Buying Time with Blood - Winter War
Buying Time with BloodBy Ozgur Budak
0 - 1 - 3
|First Side:||Red Army|
17 DECEMBER 1939, SALLA-KEMIJARVI ROAD, LAPLAND While the majority of the Soviet Army engaged in a heavy fighting for the Mannerheim Line in the South, the 9th Army launched several attacks in the Lapland area, in Northern Finland. Those attacks aimed to flank the Finnish defenses and isolate the capital Helsinki from the center and the Northern parts of the country. The attacks posed a great threat to the Finnish forces since most of the army was committed in the South and general Mannerheim had a hard time finding reserves to put against the Russians. One sector of the 9th Army's offensive was Salla, a municipality in Lapland near the Russian Border. The Soviet 122nd Rifle Division, followed by the 88th Division, crossed the Finnish-Russian border and began its march Westwards. The Soviets troops had orders to advance through Salla to Kemijarvi and capture Rovaniemi in two weeks. From there they were to advance to Tornio and cut Finland in two. Finns had nothing but one border battalion in the area (the 17th Separate Battalion) at the start of the war. The troops were part of the Lapland Group commanded by Major General Kurt M. Wallenius. The 17th Battalion was crushed under heavy attacks and the Russians had no difficulty in capturing Salla on the 9th of December. The Finnish HQ reacted by forming an ad-hoc battlegroup (Osasto) under the command of Major V. Roininen. The "Task Force Roininen" was composed of the remnants of the 17th Battalion, the 26th Separate Battalion and the 40th Infantry Regiment. The group also had many Swedish volunteers. Major Roininen's task was stopping the Russian advance before the lake town of Kemijarvi. On the 16th of December, Roininen received reports that a strong Russian column had passed Markajarvi, 20km East of Kemijarvi. Most of the Finnish troops were not arrived to put an effective defense. Major ordered the 26th Separate Battalion to advance towards Markajarvi and set up roadblocks to delay the 122nd Division. The Finnish and Russian spearheads met 7km west of Markajarvi.