Saturday, October 15, 2011

11.14 The White Death by Allen F Chew

The White Death: The Epic of the Soviet-Finnish Winter War (1971) by Allen F Chew

I'm not sure how I got it in my head that I wanted to learn more about The Winter War. I knew there had been a series if brutal battles as the beginning of WWII with the Soviets trying to invade Finland. I also had a notion that the Finns were somehow tied in with the Nazis through the remainder of the war. A little internet research led me this book by Allen Chew which seems to be the most well regarded English language account of this brief period.

As usual with anything associated with this period everything Soviet begins with Stalin. The Great Purge of the late 1930s left the Soviet army bereft of experienced officers for the most part.  Further, Stalin decided he wanted to reclaim territory lost in the Russian Civil War (1917-23). Although Finland espoused neutrality in the war, Russia worried of fascist influence there and had concerns about the geographic exposure of Leningrad. Once Germany invaded Poland

The book is quite good in that it combines a clear account of the politics as well as the battle accounts. The Finns did very well initially because of good leadership and home field advantage. The buggers could ski a whole division through the night, attack and escape back across the frozen landscape. Eventually though the Soviets were able to prevail through the sheer weight of manpower and armaments. The Finns finally sued for peace and ceded large amounts of territory.

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