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Winter Warfare

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"I remember thinking about those comrades, struggling through the cold and the snow, facing death at every turn. And I was ashamed, for I was happy that I was not with them"
Lt. Romanov, World in Conflict: Soviet Assault

Wars are already messy, but if you're unlucky you'll have to fight two enemies: the opposing force... and the weather.

Come wintertime, you better hope you're not in a place known for constant blizzards. Winter or arctic warfare is one of the most notorious kinds there is. Freezing temperatures, heavy snow, ice. This can play havoc with vehicles, which have to be kept running all the time or at least started up a lot. This, naturally burns fuel. Infantry have it the worst. They will need warm clothing, blankets, something to generate heat, extra food, and shelter. Weapons jam in the cold, icy weather. Sentries and infantry get frostbite and patrols that get lost die from hypothermia.

During times like these you can expect to see specially trained arctic unit soldiers starting to come out of the woodwork. Men and women who are hardened for the cold and can be relied on in these situations. They may often employ skis, or snowmobiles. Experienced winter units have white camouflage uniforms and the vehicles are painted white.

If you're really unlucky, you may find yourself in a winter battle that takes place in a city or on a mountain. Urban Warfare is just as notorious and has its own trope. Combat in the mountains is just as bad because of the terrain. Better hope you're not fighting in a city, on a mountain, in the snow. This is why nobody invades Switzerland.

In fiction, winter battles can be used a lot because it can really drive home just how hard the heroes' fight really is. If it's a work based on a Real Life event, then a winter combat scene will show up simply by virtue of whatever unit they are following being part of some kind of winter offensive. Video games will often incorporate it because it gives them a chance to whip out some cool winter gear, like snowmobiles.

Sister trope to Urban Warfare and Mountain Warfare. Compare Weather of War, which is a more generalized version of this; Hostile Weather, which is also a generalized version that covers non-military settings; and Battle in the Rain, where instead of a snowy winter you have a rainstorm. Contrast Battle Amongst the Flames. An Ass-Kicking Christmas might overlap here if it revolves around Christmastime. Contrast with Jungle Warfare, where it's the heat and the humidity (aside from the jungle itself) that can kill, as well Desert Warfare, where it's the heat and vastness of a desert that can kill. Closely related to Snow Means Death.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The first season finale of Aldnoah.Zero ends with a major battle at United Earth headquarters, which is located in southern Siberia near the Mongolian border. The Mustang platoon makes effective use of a major snowstorm to provide cover during a HALO jump from the upper atmosphere to attack the Martian Landing Castle.
  • The Briggs arc in Fullmetal Alchemist fits the bill, including one battle against the giant homunculus Sloth where they have to use the elements to their advantage to immobilize him. The entire Briggs battalion is a military unit specialized for arctic warfare and charged to guard the border from intrusions from Drachma, the country's belligerent northern neighbor, and they directly credit the unforgiving conditions for turning them into the most Badass Army in Amestris.
  • During the semifinal match against Pravda in Girls und Panzer, the Ooarai girls found the going slow on the snowy ground. Hippo Team even hung a lampshade on the situation when they said that snow, Russia, and warfare reminded them of Stalingrad. They nearly lost heart while huddled under blankets in the abandoned church, but resourceful Team Hippo was able to utilize the snowy roads to ambush Pravda's flag tank.
  • Golden Kamuy begins with a prologue set during the Russo-Japanese War depicting the final assault of the bloody Battle of Hill 203, which took place in early winter. The main plot itself is set on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido (and later Sakhalin), well known for its bitterly cold winters. As such, the freezing weather and hungry wildlife are as much of a danger to the main characters as are the violent criminals and deserting soldiers they encounter.
  • In Hetalia: Axis Powers, Russia is constantly tormented by General Winter (see Real Life, below.) This makes him miserable, but the guy is just so good at defeating invasions.
  • In Jormungand, an early story arc has the HCLI team clashing with one of the Chinese PMC Daxinghai's squads in a snowfield in South Africa.
  • In 86 EIGHTY-SIX, the campaign in Roa Gracia is hampered by snowy and icy conditions, which Spearhead has to get used to fighting in, especially during the siege of Revich Citadel Base. It comes as no surprise that Roa Gracia happens to be that world's version of Tsarist Russia.

    Comic Books 
  • The third-to-last installment of "Golden Eyes" and Her Hero "Bill" describes the aftermath of a pitched mid-winter battle between American and German forces of WWI, focusing on the protagonist's (a Red Cross nurse) search through the frigid battlefield for her beloved. Tears freeze to her face in the cold, and when she finds him injured and unconscious the narrator's caption describes the "red badge" of blood that stains the snow around his hastily bandaged wounds.
  • Judge Dredd: During the Apocalypse War, Mega-City One's Weather Control Machines malfunctioned after suffering damage, creating snowy conditions in many parts of the city. The defending Judges made use of the sudden winter climate for hit-and-run tactics against the East Meg invasion forces.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The 1938 Soviet film Alexander Nevsky, directed by Sergei Eisenstein, recreates the 1242 Battle on the Ice (or Battle on Lake Peipus or on Lake Chudskoe) between the Russian army led by the eponymous ruler and the Teutonic Knights.
  • The 1989 Finnish film The Winter War depicts in harsh detail the eponymous 1939-40 conflict between Finland and the USSR.
  • Battle of the Bulge. Oddly, there is not as much snow shown in the movie as there was in Real Life. But it is a fictionalized account.
  • The 1948 film Battleground (1949), which also deals with the Battle of the Bulge, is a more realistic depiction featuring plenty of snow and then some.
  • Star Wars:
    • Revenge of the Sith briefly shows us the snowy planet of Mygeeto, where Jedi Master Ki Adi Mundi is trying to lead his troops in a fierce battle in the middle of a wartorn city, with snow falling all around. Unfortunately, this is when the evil Palpatine has activated Order 66 (kill the Jedi) for the Clone Army. The unsuspecting Mundi is murdered by his own troops.
    • The Empire Strikes Back:
      • The Rebels have relocated their main headquarters to Hoth, an icy, snow-covered planet. When the Imperials come knocking, it brings us the Battle of Hoth, one of the most iconic battles in the series as the Rebel Snowspeeders face the overwhelming might of the All Terrain Armored Transports, the AT-ATs.
      • And as if freezing temperatures, blizzards, and an Imperial attack force weren't bad enough, there are also the Wampas. Luke found out the hard way just how mean these things are.
    • Star Wars: The Force Awakens gives us more winter combat. Starkiller Base, the First Order's solar system destroying new super weapon is a massive complex built right into a snow covered planet. In the air, Resistance starfighters breach past enemy space defenses and attack from above, in an attempt to destroy the base. On the ground, Han, Chewie, and Finn attempt to infiltrate the base to sabatoge it's power source and rescue Rey. Eventually there is even a lightsaber fight with Rey and Finn vs. Kylo Ren amongst the falling snow.
  • Patton. Eventually the movie comes to Patton's famous charge towards Bastogne to relieve the 101st Airborne Division during the Battle of the Bulge. Patton at one point stands looking as a column of his troops pass through and saying how proud he is of his men for fighting so hard despite the harsh conditions.
  • Red Dawn (1984). The final part of the movie takes place during the winter. The heroes have now switched to winter camo. Unfortunately, this is when the Russians start to crack down hard on the resistance.
  • Snow and Fire: The latter part of the film takes place during the November 1944-March 1945 campaign of Alsace, which was about as harsh as the Battle of the Bulge up North.
  • Stalingrad: The film covers the Battle of Stalingrad up to the surrender of the German garrison. By the time that winter arrives the Germans start to resort to cannibalism of Soviet POWs, and the front lines eventually evaporate completely. The last two characters end up freezing to death together.
  • In Twilight Breaking Dawn (book and second film) they fight in the snow on the baseball field just outside of Forks.
  • The setting of the third dream level in Inception, where the team has to fight off baddies in a winterly high mountain environment.
  • Film adaptations of War and Peace show the 1812 retreat from Moscow, indeed both the King Vidor and the Sergei Bondarchuk version end with it and leave out Leo Tolstoy's epilogue.

  • The English Beowulf legend mentions an even earlier use of this strategy. The battle on the ice of lake Vänern happened in winter between Swedish and Danish Vikings.
    • Swedish and Geatish Vikings, actually. The battle was between king Adils of Götaland and king Onela of Svealand.
  • Midst Toil and Tribulation opens with an ambush in the middle of a very cold winter in the aptly-named Glacierheart provence. It also includes a number of additional war scenes in the same winter.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Since conditions in the North are almost always winter-like, most battles up there count. This is especially true around and beyond the Wall, where its even colder and harsher. Most notably, Stannis Baratheon's march to battle the Boltons for Winterfell takes place during a heavy snowstorm. He loses tons of men and supplies to the cold before he even reaches the castle walls.
  • The Oathbound: Tarma and Kethry end up working for a mercenary outfit that gets embroiled in a winter siege due to its incompetent leader. The effects are brutal, as the mercenaries have inadequate supplies and gear for it and are forced to huddle in tents that are wet and barely warmer than the freezing surroundings and many become sick. Tarma ends up quitting and riding back to the mercenaries' winter barracks where she finds that she inspired the rest of the outfit to mutiny and quit due to their contract having been negotiated in bad faith and their employer having failed to hold up their end of the deal (which their leader had kept from them).
  • In the Worldwar series, a group of Race military units end up having to serve in Siberia in the dead of winter. This would be bad enough for human soldiers, but the Race's physiology is keyed toward hot weather, and the combined stress from battle and the cold end up causing a mutiny.
  • 1636: The Saxon Uprising climaxes in a battle to break the siege of the city of Dresden by General Banér, with Mike Stearns' 3rd Division being compared with the besieging forces in terms of equipment and morale, the former having much better of both thanks to the attention to gear to keep warm in the winter and a paymaster that didn't stint on supplies or soldier pay.
  • The novel Colonel Chabert by Honoré de Balzac is the story of a cavalry officer who goes missing during the great charge in the battle of Eylau (see Real Life), is believed to have died, and encounters many problems when he eventually returns to France.
  • Tolstoy's novel War and Peace includes chapters relating the 1812 retreat from Moscow, largely through the eyes of Pierre Bezukhov, who is forced by the French to go with them.
  • The war shown in The Obsidian Trilogy takes place almost entirely in the winter, with the instigating incident happening during the first snowfall and the deciding battle months later as snow finally begins to melt. The Endarkened forces thrive on dark and cold, but how their opponents have to struggle with every aspect of war during a hard winter occupies a lot of pages.
  • The Winter War by Antti Tuuri, obviously. Temperatures go below -40 Celsius (the same in Fahrenheit). On one occasion the narrator has to cut his hair with a knife because it has frozen onto the surface he has slept on. Also mentioned is the propaganda narrative about winter being an adversary only to the Russians and helping the Finns, which is not exactly the view of the men on the front line.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Princess Agents: The climactic battle takes place on a frozen lake. The series ends with the ice breaking and Chu Qiao and Yuwen Yue falling into the water.
  • Band of Brothers. Episodes 6,7, and 8 show Easy Company's actions in the Battle of the Bulge and the operations that took place right after. Episode 6 shows their stand in Bastogne with the rest of the 101st Airborne Division. 7 takes place afterwards with an assault on Foy. And 8 takes place in February as the Allies approach the German border.
  • The producers of Hogan's Heroes decided to have the show set in perpetual winter to maintain a sense of continuity for episodes being aired out of order, and to avoid having to switch out wardrobe and set dressing for changes of seasons. Because of this, every episode has patches of snow on the ground and roofs, frosted window pains, and the characters' uniforms consisting of jackets and caps. Unfortunately, because of California Doubling, the surrounding trees were full and green, and the actors are occasionally seen sweating.
  • M*A*S*H has many episodes set in the dead of winter during the Korean War as the staff tries to stave off freezing to death as well as save lives. Of course since the show was shot in Malibu, California there's still lush greenery in the background and the actors bundled up are sweating profusely.
  • During a first season episode of Highlander, there were flashbacks to when Duncan and Darius first met on a snowy battlefield, with Darius treating a wounded colleague of Duncan's. The scene was supposed to be the Battle Of Waterloo (which took place during the summer), but a freak snowfall the day of shooting forced them to Throw It In.
  • Merlin1998: Merlin comes to Uther's army with news that King Vortigan intends to attack them during the winter, which they initially dismiss since warfare is for the summer. The winter is for resting. Once they confirm it for themselves ("What a fool to fight in winter!") they meet Vortigan's army on a frozen river.
  • On Turn Benjamin Tallmadge and Caleb Brewster are part of George Washington's army as it crosses the Delaware on Dec. 25, 1776. Tallmadge ends up jumping into the icy water trying to save some guns from sinking and quickly succumbs to hypothermia. He almost dies and Brewster spends the next few days nursing him back to health. As a result, both men end up the missing the Battle of Trenton.
  • The made-for-television movie World War III revolves around a Soviet assault force landing in Alaska, aiming for the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline. The Soviet officers travel in the comfort of a caterpillar personnel carrier while the siege troops march through the snow. They are resisted by a small but determined group of Army Rangers who assemble and man a makeshift perimeter around a pumping station. During blizzard conditions, the two forces almost have to bump into each other to be detected.
  • Many of the battles depicted in Soviet Storm: World War II in the East take place in the dead of the Russian winter, namely the Battles of Moscow and Stalingrad, as well as the Vistula-Oder Offensive.
  • SEAL Team's Season 4 two-part premier sees Jason and Cerberus separated from the rest of their team on a snowy Afghan mountain while being hunted by Tahara terrorists.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Arctic Scavengers takes place in a post-apocalyptic world with endless winter. Multiple tribes of survivors are fighting constant skirmishes over the dwindling resources and the tribes have to constantly balance the need to hunt for food and scavenge for weapons or tools with the need to keep a large force to fight the next battle.
  • Axis & Allies has a variant rule for the Soviets called "Russian Winter" that gives them a defense bonus.
  • BattleTech: Optional rules for snow, ice, and blizzards exist in the game, and some planets are noted for their extremely cold climates. Tharkad, the capital world of the Lyran Commonwealth, is in the middle of an ice age and is known for being quite cold (though Single-Biome Planet is averted, as it still has a narrow tropical band at the equator) while other planets are even colder.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has the Valhallans, who come from a Single-Biome Planet (due to being shoved into a different orbit by a comet impact, Valhalla is entirely frozen over). They're specialists in cold-biome warfare, as is to be expected from characters modeled after the WWII Red Army. They also consider snowball fights and snowman-making Serious Business.

    Video Games 
  • Callof Duty
    • Call of Duty has winter battles taking place during all 3 campaigns at one point. The American campaign has the Battle of the Bulge, the British campaign has the Siegfried Line campaign, and the Soviet campaign has the Battle of Stalingrad and the Vistula-Oder Offensive.
      • Call Of Duty United Offensive's new American campaign takes place solely during the Battle of the Bulge, from the defense of Bastogne to the attack on Noville.
    • Call of Duty 2's entire Soviet campaign takes place during the Russian winter during the Battles of Moscow and Stalingrad, and because of this all levels also overlap with Urban Warfare.
    • Call of Duty: Black Ops has "Project Nova", where a Soviet unit which includes veterans Reznov and Dimitri is tasked with capturing a German scientist named Friedrich Steiner at a derelict Nazi rocket facility in the arctic. Naturally, the Waffen-SS unit stationed there would rather die fighting than face captivity.
  • Around half of the maps in Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad are set during the Russian winter, and often overlap with Urban Warfare. Maps such as Rakowice, Bridges of Druzhina, Myshkova River, Fallen Fighters, Winterwald, and Tula Outskirts have German and Soviet forces dressed in winter uniforms trying to move through subzero conditions.
  • Advance Wars: Olaf is specialized in snow, as his units are not affected by it and receives additional power in Duel Strikes. His power also causes heavy snow to fall, greatly reducing the enemy's movement while leaving his own unhindered. His Super CO Power also damages the enemy's units.
  • The ARMA series, in any given game, there is a lot of custom maps set in winter environments. And there is at least many mods that adds in winter camo.
  • Squad has the map Nanisivik, set in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. You are not only fighting in the snow, but also in a frozen tundra. The map Belaya on the other hand is set in a wintery Eastern European island
  • Battlefield: Bad Company 2
    • The prologue mission is in a cold environment, possibly Siberia or Alaska.
    • Later on, one chapter of the singleplayer campaign takes place in the Andes Mountains. One mission even involves Marlowe trying to find his squadmates after getting separated in a blizzard. Marlowe must keep himself warm by either seeking shelter in buildings or standing near fires caused by explosions. Staying too long out in the blizzard will eventually cause a game over.
  • Battlefield 2142 is set in a new Ice Age, so a lot of maps will be set in snowy environments.
  • The original Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn had a few maps with snow around the edges, but it wasn't until Command & Conquer: Red Alert that there were maps that were completely white. Its two sequels also featured such winter maps.
  • Dawn of War: Winter Assault: As the name implies, the game takes place on an ice planet. The Imperial Guard made its debut as a faction here, with little touches like soldiers rubbing themselves to keep warm or their breath showing up.
  • Dead Space 3 takes place on the frozen world of Tau Volentis.
  • Fire Emblem occasionally has battles set in snowy environments, where the snow is a hindrance to cavalry and armored troops and snowstorms can obscure visibility. In Binding Blade and Blazing Blade, the country of Ilia is a poverty-stricken arctic land whose one major export is Pegasus Knight mercenaries, and in Binding Blade there is an entire campaign arc that takes place there.
  • Several of the missions in Freedom Fighters (2003) take place during freezing winters in New York.
  • Lost Planet takes place on a planet in the middle of an ice age, and so cold that your character will freeze to death if he stays outside too long without enough thermal energy.
  • Hell Let Loose has the map "Foy", set during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944-January 1945. In contrast to every other map currently in-game, this one is blanketed in thick snow all around.
  • In King of Dragon Pass, you can go raiding in the snowy Dark season. You're likely to be turned back by snowdrifts, but if you aren't, your enemies will likely be caught unprepared. These raids are easier if your ancestral enemies are ice demons.
  • Medal of Honor: Allied Assault has the first part of the second level, which takes place all the way in Norway, and the fifth level, set in the Hurtgen Forest along the Siegfried Line. The Spearhead expansion, meanwhile, has the entire second level, set during the Battle of the Bulge near Bastogne.
    • Medal of Honor (2010) has its last two missions take place on a snowy peak on the Takur Ghar mountain range of Afghanistan as Rabbit and Voodoo are left behind during an evacuation and a U.S. Army Ranger team has to be scrambled to find them. These missions are based off the real life mission to recover Navy SEAL Neil Roberts during Operation Anaconda in 2002 which saw U.S. Air Force Combat Controller John Chapman posthumously awarded a Medal of Honor for his heroic Last Stand on the mountain holding off over 25 Al-Qaida fighters on his own.
  • Metal Gear Solid takes place in the Shadow Moses Island nuclear disposal facility in Alaska. The area is revisited in the fourth game, complete with a major boss battle in the snowy tundra at the base of the communications tower.
  • Modern Warfare 2. The mission "Cliffhanger" takes place on a Russian military base high in some snowy mountains. Soap and Roach have to do some ice climbing to reach the base, use the blizzard and low visibility to hide themselves from the guards, and escape on snowmobiles.
    • Several multiplayer maps take place in Alaska and other cold places.
  • Post Scriptum: "Chapter 4: Watch On The Rhine" introduces two winter maps into the game, Foy and Hagenau, set between December 1944 and January 1945. Both maps are covered in thick white snow, and have the US 101st Airborne Division fight the German Wehrmacht for control of several sectors, including bombed out towns and forward military bases.
  • Half of Second Sight takes place during a military excursion to Siberia, and consequently features combat amidst freezing cold and heavy snow.
  • In Star Wars: Battlefront and its sequel, the ice planet Hoth is one of the maps featured as is one other ice world.
  • For another example from the same franchise.....Star Wars: The Old Republic features the planets Hoth and Ilum. Not only are the Republic and Sith Empire shooting at each other, but on both these worlds we have a third faction that wants in on the action. The White Maw Pirates for Hoth, and Darth Malgus' splinter faction for Ilum.
  • Total Annihilation: The Core Contingency's final act takes place on the snowy planet of Gelidus. A major environmental danger is the destructive hailstorms that periodically kick up.
  • World in Conflict
    • The game has a bunch of missions like this. The most notable one takes place in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State. The Americans attempt to fend off a Soviet attack on a military base that houses the secrets of the Star Wars missile defense technology. The battle comes to a head in a town not far from the base. So we have a case of winter warfare, combined with Urban Warfare, combined with mountain warfare. So it's probably no surprise that a tactical nuclear weapon is deployed during the battle. Luckily the mountain terrain is played down, but the comments from the characters make clear that it's no picnic.
    • There are also missions that take place in Russia during a NATO raid on a Soviet naval Base.
    • The Soviet Assault expansion pack adds some Soviet winter missions to the fun. One that takes place in Norway against the cold weather experienced Norwegian Army. And a mission where the Russians race back from Norway to fight off the NATO raid mentioned above in Russia. Oddly enough, the Soviet battalion that the game follows does not participate in the Cascades battle, with Romanov commenting that he was happy not to be part of that operation, and was ashamed of it.
  • World of Warcraft
    • The Wrath of the Lich King expansion has several campaigns, not the least of which was the siege of Icecrown Citadel itself, taking place among the snowy, icy regions of Northrend.
    • The classic battleground "Alterac Valley", which is a battle between the dwarven Stormpike Guard and the orcish Frostwolf Clan taking place among snowy mountains.
  • Company of Heroes 2 features the battles on the Eastern Front, and as expected, winter is a vital factor. If a squad is out in the open for two long, they will freeze to death, no matter if they're German or Russian.
  • In Valkyria Chronicles 4, the failure of Operation Northern Cross is largely attributed to the winter season starting two months earlier than expected, straining the Federation supply lines. The second half of the game begins Operation Cygnus, when the Federation deploys three icebreaker battleships to sail the Crystal Sea and strike the Imperial capital of Schwarzgrad from the ocean. Every battle from then on takes place on snowy and icy battlefields.
  • Valak Mountain in Xenoblade Chronicles 1 is a beautiful snowy mountain... and is also the place where you first encounter Egil, the leader of the Mechon.
    • Similarly, the Kingdom of Tantal in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is situated on a frozen turtle Titan called Genbu. The climactic battle of Chapter 6 takes place deep in the depths of Genbu when Torna tracks the party there, and fittingly ends when Jin, a Blade who specializes in ice powers, unleashes his One-Winged Angel form.
  • Mission 6 of Jungle Strike, the second game of the Strike Series, takes place on a snow fortress in an unnamed South American country. It's likely situated among high altitude mountains to account for the snowy weather.

    Web Videos 
  • World War II: The series covers the appropriately named Winter War between Finland and the Soviet Union and the invasion of Norway in 1940, both fought in snowdrifts.

    Western Animation 
  • Not exactly in winter, but the end of book 1 of Avatar: The Last Airbender show a battle at the north pole.
  • G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero: Of course, the Joes in general (being an elite unit) need to be able to fight in any condition, blizzards included.
    • The Joes have several soldiers who are specialists in winter combat, including Snow Job and Frostbite. Alpine might count as one simply because he is the Joes' mountain expert, and mountains often have snow depending on how high up they are.
    • A number of episodes have battles with COBRA that take place in winter or arctic conditions. One episode features a three-way fight between the Joes, COBRA, and the Russian Oktober Guard (their version of G.I. Joe) in Alaska. Another one had the Joes and the Oktober Guard join forces in Russia to protect Ivan the Terrible's tomb from COBRA, who were trying to steal DNA from the world's greatest military leaders and bloodiest tyrants to create Serpentor.
    • Speaking of the Oktober Guard, they themselves are cold weather experts simply because they're Russian. The above mentioned battle at Ivan the Terrible's tomb took place in the midst of a fierce blizzard. Snow Job, one of the Joes that specializes in winter warfare, admits that Russian blizzards are pushing it even for him. He then complements his Russian allies on their ability to withstand it.

    Real Life - Russia 
As a region, it has become synonymous with winter combat. The Russians themselves often say their greatest commander is "General Frost". Shoot, Russian winter combat (and by that measure the Russian Winter itself) probably deserves its own separate trope.
  • Sweden was among the first major powers to try and fail a full-scale invasion of Russia, led by Charles XII during the winter of 1708-09. Russia's decisive victory was however in Poltava, during the following summer, and made Russia a full-fledged empire.
  • Interestingly, Napoleon's 1812 invasion of Russia is actually a subversion despite what many people think. Most of the fighting happened before the winter properly began, although e. g. the battle of Krasnyi and the crossing of the Berezina were straight examples. However, most of the losses sustained by the Grande Armée actually occurred in the summer and were not caused by combat. Because of heat, poor hygiene, typhus and dysentery the army had already lost half its strength before the first major battle (in August).
  • An earlier Russian example: in April 1242, Prince Aleksandr Nevsky defeated an invading army of Teutonic knights by luring them onto an icy lake. The lightly-armed and armoured Russians were able to retreat to safety, but the heavily armoured and mounted German knights regretted their impetuous charge - they went right through the ice and drowned or froze (possibly- contemporary writers don't mention this, and it's possible the idea of the crusaders falling through the ice was invented by Alexander Nevsky). The defeat ended the war and the Germans learnt a lesson they'd forgotten seven hundred years later - never fight Russians in winter.
  • The Germans in World War II very much knew about the perils of the Russian winter. However, they put off issuing deep-subzero gear so their troops could keep fighting. When the snows fell in earnest by the time they were advancing on Moscow, most frontline German soldiers were dressed in a hodgepodge of clothes and shoes stolen from civilians and they had no deep-subzero equipment or POL (petrol, oil, lubricants) of any kind for their vehicles or equipment or weapons. The German government later called on citizens to donate winter clothing for the army as part of a face-saving move in which they lied about being blindsided by an unprecedentedly severe winter.
  • The Soviet-German War had four Winter campaigns, in which no fewer than two million combatants died. Most famous is probably the first Winter Counter-Offensive of 1941-2, in which the Red Army tried and failed to destroy Army Group Center at the cost of a million lives for fewer than 200,000 German ones. Most important are undoubtedly the Korsun-Cherkassy encirclements of February-April 1944, in which most of Germany's panzer forces (800 operational tanks and more than 200,000 troops) and two infantry armies (more than 200,000 troops) were encircled west of the Dnepr river and forced to break out during the Rasputitsa or Spring Thaw of 1944 - escaping with most of their troops, but fewer than 50 tanks and almost no artillery pieces or trucks. Allied offensives in Belarus, Poland, the Baltic, Romania, and Normandy that Summer would then capitalise on this temporary material weakness by depriving Germany of her experienced infantry and panzer troops. Germany actually had more panzers, artillery pieces, and trucks by December 1944 than she'd had in December 1943, but allied success in the Summer meant that the bulk of the people around to use them were children and old men.
  • Perhaps ten million Soviet civilians also died during the winters of the Soviet-German War due to measures taken by the Germans. That said, most of these civilians were elderly or young children who probably would have died anyway and so these are not usually counted.
  • In the winter of 1941-2 civilian winter-time deaths resulted primarily from German 'requisitioning' of clothing and shelter needed for their survival, as well as the need to clear the siege-lines at Leningrad of civilians. Similarly, all civilians were evicted from the Rzhev-Vyazma salient by the winter of 1942-3 to prevent them from passing on information about German defensive positions or aiding in Soviet attacks.
  • In the winter of 1943-4 civilian winter-time deaths resulted primarily from the destruction of all structures capable of sheltering civilians in Staraya Russiya/Novgorod, eastern Belarus, and central-western Ukraine. This was done to burden the Soviets with ensuring their survival, facilitating German retreats. Successful implementations included the entire city of Novgorod, pre-war population 200,000. Do note that this process was incomplete in many areas, as the number of structures to be destroyed could be very large and the areas to be covered vast. Consequently, only structures near roads and rail lines were consistently treated in accordance with orders.
  • The Winter War, where Russia went up against another country just as used to the cold (Finland). Though they took 4 times as many casualties as the Finns (half a thousand of those thanks to the best Cold Sniper in history), they eventually came out with a slightly bigger territory. The Red Army joked that they had won "just enough land to bury their dead."
    • Russia's poor performance is justified by the fact that the invading troops were Steppe forces who weren't as used to cold as their northern compatriots, nor the Finns. The decision to send Steppe forces was made because the Russian high command feared that regular Russians, who lived in similar climates, would sympathize with the Finns.
  • The Battle of Preußisch Eylau (now Bagrationovsk in the Kaliningrad oblast) on February 7 and 8, 1807, was one of the most horrifying battles of The Napoleonic Wars. Because part of it was fought in the middle of a snowstorm, Augereau's French corps lost its way during its advance and suddenly found itself right in front of a huge Russian artillery battery which blasted it to pieces. The French ultimately (barely) were left in possession of the field, but eventually left a few days later. When the Russians then returned, they were amazingly still able to recover a few of their wounded alive who apparently had not been found by the French.

    Real Life - Other Areas 
  • In the feudal era, this trope had an actual basis in policy. The busiest times for farmers (i.e. most people in that era) were spring and autumn (planting and harvest time, respectively); nobles were often forbidden (explicitly or implicitly) from levying troops during or just before each, since drawing farmers away from their crops could cause famine. Therefore, most troops were levied in summer or winter, with the aim of being back before the end of the season. Recruiting in the beginning of winter, just after the harvest season, had the advantage that a levied soldier on the march isn't consuming the precious winter stores of the village back home. Professional soldiers (i.e. mercenaries) could be recruited at any time, since they didn't generally do much farming (and tended to be volunteers rather than levies anyway).
  • The Battle of Towton, the bloodiest battle fought on English soil, was fought during a huge blizzard, making it difficult for the truly massive late medieval armies to coordinate. Also, because of the severe winds, the Lancastrian archers undershot most of their targets, putting them at an immediate tactical disadvantage.
  • The Battle of Trenton, in which George Washington's troops crossed the Delaware during the very cold night of Dec. 25-26, 1776, and attacked the Hessian garrison in the town during a storm that included snow and sleet and a driving wind. At least two Patriot soldiers are believed to have died of hypothermia that night.
  • The campaign in France in 1814 was also to a large extent a winter campaign, and one in which the Russians sustained very heavy losses.
  • The Battle of Stones River (known to the South as the Second Battle of Murfreesboro), which was fought from December 31, 1862, to January 2, 1863, is the scariest instance of a winter battle in the American Civil War. It was also one of the bloodiest battles of the entire war, even though, as a battle in the Western theater commanded by not terribly famous generals, it is largely forgotten except among Civil War buffs and Tenneseeans. In the end it was a narrow Union victory, but both Confederate general Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee (losing 11,700 out of 35,000) and Union general William S. Rosecrans' Army of the Cumberland (13,000 out of 43,500) suffered terribly.
  • Even today, as Alpine glaciers recede, the bodies of men lost on the Alpine Front in WW1 are being recovered. Italy and Austria fought a long bitter war in the mountains with tens of thousands of casualties.
  • World War II had its fair share of frozen battles:
    • The Battle of Attu, often called the Forgotten Battle, was the only major land battle to take place in North America during the war, and the only one in the Pacific Theatre to take place in winter/arctic conditions. Imperial Japan had seized the Aleutian Islands of Attu and Kiska in 1942 as a distraction from the upcoming Battle of Midway (the distraction didn't work). The weather was so bad it forced the U.S. to wait over a year before taking back the islands. At one point American troops had to drag equipment through the snow because their vehicles couldn't get through the tough mountain terrain.
    • The Battle of the Hürtgen forest lasted even longer for the US Army and saw significant numbers of men locked into a WWI-style battle of attrition that lasted between September 1944 and early January 1945: autumn rain and mud turned into winter snow and ice. Survivors remember the wet, cold and murderous misery.
    • The Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, was the single deadliest battle for the U.S. Army in the European Theatre of World War II. And it was even worse for the 101st Airborne Division assigned to defend the vital town of Bastogne, Belgium. They were completely surrounded until George S. Patton's Third Army arrived to relieve them.
    • The kinda forgotten Alsace campaign of late 1944 - early 1945, about at the same time as the Battle of the Bulge up North in Belgium and Luxembourg (and about as harsh, but had less war reporters to talk about it). Operation Nordwind, an offensive Germans launched in Alsace in late December 1944, aimed at alleviating pressure from the Bulge (and failed at that). Audie Murphy's most famous battle exploits happened in Holtzwihr, in this area and that time.
    • The siege of Budapest from 24 December 1944 to 13 February 1945.
    • Another forgotten World War II campaign involved Spitzbergen, Norway's farthest northern possession, all of it above the Arctic Circle. The Germans needed the island for weather stations, the Allies needed to stop them. So horrendous were the conditions that truces were regularly called so that both sides could work together to build shelters, shift supplies, treat frostbite victims, etc.
  • The Korean War had quite a number of winter battles, especially when the UN forces began invading North Korea proper and pushing all the way to the Chinese border. The most well-known would be the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir (better known as the Battle of Lake Changjin in China and the Koreas) in Winter 1950, when a force of nearly 120,000 Chinese troops surrounded a joint American/British/South Korean force of roughly 30,000 at Chosin, including the U.S. Marine's 1st Marine Division, and led to a breakout operation to escape the encirclement and make for the Korean coast to evacuate by sea.
  • While this issue has largely flown under the radar of the major media, one of the more worrying foreign policy trends of the early 21st century is the creeping militarization of the Arctic Circle: a possible melting of major icecaps may open up new trade routes and access to previously unreachable mineral & oil deposits. The major players are Russia, the United States, Canada, Norway, and Denmark (due to Greenland being Danish territory). And China has also entered the fray (despite its closest territories being over a thousand miles away from the Arctic region) and is also pushing for similar expansion into the Antarctic region as well, in spite of this likely being a violation of the Antarctic Treaty.
  • One of the major flashpoints in the world that could erupt into a regional conflict, and possibly even World War III, is The Indo-Pakistan Conflict in the Kashmir region. This land is the site of numerous disputed territorial claims by India, Pakistan, and China, and has been the cause of multiple wars between India and Pakistan in the 20th century, with one major battleground being the frozen Siachen Glacier (the highest-altitude militarized zone in the world) in the Ladakh mountain region. In June 2020, Indian and Chinese soldiers came to violent blows when aggressive Chinese maneuvering in Ladakh crossed the Line of Actual Control and hand-to-hand combat ensued, resulting in 20 dead Indian soldiers and an unknown number of Chinese casualties thanks to the Chinese Communist Party censoring it as a state secret (in February 2021, the Chinese military newspaper PLA Daily gave out an official number of 4 dead, a claim that was immediately met with scepticism). A massive military buildup has resulted by both sides on these snowy peaks since this incident.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Battle On The Ice


Interrupted training

Tohoku-based EAGLE soldiers were attacked by Black Cross Army forces led by Warrior Mask at Uyu Mountain. Zolders conducted the attack with frag grenades that suspiciously look like Stielhandgranates.<br><br><br><br>EAGLE soldier Akira Shinmei was the only soldier who survived the ambush, although being beaten by WM.

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Main / WinterWarfare

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