Battle of Suomussalmi

The Battle of Suomussalmi was a battle fought between Finnish and Soviet forces in the Winter War. The action took place from around December 7, 1939, to January 8, 1940. The outcome was a Finnish victory against superior forces. Suomussalmi is considered the clearest, most important, and most significant Finnish victory in the northern half of Finland.[3] In Finland, the battle is still seen today as a symbol of the entire Winter War itself.

Course of battle

Suomussalmi battle from 30 November to 8 December 1939
Diagram of the Battle of Suomussalmi from November 30 to December 8, 1939. The Soviet 163rd Division advanced to the town of Suomussalmi.

On November 30, 1939, the Soviet 163rd Rifle Division crossed the border between Finland and the Soviet Union and advanced from the north-east towards the village of Suomussalmi. The Soviet objective was to advance to the city of Oulu, effectively cutting Finland in half. This sector had only one Finnish battalion (Er.P 15), which was placed near Raate, outside Suomussalmi.

Suomussalmi was taken with little resistance on December 7 (only two incomplete companies of covering forces led a holding action between the border and Suomussalmi), but the Finns destroyed the village before this, to deny the Soviets shelter, and withdrew to the opposite shore of lakes Niskanselkä and Haukiperä.

The first extensive fight started on December 8, when Soviet forces began to attack across the frozen lakes to the west. Their attempt failed completely. The second part of Soviet forces led the attack to the northwest on Puolanka, that was defended by the Er.P 16 (lit. 16th detached battalion), that had just arrived. This attempt also failed.

On December 9, the defenders were reinforced with a newly founded regiment (JR 27). Colonel Hjalmar Siilasvuo was given the command of the Finnish forces and he began immediate counter-measures to regain Suomussalmi. The main forces advanced on Suomussalmi, but failed to take the village, suffering serious losses.

On December 24, Soviet units counterattacked, but failed to break through the surrounding Finnish forces.

Reinforced with two new regiments (JR 64 and JR 65), the Finns again attacked on December 27. This time, they took the village, and the Soviets retreated in panic over the surrounding frozen lakes. A large part of them managed to reach the Russian border along the Kiantajärvi lake.

During this time, the Soviet 44th Rifle Division had advanced from the east towards Suomussalmi. It was entrenched on the road between Suomussalmi and Raate and got caught up in the retreat of the other Soviet forces.

Between January 4 and January 8, 1940, the 44th Rifle Division was divided into isolated groups and destroyed by the Finnish troops (in a tactic known as motti), leaving much heavy equipment for the Finnish troops.[4]

Outcome

Liekki Suomussalmi
"Liekki" ("Flame") memorial sculpted by Alvar Aalto

The battle resulted in a major victory for the Finns. If the Soviet Union had captured the city of Oulu, the Finns would have had to defend the country on two fronts and an important rail link to Sweden would have been severed. The battle also gave a decisive boost to the morale of the Finnish army.

In addition, Finnish forces on the Raate-Suomussalmi road captured a large amount of military supplies, including tanks (43), field-guns (71), trucks (260), horses (1,170), anti-tank guns (29) and other weapons, which were greatly needed by the Finnish army.

Alvar Aalto sculpted a memorial for the Finnish soldiers who died.[5]

Analysis

The Battle of Suomussalmi is often cited as an example of how a small force, properly led and fighting in familiar terrain, can defeat a vastly numerically superior enemy. Factors which contributed to the Finnish victory included:

  • Finnish troops having higher mobility due to skis and sleds; in contrast, Soviet heavy equipment confined them to roads.
  • The Soviet objective to cut Finland in half across the Oulu region – while appearing reasonable on a map, this was inherently unrealistic, as the region was mostly forested marshland, with its road network consisting mainly of logging trails. Mechanized divisions had to rely on these, becoming easy targets for the mobile Finnish ski troops.
  • Finnish strategy was flexible and often unorthodox, for example, targeting Soviet field kitchens, which demoralized Soviet soldiers fighting in a sub-Arctic winter.
  • Soviet army being poorly equipped, especially with regard to winter camouflage clothing.
  • In contrast, Finnish troops' equipment were well suited for warfare in deep snow and freezing temperatures.
  • Finnish army had very high morale: they were defending their homes. Soviet troops had only political reasons for their attack, and consequently lost their will to fight soon despite continual efforts by Soviet propagandists.
  • Soviet counter-intelligence failures: Finnish troops often intercepted the Soviet communications, which relied heavily on standard phone lines.[6]
  • Simplicity where needed, as the final assault was a simple head-on charge, decreasing the chances of tactical errors. Rough weather also favoured comparatively simple plans.
  • The Soviet Red Army was still suffering from the aftermaths of Stalin's army purges in the 1930s, with many replacement officers being incompetent and inexperienced.[7]

See also

References

Citations

  1. ^ a b Kulju 2007, p. 195. The first Finnish reports estimated 600 dead, 162 missing and 1,200 wounded, but later some men died of their wounds.
  2. ^ (in Finnish)(in Russian) Suomalaiset ja venäläiset tutkijat etsivät yhdessä totuutta talvisodasta
  3. ^ Trotter, William (January 2000). A Frozen Hell: The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939–1940. Algonquin Books. p. 171. ISBN 1565122496.
  4. ^ The Mighty FinnWar Nerd, the eXile, Issue 254, December 29, 2006
  5. ^ Chilvers, Ian (2004)
  6. ^ Snow and Slaughter at Suomussalmi – Hughes-Wilson, John – Military History, January/February 2006, page 50
  7. ^ World War II – Willmott, H.P. et al., Dorling Kindersley Publishers Ltd, 2004

Bibliography

  • Chilvers, Ian, ed. (2004) [1988]. "Aalto, Alvar". The Oxford Dictionary of Art (3rd ed.). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. p. 1. ISBN 0-19-860476-9.
  • Kulju, Mika (2007). Raatteen tie : Talvisodan pohjoinen sankaritarina (in Finnish). Helsinki: Ajatus kirjat. ISBN 978-951-20-7218-7.

External links

Coordinates: 64°53′18″N 28°53′20″E / 64.88833°N 28.88889°E

54th Rifle Division (Soviet Union)

The 54th Rifle Division was an infantry division of the Soviet Union's Red Army and Soviet Army, formed twice. The division was formed in 1936 and fought in the Winter War. The division spent most of World War II in Karelia fighting with Finnish troops in the Continuation War. After Finland left the war the division was relocated southward and fought in the East Prussian Offensive and the Prague Offensive in 1945. The division was disbanded in the summer of that year. The 54th Rifle Division was awarded the Order of Lenin, the Order of the Red Banner and the Order of Kutuzov 2nd class. It was also awarded the honorific "Masuria" for its actions in the East Prussian Offensive. The division was reformed in 1955 from the 341st Rifle Division and became a motor rifle division in 1957.

9th Army (Soviet Union)

The 9th Army of the Soviet Union's Red Army was a Soviet field army, active from 1939 – 43.

Alexei Vinogradov

Alexei Ivanovich Vinogradov (Russian: Алексе́й Ива́нович Виногра́дов; 12 February 1899 – 11 January 1940) was a Soviet kombrig and the commander of the 44th Rifle Division. His unit took part in the Soviet invasion of Poland and the Winter War against the Finns. The unit perished in the Battle of Raate Road and Vinogradov was executed by the Soviet military for the failure.

Battle of Raate Road

The Battle of Raate Road was a battle fought during the Winter War between the Soviet Union and Finland in January 1940, as a part of the Battle of Suomussalmi.

On December 7, 1939, the Soviet 163rd Rifle Division captured Suomussalmi, but found itself trapped deep inside Finnish territory, and the Soviet 44th Rifle Division was sent to aid the 163rd. Over the next week, Colonel Hjalmar Siilasvuo's outnumbered 9th Division stopped and decisively defeated the Soviet forces on the Raate-Suomussalmi road. Finnish motti tactics proved to be very effective in this battle.

Encirclement

Encirclement is a military term for the situation when a force or target is isolated and surrounded by enemy forces.This situation is highly dangerous for the encircled force: at the strategic level, because it cannot receive supplies or reinforcements, and on the tactical level, because the units in the force can be subject to an attack from several sides. Lastly, since the force cannot retreat, unless it is relieved or can break out, it must either fight to the death or surrender. A special kind of encirclement is the siege. In this case, the encircled forces are enveloped in a fortified position in which long-lasting supplies and strong defences are in place, allowing them to withstand attacks. Sieges have taken place in almost all eras of warfare. In modern warfare, an encircled force that is not under siege is commonly referred to as a pocket.

Encirclement has been used throughout the centuries by military leaders, including generals such as Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan, Khalid bin Waleed, Hannibal, Sun Tzu, Yi Sun Shin, Shaka Zulu, Wallenstein, Nader Shah, Napoleon, Moltke, Heinz Guderian, von Rundstedt, von Manstein, Zhukov, and Patton.

Sun Tzu and other military thinkers suggest that an army should be not completely encircled but should be given some room for escape, or the "encircled" army's men will lift their morale and fight till the death. It is better to have them consider the possibility of a retreat. Once the enemy retreats, they can be pursued and captured or destroyed with far less risk to the pursuing forces than a fight to the death. Examples of this might be the battles of Dunkirk, in 1940, and the Falaise Gap in 1944.

The main form of encircling, the "double pincer", is executed by attacks on the flanks of a battle whose mobile forces of the era, such as light infantry, cavalry, tanks, or armoured personnel carriers attempt to force a breakthrough to utilize their speed to join behind the back of the enemy force and complete the "ring" while the main enemy force is stalled by probing attacks. The encirclement of the German Sixth Army in the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942 is a typical example.

If there is a natural obstacle, such as ocean or mountains on one side of the battlefield, only one pincer is needed ("single pincer"), because the function of the second arm is taken over by the natural obstacle. The German attack into the lowlands of France in 1940 is a typical example of this.

A third and rare type of encirclement can ensue from a breakthrough in an area of the enemy front, and exploiting that with mobile forces, diverging in two or more directions behind the enemy line. Full encirclement rarely follows, but the threat of it severely hampers the defender's options. This type of attack pattern is centerpiece to blitzkrieg operations. Because of the extreme difficulty of this operation, it cannot be executed unless the offensive force has a vast superiority, either in technology, organization, or sheer numbers. The Barbarossa campaign of 1941 saw some examples.

The danger to the encircling force is that it is, itself, cut off from its logistical base; if the encircled force is able to stand firm, or maintain a supply route, the encircling force can be thrown into confusion (for example, Rommel's "Dash to the Wire" in 1941 and the Demyansk Pocket in 1942) or be comprehensively destroyed (as during the Burma campaign, in 1944).

Examples of battles of encirclement:

Battle of Thermopylae (480 BC)

Battle of Cannae (216 BC)

Battle of Walaja (633 AD)

Battle of Fraustadt (1706)

Battle of Kirkuk (1733)

Battle of Kars (1745)

Battle of Isandlwana (1879)

Battle of Tannenberg (1914)

Battle of Magdhaba (1916)

Battle of Rafa (1916)

First Battle of Gaza (1917)

Battle of Beersheba (1917)

Battle of Megiddo (1918)

Battle of Suomussalmi (1939-1940)

Battle of Kiev (1941)

Battle of Smolensk (1941)

Battle of Białystok–Minsk (1941)

Battle for Velikiye Luki (1942)

Battle of Stalingrad (1942-1943)

Battle of the Korsun-Cherkassy Pocket (1944)

Kamenets-Podolsky pocket (1944)

Six-Day War (1967)

Battle of Khorramshahr (1980)

Battle of Mogadishu (1993)

Battle of Misrata (2011)

Battle of Aleppo (2012–2016)

Second Battle of Tikrit (2015)

Finnish Defence Forces

The Finnish Defence Forces (Finnish: Puolustusvoimat, Swedish: Försvarsmakten) are responsible for the defence of Finland. A universal male conscription is in place, under which all men above 18 years of age serve for 165, 255, or 347 days. Alternative non-military service and volunteer service by women are possible.

Finland is the only non-NATO EU country bordering Russia. Finland's official policy states that a wartime military strength of 280,000 personnel constitutes a sufficient deterrent. The army consists of a highly mobile field army backed up by local defence units. The army defends the national territory and its military strategy employs the use of the heavily forested terrain and numerous lakes to wear down an aggressor, instead of attempting to hold the attacking army on the frontier.

Finland's defence budget equals approximately 3.1 billion euros or 1.3% of GDP. The voluntary overseas service is highly popular and troops serve around the world in UN, NATO and EU missions. Homeland defence willingness against a superior enemy is at 76%, one of the highest rates in Europe.In war time the Finnish Border Guard (which is its own military unit in peacetime) will become part of the Finnish Defence Forces.

Hjalmar Siilasvuo

Hjalmar Fridolf Siilasvuo (birthname: Hjalmar Fridolf Strömberg, 18 March 1892, Helsinki – 11 January 1947) was a Finnish lieutenant general who led troops in the Winter War, Continuation War and Lapland War. He also saw action as a part of the Finnish volunteer "Jägerbattalion 27" fighting on the German side in World War I.

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Bernard Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein

Berthold Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg

Beyond Castle Wolfenstein

Białystok Ghetto Uprising

Białystok Ghetto

Big Stink (B-29)

Birth of the B-29

Biscari massacre

Bismarck-class battleship

Black Book (film)

Black Book (World War II)

Black Brigades

Black Fox: The Rise and Fall of Adolf Hitler

Black Friday (1945)

Black May (1943)

Black Rain (Japanese film)

Black Rain (novel)

Black Rain

Black Sea Campaigns (1941-44)

Black Sun: The Nanking Massacre

Black triangle (badge)

Blazing Angels 2: Secret Missions of WWII

Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII

Bleiburg repatriations

Blitzkrieg (video game)

Blitzkrieg 2

Blitzkrieg

Blockleiter

Blood and soil

Blood, toil, tears, and sweat

Bloody Sunday (1939)

Bobrek concentration camp

Bockscar

Boeing B-17 Survivors

Boeing B-29 survivors

Bomber B

Bombing of Augsburg in World War II

Bombing of Belgrade in World War II

Bombing of Berlin in World War II

Bombing of Braunschweig in World War II

Bombing of Bucharest in World War II

Bombing of Chongqing

Bombing of Cologne in World War II

Bombing of Darmstadt in World War II

Bombing of Darwin (February 1942)

Bombing of Dresden in World War II

Bombing of Dublin in World War II

Bombing of Duisburg in World War II

Bombing of Essen in World War II

Bombing of Frampol

Bombing of Frankfurt am Main in World War II

Bombing of Gelsenkirchen in World War II

Bombing of Hamburg in World War II

Bombing of Hanau in World War II

Bombing of Helsinki in World War II

Bombing of Hildesheim in World War II

Bombing of Innsbruck in World War II

Bombing of Königsberg in World War II

Bombing of Kassel in World War II

Bombing of Kobe in World War II

Bombing of Konigsberg in World War II

Bombing of Lübeck in World War II

Bombing of Mannheim in World War II

Bombing of Minsk in World War II

Bombing of Nagoya in World War II

Bombing of Naples in World War II

Bombing of Osaka in World War II

Bombing of Peenemünde in World War II

Bombing of Pforzheim in World War II

Bombing of Podgorica in World War II

Bombing of Prague in World War II

Bombing of Prague

Bombing of Rabaul (1942)

Bombing of Rabaul (November 1943)

Bombing of Romania in World War II

Bombing of Rome in World War II

Bombing of Rothenburg in World War II

Bombing of Schaffhausen in World War II

Bombing of Schwäbisch Hall in World War II

Bombing of Sofia in World War II

Bombing of Stalingrad in World War II

Bombing of Stuttgart in World War II

Bombing of Tallinn in World War II

Bombing of Tokyo in World War II

Bombing of Treviso in World War II

Bombing of Ulm in World War II

Bombing of Vienna in World War II

Bombing of Warsaw in World War II

Bombing of Wesel in World War II

Bombing of Wewak

Bombing of Wieluń

Bombing of Würzburg in World War II

Bombing of Wuppertal in World War II

Bombing of Zara in World War II

Bombings of Heilbronn in World War II

Bombings of Switzerland in World War II

Bon Voyage (1944 film)

Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy

Borneo Campaign (1945) order of battle

Borneo campaign (1945)

Bougainville campaign (1943–45)

Bowmanville POW camp

Brazzaville Conference of 1944

Bredtvet concentration camp

Breendonk

Breitenau concentration camp

Breton nationalism and World War II

Breton Social-National Workers' Movement

Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery

Brigadeführer

Bristol Beaufighter

Bristol Blitz

Britannia Theatre

British 51st (Highland) Infantry Division (World War II)

British anti-invasion preparations of World War II

British Armies in World War II

British armoured fighting vehicle production during World War II

British armoured fighting vehicles of World War II

British Army Aid Group

British Army Groups in World War II

British Army Groups in WWII

British Army of the Rhine

British Brigades in World War II

British Commandos

British Commonwealth Air Training Plan

British Commonwealth Occupation Force

British Corps in World War II

British Divisions in World War II

British Expeditionary Force order of battle (1940)

British Expeditionary Force (World War II)

British Far East Command

British First Army order of battle, 20 April 1943

British First Army order of battle, 4 May 1943

British Free Corps

British Guards Division

British hardened field defences of World War II

British Home Guard

British Motor Minesweepers (BYMS)

British Ninth Army

British occupation of the Faroe Islands in World War II

British Official Armour Specification

British propaganda during World War II

British S-class submarine (1914)

British S-class submarine (1931)

British Salonika Army

British U-class submarine

British V-class submarine (1914)

British V-class submarine

British World War II destroyers

Brittany American Cemetery and Memorial

Bronze Star Medal

Brotherhood of War (novel series)

Brothers in Arms (N-Gage 2.0)

Brothers in Arms DS

Brothers in Arms: Art of War

Brothers in Arms: D-Day

Brothers in Arms: Double Time

Brothers in Arms: Earned in Blood

Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway

Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30

Buchenwald concentration camp

Budapest ghetto

Budapest Offensive

Bugs & Daffy: The Wartime Cartoons

Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips

Bulgarian Air Force

Bulgarian National Socialist Party

Bulgarian resistance movement during World War II

Burma Campaign 1942-1943

Burma Campaign 1944-1945

Burma Campaign 1944

Burma Campaign

Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery

Kiantajärvi

Kiantajärvi is a rather large lake in the Oulujoki main catchment area. It is located in Suomussalmi municipality, in the region Kainuu, Finland. It is the 24th biggest lake in Finland. The lake is narrow and 50 km long in north–south direction. It played a significant role in the Battle of Suomussalmi during the Winter War in December 1939. Kiantajärvi is also known of the author Ilmari Kianto, who had his home named Turjanlinna on the shore of Niskaselkä open area. The author´s grave is situated in Niettussaari island near his home.

List of military engagements of World War II

This is a list of military engagements of World War II encompassing land, naval, and air engagements as well as campaigns, operations, defensive lines and sieges. Campaigns generally refer to broader strategic operations conducted over a large bit of territory and over a long period. Battles generally refer to short periods of intense combat localised to a specific area and over a specific period. However, use of the terms in naming such events is not consistent. For example, the Battle of the Atlantic was more or less an entire theatre of war, and the so-called battle lasted for the duration of the entire war. Another misnomer is the Battle of Britain, which by all rights should be considered a campaign, not a mere battle.

Maneuver warfare

Maneuver warfare, or manoeuvre warfare, is a military strategy that advocates attempting to defeat the enemy by incapacitating their decision-making through shock and disruption.

North Finland Group

The North Finland Group (Finnish: Pohjois-Suomen Ryhmä) was a formation of the Finnish Army during the Winter War. It was responsible for an almost 800-kilometer-long border from the town of Lieksa to the Arctic Ocean. The group was under the command of Major General Wiljo Tuompo, and its headquarters was located in Kajaani.The formation was charged with defending Northern Finland. It had two subgroups, the Lapland Group in the north and the North Karelian Group in the south. During the Battle of Suomussalmi on 11 December 1939, the main headquarters took under control the Lapland Group, and appointed Kurt Martti Wallenius as its commander. The North Finland Group remained in areas of the North Karelian Group, Suomussalmi and Kuhmo.

Paavo Susitaival

Lieutenant Colonel Paavo Susitaival (9 February 1896 in Helsinki – 27 December 1993), born Paavo Sivén, was a Finnish author, soldier and politician. Paavo Sivén and his brother, Bobi Sivén were prominent figures in the Finnish interwar Nationalist movement. Paavo had acquired his reputation smuggling volunteers to Germany to enlist in the 27. Imperial Jaeger Battalion; Bobi gained his by being the last alderman of Porajärvi municipality before the ratification of the Treaty of Tartu who shot himself rather than acknowledge the transfer of Porajärvi and Repola to the Soviet Union.

Pocket (military)

A pocket refers to combat forces that have been isolated by opposing forces from their logistical base and other friendly forces. In mobile warfare, such as the German Blitzkrieg, salients were more likely to be cut off into pockets, which became the focus of battles of annihilation.

A pocket carries connotations that the encirclement was not intentionally allowed by the encircled forces, as it may have been when defending a fortified position, which is usually called a siege. This is a similar distinction to that made between a skirmish and pitched battle.

Ski warfare

Ski warfare, the use of ski-equipped troops in war, is first recorded by the Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus in the 13th century.

Suomussalmi

Suomussalmi is a municipality in Finland and is located in the Kainuu region. The municipality has a population of 7,942

(31 August 2018) and covers an area of 5,857.60 square kilometres (2,261.63 sq mi) of which 587.03 km2 (226.65 sq mi) is water. The population density is 1.51 inhabitants per square kilometre (3.9/sq mi). The municipality is unilingually Finnish. Ämmänsaari is the biggest built-up area in the municipality.

Suomussalmi is the second southernmost part of the reindeer-herding area in Finland.

During the Winter War of 1939–40, several battles were fought in the area around Suomussalmi, the most important ones being the Battle of Suomussalmi and the Battle of Raate. In these battles Finnish forces defeated numerically superior Soviet forces.

Formula One racing driver Heikki Kovalainen is from Suomussalmi, as well as the author Ilmari Kianto and the composer Osmo Tapio Räihälä, in addition to the ice hockey player, Janne Pesonen.Suomussalmi hosted the 2016 World Berry Picking Championship.

Timeline of the Winter War

The timeline of the Winter War is a chronology of events leading up to, culminating in, and resulting from the Winter War. The war began when the Soviet Union attacked Finland on 30 November 1939 and it ended 13 March 1940.

Winter War

The Winter War was a military conflict between the Soviet Union (USSR) and Finland. It began with a Soviet invasion of Finland on 30 November 1939, three months after the outbreak of World War II, and ended three and a half months later with the Moscow Peace Treaty on 13 March 1940. The League of Nations deemed the attack illegal and expelled the Soviet Union from the organisation.

The conflict began after the Soviets sought to obtain some Finnish territory, demanding among other concessions that Finland cede substantial border territories in exchange for land elsewhere, claiming security reasons—primarily the protection of Leningrad, 32 km (20 mi) from the Finnish border. Finland refused, and the USSR invaded the country. Many sources conclude that the Soviet Union had intended to conquer all of Finland, and use the establishment of the puppet Finnish Communist government and the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact's secret protocols as evidence of this, while other sources argue against the idea of the full Soviet conquest. Finland repelled Soviet attacks for more than two months and inflicted substantial losses on the invaders while temperatures ranged as low as −43 °C (−45 °F). After the Soviet military reorganised and adopted different tactics, they renewed their offensive in February and overcame Finnish defences.

Hostilities ceased in March 1940 with the signing of the Moscow Peace Treaty. Finland ceded 11 percent of its territory representing 30 percent of its economy to the Soviet Union. Soviet losses were heavy, and the country's international reputation suffered. Soviet gains exceeded their pre-war demands and the USSR received substantial territory along Lake Ladoga and in Northern Finland. Finland retained its sovereignty and enhanced its international reputation. The poor performance of the Red Army encouraged Adolf Hitler to think that an attack on the Soviet Union would be successful and confirmed negative Western opinions of the Soviet military. After 15 months of Interim Peace, in June 1941, Nazi Germany commenced Operation Barbarossa and the Continuation War between Finland and the USSR began.

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