By William Trotter
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Additional info for A Frozen Hell: The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-1940
Several of these battles were not significant, in terms of the war’s outcome, and can be dealt with in a brief summary; others warrant close scrutiny by any student of military history. My point is this: no purpose would be served by describing these events in strict chronological order, leaping back and forth over almost a thousand miles of unfamiliar terrain – the result would be a confusing, jumpy, narrative. It’s far more sensible to group the battles according to an arbitrary but logical scheme.
If Oulu fell into Russian hands, Finland would effectively be cut in half, and the logistical problems of receiving Swedish aid would become almost insurmountable. That absolutely could not be allowed to happen! But, at the moment, Mannerheim believed the threat to Suomussalmi was not yet urgent. Even to reach the outskirts of that town, the enemy would have to drag two ponderous mechanized divisions through a metaphorical needle’s eye: a pair of narrow, ice-glazed tracks that were utterly unsuited for tanks and other heavy vehicles.
Damage to stores and 37 apartment buildings, on the other hand, was severe and more than 200 civilians were killed. As soon as he heard the sirens begin to wail, Gustav Mannerheim calmly put down the book he was reading, polished off the brandy he had been drinking, and donned his best uniform. He was driven through the chaotic streets, his car frequently detouring past piles of burning rubble, to the underground bomb shelter beneath the Parliament Building, where he sought out a somewhat dazed President Kallio and retracted his earlier resignation.