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The Karelian Isthmus

13 March 1940

(the last day of the Winter War)

 

 

The Gulf of Viipuri, 13 March 1940
Äyräpää-Taipale, 13 March 1940
Unit Legends

1) the Finnish 2nd Corps
2) the Coast Group (4th division and 2 separate battle groups)
3) the 5th Division
4) the 3rd Brigade
5) the 8th inf. Regiment (the symbol under it meaning it's on  reserve)
6) Uudenmaa Dragoon Regiment
7) Häme Cavalry Regiment
8) Battlegroups Berg and Varko (consisted of separate battalions and companies withdrawn from other regiments and battalions)
9) the Soviet 91st Division

130340unitlegends.jpg (8152 bytes)
Map Legends

1) The Finnish line of defense
2) The Corps / Group boundary
3) The division / battlegroup boundary

130340maplegends.jpg (3882 bytes)
(Note: the Finnish had also multiple separate small units committed in the front line, but I have chosen not to include them, since it would make the map chaotic)

 

 


The Finnish side

 

The Finnish 2nd Corps, defending the most important sector, had grown during the war, until it could no longer be efficiently led. On February 21st, Major General Laatikainen gave up the command of the 1st division to Colonel A.Martola , and took command of the new 1st Corps. On February 25th, the 1st and 2nd divisions were committed to the 1st Corps.

On the last day of the war, the Finnish position looked grim. Ammo shortage (especially the artillery) was catastrophic, the thick ice that covered the Bay of Viipuri and Vuoksi-river gave the Red Army good attack routes, since the Finnish AT-capability was still very limited, despite of the recently arrived 25mm French antitank guns and some captured 45mm guns.
    Almost all planes of the Finnish Air Forces were committed to the fight in Bay of Viipuri. Despite of the Soviet dominance in the air, the Soviet troops on the ice were attacked by strafing fighters and bombers, who made several sorties every day. The Finnish coastal batteries fired every day hundreds of shells into the advancing Soviet columns, but the shortage of sensitive fuses reduced their effect.

On the Vuoksi (Äyräpää area) the situation was also critical (most of the battalions helding the high ground on the " Soviet " side of Vuoksi near Äyräpää and containing the Soviet bridgehead were down to 100 - 250 effectives, including all men from supply & other non-combat units) .

By March 12th, the Soviet forces had advanced to the outskirts of Viipuri (Vyborg) . On the following night the Finnish forces were ordered to withdraw to a second defense line running through the town. JR7, the defending regiment, wasn't attacked on the last day.
    On the coastline of Bay of Viipuri, the Red Army had made strong daily attacks on a broad front. The resulting Soviet bridgeheads in Vilaniemi and Häränpääniemi were contained by heroic efforts from a mixed variety of small sub-units (Groups Berg and Varko) and badly mauled regiments.

The situation on the Viipuri coast area was so alarming, that the Finnish high command had already drawn a plan, and was seriously considering, a general withdrawal to a shorter line. The Finnish units, brought to the area (even troops from the Lapland Group) were immediately sent to the frontline. Communications proved to be severely inadequate everywhere except in and around Viipuri.


(The total losses in the battles on the Bay of Viipuri were some 1 200 dead, 3 500 injured and 450 missing, being app. 8 % of the total Finnish losses in Winter War, a good indication of the bloody fighting.)

 

 

 


The Soviet side

 

The Finnish intelligence had identified 25 Soviet divisions committed on the North-western Front.
    - The 7th Army consisted of 28th Corps, 10th Corps, 34th Corps, 50th Corps and 19th Corps.
    - The 13th Army had 23rd Corps, 15th Corps and the 3rd Corps.
In addition to infantry divisions, the Soviet forces on the Isthmus had also 6 tank brigades, and some specialized units, like the 60th, 61st, 100th, 111th and 113th Ski battalions, which operated in the Bay of Viipuri-area. Some of these units were committed in the attack across the bay and some to the battles of the islands littering the bay. (The number of divisions and brigades doesn't reveal the true size of the Soviet forces, because they had numerous sub-units and detachments)

In the first days of March, the Soviet forces made repeated attempts to get a sturdy foothold on the Finnish side of the Bay of Viipuri. The attackers were time and again thrown back by savage counterattacks and the fire from the Finnish coastal batteries. But by March 5th, the Soviet 173rd and 86th divisions had established a bridgehead on the Vilaniemi-peninsula and the 43rd division on the Häränpääniemi-peninsula.

On the Vuoksi (Äyräpää area) the Soviet divisions had launched very determined attacks and succeeded on March 11th to gain a notable (approximately 2,5 km wide and 200 - 1000 m deep) foothold on the northern shore of Vuoksi.

In the Taipale area, all Soviet attacks were stopped throughout the war, although the Soviets had managed to push the defense line back a little.

 

 

 

 

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