Friday, May 6, 2016

December 20, 1939: Finnish Counterattacks Continue

Wednesday 20 December 1939

20 December 1939 Soviet relief column Suomossalmi
A dead Soviet soldier lies near his truck on the Ratte road. It is the 44th Division trying to rescue the 163rd Infantry Division in Suomossalmi. 20 December 1939.
Winter War: Support for the Finns extends across the Atlantic on 20 December 1939. Former President Herbert Hoover, who was a key architect of American relief for Europe during World War I, gives a speech for the Finnish Relief Fund at Madison Square Garden in New York. The event is called "Let's Help Finland."

Winter War Army Operations: At Summa, the Soviets are becoming worn out by their repeated tank raids into the nearby frozen swamp which turn into killing zones by defenders throwing Molotov Cocktails and satchel charges. The weather is brutal, -20C, and the Soviet tanks and other armour is having difficulty due to the elements. The tanks can break through the Finnish lines, but they are unable to penetrate the fixed defenses that hold the key to the Mannerheim line. Without infantry support, the tanks are then picked off individually. When the fuel runs out, the vehicles freeze solid and then the Soviets must advance on foot through terrain the Finns handle with ease on skis.

At Suomussalmi, the Finnish 27th Regiment is reinforced and now called the 9th Division. It has had the Soviets in the village surrounded for a week without any significant attempts to break the blockade by the relief force. The Soviet 44th Division has enough problems as it gets cut up by the Finns on the Ratte road. The commander of the 163rd Division trapped in the town, Andrei Zelentsov, asked permission to retreat from Suomussalmi. Permission is denied and he is told that more troops are being sent to rescue him.

The Finnish "Group Talvela" named after now-Major General Paavo Talvela), which is primarily 16th Infantry Division, attacks Soviet 139th Rifle Division. It remains surrounded at Ägläjärvi. Soviet 75th Rifle Division has been sent as a relief but it is accomplishing little.

At Salla, Mannerheim has sent a division from his strategic reserve at Helsinki. It is used to drive the Soviet 122d Division, which has advanced along the southern fork almost to Kemijarvi, back to Salla. The entire advance out of Salla on both the north and south forks of the road has been repelled.

At Taipale, the fighting has diminished considerably after the Soviets stopped attacking strong points that they can't overwhelm.

The Battle of Kollaa is becoming a long, drawn-out affair, which is exactly what the Finns wanted.

Battle of the Atlantic: At some point, local British authorities purchase the salvage rights to the Admiral Graf Spee for £14,000 from the German government. They examine the radar range finder and report back their findings to Fred Hoyle at the British Admiralty in order to develop countermeasures.

Swedish freighter Mars (1,877 tons) strikes a mine and sinks near Blyth in the English Channel. Of the crew, 15 are saved and 7 perish.

British freighter Napia hits a mine and sinks.

The USS Tuscaloosa arrives in New York with 579 survivors of the scuttled German liner Columbus, who are deposited on Ellis Island.

Captain Langsdorff of the Admiral Graf Spee commits suicide at some point during the night of 19/20 December.

US freighter Exochorda is the focus of a brewing international incident over the high-handed detainment of US vessels by British authorities. US Ambassador to Italy William Phillips complains about seemingly arbitrary standards regarding what is contraband and what is to be done with it.

European Air Operations: The RAF sends a dozen bombers to the North Sea to attack shipping, without result.

Convoy OA 57 departs from Southend, OB 57 departs from Liverpool, and HX 13 departs from Halifax.

China: The Chinese Winter Offensive is continuing, but the initial impetus is starting to break. Chinese 2nd War Area is pacifying Wenhsi and Hsia Hsien and captures the villages of Ankuo and Tienwang. Chinese 8th War Area attacks into Paotou. Chinese 3rd War Area, however, is having difficulties advancing on the south bank of the Yangtze, and the Japanese are counterattacking at Kunlunkuan, Hiutang, Kaofengyi, and along the Canton-Hankow railway.

20 December 1939 Soviet relief column Suomossalmi
Ruins of the Soviet relief column for Suomossalmi, with Finnish soldiers picking over the wreckage.

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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