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Winter War Campaign - Part II: Cool Reception
by Pete Dade

[T]he virus of defeat was spreading throughout their entire force, veterans and replacements alike. [It was] agreed that some sort of dramatic action was necessary to curb the panic; regain some measure of initiative, and prove to the men that the Russians could be beaten.
- William R. Trotter on the Finn’s operational assessment of the Lake Tolvajärvi region in early December 1939. (Trotter, The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-1940.)

Lake Tolvajärvi Region, 12 December 1939

A tourist hotel of granite walls, heavy timbers, and fortified positions stood as the Soviets’ last line of defense. How had it come to this? Only days ago the Soviet 139th Rifle Division had nearly crushed the Finnish IV Corps. Now, elements of this faltering Soviet division were holed up in a wilderness outpost of sorts and fought for their lives in the face of a determined Finnish attack. Any thoughts of quickly defeating the Finns were driven away like drifts of snow.

The Finns realized they had dodged a bullet. Their hasty, yet effective, defense had blunted the Soviet thrust. Capitalizing upon an exhausted foe, the Finns immediately pressed their own attack. The plan involved pincer movements from both the north and south aimed at encircling the 139th, but a botched meeting engagement in the north and poor co-ordination in the south foiled these attacks. The focus of the battle then fell upon Finnish forces located in the center, elements of Task Force Pajari, and the tourist hotel that loomed atop a hill overlooking the action. A bloody assault would determine the day, one marked by close quarters rifle combat and grenades pitched through shattered windows.

Scenario: Cool Reception

Despite hundreds of Soviet dead littering the frozen surface of Lake Tolvajärvi, the Soviet 139th Rifle Division pressed its westward advance against the Finnish 4th Corps. Here, the Finns stiffened their defense and pressed with an attack of their own – which culminated in a bloody, close-quarters assault on a lakeshore tourist hotel.

Aftermath

A brutal rush into the hotel broke the back of the Soviets. After casting aside thoughts of burning the landmark to the ground, the Finns assaulted the hotel from three directions and literally trampled its defenders at the doors. In the weeks following the assault, Task Force Pajari nipped at the heels of the ensuing Soviet retreat and advanced some 30 kilometers east of the hotel. There, Task Force Pajari held its positions until the end of the war.

Suggested Reading:

Engle, Eloise; Paananen, Lauri (1992). The Winter War: The Soviet Attack on Finland 1939-1940. Stackpole Books.

Trotter, William R (1991). A Frozen Hell: The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-1940 (also published as The Winter War). Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.

Van Dyke, Carl (1997). The Soviet Invasion of Finland, 1939-40. Frank Cass Publishers.

Korhonen, Sami (1999-2004). www.winterwar.com.










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