Tuesday, March 15, 2016

November 30, 1939: Winter War Begins

Thursday 30 November 1939

Helsinki Finland worldwartwodaily.filminspector.com
Helsinki bombed on the first day of the Winter War, 30 November 1939.
November 30, 1939, is one of the important but little-noted, dates of World War II. This is because it expands military operations to Scandinavia for the first time.

Winter War: According to the terms of the Ribbentrop/Molotov Pact of 23 August 1939, Germany had given the Soviet Union carte blanche to do as it wished regarding Finland. On 30 November 1939, Stalin accordingly invades Finland following the sort of meticulous propaganda preparation, complete with manufactured "border incidents," that most people associate only with Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich.

The Soviet forces under Marshal Kliment Voroshilov, People's Commissar of Defense, open fire at 06:50. They advance quickly into Finland with 21 divisions and a total of roughly 450,000 men in the front lines (amounts vary by source). The attack included a vicious aerial attack on Helsinki, Finland on the first day of the war, another tactic that most people associate with the Germans and not the Soviets.

The attack violated several treaties between the two nations:
  • The 1920 Treaty of Tartu;
  • The 1932 Non-Aggression Pact, reaffirmed in 1934;
  • The Covenant of the League of Nations, ratified by the Soviet Union in 1934.
The frontier was over 1,000 km (620 miles) in length, but chains of lakes and vast stretches of difficult terrain in the north effectively limited the axes of advance to the areas directly adjacent to Lake Ladoga. The main conflict occurs on the Karelian Isthmus to the north of St. Petersburg aka Leningrad. The conflict becomes known as the Winter War.

Finnish Government: Taken by surprise by the Soviet invasion despite the staged "provocations," the current Finnish government resigns at midnight. Risto Ryti is named the new Prime Minister, and Väinö Tanner the new foreign minister. Marshal C.G.E. Mannerheim, a World War I hero and descendant of Germany by way of Sweden, already commander-in-chief, is given command of all Finnish Defence Forces and the honorary title "Defender of Finland."

Helsinki Finland worldwartwodaily.filminspector.com
Soviet troops invading the Karelian Isthmus north of Leningrad, 30 November 1939.
Soviet Government: Moscow announces the formation of the Finnish People's Government, led by exile Otto Kuusinen, a long-time Comintern member.

Winter War Military Operations: The Soviets attack along a broad front, stretching from the Karelian Isthmus north of Leningrad to Petsamo on the Barents Sea.

Total Soviet forces in the invasion:

600,000 troops;
26 Divisions in front lines, 32 Divisions total (some under-strength);
1,200 tanks;
696 planes;
A fleet with 2 Battleships, 1 cruiser, 9 destroyers;

Total Finnish defensive forces: 

400,000 troops total, 150,000 in front lines;
9 Divisions, a 10th being formed;
145 planes;
2 coastal defense ships.

The Finnish military is distinguished by its lack of armor. While this is partly poor planning, the country has endeavored to limit arms production and purchases to maintain the appearance of neutrality. A single Soviet division has more tanks than the entire country of Finland.

The order of battle:
  • Soviet 7th Army (General Yakovlev) with 12 divisions attacks on the Karelian Isthmus.
  • Soviet 8th Army (General Khabarov) attacks north of Lake Ladoga.
  • Soviet Ninth Army (General Duhanov) attacks from Soviet Karelia toward the Gulf of Bothnia. 
  • Soviet 14th Army (General Frolov) heads east from Murmansk toward Petsamo, which is immediately brought under siege.
The Soviet Northern Fleet lands part of the 104th Rifle Division near Petsamo.

Finnish forces are anchored on their main defensive line aka the Mannerheim Line, which covers the body of the country.

Winter War Air Operations: Soviet aircraft attack Russaro Island.

Winter War Naval Operations: Soviet cruiser Kirov and two destroyers bombard Russaro Island. Soviet naval forces land on Selskari Island.

Battle of the Atlantic: Total shipping losses for the month of November 1939 are given as:

49 Allied Ships;
173,563 tons;
plus 1 ship of 706 in the Indian Ocean.

One U-boat was sunk, the U-35.

British freighter Sheaf Crest hits a mine off the southeast coast of England and sinks.

German patrol vessel V-704 hits a mine and sinks.

German vessel Widder is converted into a merchant raider.

US freighter Extavia is detained by the British at Gibraltar.
Convoy OB 44 departs from Liverpool.

European Air Operations: Two RAF fighters chase off a Luftwaffe reconnaissance aircraft north of the Firth of Forth.

Finland Homefront: The Finns begin evacuating Helsinki, Viipuri and other major cities.

Sweden: Swedish volunteers begin signing up to help in Finland.

Great Britain: British volunteers begin signing up to help in Finland.

British Government: Sir Stafford Cripps leaves for an extended diplomatic tour of India, China, and the Soviet Union.

German Homefront The number of unemployed is given at 120,000. This compares to about 5 million unemployed in 1932, the year before Hitler took power.

Helsinki Finland worldwartwodaily.filminspector.com
The first Soviet Casualty of the Winter War, 30 November 1939.

November 1939

November 1, 1939: The Jet Flies Again
November 2, 1939: The Soviets Devour Poland
November 3, 1939: Amending the Neutrality Act
November 4, 1939: Roosevelt Signs Neutrality Laws
November 5, 1939: The Spirit of Zossen
November 6, 1939: First Dogfight
November 7, 1939: More Lies About SS Athenia
November 8, 1939: Hitler Almost Killed
November 9, 1939: The Venlo Incident
November 10, 1939: Dutch Panic
November 11, 1939: Poignant Armistice Day
November 12, 1939: Peace Efforts Made and Rejected
November 13, 1939: First Bombing of Great Britain
November 14, 1939: The Dyle Plan
November 15, 1939: Elser Confesses to the Bürgerbräukeller Bombing
November 16, 1939: Martial Law in Prague
November 17, 1939: International Students Day
November 18, 1939: Magnetic Mines
November 19, 1939: Walls Around the Warsaw Ghetto
November 20, 1939: First RN Submarine Victory
November 21, 1939: Salmon & Gluckstein on the Prowl
November 22, 1939: British Recover A Magnetic Mine
November 23, 1939: HMS Rawalpindi Sunk
November 24, 1939: Japanese Enter Nanning
November 25, 1939: The Olympics are a War Casualty
November 26, 1939: Soviets Stage an "Incident" at Mainila
November 27, 1939: German Marriage Becomes Perilous
November 28, 1939: Judenrats in Poland
November 29, 1939: The Soviets Prepare to Invade Finland
November 30, 1939: Winter War Begins
December 14, 1939: Quisling Meets Hitler
December 15, 1939: Chinese Winter Offensive in High Gear
December 16, 1939: Battle of Summa
December 17, 1939: End of Admiral Graf Spee
December 18, 1939: Battle of Heligoland Bight
December 19, 1939: British Disarm Magnetic Mines
December 20, 1939: Finnish Counterattacks Continue
December 21, 1939: Finns Plan More Counterattacks
December 22, 1939: Enter Chuikov
December 23, 1939: Failed Finnish Counterattack
December 24, 1939: Soviets on the Run
December 25, 1939: Fresh Soviet Attacks
December 26, 1939: Vicious Battles at Kelja
December 27, 1939: Grinding Finnish Victories
December 28, 1939: Liberators
December 29, 1939: Finns Tighten the Noose
December 30, 1939: Finnish Booty
December 31, 1939: Planning More Soviet Destruction


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