A half remember engagement of the Winter war

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The Desert Fox
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A half remember engagement of the Winter war

Post by The Desert Fox » 06 Sep 2002 15:43

Thanks again Harri.

Some years have passed since I studied the period of the winter war at Uni, but I have a memory of an famous engagement during which an entire Soviet Divsion was sourounded and total destroyed in a well planned ambush. Have you any knowledge of this?

Also what is your opinion on Marshall Mannerheim as a military commander?

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The Desert Fox

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Juha Hujanen
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Post by Juha Hujanen » 06 Sep 2002 17:53

Actually Russians lost 2 Divisions.Russian 163.Division attacked towards Suomussalmi.It was great shock for Finns who though that narrow and few roads were passable for only Battalion size units.So Finns had only 2 Battalions in that area at start of war.These units fought rearguard delaying actions,while more troops were gathered.Colonel Siilasvuo started counterattack 11,12.39 in area of village of Suomussalmi and stopped Russians.At same time Russian 44.Division advanced to help 163 but it was stopped en route by small mobile patrolls.Meanwhile 163 was surrounted but it breaked out loosing 6500 men(30% of it's strenght) and all it's equipment.Now Finns went after 44.Division.It was stopped on Rattee road and cutt to small pockets.Because Russians didn't know how to ski,they were forced to stay on the road and were without interruption attacked by fast moving Finnish ski patrols from forest.Quick bursts from sub-machine guns and rifles to Russians warming at fires on road and back to forest.Russians send patrols on foot after on Finns but they were outclassed in deep snow.Seldom did Russian patrols came back.They didnt always even see Finns in white snow suits untill Finns open fire.And in dence forest sounds of battle muffled,so Russians must think that their patrols just vanished.Sometimes tempeature went as low as -40 celcius and that made fights hard Finns too but it efected to Russians more even although they had adequade winter cloathing.Russians fought with great courage but their positions went smaller and smaller.Finally 44.Division was compleatly destroyed in Rattee road.
Russians lost 23000 men killed and 1500 pow's.Finns captured:5500 rifles,225 light mg,125 mg,41 anti tank guns,96 fied pieces,12 armoured cars,58 tanks,1520 horses,410 cars,21 tractors,73 fied kitchens...
Finns lost 900 killed and 1200 wounted(15% oftheir strenght).

As for Mannerheim,he was more of "public figure",he draw the big lines.General-liutenant Aksel Airo directed actual operational actions.It was more like that Mannerheim conducted the war but Airo conducted the army.

Regards Juha

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Harri
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Re: A half remember engagement of the Winter war

Post by Harri » 09 Sep 2002 11:35

The Desert Fox wrote:Some years have passed since I studied the period of the winter war at Uni, but I have a memory of an famous engagement during which an entire Soviet Divsion was sourounded and total destroyed in a well planned ambush. Have you any knowledge of this?


Well, Juha already told about the battle of Suomussalmi (BTW that road is called Raate Road).

Many other Soviet divisions and tank units were also destroyed at least partly in the are north from Lake Ladoga. The other famous encirclements (or "motti" as we call them) were those at Lemetti region. There Finnish reinforced 13th division at first encircled one Soviet division (54th Div. IIRC) and armoured brigade. Soon another Soviet division who tried to help the other ones was partly encircled too. Cavalry Brigade and Jäger Battalion 4 were moved to destroy Soviet resistance which was fierce due to the lack of Finnish artillery support. Truce came before all mottis were cleared.

My friends's Grandfather partisipated in this battle as a commander of III/JR39 but got frostbitten rather badly in the early days of January 1940 (temperature was between -30 and -40 degrees C). Unfortunately he died in shooting accident during the Continuation War in 1941. My friend LOST his personal Parabellum pistol during moving (perhaps it was stolen) and he has only two magazines and a few perhaps dangerous wartime cartridges left.

Also a husband of my mother's cousin partisipated in the battles as Sergeant of Cavalry Brigade. He has told me about these hard battles. He is still living and is very interesting person because in 1941 he was in JR 1 / 10th Div. in Karelian Isthmus but was ordered to Reserve Officer School after he was awarded Cross of Liberty 3rd Class. Since early 1942 he fought as 2nd Lt. in 3rd Div. with Germans (SS-Division "Nord") and in the summer 1944 as Lt. in Karelian Ishmus.

The Desert Fox wrote:Also what is your opinion on Marshall Mannerheim as a military commander?


He is without doubt among the best military leaders in the world. Like I have said earlier somewhere good military leaders need also good subordinates to be really great and Mannerheim had best possible subordinates:
- wartime Chiefs of Finnish General Staff Gen. L. Oesch and Gen. E. Heinrichs were both brilliant generals and leaders
- Col./Gen. A. Airo was Chief Quartermaster during the whole war and was responsible of all operations
- Col. V. Nihtilä was Chief of Operative Department almost during the whole war and was responsible of operational planning

Mannerheim didn't like so called "yes-men" in his staff and all of these officers (especially highly intelligent Gen. Airo) said what they were thinking although Mannerheim was such an authority that after decisions had been made there was no discussion on them anymore.

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The Desert Fox
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Many Thanks

Post by The Desert Fox » 09 Sep 2002 14:35

To Hari and Juha

Thanks heaps for the information Guys. I am very gratefull to discover the facts behind events I vaguely recalled from Uni, twelve years ago.

Finally 44.Division was compleatly destroyed in Rattee road.
Russians lost 23000 men killed and 1500 pow's.Finns captured:5500 rifles,225 light mg,125 mg,41 anti tank guns,96 fied pieces,12 armoured cars,58 tanks,1520 horses,410 cars,21 tractors,73 fied kitchens...


Now that was a very nasty kick in the pants to the Soviets. I wonder what might have happened if the Baltic states had stuck up for themselves as well in 1939. A united front against the USSR and its overbearing demands on smaller states.

regards
The Desert Fox

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