Crosschecking: Winter War, Soviet Experience

Discussions on the Winter War and Continuation War, the wars between Finland and the USSR.
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durb
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Re: Crosschecking: Winter War, Soviet Experience

Post by durb » 06 Jun 2014 13:30

I have read a book, which deals the conference between Stalin and Soviet generals analyzing the Winter War and its lessons. In the conversation it was mentioned that most Red Army officers were new and inexperienced (this probably due to purges of 1930´s, but the purges were not mentioned in conversation). Stalin said that in his opinion the Winter War was the first serious test of Red Army in full-scale modern war. I do not know if this book is available in English.

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JTV
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Re: Crosschecking: Winter War, Soviet Experience

Post by JTV » 06 Jun 2014 17:16

durb wrote:I have read a book, which deals the conference between Stalin and Soviet generals analyzing the Winter War and its lessons. ... I do not know if this book is available in English.
The book is Puna-armeija Stalinin tentissä edited by Ohto Manninen ja Oleg A. Rzesevski. And no - it has not been published in English.

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Re: Crosschecking: Winter War, Soviet Experience

Post by Mikko H. » 06 Jun 2014 18:41

That exact book is only available in Finnish and Russian, but the conference minutes are available in English by a different team of editors:

Stalin and the Soviet-Finnish War, 1939-1940 ed. by Kulkov, Rzheshevsky and Shukman
http://www.amazon.com/Stalin-Soviet-Fin ... +1939-1940

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Re: Crosschecking: Winter War, Soviet Experience

Post by Juha Tompuri » 06 Jun 2014 19:36


durb
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Re: Crosschecking: Winter War, Soviet Experience

Post by durb » 09 Jun 2014 13:55

Did Soviet flyers learn something from the Winter War and improved their tactics - like the flying in pairs as their counterparts? I have read that flying in pairs and in finger-four formation was not new to some Soviet veteran pilots as they had learned and copied it from Germans during the Spanish Civil War. However the recommendations of these pilots were not taken in account (maybe they were lost in the bureaucracy of VVS).

The other question: how seriously did Soviet commanders take the claims of their pilots, bomber gunners and AA-fire during Winter War? Those claims were extraorbitant. IIRC, the Soviet fighter pilots claimed 388 Finnish planes + the claims of bomber gunners + the claims of AA units. According to these claims Soviets did destroy the whole FAF about two or three times. But in reality FAF was stronger and had more planes in March 1940 than in December 1939. IIRC, the actual combat losses of FAF were 42 planes. Do Russian aviation historians take today the Soviet claims of Winter War seriously or are they critical?

I wonder, if the commanders of VVS or Soviet intelligence knew that the Soviet claim figures had little to do with reality and gave false picture of the airwar during Winter War. They must have understood that the claims were wildly optimistic. Did they improve the confirmation process of air victories after Winter War?

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Re: Crosschecking: Winter War, Soviet Experience

Post by Art » 10 Jun 2014 21:04

Finnish air forces were so overwhelmed by numbers that it wasn't easy to draw any meaningful conclusions from clashes with them. Don't forget that as far as intensity of air combat is concerned the Khalkhin Gol conflict half a year earlier simply dwarfed anything in the Soviet-Finnish War. Operations of bomber airplanes provided more material for analysis apparently. In particular it was noted that defensive armament and protection of existing bombers were deficient and efficiency of level bombers against small targets insufficient.
Do Russian aviation historians take today the Soviet claims of Winter War seriously or are they critical?
I believe it won't be a mistake to say that no historian from any country takes wartime claims seriously today. That they were normally strongly exaggerated is not a secret.

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Re: Crosschecking: Winter War, Soviet Experience

Post by Juha Tompuri » 11 Jun 2014 21:53

Art wrote:Don't forget that as far as intensity of air combat is concerned the Khalkhin Gol conflict half a year earlier simply dwarfed anything in the Soviet-Finnish War.
Anything?
A slight exaggeration I would say.
Art wrote:and efficiency of level bombers against small targets insufficient.
One, and perhaps the main target mentioned being the local Koria bridge(s).
Art wrote:
Do Russian aviation historians take today the Soviet claims of Winter War seriously or are they critical?
I believe it won't be a mistake to say that no historian from any country takes wartime claims seriously today. That they were normally strongly exaggerated is not a secret.
I a bit doubt that the Finnish AF claims during Winter War can be claimed as "normally strongly exaggerated"

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Re: Crosschecking: Winter War, Soviet Experience

Post by durb » 12 Jun 2014 11:36

I think that FAF claims in Winter War were not strongly exaggerated at the same rate as the Soviet claims. Some overclaiming is is normal in all air combats and there might be some overclaiming in Finnish claim records, but far less than in Soviet claims.

I have seen same stats about the Finnish claim / Soviet loss records about fighter vs. fighter combats in Winter War. IIRC, Finns claimed 40 Soviet fighters during the Winter War, and Soviet records show the loss of 42 fighter pilots during the war. I do not know how well Soviet records show the cases KIA, MIA or taken prisoners by Finns. When it comes to Soviet claim records, no more comment. IIRC, Finns loss records show the loss of 21 fighters in air combats during Winter War.

I think that there is truth in Art´s statement that the airwar in Khalkin Gol was more intense and had more scale than the airwar during Winter War. Japanese had strong contingent, more fighters and more resources than Finns. Khalkin Gol was not the giant air force vs. midget air force -battle. It was much more equal battle between two strong air forces. I think that loss records of both sides speak for themselves. Japanese admitted the loss of 62 fighters (IIRC), and Soviet fighter regiments admitted the loss of 130 aircraft. Clearly heavier fighter losses of more intense combat than the fighter losses of both sides in Winter War.

Whereas the performance of Red Army was good in Khalkin Gol, the performance of the same army was poor against Finns. Why? The circumstances and terrain in Winter War were different, Soviets underestimated the enemy etc. I wonder what Zhukov (so successful in Khalkin Gol) would have been able to do in Winter War. The basic problem for Soviets was that they noticed too late that they were "trapped" in the real war against Finns (instead of just occupying easily the country). Although ultimately the war was won with some territorial gains, Winter War was a big propaganda defeat for Soviet Union. It showed an image of rather weak superpower, which had great difficulties to deal with the enemy of much lesser size. If that image was true or false is another question.

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Re: Crosschecking: Winter War, Soviet Experience

Post by Swing » 12 Jun 2014 12:45

FAF claims both in Winter War and in Continuation war were not strongly exaggerated. But there are a number of events when Soviet bombers returned to the base with 100+ bullet holes. At the same time these bombers were claimed by FAF pilots. Situation with Continuation War is more interesting :) . Number of Finnish victories is twice higher of Soviet losses. By the way, number of Soviet victories is ten times more than actual Finnish losses.

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Re: Crosschecking: Winter War, Soviet Experience

Post by Karelia » 12 Jun 2014 17:23

Art wrote:Finnish air forces were so overwhelmed by numbers that it wasn't easy to draw any meaningful conclusions from clashes with them. Don't forget that as far as intensity of air combat is concerned the Khalkhin Gol conflict half a year earlier simply dwarfed anything in the Soviet-Finnish War. Operations of bomber airplanes provided more material for analysis apparently. In particular it was noted that defensive armament and protection of existing bombers were deficient and efficiency of level bombers against small targets insufficient.

...
"Dwarfed anything"? The USSR had many times over the amount of planes in the Winter War than in the Khalkin Gol and Finland 2/3 of the numbers of the Japanese planes. One has to keep in mind that the "air combat" is not only fighter against fighter, but fighter against bombers too.

Also the soviet plane losses were higher in the Winter War, although the Finnish losses were smaller than the Japanese ones...

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Re: Crosschecking: Winter War, Soviet Experience

Post by Mikko H. » 12 Jun 2014 17:26

Reading the books by Keskinen & Stenman, where the Finnish claims have been cross-checked against the Russian loss records (based on research by C-F Geust), some conclusions can be drawn about the accuracy (or lack of it) of the Finnish victory claims.

During the Winter War and the first six months of the Continuation War (until the end of 1941) the Finnish claims appear to be exceptionally accurate. Afterwards it deteriorates and is about as good or bad as everybody else's.

Probable reasons are that in 1939-40 and 1941 Finnish claims were mostly made above territory that was controlled by Finns or were soon taken by them. Therefore it was easy to check the claims against eye-witnesses on ground and found wrecks. Also initially the Finnish claim confirmation procedure was very strict, but was eventually relaxed to the point that in 1943 at least one fighter squadron commander expressed his doubts about the number of claims that were made without any witnesses.

FWIW, I've also read claims that rivalry between certain fighter squadrons might have caused claims to be confirmed a bit too easily later in the Continuation War. And of certain well-known ace it has been said that he was a hunter -- "and you know the stories the hunters tell!" But, as one aviation history researcher said, you don't make yourself popular in the veterans' gatherings if you start asking questions about things like these!

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Re: Crosschecking: Winter War, Soviet Experience

Post by Juha Tompuri » 12 Jun 2014 17:58

Swing wrote:FAF claims both in Winter War and in Continuation war were not strongly exaggerated. But there are a number of events when Soviet bombers returned to the base with 100+ bullet holes. At the same time these bombers were claimed by FAF pilots. Situation with Continuation War is more interesting :) . Number of Finnish victories is twice higher of Soviet losses. By the way, number of Soviet victories is ten times more than actual Finnish losses.
Yep.

Here some earlier discussion about the claims:
Finnish Air Force claims and lossess (fighter squadrons) http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 7#p1318187
Aerial victories by Finnish observers http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 9&t=166705
F19 claims and losses http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 9&t=152613
Soviet Air Forces claims and losses http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 9&t=154504

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Re: Crosschecking: Winter War, Soviet Experience

Post by Swing » 13 Jun 2014 07:21

Thanks, Juha. IMHO: Discussion about claims and losses is not fruitful in any country :) We can loose a number of our heroes :) It is a main reason for unpublishing a lot of data from Soviet archives in Russia. They can debunk both Kozhedub (Soviet ace №1) and Juutilainen too. For example a number of "Illu" claims are fully disclamed by Soviet reports. Sorry for offtop and best regards from Vilajoki!

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Re: Crosschecking: Winter War, Soviet Experience

Post by durb » 13 Jun 2014 12:33

I think that checking claims vs. losses is nowadays possible - we do not need to believe anymore in wartime propaganda. After many decades we are free to dig the truth behind the wartime numbers and try to get as good picture as possible about "how it really was". Chris Shores, who probably more than anyone has researched wartime claim records has said that overclaiming happened more or less in all air forces. The overclaim rate of 2:1 is actually low and tells that confirmation process has been quite accurate in that air force. I do not consider overclaiming more than an understable human error when it is made in good faith (the pilot really believed that he had shot the enemy down, although it did not happen actually).

When it comes to heavy overclaiming, it gives an impression of massive scale of falsifying. I consider all very high kill/loss -ratios suspectible. Also unbelievable achievements of lonely pilot against very mighty enemy formations are dubious (with this I do not refer Jorma Sarvanto - his victims were bombers flying without fighter escort and those bombers were not the scale of B-17). The case of Japanese ace Satoru Anabuki is well known (he claimed to have single-handedly shot down 3 B-24 + 2 P-38 on 8.10.1943 - not true at all). It tells much about the Japanese confirmation process of air victory that Anabuki´s "word of honor" was enough to confirm his great victory. Eyewitnesses - who cares, when we need heros!

When it comes to veterans, those veterans who have accepted the checking of their claims, usually have ended up to have reliable record. Some German nightfighter ace veterans were willing and interested to see, how accurate their wartime records were when compared with RAF records. Their claim records were surprisingly correct, when they were checked with actual RAF bomber losses.

What is needed is the co-operation of the military aviation historians of different nations. It would be great if we could see more co-operative efforts between Finnish and Russian historians and joint-effort books on Winter War. That kind of co-operation should be free of the burden of nationalism. This is probably utopistic. Hero stories, legends and myths are still going strong in the framework of national heritage.

And one thing more, I would be interested to know more about the Soviet soldiers, who were not Russian. There were probably lots of Ukrainians, Armenians, Georgians, Kazakhs, Uzbeks and others in Winter War?

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Re: Crosschecking: Winter War, Soviet Experience

Post by Art » 13 Jun 2014 14:38

Karelia wrote: Also the soviet plane losses were higher in the Winter War
In absolute numbers but not in proportion to the the numbers of airplanes or sorties. At Khalkhin-Gol from 22.05.39 to 15.09.39 the Soviet Air Forces performed 20 524 sorties, their combat losses were 207 airplanes, that is 100 sorties per one loss. In the Finnish War the Army and Navy air forces flew 101 000 sorties, the combat losses from memory were some 350 air planes, that is 290 sorties per one loss. The difference in losses in proportion to the number of airplanes employed is even more obvious. In addition most losses at KG (147 of 207) were fighters, of them most were lost in air combat. In the Finnish War AFAIU ground weapons accounted for about a half or slightly more of planes lost and fighters made up a minority of losses. The last but not least at Khalkhin-Gol there was and intensive and bitter over the superiority in air which the Soviet side won only by the end and with great strains, against Finland they had uncontested superiority from he very start. In a nutshell Khalkhin-Gol was mostly a "fighter war" and the SFW - a "bomber war", hence the experience of the former was more relevant as far struggle with enemy air forces is concerned.
One has to keep in mind that the "air combat" is not only fighter against fighter, but fighter against bombers too.
The question was originally about fighters. Sure, Finns scored more against bombers than against fighters. Yet due to the same numerical inferiority Finns could inflict certain losses on bombers but couldn't prevent their operations. The Soviet impression was that "The opponents principal antiaircraft means were artillery and machineguns. Fighter aviation (due to its weakness) as well as barrage balloons and searchlights were auxiliary means". Certain conclusions as I said before were made regarding vulnerability of bombers to enemy fighters. Also the level of bomber losses decreased considerably to the end of the war, much due to more efficient fighter escort.

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