Tuesday, May 3, 2016

December 11, 1939: Finns Make Their Move

Thursday 11 December 1939

Wrecked Soviet T-26 tank, 11 December 1939 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A Soviet T-26 tank, model 1938 from the Suomussalmi battle. The tank remains today where it was left behind in 1939. It shows extensive battle damage.
Winter War Army Operations: The village of Suomussalmi is an inconsequential little place in the middle of endless forests. However, on 11 December 1939, it is the last stop on the road west before the terrain opens up and provides easy access to the coast. Thus, holding it is critical to the Finnish defense.
Colonel Siilasvuo at Suomussalmi with his motley assortment of units is ready to make his move. Departing from his blocking position across the lake from the village, he leaves only a skeleton force of two machinegun companies and a few machine-gun crews from the 4th Reserve Battalion on the southern bank of Haukpera Lake to block that direction. With the remainder of his small force, he marches back east through the woods past the Soviet forces.

He then tasks Battle Group Kontula to cut the Ratte road, which constitutes the only means of communication for the Soviets based in Suomussalmi. Not only does the Battle Group Kontula advance to block the road, but the Finns also destroy a convoy of six Soviet trucks carrying wounded to the Soviet rear.

Finnish foreign minister at League of Nations, 11 December 1939 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Finnish Foreign Minister Rudolf Holsti speaking at the League of Nations General Assembly. Holsti is protesting the Soviet invasion of his country. Geneva, Switzerland, 11 December 1939.
The Soviets react slowly despite the fact the road is their lifeline. Their headquarters takes its time sending the 44th Rifle Division from the east in relief. Battle Group Kontula squares up and forms a defensive line facing east, waiting, but nothing is seen. With them blocking any Soviet relief, Siilasvuo takes the infantry companies from the 27th Infantry Regiment and the 4th Reserve Battalion and marches down the Ratte road to the west - straight toward the Soviet 759th Rifle Regiment in Suomussalmi. Simultaneously, he has other elements launch harassing attacks on the town from other directions to provide a distraction. Siilasvuo plans to surround the town and defeat the Soviets there, then turn his attention to other threats later. He is in complete control of the only escape route the trapped Soviets have. The Soviet forces in Suomussalmi are trapped.

To the north, the Finnish 16th detachment continues blocking the Soviet 662nd Regiment, the only other source of succor for the Soviets in Suomussalmi.

European Air Operations: A German barrage balloon drifts loose and falls in the Shetlands. Luftwaffe aircraft are spotted off the Yorkshire coast.

Commander Jan Grudziński, the Commander of the Polish Navy submarine ORP Orzeł (Eagle), 11 December 1939 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Commander Jan Grudziński, the Commander of the Polish Navy submarine ORP Orzeł (Eagle), probably in one of the naval bases in Britain, 11 December 1939." Grudziński has just completed a daring escape with his crew from internment in Estonia, which caused diplomatic issues for the Estonian government. Orzel died about six months later during a patrol in the North Sea. © IWM (HU 128076). 
Battle of the Atlantic: U-38 (Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Liebe) torpedoes and sinks 4,708 ton Greek freighter Garoufalia inside Norwegian territorial waters. Four lives are lost, 25 saved. The attack is observed and quickly turned into a propaganda coup by the Norwegians and British. This is a classic example of a military success turning into a political blunder.

Norwegian 2151-ton freighter Storfjeld is wrecked on the Seaton Rocks, north of Blyth. Casualties are not recorded.

The British release US freighter Azalea City from detention at London, while US freighter Steel Engineer is released from Gibraltar.

Convoy OA 51 departs from Southend and OB 51 departs from Liverpool.

League of Nations: Having deliberated the obvious for two days, the League of Nations sends Stalin a telegram telling him to cease hostilities in Finland and accept mediation.

USS Omaha bringing home the body of the deceased US Ambassador to Cuba, 11 December 1939 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Body of U.S. Ambassador to Cuba arrives in Washington for burial. Washington, D.C., December 11, [1939]. High officials of the State Department were at the Navy Yard this morning to receive the body of J. Butler Wright, U.S. Ambassador to Cuba, as it arrived aboard the U.S. Cruiser Omaha. Ambassador Wright, who died in Cuba last week after an operation, will be buried in Washington Cathedral." Library of Congress  hec.27800.
Terrorism: Two IRA men, Barnes and Richards, are sentenced to death for planting the bomb in the Coventry explosion that killed five people on 25 August 1939.

Ireland: The Eire government plans for an army of 20,000 officers and men.

Deceased US Ambassador J. Butler Wright on the cover of Time, 11 December 1939 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The Time magazine cover of 11 December 1939 features the recently deceased US Ambassador to Cuba, J. Butler Wright (Cover credit: Thomas D. McAvoy).
China: The Chinese 2nd War Area defeats the Japanese spoiling attacks around Wenhsi and Hsia Hsien.

Holocaust: In occupied Poland, Hans Frank decrees forced labor for all Jews.

Betty Grable on the cover of Life magazine, 11 December 1939 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Betty Grable on the cover of the 11 December 1939 Life magazine.

December 1939

December 1, 1939: Finland Fights for its Life
December 2, 1939: First RAF Bombs on Germany
December 3, 1939: Soviets Still Advancing in Finland
December 4, 1939: Molotov to Roosevelt - Mind Your Own Business
December 5, 1939: Prien Returns
December 6, 1939: Attacks on Mannerheim Line
December 7, 1939: Kollaa Holds!
December 8, 1939: Polish Pilots Return
December 9, 1939: First British BEF Fatality
December 10, 1939: The Soviets Capture Salla in Finland
December 11, 1939: Finns Make Their Move
December 12, 1939: Finnish Success in the Winter War
December 13, 1939: Battle of River Platte
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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