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mattinen
07-07-2004, 06:20 AM
Grendel-B has put up a fine thread about the battle of Tali-Ihantala in 1944. Some remarks are however in order.

Let us first examine the goals of the Soviet attack. Grendel-B writes: "A build-up of troops to take Finland... . Finland would be forced to accept unconditional surrender". There is, however, no consensus among the Finnish historians about the objective of the Soviet attack. Many of them think that the Soviet Union had only limited goals in regard to Finland.

HENRIK MEINANDER says in his "Tasavallan tiell√¬§. Suomi kansalaissodasta 2000-luvulle" (1999) that the Kreml did not try to occupy Finland, but to remove the last threat to Leningrad before starting the campaign in the Central Europe in full force. Mr Meinander also says that the purpose of the Soviet attack was to create a front in the west and southwest of Viipuri, which would be a sufficient threat to the Finnish population centers.

MAX JAKOBSON writes in his "V√¬§kivallan vuodet. 20. vuosisadan tilinp√¬§√¬§t√¬∂s I" (1999) that there is no indisputable answer to the question about the Soviet goals in 1944. In his own thinking Mr Jakobson concludes that the Soviet attack was first of all a "forcing to peace" operation. (In other words not an attempt to occupy Finland).

In his recent doctoral thesis "Asevelji√¬§ vai liittolaisia" (2004) MARKKU JOKISIPIL”ě shares the opinion of Mr Jakobson. Mr Jokisipil√¬§ says that so far there simply isn't enough information available to solve the matter once and for all.

Finally there is JUKKA SEPPINEN, who in his "Paasikiven aikakauteen" (2001) sees that the attack on the Karelian Isthmus had only limited goals, but in Finland this has been a very difficult fact to accept. Stalin however allowed his generals to perceive also more distant concrete goals in their war games and plans because soldiers always need such objectives in order to keep up a good motivation. The Russian demand of Finland's unconditional surrender was above all a tactical manoeuvre by Stalin in order to test the nerves of the Finns. Finlan's significance as a theatre of war was always secondary to Stalin. His objective was to get rid of it without loosing his face.

* * *

Grendel-B also comments the retreat of the Finnish army. He (or she?) says that "the Finnish army retreated in remarkably good order". In my opinion this is a somewhat embroidered expression. Desertion was a notable element during the retreat. Doctor JUKKA KULOMAA, who is a researcher in the Finnish National Defence College gives us the facts in his doctoral thesis "K√¬§pykaartiin? 1941-1944. Sotilaskarkuruus Suomen armeijassa jatkosodan aikana" (1995). Luckily the doctoral thesis has an English summary which enables a direct quatation without my rather poor translations: "In the early weeks of the offensive begun by the Soviet Army in June 1944 and leading to a rapid breakthrough on all the main Finnish fronts, desertion became a more serious problem for the military leaders than any point until then. In June-August the number of the deserters soared to around 12 000, the majority of them (about 8 000) on the Karelian Isthmus. ... . On June 9-30 the total number of deserters and strays was estimated at 29 000 men on the Isthmus, and according to the military leaders on the spot, the movement could at its worst have endangered the execution of the operative plans".

The Tali-Ihantala area was defended by the IV army corps, and in June-July 1944 about 4 100 soldiers deserted from its ranks. The two divisions that took the hardest heat in Tali-Ihantala were the 6. and the 18.Division. These two divisions lost in total about 2 100 men as deserters. Desertion was considered such a serious problem that on July 4 1944 the military penal code was amended so that repeated desertion could punished by death. In July-August 1944 the field court-martials operating within the 6. and the 18.Division passed twelve death sentences on desertion. Eight of these sentences were carried out. Four deserters in the 6.Division were also shot by the order of the division commander. In all the field court-martials passed 76 death sentences on desertion during the summer of 1944 and 46 deserted soldiers were actually shot. Furthermore about a dozen deserters were shot under the military regulations. (Without a trial that is).

* * *

Grendel-B also presents his view on the issue of the Finnish high command's ability to anticipate the Soviet attack. GB claims that the generals prevented the Finnish commander-in-chief, Marshal Mannerheim from getting the necessary information regarding the intentions of the enemy. This is hardly true. On the contrary, strong evidence suggests that the Finnish commander-in-chief himself is to be blamed for negligence and miscalculation.

The commander-in-chief of the Finnish troops in the Karelian Isthmus was lieutenant general K.L. OESCH. In his book "Suomen kohtalanratkaisu Kannaksella v.1944" (1956) general Oesch is rather critical about Mannerheim. Situation on the Finnish fron had changed radically when the Russians recovered the connection to Leningrad on January 1944. After this the Soviet Army had a completely new freedom of operation regarding Finland. The terrain in the Karelian Isthmus was passable and well suited for large scale tank operations. The focus of the defence should therefore have been in the Karelian Isthmus even if there had been no imminent danger of an attack.

Was Marshal Mannerheim then denied the necessary information concerning the Russian attack? In Oesch's opinion he was not. On February 16 colonel V√¬§in√¬∂ Nihtil√¬§, the chief of operations (in lack of better translation) in the Mikkeli headquarters suggested there will be enemy action in the Karelian Isthmus. On May 10 Marshal Mannerheim issued strong orders in which he clearly commanded the troops to be prepared for a massed attack by the enemy. By doing so Oesch sees that Marshal Mannerheim accepted the possibility on an unexpected major offensive in the Karelian Isthmus. The exact timing of the Soviet attack is a different matter, and in Oesch's opinion it is a matter of lesser importance. General Oesch thinks that it is far more important to be ready for an attack in all times than to know the exact moment of an attack.

If there however werw difficulties in receiving and understanding intelligence information, the blame was to fall on to the peculiar staff system created by Marshal Mannerheim himself. This becomes evident from MARTTI TURTOLA'S "Erik Heinrichs. Mannerheimin ja Paasikiven kenraali" (1988). General Heinrichs was Marshal Mannerheim's chief of staff, and according to him it was the Mannerheim's staff system that made the headquarters in Mikkeli so passive prior to the Russian attack. Intelligence information was not integrated into a logical entirety, because Marshal Mannerheim wanted to do everything by himself. This had fateful consequences says Mr Turtola.

Was Finland ready then? Many things suggest that she was not. In addition to general Oesch this is clearly presented by colonel MARTTI V. TER”ě in his study "Kes√¬§kuun kriisi 1944" (1967). In the stable conditions of trench warfare the supreme command had neglected the training of the troops emphasis being in the entertainment of the troops. Effective German antitank weapons were not distributed to the troops although they have arrived in Finland already in the spring of 1944. Detailed German information of the new Soviet attack methods was not utilised. Both Oesch and Ter√¬§ see the greatest mistake in the stationig of the troops and material. General Oesch thinks that one of the biggest weaknesses of the defence was the lack of depth in the troop positions. Colonel Ter√¬§ says that the troops and the material, especially the artillery, werw wrongly placed. Therefore it took 2-3 weeks before the defence was regrouped. Only after this was an efficient and concentrated defence possible.

It so seems quite evident that the main problem in the Finnish defence was the lack of troops in the Karelian Isthmus. Before the battles in the Isthmus werw overm a whole four divisions (4.D, 6.D, 11.D and 17.D) and two brigades had been transferred from the East Karelia to Isthmus. Should these troops have been there earlier? General Oesch says yes. In the spring of 1944 both President Ryti and foreign minister Ramsay had suggested Marshal Mannerheim that the defence on the Isthmus should be made stronger by reducing the number of troops in the East Karelia. Similar suggestions werw also made by colonel Nihtil√¬§ and lieutenant general A.F. Airo, Mannerheim's aide-to-camp. Also general Heinrichs and general Rudolf Walden, the minister of defence made this kind of proposals. Marshal Mannerhein however declined.

Why then did Marshal Mannerheim not transfer troops from the East Karelia already before the Russian attack? In his memoirs Mannerheim explanes that he considered the East Karelia to be a collateral in the coming peace conference between Finland and the Soviet Union. This opinion has been widely criticised. General Oesch considers this kind of thinking to be illogical. In Oesch's thinking the question of keepingboth the Karelian Isthmus and the East Karelia must first be solved by military means. Only after this it is possible to consider the value of the East Karelia as a collateral in the peace negotiations. (If the area still was in Finnish hands that is). In 1944 the final military settlemnet between Finland and the Soviet Union had not yet been done, but many political and military indicators showed its coming. This, according to Oesch, was to be taken in the consideration when examining the situation from the military point of view. First the Finns had to answer a following question: considering our limited resources in both men and material, shall we be able to defend both the Karelian Isthmus and the East Karelia? According to Oesch the answer was no. The next question is: which of these two areas has the greatest strategic importance? Oesch's answer is clear: the Karelian Isthmus. The danger to the nation would be far more serious if the defence in the Karelian Isthmus broke than it would be in the opposite situation.

Also Marshal Mannerheim's most recent biographer, J.E.O. SCREEN is critical about Mannerheim's decision not to concentrate enough troops to the Karelian Isthmus. In "Mannerheim" (2000) Mr Screen says that the hard criticism [on the above mentioned matter] has been justified.

It is even without hindsight clear that many things should and could have been done differently by the Finnish commander-in-chief. Markku Jokisipil√¬§ writes in his doctoral thesis that many of the difficulties during the Finnish defence were results of indisputable negligence and miscalculation. The commander-in-chief, Marshal Mannerheim naturally bears the responsibility for these maters says Mr Jokisipil√¬§. Without these negligence and miscalculations the Red Army's advance could have been stopped earlier. Mannerheim has, however, a quite unique position in the Finnish history. He has been given an almost godlike status, which has made a critical valuation of his actions very difficult.

* * *

Grendel-B also presents his view on the so called Ryti-Ribbentrop treaty: "Meanwhile President Ryti has personally signed a deal with Ribbentrop, securing a promise of assistance". This has indeed been the prevailing opinion in the Finnish history, but it has now been seriously challenged. In the above mentioned doctoral thesis Mr Jokisipil√¬§ quite convincingly proves that the Ryti-Ribbentrop treaty had little, if anything to do with the German help. The most important elements of the German assistance, namely the antitank weapons and the Gefechtverband Kuhlmey had arrived in Finland prior to the Ribbentrop treaty.

* * *

The icon of Finnish patriotism, late general Adolf Ehrnrooth is also mentioned by Grendel-B in the paragraph concerning the battle of Tali-Ihantala. The then colonel Ehrnrooth was a fine commander, but he and his JR 7 (7. infantry regiment) had nothing to do with the battle of Tali-Ihantala. Their turn was to come later in the battle of the Vuosalmi bridgehead.

Colonel Ehrnrooth was one of the few commanders who used the possibility to pass a death penalty under the military regulations. On July 13 colonel Ehrnrooth ordered the execution of one private Pentti H√¬§kkinen of the 11./JR 7. H√¬§kkinen had deserted on July 7 and was brought to field court-martial which sentenced him to three years of imprisonment. On July 13 he was ordered to go back to the lines, but he declined. He was then brought to the regimental command post, where he was summoned by Ehrnrooth. The colonel asked H√¬§kkinen twice if he would go back to the line, but private H√¬§kkinen declined. After this colonel Ehrnrooth had him shot.

mattinen
07-07-2004, 06:20 AM
Grendel-B has put up a fine thread about the battle of Tali-Ihantala in 1944. Some remarks are however in order.

Let us first examine the goals of the Soviet attack. Grendel-B writes: "A build-up of troops to take Finland... . Finland would be forced to accept unconditional surrender". There is, however, no consensus among the Finnish historians about the objective of the Soviet attack. Many of them think that the Soviet Union had only limited goals in regard to Finland.

HENRIK MEINANDER says in his "Tasavallan tiell√¬§. Suomi kansalaissodasta 2000-luvulle" (1999) that the Kreml did not try to occupy Finland, but to remove the last threat to Leningrad before starting the campaign in the Central Europe in full force. Mr Meinander also says that the purpose of the Soviet attack was to create a front in the west and southwest of Viipuri, which would be a sufficient threat to the Finnish population centers.

MAX JAKOBSON writes in his "V√¬§kivallan vuodet. 20. vuosisadan tilinp√¬§√¬§t√¬∂s I" (1999) that there is no indisputable answer to the question about the Soviet goals in 1944. In his own thinking Mr Jakobson concludes that the Soviet attack was first of all a "forcing to peace" operation. (In other words not an attempt to occupy Finland).

In his recent doctoral thesis "Asevelji√¬§ vai liittolaisia" (2004) MARKKU JOKISIPIL”ě shares the opinion of Mr Jakobson. Mr Jokisipil√¬§ says that so far there simply isn't enough information available to solve the matter once and for all.

Finally there is JUKKA SEPPINEN, who in his "Paasikiven aikakauteen" (2001) sees that the attack on the Karelian Isthmus had only limited goals, but in Finland this has been a very difficult fact to accept. Stalin however allowed his generals to perceive also more distant concrete goals in their war games and plans because soldiers always need such objectives in order to keep up a good motivation. The Russian demand of Finland's unconditional surrender was above all a tactical manoeuvre by Stalin in order to test the nerves of the Finns. Finlan's significance as a theatre of war was always secondary to Stalin. His objective was to get rid of it without loosing his face.

* * *

Grendel-B also comments the retreat of the Finnish army. He (or she?) says that "the Finnish army retreated in remarkably good order". In my opinion this is a somewhat embroidered expression. Desertion was a notable element during the retreat. Doctor JUKKA KULOMAA, who is a researcher in the Finnish National Defence College gives us the facts in his doctoral thesis "K√¬§pykaartiin? 1941-1944. Sotilaskarkuruus Suomen armeijassa jatkosodan aikana" (1995). Luckily the doctoral thesis has an English summary which enables a direct quatation without my rather poor translations: "In the early weeks of the offensive begun by the Soviet Army in June 1944 and leading to a rapid breakthrough on all the main Finnish fronts, desertion became a more serious problem for the military leaders than any point until then. In June-August the number of the deserters soared to around 12 000, the majority of them (about 8 000) on the Karelian Isthmus. ... . On June 9-30 the total number of deserters and strays was estimated at 29 000 men on the Isthmus, and according to the military leaders on the spot, the movement could at its worst have endangered the execution of the operative plans".

The Tali-Ihantala area was defended by the IV army corps, and in June-July 1944 about 4 100 soldiers deserted from its ranks. The two divisions that took the hardest heat in Tali-Ihantala were the 6. and the 18.Division. These two divisions lost in total about 2 100 men as deserters. Desertion was considered such a serious problem that on July 4 1944 the military penal code was amended so that repeated desertion could punished by death. In July-August 1944 the field court-martials operating within the 6. and the 18.Division passed twelve death sentences on desertion. Eight of these sentences were carried out. Four deserters in the 6.Division were also shot by the order of the division commander. In all the field court-martials passed 76 death sentences on desertion during the summer of 1944 and 46 deserted soldiers were actually shot. Furthermore about a dozen deserters were shot under the military regulations. (Without a trial that is).

* * *

Grendel-B also presents his view on the issue of the Finnish high command's ability to anticipate the Soviet attack. GB claims that the generals prevented the Finnish commander-in-chief, Marshal Mannerheim from getting the necessary information regarding the intentions of the enemy. This is hardly true. On the contrary, strong evidence suggests that the Finnish commander-in-chief himself is to be blamed for negligence and miscalculation.

The commander-in-chief of the Finnish troops in the Karelian Isthmus was lieutenant general K.L. OESCH. In his book "Suomen kohtalanratkaisu Kannaksella v.1944" (1956) general Oesch is rather critical about Mannerheim. Situation on the Finnish fron had changed radically when the Russians recovered the connection to Leningrad on January 1944. After this the Soviet Army had a completely new freedom of operation regarding Finland. The terrain in the Karelian Isthmus was passable and well suited for large scale tank operations. The focus of the defence should therefore have been in the Karelian Isthmus even if there had been no imminent danger of an attack.

Was Marshal Mannerheim then denied the necessary information concerning the Russian attack? In Oesch's opinion he was not. On February 16 colonel V√¬§in√¬∂ Nihtil√¬§, the chief of operations (in lack of better translation) in the Mikkeli headquarters suggested there will be enemy action in the Karelian Isthmus. On May 10 Marshal Mannerheim issued strong orders in which he clearly commanded the troops to be prepared for a massed attack by the enemy. By doing so Oesch sees that Marshal Mannerheim accepted the possibility on an unexpected major offensive in the Karelian Isthmus. The exact timing of the Soviet attack is a different matter, and in Oesch's opinion it is a matter of lesser importance. General Oesch thinks that it is far more important to be ready for an attack in all times than to know the exact moment of an attack.

If there however werw difficulties in receiving and understanding intelligence information, the blame was to fall on to the peculiar staff system created by Marshal Mannerheim himself. This becomes evident from MARTTI TURTOLA'S "Erik Heinrichs. Mannerheimin ja Paasikiven kenraali" (1988). General Heinrichs was Marshal Mannerheim's chief of staff, and according to him it was the Mannerheim's staff system that made the headquarters in Mikkeli so passive prior to the Russian attack. Intelligence information was not integrated into a logical entirety, because Marshal Mannerheim wanted to do everything by himself. This had fateful consequences says Mr Turtola.

Was Finland ready then? Many things suggest that she was not. In addition to general Oesch this is clearly presented by colonel MARTTI V. TER”ě in his study "Kes√¬§kuun kriisi 1944" (1967). In the stable conditions of trench warfare the supreme command had neglected the training of the troops emphasis being in the entertainment of the troops. Effective German antitank weapons were not distributed to the troops although they have arrived in Finland already in the spring of 1944. Detailed German information of the new Soviet attack methods was not utilised. Both Oesch and Ter√¬§ see the greatest mistake in the stationig of the troops and material. General Oesch thinks that one of the biggest weaknesses of the defence was the lack of depth in the troop positions. Colonel Ter√¬§ says that the troops and the material, especially the artillery, werw wrongly placed. Therefore it took 2-3 weeks before the defence was regrouped. Only after this was an efficient and concentrated defence possible.

It so seems quite evident that the main problem in the Finnish defence was the lack of troops in the Karelian Isthmus. Before the battles in the Isthmus werw overm a whole four divisions (4.D, 6.D, 11.D and 17.D) and two brigades had been transferred from the East Karelia to Isthmus. Should these troops have been there earlier? General Oesch says yes. In the spring of 1944 both President Ryti and foreign minister Ramsay had suggested Marshal Mannerheim that the defence on the Isthmus should be made stronger by reducing the number of troops in the East Karelia. Similar suggestions werw also made by colonel Nihtil√¬§ and lieutenant general A.F. Airo, Mannerheim's aide-to-camp. Also general Heinrichs and general Rudolf Walden, the minister of defence made this kind of proposals. Marshal Mannerhein however declined.

Why then did Marshal Mannerheim not transfer troops from the East Karelia already before the Russian attack? In his memoirs Mannerheim explanes that he considered the East Karelia to be a collateral in the coming peace conference between Finland and the Soviet Union. This opinion has been widely criticised. General Oesch considers this kind of thinking to be illogical. In Oesch's thinking the question of keepingboth the Karelian Isthmus and the East Karelia must first be solved by military means. Only after this it is possible to consider the value of the East Karelia as a collateral in the peace negotiations. (If the area still was in Finnish hands that is). In 1944 the final military settlemnet between Finland and the Soviet Union had not yet been done, but many political and military indicators showed its coming. This, according to Oesch, was to be taken in the consideration when examining the situation from the military point of view. First the Finns had to answer a following question: considering our limited resources in both men and material, shall we be able to defend both the Karelian Isthmus and the East Karelia? According to Oesch the answer was no. The next question is: which of these two areas has the greatest strategic importance? Oesch's answer is clear: the Karelian Isthmus. The danger to the nation would be far more serious if the defence in the Karelian Isthmus broke than it would be in the opposite situation.

Also Marshal Mannerheim's most recent biographer, J.E.O. SCREEN is critical about Mannerheim's decision not to concentrate enough troops to the Karelian Isthmus. In "Mannerheim" (2000) Mr Screen says that the hard criticism [on the above mentioned matter] has been justified.

It is even without hindsight clear that many things should and could have been done differently by the Finnish commander-in-chief. Markku Jokisipil√¬§ writes in his doctoral thesis that many of the difficulties during the Finnish defence were results of indisputable negligence and miscalculation. The commander-in-chief, Marshal Mannerheim naturally bears the responsibility for these maters says Mr Jokisipil√¬§. Without these negligence and miscalculations the Red Army's advance could have been stopped earlier. Mannerheim has, however, a quite unique position in the Finnish history. He has been given an almost godlike status, which has made a critical valuation of his actions very difficult.

* * *

Grendel-B also presents his view on the so called Ryti-Ribbentrop treaty: "Meanwhile President Ryti has personally signed a deal with Ribbentrop, securing a promise of assistance". This has indeed been the prevailing opinion in the Finnish history, but it has now been seriously challenged. In the above mentioned doctoral thesis Mr Jokisipil√¬§ quite convincingly proves that the Ryti-Ribbentrop treaty had little, if anything to do with the German help. The most important elements of the German assistance, namely the antitank weapons and the Gefechtverband Kuhlmey had arrived in Finland prior to the Ribbentrop treaty.

* * *

The icon of Finnish patriotism, late general Adolf Ehrnrooth is also mentioned by Grendel-B in the paragraph concerning the battle of Tali-Ihantala. The then colonel Ehrnrooth was a fine commander, but he and his JR 7 (7. infantry regiment) had nothing to do with the battle of Tali-Ihantala. Their turn was to come later in the battle of the Vuosalmi bridgehead.

Colonel Ehrnrooth was one of the few commanders who used the possibility to pass a death penalty under the military regulations. On July 13 colonel Ehrnrooth ordered the execution of one private Pentti H√¬§kkinen of the 11./JR 7. H√¬§kkinen had deserted on July 7 and was brought to field court-martial which sentenced him to three years of imprisonment. On July 13 he was ordered to go back to the lines, but he declined. He was then brought to the regimental command post, where he was summoned by Ehrnrooth. The colonel asked H√¬§kkinen twice if he would go back to the line, but private H√¬§kkinen declined. After this colonel Ehrnrooth had him shot.