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World War: Mannerheim to His Men

4 minute read

Baron Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim has been a soldier for 58 of his 72 years. He served his Tsar as a bodyguard, as a colonel in the Russo-Japanese War, and as the leader of his Uhlans. He fought with brilliant disobedience in World War I, with savage pride in the Finnish civil war. He spent 21 years building a courageous Finnish Army, 3½ months leading it in a death struggle. When such a man must address his troops in defeat, they may expect memorable words. Last week the hardbitten, tired old soldier ad dressed the men who, by his own reckoning, had outfought their foes 13-to-1 but been outnumbered 1-to-50. Said he:

“Soldiers of the glorious Finnish Army: “Peace has been concluded between our country and the Soviet Union, an exact ing peace which has ceded to Russia nearly every battlefield on which you have shed your blood on behalf of every thing we hold dear and sacred.

“You did not want war. You loved peace, work and progress; but you were forced into a struggle in which you have done great deeds, deeds that will shine for centuries in the pages of history.

“More than 15,000 of you who took to the field will never again see your homes and many have lost forever their ability to work. But you have also dealt hard blows, and if 200,000 of our enemies now lie on the snow drifts, gazing with broken eyes at our sky, the fault is not yours. You did not hate them or wish them evil ; you merely followed the stern rule of war: kill or be killed.

“Soldiers! I have fought on many bat tlefields, but never have I seen your like as warriors. I am proud of you as though you were my own children ; I am as proud of the men from the northern fields as of the sons of Ostro on Bothnia’s plain, the Karelian forests, the Hills of Savo, the fields of Hame and Satakunta, the leafy copses of Uusimaa and Sarsinais-Suomi. I am as proud of the sacrifice tendered by the child of the lonely cottage as of the child of the wealthy.

“I thank all of you, officers, non-commissioned officers and men, but I wish especially to stress the self-sacrificing valor of our officers of the reserve, their sense of duty and the cleverness with which they have fulfilled a task which was not originally theirs. Thus theirs has been the greatest sacrifice in this war in proportion to their numbers, but it was made joyfully and with unflinching devotion to duty. . . .

“I thank the Finnish Army in all its branches, which in noble competition have done heroic deeds since the first day of war. . . .

“When some day the history of this war is written the world will learn of your efforts.

“Without the ready help in arms and equipment which Sweden and the Western Powers have given us, our struggle up to this date would have been inconceivable against the countless guns and tanks and aircraft of the enemy.

“Unfortunately, the valuable promise of assistance which the Western Powers gave us could not be realized when our neighbors, concerned for their own security, refused the right of transit for troops.

“After 16 weeks of bloody battle, with no rest by day or night, our Army still stands unconquered before an enemy which, despite terrible losses, has grown in number.

“Nor has our home front, where countless air raids have spread death and terror among women and children, ever wavered. Burned cities and ruined villages far behind the front, as far even as our western border, are the visible proof of the nation’s sufferings during the past months.

“Our fate is hard, now that we are compelled to give up to an alien race, a race with a philosophy and moral values differ ent from ours, land which for centuries we have cultivated in sweat and labor. Yet we must put our shoulders to the wheel, in order that we may prepare on the soil left to us a haven for those rendered homeless, and an improved livelihood for all, and, as before, we must be ready to defend our diminished Fatherland with the same resolution and the same fire with which we defended our original Fatherland.

“We are proudly conscious of the historic duty, which we shall continue to fulfill: The defense of that western civilization which has been our heritage for centuries, but we also know that we have paid to the very last penny any debt we may have owed to the West.

“Mannerheim, Commander in Chief of the Finnish Army Fighting the Bolsheviks.”

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