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Special Features Page - Trip Reports, Photos, Interviews, and Special Articles
Each link takes you to a new section. Return to Special Features to see more great articles!
|Review on "Born a Soldier, the Times and Life of Larry Thorne" by J. Michael Cleverley|
|Spotlight! A new section about collectors and their collections|
|An article about Simo Häyhä, the great Finnish sniper and hero of the Winter War|
|The Finnish Home Front during WWII by Marshall Kregel, webmaster|
|Mannerheim's speech to the troops, March 14th 1940, at the end of the Winter War|
|New pictures of Marshall Mannerheim at his hunting lodge in August 1942|
The Following story is about a trip to Finland and Russia to visit the War Museums
Thank you to S. Lucas, C. Mayer, J. Mitchell, and G. Whitehead for sending photos to me
of the trips we took to Russia.
|Back in 2000 and again in 2001, a group of Americans interested in Finnish history made some trips to Finland to visit the museums, battlefields, meet some of the veterans, and learn about the Finnish army during WWII. These were exciting trips and adventures! We visited the Salpa Line and met with the great Finnish soldier, Simo Hayha. There were visits to battlefields in Summa where barbed wire, foxholes, shellholes, gas masks, helmets and rusty gun parts still littered the ground. We visited museums in Finland and Russia and Estonia. Our guide for both trips was Col. Haikki Martinnen who was with the Finnish Army Reserve and who taught us about the events that happened on the battlefields over 60 years ago.|
We visited Finnish War Museum and the Winter War Exhibit in Helsinki. Markku Palokangas was our host. He is a famous author of Finnish wartime history and armament books and is an expert on armaments-including the Mosin Nagant Rifle. For students of Finnish war history, the Winter War Exhibit is an absolute "must visit" if you ever go to Finland. The museum is located in a building that was used as a officers school during Czarist times. There are uniforms on display from all branches of the military and include some of Marshal Mannerheim's personal uniforms. Weapons and cannons are scattered inside the museum and there is excellent displays of firearms, knives, personal gear, and photos from the war.
|On both trips, we stopped for lunch at the Salpalinja Museum where we were hosted by Simo
Hayha. Simo was, at the time, a 94 year old Veteran with over 500 accredited sniper kills!
Actually, these were just the kills made with a Mosin Nagant Model m/28 rifle.
We were VERY fortunate to have met this man. He spent a few hours having lunch with us, answering questions, giving us autographs, and posing for pictures. We were very impressed with him. He was quite surprised to find out that most of us also owned m28 rifles as part of our collections!
Summa is a part of the Finnish isthmus where massive fighting took place between the Finns and Russians. The entire countryside is dotted with concrete bunkers, trench lines and shell holes. All of the Finnish concrete bunkers were destroyed by the Russians after the fighting. The bunker on the left has 1/2 of its' roof blown off and folded back onto the rest of the bunker.
The picture on the right shows old trench lines snaking through the woods.
In the photos above, makeshift graves dot the Summa countryside. Bones, helmets, gas masks, and other debris of war still lie in the open after 60 years. Since these photos were taken, much of this material has been picked up by scavengers for sale on the auction sites. We were careful to alert the authorities whenever bones or bodies were found. In the upper left picture, our Colonel is pointing to a human jaw bone lying in the open. Much of the Summa territory was turned into "moonscape" by the war. All the trees were destroyed. The ground was covered in hundreds of thousands of craters. Mines, grenades, and unexploded shells were buried by the thousands, and some of these still exist and are found every year.
|An interesting part of the
Finnish defenses were the "Dragon's Teeth" that were placed in long rows
to help stop the Russian tanks. This area of Finland has a lot of hard
granite rock and this rock was quarried, cut into "teeth" and half buried
into the ground. The Russian tanks had a difficult time getting through
these defenses. Often, when the tanks were climbing up over the rocks, the
soft underside of the tank was exposed to Finnish anti-tank cannon. Many
brave Finn soldiers also hid amongst the rocks and attached mines to the
Russian tanks when the tanks got "hung up" in the rocks.
Our Finnish guide explained to us that a Soviet tank was destroyed on these rocks at this location. The lines of Anti-tank defenses stretch for miles across the Karelian isthmus.
The author standing in a Russian shell hole. Part of the hole was about 9'
---->This old house still stands after all the battles in Summa. At one point before the war, it was Finnish officer's club. Most structures in Karelia were burned by the Finnish soldiers before retreating to the Mannerheim line early in the Winter War.
Remains of a Finnish field headquarters in Summa. The log roof is falling
in but even after 60 years, it is in surprisingly good condition.
----->Trench lines and foxholes on top of Egg Hill where a platoon of Finnish soldiers held off an attack by a battalion of Russian infantrymen. Shrapnel from Russian shells litter the ground.
A Few Pictures from Russia
top to bottom: Viborg Castle, A
fortress in Kronstadt, Kronstadt Naval Pier, The Russian War Memorial, and the
Battleship Aurora which fired the shot that started the Russian Revolution.
Our trip through Karelia included stops in Viborg (Viipuri) and St. Petersburg, Russia. Besides our trips through the battlefields, our Finnish guides took us to flea markets and interesting castles, churches, fortresses and memorials. The flea markets are a lot of fun in Russia and we found many items of militaria like medals, binoculars, and coins. Plus, we did most of our souvenir shopping in the flea markets because prices were so good.
Kronstadt Naval Base was an interesting part of our trips to Russia. Kronstadt was under siege by the Germans during WWII but never fell. The fortresses in Kronstadt were damaged by the German artillery and aircraft, especially Stuka dive bombers, and this damage is still evident today. Kronstadt has so much history and is really a beautiful little town. Well worth a visit if you get a chance.
In the middle picture above, some of our group are standing on a pier which looks out over the Russian fleet. No nuclear ships were in port but we were able to see some submarines, destroyers and tenders at anchor. This whole peninsula was off limits to non-military personnel until 10 years ago. We walked through the streets of this little town and they were very nice. The people seemed curious as to why there were so many Americans in town! The shops had food and chocolate at unbelievable low prices and we purchased a lot of pumpernickel, sausage, and colas for the bus trip.
Pictures from Estonia
|Estonia is a country that is due south of Finland
across the Sea of Finland. Having gained its' independence from Russia less than
15 years ago, it is struggling with economic and political changes. But, Estonia
is a beautiful country and the people are very friendly and open. The pictures
above are street scenes from Tallinn, the capitol of Estonia. The language is
similar to Finnish. There were many Estonian volunteers in the Finnish Army
The pictures are from "Old Town" in the middle of Tallinn. This old part of town is on the international registry of historic places. Definitely worth a visit. Also, the old antique "Antik" shops in Old Town carry some of the finest European antiques at great prices. Most of the proprietors speak a little English.
Some final notes about our trips to Finland and
We arrived back in beautiful Helsinki and went to the cemetery where Marshal Gustav Mannerheim is buried. There is a huge memorial to this great general and former President of Finland. He died in 1951 and there was a massive funeral procession as all Finland had lost their greatest hero. There, in that cemetery, he was buried surrounded by the graves of 4500 brave Finnish soldiers who died during the Winter and Continuation Wars. Each Finnish Soldier's Grave had a red rose bush on it in full bloom. Absolutely awesome sight, and very somber and stirring too.
|"Fire and Ice" + "Born a Soldier" bundle deal - Click Here!||Buy Finnish Militaria at KevOs4 - Click Here!||Support the Finnish Veterans Book Project. Buy a KevOs4 patch or coffee mug!||Click Here to read about the Finnish War Veterans Interviews Project||Check out the "Tincross Militaria" website for great U.S. militaria!|
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Revised: June 23, 2012 .