Suomussalmi At The Start Of The War

A total of 1621 men gathered in the training centre in Suomussalmi at the outbreak of the war. These personnel formed the 15th Separate Battalion under the command of Lt. Colonel Kyander. The battalion was ordered to attack across the border to Vuokkiniemi, 30km over the border into Soviet territory, if war broke out. The 15th was attached to the North Finland Army Group under Major General Tuompo.

On 30th November the 15th had one company in Likoharju (10km west of Raatavaara), which had manned all the border stations from Puras to Lake Kuivajarvi. The rest of the Finnish troops were encamped in Suomussalmi itself.

The only Finnish unit in the extreme forward area was a border guard detachment of 58 men, spread around the forward villages - 10 in Toravaara, 10 in Hossa 10km north of Juntusranta, and the remaining 38 in Juntusranta itself. The border guards had no radios and were so dependent on telephones to contact their superiors in Suomussalmi.

Rolling over the border was the Soviet 47th Corps, commanded by Corps Commander Dashitsev, a part of the Soviet 9th Army under General Chuikov. The 163rd Division led the assault, and its first objective was the town of Suomussalmi itself. The commander of the 163rd, Division Commander Selendsov, decided to attack by advancing along the Raate road from Raatavaara to Suomussalmi with a single regiment, while the main body would advance through Juntusranta to the Palovaara crossroad (and advance partly through nearly roadless terrain).

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