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Author, film researcher and member of the Swedish Military History Commission.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Winter War Photos and Guide

The new book WINTER WAR: Forgotten Images is more than a collection of unpublished images from the Soviet-Finnish Winter War of 1939-40.

WINTER WAR: Forgotten Images contains a bunch of images that henceforth will not be forgotten, such as the gruesome cover image from 1941 of the Taipale battlefield. But the book is more than unpublished photographs, bunker blueprints and magnificent paintings from the Winter War.

WWII historian and professional guide Bair Irincheev is the author of a recent Osprey guide about the Mannerheim Line. Being Russian but living in Finland since many years he has had great opportunities to get to know the main scenes of Winter War fighting and has taken many tourists and some TV-teams to the most interesting WWII sites in the region.

Now Irincheev is openly disclosing much of his most valuable finds in Russian and Finnish archives and on the blood-soaked Karelian isthmus itself. His new book, a 190 page hard cover in large format, is a truly unique collection of unpublished photographs - not only Soviet ones - maps and bunker blueprints. The paintings from the Winter War as well as the contemporary photos are in colour.

Above all the images speak of what the Karelian battlefield really looked like at the time - I have never seen any book doing it as well as this one - and what it looks like today, including from above (aircraft).

For the historian and history enthusiast WINTER WAR: Forgotten Images has one extra important and very modern feature: GPS coordinates of the featured bunkers. BTW there are some fascinating photos of stalactites and stalagmites that have formed in some of the bunkers.

The book is not just trilingual, it is in four languages, English, Russian, Finnish and Swedish. This was made possible by the type of book, the text consists mostly of captions. I find that the English is fine, the Russian perfect and many of the Swedish captions are lacking in quality. About the Finnish I can say nothing.

My main complaint would be that the Salla and Petsamo sectors of the Winter War are lacking, or have perhaps some of those very interesting images of Soviet ski troops been taken between Kandalaksha and Märkäjärvi?

Swedish volunteers are also not covered, sadly, but there is one large-size awesome Soviet colour painting in the book, showing a Swedish Bofors 37 mm gun in Finnish use against attacking Soviet troops.

Finally it is noteworthy that part of the money earned from the sales of the book will be donated to the construction of a Karelian Isthmus war museum - a subject that I hope Bair can comment on below. For instance I think all readers would like to know what the time frame is?

For information on ordering WINTER WAR: Forgotten Images, visit Bair´s website.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Vikings in Lapland

A friend recently moved down south and in conjunction with that decided to donate most of his militaria collection. In this previous post I described how I passed on half of his collection to the new museum in Salla. Here are some artifacts from the other half.

These latter objects of Soviet and Swedish origin are all from the Salla area in Finnish Lapland and come from what was mainly a battleground during the Winter War of 1939-40, between the Swedish Volunteer Corps (SFK) and the Soviet 122nd and 88th Rifle Divisions.

A glass container with the word "VIKING" protruding from the glass. This was a Swedish-made shoe wax that is still today produced but now sold only in all-metal cans. In the Swedish press the SFK were also sometimes called Vikings.

A Soviet M1936 helmet from a battleground outside Salla. I believe I read somewhere that the helmet profile was similar to the German Stahlhelm´s seen from a distance, and thus caused the Red Army some problems (cases of friendly fire).

What I think must be a Madsen machine gun magazine. Thus probably used by the SFK and perhaps one can even associate it with the 727 Norwegian volunteers within the SFK, as I would think they had most (all) Madsens (Madsen being the standard Norwegian MG). Can someone verify this theory?

The above objects and some more are now in the collections of the Defence Museum in Boden, Sweden.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

S-tanks in Cold War Battle

I was surprised to learn that there is a board game about my old tank outfit, Sweden´s only Arctic tank battalion. But the tank I was trained to use, the much-hyped turretless S-tank, never fired a shot in anger. So which war is "Operation Garbo" about?

Yours truly in 1989 doing an advert for a kind of "tankers spam" in front of my strv 103C, better known as the S-tank.

Well, the war is one that thankfully never took place. But the year that the game company has chosen for this war, was quite aptly chosen, I believe.

I sure look forward to getting to play myself 20 years younger, and some of the other games by Lock´ n Load Publishing. Are you reading this, Father Christmas?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Swedish American MIA Coming Home

Richard Ryrholm and his four siblings all served in the United States Armed Forces during WWII. Only he disappeared, 19 years old. At last, his remains in the jungle have been found, identified and are coming home.

Richard Ryrholm flew one of these, a P-38 Lightning. Five years ago his aircraft was found in the deep jungle of Papua New Guinea, but only now has he been positively identified so that he can be brought home. PHOTO: USAF

Second Lieutenant Richard S. Ryrholm came from a family that definately took part in WWII. His father was from the Swedish West Coast, his mother from Stockholm. Ryrholm’s twin brother, 2nd Lt. Robert W. Ryrholm, also served in the USAAF. His older brother, Arthur Ryrholm, served as a US Army captain in the Philippines and received a Bronze Star. Both of his sisters became officers too: Eleanor Ryrholm Scatchard in the Coast Guard and Ruth Marie Ryrholm in the Army Nurses Corps.

Richard Ryrholm enlisted in Boston, Massachusetts, in December, 1942. On September 4, 1943 Ryrholm was just 19 year old but had been flying P-38 Lightnings for five months when he on that fateful day crashed while on a combat mission against Japanese aircraft over Lae, Papua New Guinea.

His unit, the 432nd Fighter Squadron, searched for Ryrholm for two days but failed to locate anything. He was thus declared as missing in action. In 1949 a military review board said that his remains were unrecoverable.

At the time of writing I have no photo myself of Richard Ryrholm, but this is another Swedish American in the same type of aircraft in the same theatre of war. The pictured pilot, Richard Bong, is still today the top US air ace. PHOTO: USAF

A local paper in California, Calaveras Enterprise, has more details and reports that Ryrholm´s family was "devastated and some members continued to believe that Ryrholm might still be alive". Presumably, some family members were affected by the true stories about Pacific War soldiers surviving in the jungle years, even decades, after WWII.

Here you can see photographs of the Ryrholm possessions that were found deep in the jungle. Yes, it was only this year, after 67 years of uncertainty, that his remains and possessions were positively identified, although his aircraft was located five years ago.

Now that there is no doubt about the identity, the U.S. military has sought out Ryrholm´s family and is bringing Richard Ryrholm home. His burial will take place in Massachusetts, where he enlisted and where he has many living relatives.

The news has been received with great interest also among Ryrholm family members in Sweden. One of them being the first source of this post, Professor Nils Ryrholm, who for several years was the curator of i.a. the Leonard Gyllenhaal collection at Uppsala University. Incidentally, some of Leonard Gyllenhaal´s descendants also served in the Pacific during WWII, one of them, Charles Gyllenhaal, even on Papua New Guinea!

For more on Ryrholm see this other California newspaper.

P.S.
Not only the top US air ace flew the same aircraft type in the same area as Ryrholm, so did the world famous Swedish American pilot Charles Lindbergh. Many presume his flying career ended prior to WWII, but here is just one of several articles about Lindbergh´s war service in the Pacific. For more Swedish American wartime fates see my book Swedes at War (with Lennart Westberg).

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Sweden´s Only Flying Ace

Someone (not me!) has just created a Wikipedia page in English about William Yngve Anderson. Anderson is the P-51 Mustang pilot from Sweden on the cover of Swedes at War.

Coincidentally, or not, this week an article I wrote about Anderson was published, including an interview with him and his wife Lois. It was published in the Swedish monthly Militär Historia ("Military History").

According to my research William Anderson is the only person from Sweden to have attained flying ace status, which requires an official score of at least five victories. Anderson´s is seven.

All three P-51s flown by Anderson were called "Swede´s Steed".

In 2011 Mr. Anderson will turn 90. He has had a stroke and has difficulties to speak, but his wife Lois says that he has retained his sense of humour.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Evolution of Norwegian SS Posters

I think I have indentified the most extreme SS posters that were produced in Norway. They mirror the evolution of the recruiting pitch for the SS in Norway.

This 1941 poster for the Norwegian Legion, which became a part of the Waffen-SS, has zero SS symbols. The soldiers do not even wear German helmets. In fact, aside from the Finnish flag, the poster might well have been used by the Allies. This one is on display in the Narvik War Museum.

This 1943 poster for the Norwegian Germanic SS is the absolute opposite, the most black, SS- and viking-filled poster imagineable. This one is on display in the Troms Defence Museum in Setermoen.

This Norwegian page in English has virtually all Norwegian SS posters in a row, with some comments.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

SS-Division "Schwarze Sonne"

Thanks to "Iron Sky" cinematographer Mika Orasmaa I can now provide a photo of the coming film´s stormtroopers. Magnifying the photo I discovered the name of their fictional unit.

Please don´t get me wrong now. I have a license to blog not only about serious books and films. In this case I am writing about a science fiction comedy. Well, if - and that is one huge if - SS-Obergruppenführer Hans Kammler (who was a real person) had somehow managed to secretly set up a SS-base on the moon - which is a major ingredient of "Iron Sky" - what would those national socialist astronauts, or nazinauts, have called their lunar base and its Waffen-SS unit? Well, I must say I totally agree with the filmmakers about their choice.

SS-troopers on the Moon sporting "Schwarze Sonne" cuff titles. PHOTO: Mika Orasmaa

"Schwarze Sonne", i.e. "Black Sun", was the logical choice. The black sun being both the most cosmic and hyped SS-variant of the swastika.

The SS-eagle on the upper left arm of the lunar stormtroopers is not quite WWII-style, but hey, this movie is taking place in 2018! On the other hand the MP 40s look totally unimproved. What, no small-arms development in 73 years!? And those steel helmets look more WWI than WWII... But those Haunebu spaceships look utterly correct, much better than anything I´ve seen before.

Seriously speaking, it will be great to see some more trailers and finally the whole thing. I suspect it will be a treat to watch and at the very least quite entertaining. Could it even have some serious message as well?

Yes, I do have a special interest in the esoteric side of the SS. I have not yet written much about this but I have collected books on the subject for years and thus was given the opportunity to write the preface for the Swedish version of The Master Plan, Heather Pringle´s groundbreaking book on the Ahnenerbe and related themes. This is the Swedish cover:

"Härskarplanen" is the Swedish version of "The Master Plan" by Heather Pringle. Unlike the English-language cover, the Swedish one features the rock carvings in Tanum, Sweden. These carvings attracted great attention by the "Ahnenerbe" and a chapter of the book is about them.

Now, if you want to learn more specifically about the black sun symbol, I want to recommend a book and documentary by German author & filmmaker Rüdiger Sünner. Both are called Schwarze Sonne. The book has unfortunately not yet been translated but the documentary is available on DVD with subtitles in English. You can check out all of Sünner´s books and film productions on his website.

BTW there is a Swedish connection to Sünner aside from the Tanum rock carvings, Sunner has also examined the late Swedish UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, whom I recently mentioned.