Skip to comments.RUSSIA REPORTED INCREASING DEMANDS; POPE COLD TO RIBBENTROP PEACE PLEA (3/12/40)
Posted on 03/12/2010 4:58:34 AM PST by Homer_J_Simpson
William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
Winston S. Churchill, The Gathering Storm
Home Fleet returns to Scapa Flow
Tuesday, March 12, 1940 www.onwar.com
In Britain... The British Home Fleet returns to Scapa Flow from Rosyth and Loch Ewe after the completion of a substantial improvement of the anti-aircraft and anti-submarine defenses at the base.
In Moscow... The Finnish delegation awaits final approval, from Helsinki, of the peace terms offered by the Soviets.
In Paris... The French prime minister, Daladier, informs the Chamber of Deputies that an Anglo-French expeditionary force is ready to embark for Finland on receipt of a formal Finnish appeal for assistance.
In Lublin... Seventy-two German Jews, out of 1000 deported to Poland in sealed freight cars from Stettin, die of exposure after an 18-hour march in a blizzard.
German foreign Minister Ribbentrop gave everybody at the Vatican the Nazi salute except for the Pope. He “made three profound bows”, instead, when he met the Pope. Can you imagine Hitler and the Nazi political office debating this kind of diplomatic stuff?
March 12th, 1940
RAF Bomber Command: 4 Group. 166 Sqn Whitley K8960 crashed near Abingdon. Plt Off R.B. Vaux and crew killed.
Upwood, Huntingdonshire. LAC Michael Patrick Campion (1916-43) and AC First Class Ernest Ralph Clyde Frost (1917-69) rescued a pilot from the burning wreck of two Blenheim bombers which collided during take-off. Unfortunately the man died later. For this they were each awarded the Empire Gallantry Medal but this was replaced by the George Cross as detailed in the London Gazette of 24 September, 1940. (Daniel Ross)
The British Home Fleet returns to Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands from Rosyth and Loch Ewe after the completion of a substantial improvement of the anti-aircraft and anti-submarine defenses at the base. (Jack McKillop)
The British finalize their plans for the invasion of Norway. Landings are to be made at Narvik and Trondheim in order to secure the rail line to Sweden and the large iron-ore fields. (Jack McKillop)
FRANCE: The French prime minister, Edouard Daladier, informs the Chamber of Deputies that an Anglo-French expeditionary force is ready to embark for Finland on receipt of a formal Finnish appeal for assistance. (Jack McKillop)
GERMANY: U-99 is launched. (Dave Shirlaw)
POLAND: Lublin: 72 German Jews, out of 1,000 deported in sealed freight cars from Stettin, die of exposure after an 18-hour march in a blizzard.
FINLAND: The Finnish delegation receives from the government the powers to sign the peace treaty. President Kyösti Kallio, while signing the paper that gives the powers, exclaims “May wither the hand that has signed a paper like this!” The next summer Kallio suffers a stroke that paralyses his right arm. Minister of Defence Juho Niukkanen and Minister of Education Uuno Hannula, who think that war should be continued with Western help, resign.
At Moscow Molotov tells the Finnish delegation the proposed amendments are unacceptable. The delegation is as divided as the cabinet at Helsinki. Juho Paasikivi (who I in an earlier mail forgot to include in the Finnish delegation) and Väinö Voionmaa want to use the possibility of Allied help to get better terms from the Soviets and go back to Helsinki to explore the situation with the government. Risto Ryti and Gen. Rudolf Walden disagree. They are afraid the military situation would deteriorate and the Soviets could extort further concessions. Delegation votes, and Ryti’s vote as the chairman of the delegation decides the issue. They would accept the Soviet terms.
Jääski: No. 1 Company Amerikansuomalaisten Legioona (American Finnish Legion) arrive. They are due to go to the frontline tomorrow but as the local commanding general knows that the peace will come tomorrow he decides to delay the order. In his opinion, it seems, it was not a good idea to let the foreign volunteers to fight and die in the very last hours of the war, when it made no difference. (Mikko Härmeinen)
At Viipuru the 34th Rifle Corps was reinforced with one tank brigade. South-west of Viipuri, on the frozen Bay of Viborg, 28th and 10th Rifle Corps attacked towards the Bay’s western shore with five rifle divisions (again, one of them motorized).
The part of front under attack by 50th and 34th Rifle Corps was defended by Finnish II Army Corps (Lieutenant-General Hjalmar Öhquist).
It had three divisions in front line: from south-west to north-east 3rd Division (Colonel Auno Kaila), 5th Division (Colonel Selim Isakson) and 23rd Division (Colonel Woldemar Oinonen).
The Soviet formation that attacked straight towards Viipuri was 7th Rifle Division (Brigade Commander Sergey Verzin) of 34th Rifle Corps.
The division had (from south-west to north-east) 257th , 27th and 300th Rifle Regiments in front line. Approaches to the city were defended by Finnish Infantry Regiment 7 (Colonel Kaarlo Heiskanen), reinforced with Light Detachment 3 (Captain Karl Viisterä), and Infantry Regiment 8 (Major Sulo Laaksonen) of Colonel Kaila’s 3rd Division. On 11 March the front line ran just south-east of Viipuri’s outermost suburbs.
Situation wasn’t advantageous for the Finnish defenders. City of Viipuri lies just south of Suomenvedenpohja, an inlet of Bay of Viborg. That body of water would be a natural defense line, but Viipuri had too much symbolic value to be abandoned (Mannerheim also wanted to fight for every inch in order to get as advantageous peace terms as possible). Lt. Gen. Hjalmar Öhquist wanted to abandon the south-eastern suburbs and withdraw the Finnish forces to Patterinmäki (’Battery Hill’) defense line south-east of the city center, but this was refused by Mannerheim and Lieutenant-General Erik Heinrichs, commander of Army of the Isthmus.
Öhquist’s situation worsened as his forces were at the same time detached to defend western shore of the Bay of Viborg, where the Red Army threatened to broke though to the back of Army of the Isthmus.
Infantry Regiments 7 and 8 were able to hold their lines on 11 March 1940; the full force of Soviet assault fell largely north of their sectors on the dividing line between 3rd and 5th Divisions. Pressure against the regiments grew, but when the night fell, 3rd Division got orders to hold its position ‘at all costs’.
On the morning of 12 March the Soviet assault continued with full force along the dividing line between 3^rd and 5^th Divisions, and soon also Infantry Regiment 7 south of the divide was under attack. Soviet artillery and air forces bombarded the Finnish defenders with impunity.
At first the defences of Infantry Regiment 7 were in confusion, but by afternoon the Soviet attacks were repelled. But the situation remained very dangerous: Red Army had penetrated 5th Division’s southern flank (just north of Infantry Regiment 7’s defences) and advanced into the suburb of Karjala. On that afternoon Heinrichs finally gave Öhquist the permission to withdraw 3rd Division to Patterinmäki line. Öhquist immediately informed Kaila, and ordered the withdrawal to take place at midnight. However, the movement of forces started already in the evening of 12 March and was finished by 2 am on 13 March. Engineers set the remaining buildings in the suburbs of Talikkala and Kolikkomäki on fire to create unobstructed lines of fire. After the withdrawal to Patterinmäki line was complete, Infantry Regiment 8 was taken from the front line to army corps reserve. Enemy didn’t interfere with the withdrawal.
As the two Finnish regiments were withdrawing to new defensive positions that night, negotiators in Moscow signed the Peace Treaty. War was to end at 11 am (Finnish time) on 13 March 1940. Among other territorial losses, Viipuri was to become a Soviet city. News of the peace filtered to Finnish units during the night and early morning hours.
Infantry Regiment 7, still reinforced with Light Detachment 3, now took the responsibility of defending Viipuri, city block by city block if need be. At 5.20 am units of Kaila’s division were unconditionally ordered to hold their positions.
The “7th Finnish infantry regiment has to pull back to Patterimski (”Battery Hill” on the city’s western edge) and so half of the city is in the hands of Russian troops.” “A frontal storming of the fortress began at 11 PM.” In order to assault the castle, the Russians must have occupied the city center. Taking the city center to mean “vyborg”, The Russian historian Vyacheslav Rumyantsev states that “in the morning of March 13th (at night) Vyborg was taken.”
A picture of “Battery Hill:” http://www.ouka.fi/100kuvaa/viipurini/eng/008.htm
In this map of the city, you can see the city fortress, which was only laid siege to on the night of the 12th. To the north of the castle, you can see the lines of “Battery Hill”: http://www.vyborg.ru/map.htm http://www.around.spb.ru/maps/suomi/wiipuri.gif
U.S.S.R.: Moscow: Finnish envoys initial a peace treaty with Russia. The Soviet-Finnish Peace Treaty forces Finland to cede important parts of Karelia to the Soviet Union.
During the Winter War in the air Finnish airmen shot down 185 Soviet planes (plus 9 planes shot down by the Swedish volunteers of Flight Regiment 19), and the AA-artillery more than 300. Total Soviet losses, including aircraft destroyed by anti-aircraft fire, were 684. 31 Finnish Fokker D-XXI fighters alone, managed to destroy 120 Soviet bombers while suffering casualties of 12 fighters and 8 pilots. Finland lost a total of 61 aircraft, 34 of them in aerial combat.
The top ten Finnish fighter aces of the Winter War were:
Lt. Jorma Sarvanto 12 5/6 kills
SSgt. Oiva Tuominen 8 kills
WO Viktor Pöytsiä 7 1/2 kills
WO Tatu Huhanantti 6 1/6 kills
Lt. Urho Nieminen 6 kills
SgtMaj. Kelpo Virta 6 kills
Lt. Per-Erik Sovelius 5 3/4 kills
Lt. Olli Puhakka 5 1/2 kills
SSgt. Pentti Tilli 5 1/6 kills
Lt. Paavo Berg 5 kills
REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA: A British warship to-day landed here with 46 German prisoners - the crew of the scuttled steamer ‘Wakama’, which was scuttled off the Brazilian coast on February 12th. She also landed 16 British sailors from the Ajax, the Achilles, and the Exeter, who had been wounded in the battle of the River Plate. They were brought here for convalescence from Port Stanley, in the Falkland Islands, as there are better facilities for treatment here.
The German prisoners were cheerful and obviously pleased with their treatment on board the warship. They had been given the greatest freedom, and even allowed to help the warship’s crew at their work. They were freely supplied with cigarettes and received the same rations as the warship’s crew. It was their captain, Captain Eschact, who, when he learnt that the German reports alleged his crew had been fired on in their lifeboats, sent a special message to the Woermann Line, denying the reports and saying that the whole crew had been rescued by a British warship.
The Times (Capetown Correspondent),
March 12th, 1940
U-99 Kretschmer’s boat, or Schepke’s?
(Beats the heck out of me.)
Colonel Hersalo's 21st Division launches a counterattack in Vuosalmi.
Fierce fighting on the Isthmus
Kretschmer and Schepke had U-99 and U-100. Just don’t remember with certainty who had which. But I think Kretschmer had U-99.
Day 194 March 12, 1940
At 9 AM, Finnish President Kyösti Kallio gives his delegates in Moscow full powers to negotiate peace terms, effectively conceding to Soviet demands. Finland loses 35,000 square kiometers (about 10% of the country), giving up Salla in Lapland plus the entire Karelian Isthmus and Ladoga Karelia (the area surrounding Lake Ladoga). As this includes the city of Viipuri & the towns of Sortavala and Käkisalmi, over 430,000 Karelian Finns are displaced (about 12 % of the population). In addition, Soviets lease Hanko peninsula as a naval base for 30 years. Kallio notes “This is the most awful document I have ever had to sign. May the hand wither which is forced to sign such a paper.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hugo_Sundstr%C3%B6m_-_Kallio_with_Mannerheim.jpg
Finnish military collapse around Viipuri continues. A little late to help, Sweden offers to begin talks on a defensive alliance with Finland.
The British embark about 20,000 troops on transport ships to land in Norway. The main force of 5 brigades boards troop transports at Rosyth in the Firth of Forth, Scotland, to land at Tronheim, Bergen and Stavanger. At Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands, the landing force intended for Narvik is a single brigade, which is at odds with the strategic aims of pushing through Narvik to the Swedish iron ore mines at Gällivare. The troops are an incoherent force pulled from various units held in reserve in England (10 divisions of the main British army are in France with the BEF) and many are poorly trained reservists. In addition the whole force is wildly under-equipped with little or no artillery or anti-aircraft guns.
The ships do not depart, however, awaiting orders to begin the operation, while the British War Cabinet debates operational plans (especially how to deal with Norwegian or Swedish armed opposition to the landings and subsequent troop movements through their countries). British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain is still against the whole operation, particularly armed conflict with the neutral Scandinavian countries should they not welcome the British and French intervention.
Wow! Thanks for the addendum!
P.S. It sounds like “tomorrow’s” NY Times should be loaded with news from the 12th.
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