TAIPALEENJOKI: A BLOODY RIVER
The day-by-day history of one of most scandalous fail of the Red Army during the Soviet-Finnish "Winter war" 1939-1940

По-русски


Taipale cross

Taipale gallery, year 1939-1940

Taipale gallery, year 2000-2001

Introduction: A few words about the matter and author.

My name is Kirill and I live in St. Petersbug, Russia. I'm interested in the history of two Soviet-Finnish wars ("Winter" and "Continuation"), especially actions on Karelian Isthmus for few years. There are a few books on Russian and English describing this wars (English books could be listed by means of net search engines). However, even those books has the overall view of the "Winter war" (though some of them has some kind of detail description per sectors. The most detailed description of Taipale battles are on Finnish, but this language as hard to learn as Russian, so 90 % of that precious information (for ones who interested of) is covered. From the opponent side, Russian information sourses are negligible. There are no Taipale veterans' memoires: first, because of discreditable actions of Russian troops and second, because the actual combatants were killed in action (no matter that war: "Winter" or "Continuation") or dead because of old age. As for former Soviet official information sources (war and history archives), the information about four Soviet divisions involved in the battles on Taipale is secret for nowadays. I'm trying to describe the chronology of "Winter war" on Taipale. And the last: sorry for possible grammatic errors - on Russian it would be better... For all your comments or anything like that please e-mail me.
Taipale sector: before the war.

Taipaleenjoki (now "Burnaya") is small river flowing from lake Suvantojarvi (now Suhodolskoje) to lake Ladoga, situated in the North-East part of Karelian Isthmus. Before the war, there were four tiny finnish villages: Kirvesmaki, Koukkuniemi, Terenttila and Taipale itself (see Finnish map). Erection of military fortifications in this sector was started as early as 20's but unlike the fortifications in such sectors as Summa or Koivisto (North-West part of Isthmus) it was not so strong. The main profit of this position was the river itself, with the abrupt banks and open space over there.

There were ten concrete bunkers on the whole region (see map). Basically they were the small thin-walled machine gun bunkers erected on the most critical points: river elbows, some salienses and ledges. Despite its poor withstanding of modern (even for that time) artillery fire, they were perfect prepeared as well as they had pre-fired sectors of open land in front of. Finnish army expected Soviet invasion for dozen and half years...

Terenttila now
Field of the former Terenttila village, winter-2000. View from "school wood" (Kansakoula metsikko) to Mustaoja (Trees' wall at the far rear). In the left side is Taipaleenjoki river. (Photo: K.Jakimovich)

The main defence line (called "Mannerheim line" during the war) was laid not only upon Taipaleenjoki but through the wooden part of Taipale penninsula, between east end of the river and east shore of lake Suvantojarvi. The line consisted of trenches, barbed wire obstacles and machine gun stone and log positions. There were no anti-tank obstacles but some small stones' chains and wooden log's abatis plus anti-tank ditches. Trenches were dug in upon the edge of woods and ridges.

The very important role of Taipale's defense played two coastal batteries - first, "Kaarnajoki", called that because of tiny river near the position, and second, "Jariseva", situated right on the shore of lake Ladoga. The main task of "Jariseva" battery was the defense of coast and left flank of Taipale sector while "Kaarnajoki" would cover under fire the whole Taipale sector at 360 degrees (the fire radius of this battery was almost 20 km). The battery has four gun positions with 152 mm guns. Western flank of Taipale sector was defended by gun bunkers erected on shore of lake Suvanto near village Kelja and Patoniemi. This bunker has three gun as well as few mashine gun and would cover under fire the whole open space of lake Suvanto. Also, there were few logged mashine gun positions alongside lake Suvanto shore as well as lake Ladoga shore.

The fortifications of this region were unique - not because of those strenghtness but of those closest position to the Soviet-Finnish border. All constructing works made between 20-30's were made under cover of top secret. There were no any serious "delay positions" between main defence line and state border as it would be in the South-Western part of Karelian Isthmus. The first defense line would became the last line - there were no another decision. The Taipale position has its own trap for expected invader: no-mans-land from the southest elbows of river Taipaleenjoki to the Kirvesmaki defense trenches. It was Koukkuniemi penninsula, low and marshy mostly open land pre-fired by mashine guns and Kaarnajoki battery. It was the one and only comparatively comfortable place to get across river, to group and to start attack. Finnish HQ waiting for this maneuvre of enemy.. In the future, events became as it were expected by Finns.


Invasion. First skirmishes

When the war broke down on November 30, 1939, the Soviet troops prepared to invade Finland from the South-East part of Karelian Isthmus initially consisted of two divisions, 49th and 150th, combined into "North-East operating group" under command of army coimmander of II rank Vladimir Davydovitch Grendal. He was born in 1884 in Finland, graduated Mikhailovski military academy, then was participate in the First World War in rank of colonel. After the revolution of 1917 he was involved in Civil war (on the Reds' side). A few monographies of artillery application have been written by him before "Winter war" which would became fatal for him...

The main aim of those forces was Kakisalmi (or Kexholm, now Priozersk). Along the way , that troops would eliminate Finnish forces and occupy such region centers as Rautu (now Sosnovo), Kiviniemi (now Losevo, important point with railroad and freeway bridges across the narrowest part of river Vuoksi - lake Suvanto waterways), then get across water line Vuoksi-Suvanto-Taipale and get the Kakisalmi. The overall time schedule for this thing was planned for one week. After this blitzkrieg Soviet troops would link to other forces, managed to cross Finland from the East Karelia and North shore of lake Ladoga and then make advance to Viipuri and further, to Helsinki.
Taipale penninsula
Aerial photo of Koukkoniemi penninsula (Left side- Suvanto-jarvi, right side - Ladoga lake)
However, this great plan never turn into reality... From the very beginning, long and vulnerable from flanks columns of Russian troops, vehicles and carts lose advance tempo. On the second day of war, December 1st, Soviet columns moving in Taipale direction could advance Palkeala village. Need to say, that all terrirory between border and Taipaleenjoki was defended by the Finnish task force "R" (called as center of border guard in this sector, Rautu). Palkeala was defended by Finnish 6th separate batalion. The first encounter between two opposite sides from the start of hostility was by evening of 30th. On the almost same time, from other flank, Soviet troops advanced to Rautu where the 4th separate batalion has dug in. The main task of two small Finnish units was to delay as long as possible Russian advance to allow make maximum prepapation for battle on the main defence line and to evacuate civilians. Red Army had started attack but could not achieve advance during the period of two days. In the Palkeala Russians applied tanks to destroy that small Finnish unit... Rautu and Palkeala were taken by 3th of December. Finnish guards retreated beyond Taipale and Suvanto to link the main troops. Russian soldiers were confused. They were surprised. Those "politruks" told them that Finnish people would met them with great joy because "Red Army is army of liberation of all people from the capitalists' oppression". They met bullets and hate instead of. To those surprise, Finns could fight pretty good and use terrain better.

After two days of slow advance Soviet troops covered distance of 20 km. After short skirmish they took Metsapirtti, the last relatively big Finnish settlement on those way to Taipale. And at last, December 6th, first Sovied units advansed to Taipaleenjoki. They came from the south-west, moving toward Neosaari village located just across Terenttila. From this moment there started three-months' period of bloody fighting...


December's slighterhouse

Finnish forces located on this part of Isthmus were combined into III Army Corpse under command of general-lieutenant Eric Heinrix (1890-1965). He had graduated military academy in France. Collegues characterised him as calm, strong, purposeful officer. Frontline along Taipaleenjoki was held by Finnish 10 infantry division without any reserves. This division would withstand all thrusts of Red Army in this sector...

December 6th. The first blow of Soviet 49th Division was started at 8.15 against frontline of Finnish col. Sihvonen's 28th infantry regiment (JR28). Russian offensive started from powerful artillery barrage aimed to Neosaari and Koukkuniemi. Some shells dropped even on Villakaa, as far from the frontline as 8 km. At 11.00 Soviet armoured vehicles approached to Neosaari where were some troops of JR28. Finns retreated. Russians attempted a crossing river at the Lossi ferry landing but were thrown back. Approximately an hour later Russians began to cross Taipaleenjoki in the sector of Koukkuniemi from two directions. Finnish machinegunners started to fire from its nests. Soviet troops used small rubber boats to cross the river so even one successful shot was able to send boat to the ice-cold river's bed. Soviet losses started increase. Despite this, to the day's end Soviet forses on opposite bank of Taipaleenjoki was estimate as one regiment. Finnish counterattack has began by the evening in Terenttila and lasted all night.

December 7th. Finnish counterattack from Terenttila and Koukkuniemi has failed. Finnish batallion advanced from main defence line for 2 km to the south end of Koukkuniemi but Russian troops dug there with furious resistance so Finns were forced to retreat. Finnish losses accounted 8 officers and 72 ranks, 34 of them were killed in action and 8 were lost. The most displeasing thing for Finns was the fact that most part of those casualities remained on enemy's territory. Chief of 30th infantry regiment (JR30) col. Kempi and chief of JR28 received new order. According to this, those troops should be to stop counterattack, straighten the frontline and to create those own emergency reservation. From thas moment frontline was stabilized. Vladimir Gtrendal was glad. His troops was first of all Soviet forces on Karelian Isthmus who advanced to "Mannerheim line". He imagined quick breakthrough in the nearest future. However, he recognized difficulty of such breackthrough so he requested additional troops. Soviet HQ promiced he would get it.

December 8th. Russian troops began to fortify bridgehead of Koukkuniemi. Command staff planned to send there all troops of 49th Division plus enough armor to start offensive. Russian artillery began powerful barrage. Being under Russian gun fire, Finnish soldiers sometimes began to blame those own artillery. There was no response shells from the Finnish side. They just couldn't know that those artillerists had received strickt order to open fire on attacking enemy troos only because of ammunitions' shortage. Soviet troops launched an offensive but were totally eliminated by Finnish artillery and machineguns. Attack repeated again and again during two days but Red Army could not advance through the Finnish defence. Open land between Russian and Finnish trenches was covered by bodies of Soviet soldiers. Sometimes attacking troops could not reach even barbed wire - they were destroyed by guns. Finnish machineguns were red of heat - they shooted constantly and each bullet doesn't miss its target...

December 10th. Finnish artillery fired some Russian observation posts as well as small approaching groups of Russian troops. Russians settled almost for four days: they waited for reinforcement.

December 11th. First concrete bunkers occuppied by Russians. Batallion of capt. Netreba took "Alcazar", two machine gun bunkers located near mouth of Mustaoja creek on the bank of Taipaleenjoki. River made crook in this point and "Alkazar" would keep inder fire both river's branches. Russians tried to advance further north upon Mustaoja, but Finns kept powerful machine gun fire and repulsed them.

December 12th. Soviet forces at Taipale were reinforced. Fresh 150th and some parts of 142nd divisions had arrived. Also, amount of Russian artillery seriously increased.

Finnish machine gun at Taipale
Finnish Maxim machine gun position at Taipale (Photo: "SA-kuva")
December 15th. Soviets launched big offensive. First time from beginning of fighting at Taipale Red Army applicate full scale armour attack. Russian sappers made passages through slopes of Mustaoja creek to allow armour vehicles drive in. Unfortunately, that passages were too narrow for allowance to move at least two tanks simultaneously. Later, if Finns would destroy only one vehicle in one passage, that would stop the whole column moved behind. At 11.30 armour vehicles moved through deep ravine of Mustaoja creek and began to drive toward Terenttila. Finnish artillery fired on clusters of infantry. Soviet armour passed above Finnish trenches and stopped because of gas lack. Finnish anti-tank squads showered vehicles with the "Molotov cocktail", grenades and satchel charges. At 14.40 Soviet attack at Kirvesmaki, on the right flank of Finnish defence was threw back. Russians have heavy casualties. At least 12 tanks were destroyed.

December 16th. New Russian offensive at Taipale. Total fail.

December 17th. Another Russian attack. Digging holes in slopes of hills, Soviet soldiers suffer from cold. They brought with them bricks from burned Finnish houses to made some kind of stoves, but they could not collect enough firewood because each head's rise was dangerous because of constant action of Finnish snipers. Also, smoke of stove could bring fire of enemy's mortars. They burned out own ammo's gun powder, newspaper and even own skies (if they could have it). The one and only way to heat was fight. And they was rising to attack. That day Russians launched attack against all frontline. Action of Finnish gunners reminded carousel when they turned their guns at different angles to hit advanced Soviet infantry rows at Terenttila and Kirvesmaki. Russians were defeated. In Terenttila Finnish antitank guns hit at least five enemy armour vehicles.

Grendal asked for help. It was clear for him that during the frontal assaults on early December his troops lost about half of their order of battle. Soldiers was deadly tired and confused. Powerful artillery barrages were unsufficient. Based on this conclusion, he decided to drive from the western part of Taipale sector by fresh division. The intension was to cross ice of lake Suvanto in few sectors, make arragements for bridgeheads and then to advance to the rear of Taipale defence line. To realize this task, new, 4th rifle division has arrived. All Soviet divisions located on Taipale front were combined into 13rd Army under command of Vladimir Grendal. X-day was appointed on 25th of December.

December 25th. In early morning fresh Soviet 4th division crossed Suvanto on 8-10 km North-West from Taipale front. First Russian batalions began to dig on bridgeheads of Patoniemi, Volosula and Kelja. The biggest Russian concentration was in Kelja where Russians could bring field guns. As early as 8 AM two Finnish batalions of JR30 launched counterattack in Patoniemi and Volossula. Third batalion of JR29 have blocked Patoniemi bridgehead.

December 26th. Kelja's bridgehead had seriously troubled commanders of 10 division. At 7.30 AM Finns had started another counterattack. Russians tried to reinforce their troops by infantry and artillery but finnish guns from Kaarnajoki made powerfil barrage on all open space of Suvanto lake. Whole ice field was covered by corpses of Soviet soldiers.

December 27th. Finnish troops fighted against Russian bridgehead were feinforced by 6th separate batallion arrived after exacting march. All conscripts of this unit were born on Karelian Isthmus. First Finnish counterattack had failed because of late arrival of field guns. Fighting lasts few hours and soon it turn into hand-to-hand battle. All bridgeheads were whiped out by night only. Soviet troops suffered of heavy casualties. On the ice of Suvanto and its north coast 4th division losts 2000 men while Finnish troops lost 500. Finnish boot was estimated as 140 captured machine guns, 12 antitank guns, 500 automatic rifles and 200 rifles as well as thousands of ammos.

December 29th. After two days of bloody fight, there's lull at Taipale. Some skirmishes and artillery duels took place. In Terenttila Soviet troops had tried to advance along Mustaoja creeck with help of field artillery, firing almost point blank to the concrete machine gun nests. However, at night five Finnish platoons were sended to help. Russians were pushed back again.

1939 has came to its end. Thousands of Russian soldiers lay dead on soil of Karelian Isthmus... Need to say, Taipale sector never havent' been almost qiuet. The short skirmishes, small attacks and counterattacks were here permanently. Russians still could not swarm over the Finnish positions but they started to think hard how to do it. Stalin never put away from initial planning. Unsubmissive Finland should be defeated, no matter that how many people would be sacrificed. At least at Taipale Russian troops could keep push, unlike the surrounded and defeated Soviet divisions in Suomussalmi, Kolaa and Lemetti... Russian resources were still unexhausted...


January lull

January 1st. Finnish commanders re-grouped forces on Karelian Isthmus. 10th division has no reserves so Mannerheim just changed it number. Now it became 7th.

January 2nd. After five and half hours of artillery fire Soviet troops launched attack against Kirvesmaki but were pushed back.

January 4th. Another attack against Kirvesmaki positions. Same result.

January 15th. Finns dispersed small Russian attacking groups.

January 20th. Russians get clever. At night Soviet sappers dug long trenches right in front of the Finnish defence lines. The enemy's position became locate just in 50 m from opponents. Same time, Russian artillery had changed tactics so fire was made on squares of region. At 15 PM four hours bombardment from guns and planes has began on Kirvesmaki and Terenttila both. Right after that Russians started atttack. They attempted to get few Finnish positions but were thown back.

January 21th. Almost all time of Taipale battles Russians used aerostat to correct the artillery fire. This day Finns could bring it down. According to one eyewitness' memoires, "suddenly we saw a large gray clouds curling from the balloon's rear. Just in seconds flame appeared on it and got whole sausage-shaped surface. After that we saw Finnish fighter turned from the sun along the big bow..."

January 25th. Soviet military command decided to bypass Finnish defence from the right flank, across the ice of Ladoga. There was small island at two kilometers from Taipaleenjoki mouth. It was the best place to accumulate force and to start attack. Day before Russian platoon under command of lt. Eleinikov occupied that island, but at night Finnish counterattack under command of NCO Heminen eliminated Russian positions there. After fighting Finns captured two machinegun and five Russian soldiers. This fail does not stopped Russians. After short period of time Soviet soldiers again occupied island. Another Finnish group under command of NCO Kilvi attempted to assault this tiny part of land. From their own side of shore Russians could see that group of soldiers surrounded by the Finns. Soviet commanders sent few tanks to help to komrades. Finns were forced to retreat and hadn't attempted to capture the island no more. However, Russian could not use this position to attack Taipale lines from rear: open ice of Ladoga reminds firing ground for coastal battery of Jariseva. After retreating, Finnish high command ordered to Jariseva battery and 23 infantry regiment (JR23) to look carefully on this part of defense.

On that moment, Finnish 7th (former 10th) division had lost: 37 officers and 779 men killed in action and 40 offficers and 1980 men wounded. Soviet casualties were numbered of thousands...

January 29th. After four relatively calm days Russian got started to assault against Terenttila position. Again, Soviet sappers have dug in 100 m of trenches close to the Finnish position. The aim of attack was to break down two main defence lines - Terenttila and Kirvesmaki. The general assault was just between them, in Terenttilansuo swamp. Bloody fighting lasts two days. (After that, southern part of Terenttilansuo got nickname "Surmansuo", "Swamp of the Dead").

January 30th. Finnish artillery kept fire barriers of Russian's attack zone. At 3.50 AM Russians began to retreat but got mine field. Finnish machine guns had finished the rest bloody work... Fighting lasts till morning. Finns captured 5 machineguns and 150 grenades. Russians lost 40 men.


Hell of February

February 8th. January probes were over. Sofiet military command ordered at any cost to break out Mannerheim line. Main thrust would be on Viipuri direction, but Taipale was itself important sector. If Russian would destroy Taipale defence, they could advance with no serious obstacles to Kakisalmi and eventually attack Summa positions and Viipuri from the East, by that take Mannerheim line from the rear. Stalin could not wait anymore. Spring came soon, and in condition of slosh and flows of water the victory would impossible...

All Russian artillery was firing on area between eastern part of Kirvesmaki and western part of Terenttila. Nine Soviet planes constantly were bombing Finnish guns' positions. Simultaneously Soviet fighters were shooting on Finnish machinegun nests. After that preparation Soviet infantry rised and after furious battle managed to take the first and the second Finnish positions of Terenttila, just in Terenttilansuo swamp. Finns lost 219 men (32 dead). In Kirvesmaki Finns withstood attack and destroyed two armour vehicles.

February 10th. From the morning Soviet bombers dropped bombs of Finnish position in Kirvesmaki, targeting in Kapalamaki's staff point. At 10.30 Russian guns began bombardment and at 12.15 Soviet infantry reinforced by two tanks started to advance. At 14.30 attack was fought off. At that day in Terenttila after heavy bombardment Russians launched small attack but were thrown back.
Sheltered Finnish soldiers
Finnish soldiers sheltered from bombardment preceding the Russian attack on the Mannerheim line in early February 1940.(Photo: SA-kuva)

February 11th. Soviets managed to take first position of Kirvesmaki just by the shore of Suvantojarvi. During the following night Finnish counter-attack pushed them back.

February 12th. After mortars bombardments, Russians managed to take fifth position of Kirvesmaki. The best part of Finnish defenders were killed and there no way to resist.

February 13th. During furious counterattack Finns took fifth position back.

February 18th. "Black day on Taipale". After two days of lull Red Army launched powerfull offencive. At 9 AM tens of Russian planes bombed Finnish positions for half day. By the evening Russian infantry took all five positions at Kirvesmaki and three western positions at Terenttila. The major part of Finnish machineguns was broken by air attack. Commanders of occupied positions were killed. The experienced batallion of 21 regiment of capt. Sorri was forvarded to stop the Russians. In Terenttila 23rd inf. regiment under command of col. Laurila managed to stop Soviet attack against 4th and 5th positions.

February 19th. Fighting lasts all night and by the morning col. Laurila's batallion took back positions at Terenttila. Russians lost 300 men but right after first attack they rose for another offensive against Terenttila line. Finnish troops had heavy casualties: 1 batallion of 61 regiment under command of Leminen located in Kirvesmaki lost from 260 to 290 dead. Batallion of Larko (1/62 inf. reg.) lost 41 men dead, 57 vounded and 45 lost in action. Same time with the great offencive on land, Russians attempted encircled Taipale position from two direction - from Suvanto (at Patoniemi) and from Ladoga. That attempts were destroyed by Finnish coast artillery. Again, like in December, at Patoniemi alone, ice was blackened by Russian corpses where they leave about 1000 dead and vounded soldiers. At Ladoga Finns managed to destroy two Russian tanks... Besides, Finnish coastal battery on Jariseva, that role for Taipale defense was very important, had fired last shot. The ammunition was over. After that only Kaarnajoki battery still stood for entire Taipale front. Guns of Jariseva were removed but the position was left as false target for enemy's planes...

At this moment Mannerheim had changed commanders of III Army corps. Now it became general-major Paavo Talvela (1897-1973). He had graduated Finnish Military Academy. He had strong will and energy.

February 20th. Day began from powerful air raid of Soviet bombers. After that Russian launched offensive and manage to break all defence line in Terenttila, advanced into the Finnish territory for 1,5 km. Fortunately, Finns could forward division's reserv of maj. von Shroven that could to take back the rear line of defense. From this moment Russian offensive had delayed and soon after that had stopped. The only thing Red Army could do was to continue small attacks by batallion and company's forces.

February 21th. Artillery bunker lokated at Patoniemi got direct hit by 250-mm shell. One men was killed and another six wounded. Above 600 charges were destroyed as well as two guns (indeed, one of them got spare parts and was repaired). At this moment, one of eyewitness, Urho Kahonen, wrote: "The artillery bombardments and air raids of enemy were still powerfull. It affected on us too strong but we could not to counteract of that. Sometimes we even could not to hide because we had to repulse flows of enemy's infantry..."

February 26th. Soviets took two positions of Terenttila but were forced to retreat.

February 29th. The dug-out in Kirvesmaki got three direct hits, entombing 14 men. At this time fighting continued at 5th and 6th positions in Terenttila. Russians managed to capture the part of 5th position. This day was the last for former olympic champion 42-years old Martti Marteli - he was killed in action.


March. The end.

March 1st. Russians managed to break Mannerheim line at Summa. The main battle was there and on their way to Viipuri. Indeed now Taipale sector became secondary. But it does not means that Russians would rely from their attempts to break Finnish defence here. War has to continue! Spring came with the another shock: command dug-out "Seurahuone" got direct hit. 2 officers and 11 ranks were killed, 6 wounded.

March 2nd. Commander of the Soviet troops at Taipale V.Grendal was released. The Corpse commander F.A. Parusinov took command position instead of him.

March 4th. Russians attacked positions of JR23. Finns had heavy casualties but withstood it.

March 6th. Spring has came. Snow and ice began to melt and Finnish position in sector of "Terentillansuo" swamp need to remove. First was the second position which was removed on new place.

March 7th. Finns repulsed attack of Soviet batallion. Even in this "calm" day Finnish troops lost here 10 dead and 35 wounded.

March 8th. Trenches in Terenttila were with water at half. Also, almost all mashine gun positions, dug-outs for soldiers were destroyed by Russian guns, targeting directly from its positions. The best way to stay against fresh Soviet troops was to leave old positions. At 11 PM Finns decided to retreat beyond new defence line. Retirement was made in secret under cover of night so Russians didn't note anything. Few hours later Russians launchen attack but they found nothing. Finnish positions at Terenttila were empty...

March 10th. Soviet troops occupied former Finnish 4th, 5th and 6th positions in Terenttila and launched attack from there. Finns pushed them back. Fortunately, Russian artillery "helps" to Finns. It opened fire on former Finnish positions where already Russian infantry dug in.
Soviet soldiers are attacking
Soviet soldiers are attacking.(Photo: SA-kuva)

March 13th. During the last five days Russians attempted to break Finnish defence line at few points with no progress. At this day at 6.30 AM Russians opened artillery fire targeting Terenttila. Hour later Soviet infantry launched attack against 6th position. They knew that at 11 AM war would be over but those "politruks" forced them to use each minute till end of hostilities. Simultaneously Finnish position in Kirvesmaki were under heavy bombardment. Only at 11 AM fighting At Terenttila and Kirvesmaki had finished. Unusual silence rose above moon lanscape of Taipale. Next day Finnish troops started to withdraw beyond new border. They left Finnish soil they die for, but still weren't defeated...


Epilogue

During the February-March period Finnish casualties at Taipale were 199 officers and 5442 soldiers. According to the different accounts, Red Army lost here approximately from 2000 to 3000 men. Grendal was dead at autumn 1940, because of lung cancer. Soviets got good lesson. In the time of Continuation war, during the large scale offensive of Summer 1944 their troops just stopped in front of Taipale and didn't attempted to cross it till the end of hostilities...

Antitank rocks
Antitank granite obstacles erected in 1942-1944 (Photo: K. Jakimovich)

The battle at Taipale was so dense that even now, after almost 60 years, one could see the remains of that. Almost all concrete bunkers were exploited - now only piles of concrete fragments and dence net of trenches reminds about defence line of 1939. During the Continuation war Finns had built here new defence line, "VT" (Vammelsuu-Taipale line). The chain of enourmous antitank granite rocks was erected across entire Taipale sector during 1942-1944. At that time Finns have built here few new concrete bunkers but all those preparation weren't used: Soviet troops managed to break this line in the east part of Karelian Isthmus.

After the war Soviets erected on the former Terenttila territory small monument in memory of fallen soldiers. There are just hundred names has incused on it though thousands of them left here. In 1995 Finnish veterans had erected their own small monument here, iron cross couloured like the birch, on the place where was Finnish military graveyard near the 4th position at Terenttila.

At the place of Terenttila and Kirvesmaki now the farmer's fields. But the whole ground here filled with iron and bones. Occasionally, at spring time, melted water would wash away hand grenade, or machine gun disc, or just human's bone belonged to unknown Finnish or Russian warrior... There were plenty of them here... One could see it and does not feels hate or revenge - just sorrow...

Finnish cross at Terenttila

Finnish cross in memory of fallen soldiers erected on the place of former 4th Finnish position at Terenttila

(Photo: K. Jakimovich)

Sources:

W. Trotter "A Frozen Hell", Chapel Hill, 1991

U. Kahonen. "Voittamattomat pataljoonat", 1991

"Talvisota. Kronikka", Helsinki, 1997

"Battles in Finland", Moscow, 1941

Periodical literature.


© K.Y. 2001


1