The Finns have something they call sisu. It is a compound of bravado and bravery, of ferocity and tenacity, of the ability to keep fighting after most people would have quit, and to fight with the will to win. The Finns translate sisu as "the Finnish spirit," but it is a much more gutful word than that.
Last week the Finns gave the world a good example of sisu by carrying the war into Russian territory on one front while on another they withstood merciless attacks by a reinforced Russian Army. In the wilderness that forms most of the Russo-Finnish frontier between Lake Laatokka and the Arctic Ocean, the Finns definitely gained the upper hand.
Near Lake Kianta the Russians threw their entire 163rd Division into battle, trying again to break through Finland's waist. In a bitter two-day battle the Finns "cut to pieces" the 163rd, pursued its remnants into the forests and toward the frontier.
Not only had the Finns ended, for the time being at least, Russia's threat to cut their country in two, but small bands of them were pushing toward the Leningrad-Murminsk railway in several places, making real their own threat to cut Russia's supply lines to the north.
By week's end these white-clad raiders had not yet reached the railroad. But Finnish fliers managed to bomb it a couple of times, and there were reports of a food shortage in Murmansk.
What war is like in the wastes of north-central Finland was ably described by Correspondent James Aldridge of the North American Newspaper Alliance, who spent two days with a Finnish advance post somewhere between Kemijarvi and Salla. Wrote he:
"The front here is ... a vast area of forests filled with Finnish and Russian patrols who are continually meeting and dueling in the bitterest weather conditions of any war ever fought. . . . The soldiers' daily routine is one or two hours of patrol, then back to the headquarters hut where they sleep in a big room for two or three hours, then out again for an hour or two and back for four. This goes on continuously, the men never getting out of their clothes, except to take a Finnish steam-bath every couple of days, when they must undress in the snow. . . .
"Daylight lasts two hours, in which time the sun paints everything blood red and puts a red curtain over the sky which is very beautiful. . . . When the sun creeps up at noon the fighting begins. . . .
"Sometime during the night Russians pushed up a patrol of 800 men ... to a hill 400 metres from my hut and the Finns' main supply road. Here the Russians set up machine-gun nests in a commanding position to attack. . . . One hundred Finns sneaked up on the Russian position and opened fire before the Russians knew they were there. . . . While these 100 Finns kept the Russians occupied from the front, 100 more made a flanking movement uphill on both sides of the Russians and the circle of Finns poured hell into the enemy. ... It was a half-hour slaughter, with unceasing machine-gun, rifle and grenade fire. Then it stopped as suddenly as it began. ... In ten minutes all the Finns had filtered back with their wounded, saying that most of the Russians had been killed but a couple of hundred had managed to escape."
Other points in Correspondent Aldridge's report: