June 25, 2014

Raate road

Soviet destroyed tank

On 30 November 1939 the Red Army invaded Finland. The Soviet Ninth Army had the mission to advance towards the city of Oulu, at the northern end of the Gulf of Bothnia, thus cutting off the northern part of the country. The Ninth Army advanced with three divisions, widely separated one from the other. In the centre the 163rd Rifle Division was halted around the village of Suomussalmi by the Finnish 9th Division. The Ninth Army decided to reinforce the 163rd with the 44th “Kievan” Motorized Rifle Division.

On 13 December the advanced elements of the 44th entered the Raate – Suomussalmi road. The fifty tanks and numerous motorized vehicles of the Division were confined to a single road through a pine forest. In the next days experienced Finnish ski troops performed countless hit-and-run attacks, along the flanks of the 44th which stretched twenty miles across the Raate – Suomussalmi road.

On 5 January 1940 the Finns launched a general attack with the purpose to cut in pieces the 44th and destroy it. When the battle ended the Finns had captured 43 tanks; 70 field guns, 278 trucks and tractors and other equipment. The 44th suffered huge losses in terms of personnel. The commander of the 44th Alexei Vinogradov was trialed for incompetence and was publicly executed.

Chew, Allen F. Fighting the Russians in Winter: Three Case Studies. Leavenworth Paper no. 5. Fort Leavenworth, KS: Combat Studies Institute, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, 1981.

Photo attribution