My Grandfather, a War Hero
Today when Americans salute the veterans I join them and figured I'd write few notes about my own grandfather who was a veteran on a very different war than most Americans have fought. My grandfather was fighting in a WW II and part of the Winter War fought between Soviet Union and Finland.
It was a war between the biggest war nation in the world (at the time anyway) against a tiny nation called Finland. It all happened winter 1939 when Stalin decided he wants to secure Leningrad (St Petersburg) and take over the Finland border. Finns did not agree and Russian troops attacked. It's been told that Russians had three times as many soldiers as Finns did, 30 times as many aircraft and hundred times as many tanks.
Obviously Stalin underestimated the situation and Finland lead by Field Marshal Carl Gustav Mannerheim was not going to give their freedom without a fight. Finland had a population of only 4 million people at the time and every man available was recruited to fight. My grandfather was 18 years old and one of the lucky ones who made it home uninjured. About 600,000 Finns fought and 1 out of 8 did not make it home alive.
It was one of the coldest winters in the history in Finland, plenty of snow and Mannerheim managed to move the war to the wooded areas almost unpassable for the unexperienced Russian soldiers. When the war was over Finland had lost almost 27,000 men but Russians dead toll had climbed to about 126,000. In addition Finland had about 43,000 injured men against 144,000 injured Russians.
Finland lost some areas to Russia in the Moscow Peace Treaty March 15th 1940 but Winter War was over. Finland stayed as an independent country with their own freedom. This was just 2 weeks before my grandfather's 19th birthday and he lost his hometown Kivennapa to Russia before the WW II was all done.
I remember we kids asked him once if he killed a man in a war. He answered plainly you did not kill a man you killed an enemy. That was the most he ever talked about the war. He was a part of the generation who was willing to sacrifice to make sure I had what I do today.