The Winter War of 1939-40 took place along a strip of region known as the Karelian Isthmus, flanked in the Northeast by Ladoga Lake and in the Southwest by the Gulf of Finland. Forests, swamps and lakes made for treacherous going with the advantage handed to the defenders (Finland). A portion of the defenses was made up by the Mannerheim Line. The Northern Finnish frontier was naturally protected by natural barriers and Arctic weather, forcing the Soviet offensive to originate from the south.
While Adolf Hitler took his prize in what was Poland, Josef Stalin eyed the Baltic republics and Finland for his own as a buffer to the eventual reborn German Empire in the West. Political and military pressures soon netted the Soviets the republics of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia though it was the Finns that were less than accepting of Stalin's proposal. With their overtures rebuffed, the Soviet Army invaded Finland on November 30th, 1939 to begin the "Winter War".
Initial results for the Finns proved excellent as Soviet advances were beaten back. The Finns were trained for winter warfare while Soviet infantry lacked the needed equipment and training themselves. Finnish sharpshooters excelled at range and close-in work was handled through accurate submachine gun fire. Masses of Soviet infantry were mauled by well-positioned and defended Finnish machine gun posts which cut the enemy where they stood. Fire bombs dealt with the Soviet light tanks as they arrived, turning the armored beasts into death traps for their crews. The Mannerheim Line held for the interim and prospects for the Finns looked good IF they were to received promised support from Britain, France, the United States and even neighboring Sweden. The Soviet Army suffered humiliating defeats with some forces being surrounded and utterly decimated.
With the war continuing into January of 1940, Stalin's patience wore thin with his commanders. He installed General Timoshenko and heavy weaponry was delivered up to break the Finnish lines. Once the Mannerheim Line had been pierced and exploited, the rest of the Finnish defenses fell in turn. The line now fell as far north as Tali. A Red Army force moved up through the iced-over section of Viipuri Bay and landed at Vilajoki, forcing the Finnish defenders to consider their rear now.
With the defensive line all but broken and the Finnish Army fighting an evermore defensive battle on-the-move, the situation grew dim. On March13th, 1940, Finnish Prime Minister Ryti signaled defeat and begrudgingly signed the Treaty of Moscow. The treaty gave most of Karelia to the Soviets forcing some 12% of the Finnish population northwards. A portion of Salla and the Rybachi Peninsula also fell to the Soviets as did Hanko and the Gulf of Finland Islands. ©www.SecondWorldWarHistory.com
There are a total of (20) entries in the Timeline of the Winter War (November 30th, 1939 - March 13th, 1940). Entries are listed below by earliest date to latest date.