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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

March 12, 1940: War is Over (If You Want It)


Tuesday 12 March 1940

12 March 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com U-50
U-50 crew on 12 March 1940. They went out on their next patrol and were sunk, 6 April 1940, in a North Sea minefield as they were returning home. Everybody in this picture was killed. (Ang, Federal Archive).

Winter War: At 09:00 on 12 March 1940, Finnish President Kyösti Kallio authorizes the peace delegation in Moscow to sign an agreement ending the war. There is no further negotiation, the Soviet terms have not changed throughout the meetings and agreement is a formality. The Finns meet with Molotov at 22:00 to formalize the document. They capitulate and sign the Moscow Peace Treaty around midnight on the 12th.

The Armistice goes into effect at 11:00 on 13 March. There is no ceasefire until that time. The treaty must be ratified within three days.

As demanded by the Soviets, the Finns give up the entire Karelian Isthmus where the bulk of the fighting took place and which contains their only defensive fortifications. The Finns lose all access to Lake Ladoga. They also surrender a long-term (30 year) lease on the naval base at Hango, a slice of eastern portion of the country around battle-torn Salla, the major cities of Viipuri and Vuokis, and nearby towns of Sortavala and Käkisalmi. The surrendered territory is rich in natural resources, but more importantly served as the only defensive buffer zone against the Soviet Union. As a consolation, they receive back the basically worthless port of Petsamo in the far north while the Soviets retain the nearby peninsula which is in a strategic location.

The end result is that Finland loses roughly 10% of the country, 35,000 square km. About 430,000 Finns are displaced, 12% of the population.

Kallio says:
"This is the most awful document I have ever had to sign. May the hand wither which is forced to sign such a paper."
The Allies are hopelessly behind the curve. French Prime Minister Daladier still, on this final day, tells his Chamber of Deputies that an Anglo-French expeditionary force of 50,000 men is ready to go - all Finland has to do is ask. With the Moscow Peace Treaty signed, such a request will be a long time coming.

The Swedes add insult to injury by hinting that, finally, when it no longer matters, it might be open to a defensive alliance with Finland.

The British go even further. They actually load 20,000 men - five brigades - on ships at Rosyth in the Firth of Forth. The transports are ready to go to Trondheim, Bergen and Stavanger. Another brigade is on alert at Scapa Flow to head to Narvik and occupy the key port there. The troops are odds and ends from the Home Army, mostly reservists hastily called up recently, ill-equipped and lacking in training and morale. The most organized troops are serving with the BEF on the continent and thus unavailable.

However, the British War Cabinet is uncertain how to proceed. No agreement to a British military presence has been received from either Norway or Sweden, and such agreement would effectively violate their neutrality. Nobody knows what to expect, and how to handle armed armed opposition is up in the air. Prime Minister Chamberlain condemns the entire idea, but he is rapidly losing moral authority due to the deteriorating international situation that he helped create.

Winter War Army Operations: There is a blizzard in the southern and central sectors of Finland that halts most operations. The Soviet 7th Army continues assaulting Finnish defenses at Viipuri. There is fighting throughout the city's suburbs. The Finnish-American Legion, some 300 strong, reaches the city to help defend it.

Winter War Air Operations: The weather keeps most planes grounded. Before things close down, a Soviet Polikarpov I-16 "Ishak" fighter (the Finns call it Siipiorava ("Flying Squirrel")) wages a solitary battle against a lone Finnish anti-aircraft gunner located on a water tower at the city of Utti. The fighter makes numerous passes, obsessed with eliminating the gunner, but finally the anti-aircraft gunner wins and shoots it down.

Battle of the Atlantic: Having been forced to abandon the key naval base at Scapa Flow due to the sinking of the Royal Oak, the British Home Fleet finally returns from temporary quarters at Rosyth and Loch Ewe. The harbor anti-aircraft defenses have been improved, the netting at the harbor entrances extended, and access to the entire region restricted to authorized personnel only.

British freighter Gardenia hits a mine and sinks.

The Kriegsmarine commissions U-99.

Convoy OB 108 departs from Liverpool, Convoy HG 22 departs from Gibraltar.

European Air Operations: Luftwaffe Heinkel He-111s make attacks along the English east coast, without result.

US Government: Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles, having met Mussolini, Hitler, Chamberlain and Daladier, now meets with First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill. Churchill is in fine form, sitting by the fire smoking a 24-inch cigar, downing whiskey and soda. As Welles recounts later, "It was quite obvious that he had consumed a good many whiskeys before I arrived," and he exhibited "a cascade of oratory, brilliant and always effective, interlarded with considerable wit."

Republican primaries begin in New Hampshire. President Roosevelt still has not made a firm statement about whether he will pursue a third term.

Middle East: British General Wavell sets out to South Africa for consultations with Jan Smuts.

China: At the Battle of South Kwangsi, the Chinese 46th Army attacks the key Japanese base from the east.

Holocaust: The Germans ship Jews from Stettin in box cars to Lublin. The victims are forced to march for 18 hours through a blizzard carrying all of their possessions. There are 72 deaths out of the thousand people.

Future History: Look Magazine has a six-page feature on a Yale Law School student who also was a partner in a New York modeling agency (he was a model himself) and an assistant coach on the Yale football team. The male model was Gerald Ford. He became the 38th President of the United States in 1974 upon the resignation of Richard Nixon.

12 March 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Gerald Ford Phyllis Brown
Gerald Ford and his girlfriend/model Phyllis Brown, Look magazine, 12 March 1940.

March 1940

March 1, 1940: Soviet Breakthroughs Past Viipuri
March 2, 1940: Soviets Swarm West in Finland
March 3, 1940: Soviets Across Gulf of Viipuri
March 4, 1940: USSR Apologizes to Sweden
March 5, 1940: Katyn Forest Massacre Approved
March 6, 1940: Finns Head to Moscow
March 7, 1940: The Coal Ships Affair
March 8, 1940: Peace Talks Begin in Moscow
March 9, 1940: Soviets Harden Peace Terms
March 10, 1940: Germany Draws Closer to Italy
March 11, 1940: Winter War Peace Terms Finalized
March 12, 1940: War is Over (If You Want It)
March 13, 1940: Winter War Ends
March 14, 1940: Evacuating Karelia
March 15, 1940: The Bletchley Bombe
March 16, 1940: First British Civilian Killed
March 17, 1940: Enter Dr. Todt
March 18, 1940: Mussolini To Join the War
March 19, 1940: Daladier Resigns
March 20, 1940: Soviets Occupy Hango Naval Base
March 21, 1940: Paul Reynaud Leads France
March 22, 1940: Night Fighters Arise!
March 24, 1940: French Consider Alternatives
March 25, 1940: Reynaud Proposes Action
March 26, 1940: C-46 First Flight
March 27, 1940: Himmler Authorizes Auschwitz Construction
March 28, 1940: Allies Ponder Invading Norway
March 29, 1940: Soviets Prefer Neutrality
March 30, 1940: Allied Uncertainty
March 31, 1940: The Tiger Cage


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