Monday, March 11, 2013
Finnish Long Range Patrol Controversy
The two latest books about Finnish long range patrols during WWII.
The long range patrolmen were the elite of the Finnish armed forces during WWII. The distances they crossed and other difficulties they overcame still today fascinate not only Finnish students of military history. Recently two books about them have been published outside Finland, with very different angles.
Operaatio Hokki (Operation Hokki) by Finnish author Mikko Porvali was published in Finnish in 2011 and in Swedish a few months ago as Bakom Röda arméns linjer (Behind the Lines of the Red Army). It is a detailed account of the last operation of the long range patrolmen, which was also Finland´s largest airborne operation. The book contains a great deal of new information and photographs from this little known operation.
Petrovsky Yam by Russian author Petr Repnikov is the most recent book about the patrols and is focused on another operation led by the same Ilmari Honkanen who was in command during Operation Hokki. Petr Repnikov presents a number of new documents and photographs about the in Finland most famous long range patrol raid against Petrovsky Yam. Repnikov proves that, aside from the supply depot and regular Red Army soldiers, the Finnish patrolmen also killed 28 medics and 9 of their patients in a hospital as well as 15 civilians. Repnikov criticizes Finnish historians for not having brought up this dark side of the famous raid. However, I would say that Repnikov incorrectly portrays Mikko Porvali, the author of the previously mentioned book. Porvali does in fact mention, on page 18 of the Swedish translation of his book, that also a Soviet hospital was attacked by the patrolmen. Porvali therefore considers the Petrovsky Yam raid only a partial success, pointing out how the attack against the hospital provided Soviet wartime propaganda with arguments.
But what about the awareness at the time, that is the awareness of the long range patrolmen? Could they, before the attack started, make out any red cross emblems in the February night? Here Repnikov and Porvali hold conflicting views.
The debate will continue when Petr Repnikov´s book will appear in Finnish, with comments by some Finnish historians. I understand this will happen in the near future.
Carl-Fredrik Geust, one of Finland´s most well-respected war historians, recently appeared in Russian local Karelian press about his view on Petrovsky Yam. His view is also not in Petr Repnikov´s book, but for a good reason. The book appeared before Geust´s visit and was in fact the reason for it. Well, Petrovsky Yam will no doubt continue to be debated.