Friday, November 30, 2012

Echoes of times past: Korean police riot drill

Just look at that. I wonder if they can manage such discipline when it's for real. It's kind of sad it's meant against their own people though.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Digging up my family's war history

My family isn't exactly known for passing down oral history. I know my grandfather was a year or two too young to participate in the Continuation War, but he lost two brothers to the front. My grandfather never spoke about the wartime and died in 2005. My parents don't seem to know much more. So, all I really knew was that my grandfather's brothers had died in the war and they have been buried in the town of Säyneinen as I've visited their graves once.

In the past few years the Finnish state archives have been releasing materials on the war on the Internet, which would ordinarily been either classified or on a microfilm you have to go and view somewhere. I've been doing some genealogy research on my free time and bumped into records containing the date of deaths of my grandfather's brothers and the units they were serving with. Not much to go on.

However, a while back the Archive released the war journals of companies and regiments online as scanned images. Tonight I took the time to try and find the journals of the units the brothers served in and see if I could find any insight into how they died. I found more than I hoped for.

The eldest brother was the first to go. Arvo Einari Asikainen, unmarried, aged 23. Died 29.7.1941 in Ruskeala in the service of the 51st infantry regiment, company 7. The matching entry above says:

"29.7. Arrived 1.00. Tents up and to sleep. Artillery fire on both sides. Alarm at 11.00. Departure at 13.00. At 12.00 ammunition and handgrenade resupply. At 14.00 a russkie mortar round hit our march column. 3 dead and 13 wounded, including ltn. Esko Soininen. At 21.00 departure. Attack to the starting line. H-hour at 24.00. Before it lively artillery preparation in which small losses from our side."

Not too prosaic and they don't mention Arvo by name, but I assume he died when the marching column was hit by mortar fire, or in some sort of a firendly fire incident before an attack late that night.

EDIT: I showed these to my father and he said that grandfather had sometime mentioned that Arvo had been killed by friendly fire, so I suppose it's the latter then. So, I guess there's a bit of oral history there after all, If I can just dig it up :)

The second brother, Veikko Olavi Asikainen fell in Kusra at 24.7.1943. He was 21 at the time and also unmarried. He served with the 30th infantry regiment, company 3. It was a slow year in the war and the company spent their time doing drills, delicing, holding sports competitions and building a corduroy road. I read the journal back and they didn't seem to have had a hostile incident in a month or so. Then this happens:

"24.5.1943 13:00. Russkie shot approximately 15 grenades on the corduroy road between 'Nuoli' and 'Pönttö'. Pvt Hiltunen, Viljo fell. Pvt. Asikainen, Olavi seriously injured and pvt. Koistinen, Eino mildly injured. During the day we improved the position in the 'Summa' base and in front of 'Sarvi'"

Olavi is mentioned by name as being seriously injured and since the entry is from the day of his death, I assume he died on his way to the field hospital or something and the company commander didn't get word of his death.

Pointless, random deaths without glamour, but that's war for you. The entries were excting finds since I knew next to nothing about these young men.