Friday, November 30, 2012

The Start of the Winter War

Today (November 30th) marks the 73rd Anniversary of the start of the Winter War.

As I wrote in a previous post, one of the background causes of this conflict was the Soviet false flag which is now called the Shelling of Mainila, as well as demands for Finnish territory. The Soviet Union very confidently thought they could bowl over the small Republic within a matter of days. N.N. Voronov, who was in charge of logisitcs for the artillery arm of the invasion was asked what was the state of the ammunition stocks that could be drawn for the invasion. "That depends, Are you planning to attack or defend... and by the way, how much time is allotted for the operation?" he record saying to two officers at Meretskov's HQ.           "Between ten and twelve days," was the reply from the men.
Voronov, who had been studying the plans and maps of Finland replied "I'll be happy if everything can be resolved in two or three months". This answer did not sit well with the officers and Voronov was mocked. Commissar Kulik then ordered Voronov that all his estimates were to be based on the assumption that the entire Finnish operation would last no longer than twelve days.

The Red Army possessed three times the amount of soldiers, thirty times more aircraft and hundred more times of tanks (Finland only had 2 companies of FT-17 Renault light Tanks and 2 companies of Vickers 6-ton Medium Tanks). Soviet Propaganda portrayed the Red Army as invincible, the righteous liberators of the oppressed peoples of Finland from the hand of the bourgeois Mannerheim-Cajander Gang.

The first day of the conflict saw a singular plane fly over Helsinki and drop leaflets urging the citizens to overthrow the Government, then in a twist dropped five light bombs in the area of Malmi Airport. Then about an hour later 9 SB-2 Medium Bombers from Estonia bombed Helsinki, first aiming for the harbour (which all bombs fell into the water) and than banked to head towards the heart of the city. Bombs dropped around the architecturally brilliant Helsinki Railway Station but missed, however they did hit the public building in front of the station, killing forty civilians and injuring many more. The entire raid damaged one hanger at the airport, hit the Helsinki Technical Institute (killed several staff and students), several houses of the working class population and ironically, the Soviet Legation Building.

This was not the only raid that day, another raid hit Helsinki at 1430 (Helsinki saw 200 civilians dead at the end of the day), as well as similar raids on Turku, Viipuri (now known as Vyborg), a hydroelectric plant at Imatra and a gas mask factory in Lahti.

The Soviet Baltic Fleet landed marine parties on the islands of Sieksari, Lavanssari, Tytarsaari and Suursaari with little resistance  These islands had been part of the demands made by the Soviet Government in the run up to the war.

Luckily the Finnish army was well trained  despite its lack of munitions. They knew the area, were fighting for their homes and family. The entire conflict would touch everyone in Finland, over 340,000 men were serve on the various fronts along the border. They would account for nearly 127,000 dead Russians and injury another 188,000. They would suffer over 25,000 dead and 43,000 wounded, as well 1,000 becoming POWs.

The war would last 3 months, 1 week and 5 days. It would see the Red Army being given a massive bloody nose, with the Finnish forces winning on almost every front (Only on the Karelian Isthmus would the Finns retreat to their last line of defence).

This is just a small overview of the beginning of the Winter War. I am planning to write more articles over the next 3 months to coincide with various battles, important dates and interesting facts of this very obscure conflict of what became known as The Second World War.

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