A frozen hell : the Russo-Finnish winter war of 1939-1940 by William Trotter

By William Trotter

At 10:30 A.M. on November 30, 1939, a formation of Russian bombers dropped from a cloud financial institution to dump a salvo of bombs on Helsinki, the capital urban of Finland. The iciness battle was once underway. Overwhelming superiority in manpower and guns eventually prevailed, yet no longer earlier than Finland had written a saga of heroic resistance. it's this too-seldom-remembered tale that William R. Trotter recounts in hearth and Ice. sixteen pages of images

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The Border Guards’ commander thought his forces might be able to halt the Russians east of Salla for twenty-four hours, but if he did not pull back when the Russians brought 42 their artillery into play, his small command might be destroyed. The Baron sensed no panic in this appraisal, so he left the tactical decisions to the man on the spot, telling him: Hold out as long as you can, but retreat before you are surrounded. Help is on the way! In point of fact, Mannerheim had already written-off Salla – he simply could not move enough men that far into the wilderness in time to build up a strong roadblock there.

In point of fact, there may have been contingency plans to do just that. The coastline was thinly defended by scattered pillboxes and minefields, and even a smallscale landing party, once ashore, could have wreaked havoc on Finnish communications and supply facilities. But Mannerheim was not especially worried about that threat, because to get ashore at all, the Russian would first have to neutralize the powerful batteries of the elite Finnish Coast Artillery, a branch of the army that had a long tradition of efficiency and marksmanship, going back to the days of Charles XIIth.

Which was exactly what the Finns had hoped they would do. The weather cooperated: beginning on the afternoon of December 1 and continuing through the next day, temperature plunged, and the Isthmus was raked by high winds and periodic heavy 49 snow-squalls, which both hampered the overall Russian advance and had the desired effect of driving men into the nearest shelter available. By the evening of December 2, even the coldest Russian soldiers had become wary of moving indoors. The first ones to do so had been torn-apart by booby traps hidden under floorboards, inside cupboards, under outhouses, in lamp fixtures, and buried beneath warm-looking haystacks.

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