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On 30 November 1939, Russian forces attacked Finland, what was
to be known as the Winter War.
Field Marshal Mannerheim who was
Commander-in-Chief mobilized 300,000 men, 112 guns and 113 airplanes
against a Russian army of 450,000 troops, 2000 tanks, 2050 guns
and 1000 airplanes that were massed on the eastern border of Finland.
By December, the Russians advanced 72kms on the Karelian Isthmus
and 16kms along the western shore of Ladoga. Twelve Soviet Divisions
attacked along the border from Ladoga. All across the Finnish
borders, the Soviet forces were penetrating deep into the country.
Fortunately for the Finns, there were few roads for the Russian
mobile units to cross through because of the vast forests and
lakes. By the end of December the Finns were counter-attacking.
An entire Russian Division was almost destroyed at Suomussalmi.
Beginning early January 1940, two more Russian Divisions were
encircled. In spite of the Finnish military successes Russian
air power was stilled pounding Finnish cities.
About forty five
new Soviet Divisions were scattered along the Karelian Isthmus
all the way through north of Ladoga. In February, 1500 tanks supported
by heavy artillery were used by Soviet forces to attack the city
of Viipuri. However the Finns held to their defensive perimeter
and stopped the Soviet forces from reaching the city. By March
1940, the Russian attack on the Karelian Isthmus continued without
let up. On the other fronts, however, the Soviets could not advance
in spite of their attacks. Negotiations for peace forced Finland
to cede more territory to the Russians than it lost during the
war. A total of 22,849 Finns were killed and 43,557 were wounded
in action. The Soviet losses were at 200,000 killed.
The Continuation War
After the Winter War, the Soviets continued new demands on Finland
and began waging a psychological war. The Finns continued to
fortify their borders, armed their forces and stimulate their
economy. As the Russians surged into the territory ceded by
the peace treaty, they disregarded the boundaries whenever it
seemed economically or strategically advantageous. Meanwhile
the Germans had keen interest in Finland because they urgently
needed Finnish cooper, nickel and other minerals for their arms
When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, Finland
declared itself uninvolved in the war between Germany and Russia,
but added that Finland would defend itself if attacked, which
they knew it would happen. To the surprise of no one, the Russians
quickly responded by attacking Finnish borders. Thus, Finland
was drawn into defending herself and into a partnership with
The Finns called their participation the "Continuation war."
Finland was divided into two military strategic Fronts.
The Finnish semi-postal stamps were issued in May 1941. The
surtax was used to aid soldiers who fought in the Finnish-Russo
War. The other two Finnish semi-postals were issued in 1940.
The surtax was used to promote Finnish national welfare. Notice
the German style helmet on top of the bayonet, honoring the
Finnish Army. Both stamps also show on the bottom corner the
Order of the Cross of Liberty, 3rd or 4th class.
On the southern Karelian Front it had the Karelian and Southeastern
Finnish Armies. The Finnish Southeastern Army, was formed into
two Corps. The 2nd Corps composed of the 2nd, 10th, 15th and
18th Divisions, and the 4th Corps comprised of the 4th, 8th
and 17th Divisions. In August 1941, these two Corps accomplished
the tasks of surrounding the town of Viipuri and taking control
of the roads and rails of the area. By September, these forces
recaptured their lost territories and halted only 48kms from
The Karelian Army had two Corps, totaling 100,000 men. The 6th
Corps forming the 1st, 5th and 11th Division plus 163rd German
Division and 1st Jaeger Brigade. The 7th Corps was composed
of the 7th and 19th Divisions, which included a calvary and
2nd Jaeger Brigade. Mannerheim planned a major offensive to
open north of Lake Ladoga and Lake Oneaga as far as the Svir
In six days the Finns fought their way through 105kms of forest,
reaching the northern east corner of Lake Ladoga. By 24 July
the Karelian Army was 24kms beyond the 1939 border to the Tuulos
River. After major offensives from the Finnish Southeastern
and Karelian Armies and countless battles, the Finns recover
their territory lost during the Winter War.
On the northern Lapland Front it had the German elite 20th Mountain
Army. The German 20th Mountain Army was composed of three corps:
the Finnish 3rd Corps, the German 36th Corps and a Mountain
Corps, which included the Finnish 6th Division.
These Corps were placed under the command of General Eduard
Dietl who was lionized in the German press as the "victor of
Narvik" for his takeover of that port in Norway. The purpose
was to take the Petsamo-Murmansk region, in order to eliminate
any Soviet troop movement from Murmansk, which had a 1368kms
railroad connecting to Leningrad.
This was no easy task for the German Mountain Corps since it
had to cross a 97kms area from Petsamo to Murmansk that was
virtually impassable. There were countless torrents, lakes and
fast-flowing rivers with rapids and waterfalls. Because of the
complexity, a two operational plan, was adopted.
The first plan was called operation "Platinum Fox," it was Hitler's
designed. Two German Divisions would advance 200kms from Petsamo
across the tundra onto Murmansk.
The second operation named "Polar Fox" was Dietl's suggestion.
Two divisions launched from the town of Rovaniemi in central
Finland would strike the Soviet strong hold at Salla, then advance
on the railhead to Kandalaksha. In addition two Finnish Divisions
would simultaneously cross the border to the south. One division
will attack the city of Salla while the other division cuts
off the railroad at Loukhi.
On 29 June two German Mountain Divisions and a Finnish detachment
of 800 men cross the border and advanced through the Petsamo
region. On 6 July after some offensive fighting, the two Mountain
Division's made it across the Litsa River establishing a bridgehead
48kms from Murmansk. By the middle of September, after countless
counterattacks by the Germans and at a cost of 10,290 casualties,
Dietl decided to dig in for the long Artic winter.
During operation "Polar Fox," Lt. General Hans Feige took command
of 40,600 men and 8000 SS Police German troops including the
Finnish 6th Division with 12,000 men. While Brigadier General
Hjalmar Siilasvuo commanded the Finnish 3rd Corps took 12,000
men. The drive towards Salla by Feige's men had suffered 5,500
casualties while Siilasvuo's troops had advanced 64kms short
of their objective. By August 1941, both the Finns and the Germans
decided to halt and regroup. By December 1941 to May 1944, the
Finnish Front remained static.
On early June 1944, all hell broke loose, the Soviets launched
a massive offensive of half a million troops with 800 tanks
that resulted in the Finnish 3rd and 4th Corps in collapsing.
The Finnish forces fought rearguard actions.
During the summer of 1944, the Germans had sent an additional
infantry division, an assault gun brigade and large quantities
of anti-tank weapons. By the end of June 1944, the Finnish forces
were thrown back to the border, where they succeeded in digging
in. All the gains in the continuation war had been lost.
In August 1944, Finland concluded an alliance with the Soviets.
The German forces were expelled in the Lapland area. By the
end of 1944, the German forces were withdrawing into Norway.
Finland lost 55,000 men killed.
is a Finnish military field cover with special label applied in order to control the volume
of mail. The field cover shown in the center has been censored. Notice the
sealing tape applied to the side that was opened
Below is a field cover with a Swedish stamp that was mailed to a Swedish volunteer
in the Finnish forces.
The Finnish Army had a field post service since July 1919, however
they were not regulated.
In March 1937, military maneuvers were
held in an area north of Lake Ladoga in Finnish Karelia. During
these maneuvers a new field post system was processed. The soldier's
mail was carried without a postal charge. Regulations required that
letters should be addressed with the word "KENTTAPOSTIA" (Field
post) or in Swedish, "FALTPOST." The addressee was identified by
his rank, name and abbreviated name of his unit.
During the Winter
War field post regulations stated that all mail was marked with
one of two rubber-stamped cachets: "Kenttapostia" in violet ink,
for personal mail and "Sotilasasia" in red ink, for official mail,
however, in practice they were struck in whatever ink was available
at the time. The size of these markings varied in size and were
either boxed or unboxed.
As the war progressed these handstamps
were a security risk since they identified the location of the operational
units. Sixteen "Kenttapostikonttori, Kpk" (Field Post Offices, FPOs)
were established in September 1939.
The mail from the border towns
was handle by the army logistics centers. These field offices postmarked
the mail with a black, double-ring circular dated cancel reading
Kpk. In order to control the volume of fieldpost being sent to the
troops, on 1 November 1941 a small rectangular, imperforate or roullete
perforate label was issued. These labels were typographed with the
inscription KENTTAPOSTIA surrounded by an enclose wave-form frame
on red paper. Four labels every month was provided.
1941, this was increased to eight labels. The intention was that
the labels would be affixed to the front of letters and cards being
sent to the troops as postage free.