Uuno Hänninen 1914-2008

Uuno Hänninen 1914-2008

After being a good one year in civilian life, Corporal of the Reserve Uuno Hänninen went to the Continuation War by reporting for duty on the 18th of June 1941 at the 11.D (11th Division) Staff company. Its main duty was to take care of the everyday things of the staff, like transportation and traffic patrols. According to the document which tells about Uuno Hänninen in the Continuation War, he worked as an envoy just like in the Winter War, but this time in the staff of the division instead of the front line. The Infantry Regiments JR8, JR29, and JR50, which were part of the 11.D commanded by Colonel Kaarlo Heiskanen, started an attack from the north-eastern side of Värtsilä on the 4th of July 1941. They moved fast forward towards Lake Yanisyarvi and on its eastern side towards the south to the lakeshore of the Lake Ladoga and to the river of Jänisjoki. By doing that, they blocked the Soviets who were staying in the area of Sortavala a retreating way towards the east. The staff company of the Division followed after the attacking troops. After this attacking operation, which lasted just under two weeks, followed a more peaceful period until the 11.D moved to a new operating area towards Hyrsylä.


Before the battling continued, Corporal Uuno Hänninen was moved into the rifleman troop of the staff of the JR50 (= E./JR50), which worked directly under the command of the staff of the regiment. The duty of the rifleman troop was for example protecting the staff of the regiment, and it was also subordinated to the battalions of the regiment if necessary. In the rifleman troop Corporal Uuno Hänninen worked as the leader of the rifle group. The JR50, commanded by Major Aho, an upcoming twice decorated Knight of the Mannerheim Cross, moved easily forward to the village of Ignoila on the 19th of August 1941, but already in the same evening in the village of Hautavaara the rifleman troop ended up in a strict battle with the enemy. The attack of Hautavaara continued across the Shuya River to the west to the village of Suvilahti which was occupied on the 21st of August 1941. Besides, they faced the German troops which were moving from the west. From Suvilahti they were driven to Lake Syamozero, which is about 40 kilometers away. During the last week of August they moved forward towards the east along the southern shore of Lake Syamozero. There were hard battles especially in the areas of the villages of Essoila and Alekka where the enemy was defending themselves tenaciously with help of tanks.


In that area, Uuno Hänninen's rifleman troop was used for example in fast chasings when the enemy was moving back towards the east. After the occupation of Alekka they had rest for a couple of days until on the 3rd of September 1941 the JR50 started to move forward from the eastern side of Alekka directly towards the south. On a way which leads to Lake Syamozero they surrounded some Russian troops, and the III/JR50 stayed there meanwhile the I and the II Battalions continued fast to the south. Uuno Hänninen's rifleman troop was subordinated to the III Battalion at night on the 4th of September 1941, and by morning the surrounding had caused that also the very last men of the surrounded Russians surrendered. On the next day, the 5th of September 1941, the JR50 occupied Kinnasvaara, which is situated on the shore of Shuya River, and the village of Pogranitsnik, which is situated on the eastern side of Kinnasvaara. After a short rest, the JR50 crossed the Shuya River in the morning of the 7th of September 1941 and continued to move forward to the east towards Pryazha, which was a hub for the traffic and a gate to Petrozavodsk.


The road between Pryazha and Petrozavodsk was blocked by battling in the area of Deggilampi, on the northern side of Pryazha. In the morning of the 8th of September 1941, the I Battalion attacked along the road to the north towards Petrozavodsk and the II and the III Battalions to the south towards Pryazha. The enemy had several tanks on the road, for example heavy Kliment Voroshilov tanks. Pryazha was occupied during the 8th of September 1941, and the whole JR50 moved there to rest. The I/JR50, which had moved to the north and which had to start to defend themselves, had given their place to the III/JR29.

After the occupation of Pryazha, two men of the JR/50 were nominated Knights of the Mannerheim Cross after the commander of the regiment, Major Aho, had suggested it. Emil Pasanen, who used a submachine gun in the army, became the Knight number 14 on the 26th of September 1941, and Antti Sokka, the leader of the anti-tank rifle troop, became the Knight number 23 on the 12th of October 1941. In the arguments, the battling places Suvilahti, Essoila, Kinnasvaara, and Pryazha are mentioned.


The JR50 stayed in the area of Pryazha for around ten days, and during this time Uuno Hänninen participated in several patrols of the rifleman troop which went really close to the enemy. Those patrols reconnoitered the strength of the enemy in the surroundings. The attack of the JR/50 continued in the morning of the 20th of September 1941 towards Matrosy. It was occupied on the 22nd of September 1941, and after that they were ordered to move forward to the village of Polovina which was occupied by battling on the 24th of September 1941.


Thus, the goal was achieved after strict battles which lasted for five days, and the troops started to defend themselves. The rifleman troop received a duty to secure the shore on the southern shore of the Shuya River at the point where the village of Matrosy is situated. They could not have much rest and the attack went on towards Petrozavodsk, which was only 20 kilometers away. In the morning of the 26th of September 1941 they started to move forward towards the village of Vilga, which was occupied by battling on the 28th of September 1941. After the occupation, Uuno Hänninen's rifleman troop was sent to have some touch with the enemy. After they had moved forward a few kilometers, however, they gave the mission to the JR29 and returned back to Vilga, where the JR50 had stayed as a reserve of the division.


The Finns were now at the gates of Petrozavodsk both in the south and in the west, and the final attack to occupy the city was beginning. The JR50 did not participate in the battles in the actual city, but in the morning of the 1st of October 1941 they moved forward to Suolusmäki, a couple of kilometers to the north-western side of Petrozavodsk. On the same day the Finns occupied Petrozavodsk which was then named Äänislinna. The battle commanders and the rifleman troop of the JR50 moved into the city in the morning of the 1st of October 1941.


By the order of the commanding officer of the JR50, on the 3rd of October 1941 the rifleman detachment Jäntti was formed. In the next morning the rifleman troop of the JR50 started as a part of rifleman detachment Jäntti to clear the nearby peninsula of enemies. The 32nd Border Rifleman Company, which moved forward before them, informed that the enemy has their weaponed positions on the north-eastern shore of the bay of Jalguba. The rifleman detachment Jäntti was sent to go around the bay which was half a kilometer wide. The detachment moved with bicycles and were surrounded by the enemy, and they ended up in a bitter battle. They managed to withdraw but only with heavy defeats. Three men of the rifleman troop fell in battle. It was the biggest defeat of one day during the whole attacking period for the troop. On the next day, the commander of the regiment Major Aho rewarded men with medals of honor. Corporal Uuno Hänninen received a 2nd Class Cross of Liberty with the following arguments: a constantly energetic and brave patroller.


Jalguba, which had been set on fire by the enemy, was occupied with help of boats and smoking on the 6th of October 1941. The rifleman detachment Jäntti's mission was to bind the enemy in the west and in the north-west. After the occupation, the rifleman detachment Jäntti was subordinated to the II/JR50, and it was one of the groups who started to move forward toward the village of Middle Suisar situated on the shore of the Lake Onega. The enemy withdrew along the Lake Onega, and on the 7th of October 1941 the Finns arrived in the village. The civil population of the village had not been evacuated.


Here to the landscapes of the Lake Onega ended Corporal Uuno Hänninen's attacking period in the year 1941. The whole 11th Division became a reserve meanwhile the rest of the troops continued their attack to the north towards Medvezhyegorsk (also know as Karhumäki in Finnish). In the middle of October, the 11.D started to move to the south towards the lower parts of the Svir River and it was subordinated to the German 163rd Division whose intention was to attack cross the Svir River and face other German troops, which were moving from the south, in the area of Tikhvin. The JR50 took the responsibility in the front on the 1st of December 1941 on the shore of the Svir River in the area between Kuuttilahti and Lodeynoye Pole. They never crossed the Svir River because the Germans had to withdraw from Tikhvin which they had occupied.


In December they started also to reorganize the Finnish troops in order to demobilize older men. On the 7th of December 1941, Corporal Uuno Hänninen was moved into the II Troop of the 4th Company of the II Battalion of the JR8. The commanding officer of the company was Lieutenant Karanka, and the leader of the II Troop was Second Lieutenant Mylläri. The JR8 belonged also to the 11th Division. The regiment has been called Ukko after its code name and also Regiment of the Unknown Soldier because in its I Battalion served the author Väinö Linna. In the reorganization the JR8 was supposed to become the 8th Brigade but that change never happened.


The 4./JR8 was for example securing the shore of the Lake Ladoga before it was in the beginning of February 1942 driven to Pertjärvi, on the southern side of the Svir River, from where they skied to the lines to the area on the southern side of the lake of Juksovanjärvi. On this line of trench warfare the JR8 would stay for over two years till the summer of 1944. The strictest battles of the trench warfare took place in April 1942 when the enemy started a series of attacks on the front of the Svir River. The II/JR8 repelled the attacks and caused defeats of hundreds of men to the enemy. About their own defeats it was written down: No-one is wounded. No-one has fallen in battle. The trench warfare went on boringly in the areas of Kimjärvi and Särkijärvi, and the staff had to do their best to find something meaningful to do for the men. In July of the year 1943 companies were renumbered when both the machine gun companies and the rifle companies received consecutive numbers. Thus, Uuno Hänninen's company became then 5./JR8.


The Soviet Union's great attack on the Karelian Isthmus began on the 9th of June 1944 and moved fast towards Vyborg. The 11th Division was moved to give help on the Karelian Isthmus, but the JR8 stayed in Eastern Karelia, subordinated to the 7th Division. The regiment left their positions on the 18th of June 1944 without the enemy noticing it. The II/JR8, commanded by Major Priha, withdrew using the route Ladva-Tarsepol-Kaskana. The Soviet Union had also started a great attack by the Svir River, but their focus was more to the west, closer to the Lake Ladoga. The 5./JR8 had to experience the first defeats of this period on the 1st of July 1944 when four men were wounded when they were marching from Lake Vedlozero to Palalahti, after the enemy had made operations in the air. On the 3rd of July 1944, the II/JR8 started to defend themselves on the south-eastern end of the Lake Tulomozero, in the area of Kohtaselkä.

A quite chaotic period in the history of the JR8 can be found from the 4th till the 6th of July 1944 when the II/JR28 battled on the south-western side of the Lake Tulomozero and by the river next to it. On the 5th of July 1944 the enemy could make a breakthrough in the area where the II/JR8 was staying and blocked the connections of the 5./JR8 to their rear. The battalion withdrew in scattered parts across the river leaving for example their vehicles to the enemy. On the next day, same thing happened and the battalion went around again through forests and finally ended up in Retshu, across the old national border, to the northern side of Käsnäselkä. In the regiment they were not pleased with the battalion, and its commander Major Priha had to go. In the evening of the 6th of July 1944 Captain Pietiläinen became the new commander. From the 4th till the 6th of July 1944, the defeats of the 5./JR8 were five wounded ones.

The enemy had blocked the road which leads from Retshu to the north to Saarijärvi and further to Loimola. The III/JR8 and the II/JR8 were ordered to open the road. Early in the morning of the 7th of July 1944, the III/JR8 started to move forward and faced the enemy on the northern side of the lake of Retshu. They managed to push the enemy about one kilometer backwards by battling. When the moving forward had stopped, it was the II/JR8's turn. The attack which had been started at 7 a.m. was stopped when the enemy started to fire only a stone's throw away from the enemy's positions. The defeats were massive, seven men of the 5.K fell in battle, and Soldier Pekkinen vanished for good. There were also seven wounded ones, of which Lieutenant Pöyhönen died on the same day. Together there were 15 men who left the line. These were the biggest defeats of one day during the whole year of 1944, and this all happened during a good one hour.

More to the west from the place they were, they found a new retreating route towards Loimola. This is how the retreating period of the summer 1944 ended, and the JR8 started the defense on the line (between Pitkäranta and Loimola) which started from the shore of the Lake Ladoga and went via Nietjärvi to the north to the area of Loimola. The II/JR8 took the front line, about five kilometers to the south-east from Loimola. On that line, the II/JR8 had their hardest battles just after they had taken their positions. The enemy moved forward along the road which led from Käsnäselkä, and they managed to go behind the positions of the JR8 on the 10th of July 1944. The 5./JR8 was ordered to counterattack, which was stopped when the commanding officer of the company, Lieutenant Räsänen, and the troop leader Tähkä were wounded. In addition, Soldier Matikainen fell in battle and seven men were wounded, of which Soldier Sorsa died later. However, the others managed to restore the line, and the enemies who managed to go through with their tanks were surrounded. The enemy continued to make some attacks during the next days and tried to contact the surrounded troops but without any results. The surrounded troops could hold out almost a week until early in the morning of the 16th of July 1944 the Finns managed clear them. On the same day, the 5./JR8 had their last defeat in the war against the Soviet Union when Sergeant Jääskeläinen was wounded fatally. The battle on the line between Pitkäranta and Loimola started to turn into a more peaceful trench warfare.


The war against the Soviet Union ended on the 4th of September 1944. However, the war did not end for the JR8 but it was ordered to Lapland to deport German troops. The regiment was moved into ships in Oulu, and on the 11th of October 1944 it arrived in Tornio which had already been occupied. From there the regiment moved to the north following the retreating German troops along the river Torne. However, the 5./JR8 stayed in Tornio to do an unpleasant duty. It was ordered to take care of the killed in action. The Germans were buried on the spot, and the Finns were sent to their home towns. The company did not rejoin their battalion until about one week later in Pello, 120 kilometers from Tornio. The journey went on to the north, and on the 24th of October 1944 in Kolari the 5.K lost their first man in the Lapland War when Soldier Hämäläinen was wounded because of a mine. On the next day, the II/JR8 moved for the first time to the front. There were no facings with the enemy, except some small securing detachments, until on the 26th of October 1944, about 30 kilometers to the south from the town of Muonio, they were stopped because the Germans started to fire with help of artillery and grenade-launchers. The Germans had a large maintenance center in Muonio, and they wanted to evacuate it before they started to withdraw again to the north.


The armistice between Finland and the Soviet Union was established on the 4th of September 1944. Therefore, on the 4th of September at 3:15 a.m. the Headquarters ordered the troops II AK and VI AK that hostilities had to be stopped on the 4th of September at 7 a.m. However, the troops had to stay in their positions. The Finns ceased fire in the areas of the II AK and VI AK at that time, but the Soviets continued their fire until the next day. The Soviets did not stop their battling in the Karelian area near the Lake Ladoga until on the 5th of September at 8 a.m. In the following document there can be found some events of the day of the armistice from the area of the JR8.


In order to occupy Muonio, the JR8 went to outflank. The I/JR8 and the II/JR8 outflanked from the east and came back to the road about two kilometers to the south from the town of Muonio in the morning of the 29th of October 1944. A strict battle began when the surrounded Germans along with other German troops, who had come to help them from the north, tried to open a retreating route. Finally they managed to make a hole to the Finnish defense, and in the afternoon the Germans managed to move to the north. In this Uuno Hänninen's last battle the 5./JR8 had heavy defeats. Six men fell in battle and seven were wounded. They continued to move forward to the north from Muonio which was burnt down. The Germans were seen once more in the north-eastern end of Utkujärvi, where the II/JR8 was stopped after they tried to outflank. However, they managed to come to the village of Yli-Muonio, and the Germans continued to withdraw.


The JR8 did not continue to follow the enemy but started demobilization. On the 5th of November 1944, Corporal Uuno Hänninen started a long demobilization march towards the south. Finally he was demobilized on the 27th of November 1944. Thus, in the Continuation War he was in the service for almost three and a half years. Together with about seven months in the service during the Winter War and one year of military service outside the wars he was in the service altogether for over five years. In the year 1968 Uuno Hänninen was promoted lowest ranking sergeant of the reserve in the Finnish Defence Forces. He died on the 20th of December 2008 when he was 94 years old.


A list of people who were taken into the 11th Division on the 18th of June 1941.


The commander, Major Heikki Väänänen, of the II/JR8. The 6.K was not there because it was subordinated to the I Battalion. Artillery available: Rask.Psto 30 and Kev.Psto 10. As the commanding officer of the artillery battery in the area of the battalion Captain H. Blomqvist with the leader of fire from Rask.Psto 30. Pioneer: subordinated two troops pioneer from the 3/Pion.P28.


The dog tag list of the II Troop of the 4th Company of the JR8.


  1. http://www.propatria.fi
  2. Archieves of War