Operation Battle of Taipale

The 'Battle of Taipale' was a series of battles fought between Soviet and Finnish forces in the southern half of the Karelian isthmus during the 'Talvisota' winter war (6/27 December 1939).

The battles were part of the Soviet offensive to penetrate the defences of the Finnish 'Mannerheim-linja' in the Karelian isthmus region and thus open a route into southern Finland, where Viipuri and then Helsinki were the primary targets. Despite their numerical superiority, the Soviet forces were unable to break through the Finnish defences.

On 30 November, Soviet forces crossed the Finnish border and bombarded civilian targets from the air. The Karelian isthmus was divided into two military sectors by each belligerent: a north-eastern sector bordering the southern edge of Lake Ladoga and a south-western sector bordering the northern shore of the Gulf of Finland. In the Ladoga sector, the Soviet commanding officer was Komkor Vladimir D. Grendal, commander of the 7th Army's right-wing group, otherwise the Operational Group 'Grendal' (4th, 49th, 142nd and 150th Divisions later supplemented by the 39th Armoured Brigade), and on the Finnish side Kenraalimajiri Erik Heinrichs, commander of the Finish III Armeijakunta (corps) whose primary formation in this sector was Eversti Viljo Kauppila’s 10th Divisioona (division). On 3 December, Grendal was ordered to break through in his sector, as the Finnish defenders in the other sector were more numerous and offered fiercer resistance, and the former objective of reaching Viipuri on the south-western side of the Karelian isthmus now became a secondary priority. The attack began on 6 December, when the Finns had retreated to the fixed defences of the 'Mannerheim-linja'.

The 'Battle of Taipale' began on 6 December, started when the 49th Division and 150th Division of the 7th Army attempted to cross the Taipale river in three places. The terrain was flat farmland, so the men of the Soviet attack had no cover, and the 10th Division’s accurate artillery inflicted heavy losses on them. However, as a result of there considerably larger numbers, the Soviet attackers managed to establish a bridgehead over the river. The Finns inflicted casualties so severe, however, that some units up to the size of a regiment had to be withdrawn. In the following days, the Finns repelled more assaults and inflicted even more casualties, causing the collapse of many Soviet units. Despite this, however, they were not strong enough to stop the Soviet advance, and soon the bridgehead was gradually enlarged, securing ground for the reinforcements that were on the way (the 39th Armoured Brigade). By 12 December, the bridgehead was large enough to support an eventual Soviet advance deeper into the Taipale sector.