High Level Conference on Future Operations.
A meeting was held at II Corps Headquarters on the morning of 14 February. It was attended by Marshal Mannerheim and Colonel Airo, the Marshal’s right hand for plans and operations. Lieutenant General Osterman, the Isthmus Army Commander, and his Chief of Staff, Colonel Tapola were also present. The Commander-in-Chief had made the long trip from Mikkeli by car, traveling during the hours of darkness to elude hostile aircraft. After a short discussion, all parties agreed that the II Corps’ position as it was at the present time was critical and that a withdrawal to the immediate V-Line was mandatory. The III Corps, however, would further defend its positions on the Vuoksi River Line. Detailed plans for new troop dispositions were outlined which would facilitate as orderly a withdrawal as possible. Furthermore, plans for obtaining reserves from other fronts, training centers, etc., were formulated. The immediately available reserves were meager:
a. Two coastal defense battalions from the southern coast west of Viipuri.
b. An artillery battery from a training center in Ostrobothnia.
c. Two infantry regiments (the 67th and the 68th) of the recently organized 23rd Division which would be diverted from assignment to the IV Corps in the Ladogan Karelia. These regiments had been activated by utilizing captured weapons and other equipment. Their manpower came primarily from two sources: from wounded personnel on convalescent leave, and from training centers which had been training young men of 17 years of age and personnel who never had received military training because of physical or mental defects.
Many of these reinforcements were delayed, however, by the extensive Soviet air activities on roads, bridges and rail centers. Enemy bomber formations were so numerous over the Viipuri region that many convoys bringing supplies for the front line troops were being delayed by several hours.
Soviet 123rd Division Hesitates to Continue and Exploit the Situation.
On the Lahde sector along the thinly manned line, meager Finnish units consisting of young school boys and combat fatigued men of the 14th Infantry were still holding their positions; so did the units on the both sides of the salient on the Lahde Road ridge. The mortar company, 15th Infantry was still supporting the units holding the Russians at bay.
The Soviet 7th Army Commander Meretskov had an open road stretching before him. There were no prepared defensive positions nearer than the intermediate line, called V-Line at Naykkijarvi Lake. An open nearly treeless area which afforded no cover for the Finnish tank destroyer teams was perfect terrain for the 123rd Division and its 35th Tank Brigade to advance and exploit the penetration to a breakthrough into Viipuri and even further into the Finnish heartland.
Since total victory was apparently within his grasp, why didn’t Comrade Meretskov take full advantage of this opportunity? He had at his disposal a special mobile group consisting of a great number of tanks, motorized infantry and engineers designed to exploit the breakthroughs. Yet even without those special forces, the 7th Army could have continued the offensive with excellent chances for success. But perhaps the Soviet commanders had learned to respect the Finns who were hastily improvising a defense with reserves from every conceivable source. Nowhere, except at the Lahde Road zone, did the great offensive of the Russian Northwestern Front achieve results commensurate with its tremendous expenditure of manpower and resources.
Withdrawal to the Intermediate V-Line.
At 0700 hours, 14 February, all units surrounding the Soviet wedge received permission from the 5th Division Headquarters that if their positions became untenable, they could withdraw to improvised positions about one kilometer further northwest.
Units started to evacuate their positions in early afternoon, leaving small detachments to maintain fire and deceive the enemy. On the Majajoki River Line, the 3rd Battalion, 13th Infantry refused to withdraw until forced to do so by the Russians.
The developments within the Lahde Road area also made it necessary to evacuate the Summa sector now in imminent danger of being outflanked by the Russians from the northeast. Summa’s formidable defenses had held out through 70 days of almost constant attacks, artillery barrages and air bombardments. During the night of 14-15 February, the 15th Infantry abandoned the area to the enemy who had prematurely boasted of capture of Summa over radio Moscow.
A more threatening loss of ground took place at Lahde Road sector where the Soviet 7th Army finally decided to follow up the 123rd Division’s success after keeping its overwhelmingly superior forces immobilized for over two days. Between them and the road junction which would have opened them access to several roads leading towards Viipuri were only remnants of the 14th Infantry Regiment with two tank destroyer platoons without anti-tank guns, and one of the youthful Civil Guard companies from Viipuri. In sub-zero weather, these cold and weary troops laid on the open snowy ground without any protection against the Russian tank and infantry weapons’ fire.
Russian Offensive Begins.
In the afternoon of 15 February the fresh Soviet forces of the specially trained and equipped mobile group consisting of a tank brigade with supporting infantry and combat engineers, and designed to exploit breakthroughs, blasted their way through the thin Finnish line along the northern part of the Lahde Road ridge. Finnish losses were severe, especially among the boys from Viipuri. By that evening, the survivors were completely worn out from fatigue.
Once again, the road lay open before the 7th Army. Colonel Baranov’s ‘ special brigade was opposed by only meager Finnish troops here and there on the Kamara Ridge. The road and rail junction at Kamara Station was defended by one battalion of the 62nd Infantry Regiment which had recently arrived from the III Corps’ area. Having been activated just a few weeks earlier, the battalion lacked combat experience. Incredibly, the relatively invincible Soviet spearhead halted about 1,500 meters north of Lahde-Kamara road junction. The special group’s tank unit commanders felt the same respect toward their adversaries as their colleagues in the 123rd Division. They lost the opportunity to encircle the Finnish battalion and, thereafter, to continue through the thinly manned V-Line.
Defense on the V-Line.
At 1550 hours on 15 February, Marshal Mannerheim finally authorized the entire II Corps to pull back into the V-Line. It was partially prepared and included some tank traps as well as barbed wire fences on the main avenues of approach. This line ran from the northern tip of Muolaanjarvi Lake westward to Naykkijarvi Lake and further westward to the Bay of Viipuri at Uuraansaari Island.
The 5th Division carried again the heaviest burden by defending the Naykkijarvi Lake sector through which the railroad and the best and shortest roads led to Viipuri.
Beginning on 16 February, the Soviet 7th Army belatedly attempted to employ its mobile special brigade to encircle the rear guard battalion of the Finnish 5th Division at the Kamara Station area while the battalion withdrew from Summa along the roads only some five kilometers west of the Kamara Station. Fortunately, Colonel Baranov’s tanks did not dare to go westward to block the Summa-Viipuri road and its parallel roads leading to Naykkijarvi region which were full of convoys. The Mortar Company, 15th Infantry which withdrew from the Majajoki bridge positions cross country toward Naykkijarvi was at one point so close to the Soviet tanks that it had to halt and look for concealment in order not to be seen by the Russian tank crews who had stopped on an adjacent road.
By the morning of 17 February, virtually all the Finnish II Corps’ troops from the Mannerheim Line reached the V-Line. The Russian divisions were almost on their heels and reached the vicinity of Naykkijarvi the same night. Because the V-Line was only about 6 to 12 kilometers behind the main positions of the Mannerheim Line at Summa-Lahde area, there was a risk that the momentum of the Soviet drive mght carry it through this line before the retreating Finnish forces could properly occupy their positions. Furthermore, there was a great danger that the 4th Division forces far away on the west would become cut off during their retreat. Both sides sustained heavy casualties in the confused fighting of these days.
In the week ending 17 February, the 5th Division alone lost nearly 800 men killed in action. The battalion of the 62nd Infantry which Colonel Baranov’s armor overran enroute to Kamara Station was so severely shaken by that baptism of fire that it could only be reformed far beyond the V-Line positions. Other green units of elderly men and recently recovered wounded personnel received similar shocks during their first encounter with the Russian tanks.
The most critical battles were waged on the sector immediately east of Naykkijarvi Lake where parts of the 123rd Division and Colonel Baranov’s tank brigade drove into a weak Finnish defensive position along a narrow ridge at Honkaniemi Station. Repeated counterattacks failed to dislodge the enemy who by 23 February had seriously bent the Finnish line. The II Corps commander felt that the penetration endangered the entire corps’ sector. Therefore, a counterattack was planned to dislodge the enemy.
On the morning of 26 February, a counterattack was launched by employing the Finnish Army’s only tank company which had 37mm guns in support of several understrength battalions of infantry. Five of the 7 ton Vickers tanks were destroyed immediately after their departure from their attack positions, one of the tanks refused to start in the cold morning and was saved, while the remaining seven, having had difficulties advancing in the deep snow, returned safely to their base. The counterattack failed and the Soviet wedge along the railroad was threatening the II Corps’ lines of communications with Viipuri.
On 27 February, Marshal Mannerheim authorized the withdrawal of the Finnish forces engaged in operations on the V-Line to the rear positions along the T-Line which ran from the Viipuri Bay along the outskirts of the City of Viipuri to Tali and further eastward to Karisalmi, Kuparsaari, and then to the Vuoksi River at Pollakkala. Thus the 12 day battle on the V-Line had served its purpose by giving the High Command a few more days to adjust to the new situation and to make plans for the last stand along the T-Line.
No less than 12 Soviet infantry divisions and five tank brigades were required to force the five understrength and worn out Finnish divisions to withdraw. The Red Army’s steamroller tactics had succeeded at last in the crucial western half of the Karelian Isthmus. The Finnish forces’ retreat, although a hasty withdrawal, was carried out in orderly, gradual steps. During this phase, the Soviet Command failed again to properly utilize the tremendous breakthrough capabilities of the 123rd Division and the special tank heavy group assigned to the 7th Army for exploiting successes.
The hour-long artillery barrage on 28 February ploughed up the V-Line positions before the Soviet forces commenced their assaults; but the only Finns they encountered were small delaying forces in widely scattered positions. By 3 March, the Finnish forces’ withdrawal was completed and the stage was set for the final act of the war.
Change of Command.
On 19 February 1940, Commander of the Isthmus Army, Lieutenant General H. Osterman resigned from his command “for health reasons” and the III Corps Commander, Major General E. Heinrichs was promoted to Lieutenant General to fill that key post. The victor of Tolvajarvi campaigns, Major General P. Talvela was transferred to take command of the III Corps. In connection with these personnel changes, an organization change was also put into effect. On 20 February, a new command, the I Corps, was created in the Central Isthmus between the II and III Corps. Consisting of the 1st and 2nd Divisions, its boundary with the III Corps ran from Lyykylanjarvi Lake, just east of Tali to the Perojoki River. Major General T. Laatikainen, Commander of the 1st Division, took over the new Corps on 25 February, and Colonel A. Martola took over the 1st Division. This reorganization enabled Lieutenant General H. Ohquist to concentrate exclusively on the defense of Viipuri and its vicinity where the crucial battles would soon be fought.
The Last Campaigns of the Winter War
When the 4th Division withdrew to the V-Line and the coastal batteries on the Island of Koivisto were abandoned, the Gulf of Viipuri began to play a key role in the defense of Viipuri. The Soviet 7th Army was now able to cross the frozen Gulf to outflank the Viipuri defenses from the southwest. Therefore, on 18 February the Isthmus Army assumed responsibility for the defense of the Gulf. In order to strengthen the two coastal defense battalions which were spread thinly from the city of Hamina to Sakkijarvi on the east, Marshal Mannerheim turned to the Swedish Volunteer Corps which had been training in North Finland for several weeks. Their commander, General Linder, a veteran of the Finnish War of Independence (1918), accepted the Marshal’s suggestion on 19 February that the volunteers assume the major responsibility for the defense of the Salla Front in the Arctic. Beginning on 22 February, some 8,000 Swedes and 725 Norwegians relieved five Finnish infantry battalions and two artillery batteries of the Lapland Group commanded by Major General K. Wallenius. These units began their long journey to the Viipuri Gulf area. General Wallenius was also transferred to direct the Gulf defenses.
By 22 February, Soviet forces had already secured a foothold on Peisaari Island northwest of Koivisto, and were threatening Uuras Island near Viipuri.
Peace Negotiations Between Helsinki and Moscow.
With the stronger defensive positions that Viipuri offered, the Finnish high command hoped to hold the Russians at bay until the spring thaw would cause the Red Army to halt or at least to slow down its advance until the war would come to an end in one way or another. By this time, serious peace negotiations were in progress between Helsinki and Moscow. From the information received through the Finnish negotiators, it was clear, however, that the Kremlin was determined to take as much territory from Finland as possible. For this reason, the battle of Viipuri took on added importance to both sides.
The Battle of Viipuri.
Immediately in front of the city, the 3rd and 5th Divisions held a line from Karenmaenlahti Bay to Tammisuo. In this sector, the 7th Army’s spearheads drew a wedge in the line at Huhtiala, directly south of the Kolikkoinmaki suburb on 2 March. They followed up this success the following day with a penetration into the Finnish positions, and pushed the forward elements of the 3rd Division behind their main line. At the Tammisuo sector, the forward Finnish positions were still holding.
On 4 March, the enemy attacked all along the front but without success. By that evening, however, there were signs that the line might not hold. Therefore, a battalion from the 3rd Division’s reserve regiment was sent to reinforce the front line positions. Another reserve battalion was dispatched to the north shore of Viipuri Bay to support the coastal defense forces.
On 5 March, the 7th Army continued to storm the 3rd Division defenses, threatening for a moment to break the line at Lintumus by the Majalahti Bay. At Tammisuo, the 5th Division’s sector, two enemy tank assaults were repulsed. During March 6, there was only slight activity on the whole Viipuri front, although the artillery barrages continued with great intensity. Only a minor assault at Lintumus had to be repulsed.
On 7 March, a small penetration was made at Huhtiala. Because the 3rd Division forces were unable to seal the gaps, the matter became critical by the 8th, and almost all reserves available to the II Corps were sent into combat. Also at this time, every available reserve unit from the I Corps area was on its way to the Viipuri area. Forces of the 5th Division were holding their positions intact, although counterattacks by local units were routine functions every night.
On 10 March, the Isthmus Army Commander decided that the 3rd Division’s line should be shortened by a withdrawal to the immediate edge of the city. However, the order to withdraw was suspended for the time being. On the 11th, two more penetrations were made in the 3rd Division’s sector and permission was given to execute the earlier order. At this point, Marshal Mannerheim intervened and ordered the 3rd Division to hold the line where it was, at least until the following evening. That order was based on “foreign policy matters.” The negotiations for peace were nearing their final stages.
During the night of 11 March, the 7th Army broke the Finnish lines between Kesamaa and Porkka Island, southwest of Viipuri at the point between the 3rd Division and the Coast Group sectors. This major penetration posed such a threat to the whole defense system that General Ohquist, Commander of the II Corps, considered ordering withdrawal. A reserve consisting of two understrength companies, however, was found and sent to reinforce the forces along the perimeter of the bulge. The line held.
In the morning of 12 March, the 7th Army commenced its heaviest attack yet all along the lines of the 3rd and 5th Divisions. By that night, a number of large penetrations had been made in the Finnish lines between Karjala Suburb and Tammisuo, but there was no possibility of a counterattack. The exhausted men were barely able to hold their positions around the gaps. At the point of the largest rupture near Tammisuo, the Russians proceeded to expand the gap toward the west and southwest, threatening to encircle the 3rd Division’s positions. Again the II Corps commander requested permission to pull all his forces back to the immediate edge of Viipuri but was allowed to withdraw only the 3rd Division as far as Patterinmaki in the middle of the city. When the retreat got underway, the Russians followed close behind. However, the Finnish units were able to set the southern outskirts on fire that night to slow the enemy down.
Later that night, the 5th Division managed to get the situation at Tammisuo under control, isolating the enemy tanks from their infantry. This success conducted by the 1st Battalion of the 15th Infantry improved the situation somewhat for the time being.
While the 3rd and 5th Divisions had been fighting in front of Viipuri, the 23rd Division on their left (east) held the line from Tammisuo to Tali. From 8 March, the Russians hammered at the Finnish positions heavily until the very last minute of the war and were able to push the defenders some 10 kilometers further to the Karstilanjarvi-Leitimojarvi lakes support line.
During the 23rd Division’s campaign on the Tali Line, engineers flooded the area for several kilometers around. This delayed the Russian advance, but it did not stop it. T-28 and T-35 tanks towed the lighter T-26s through water which was more than a meter deep in spots. In some cases Russian infantry waded up to their waists in sub-zero temperatures to continue the attack.
The Battle of the Viipuri Bay.
While II Corps held the Russian 7th Army at bay before Viipuri, one of the fiercest struggles of the Winter War developed on the ice and islands in the Gulf of Finland at Viipuri Bay. In order to deal with the situation effectively, Marshal Mannerheim placed the forces defending the Gulf and Bay under a new command on 1 March. The new organization, called the Coast Group, was placed under the leadership of the Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant General L. Oesch. His troops consisted of the 4th Division and a number of battalions and batteries including those which had been transferred from the Lapland Front in late February.
The winter of 1939-40 was one of the coldest on record, but until February the weather had been the invaluable ally of the hard pressed Finns. Now, when spring should have helped them by breaking up the ice, winter held on to the advantage of the Russians. By this time, the ice was strong enough to carry the weight of tanks, and the lanes cut in the ice by engineers froze over almost immediately.
When the retreat of the Finnish forces to the rear positions was completed, two islands, Tuppura and Uuras, were still occupied by the Finns, although they were outside of the Tali Line. These islands guarding the mouth of Viipuri Bay had been essential for the protection of the retreating forces. Once the rear positions were reached, the Finnish forces found themselves with an additional 30 kilometers to defend because of the thick ice on the bay. Therefore, the islands continued to be important because the Russians had massed four divisions and a number of armored units southwest of Uuras.
Tuppura Island was attacked on 2 March and was lost after several assaults had been repulsed. After the first few failures, the 7th Army had developed a successful tactic for taking an island. They bombarded it by artillery and air and then surrounded it with tanks, thus cutting off the defenders from the mainland. The tanks then tightened the cordon and kept the defenders under mortar and small arms fire, after which the infantry made the final assault. This tactic was used throughout the island hopping operation. In most cases, the Finnish troops were able to break through the perimeter of tanks and to retreat to the mainland.
The loss of Tuppura and Uuras was a severe blow to the Finns; however, Teikari Island in Russian hands was a matter of greater importance. It stands in front of Vilaniemi Cape on the north shore of the bay, but also protected the forces holding Suonio Island, a key in the defense system of the bay. Two attempts to capture the island on 2 March failed; however, it was finally lost and the Russians used it as a base for their landing on the north shore of Viipuri Bay at Vilaniemi and Haranpaanniemi Capes.
A Finnish counterattack during the night of 2-3 March managed to push the enemy forces back on the ice, but the following day, the Russians captured their previous foothold. Once again, the Russian force, consisting of three divisions, was beaten back with the aid of some reinforcements. The mainland was again in Finnish hands.
By 4 March, the outer islands were abandoned in the face of the overwhelming enemy forces. Several counterattacks during the previous days had thinned the ranks of the defenders to such an extent that they had to be sent to the rear for rest and recuperation.
A general attack against all the Finnish positions commenced on 4 March. The enemy formations even came across the ice of the Gulf of Finland on this occasion, advancing from their bases on the islands of Suursaari, Lavansaari and Someri, which are in the middle of the Gulf, toward the cities of Kotka and Hamina, far west from Viipuri. These advances, however, were checked by the Finnish coast artillery batteries located along the southern coast of Finland. The advancing Russian forces were beaten back by the exploding shells which broke up the ice, drowning large numbers of the attackers and causing panic among the survivors. These advances caused the Finnish high command to strengthen the coastal defences further to the west. A battalion of young boys and men too old for military service was assembled in a hurry and sent to the coast as reinforcements.
The cause of the greatest concern was the magnitude of the attacking force on Viipuri Bay, which endangered the defenses of Viipuri. The Russians directed their heaviest artillery and air bombardment at Vilaniemi Cape, and launched an infantry regiment and a battalion of tanks against the defenders. They soon had a foothold in the village, with an estimated two divisions coming in behind them by nightfall. The situation within Haranpaaniemi Cape-Vilajoki Village, Vilaniemi Cape-Heinlahti Bay was serious. During the night, however, the 9th Infantry Regiment, the only reserve the Finnish II Corps commander had, was sent to reinforce the defenders.
Meanwhile, farther down the bay towards Viipuri, another Russian attack group was ready to assault Suonio Island from Uuras Island which had just been evacuated. Enemy attacks at other points in the bay had been repulsed. Until that date, the Coast group had held its own, but it could not hope to do so any longer without more help. All the reserves had been committed, and the artillery batteries were in desperate need of ammunition. The II Corps had 600 artillery rounds in the stockpile, which had to satisfy the needs of three divisions and the Coast group, all of which were under constant attack.
By the morning of 5 March, the 7th Army was firmly on the north shore of Viipuri Bay. During that day, the Russians assaulted all the island positions, to include those immediately in front of Viipuri. The lanes in the ice made by the engineers immediately froze solid, and the Russian tanks drove across them at will.
By this time, the 7th Army was attacking the Viipuri Bay with three of the four divisions there, and 16 divisions were operating against the whole Viipuri Front from the Bay to the Vuoksi River, while another ten divisions operated from there to Lake Ladoga. The Finnish Army had the Coast group and six less than half strength divisions on the Viipuri Front with no reserves, and ammunition stocks dangerously low. On the other hand, the Red Army had an unlimited source of supplies and men. Furthermore, the roads on the Finnish side were choked with refugees and supply traffic. The problem of movement of supplies was compounded by constant air attacks. As soon as the Russians gained a foothold on the north shore of the Bay, the Finnish supply situation became almost impossible. In spite of these difficulties, the Finns had no choice but to fight on. The Russians had the initiative and they used it to the fullest advantage. On 6 March, Russian troops occupied part of the Nisolahti Village, while another group penetrated the Finnish line at Niskapohja. By mid-day, they had established a beachhead on Turkinsaari Island and Majapohja.
By nightfall on 6 March, the situation was so desperate that the commander of the 4th Division considered withdrawing his east flank back so far that it would have exposed the right flank of the 3rd Division which was without reserves; its 9th regiment had already been employed on the Coast group sector. The 4th Division commander also requested reinforcements to hold Neulasaari Island where he feared a major breakthrough. But all that could be spared was an understrength company from the 5th Division far away to the north of Viipuri.
It was only a question of time before the whole island defense system crumbled and the Finns would be forced to withdraw to the north shore. When this happened, the entire west flank of the II Corps and the supply lines running northwest around Viipuri would become untenable.
Throughout 7 March, the 7th Army pushed forward, while its artillery and supporting air force pounded the Finnish positions and supply lines. The Viipuri-Hamina road was cut at Vilaniemi Cape, making it necessary to bypass that area. By the same evening, it was evident that the island defenses from Suonionsaari Island to Majapohja were untenable. Their defenders were withdrawn the next day after savage battles.
One by one, the islands had been abandoned, and the Finns were fighting primarily on the mainland, except for Piispansaari Island where a small unit was still holding out. Between Vilajoki and Nisalahti villages, no changes of any significance had occurred, in spite of fierce battles.
An even more massive attack began on 9 March. Finnish reconnaissance reported that a ten kilometer long column of Russian troops and tanks was crossing the ice between Pullinniemi Cape and Maisalansaari Island and Vilaniemi Cape, where it was estimated that two divisions were already in action. At the same time, the commander of the Finnish 4th Division was worried about his troops on Piispansaari Island. That evening, the island was abandoned. This move allowed the Russians to penetrate the line between the forces of the Coast group and the II Corps. The 14th Infantry Regiment, reinforced by a weak battalion from the 3rd Division, had to be sent in to seal the gap before the rear positions were completely enveloped.
On 10 March, the Russians attempted to roll up the Finnish defenses at Majapohja and simultaneously attacked Porkansaari Island, the only island still remaining in Finnish hands. In spite of their exhaustion, the troops of the 4th Division made a counterattack which was at first successful but was finally repulsed. By that night, the Russians were in possession of both Majapohja and Porkansaari Island.
While the battle was raging further up the bay at Vilaniemi, the Russians were using their fresh troops for further advance. Wherever they created a dent in the line, they quickly pushed beyond the Viipuri-Hamina road, thus gaining a deepened and extended front. But even with new troops and their better positions, however, the Red Army was unable to make a breakthrough.
The situation was verging on disaster for the Finnish Army, should any one point give way completely. Regardless of their condition, Finnish troops held out and the Russian drive to reach Viipuri from the north shore was halted.
On 11 March, the enemy again made a push but was stoutly resisted. Again on the 12th, they tried to break through the line between the 4th Division and II Corps, causing the defenders to pull back up to Ahokas-Vainikki area on the mainland. On the 12th, the Russians continued to attack up to the moment when the ceasefire went into effect. Apparently they hoped to break through and move on to capture Viipuri, their ultimate goal.
Even though the ceasefire was agreed to begin at 1100 hours, 13 March, the Red Army continued action for an hour more. For example, a Russian battalion continued to attack the 15th Infantry Regiment sector at Rotanpesa, south of Tammisuo. Forty Finnish soldiers who obeyed the order and did not resist were taken prisoners. They were, however, released on the following day. On the East Karelian front, a Finnish platoon was surrounded by the Russians; they, too, were taken prisoners but were never repatriated.