Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Retreat into the Storm

Kersantti Kaino Tuomola told his section, "All right boys, pack it up. We're falling back."

The youngest man, Vilhelm Nurmi, asked, "Where to?"

Tuomola pointed to the northwest, "That way, seems that the Russkis are willing to continue to throw bodies at our lines, regardless of cost. Our neighbors have fallen back, so our positions here are untenable."

Nurmi looked puzzled but before he could ask the question, Aleksis Leppänen answered, "Untenable, means we can't stay here, the boys on our left flank got their asses kicked, so we have to run. Understand, Nurmi, or do you want a picture?"

"Enough Aleksis, not all of us went to university. But yes, Vilhelm, what Aleksis says is true. Our left flank is in the air, it's like someone left the back door open, so we pull back."

Ustin Rodionovich Kazankov had found himself leading three more men in addition to Kolobkov and Bezrodny. He had come across them cowering in a ruined Finnish dugout and simply told them to follow. They did, much to Kazankov's surprise. He had yet to learn their names but as they followed him willingly enough, that could be dealt with later.

At the second Finnish defense line Kazankov had the men take cover in a trench while he tried to figure out what he was supposed to do next. Soviet society didn't encourage initiative but he knew that he should do something, even if it was just to look for an officer to tell them what to do.

One of the new men looked in his direction, "Tovarishch Komandir! What is our mission?"

Kazankov looked at the man for a moment, then said, "I'm no commander, just a Red Army Man like yourself, what's your name laddie? In fact, all of you, who are you?"

One by one, the three men identified themselves, Kazankov realized he probably wouldn't remember their names after a few minutes, but the one who spoke out, Kusma Zakharovich Beriya, he'd probably remember, provided he wasn't killed in the next day or so. As for Vladimir Antonovich Dudin and Valerian Dmitrievich Berezhnoy, they looked sufficiently terrified that he doubted they would present any problems.

"All right then, we're going to stay right here until someone comes along who can tell us what to do. We could keep charging ahead and probably fall into some Finnish ambush, anybody want that?"

All the men shook their heads, no one had any immediate wish to die. Kazankov figured that that was good, these boys weren't stupid.

The wind was rising and the snow was falling harder. The men were hunched over, leaning into the wind, Tuomola was beginning to worry. One of the men, Juhani Lahti, had already nearly wandered off the trail. If he hadn't noticed him, Lahti would have probably been there until spring. It wasn't only the Russians who froze to death in this weather.

"Kersantti, how much longer?" Otso Venäläinen had to shout to be heard over the wind. "We're going to start losing people if we keep marching into this blizzard."

"I know, but we have to stay with the column. I have no idea how close the Russkis are, and where would we stop? It's death to stop, we have to keep moving!"

Tuomola saw a man stagger, then drop to his knees. He hurried over to the man, he didn't recognize him, someone from another squad. As he shook the man by the shoulders, there was no response.

He stood back and watched helplessly as the soldier fell forward onto his face. Death from either exposure or sheer exhaustion, Tuomola guessed it didn't really matter.

Dead was dead, no matter how it happened.

Kapitan Ivan Filippovich Telitsyn and his orderly, Krasnoarmeyets Maxim Romanovich Grushanin jumped into a trench where there were six men huddled against the elements.

"Who is in charge here?" he barked at them.

One of them, a rather large man with the look of a veteran soldier about him, spoke up, "I guess that would be me, Tovarishch Kapitan. Krasnoarmeyets Ustin Rodionovich Kazankov and five other survivors from the 44th."

"Where is the rest of your unit?"

"I don't know Tovarishch Kapitan, we assaulted the Finnish position some kilometers back, we lost a lot of the boys coming across no man's land. We stopped here, awaiting orders."

"Good, come with me, we need to continue the pursuit."

"Tovarisch Kapitan, into this snow?" Grushanin protested, his captain was already lost, they should have contacted the main body of the battalion an hour ago.

Telitsyn looked over the lip of the trench, visibility was down to mere meters. He also had no idea where he was, nodding, he said, "Well, you are right once again Maks. We shall wait here until the storm lifts. At least we're out of the wind."

Kazankov looked at his men and shook his head, he didn't like this new officer, he seemed the type to get men killed.

Tuomola and his men finally caught up to the tail end of the column. They had halted while the officers decided what to do. One of them, a major, came up to them.

"How far behind are the Russians?"

"I don't know sir, but we haven't seen anyone since the storm worsened. Perhaps they have halted, waiting for the wind to die down."

"And you are?"

"Kersantti Kaino Tuomola of Separate Battalion 8, Sir!"

"Find someplace out of the wind, we too shall wait for the wind to die down. We're losing too many men to the elements as it is, we shall wait."

As Russians, Finns, and a number of foreign volunteers continued to fight and die, both from combat and the elements, the Finnish government put out peace feelers. The army was on the brink of shattering from the continuous Soviet pressure, bombs were falling on Helsinki, and anticipated help from the West was nothing but talk.

Time to quit before Finland was swept under by the Soviet's massive advantage in numbers.


  1. Hole Western Allies covered themselves with no glory in Finland, what could they really do, after twenty years of pacifism, and appeasement? Training unprepared, when Hitler's ambitions were quite clear, despite his repeated claims, " we only want the Sudatenland, that is all ", etc. How could people with eyes be so blind? Trying to prevent a Second World War, by encouraging the would be aggressors doesn't work.

    But being a " man of peace " allows one to hug yourself every night in bed, for being so virtuous.
    Dear God, it almost looks like it is about to happen again.

    1. You have to have lived in that time to understand why things were the way they were. The slaughter of WWI was still remembered, an entire generation died in that conflict. No one, and I mean no one, wanted a repeat of that. Also, no one could afford the cost in material either.

      It's easy to look on this in hindsight and say "what were they thinking?" It had nothing to do with virtue.

      And no, it's not going to happen again. You still believe the media in anything?

    2. Well, there is that. My point is that the media doesn't know what they're talking about, when they speak, it's best to not listen.

    3. I try not to, for the reason you state.

    4. Then why have the treaties and promises? Oh, that's right, so the politicians look good for a moment.

    5. Beans - Yup, that's all it's for, the "optics."

    6. Yes, it is. I remember how we trusted Walter Cronkite. If he had said he had watched the Sun come up in the West, well, the Earth must have reversed rotation!

    7. The Tet Offensive soured me on him, permanently.

  2. Sarge, I do think we - now - do not understand the trauma that World War I was for Europe: they had come out of (effectively) 100 years previously of "short" wars, and the death and destruction that in some cases literally swept away a generation was grim and shocking. It was to be avoided at any cost. Additionally, I do not think they could imagine that anyone was serious about starting a second war of that magnitude (or worse). We, looking back, now have absolutely every understanding of what modern technology combined with ideology can accomplish.

    That said, I wonder if we are in danger of falling into the same trap: we have come to accept that most "wars" are short limited actions or kinetic events followed by long occupations. The concept of an actual all out war does not seem to be something that we, like the Europeans of 1914, seem to think could actually happen. Which is, of course, exactly when it happens.

    The fact that your writing provokes all this thought in me is just a testimony to how amazing an author you are, at least to me.

    1. Our armed forces are so poorly led at this point that any future war with a peer, or near peer, will result in a catastrophic defeat. Of the United States, hint to the the SecDef and his flag officers, diversity is not our strength. To win a war you have to kill people and blow their stuff up, not "understand" them.

    2. Armed forces are there to break things and kill people, not ask what their personal pronouns are. You are correct Sarge.

    3. Ian Hogg once wrote about how the British Army was shocked to find the difference between a Fuzzy with an assagi, and a German, with a machine gun.

    4. The British seemed to get shocked a lot.

    5. (Don McCollor)...Ah the Fuzzy. They shocked the British too. The last verse of Kipling's "Fuzzy Wuzzy"..."For all the odds against you, you broke a British square"...

  3. I served over 9 years, running the reactors and steam plant on CVN-70 for over 7 of that. I can not and will not recommend military service to any of my three kids. We've talked about it, but I won't push it, the leadership seems too messed up. They're all in college, Electrical engineering, Aerospace engineering, and Physical therapy. Each could be an asset to the military, but I don't want to see them have to fight the PC BS. It makes me so very sad.

    1. I hear ya, DV. Fortunately most of my kids got out before this BS started. My pilot son-in-law is holding on until he can retire, it's not easy.

    2. DV, I agree that leadership isn't the best, and the higher those leaders go, the more they have to toe that woke-ish line pushed on us by the administration, but it won't always be like that. I remember how different it was from Obama to Trump. And it's still a very honorable career. Is there a guarantee they won't have bad and/or woke leadership in their civilian careers? We still need good junior officers so that our future leadership is better.

    3. Talk about damning with faint praise, "leadership isn't the best." The problem is that these feckless incompetents we seem to gather at the flag ranks are going to get those junior officers, and their troops, killed. There is no fixing it from within, it's up to us, the American people, to demand better leaders at all levels of government. If we don't, we probably deserve to wind up on the ash heap of history. Bear in mind, having a civilian career doesn't carry the same risks as being in a woke-led military. We put our lives on the line when we take the oath, civilians don't.


    4. Do remember that the mighty British were very good at getting the junior officers and their troops killed. Senior British military "leadership" was truly special for MANY years!

    5. No doubt because of the way they promoted - had to be the "right sort" (i.e. upper class), purchase of commissions (implied wealthy background), and competence was never really a consideration. The British were blessed every now and then with someone who came up that way, met all the right qualifications and was also competent (Sir Arthur Wellesley).

    6. He was indeed one of the few exceptions!

  4. Hey Old AFSarge;

    Excellent Story, I did hear that the Finns got some P36's according to my aviation books on my shelf and they were equipted with ski's and were quite effective against the Soviets, but there were just not enough of them and yes the allies were so gunshy after WWI, after a generation of men were lost in WWI, that is why France built the Maginot line to keeo "La Boche" out of France, but they wanted to appease and would do anything to avoid another war and Hitler capitalized on the weakness. I did notice something....I hate to quibble..
    "Kazankov looked at the man for a moment, then said, "I'm no commander, just a Red Army Man like yourself, what's your name laddie? In fact, all of you, who are you?" Shouldn't "Laddie" be Comrade since that was the accepted method of addressing a fellow soldier in the Soviet army and the new Soviet man that the Marxist and Stalin were building as they tried to reshape the Red Army?

    1. Let's just say that Kazankov is old school and isn't having any of that Bolshevik nonsense. That was done intentionally.

  5. When the neighbors decide they want to have a war with you your choices are limited, Finland is not in a good place... Picking up your toys and going home is an option only if you are having your war in someone else's yard.


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