Friday, May 6, 2016

December 21, 1939: Finns Plan More Counterattacks

Thursday 21 December 1939

21 December 1939 Soviet tank Summa Finland
A knocked-out Soviet T-28 tank at Summa, taken from a Finnish trench, 21 December 1939.
Winter War Ground Operations: Ground operations are at a tipping point on 21 December 1939. The Soviet impetus has been stopped - the original plan had been to be in Helsinki by now, Stalin's birthday. The Finns already have proven their mettle, but now is when they start moving toward actually eviscerating some of the over-extended and ill-prepared Soviet troops.

Finnish II Corp’s commander General Harald Öhqvist prepares a plan for his own commander, General Hugo Österman, for a counter-offensive on the Karelian Isthmus. Field Marshal Mannerheim has a good relationship with his subordinates and approves the plan.

Major General Paavo Talvela is counterattacking the Soviet 139th Rifle Division around Ägläjärvi, which is about 20 km from Tolvajärvi. The Soviets are giving ground. The Soviet 75th Rifle Division is not doing much to help its sister formation but is in contact with the Finns.

At Salla, the Soviet troops on the north fork are still under pressure and have been pushed back to Savukoski. The Soviets on the south fork are also under pressure but are less overstretched.

At Summa, the Soviet tank attacks continue to result in no lasting gains and are winding down. The field is littered with abandoned Soviet tanks. The Soviet infantry is refusing to participate in frontal assaults on the well dug-in Finnish soldiers.

At Suomossalmi, the Soviet 163rd and 44th Rifle Divisions are both trapped, the one in the town, the other stretched out along the road. Both are now to some extent dependent upon the other remaining in action, else the Finns can concentrate all their men on one of the units.

In the far north, the Soviet 14th Army once again advances to Nautsi, but then stops. The 14th Army can only become a strategic threat to Finland if it can advance south and take the key road junction of Rovaniemi and points further south, potentially hooking up with the Soviet 9th Army. The Finns are executing a form of guerilla warfare in the treeless, windy, endless dark, cutting supply lines and launching harassing attacks.

21 December 1939 Soviet tank Summa Finland
Another view of the knocked-out Soviet tank at Summa, 21 December 1939.
Winter War Air Operations: Soviet bombers raid Helsinki.

Battle of the Atlantic: U-21 (Kapitänleutnant Fritz Frauenheim) is positioned perfectly as the day begins. At 07:25 he torpedoes and sinks 1,352-ton Swedish freighter, Carl Henckel, off the Island of May, Scotland. Seven survive, ten perish. Around 10:00, he torpedoes and sinks 1,475-ton Swedish freighter Mars near the same spot. There is one survivor, 18 perish. Frauenheim is sparing with his torpedoes, using one on each freighter. The survivors spend a miserable day and night in the sea and are then picked up and taken to Kristiansand.

U-46 (Herbert Sohler) torpedoes and sinks 924-ton Norwegian freighter Rudolf northeast of Rattray Head, Scotland. All 15 crew survive.

British defense vessel HMS Bayonet strikes a mine in the Firth of Forth and sinks. Three perish.

USS Twiggs tails the British RFA tanker Patella in the Caribbean.

Captain Langsdorff is buried in Buenos Aires as his men from the Admiral Graf Spee go into internment there.

Convoy OG 11 forming at Gibraltar.

U-62 is commissioned.

European Air Operations: The RAF once again sends a mass of bombers to attack German shipping in the north sea, but they find nothing and, while returning, have two of their 42 number shot down by Supermarine Spitfires.

There also are some interceptions along the French border, but no engagements.

German/Soviet Relations: Hitler loves to celebrate other leaders' birthdays, and this is Joseph Stalin's 60th big day. He sends Stalin a telegram wishing him "good health and a happy future for the peoples of the friendly Soviet Union."

Stalin responds as a good Communist should: "To the Chancellor of the German Reich, A Hitler. The friendship of the peoples of Germany and the Soviet Union, cemented by blood, has every reason to be lasting and firm."

Hitler is working very hard to become "friendly" with Stalin. He has ulterior motives for this which will not be known until later.

German/Romanian Relations: The two countries sign an economic agreement. Germany is highly dependent upon Romanian oil.

French Government: The government releases a compendium of pre-war documents in the "Yellow Book." The British had done the same thing on 21 September 1939 in its "Blue Book."

Canada: The newly arrived Canadian 1st Division hold a parade at Aldershot.

Sweden: Swedish volunteers cross over to Finland to help in the Winter War.

China: The Winter Offensive continues. The Chinese retain the initiative but are getting bogged down now. The Chinese 3rd War Area raids Nanchang, the Chinese 8th War Area is fighting within Paotou, the Chinese 9th War Area is cutting Japanese lines of communications at Chingan, and there is fighting around Kunlunkuan.

The Japanese 5th Infantry Division takes Lungchow.

21 December 1939 Captain Langsdorff Admiral Graf Spee
The funeral procession for Kapitän zur See Hans W. Langsdorff in Buenos Aires, 21 December 1939.
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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