"Special care should be taken to destroy the town of Serdobol…"

1934. Soviet poster 1939. Soviet poster 1935. Soviet poster 1939. Finnish poster

Soviet General Staff plans for 1939-40 Winter War proposed to avoid bombing of settlements, industrial sites and bridges. There was no sense to destroy "future Soviet lands". It was also a propaganda approach to ensure the support of "liberation march" from Finnish working class. The November directive of defense commissar Marshal K.Voroshilov said:

Aviation should avoid bombing of cities and settlements where no big enemy forces detected.

Almost the same words were repeated in the orders of the headquarters of the attacking armies several days later.

It was stressed even more firmly in the order of Marshal K.Voroshilov, issued after hazardous attack on the civil part of Helsinki, that got very negative international response:

Aviation should categorically and unconditionally avoid bombing of towns and settlements. This order should be delivered to every flyer and pilot.

In the beginning of December The Red Army General Headquarters was formed. It consists of Commander-in-Chief Marshal K.Voroshilov, Red Navy People's Commissar 2nd Rank Flagman N.Kuznetsov, Chief of General Staff 1st Rank Army Commander B.Shaposhnikov and a Member of Red Army Chief Military Counsel I.Stalin.

But the character of the war was quite different from the one planned, so, one of the first orders of General Headquarters (signed by K.Voroshilov, I.Stalin and B.Shaposhnikov) said:

8-th Army aviation … should destroy railway stations Matkaselkä and Sortavala.

First raid on Sortavala took part on December 20th, next – December 25th. Officially raids were against railway stations only, but the logic of the war did not permit to stop halfway.

January 1st 1940 General Headquarters order (signed by the same people) said:

Aviation should systematically and powerfully attack far rears objects – administrative and military industry objects, railway bridges and stations, ports and sea transport lines.
December 1935. Iosif Stalin and Kliment Voroshilov 1939. Nikolay Kuznetsov 1939. Iosif Stalin and Boris Shaposhnikov
From January 5-th General Headquarters orders began to be issued without personal signatures, replaced by anonymous "Chief Military Counsel General Headquarters". It consisted of the same people – K.Voroshilov, N.Kuznetsov, B.Shaposhnikov and I.Stalin – but no personal responsibility was taken at the time.

The January 21st order "Measures to be taken to improve aviation management" given to the Commander of 8-th army aviation said:

During last period there were no attack on the object in the enemy rear, given as the aims to the 8th Army aviation. This allows the enemy to supply and enforce his front without problems.

General Headquarters has an opinion that the aviation of the 8th Army is used shamefully, much worse than in other armies and does not give the effect it should, taking into consideration the total superiority over enemy's aviation.

General Headquarters categorically orders to divide temporally all the aviation into two groups – first for the direct support of the army efforts, working mainly by small groups of bombers and using fighters as attackers and the second should work on rear objects. Special care should be taken to destroy the town of Serdobol, enemy bases on islands Mantisaari, Lunkunsaari and Vaalam and to eliminate enemy gun-ships, trying to attack the shores, occupied by our troops.

General Headquarters categorically demands to change the work of the aviation of the 8th army, force it to heavily attack enemy at front and at the rear and not work so shameful as it used to.

Implementation should be reported daily.

First report came to General Headquarters in January 22th, when the next raid on Sortavala took part, but the order was completed in February 2nd, when nearly 150 bombers of 15th high-speed bombers brigade under command of lieutenant-colonel I.Pyatyukhin produced catastrophic demolition in the central part of the town.

Operational report of the Headquarters of Leningrad Military district of February 2nd 1940 said:

Our aviation successfully attacked military objects of the enemy.