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The Winter War, 1939-40

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  Quote sd305 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: The Winter War, 1939-40
    Posted: 11-Jun-2007 at 15:33
I'm reading a book called, 'The Illustrated History of WW2' by Dr. John Ray, and it says that when Russia invaded Finland in 1939, they had 3000 tanks against a country that had none, and yet the Fins took out over 1,500 tanks, either by destroying or capturing them.

At the end of the war, it is said that the Russians won, but they lost 10x more troops.

Can anyone confirm the accuracy of this information about the number of tanks/ tanks destroyed and the number of troops lost?


Edited by sd305 - 11-Jun-2007 at 15:34
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  Quote Kamikaze 738 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Jun-2007 at 20:17
The Finns did have some tanks but not a whole lot. However even without the tanks, the Finns delievered massive damage to the Soviets because the Soviets lacked the preparation of winter warfare (such as cloths and food). On the other hand, the Finns were well equiped for winter warfare, their infamous ski troops were the best of the best of Finnish troops and they pick-pocketed Soviet troops huddled around their tents. They lay waste to the Soviets, causalities of the Finns were definitely less than the Soviets but it was enough to end the war. The numurical superiority of the Soviets just overwhelmed the Finns and thus they accepted surrender and peace. 
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  Quote Joinville Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12-Jun-2007 at 09:16
Even more complex:
 
The Red Army was prepared for winter warfare. Come one, this was a Russian army after all!
 
Problem was, it was prepared for winter warfare in the Russian inland and Siberia, where you get a dry cold in winter. Finland is right on the Baltic, full of lakes too, so with a lot of moisture like that the Finnish winter is mostly a wet cold. It tends to seep in, in a way a dry cold won't.
 
The two require somewhat different clothing to handle. The Finns had what it took. Even the Soviet troops from Sibiria didn't.
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  Quote Joinville Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12-Jun-2007 at 09:39
Some statistics, which seem reasonably accurate after comparing a few of the Swedish language on-line sources (they tend to be based on Finnish information; the Russian figures tally with a Russian assesment from 1992, which is likely as accurate as things will get.):
 
Finland:
Start of campaign:
200,000 men
32 tanks
119 aircraft
 
End of campaign:
250,000 men
30 tanks
130 aircraft
 
Losses:
22,830 KIA
43,577 WIA
1000 (approx.) POW
 
Soviet Union:
Start of campaign:
460.000 men
1500 tanks
1000 aircraft
 
End of campaign:
1,000,000 men
3000 tanks
3800 aircraft
 
Losses:
126,875 KIA or MIA
264,908 WIA
5,600 POW
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  Quote Genghis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12-Jun-2007 at 11:54
I agree with Joinville.  The biggest problem for the Russians, in my opinion, was not that they weren't prepared for a winter war, but that they weren't prepared for an unconventional war in a highly wooded environment.  They were sending motorized columns into the most wooded environment in Europe.  The Russians also had a host of field kitchens used to warm their food and soldiers.  In normal conditions that would be a very important thing to have and a prudent piece of equipment for the winter.  In Finland however, they became major targets for the Finnish ski troops and one by one the field ovens of a mottied column would be destroyed and the Finnish would then sit back and let frostbite do the dirty work.
 
About the tanks, I heard a very common Finnish trick was to sit by the side of the road as a Soviet column passed a very brave Finn would run up and shove a crowbar or piece of wood into the tracks of a passing armored vehicle.  The tank would stop to investigate what was going on and when the commander popped the hatch to see what was going on, he'd be shot.
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  Quote ChickenShoes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12-Jun-2007 at 11:59
Originally posted by Genghis

I agree with Joinville.  The biggest problem for the Russians, in my opinion, was not that they weren't prepared for a winter war, but that they weren't prepared for an unconventional war in a highly wooded environment.  They were sending motorized columns into the most wooded environment in Europe.  The Russians also had a host of field kitchens used to warm their food and soldiers.  In normal conditions that would be a very important thing to have and a prudent piece of equipment for the winter.  In Finland however, they became major targets for the Finnish ski troops and one by one the field ovens of a mottied column would be destroyed and the Finnish would then sit back and let frostbite do the dirty work.
 
About the tanks, I heard a very common Finnish trick was to sit by the side of the road as a Soviet column passed a very brave Finn would run up and shove a crowbar or piece of wood into the tracks of a passing armored vehicle.  The tank would stop to investigate what was going on and when the commander popped the hatch to see what was going on, he'd be shot.
 
 
I agree, the woods were the definitive factor. The Finns were also an intensely trained army and very disciplined and they trained in those very woods. I'm sure they trained so hard because they just became free and weren't going to let Russia push them around anymore.
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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12-Jun-2007 at 15:04

I agree, the woods were the definitive factor. The Finns were also an intensely trained army and very disciplined and they trained in those very woods. I'm sure they trained so hard because they just became free and weren't going to let Russia push them around anymore.


I have to disagree about "the intensly trained" part. Finland didnt have a professional army back then, not sure if they do now. Every finnish man went through just basic traning.
I think that the success laid with the fact that finns were used to ski and travel in the woods. The finns were used to the very cold winters of -50 degrees some times. Makes you wonder what finns think of the "coldness" of the battle of the bulge. Of course the fact that they were fighting for their very excistense plays a big role too.

Wasnt the "molotov cocktail" invented during the winter war... Just some randomness Ive read not sure if its true.

Edited by lollercoaster - 12-Jun-2007 at 15:05
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  Quote ChickenShoes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12-Jun-2007 at 16:23
Originally posted by lollercoaster


I agree, the woods were the definitive factor. The Finns were also an intensely trained army and very disciplined and they trained in those very woods. I'm sure they trained so hard because they just became free and weren't going to let Russia push them around anymore.


I have to disagree about "the intensly trained" part. Finland didnt have a professional army back then, not sure if they do now. Every finnish man went through just basic traning.
I think that the success laid with the fact that finns were used to ski and travel in the woods. The finns were used to the very cold winters of -50 degrees some times. Makes you wonder what finns think of the "coldness" of the battle of the bulge. Of course the fact that they were fighting for their very excistense plays a big role too.

Wasnt the "molotov cocktail" invented during the winter war... Just some randomness Ive read not sure if its true.
 
 
when i say intensely trained I don't mean in a conventional sense, they were very familiar with forms of guerilla warfare when concerning the woods they fought in. they were masters of that environment.  also what about the finnish aerial fashion of the finger four formation. this involved four planes, split into two units of two planes, one unit flying low and the other high, with each plane fighting independently of the others yet supporting their wingman in combat, which was superior to the Russian tactic of three fighters flying in delta. the finns also would attack in these formations no matter the odds...sounds pretty professional to me.


Edited by ChickenShoes - 12-Jun-2007 at 16:49
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  Quote sd305 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12-Jun-2007 at 16:42
okay, thanks for the clarification

I might have to return the book then if it stated inaccuracy
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  Quote Genghis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12-Jun-2007 at 20:37
You're right about the molotov cocktail starting then, the Finnish took standard liquor bottles and began filling them with gasoline to send to the troops fighting the Russians.
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  Quote Desperado Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Jun-2007 at 17:01


Originally posted by Genghis

You're right about the molotov cocktail starting then, the Finnish took standard liquor bottles and began filling them with gasoline to send to the troops fighting the Russians.


Not sure about the Germans during WW1, but in Spain 1936, the Franco troops had definitely already used them. Where did the gasoline bombs get their nick: "molotov cocktails" is another question, but as an incendiary anti-tank weapons they were already used before.

Edited by Desperado - 17-Jun-2007 at 17:04
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  Quote ChickenShoes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Jun-2007 at 20:57
Originally posted by Desperado



Originally posted by Genghis

You're right about the molotov cocktail starting then, the Finnish took standard liquor bottles and began filling them with gasoline to send to the troops fighting the Russians.


Not sure about the Germans during WW1, but in Spain 1936, the Franco troops had definitely already used them. Where did the gasoline bombs get their nick: "molotov cocktails" is another question, but as an incendiary anti-tank weapons they were already used before.
 
I'm not sure but I would assume due to Vyacheslav Molotov? Although he has no involvement on its creation to my knowledge.
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  Quote Styrbiorn Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Jun-2007 at 06:35
Originally posted by Desperado



Originally posted by Genghis

You're right about the molotov cocktail starting then, the Finnish took standard liquor bottles and began filling them with gasoline to send to the troops fighting the Russians.


Not sure about the Germans during WW1, but in Spain 1936, the Franco troops had definitely already used them. Where did the gasoline bombs get their nick: "molotov cocktails" is another question, but as an incendiary anti-tank weapons they were already used before.

Indeed. It was the Finns who named it and made it famous though.
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  Quote edgewaters Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Jun-2007 at 08:17
Big problem for Russia was also logistical. Dry but important.

Russia had just one railhead in the north, a single terminus of an east-west line that ended some distance from the border. Finland, on the other hand, had a line running north-south, parallel to the border, and it was able to shift troops and supplies at will along the longitudinal axis. The Soviets could only move things up to a single point near the border, and after that could make no use of any sort of strategic rail movement.

A single factor among others mentioned.
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  Quote deadkenny Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Aug-2007 at 21:59
The problem was that the Red Army was a large 'organization' without the right people in the right places to plan or carry out an effective offensive.  The purges had removed a great many officers, and many of those who replaced them got their positions by being 'politically reliable', not militarily competent.

The initial stages of the attack took on a number of different 'forms'.  Against the Mannerheim Line the artillery, tanks and infantry were not well coordinated.  So the Finns would take shelter in their bunkers during the artillery barrage.  Then the tanks would be sent in without infantry support, and the Finns would use 'improvised' anti-tank weapons (e.g. 'Molotov cocktails') against them.  Finally the infantry would assault using 'wave' tactics against Finnish bunkers and dug in machine-gun posts.  The result was pretty well inevitable.  After the 'bloody nose', some competent commanders were put in charge and some reasonable attacks were managed and the Mannerheim Line was broken.  Further north the Red Army sent in 'road bound' columns (on 'trails' really) and the Finns would send ski units around behind them, 'cutting them off'.  The Finns would then 'snipe' at the trapped Red Army units, raid them at night etc.  The only 'escape' was to retreat back along the 'trail' into well positioned and dug in Finnish machine guns.  That, plus retreating without orders would get you executed anyway, so you might as well wait for a Finnish bullet to take you and maybe die a 'hero'.  It's also difficult to explain to someone in Moscow how a few dozen Finns have 'trapped' your 1,000 man column.
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  Quote Sikander Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23-Aug-2007 at 12:18

Many Finns were used to hunt & skiing so they were great marksmen when the war started. After that it was just to employ those skills to hunt down humans...

The "home factor" was also important. They knew the environment quite well and they had prepared positions which the Soviets would have to conquer. As these were badly lead, badly equiped (just imagine those monstruous T-35 advancing on a narrow track in a thick forest) and all too mechanised and "large" (i.e., burocratic), the initiative would allways fall to the defenders.
 
Somehow I think this was already debated in an earlier thread, perhaps a couple of years ago...
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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Aug-2007 at 14:02
I believe another factor in the war was that most of the major roads in Finland in the past century have been built north to south. Until recently there were not so many roads that ran east to west. This was a deliberate act so as to make it difficult for the russians to advance from the west without access to better roads as the roads there if they used them were narrow and not particularly well maintained.
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  Quote deadkenny Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31-Aug-2007 at 09:17
True, no doubt a major factor in favour of the defending Finns in the 'central' portion of the front.  However, the roads running north to south also had a more practical motivation, beyond 'defense' against the Russians.  That is the direction that the Finns need the roads to run as well.
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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31-Aug-2007 at 09:46
Yeah that is true being that the country has more distrance between the northern and southern points than the furthest eastern and western points. Though now in Finland you can see more major roads being built east to west than north to south. It is something I have noticed particularly living on the south eastern coast and having travelled a bit around Finland.
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  Quote Jonathan4290 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Mar-2008 at 16:05
Originally posted by ChickenShoes

Originally posted by Desperado



Originally posted by Genghis

You're right about the molotov cocktail starting then, the Finnish took standard liquor bottles and began filling them with gasoline to send to the troops fighting the Russians.


Not sure about the Germans during WW1, but in Spain 1936, the Franco troops had definitely already used them. Where did the gasoline bombs get their nick: "molotov cocktails" is another question, but as an incendiary anti-tank weapons they were already used before.
 
I'm not sure but I would assume due to Vyacheslav Molotov? Although he has no involvement on its creation to my knowledge.
 
They're called Molotov cocktails for a reason: during the eary stages of the Winter War, the Russian foreign minister (Molotov) refused to admit to the world they were attacking Finland. The Finns said they were being bombed but Molotov maintained that the air force was dropping breadbaskets, not bombs. The Finns then began calling bombs Molotov breadbaaskets and then carried the pun over into Molotov cocktails.
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