Private Valter Sillanpää was a Canadian who volunteered in 1939 to fight for Finland’s freedom against the Soviet Unions unprovoked attack.
He was born in northern Ontario, Canada, a little place called Copper Cliff on the 9th of December 1914 and 1973 he died in British Columbia. According to his nephew Dr. Lennard Sillanpää, Valter was a very good accordion player and used to play for dances and family get-togethers.
Valter was brought up in a typical Finnish Canadian home with strict adherence to what is right and what is wrong. This Soviet Russia’s attack against its small neighbor was definitely wrong. He volunteered with hundreds of other Canadians, Americans and many other nationalities to go help Finlandin its hour of need.
After the winter war was over, there were still over a thousand volunteers in New York City waiting to be shipped to Finland. Close to three hundred served in the front lines and three paid the ultimate price. Valter was discharged from the Finnish army and sailed back to Canada.
In the meanwhile, unbeknownst to him, during the year of 1940, the Finnish Defense Department had issued a “Winter War Memorial Medal” to all those soldiers who had served in the war, Canadian and American volunteers included, but pvt. Sillanpää never received his medal.
Twenty-fourth of January 2012, 72 years after the conflict, delegation of family, friends and others arrived at the Canadian Naval Officers Mess in HMCS Bytown in Ottawa, to witness the ceremony of medal presentation to the closest known relative to Valter Sillanpää.
Lennard Sillanpää, PhD. of Orleans,ON. Canada had found the list of Canadian and American volunteers who never received their medals in the Toronto’s Finnish newspaper” Vapaa Sana” and contacted Lieutenant Colonel Dwyer Q. Wedvick NYSRetL, who was the contact person in the paper. Dr. Sillanpää identified himself as nephew of Valter Sillanpää, and as far as he knew Valter had a daughter but the family had lost contact with her long time ago, so he was the closest living relative to pvt. Valter Sillanpää.
The Price of Freedom Museum Inc. of Boynton Beach Florida, which organization has been entrusted by the Finnish War Veterans in America Inc. to organize the presentation of the remaining medals and diplomas to the volunteers or their closest living relatives got colonel Wedvick’s report in the beginning of the year and approval to proceed with the presentation.
Finnish embassy in Ottawawas represented by minister-counsellor Petri Kruuti, Canadian Nordic Society by Vice-President Lennart Nylund and Sillanpää family by Dr.Lennard Sillanpää, PhD. and his son Master Bombardier Paul Sillanpää 30th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery and Ms. Paula Hoggett of Timmins Ont. Also in attendance was Mrs. Ritva Manner of Boynton Beach,Florida.
Colonel Harry I. Manner (NYSRetL) curator and president of The Price of Freedom Museum Inc. thanked all those in attendance and brought the best wishes of Hans Nyholm president and Mirja Silvan secretary of the Finnish War Veterans in America Inc. which organization is now located in Lake Worth, Florida.
Dr. Sillanpää plans to donate the medal and the accompanying diploma to the CanadianWar Museumor to the Finnish War veterans museum in Sudbury.
There are 56 American and Canadian veterans still on the list who never received their medals. The Price of Freedom Museum stands ready and willing to arrange presentation to veterans or next of kin when located.