Friday, February 11, 2022

Motti¹ - The Beginning

The Raate Road, Suomussalmi
"So Nurmi, you finally take your oath?" Kersantti Tuomola asked the youngest member of his squad as he distributed the mail.

Vilhelm Nurmi grinned and said, "Yes Sir, I am no longer a recruit."²

Aleksis Leppänen turned to look at Nurmi, "How the Hell are you out here and still a recruit? You should have taken the oath during training."

"I was at the medical clinic that day, the doctors thought I had ruptured an ear drum. When I got back to my training platoon, I guess they just overlooked that." Nurmi answered. Then he added, "Luutnantti³ Järvelä saw me coming off guard duty and administered the oath. So now I'm a Sotamies⁴, just like you Aleksis."

Leppänen grunted and said, "Ha, give it a few years then you can say that." Leppänen had been in the Army for six years and had been promoted then reduced in rank more than once. While not a bad soldier in the field, he tended to get into mischief while in garrison. He was more than a little fond of Koskenkorva.⁵

"Speaking of the company commander, there he is now." Leppänen said, gesturing towards the path into their bivouac.

Luutnantti Järvelä came into the camp and said, "Tuomola, get your boys up, we've got the Russkis cornered on the road to Suomussalmi, regiment is putting us back into the line! Let's move!"

Telitsyn and Grushanin almost made it to the cover of a fallen tree when the chattering Finnish machine gun found them. Telitsyn dropped like a stone, falling face down then sliding a few centimeters in the snow which had been trodden to an icy slush by the many men fighting to get to cover.

Grushanin stumbled but managed to keep his feet long enough to join Mladshiy Komandir Beriya and Krasnoarmeyets Dudin in the shallow dip in the ground they were huddled in behind the downed tree.

"Grab him Ustin Antonovich, he's wounded." Beriya shouted.

Dudin complied, as he pulled the man to safety, he recognized Grushanin, he was from Kolobkov's squad. "Maks, get down, you're safe here!"

Maxim Romanovich Grushanin, Maks to his friends, nodded and smiled, "Thanks, Ustin Antonovich, it's pretty rough out here, can I ..." Grushanin's eyes rolled into the back of his head.

"Comrade Komandir! Maks is dead!" As Dudin turned to his officer, he saw that man slumped down in the slight depression, eyes closed, a spreading patch of blood on the chest of his greatcoat. 

Dudin looked around, he could see the muzzle flashes of Finnish rifles and machine guns in every direction but to his rear, which he knew was the head of the battalion column. He had the sinking feeling that they were surrounded.

Dudin piled the two bodies of his dead comrades along one side of the depression and got behind them. Patting one of them on the back he said, "Sorry comrade, but I am still alive and mean to stay that way!"

Kersantti Tuomola nodded to the machine gun team while he directed the other men in the squad where to set up. He nodded to the team leader and said, "Looks like we've got the Bolsheviks in a sack."

Tuure Mäkeläinen nodded in a neighborly way, "Yup, welcome to the neighborhood, I'd offer you something to drink but we weren't prepared for company, at least not the friendly kind." As he said that he tapped his gunner on the shoulder.

Tuomola looked in the direction that the machine gunner began to fire in, he saw a group of Russians trying to scramble across the road. They didn't make it.

One man, who had fallen to his knees, stared stupidly in the direction of the machine gun team, then he nodded as if to say, "Ah, there you are," then he toppled over to join his comrades in death.

"Well, if they're lucky their commissars are right and there is no Heaven or Hell, just oblivion." Mäkeläinen remarked as the team continued to watch for more Russians moving in the woods.

"And if they're unlucky?" Tuomola asked, a puzzled expression on his face.

"Then they're in Hell right now, being introduced to Satan himself." After saying that Mäkeläinen spat into the snow in front of the gun.

"Why not Heaven?" Tuomola asked again.

"They're Bolsheviks, of course they're going to Hell."

As Tuomola thought about that, the Maxim gun began to chatter again.

Night was starting to fall, as was the temperature. The Finns had the better part of an entire Soviet Rifle Division surrounded in the dark woods along the Raate Road. Tuomola almost felt sorry for them, then he thought of the destroyed villages along the route the Russians had taken.

He rather hoped the Bolshevik commissars were wrong about the afterlife.

¹ Finnish for encirclement.
² You might remember that Nurmi's rank was "Alokas" (recruit) in earlier chapters. It was simply a term for privates in the Finnish armed forces who had not taken their military oath yet. Normally this is done shortly after a man enters training. For reasons, to be explained, Nurmi never took the oath before the Russians invaded.
³ Lieutenant (equivalent to US 1st Lt.)
⁴ Private, the lowest enlisted rank
⁵ Koskenkorva is a clear Finnish spirit that is distilled from a combination of locally grown barley and unfiltered spring water. Often dubbed as vodka, the drink is produced with continuous distillation, which involves highly developed producing techniques that utilize 100% of the grain—none of it goes to waste. (Source)


  1. I'll second Toumola's hope, Sarge.
    Winter fighting has pluses and minuses - the biggest of the latter is having to fight - but among the other disadvantages is cold will kill ya by itself. Course on the plus side of you're good at operating in those temperatures you've got an advantage in par with night-vision.
    Good stuff as ever. Gotta see if I can find some Kostenkorva.
    Boat Guy

    1. My constant hope as well.

      Let us know about the Kostenkorva, it's supposed to be good.

  2. Went to school with a guy of Finnish heritage, rather taciturn and of course I learned a few choice words that come in handy during ah....political and sports discussions.......:) Temp now is 35F, at 8 AM down to 30F and tomorrow morning minus 5F, seeing frozen bodies.......ugh.

    1. 44F at 0635 on the west coast right now (next to the Hood Canal) ... I do not miss the northern Minnesota cold even a tiny bit.

    2. Nylon12 - I think the Finns are that way to save their energy to withstand the cold. Maybe they lighten up in summer.

    3. Rob - Same temperature here on the shores of Narragansett Bay, a very balmy 44F.

    4. (Don McCollor)...More practically, keep your mouth shut and your tongue warm...

  3. I just looked it up, to satisfy my own curiosity. Like us Norskies, Finn's tend to be Lutherans,so, if the battle is between
    Lutherans, and those who deny God, I know whose side I am on.

  4. When men are plenty and leadership cares not, they just become cannon fodder. It really does not say a lot of good things about the human condition.

    1. Especially those who desire, who crave, power over their fellow man.

    2. Power over others is at best an addictive trap. The only real control is self-control.

    3. Even worse is when those in power become fearful of those not in power. That's when really bad things begin to happen (looks out window...)

    4. Those in power should always be fearful of the common folk.

  5. Must have been interesting using a water-cooled machine gun in the midst of a Finnish winter. Good story.

    1. Well, it would certainly keep the barrel cool, wouldn't it?

    2. (Don McCollor)...Couldn't be just water or it would freeze, break the jacket, and leak. Probably some type of antifreeze (It would have been a perfect place to store a supply of Kostenkorva)...

    3. Somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind I seem to recall a story concerning using urine during the Chosin Reservoir action. Old Guns

    4. Don - Given the supply issues on the Eastern Front, it might have been just water. When not in use you'd have to drain some of the water. Getting anti-freeze in Russia in the field could be problematic at best. This is an interesting question though.


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