Quotes are often excellent for capturing a romanticized spirit of war. They offer glimpses of courage, usually without hinting at the pain or complications of combat. In reality, most of us would be too scared or distracted to say anything particularly memorable while our lives were in danger. Not like these people.
The 1939–1940 Winter War between Russia and Finland was arguably one of the most extraordinary wars ever fought. The Finns were so badly outnumbered that there was one Russian soldier for every four citizens of Finland, let alone Finnish soldiers. Their air force was outnumbered more than 30 to one. They had less than one percent of the tanks the Russians had. And yet the Finns managed to prevent the conquest of their country.
Perhaps fittingly for such a national effort, the soldier who best encapsulated the Finnish determination wasn’t even named. During a battle in the area of Suomussalmi, the Finnish tactics were proving unusually effective, ultimately inflicting as many as 28,000 casualties—while suffering just 700 of their own. One of Colonel Hjalmar Siilasvuo’s officers said it best:
“The wolves will eat well this winter.”