• U.S.


5 minute read

» On the Karelian Isthmus last week General Grigory Stern’s fresh Russian troops dug themselves into trenches, while northward from Leningrad streamed more fresh soldiers and supplies. The Russians tried again to flank the Mannerheim Line, were slaughtered at Tolvajärvi.

» The serving of smörgåsbord was forbidden in Finland to conserve salt fish for the Army.

» On the central front the Finns continued to harass their invaders, reported the recapture of Salla and the defeat of another Russian division (the 44th) near Suomussalmi. The Finns said they “destroyed” the main Russian force, captured 102 guns, 43 tanks, ten armored cars, 16 anti-aircraft cars with four guns each, 262 other cars, 75 automatic rifles, 47 field kitchens and 1,170 horses.

The 44th was said to have been ambushed when it tried to come to the rescue of the 163rd division, reported “destroyed” near Suomussalmi last month. It was reported that the Finns first cut a branch line from the Murmansk railroad, upon which the 44th division depended for supplies, and then surrounded it. In the battle, the Finns claimed to have taken 1,000 prisoners. They believed that they had definitely killed for the winter’s duration any chance that Russian forces might cut Finland in two.

» On the Salla front, to protect themselves against surprise attacks, the Russians began to string barbed wire from tree to tree in front of their dugouts, hoping to entangle Finnish skiers, who usually attack at night.

» Thousands of reindeer were driven southwest through Lapland, to be slaughtered for the Army.

» In the far north fast modern bombers which did not bear the blue swastika of the Finnish Air Force bombed Liinahamari, Finnish port for Petsamo and now Russia’s chief Arctic supply base. (There were unconfirmed and probably untrue reports that these planes had come from a British carrier in the Arctic Ocean.) One of the many Finnish ski patrols trying to cut the Leningrad-Murmansk railway made its way back to Finland after a nine-day trip and reported it had dynamited the railroad.

» Finnish planes dropped propaganda pamphlets on Leningrad, in which Russian prisoners’ tales of woe in the Soviet army were retold for the folks at home.

» In Finnish cities coal was rationed and hot water limited to a tubful per person per fortnight.

» Thirty-one Russian bombers raided the port of Turku, set fire to its 700-year-old castle, and the Finns retaliated with a remarkably successful raid on the Estonian island of Oesel in the Baltic, damaging the Russian air base. The three Finnish raiders were led by an Italian-made Savoia-Marchetti bomber.

» Across Lake Laatokka the world’s champion speed skater, 28-year-old Birger Vasenius, led a skating patrol to relieve Finnish troops on an island, was killed by a Russian sharpshooter.

» Although the Russians still held Liinahamari and Petsamo, the Finns were sure enough of their success to say in a cautious communiqué: “The winter war in the north is ours.”

Correspondents, who spent the first three months of war grousing in Europe’s best hotels that there was nothing for them to do, have had their fill of war in Finland. Despite the bitter cold, the hardships, and the fact that the Finns require journalists to do their share of fighting if necessary, such correspondents as Webb Miller of United Press, the North American Newspaper Alliance’s James Aldridge and the Chicago Daily News’s Leland Stowe (whom the New York Herald Tribune thought too old to cover a war) have sent back graphic firsthand accounts of the fighting.

Most eloquent dispatch of the war was sent last week by Correspondent Stowe after seeing the battlefield of Tolvajärvi.

“In this sad solitude lie the dead: uncounted thousands of Russian dead. They lie as they fell—twisted, gesticulating and tortured. But they lie beneath a kindly mask of two inches of new-fallen snow. Now they are one with the cold, white shapes of the illimitable pine and spruce trees. . . .

“When we rode out upon the narrow finger of Lake Tolva’s peninsula, we were not prepared for this. … All along the roadway we saw strange shapes bulging beneath the snow among the trees and shapes sometimes which might have been logs. Sometimes they looked like crooked limbs cast into the discard by the woodsman’s ax. Sometimes heavy felt boots, bared of snow by the stumbling contact of some passing Finnish soldier, protruded suddenly and revealed the naked truth. Sometimes, too, we saw soldiers dragging frozen shapes, like pieces of cord wood, from the forest—and here and there bodies lay in crude contorted piles waiting for a final nameless common grave. . . .

” ‘There are many of them here,’ said our guide. ‘They were all wiped out by our machine-gun fire.’

“Suddenly we found ourselves among whole groups of white-covered figures. Some lay straight on the ground, but mostly the arms were drawn convulsively upward to project stiffly above the shoulder. Mostly their legs were bent or doubled.

. . . These were the Russian dead and soon we saw that most of their boots were good and that all had carried gas masks. They belonged to a picked shock-troop division of the Red Army. Now they were strewn on both sides of the road for more than a mile along the extended peninsula and then further on, and yet further—among the spruces and beside the road that leads to Agläjärvi. . . . We could not look for long.”

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com