On February 1, 1940, a Finnish reconnaissance plane made its way through stiff enemy air cover to photograph Russian positions. The war being fought between these two countries since late November had, for the last few weeks, been at something of a standstill.
But when the film was quickly developed and analyzed by the Finnish military, what was discovered was a massive buildup of cannon that had seemingly appeared overnight. A collective gasp went up in the room with the sudden realization that the lull was just about over. In fact, it ended that day, with a massive bombardment that was described as “the last thunderclap of Armageddon.”
The Red Army drive against tiny Finland was about to begin anew, with fresh forces, more tanks (now operating in harmony with the troops), more guns, and more planes. On the other side, their opponents, now exhausted with many formations operating at half-strength (or worse), were overwhelmed. But they fought on and, even in their weakened state, were still capable of killing lots and lots of Soviet invaders. But it was never enough.
On February 11, 1940, the Finnish fear of a Red Army breakthrough became a reality as breaches were made in both flanks at Lake Ladoga and the Gulf of Finland.
The “December part” of the Winter War had shown what superior tactics, superior leadership, and effective cover could achieve against a larger and more arrogant opponent. The “February part” served as a sobering reminder that overwhelming force with even a modicum of coordination against an exhausted foe was still the preferable position in which to be.
The February 11th breatkthrough was the beginning of the end of Finnish resistance. A month later, the guns would fall silent.
Recommended Reading: A Frozen Hell