Contradictions in Loyalty during the Turbulent Years 1910-1950


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Cutting Finland in Half
Finland’s only land contact to Western Europe is north of the Gulf of Bothnia with Sweden. The coastal town Oulu is on the narrowest point between the Soviet border and the sea. Cutting Finland in half became a major war goal for the Soviets. Finland’s only land contact to the free world and aid was through Sweden. By cutting Finland in half by Oulu, the Soviets would have isolated Finland. The communist press made up Soviet successes to fit the propaganda illustrating the might of the Red Army. On their way to Oulu, the Soviets sent their 163rd and 44th divisions in from Raate and Juntusranta toward Suomussalmi. As the war was a surprise to the Finns, there were only a few border guards present, so the Soviets advanced the 24 miles from the border to Suomussalmi with little resistance. By the time they reached Suomussalmi, Finnish troops were alerted, and the Soviet advance was halted.
The Soviet troops did not know how to ski, so they were forced to stay on the roads. There they became targets for the Finns that skied in from both sides of the road and put a couple of machine guns in positions to cut off the road every few miles. The Soviets were trapped on the road. The battle plan on how to fight the Soviets was drawn up by Captain Alpo Marttinen, who later became a colonel in the US Army. See page 126.
The Finns destroyed two Soviet divisions in the area around Suomussalmi. Robert Edwards’ book White Death estimates that of the two divisions with 35,000 soviet soldiers, 30,000 perished. The first division eliminated was the Soviet 163rd. While the world press reported on this Soviet defeat on January first and second, Työmies first page headline January 3rd read: "The Red Army has accelerated its attack on all fronts."
The second division destroyed, the Soviet 44th division, was from the Ukraine and thus totally out of its element in the north. The division used gun oil that froze solid at -15°F, making some of their weapons inoperable when the temperatures fell to -20°F.155 Pictures of abandoned tanks, trucks, cannon etc., were printed in the world press. Finland’s war booty from the operation included 58 tanks, 100 artillery pieces, 12 armored cars, and 520 trucks.
A Russian documentary puts the number killed at 13,000-23,000.156 Before being destroyed, the Soviet divisions had traveled 24 miles into Finland. Though the Finns took back every inch the Soviet’s had advanced, the communist newspapers continued to report steady success on the attempt to cut Finland in two.
The Daily Worker headline on Dec. 13, 1939, was "RED ARMY CUTS INTO CENTRAL FINLAND Take Town 56 miles from Soviet Frontier. Soviet troops have battled half way across the roadless central front of Finland toward the key town of Oulu." The following day, the paper’s headline read, "Red Army Drives 65 Miles Into Finland."
On December 17, the Daily Worker showed a map suggesting that Soviet troops were approaching the village of Vaala, which is 85 miles from the Russian border and 51 miles from the target city Oulu. The fictitious advance continued and, as reported on December 26, "The Red Army has Resumed its advance in Finland toward the Finnish Seaport of Oulu."
The communist press was quiet about the cutting of Finland in two for a while, but on March 10, Työmies’ headline was, "RED ARMY TROOPS HAVE ADVANCED TOWARD HAAPARANTA." The town of Haaparanta (in Swedish, "Haparanda") is a border town in Sweden, northwest of Oulu, separated from Finland by the Tornio River. It is located on the top of the Gulf of Bothnia.

wpe35.jpg (39533 bytes)Työmies March 10, 1940.
The paper was concerned that peace would break out before Finland was vanquished, so the paper proclaims in glee: "Peacemongers have not stopped war operations in Finland."