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 » 16 Jun 2014 11:02

I think that no one takes the total number of official Soviet claims seriously during Winter War seriously, as they were more than the whole stock of aircraft of Finnish Air Force (FAF). I think that this is case closed. It yet remains to see if Finnish total claims of about 600 (depending of source) match with the Soviet loss records. In the Finnish figure are also included the AA claims (about 355).

Some people claim that Soviet loss records are unreliable - this is maybe true regarding official "total loss", but still that figure should be remembered. Collecting the data from Soviet air unit records would be ideal, if it is possible. If not in all cases, studying those units, whose Winter War records can be still found in archives. Some people claim Soviet records 100 % unreliable, but that is not a right attitude for serious researcher. It is not right to dismiss all Soviet records invalid before studying them seriously.

Some individual records by both sides could give a starting base for the investigation. This could be done by studying the combat history of some certain unit and its claims and compare them with admitted enemy losses. At least it could be a good case study combined with the personal history of the pilots of that unit. Some notable Soviet pilots like the ace Piotr Kozachenko could also provide case studies of claims. And not just study of claim records, also the stories of Soviet air units and pilots could be interesting to read. How they experienced Winter War at unit and personal level?

So far I know only couple of cases, in which both Finnish and Soviet version of air combat match well. With this I refer the combat on 1.12.1939 between Finnish Bulldog and Soviet I-16´s (7 IAP). By the way this was the first air combat of Winter War - it would have been great if the same accuracy would have continued through the whole war. Also the claim of Vladimir Peshkov (49 IAP) on 26.1.1940 over Finnish Fokker C.X matches well with Finnish records.

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Re: Crosschecking: Winter War, Soviet Experience

Post by Juha Tompuri » 16 Jun 2014 20:18

Art wrote:
Juha Tompuri wrote:But I think you understand that claims from some nations/AF are were more reliable than others?
And the era Finnish claims belonging to the other group than the Soviet/German/UK ones?
By this era you mean 1939-40 or 1939-44?
?
thread title wrote:Crosschecking: Winter War, Soviet Experience
Juha wrote:
Art wrote:
Do Russian aviation historians take today the Soviet claims of Winter War seriously or are they critical?
The problem is that without precise information on losses you can't say whether they are more reliable or less. 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"
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 5#p1879867
That is; I don't remember writing here about Continuaton War.


Art wrote: As I said the scale of overclaim could vary, hence you can say that some claims were more reliable than others. The problem is that without precise information on losses you can't say whether they are more reliable or less. And if you have this precise information, then what is the informational value of claims?
Well, claims are parts of battle reports, and before being able to verify them from enemy archives, one passes that info as form of reports to the superiors.
The more accurate claims, the more truthful reports to them - the better, I think.
That is if that is what they want to receive.
Or if the, as truthful as possible, reporting serves the goals of the subordinates.

On the other hand, false claims can direct the medals, promotions etc.to those who did not deserve them, and might leave them who would have deserved them, empty handed.
Art wrote: Even in most ideal case when the claims are 100% reliable they just confirm what you already know.
As above.
Art wrote:Again without additional info from other sources you would never tell which case you deal with.
That and
Art earlier wrote:I believe it won't be a mistake to say that no historian from any country takes wartime claims seriously today.
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 5#p1879672

I think that some modern historians might seriously appreciate accurate claiming over the "normally strongly exaggerated", when trying to find out the "owners" of the kills.

Art wrote:In general it appears that we talk about different things. My reply was about a value of claims as a source for making an accurate picture of historic events
As above.
Art wrote: and you talk about comparing claims with the picture which already exists, hence different positions.
As before.

Regards, Juha

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Juha Tompuri
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Re: Crosschecking: Winter War, Soviet Experience

Post by Juha Tompuri » 16 Jun 2014 20:37

durb wrote:So far I know only couple of cases, in which both Finnish and Soviet version of air combat match well. With this I refer the combat on 1.12.1939 between Finnish Bulldog and Soviet I-16´s (7 IAP). By the way this was the first air combat of Winter War - it would have been great if the same accuracy would have continued through the whole war.
I think that the info from Soviet era/side archives somehow (still) does not match well with Toivo Uuttu report: http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 2938&hilit

Regards, Juha

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Re: Crosschecking: Winter War, Soviet Experience

Post by durb » 17 Jun 2014 13:06

Juha Tompuri wrote:
durb wrote:So far I know only couple of cases, in which both Finnish and Soviet version of air combat match well. With this I refer the combat on 1.12.1939 between Finnish Bulldog and Soviet I-16´s (7 IAP). By the way this was the first air combat of Winter War - it would have been great if the same accuracy would have continued through the whole war.
I think that the info from Soviet era/side archives somehow (still) does not match well with Toivo Uuttu report: http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 2938&hilit

RE: Well, at least the Finnish and Soviet version of this combat match better than many other cases. If Uuttu shot down a I-16 in this engagement is a open question. There were no eyewitnesses, so it could not be confirmed. I do not know if they found later wreckage of I-16 near the place of combat, which could confirm Uuttu´s "probable". I think that Uuttu damaged one I-16 and claimed to have shot it down in good faith.

In general it seems to me that air forces crediting air victories to individual pilots (rather than units) had more strict process of confirmation of air victories. Japanese and Italians were known as heavy overclaimers and they credited units. The massive Japanese overclaiming is well known from the Nomonhan (about 1300 claims) and against Flying Tigers (IIRC, about 500). During Greco-Italian war Italians claimed to have shot down the entire Greek Air Force in single combat, but despite this decisive victory (sic) Greeks somehow kept flying and harassing Italians.

IIRC, also Soviets credited units rather than pilots for air victories in Winter War, and the result was again heavy overclaiming. In Spanish Civil War Spanish Republican pilots claimed to have shot down 72 Bf 109´s (IIRC), when the total combat losses of Bf 109´s of Legion Condor were 20 (this including also victims of AA and planes bombed on the ground). And surprise, surprise - the Spanish Republican Air Force credited units (rather than pilots) for air victories. It seems that unit commanders in all of these cases were not interested to check the claims of their pilots. To get a impressive total tally for their unit was probably more attractive option than to make some effort to confirm claims.

However, the unit level record of VVS/RKKA may be useful data to find some truth about the combat record. If we know the combats in which these units were involved we can check their data with Finnish records. In this way we may get more realistic picture of their real success by unit level. Some problems still exist: if there were formations of several units involved in one combat, it is difficult which unit should be credited, if Finnish aircraft was shot down in engagement.

When it comes to other experience, it could be interesting to know what Soviets thought of Finnish planes, pilots, tactics and AA. And what they might have learned from the Winter War experience: improved tactics etc.?

By the way, how many planes Soviets admitted to have lost in Winter War? Is there information about the structure of losses - air-to-air combats, victims of AA, written off damaged planes, accidents? Losses by type?

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Juha Tompuri
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Re: Crosschecking: Winter War, Soviet Experience

Post by Juha Tompuri » 17 Jun 2014 16:24

durb wrote: Well, at least the Finnish and Soviet version of this combat match better than many other cases. If Uuttu shot down a I-16 in this engagement is a open question. There were no eyewitnesses, so it could not be confirmed.
Well, Pokryshev & co could have done it.
AFAIK there exists even a self-biography written by Pokryshev, but AFAIK not that helpful at this case.

durb wrote: I think that Uuttu damaged one I-16 and claimed to have shot it down in good faith.
Did he claim having shot the plane down?
durb wrote:By the way, how many planes Soviets admitted to have lost in Winter War? Is there information about the structure of losses - air-to-air combats, victims of AA, written off damaged planes, accidents? Losses by type?
Have you read these?

Image
http://www.apali.fi/kauppa/product_details.php?p=293

Image
http://www.apali.fi/kauppa/product_details.php?p=315

Regards, Juha

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Re: Crosschecking: Winter War, Soviet Experience

Post by durb » 18 Jun 2014 13:20

durb wrote: I think that Uuttu damaged one I-16 and claimed to have shot it down in good faith.
Did he claim having shot the plane down?

Yes, according to this source: http://surfcity.kund.dalnet.se/bulldog_finland.htm

I looked on the books above. Look interesting, although rather expensive.

I have one cheaper: Polikarpov I-15, I-16 and I-153 Aces by Mikhail Maslov.

This includes a chapter of Winter War, in which also the air battle 1.12.1939 between Finnish Bulldog (Uuttu) vs. I-16´s of 7 IAP is mentioned.

Maslov mentions heavy losses of Soviet bombers, which were the primary targets of Finnish fighters. Even the increased fighter cover in Jan. 1940 could not prevent the loss of many Soviet bombers. According Maslov by Jan. 1940 Polikarpov units were wary of engaging Fokkers and switched their attention to Finnish bomber units (destroying "handful" of Blenheims during Jan. 1940).

Maslov mentions that Soviet fighter units improved their tactics in Feb. 1940 and aerial engagements were "less one-sided in favour of the Finns."

There is one mistake when Maslov mentions that in air combat near Tampere Finns admitted "losing one Bulldog on 2.3.1940" (AFAIK, Uuttu´s Bulldog was the only Bulldog lost in air combat in Winter War and there were no Bulldogs located near Tampere. - any chance this being Gladiator? As it is known, Soviet pilots usually misidentified Gladiators as Bulldogs).

When it comes to loss figures, according to Maslov VVS RKKA lost 261 aircraft and 321 men ("in the air" - in air-to-air combats?). Soviet fighter units claimed 362 Finnish aircraft destroyed ("wildly exaggerated").

When it comes to propaganda slogans, which decorated some Soviet planes, Maslov notes that these were painted hastily "and did not reflect the feelings of pilots flying these aircraft".

Maslov´s book is not interesting just for Winter War chapters - I was personally interested of Spanish Civil War, China and Nomonhan chapters.

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Re: Crosschecking: Winter War, Soviet Experience

Post by Juha Tompuri » 18 Jun 2014 16:55

durb wrote:
durb wrote: I think that Uuttu damaged one I-16 and claimed to have shot it down in good faith.
Juha wrote: Did he claim having shot the plane down?
Yes, according to this source: http://surfcity.kund.dalnet.se/bulldog_finland.htm
Well, I don't trust 100% the info there, have to check how the thing really was.
durb wrote:I looked on the books above. Look interesting, although rather expensive.
Well worth the money.
And I think most libraries have them at their collections.
durb wrote:I have one cheaper: Polikarpov I-15, I-16 and I-153 Aces by Mikhail Maslov.
Well, as interesting it is (I do have it too) it does not have the answers you were after:
durb earlier wrote:By the way, how many planes Soviets admitted to have lost in Winter War? Is there information about the structure of losses - air-to-air combats, victims of AA, written off damaged planes, accidents? Losses by type?
The Red Star books contain the information.

Regards, Juha

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Re: Crosschecking: Winter War, Soviet Experience

Post by durb » 23 Jun 2014 11:58

I found the both Red Stars Vol. 5 and 7 (Geust, C-F: Baltic Fleet Air Force in the Winter War. Apali 2011 & The Winter War in the air) and found them very good. I consider seriously to add the Red Stars Vol. 5 (and perhaps Vol. 7 too) to my book collection. I added also both to the "Recommended Reading" -list.

However, when it comes to Soviet aircraft losses, I could not yet find the definitive answer. When I went through the detailed loss lists, I came to conclusion that about 250 losses can be verified by detailed Soviet records. Some Russian researches have also come to some conclusion. There are also very many MIA losses, and my guess is that some of them can be found combat losses when compared to Finnish data. So we can conclude that "minimum" figure of Soviet aircraft combat losses in Winter War is somewhere between 200 - 300 (this including losses both to Finnish fighter force and AA).

However, Geust suggests that the true loss figure may have been somewhere between 440 - 500. And thus we came to Finnish sources, in which Soviet combat losses are somewhere between 500 - 600. IIRC, the official Finnish figure was over 500 air victories (including the AA results) + about 100 probables (which do not end up to be official confirmed claims). So we can conclude that "maximum" figure of Soviet aircraft combat losses in Winter War were somewhere between 500 - 600.

I think that this question is still open to debate. The truth lies somewhere between "mimimum" of 200-300 and "maximum" of 500-600. Different sources give different numbers, and different researchers may end up to very different numbers even if they examine the very same archive material. Anyway, even if the "minimum" figure is near the truth, we can conclude that Finnish overclaiming (2:1 or less?) was far, far less than the Soviet overclaiming.

Whatever the real Soviet loss figure is, Geust´s books tell lot about the Soviet experiences in the airwar during Winter War. I believe that they are the very best, what is available in Finnish and in English about this subject (Soviet air forces in Winterwar).

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Re: Crosschecking: Winter War, Soviet Experience

Post by Seppo Koivisto » 23 Jun 2014 16:31

See also this topic: VVS RKKA Losses according Red Stars 7.
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 9&t=203195

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Re: Crosschecking: Winter War, Soviet Experience

Post by tramonte » 11 Sep 2020 20:29

durb wrote:
16 Jun 2014 11:02
I think that no one takes the total number of official Soviet claims seriously during Winter War seriously, as they were more than the whole stock of aircraft of Finnish Air Force (FAF). I think that this is case closed. It yet remains to see if Finnish total claims of about 600 (depending of source) match with the Soviet loss records. In the Finnish figure are also included the AA claims (about 355).
Well i take their claims seriously, meaning these claims may hint behind the scenes of their real losses of combat flying missions.
"A briefing based upon this data was presented to Col. Fyodor Sverdlov in October 1994, who was a staff officer for the Eleventh Guards Army at Kursk and later a professor at the Frunze Military Academy. After presenting the chart showing Soviet claims to German losses, Sverdlov stated that “the enemy always suffers 30% more losses than you.”"
Image

(photo - Soviet claimed Luftwaffe losses vs own real losses during Operation Citadel)

Even in Winter War (and perhaps Continuation War, 1941-45) claims of VVS/PVO/VVS KB might have reflected their own true combat losses. If they claimed around 400 during Winter War their own losses may have been actually around 300 but as Geust was suggesting over 70% of their all losses ( some 900 aircraft written off?) were not caused by Finnish AA or FAF. Winter War saw something similar incredible wastage of aircraft like there were in hard conditions there in Pacific when perhaps even 80% of aircraft were lost in non-combat missions.
"Military history is nothing but a tissue of fictions and legends, only a form of literary invention; reality counts for very little in such affair."

- Gaston de Pawlowski, Dans les rides du front

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