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Alternate version of the Winter War?

Discussion in 'Winter and Continuation Wars' started by tmdandj, Feb 21, 2015.

  1. tmdandj

    tmdandj New Member

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    Please forgive me if this is in the wrong subforum.

    It's 1939, Stalin is preparing to invade Finland. Obviously from the actual results of this war, Russia received a firm kick in the tail. Russia had the advantage as far as numbers go, although Finland had troops with better knowledge of the land, as well as better defensive positions (i.e. the Mannerheim line). So, is there a way that anybody can think of where Russia could have invaded and swiftly defeated Finland?
     
  2. Bundesluftwaffe

    Bundesluftwaffe New Member

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    Not sure how much naval stuff the Russians had, but maybe outflanking the Mannerheim line, by landing behind it ? Of course in concert with a land attack with better concentrated forces and more heavy art preparation to demolish at least a part of the line....
     
  3. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Moved to Winter and Continuation War sub forum. If it gets legs it may be redirected to Alternate History.
     
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  4. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    There is a certain irony here in that the Soviet Union, who within a year would be famed for its winter war prowess, faired so poorly here in its Finnish invasion.

    First I must concede my limited knowledge of the Winter war in its specifics, but I would offer some observations and thoughts.

    A issue outside the control of Soviet leadership has to be the lingering effects of the officer purges. This is difficult to quantify, but surely many active commanders were not long in the saddle in their current positions having been promoted to replace disgraced, exiled and executed former superiors.

    There were others however that were within their control had they the wit to see them.

    Victory Disease was a common ailment of most Axis nations and it seems the Soviet Union, with its quasi alliance with Nazi Germany endured a mild infection of the same malady. This coupled with some anxiety about missing the bus on easy expansion prompted them to bite off more than they could quickly digest. Eastern Poland and the Baltic States fell easily and without very much bloodshed, Stalin thought/hoped that similar border adjustments could be achieved without much more than saber rattling, but the Finn's would not oblige.

    Here in lies the main problems for the Soviets. Attempting to throw together a last minute offensive without proper preparation, employing a tactic (blitzkrieg) they did not fully understand or have a military geared for, in a terrain poorly suited to and in weather conditions not favorable for, was a recipe for disaster. Germany's army was created for the offensive, Stalin's for the defensive.

    The Soviets attacked on a broad front all along the border, thus allowing the Finn's to meet not one massive fist, but many weaker ones. This negated the Soviet's primary advantages in manpower and artillery. Once the Soviets concentrated both their forces and focus upon Karelia isthmus, and built up supplies and forged closer cooperation between services, they were able breach the Mannerheim line and force Finland to accept terms that gave them more territory than they originally asked for.

    So how do they get what they want for less cost. Take the time to properly prepare, fully focus upon the Mannerheim line and be who they were. Do that and all the rest of the desired areas will fall into their lap without actually fighting for them.
     
  5. green slime

    green slime Member

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    Let's be clear; The Finns lost the Winter War.

    While the FInns have inflicted such losses on the Soviets, as to give the Russians a true Pyrrhic victory, the Finns ended up handing over large chunks of Finland to the Soviet aggressor..

    What they gained however, was continued independence, which the Soviet invasion was designed to bring to a halt. In that respect, it was a "win" for FInalnd, but it was a very hollow one.

    There are a multitude of reasons behind the Soviet "failure".

    The lack of roads in the heavily forested mid-Finland together with the high level of motorisation in the Soviet army: In the snow, all vehicles were bound by the roads, and thus their route was extremely predictable. The Soviet soldiers were loathe to leave their vehicles and enter the uncharted forest.

    Motivated highly skilled skiers could travel greater distances, faster, than the Soviets expected. Small groups of Finnish skiers, by skiing around a "cauldron", and firing from all sides, gave the impression of a much larger force.

    Mannerheim, leader of the Finnish army, was trained in Tsarist Russia, and greatly respected in FInland, by all political parties.

    The Soviets learnt to respect the Coastal artillery of the FInns, and made no serious effort to force the Gulf of Finland. The range and accuracy of the Finnish gunners were intimidating.

    Snow and Ice greatly aid a defender, by reducing the effect of HE. The attacker, is naturally exposed.

    The defence on the Isthmus was near collapse, when in February, the Soviets had 3,000 tanks and a 3:1 advantage in manpower. The Finns were running out of ammunition by the start of the second week in March.
     
  6. green slime

    green slime Member

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    The Soviet forces weren't just thrown together on the spur of the moment. 21 divisions, 450,000 men with their supply chains, are not just scrapped together on a whim. It represents (IIRC) approx 10% of Soviet forces in 1939.

    On paper, the Soviet plan looked good.

    No one could realistically expect 2 Finnish Divisions to hold off 12 Soviet motorised divisions north of Lake Ladoga, preventing the cutting of FInland in two at Oulu. The idea is preposterous.
     
  7. edhunter76

    edhunter76 Member

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    Yes, you pretty much nailed it in short.

    I think that there were no errors in Soviet strategy or plans but the execution was poor. Very thick forests and rare road network didn't suit well for a motorized army. Winter also happened to be very cold during that time and Soviet army wasn't sufficiently ready for that. Maybe they excepted very quick victory and didn't think of surviving in very cold weather that long very much.

    One or two months more and Finland would have been gone.
     
  8. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Sorry GS, but I feel I have to call you on your post.

    While '21 Divisions' sounds impressive on paper, there is a reason the saying 'Potemkin Village' comes from Russia. First this would not cause a great call up since Soviet defense strategy always favored a forward defense posture, something that would come to bite them in the buttinsky a little over a year later, most of these troops were already stationed in the areas they attacked.

    Further Soviet Division's of that era had the combat potential equal to most European Brigades, or less. Nor were they all initially massed at the critical point, but scattered all the way up to the Artic Circle. Lastly Logistics were always a failing of the Soviet system until the effects of Lend Lease began to take hold. It is in logistics where Anglo-American aid really made the difference.
     
  9. green slime

    green slime Member

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    10% of the Soviet Union's armed forces of 1939, permanently stationed along the Finnish border?

    The same year they fought the Japanese, and sought a peace prior to invading Poland?

    Their logistics sufficed in Mongolia.

    It was no shoe string, but they did not anticipate serious opposition: they underestimated their opponent. But given the figures on paper, and previous experience, it should've sufficed.
     
  10. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Paranoia is the first and last thing taught in Soviet military academy's and just about the only thing taught in their political classes. Look at their deployments for the same area a year later, while on the defensive and not at war with anyone. Mongolia was a different kettle of fish, first they took the time to stock up and terrain and weather were far more favorable. Nor did it hurt that Japanese commanders thought it was cool to fight tanks and machine guns with infantry in largely open areas because their will was greater.
     
  11. tmdandj

    tmdandj New Member

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    So, if Russia had invaded in, let's say May, it might have gone over better? There would have been usable roads, so Mechanised Corps could spearhead/support infantry divisions much more easily. Also, you say concentrate all forces on one spot on the Mannheim Line? I would have tried to avoid that at all costs, and I believe someone did say try and transport troops around the line, although the Russian Navy wasn't exactly the cream of the naval crop, and like it has been mentioned, the naval guns were very good.
     
  12. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    The Soviet´s attacked thinking they will be welcomed by the people. Also just before the offensive the Finns had an extra military rehearsal so we had practically quite a big number in arms as the Red Army attacked. The roads if you don´t count the roads in the Isthmus, are more like paths. Big troops movements are not possible. Pushing with all might through the isthmus might have worked, in late 1939, but we did have some massive concrete bunkers in line in Summa. Many errors by the Red Army led to the battles not finishing sooner and as Stalin did not want to humiliate his army anymore in the foreign press, he acccepted the peace. For Finns the losing of the Isthmus was like losing the battle, but just like 1940, after summer 1944 we were still independentwith causing massive losses to the enemy, so I´d personally call it the best we could and being independent, a victory.
     
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  13. edhunter76

    edhunter76 Member

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    Agree. And what comes to "winning" the war or actually both wars, independency means everything to us and regarding that, we survived and think that as a "win". Many other countries weren't that lucky.
     
  14. green slime

    green slime Member

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    It most definitely was a moral victory for the brave Finns.
     
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  15. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Stalin made a very big mistake also by creating the so-called Kuusinen government. That was according to Stalin the only Finnish government, that he would talk to about peace, and also claimed he was not in war in Finland, because he was in good relationship with the Kuusinen government full of Finnish communists. The Finns realized that Stalin wanted to conquer Finland thus, and inside strength to fight grew to massive amounts, also the communists realized Stalin´s plan, and actually the communist sabotage was quite low in Finland. Many communists even fought at the front.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finnish_Democratic_Republic
     

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