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- Location: Finland
Also there is the JR7 homepage! http://www.jr7.fi/ (sorry, Finnish only, but good maps).
JR7 was reputed to be one of the few where the “Spirit of the Winter War” survived to the very end of the Continuation War.
Some personal war stories of JR7 men can be found in the "Personal Finnish war stories" topic, and here is another.
“Motti” in Tyrjä
Journal “Kansa Taisteli”, vol. 11/12,1958
The author was an AT gun squad leader, rank Corporal. He is describing the battle on 31.7. - 4.8. 1941 in Tyrjä. After the battle the Regiment adopted the name "Tyrjän rykmentti".
Tyrjä was a village situated in the parish of Parikkala , where the Soviet 461. IR had been surrounded.
Finnish losses for JR7 and JR28 about 230 men in the battle.
Map in source, p.327 19-24
JR.7 fought a heavy and bloody offensive action to take the village of Tyrjä in summer 1941, (War diary mentions a casualty figure 31+134+594, of which KIA 12+25+142. Tr.rem.). The enemy stood their ground with an astonishing tenacity. (Enemy losses quoted as about 250 Kia, 200 POW, of which 50% WIA. Tr.rem.) Even the wounded would not surrender easily. Our attack wedges had been stopped by the enemy entrenched positions, and our depleted troops had to be reorganised for a new and even harder attack.
The Regimental CO, Col. Armas Kemppi was always at the spearhead of the troops, keeping up high spirits with his personal experience. I remember his heroism all through my life.
Artillery and mortars softened the enemy positions by barrage for one hour. At the H hour the infantry assaulted the enemy like a storm. A terrible struggle ensued, no quarter was neither given nor asked. By the meter and by weapons nest the ground of Fatherland was reclaimed by the legal owners.
As the enemy tanks were detected I, being in the AT Company, was ordered to set out to destroy them. We pushed our 37mm AT gun along a road, heading for the tanks moving about on the same road. MG bursts fired by the tanks were whining above us. Our hearts were racing as we just about had the tanks within range as there was a loud thump. A tank had hit a mine. We ran closer quickly and surrounded the tank. Aspirant Könönen, one of our Platoon leaders, bravely mounted on the deck of the tank, opened a hatch and ordered the “tavarich” to get out, yet the chap stayed put. The Aspirant fired some rounds in the tank with his pistol, then we pulled a frightened man in the daylight, there was another one, dead next to the tank.
The attack could proceed. I joined a Sapper Lieutenant and his Runner to recon for tanks that would be harmful for our attack. We were advancing on the side of the road. The forest was burning at places, dead men were left scorching there because there was no time to look after them. We had to keep the enemy engaged in order not to allow them time to dig in.
Bursts of bullets swept about us and we often had to duck in hot ash, and proceed by dashing and creeping. We were funny looking but smiles were wiped off our faces. The enemy had had to abandon a “secret weapon”, a tank with a 45mm gun and MG dug in the ground next to the road.
As our attack was again checked by organized resistance we found that we were sweating, sooty and thirsty after hard work. We spotted a pond on the left side of the road, and decided to flush our dry throats there. We sneaked down the steep slope and were almost at the water as suddenly there was a swishing noise in the air. In a blink of an eye I ducked as a bunch of mortar bombs were landing among us.
-Bullseye! I was waiting, my face pressed in the turf, that a bomb would land on my back but my number was not up yet. The shelling ended but my pals had not been equally lucky. They had not been able to take cover before a bomb fell between them. I saw our Runner wavering on his knees, holding his head. Streams of blood were oozing between his fingers, a splinter had pierced his head above his ears. Then he flopped on his back, lifeless, without a single sound.
The Lieut was down, grunting:
- My leg is broken at thigh, I cannot move anywhere.
It was a tough situation. I did not dare to get up, fearing that the enemy would give us another strafe seeing us alive. I had a look around to see how to get out of the situation, there may also be mines around us. I could creep out of the place but the Lieut- -I could not leave him there, wounded and helpless.
I thought feverishly to find a solution. But a new observation almost curdled the blood in my veins: I spotted movement on the far side of the pond – enemies!
We are lost if they spot us. The Lieut tried to creep but he could not. Quick help was needed, else he would bleed to death. I made up my mind. I had to try to do something against all odds. I told the Lieut to move himself over my shoulders.
- We shall die together, if that is our fate!
With great effort he moved himself over my shoulders, a man taller and heavier than I am. Also I had my gear and a SMG, and he his.
Swaying under a heavy load I slogged up the steep slope. I feared hitting a mine which by experience I knew the enemy would place in thickets like this one. I also was expecting another burst of mortar bombs, or bullets hitting our flesh. But the Providence was favouring us, nothing happened. The enemy must have considered that we had been killed.
The load on my shoulders felt ever heavier. The Lieut's leg was dragging on the ground, causing terrible pain, but he withstood it clenching his teeth. Exhausted we finally reached the road and found paramedics in a shell hole. I had used up every shred of my strength in the attempt. My mouth was drier than ever but I did not feel thirst any more.
I rejoined my gun squad and directed the gun carefully in the position that I had selected between the road and the pond. Despite the evening dusk the enemy spotted us and gave us such a shell strafe at our position that there seemed to be no hope of surviving it. Yet again, as if by miracle, we were unhurt by the raging rain of shell splinters around us
It was the night of the last day of July, a day full of thrills. We kept squatting there at the pond, in battle readiness to take on eventual enemy counterstrike.
The next morning we were ordered to shift our position to the far side of the pond that had been taken after heavy fighting. We checked the road that we had used yesterday and to our horror we spotted lines of systematically planted mines. We had passed over death!
Now we were ever more careful. We crossed the minefield pulling the AT gun between the rows of mines. We made it happily. Then we were in reserve.
On 2 Aug we had to play a decisive role in the attack. The undersigned was attached to the spearhead of the attack, as an AT representative. We were advancing along the side of a cart road in a level sparse forest.
We had sneaked on with our weapons in readiness for a few dozen meters until suddenly a burst of bullets was fired at us ahead of us. We dropped down and took cover behind tree trunks. As we started crawling ahead no one needed any orders to make use of the terrain. The enemy made sure of that, because one had to push one's nose in the moss as it felt like bullets were scratching one's back!
what is going to happen, one thought, - what does it feel like when a bullet slices my flesh – do you feel anything if you are hit in the head...
We crawled on until we detected the source of fire some 50m ahead of us: that was the terrible secret weapon of the enemy, an armoured turret blazing bullets to our destruction. We pressed tighter to the ground, we found ourselves in some kind of a dead angle, else we would have been killed. We retaliated with our weapons, but the result was just even more intense burst that were aimed lower. Sand was flying and dirt falling on us. I was hoping to be able to sink in the ground.
Maj. Eino Polón, the CO of the attack, was lying nest to me and he took the initiative. With his foreign accent he commanded:
-Platoon leader: Yell “Carelia” and get going!
But anyone rising fell down dead, hit by a salvo.
- Can't you get your men moving, what are you waiting for?
The 2nd Lieut, however, did not make this mindless attack. To our right I saw an AT rifle team approaching, but for some reason they did not open fire at the turret, although their weapon would have been able to pierce it.
The Major got nervous and sent two Sappers with satchel charges to attack the turret, something that I saw was impossible for them. We distracted the turret gunner while the sappers started creeping closer in the cover of bushes on the left side of the road. Now they are at throwing distance – now their arms are rising – but before they managed to pull the fuse cord both like fold and fall down, dead. So there was another dangerous gunner in front of us! Five men had been lost and we had not accomplished anything.
The Big Brass should not put themselves in the spearhead, either he is missing the ability to assess the situation, or he has underestimated the enemy or he is plain daredevil, I thought.
- Any AT gunners here? He yelled
I reported myself for his disposal and waiting for orders. I was wondering why he did not remember my presence although he had personally selected me. I was lying in “Attention”.
- Get your gun here!
I did not respond “Yes, Major, Sir” but in an agitated state of mind dashed to get the AT gun disregarding the whining bullets. This order should have been the first one for him to give – we may have spared the lives of five men.
My gun team was waiting in readiness. I explained them our task with a few words and we started to pull the 37mm gun, running, to the scene. The rest of the approach we pushed the gun in the cover of its shield. We had to get as close to the turret as possible to make sure we would hit it, because it was well camouflaged in the bushes.
We must make it, the reputation of our team is on stake, and the outcome of this situation depends on us!
We pushed down the legs of the carriage next to the Major where he was “embracing the retaken piece of Fatherland”. The gun-layer was aiming the gun and the loader shoved in the ammo.
-Are you ready, can you see the turret? I asked the gun-layer.
-I got it in the cross-hairs.
The ”whip cracked” and the AP shell pierced the turret, the phosphorous trace pointing the spot of the hit. The enemy LMG fell silent but to make sure we fired some more shells.
- Off you go, it is KO now!
We dashed to the weapons nest and there was a covered communications trench to the direction of the road. At the head of the trench there was an enemy with an autoloading rifle but before he could shoot the Lieut ripped the gun off his hands
- This is the damn sniper here!
Quickly we frisked him for any objects dangerous to health. But mostly we were interested in the turret. There was a man lying on the floor, still a boy almost, but certainly he had known how to use a LMG a moment earlier. We pulled him out to check and we found he had been just slightly wounded by the spalling.
Six shells had pierced both walls. The LMG barrel was so bent that “one could shoot behind a corner with it”, somebody joked.
The attack could now be continued and the lads took revenge. Yelling wildly and shooting they were advancing in the forest.
I was ordered to take the prisoners to the command post. They seemed to be very thirsty. The young man pointed at the canteen on my belt, and I handed it to him. Having drunk a few mouthfuls he pointed at his brow and said: (in Eastern Carelian dialect)
- As I have drunk now, I guess I shall be shot.
The man must have hailed from Eastern Carelia since he was able to speak some kind of Finnish. I shook my head and gave him some crispbread and pieces of sugar as a token of friendship, which made their countenance appear relieved.
I did not feel like hating them although a moment ago we had been ready to kill eahj other. Amazing but true. Feelings do have a role in war. They gave me a pocket mirror, a clasp knife and a wad of five rouble banknotes.
Then I set out to escort the prisoners to the Command Post. At a spot with dense forest I found the older man signalling to the younger one, they may have an idea to run. I jumped a little back, switched my SMG to full auto and yelled, adding a curse:
- Ruki ver !
The men behaved for the rest of the journey.
I handed over the prisoners to Col. Kemppi and then joined my gun team that had arrived a little earlier. I pulled the wad of roubles from my pocket:
I am paying you fellas now for the work well done recently!
Battle was raging intensely all the day. Jaegers in the spearhead swept clean.
At the dusk of evening my gun was ordered to secure at the foot of a taken hill. With Runner Häkkinen we set out to recce the terrain because we did not know where our firing line was situated. There was a “cold ring” in a certain spot of our anatomy before we finally found our “chain”. While we were out my gun team believed that I already had been “struck from the rolls” and returned to the command post led by their squad leader “Empo” Sunikka. Häkkinen, however, directed them to return to me.
On the night 2. - 3. Aug nothing special happened on our sector, neither on the morning of 3. Aug. We found a good emplacement to the gun at the side of a cart road on a knoll close to the road. The terrain was even open spot covered by heather and limited by sparse forest. On our left through alder bushes we saw open field, it was the Tyrjä village fields.
When digging the holes for the carriage spurs of our gun we had no idea in what a tough spot we would find ourselves next night, our AT gun was to be the decisive element blocking the “Motti”. Every one was to become a “war hero” despite fear, the circumstances forced it on us.
Dusk was falling on the night of 3 Aug, it might have been our last day but the fate had decided it otherwise. The sky was overcast and the silence around us was in our opinion unnatural for war, being ominous. We were getting sleepy in our idleness, we had been fighting bitterly for a month now without decent rest and eating mostly dry rations.
Having nothing else to do I found out about the manning and armament of our stronghold. Beside my gun team I found on our right wing a MG team, comprising three men without squaddie who had fallen, I learned. Their MG was in readiness at the edge of a foxhole, and there seemed to be spare ammo belts, too. There was a first aid team in the rear side of the knoll, but on our left wing there was a crossroads but no men near it. In my opinion we did not have enough defence power in an important road crossing.
We knew that the enemy had been surrounded in Tyrjä village and we were waiting for them to make up their minds to surrender. We, too , were waiting, aware of the threat of another battle. But fatigue was overwhelming us. My gun team was loitering behind the gun, some of them fell soundly asleep. I had been ordered as the “elder” and feeling my responsibility I stayed up as a sentry with Pvt. Häkkinen.
We were squatting behind the gun shield and whispered to stay awake.
- Do you think they are going to try to break through here?
- They could, the road in our rear is leading somewhere to Akkaharju and Elisenvaara, that could be their best way to escape Eastward.
Now what? There are sounds of movement in the “Motti”! We listen intensely, that is right, no hallucinations created by tension. We stared ahead of us but one does not see far in darkness. The noises got louder, now there was clanking of carts, other noise and sharp commands.
No doubt about it – it is here that they are gong to try!
I woke up the men to man the gun. Despite being groggy with sleep every man was ready to fight in a matter of seconds. Pvt. Kinnunen took the gun-layer's seat, Pvt. Korkeamäki was the loader and the others, Hännikäinen, Törni,Hänninen and Sunikka were in their assigned positions.
The noise ahead us kept increasing and approaching. Then all the other noise was drowned by the drone of powerful engines.
- Tanks! We hissed in chorus.
- Now we are in trouble!
The tanks kept approaching inexorably. Our chances to survive against such a great superiority were small in our opinion, we had a gigantic task at hand, because an entire Regiment of enemies with reinforcements had been packed in the “Motti”, although they had suffered losses. Cold sweat oozed on my brow, I felt I was shivering, that was the anticipation causing it.
Briefly I thought of my past, my childhood, my next of kin; I sent them my “wireless regards” - maybe my last. In a while I might be a “fallen hero”. I remembered the long columns of crying refugees. I struggled long in my mind against the idea to desert, then made up my mind: whatever happens, we must try to repel the intents of the enemy. I prayed for protection, I trusted my gun team, our good gun and darkness, because the enemy may not have known how few we were.
A direct fire cannon shell passes overhead, almost splitting our helmets. I was on the edge of nervous breakdown, I was fearing and shaking, yet I tried to hide my fear from my pals, which was easy in the darkness.
Someone suggested: - Let´s shoot, already!
Yet making any hits would have been uncertain. We decided to wait and let the tanks get so close that we would be able to see their outline. Suddenly there was another kind of noise nearby. With shaking hands I fumbled at my belt and pulled a French hand grenade, removed the pin squeezing the safety lever against my palm. Suddenly there was a body of men marching in closed formation some steps from us.
I thought they were friends as they were coming so openly – but only for a second-
- Which outfit? I asked
Stoi! Was the response, followed by another command and a thump as they ducked.
Immediately I threw the grenade and yelled for my life:
I heard how my grenade exploded and at the very moment our AT gun opened fire, muzzle flashes were like the flames of Hell in the darkness, the fire was rapid due to the auto extraction of spent shells and the skill of the gun crew.
The rest of us, unoccupied by the gun, used our personal weapons to fire at least “off the hip” in our emergency. Now there were noises implying confusion – we had surprised the enemy completely and that settled the situation in our favour. “Politruks” tried to restore order but in vain, we were taking care of “complete disorder”. The enemy had to pull back from our murderous fire.
Now the enemy started firing more intensely. The entire forest looked like a sea of fire as tracers were flying like sparks when one is poking at a campfire, but these sparks were dangerous. The muzzle flashes were like distant lightning flashes. The loud noise was accentuated by mortar bombs that were whining and exploding in an ear deafening manner.
Our gun ruled the scene and every other weapon of our stronghold was active. The enemy seemed to panic , we heard pitiful screams for help among the congestion. The column attempted to turn back, the entire road appeared to be full of material as well as the open ground on the sides.
Battle fever took us over totally. Our tiredness was gone, the tension of waiting was released and turned into furious, desperate battle rage. We were raging like madmen, gunpowder smoke drugged us and turned us into uncontrollable beasts. The recent wish to escape was turning into a desire to attack. We did not care to protect ourselves, several of us stood up. In the end our foolhardy opening of fire had checked the enemy attempt to break through.
But it had been only the beginning. The enemy had regrouped and they opened a terrible fire at our positions. They definitely had decided to break through at any cost. This time the main thrust appeared to be on the left wing, following the edge of the field to the crossroads.
But there are no our men there! The enemy had found that out, not taking any fire from there. Anyway we had to try to prevent the enemy from advancing. We opened fire again, sweeping ahead of us and to the left. The intensity of the battle increased to a hellish level. Our gun spoke in a loud voice, like declaring a sentence. The loader was hard as work like a locomotive fireman and the gunner pulled the trigger like a bell ringer. The overheated barrel was smoking as the ammo boxes were emptied.
The darkness began to vanish by the by. We were able to see the destruction on the road, there were dead men among the debris. But the mass of enemies seemed to be endless. We had been pulled in a terrible vortex of battle, in an odd world where there was no time or anything normal, just shooting and shooting senselessly. I felt half crazy but there were flashes of feeling of responsibility and worrying about the situation. Would we able to hold the enemy mass back until aid comes – if any – this noise we are making should indicate that we are in trouble.
How much longer can we hold? Is our effort and sacrifice in vain after all? The enemy is passing us on our left flank, and the same can be feared on our right since the MG has fallen silent. We are now in cross-fire, I must set up a “hedgehog defence”. Shooting is getting ever more intense – our destruction seems to be certain, but the game is not up yet. All of us have survived so far as if by miracle, even though the enemy does not appear to be short of ammunition – it would not be a wonder if every man of us were by now shot full of holes.
I set out to creep to the right to find out about the MG team. On my way I found that Pvt. Hänninen, covering our flank, was firing way too high, I told him to fire along the ground, because there the enemy was. That was a task far too hard for him. He sensed his death, because he had been killed later in the same spot, I was told afterwards.
I got up from Hänninen's side and started proceeding, crouching and sideways because I kept firing to the front and left. I did not manage to take many steps until a dense jet of bullets blocked my way. Next I felt a hard blow on my right side. I ducked for cover to avoid further hits. I felt at my side, there was something wet there, and I had problems in breathing.
Oh G*d – I am going to lose consciousness and get in the hands of the enemy!
- Medics, Medics! I yelled alarmedly.
I was not cut out to be a hero and now in mortal danger I was just an ordinary mortal bloke wearing a Corporal stripes .
A medic administered me fires aid on the far side of the knoll. Then I headed for the rear, running. I_ had to get support for my pals. They might be saved still? After running for an eternity we finally reached the Command Post, where I immediately rushed in the tent of the CO.
- Get support quickly to the crossroads, the enemy is breaking through there. The entire terrain is full of them, we managed to repel their first attempt!
Col. Kemppi picked up the phone handset to organise a counterstrike using the available reserves. I had a pleasing memory of his simple thanks for the undersigned, because it is something rare for a soldier.
I reported to our AT Company CO. Lt. Seppälä, and told our AT gun was out of ammo. He ordered his Runner, Cpl. Simo Jäntti to look after the ammunition resupplement.
I must have looked terrified since Seppälä patted me on the shoulder, smiling to calm me down and said:
He told me to get in the first aid post tent, which I did willingly because the pain was getting intolerable.
It was the morning of 8. August 1941.
The situation was then cleared quickly. AT gunner Erkki Manninen told me:
-We were pushing our 45mm AT gun in a terrible rain of bullets. Suddenly, in front of us at the crossroads, the tanks appeared. Hardly had we spread the gun carriage legs as we had to open fire. Tanks that were hit stopped but more kept coming. We killed at least six tanks. My gun team included Manninen, Heino, Tuomisto, Korhonen, Kautonen, Paasonen,
Viitala and Nykänen alias "Pipe-Nykänen". Enemies were teeming over the road like bedbugs in an endless stream. Lots of them were killed by our shells but new ones kept coming. The ones that escaped were finished by the 10. Coy, and they took hundreds of prisoners. By the by the stragglers, too, surrendered.
For comparison an extract of the Regimental war diary of the same period below. As to maps kindly refer to the JR7 website. There is also the OoB.
(Attack order had been issued on 23 July by the 2nd Division). As the attack orders had been received so early before the H Hour the troops were able to prepare for their task in depth and all the ordered measures had been carried out. Aslo the battle plan had been explained to the subordinate leaders.
On 31. 7. at 1100hrs the battalions had been grouped in the jumpoff positions. After a strong artillery preparation the infantry set out at 12.30hrs. The enemy put up the toughest resistance in their very well entrenched hedgehog positions. Starting from the very H hour the troops had to proceed through barrages of mortar and infantry arms fire. At 13.00hrs the enemy battery in Saares and later a heavy battery more to the south joined in. Advancing was further complicated by mines and forest fires started by the enemy.
The progress of the III Btn was stopped in front and on the wings of the enemy positions on the hill between Saviaholahti and Hekkalahdenmäki. The main body of I Btn was involved in heavy fighting 400m E of pt 114,25, so called Munakukkula (Egg hill) terrain. Only the II Btn led by Capt. Ahola, using energetically strike groups, led by Sr. Sgt. Tamminen with exceptional skill and courage, was able to destroy several enemy strongholds, among others a tank equipped with a cannon and a LMG and dug in the ground . Having taken on 31.7. at 19.45hrs the Hakkalahdenmäki hill the Battalion continued their attack, reaching at 21.30hrs the Tyrjä-Iijärvenkylä road, taking 300m of it. The enemy had strong positions along the road. Enemy tank attack from Tyrjä was repulsed by destroying three tanks.
At22.10hrs Capt. Ahola's troops extended their sector up to Iilampi whereby the enemy weapons nests N of it were surrounded.
According to the orders the I Btn had to direct their reinforced left wing E of Iilampi, accordingly the reinforced 2./JR7 led by Capt. Nissinen had advanced to S between Iilampi and the airstrip. They reached the latitude of the S tip of the Iilampi lake past 1500hrs without meeting any considerable resistance. At 19.45hrs the Company manned as ordered by Col Kemppi the isthmus between lakes Iilampi and Tervalampi, and then they were ordered to secure the directions of Saares and South; send a patrol to the crossroads terrain; and sweep with their main force the W side of Iilampi; then to strike to the rear of the enemy that was hampering the advance of I and II Btns. However the task proved to be beyond the resources of the Company that stayed in positions on the lake isthmus having made an attempt.
At the same time at 19.30hrs III/JR7 was ordered to advance W of the airstrip to their first intermediate objective, the forest road to Saares, and to secure to the direction of Saares, thus freeing the elements of 2./ JR7 to be used by Capt. Nieminen, and reconnoitre to South. The Battalion, having found the terrain W of the lakes line free of enemies, received orders at 00.15 to push a securing outfit comprising a reinforced platoon in the direction of Akkaharju ridge to the latitude of Latvalampi. The Battalion had mined the road and on 1.8. an enemy tanks and a heavy lorry were mined.
At the end of the first day the attack was found to be partly successfule but the met resistance had proved to be so hard that the advance of the Battle Group to the focal direction of the Division, to Akkaharju ridge, would hardly be feasible even on 1.8. The Battle Group CO requested from 2.D that JR28 would be reserved for this task. During the fighting that day it was also found out how minimal an effect our artillery preparation had had on the enemy positions. Covered weapons nest were manned by perfectly adamant enemies who could be destroyed only with hand grenades and satchel charges.
On 1.8. at 04.30hrs 2.D. Issued an order by telephone: Taking Saares must be abandoned and JR7 must concentrate all their action to consolidate the present situation.
On 1.8. the III Btn on the right wing attempted to clear the terrain with dense weapons nests, making only limited progress during the day. II_ Btn eliminated the weapons nests left in their rear, thus helping the _I Btn to reach their intermediate objective, the road, where from they were pulled back for rest.
2./JR7 having attempted to advance for N, W of Iilampi, had due to enemy resistance to return to their jump-off position on the Iilampi-Tervalampi isthmus.
During the day 2.D. Directed JR28 to advance E of Iilampi for Akkaharju and at 2200hrs they traversed the Tyrjä-Akkaharju road N of Saarilampi. The subjection of III/JE28 to Battle Group Kemppi ended, except the securing in the direction of Saares which were to be relieved in the morning of 2.8. At the same time the subjection of III/KTR15 to JR7 ended and they were ordered to support JR28.
Now that the S direction had been secured it was possible to shift the main elements of the Rgt E of Iilampi to its S tip and engage the enemy rear.
On 2.8. the second phase of the battle of Tyrjä started. The I and II Btns were disengaged and the front from Sananlahti to N tip of Iilampi was handed over to the III Btn. Simultaneously the Reinforced Detached 7. AA Company that had been acting independently was subjected to to III Btn. 10.Coy that had been in reserve was reattached to the Btn.
I Btn moved at noon to the terrain S of Iilampi where one Coy (3.) secured to the direction of Saares and with the main elements the line pt99 – S tip of Iilampi. II Btn handed over their positions at 0900hrs to 10.Coy that had been in Regimental reserve, and after a few hours rest moved to NE of Kukkolahdenmäki hill, W of the airstrip at 1600hrs to the S shore of Iilampi where the Regimental Command post had been shifted from the NW corner of Iilampi . The Regimental Jaeger Platoon secured on 2.8. starting 1500hrs the terrain of Iijoki river bridge – Jormanmäki hill.
As the battle group had grouped in the attack jump-off positions by 1700hrs the I and II Btns started advancing in the terrain S of Iilampi. The line separating the Battalions ran from the path crossing SW of Iilampi to direction 54-30 to shopkeeper Somme's house, situated 200m NE of the crossroads.
On the right wing the II Btn sweeped the terrain W of Iilampi and at 20.45hrs the road Tyrjä-Iijärvenkylä, at 200m length. On the NW shore of Iilampi six enemy dugouts resisted with desperate tenacity. When they were being destroyed, among others the tenacious leader of the Jaeger Platoon, 2nd Lt Sihvo, was mortally wounded by a hand grenade. 7. /JR7 destroyed in the small hours of 3.8. the surrounded enemy that had the previous with at 1900 hrs to break through the northern securing line, to the last man. On 3.8.41 at 10.00hrs the Btn had reached the road up to SW of Rokkala. At 16.30hrs the attack continued. Using direct fire cannons and satchel charges one enemy weapons nest after the other were destroyed and by 20.15hrs the the terrain E of Rokkala had been taken. Fighting had been intense and casualties were high on both sides.
At the same time two Companies of I Btn were advancing for the crossroads from SE and E. 3.K was still securing the Saares direction NE of the airstrip. Left wing reached the intermediate target without meeting resistance but on the right one Coy had to destroy a strong enemy stronghold situated E of the crossroads. On the morning of 3.8. Hiekkamäki hill, well fortified, was taken and securing with MG s was placed in the tongues of forest S of the crossroads where it was possible to keep under fire the open fields as far as Rakkolanlahti.
Enemy resistance had shown signs on crumbling on 2.8. - 3.8. They were making casualties to us with their mortars and direct fire cannons, and also artillery fire came from the direction of Saares. Enemy fighter aircraft dropped small bombs and machine-gunned our troops several times. On 3.8.at 19.00hrs the enemy retook Hiekkamäki hill with a counterstrike. The same night the I Btn established contact with a detachment sent from Battle Group Sora, that had arrived with a strength of 2 platoons to Personmäki.
On 3.8.at 2000hrs 32. Anti-Gas Coy was subjected to JR7, immediately set to occupy the line Saviaho – N tip of Iilampi.
As tank noise was heard from Tyrjä implying immediate breakout attempt, 14. JR7 was ordered in the evening of 3.8.to take all their (AT) cannons in position. 10.Coy was placed in the S tip of Iilampi as the Regimental reserve.
On 4.8.at 02.15 the bloody final phase of the battle in Tyrjä started. It is likely that the enemy, mostly comprising the remains of the I and III Btns of IR461, had already on 1.8. evacuated the so called Church Terrain and started withdrawing in the cover of the gullies on the S coast of Rokkalanlahti to the direction of Syväaro, where Battle Group Sora at 21.40hrs had to repel their attack, dispersing them in the process. On the night 3./4.8. the enemy had rallied all their troops remaining in Tyrjä in the terrain of Hiekkamäki, launching from there furious attempts to break through to the direction of Akkaharju road. Only along the coastline of Rokkalanlahti, where the securing was weakest, minor groups of enemies managed to escape to South, where new encirclement rings had been set up.
AT guns repelled every enemy attack at the crossroads and a column attacking on the Hiekkamäki road was completely destroyed. The AT gun led by Sgt. Malinen distinguished themselves specially. 2./JR7 swept with their fire down the attacking enemy platoons and the 10.Company, in reserve, destroyed one enemy platoon that had broken through to the SE side of the crossroads, then manning the seam of I Btn Companies and part of the 2.Coy sector.
Enemy losses include about 250 KIA, about 200 POW, half of which wounded, about 50 horses, of which 20 intact, 6 tankettes, 8 AT guns, 5 mortars, 2 automobiles and an indeterminate quantity of infantry arms, horse carts, etc. Our losses were small. (Material losses? )
On 4.8. at 1200hrs order was issued to grant the Regiment rest and recuperation.
Taking Tyrjä cost JR7 in total 31 officers, 124 NCOs and 594 men, of which 13+25+109 fallen.
Up to 31.7. the regimental total casualties included 40+108+619, of which 12+25+142 fallen.
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Defence of Ohta sector on 9.- 10.6.44
On 1 July 1944 by Regiment Commander Co. Lt. Adolf Ehrnrooth and Intel officer Lt. Niilo Usvasalo
Starting mid May (1944) it was observed that in the entire Carelian Isthmus the enemy traffic had increased many-fold, firing activities had intensified, positions were dug in the immediate vicinity of our first line. Also POWs provided information on new considerable concentrations of troops N of St. Petersburg. All this implied that there was an offensive in preparation against the Finnish front.
Having carried out several forced recon strikes the enemy started on 9 June 1944 probing attacks on various points of the Isthmus.
At the Ohta sector the enemy attacked in the small hours of 9.June 1944 our stronghold South of the Ohta road and at the seam of our right wing. On the North section some enemies managed to penetrate into our positions where they were wiped out by a quick counterstrike of 9./JR7. On the South section the attack was repulsed by our fire on no-man's land by the fire of 2./JR7.
At Ohta this first day of the war (sic!) was the same as usual except the tremendously lively air activity. In the morning hundreds of a/c had bombed and strafed the South section and the same “circus” went on all day. At 10.35 hrs the AA outfit at Termola managed to hit an enemy ground attack plane that crashed about one km NE of the Termola camp. The pilot was captured after a brief chase and he provided valuable information about the great enemy concentrations of ground and air forces on the Isthmus
Enemy shelling was lively all day on 9 June 1944 and for the first time in more than two years also Termola was targeted.
Main Position is breached 9.-10.6.1944
The night of 9/10.June 1944 was calm until the enemy at 05.00hrs launched a tremendously strong artillery preparation supported by large number of aircraft. Targeted were mainly the South section strongholds 1 to 4 and their rear, whereby e.g. the armour dome of Sassinmäki took several 8,5 in. direct fire hits from a cannon the enemy had hauled to the front line, and was totally destroyed. After a two hour shelling the enemy infantry attacked with at least one Regiment against the said strongholds and managed to take the 2, the 3 and the 4. The breach was isolated by the quick counteraction of local reserves. By 10.15hrs the following outfits were ordered to move to the terrain of the breach: Half of the Res. Coy of III/JR7, Rgt. Jaeger platoon and most of the Sapper platoons, Capt. Louhiluoto's Company of Lin.P4 (Detachment Guster) – they had arrived last night - and the Recruit Company of HeimoP3.
By 09.00hrs Stronghold 2 had been retaken by a counterstrike of 3./JR7 and the Jaeger platoon of I/JR7. Strongholds 2 and 4 were being furiously fought on, the strongholds changed owner several times.
Despite their extremely heavy casualties the enemy kept on pressure in the direction of Sassinmäki while getting constantly replacements. At the same time there was news on the crisis on the right wing, on the sector of Er.P.12, where the enemy already after 09.00hrs had reached Lotinajärvi and by 11.00hrs fighting was going on at Ratianmäki. This threatened our flank and therefore the successfully started counteraction to retake the original positions SE of Sassinmäki had to be abandoned. The attention had to be paid to securing the right flank between the hills Ratianmäki and Sassinmäki, that had to be carried ut using the reserves of JR7 as ordered by the Division.
The Rgt CO ordered to this task two Platoons of HeimoP3 and Coy Louhiluoto (strength about 70 men).
Furious fighting went on until 17.00hrs South of the Lampijärvi road where the enemy kept sending ever new troops against the rear positions of Stronghold 2 and Laurinmäki hill. At 17.00 hrs the Rgt CO sent a Sapper Platoon to the direction of Tonteri to secure and I/JR7 was ordered to clandestinely disengage on the right wing at first to the Bunker Line (Bunkkerilinja) and later fight and withdraw to the Steel Dome Line (Teräskupulinja).
Due to the ever increasing flank threat while Stronghold 4 had finally been totally retaken after heavy fighting, the Rgt CO issued orders at 19.30hrs to disengage at the Sassinmäki-Laurinmäki-Teräskupu line where the strong enemy attacks had been repelled constantly. At the same time withdrawal began at the Centre and North sections. At about 22.00hrs the South Section had been evacuated while Detachment Guster was delaying in the direction of Ratianmäki hill. Evacuation traffic was hindered by the fact that the enemy managed to cut off the Lampijärvi road afthee Detachment Guster had withdrawn. Most of I/JR7 had to use the almost impassable cart road E of Kaljalanjärvi lake.
The heavy equipment on the South section had almost totally to be destroyed and left behind in the terrain because the Regiment had not been supplied even with the minimum generic transport equipment, e.g. AT guns were missing the limbers.
When the troops had withdrawn to the Rajajoki line the situation was the most critical on the right wing where 2./JR7 led by Lt. Walden launched an effective counter-attack in the cover of a smokescreen against the Russkies that had penetrated to the fields of Tonteri hamlet, scattering them. Also 1./JR7 was engaging the enemy in the direction of the Kaljalanjärvi road that had crossed the blown-up Rajajoki bridge.
In the terrain of the Lipsonen crossroads in the second line were securing from the right: Detachment Guster, Detachment Malinen, Jaeger Platoon of I/JR7 and 3./JR7. Lipsonen-Termola terrain was secured by Lt. Möttölä's Company of III/JR49 and on the E ridge of Termola, on the Barracks hill and at the Charcoal Camp elements of HeimoP3.
III/JR7 had been ordered to garrison the line Hartonen-Multala-Siesjärvi . HeimoP3 had a battle forepost in the terrain of Termola tower. The enemy was not active at the North and Middle sections. Not until 11 June at noon they launched an artillery preparation at our vacated positions and started advancing in the directions of the Ohta road. A patrol sent out by JR49 found the same night a great number of Russkies in Termola.
A personal account in Personal war stories
“We are not going to go without fighting”
Journal “Kansa Taisteli”, vol. 04, 1959
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One candidate:Lotvonen wrote:Bursts of bullets swept about us and we often had to duck in hot ash, and proceed by dashing and creeping. We were funny looking but smiles were wiped off our faces. The enemy had had to abandon a “secret weapon”, a tank with a 45mm gun and MG dug in the ground next to the road.
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Report on JR7 action during 9.- 30.June 1944
Written on 1.7.1944 by the Regiment CO Col.-Lt Adolf Ehrnrooth and Intelligence Officer Lt. Niilo Usvasalo
Part 2. Delaying action from Lampijärvi to Siiranmäki 11.-12. June 1944.
AS the heavy enemy pressure continued unabated in the NW direction the I/JR7 had to keep retreating to ´the direction of Lainojan suuntaan. It was specially at the roads from Vihtaniemi and Tonteri to Hartonen that the enemy pressure was severe. The defence at Hartonen on the sector Multala- Hobby craft center was to be the duty of III/JR7(maj. Olanterä), but an enemy tank attack resulted in breakthrough at the Food supply point at Hartonen, whereafter the Battalion started retreating in disorder. As the I/JR7 was arriving simultaneously at about 17.00 hrs at the terrain of the Hobby craft center, maj. Kuvaja (IP CO) was issued an order by the Regiment CO to take all the troops at Hartonen in his command, including the units just sent there (including III/JR7, parts of HeimoP3, Lin.P4 nad III/JR49 etc.). The Regimental Jaeger Platoon and 3./JR7 led by Capt. Kiiskinen made a couragaeous counterattack at the terrain of Hartonen crossroads, beating the enemy back. Some tanks, according to information provided by POWs 8 pcs, had been destroyed with mines, AT guns and close range AT weapons. During the counterattack two prisoners were taken, and they disclosed that 187.D had attacked at the Termola road and 178.D from Tonteri.
9./JR7 ja 11./JR7 were ordered to advance to the height of the Multala-Hartonen road, but they suffered very heavy casualties by the fire of tanks moving about in a dead angle. They had to withdraw N of the said road in some patches of forest. Multala village was secured by 10./JR7, that was out of contact with the enemy. Onthe left wing Detahment Mäntylä was skirmishing with small enemy outfits on the line Hartonen pylon – Kuuritsansuo swamp.
At 22.25hrs II/JR6 that had garrisoned the delay positions at Kekrola was subjected to our Regiment. At 23.15hrs III/JR7 was issued an order to march their elements in Multala to Ronnunkylä and the elements in the direction of Hartonen via Kekrola to Seppälänkylään. Immediately after this I/JR7 with the subjected Lin.P4, disenganged, and marched via Kekrola to the terrain of Tiemäki, South of Siiranmäki where they remained as the Regimental reserve. Detachment Mäntylä (HeimoP3 +parts of III/JR49) marched to Soppikylä as reserve.
Delaying action to VT-line on 11.-12.June.1944
Already by the night of 12.6. the situation in Seppälänkylä had taken an ominous turn. At the W tip of Siesjärvi one of the outfits subjected to II/JR7 had collapsed and the enemy managed to surprisingly gain hold of the S perimeter of Seppälänkylä . The Jaeger platoon of II/JR7 and parts of 7./JR7 set up a quick conterstrike, pushing the enemy back for about one kilometer but as the Russkies penetrated in the rear using unsecured forestr paths the 7.Coy had to retreat fighting to Seppälänkylä. As early as 02.00hrs the enemy started probing at Seppälänkylä but the 7.Coy unwaveringly stood their ground . It was not until 06.50hrs Detachment Olanterä arrived at Seppälänkylä, spending more than four hours to diengage the 7.Coy from Seppälänkylä to Metsäkylä. The direction of Ronnunkylä-Seppälänkylä was a considerable worry for the Regimental CO since correct information concerning the situation there was hard to get.
At 08.30 Lt. Möttölä's Company from Detachment Mäntylä was sent to Maj. Olanterä as reinforcement and at 09.30hrs Maj. Olanterä was instructed to try to keep only two strong strongpoints, Ristimäki and Koukkulanmäki and to secure the terrain between them and the flanks with mobile patrols. While the relieving was still going on the enemy launched a powerful attack and took the Southern part of the village by about 10.00hrs . Thanks to Lt. Voittis' Jaeger platoon (III/JR7) the enemy breakthrough was however contained.
At 06.00hrs the enemy engaged at Kekrola, too, the II/JR6 . At 08.00hrs it was observed that the enemy isa approaching from every quarter with strong force the Kekrola delaying positions. One of the tanks advancing at the direction of the road was shot in flames. By 08.30hrs the situation had escalated to the extent that I/JR7, and Lin.P4 (n. 80 men) subjected to them, were ordered to without delay pull back to Siiranmäki and there garrison the VT-line positions between Siltaistennotko and Saarisuo.
At 10.00hrs reported Maj. Pulkkinen, III/JR6 CO, and was ordered to garrison the left subsector of Siiranmäki.
The afternoon on the right passed relatively peacefully while both the enemy and III/JR7 attempting at Seppälänkylä minor advances that in general were suffocated by adversary fire. At 18.00 hrs it was reported from Seppälänkylä that the local garrison had disengaged. Maj. Olanterä was issued a strict order to retake the Seppälänkylä positions that had been abandoned due to unfounded rumours. In the meanwhile the situation on the left was developing so that full attention copuld not be paid to the indicidents on the III/JR7 subsector.
All through the morning reports from the II/JR6 subsector on strong enemy forces moving and grouping all over the front line, specially at Hietaojansuo. After 10.00 hrs the enemy launched at the Hartonen-Kekrola road an attack supported by tank forces that was repelled. During the forenoon our heavy AT gun at the road destroyed in addition to the mentioned another two tanks.
At Kuuritsasuo a patrol of II/JR6 annihilated most of an enemy patrol and captured one MG, one LMG and documents showing the patrol had come from IR1062/281.D.
At 14.20-14.30 hrs the enemy artillery and the air force which during the two previous days due to bad weather had not participated to the fighting in any considerable extent, launched a very strong fire strike at Kekrola.
At 15.10hrs the enemy launched another new preparation, yet a weakish attack at the main road was repelled. After this there were new reports on enemy moving in front of the positions and enemy fire activities were lively.
At 18.50hre enemy fire was intensified to the extreme as rocket guns and every other weapon being used to create a veritable firestorm both at the Kekrola delaying positions and the rear. As soon as the enemy shelling had started the enemy infantry stormed with great forces and managed to penetrate in the terrain of Kekrola school and Officer canteen on a kilometer wide sector.
II/JR6 had to withdraw, partly in panic like manner, and had to abandon most of their heavy equipment to the enemy. At 19.05hrs the Regiment CO issued over radio a general order to disengage and withdraw to the VT line. Heimo.P3 and the Regimental Jaeger Platoon were delaying at the terrain of Tiemäki and Suurselkä. The enemy was stunned by our extremely heavy artillery barrage at the Kekrola schoolhouse terrain and was unable to make use of an extremely favourable chance, instead our retreat could be completed almost without casualties even though the road crowded with vehicles and marching columsn would have been an excellent target for the enemy artillery and air force.
Sappers carried out mining and destruction in the terrain S of Siiranmäki.
On the 12.June 1944 at about 22.00hrs the withdrawal to the VT line had been completed.
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1.7.1944 By Rgt CO Col. Lt Adolf Ehrnrooth and Intelligence Officer Lt. Niilo Usvasalo
Part 3. Defensive battles at Siiranmäki 12.-16.6.1944
Having been several days and nights in one stretch in the focal point of fighting I/JR7 got only about a 12 hour respite before being pulled again into the turmoil of a new major battle.
The night preceding 13. June had been spent feverishly organising the defence and the supply of the new front section. The new “Mannerheim line” that according to advance information was to be up to the standard of the latest fortifications technology including concrete MG bunkers and unsurpassed tank hindrances proved to be at Siiranmäki and environs an incomplete, at places a helpless defence zone. The log structures on top of the ground had not been covered with earth, communications trenches were often missing, the strongholds were separated from each other, the position was lacking depth, some strongholds were missing even accommodation dugouts and the worst was that the future no-man's land was growing thick bush vegetation that had not been cut to create shooting field, and especially on the right wing there were surprisingly many dead angles left right in front of the positions.
The right limit of the section consisted of the Western ridges of Palomäki, the centre consisted of the Siiranmäki crossroads with flat hillocks, the left wing curved to the North between Siiranmäki and Vehmainen village. The left sub-section, defended by III/JR6 led by Maj. Pulkkinen was almost totally unfinished. Fortunately the enemy did not attempt any serious attacks there, but carried out recon patrolling and occasional harassing fire.
On 13. June Maj. Kuvaja (I/JR7) grouped his troops as follows:
On Palomäki hill Det. Malinen ("Musta nuoli/Black Arrow" = about 1/2 Coy.), to the left of them elements of Lin.P4,at the crossroads terrain 3./JR7 led by Capt. Kiiskinen , on the Siiranmäki Eastern ridge, 2./JR7, shrunk to a couple of platoons led by Lt. Walden and on the left wing 1./JR7, that was left - after Lt. Vanninen had been wounded at Hartoinen -by Lt. Ahtola. The Btn Command post was situated in the old JR1 bivouac site at the terrain of Pt. 118, the field dressing station and Ammo replenishment point at the road near the Kylmäoja bridge. Heavy weapons of the section included: 3pcs 75 mm and 6 pc lighter AT guns and 11 MGs. Additionally we had at the various stages of the situation at our disposal the fire support of 5 to 9 Artillery battalions and 2 to 3 heavy mortar platoons and some light mortars.
III/JR7 was the regimental reserve in the terrain S of Vuottaa.
II/JR6, HeimoP3 and the remains of III/JR49 marched on the night of 12.6. to Riihisyrjä as the Div.reserve
The Rgt command post was situated in the terrain S of the Vuottaa schoolhouse.
Supply area was situated at Tapiomäki.
VT line had been manned by 12.6. at 22 hrs and already at midnight it was found that the enemy had arrived at the Suurselkä ridge in the opposite side. In the night 3./JR7 annihilated a ten man enemy patrol attempting to get to the wire to the last man.
Siiranmäki battle on 13. June 1944
It was calm during the AM of 13 June, although information on the grouping of strong enemy forces S of Siiranmäki was received. At 12.45hrs the enemy launched a powerful artillery preparation and their infantry started advancing with great force in the direction of Saarenmaa-Palomäki. The focal point was in the seam between Det. Malinen and Lin.P4 where the dense undergrowth of the no-man's land greatly hampered observing.
I/JR7 war diary : "The Rgt CO Col. Lt Ehrnrooth was just inspecting the positions and he fired with a rifle the first shot of the battle at the Russkies sneaking in the bushes. The attack was repulsed. A moment later the attack was renewed on the right wing of Det. Guster; it was repulsed and the enemy that had penetrated in the seam terrain was beaten with a wedge made up of Lt. Möttölä and Lt. Sippola. Lt. Sippola, a holder of the Mannerheim Cross, fell. The enemy left behind 2 pc AT rifles, a MG, a number of SMGs and other weapons.”
By 15.00hrs the attack had been completely repulsed, “Artillery barrages are nicely hitting the fleeing Russkies”, Lt. Malinen commented over the radio.
At 15.20hrs it was reported that on the right side of the road the enemy was preparing another attack supported by at least 10 tanks. A strafe by three Art. Battalions paralysed the enemy while they were just grouping. The casualties suffered by the two enemy battalions were considerable.
At 16.00hrs 14 heavy tanks tried to advance at the direction of the road. One of them drove up to the hindrance line and got stuck, then was squarely hit by a 75mm AT gun. After two more T-34s had been destroyed the rest of the tanks fled hurriedly.
At 17.00hrs the enemy launched again a strong artillery preparation including also rocket launcher strikes. The enemy began a general attack on the entire Siiranmäki section, from the right seam up to the seam of 1./JR7 and 2./JR7. 9./JR7 and 11./JR7 had already at 13.00hrs been ordered to move to the terrain of Maj. Kuvaja's command post. For some reason the 9.Coy had not by 16.00hrs arrived at their destination. Also the Regimental Jaeger and Sapper platoons had after 13.00hrs been subjected to Maj. Kuvaja. At 17.40hs also 10./JR7 received orders to march to the front immediately.
The attack that had started at 17.00hrs was the most serious one so far and the situation on the section of the 2.Coy was unclear at moments. On the section of the 3.Coy the enemy did not make it as far as the wire. AT 18.20hrs the attack had been repulse also on the section of the 2.Coy but lively mutual fire was exchanged until 19.00hrs. There were about 25 different tanks supporting the advance of the enemy on the Suurselkä ridge, providing an efficient fire support. It was not until past 19.00hrs that the tanks withdrew.
Be it mentioned that among other places in the Div. HQ and JR49 and far deep in the rear there were rumours that the enemy would have managed to get in our positions at Siiranmäki at 1900hrs. Some lorries transporting returning furloughers may have been returned to Valkjärvi.
At 20.10hrs mutual firing increased again and at 20.25hrs it was reported that the enemy was exerting pressure on the 2.Coy section. The enemy had launched an attack on both sides of the Vehmainen road, without artillery preparation, obviously aiming for a surprise. They managed to reach our wire where they were stopped. Most of the attackers were so intoxicated that they were unable to take cover from our artillery and infantry fire. Our infantry cannon knocked out one more heavy tank in the course of this attack.
At 21.00hrs at Saarenmaa one more attack attempt was repulsed. During the day the enemy had attacked with one Division at least, using up to five battalions at one time. The enemy suffered by low estimate at least 1000 casualties. The night passed calmly.
Siiranmäki battle on 14. June 1944
On the 14. June at 8.00hrs the enemy launched an artillery preparation stronger than the preceding ones, supported by hundreds of ground attack a/c. The tremendously strong preparation lasted for more than one hour and after 09.00hrs the enemy launched an attack on the entire Siiranmäki section. On the section of Det. Malinen the enemy managed to effect a temporary break-in which was eliminated by the regimental Jaeger platoon and the III/JR7 strike force.
When the enemy was making a new break-in E of Palomäki, and trying to surround via Siltaistennotko glen the II/JR6 counterstrike Company arrived from the right at the decisive moment, by the order of the Regimental CO, destroying by 11.30hrs the enemy companies that had broken into our positions almost to the last man (about 250 Russkies)
The enemy kept applying pressure with strong force supported effectively by artillery, tanks and air force on the entire Siiranmäki section. Our artillery suffocated by their counterpreparation several attacks already in rallying stage. A local break-in at the LinP4 section was quickly eliminated. II/JR49 that previously had been subordinated to our Regiment was at 12.00hrs ordered to man the Kylmäoja line (about 2km N of the VT-line). Also ErP12 had been temporarily subordinated as our reserve in the terrain of the Riihisyrjä crossroads where they had stayed as the II/JR6 had marched to the front line.
The enemy shifted their focal point in the afternoon E of the Kekrola road and at 13.20hrs the enemy managed to bite in the seam between the 2. and 3.Coys. The counter strikes by local reserves failed as both Coy CO_s Capt. Kiiskinen and Lt. Walden had been wounded. Two KV tanks penetrated the shot up tank hindrance into our positions. Covered by heavy shelling the enemy started rolling our trenches from Seppälänharju both to North and to the direction of the crossroads. It was not until 16.00hrs that Col.Lt. Varko (II/JR49) launched his counterattack. By 17.10hrs the positions had been almost totally retaken and the “Siiranmäki town” that the enemy had already reported as taken in their radio messages had been retaken. The counterattack was participated by II/JR49, Regimental Jaeger and Sapper Platoons, Capt. Paatero's Company from II/JR6 and counterstrike detachments led by Lt. Ahtola, Lt. Könönen and Capt. Ruuskanen who fell during the battle.
At 17.30hrs the enemy artillery supported by air force launched another preparation, reaching deep in the rear. At the narrow gap remaining at the Seppälä house four KV tanks rolled up the ridge. Lacking close range AT weapons Col. Lt Varko was unable to get a counterattack going despite several orders, and after 20.00hrs ten more heavy tanks drove to the top of the Siiranmäki hill. ErP12 received at 12.35hrs orders to man the Kylmäoja line. The Div. Sappers carried out urgent AT mining and at the critical moment arrived 14./JR49 led by Capt. Räisänen who started harassing the attacking tanks with great energy.
At 20.50hrs our artillery launched a strong preparation and finally Col. Lt Varko was able to get his his counterattack rolling. By22.30hrs the counterattack had progressed so that the enemy held according to a report by Col. Lt Varko the enemy was holding no more than 50 m. of trench. The retaken terrain and the trenches were full of heaps of fallen enemies. During the attack and in the course of the night 7 KV and 3 T-34 tanks were destroyed using Panzerschrecks. At 2300hrs the break-in gap was blocked temporarily but the enemy created another break-in gap between the ruin of the Seppälä house and the Vehmainen road with a counter attack. There were still four live tanks within our positions at the moment. Col.Lt.Varko launched at 23.30hrs a counterattack and another one at 00.30hes supported by artillery preparation. At 00.53 the last Klim in our positions was destroyed, and among other material 2 AT guns and 5 MG_s were taken but half an hour later the enemy has sent two more Klims to the breakthrough point.
The prisoners taken during the counterattack told that Siiranmäki had been attacked by two waves: 381.D at Palomäki and 281.D at the Vehmainen road. There was a third wave, 177.D, that was arriving to the front line to continue the attack from the positions gained by the 281.D. Prisoners were taken of all the mentioned divisions.
All through the night energetic attempts to block the breach went one but due to unfavourable terrain this 50m gap could not be shut as the enemy kept sending new tanks there. ErP12 strike force led by the Mannerheim cross knight 2nd Lt. Gert a very quick counterstrike, eliminating 60-70 Russkies and taking several MG_s but the attack petered out as the leader was wounded and hand grenades had been spent – they were in short supply all night anyway.
4.Armour.Jaeger Coy 75mm AT gun fired twice, missing, before the tanks hit it. During the night the defence of the Siiranmäki section comprised the following: On the right II/JR6 (less one Coy.), to the left of them Lt. Möttölä's Coy of III/JR49with the remains of Lin.P4 subordinated to him, a Er.P12 Coy who had relieved the 2.Coy (= 6 men) and 3.Coy (= 15 men) and the remains of Det. Malinen from the firing line to the Battalion CP terrain. To the left of them there were two Coys of II/JR49 and on the extreme left 1./JR7.
Siiranmäki battle on 15. June 1944
On the 15. June at 06.15 the enemy started a strong artillery preparation with a rocket gun strafe and the infantry supported by tanks attempted a strong attack at the highest point of Siiranmäki against our positions at the edge of the forest manned by Capt. Herve's Company. The men of I/JR49 bloodily repulsed the attack. Enemy shelling and the counterpreparation of our artillery went on for two hours with an undiminished power. New enemy marching and tank columns were spotted on the Kekrola road . 2./PionP33, 32.Kss.K and II/JR7 (7. and 8.Coy excl.) were subordinated to our regiment in the forenoon. Enemy was reported to be moving about both in the direction of Saarenmaa and on the Suurselkä ridge and at the sides of the Vehmainen road. The movement of the tanks on top of the Siiranmäki ridge had been checked by mining. The leading tank was a giant, a T-70, impervious to our Panzerschrecks so far.
At 10.25-10.30hrs the top of Siiranmäki was subjected to the most powerful preparation so far as twelve of our bombers (Ju-88, PLeLv44, tr.rem.) dropped 48 pcs 500kg bombs at the tanks while our artillery fired at the same terrain a brief but very intense strike. Simultaneously our three strike patrols set out to advance to the breakthrough point: Col. Lt Varko's first strike patrol from the Savola terrain and another one from the Siiranmäki( nm) terrain and a ErP12 strike patrol from the West to the East. The patrol attacking from the North cleared the patch of forest in front of them, destroying the enemies there. The patrol that had started from the Savola terrain met four tanks and an assault gun that checked their advance. The ErP12 patrol that had started from the right also had to withdraw having been subjected to intense infantry fire. Also the Northern strike patrol had to withdraw then.
The day was relatively calm until 14.15hrs. The top of Siiranmäki was dominated the T-70 (JS?) surrounded by mines, and four more tanks hiding in the ruin of the Seppälä house in dead angles. Another counterattack was being planned, using Panzerschrecks, smoke screen and barrage of MG fire but the strike outfits were obviously suffering from lack of confidence, especially as hand grenades were still not available
The preparations were interrupted at 14.15hrs by the enemy artillery preparation that surpassed every previous one as to strength and duration. 2./PionP33 and 32.Kss.K, with a combined force of some 140 men were sent to the Kylmäoja line.
Despite the continuous barrages of our artillery the enemy brought ever new infantry and tank replenishments to the top of Siiranmäki, from where they attempted to roll our positions especially to the direction of the crossroads, advancing with great force in the direction of the Vehmainen road to the terrain of Torikka.. At 15.20hrs II/JR7 (less 7. and 8.Coy) received orders to march via Siltaistennotko to the terrain between Torikka and Kylmäoja to group for an attack to be launched right to the East
At 17.00hrs the enemy attack wedge had reached Kylmäoja where all available reserves, including e.g. the remaining elements of I/JR7 and III/JR7, had been rallied to reinforce the securing line and subordinated to Maj. Olanterä.
Also a temporary 100-man counterstrike force was set up of the men in the supply area of the regiment. The enemy was stopped at the Kylmäoja line while the supporting tanks were left on the road and partly to the West of it, N of the Siiranmäki crossroads.
During this the most critical phase of the Siiranmäki battle the Regimental command retained their unrelenting decisiveness; the Regimental CO informing briefly: “We have received orders to keep defence, we shall keep defending to the last man.” Our fighting troops maintained their positions W of the breach almost in every spot despite the fact that the enemy had penetrated deep in their rear. At the terrain of Siiranmäki “nm” was fighting Lt. Voittis' small task force including the F.O.O. team of Kev.Psto24, was fighting with unequalled bravery, destroying hundreds of enemies in front of their stronghold. On the left the counterstrike force of III/JR6 was efficiently engaging to the direction of Savola, and in midway between Siiranmäki and Kylmäoja Maj. Ahola (ErP12 CO) had assembled stragglers and with this small force he launched a brave strike across the enemy wedge. Despite the tremendously heavy enemy shelling and air acitivity II/JR7 managed to move behind the enemy barrage almost without losses.
Capt. Raassina (II/JR7 CO) grouped his troops W of the road where they launched a counterattack in storming tempo, yelling loudly, progressing without stop across the enemy breakthrough area up to the VT line, to the section of Det. Ahtola, from where they rolled 400m of the trench up to the Vehmainen road. There the counterattack petered out due to securing enemy tanks due to lack of AT weapons. The undug 50m gap between the trench lines was again proven to be fatal. The enemy resisted the II Btn seriously only at the road where infantry groped around three heavy tanks was bravely scattered, and the Battalion dashed over the road despite lively fire from the tanks. Then the enemy infantry was taken over by panic and organised resistance was met not until rolling the trench. At 19.40hrs was the defence line as it was in the morning retaken. In the course of the attack one heavy tank was destroyed and an IL-2 ground attack plane strafing the area behind our trenches was shot down with rifle fire. All through the evening the II_Btn SMG gunners swept voluntarily the terrain, destroying groups of enemies erring in the rear. All in all the II Btn counterattack caused the enemy casualties for at least one thousand men
32.Kss.K led by Capt. Riihikallio swept the terrain at the road and SE of Kylmäoja, however the area was found to be free of enemies.
Since most of the men of II/JR49 and 1./JR7 had left their positions, at this phase it was inevitable to use most of the counterattack force to man the acquired line. It is for this reason that the counterattack could not be continued not until at 23.00hrs. Then the II/JR7 Jaegers and other men of the strike force launched a very daring attack from Savola to the direction Seppälä, but lacking AT material the attack was thwarted by securing tanks. The CO of 6.Coy, 2nd Lt. T. Koskinen fell while in the spearhead of his outfit. The enemy launched immediately their counterstrike and widened the breach back to 50m, holding the top of Siiranmäki where they had densely dug in and where they had, in addition to tanks and assault guns, plenty of direct fire cannons and auto weapons. The front line was in our hands except the breach point at the ruin of the Seppälä house.
During the night the Panzerschreck men of 14./JR49 knocked out six heavy tanks, including the aforementioned P-70 (surely JS-2?), at the terrain of the Siiranmäki road and ridge. Five tanks, surrounded by mining, remained N of the crossroads.
In the small hours of 16. June at 2.00-5.00hrs the Siiranmäki defensive troops were regrouped. The front responsibility was transferred from Maj. Kuvaja to Maj. Ahola (ErP12 CO). Maj. Elovaara (II/JR6 CO) got back Capt. Paatero's Company and his front section was added on the left with Detachment Möttölä and Guster's section; The last mentioned was relieved for a rest at the supply area, as well as parts of I/JR7 (less 1.Coy). At the direction of the road and to the East there was Er.P12 reinforced with a AT gun platoon fighting as riflemen subjected to Lt. Härkönen, then Detachment Voittis (reinforced III/JR7 Jaeger platoon), further to the left the surviving 62 men of II/JR49 led by Capt. Jantunen and to the extreme left 1./JR7 led by Lt. Ahtola. II/JR7 had marched during the small hours back to the Riihisyrjä crossroads. Also 2./Pion.P33 and 32.Kss.K were returned under the command of 2.D CO.
During the forenoon the first batch of replacements were received: 290 conscripts born in 1925.
In the course of the fighting on the 15th June the Regiment had suffered casualties: 17 officers, 40 NCOs and 112 men,of which 8+ 29 + 84 by II/JR7 during their counter-attacks. Shortage of officers was very considerable in all our outfits.
The day passed surprisingly peacefully, the enemy did not try to make use of their initial success. The heavy losses of the three preceding days, by estimate at least 5000 men and 21 heavy tanks, obviously had dampened their attacking spirit. Specially conspicuous was the sudden decrease in air activities. Both enemy and our artillery fired harassment strikes during the day, and there were on the Kekrola road again observed new infantry and tank columns heading for Siiranmäki.
At 19.30hrs the orders from the Division were received according to which the JR7 (incl. Er.P12) had to disengage by 23.00hrs. As the enemy launched at the same time an intense fire preparation with infantry moving about at the breach point, the situation appeared to be rather problematic. The Regimental CO reported that given the brief time for disengagement he could not assume the responsibility for evacuating the heavy material. Yet the enemy attack attempt was eliminated with a counterpreparation and disengagement was carried out as planned, undetected by the enemy,
II/JR6 retreated to the right, joining their regiment (Col. Lt Inkinen). JR7 (less II/JR7) and Er.P12 marched from Vuottaa via Pulkkinen to the North wile Det. Wahlbeck (JR49) stayed behind took delay at the terrain Siiranmäki - Vuottaa - Härkäoja. The surprising order to withdraw caused solely by the breach of the VT line on the Western Isthmus forced us to abandon a lot of civilian material and some war material to the enemy. At this stage, as well as during the entire delay fighting, the Regiment was suffering from considerable lack of lorries and horses. 2.D was unable to provide any relief, so the Regiment and their outfits met with insurmountable problems in evacuation traffic and were forced to abandon even irreplaceable material at the roadsides.
Personal stories of men fighting at Siiranmäki translated in this website : Olli Niiranen, Veikko Pajunen , Veikko Moilanen
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After a strenuous march the Regiment arrived on the 17th June AM at the Peikola-Punnus isthmus where they had orders to set up new positions.
I/JR7 manned the W part of the isthmus, ErP12 the E part and and III/JR7was placed as the Regimental reserve in Lamminpää terrain. To secure the terrain to the direction of Punnuksenkylä they placed there a Platoon reinforced with a MG (Detachment X). II/JR7, in which the 7th and 8th Coys returned during 18.6. grouped W of the Punnus railway stop.
On the Kirkkojärvi-Punnusjärvi isthmus the enemy was for more than a day not contacted , until 18.6 at 17.00hrs. Instead at Pasurinkangas and Punnus, which was initally secured by Detachment Wahlbeck tasked to take care of the situation, on 18.6. a crisis was being created during AM. 30 enemy tanks were reported to be heading for Pasurinkangas. III/JR7 was urgently ordered to set up defence at the terrain of Korpioja rwy stop - Pasurinkangas. At PM the situation was further escalated as an enemy tank formation scattered the 9./JR7 that was on their way to securing positions The crew of a 75mm AT gun led by Lt. Tiilikainen fled nut Lt. T. single-handedly destroyed 2 tanks thus stopping the advance of the formation. Simultaneously an erroneous report from the right wing was received, apparently indicating that our neighbour had withdrawn from Muolaa village via W of lake Äyräpäänjärvi. This would have risked our connections to the rear both E and W. The bridge at Paavola was blown up. At 1600hrs it was reported that Maj. Valkonen's battalion (JR11) was still well entrenched at Muolaa church, also the enemy pressure on the Punnusjärvi-Vuoksi isthmus decreased after all our reserves had been sent out to reinforce Detachment Wahlbeck. The actual reason of the easing of the situation at Pasurinkangas was that I/JR49 had broken out of the enemy rear via E of Punnusjärvi and Oravanniemi to the N shore of Vuoksi. S of river Punnusjoki the battle foreposts consisted of the Regimental Jaeger and Sapper Platoons. Sappers carried out wide mine laying and pulled back after being engaged by the enemy, blowing up the Punnusjoki Eastern road bridge at 17.20hrs. At the same time the Jaegers retreated from Telkkälä while inflicting losses on the spearheading enemy outfits.
At about 1800hrs I/JR7 was shifted to secure the line Äyräpäänjärvi-Kirkkojärvi, and Er.P12 spread their sector up to lake Kirkkojärvi. At 20.40hrs the enemy artillery opened up a slack fire at our sector. Harassment fire was still going on as our troops disengaged after midnight and Er.P12 had to withdraw while being engaged by the enemy outfits attacking from the W shore of lake Punnusjärvi. After Er.P12 had retreated using forest roads W of pt.143 I/JR7 disengaged and on 19.6 at 08.08hrs the Salmenkaita road bridge was blown up.
The terrain in front of the positions at Salmenkaita was badly overgrown with bush. Sappers carried out emergency mine laying. I/JR7 grouped for defence E of Mälkölä village, to their left Er.P12 and E of Variksenkylä first “k” there was III/JR49.
During AM an enemy company grouped at the S perimeter of the open ground at Salmenkaita, in the evening the enemy, after rocket artillery preparation, attacked the Salmenkaita crossroads where it was beaten back by a counterstrike by the Btn Jaeger platoon.
As Det. Pajari had withdrawn already at 1100hrs on the left wing it became necessary to start ferrying the material and the baggage train over the Vuoksi river already in the afternoon. To secure the right wing, Er.P12 reserve Coy was sent to Mälkölä. On 19.6. atv20.00hrs the withdrawal from the Salmenkaita line was started and by 24.00hrs our strong battle patrols disengaged and withdrew delaying through our new defence positions.
Already on 18.6. evening II/JR7 has set out to march from Punnus to the Äyräpää line in the future defensive positrons where they arrived on 19.6. after 02.00hrs. This battalion had during the delaying action had to act detached from the Regiment as a kind of 2.D strike force that was thrown always to the most critical spot. AS the defence of Er.P12 had broken in the morning of 10.6. at the Vaskisavotta sector, II Btn had managed after a bitter fight to stop the enemy breakthrough at the level Vaskisavotta crossroads-Ratianmäki hill, then withdrawn while fighting strenuously, often under threat of being surrounded, via Suur-Kaljala, Tonteri, Hiirelä, Siesjärvi, Lintulanjoki, Seppälänkylä, Ronnunkylä up to the VT-line at Metsäkylä. On the VT line the Btn had launced a couple of excellent counter-attacks on the sector of JR6 and regularly withdrawn later than each of their neighbours, often left on their own as to assessment of the situation, from the delaying stations at Vuottaa-Riihisyrjä road, Härkäjoki, Tarpila and Pentsilä . During the entire delaying period had the II Btn, resourcefully led by Capt. Raassina, acted as an unfailing and active flank or rear cover for our Battle group. By tenaciously sticking to their delaying positions they inflicted very heavy casualties on the aggressively charging Russkies.
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Manning the sector Äyräpäänharju - Vuosalmi on the night 19/20.6. starts a new phase in the action of our Regiment. Very strong disciplinary and informative action was needed to convince the men, partly demoralised during the difficult period of delay action, about the difference between delaying action and defensive action. Every man was made aware of the fact that deserting the positions at the new sector would be taken into a drumhead court-martial and the sentence would be death. The “berry pickers” caught in the rear were given extremely stern addresses by the Regimental Commander.
II/JR7 commended most energetic field fortification work at their bridgehead position. The terrain in front of the positions was cleared of bushes, demolition and mining was carried out, and on the Äyräpäänharju ridge, much affected by the Winter War, a quite strong system of strongholds was created, including a good number of dugouts. Field fortification work was speeded up by shifting two rifle Coys and half of a MG Coy of I/JR7 that was in reserve to the right wing of Harjulohko sector as battler reserve and work detail.
Supplying the bridgehead position across Vuoksi presented difficult problems. A very great quantity of ammunition was stored at the bridgehead and a field dressing station was set up there.
Saarilohko (“Island sector”), left limit comprising Pölläkkälä first “l” - Rötkö - pt. 32, was assigned to III/JR7. The focal point of defence was in Vasikkasaari island where one reinforced rifle coy was stationed, of them one platoon in Mustasaari. The beach-line opposite to Pölläkkälä was secured by one rifle coy.
I/JR7 and Er.P12 began immediately to build a rear position on the N shore of Vuoksi.
The most lively fighting happened at once on the right wing of Harjulohko sector. All of II/JR7 was in the front line: In the Lauttalahdenmäet terrain, from the nameless pond to Mansikkamäki 5.K, from there to the N side of the railway stop 6.K and to the church ruin hill 7.K. The Battalion reserve consisted of a Jaeger platoon and since 20.6.PM one and since 21.6. AM two reinforced Companies of the Reserve battalion. The right wing neighbour in the bridgehead was initially HeimoP3, then Er. P.12, later I/JR49 and finally III/JR49.
Our section was supported by six artillery battalions, three of them heavy ones.
On the 20th June the fighting was but mutual harassment fire and the enemy fired a few salvoes with rocket guns, setting some of the Vuosalmi village houses in fire.
Map: Battle Group Ehrnrooth grouping on the 21st June 1944
During the night of 21.6. the Regimental Jaeger platoon while patrolling in front of the lines on the right wing found that strong enemy forces were grouping there. Thus the first enemy attack on 21.6. at 05.15hrs was not a surprise. Enemy infantry attempted to reach our positions via the tongue of forest at the right seam but despite their heavy artillery preparation never made it even close to our trench. The barrage of our artillery inflicted the enemy attacking force, at least one Battalion in strength, heavy casualties .
During AM eight heavy tanks were spotted at the Salmenkaita road. A strike by our heavy artillery damaged at least one of them. In the same terrain our artillery scored a bullseye on an enemy lorry loaded with ammunition.
At 21.40hrs the enemy started another artillery preparation with two rocket gun concentrations. Heavy shelling and attempts to advance by the enemy went on all night at the terrain of the right seam and Mansikkamäki, but every attempt was repelled by our artillery and infantry fire no closer than 50m from our positions.
Harjulohko supply was complicated by the fact that the enemy had scored hits at all available landing boats and the motor ferry, rendering them all unusable.
The next three days were very calm.
On the night 27./28.6. I/JR49 repelled W of Saunalampi three company-sized attacks preceded by artillery preparation. Mutual harassment fire continued and field fortification work was making rapid progress. Our positions were improved by pushing them on to more favourable points of terrain where possible. Along the entire Harjulohko continuous close range patrolling went on and sappers carried out AT and anti-infantry mine-laying.
On the 29.6. it was found that the aerial activities, next to non-existent the week before, were considerably¨more lively
JR49 took in the nights of 29.6. and 30.6. a total of 5 POWs on different parts of the sector. Of them two were of IR317/92.D, one of Recon Coy/281.D, one of IR1066/281.D and one of IR1263/381.D. Information provided by the POWs were proving that strong enemy forces were being concentrated at our bridgehead, specially at Kyläpaakkola. It was found out that the 381.D., missing since the battles at Siiranmäki, found themselves now at Palokangas terrain with among other material 15 assault guns, 40 tanks, a very great number of artillery and bridge equipment. The general attack was to start in the morning of 30.6.
We took immediately countermeasures. Another light artillery battalion was placed on our sector. On 30.6. during 06.00-08.00hrs our artillery shelled as a countermeasure heavily specially the terrain on the sides of the forest road S from Kyläpaakkola, which caused chaotic panic among the packed columns and transport columns. Having suffered this setback the enemy did not attempt any attacks on the 30.6.
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On the sector of Äyräpäänharju there was a “creative lull” for the three first days of July. During the period the enemy was seen to concentrate plenty of artillery and infantry as well as tank formations. Field fortification work was continued as vigorously as it was possible under lively enemy harassment fire. Jaeger platoons were patrolling every night the forward terrain and they found that the enemy had pushed their securing to the immediate vicinity of our first line, they also had brought a lot of heavy weapons probably to provide fire support for their first line. Our snipers and heavy weapons were causing considerable casualties to the enemy even during these days. On the 7.7. enemy shelling was very intense.
Battles at the Äyräpää bridgehead on 4.-5.July 1944
On the 4.July 1944 at 03.55hrs the enemy launched an offensive at the Äyräpäänharju ridge. Extremely strong artillery, hundreds of aircraft and a number of tanks were supporting the attack. Enemy 381.D launched an assault immediately after the artillery preparation had started (sic)and with the support of tanks managed to create a quite wide breach from the right seam up to the Äyräpää railway station. One enemy battalion pushed on heedlessly past our reserves up to the shore of Vuoksi, where they managed to set three MG s in position and opened fire at our river traffic and the opposite shore.
As the CO of the sector, Maj. Kuvaja had been seriously wounded and the CO of the II/JR7 reserve, Capt. Tikkanen fell right at the start of the battle the situation was rather doubtful. The I/JR7 signals officer, Lt. V. Teijonmaa took the troops in his command and managed to limit the breach with quick countermeasures. The enemy outfit that had penetrated to the Vuoksi shore was annihilated. New defence line was set up in the prepared rear positions. The attack on the church ruin hill had been repulsed and also the left seam stronghold of the centre section was firmly in our hands.
At 05.15hrs Capt. Raassina received orders to proceed from the E side of Vuosalmi village with the outfits of II/JR7 that were there (5.K, parts of 8.K, Jaeger and signals Platoons etc.) to the bridgehead At 05.52 10.K and 2 Platoons of 11.K were subordinated to Capt. Raassina for counter-attack. The Regimental Jaeger and Sapper platoons proceeded from Lampela to the bridgehead. At Oravankytö the 100 man temporary reserve comprising supply personnel was set in standby.
At 07.45hrs Maj. Olanterä (III/JR7) was ordered to send his Jaeger platoon and his close range AT squad to the bridgehead. Enemy,y ground attack a/c and heavy shelling, at times directed from observation balloons, greatly hampered the transport of troops and material to the bridgehead as well as evacuation traffic. Time after another we requested from the Division fighter air support, landing vessels , ambulances, close range AT weapons, heavy mortar ammunition, hand grenades etc.
By 07.00hrs Capt. Raassina with his troops arrived to lead countermeasures. At about 08.00 the three strongholds on the right wing were retaken by counter-attacks. The Regimental Jaeger platoon led by Lt. Westerback distinguished themselves excellently. The enemy suffered bloody casualties and several prisoners were taken of the 381.D and also of the 281.D.
At the centre sector (Keskilohko) the rolling proceeded more slowly. At 09.30 hrs the enemy still held the strongholds at the Mansikkamäki terrain, on the right sector Stronghold tkk. 4, where a group of enemy heavy tanks lodged in the gully behind the stronghold checked our attempt to advance, and in the centre sector strongholds tkk. 1 and 2. The enemy kept sending reinforcements to the break-in point, who suffered heavy casualties in our constant barrage shelling. The enemy kept shelling heavily both the bridgehead and its rear.
It was not until at noon that the 10.K reached the bridgehead. There we kept attempting to roll on while the enemy tried to regroup and advance as much as the mutual shelling allowed. By 12.00hrs we managed to to take the hilly terrain on the left of Mansikkamäki and the strong enemy was annihilated. Our close range AT squads scored several hits on tanks, forcing some of them to pull back but at 13.00hrs 7 new tanks drove to the break-in point. At 16.40hrs the enemy launched a strong artillery preparation that went on for one hour. Our counter-preparation suppressed the enemy movement.
At Mansikkamäki and Äyräpää rwy station the pressure was at times severe but every attack was repelled, however. All trough the afternoon our close range AT squads were busy in action and the Panzerschreck squad led by Lt. Viikki managed by 18.00hrs destroy two tanks and damage several others. At the moment the enemy held only the right wing Coy stronghold tkk. 4 ("Mäki") and the glen behind it, where new tank reinforcements kept coming. Due to them our attempts to advance did not succeed but the enemy attacks, repeated time and again with the force of about one Battalion to widen the break-in point were repulsed by the decisive resistance of our troops. Artillery and mortar fire was of record intensity that day, for example (our) heavy mortars spent 2440 bombs.
Due to the exhaustion of our troops and heavy casualties – specially losses of leaders had been unprecedented high- the Regimental CO reported on the 5 July at 03.00hrs that without reinforcements he could not assure that another offensive could be repelled. The Divisional CO issued then orders to immediately to evacuate the bridgehead and destroy the heavy equipment in case it could not be shipped across the river. The Regimental CO updated then his estimate and suggested that the bridgehead should be still held under the condition that it should be re-manned with fresh troops.
Soon thereafter the Divisional CO recalled his order and Er.P25 (Maj. Kuusinen) was subordinated to the Regiment. In the small hours they relieved in the bridgehead the remains of I/JR7 and parts of III/JR7. I/JR7 marched to the reserve area S of Suursuo bog. 5.K, 6.K and half of 8.K stayed in the bridgehead reserve area while Er.P.25 manned the first line.
5.July 1944 passed quite calmly, even though the enemy put up a strong harassment fire. The day was spent in resupplying the troops, reinforcing and evacuating the plentiful war booty as well as the wounded. During the afternoon at the Rauhala terrain one KV tank was destroyed.
Battles at the bridgehead 5.-7.July 1944
On the 5.July at 18.00 the enemy launched a quite strong artillery preparation directed at Mansikkamäki , Lauttalahdenmäki and Kaskimäki. During the shelling, and before the enemy infantry had even started advancing the men of Er.P25 abandoned their positions and deserted in masses either on boats or by swimming across Vuoksi to the N shore. To meet the deserters blocking patrols were immediately sent out and Capt. Raassina organised at the Harju sector the local II/JR7:reserves pm the rear ridge in defence. On the N shore of Vuoksi the prepared positions were manned by reserves.
At 19.30hrs the enemy managed to break via Lauttalahdenmäki up to the Vuoksi shoreline. With two depleted rifle companies Capt. Raassina tried to retake the lost positions and at 20.30hrs one Coy of I/JR49 attacked from North at the enemy flank and also 6./JR7 from South at the same enemy wedge. They did not, however, make connection because the enemy had dug in and fired intensely at the attackers. At the Church ruin hill the enemy set up to disguise a long lasting dense smokescreen.
10.K, half of 11.K, one Coy of Er.P12 and the Regimental Jaegers and sappers were ordered to get soonest to the bridgehead, but the enemy maintained an uninterrupted barrage at Vuoksi and almost all of our crossing vessels had been destroyed due to it. Only the Regimental Sapper Platoon managed to reach the bridgehead where they carried out mining to deny the broken through enemy tanks access to the Battalion command post using the Vuoksi coastal road.
At 23.00hrs the enemy shelling turned more intense and considerable reinforcements arrived at the breakthrough point. The attempts of JR49 counterstrike outfits were defeated by the securing enemy heavy tanks. The enemy pushed our weak securing units by the by to the rear and managed to widen their breakthrough point. At midnight the radio contact with II Btn was cut off and at 01.30hrs an unconfirmed report was received indicating that the enemy had pushed through to the shoreline on both sides of Capt. Raassina's command post. In the meanwhile the II Btn CO had repelled many an enemy attack with his Runner and Admin Squads, Signals men and other Battalion men who were available, and pushed back the enemy that had reached the so called “Komentoharju” (Commander's ridge) .
At 02.00hrs on 6. July heavy firefight continued in the bridgehead. The elements of the II Btn had been separated into two “mottis”. The Eastern motti, led by Capt. Raassina, broke through to Harjula, a stronghold on the NW edge of the Church Ruin hill, after intense fighting.
The 40 man outfit led by Capt. Savolainen in the West side that had been pushed into a 300 meter area kept fighting still after 02.00hrs. After a very intense and bloody battle about half of the outfit men saved themselves across the strait while the rest fell or were taken prisoners, being unable to swim.
At 03.30 (July 6.) Capt. Raassina received orders to abandon the Church Ruin hill bridgehead, in an orderly manner and fighting after the heavy equipment and the wounded would have been evacuated.
At 03.50hrs, however, the AC CO ordered that the Church Ruin hill stronghold had absolutely to be held because IV/19.Pr. Would immediately launch a counter-attack to SE from the JR49 bridgehead. During the night the part of the ridge held by the enemy was level- bombarded from the air.
At 08.00hrs the front in the reduced bridgehead position was taken over by Maj. Kuusinen. The enemy attempted to group beyond Kattilasuo bog during AM to attack supported by tanks but our artillery scattered the enemy at their mustering positions. Two tanks were burning and a third immobilized in our minefield.
At noon the enemy managed to make a breach N of Alatalo but a half platoon led by 2nd Lt. Helavuori repelled them immediately with a counterstrike. Harjula was attacked thrice by various outfits of enemy 281.D (One outfit was destroyed to the last man save three prisoners, one of which an officer). Each attack was repelled. During the day our Stukas (German? Tr.rem.) bombarded the enemy troops on the Äyräpäänharju ridge where the enemy was seen to bring ever more reinforcements.
During the night the 20 men of II/JR7 in the bridgehead were relieved and replaced by more than hundred captured and re-equipped “swimmers” of Er.P25.
I/JR7 took defensive positions at the Vuoksi rear line, Coy Lumiala of Er.P12 and 32.Kss.K (Anti-Gas Coy). Were subordinated to them. The new I Btn CO Capt. Simola fell already in the morning of the 6.July 1944 and Capt. Kuparinen was posted as his successor. Replacements were received during the day and they were distributed to the I and II Btns. I Btn battle strength on the 7.July morning comprised 11+51+414 and II Btn 7+44+425, most of whom were replacements. I_n the morning of 7. July Coy Lumiala and 32.Kss.K were detached from the Regiment. The terrain between the ferry and the seam was raided heavily by Stukas at 06.15 and 09.22 .
On the 7. July at 13.20hrs the enemy launched a heavy artillery preparation and their infantry mustered to attack the entire bridgehead, the focal point being at Harjula. Again the Er.P25 manning disengaged, at places without firing a single shot. Maj. Kuusinen moved about at 14.00hrs to Vasikkasaari island and the troops followed him as an unorganized and panicked crowd. Capt. Talvitie tried to set up a last stand at the Church hill but was unable to control the fleeing men. Scattered resistance in the ruins of the church continued until 15.33hrs when the surviving some 30 men surrendered. The bridgehead was subjected to an intense fire strike by all of our weapons.
At 15.46hrs most of the defenders of Mustasaari retreated and there were also symptoms of panic at Vasikkasaari island. However, the defence at Saarilohko was soon stabilized with stern measures.
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July 5th 1944 at Vuosalmi (former part)
Journal “Kansa Taisteli”, 07,1978 pp. 230 – 234 (ref. For photos and map)
The author appears to have been a MG platoon leader in the Äyräpää bridgehead.
Our Battalion. II/JR7, had had a hard journey starting June 10th 1944 as we were transferred from Siesjärvi area to Vaskisavotta to counter-attack the enemy that had broken through.
Next we fought several battles, among them some heavy ones at Siiranmäki. My outfit was 8./JR7, a MG Company, that was split in Platoons, each of which was subordinated to a rifle company, even though we were supplied by our own supply centre.
After several battles and a heavy march we arrived on the small hours of July 19th on the Äyräpää ridge at river Vuosalmi, where we slept, being dog-tired. Our Platoon was subordinated to 7th Coy led by “Dad” Tikkanen.
Our MG squad dug their positions at the perimeter of the cemetery next to the church ruin, where the actual bridgehead started. After the pontoon bridge at the church ruin was dismantled we were totally dependent on being supplied by boats.
Every defender of the bridgehead was aware of what this implied if the enemy should launch an offensive at the bridgehead: there would be a strong enemy facing us and behind us a 400m wide fast flowing stream! Moreover, the depth of the bridgehead comprised just a few hundred meters, the forest had been smashed up already during the Winter war. The soil of the ridge was very rocky which made it hard to dig and made it very lethal to be shelled at. No wonder then that the old men of the 7th Coy protested loudly against being left in the bridgehead, and not until “Rasa” himself, the CO of the II Battalion, Capt. Aimo Raassina turned up and used his negotiation skill the men were calmed down.
From the very beginning the defence of the Äyräpää bridgehead turned into a stormy affair. The surroundings of our MG position soon turned in enemy shelling into a mishmash of headstones and crosses, half-opened graves created a premonition of the Last Judgement .
Enemy artillery hated specially the Äyräpää church ruin, the church had been destroyed already during the Winter War. Now, subjected to direct fire, it was crumbling down into an ever messier pile of bricks, soon resembling some kind of a ghost temple.
About at June 20th (sic) the enemy launched their first attacks at our positions. They were repelled by the efficient fire of MG s and other weapons, including our artillery. I can lively recall the first opening of fire as our gun layer Eino Hurskainen emptied a belt in the rye field in front of us that was teeming with enemies, and the rest of us accompanied with our personal weapons so that the barrels turned burning hot.
It was in these Cemetery positions that the small enemy attacks were repulsed easily, which enabled us to have some time to rest, which was extremely necessary after all the 24 hours-a-day fighting. The positions were being improved and during night sappers mined and mounted wire in no-man's-land. I still remember one incident during this period as our artillery was shelling enemy positions, one shell was short, landing right in a MG position of ours whereby Cpl. Tuomaala was instantly killed.
I Battalion relieved us on the 27th June and most of our Battalion was pulled back beyond the river in reserve. In the bridgehead stayed as the reserve for the I Btn two rifle companies and our MG Platoon. We were accommodated in the middle part of the bridgehead, in the incomplete dugouts situated at the rearmost ridge. The reserve outfit was commanded by the CO of 7./JR 7, Capt. Tikkanen.
While in reserve we were building new dugouts in the rear slope of the ridge and we were not short of material, because there were great piles of sawn timber at the ferry point at Vuosalmi. At night-time we would dig blocking line positions in the rear of the first line trench along the ridges. This was a laborious task due to the rocky soil. Also the clanking of spades and steel bars attracted the enemy artillery and mortar fire, disturbing our work. There was also a new dugout sauna at the Vuosalmi shoreline, one could dive from the heat right into the cool waves of Vuoksi unless enemy shells were landing right at the sauna as often happened.
It was the evening of July the 3rd and our Platoon turned in in our dugout as usually without any idea that tomorrow a hell would be loose, engulfing the entire bridgehead and the defenders there. We had a premonition that something was up because our observers and intelligence had found that the enemy had brought more troops and material to Vuosalmi. Also there had been an ominous lull of a few days in the enemy attacks – only harassment shelling and aerial recon went on as lively as ever. Obviously all our positions were aerially photographed, and our incomplete dugouts were easily detected.
The next day dawned, it was clear nice weather. At about 0400hrs we were woken up in our dugout by a tremendous rumbling. Sand was falling down between the ceiling logs. Heavy shells were bursting just next to the dugout, sand, splinters, small stones and other dirt was flying in through the doorway, there were no actual doors yet. The men sleeping facing the door opening quickly moved aside. The enemy shelling increased, the entire reserve area was under a rain of shells. The shelling turned finally into a barrage, resembling a thunderstorm magnified by thousand, drowning all human voices. One had to yell at full throat if one wanted to be understood.
We got prepared in our dugout, assembling our equipment – we put on our helmets and checked our personal weapons. An indeterminate waiting started – reserves might soon be needed... The entire Platoon was now staring with pale faces at the door opening through which could be seen the dance macabre of bursting shells.
Our hands were holding our weapons and gear, fear and nervousness are being conquered by self-control as well as possible. Many a man is thinking back on his life. The first trench must by now be full of dead and wounded. While the artillery and mortar shelling continues the sound of bomber and ground strafing aircraft engines can be heard rumbling. Everyone understands in a flash: Bombers imply the start of a real offensive!
At the very same moment a vicious aerial bombardment of the bridgehead and the rear starts. The terrible noise of the explosions is hurting our ears. The entire bridgehead is shrouded in a thick cloud of sand. Shells and bombs are flashing in the thick dust. The earth is shaking and vibrating continuously and the already badly mauled forest is smashed up into ever smaller bits.
The dugout is rocking like a ship at sea. It is as if the hour of the last day would be here, because every square meter of the bridgehead is ploughed over by fire and steel.
Through this furious fire into our dugout dashes the Runner of Capt. Tikkanen, out of breath. He is relaying an order: “The reserve outfit is to man at once the blocking positions on the ridge above the dugouts. The situation in the front trench is unclear”.
So let us take the MG s in position on the ridge! But the surroundings of the reserve dugouts is actually boiling with shelling and even the Runner is unable to continue because dashing out would result in certain death.
Cpl. Himanen is peering through the door opening to spot a reprieve in shelling to dash out but he sees something horrible: enemies are coming in droves down the ridge at our dugouts!
Russkies are coming!
He rushes out at once. There is a commotion in the dugout and soon everyone has rushed out in the ongoing shelling.
WE are suffering losses already when dashing out – we are welcomed by the enemy SMG fire and hand grenades. In the ensuing hand to hand fighting Cpl. Valkeinen and Pvt. Miettinen fall at once, both the best of warriors. Due to the confused situation we leave the MG s in shelter and engage the enemy with our personal weapons around the dugouts. We indeed manage to take out the enemies about us and then we assist the 7th Coy boys by firing at the enemy attack spearhead some of whom have assaulted past the dugouts close to the shoreline. There the enemy manages to set up a couple of MG s in position to fire along the shoreline. Both of them were however destroyed before they had managed to fire half a belt.
7th Coy boys are now dashing out of their dugouts, also receiving SMG fire and hand grenades. “Dad” Tikkanen is organising his boys to fight. The Runner of our Platoon, Pvt. Kuisma is running to him to deliver a message by our Platoon CO 2nd Lt Mäkelä. In the very moment an enemy SMG burst hits Tikkanen right on his chest – blood is flowing on his pale grey summer tunic. Fallen to the ground, holding his chest the “Dad” gives his last instructions for battle. Bandaging does not help him any more. Later the experienced and fearless CO of the 7rh Coy is taken to his command dugout but he was no more alive.
Yet the Company keeps fighting despite the fact that part of them have literally been pushed in river Vuoksi. The enemy assault is fast and ruthless. The spearhead men are carrying small red flags to aid their fire support. The front line is also indicated by shooting flares for the artillery, the barrage of which is rolling so close to the enemy spearhead that they are taking casualties of their own shells.
During the melee of the battle enemy ground attack planes are sweeping over the shoreline of the bridgehead. From the ridge one can see the head of the pilot behind his bullet proof glass..Aircraft gun muzzle flames are flashing constantly, angry bursts are sweeping the rocky ridge. At the same time small aerial bombs are falling on us. We are lying flat as 20-mm (sic) shells arr ripping the ground around us. After each pass spent cases and metal belt links are falling on us from the sky.
To our right in the bushes of the shore there is a loud noise of battle. Our men find themselves in a tight spot and many a man save themselves by swimming across the strait.
The remains of our Platoon have scattered all around the reserve area. I find myself together with Pvt. Söder on a ridge where squads, platoons´, companies and platoons are mixed up with each other. Casualties in officers and NCOs make it harder to lead the battle. In all confusion I spot Sgt. Elovaara and Cpl. Himanen slouching bloodied down the ridge slope to the field dressing station. Both have been wounded in thighs by splinters. Soon also Cpl. Kukkonen is wounded and out of game.
From somewhere appears on the ridge a young 2nd Lt among us, a SMG slung over his neck and a pistol in his hand. This unknown Lieut starts setting up a defence line of us on the ridge. He creates a line across the ridge between our dugout and the 6th Coy dugout and allows us to pull back a little in a more suitable point in terrain. As some men are trying to run having been allowed to pull back the Lieut checks them with stern words. He is stopping the stragglers by brandishing his pistol. Included are the Battalion men, some of which are emerging from the old positions – the Vanyas at their heels.
This brave young officer is behaving with such a cold blooded calmness that the entire troop is affected. There is no panic and a new blocking line has been set up across the ridge, and the enemy break-through is checked. There is nothing other cover but rocks, tree stumps and shell holes but we have got firepower. The machine gunners, armed with only pistols, are evacuating from the battleground auto weapons left there by the fallen.
There is our MG gun-layer Eino Hurskainen fumbling with a RPD taken from a killed enemy. We do not yet dare to shoot because there are still some I Battalion men dashing to us among the enemies – we have to be attentive not to shoot at our own men.
Then the enemy advance is stopped and we are waiting for our Battalion to get across to assist us. Then we would be able to start counterstrike to retake the positions.
Unusual noise is soon heard in the shore terrain on our right. Could (Capt.) Raassina finally have managed to ferry over our battalion parts to help us? The crossing is not a leisure summer cruise because Vuosalmi is under heavy enemy shelling up to the deep rear. Soon men are coming to join us – the counter-attack can be launched!
To be continued.
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July 5th 1944 at Vuosalmi (latter part)
Journal “Kansa Taisteli”, 08,1978 pp. 268 – 274 (ref. For photos )
Our attack starts and once it has started it has a tremendous force! A violent battle cry filled the strip of shore as our men appear in droves heading for the reserve area. The aforementioned 2nd Lieut orders us to join the assault. We start our charge for the crest of the ridge while firing our weapons. We are yelling like the others until our throats are hoarse. Hand grenades are flying in the air.
Our counter-attack is successful and soon the Vanyas in the reserve area are wiped out. We keep dashing on until the far slope of the ridge above the reserve dugouts. We are stopped there!
There are about ten T-34 tanks in the glen ahead. The gun turrets start turning at us. The gun barrels are rising. As soon as the fleeing enemy infantry has made it to the cover of the tanks they open up a furious fire: The cannons are firing at top rate and MG s are firing long bursts. Hastily we find the foxholes that have been dug in advance along the ridge. However, they are just half a meter deep, so only being prone some protection from the enemy fire can be found.
Next to me there are Vesanen and Söder in the same foxhole. I have two rifles now: I almost stumbled on a Russian sniper rifle abandoned on the ground, I slung it over my shoulder for future use alongside with my own. The rifle is badly bloodied and the stock is marked by splinters. At once I test it at the enemy moving about in the cover of the tanks. The nearest one is less than 50m from us, the others staggered behind it so that they are able to cover each other. AT men shall have problems in taking them out.
While we are shooting at the infantry moving about in the cover of the tanks we have been aimed at. A tank MG salvo hits us and Söder's neck is pierced. He is immediately dead. Vesanen has to share the foxhole with the dead man for several hours, because the MG starts sweeping as soon as he tries to go to another foxhole. There are three fallen enemy soldiers some meters off my foxhole, they are badly mauled.
On my both flanks, some 20 m off, AT men have appeared, they fire at the nearest tank with a Panzerschreck. The turret hatch is opened and a man dashes out, landing behind his tank. From there he tries to peek at the front of the tank where the driver is, but a rifle bullet ends his endeavour.
Soon the tank starts moving after all and reverses in the alder bushes where there are several other tanks. They have been camouflaged with deciduous tree branches but long radio antennas are poking out to the sky.
At the very moment an enemy bullet comes with a chirp and hits the lower barrel band of my rifle – the band is half cut off and there is a deep dent in the barrel. Hot metal splinters hit my neck and thumb. The rifle has protected me from a bullseye!
Immediately I sink to the bottom of the foxhole so that the Vanya should believe he has scored and would calm down.
The tanks keep firing occasionally their 85mm guns. It is no fun to crouch in a half a meter deep foxhole. A foxhole of the first Squad takes a direct hit, Pvt. Asikainen is killed at once and Pfc. Ojanen is mortally wounded.
Our counter-attack has stalled. The enemy has been beaten back to their jump-off positions but here the tank securing is so strong that rolling the positions is not feasible with the few men we have left.
There is some regrouping and we leave the tanks to the attention of the Pz-scheck men.
The break-in point is sealed off with the force we have at hand. We get the MG s from the cover where they have been during the hand to hand fighting in the forenoon. We place them in new posionos on the ridge as ordered by the new 7th Coy CO, to whom the remains of our Platoon have been subordinated. Our Platoon now comprises two MG teams led by two Pfcs
Enemy shelling and air attacks are lively but the infantry is still licking their wounds. We are assisting the medics to carry the wounded. There are large numbers of them lying in the terrain. Many of them have been hastily dragged into the dugouts to protect them against the artillery fire.
The situation at the field dressing station is like one at the river of Tuonela. There were crowds of wounded lying on the ground or on stretchers waiting to be ferried across the river to the N shore where ambulances would take them to field hospitals. The doctor was working as fast as he was able to at a primitive operation table under the cover of a few logs and branches – some protection against rain and sun. The medics assisted the doc, applying bandages and administering injections. The first aid post was subjected to enemy shelling and air raids because the front line was but a few hundred meters off.
Boats were destroyed at the shore, some sunk also in the middle of the river Vuoksi after being hit by enemy projectiles. Our Platoon Runner Pfc. Kuisma had a terrible experience in one of the boats as a shell burst next to his boat in the middle of the river, several wounded men were killed and Kuisma was again wounded. The survivors desperately kept bailing the leaking boat with their helmets and finally made it to the opposite shore.
Once more in the evening before summer night dusk had set the enemy attacked at our positions on the ridge after a powerful fire preparation. Their infantry started rushing up the ridge slope yelling loudly “Uraa”, but our positions on the ridge had been reinforced with the MG s of our Company. Together with the infantry they mowed the enemy down with furious fire – the battle cry was silenced by the lethal grim music of machine guns. We had to fire in a short time several belts of ammo. The water jackets were burning hot.
After this the enemy, too, dug in for a night's rest. For us the day had been hard and bloody: more than half of our Platoon had become casualties. We had lost during the day five fallen and twelve wounded. Among the wounded were included also Sr.Sgt. Viitanen and Privates Berg, Elovaara, Hurskainen, Martikainen, Mäkeläinen, Naatti and Tiainen.
A summer night twilight has descended on the battlefield. Harassment fire ceases as the enemy are licking their wounds. We set double sentry posts at the MG s and the other men are allowed to go to the nearest dugout to sleep there. Before we turned in I went to the Battalion Command post to get food for the boys, because we had not eaten anything all day except odd pieces of crispbread that one always has in the bread pouch in reserve. I get plentiful rations of dry food but the potato soup is useless, it is totally sour because it was cooked in the morning but fighting prevented its distribution.
At the Command Post I also met our Company CO, Capt. Savolainen with whom I have a discussion. He is enquiring about the casualties of our Platoon and the goings-on of the day. I could not guess that it was the last time I met him.
When returning to the dugout I am passing the first aid post. There one can see a big pile of fallen men who totally cannot be evacuated across Vuosalmi – getting the wounded out of the bridgehead is a hard enough task. There are also fallen men scattered in the terrain. They are by now blue in face.
We are having our meal in the dim dugout. Good water is unavailable. There are no wells and the water of Vuoksi is at the shoreline muddied up by shelling. Tiredness overcomes everyone and only sentry duty interrupts our deep sleep. Before midnight there is a rumour that our bombers are going to raid the enemy positions this night but no bombers came, neither friendly nor enemy ones, we can sleep in peace.
On the 5th July it is else calm except heavy incessant harassment fire by the enemy. I and Pvt. Tuomaala set out to look at the aftermath of yesterday's fighting at the shore terrain, it has been ploughed over by thousands of shells. Near the coastline we find the two enemy MG s with their dead teams. Half fired belts prove that their occupation of the bridgehead was cut short by our counter-attack. We note with professional interest that they had left home the wheeled carriage and there was only a piece of plank fixed to the gun. Thus the MG was light to carry and quickly in shooting readiness. At this spot the entire shore terrain and reserve area was but one mess of weapons and gear. There are also fallen men in most different poses, some of them terribly mauled. Disgusting corpse flies are taking off from the bodies. The July heat has caused the corpses to stink.
During the day new men arrive at the bridgehead, a new battalion, Er.P25 who relieve us from the front line. The relief is a slow process for some reason and takes a long time. It is rumoured that the Detached Battalion has lost several officers as casualties even during the terrain reconnoitring.
As we finally have been relieved our gear is assembled in front of a reserve dugout. We are waiting for boats to ferry us across. We note that some of the men of the new battalion are very restless and unused to the rough existence in the bridgehead. I observed the situation on the ridge after the relief with a Senior Sergeant as the enemy started throwing hand grenades in front of our trench and fire with light weapons. Some men were already bouncing out of their foxholes to the rear slope of the ridge although there was nothing to worry about really.
-Come on, don't abandon your positions for such a trifle! The Sarge yelled and the men came back.
Of course the edginess of the men is understandable: the Battalion has been on a calm sector and now they have been thrown in a Hell like this. The major contributor to the feeling of helplessness was the wide river Vuoksi in the rear. Here the smallest breakthrough poses a danger to the defender – If they are unable to hold their line they shall be up for a very uncertain crossing by swimming.
It is already late in the afternoon but we are still waiting to be shipped across, and the boats are not coming. Everyone has entered the dugout for moving about in the terrain in intense harassment fire just results in unnecessary casualties. Just recently some Er.P25 men were wounded next to our dugout. We bandaged them and they were able to walk to the first aid post.
It was about 18.00hrs as the harassment fire turned suddenly into bombardment.
No R&R for us after all! Every face in the dugout reflects disappointment.
Another bombardment hell like yesterday: flying dirt, rocks, wood splinters, steel shards, constant thunder-like rumbling, sand, gravel, mauled bodies. The bridgehead is shrouded in a dense dust cloud with suffocating smell of explosion gas.
A pale man dashes in our dugout and yells:
- The Russki is in our positions!
We make a quick decision: we are going to get out of the dugout to the foxholes nearby at the big rocks. Next, quick run through the barrage – an explosion on my left and a sledgehammer blow at my right thigh! I collapse but get up supporting myself with my rifle. There is a splinter hole on my trousers, that is bleeding
The others are running fast past me. I am trying to follow them, dragging myself with the support of my rifle. A few seconds later a huge fireball flashes among the boys ahead of me – a tremendous explosion and a pressure wave that knocks everyone down by kicking up such a blinding cloud of dust that I am blinded for a moment. I remain conscious but my nose and mouth are bleeding due to explosion pressure. I also have taken more splinters in my body but these are quite small.
A terrible sight in front of me: five men have been killed in a blink of an eye right in my view. This shell killed of our Platoon Pfc. Lemmetty and Privates Mäkinen, Peippo and Pokkinen. Also Pvt. Meronen was so badly wounded that he was carried in a dugout where he obviously died since he did not return when POWs were exchanged. Pfc. Viisanen was slightly wounded and he got out of the bridgehead. The splinter that dug deep into my thigh is causing such pain that I am scarcely able to move. There are running shapes among the smoke and the dust – friends or foes?
I am fearing that I shall fall in enemy hands, wounded. I am dragging myself to the shoreline. Still today I cannot understand how I survived and made it to the shore, because my progress was slow and the heavy shelling went on. I was taken across Vuoksi in a “soup boat” . As the boat arrived at the opposite shore the rowers ran away from the shelling and abandoned me in the boat. By then I was unable to move.
But there was help: Pfc Tuhola, the 5th Coy Scribe, finds himself by chance on the shoreline, taking cover in the ruins of a building. He spots a bloodied man abandoned in a boat. Having recruited another man to assist Tuhola carries me ashore and drags me on a bike across a field into a forest where he bandages me expertly.
The next stop is a first aid post, from there the next night I am admitted in the Kirvu field hospital and I am operated there. The remains of my Platoon kept fighting in the bridgehead until the small hours when he enemy had managed to push two wedges to the shoreline. In addition to the aforementioned also Pvt. Hikki fell. Only three men of our Platoon got out unhurt, 2nd Lt. Mäkelä and Pvt Soinala and Paavilainen, the last mentioned however soon fell on the North shore.
Pvt. Seppo Soinala swam across from the bridgehead at the last possible hour – in a decisive moment he shot with his rifle the enemy officer leading the attack, thus successfully disengaging and swimming across in the dark.
The casualties of our Platoon were heavy: twelve fallen, fifteen wounded and two taken prisoner. The two last mentioned, Levola and Mueller, were later repatriated as POWs were exchanged.
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Even before the enemy offensive restarted on the 4th July 1944 information about the plentiful enemy crossing equipment had been gained. On the night of 8/9 July tens of boats and intense activity were spotted in the terrain of the ferry and Lautalahdenmäki hill, all implying that an attempt to cross river Vuoksi was to be expected immediately. At 01.30hrs a few boatloads of enemies managed to gain a foothold at the ferry road terrain under the cover of fog. Capt. Kuparinen (I Btn) launched a counterstrike which destroyed the boats and part of the Russkies while the rest of them managed to dig in in the terrain in front of our positions.
All night our artillery harassed the enemy on the opposite shore. Presumably to deceive the enemy sent three times some of their boats at Mustasaari, all of them were destroyed.
At 05.10hrs the enemy launched a great artillery preparation. Hundreds of aircraft joined the attack by bombarding heavily our positions and laying an impenetrable smokescreen on the river. At 05.45 our artillery started the pre-planned counter-preparation with the force of eight artillery battalions. The Artillery Commander of the Vuosalmi sector during the entire battle phase was Maj. Arimo, acting in an energetic and logical manner. The co-operation between infantry and artillery was in these battles exceptionally good and close.
While the enemy artillery preparation and smokescreen laying was still going on at 06.00hrs alerted were at first the 7th Coy, then Capt. Mäenkaski's Company of II/JR57 and II/JR15, also the Regimental Jaegers and the Sappers and Supply alert units. The enemy crossed the river with dozens of motor launches and boats. The enemy attacking force included 142.D, on the right at the ferry road IR946, at Lauttalahdenmäki IR461 and initially at the second wave but immediately joining the attack IR588. At the Saarilohko sector 10.D continued their pressure and in the second wave 92.D manned the South shore of Vuoksi being ready to continue the attack as soon as 142.D and 10.D would have reached the line of Hämeensuo – Suursuo. The attack was supported among others by the Mortar Regiment of 506.RGK. This means that it was an attack by the reinforced CXV AC.
Under the cover of smoke and artillery fire the enemy managed to land along our entire sector and effect a break-in at the road on the sector of the 2nd Coy and at the terrain of Onnela – Kaunola at the seam of the 1st and 3rd Coy.
It was mainly at this terrain where the enemy regardlessly pushed a strong attacking wedge (IR946) via the command post of the I Btn along the Btn supply road to the direction of the Regimental command post and managed to reach the terrain about 200m South and South-west of the Command post. (the Regimental Command post was situated in a house about 200m SW of Lampela). The Í Btn CO had by then withdrawn with his Runners and some men still remaining with him to a new command post situated some 150m S of the Regimental Command post.
The Regimental CO strictly forbade anyone to withdraw, also the artillery, mortar and Command post personnel was to defend themselves even if surrounded, and set up a close range securing with the Command post runners, Signals men and other personnel and sent the Regimental Jaeger Platoon for counterstrike at the enemy attack spearhead. The counterstrike was a perfect success, throwing the enemy from the Command post terrain some 800m SW where the I Btn CO moved and immediately started measures to continue the counter-attack with the available troops of I Btn, 7th Coy and Regimental Jaeger platoon.
Two Companies of Er.P12 led by Maj. Ahola were subordinated to the Regiment and they immediately marched three km to the terrain of the Regimental Command post.
The counter-attacks by II/JR15 and 7th Coy stalled after every Coy CO of Maj. Oljemark and Lt. Metso (7./JR7) had fallen or been wounded. Before that these troops had however convincingly halted the enemy attack. The enemy outfit that had penetrated our rear at the Vasikkasaari terrain E of the ferry terrain was beaten back by a brave counterstrike by 6./JR7 and the Jaegers of II/JR7, they took among other material more than ten MG s. The rear was full of deserted I and II Btn replacement men, consequently the battle was mostly fought by some tens of surviving “veterans”. In the meanwhile the Regimental Sapper Platoon had with their brave counterstrike at first stopped then completely scattered the enemy attack spearhead South of the Regimental Command post (mortar fire positions) where tens of enemies were destroyed and a number of POWs taken while the rest of the Russkies were hastily fleeing. Capt. Mäenkaski's Company reached at 09.00hrs the edge of the tongue of forest N of Mäntylä and reported that there were large numbers of enemies on the right flank. After 10.00hrs the situation was finally in control and the liaison between our counter-attack outfits was set up.
At 11.45hrs was set up Battle Group Kuovi, consisting of two reinforced Jaeger Platoons of JR57, Coy Mäenkaski, an ad hoc outfit led by Capt. Talvitie comprising the scattered men and recently received reinforcements plus the regimental Sapper platoon led by Capt. Jung who had rolled up the the road from the Regimental Command post to the main road. Detachment Kuovi was given as the target the line Leivonen-Pasuri and the II_ Btn was to join the attack, heading for the Mikkola - Juvonen line.
At about 11.00hrs Maj. Ahola launched an attack with two Er.P12 Coys from NW to the forest of Pt.26. The attack was an exemplary assault that threw the enemy in panic to South. At about 12.30hrs Er.P12 reached the forest N of Mäntylä and at 14.50hrs Battle Group Kuovi took Mäntylä, thereby retaking our heavy AT gun lost to the enemy in the morning and reached on the left a point about 100m from Mikkola “M”. According to the captured radio messages the enemy situation at the moment was bad, the Finnish pressure was hard and there was a shortage of ammunition.
All our fighting during the day had a pivotal effect on the battles at Vuosalmi because the major part of the infantry of the attacking enemy division was left on the battlefield plus a rich war booty that however could not be but partly evacuated due to extremely intense fighting and greatly reduced and exhausted troops. During the day also 30 POW s were taken of every 142.D regiment and 506.RGK ( 4 officers among the prisoners).
During the afternoon the enemy shipped new reinforcements to the bridgehead and after an intense artillery preparation started making probing attacks at various points of the sector. The attempts of our strike forces to regain the original defence line were not successful due to heavy enemy fire, but by them many an enemy effort was frustrated and they suffered great casualties. The Regimental CO issued orders to hold the terrain gained by the counter-attack and to roll up enemy positions with small strike force outfits. Our dive bombers and our artillery launched destructive strikes at the enemy grouping areas.
All night mutual harassment fire and strike force operations went on while some strongholds changed hands a couple of times. The enemy rallied on the 10th July at 03.40hrs and at 05.10hrs to attack at the Vuosalmi road, but our intense counter-preparation scattered the troops, At 12.30hrs the enemy attacked at Resmethrin, gaining a break-in which was dealt with by an counterstrike by the Reserve Coy.
At the Saarilohko sector the two first weeks had been very calm. However it was noted that the enemy traffic to Ruokosaari island situated SE of Vasikkasaari island from Pölläkkälä had increased in the first days of July. In the evening of 7 July the traffic was seen to increase considerably.
On 8.July at 00.15hrs the enemy had launched an exceptionally intense artillery preparation at Vasikkasaari and Mustasaari. Our artillery counter-preparation had scattered the enemy mustering at the Kirkkomäki hill time and again.
At 02.00 in the night the enemy had by surprise dug into the alder bushes in the SE tip of Vasikkasaari. The enemy outfit had arrived from Ruokosaari either wading in the reeds or using floating vests. Our dense minefields had effected casualties on the enemy but they also were troublesome for our countermeasures.
At 06.00hrs about 30 of our bombers while raiding Harjula and Kirkkoniemi had also effectively hit Ruokosaari. The entire Saarilohko sector had been all day subjected to endless shelling and the casualties of III/JR7 comprised some 80 fallen and wounded. It was seen that ever new reinforcements were arriving in Ruokosaari, that were harassed by our artillery while the mortars were working the bridgehead in the reeds of Vasikkasaari.
By 15.30hrs two boats with men had been destroyed attempting to cross from Ruokosaari to Vasikkasaari. All through the evening attempts to clear the shore reeds had been going on but the enemy had pushed there new reinforcements whose fire had suppressed the attack of Lt. Jokinen's counter-attack outfit among others. Due to heavy casualties the entire III Btn had to by the by be shifted to defend Vasikkasaari.
In the night of 9 July the enemy attempts to attack to Mustasaari from the mainland were repelled. On the Saarilohko sector the tremendous enemy shelling went on until on 10 July at 13.00hrs the troops of enemy 10.D launched a powerful attack from their bridgehead in the reeds against Vasikkasaari. The defence of the III Btn was broken. A counterstrike by Lt. Voittis failed due to superior enemy firepower and by 13.55hrs the last III Btn soldiers left Vasikkasaari. Our casualties were heavy.
Battles at Vuosalmi on 10.-11. July 1944
During the afternoon several attacks, partly supported by tanks and assault guns were repelled mainly E of the Vuosalmi-Oravankytö road and at the river shore. During the day about one Division of enemy infantry troops participated in the attacks at various points of the sector. -At the SE part of Vasikkasaari the attacking force consisted of the troops of the enemy IR98/10.D and between Vasikkasaari and the ferry road IR62/10.D.
Enemy pressure continued before the midnight heavy and resulted at the road a minor break-in that was cleared by elements of II/JR57 at midnight. IV/19.Pr., that had been subordinated to the Regiment, had manned the shore sector at the ferry road and Liete meadows after III/JR7 had pulled back from Vasikkasaari and shifted to reserve, was ordered to man the positions they recently had vacated and absolutely keep the shore sector.
At 01.30hrs, just as our artillery preparation was about to start, the enemy managed to cross the strait to the mainland. The attack was stopped by the counter-attack force of IV/19.Pr and a battle patrol sent by 7./JR7 cleared the coastal terrain of enemies.
On the night 10/ 11.July JP2, 3 and 5 supported by two Stug companies were to attack to destroy the enemy bridgehead. Then JR7 was to be relieved by Jääk.Pr and JR57 to be the AC reserve. The artillery preparation started at 01.30hrs and lasted half an hour, consisting of thirty second barrages every three minutes.
At 02.00 the attack was launched but it was suppressed already in rallying phase due to an extremely intense enemy counter preparation. Only at places the attack managed to reach the old battle positions but nowhere past them. To the West of the road a problematic situation ensued as the men of JP5 ran away in masses. Similar cases occurred also on other attack points. The enemy was alert and profited by the situation, launching counter-attacks that were repelled by counterstrike by the old infantry outfits on the sector.
At 07.45 the enemy was pushed out of the positions of the II/JR15, whereafter the lines were again in our hands but in the rear there were plenty of Russian stragglers and “berrypickers”. Through the right seam between Metsärinne and Karvola an enemy recon outfit had managed to penetrate in our rear and they were”privately” engaged during the entire day by II/JR15 who were lacking competent commanders.
After Capt. Kuparinen had been wounded the previous night the scattered troops comprising parts of Er.P12:n, I Btn, IIBtn, II/JR57, Regimental Jaeger platoon and Detachment Kuovi.
Battles at Vuosalmi 11.-12. July 1944
At 13.45hrs the enemy started a strong and long artillery preparation and their infantry broke through at the sector of JP5. At Maj. Ahola´s sector the pressure was hardest at SE of the anonymous house situated between Karvola and Mäntylä. IV/19.Pr. Was grouped in a U-shaped defence line N of Vasikkasaari island immediately E of the ferry road. The Battalion repelled in these positions several furious enemy attacks, at times by counterstrike, and did not withdrew until receiving orders to do so. The remains of II/JR7 launched once more a successful counter-attack to evict the enemy exerting pressure at the direction of the road.
After the situation had thus culminated the Divisional CO at 15.00hrs granted permission to withdraw in emergency to the line Myllyoja – Regimental command post – Suursuo. The blocking line at Myllyoja had been skeleton manned by IIP during the entire battle.
At Maj. Ahola's sector the positions were tenaciously held and during the day were repelled more than ten attacks which were preceded by artillery preparation and at times supported by tanks, mostly in the Mäntylä direction. At the direction of the road on the sector of JP5 another unclear situation had again developed as the Jaegers had abandoned their positions without order, enabling the enemy to penetrate via the JP5 command post near the Sector command post.
The breakthrough was contained and the positions retaken by a counterstrike detachment led by Lt. Enbohm (JP5) and the mortar platoon of II/JR7, who kept firing despite the immediate vicinity of the enemy.
On the left wing IV/19.Pr. Fought all day a tenacious defensive battle against the enemy that was pressing on strongly, causing them heavy casualties. The terrain of Juvonen and Notkola was temporarily retaken with a counter-attack and casualties of some 150men was inflicted on the enemy there
During the day on the Vuosalmi sector a total of 11 T-34 tanks were destroyed, 7 of them by StuGs and 4 by infantry.
A low estimate is that the enemy lost in their dozens of attacks about 1500 men KIA.
The enemy controlled the air all day and they flew an indeterminate number of ground strafing and bombardment attacks against our troops.
Battle Group Ehrnrooth was to be relieved from the front line on the 11 July at 0400hrs but was delayed time and again. Not until 12.25hrs IP was disengaged to march to Oravankytö and at 16.30hrs I/JR57 relieved our IIP at the Myllyoja line. Maj. Ahola on the other hand went on still at midnight an uneven battle wit a few tens of ER.P12 men, the Regimental Jaeger platoon men and 14./JR7 men while the enemy was teeming at the left flank and even in the rear of his sector that he unswervingly was holding. The relay was mainly delayed by the fact that JP5 was partly scattered for the third time at 20.00hrs in the rear and the other units of Jääk.Pr. Were engaged by the enemy so that they could not be used for relief in the designed schedule.
At 24.00hrs the responsibility for the front was finally transferred to Col. Valkama (JR57), to whom were subordinated the ErP12, II/JR15 etc. units left in the front line until Jääk.Pr. Would manage to relieve them. 13./JR7 disengaged not until in the evening of 12. July by 13./JR57.
JR 7 had fought continuously for more than one month, causing strong enemy attack units the heaviest casualties:
Lampijärvi, Tonteri, Hartonen, Kekrola, Seppälänkylä, Ronnunkylä about 3000,
Siiranmäki about 5000,
Punnus, Salmenkaita about 350
Äyräpää bridgehead and Vuosalmi some 7000 men.
POWs taken of 14 different Infantry regiments: 61 POWs
Infantry alone destroyed 45 heavy and medium heavy tanks.
Finally the entire Regiment was shifted to the terrain NE of Oravankytö for R&R and to be reorganized and complemented.
Dated 12 July 1944
Regimental Commander, Col. Adolf. Ehrnrooth
Intelligence Officer Lt. N. Usvasalo
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23.15hrs The Company and the baggage train set out for Äyräpää.
The fighting outfits took defensive positions on the Vuosalmi ridge on the South shore of river Vuoksi. The supply of the Coy was accommodated in a village on the North shore of river Vuoksi. Cloudy day.
21.00hrs Pvt. Veikko Savolainen fell.
Sunny weather. Russki planes flying in large groups. AM the Russki launched a heavy bombardment at our positions. Shelling lasted one hour. Cpl. Tuomela, Pfc. Korhonen Pvt. Piispanen and T. Väisänen fell, all hit by one shell.
Intense firing all day.
13.30hrs Same old story. Pvt. Bagge was wounded.
Sunny weather. Minor firing activity except:
15.00hrs Enemy barrage and attack attempt
19.00hrs Repeated same
23.00hrs Repeated same. Our artillery was supporting us strongly.
Cpl. Hiiri, Pvt. Jääskeläinen and Salonen were wounded.
Replacement men received: Pvts Hammar, Kokko, Pylkkänen.
Midsummer day. Weather rainy and very cold. Minor firing activity. Boys are digging foxholes and reinforcing them with lumber taken from a lumber yard nearby. Enemy shells are killing lots of fish in river Vuoksi, and they provide variation for our diet.
Replacement men received: Pvts. Aalto, Eränen, Sarin.
In the night heavy weapons firing on both sides. Rain continues. Capt. Savolainen has been posted as the CO of the 5th Coy.
Pvt. Kärkkäinen was wounded.
The Coy received the first bicycle this summer for their disposal, serial no.178915.
Replacement men received: Sr. Sgt. Iikkola, Cpl. Hautamäki, Pfc. Nahkola, Pvts. Elovaara, Harju, Hautamäki, Kangas, Kestinmäki, Kettumäki, Koski, Nousulahti and Puukkolahti.
The Russki launched a heavy bombardment and attacked using tanks. The attack petered out in our fire.
11.30hrs the situation calmed down.
Sgt. Hiltunen was wounded.
The Company has been fed by transporting the food across the river with boats and it has proceeded successfully without casualties.
In the small hours the Coy was shifted in reserve and split on the both sides of the river.
23.00hrs Supply was transferred to Oravakytö village some 9km off.
Weapons cleaning, sauna bath and rest.
Field fortification work, replacements received, some reorganization of the Coy.
Alert in the morning. Field fortification work.
Still Field fortification work. As replacement arrived Lt. Heliste, Pekka, he was posted as the leader of the AT platoon.
Field fortification work. Russki is giving harassment fire with artillery and mortars.
Field fortification work. Russki harassment fire continued and it was so intense at the bridgehead at the work area of the II Platoon that they had to stop working every now and then.
04.30hrs One hour murderous Russki rain of shells started using every size of heavy weapons, immediately followed by a Russki infantry attack.
05.30hrs III Platoon that had been in reserve on the N side of the river, part of the II Platoon and the AT platoon set out to the bridgehead to ward off the Russki attack.
At the same time the II Platoon, in reserve in the bridgehead, was alerted but it was too late, but then the Russki found themselves on the rear ridge.
In the ensuing battle, the Russki being struck at from the left flank, they were knocked out of the rear ridge and later from the first line. Before this the Russki managed to place two MG s at the river shoreline and fire at the boats transporting the wounded.
The Russki attempted again in the evening but without success.
AM was more calm but during PM heavy harassment fire. During the day Er.P25 relieved us and assumed responsibility for the sector.
17.30hrs An intense shelling and attack started. The men of the Er.P (25) ran away as soon as the shelling had started.
The Russki was rushing at us until next morning and managed to take the bridgehead from the seam to the ferry point.
During this two day battle we lost about 2/3 of our Company, among others Coy CO Capt. Savolainen was wounded and left behind in the bridgehead.
AT Coy CO Lt Heliste fell. III Platoon CO 2nd Lt. Harjanne was wounded.
2nd Lt. L. Mäkelä was posted as the Coy CO.
The survivors of the Coy were rallied to the previous Coy reserve positions for rest and re-equipment. (On the North shore ? Tr.rem.)
21 men were received as replacements.
Now let us have a look at the war diary of Er.P25, the unit that did not distinguish themselves much at Äyräpää:
Units are at field fortification work.
13.00-16.30hrs The CO in the 2.D HQ liaising and getting transparent drawings on the field fortification work to be carried out.
During the day some 260 men from Täyd.P3 were received for field fortification work on the 2.D sector and they were accommodated in the terrain N of Hämeensuo bog. The work instructions were provided by the CO but the tools were provided by 2.D. Their supply is to be provided by Er.P25.
09.00-12.00hrs The CO inspected the work areas of the 3. and 4. Coys with Capt. Asikainen (?).
11.00-15.00hrs Col. Lt. Laaksonen and Capt. Hakala inspecting the field fortification work, the CO joined them for the tour on the work areas of the 1. and 2. Coys.
18.00hrs Lt. Vuorio arrived from the D. as replacement and he was posted to the disposal of the HQ (?) for now.
18.00hrs 1+39 men set out to Er.K/III AC, transferred there, escorted by 2nd Lt. Pasanen (it is probable that these men were troublemakers removed to a discipline Coy, tr.rem.)
24.00hrs Again for the same destination 1+14 men escorted by Lt. Ranin. A total of 45 men were transferred.
Units at F.f. Work
15.00.-16.00hrs Weather: Hot in the 2.D area with Maj. Koroma.
2nd Lt. Hietala was transferred to 1.Coy and 2nd Lt. Huotinen to 4.Coy
Units at F.f.work
15.00hrs Col. Lt. Laaksonen and Maj. Hälvä familiarized themselves with the transparent drawings describing the f.f.work carried out by the Btn.
18.00hrs A letter (=written orders?) received indicating that the Coy/Täyd.P2 shall be transferred and replaced by Capt. Päiviö's Btn.
The day was quiet, only a couple of times our a/c flew from N to S.
Strength on 30.June 1944
Should be 30+149+842= 1022
Actual 30+145+648= 823
Shortage 1+0+146= 147
Hospitalized 0+3+35= 38
MIA, deserted 5+2= 7 (pvts, tr.rem.)
WIA 0+1+5 = 6
POW 0+1+14 =15
Units continuing F.f. Work
13.00hrs Order received: One rifle Coy shall be transferred to f.f.work to Taliala, an accommodation scout is to be sent out immediately, the worksite is to be handed over by Maj. Lindblad's Btn.
18.00hrs CO ordered the 2.Coy to take the task and they marched out at 18.30hrs and were there and accommodated at 23.00hrs. The Coy was accommodated at a village N of Haukilammensuo where the worksite is situated.
18.30hrs Jaeger Platoon was transferred to the previous campsite of the 2.Coy and they received their old worksite.
Units continuing F.f. Work
09.00-12.00hrs CO inspecting the worksites of 3.and 4. Coys
15.30-17.00hrs CO inspected the Btn supply and the Quartermaster informed on the bookkeeping.
Units at F.f. Work.
05.00hrs Enemy started air bombardment of the Äyräpää bridgehead, shelling followed very intense all day.
Weather: half cloudy
AC orders received: the Btn is to be alerted and to be sent marching for Vuosalmi. The CO is to liaise with JR7 CO who relays the task. The Btn is subordinated to JR7.
03.15hrs CO issued orders by phone to the Coy CO s. All vehicles shall remain at the Btn supply point except the ammunition carts.
04.30hrs CO set out on bicycle for JR7 Command post with Lts. Ranin and Vettori.
Enemy fire under the march was quite plentiful and the following officer casualties were taken:
2nd Lt Seege, 3.Coy
Capt. Noren, 3. Coy
Lt. Pertilä, 3. Coy
2nd Lt. Huittinen, 3.Coy
Capt. Helovuori, 1. Coy
2nd Lt. Muotinen, 4. Coy
The enemy launched a powerful artillery strike at the bridgehead followed by an attack at the sector of the 1. and 3. Coys, managing to create a break-in. Before midnight and during the night the enemy widened and deepened their break-in managing to reach the Suvanto (Sic) shoreline at about 02.30hrs.
At 01.00hrs the first aid post was forced to relocate, before that they however managed to evacuate in the very last moment the wounded across the Vuoksi. The first aid post personnel swam across.
The command post was shifted to the left on the 2.Coy sector
Lt. Kalliola 1.Coy WIA
2nd Lt. Halonen 1.Coy WIA
Lt. Partanen 4.Coy WIA
Lt. Salomäki HQ Coy WIA
Lt. Noren was posted as the 3.Coy CO, Lt. Vuorio was posted as the 4.Coy CO as Capt. Nevansaari (?) had hurt his back badly. As liaison officer was posted Lt. Salmelin (?) and Sr. Sgt. Iso-Sotila as the CO of the Jaeger Platoon.
In the course of the morning it was attempted to send food to the units but only the 2.Coy received their rations.
During AM at the Coy supply points arrived men who had swum across Suvanto (sic!) whose re-arming and re-equipping was started immediately.
The CO ordered that the men congregated in the supply points were to be sent immediately to
Lt. Noren set out with 104 men for the bridgehead. Of these only 40 to 50 arrived at the bridgehead positions to support the 2.Coy.
14.00hrs The enemy launched an attack after heavy artillery bombardment at the ferry site managing to reach our positions but they were thrown back by a strong counterstrike.
The evening and the night were relatively calm, the normal harassment fire went on.
00.00hrs During AM it was relatively calm yet the Russki was concentrating their troops against our positions.
13.00hrs The enemy launched a heavy artillery bombardment and started to attack with a force of about two Btns and supported by 80 assault guns and several tanks.
13.30hrs Communication lines to the Regiment were cut off
13.45hrs The CO issued orders to withdraw. Some managed to make it to the boats, some swum and some were seen to be taken prisoners by the enemy.
17.30hrs The CO received orders to muster the Btn at the terrain E of Haapasaari meadows.
Present were of the fighting units about 50 men. 2.Coy had suffered great casualties.
Lt. Heikki (?) 2.Coy WIA
Lt. Saarilahti 4.Coy WIA
Lt. Noren 3.Coy WIA
2md Lt. Helovuori 2.Coy WIA
Lt. Autio MIA.
The Btn spent the night in the said terrain.
Casualties as far as they are known on 5 to 7 July 1944:
Roll call result: 14+77+281
(Tr.remark: As mentioned above the roll call on 30 June:
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Fighting at Vuosalmi in Summer 1944
Kansa Taisteli 04, 1961
The following account is added here to describe the fighting at Vuosalmi against the Soviet bridgehead.
The author was a Company Commader in Jaeger Brigade at Vuosalmi in 1944. There is a map in the source on p.110 .
The war as a whole certainly was an unforgettable period for anyone involved, whether on home front or in first line. Most participants would be able to pick among the violent events of those years some incidents that had a special effect and that are prominent among the experiences.
As to the author the war experience gained during the heavy days at Vuosalmi in the summer of 1944 is such. In the following lines, basing on my war diary, I shall descibe some events that have stuck in my mind.
The battles of Kuuterselkä, Tali, Ihantala and Vuosalmi had depleted the best men of the J.Pr, and the outfit had to be reinfoced with men born in 1902 to 1907, who were far too old for Jaeger outfits. The makeup of the troops had considerably changed as the author returned to the J.Pr. HQ on 11 July 1944 having recovered from the wounds taken at Kuuterselkä.
At Kuuterselkä the battles were mainly fought by Jaegers who had been doing their compulsory military duty in 1941. It was not hard to admit the severity of the present situation in the J.Pr. HQ as the Brigade CO, Col. Puroma when welcoming me set his hand on my shoulder and uttered the words that were imprinted in my mind:
- Now listen, Lieutenant, as you now are going to the first line, remember to stay firm and fulfil your duty. By now in the Brigade rear quite a many deserters have been arrested, and you certainly know what is the result if that is going to continue.
I do, Colonel, Sir, I responded as energetically as I could and as if it would have been in my authority to either end or allow this kind of “scoundreling”.
I, too, was startled by my own demonstrative behaviour, but seeing the Brigade HQ chief Capt. Pöyhönen, my old Coy CO, to smile furtively I regained my self-assurance and added:
Colonel, Sir, I shall certaily try to do my best having returned to my outfit.
Very well, the Colonel responded, put out his hand wishing me success and asking me to relay his regards to the JP 3 Commander, Maj. Hynninen
So we have been for a couple of days “in action”, in a small foxhole that felt so safe, spitting out sand under an almost incessant artillery or mortar fire. My “abode” had been abandoned for a while as the nerves of my prdecessor had collapsed under too much strain. My excellent Runner who had been there from the very beginning, Cpt. Kuulas had recounted what was left of the 1st Coy and the rest I had found out when inspecting the line.
There were enough veteran Jaegers to serve as Squad Leaders but not much more. There are between them “family fathers”, men unaccustomed to war, born in the years 1902 to 1907, most of them were carrying their backpacks all the time. (Implying that they did not trust their ability to hold the line, tr.rem.) As the darkness set – for some scant hours – an invisible force pulls them together so that four to five man are lying in one heap, leaving frighteninly long gaps in the line. There has been an intent to evacuate the fallen in the rear, because the days have ben warm, and their presence appears not to improve anyone's battle spirit. The men to do this must be provided by the reserve, because I cannot afford to take one single man from the first line.
For a couple of days I have tried to make up a plan how to act to avoid a major catastroph on our sector. I keep repeating the Colonel's words in my mind and here their effect is many times more powerful. I have rallied the Platoon leaders one by one for “introduction” and repeated them the Colonel's message given to me in the HQ, thinking that “the end justifies the means “. At the same time I would provide them with a piece of news on a Jaeger Regiment where a 2nd Lieut, a Platoon CO, was sentenced to 8 months of jail for not using tough enough measures as his men fled.
Our responsibility is shared. There is no chance of leniency and the results are known to everyone. Actually an uncomplicated and clear messaage but when applied in a tight spot there is more than a handful, as every war veteran, from private to general, surely admits.
Maybe the enemy is up to something special because today (July 11) they have been specially active. Maybe they were provoked by our Battalion's attack last night. Even though the 1st Coy participated only by providing fire support, we have been suffering casualties all day, our list includes two fallen and six wounded.
During the day some replacements came, men of older age classes right from a training camp. Theri arrival took place at an inconvenient moment, because a harder sort of barrage wiped out a couple of men ritht at the Company command post (30 to 40m from the front line) and the survivors would initially not calm down, neither with carrort nor stick. I found that m any of them were praying for themselves and their families. It was not nice to look at and it was not possivble to say that look, if this is so hard for you, go home. Each of us had enough of their own problems, starting with fear.
One had to act according to the situation and tell them: Calm down now, men, this is the cold truth and it cannot be helped. They had to be escorted to the line, a spade had to be put in their hands and pointed the place where to dig a foxhole. Then make sure that the enemy does not get too close for comfort, in these circumstances it is the only way to save yourselves!
At 1900hrs the enemy launched a two-and-a-half hour ever more intense bombardment with heavy weapons intermittent with “Organ gun” (=rockets, tr.rem.) at the rocky soil, it felt that one's soul would be ripped off he body. But here at Vuosalmi our artillery was alive, too: Six-inchers would swish at an even rate overhead, discouraging the major aggressivity of the Neighbour troops while nicely warming our hearts. Yet our casualty list was added with another six wounded by 21.30 hrs.
The next hor and a half were again a lillte calmer period until about 2300hrs a true bombardment started, directed both at the first line and the rear. A little before midnight loud sound of speech was heard in front of our line, commands in stern tone were audible, so it was not hard to guess what was the matter.
As the enemy H hour was up the bushes and hummocks appeared to be swarming “people”. Our artillery was doing their best and the noise was ear-deafening. Our replacements found themselves in a real baptism of fire and the nerves of the more experienced Jaegers were under strain. The enemy assaulted yelling “uraa” but machine guns and SMGs mowed them down on in front of our positions like hay. The attack was renewed twice and bloodily repelled, the “uraa” yells were cut short at the latest within hand grenade range.
The experienced Jaegers had become inspired by the battle, they were seeking better shooting positions from the shell holes. Deeds were done that were never in detail recorded in the war history. The task was all too natural, aiming at one single objective: the attack had to be repelled.
The example provided by the experiencended men had an effect. Consequently some of the recent replacements were firing their weapons like veterans. There were a few exceptions, and efficient “object lesson” was provided as the nerves of a couple of older men were not able to withstand the “uraa” yells of he enemy: they abandoned their foxholes believing that salvation was found in the use of their legs. After a few steps to the rear a burst, likely of LMG fire, in a miserable manner cut short their attempt.
Afther the third assault the enemy was convinced that they were not able to create a breakthrough in this manner. The situation calmed down, and we were able to report to the Battalion HQ on the course of events and the repelled attacks.
I and Kuulas had fallen in a sort of torpor in our foxholes after several days of staying awake. A Battalion runner tapped on my helmet and gave me a piece of paper on which I read the thanks of the Brigade CO on the repulsed enemy attacks. I wonder if the hard-pressed Colonel was able to guess what kind of value and significance his greeting had on the battle spirit of our Company. Within 24 hours we were to be subjected to a yet greater ordeal, a furious tank attack. As the Runner according to his orders requested information on enemy casualties I could not help answering a little sarcasrically that two hundred is not an exaggeration at all. If my word is doubted anyone is welcome to try to check. In my opinion more important were our casualties although they certain´ly were but a fraction of that of the enemyh. As the Runner was gone I proceeded to forward the thanks we had received to the Platoons, who knows how soon the invigorating effect would be needed.
I had to adapt the message for the replacement men, not forgetting the recently receivd “object lesson”.
As to the “old hands” no embellishment was needed. It was enough to tell that the darn Colonel had sent out his Runner with pieces of paper in the middle of the night. With shared pleasure I and the Platoon leaders were able to state that a surprising number of the new men appeared to be field-worthy. We would need more of them soon, because else the distance between the men would become too great.
My diary markings continue:
1330hrs Continuous bombardment.
1415hrs Mortar fire is very intense and accurate, causing 2 fallen and 5 wounded as casualties.
1840hrs Continuous bombardment lasting up to midnight. Then the situation turned so calm that it made one suspect that some “nastiness” was being planned. Ony our recon a/c were active.
02.10hrs We were informed of the intelligence findings. A Battalion Runner handed me a paper telling that our recon a/c had spotted enemy tank formations in front of our Battalioin, also infantry was being mustered. Our artillery was working the confirmed grouping areas with a force of 12 artillery battalions as we were later informed. We may be in for some trouble!
The intelligence findings were without delay relayed for the information of the Platoon leaders and we were put on standby which means that eyes, reddened by lack of sleep were rubbed open, the heaviest sleepers were shaken awake. They were told that the enemy did not appear to be satisified with the result of their attacks yesterday and they were going to attack again, this time for a change supported by tanks. “For reasons of health” it was advised to keep the eyes open. It was emphasized that you would not leave your foxhole, it would be your certain death. Let the tanks pass by, they shall be dealt with in the rear, and we have Panzerfausts, anyway.
There was no time to make a long speech because:
03.00hrs Tank engines were started at a distance of a few hundred meters. This was a piece of unaccustomed “music” in these circumstances for mosrt of our replacement men, but to be honest I must admit that the rest of us was by no means charmed. Least of all those men who had a responsibility and care not for their own little life. Tank panic is such an “ailment” that if it is allowed to run its course the praise earned yesterday would be forgotten alongside with plenty of other things, consequently a lot was on stake for everyone.
The enemy must have bungled up something because it took a considerably long time for the tanks to appear in our sight. Could it have been our artillery, pounding strongly the terrain in front of our positions, creating disorder in the enemy formation? Or was it just tension caused by the waiting that had to be releived somehow? Maybe both at the same time.
At last trees began to fall down in front of tanks and we could see six heavy tanks rushing at our lines. A large number of infantrymen were teeming at their side and behind them. An intense firefight ensued, of course the tanks were not stopped but the infantry was. As the tanks were crossing our first line they were not accompanied by a single infantryman. Three tanks made a turn past the sector of our Company but the rest started firing apparently at random so that pieces of trees and rocks were flying around. One tank drove right on top of Lt. Kolehmainen´s foxhole but it was sturdy and deep enough so that no damage was done. This teacher from Järvenpää was so angry that he climbed up through sand and knocked at the tank sides with bursts of his SMG.
In the middle part of our Company sector the dreaded tank panic was about to break out. Some replacements had had enough of the tanks buzzing in their rear, they started off, inducing others to join them. Artillery radiomen were already about to pack their gear as I arrived on the scene. As I enquired what they were doing I was told:
Who's going to stay here as everyone else is leaving!
No way lads, this won't do.
For the first and last time during the entire war I drew my pistol to return order. I ran in front of the tentative deserters :
Not a step more in the rear, get in the line, the lot of you!
Cpl. Kuulas was yelling with his fist raised at another spot, behind the men who were trying to desert. I do not know what could have happened if one of the tanks had not spotted the fleeing men. Bursts of MG or LMG fire pinned everyone down. At least one man was hit by the burst, he collapsed lifeless. Another “object lesson” was provided. It was not until lying on the ground I recognised what kind of danger I had been subjected to.
In war sudden and surprising chances are often decisive. Another happened just at this critcal moment. A Pz.-faust man found himself at a favourable position and the tank harrying us was holed in the flank and burst into flames. There was some cheering and the day was saved. The two other tanks hurriedly retreated to their own lines, vanishing in the alder bushes before they could be dealt with.
Get in cover, everyone, the tank is about to blow up!
It is not safe to be here, I told the men who had mosly recovered from the surprise.
To my amazement they obeyed my order without delay. They changed their direction back to the foxholes, and their speed could not be reproached. I was drenched by sweat. I was feeling odd shaking in my legs and hands. The tension had been relieved, the reaction was a feeling of limpiness.
We now could inform the Battalion about the destroyed tank and repulsed attack. During the melee they had several times asked for a situation repoert but there was neither time nor much to report before the worst was over.
Information about tanks attacking us had also alerted the Brigade that sent a trained close range AT squad with Pz.-Schrecks and -fausts to the sector of our Company led by 2nd Lt. Sumari. They found employment in quite an unexpected manner, because in the middle of the day:
10.40hrs a single heavy tank started approaching our lines. We were looking at its arrival with rounded eyes because the fighting had died down completely and not a single infantryman was seen escorting the tank.
Lt. Sumari set up his men. In the neighbouring foxholes we were excited to see what woud happen. The young, recently called up close range AT men had been quickly trained in the use of their weapons by the Brigade, were now facing the reality for the first time.
Now the range to the tank was just 50 to 60 m. The enemy must have spotted some movement on our side because a shell nastily swished over our heads. Yet the heavy tank kept thundering on without stopping. It was heading for the remains of the tank we had destroyed that morning. The AT men wera already holding their fingers on the trigger. They adjusted their aim once more and then fired a volley at the “monster”. They could not miss because the range was about ten meters by then. They indeed were cool headed boys, allowing the tank to get so close. They must have been trained to do that.
The tank stopped but did not catch fire. The able-bodied enemies kept firing their pistols from the open front hatch, so that it was still dangerous just ogle at the tank. What is that? The third AT man does not want to be left behind, he is getting up from his foxhole and running to the tank. He dumps a hand grenade down the hatch and he is just about back in his foxhole before there is a tremendous explosion that shakes the environment. Pieces of tank are flying in the air and greedy flames are licking the wreck. One track wheel was found at a distance of 50m near my “command post” foxhole. Later Kuulas used it to reinforce our foxhole.
The crew of the tank had met a sudden death. Their remains, such as a hand cut off at wrist, could be found near by. After all there had been some infantrymen escorting the tank although they had been able to hide in the tall grass as they had stayed inactive. We managed to nab a prisoner, who when interrogated admitted that his age was but 14 years and despite that he was already a Corporal.
11.19hrs. A handsome Stuka formatin was spotted, in spite of heavy AA fire they dumped their load on the tank park so that the ground was rocking and swaying like jelly.
The Brigade was soon informed about the deed of the AT men and by the order of the Colonel the Battalion CO – Maj. Kytömaa, or Maj. Vahla – came with Capt. Mäkinen to forward the greeting of the Brigade CO to the plucky AT men whose tunic breast was now adorned by VR IV and whose shouder badges could now include the PFC stripe. The rest of us got their share of the thanks.
11.30hrs. Kuulas suggested that we had deserved some surrogate coffee after this show better than for ages. Since the fighting activity was low and there was a nice sunshine we had set up a “table” behind a two meter tall boulder some 5m behind our foxholes, we supposed it woud provide enough cover.
We were four men who just had settled down with our mugs as suddenly without any warning a barrage of direct fire from the far side of the river Vuoksi hit the surroundings. I threw myself in the nearest foxhole as the first shells had burst already but there was not only me but a heavy built man collapsed on top of me. I found myself in a tight squeeze and I tried to lift him up from me because there was blood flowikng right at my face and neck from his wounds. My left ear was totally blocked by blood and I could not tell if I personally was wounded or not.
The barrage was over as quickly as it had stated, but it was harder to fix the damage. The medics were handed a job to check and patch up. Lt. Kulmala, bloodied, was leaning against a rock looking totally void of life. Upon closer examination, however, it was found that he was showing signs of life. Another three Jaegers had taken so bad wounds that all of them had to be hastily carried to the field dressing post, which activity tied up an annoying large number of men. As to me I did not receive a single scratch, Kuulas likewise.
Our packets of surrogate coffee and the delicacies had vanished in the blast. All that was left were some sooty cubes of sugar and a couple of bent spoons. Kuulas set out to borrow a field kettle from someone and finally we did have our surrogate coffee, albeit with less baked goods and in a more sombre mood.
Our Battalioin held the front line until July 20th 13.30hrs when JR4 relieved us. There were some hard incidents in the period from the date of our story and the relief but there is no room in my account for them.
It was at Vuosalmi that our Battalioin ended their fight agaisnt our many-year enemy even though we were not able to even dream about it at the moment of the relief. We were equally unaware of the fact that a few weeks later our enemies would become our allies and the previous brothers in arms woud turn into enemies, and our battalionm was to shed more blood.
The battles at Vuosalmi had been heavy and bloody. They were heavy mostly because the resources of our small nation were slowly drained. The replacement men were fighting better than expected with regard to their experience, age and training . I do not think anyone of us would have coped any better in those circumstances.
The fact that the line was hold and a significant defensive victory was gained was at least for our Company due to the Platoon leaders and the surviving experienced NCOs and Jaegers still in the ranks. Many of them had to pay for their bravery at Vuosalmi with their life or wounds. Some of them I remember now: the fearless Runner Pfc. Salonen, who met his fate on his way to the Battalion HQ and of the wounded Sr.Sgt. Toivola who was carried badly wounded past my command post. Toivola, in service from the first day of the war on, was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant due to his merit on battlefield.
Cpl. Olavi Kuulas survived unscathed the firestorms of Vuosalmi but in the Lapland War this faithful and brave leader of the Admin Squad did not return from patrol at Vuotso. The situation being unclear and the others being hesitant Kuulas, as his habit was, took the lead. The enemy had set up an ambush with auto weapons and surprised him at a short range. He went missing without trace.
I wish to dedicte my modest account to the brave and obligating memory of Cpl. Kuulas and his friends in fate of the 1st Company.