront and then thrown a grenade from a distance of a couple of meters. Kuvaja opined:
-He was badly brought up, trying to enter without knocking.
We kept improving our positions and waited. We were not able to evacuate our wounded due to lack of communications trenches, we had just foxholes. We had tried taking them to the rear but it had cost the life of a paramedic. We tried to get some sleep by turns but it did not work out, neither did the enemy rest.
Right after midnight the enemy launched another attempt. Their infantry did not go over the top but we were fired at with AT guns and even heavier ones at and over our line. They were softening up the river bank before another attack. Our defence had withstood the first round and that boosted our confidence. Many heroic deeds were done that night. I remember how one artillery F.O.O. During enemy attack shortened his fire so that eventually his team was killed. Honour to their memory!
In the morning of 4th July we were ordered to be relieved by another outfit. I remember how the relieving outfit had sent a liaison patrol and the Lieut leading it called out approaching us:
-Is there anybody there?
There indeed was a tired but satisfied outfit who felt that they had done their duty honourably.
I was wounded during the process of relief so I do not know what happened after that at Tulemajoki. I returned to my Company not until they were at Jakokoski.
What happened at Tulemajoki on the 4th and 5th July 1944:
"At Kolatselkä in Tulemajoki a crisis was developing during the first days of July 1944 as the Soviet 37th Guards AC troops supported by tanks were lively pressing on the battalions of JR8 from SSE on a 10 km wide front. The Regiment had deployed S of the Tulemajoki river source defending a bridge which led to an important road in the rear of our troops."
"I/JR 8 education officer 2nd Lt. Helge Ukkola describes what happened in his book “Iskevän Kiilan matkassa Syväriltä Ylimuonioon”:
I saw how Col. Tikka's staff car run over the bridge to the North side. Sappers had completed the mining of the bridge. Col. Tikka drove up from the bridge, having reminded of the importance of blowing the bridge up. However, a while later he returned and hastily ordered: “The bridge is to be blown up now, immediately!”
The order was carried out. JR8 war diary states that the Rgt CO Col. Tikka ordered to blow up the bridge on the 5th July 1944 at 1615hrs. The decision was too hasty because the enemy infantry scouts turned up only five or six hours later. The early demolition of the bridge forced a great number of JR8 men to cross the river by swimming or with makeshift gear while engaged by enemy. After the swim the Regiment troops pulled back in scattered groups through bogs and forest to their own side, assembling NE of Käsnäselkä. The Regiment's fighting spirit and ability were low for about a week.
Enemy tanks crossed Tulemajoki the next day after the swimming session and went on attacking the Prääsä – Sortavala road. Col Tikka was soon relieved from his duties and transferred to the Aunus Group HQ , he was replaced as the CO by Col. Lt. Riitesuo on the 10th July 1944. As a result of the incidents at Tulemajoki also two of JR8 Battalion CO s were replaced".
(Source: Suomen Sotahistoriallinen Seura)
Rj.P 3 included a MG Coy but no war diary has survived. The author most likely served in its ranks although he states otherwise. Maybe it was 4.K that his MG was subordinated to.
4./Rj.P 3 war diary extracts:
Btn CO ordered by phone the evacuation of the sector. Forward posts were left there. Sappers started laying out mines.
C.P. Shifted to “Paiste” telephone exchange
Capt. Purra reported to Capt. Silvennoinen.
2nd Lt Mustonen from the Galatsi sector reported that a Sapper had set off a mine, wounded.
2nd Lt Mustonen reported that a man had been wounded when cleaning a SMG.
These days have been very calm in the front line
In the evening two enemy a/c on a recon mission over the sector.
Coy CO set out for briefing by Btn CO.
Report from stronghold “Lahna”: during the last nights a cutting has appeared on the enemy river bank.
Btn CO phoned about an incident at Gorka sector whereby the enemy tried to land.
Artillery shelled the above mentioned spot where sounds had been heard. Else the entire sector was calm.
Btn Co ordered to withdraw forward posts.
After sentries had let Capt. Silvennoinen and the admin squad followed them. 2 squads were left in the stronghold to clear it out.
C.P. Was shifted 1,5 km N from “Tennis”, the Btn C.P. At the Segezha road.
Btn CO informed via Runner that the 3rd Coy was pulled next to “Tennis” so the line was drawn straight to the brook at Kuuttilahti. Also a patrol was to be sent to liaise with 5.D on the left flank.
Admin squad and baggage train set out for Segezha. Platoons followed the Coys they were subordinated to.
Alert at Segezha, proved to be false. It had been reported that an enemy patrol was at Segezha.
Marching orders to Pisi whereafter the march started.
Arrival. En route enemy aerial activities. No damages.
Platoons bivouacked in one place about 4km N of Pisi.
Coy CO s in briefing. Subject: March to Alavoinen.
Order to get ready for departure.
Baggage train set out. At the same time there was a breach in the Pisi line. Roads were congested. En route the Coy received proviant from an field proviant depot being evacuated.
Battalion bivouacked in the terrain of Maitonsuo bog. Platoons were subordinated to Coys which were to set up delaying positions.
Part of the baggage train moved 6km to the rear, Alavoinen road. Platoons I and II participated in the delaying action subordinated to Coys and withdrew with them. III Platoon was pulled about 2 km to the rear in delaying positions from where they withdrew together with the Battalions having engaged the enemy.
March to Alavoinen where the leading outfits arrived at 1300hrs and the last ones at 1500hrs
Bivouacking in the terrain of Alavoinen rwy station. Air activities very busy. One man wounded in the Battalion bivouac area
Btn CO briefing to Coy CO s whereafter order: “Get ready to move”
March to Vitele started.
08.00hrs Platoons started arriving at Ala-Vitele.
22.00hrs the last ones arrived via Säntämäki road. En route went missing Border Guard Laine, Kl. And Jaegers Eskola and Karvinen, who later found their outfit at Salmi.
Baggage train was shifted beyond Viteleenjoki river about 3 km along the Sortavala road. II Platoon was subordinated to 2.K who took positions at the Ala-Vitele airstrip.
Btn CO order on subordinating I and II Platoons to 1.K and 2.K for delaying action.
Report on Cpl Jukka being wounded in back.
Platoons withdrew with Coys across Viteleenjoki river and arrived at the supplying point at 1200-1245 hrs. After a meal they joined the Coys at Vitele for an eventual counterstrike.
A heavy enemy barrage with all weapons.
Jaeger Kapanen fell. Jaegers Stam, G. Leppänen, K. Liimatainen, L and Makkonen J were wounded by shell splinters. The last mentioned later died in a field hospital.
Baggage train was shifted 6km to the rear by the Sortavala road.
Sr. Sgt. Vesterinen slightly wounded and one horse KIA at Sassi.
Platoons assembled to be supplied for a march.
Order: 4 MG s and 20 belts wit ammo cans to be handed over to Maj. Tiitola
March to supply point where a meal and then on by various routes past the old national border
(2100hrs) about 5 km where bivouacked. Tents were set up.
“Get ready to move on”
March for Kovero started, the rest of the way on lorries.
At Kovero village by Tulemajoki river. Tents set up, bivouacked.
Marched on to Kirkkoja brook terrain. Bivouacked.
The second set of boots was handed back if someone had any.
R&R. Inspection of weapons and gear. Sauna bath, finally.
Btn CO briefing for Platoon leaders on field fortification work at Tulemajoki river.
Btn CO phone call: Lts Majorin and Rautio to report at Salmi village.
I and II Platoons by lorry to F.f.work. Two shifts, half a Coy at a time at Tulemajoki bank between the road and the railway line.
Bivouac site shifted about 4 km to the rear
Enemy artillery barrage at the riverbank, F.F.work stopped
2 Squads set our for F.F.work but Col. Saurio sent them back en route.
Order; “on the standby”
Platoons were subordinated to Coys.
Arrived at Jukakoski terrain
CO reconnoitring roads at Uusikylä.
Platoons in the front line at Tulemajoki river.
Platoons have manned their positions.
An about 1 ½ hr very heavy artillery strike launched by enemy. WIA Jaegers Saarinen Pertti, Hurstila L, Mikkilä, Larikko, Vihtori and Rajamäki Veikko . Cpl. Mitronen (?) KIA.
Another artillery strike started supported by a/c. Reported as WIA : Lt. Majorin, Sgt. Kuvaja, Cpl. Leinonen, Jaegers Pehkinen, Ahonen, Cpl. Lumppio.
Platoons withdrew with Companies.
Assembling at the old bivouac site. 25 men in ranks.
March back to Multamäki terrain.
Arrival. Waiting to join the counter-attack, which was cancelled. The men who were present were subordinated to Coys that took positions at the edge of the open meadow N of Salmi village by about 0700hrs.
Relieved by Rj.P1, during the relief the enemy attacked supported by tanks. Coy rallied at the Mäenpää crossroads and started the march for Bräysy. In the battle were wounded :
Jaegers Puisto Toivo, Laakso Matti, Lindlöf Jaakko, Jurvanen F, Rautiainen T, Kolehmainen Aarne, Pöllänen Nikolai, Kakkonen Sulo (!)
Coy at Bräysy. R&R.
March to Uuksu. Final stretch on lorries
Enemy aerial activities constant, without causing casualties for the Coy.
In Uuksu. Bivouacked in tents.
(end of day)
As we can read the 4.K was subordinated by Platoons to the other Companies of the Battalion, as it the 4.K would not have had a competent CO.
Data on Jaeger Makkonen WIA on the 27th June
Makkonen, Olavi ; Rank Sotamies (pvt.) ;B . 17.02.1911 Ruskeala ; D. 28.06.1944 26.KS ; Age 33 yrs ; Outfit Rajajääkäripataljoona 3, Konekiväärikomppania ; Died of his wounds. Buried at Joensuu, Joensuu military cemetery ; Occupation worker, no children.
Rj.P 3 war diary extract
Battalion started field fortification work on the Tulemajoki line.
Battalion total casualties figures, KIA and WIA [in June]: 69
NCO s 14
Weapons technician Mustonen was badly wounded on the yard of Salmi CG hall.
A bullet fired from an a/c pierced his head.
Briefing for officers in the C.P. Tent. 2nd Lt Pulkkinen was transferred from AT gun platoon to 1.K. Staff Sgt. Kärki from 3.K as weapons technician.
Btn moved from the Kasakkalahti terrain to W of Kirkkojoki river.
Aerial activities extremely lively all day.
Battalion casualties total 70.
Battalion subordinated to JR2.
Battalion took over a defence sector at Tulemajoki river from Hyypänkari to Pikkujuka.
02.00hrs Battalion subordinated to JR44.
Intense shelling of our line started. Casualties 18 men.
Maj. Väänänen arrived to relieve the Battalion from the front line.
Maj. Väänänen's battalion: IV/15. Brigade
While the relief was going on an intense artillery and organ gun strike started plus aerial bombardment.
Report receiver: Russki crossing the Tulemajoki river at the rapids of Pieni-Jukakoski and 300 to 400 m downstream.
Battalion was forced to retreat from the Tulemajoki line in the direction of Salmi.
Battalion was scattered in the Electricity works forest.
Most of the Battalion arrived at Kirkkojoki river.
Battalion started march back to the direction of Jukakoski, to the terrain of Kivisärkkä.
Battalion was ordered to prepare for an attack in the direction of Kovero.
Col. Lt. Seppälä recalled the attack order and ordered to relieve Rj.P1 from the front line.
Battalion manned the Rj.P 1 sector up to the W edge of Siikaojannurmi meadow.
Received order on pulling the Battalion to reserve in Uuksu. Rj.P 1 came to re-man the sector.
Siikaojannurmi sector was manned by Rj.P3 for 4 hrs 30 min.
Just as relief was going on another Russki attack was launched. By estimate one Battalion supported by 5 tanks.
Battalion disengaged from the Siikaojannurmi terrain.
Battalion arrived at Uuksu, bivouacked at Ylä-Uuksu terrain.
(end of day)
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Music with Stalin's organ
“Kansa Taisteli” 09, 1962
Er.P 25 soldier's first experience of a Soviet rocket launcher.
In summer 1944 I was in the ranks of Er.P 25. The war was just revealing another of its faces. Situations were changing and front lines moving. We were fighting against hugely superior enemy and we did not have time to lick our wounds. Our enemy on the other hand was well able to do that, because we were being attacked ever new fresh enemy forces, well armed divisions, aircraft, tanks and finally that infernal rocket launcher, the weapon invented by the devil himself, which broke down mentally many a Finnish soldier already with frayed nerves.
We were fighting at Siiranmäki (sic!) [13th to 18th June 1944, tr.rem.] under heavy enemy pressure. It was there that I became one of the victims of the rocket launcher, and several Finnish soldiers were killed in the same barrage.
Our outfit had penetrated a little too deep in the area taken by the enemy, at Miettilänkylä village if I remember correctly. Anyway, Sr. Sgt. Karvonen told us that now we had to pull back at once but unnoticed. We were retreating in the hilly terrain in good order but enemy observers must have detected our movement. We soon were subjected by shelling by artillery and mortars,
The effect was quite minimal. Just some slightly wounded, they were all able to continue marching unassisted. Shelling was next directed at the village and we went on with Sr. Sgt. Karvonen using his map and compass. We were hearing normal sounds of shooting behind us both left and right; we were used to it and it did not bother our outfit at all. We knew that our front line had given in at places and shooting may be heard emerging from unexpected directions. Artillery and mortar shots, the whining of shells and bursts at target on both sides constituted old music for us, all part of the war sounds background.
But then we heard an abnormal note. It was the rocket launcher that started strafing us, just us of Er.P 25. The very moment we underwent a terrible baptism of fire by the organ gun, our first experience of this notorious weapon. As we heard the sound of an express train approaching us we threw ourselves prone seeking the best possible cover for us.
I crept in a crevice between two big rocks, lying there and waiting for an eternity what would happen. Others kept running, it was their doom, at least for many of them because they did not make it to the trench farther off. After a while crashing and banging started. I smelt reek of burning and my lungs were pushed void of air. The explosions sounded like odd bangs as if each projectile hitting the ground would have split in two. The air was heated, it was hard to breathe it
I put my head up and saw some of my pals dead on the ground, they had not survived the organ gun fire in their bad cover. I tried to shout for Sr. Sgt. Karvonen but no one responded. The same moment I heard another salvo from the organ gun. Terror overtook me but I had the wherewithal to stay in my cover. Sweat of pain was flowing off my body on the moss between the rocks. Again explosions were cracking all around, this time a little farther off, my ears were blocked. I also found that blood was dripping from my nostrils on the ground.
During the war I had been subjected to several artillery strikes and aerial bombardment but none of them could be compared with the shock I underwent, lying on the ground like a helpless rag. My surviving pals agreed with me.
We did not receive a third salvo, the two had been enough. We assembled in the pre-ordered location, then set out to find our dead. They were miserable looking corpses, bloodied and badly burnt even, their clothing in tatters. We examined the impact marks of the projectiles. They were by no means large, resembling the shell impacts of a light mortar but they were dense, and there were some next to my recent cover rocks. So my cover had been sufficient to save my life, and my damages were not so serious. So I survived the rocket launcher strike with a scare, actually.
Battle at Siiranmäki was fought from the 13th to the 17th June 1944.
Er.P 25 casualties during this period
Karppi, Urho Uljas Mikael ;
Cpl, b.27.09.1910 ; d.14.06.1944 Kirjasalo ; age 33 ;Er.P 25 ;KIA, evacuated, buried at Huittinen; Occupation Farmer, one child
Latoniitty, Otto Samuli ;
Pvt ;b.20.08.1911 ;d.14.06.1944 Kirjasalo ;age 32 ;Er.P 25 ;KIA, evacuated, buried Sastamala, Keikyä cemetary ;occupation farmer, one child
Kirjasalo was situated in the Russian side of the old national border at Rautu.
Iltanen, Eeli Eemil ;
Pvt. ;b.22.10.1913 ;d.15.06.1944 Rautu ;age 30 ;Er.P 25, 4.K ;KIA, evacuated, buried at Pori, Keski-Pori cemetery ;metal worker, no children
Uisma, Heikki Kalervo ;
Pvt. ;b.20.03.1925 ;d.15.06.1944 Rautu ;age 19 ;Er.P25, 4.K; KIA, evacuted, buried in Toivakka ; farmer's son ; no children
Viita, Aaro Armas Lennart ;
Cpl ;08.12.1915 ;d. 15.06.1944 Sirkiänsaari, Rautu ; age 28 ;Er.P25, 4.K ;KIA, evacuated, buried at Parkano; worker, no children.
Jokinen, Koitto Vilhelm ;
Pvt. ;b.03.09.1923 Kiikka ;d.18.06.1944 ;age 20 ;Er.P 25, 4.K; MIA; Gravestone at Sastamala, Kiikka cemetery ; farm worker ;no children
Laiho, Oiva Niilo Aatos ;
Pvt. ;b.06.12.1922 ;d.18.06.1944 ;age 21 ;Er.P25, 4.K ;MIA ; Gravestone in Laitila ; carpenter, no children
Municipality Rautu was situated East of Kivennapa where Siiranmäki village was situated.
On the 12th June the Battalion was defending the line Murtamonjoki-Riistasuo-Pitkäsuo-Ristikivensuo in Kirjasalo, on the far side of the old national border.
It can be stated that Er.P25 did not participate in the battle at Siiranmäki. Er.P25 war diary, battalion level[/i]
Weather: Showers of rain.
Task assigned over phone: The Btn is to secure a bay on the Division right flank, right limit Myllypohjukka – Mullinsuo and left limit Tyykkisuo – Aavaoja. On the right our neighbour is Er.P6 and on the left Btn Seve.
Briefing for officers on securing:
2.K shall set field strongholds in Kanervasalo terrain between the old national border and Pitkäharju ridge.
3.K shall set one field strongholds between Btn Seve and 2.K.
Jaeger Platoon is to move via customs house to Pitkäharju and set up a field stronghold liaising with Er.P6.
The order had been executed
Maj. Seve requested support because Russki was pressing on hard from the direction of Sutela at the field strongholds.
1.K set out ordered by Maj. Kuusinen to support Maj. Seve whom Maj. Kuusinen informed on the support.
Russki fired some shells at the 2.K bivouac area whereby two men were slightly wounded and two horses, one of which had to be put out.
Lt. Zeidi's men patrolled in the direction of Riihiö and found it occupied by enemy.
Enemy attacked the field stronghold of II/2.K in the direction of the road to the customs house with about 50 men. Field stronghold withdrew but then the II and IV platoons launched a counterstrike led by the Coy CO, enemy withdrew. The Field stronghold was re-established-
Communications officer established telephone line to 2.K.
Enemy repeated their attack at the Kanervikkoaho field stronghold whereby the stronghold men withdrew and were scattered in dense bush. With the help of his remaining men the Coy CO halted the enemy at his C.P. Artillery fired about 120 shells at Kanervikkoaho on the area occupied by enemy. Enemy attacked at the same time against the field stronghold situated at Ristikivi side scattering the field stronghold .
Maj. Seve disengaged the 1.K and they were ordered to take the shortest route to assist 2.K. Simultaneously 3.K hurried with three Platoons to liaise with 2.K. IV/5.K was tasked led by LT. Patonen to secure the terrain S of Sadeniityt.
It was informed that about a Coy of enemies had broken through at Maj. Seve's right flank and 4.K was ordered to cover the road to Rovaja at the Btn C.P.
No shooting was heard but the troops sent to support 2.K were not able to liaise with them.
Weather: semi cloudy.
C.P. Was moved as well as 4.K at the broad cut line from Rovaja to NW about 500. 4.K was securing on the said line about 4 km to NW.
Enemy attacked the strongholds at Kanervikkoaho and and Pitkäharju, forcing them to withdraw in the direction of Korpikylä.
Arrived a patrol sent out by 1.K and IV/4.K reporting that the outfits were in the ordered locations but 2.K could not be liaised. Also was reported that enemy is moving with a force of about one Btn from Kanervikkoaho to Customs house.
Btn CO ordered the patrol to relay his order to 1.K. 3.K and the rest of 2-K and IV/4.K to move to the present C.P.
3.K was ordered to secure the direction of the dismantled supply road from Navaja to the Customs house and the isthmuses to Saijansuo bog. This task was given to a half platoon MG Coy.
Maj. Seve reported that he is pulling back to new positions.
It was found that connections to Papunen were cut , only Maj. Seve could be contacted.
Maj., Seve reported that he was pulling back whereby also 3.K and ½ MG Platoon were issued withdrawing orders. At the same time arrived at the C.P. 1.K and IV/4.K having broken through the enemy line-
Btn started pulling back in accordance with previously received orders to Vepsä village via Kirjasalo terrain. No liaison of the Btn with anyone then. Order ow withdrawal: Baggage train, 2.K, 4.K, 3.K, which broke through the line of the enemy that had managed to penetrate in our rear. Withdrawal was covered and enemy delayed by 1.K.
During the march dispatch riders were met on their way to Er.P 25 C.P. They were carrying a written order, several hours late.
Btn arrived at the VT line in Kirjasalo.
Btn received orders to man a stretch of VT line from the right Myllyniitty M to Kärsälä S on the left.
Positions reconnoitring on the VT line.
During the withdrawal march the column was bombarded by the enemy at Lipola, scoring a bomb hit at an outfit at the C.C.S of which KIA 1+2 [Karppi and Latoniitty, tr.rem.] and WIA 5 men. Three horses were KIA and some deserted. Also most of the C.C.S equipment was destroyed.
Weather: semi cloudy.
VT line manned.
Russki a/c bombed VT line hitting a MG nest whereby 3 men were KIA [Iltanen, Uisma, Viita] and a MG destroyed.
-31Pion. P reported that Er.P 25 is tactically subordinated to JR 57.
Col. Valkama arrived to brief the Btn CO. Also Col. Lt. Laaksonen arrived.
Battery CO arrived to report to CO.
IV/4.K sent a patrol to Uusikylä village, finding it free from enemies.
A field stronghold was set up in front of the Btn sector and patrolling was extended to the Kirjasalo – Sipola road.
No fire contact with the enemy during the day.
Weather: semi cloudy
Col. Lt Laaksonen arrived to provide CO with special instructions on action.
Telephoned order: Btn is to hand over their positions to Maj. Kangasmaa who shall spread to the right. At the same time Btn shall urgently get ready to march to Kiviniemi, Ilmee terrain. Coys marching order:
Jaeger Platoon at 1430hrs
Signals + mortar Platoon at 15.20hrs
2.K at 1625hrs
4.K at 18.00hrs
3.K at 2100hrs
1.K at 2145hrs
The march took 8 hrs for each outfit.
Weather: Showers of rain
CO contacted Roja6 and received orders to prepare soon to man the Kiviniemi bridgehead position. Manning to be completed by evening.
CO and officers set out to terrain reconnoitring. Manning as follows:
On the left Stanton shore – Rautu road excl railroad including shore road 2.K + MG Platoon
Railroad excluded – up the Sipinjoki river to Suvanto shore 3.K + MG Platoon
In the direction of Rautu road and S.Järvi road one detached outfit, F.O: s to the front.
Reserve: Jaeger platoon and IV/4.K .
Manning completed and f.f work began.
Withdrawal routes: Of 1.K one Platoon + MG squad with flat boats across the Suvanto and the rest via the rwy bridge.
2.K + MG Platoon via the rwy bridge.
3.K + MG Platoon via the road bridge.
A motored pontoon was brought up between Saijanjoki river and the road bridge in case the bridge should fall down.
1.K received 9 flat boats on the left wing at the Suvanto shore .
During the day the sector received four 75mm AT guns which were placed, one in the Rautu road direction, the other one at the S-järvi road direction and two at the crossroads. Artillery F.O. Squads in the direction of both roads and rwy.
Enemy a/c bombed and strafed the bridge area, no damages.
Weather: Showers of rain
Maj. Kokko phone call: Delaying Btls had disengaged from their positions.
Maj. Nikki informed that ER.P 25 has been subordinated to 15.D to defend the bridgehead position. Also the Btn shall not abandon the position immediately even though the enemy should not pursue at close contact.
Maj. Läikkö reported that enemy tanks have been encountered in the direction of S-järvi
Enemy a/c bombing the bridge area, no damages.
Recon patrols were sent out to the direction of the rwy up to the Petäjärvi station and IV/4.K to secure at the N perimeter of the Vaalimaa open area.
Report: of the retreating troops shall be left to reinforce the bridgehead;
Two rifle Coys ; Light and heavy Mortar Platoon; light and heavy Gun Coy; and 3 to 4 MG Platoons. Supervising this was Maj. Läikkö sent by the Div.
Maj. Läikkö managed to find 90 men as a reserve for Capt. Ylitalo's Coy but nothing else because the troops were retreating very much scattered.
Delaying troops had withdrawn over the Kiviniemi bridge.
Firefight broke out at the 1.K and 2.K sectors simultaneously. At the same time our AT gun, hauled by a lorry, withdrew over the bridge without firing a shot, likewise the other AT guns. Immediately after the AT guns had withdrawn three enemy armoured cars followed by two lorries drove through our lines up to the Coy C.P. Where the armoured cars fired with their guns and the enemies disembarked from the lorries with their SMG s at our line from the rear. The armoured cars were able to drive unmolested because the Sappers had not blown up the road as planned. Two lorries were shot in flames and their crews were wiped out. At the same time the enemy attacked intensely in the direction of the rwy . 1.K and 2.K with their MG Platoons were forced to pull back fast and were scattered by the enemies penetrated in our rear.
Our artillery did not manage to shell the pre-arranged barrages.
Jaeger Platoon arrived in time at the Suvanto shore to secure while simultaneously the battle broke out.
Capt. Yliaho's Coy was alerted at once to secure the crossroads terrain. By this hour enemy armoured cars were reaching the rwy and cut off the retreating route for some elements of 2.K who had to withdraw from the Suvantalo cape to Karsikkoniemi with flat boats.
Saijanjoki bridge was blown up due to approaching tanks. Beyond the bridge was left IV/4.K who had to cross the river some swimming some with boats.
3.K received orders to withdraw and they were able to retreat without pressure. Capt. Ylitalo's Coy had pulled back under intense enemy pressure. The last one to arrive at the bridge was IV/4.K while enemy was heavily firing at the bridge. Simultaneously enemy reached the S tip of the bridge but the Platoon managed to enter the bridge. At the bridgehead two men surrendered to the enemy.
Road bridge was blown up.
Rwy bridge was blown up.
Enemy had attacked at the bridgehead with a force of two Btns supported by 5 armoured cars.
After the evacuation of the bridgehead the Btn marched to Tiitua near Kiimajärvi lake and bivouacked there.
(End of day)
Er.P 25 Roll call the next day at 11.00hrs
In the ranks 33+131+566 (730)
Deserters 0+2+ 28
voluntarily surrendered 0+0+2
“Total figures uncertain”.
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Fighting in Loimola 1944
"Kansa Taisteli" 06, 1962
One last battle.
It was July 27th 1944 as the sun rose from among the trees and climbed over the forests. 3.K/I/JR9 men, still sleep-drunk, were marching across the hills and bogs of Loimola. I was among them, I was the leader of the II Platoon 2nd Squad. Our objective was to get to an isthmus next to Loimolanjärvi lake. We took our time in making tours, we were talking in whispers and listening, at times we had a break. Enemy threat was increasing constantly and our right flank in the wilderness was open to every kind of danger.
Soon the bog appeared to end at an dry isthmus between two pine-forested slopes. At the end of this tongue of bog a beautiful lake bay was looming. This is how we arrived at the Loimola lake isthmus left flank where we relieved one Platoon of Rj.P1.
It was 0700hrs. Three Squads of our Platoon took positions on a forested isthmus between a partly wet bog and the lake to the left, there was a brook flowing in the lake cutting through the isthmus. I and my Squad were assigned the middle sector with a completed trench dug by the Jaegers. Once the positions were manned everything was quiet and calm, as if thwere were no war going on. Yet I remembered with a premoniton what the previous manning had said when leaving:
-Yesterday we a hard fight with the Vanya here.
We ate some crispbread and washed it down with water. We did in turn sentry duty and observation of the terrain in front of us. There was a steep slope with tall pines behind us, and a road on top of the slope.
When it was noon according to my watch there had been no action in front of us so far. The situation started to appear odd. Would the enemy have passed this front section? However at 1300hrs Russians fired two shells to our surprise on their side of the slope in front of our trench.
Soon our Battalion CO accopanied by our Coy CO and Platoon leader arrived on an inspection tour. Battalion CO enquired about the situation and any trouble at our sector. I was able only to mention the two recently landed shells and added:
-Maybe calm before strorm, Captain, Sir?
-Thre is nothing special out there, you shall be doing all right, boys! The Captain said when leaving.
Soon one man of my Squad was assigned to get our meal, porridge, from the field kitchen driven up in our rear. Sun was warming up the sand of the parapet into a sweating temperature. We were sitting in the trench zizagging in the sandy soil, we were discussing the oppressive silence.
Farther off on our right artillery was rumbling and from the same direction we heard some LMG bursts. To be prepared we set up our positions in readiness for action. Our magazines were filled and at hand.
Thre was no movement in forn of us although we were attentively observing the sun lit no-man's-land. We felt happy for a moment as the man sent to the field kitchen returned with a filled field kettle for everyone. At once we greedlily started our meal each in his own place in the trench. I had managed to eat half of the porridge in my kettle as I glanced at my watch, it was 1800hrs exactly. Hardly had I pocketed my watch as the silence was suddenly interrupted and action started.
Russians had launched a heavy artillery strike at our positions. Earth was shaking and sand started dripping down the trench sides. We got some in our mouth and ears. Shells were bursting in trees and branches were dropping on us. We felt as if we were in an area being clear-cut or in the abode of destruction. We felt tense and that feeling forced everyone to push their heads down in his position.
Heavy enemy shelling covered the entire area in front of our trench. Despite that I could not help peeking ahead, driven by my instinct. At first I was as if paralysed due to the din and now seeing the enemy attack in their own barrage. I saw a big crowd of them approach in a wedge our position. The first ones in the vanguard were already 10 to 15m from me. That moment I instinctivey managed to yell as loud as I could:
-Shoot, enemy in front of us!
In the very moment I was as if in high fever. It was as if blood had rushed in my head with high pressure. I was shocked, but I had earlier decided that I would not start running away without good reason. Now it was time to stick to my decision however terrible the situation appeared to be. It was an emergency, one had to shoot or die.
To my amazement my painful feeling and fear subside and my ability to function returned. My SMG obeyed my will. I managed to fire the first bursts without any major trouble by the enemy auto weapons but then there was a problem.
Enemy had managed on our left wing to take a RPD (LMG) gun in a flanking position to support their assault. Every time I tried to continue firing a burst of LMG bullets hit the parapet dirt past my ears. Having spotted the LMG operators I finally managed to send some good bursts silencing the enemy LMG and was now free to fire in front of our trench which was baldy threatened.
My squad was well armed. We had one LMG, several SMGs and only two men with rifles only. The LMG was positioned a little to the right and it was chattering operated by PFC s Juga and Saalman. On my left the rest of my men were letting their SMGs and rifles play. The worst was over for my Squad, not a single enemy managed to penetrate our line here.
On my right Juga's LMG started to malfunction but now the enemy had directed their attack at the lakeshore sector on the left. Now I started suspecting that our 1st Squad had failed on our left because Russians were running there in a single mass. Now I had to make a decsion because we were running the risk of getting surrounded, because it was informed from the right wing that the 3rd Squad had abandoned their positions. I let my order pass from man to man; “Squad Repo, disengage!”
Else we would have been overrun. Our deputy platoon leader, a Sergeant, who had come to support us just a while ago had to make the supreme sacrifice next to me. He did not manage to use his SMG before a bullet hit him right on the forehead.
All of our men had by now left the trench on our left because I saw Russian soldiers even behind the trench and some in the trench running in my direction. The nearest one threw a hand grenade at me behind the bend of the trench. But my days were not numbered because there was a young pine at the bend and it was in the way of the grenade. The grenade hit the pine and fell in the trench, killing the man who had thrown it. The moment the grenade burst he was just running over it.
I just barely managed to see this before going to the right where Juga and Saalman were waiting for me, although Saalman was badly wounded in the back by a shell that had burst aganst a tree.
I left behind my backpack and the field kettle half full ofporridge as I and Juga had to start dragging Saalman and our weapons under enemy fire up the steep pine forested slope. Having dragged the man for a moment he asked us to leave him there to die because the Grim Reaper was in our heels. We were taking a shower of bullets from the rear, as if angry wasps were emerging from their nest. Yet we tried to do our utmost to take Saalman in safety, whatever would happen to us. We kept struggling while sweat was flowing down our skin.
Finally we made it to the top of the slope on the road there and managed to load Saalman, now in weak state, on a horse cart just arriving to be taken to the C.C.S. Later he sent a letter from a military hospital, telling us that he was recovering and thanking us for saving his life.
I arrived at our C.P. late at night that day. It was to be my last battle in the war that was coming to its end. I wish to thank every man of my Squad for the strong cohesive spirit, which kept every man from abandoning their fighting positions until my quite late order!
JR 9 KIA that day:
Hirvonen, Toivo ; Pvt. ; b.06.01.1916 Kiihtelysvaara ;k.28.08.1944 Muuanto, Suistamo ;5.K/JR28 ;KIA , evacuated, buried at Joensuu, Pyhäselkä ; worker, no children.
JR9 HQ war diaries end in May 1944. No war diaries available for I/JR 9 for summer 1944 .
3./I/JR9 diary is actually that of 3./I/JR1.
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- Location: Finland
River crossing with makeshift bridge
"Kansa Taisteli", 10, 1962
Crossing Pistojoki river in the direction of Uhtua in July 1941.
In summer 1941 the action in the Uhtua sector had advanced by mid-July at Pistojoki river. When the nation had been combed to find the last men fit for military service I had found myself among some other late-comers in a new kind of platoon. It comprised 1+3+29 men and it was called : Projector Platoon. We were a separate outfit within Pion.P 34 and we got our food right from the Battalion. We had two cooks with a field kitchen and a lorry to transport us and our gear.
As to our armament there is nothing much to tell except we had about 2000kg of explosives and mines. As to projectors, we never even saw one. Instead, once we were provided with odd bins, resembling food transport vessels. Odd hoses were emerging from the sides near the bottom.
Those look like gullets, the Nestor of our Platoon, Ahti Tuppurainen opined.
-Never saw one when doing my compulsory military service in 1918.
None of us had seen such devices ever. A few days later instruction booklets were given to us, and the secret of the “cans” was revealed to us. They were Italian flamethrowers. Our outfit was christened as “Fire eaters” and the name stuck.
This unexpected assignment and title was but a source of trouble and harm to us. Our outfit was too small to carry out independent missions, so we were being thrown here and there as reinforcement of some sort. Our input was mostly of moral kind because an argument easily broke out as soon as someone yelled: “Fire eaters are here!” Our outfit included some men with the gift of the gab, and with their support also our war was moderately successful.
It was the evening of 17th July 1941, subordinated to 3.K/Pion,P 34 we had arrived at Hevoslampi lake and were getting ready for some nice rest. A horn septet stopped by and gave us a gig. Somebody washed his tunic and all of us took a swim among stumps of trees in the small lake. Everything was interrupted as the Battalion runner came with orders:
-Fire eaters, get ready to support Platoon Horma. The gear shall be delivered at the Battalion baggage train at 2200hrs.
Platoon Horma consisted of new Sappers who had been trained during the Intermediate Peace. They were a part of the 1.K led by Lt. Olavi Lahtela. I thought to myself: a nasty job is ahead.
When receiving the stuff from the battalion baggage train we were perplexed. The material comprised ropes, more ropes, ropes of various diameter, soft steel wire, axes, some wire cutters, flat bottom boat and of course standard ammunition and food rations.
The recently washed tunics had to be dried hastily in the heat of campfires.
-Let us give them a new baptism by fire, Tuppurainen suggested.
We had a hasty meal and soon our caravan started marching for the unknown objective. At first a few kilometres on the Uhtua road, then a sharp turn to the right in the wilderness and on to Pistojoki.
On our way we met a MG half platoon and an AT gun going in the same direction. The driver of the horse hauling the gun found it hard to find a route among the trees. Troops were advancing along the Pistojoki river to rally for crossing and they delayed our progress. Also stray bullets started hitting trees and one MG man was wounded. Soon marks of flood were seen in the terrain and smell of river was in the air. It was at 0130 hrs as we arrived at a low slope. There was a mortar in position with its crew. They were not at all delighted by our arrival, instead they were shaking their fists and whispering: “Be quiet!”.
Our Platoon leader 2nd Lt. Horma briefed us on the situation: we were to construct two 48m long floating bridges on land held together by ropes and steel wire. The timber shall be cut on site, the lengthwise beams as thick as barn logs [about 120mm] and the crosswise timbers as thick as fence posts [about 50mm], length 120 cm. Everything shall be covered with lengthwise poles at a width of half a meter. The bridges shall be completed by 0300hrs.
So there was no time to waste. Already our arrival had taken more time than expected. -The night was quiet. Of course enemy shells were landing occasionally here and there and some MG bursts beat tree branches, but despite that we could hear the soothing sound of the Pistojoki river nearby. It was really frightening to start forestry and construction work near the enemy weapons nest on the opposite shore and break the silence. Moreover, the terrain was flat-
My task with Pvt. Jalmari Oinas was to tie the other bridge material as soon as it was brought up. However, we too went to cut the first timbers to speed up the work. I tried to advise the others to cut trees without causing noise; yet as soon as a couple of trees were down shells started landing among us. Even the horse hauling the AT gun arrived. As it dropped dead at once, the gun crew started hauling the gun to the river shore. Fortunately the terrain was swampy so that the shell burst were directed up in tight cones without hurting us.
At our worksite arrived also a Major, the CO of an infantry battalion, unknown to me. He set his 3.K in positions on the slope upstream from our bridge construction site. Pointing with a stick he had broken out of a willow he indicated good spots for his men, walking erect on the comb of the shore ridge despite the by now intense hail of bullets.
He kept shouting:
-You there, you are not able to see even the treetops on the far side, creep up the slope, this way, here is a good LMG position!
Two Companies were waiting for our bridges and the H hour. In the meanwhile some infantrymen started making tea using the bog water, using dry branches of firs cut by us as fuel. Some were furiously digging foxholes, as if fearing for their lives, some men were praying on their knees with terrorized countenance, and there was a game of poker with players immersed in the cards.
Shells were landing in ever greater number. I had a feeling that this job would never be completed. My arms would not tie the rope properly and I had problems in hitting with the cutter the steel wire held by Jalmari Oinas; we both had shaking hands. Finally we shook off our fear, the bridge had to be completed, whatever would happen.
Our artillery was to join the fray not until 0240hrs as we learned later. Therefore it appeared to us to be next to hopeless to build bridges subjected to increasing shelling
We did complete the bridges and the Major told us that the Infantry shall launch them. One Company was assembled at the bridges but we had to cut down the alder bushes on the riverfront for the bridges. As soon as we had cleared the way, enemy fire hit our environment like a tornado. We all dived in the cover of a hillock to regain our breath. At the same spot was one of our mortars and the men were now dropping bomb after bomb in the tube. Finally our weapons had opened up.
Again we rushed at the bridge and managed to carry it to the riverfront. The flat bottom boat was launched and two men embarked. One of them fell in the water at once, but the other one made it across and in the cover of rocks on the other side. He pulled with a string a rope across and started hauling the bridge with the rope. My task was to tie the anchoring rope fixed in the middle of the bridge on anything resembling a bollard but the rope was too short to reach any fixed point on our side.
I had to step in the river following the bridge while holding the bridge straight with the rope. There was a big boulder in the river next to me and I expected the rope be long enough to be wrapped around it. I waded down to it, up to my armpits in streaming water. I threw the rope over the boulder but found it too short by one meter. Sticking to the rope I stood my ground in the cover of the boulder. The Major was standing at the head of the bridge with his willow stick, keeping his men in order:
-Three to five steps distance,
Also a MG half platoon with their loads ran across. Men kept falling in the water every now and then. At times the bridge went underwater at places. I was still holding the rope and getting cold in the water. Finally I spotted a Corporal of Horma's Platoon. He picked up a piece of rope at the head of the bridge and came to my help running in the river. We tied the rope around the boulder and that would have been the end of our mission and we would have been free to head for our field kitchen for example. We waited for a good while, ready to start as in a running track, for a suitable moment. In the meanwhile we had to witness how AT gunners on the riverfront were wounded, still not able to take their gun in position When bandaging one of them, wounded in his leg, a shell severed the wounded man's head and flung the helper in the river. The man managed to get out and started running for the cover of the forest.
This was not the decisive crossing of the Pistojoki river battle. There may have been four crossing points simultaneously. Our two bridges were situated at the enemy positions nearest the river and also here we managed to get across.
3.K/Pion.P34 war diary extract (pencilled in a school notebook):
Platoon Koli working at the supply road, returning at 1800hrs.
Platoon Patokoski at the Kuismajoki river bridge.
09.00hrs Platoon Patokoski returned from the bridge worksite and told that Sapper Tuomas Kemppainen had at 0100 hrs during an enemy artillery strafe started running, wailing, away from the worksite. He had been found by a man of an unidentified outfit returning to the direction the bivouac area, apparently unhurt. After that the man has not been seen.
Platoon Koli set out to de-mine in the area between Kurmitsajoki and Vuonisenjoki rivers, part of the Platoon at bridge building with Platoon Patokoski.
Bivouacked at the shore of Hevoslampi lake on a dry spot. Food was a novelty, German vegetable soup. It was an excellent soup but the men, being unaccustomed, did not appreciate it .
Sunday. Wind-still. Mild weather.
2nd Lts Patokoski and Koli set out to road reconnoitring for the crossing of Pistojoki river.
2nd Lt. Patokoski returned with the sad news that 2nd Lt. Koli had stepped on a Russki mine in the isle in Pistojoki by which the crossing was being planned. Fortunately there is a hope that finally the man may heal without major damage because he may not have suffered crushing damage.
2nd Lt. Horma for now posted in the Company at the crossing point on the right side of the Pistojoki bridge. His task was to assist Detachment Halonen in crossing the river with a floating bridge.
Platoons Patokoski and ½ of Platoon Koli set out to wait for the attack and the following sweep of the terrain in a spot 1 km off at the Pistojoki road.
De-mining attempt was hampered by such intense Russki fire that the operation had to be abandoned for now.
De-mining could be started not until PM while artillery strikes interrupted the task every now and then. De-mining in the direction of the bridge was completed after 2300hrs where-after moved to Hevoslampi. The minefield included 146 mines and some traps.
Coy subordinated to JR4. Road repair and de-mining at the Pistojoki crossing spot.
Coy in readiness for de-mining and road building because the encirclement at Pistojoki was expected to be wiped out. (Proved to be tougher than expected).
Coy learned a sad fact: Coy CO Lt. Lahtela, having bravely led the Sappers' de-mining work standing on a [German] tank while observing the fire of the tanks took a MG burst in his back, getting wounded. There is hope that his wounds may recover without major effects. It can be stated that such “lethal task” that the situation turned into can be survived only by 100 per cent luck and iron self control.
A little later another piece of bad news. JR11 Sapper and traffic Platoon CO 2nd Lt. Kiviperä with whom the Company had shared their heavy duties since the outbreak of the war had fallen at his task when bravely leading the clearing of the road for tanks.
Loss of a pleasant and skilled colleague left a void spot but at the same a feeling boosting our Sapper bride in the Company and the Regiment.
Stand-in Coy CO LT. Halonen for now.
Platoon Horma was subordinated to Det. Veijalo to clear mines at the road after the Ivan had retreated.
Platoon Patokoski at road building work.
Coy receive a new Platoon CO, Staff Sgt. Helama from the Admin Coy and he was assigned to the I Platoon.
(end of day)
As we can see the action of the “fire eaters” was not appreciated very much.
Troops involved: I and III/JR 11, III/JR 32, Pion.P34
III/JR32 war diary extract:
A Coy of Det. Ylönen tried to cross the Pistojoki river, Russki started sheiling, Capt. Ylönen considered that it was not feasible to carry out the order without artillery preparations.
Battalion bivouacked in the terrain W of the Pistojoki river.
The night passed peacefully, minor artillery and mortar fire. The mood among the men is excellent.
Btn CO ordered 3.K CO to carry out crossing recon with Capt. Ylönen.
Btn CO and Coy CO s carried out a crossing recon at the Pistonjoki river, Capt. Halonen was in the same task. Crossing is marked on the tracing paper drawing.
Btn CO ordered at the crossing point the outfit CO s to move into concealed jump-off positions by 2400hrs, without revealing the crossing intent. Also each outfit was ordered a location.
First two Capt. Halonen's platoons shall cross the river using a floating bridge constructed by Sappers and the rest of the Coy shall cross at the rapids some 100m downstream .
Det. Halonen having crossed the river they shall advance to E to the S-N path, securing N and continuing along the path. Objective: the brook line from the S tip of lake Riipajärvi to Pistojoki river.
3.K + MG platoon shall follow det. Halonen across, then advance W of the Pistojoki river terrain through it, the objective is the same brook line W of Riipajärvi.
1.K shall follow 3.K and 2.K 1.K, assembling in the terrain E of the Pistojoki river, securing N, S and E, also being ready to advance when getting orders to NE or SE, focal point in SE.
Two MG platoons, 6 AT guns, 4 mortar squads and one 20mm AT rifle shall be set in position to provide fire support at pre-determined spots of terrain. Messaging center includes the Btn C.P. no.1 is situated in the described location with liaison to Det. Halonen and 3.K.
C.P. no.2 shall be situated in the terrain W of the crossing point at the end of the market trail meeting the road. H hour is to be announced later.
Three AT guns subordinated to Det. Nikula.
H hour. H-10 artillry started an efficient preparation and simultaneously it was started to bring the bridges in their places. Since the bridge had been constructed of dry dead pines in lack of better material it had by necessity become too heavy , ropes had to be replaced with steel wire, and they were too weak. The result was that the launched bridges disintegrated, cutting short the crossing. It would not have been a problem to cross the river if the bridges could have been used.
Later we received two pontoons which we used to start our crossing but it had to be interrupted due to heavy enemy fire. Capt. Halonen immediately started building a new bridge. When everything was ready the following order arrived:
AC Head of Staff order: Move immediately to the Northern crossing, cross the river that way, the task is unchanged.
Btn set out for the Northern crossing. Order: Jaeger platoon, 1.K, 2.K, Admin squad, 3.K, Mortar Platoon, Signals Platoon. One MG platoon of the KKK had been subordinated to each rifle Coy, they trailed the Coy. AT Platoon in front of 1.K.
Btn CO issued orders to 1.K CO to advance, supported by a MG platoon from Cyrillic map word Korpijarvi I about 400m S and once there be prepared to advance to NE or S as ordered.
Rgt CO issued orders to advance on the Uhtua road and relieve Det. Raninen from their task.
WIA by shell splinters;
CO Maj. Nikula in left arm, Lt. Pääkkönen took splinters in one leg.
Sgt. Auvinen was badly wounded in arms and torso.
PFC Overst wounded in hand, two fingers not cut off
Cpl Polus, Vante badly wounded in head
Cpl. Hietala took splinters in his hands, legs, body.
Pvt. Karkulahti Matti took splinters in his torso
Pvt. Vilmunen badly wounded in stomach
Pvt. Väätälä Kalle wounded in one leg
2nd Lt. Ora returned in the Jaeger Platoon from hospital.
(End of day)
War dead database:
Kuopusjärvi, Aukusti ; Pvt ;b. 25.12.1897 Pudasjärvi ; d. 21.07.1941 Pistojoki ;Age 43 yrs ;JR 32 ;KIA, evacuated, buried ; at Pudasjärvi, Riekinkangas ; smallholder ;1 child
I/JR 32 war diary extract for comparison. Their spirit appears to have been lower than that of the III Btn. Maybe older reservists ?
Artillery and mortar barrage near the bivouac area. Some of 8.K and KKK panicked. 2 KIA and 3 WIA.
9.K was reproached in briefing by Mainio. 2 men sent to be court martialled. Hauki briefed the other outfits.
Mainio order to head for the road Vuonninen – Korpikylä. Hauki issued orders to proceed in the direction of the brook isthmus to the road, bearing 20-00.
The road was reached. Densely mined.
Vanguard took fire about 2 km in front of Kivijärvi.
Kivijärvi village taken. Russki blew up the bridge and some houses.
Officer Patrol Järvinen was sent to liaise with Det. Vuokko on the right wing.
Reconnoitring and probing. On the opposite shore there is at least 2 batteries, AT guns and MG s firing at crossing points. Securing set to N and to S.
Bombers overhead, dropped leaflets.
Teho and F.O.s reported that there is movement on the Russki side, therefore in the cover of smokescreen a half an hour well directed and effective probing .
AT guns and artillery was now available, also float bags.
Our recon a/c was making several passes. Russki fired at it and alerted fighter a/c. Harassment by artillery as well as by mortar.
Crossing preparation goes on. R&R combined with securing.
Liaison patrol Järvinen arrived. Failed to liaise, failed to cross the body of water line.
Coy CO s in briefing. In reserve under crossing.
H Hour = 21.7.41 0400hrs
Mainio called and ordered a forced recon. Taskila and Tönkyrä attempted.
Visited by a German Major. Recon for tank crossing.
Both forced recons proved that Russki is sticking to his positions.
3 deserters sent to Aura. They had been caught as far as Ristijärvi.
Intense art. And mortar preparation. Russki attempted to retaliate but he was firing a lot of duds.
By order of Mainio it was attempted to liaise with Pomo.
order: Follow Pomo [=III Btn] across and advance on the road to SE. Cut off enemy connections and liaise with Det. Vuokko.
Order to Coys to move behind Pomo
7.K and 8.K crossed Pistojoki. 9.K was not there. The men were lacking courage and procrastination caused casualties.
Everyone across. Several POWs while we went on.
Briefing at the crossroads abou 1 km SE of the village. Advancing for Det. Vuokko, 7.K in vanguard.
Russki patrol opened fire and an intense skirmish started, ended not until 2200hrs . More than 50 fallen Russkires and a lot of good weapons, e.g. an AT gun, auto and semi auto weapons.
Advance went on. Food was distributed to the outfits.
(End of day)