Thoughts on the military and military activities of a diverse nature. Free-ranging and eclectic.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Men-a-foot II - - Finland [Conclusion]

This is coolbert:

Sisu - - "Finnish term that could be roughly translated into English as strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity . . . . Usually sisu means the will and decisiveness to get things done against impossible odds, or to succeed when given the chinaman's chance."

Just as in the Spanish Civil War the infantrymen of Franco had to deal with massed tank attack with little more than their bare hands, the Finns in their Winter War of 1940 with the Soviet Union faced the same dilemma.

The figures are just staggering. The Red Army was able to deploy 5,000 tanks of varying types against the small Finnish Army. A Finnish Army that had NO tanks of it's own. And possessed only a small number of anti-tank guns.

Having made the cold-blooded decision to fight regardless of the odds, the Finns had to devise, and quickly, some sort of tactics to counter this overwhelming Soviet armor advantage.

Tactics that revolved around the anti-tank "hunter-killer" teams. Infantry, operating in small teams, to attack Soviet tanks with the most primitive of weaponry. Weaponry to include:

* Anti-tank mines. Mines not of the power or designed to DESTROY a tank. Mines normally disabling a tank by blowing off a track, but rarely more.

* Molotov cocktails. Gasoline bombs to be thrown at Soviet tanks from close range.

"a 1/2 liter liquor bottle with a screw cap was ideal for making this type of a weapon. As the flammable liquid, petrol, spirit, a mixture of petrol and kerosene or a mixture of waste spirit and kerosene, could be used . . . 1-2 cubic centimeters of tar to be added, to create smoke."

* Satchel charges. Ad hoc expedient blocks of explosive that could defeat armor at weak points when hurled ATOP a tank.

"the weaponry of these ad hoc AT-units' [called 'Short range" AT-defense' units by the Finns] consisted mainly of Molotov Cocktails, satchel charges, mines, hand grenades and 'blinding devices'('sokaisuvälineillä' in Finnish)."

All these forms of anti-tank "weaponry" useful ONLY when used at CLOSE RANGE.

"it was obvious that we [the Finns] would have to get awfully close to an enemy tank before we could throw one with any chance of success.”

To attack massed formations of tanks at such close range, again, calls for troops of the most resolute type, trained, equipped, and fighting AS A TEAM.

The Finnish infantry organized into anti-tank teams were resolute and determined. And did have some pluses going for them too! These being:

* Soviet tanks were commonly employed without any supporting infantry.

"It should also be noted, that in the early phases of the war . . . it was considerably easier for the Finnish AT-teams to destroy Soviet tanks, as the tanks usually attacked without supporting infantry."

* Soviet tanks of the era were equipped with gasoline fueled engines. Were prone to "brewing up" if attacked by a molotov cocktail.

"Before the war, the Molotov Cocktail was seen more as a weapon that would blind or suppress the target tank, making it easier to destroy it by other Molotov Cocktails or by satchel charges . . . The hot engine (the Soviet engines at that time were gasoline engines) of the tank caught fire quite easily, making this weapon quite effective against the tanks of early WW 2."

[T-34 and KV [Klementi Voroshilov] tanks had diesel engines and were not susceptible to attack by molotov cocktail flame weaponry!!??]

The most basic and rudimentary tactics sufficed when confronting Soviet tank formations.

"The tactic was simple; when the leading tank . . . hit an AT-mine . . . the two man team attacked the leading tank. While . . . one [Finnish trooper] 'blinded' the tank with blinding devices or a Molotov Cocktail, the other [Finnish troop] finished it off with a satchel charge. The explosion was the sign for the other teams [to begin their attack]"

The Finnish anti-tank teams were successful. They HAD sisu.

"Getting close to the tanks proved to be much easier than expected. Like their Spanish counterparts three years earlier, these Soviet tankers surged ahead of the infantry platoons designated to be their escorts . . . Finnish tank-destroyer teams often managed to get within touching distance of their targets, and were able to throw their missiles straight into the steel grilles covering their engine compartments, often with dramatic results."

"Not only did the Molotov cocktails work as advertised, but the enemy’s clumsy tactics made it relatively safe to approach an armored probe, deliver an accurate salvo of bombs, then retire into the cover of the nearby trees, all without being fired upon accurately in return."


"The task of the close defense AT-teams was risky at best. The task of getting close to an enemy tank was hard and required courage and patience. You had to throw the satchel charge accurately and with just enough force to land it on top of a tank, to ensure a kill. You could also run to the tank and place it on the rear deck, but this was even more riskier. In some cases the soldier died from the blast of his own satchel charge . . ."

Sisu - - "strength of will, determination, perseverance, . . . adversity . . . . will and decisiveness . . . impossible odds"

Finnish anti-tanks were able to destroy 2,000 Soviet tanks during the Winter War. Amazing. The Finns WERE the best soldiers [John Keegan] of WW2??!! Probably so!




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