Wednesday, February 9, 2022


"Tovarishch Leytenant are you sure we're heading in the right direction? I see no other tracks in front of us, the rest of the battalion should have preceded us, this path is too clean." Tank driver Krasnoarmeyets² Aleksei Yegorovich Shishov yelled back at his tank's commander. This wouldn't be the first time that Mladshiy Leytenant³ Arkadiy Kirillovich Shkuratov had gotten them lost.

For his part, the lieutenant sat in his commander's seat studying his map. Looking out through his vision ports he could find nothing in the snowy landscape which matched his map. Damn it, he was lost.

"Driver, halt!"

Krasnoarmeyets Victor Stepanovich Agapov, the gunner, was watching the back of Shishov's  head, he grinned when he saw the driver shake his head in exasperation.

"Tovarishch Leytenant, we are out here by ourselves, is there no one behind us?" Shishov sounded nervous.

Shkuratov looked in that direction, his view was obscured so he popped his hatch and stood up. There was no one behind them, no one in front of them, and no one to either side. All he saw was snow and forest some hundred meters to their front into which the track they were on disappeared. This was not good.

"What are they doing out here by themselves, Kersantti⁴?" Sotamies⁵ Otso Venäläinen was the senior man after Kersantti Kaino Tuomola. The other three men were very inexperienced and didn't notice things like why a lone Soviet tank was wandering the countryside. All they saw was a tank, a dangerous thing.

"I don't know Otso, perhaps we should hit it with our Lahti." Tuomola said, grinning and nodding at one of the younger men in the squad.

Sotamies Juhani Lahti looked puzzled as his sergeant said that. So Venäläinen explained.

"We have an anti-tank rifle called the Lahti, the L-39. Kersantti is joking Juhani. Do you get it?"

Lahti had to think for a minute, then he said, "So you want me to attack the tank?"

Even the recruit, Alokas Vilhelm Nurmi grinned at that, "You're so gullible Juhani, Kersantti is making a joke."

Lahti blushed.

"Kersantti, what are those Russkis doing now?" Venäläinen nudged Tuomola and pointed out at the Soviet tank, which looked like it was trying to turn around on the narrow, snowy track.

Shishov was trying to get the tank turned and was listening carefully to the lieutenant shouting over the noise of the engine. Their intercom was broken so the lieutenant had to shout. As he worked the steering levers, he had to listen carefully and keep an eye on the instruments, the engine was starting to run a little hot.

What the lieutenant and his driver didn't know was that, concealed under the snow, was a downed tree next to the track. It was old but still substantial, with remnants of branches along the trunk. As Shishov jockeyed the tank, the right side track caught one of those branches.

The branch snapped off and rolled up under the drive sprocket, neatly taking the track out of its guides. Shishov didn't notice at first, then, when he realized he'd lost control of the right track, he yelled at the lieutenant to check it.

"Blyat'⁶! The track is off on the right side! Stop the tank Alyosha⁷!"

Both the gunner and the driver knew that they now had to dismount and try to get the track back on the rollers, or they would have a long walk back to their bivouac.

"What are they doing?" Nurmi asked as he saw the Russians dismount from the tank and start accessing various tools stowed about the vehicle.

Tuomola was watching the Russians through his field glasses, he saw what their problem was. "They've thrown a track! Otso, do you think you could hit them from here? I make the range to be about one-hundred-fifty meters."

Venäläinen shouldered his rifle and looked down his rifle's sights. "Should be no problem, Kersantti. Might be good if we all fired, give these lads some target practice."

Shkuratov nearly jumped out of his skin as he felt the passing of what could only be a bullet then heard the spang of steel on steel as a rifle round ricocheted off the turret. "Someone is shooting at us! Get back in the tank!"

"But sir ..." Agapov began to protest, then he coughed blood and slumped down next to the tank.

"Tovarishch Leytenant, what do we do?" Shishov was on the ragged edge of panic.

"Get in the tank, we have to return fire! We'll worry about Vitya⁸ later, if we're still alive!"

"We've lost our chance boys, hold your fire. If the Russkis bring their guns to bear we're all dead!" Tuomola ordered, as he did so he turned to look to their rear. There was a good path to withdraw. They would report this lost Soviet tank. Someone else could deal with it.

Then Venäläinen spoke up, "Kersantti, I can take Lahti with me and head to the right, get to one side of the tank, you take the other men and go left. There's cover both ways, he can't shoot in two directions, can he?

Tuomola thought for a minute, then he muttered "Sisu, let's do it." Gesturing to Leppänen and Nurmi, he nodded at Venäläinen , "Be careful, Otso."

"Always, Kaino." With a wink, he and Lahti moved off to the right.

"Do you see anything Tovarishch Leytenant? Maybe the Finns took off?" Shishov tried to see out of the gun's periscope but it was too narrow and the tank was at an awkward angle.

At that moment the wind caused some snow to fall from one of the trees standing out from the edge of the forest. "There Alyosha, do you see it? Fire!"

"The gun barked, the shell went high and vanished into the forest.

Shkuratov looked hard, then said, "Nothing, it was just the wind. Keep your eyes open Alyosha, they must be there."

Shishov looked hard, even moved the turret back and forth to try and get a better look. Nothing, it was as if the Finns had disappeared into the air.

Venäläinen saw the tank's turret move, back and forth. Like a dog sniffing the wind, he thought. But he's looking where we were, not where we are. Looking past the tank, he saw his sergeant, ever so briefly. He had a sudden idea.

"Juhani, take cover behind that boulder near the bank. When I give you the word, start firing your rifle to the far left of the tank. I want them to hear you, but I don't want to chance hitting Kaino and the others. Clear?"

Lahti nodded, then moved off quick and low.

"Alyosha! They're behind us! Turn the turret to the rear, quickly." As he said that, he tried to spot the Finns through the pistol port in the turret, no, wrong direction. He would have to wait. He had caught a glimpse of someone running towards the bank to their right rear. Was there only one man?

Shishov got the turret pointed to the rear, as he did so, there was a flurry of rifle fire in their direction. Shishov actually saw a muzzle flash and went to lay the gun on that target.

"We've got you now, ublyudki⁹!" 

As he triggered the gun, he didn't notice the light increase inside the turret, nor did he hear his lieutenant grunt, "What the Hell?"

Kersantti Kaino Tuomola had seen that the hatch on the small T-26 tank wasn't properly secured, probably so that the tank commander could get a better view of his surroundings. He jumped onto the back of the tank and kicked the hatch open, startling the young Soviet officer inside. Just then the tank's gun barked, nearly tipping Tuomola off the vehicle.

He saw the Russian's mouth fall open, then he pulled the trigger on his Suomi KP/-31 submachine gun. The officer was shredded by the 9 mm rounds spurting from the barrel of Tuomola's weapon.

The man in the turret next to the officer was also hit, but his wounds were not immediately fatal. Tuomola had to admire the man's courage as the Russian reached for another round of ammunition for the tank's cannon.

Tuomola finished him with a second burst.

When the squad rejoined, they checked the Russian outside the tank, the man Venäläinen had shot from the edge of the forest. He was dead.

"We killed them, Kersantti," young Vilhelm Nurmi whispered. He had never seen a dead man before, and he had helped kill these men.

"Them or us laddie, them or us." Leppänen offered.

"That last one had balls, I'll give him that, he tried to reload the gun, staring down the barrel of my MP." Tuomola was amazed by that last act of defiance.

"I guess sisu isn't solely a Finnish trait." Venäläinen remarked.

"No, I guess it isn't." Tuomola agreed.

¹ To the Finnish people, sisu has a mystical, almost magical meaning. Sisu is a unique Finnish concept. It is a Finnish term that can be roughly translated into English as strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity. (Source) Pronounced "see-soo."
² Literally "Red Army Man," the 1939 term for a private in the Red Army.
³ Junior lieutenant.
⁴ Sergeant.
⁵ Private.
⁶ Fire truck - without the "ire tr"
⁷ Nickname for Aleksei 
⁸ Nickname for Victor
⁹ Bastards!


  1. For a short war, maybe fifteen weeks, both the Soviets and Finns lost much, the former in men, material and reputation and the latter in men and territory. A nicely timed segment Sarge what with the snow cover here.

  2. What's not to like about dead Commies? Kill them BEFORE they murder you and yours!

    Because, after all, that IS their intent!

    1. Always keeping in mind that not all Russian soldiers were Communists, just like all Germans were not Nazis.

    2. They all WERE, however, dancing to the tune of their owners. Who WERE Communists!

    3. I agree with MM here. Though they may have been very diverse, they were still pawns of an evil government. Since the evil government couldn't be killed, time to kill the pawns.

      It's what has sucked about warfare until the US invented precision-guided munitions. To the point we can take out a single car on a busy street with little to no collateral damage.

      But back in the day... Well, the Russkies were where they weren't supposed to be. And there's only one sure way to handle it. Much better than arresting and deporting them like we do with the Mexican army today.

    4. Which completely overlooks their essential humanity.

      Which I try to avoid in my writing.

    5. Humanity? What humanity in the Soviet machine? The humanity that killed their best, that starved the Ukranians, that stabbed and killed the Poles in the back, that had commissars shooting their own troops for not moving quick enough?

      Sorry, gotta throw a flag on this play. Yes, individually the Soviets overall were individual humans. Same with the Norks and the ChiComs and the Cubans and the Mexicans and the Venezuelans and the Iranians and the Afghanis and and and. But as part of the system of hate, destruction and stupidity, eh, kill them all, God will know his own.

    6. You can throw any flag you like, the average Russian isn't a bad sort. Hate and kill the fanatics if you will, remember the American West, ask Sitting Bull how he felt about Americans.

    7. Yes, individually, nice people just trying to live. But the evil of the system and the overall people?

      Like Japan. Nice people before the war. But better them than us.

    8. Deny the enemy their humanity and you deny your own.

      Many systems are evil, most prosper because good men choose to do nothing.

  3. Wow Sarge. Another really good installment. Tanks always sound neat until you remember everything that can go wrong with them.

    I had not heard of Sisu until last year until The Art of Manliness did a podcast on it. It was an interview with a Finn, who had written a book on the subject. It was rather fascinating.

  4. Hey Old AFSarge;

    Man that little T-26 got stuck and threw a track....Ahhh the joys of driving armored vehicles(Insert eyeroll here). When I had read up on the Winter War years back, the poor performance of the red Army encouraged Hitler to view the red Army in a poor light, the purges that Stalin did on the Officer corp in the late 1930's showed the effect on its first major outing against a motivated foe (the Poles didn't count, the Germans had already beaten them, then Stalin shanked them and the flaws in the Red Army were not apparent.)

    1. Yup, lots of changes made to the Red Army after that war.

  5. If the Finns keep killing all the Soviets they meet you won't have any characters for the Poles to meet when they get to the eastern front! :-)

    (I have to ay something to get the rest of the comments...)

    1. Oh some of them will survive, they'll probably be sergeants when the Germans come.

    2. Problem is that in comparison to the number of Finns, the Russkies are Legion.

  6. Very nice. And then the Finns get shanked by their allies.

    Though the Finns really liked the Brewster Buffalo. Wish we had sent them Lend-Lease instead of the Soviets. That would make for a very interesting alternative history novel or two.

    1. Little countries always seem to get shanked by their allies.

    2. Especially when their allies are being led by squishy leftist morons and entitled piles of garbage. Oh, wait, I just described the US, didn't I?

    3. If a country is led by politicians ...

      And bureaucrats.

  7. Thank you (and the Muse) for another installment.
    I am again in awe of not only learning more history, but also some language skills in both Finnish and Russian. Plus tank tactics of what not to do, and infantry tactics of how to kill a tank.
    Are you sure you weren't a teacher in another life??

    And where do you find all those names?!?!?? Not just first names, not just a last name, not just a nickname but the entire full name that mom would use when you were in deep trouble!!! Just wow!!

    1. Thanks Suz!

      Ah yes, the names, there are a few really good name generators on the internet, I am familiar with a number of European names and languages (recognize, not speak, I speak bad English, weak German, and terrible French) so I know a good one when I see it. I pick them judiciously, some look far too modern, many are just right.

      I stay busy. 😏

  8. As Beans noted, yes, the Finns DID like the Brewster Buffalo. They achieved a 32 to 1 kill ratio against the Russkies, and will remind you. Our beloved Neptunus Lex made a memorable post about Buffaloes, Finns and their lifestyles. Well worth the refresher:
    John Blackshoe


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