Tuesday, January 27, 2009

"The Weapons Cache Case": How the Finns Faced Down the Soviets

Flag of the Military Forces of the Republic of Finland.

My thanks to Ranger Rick for bringing this to my attention.

In the late 1940s, Finland stood on the cusp of hardline Soviet domination. Finland had always lived a perilous existence between the the European powers. It was attacked by the Soviets in 1940, but although it lost territory, it successfully defended itself, in what became known as The Winter War. Between 1940 and Jume 1941 when the Germans invaded Russia, the Finns sought to maintain neutrality. In the end, they joined the Germans in reclaiming their territory in what the Finns called "The Continuation War," but were unenthusiastic about helping them in their blitzkrieg of "Mother Russia." The Finns had always just wanted to be left alone. Indeed, had they entered into the June 1941 campaign more enthusiastically, Leningrad might have fallen early. It was one of the many might-have-beens for the Germans, along with their own failure to take Moscow in 1941 and Stalingrad in 1942.

The Russians, if they were grateful, did not show it. By 1944, the war had swept past Finland (after their awful bloody nose in 1940, the Soviets had learned a healthy respect for Finnish will and Finnish marksmanship). The war ended for Finland with the signing of the Moscow Armistice on September 19, 1944

The Finns lost huge areas of land, forcing them to resettle 1/8 of their population to avoid Soviet tyranny. They also had to pay the most reparations of any other nation beaten by the Soviets. They also were required to drive the Germans from its territory, especially in Lapland. The final peace treaty between Finland and the Soviet Union was signed in Paris in 1947.

However, they did retain their independence and a western-style constitution. The Soviets forced Finland to reject Marshall Plan aid, but the United States shipped secret development aid as well as aid to the non-communist political parties in hopes of saving Finland's independence.

The cruel Russian terms forced the Finns to transform their country from one that had been primarily agricultural to an industrial power. This did not stop the Soviets from using communist subversion to try to turn Finland into another client state along the lines of Poland, Latvia, Lithuania or Estonia. The Cold War was fought within Finland by Finns, and it was out of a desperate desire by Finns to remain free that the Weapons Cache Case developed.

The Weapons Cache Case concerned a secret military operation following the Continuation War, when a large number of Finnish Army weapons and equipment were
hidden away around the country.

Says Wikipedia:

Following the Moscow Armistice, two officers in Finnish Military HQ, Colonel Valo Nihtilä and Lieutenant Colonel Usko Haahti, started planning countermeasures against a possible Soviet occupation of the country. They came up with the idea of decentralized storing of light infantry weapons, so that in case of occupation, an immediate guerilla war could be launched.

During the demobilization, an organization responsible for hiding the equipment was created and war material was given for safekeeping. A total of 5000-10000 people participated in the operation. It was planned that they would hide material for 8000 men, but the participants worked so eagerly that it is supposed they hid material for 35000 soldiers.

The case started to unravel in the spring of 1945, when one man, who had stolen foodstuffs from the cache and sold it on the Black Market, for fear of reprisal from his comrades, divulged the existence of the caches to the Allied Control Commission (ACC). Initially the ACC was eager to follow the case, but after written orders from Nihtilä and Haahti surfaced, they left the investigation to Valpo, the Communist-controlled secret police of Finland at the time.

Valpo interrogated more than 5000 people but failed to completely crack the case and find all the weapons. Most of the weapons were silently returned to army depots, and some were destroyed, but even today when old buildings are demolished, caches turn up every year. The investigators failed to find out how many people participated in the operation, as the participants tended to be reluctant to divulge meaningful information. In the end, 1488 people were convicted, most of them receiving 1-4 months in prison.

Many years later, Arvo Tuominen, a former Finnish Communist leader, claimed that the weapons cache case was the tipping point which transferred the power within the Finnish Communist movement from the revolutionary to the parliamentary wing, as the communists feared armed resistance against revolutionary takeover.

The Finns maintained their independence, exploiting the Soviets' nightmare memories of The Winter War by caching what, to the then mighty Soviet Empire, was a piddling amount of weapons. But when they found out about the weapons, they were checked in their ambitions because they KNEW the Finns had the will to use them.

There's a lesson there, for anyone smart enough to see it. Are you paying attention, Nancy Pelosi?


chris horton said...

"The White Death" a GREAT book about the exploits of Simo Häyhä.

He was a true warrior,and likely brother 3 percenter had we been around in that time.

A must read book. This post shook it loose from my mind.


Anonymous said...

Might also want to look into "Operation Gladio"