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  • ✪ Finland’s Desperate Fight - WW2 - 025 - February 16 1940


February 16, 1940 For two and a half months Finland has held out against the might of the Soviet Union’s Red Army, but the weight of numbers finally tells. This week the Mannerheim Line breaks. I’m Indy Neidell; this is World War Two. Last week the Allied Supreme Council decided it will intervene in Norway and Finland in mid March. However, the Soviets just launched a renewed offensive against the Finns, and though their defenses held, for how long could they withstand the strain? The Soviets are attacking with what Soviet Defense Minister Marshal Kliment Voroshilov has called the “crescendo offensive” This is just wave after wave of troops attacking again and again. On the 10th and 11th, the attacks on the Karelian Isthmus, already colossal in scope, widen to include every sector from the Gulf of Finland to Taipale. The whole front is under assault. The Russians even try to widen the assault further by sending men in flanking maneuvers out on the ice. These fail, though, and the coastal heavy battery, which only has shells that can pierce battleships, smashes and shatters the ice, freezing or drowning hundreds of Russians, sucked into the black waters by their heavy gear. Over the next few days, the Soviets try to bring tanks or field guns against the shore batteries, but the attacks again fail and in one instance all 25 tanks attacking are either put out of action or sent through the ice. On the other end of the front at Taipale, it’s the same story as the Soviets fail to outflank the Finns from Lake Ladoga. And yet, by sundown on the 11th, a Russian breakthrough of the Mannerheim Line has become a reality. See, in order to conserve the rested Finnish 5th division for when it is really needed, every report of a possible Russian breakthrough is thoroughly analyzed as to its real danger, to the point that when the breakthrough comes, it goes unnoticed until it’s too late. It’s even reported without much urgency together with a bunch of other reports that sound a lot worse. It comes on the Lähde Road northeast of Summa. A Finnish battalion relieves the one that has held the sector since late January, and is no longer capable of any serious resistance. But the replacement battalion itself is only at 40% strength. The only real defensive fortifications remaining there are two structures that dominate the approach, the Million Dollar Bunker and the Poppius Bunker. The new battalion takes over at night and is unfamiliar with the terrain. This night also happens to be the night Soviet Commander Semyon Timoshenko moves 18 fresh divisions and 5 tank brigades into the lines along the whole isthmus. At Lähde the Soviet 123rd division brings in artillery pieces- doing it by hand to not alert the Finns, and has flat trajectory guns aimed dead on the Finnish defenses-. Their main job is to take out one or both of the main posts. They are attacking here instead of at Summa because not only is Summa way tougher, but a breakthrough here would in fact cause the Finns to abandon Summa anyhow, and if the Soviets can breakthrough the second line- about 1 km deep, they can take the road junctions that are the key to the whole sector. When the morning comes, a two and a half hour artillery barrage announces the attack. At noon, Leningrad time, the infantry begins its assault. The first attack on Poppius quickly fails, but fresh battalions are sent in, and Soviet tanks drive up and park in front of the Poppius firing ports. Now, earlier, this would’ve been a poor tactic, as the Finns’ Molotov cocktails and Bofors guns would’ve knocked out the tanks, but by now the Soviet infantry-armor coordination is solid, and each tank is covered by plenty of men with automatic weapons. That prevents the cocktails, and all of the Bofors guns in the whole region have been knocked out. The Finns soon have no choice but to flee the bunker and fight from the local earthworks. At 1230 a red banner rises above Poppius. On the Finnish left, the swamp is too heavy for armor, so it’s only Russian infantry that assaults what’s called the “Valley of Death”. But when Soviet tanks begin to arrive there from behind from the Lähde Road, the Finns are forced to pull back there as well. Only at the Million Dollar Bunker on the right do the Finnish positions hold. The fighting lasts all day and all night and the defenders hold, even when the bunker is surrounded and men try climbing in through the firing holes. At 0500, though, Soviet sappers manage to stick a 230kg block of TNT over a shellfire crack on the main chamber’s roof. The blast kills every single man inside. At noon, the remainder of the position’s defenders, now fewer than 50, manage to withdraw- still in good order- to the support line. By the evening of that second day, the Red Army has consolidated the Lähde Road salient. It is the only part of the whole line that the attacks of the 11th have been really successful. The Finnish counterattack on Lähde comes on the 13th, but it is too late and too little. It isn’t the whole 5th division either- Mannerheim planned to throw all three regiments of the division in, but he had to peel off two of them for other emergencies. Had they gone in the 11th, it seems likely that Lähde would’ve held, but, that’s a what if. What does happen then is an armored Soviet attack that breaks through and sees a wedge of 50 tanks crash into the Finnish rear. Soon, they have a clear run over good ground to Viipuri, Finland’s second largest city, but they stop and wait for other units to catch up. This is a chance for total victory, and they do not take it. William Trotter thinks this is probably because they can’t believe that the road really lies open and that the Finnish defenses are as battered as they actually are. Whatever the reason is, by the time they get moving the moment is lost, as the Finns have shored up their defenses. A Finnish counterattack is considered for that night, but with no artillery and no cover it is abandoned as hopeless. On the 14th, the Soviets widen the Lähde Salient, putting pressure on Summa from the rear, and causing the Finns to begin withdrawing from Summa after 70 days of holding out against everything the Red Army had to throw at them. They manage the withdrawal without alerting the Soviets, and on the 15th, a massive attack on Summa finds no defenders to fight. Apparently, when Stalin is told that Summa has fallen, he doesn’t believe it until an actual eye witness tells him he has seen the red flag flying high in person. At 1600 on February 15th, Finnish Commander Carl Gustav Mannerheim orders a general retreat of Finnish Second Corps to the Intermediate Line. There are ramifications beyond the local ones. On the 12th, the Soviets raise their terms in peace negotiations with the Finns after successes in the field. Actually, the Soviets aren’t just negotiating with the Finns. On the 11th, the USSR and German sign another trade and economic agreement. The USSR will supply raw materials like oil and food; Germany will supply manufactured ones like weapons. The Soviets will get blueprints of the most recent naval armaments, and prototypes of most recent tanks, planes, and AA guns. Hitler agrees with this partly because he wants to keep the USSR neutral as long as possible so he can win in the west. He even hands over the blueprints for the Bismarck, Germany’s most advanced battleship. Actually, there is notable action at sea this week. On February 16th, on First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill’s instructions, the British destroyer Cossack enters Norwegian waters and takes 299 British prisoners from the German transport ship Altmark. The Altmark has been in Norwegian waters since the 14th and by International Law should have released its prisoners. However, Altmark’s captain claimed he had no prisoners and the Norwegians made no real search attempt of the ship. Thing is, Altmark has spent time as the supply ship to German Pocket Battleship Graf Spee, that was scuttled off the Uruguayan coast two months ago as we saw, and that’s why it now has the prisoners. At first encounter the Cossack withdraws since the Norwegians say they have checked and found no prisoners on the Altmark, but Churchill sends the Cossack back. A boarding party fights its way aboard the Altmark after it has been run aground, and several Germans are killed. What the British do here is also against International Law, and though this action is very popular at home, it helps further convince the Germans that the British have plans afoot for Norway and gives them impetus for their own invasion plans. The Cossack’s Captain, Phillip Vian, is awarded the Distinguished Service Order. Norway formally protests the British violating Norwegian territorial waters, and the British reply that Norway has violated international law by allowing the Germans to use its waters to transport British prisoners to Germany. Plans, machinations, and deceit everywhere. For example, Soviet agent Richard Sorge... or should I say German journalist Richard Sorge... well, they’re both the same guy. He’s in Japan and has close contacts with the German embassy there. See, Josef Stalin has to keep in mind anything going on in the far east when he’s making plans in the far west. The Soviet Union does share a large border with the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo, and Japan’s military strength and intentions have to figure in his plans. So on the 16th Sorge sends Moscow a very detailed account of Japanese military production output, planes, trucks, etc., a report on the factories that make them, and even a report on Japanese iron and steel production. And that will end the week, with a British rescue in Norwegian waters, new agreements between Germany and the USSR, and the breaking of the Mannerheim Line. But can you believe it held this long? Against pretty much the largest army on earth? But let’s be clear here- breaking a defensive line and defeating an entire nation are two very different things. Thought I’d leave you with that thought. As many of you know, our maps are made by Eastory- if you haven’t done so, check out his own videos and channel, you can start with this one about the Estonian War of Independence. Our TimeGhost army member of the week is Hart Poole. The money you support us with in the army finances this show. Join our army at or at patreon.





Holidays and observances


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  2. ^ Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident Boeing 737-281 B-1870 Magong Airport (MZG)". Retrieved 2019-08-25.
  3. ^ Diane Morgan (2004). The Buddhist Experience in America. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 119–. ISBN 978-0-313-32491-8.
  4. ^ George Sarton (1947). Introduction to the History of Science ... Carnegie Institution of Washington.
  5. ^ J. Anderson (1857). Ladies of the Reformation. p. 117.
  6. ^ H. Ashley Hall (12 March 2014). Philip Melanchthon and the Cappadocians: A Reception of Greek Patristic Sources in the Sixteenth Century. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. pp. 75–. ISBN 978-3-525-55067-0.
  7. ^ Nicolaus Copernicus (17 October 2018). Three Treatises on Copernican Theory. Courier Dover Publications. pp. 4–. ISBN 978-0-486-82775-9.
  8. ^ Stone, Tessa. "Barnett, Dame (Mary) Henrietta (1905–1985), air force officer". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-63949. Retrieved 2019-08-05.
  9. ^ "Michael Avenatti". Retrieved 29 September 2018.
  10. ^ Oculus News (3 April 2019). "Ava Max: I feel Albanian. My parents taught me never to give up". Music. Oculus News. Retrieved 3 April 2019.
  11. ^ Kreps, Daniel; Kreps, Daniel (February 16, 2019). "Bruno Ganz, Swiss Actor Who Portrayed Hitler in 'Downfall,' Dead at 77".

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