Looking at the latest Finnish literature piece on this subject (Sissisotaa kaukopartiossa
by Jaana Janhila ISBN 978-952-492-305-7) and reading through this thread, I would like to contribute on this discussion, even though I rarely do when there is clearly very opposing sentiments in the air
Here are some insights from the book and a slight warning, there are some assumptions too, but many other posts in this thread (as the original controversial study is also) are based on assumptions, so I don't feel too bad about it;
The earlier POW captured just less than 2 weeks earlier, told the general location of the supply base, and the importance of it (supplied the whole area against Maaselkä Sector). According to his information, the attack was to be planned. There were aerial surveillance photos and some intelligence reports available. More detailed information on the target area was obtained just a few days before the attack and the plan had it's final details. No mention is made about the hospital. There is mentions about the horse hospital, and a transit-camp for reinforcement troops, but no mention about a hospital. Now, you could say it was left out on purpose of the documents, but why do that? More grim details were mentioned in the patrol and preparational documents by Er.P 4 members, so if the hospital was a target, why not mention it? As far as I can tell, targets 3 and 4 were labeled as the transit-camp for reinforcements. And looking at the map in general, target 4 looks a bit odd for a hospital (?) or even a field hospital.
One Soviet soldier was captured on the last day before the attack, and he was interrogated. He supplied information about the daily schedule of the base, and the fact that the transit-camp was currently occupied by a battalion of men, moving through the area.
When the attack took place, it started earlier than supposed to. This is because the patrols attacking targets 1 and 2 were spotted too early. This would mean the element of surprise was lost, and that would imply, if there was a hospital, and they realized the area was under attack, they would evacuate everyone as soon as possible. No record is shown of anything like this taking place. Additionally, it is said earlier in this thread, that the hospital was also on target 4 and it was destroyed. This however, is not true. The patrol assigned target 4, ran into heavy resistance from the target area early on, and could only assault the buildings near the waterfront. Even with the help of two other patrols (targets 5 and 6), they could not get any further, and disengaged after about 1.5hrs of fighting. This would indicate target 4 was the transit camp, and not hospital.
Main concerns of the whole operation seemed to be the failure to evacuate own wounded by air, and the failure to destroy target 4 and the field bakery at target 2. Looking at all the interviews and documents, if the part about the hospital was left out on purpose, there should be some indication of it "between the lines". There is also some information about a church building on target area 3, being used as a stable, and this would've been part of the horse hospital, and NOT field hospital (?).
Time for some heavy assumptions;
The POWs captured knew about the field hospital. Why not tell / why it is not in the papers?
- Field hospital would not be considered a "fat" target, and thus of no interest. Interrogators would not probably even ask about it, and the POW would tell only anything that is useful, for his own sake.
- There is some reference to the fact that this hospital was "political" in nature. Would that imply it was NKVD ran hospital or a hospital for NKVD members? As far as the story goes, regular army did not really like NKVD, so maybe the information was left out by them on purpose?
Finns knew about the fact it was hospital
- Would it be really useful and worth it to spend resources and risk lives to attack a regular field hospital? After all, people were wounded on the attack on target 3 (and target 4 also) and it shouldn't have been a surpise to anyone planning the attack on those targets that there would be casualties. Given the difficulty to evacuate the probable wounded, I would not risk too much on that.
- If it was indeed NKVD hospital, I would not be surprised it was attacked. That would've been "smart think to do" considering NKVD and Smersh were the major counterparts of Er.P 4 at the time.
- Maybe it was known to also "house" big bosses of the political and military organizations and there might be some high-value targets there?
Casualties of the hospital?
- Why were there so many from the staff and so little from patients? Maybe the staff put out a fight, and if we assume Finns did not know it was a hospital, finished the fight only to realize it was a hospital, and left the patients alone?
- Number of staff compared to patients could mean anything, not really useful or relavant to speculate on patients per doctors. The hospital was most probably overstaffed, since the whole complex (the base) was put up fairly recently, and there was not anything big going on at the Maaselkä sector at the time. IF it was a NKVD / high-priority hospital for the Big Bosses, overstaffing would not be a surprise either.
Timetable of the assault, general situation on the area?
- Putting this all into some context, the Soviet counter-attacks at the Svir-sector were still recent and would renew just about a month later. I would strongly suggest, the finding of this base and the hurried plan and execution of it was linked to the fear of the Finnish Supreme HQ of similar activity at the Maaselkä sector. After all, there had been a lot of traffic due north at the area recently.
- This above would suggest, the purpose of this attack was to destroy supplies, communications, command and logistics, and that would've been the main focus. If there was a hospital, and they knew about it, I wouldn't spend any resources on it, even if I was a cold-hearted warcriminal. It just does not make any sense, not even in a twisted, murderous way.
As a conclusion, I doubt they knew about the hospital in advance. If it was there, they probably realized it was there when the assault went on, and tried to prevent further damage by leaving the patients alone (murdering patients does not make a lot of sense either, they are not valuable prisoners or of any use or threat at the time). The staff probably fought back, and thus the high casualties. The patrol that took part in the assault on target 3, probably wondered what to do, but did not report it, since it was not necessary or really anything to "brag about". They just told the target was destroyed.
The fact that this information and debate is going on now, can again be related to the recent need to dig up anything bad about the past, and use it in current politics between our countries. Which is very, very lame. I am not accusing anyone on this forum, just stating what is (to me) obvious in general. There is a strong implication that the original debrief about the attack on hospital was at least coloured by propagandist needs. There was similar things going on in every country involved in that awful war. I cannot blame the people of the past for their motives to do so, but I do sometimes wonder why someone would use those sources for the same needs today...