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The Battle of Suomussalmi

8 - 30 December 1939

Part I


A map showing the general location of Suomussalmi,
at the "waist" of Finland.
The location of Suomussalmi, East from Oulu


Map of Suomussalmi area

This is a general map of Suomussalmi and the surrounding area.

As you can see, Suomussalmi was an important junction point, from where you could advance to virtually every direction. Note that there is a railroad depot in Hyrynsalmi.

The dark gray line is the border, the cross indicates a parish and the gray dots pinpoints the adjacent name with the place.

(NOTE; the dot marks the places, regardless of the size of the place, it's merely showing roughly the position of the place, so that it's easier to read the map.)

The Suomussalmi area


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The situation when the war breaks out


The Finnish side


During the YH (the mobilization) , a total of 1 621 men gathered to the training center in Suomussalmi. From this personnel, the 15th Separate Battalion, Er.P 15, was formed under the command of Lt.Col. L.Kyander . The battalion had an order (only the commander was aware of this order) to attack across the border and advance to Vuokkiniemi (some 30 km from the border) in case the war breaks out. The Er.P 15 was attached to the P-SR (North Finland Group) , commanded by Major General W.E.Tuompo .

On 30 November, when the war started, the Er.P. 15 had one company in Likoharju ( some 10 km west of Raatevaara) . This company had manned all border stations from Puras to Lake Kuivajärvi. All other elements and units of the battalion were in or around Suomussalmi and Ämmänsaari. In the Suomussalmi church-area, was also one separate company led by Capt. E.Kontula (hence the name, Er.K. Kontula) under the direct command of the Commander of the North Finland Group (from now on P-SR in the text) . The only Finnish unit in the Juntusranta area was a border guard detachment (from now on RO II, Rajavartio-osasto II, in Finnish) , which had manned the border stations on a 50 km front. The total strength of RO II was 58 men, and in the border station in Hossa (some 20 km north of Juntusranta) were 10 men (with one Bergmann-smg) and in the border station in Toravaara 10 men (with one Bergmann-smg) , so in Juntusranta, the detachment had 38 men (the detachment in Juntusranta had only one Lahti-Saloranta lmg and 2 smg's, one Bergmann and one Suomi-smg) . The detachment had no radio, so all communications to the HQ were made by phone.


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The Soviet side


The opposing force was the 47th Corps, commanded by Corps Commander Dashitsev , which was a part of the 9th Army, commanded by Army Commander Chuikov . The first objective of the 163rd (from now on the 163.D) division, commanded by Division Commander Selendsov , was to destroy the Finnish forces at the border and advance to the Suomussalmi village. As the second objective, the division was to advance to Puolanka via Hyrynsalmi and Ylinäljänkä. After reaching Puolanka, the 44th motorized division (hereafter 44.D) was to advance rapidly from Puolanka towards Oulu, the coast of the Gulf of Bothnia and the Swedish border ( the division had received before the war strict orders not to cross the Finnish-Swedish border) .

The HQ of the 163.D decided to execute the attack by advancing along the Raate-road ( the road from Raatevaara towards Suomussalmi) with a single regiment strengthened by one recon battalion and one Engineer company, while the main elements of the division would advance through Juntusranta to the Palovaara-crossroad (and advance partly through nearly roadless terrain) from where some elements of the division would continue to the Suomussalmi village and some to Peranka.


The Soviet 163rd division and it's attached elements

759th Rifle Regiment
662nd Rifle Regiment
81st Rifle Regiment
1st Bn/82nd Rifle Regiment
163rd Recon Battalion
230th Pioneer Battalion
246th Pioneer Battalion
13th Road Construction Battalion
222nd Tank Battalion
203rd Antitank Battalion
304th Antitank Company
148th Truck Battalion
14th Transportation Regiment
86th Artillery Regiment
365th Artillery Regiment
298th Medical Battalion
(some sources say that it's the 163rd Medical Bn)
225th Field Hospital
175th Hospital
248th Signal Battalion
147th Chemical Company
204th Chemical Battalion
274th Field Bakery


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The actions before December 8th


The Juntusranta - Palovaara direction


The first report of Soviet troops crossing the border came from Karttimo (NE of Toravaara) in the morning of 30 November. In the afternoon, the platoon-sized border guard detachment RO II, led by 2nd Lieutenant M.Elo , withdrew to the west side of the Lake Kokkojärvi (next to Juntusranta) and in the following night further west to Ketterä (some 5 km east of Linna) . The reports by Elo were not believed by his superiors, and his pleads for reinforcements were answered by messages like; "...stop being so nervous and fight better!".

In the early hours of 2 December, the detachment withdrew to the Linnasalmi strait, which was easily defensible, after a short but heavy fight with the company sized forward element of the 163.D . Due to the surprise, only some of the inhabitants of Juntusranta managed to escape, while most of the people stayed in their homes.

On 3 Dec, the leading battalion of the 81st regiment (hereafter JR 81) launched an attack to break the defenders at the Linnasalmi strait with the support of mortars. After the attack was repulsed, the JR 81 sent one company to flank the defenders from the north. After fighting an enemy regiment for 4 consecutive days, the enemy now flanking his small group, which had by now lost over 50 % of it’s original strength either as killed or wounded, the embittered 2nd Lt. Elo shot himself. The RO II, now led by Lt. M.Airanne , was forced to withdraw to Palovaara. Now, as the Soviet forces reached a road, the events started to evolve quickly.

The RO II, strengthened by two platoons from the Er.K Kontula (Separate company Kontula) had to withdraw from Palovaara after a few short battles, in the morning of 4 Dec. During the 5th, it withdrew from two other standing points (first from Käpylä in the morning and later in the afternoon from Kuurtola, some 10 km south of Palovaara) .

The Soviet superior numbers and the flanking maneuvers broke the line of the defenders and the tired men withdrew to yet another chosen delay line, while some men scattered in the woods. After the JR 662, moving behind the JR 81, started the advance north from the Palovaara junction towards Peranka, it finally dawned to the HQ of P-SR that the Soviet focus was on the road from Peranka to Suomussalmi. The Suomussalmi village and the rear area of the battalions fighting on the Raate-road was severely threatened. The P-SR had transported the 3. / Er.P 16 (3rd company of the Er.P 16) from Kuusamo to Lake Piispajärvi on 4 Dec. On 5 Dec, it moved through the wilderness near Linnasalmi, but after monitoring the Soviet traffic along the road, it returned to Peranka. As the situation was now obviously critical, the Er.P 16 (commanded by Major I.Pallari ) was ordered to move with it's main elements from Kuusamo to Lake Piispajärvi.

The P-SR HQ's reserves, the Er.K Kontula, 2./IV/KT-Pr. (the 2nd company of the 4th battalion of the Field Replacement Brigade) and the Er.K Simola (formed in Kajaani) were assigned with the mission to stop the Soviet advance towards the Suomussalmi village. During the evening of 5 Dec, the 2./IV/KT-Pr.  deployed on defense along the Myllyjoki river, while Er.K Simola and Er.K Kontula (in which the remains of RO II were merged) deployed on the isthmus between the lakes Kovajärvi and Kotajärvi.

As the situation had changed, all units in the Suomussalmi area were gathered as Group Kyander. The name was only short living, as in the evening of December 6th, Major K.Kari took command of the Group, and name changed into Group Kari.

6 Dec, the 2./IV/KT-Pr. repulsed an artillery supported attack around noon, but when a Soviet detachment outflanked the defenders, going around the Lake Ala-Kuurtonen, the defenders had to withdraw in the afternoon and the unit was partly scattered. The isthmus between Lake Kovajärvi and Lake Kuivajärvi was now defended only by a mixed detachment from Er.K Kontula and Er.K Simola (actual combined fighting strength being around two platoons) , could hold their line for only a mere moments when it too had to withdraw towards Suomussalmi.

On 6 Dec, Major Kari requested the HQ of P-SR that the Suomussalmi village would be abandoned, the evacuation had started the same morning. During the night between 6 Dec and 7th, orders were issued to the units to withdraw into defensive positions behind the Niskanselkä. The 1./Er.P 15 was transported by trucks to the Kylänmäki to act as a delaying group in the Palovaara direction. Parts of the Er.K Kontula and Er.K Simola were deployed behind the Suomussalmi ferry with the 2./IV/KT-Pr..

The 1./Er.P 15 arrived to Kylänmäki in the early hours of 7 Dec, almost at the same time as the Soviet forces, but it could hold it's positions long into the afternoon before it had to retreat when the Soviet forces, superior in numbers, now used tanks for the first time. At 1830 hrs, the Suomussalmi village was set on fire, burning all night. During the early hours of 8 Dec, the Finnish units had withdrawn to the southern side of the lake, and during the same morning both JR 81 and JR 759 arrived to Suomussalmi village.

During these days, two companies from the Er.P 16, commanded by Maj. L.I.Pallari , had now arrived from Peranka to Lake Piispajärvi, and had established contact with the JR 662 on 6 Dec. A strong attack, supported by artillery and tanks was repulsed that same day. During the following day, a Soviet company which had outflanked the defenders by a swing from the east, attacked the defenders from the rear, but it too was repulsed and the attacking company scattered.

Any offensive actions of the Er.P 16 were for now impossible, but at least the Soviet advance towards Peranka had been halted.


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The Raatevaara direction


The Soviet JR 759 crossed the border at 0830 hrs. A short fire fight between the small guard detachment and the Soviet troops bought enough time for the majority of the local inhabitants to get away, and as the guard detachment withdrew it was soon strengthened by a platoon from the rear. Later in the afternoon, the 3./Er.P 15 had to withdraw from it's positions as the Soviet forces sent a unit to outflank the defenders. The guard detachments along the border (running down south to Lake Kuivajärvi) were given orders to delay the Soviet forces in order to buy time for the evacuation of the civilians.

The main elements of the Er.P 15 started it's advance to the border (following the prewar orders mentioned before) . The 2./Er.P 15 deployed along the small Purasjoki river (south of the Puras locality and some 10 km west from the border) . The Er.P 15 received an order from the HQ of P-SR, to beat the opposing Soviet forces in an attack on Dec 1st. As the preparations were delayed, the attack was launched later that afternoon. During that morning, the defending company repulsed a probing attack after a two hour fight. Short fire fights between patrols from both sides were fought even as far as Puras.
    The attack was eventually canceled due to darkness and bad weather before contact with the enemy. Right after midnight, on Dec 2nd, the battalion received a new defensive order while the P-SR HQ begun immediate actions to gather more troops in the area.

During the Dec 2nd, all attacks of a battalion sized force was repulsed on the Purasjoki line. As the threat of a flanking attack via Puras forced the transport of 3./Er.P 15 into the area, the Er.P 15 reserve was now only a under strengthened company.

During this time, the IV/KT-Pr., commanded by Capt. V.Vehanen, was transported to Suomussalmi on 3 Dec, and while the original plan was that the whole battalion was to be used in the attack on the Raate road, the situation in the Palovaara area, resulted in the change of plans and the 2nd company was left behind as the reserve of the P-SR.

On 3 Dec, the JR 759 continued it's attacks in the morning supported by artillery. One Soviet company managed to maneuver into the Finnish rear area by a northern flanking movement, but it was completely destroyed in a two hour fight. In Puras, a false report of an overwhelming Soviet force in the area was received, and the assumed threat of encirclement forced the battalion to withdraw behind the isthmi area, east of Lake Kuivasjärvi, where the IV/KT-Pr had deployed. The 3./Er.P 15 was left along the trail 4 km SW of Puras.

The JR 759 didn't pursue the Finns while they withdrew from the Purasjoki line, instead it shelled most of the day, 4 Dec the empty Finnish positions while sending patrols to the north. The Er.P 15 had received an order to renew it's attack along the Raate road on 4 Dec, but after marching the previous night, and the still unclear situation near Puras postponed the attack by a day.

On the morning of 5 Dec, the attack of the Er.P 15 and IV/KT-Pr. was delayed for hours by alarming reports of strong Soviet forces near Puras. The attack was again canceled before any significant contact, partly because the final deployment for the attack 5 km west of Purasjoki River was delayed by darkness and partly because of the threat from the Palovaara direction. The 2./Er.P 15 was left behind as forward guard (in Likoharju, only 3-4 km west of Purasjoki River) as the battalions once again marched back into the isthmi area. The same company had fought during the day small battles with Soviet forces supported by artillery, but it managed to beat them back.

The situation evolved slowly along the Raate road. Before noon, the 2./Er.P 15 withdrew from it's positions as many strong Soviet patrols were detected on both flanks. The company withdrew first some 6 km west to Saukko and in the evening to the isthmi area. The 3./Er.P 15 was now deployed as forward guard, guarding both the Raate road and the road to Puras. Again, the Soviet forces didn't pursue the withdrawing Finns.

After a fight during the afternoon of 7 Dec, the Er.P 15 and IV/KT-Pr. withdrew from their isthmi positions and moved to Ämmänsaari. The last Finnish unit in the vicinity was the 2./Er.P 15 which held a delaying position on the isthmus between Lake Kuomasjärvi and Lake Kuivasjärvi and left late in the evening.


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The Soviet advance towards Suomussalmi between 6 and 8 December (left map)
The general situation in the afternoon of 8 December (right map)

Suomussalmi Dec 6th - 7th Suomussalmi area on Dec 8th



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More troops into the area


The Commander of the P-SR had made a proposal to Mannerheim, of assigning more troops to the P-SR. As a response to the request, in the night between 6 Dec and 7th, a brigade was attached to the P-SR. The brigade was formed around the JR 27, led by Col. Hjalmar Siilasvuo who was ordered to take command of the troops in the Suomussalmi area at 2000 hrs on 8 Dec and to destroy the Soviet troops in the area. All the troops in the area (except the Er.P 16, fighting in Lake Piispajärvi, which was still left under the direct command of the P-SR) , were attached to the new Group Siilasvuo, and it received even more additional forces. The recon detachments 5 and 6 (TO 5 and TO 6) , light company Hannila (Kv.K Hannila) , the 17th Pioneer company (17.Pion.K) , 10th separate Signals detachment and some supply formations.

During the Finnish build up, between 7 Dec and 8th, the Soviet JR 81 and JR 759 didn't continue their attacks. On 9 Dec, a Soviet regiment sized attack, supported by artillery was repulsed at the Haukiperä-ferry (along the road south from the Suomussalmi village) . The role of tanks in the battle was almost nonexistent, as the ice on the lakes didn't yet support the weight of the light Soviet tanks.

In the evening of 9 Dec, the detachment Mäkinen (hereafter Os.Mäkinen or Os.M in the text) , led by Captain S.Mäkinen (consisting of 1st and 2nd MG companies of the JR 27, the 1.KK/JR 27 and 2.KK/JR 27) , relieved Os. Kari from front-line duty.


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The Finns take the initiative


After inspecting the situation, Col.Siilasvuo decided to launch an attack from the east towards the Suomussalmi village (at the same time avoiding a costly attack across the lake, severing the Soviet supply lines from the border) .

Os. Mäkinen  was to act as the support group, consisting of the 1.KK/JR 27 and 2.KK/JR 27, a mortar company (Krh.K/JR 27) and some sections from the MG companies of the Er.P 15 and IV/KT-Pr. The mission of the Os.M was to engage the enemy across the lake and support the attacking group.

The attacking group consisted of the JR 27, led by Lt.Col J.Mäkiniemi , was to attack across Kuivassalmi strait and take the Suomussalmi village. To prevent any Soviet units to attack the JR 27 from the rear, a Os.Kontula (Detachment Kontula) was formed from the Er.K Kontula and Er.K Simola, assigned with the mission to close the isthmus between the lakes Kuivasjärvi and Kuomasjärvi. The TO 5 and TO 6 were to guard the right flank of the attack, while the Kv.K Hannula (hereafter Kv.K or Kv.K H in the text and map) was ordered to attack Kylänmäki and cut JR 81's supply lines from the north (the attack failed, as the Kylänmäki area was defended by an entire battalion ) . After the attack, the Kv.K Hannila restricted its actions to patrols, which guarded the left flank of the troops operating in cape Hulkonniemi and harassed Soviet traffic and communications along the Suomussalmi-Peranka road.

The Os. Kari, still consisting of the Er.P 15 and IV/KT-Pr., was left to act as the reserve of the Group Siilasvuo.

The attack was ordered to begin at 0800 hrs on 11 Dec, and the troops began to move into the jump off positions, SW of Kuivassalmi strait , in the early hours of 11 Dec.


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The attack from 11 to 13 December


While the original plan was, that the JR 27 would move NE and after reaching the road, continue west towards Suomussalmi. The II/JR 27, led by Capt. J.Sihvonen , was to advance on the left, the III/JR 27, led by Capt. A.Airimo , was to advance on the right. The I/JR 27, led by Capt. E.Lassila , was to move along the road, behind the two other battalions as the regimental reserve.

As so many times before, the planned attack was delayed due to errors in orienteering, and so the I/JR 27 was the first to reach the road at noon, and it met no opposition. The battalion continued west, moving on both sides of the road. It met a small column of 6 trucks, heading east, which was completely destroyed. In the dusk of the late afternoon, the battalion met the first Soviet defense positions at Pihlajalampi (the small pond on the southern side of the road, on the map below) . The II/JR 27, which had crossed the lake some 2 km too west from the planned point, joined the fight. The defending Soviet forces launched a determined counterattack, which was beaten back at midnight by a flanking attack from the north executed by 2./JR 27 and 9./JR 27.

The Os.Kontula, strengthened by a pioneer platoon reached the Kuivasjärvi-Kuomasjärvi isthmus without opposition, and a platoon sized forward guard was sent to Haukila, some 2-3 km from the rest of the Os.Kontula. In the first few days, no contact was made with the enemy.


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12 December


The JR 27 had no supply lines open and it had spend the night without shelter, but it continued it's attack in the morning strengthened with the IV/KT-Pr.

The II/JR 27 attacked on the southern side of the road, while the III/JR 27 was on the northern side, and they broke the Soviet defenses supported by two tanks with a flanking attack from the north. Two companies from the IV/KT-Pr., which had been attached to the III/JR 27 managed to advance near the Suomussalmi village, before a Soviet counterattack forced them to retreat. During the afternoon, the Finnish battalions fought their way near the road junction, where the Suomussalmi parsonage was located (Pappila in Finnish) . After a few hour fight, the defenders disengaged and contact was established with a detachment, formed from military polices, which had successfully attacked across the lake on the Haukiperä-ferry location in the evening (the previous try, made at noon, was executed by a mixed detachment of pioneers and supply personnel and was a failure even while it was supported with mortars) . The JR 27 had now a usable road for supply purposes.


HaukiperaFerry.jpg (11663 bytes) The Haukiperä ferry seen from the south. The rubble on the foreground are the remains of the ferry man's house.

Picture source: "Talvisodan Historia 3", p.264

The I/JR 27 continued to advance for a kilometer more, where it deployed for defense along a streamlet in order to defend the main forces now preparing to continue the attack in the following morning.

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13 December


In the morning, the JR 759 launched a counterattack from the village along the road to SE. The attack was supported by artillery, air units and 5 tanks. The II/JR 27, III/JR 27 and the Krh.K/JR 27 (which was detached from Os. Mäkinen) formed a battlegroup which repulsed the Soviet counterattack after hours of fighting.

The enemy infantry was easily separated from the tanks, which held back the Finnish attack with their firepower. It was already afternoon, when the II/JR 27 broke the Soviet lines on the west side of the road, advanced to the outskirts of the village and gained a foothold from the village itself by launching a charge. But a strong counterattack threw the battalion back, and it withdrew back into the woods. In the meantime, the III/JR 27 was unable to overcome it's opposition along the streamlet. The contact between the two Finnish battalions was broken.

On the road to Pyyvaara, two companies from the I/JR 27 advanced to the two ponds named as Kannuslammet along the road, where the companies deployed for defense, closing the road as ordered, and they didn't participate in the attack towards the village. The recon detachments TO 5 and TO 6 advanced to the Vuoriniemi-cape.

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The actions between 11 and 13 December

Suomussalmi Dec 11th - 13th
Map legends Map legends

1. dirt road and trail
2. patrols (direction)
3. Finnish positions and attacks, 11 Dec
4. Soviet positions
5. The Suomussalmi church
6. Finnish attacks, 12 Dec
7. Finnish positions and attacks, 13 Dec

Unit legends

Unit legends

1. Detachment Headquarters
2. Detachment Mäkinen
3. 15th Separate Battalion
4. 4th Battalion , Replacement brigade
5. 2nd Battalion , 27th Infantry Regiment
6. 2nd mg-company, 27th regiment
7. Light company/Light company Hannila
8. 5th Recon detachment
9. Soviet 163rd Division
10. Soviet 759th Infantry Regiment


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The battles between 14 and 20 December


On December 14th, came a report from a reconnaissance plane, that new Soviet forces were closing along the Raate-road. The HQ of the Group Siilasvuo was still believing that it was possible to take the village even without artillery support and proper antitank weapons. The Finnish General HQ had attached the PPP 6 (6th Bicycle Battalion ) to Group Siilasvuo on December 13th, and it arrived in the area on December 16th.

The Group Siilasvuo had received 3 separate companies, which were distributed as follows; one 1./ I T/P-KR (the 1st company of the replacement battalion , North Karelia Group) was attached to the JR 27 and the other two, Er.K Siitonen and Er.K Huhanantti were attached to the Er.P 15.


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In and around the Suomussalmi village


The II/JR 27 attacking on the west side of the road and strengthened with two companies from the IV/KT-Pr. couldn't break the Soviet defenders, who made strong resistance from positions built in the ruins, potato storage's, cellars and who had tanks to support them.
    The III/JR 27, on the other hand, managed to push itself next to the village clearing, where it too had to stop as the defenders had a strong network of interlocking fields of fire.
    Also, when the I/JR 27 reached the clearing in the afternoon, it too had to stop.

That same evening, after the 1./I T/P-KR came, the commander of the II/JR 27 formed a detachment of shock troops consisting solely of smg's and lmg's. The detachment attacked the same evening, and surprisingly made it to the village center. But a fire punch and counterattack forced the detachment to withdraw, returning at midnight.
    The III/JR 27 and I/JR 27 who had, at the same time,  made some progress, had to cancel their attack, when the Soviet offered ferocious resistance, and because both battalions ran out of hand grenades momentarily.

During the attack that evening-night, when things were looking good, an untrue report that the village had been recaptured was sent to the Finnish General HQ, which announced it to Finnish troops in the next day. The Soviet regiment, which defended itself very skillfully had been pushed to an area of 2 km² with the cost of 52 dead and 164 wounded for the JR 27, and the regiment was quite tired after days of constant attack.


15 December

At the fifth consecutive attack day, the II/JR 27 managed to push itself forward a little, while the other battalions didn't make any gains. The 2./JR 27 succeeded in taking the Church Cape, overrunning the defenders thereby freeing the TO 5 and TO 6 from Cape Vuokkiniemi to other duties.

The Finnish forces were redeployed and the I/JR 27 was disengaged and moved in reserve behind the III/JR 27.


16 December

The front was transformed into a static line, as more attention was given to resupply the tired troops. It was decided to wait for the Er.P 16 in the north and the PPP 6 on the road to Ylinäljänkä to join the battle and the results from their sissi (guerrilla) actions against the supply lines of the 163.D.


17 - 20 December

The 2nd battery of the 9th Field Artillery Regiment (from now on 2./KTR 9) , with 4 x 75 mm K 02 guns, arrived into the area, while the rest of the I/KTR 9, commanded by Maj. G.Ahlholm , arrived on December 19th (without the 3rd battery which had been transported into Kuhmo) .

During the next few days, the Finnish battalions managed to gain a bit more ground, and made two failed attacks to capture the rest of the village.

On 19 Dec, the JR 27 received an order from Siilasvuo to take the rest of the village with an attack on 20 Dec. After an artillery bombardment, which was mostly inaccurate, the four attacking companies of the II/JR 27 reached the Soviet trenches. A swift Soviet counterattack prevented any advance towards the village center, and after taking casualties, the companies disengaged.
    The III/JR 27 was stopped only 50 meters from the Soviet trenches and had to withdraw sustaining heavy casualties. It had become quite clear, that the JR 27 couldn't without the support of many artillery battalions, break the clever Soviet defenses surrounded by open terrain.

Siilasvuo accepted the proposal of the commander of the JR 27 to cancel the attacks, especially when he heard from the P-SR HQ that a substantial number of troops were on their way to the area.


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The Lake Kuivasjärvi - Lake Kuomasjärvi isthmus


On December 14th, the Finnish forward guard was attacked by recon detachment of 40 - 50 men. The Finnish forward guard withdrew to the defense line of the Os.Kontula.

On 15 Dec, a Soviet company made a probing attack, which was easily repulsed. Patrols reported that more troops were arriving and the traffic on the Raate-road was growing.

On 16 Dec, Siilasvuo was rearranging the chain of command in the area, and Capt. S.Mäkinen was ordered to take charge of the Os.Kontula (thus the name changed to Os.Mäkinen) .

The detachment received one gun from the 2. / KTR 9, a 75 mm K/02, and it took part in a battle on 17 Dec, in which the attackers were supported by 10 tanks. After losing 3 tanks, the attackers withdrew. According to instructions from the HQ of P-SR, Siilasvuo sent the TO 6 to the south side of the Raate road (some 10 km east from Os.Mäkinen) , where it was to recon and hinder the traffic along the road. Os.Mäkinen received a similar order to recon and harass the Soviet troops along the road.

On 19 Dec, the Os.Mäkinen received additional reinforcements as the machine gun company of the Er.P 15 (from now on KKK/Er.P 15 in the text) . The first strikes against Soviet encampments along the Raate road were made in the nights between 19th and 20th, and between 20th and 21st. The actions to restrict the mobility of the arriving 44th division had started, even though the HQ of P-SR hadn't yet a clear picture of the growing threat.


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The actions in and north of Hulkonniemi


On 14 Dec, Er.P 15, which had been strengthened with the Er.K Siitonen and Er.K Huhanantti, received a new attack order. The battalion was to cut off the road from Hulkonniemi to Peranka 2 km north of the Suomussalmi-Hulkonniemi ferry.

On 15 Dec, the battalion attacked, but it couldn't break the Soviet positions, supported by tanks. The Er.P 15 managed to get the road under fire, but it was unable to cut off the JR 81. On the following night, the battalion received instructions to attack towards the ferry.

In the morning of 16 Dec, one company was left to guard the road north, and three companies started the attack. The companies were engaged one by one, and neither side could get the upper hand. The attack was paused for the night.

The attack continued on the following day and one company managed to cut the road for a moment, losing it when the Soviet defenders launched a counterattack. The battalion was further strengthened by the 1./IV/KT-Pr., which succeeded in taking the westernmost Soviet strongpoint in Hulkonniemi, but was halted after that.

It became clear to Siilasvuo, that the Er.P 15, even with additional companies, was unable to overcome the opposition in Hulkonniemi and couldn't reach the ferry. Also, as the road running NW (between the lakes Alajärvi and Kovajärvi) from the road Suomussalmi-Peranka had been defended from 9 Dec onwards by a detachment 3 platoons strong, the forward elements of the PPP 6 arrived on 17 Dec. The forward group consisted of only 2 platoons fought a meeting engagement with a Soviet company, and the group was scattered. Luckily for the Finns, the Soviet company didn't pursue, instead it returned back.

On 18 Dec, the units in Hulkonniemi were ordered to take defensive positions in the cape west of Hulkonniemi. The bulk of the PPP 6 arrived in the area, and a detachment from the battalion advance to the Lake Alajärvi - Lake Kovajärvi isthmus without opposition. In the following day, the rest of the battalion (PPP 6) was ordered to take defensive positions along the shore of Lake Kovajärvi and start to harass the Soviet traffic running along the road on the opposite of the lake.


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The actions between 14 and 20 December in and around Suomussalmi

Suomussalmi Dec 14th - 20th

Map legends

1. dirt road, trail
2. patrols & direction
3. Finnish positions and attacks
4. Suomussalmi church
5. Soviet battalion deployed
6. the ice road
7. Soviet positions, advances & attacks


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The ice-road


As the Finnish Sissi-actions started to affect the Soviet 163.D, the division started to utilize the traditional winter road from Suomussalmi to Juntusranta. From mid-December onwards, a constantly growing portion of the Soviet traffic was coming and going through it. The ice was strong enough to carry the weight of trucks, and the 20 cm snow cover didn't seem to bother it.

The Finns started their counteractions from mid-December onwards to harass the traffic along Lake Kiantajärvi.
    The first small detachments were sent on 15 Dec, after the first reports came in. On 17 Dec, the 2./IV/KT-Pr. was sent north along the east side of the lake. It moved over 20 km north from Suomussalmi (where Lake Kiantajärvi diverges) , with the mission to cut off the ice road and recon the area towards Linna and Juntusranta. The five-day trip was a failure due to numerous cases of frostbite and physical exhaustion. The company monitored the traffic and tried to engage a truck column once, being unsuccessful in the attempt due to long range. The company returned on 22 Dec, and the trip showed the Finns that the 163.D wasn't dependent on it's land connections anymore.


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The actions of the Er.P 16 in the north

Suomussalmi area map, north


On 8 Dec, the Er.P 16 was unable to make any significant gains towards south at Lake Piispajärvi. After Maj. Pallari was wounded, Lt. B.Breitholz succeeded as the commander until Lt.Col. Paavo Susitaival assumed command on 13 Dec.

On 10 Dec, the JR 662, launched a battalion sized attack supported by 3 tanks and artillery. The battle raged on for hours, and was finally repulsed by a counterattack of the Finnish reserves. After the battle began a quiet period of four days. The Finns weren't inactive. Two recon detachments arrived from Kuusamo, TO 7 and TO Pessi (commanded by Lt. K.Pessi ) , and immediately launched patrols to harass the Soviet connections and traffic along the roads. The TO 7 operated on the eastern flank and TO Pessi on the western flank.

On 11 Dec, the last elements of the battalion arrived to Lake Piispajärvi.

On the night between 14 and 15 Dec, a strong attack of 2 battalions was launched after a preliminary bombardment of 2 100 shells (the bombardment was inaccurate, and didn't cause notable casualties) . One battalion attacked along the road, supported by three tanks, while the other battalion was sent to attack the Finnish left flank and advance to the Finnish rear area. The defenses of the two Finnish companies were holding, while losing some ground, while the reserve company managed, quite easily, to rout the sole Soviet company (of the flanking battalion ) which had advanced to the Finnish rear. The battle ended finally in the afternoon, when the Soviet forces withdrew to their encampment areas leaving over 150 dead comrades behind. No more Soviet attacks were made in this direction after this battle.

On 15 Dec, Er.P 16 received an order from P-SR HQ, to advance along the road Ylinäljänkä-Linna, and cut off the Soviet units, both north and south, from the road east. The battalion was still ordered to hold it's positions at Lake Piispajärvi. To fulfill the order, the 2./Er.P 16 and TO 7 were transported by trucks to Ylinäljänkä on that same day. The bulk of the battalion stayed at Lake Piispajärvi under the command of Lt. M.Avela (1./Er.P 16) .

While some Soviet patrols had been sighted near Ylinäljänkä before 15 Dec, the area was clear when the 2./Er.P 16 arrived and checked any signs of Soviet patrols. Under the direct command of the battalion commander, Lt.Col Susitaival, the 2./Er.P 16 advanced to the vicinity of the Palovaara crossroad during 16 Dec and 17th, while the weather was terrible for skiing. Without communications to the rest of the battalion on the left and PPP 6 on the right, Susitaival decided to rest his weary troops and attack on 19 Dec.

Meanwhile, on 17 Dec, the 3./Er.P 16 was sent to interdict Soviet traffic on the road from Juntusranta to Linna at Lake Saarijärvi.

In the morning, the crossroad at Palovaara was taken without a fight. Shortly after, a small column coming from the east was ambushed and destroyed. After that, the Soviet units started their countermeasures on all directions.

In the morning of 20 Dec, after fighting all night and spending the cold night without tents, the 2./Er.P 16 withdrew 3 km west from the crossroad. The TO 7 guarding the northern flank of the company and the TO Pessi, which was operating near Linnasalmi (the strait near Linna) were maintaining contact with the enemy by patrols. TO Pessi encountered a big HQ in the area (HQ of 47th Corps) , but couldn't attack it because of the heavy guard. 3./Er.P 16 returned from Lake Saarijärvi without fulfilling it's mission completely.

While all these actions against the Soviet communications were made without central planning, they proved out to be effective in disrupting the Soviet rear areas.



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