Tag: Soviet Union

Passenger ground effect vehicle seating 100 to be created in Russia in 2020-2022

A model of sea-based multipurpose ground effect vehicle. Valery Matytsin/TASS

Sea-based multirole ground effect vehicle Chaika (Seagull) will be created in Russia in 2020-2022, the executive director of the research and industrial association Radar MMS, Ivan Antsev said.

 

“Designer documentation is being drafted for this project at the moment. Work is in progress on its model and the details of control, piloting, navigation and radio-electronic systems. Scale models have been tested. We are determined to make Chaika fly in the near future. It is realistic to expect it will materialize in 2020-2022,” he said.

“Chaika is a ground effect vehicle (sometimes referred to as flying yacht) having a displacement of 54 tonnes capable of carrying 100 passengers. Inside it will look like a plane and have a crew of two,” Antsev said. Chaika will be about 35 meters long and carry a payload of nine tonnes. It will be used for carrying passengers, in emergencies, for ecological monitoring and cargo transportation.

“In principle I can say that the government is interested in GEV vehicles. We are working in this direction… The GEVs are a fundamentally new and promising type of transport. It can approach unequipped coast, fly over rough seas and carry large payloads,” Antsev said.

Soviet Union Ground Effect Vehicles

Led by Alexeyev, the Soviet Central Hydrofoil Design Bureau (Russian: ЦКБ СПК) was the center of ground-effect craft development in the USSR; in Russian, the vehicle came to be known as an ekranoplan (Russian: экранопла́н, экран “screen” + план “plane”, from эффект экрана, literally in Russian “screen effect“, for “ground effect” in English). The military potential for such a craft was soon recognized and Alexeyev received support and financial resources from Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.

Some manned and unmanned prototypes were built, ranging up to eight tons in displacement. This led to the development of a 550-ton military ekranoplan of 92 m (301 feet) length. The craft was dubbed the “Caspian Sea Monster” by U.S. intelligence experts, after a huge, unknown craft was spotted on satellite reconnaissance photos of the Caspian Sea area in the 1960s. With its short wings, it looked airplane-like in planform, but would obviously be incapable of flight. Although it was designed to travel a maximum of 3 m (9.8 ft) above the sea, it was found to be most efficient at 20 m (66 ft), reaching a top speed of 300 kn (560 km/h; 350 mph) to 400 kn (740 km/h; 460 mph) in research flights.

Caspian Sea Monster – Ekranoplan

The Soviet ekranoplan program continued with the support of Minister of Defence Dmitriy Ustinov. It produced the most successful ekranoplan so far, the 125-ton A-90 Orlyonok. These craft were originally developed as high-speed military transports and were usually based on the shores of the Caspian Sea and Black Sea. The Soviet Navy ordered 120 Orlyonok-class ekranoplans, but this figure was later reduced to fewer than 30 vessels, with planned deployment mainly in the Black Sea and Baltic Sea fleets.

A few Orlyonoks served with the Soviet Navy from 1979 to 1992. In 1987, the 400-ton Lun-class ekranoplan was built as a missile launcher. A second Lun, renamed Spasatel, was laid down as a rescue vessel, but was never finished. The two major problems that the Soviet ekranoplans faced were poor longitudinal stability and a need for reliable navigation.

Lun-class ekranoplan

Minister Ustinov died in 1985, and the new Minister of Defence, Marshal Sokolov, cancelled funding for the program. Only three operational Orlyonok-class ekranoplans (with revised hull design) and one Lun-class ekranoplan remained at a naval base near Kaspiysk.

Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, ekranoplans have been produced by the Volga Shipyard in Nizhniy Novgorod. Smaller ekranoplans for non-military use have been under development. The CHDB had already developed the eight-seat Volga-2 in 1985, and Technologies and Transport is developing a smaller version called the Amphistar. Beriev proposed a large craft of the type, the Be-2500, as a “flying ship” cargo carrier, but nothing came of the project.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finland stares down an old foe [Opinion]

(Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

While the United States debates whether it has “a Russian problem,” and who’s responsible for it, 6 million wary Finns know they have such a problem. It’s inherited, and they’re fearful again of a wrestling match with an old foe.

There’s ample history in the memory of the so-called Winter War, when Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union set out to subdue a small and largely agricultural nation early in World War II. With the Western democracies, and much of the rest of the world, cheering, the little Finnish army with its ski troops, dressed in white to make it difficult to see soldiers against the snow and with unique knowledge of winter warfare, held off the Soviets for nine months. In the end, Finland lost a tenth of its territory, including an Arctic port, ceded to the Soviet Union.

There’s a new wrinkle in the Russia-Finland relations. The Finns, feeling threatened as always by their giant neighbor, are planning one of its largest military exercises in decades. They’re going underground, building a subterranean city beneath Helsinki to form a critical line of defense. Finnish soldiers routinely train there to be able to keep the government running and the capital’s residents safe in an attack. A network of more than 124 miles of tunnels, passageways and shelters would supply utility and subway tunnels, communications, water supply and internet connections. There’s shelter space for 600,000 persons.

Russian war games will take place on Finland’s northern border as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization simultaneously boosts its own presence in the three Baltic states just across the Gulf of Finland. Finland maintains a convenient fiction of neutrality between Moscow and the West, remaining outside NATO even though it is ever more dependent on the West — and especially for its arms, both from the United States and from Sweden, which is also officially neutral.

It’s an irony that the threat of Russian bullying and incorporation into a Russian empire has raised Finland to one of the most prosperous and technologically advanced societies. The per capita income is 222 percent of the world’s average, and in a place of isolation at a frigid corner of the world.

The $300 billion (in 1939 prices) of reparations, which Helsinki was forced to pay the Soviets, was used to build a new manufacturing and economic complex to deliver 340,000 railroad carloads of goods and services to Moscow. The economic effect was to turn Finland increasingly into a high tech industrial economy, and leadership of the new wireless telephone industry.

Source: The Washington Times.

FINNAIR FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS TO NATIONAL FLAG CARRIER

 

The changing face of FINNAIR: Revell Airbus A320 in 1:144 scale and Eduard’s Junkers Ju-52/m “Sampo”. Photo credit: Rich Reynolds.

On the 12th of September 1923, the charter establishing the ‘Aero Company OY’ (Aero Ltd.) was signed in Helsinki heralding the birth of what would become Finnair, the National carrier of Finland. On the 9th of October the same year, the company was entered into the trade register beginning operations on the 1st November following the first shareholders meeting.

Aero OY was founded by Gustaf Snellman, Fritiof Åhman and Bruno Otto Lucander. Consul Bruno Lucander became the company’s first managing director, bringing with him experience in long-distance air travel gained in his time as General Manager of the company ‘Finland Spedition-Central Ab-Suomen Välityskeskus O/Y’ from 1918. His company had handled the interests of the Estonian airline ‘Aeronaut’ in Finland, when Aeronaut had begun operating flights from Tallinn to Helsinki.

Aero OY Logo 1920

Lieutenant-Colonel Arne Somersalo, the first Commander-in-Chief of the Suomen Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force) served as a technical advisor to the board of directors from 1923. The company received 500,000 Marks from the Government upon its founding; this was increased to 1 million Marks on the 12th December. Aero OY carried 269 passengers in its first year.

Aero OY Logo 1923

Late in 1923, the Estonian airline Aeronaut was acquired by the German company Junkers Flugzeugwerke A.G. and a Junkers F.13 went into service on the Helsinki route. The aircraft was a single-engine monoplane, equipped with a closed cabin and seats for four passengers. The crew consisted of a pilot and a mechanic.

Aeronaut had shown that the Junkers F.13 was up to the challenge of operating in the harsh conditions of Northern Europe which convinced Lucander that the aircraft should be the first choice for Aero.

In summer 1923 Lucander concluded an agreement with the Junkers Flugzeugwerke A.G. for the delivery to Aero of one aircraft plus technical help and personnel in exchange for a 50 per cent holding in the Finnish company.

On the 14th of March 1924, Aero took delivery of its first aircraft, a German-registered Junkers F.13 D-335. The Junkers Factory pilot Heinrich Putz flew the aircraft to Helsinki three days later. Its maiden commercial flight was on the 20 March 1924, when it carried 162 kilos of mail from Helsinki to Tallinn.

Aero OY Junkers F.13

Aero was based at Katajanokka, Helsinki where in 1923 the facilities consisted of a small terminal building and one seaplane ramp.
On June 2nd 1924, Aero began operations from Helsinki to Stockholm with the cooperation of the Swedish airline ABA. Operations were conducted with the Junkers fitted with floats because at that time Helsinki and Tallinn had no airfields.

Stockholm offered a rail link to Gothenburg, which offered flight connections to Copenhagen, Oslo and London. Both ABA and Aero operated between Helsinki and Stockholm during the summer. The Helsinki to Stockholm route was not as successful as the Helsinki to Tallinn route which was supported by the Nord-Europa Union of airlines which was supported by the Junkers factory with a connection to Königsberg, which in turn had a rail link to Berlin.

During the summer of 1924, Aero employed its first Finnish pilot, Gunnar Lihr, which brought the total number of employees to seven. The company was keen to interest the Finnish people in aviation giving 833 public demonstration flights in 1925.

Regular flights between Helsinki and Tallinn continued throughout 1925, in May 1926 the Junkers factory’s Nord-Europa Union and the Trans-Europa Union were merged into a single conglomeration of sixteen airlines. The Union of German airlines formed soon after this with the absorption of the German company Aero Lloyd into Deutsche Luft Hansa. Support for Aero OY from Junkers would decline after this merger as the Junkers factory focused its attention on the larger German carriers.

In 1926, Aero purchased a three engined, 9 passenger Junkers G 24 with help from the Government in the form of a state guaranteed loan. The aircraft was bought to Helsinki on the 4th June and put into service on the Stockholm route. The Junkers G 24 was equipped with skis which restricted its operations to the summer months.

In 1927, Aero became a member of IATA (The International Air Transport Association); The company was given the code, “AY”, which stands for Aero Yhtiö which means “company” in Finnish.

Later that year, the company’s Managing Director Bruno Otto Lucander, embarked on Aero’s first around-Finland flight. Several journalists were embarked on the flight taking the first flying tour of the country which went as far north as Rovaniemi on the Arctic Circle.

The aim of the tour was to demonstrate to Aero’s board of directors that the commercial domestic routes of the company could be expanded to include the territories to the north.

At this stage Aero was enthusiastic about the possibility of building one or more permanent airports on land. They were however keenly aware that the 3 million population of Finland with its 187,888 lakes, were reluctant to build airstrips on land. As a result Aero remained with its current seaplane operations, opening Turku-Ruissalo air harbour in May 1927 enabling flight traffic to start between Turku and Stockholm.

During June 1928, an Aero Junkers F.13 piloted by Gunnar Lihr took part in the search for the explorer Umberto Nobile’s airship Italia, which had crashed on Spitzbergen after running into a storm on the way back from Nobile’s failed flight to the North Pole. Lihr succeeded in rescuing one of the expedition team, a feat which brought considerable publicity in the world’s press for both Lihr and Aero.

The fortunes of Aero looked set to change when in August 1929 Managing Director Bruno Otto Lucander died suddenly. Gunnar Ståhle, one of the original three directors from 1923, took over. The fortunes of the company looked in doubt as there was talk of a sell-out from Aero’s major stake-holder, Junkers. However, Finnish investors stepped in and saved the company. So at the beginning of the 1930’s Aero became an entirely Finnish operation.

The 1930s began in a spirit of Nordic cooperation. Aero and ABA launched the ‘Scandinavian Air Express’. This was done to market both Aero’s and ABA’s routes between Helsinki and Stockholm and Aero’s Helsinki-Tallinn route. Onward flight connections to major European destinations from Stockholm opened up the European market to Aero. Flights to Copenhagen became available as did an Aero operated route to Amsterdam from Stockholm.

The first major passenger carrying aircraft was purchased by Aero in 1932. This was a Junkers Ju 52/3m on floats. This was a three-engined, low-winged large aircraft seating 14 passengers.

Initially the aircraft was restricted to flying in the summer months only as it was on floats. It was quickly fitted with wheels which would enable the aircraft to fly the economically lucrative Helsinki-Stockholm route. The first Ju 52/3 went into service on 1 July 1932. In the period 1932-42, Aero took delivery of five Ju 52/3m aircraft.

Junkers 52/3m “Kaleva”
Eduard 1:144 Junkers Ju-52/m “Sampo”. Photo credit: Rich Reynolds.

On the 8th September 1935 the dream of the Aero Company’s board of directors would be realised with the opening of Finland’s first civil airport at Turku Artukainen. The opening of Stockholm’s first civil airport at Bromma on the 23rd of May 1936 increased the pressure on Helsinki to open its own international hub. Flights began from Malmi in December 1936, although the airport was not opened officially until May 1938.

Aero’s seaplane fleet would be consigned to history with a last seaplane flight from Helsinki Katajanokka to Stockholm Lindarängen on 15 December 1936. After this, the fleet was completely on wheels, and Aero operated at last from solid ground.

Eduard 1:144 Junkers Ju-52/m transport. Photo credit: Rich Reynolds.

 

Aero expanded its fleet in March 1937 with the purchase of two D.H. 89A Dragon Rapides. The aircraft, a seven passenger, 2 piston-engined bi-plane was purchased with a special purpose in mind; it would take on Finland’s first scheduled domestic service between Helsinki and Viipuri. This service started on the 1st of May 1937. Just two days afterwards the service between Helsinki and Tampere was started. In 1938 the Viipuri route was extended to Imatra and the Tampere route extended to Vaasa. A year later, the northern route was extended as far as Oulu and Kemi.

DH-89A Dragon Rapide

During the 1930s Aero OY consolidated its existing services extending only its Tallinn route via Riga and Kaunas to Berlin. There were however many plans for international services set to coincide with the 1940 Olympic games due to be held in Helsinki.

To realise these plans, two Focke-Wulf FW 200B Condor Aircraft were ordered by Aero in 1938. The FW 200 was a German all-metal four-engine monoplane originally developed by Focke-Wulf as a long-range airliner which resulted from a proposal by Kurt Tank of Focke-Wulf to Dr. Rudolf Stuessel of Deutsche Lufthansa to develop a landplane to carry passengers across the Atlantic Ocean to the USA.

This fitted in with Aero’s plans to develop a transatlantic service in cooperation with other Nordic airlines. The war unfortunately curtailed Aero’s plans for the time being. They never received their Condors as all available aircraft were requisitioned by the Luftwaffe and the Olympic Games due to be held in 1940 in Helsinki never took place.

In 1939 war broke out across Europe. The Russians and Germans invaded Poland; Russia invaded Finland on November 30th 1939 and then Estonia in 1940. The Finns forced the Soviet Union to the negotiating table in March of 1940 ceding up to 10% of its territory in the armistice. The Estonians weren’t so lucky. They were occupied. All available transport aircraft in Finland were requisitioned by the Suomen Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force).

Aero’s Dragon Rapides were requisitioned for use by the 4th Supplementary Flying Regiment. The Junkers 52 transports were put to work on the new Vaasa to Stockholm route as it was deemed too dangerous to operate these vulnerable aircraft out of Helsinki. However the Turku-Stockholm route was still flown on an irregular basis.

The Finnish Air Force would be Finland’s first operator of a commercial airliner with a retractable undercarriage, the Douglas DC-2. The DC-2 was an airliner and transport aircraft of U.S. manufacture. It accommodated three crew and 14 passengers. The first DC-2 baptized “Hanssin-Jukka” achieved almost legendary status as a bomber in the Winter War and later as a personnel transport.  Carl Gustaf von Rosen bought the aircraft from KLM and donated it to the Suomen Ilmavoimat. Two additional aircraft were purchased in 1949. The DC-2 was in use until 1955. The Air Force operated three DC-2s from 1940 to 1956.

Douglas DC-2 “Hanssin-Jukka”. Photo credit: Rih Reynolds.

Of the 3,900 passengers carried during the Winter War, 1,500 were children evacuated to Sweden. On one flight, an Aero 14-seat Junkers Ju 52/3m carried 42 passengers, of whom 26 were children.

Aero OY Logo 1940

Between the Winter War and the Continuation War (13th March 1940 to 25th June 1941), Aero resumed flights to Tallinn on the 2nd April 1940 and to Stockholm two days later. The service to Tallinn was severely disrupted when on June 14 while the world’s attention was focused on the fall of Paris to Nazi Germany a day earlier, one of Aero’s Ju 52 transports was shot down by the Soviet Air Force.

Two Soviet bombers downed one of Aero’s Junkers Ju 52/3m fleet “Kaleva” flying from Tallinn to Helsinki carrying three diplomatic pouches from the U.S. legations in Tallinn, Riga and Helsinki and over 120 kilograms of diplomatic mail by two French embassy couriers. A US Foreign Service employee Henry W. Antheil Jr., the French couriers and other passengers were killed in the crash.

On June 17th Estonia fell to the Soviet Union. The occupation was complete by June 21st and Aero’s operations to Tallinn ceased for the duration of the war.

The company instead switched its attention to starting flights to Petsamo in Northern Finland. This service finally began on 2 June 1940. Known as the “Petsamo Express”, it flew passengers from Helsinki to Petsamo via Tampere, Vaasa, Kokkola, Oulu, Kemi, Rovaniemi and Sodankylä in eight and a half hours. In October 1940, Mariehamn was added to the domestic network. The peace between Finland and the Soviet Union would not last.

The Continuation War began on the 22nd of June 1941 and lasted until the 19th September 1944. Throughout this second war between Finland and Soviet Russia, Aero aircraft made a considerable number of transport flights both in Finland and abroad. Despite the war-time conditions, Aero flew to Berlin during 1943 and 1944. Fuel shortages were a problem, but flights to Rovaniemi and Stockholm continued.

During the Continuation War with the Soviet Union, Aero was forced to operate out of Pori on a temporary basis as both Helsinki and Turku airfields had been placed under military control. Aero found once again that its major assets had been requisitioned by the Imavoimat.

When peace finally came Malmi Airfield was placed under the control of the Allied Control Commission (ACC). Aero’s fleet was transferred to Hyvinkää where flights to Stockholm were resumed in January 1945, both direct and via Turku and Mariehamn.

These flights were stopped by order of the ACC. Aero were not able to re-start services until August 1945 and these services were restricted to domestic flights only.

After the war Gunnar Ståhle left his post as managing director of Aero. The board of directors accepted his resignation in December 1945.
Aero was approaching a new era. It was obvious that as long as it remained a private company it would not manage to make the major acquisitions necessary nor cover the rapidly rising operating costs. As a result, the Finnish State acquired a 70% majority holding in the company in 1946. The remaining 30% was held by private companies, the situation remains much the same today.

Gunnar Ståhle was succeeded as Managing Director of Aero first by C.J. Ehrnrooth and then by Uolevi Raade. On 14 June 1947, Lieutenant-General Leonard Grandell was appointed managing director.
Aero’s administration was reorganised. A 12-member Supervisory Board (later increased to 18 members) appointed a six-member Board of Directors, with the Chairman of the Board also serving as the company’s President & CEO.

Aero chose the Douglas DC-3 as its first post war passenger carrying aircraft. The DC-3 was manufactured in vast numbers during World War 2 and hundreds of these were available from US surplus stocks in Europe. Aero began operating the type in May 1947 and began using the name Finnish Airlines on all of its aircraft. The first stewardesses were recruited to fly on the DC-3’s; initially they only flew on the Helsinki-Kemi and Helsinki-Kuopio routes.

Aero DC-3 “Karjula”.

The introduction of the DC-3 foresaw the phasing out of Aero’s older assets and led to standardisation of the fleet: in 1947, the last Rapide was sold and the DC-2s were withdrawn from service. Two Ju-52/3m aircraft remained in service until 1949, when they were also retired.

In 1949, Aero became a member of the new IATA (International Air Transport Association), the airline code AY, was re-instated after being withdrawn during the war and is still in use by Finnair today. In 1951 Aero flew from Helsinki to nine domestic and four foreign destinations.

Helsinki finally got it’s Olympic Games in 1952. It was a notable year for Aero with passenger numbers topping 100,000 for the first time. Helsinki Airport was opened in June near Seutula. The official opening took place on 10 July, and by October all flights had been transferred from Malmi to the new airport.

Although Aero converted its original 21-seat DC-3s to carry 26 passengers, aircraft of this type had had their day. In September 1951, Aero ordered three twin-engine Convair 340s from the USA.

Convair 340 Finnish Airlines

The Convair had a modern fuselage, engines and systems. It also featured a pressurised cabin. The aircraft was put into service on 19 April 1953 on the Helsinki-Copenhagen-Dusseldorf route. Initially it carried 44 passengers; the number was later increased to 52. In the period 1953-1964, Aero purchased a total of eight Convair 340s. The Convairs meant that Aero was able to begin scheduled flights between Helsinki and Moscow becoming the first western airline to operate this service.

In spring 1953, Aero started to use the name Finnair in its marketing. This became the company’s official name on 25 June 1968.
Finnair, the flag carrier of Finland was born.

Model Images

The aircraft depicted are the Revell 1:144 Airbus A320 and the Eduard 1:144 Junkers Ju-52/m transport. Both kits were completed by the editor in July 2017.

References

  • Finnair Group, History, 03/11/2010. http://www.finnairgroup.com
  • Heikki Immeli & Kari Juntunen: “Piletti Pietariin” (Ticket to St. Petersburg).
  • The centenary jubilee publication of the annually in multiple volumes published “Public communications in Finland”. Finnish Tourist Association, 1991.
  • “World Airline Directory.” Flight International. 24–30 March 1993.
Aero OY/Finnair Logo 1951

Article by: Rich Reynolds, The Baltic Post.

Mauno Koivisto, Finland’s last Cold War president – obituary

Mauno Koivisto, who has died aged 93, was Finland’s last Cold War president, serving two six-year terms from 1982 to 1994 and cautiously steering the country out of isolation and into the European Union.

Popularly known as “Manu”, he was once described in the New York Times as a “self-made man who regularly wears darned socks and who conveys the impression of sturdy self-reliance, without the slightest vestige of pomp or show”. He was a great favourite with Finnish voters.

“Finlandisation” was the derogatory term used in the West to describe the country’s Cold War policy of remaining neutral but in reality being highly compliant with the Soviet Union. As a veteran of both the bitter 1939-40 Winter War against the Soviets and the so-called Continuation War of 1941-44, Koivisto understood as well as any the need for Finland to establish a modus vivendi with her huge, volatile neighbour.

He had had his knuckles rapped in 1968 when, as Finland’s prime minister under the long presidency of Urho Kekkonen, his government had condemned the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, earning a thinly veiled piece of sabre-rattling in the Soviet newspaper Izvestia calling for the establishment of Soviet military bases in Finland against a supposed West German threat. The situation only calmed down after a meeting between Kekkonen and the Soviet statesman Alexei Kosygin, followed by a “vacation” trip to Moscow by Koivisto two weeks later.

Under Kekkonen, who had served as Finland’s president from 1956 to 1981, there had been considerable media censorship and limitations on freedom of expression, to the extent that many questioned whether the country could be regarded as a democracy.

Books deemed critical of the Soviets had been banned, along with numerous films including The Manchurian Candidate. Soviet defectors were sent back as a matter of policy; Soviet atrocities were not reported and Finnish nationalist groups were heavily restricted.

A lanky man with a long, craggy face, in his early years as President Koivisto continued the policy of “active neutrality”, including the practice of returning Soviet defectors to the Soviet Union. But at the same time he introduced modest measures of democratisation, refraining from using some of the more authoritarian powers assumed by his predecessor and encouraging parliamentary institutions.

Above all, he charted a new course in foreign policy by cultivating good relations with both East and West, a task made easier by the arrival of Mikhail Gorbachev in the Kremlin in 1985. The two men became close and Koivisto, who was fluent in Russian, helped to broker improved relations between the USSR and the US; in 1990 he hosted a summit meeting between President George HW Bush and the Soviet leader.

President Mauno Koivisto with Queen Elizabeth II

The early 1980s were a period of free-market prosperity in Finland, buoyed up by relatively cheap supplies of Soviet energy and the market in eastern Europe for Finnish consumer and industrial goods that would have been difficult to sell in the West.

The collapse of the Soviet Union, however, created huge structural and political problems. In the early 1990s Finnish unemployment soared to about 14 per cent, the economy plunged into recession and the delicate political balancing act with Moscow began to look shaky as the three neighbouring Baltic republics, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, sought to establish their independence and looked to Finland for support. Suddenly caution seemed to be a luxury Finland could ill afford.

Koivisto worked hard to persuade the West of the urgent need of the Soviet Union (and subsequently of Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States), for external economic support. While he avoided any public support of the Baltic independence movement, its representatives were allowed to work from inside Finland.

Meanwhile, gambling on his continuing good relations with Russia’s leaders, he began the process of leading Finland out of international isolation. When in 1990, after German reunification, he unilaterally renounced the military clauses of the 1947 Paris Treaty, which placed restrictions on Finnish defence forces, there was no official protest from Moscow.

The following year, as the Soviet Union disintegrated, he renounced the 1948 Finnish-Soviet pact, which pledged Finnish military assistance if Russia were attacked from the north and which had hindered Finland’s integration with European security structures. Emboldened by the collapse of the Soviet Union, in 1992 Koivisto initiated the process of Finnish accession to the European Union, the final terms of which were agreed on the day he left office. Finland joined the EU in 1995.

The son of a ship’s carpenter, Mauno Henrik Koivisto was born on November 25 1923, in the southern port city of Turku. At the beginning of the Winter War in 1939 he volunteered aged 16 for a field firefighting unit.

During the Continuation War, he served in a reconnaissance detachment operating behind enemy lines. He was awarded the Order of the Cross of Liberty (2nd class) and was promoted to the rank of corporal.

Presidentti Mauno Koivisto 90 vuotta – kuvagalleria vuosien.

After the war, Koivisto joined the Social Democratic Party and graduated from the University of Turku with a degree in Philosophy and a PhD in Sociology. After graduation he became a banker, rising to become managing director of the Helsinki Workers’ Savings Bank from 1959 to 1967.

By this time he had emerged as a key figure among the Social Democrats and he went on to serve as chairman of the board of the Bank of Finland, a position he retained until 1982 and in which he was widely credited as the architect of the country’s prosperity.

He also served twice as prime minister, from 1968 to 1970 and 1979 to 1982, and despite friction over Czechoslovakia, he succeeded in moving cautiously beyond the limited Finno-Soviet sphere, overseeing Finland’s membership of the OECD in 1969 and participation in UN peacekeeping operations.

He also announced that Finland would play host to the 35-nation European Conference on Security and Cooperation that would lead to the Helsinki accords of 1975. However, he backed off from a proposed Nordic Economic Union with other Scandinavian countries for fear of jeopardising Finland’s neutral status.

In his spare time Koivisto liked playing volleyball, whittling and relaxing in a log cabin outside Helsinki that he had largely built himself.

In 1952 he married Tellervo Kankaanranta, who survives him with their daughter.

Mauno Koivisto, born November 25 1923, died May 12 2017  

Original article: The Daily Telegraph.  

 

 

 

Mattis salutes NATO collective security

US Secretary of Defence James Mattis.
/ AFP / THIERRY CHARLIER (Photo credit should read THIERRY CHARLIER/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. Army By Jim Garamone, DoD News, Defense Media Activity, June 30, 2017

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the United States will continue to build on the legacy of George C. Marshall and reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to NATO’s system of collective defense during his speech yesterday at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

“The U.S. commitment to our NATO Article 5 security guarantee is ironclad,” Mattis said during his speech, part of an event marking the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Marshall Plan. Under Article 5, an attack on one NATO partner nation is considered an attack on all.

The Marshall Plan initiative, named after American statesman and soldier George C. Marshall, provided more than $13 billion in economic support to help rebuild western European economies after the end of World War II. It saved millions of Europeans from starvation and Soviet domination.

GEORGE C. MARSHALL: U.S. STATESMAN, SOLDIER

Marshall was born on Dec. 31, 1880, and died on Oct. 16, 1959. He was commissioned an Army officer out of the Virginia Military Institute and fought in World War I. He served in the Army through the 1920s and saw the effects of the Great Depression on his countrymen.

George C. Marshall

Nazi Germany invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, beginning the European portion of World War II. Marshall became Army chief of staff the same day. He was one of the architects of victory in the war, building and deploying a 10 million-man Army that worked in conjunction with the Allies to defeat dictatorships that brought untold suffering to the world.

After Marshall left active duty, he served as the Secretary of State, and in that capacity he proposed his Marshall Plan, which he announced during a commencement speech at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1947.

The war had ravaged Europe. Fully 14 percent of the pre-war population was dead or displaced, Mattis noted. “Our nations experienced the horrors that can happen when freedom is imperiled, when peaceful pursuits of civilized life are suspended, when deterrence fails and our societies are engulfed in total war,” the secretary said.

Under the plan, the United States spent $13 billion to feed the continent and invest in building the economies of these shattered nations so they could provide for their citizens.

Marshall’s vision saw a Europe that was “a peaceful, industrious, and prosperous continent, free from tyranny, possessing the military strength to defend itself from aggression,” Mattis said.

SECURITY IN EUROPE

The Marshall Plan was more than just humanitarian assistance. It was the American realization that security in Europe — and around the world — was in the country’s best interests.

“Longing for a safer future, the Greatest Generation saw their own security in the security of others,” the secretary said. “They had the courage to recognize all collective efforts had to be taken to avoid repeating mistakes that open the door to war.”

He added, “And, should freedom be threatened and war truly unavoidable, then all efforts must be taken to bring war to a decisive end as swiftly as possible.”

The post-World War II generation saw the need for collective defense; they saw the need to work with allies, and they saw the interconnected aspects of diplomacy, economics and military power to shape the world, Mattis said.

“Marshall knew history swings on a hinge,” the defense secretary said. “The Marshall Plan permitted hundreds of millions to keep their humanity, confident of basic social order: food, security, rule of law and essential political freedom.”

By 1967, the per capita gross domestic product of Britain, France, Italy and Germany had more than doubled, he noted.

EUROPEAN PARTNERSHIP, LEADERSHIP

The plan required European partnership and leadership — it could not be imposed by the United States or international organizations, Mattis said.

And the European partners did cooperate, building on the Marshall Plan to create the institutions that have underwritten stability and peace in Europe since World War II, the defense secretary said.

“Europe transformed from a security consumer into a security provider, something Marshall ardently desired, for he never envisioned that America would carry this burden alone,” Mattis said. “He knew from experience it had to be shared, both its benefits and its burdens.”

In the 72 years since the end of World War II, America’s European allies have contributed to large-scale, U.S.-led global operations, he said.

“At peak contributions, 39,000 allies fought with the United States in Afghanistan, and 59,000 allies fought with us in Iraq,” Mattis said. “We must not allow the years passed since 1947 to blind us to reality. For those of us who grew up with freedom from fear, starvation and the burden of world war, we cannot turn away from our responsibility to pass these same freedoms intact to the next generation.”

BERLIN AIRLIFT

Shared history and commitment mean something, the secretary said, and spoke of the solidarity of the allies when the Soviet Union blockaded West Berlin in 1948. He spoke of the sacrifice of a young U.S. Air Force officer — Capt. Billy Phelps — who died when his plane crashed delivering food and coal to the beleaguered city.

“A German boy named Wolfgang Samuel saw it happen,” Mattis said. “Wolfgang wrote that Phelps’ plane, ‘Fell like a rock out of the sky.'”

The two American pilots were killed, the secretary said.

“And then, the child had a flash of insight: ‘Only three years ago they were fighting against my country, and now they were dying for us. I wondered what made these people do the things they did?'” Mattis said.

He added, “Captain Phelps knew he owed future generations the same freedom he had. And, what young Wolfgang, a little German kid, saw that cold December night in 1948 we can see — clearly — today in 2017: We can see foreigners putting their lives on the line for others; whether Captain Billy Phelps of the Berlin Airlift, or the men and women of NATO’s enhanced forward presence.”

EUROPEAN REASSURANCE INITIATIVE

The secretary mentioned the U.S. commitment to the European Reassurance Initiative, which grew to $4.8 billion in the fiscal 2018 budget request, and the continuation of the U.S. participation in NATO’s forward presence through 2020.

“Beyond any words in the newspapers, you can judge America by such actions,” he said. “This is who we are. We — America, Germany, Europe, the West — we risk life so a child in Berlin can eat; we hunt terrorists in the dark so they cannot murder innocents at concerts. Our nations stand together, democratic islands of stability in a world awash with change.”

The Marshall Center’s faculty, staff, students and alumni carry the legacy of this center’s namesake, Mattis said. “For you students, when you return home, you have a golden opportunity to operate history’s hinge to close the door to war, exercising your moral authority and your generation’s responsibility to protect freedom,” he said. “Western values — respect for a rules-based international order and for national sovereignty, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the dignity of the human person are worth defending.”

Those values are under attack on the continent. Russia is trying to assert itself to undermine the goal of a continent whole, free and at peace, the secretary said.

RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA

“The United States seeks to engage with Russia. So does the NATO alliance,” he said. “But Russia must know both what we stand for and, equally, what we will not tolerate: we stand for freedom and we will never surrender the freedom of our people or the values of our alliance that we hold dear.”

The secretary said there are millions of discouraged people in Russia in need of inspiration. “Their leader making mischief beyond Russian borders will not restore their fortunes or rekindle their hope,” he said.

While the NATO allies will meet aggression with determination, deterrence and purpose, the alliance will leave the door open for a Russia that changes its stripes and “honors its people enough to abide by international law and so win for them the peace we all offer,” Mattis said.

NATO is doing its part, he said, deploying troops to the frontline states of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland to demonstrate the alliance’s resolve.

“This is a profound example of a united NATO,” Mattis said. “Our alliance has long been a stabilizing force in Europe. It helps preserve the rules-based international order. And it serves to keep the peace and defend the shared values that grew out of the enlightenment.”

The world is at another hinge of history, Mattis said.

“Our hands rest purposefully on history’s door and it depends on us to push it in the right direction,” he said.

Understanding Russia means understanding Putin’s Angels [REPORT]

The Baltic Post, 19 June 2017

A rumble of artillery prompts the biker gang to pause inside their stronghold. It has been some time since the rebel-held city of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, on the war-torn fringes of Europe, has witnessed any frontline action. An explosion sends pulses racing. “Finally,” grins one of the men. “We’re going to fight.”

But, with a large gathering fast approaching, the bikers soon put themselves back to work. After all, their stage is not going to build itself. Their magical oak tree stands unfinished; a phoenix costume needs its full, resplendent plumage.

Such are the confounding contrasts among the Luhansk chapter of the Night Wolves, Russia’s largest and most infamous motorcycle club. The men now busily constructing a winter wonderland for the children of this battle-scarred city are the same bearded, tattooed bikers who inject extreme, flag-waving nationalism into motorcycle rallies, who fight alongside Russian-backed, separatist militias, and deride the “Satanism” of the west.

A few weeks later, the club would open its huge, rusting gates to the public, unleashing a strange brew of bike stunts, Slavic fairytales and patriotic pageantry, to see in the new year. Converted from a disused sports complex, the Night Wolves’ base is a militaristic, Mad Max mishmash of wrecked tanks, spent artillery shells and technicolour murals. At the rear, behind a museum of Soviet-era cars, the men grow vegetables and tend beehives.

The stars of the forthcoming show are Luhansk’s own few-dozen Night Wolves. Denis Kuznetsov, the brooding, soft-spoken deputy commander, has left his wife and children in Moscow to support Ukraine’s pro-Russian insurgency; Vitaly “The Prosecutor” Kishkinov is their severe, swaggering boss; Sergey “Mosquito” Komarov is a baby-faced biker whose warmth and ebullience at times fail to eclipse the lasting trauma caused by fighting in Russia’s ruthless campaign in Chechnya. Then there is Shamil Shakov, a psychologist from Siberia, whose stillness and new-age spirituality have led him to serve as the group’s unofficial sage.

Vitaly ‘The Prosecutor’ Kishkinov, commander of the Luhansk Night Wolves. Photograph: Sebastien Rabas/Matter Out Of Place

Despite their penchant for chromed theatrics, the Night Wolves are no marginal subculture: they ride at the vanguard of Russia’s new wave of ultranationalism. The club boasts thousands of members across eastern Europe and enjoys close relations with the Russian president, leading some to dub them Putin’s Angels. Their presence here – and their role in the ongoing conflict – sheds light on the war in Donbass (eastern Ukraine), on Putin’s style of domestic politics, and on Russia’s ever-deteriorating relationship with the west.

While its Moscow HQ has had international media attention, the club’s outpost in the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) remains largely unreported. But after more than a month of negotiations, a small team and I secured unrestricted access to shoot a documentary about the group. Weighed down with camera gear, our pockets stuffed with roubles, we crossed the conflict’s buffer zone and journeyed deep into the country’s separatist heartland to meet them.

***

On a cold, grey morning in Luhansk, one of Ukraine’s bleakest and best-preserved Soviet cities, we meet Kuznetsov at the Night Wolves’ base. In the courtyard, club members arrange props and saw logs for the forthcoming show. Framed by the flag of Novorossiya, Ukraine’s loose confederation of rebel-held territories, Kuznetsov wears a biker jacket over military fatigues, his olive-green beret badged with a hammer and sickle to round off the Easy Rider guerrilla look. For the Night Wolves, image is king.

“Everything was inspired by American clubs, even the way we dress,” Kuznetsov explains. “We took the best and reproduced it in our way. The club was created to fight against the USSR, but in the end we started working with the state.”

A wrecked car at the Night Wolves’ Luhansk base. Photograph: Sebastien Rabas/Matter Out Of Place.

Kuznetsov joined the Night Wolves in the early 90s, after meeting the club’s charismatic leader, Alexander Zaldostanov, who trained in medicine and is known as “The Surgeon”. Kuznetsov’s role in the club would eventually shift from motorcycle enthusiast to militant fighter. As the Maidan street protests engulfed Kiev in the winter of 2013-14, in a bloody push towards integration with Europe, he was among a swath of ethnic Russians who saw only a violent coup d’état.

Stoked by the Kremlin’s narrative that Ukrainian “fascists”, aided and abetted by the CIA, had overthrown a legitimate, pro-Russian government (the notorious kleptocracy of Viktor Yanukovych, accused of presiding over a “mafia” administration that cost the country billions of dollars), Kuznetsov left his family in Moscow in February 2014 and headed south. He and other bikers actively engaged in Russia’s covert invasion of Crimea, swapping leathers for body armour; that summer, they joined Ukraine’s separatist insurgency.

“The Maidan movement was starting in Crimea. We decided to invest all our strength in preventing it,” Kuznetsov tells us one evening in his sleeping quarters, over shots of fiery moonshine. Religious icons, separatist banners, war medals and Kalashnikov rifles furnish the room, alongside a wolf-emblazoned dreamcatcher and a portrait of Kuznetsov’s grandfather in the second world war.

“The Night Wolves built the first checkpoints,” he says. “We were the first to be given weapons and to patrol Sevastopol. I am one of the million reasons Crimea finally was annexed.” The US later sanctioned the Night Wolves for storming a gas facility and Ukrainian naval base on the Black Sea peninsula, blocking any assets they might have in the US and banning contact with US citizens – a token gesture, given the unlikelihood of patriotic Russians investing there. Meanwhile, in Moscow, The Surgeon received a medal for his efforts.

A museum of Soviet-era cars at the Night Wolves Luhansk base. Photograph: Pierre Crom/Getty Images.

For Kuznetsov and his fellow Night Wolves, the collapse of the Soviet Union remains a source of profound regret; Crimea’s annexation gave them the perfect opportunity to help Russia reassert its strength and resurrect a lost domain. “The USSR was the most powerful empire in the world,” he muses one cold, overcast morning, walking among the carcasses of Soviet-era tanks salvaged from the Donbass battlefield. “And in one hour, without a single shot, it was over. We lost everything we had for bubble gum and jeans. And McDonald’s.” He recounts the penury of Moscow in the chaotic aftermath: empty shops and queues to buy basic groceries with coupons. For Kuznetsov, the west can tolerate only a crippled post-Soviet state, not a resurgent Russia. “Suddenly, everyone loved us. Now that we’re here and strong, no one likes us. When I was lying on the floor, everyone loved me.”

But Kuznetsov’s role in Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, and in the conflict in Donbass, has come at a price. He has received medals but barely been home. “To be honest, I’m a real traitor: I betrayed my family,” he admits. “My wife didn’t understand. I’m a grown man. I had an income, three children. What was I looking for? But I had to go.”

The Night Wolves first roared out from Moscow’s 1980s underground. In the liberalised environment that flourished under Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika reforms, kindred bikers and metalheads partied to rock music, provided security for bands and ran protection rackets, tearing around the capital on their Soviet-era Dnepr, Jawa and Voskhod motorcycles. “We were a powerful band on wheels,” Kuznetsov recalls. “We were driving fast in Moscow by night, escaping the police.”

Since those early years, he and his fellow Night Wolves have evolved from an anarchic posse of petrolheads into a key component of the Kremlin’s propaganda machine. August 1991 marked a pivotal moment, as they moved in from the margins to join the resistance against the failed anti-Gorbachev putsch launched by communist hardliners.

Denis Kuznetsov, deputy commander of the Luhansk Night Wolves. Photograph: Sebastien Rabas/Matter Out Of Place.

In Russia’s rocky 90s, the club began hosting annual motorcycle shows and launched a Wolf Wear clothing line. Putin has since become its most powerful patron, sanctioning huge grants and driving a three-wheeled Harley-Davidson as a Night Wolves outrider. They ride across Slavic landscapes to Orthodox holy sites, and stage shows that combine stunts, special effects and hard rock with zealous patriotism and pyrotechnics.

Russia expert Mark Galeotti, a professor of global affairs at New York University, says the Night Wolves are not part of the counterculture; they are “countercountercultural”, acting as “outlaws yet tools of the state”. In other words, the Kremlin has brought them in from the fringes to exploit their pro-Putinism, fervent Orthodoxy and anti-American rhetoric as a potent source of soft power. A Harley-Davidson rally from Moscow to Berlin last April retraced the Red Army’s route to commemorate the defeat of Nazi Germany; in August, in Sevastopol, the bikers staged a second world war re-creation in a performance complete with lasers, rock music and motorcycle stunts. Meanwhile, opposition activist Alexei Navalny has uncovered the flow of millions of roubles from the Russian government to the club, including funds to perform anti-western children’s shows. Throw in their Soviet revivalism and large cache of assault rifles, and you have quite a cocktail.

On our first day in Luhansk, Vitaly Kishkinov, the bullish boss of the local chapter, gives us a tour of the base. Over the next week, we get to know his men beyond the two-dimensional characters the club so readily projects. Kishkinov, however, remains stubbornly opaque and ideological – a consummate rebel leader.

“I love my country, I received it with my mother’s milk,” he tells us in front of a large mural inspired by Mad Max, featuring a fanged, fuel-belching tanker bursting through a brick wall. “I am proud of my ancestors, proud of our Great Victory [in the second world war], proud of our grandfathers who shed blood and came back with medals. There’s no force on Earth that can make me think differently.” For Kishkinov, the irony of delivering such a patriotic monologue against the backdrop of a Hollywood hit is no obstacle.

Kishkinov, whose wife and two children live elsewhere in Luhansk while he immerses himself in the club, takes us to what he calls “the museum” – part games room, part shrine. A billiards table is draped with wolfskins. One corner is dedicated to his celebrity friends, including photographs of crooner Grigory Leps, who was sanctioned by the US for suspected mafia ties. Orthodox icons and crucifixes plaster the walls, alongside portraits of Stalin and Ramzan Kadyrov, Putin’s puppet warlord in Chechnya. Elsewhere in the dark room, a sign reads, in Russian, “I will buy the skin of Obama.”

Denis Kuznetsov in his Night Wolves jacket, with an AK-47 and the rebels’ flag of Novorossiya. Photograph: Sebastien Rabas/Matter Out Of Place.

Who can join the Night Wolves, I ask Kishkinov. “Anyone can apply, anyone with the desire to join,” he says, adding pointedly: “Drug addicts can’t join. Neither can pederasts. [He uses the Russian homophobic slang for gay men.] Women can’t join, either: it’s a men’s club.”

Why not gay men? Kishkinov, whose star in the Night Wolves has risen alongside Russia’s hard rightward, homophobic turn, looks incredulous. “I don’t even know what to say. This is too obvious: God created us as men and women to sleep together. Gays are not normal.” Turning to religion, he continues: “We are Orthodox people, and if one loses his faith in the Wolves or in Orthodoxy, life has no sense. God is with us and God helps us.”

Kuznetsov would go even further. In a war often viewed in hyperbolic terms – the Ukrainians brand the enemy “terrorists”; Russian-backed forces claim to battle “neo-Nazis” – he employs a phrase more readily associated with militants waging jihad. “We’ve seen many miracles here. We’ve seen bombed churches where people survived,” he says. “This is a religious and spiritual war.”

***

When separatist tensions in the Donbass region erupted into open warfare in the spring of 2014, claiming more than 9,000 lives to date, the Night Wolves were among the pro-Russian fighters deployed to carve out breakaway “people’s republics”. Several members were killed and the US government later alleged close links between the club and Russian special forces. The Night Wolves had evolved from a tool for exerting soft power to something harder and more violent.

As the front line ossifies into a de facto border, the group has integrated with the rebels’ internal affairs ministry, retaining a paramilitary function and substantial arsenal. But it has also returned to its civic roots: staging patriotic events, campaigning against corruption, participating in urban renewal, delivering humanitarian aid – much to the adulation of the local population.

Vladimir Putin with the Night Wolves’ Alexander ‘The Surgeon’ Zaldostanov. Photograph: Alexey Druzhinin/AFP/Getty Images.

Putin’s brand of politics has created an environment in which such an organisation can thrive. His brash cult of the macho celebrity is the modern-day cult of Stalin. Here, in a political arena as manipulated as a daytime melodrama, Putin is at the top of the A-list. “This man has leadership,” Kuznetsov insists. “His politics are the best possible course for Russia.”

Stalin has enjoyed a renaissance, too, as the Kremlin harnesses Soviet nostalgia to reconnect with Russia’s superpower past. The Night Wolves’ reverence for the dictator is clear even before you step inside their base. A flag bearing Stalin’s face adorns the entrance gates, while three other banners show Jesus Christ, the tricolour of the Russian Federation and the LNR’s red star emblem.

On arrival in Luhansk, we visited the rebel regime’s ministry of information, a vast monolith housing a warren of corridors and sullen bureaucrats. The Soviet-style paranoia of an emergent autocracy was rife; an apparatchik took our local fixer aside in a hallway and hissed: “It would be wise to stop working with such western journalists and return home at the earliest opportunity.”

At the Night Wolves’ base in Luhansk, a portrait of Stalin shares a wall with a grenade. Photograph: Sebastien Rabas/Matter Out Of Place.

Later, our names came up during a televised cabinet meeting. The LNR’s increasingly authoritarian leader, Igor Plotnitsky, expressed clear suspicion about our work in his separatist statelet, prompting the rebels’ minister of information to intervene: “They are working for the Guardian. It’s just some online youth magazine.” We tried to shrug off both incidents as amusing quirks, but they would come back to haunt us.

We spend the following afternoon in the snug sentry hut of the Night Wolves’ base. Over cups of tea and bread smeared with salo (pork fat), Sergey “Mosquito” Komarov tells us how his life led to this moment. One of the most affable members of the chapter, he was born in a village outside Moscow and, as a teenager, served as a tankman during Russia’s brutal bid to crush Chechen resistance at the turn of the millennium. It is clear the experience caused Mosquito subtle but long-term psychological damage. Biking offered a kind of therapy.

“What have I gone through? A lot. It took me two years to get over it,” says Mosquito, now in his early 30s. “Riding a motorbike has always been something I love. Fill up the tank and ride – your head is free from everything. Driving 2,000km is better than a month of holidays.”

While running humanitarian aid to a frontline town in Ukraine last year, he met a local girl, Nadia, whose father had already left home to fight with the separatists. She later moved in with Mosquito at the base. “We didn’t choose the life we have,” says Nadia, 19, resting against him in the sentry post. “I don’t care to be somewhere else. My man is here.” Their rapport is touching, almost innocent – the sort of relationship born out of chance meetings amid the ravages of war.

Before our arrival, a two-month lull broke down as both sides re-engaged in trench warfare, nightly bombardments striking the outskirts of the separatist stronghold of Donetsk. The frontline near Luhansk is calmer, though the remnants of 2014’s conflagration appear everywhere: boarded-up shops, tarmac cratered by mortar fire, buildings demolished by airstrikes and artillery attacks. The most dramatic destruction lies several miles away at the airport. Clashes between pro-Kiev forces and separatist militias, including members of Luhansk’s Night Wolves, backed by the might of the Russian army, dealt the terminal near-total annihilation.

On a bright, windswept morning, Kishkinov shows us the devastation, navigating the massive craters that rupture the runway. One lone worker clambers over the rubble to collect an armful of bricks before walking down and dumping the debris on the ground, only to repeat the endless, empty exercise.

“Everything was destroyed,” Kishkinov says loudly, over the wind. “It was a big battle – a very big one. Everything here is rinsed with blood, just as in the Great Patriotic War. Souls inhabit this place. The city was under siege. When I speak about this, I have goosebumps. I wouldn’t even want an enemy to go through this.”

A wolf skin on a pool table in the Night Wolves’ base. Photograph: John Macdougall/AFP/Getty Images.

In the shadow of the ruined terminal, I press him on Russia’s involvement in the war, long denied by Putin until recently, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Surely he encountered Russian troops? Surely the blame for war cannot rest solely with Ukraine? “Russia is not concerned here,” Kishkinov snarls in heavy, expletive-strewn Russian. “Not once has Russia started war on her borders; Russia has never made war on another’s territory. We are always defending ourselves from enemies who want to take our land.”

We continue the final leg of the tour in silence as Kishkinov storms ahead. At his 4×4, he turns to the camera: “Greetings, Europe. I wish you one thing: that your people never experience what we did here. Live in peace and remember this saying: ‘A bad peace is better than a good war.’”

Rainclouds barrel across the sky and we depart. Like Sisyphus, the lone figure continues to toil at his impossible task, dismantling the ruined airport stone by stone.

***

The presence and influence of the Night Wolves in Luhansk underscores the bitter ethnic rift that runs through Ukraine. Many in the chapter are local men, yet align themselves with Moscow over Kiev, in spite of their common past and language.

Regardless of his militant creed, it is a divide that troubles Kuznetsov. “There was a moment when we were fighting last year,” he says. “As I approached some Ukrainian prisoners, they took their crosses, kissed them and prayed. And I knew they were saying the same prayers as I do. These were Orthodox men. Do I hate Ukrainians? No, I love them. But we have been set on each other.”

It was to be our final night at the base; we kept the camera rolling amid a fug of cigarette smoke while talking and trading ideas with the bikers in their sleeping quarters. Two hours before the start of military curfew, we received a tipoff that the authorities had deemed us no longer welcome and had issued an arrest warrant. Our fixer’s security and our reams of footage were at risk; we decided to hit the road as a matter of urgency.

We shook hands with Kuznetsov, bade a swift goodbye and headed to the gates. Minutes later in the dark December chill, we spotted one of the older, more grizzled bikers on sentry duty. In the 90s, Ivar had seen action with the Russian army throughout the restive Caucasus. Now, in his 50s, he had found himself embroiled in yet another separatist conflict on the frontiers of Russia.

The headlights of our van appeared as our fixer raced down the track to meet us outside the Night Wolves’ stronghold. Within an hour, he would be speeding towards the safety of the Russian border. I would bundle into a second car with my fellow film-maker, Sebastien, before navigating a series of rural backroads to avoid rebel checkpoints. We would grab a few hours’ sleep in a hostel near the frontline, leave before dawn and cross the conflict’s buffer zone into government-held Ukraine by lunchtime, our footage beyond the reach of any pro-Russia militias bent on confiscating it.

Before that, we had just enough time to say farewell. The city lay silent beneath a cloudless winter night. Ivar gave us a warm smile but declined to return our goodbyes. “I’ll just say, see you soon,” he responded quietly. “Since the war began, I’ve stopped saying goodbye to people.”

Originally posted in The Guardian newspaper, 2017.

Michael Ware did a fascinating documentary for the National Geographic channel, see more HERE

 

 

GOTLAND: Sweden’s Fortified Baltic Island

Gotland, Sweden’s largest island, is located in the Baltic sea between Sweden and Latvia, and represents the most strategically important defensive stronghold in the entire Baltic region. The Swedish government decided in March 2015 to begin reestablishing a permanent military presence on Gotland, starting with an initial 150 troop garrison, consisting primarily of elements from the Swedish Army. It has been reported that the bulk of this initial garrison will make up a new motorised rifle battalion, alternatively referred to in other reports as a “modular-structured rapid response Army battalion”. A later report claimed that plans were at an advanced stage for a support helicopter squadron and an Air Force “fast response Gripen jet squadron” to also be based on the island to support the new garrison and further reinforce the defences. Prior to the disbandment of the original garrison, there had been a continuous Swedish military presence on Gotland in one form or another, for nearly 200 years.

Map showing the strategic location of Gotland.
Map showing the strategic location of Gotland.

The original Gotland garrison, also known as the Visby Garrison, could trace its roots back to at least 1811. That was the year the Gotland National Conscription was formed to strengthen the islands defences after the Russians had briefly occupied the island two years before. Although, the “new” garrison was just the latest in a long line of Swedish military forces protecting the island, and consequently the rest of Sweden, continuously since the 1640s. The exception being the 23 days when Russia occupied the island during the Finnish War (1808–1809), after Gotland had been left undefended due to errors in overall Swedish strategy early in the war.

In 1887, a new country wide conscription system replaced a number of previous regional recruitment and reserve systems, including the Gotlands nationalbeväring (the Gotland National Recruitment) The existing regiment defending Gotland under that system was reorganized into two new regiments, the Gotland Infantry Regiment and the Gotland Artillery Regiment. Those two units would go on to provide the bulk of the garrison forces both directly and indirectly, throughout the various crisis that threatened to overtake Sweden (including two World Wars and the Cold War), for most of the next two centuries right up to the final dissolution of the garrison in 2005.

From 1811 to 1873, the commander of military forces on Gotland (at that time, effectively a military district in its own right) also served as the governor of the island and during the existence of the Gotland National Conscription (1811–1892) the commander was by default the senior officer of that regiment. Under the military reorganisation of 1892, the then commander and his successors (up until 1937) automatically became the senior officer of the Gotlands infanteriregemente that succeeded the Gotlands nationalbeväring. He remained in charge of army troops on the island, even though Gotland was no longer the center of a military district under the new 5 area (district) system which lasted up to shortly before World War II.

During World War II, Gotland was part of both the VII Military area [area=army district] (from 1942) and the Gotland Naval District, both of which the senior military officer on the island acted as head of. Army and air force units assigned to Gotland came under the former, while naval, marine, and coast artillery units based on/out of Gotland came under the jurisdiction of the latter. With a change in the Naval Districts (see naval section below) in 1957, the commanding officer lost his maritime responsibilities, but regained them in the 1966 military reorganisation that created the Gotland Military Command (the Gotlands militärkommando), or MKG, and which changed the VII. Military area into the new expanded Eastern Military District or Milo Ö (also known as Milo Z) which was now headquartered out of Södermanland.

gotland-bunker
World War II era Kulsprutebunker (Machine gun bunker) located near Brucebo, Gotland County.

This command structure continued relatively unchanged until the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, when Milo Ö was stood down in 1991. The MKG remained operational into 2000, albeit increasingly downgraded in importance despite concerns,with a corresponding steady reduction in the units and capabilities under the MKG. In the now discredited Swedish Defence reform of that year, the MKG was replaced with the, in theory, autonomous Gotlands Military District (the Gotlands militärdistrikt) or MDG, which despite its name, only had control over the island itself (that control was also severely constrained by the existence of the, later infamous, post-Cold War Swedish Fortifications Agency). In practise this meant the MDG was responsible for overseeing the Army garrison units remaining on the island, along with coordinating with any reserve and civil defense elements still in place. There were, and as of 2015  still are, no maritime or coastal defense units remaining on the island, with the exception of a couple of naval units that did not come under the new MDG and which in any case were withdrawn in 2004. The MDG was stood down in December 2004, with the remaining garrison forces being abolished in 2005.

Alongside the Swedish Army, the Swedish Navy have played a major role in the garrisoning of the island over the last two centuries; not only helping to defend the island but also using it as a well placed base to defend Sweden and its interests in the Baltic Sea. Prior to (from 1931) and during World War II, Gotland was the headquarters of the Gotland Naval District. In 1957, during the Cold War, Gotland became part of the (now defunct) Sound Naval District, headquartered at the Muskö naval base. The Sound Naval District itself came under the new joint Eastern Military District in 1966, with operational control of naval units (including coastal defense forces) in the area of the former Gotland Naval District being returned to the commanding officer of the new MKG centered on Gotland.

In the early part of the Cold War (late 1940s to late 1950s), elements of one of the three major task forces that then made up the navy’s front line strength, including cruisers and destroyers, were based out of Gotland’s various anchorages and harbours. This was in addition to locally based elements of the Coastal Artillery’s significant support fleet, which included coastal minelayers, inshore minesweepers, and patrol craft. However, in 1958, a doctrinal switch from heavier surface combatants to smaller ASW combatants (increasingly corvette sized and smaller) and Fast Attack Craft began with most of the former being retired without replacement. The operations of these new combatants were still coordinated with submarines though, which, along with the fact that some major combatants weren’t immediately retired (e.g. the two Halland-class destroyers), ironically helped to disguise the problems with relying so heavily on light combatants in the short term. In the late 1960s, this shift towards lighter types accelerated, though more for political and economic reasons than military.

For Gotland, this meant that the naval units based out of the island by the 1970s were mostly light combatants such as FACs with relatively short range, though there were still a few larger corvettes mixed in. Submarines were generally not based out of Gotland at this point, being housed in purpose built bases such as Muskö, though they still made port visits.

By the early 1980s, flaws with the “FAC based doctrine” had become impossible to ignore, with incidents such as the so-called Whiskey on the rocks confrontation proving that the Swedish Navy had become outgunned in the Anti-surface warfare arena, and that even in areas where it should have had a local advantage in such as Anti-Submarine Warfare it was materially outmatched by potential aggressors, with intruding submarines able to breach Swedish waters almost at will.

In the short term, the navy and government attempted to address these issues with various emergency measures and programs, such as the hasty revamping of the Ytattack-81 (the Surface combatant-81) project into what would become the Stockholm corvette program. Another hastily introduced program was the construction of four new heavy coastal missile batteries based around the Rb-15 missile, one of which was placed on Gotland. Delivery and installation of the systems was to take place from 1987 to 1992. Existing installations such as coastal gun batteries and mine stations were continuously upgraded. In the longer term, among the new programs that were started in the late 1980s were two to provide replacements for various FAC and corvette classes; the Ytstridsfartyg Mindre (the Surface Combatant Small) and the Ytstridsfartyg Större (the Surface Combatant Large) programs. In the post-Cold War cutbacks of the early 1990s, those two programs were merged into a single program, the YS2000 (the Surface Combatant 2000) program, that later became the Visby-class stealth corvette. Originally, it was planned to have a class of 10 in two variants; the ASuW/Anti-Air ‘Series II’ and a lower cost ASW dedicated ‘Series I’. Finally, only four Series Is and a single Series II were built in the 2000s (with a second Series II being cancelled), and even those were not fully manned or equipped as part of further economy measures to support other non-defence areas. As a result of this reduction in class size being decided on in the late 1990s, plans for some of the Visby-class corvettes to be based out of Gotland were scrapped. This was against a background of severe cutbacks for the navy at that time, which would continue into the 2010s. Those cutbacks apparently also led to the cancellation, just prior to the disbanding of all coastal defence units on Gotland, of plans to install elements of the KAFUS coastal/underwater surveillance network in and around the island.

In an echo of events from over 60 years earlier, the navy would lose its Marinflyget in 1998, with its helicopter units being absorbed by the air force’s new ‘joint’ Helikopterflottiljen (Helicopter Wing) (the Army also losing its helicopters to this new wing). The air force then promptly retired the former navy ASW helicopters without any immediate replacement.

Boeing-Vertol 107/Kawasaki KV-107 - HKP 4A/B ASW Helicopter.
Boeing-Vertol 107/Kawasaki KV-107 – HKP 4A/B ASW Helicopter.

The resulting lack of ASW helicopters, along with the operationally incomplete state of the Visby-class corvettes, were issues that would become apparent just under a decade and a half later, during the ‘October 2014 Submarine incident’ when the military made a prolonged search without any public results, for alleged underwater activity.

Swedish Air Force elements have operated from the island since the late 1920s. The Swedish Air Force was created by the amalgamation of the air arms of both the army and the navy in 1926. The formation of the new air force would leave the navy without an air branch until it was reestablished in the late 1950s with the navy’s first helicopters. Swedish Naval aviation had already established a major presence on the island in the late 1910s, so the air force was able to take over or share some facilities with the navy, as well as building ones of its own, such as the Bunge and Roma airfields in the late 1930s. By the outbreak of World War II, the Flygvapnet was well established on Gotland. The air force’s general wartime strategy in regards to Gotland was primarily based around bombers, in particular 20 B-17s based at Bunge airfield and seaplane torpedo bombers out of Fårösund. The intention was to use them against enemy ships in the support of the navy and coastal defence units (including both gun batteries and minefields), that were the islands first line of defence against an invasion. The air force also had fighters and reconnaissance aircraft based on the island to further support the island’s defence, the latter also including seaplanes.

Even into the Jet Age, and the Cold War, the Swedish Air Force insisted on remaining being able to operate from semi-prepared airstrips and dispersed emergency airfields, which influenced its equipment development and procurement choices greatly along with the development of tactics and strategies. This allowed the air force major flexibility in its role of defending Gotland and the rest of Sweden against intruders. In some respects, this flexibility made the air force more capable than most NATO member air-forces who, especially before the advent of such aircraft as the Harrier and the A-10, were arguably over reliant on permanent airbases and long concrete runways, unlike their Soviet foes, who put in at least as much effort as Sweden into being able to disperse and operate their tactical aircraft from semi-prepared airstrips and other temporary or semi-permanent locations, including those based around specially strengthened stretches of road.

For Gotland, this meant the air force was not only able to operate out of Visby Airport (especially after its BAS-60 upgrade in 1968) and its existing airfields such as Bunge and Roma, but also from semi-prepared sites such as the Visby 1 and Visby 2 highway strips, which were officially classified as dispersed emergency (wartime) airfields as per Sweden’s general overall Cold War doctrine.

Apart from the threat of direct Soviet aggression against Gotland and the rest of Sweden, another potential wartime problem was to increasingly weigh on the minds of both the island’s defenders and Sweden’s politicians: cruise missile transits. In the event of an all out war, the airspace of neutral Sweden was seen by both NATO and Warsaw Pact planners as a possible handy shortcut for the flight paths of cruise missiles that both sides were developing, and in the case of the United States had already deployed, during the 1980s. The airspace in and around Gotland was one of the areas of Sweden seen as especially vulnerable to transit by cruise missiles en-route to their targets. A particular worry in Sweden in the early 1980s was that the US would program some of their new nuclear armed cruise missiles to fly through Swedish airspace on their way to targets in the Soviet Union. This was seen as a violation of the country’s neutrality, so Sweden officially stated that it would be obliged to shoot down any such missiles that were fired over Swedish territory in wartime. In light of this policy a number of major anti-cruise missile exercises were held by Sweden during the 1980s, at least one of which was held in and around the island. As the decade went on, fears grew that the Soviet Union would be at least just as likely to violate Sweden’s neutrality in this manner; such fears regarding the two superpowers were only partially eased by the advent of the (defunct as of 2014) INF Treaty.

Late 1980s plans to reinforce the air cover over Gotland, including one for the reactivation and deployment to the island of an additional J-35 Draken squadron to take place in the early 1990s, were to be overtaken by world events such as the Revolutions of 1989 and the Soviet dissolution.

After the end of the Cold War, the air force’s presence on Gotland had rapidly diminished to practically nothing by 1992, with the final withdrawal of deployed elements of the F13 Wing including a Saab 37 Viggen fighter detachment from Visby Airport. This was a direct result of the initial cutbacks by Swedish politicians seeking the peace dividend in order to, among other things, to fund increasingly costly social programs in an economic downturn (in part caused by the fall of the Soviet Union). Due to this, the Bunge airfield was closed in 1991. The Roma airfield had been deactivated in 1988. In the intervening years, the air force has been absent from Gotland, with only the occasional transport or support aircraft (such as ASC 890 Airborne early warning and control) making visits to Visby Airport as part of an exercise or similar.

In the 2010s, the relatively dilapidated state of the county’s defences had to be addressed by the Swedish government, with a newly resurgent Russia stepping up probes of Sweden’s defences alongside those of her neighbours with both air and sea incursions. The most noted of these to date occurred in March 2013, when two Russian Tupolev Tu-22M nuclear capable bombers, escorted by four Sukhoi Su-27, were able to enter Swedish controlled airspace unimpeded and simulate strikes against targets in and around Stockholm with the Swedish Air Force unable to effectively respond at any time during the incident. During their operation, the Russian aircraft skirted around Gotland. In the aftermath of this highly controversial failure to avert the intruders, the air force for the first time in many years deployed a detachment of four Saab JAS-39 Gripen fighters to Visby Airport. This short lived deployment was followed by another smaller one the following year, consisting of two Gripens. However, because of their strictly limited nature, these deployments were seen by observers as unsuccessful PR exercises rather than a coherent response. By the close of 2014, Swedish public confidence in the government’s ability to defend the country had dropped to 20% or lower, depending on the poll. This was a continuation of a general trend that could be traced back to even before the Stockholm incident, but which had rapidly worsened in its aftermath.

JAS-39 Gripen at Visby Airport.
JAS-39 Gripen at Visby Airport.

In late March 2015, it was reported that plans were at an advanced stage for a support helicopter squadron and a “fast response Gripen jet squadron” to be based on Gotland in order to support the new garrison and further reinforce the island’s defences.

In April 2015, a decision was made to reestablish troops permanently on Gotland within three years. The recruitment started in September 2015. The Battlegroup Gotland is to consist of 300 personnel, half of which are soldiers and half a permanent staff. As of 2016, the main issue of where to house the battle group was still unresolved. The barracks in Visby formerly owned and used by Gotland Regiment were evacuated and sold to a private company in 2006. Since 2006, the property is used by the Gotland County Administration and several private companies.

The re-militarization of Gotland once again reopened the debate about a possible threat to Sweden from Russia and Sweden’s accession to NATO.

The Battlegroup Gotland (18th Battlegroup) will fall under administrative control of the Skaraborg Regiment, which will also train the troops destined for Gotland. The battlegroup will be based at the Tofta firing range near Visby and will field 301 men.

18th Battlegroup (18. Stridsgruppen):

  • 180th Staff Company “Havdhem”
  • 181st Armored Infantry Company “Roma” with 12x Strf 9040B infantry fighting vehicles, 1x Bgbv 90 armored recovery vehicle and 1x Bandvagn 309 tracked ambulance vehicle
  • 183rd Tank Company “Lärbro” with 11x Stridsvagn 122 main battle tanks, 1x Epbv 90 forward observation vehicle, 1x Bgbv 120 armored recovery vehicle, 1x Strf 9040B infantry fighting vehicle and 1x Bandvagn 309 tracked ambulance vehicle
  • 185th Logistic Company “Garde”

In the meantime, before the 18th Battlegroup is ready for deployment on Gotland (originally scheduled to begin in 2018), it was hoped that a combination of an increase in training rotations by mainland based regular army units to the Tofta range, combined with some rather public exercises around the island by the Särskilda operationsgruppen since late 2015, would be enough to discourage any Russian adventurism.

Stridsvagn 122/Leopard 2 MBT
Stridsvagn 122/Leopard 2 MBT

However by Autumn 2016, the regional situation was considered to have deteriorated even further. So much so that following representations from the current Supreme Commander Micael Bydén, the Swedish Government reluctantly agreed that Gotland’s defences would have to be reestablished on a much shorter timescale than previously mooted (despite ongoing major divisions within the current ruling parties with regards as to the strategy & resources required to defend Sweden). To this end, the Supreme Commander announced on the 14th of September 2016 that not only would the deployment of the 18th Battlegroup to Gotland would be moved up to the first half of 2017, but also a rifle battalion from the Skaraborg Regiment which was then in the middle of a training rotation at Tofta, would now be held in place on Gotland as a interim garrison. A few Giraffe 40s normally on the strength of the Luftvärnsregementet (Lv 6) are to be attached to the battalion to provide some early warning capability. Despite this though, neither air defence vehicles such as the Luftvärnskanonvagn (lvkv) 9040, nor MANPADS have been attached to the garrison battalion to take advantage of this local radar coverage.

The plan is to within a few months relieve the battalion with another battalion or a equivalent formation, which will then remain in place until the 18th Battlegroup is ready to take up it’s posting.

Reference

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eduard 1/48 Focke-Wulf FW 190A-8 Review

 

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Kit: Eduard 8173 1/48 FW 190A-8 Profipack edition

Price: £22.25 available from Hannants UK.

Decals: 5 Options.

Reviewer: Richard Reynolds.

Notes: Photo-etch and canopy mask included in the kit.

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History

The Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Würger (English: Shrike) was a German single-seat, single-engine fighter aircraft designed by Kurt Tank in the late 1930s and widely used during World War II. Powered by a radial engine in most versions, the Fw 190 had ample power and was able to lift larger loads than its well-known counterpart, the Messerschmitt Bf 109. The Fw 190 was used by the Luftwaffe in a wide variety of roles, including day fighter, fighter-bomber, ground-attack aircraft and, to a lesser degree, night fighter.

When the Fw 190 started flying operationally over France in August 1941, it quickly proved itself to be superior in all but turn radius to the Royal Air Force‘s main front-line fighter, the Spitfire Mk. V, especially at low and medium altitudes. The 190 maintained superiority over Allied fighters until the introduction of the improved Spitfire Mk. IX in July 1942, and the Lavochkin La-5 and Yak 7 on the Russian Front in 1943, which restored qualitative parity. The Fw 190 made its air combat debut on the Eastern Front in November/December 1942; though Soviet pilots considered the Bf 109 the greater threat, the Fw 190 made a significant impact. The fighter and its pilots proved just as capable as the Bf 109 in aerial combat, and in the opinion of German pilots who flew both, provided increased firepower and manoeuvrability at low to medium altitude.

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The subject of this Eduard kit review, FW 190 A-8 ‘Blue 8 of Unteroffizier Dietrich, 12 Staffel IV./J.G. 5 was based at Herdla, Norway in April 1945. IV./JG 5 and 14./JG 5 were transferred to the Arctic Front from Southern Norway in August 1944. JG 5 or Jagdgeschwader 5 ‘Eismeer’ was a LuftwaffefighterWing. As the name Eismeer (Ice Sea) implies, it was created to operate in the far North of Europe, namely Norway, Scandinavia and northern parts of Finland, all near the Arctic Ocean. Just over two dozen fighter aircraft that once served with JG 5 during the war still survive to the present day, more than from any other combat unit in the Axis air forces of World War II.

The Gruppe joined the first of several large air battles commencing on October 9, opposing the final Soviet offensive against Petsamo. Jagdgeschwader 5 was based at Petsamo Loustari airfield during the offensive. After the battle, III. and IV./JG 5 had claimed 85 Soviet aircraft shot down (among them the 3,000th victory for JG 5) against the loss of only one pilot killed.

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After the armistice between the Soviet Union and Finland on 4 September 1944, the Petsamo region (though still largely occupied by the Germans) again became part of Russia, and the Finnish government agreed to remove the remaining German forces from its territory by 15 September (leading to the Lapland War). During the retreat of the German 20th Mountain Army, called Operation Birke, the decision was made by the German Armed Forces Command to withdraw completely from northern Norway and Finland in Operation Nordlicht. During the preparations for this operation, the Russians went over to the offensive on the Karelian Front.

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The Soviets captured Petsamo on 15 October, but due to supply problems, had to halt the offensive for three days. For the rest of the campaign the Soviets advanced after the withdrawing Germans along the coast of Norway, with the Soviets trying to block and cut off German units during their retreat. But because of constant supply shortcomings and German delaying efforts, the Soviets were not able to achieve success and the Germans escaped with the bulk of their forces intact. The Germans abandoned Kirkenes on 25 October and finally on 29 October Soviet Commander Meretskov halted all operations except reconnaissance.

The Soviet offensive ended with a victory for the Red Army, however the Wehrmacht20th Mountain Army under the command of General Lothar Rendulic, successfully performed an orderly retreat, covered by Jagdgeschwader 5, with the bulk of their forces intact just like they were against Finnish forces during their retreat through Lapland carried out at the same time. The Soviet failure to inflict clear defeat on the withdrawing Germans was largely due to the supply issues caused by efficient German destruction of road connections in the area. With often the only road available being out of service due damage and mines. Both supplies and heavy equipment, like artillery, could not be transported to front lines in sufficient quantities while lighter equipped forces were at disadvantage against heavily armed German units.

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Unteroffizier Wolfgang Dietrich and IV./JG 5 returned to Herdla, Norway, after the German defeat by the Soviet Union in the Petsamo-Kirkenes offensive. Dietrich’s aircraft, Focke-Wulf FW 190A-8, ‘Blue 8’ with the name ‘Erika’ below the cockpit, was one of several aircraft abandoned at Herdla in the spring of 1945. IV./JG 5 took part in the defence of the Northern sector of occupied Europe, but was not standardised within the Defence of the Reich system.

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The Kit

Before I begin, I must warn you. There is a great deal of talk on the web about Eduard’s series of Focke-Wulf kits in 1/48 scale. The consensus seems to be that these kits are over-engineered and difficult to build. I have wanted to build an Eduard FW 190A-8 for some time, when the kit arrived in the post, it was with trepidation and excitement that I lifted the lid and looked into a tray packed full of beautifully crafted parts, moulded in Eduard’s signature grey/green plastic.

There are six sprue frames of injection moulded parts, one frame of clear parts, a canopy and wheel mask and a photo-etch set. Additionally, Eduard supplies a 16 page instruction manual printed on high quality glossy paper with easy to follow step-by-step stages in ‘exploded-view’ format and a two-sided A4 sheet with stencil data on one side and masking instructions on the other.

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Referring to my note of caution. I have made many kits over the years. This has by far been the most difficult kit that I have ever built. Luckily, a colleague was on hand to point out the pit-falls that exist in the construction process of this kit. Before you begin, I recommend that you get a red felt pen, fluorescent highlighter and black biro and go through the instruction sheet, highlighting the areas that you must not paint before you glue the parts together. This, seemed almost absurd to me, however, if you paint the engine, it will not fit inside of the cowling. Here is what I did with the help of my colleague:

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Construction

The parts were washed in a warm soapy solution to remove the mould release. Do not prime or undercoat any of the parts. The first part of the construction phase should be completed as usual. This is the completion of all of the cockpit components on page 3. All of the cockpit components can be primed and then painted in Humbrol Matt 67 dark grey and completed as per the picture of page 3 of the instruction booklet detailed below.

Eduard instruction booklet: Page 3.
Eduard instruction booklet: Page 3.

Page 4 begins with the construction of the forward compartment bulkhead. Paint the side facing the cockpit but not the side facing towards the engine. In the picture below you can see that in the top section of the page, there are three areas highlighted in green. Some parts (left of page) are not to be used, the rest are to be cut off with side-cutters. The gun holding clips (centre of page) and rear of the cowling cannon (right of page) were cut away. Place the gun barrels to one side to insert into the cowling later.

At the foot of the page, the green highlighted forward fuselage section must not be painted. However, the cockpit side walls should be painted, in this case in Humbrol Matt 67 dark grey.The tailwheel can be assembled and painted. Once the cockpit, bulkhead and tailwheel are complete, the fuselage can be glued together, taped and left overnight to dry.

Eduard instruction booklet: Page 4.
Eduard instruction booklet: Page 4.

The wings and wheel-wells on page 5 can be constructed as per the instructions. As you can see from the picture below, they too must not be painted. The lower wing contains drill points for you to drill holes depending on the version of the FW 190A-8 that you are building; i.e. a jabo (Fighter-Bomber), A-8 with under-wing rockets or a long-range fighter with centreline fuel-tank. Page 6 continues the theme of the wing build. I put a big red ‘X’ in the lower-left corner to remind myself that I must not use part J3, as I wanted the cannon hatches closed. Again, nothing is to be painted on page 6.

Eduard instruction booklet: Page 5.
Eduard instruction booklet: Page 5.
Eduard instruction booklet: Page 6.
Eduard instruction booklet: Page 6.

On page 7, the upper and lower halves of the wings are glued together, taped and left overnight to dry. Once dry, I fitted the fuselage, one-piece wing section and two cannon hatches in the wing-roots simultaneously. This was done because the cannon hatches have a tricky curve with ‘tongue and groove’ arrangement which makes fitting them impossible after the fuselage and wings have been glued together.

Eduard instruction booklet: Page 7.
Eduard instruction booklet: Page 7.

The engine is constructed on page 8. Follow the instructions but I recommend that you do not paint anything. On page 9, the engine support brackets are fitted; these are a little flimsy and take some patience. I used slow-setting glue in order to position the brackets to the correct alignment. Whilst this was drying, I glued cowling parts H4, H13, H25 and K25 together. When the cowling was dry, I sprayed the interior with grey primer from a rattlecan and sprayed the very front of the engine with primer, essentially the area that would be seen with the naked eye. Both the front of the engine and the cowling interior were then airbrushed with Humbrol 33 Matt black. There was a great deal of careful dry-fitting throughout this entire process and the fit is tight.

As I had chosen not to model the aircraft with the cowling panels removed, the exhausts were not added to the engine but the exhaust stubs were added later in the build.

Eduard instruction booklet: Page 9.
Eduard instruction booklet: Page 9.

 

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Pages 10 and 11 are a straight forward ‘paint and build’. These sections include; fitting the horizontal and vertical tail-surfaces, building and fitting the undercarriage main-wheels, fitting (in the case of my kit) the fuel tank, and the gun barrels for the20 mm MG 151/20 E cannon fitted to the mid-wing mounts. The pitot tube and D/F loop were also added at this point.

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Camouflage & Markings

Markings are provided for 6 aircraft:

  • E-Black ‘10’, W.Nr. 380352, I./JG 11 Darmstadt, Germany, Spring 1945.
  • Blue ‘13’, Maj. Walter Dahl, Stab/ JG 300, Jüterborg, Germany, December 1944.
  • White ‘2’, Uffz. Julius Händel, IV./JG 54, Poland, August/September, 1944.
  • Blue ‘8’, ‘Erika’, IV./JG 5, Herdla, Norway, Spring, 1945.
  • White ‘6’, Lt. Gustav Salffner, 7./JG 300, Lobnitz, Germany, March, 1945.

I chose to model Blue ‘8’, ‘Erika’, IV./JG 5, Herdla, Norway, Spring, 1945 as this aircraft had taken part in the German retreat from Petsamo in Northern Finland to Herdla in Norway.

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Once the canopy had been masked, fitted and the engine masked, the entire airframe was sprayed with grey auto-primer from a rattlecan. The next stage involved airbrushing the insides of the wheel-bays, undercarriage doors and undercarriage legs with Humbrol Matt 240, RLM 02. These areas were then masked before the undersides, fuselage sides and tail were airbrushed with Matt 247, RLM 76. The airframe was then set to one side whilst the propeller was painted with Humbrol Matt 241 Schwartzgrün. The spinner was airbrushed white and once dry, the rear of the spinner and front of the cowling was airbrushed with Humbrol Matt 89 blue.

The main-wheels and tail wheel hub was painted with Humbrol Matt 67 dark grey and the wheels with Tamiya XF-85 Rubber Black.

 

Eduard Box Art
Eduard Box Art

 

 

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The entire aircraft underside was masked and the upper-surfaces were airbrushed with Humbrol Matt 246, RLM 75. After this had dried, the camouflage de-markation areas were masked off and given three coats of thinned Humbrol Matt 245, RLM 74. The fuselage sides and tail were then given a ‘mottle’ camouflage, which was a combination of the upper-surface colours; RLM 74 and 75.

After completing the camouflage scheme, the decals were applied. I began by applying the stencil data with micro-sol and micro-set decal setting solution. These were left overnight to set, the next day the Balkenkreuz were applied to the wings and fuselage, as were the swastikas and Blue ‘8s’ on the fuselage sides. The JG 5 ‘Eismeer’ shield appeared on the port-side of this aircraft only.

 

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Final Construction

The canopy mask was removed and the aerial wires were added, propeller and spinner fixed into place and fuel tank assembly fitted. The airframe was then given two coats of Xtracrylix Flat Varnish to seal in the decals, a heavily thinned wash of Windsor & Newton Ivory Black was ‘washed’ over the FW 190A-8 and carefully wiped down with a soft cloth, leaving the black thinners in the recessed panel lines. Finally, the areas most heavily used by the pilot and ground crew were highlighted using a Prismacolor Verithin Metallic Pencil.

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Conclusion

This aircraft was challenging. However, I was extremely pleased with the result. Rarely do you see such detail in aircraft under 1/32 scale. Perhaps Eduard have over-engineered this aircraft, nevertheless, with thought and patience it makes a fine addition to the collection. Highly recommended.

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GALLERY

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References

Zvezda 1/48 Lavochkin La-5 Soviet Fighter REVIEW

Top of Article

Kit: Zvezda No4803 1/48 Lavochkin La-5

Price: £17.99 available from Hannants UK.

Decals: 3 Options.

Reviewer: Richard Reynolds.

Notes: Eduard EDXE330 1/48 Lavochkin La-5 canopy mask (designed to be used with Zvezda kits) used.

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History

The Lavochkin La-5 (Лавочкин Ла-5) was a Sovietfighter aircraft of World War II. It was a development and refinement of the LaGG-3 and was one of the Soviet Air Force‘s most capable types of warplane.

The La-5’s heritage began even before the outbreak of war, with the LaGG-1, a promising yet underpowered aircraft – turning a full circle, for example, took 20 seconds. The LaGG-3 was a modification of that design that attempted to correct this by both lightening the airframe and fitting a more powerful engine. Nevertheless, this was not enough, and the lack of power remained a significant problem.

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In early 1942, two of the LaGG-1 and -3’s designers, Semyon Lavochkin and Vladimir Gorbunov, attempted to correct this deficiency by experimentally fitting a LaGG-3 with the more powerful Shvetsov ASh-82radial engine. Since the LaGG-3 was powered by an inline engine, they accomplished this by grafting on the nose section of a Sukhoi Su-2 (which used this engine). By now, the shortcomings of the LaGG-3 had caused Lavochkin to fall out of Joseph Stalin‘s favour, and factories previously assigned to LaGG-3 construction had been turned over to building the rival Yakovlev Yak-1 and Yak-7. The design work required to adapt the LaGG-3 to the new engine and still maintain the aircraft’s balance was undertaken by Lavochkin in a small hut beside an airfield over the winter of 1941-1942, all completely unofficially.

When the prototype took flight in March, the result was extremely pleasing – the fighter finally had a powerplant that allowed it to perform as well in the air as it had been supposed to on paper. After flying, the LaGG-5, Air Force test pilots declared it superior to the Yak-7, and intensive flight tests began in April. After only a few weeks, the design was modified further, cutting down the rear fuselage to give the pilot better visibility.

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By July, Stalin ordered maximum-rate production of the aircraft, now simply known as the La-5 and the conversion of any incomplete LaGG-3 airframes to the new configuration. The prototype was put in mass production almost immediately in factories located in Moscow and in the Yaroslav region. While still inferior to the best German fighters at high altitudes, the La-5 proved to be every bit their match closer to the ground. With most of the air combat over the Eastern Front taking place at altitudes of under 5,000 m (16,404 ft), the La-5 was very much in its element. Its rate of roll was excellent.

Further refinement of the aircraft involved a fuel-injected engine, further lightening of the aircraft, and fixed slats to improve all-round performance. This was designated the La-5FN and would become the definitive version of the aircraft. A full circle turn took 18–19 seconds. Altogether, 9,920 La-5s of all variants were built, including a number of dedicated trainer versions, designated La-5UTI. Several La-5s had three Berezin B-20 cannon installed in the nose capable of a salvo of 3.4 kg/s rounds. Further refinements of the aircraft would lead to the Lavochkin La-7.

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A number of La-5s continued in the service of Eastern Bloc nations after the end of the war, including Czechoslovakia.

In the summer of 1943, a brand-new La-5 made a forced landing on a German airfield providing the Luftwaffe with an opportunity to test-fly the newest Soviet fighter. Test pilot Hans-Werner Lerche wrote a detailed report of his experience. He particularly noted that the La-5FN excelled at altitudes below 3,000 m (9,843 ft) but suffered from short range and flight time of only 40 minutes at cruise engine power. All of the engine controls (throttle, mixture, propeller pitch, radiator and cowl flaps, and supercharger gearbox) had separate levers which served to distract the pilot during combat to make constant adjustments or risk suboptimal performance. For example, rapid acceleration required moving no less than six levers. In contrast, contemporary German aircraft, especially the BMW 801 radial-engined variants of the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 front line fighter, had largely automatic engine controls with the pilot operating a single lever and electromechanical devices, like the Kommandogerät pioneering engine computer on the radial-engined Fw 190s, making the appropriate adjustments. Due to airflow limitations, the engine boost system (Forsazh) could not be used above 2,000 m (6,562 ft). Stability in all axes was generally good. The authority of the ailerons was deemed exceptional but the rudder was insufficiently powerful at lower speeds. At speeds in excess of 600 km/h (370 mph), the forces on control surfaces became excessive. Horizontal turn time at 1,000 m (3,281 ft) and maximum engine power was 25 seconds.

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In comparison with Luftwaffe fighters, the La-5FN was found to have a comparable top speed and acceleration at low altitude. In comparison with the Bf 109 the La-5FN possessed a slightly higher roll rate; however the Bf-109 was slightly faster and had the advantages of a smaller turn radius and higher rate of climb. In comparison with the Fw 190A-8 the La-5FN had a slightly better climb rate and smaller turn radius, however the Fw-190A-8 was faster at all altitudes and had significantly better dive performance. As a result Lerche’s recommendations for Fw190 pilots were to attempt to draw the La-5FN to higher altitudes, to escape attacks in a dive followed by a high-speed shallow climb, and to avoid prolonged turning engagements. Utilizing MW 50 both German fighters had superior performance at all altitudes.

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The La-5 had its defects. Perhaps the most serious being the thermal isolation of the engine, lack of ventilation in the cockpit, and a canopy that was impossible to open at speeds over 350 km/h. To make things worse, exhaust gas often entered in the cockpit due to poor insulation of the engine compartment. Consequently, pilots ignored orders and frequently flew with their canopies open.

In general, Soviet pilots appreciated the La-5 as an effective fighter. “That was an excellent fighter with two cannons and a powerful air-cooled engine”, recalled pilot Viktor M. Sinaisky. “The first La-5s from the Tbilisi factory were slightly inferior, while the last ones from the Gorki plant, which came to us from Ivanovo, were perfect. At first we received regular La-5s, but then we got new ones containing the ASh-82FN engine with direct injection of fuel into the cylinders. It was perfect. Everyone was in love with the La-5. It was easy to maintain too.” Nevertheless La-5 losses were high, the highest of all fighters in service in USSR, not considering those of the Yak-1. In 1941-45, VVS KA lost 2,591 La-5s, 73 in 1942, 1,460 in 1943, 825 the following year and 233 in 1945.

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Perhaps the most famous pilot to fly the La-5 was Marshal of Aviation Ivan Nykytovych Kozhedub known as the Allied ‘Ace of Aces’. He was born on June 8th 1920 and died August 8th 1991 and was a Soviet military aviator and a World War II fighter ace. Kozhedub took part in the Korean War as a commander of the 324th Fighter Air Division. He is credited with 64 +2 (P-51) individual air victories, most of them flying the Lavochkin La-5. He is one of the few pilots to have shot down a Messerschmitt Me 262 jet. He was made a Hero of the Soviet Union on three occasions (4 February 1944; 19 August 1944; 18 August 1945).

Fighter Ace Ivan Kozhedub
Fighter Ace Ivan Kozhedub

After his first military flight on 26 March 1943, he operated on the Voronezh Front and, in July over the Kursk battlefields. His first kill was a Junkers Ju 87 Stuka shot down over Pokrova on 6 July 1943. By 16 August he had claimed eight air victories. He was promoted to Mladshii Leitenant (Junior Lieutenant). Then his unit moved towards Kharkiv. At this time he usually flew escort for Petlyakov Pe-2 twin-engine bombers. During World War II, he then served as a fighter pilot in several areas (Steppe Front, 2nd Ukrainian Front, and 1st Belorussian Front) and at different ranks, starting from senior airman up to the deputy commander of the air regiment. He claimed his 61st and 62nd victories, his final claims, over Berlin on 16 April 1945.

Kozhedub holds the record for the highest number of confirmed air combat victories of any Soviet or Allied pilot (effectively the Allied “Ace of Aces”) during World War II. He is regarded as the best Soviet flying ace of the war, and is associated with flying the La-5. He was also reputed to have a natural gift for ‘deflection shooting’, i.e. the rare ability to hit targets from very oblique angles.

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Kozhedub’s World War II record consists of:

  • 330 combat missions
  • 120 aerial engagements
  • 62 enemy aircraft shot down, including one Me 262 jet fighter (possibly Uffz Kurt Lange of 1./KG(J)54.).

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The Kit

Zvezda’s 1/48 La-5 kit comes in a 30 x 20 cm (12 x 8 inch) box, The box art is actually a false lid – it lifts off to reveal a corrugated cardboard box with a hinged lid that closes tightly to create a strong little container.  It looks a bit industrial, but this is a box that’s unlikely to get crushed in the post or mail.

The kit contents consist of 4 sprue frames, 3 in injection moulded grey plastic and one frame contains the clear parts. All of the grey plastic parts are finely moulded, with precise but restrained panel line and where appropriate rivet detail.  The control surfaces are nicely done, with sharp trailing edges and separate ailerons. There is no flash, no blemishes and no sink marks.

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A single decal sheet providing options to model 3 examples of the La-5 and a 6 page fold-out instruction sheet are provided in ‘exploded-view’ format with black and white three-view painting instructions on the reverse.

As with the LA-5 and LA-5FN kits, the cockpit is assembled as a unit on top of the single-piece upper wing.  The upper wing half is an impressive piece of engineering, and includes some major cockpit structures as well as fully detailed wheel wells.

Also in common with Zvezda’s previous 1/48 kits is the inclusion of a complete and highly detailed engine.  With careful assembly, painting and weathering, and perhaps the addition of a little extra plumbing, you’ll end up with a lovely 14-cylinder two-row radial Shvetsov M-82 engine.

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The real advantage of the Zvezda range over its competitors is that you do not have to construct the engine in order to complete the kit. In my opinion, too many manufacturers over-engineer their kits by making the engine integral to the build process, which can cause problems. For example, if you misalign one component in the engine build, often the engine will not fit and the kit is ruined (I speak from experience here). This is not the case with Zvezda. However, they do provide the modeller with the opportunity to build a complex engine with the cowlings removed that would grace any diorama.

Lastly, the canopy components, provided in their own sealed bag are excellent. They are beautifully moulded, clear and are a perfect fit.

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Construction

The construction phase began with my usual wash of all of the parts in a warm soapy solution to remove the mould release. The grey plastic components were then primed with grey auto-primer from a rattle-can.

The build looked a little daunting at first, as the cockpit interior consists of a 6 piece frame and the fuselage is furnished with a full set of bulkheads. The engine consists of 27 parts (these include 18 exhausts). As mentioned earlier, it is not necessary to build the engine if you don’t want to. Even though I chose to model the La-5 with the cowlings closed/fitted, I decided to build the complete engine to find out if the unit would fit inside the fuselage halves once they were closed. It was a little time consuming but the fit was excellent and I think an important exercise for the purposes of this article.

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With the engine completed, I set it to one side and began the wing assembly. The lower wing is a one piece component; the upper sections are supplied in four parts. The wing was glued, taped and set to one side to dry.

The cockpit internal frame came next. Despite my initial trepidation, this stage went together surprisingly easily. The interior was airbrushed with Humbrol matt 147 Gull-Grey and weathered lightly with heavily thinned Windsor & Newton Ivory Black, to pick out the interior details such as the ribs and bulkheads.

At this stage, it is recommended that the rear-quarterlight windows are fitted before closing the fuselage halves, the cockpit accessories were also added at this stage, such as the trim wheels, throttle assembly, cockpit floor, control column and rudder pedals, pilot’s seat and headrest.

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The rear tail-wheel assembly and bulkhead was then constructed before the fuselage halves were glued, joined, taped and left overnight to dry.

Stage 8 involves the fitting of the control panel. Two are supplied in this kit. One has had the instruments drilled out, allowing the modeller to dress the unit themselves, the other is smooth and is designed so that a decal can be affixed.

Stage 9 sees the wing slats and flaps glued into place and the fitting of the engine to the cockpit frame. This again was a straightforward process, thanks to Zvezda’s excellent engineering.

The final ‘main construction phase’ is stage 10; this involves the fitting of the cowlings, canopies (which I had pre-masked with Eduard’s La-5 mask), the horizontal tail surfaces and elevators and finally, the rudder.

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Camouflage & Markings

The Zvezda La-5 has marking options for three aircraft:

Three subjects are presented and these can be found on a single decal sheet. The printing was good, however, some of the Red Stars had a partial white outline. The surrounding carrier film was commendably thin and the depth of colour was excellent.

  1.  La-5 “White 60”, 3rd IAK, May 1943
  2.  La-5 “White 23” flown by Lt. Patoka, 240th IAP, August 1942
  3. La-5 “White 04”, flown by V.M. Dmitriev, 4th IAP, summer 1943. 

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I chose to model: Lavochkin La-5 “White 04” flown by V.M. Dmitriev, 4th GvIAP, Baltic Sea Fleet, summer 1943. I chose this machine as it is likely that it would have seen action against Finnish and German Fighters in the Baltic and Gulf of Finland which is the general theme of this website.

The La-5 lower-surfaces were airbrushed with White Ensign Models WEMCC ACS01 WW2 Soviet VVS All Blue. Once dry, the undersides were masked off in preparation for the upper-surfaces being airbrushed with White Ensign Models WEMCC ACS03 WW2 Soviet VVS All Green. Blu-tac was used to mask the camouflage demarcation-line and filled in with masking tape. The airframe was then given a coat of Humbrol 33 Black.

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The decals were applied using micro-sol and micro-set decal setting solutions and set to one side to dry overnight. The following morning, the La-5 was given a coat of Johnson’s Klear.

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Final Construction

Stages 11 and 12 complete the build with the oil cooler intake, undercarriage, Pitot tube, tail-wheel doors, cowling fan, propeller and propeller hub. The aerial wires were added using ‘Little-Cars’ 0.2mm wire and finally the aircraft was given a coat Xtracrylix Matt Varnish.

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Conclusion

Another excellent, well-engineered kit from Zvezda of an extremely potent aircraft. I recommend this kit wholeheartedly and am looking forward to future Zvezda projects such as the Yak 3, Su-2 and La-5FN.

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At the outbreak of the Winter War in Finland on the 30th of November 1939 – 13th March 1940 and the beginning of the Continuation War on the 25th of June 1941, the pilots of the Suomen Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force) and later the Luftwaffe in the Arctic would have faced large quantities of obsolete Polikarpov I-152, I-153 and I-16 aircraft (seen here on the right of the pictures below). The best aircraft in the Soviet inventory at this time were the MiG-3 and LaGG-3, which were still not a match or just on a par with Ilmavoimat aircraft.

By the summer of 1943, the La-5, Yak 3 and Bell P-39N/Qs were beginning to appear over the Baltic, Gulf of Finland and the Artic North giving parity between the opposing Air Forces in terms of equipment. By the end of the Continuation War in September 1944, Soviet tactics and the combat skills of VVS pilots had largely caught up with their Ilmavoimat and Luftwaffe counterparts.

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References

  • Abanshin, Michael E. and Nina Gut. Fighting Lavochkin, Eagles of the East No.1. Lynnwood, WA: Aviation International, 1993. ISBN unknown.
  • Bergström, Christer. Bagration to Berlin – The final Air Battle in the East 1944-45. Hersham UK, Classic Publications, 2008. ISBN 978-1-903223-91-8.
  • Bergström, Christer. Kursk – The Air Battle: July 1943. London: Chevron/Ian Allen, 2007. ISBN 978-1-903223-88-8.
  • Bridgman, Leonard (ed.). “The La-5”. Jane’s Fighting Aircraft of World War II. London: Studio, 1946. ISBN 1-85170-493-0.
  • Drabkin, Artem. The Red Air Force at War: Barbarossa and the Retreat to Moscow – Recollections of Fighter Pilots on the Eastern Front. Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK: Pen & Sword Military, 2007. ISBN 1-84415-563-3.
  • Glancey, Jonathan. Spitfire: The Illustrated Biography. London: Atlantic books, 2006. ISBN 978-1-84354-528-6.
  • Gordon, Yefim. Lavochkin’s Piston-Engined Fighters (Red Star Volume 10). Earl Shilton, Leicester, UK: Midland Publishing Ltd., 2003. ISBN 1-85780-151-2.
  • Gordon, Yefim and Dmitri Khazanov. Soviet Combat Aircraft of the Second World War, Volume One: Single-Engined Fighters. Earl Shilton, Leicester, UK: Midland Publishing Ltd., 1998. ISBN 1-85780-083-4.
  • Green, William. Warplanes of the Second World War, Volume Three: Fighters. London: Macdonald & Co. (Publishers) Ltd., 1961 (seventh impression 1973). ISBN 0-356-01447-9.
  • Green, William and Gordon Swanborough. WW2 Aircraft Fact Files: Soviet Air Force Fighters, Part 1. London: Macdonald and Jane’s Publishers Ltd., 1977. ISBN 0-354-01026-3.
  • Liss, Witold. The Lavochkin La 5 & 7 (Aircraft in Profile number 149). Leatherhead, Surrey, UK: Profile Publications Ltd., 1967.
  • Stapfer, Hans-Heiri. La 5/7 Fighters in Action (Aircraft in Action Number 169). Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 1998. ISBN 0-89747-392-2.
  • Stapfer, Hans-Heiri. LaGG Fighters in Action (Aircraft in Action Number 163). Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 1996. ISBN 0897473647
  • Veštšík, Miloš and Jirí Vraný. Lavočkin La-5 (in Czech/English). Prague, Czech Republic: MBI Books, 2006. ISBN 80-86524-10-8.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revell 1/72 Junkers 88A-4/R Finnish Air Force Review

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Kit: Revell A04672 Junkers Ju 88A-4 Bomber.

Price: £16.99 available from Spot-On Models, Swindon.

Decals: 2 Options.

Reviewer: Richard Reynolds.

Notes: Eduard EDCX309 1/72 mask for the Revell Junkers Ju-88A-4 used £7.20. Techmod 72139 Junkers Ju-88A-4 decals were used to make a Finnish Air Force Example at £5.60, available from Hannants UK.

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History

The Junkers Ju 88 was a World War II German Luftwaffe twin-engine, multi-role aircraft. Designed by Junkers Flugzeug- und Motorenwerke (JFM) in the mid-1930s to be a so-called Schnellbomber which would be too fast for any of the fighters of its era to intercept. It suffered from a number of technical problems during the later stages of its development and early operational roles, but became one of the most versatile combat aircraft of the war. Affectionately known as “The Maid of all Work” (Mädchen für Alles), the Ju 88 proved to be suited to almost any role. Like a number of other Luftwaffe bombers, it was used successfully as a bomber, dive bomber, night fighter, torpedo bomber, reconnaissance aircraft, heavy fighter, and even as a flying bomb during the closing stages of conflict.

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In April 1943 as Finland was fighting the Continuation War against the USSR, the Finnish Air Force bought 24 Ju 88s from Germany. The aircraft were used to equip Lentolaivue 44 (LeLv 44 or No. 44 Sqn), which had previously operated the Bristol Blenheim which was transferred to No. 42 Sqn upon the arrival of the Junkers 88. The Ju 88 was a complex aircraft, most of 1943 was used for training crews in strategic and tactical bombing techniques, including; dive-bombing, level bombing and defence against enemy fighters. A handful of bombing missions were undertaken during 1943. The most notable was a raid on the Lehto partisan village on 20 August 1943 (in which the whole of No.44 squadron participated), and a raid on the Lavansaari air field (leaving seven Ju 88 damaged from forced landing in inclement weather). During the summer of 1943, Finnish maintenance engineers discovered that Ilmavoimat Ju-88s had suffered stress damage to the wings. This had occurred when the aircraft were used in dive bombing operations. Restrictions in dive-bombing tactics were immediately implemented. The dive brakes were removed and the aircraft was limited to a 45-degree angle dive (compared to 60-80 degrees previously employed). In this way, they tried to spare the aircraft from unnecessary wear. (This Revell review kit is modelled with the dive brakes removed).

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During February 1944, the Soviet Long-Range Bombing Group conducted 3 large scale raids against Helsinki. The Finnish Air Force, lacking the numbers to respond to strategic raids of this scale, developed a unique and effective answer to the bombing of Helsinki. A series of remarkable tactical operations were tested by Squadrons PLeLv 42 and 46. On the 29th of February 1944 against Soviet Long Range Aviation bases near Leningrad, when Finnish bombers, including Ju 88s, followed Soviet bombers returning from a night raid on Tallinn. On the 22nd of March 1944, the Ju 88s of PLeLv 44 conducted their own operation by following their Soviet counterparts back to their air-base at Aerosan, Petsnajoki.

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The Finnish bomber group matched their height and tactical formations. Once the Finnish group reached their destination, they joined the Soviet aircraft in the landing circuit, at the moment the Soviet bombers began to land; the Finns opened fire and bombed the airfield fuel reserves, ammunition dumps and the landing bombers. Several bombers were destroyed due to being parked in line-abreast outside of their hangars. Several raids of this type took place. The whole bomber regiment took part in the defence against the Soviets during the fourth strategic offensive. All aircraft flew several missions by day and night, when the weather permitted.

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These missions are reported in greater detail in ‘THEMODELGALLERY’ article: The Bombing of Helsinki in World War II, under the sub-heading: ‘Finnish Response’. Click on this link to view the article: https://thebalticstatespost.wordpress.com/2014/03/30/the-bombing-of-helsinki-in-world-war-ii/

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No. 44 Sqn (re-named Pommituslentolaivue 44 or PLeLv 44 on 14 February 1944) was subordinated Lentoryhmä Sarko during the Lapland War (now against Germany), and the Ju 88s were used both for reconnaissance and bombing. The targets were mostly vehicle columns. Reconnaissance flights were also made over northern Norway. The last war mission was flown on 4 April 1945.

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After the wars, Finland was prohibited from using bomber aircraft with internal bomb loads. Consequently, the Finnish Ju 88s were used for training until 1948. The aircraft were then scrapped during the following years. No Finnish Ju 88s have survived, but an engine is on display at the Central Finland Aviation Museum, and the frame structure of a German Ju 88 cockpit hood is preserved at the Finnish Aviation Museum in Vantaa. The Suomen Ilmavoimat aircraft code for Ju 88 was JK.

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A single Ju 88 A-4, survives in Scandinavia; Werk Nr.0881478 4D+AM (ex-Stammkennzeichen of BH+QQ)

This aircraft is displayed at the Norsk Luftfartsmuseum, the Norwegian Aviation Museum at Bodø Airport. On the 13 of April 1942, it was returning from an attack on Soviet ships when it ran out of fuel. The crew bailed out in the vicinity of Snefjord but the aircraft continued its flight and, remarkably, was left comparatively intact after crash-landing on a hillside at Garddevarre in Finnmark in the far north of Norway. It remained there until recovered by the Norsk Luftfartsmuseum in 1988.

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Junkers Ju 88 in Finnish service (Source: Suomen Ilmavoimien Historia 9, Kari Stenman & Kalevi Keskinen).

Below is a list of every Junkers 88A-4 that served with the Suomen Ilmavoimat during World War II. The list includes the fate of each aircraft:

Type WerkNr.088 German registration German units Finnish Registration History Finnish units
A-4/R 3880 GB+YJ JK-251 Delivered 10/4 1943, crashed 29/12 1943 LeLv. 44
A-4/R 3878 GB+YH JK-252 Delivered 10/4 1943, used as a crew trainer after the war LeLv. 44, PLeLv. 44, PLeLv. 43
A-4/R 3879 GB+YL JK-253 Delivered 10/4 1943, landing damage 26/8 1947 and not repaired LeLv. 44, PLeLv. 44, PLeLv. 43
A-4/R 3883 DJ+TC JK-254 Delivered 10/4 1943, crashed 1/7 1944 LeLv. 44
A-4/R 3889 DJ+TI JK-255 Delivered 10/4 1943, landing damage 1/6 1944 and not repaired LeLv. 44
A-4/R 3860 GL+QM   JK-256 Delivered 20/4 1943, shot down by German fighter 10/10 1944 LeLv. 44
A-4/R 3887 DJ+TG JK-257 Delivered 20/4 1943, used as a trainer after the war LeLv. 44, PLeLv. 43
A-4/R 8797 CT+ZA JK-258 Delivered 20/4 1943, used as a trainer after the war LeLv. 44, PLeLv. 43
A-4/R 3845 BI+EY JK-259 Delivered 20/4 1943, shot down 23/6 1944 LeLv. 44
A-4/R 8785 CP+OO JK-260 Delivered 20/4 1943, crashed 5/6 1946 LeLv. 44, PLeLv. 44
A-4/R 3857 JK-261 Delivered 20/4 1943, crashed 5/6 1946 LeLv. 44, PLeLv. 43
A-4/R 3899 DJ+TS JK-262 Delivered 11/4 1943, exploded during landing 18/7 1944 LeLv. 44
A-4/R 3863 KG+KE   JK-263 Delivered 11/4 1943, shot down by german AAA 15/10 1944 LeLv. 44, PLeLv. 44
A-4/R 8794 CP+OX JK-264 Delivered 20/4 1943, crashed 15/6 1944 LeLv. 44, PLeLv. 44
A-4/R 3877 GE+YG JK-265 Delivered 10/4 1943, put into storage 17/10 1945 LeLv. 44, PLeLv. 43
A-4/R 3885 DJ+TE JK-266 Delivered 1/4 1943 LeLv. 44, PLeLv. 43
A-4/R 3888 DJ+TH JK-267 Delivered 11/4 1943, damaged during take-off 29/7 1944 and was not repaired LeLv. 44
A-4/R 8796 CP+OZ JK-268 Delivered 20/4 1943, used as a trainer after the war LeLv. 44, PLeLv. 44, PLeLv. 43
A-4/R 3882 DJ+TB JK-269 Delivered 10/4 1943, damaged by own bombs 20/8 1943 was repaired and stored LeLv. 44
A-4/R 3881 DJ+TA JK-270 Delivered 10/4 1943, crashed 18/6 1947 LeLv. 44, PLeLv. 43
A-4/R 3841 BJ+WW JK-271 Delivered 20/4 1943 LeLv. 44, PLeLv. 44, PLeLv. 43
A-4/R 8795 CP+OY JK-272 Delivered 20/4 1943 LeLv. 44, PLeLv. 44, PLeLv. 43
A-4/R 3912 GC+UM JK-273 Delivered 20/4 1943 LeLv. 44, PLeLv. 43
A-4/R 3849 BG+GO JK-274 Delivered 20/4 1943, crashed on the flight to Finland 23/4 1943 LeLv. 44

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German Flak Defences during the Lapland War were effective, claiming at least one confirmed Finnish Junkers Ju-88A-4R.  I./Flak Rgt. 15 was attached to the XVIII Gebirgs Korps in October 1944, providing Flak defence around the Sturmbock stellung and Kilpisjärvi stellung until the 15th of April 1945 when the unit was re-located to the South of Norway.

One Finnish Junkers 88 was lost to Flak over Kilpisjärvi on the 15th October 1944, during the Lapland War.

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Lentolaivue 44 or Pommituslentolaivue 44/PLeLv 44 from the 14th of February 1944:

Flying Squadron 44 became the best equipped Finnish bomber squadron after receiving new Junkers Ju 88A-4/R bombers from Germany in the spring of 1943.

The inexperience of LeLv 44 crews with the Ju-88, resulted in a number of accidents and some losses. Germany refused to sell more bombers to Finland due to shortages of their own,  this restricted the squadron’s effectiveness until the summer of 1944, when an official training programme was implemented and the Ju-88s began flying combat missions escorted by new Messerschmitt Bf 109G fighters, Finnish bomber formations didn’t suffer any losses due to Soviet fighters during the heavy summer campaigns of 1944.

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Flying Unit: Finnish Name (and Abbreviation), Airbases, Notes (Name in English) Squadron Commander / Flight Leader
Flights and Planes . Rank: Name:
Lentolaivue 44 (LLv.44, since 3.5.42 Le.Lv.44) (Flying Squadron 44) Siikakangas (Ruovesi), 5.7.41- Mikkeli, 29.9.41- Onttola (planes only: 16.4.-28.4.43 Pori, summer 43 Luonetjärvi, ?.9-?.9.43 Utti, occasionally also Immola, Nurmoila, Tiiksjärvi Naarajärvi)Bomber squadron. BLs were relieved to Le.Lv.42 on 20.2.1943 and squadron was converted to new Junkers Ju 88A-4 bombers being operational again on 30.5.1943.1. Lentue (1st Flight) (-20.2.43 BL -> 4.43- JK) . .2. Lentue (2nd Flight) (-20.2.43 BL -> 4.43- JK) . . . . .3. Lentue (3rd Flight) (-20.2.43 BL -> 4.43- JK) . .4. Lentue (4th Flight) (27.4.-15.11.43 JK) Operational only between 27.4. – 15.11.1943.Osasto [Detachment] Räty (JU) (25.5.42 – 23.10.42) Höytiäinen (Hirviranta / Kontiolahti) Originally known as Sairaankuljetuslentue (Ambulance Flight). Moved from Le.Lv.48 on 25.5.1942 for transport and special operations missions. On 28.6.1942 subordinated to Intelligence Department of Chief HQ (PM Tied.Os.)Osasto [Detachment] Malinen (HE, JU) (5.43 -?) Höytiäinen (Hirviranta / Kontiolahti) Formed in spring 1943 for special operations missions. On 1.7.1943 subordinated operationally to Er.P 4 / PM Tied.Os. . Maj. Maj./Lt.Col. (42) . . .. . .Capt. Capt. Capt.Lt. Capt. Capt. Capt. Capt. Capt.Lt. Lt./Capt. (42?)Capt. Lt.Capt. . . . . .Capt./Maj. Capt. E. Stenbäck B. Gabrielsson (30.12.41-) . . . .. . .E. Ahmo E. Ahtiainen (30.12.41-) E. Itävuori (2.5.42-)R. Moilanen (MIA -> KIA) T. Halonen (7.8.41-) O. Lumiala (20.1.42-) A. Helminen (31.7.42-6.1.43+) I. Ritavuori (8.1.43-) K. Lehmus (15.11.43-)A. Tervo (-14.8.41 KIA) J. Saarinen (17.8.41-) .O. Siirilä (27.4.43-) T. Iisalo (30.5.-15.11.43)J. Räty (25.5.42-23.10.42) . . . . .O. Malinen (5.43-) E. Jauri (1.7.43-)
Pommituslentolaivue 44 (PLe.Lv.44) (14.2.1944-) (Bomber Squadron 44) Onttola, ([6 JK] 6.3.-9.3.44 Utti, 6.44 Immola)1. Lentue (1st Flight) (JK)2. Lentue (2nd Flight) (JK) . .3. Lentue (3rd Flight) (JK) . Lt.Col. Maj. .Capt. Lt./Capt. (44) B. Gabrielsson T. Meller (20.2.44-) .E. ItävuoriK. Lehmus (KIA) T. Iisalo (23.6.44-) .J. Saarinen

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The Junkers Ju 88 assembly line ran constantly from 1936 to 1945, and more than 16,000 Ju 88s were built in dozens of variants, more than any other twin-engine German aircraft of the period. Throughout the production, the basic structure of the aircraft remained unchanged.

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The Kit

 This kit is a brand new mould. Thankfully, it bears no resemblance to their Ju-88 A/D kit and the difference really shows. Revell’s new release Ju-88A-4 is supplied in an end-opening style box. The kit comprises 191 parts in pale grey plastic on 9 sprue frames and 15 clear parts on four linked frames. The clear parts are excellent. In fact the whole kit possesses the kind of quality that you would expect from a kit twice the price.

The grey-plastic parts are beautifully detailed with recessed panel lines, the cockpit is furnished to a standard that you would expect from a 1/32 scale kit, there are no obvious flaws. I was looking forward to this build. In addition, a 15 page instruction booklet is provided with each stage represented in an ‘exploded-view’ format. The decals provide the modeller a choice of two Luftwaffe examples and are clear and appear to be in good register.

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Construction

I set the parts out after washing them in a warm soapy solution to remove the mould release and carefully studied the instructions. Revell instructions are black and white and printed on inexpensive paper, presumably to keep the costs down. This is great for the pocket but daunting to the modeller, given the large number of small parts that would be required to fit into the cockpit area.

I sprayed all of the grey plastic sprues with grey auto-primer from a rattle-can and cut the relevant cockpit parts from the sprues detailed in stages 1 to 13. This was a time consuming process. Each stage was given a dry-fit, then airbrushed, then pre-shaded, detailed and post-shaded. However, with time and patience the results are extremely pleasing. I have a feeling that this 1/72 scale kit may have been scaled down from their 1/32 sale Ju-88, how they can produce such fine detail at £16.99 is beyond me, especially since my last 1/72 scale kit review of the Airfix Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6 provided just the Pilot’s seat for the cockpit. The interior was airbrushed using Humbrol 67 tank grey, the fronts of the navigation station and instrument panel was painted black and the instrument dials and switches were painted white, red or yellow depending on the directions from the instruction manual and from colour pictures from the internet and book references.

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Once the cockpit had been completed, the tail-wheel was constructed and the fuselage halves were joined. Then the cockpit unit was glued to the rear fuselage, taped and set to one side to dry overnight. I decided to mask the entire canopy components at once, as this process can be time consuming; these were then placed securely in a zip-lock bag.

Sections 17 to 25 were the next stage of the build. This consists of gluing the upper and lower main wings together and taping them as well as the wing tips, wing flaps and ailerons. The same process was repeated for sections 28 to 31, which were the horizontal tail surfaces and tail-plane. All sub-assemblies were then allowed to set overnight.

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Stages 32 and 33 were the final assemblies of the day, which was the construction of the engines and nacelles with cowlings. The exhausts were painted with citadel colour scorched brown and glued into the nacelles, the front of the engines are the only components that are exposed; these were painted black and dry-brushed with Humbrol 11 silver when they had dried. The nacelles were glued together, taped and allowed to dry.

The next day, the wing assemblies, tail, tail-planes and canopies were glued together. The MG 131’s were glued to the inside of the canopy and lower-gondola before these components were glued to the airframe. Again, these were left overnight to dry. The aircraft that I had chosen to build was a Suomen Ilmavoimat Lapin Sota (Finnish Air Force Lapland War) aircraft, which carried an internal bomb load and were predominantly used for reconnaissance duties for the Finnish Ground Forces. Therefore, the external bomb racks and bombs were not required. Additionally, the Finns removed the dive brakes from beneath the wings of their Junkers Ju-88A-4/Rs due to airframe fatigue. The aircraft were still able to dive-bomb targets but were restricted to a 45 degree angle as opposed to the usual 60-80 degree dive angle.

11

Before the Ju 88 went to the paint shop, the undercarriage was constructed, wheels painted (Hubs – Humbrol 67, tyres – Tamiya XF-85 Tyre black).

Camouflage & Markings

Techmod’s 1/72 Junkers Ju-88A-4 decals offer 6 aircraft to choose from. Two are Luftwaffe examples, one based in Nurmoila, Finland, the other is an example based in Sicily in 1943. I chose ‘JK-268’ one of the four Finnish Air Force aircraft. This machine belonged to 3/PleLv 44 based at Onttola in Finland during June 1944. The aircraft took part in the Lapland War, survived the conflict and continued in service with the Ilmavoimat after the War.

23

The aircraft was given a second coat of grey primer from a rattle-can and the undersides were airbrushed overall in RLM 76, which was taken up the fuselage sides. The undercarriage main and tail-wheel doors were similarly sprayed. The undersides of the wing-tips (approximately 1/3rd of the wings) were airbrushed using white ensign models WEMCC ALCW21 RLM 04 Gelb. The airframe was then masked and airbrushed V.L. Green, a combination of 6 parts Humbrol 116, 6 parts 117, 1 part 163 and 1 part matt white. Once this had dried, the upper-surfaces were masked and airbrushed with thinned Humbrol 33 black. The propellers and spinners were airbrushed with Humbrol matt 241 schwarzgrünand given RLM 04 Gelb tips.

24

Final Construction

Once the masking had been removed, the decals were applied, the Techmod decals went on very nicely, they were thin but there was no hint of the camouflage showing through them. The undercarriage was fitted, as was the aerial wire. The airframe was then given a coat of Johnson’s Klear to seal the decals.

25

Conclusion

I honestly don’t think you can get a better aircraft for your money. It was exquisitely detailed, went together beautifully and really is a must for anybody interested in the Finnish Air Force in World War II. I really can’t recommend this aircraft enough.

31

References

  • Flying units in Finland 1942. Anttonen, Harri. 2002 – 2003. http://www.geocities.ws/finnmilpge/fmpg_lw42.html
  • Winchester, Jim. “Junkers Ju 88”. Aircraft of World War II. London: Grange Books, 2004. ISBN 1-84013-639-1.
  • Stenman, Kari. “Short But Gallant: The Career of the Finnish Junkers Ju 88s”. Air Enthusiast, No 60, November–December 1995. Stamford, UK: Key Publishing, pp. 35–39. ISSN 0143-5450.
  • Suchenwirth, Richard. The Development of the German Air Force, 1919-1939. North Stratford, New Hampshire, UK: Ayer Publishing, 1968.
  • Taylor, John W.R. “Junkers Ju 88.” Combat Aircraft of the World from 1909 to the present. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1969. ISBN 0-425-03633-2.
  • Green, William. The Warplanes of the Third Reich. New York: Doubleday & Co., 1970. ISBN 1-874023-56-5.

Thanks to Chris Hext of Spot-On Models and Hobbies of Havelock street, Swindon for the review sample.

28

Richard Reynolds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lapland War – The end of the uneasy alliance between Finland and Germany during World War II.

50

The final stages of the Continuation War

On the 9th of June 1944, the Soviet Union opened a major offensive against Finnish positions on the Karelian Isthmus and in the area of Lake Ladoga. On the 21.7 km (13.5 mi)-wide breakthrough segment the Red Army had concentrated 3,000 guns and mortars. In some places, the concentration of artillery pieces exceeded 200 guns for every kilometer of the front (one every 5 m (5.5 yd)). On that day, Soviet artillery fired over 80,000 rounds along the front on the Karelian Isthmus. On the second day of the offensive, the Soviet forces broke through the Finnish front lines. The Soviets penetrated the second line of defence by the sixth day. The Soviet pressure on the Karelian Isthmus forced the Finns to reinforce the area. This allowed the second Soviet offensive in Eastern Karelia to meet less resistance and to capture Petrozavodsk by 28 June 1944. According to Erickson (1991), James Gebhardt (1989), and Glantz (1998), the main objective of the Soviet offensives was to force Finland from the war.

The front line on 4 September 1944, during the last days of the war.
The front line on 4 September 1944, during the last days of the war.

German help for Finland

Finland especially lacked modern anti-tank weaponry which could stop Soviet heavy tanks, and German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop offered these in exchange for a guarantee that Finland would not seek a separate peace again. On the 26th of June, President Risto Ryti gave this guarantee as a personal undertaking, which he intended to last only for the remainder of his presidency. In addition to delivering thousands of hand-held Panzerfaust and Panzerschreck antitank weapons, Hitler sent the 122nd Infantry Division, the half-strength 303rd Assault Gun Brigade, and Luftwaffe Detachment Kuhlmey to provide temporary support in the most threatened defense sectors.

Junkers Ju-87D-5, Stab 3/SG 3 Staffelkapitan Theo Baurle, Detachment Kuhlmey, Immola, Finland 1944
Junkers Ju-87D-5, Stab 3/SG 3 Staffelkapitan Theo Baurle, Detachment Kuhlmey, Immola, Finland 1944.

With new supplies from Germany, the Finnish army halted the Soviet advance in early July 1944. At this point, the Finnish forces had retreated about one hundred kilometres, which brought them to approximately the same line of defence they had held at the end of the Winter War. This line was known as the VKT-line (short for “Viipuri–Kuparsaari–Taipale“; it ran from Viborg to the River Vuoksi to Lake Ladoga at Taipale), where the Finnish Army stopped the Soviet offensive in the Battle of Tali-Ihantala in spite of Soviet numerical and materiel superiority. The front stabilized once again.

Finland’s exit from the war

A few battles were fought in the latter stages of the war. The last of them was the Battle of Ilomantsi, a Finnish victory, from 26 July to 13 August 1944. The struggle to contain the Soviet offensive was exhausting Finnish resources. The German support under the Ryti-Ribbentrop Agreement had prevented a disaster, but it was believed the country would not be able to hold another major attack. The Soviet advances against German Army Groups Center and North further complicated matters for Finland.

With the front being stable so far, it was a good time for Finland to seek a way out of the war. At the beginning of August President Ryti resigned to allow Finland to sue for peace again, which the new government did in late August. The Soviet peace terms were harsh, but the $600,000,000 reparations demanded in the spring were reduced to $300,000,000, most likely due to pressure from the United States and Britain. However, after the ceasefire the Soviets insisted that the payments should be based on 1938 prices, which doubled the amount. This sum constituted half of Finland’s annual gross domestic product in 1939.

The Moscow Armistice

The Moscow Armistice was signed between Finland on one side and the Soviet Union and United Kingdom on the other side on September the 19th, 1944, ending the Continuation War. The Armistice restored the Moscow Peace Treaty of 1940, with a number of modifications.

The final peace treaty between Finland and many of the Allies was signed in Paris in 1947.

Conditions for peace

The conditions for peace were similar to what had been agreed in the Moscow Peace Treaty of 1940: Finland was obliged to cede parts of Karelia and Salla, as well as certain islands in the Gulf of Finland. The new armistice also handed all of Petsamo to the Soviet Union, and Finland was further compelled to lease Porkkala to the Soviet Union for a period of fifty years (the area was returned to Finnish control in 1956).

Areas ceded by Finland to the Soviet Union following the Moscow Armistice.
Areas ceded by Finland to the Soviet Union following the Moscow Armistice.

Harsher conditions included Finnish payment of $300,000,000 ($4 billion in today’s dollars) in the form of various commodities over six years to the Soviet Union as war reparations. Finland also agreed to legalise the Communist Party of Finland (after it had made some changes to the party rules) and ban the ones that the Soviet Union considered fascist. Further, the individuals that the Soviets considered responsible for the war had to be arrested and put on trial, the best-known case being that of Risto Ryti. The armistice compelled Finland to drive German troops from its territory, leading to the Lapland War 1944–45.

Risto Ryti - 5th President of Finland.
Risto Ryti – 5th President of Finland.

The Lapland War (Finnish: Lapin sota; Swedish: Lapplandskriget; German: Lapplandkrieg) was fought between Finland and Nazi Germany from September 1944 to April 1945 in Finland’s northernmost Lapland Province. While the Finns saw this as a separate conflict much like the Continuation War, German forces considered their actions to be part of the Second World War. A peculiarity of the war was that the Finnish army was forced to demobilise their forces while at the same time fighting to force the German army to leave Finland. German forces retreated to Norway, and Finland managed to uphold its obligations under the Moscow Armistice, although it remained formally at war with the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the British Dominions until the formal conclusion of the Continuation War was ratified by the 1947 Paris peace treaty.

Prelude

Germany and Finland had been at war with the Soviet Union since June 1941, co-operating closely in the Continuation War. However, as early as the summer of 1943, the German High Command began making plans for the eventuality that Finland might make a separate peace agreement with the Soviet Union. The Germans planned to withdraw their forces northward in order to shield the nickel mines near Petsamo.

During the winter of 1943–1944, the Germans improved the roads from northern Norway to northern Finland by extensive use of prisoner of war (POW) labour in certain areas. Casualties among these POWs were high, in part because many of them had been captured in southern Europe and were still in summer uniform. In addition, the Germans surveyed defensive positions and made plans to evacuate as much materiel as possible from the region and made meticulous preparations for withdrawing their forces. On 9 April 1944 the German withdrawal was named Operation Birke. While in June 1944 the Germans started actively constructing fortifications against an enemy advance from the south, the accidental death of Generaloberst Eduard Dietl on 23 June 1944 brought Generaloberst Lothar Rendulic to the command of the 20th Mountain Army.

Generaloberst Lothar Rendulic.
Generaloberst Lothar Rendulic.

Change of Finnish leadership led the Germans already in early August 1944 to believe that Finland would attempt to achieve a separate agreement with the Soviet Union. The Finnish announcement of the cease fire triggered frantic efforts in the German 20th Mountain Army which immediately started Operation Birke and other material evacuations from Finland. Large amounts of materiel were evacuated from southern Finland and harsh punishments were set for any hindering of the withdrawal. Finnish forces were moved to face the Germans, which included the 3rd, 6th, and 11th Divisions, the Armoured Division as well as the 15th and Border Jäger Brigades.

The Baltic

On 2 September 1944, after the Finns informed the Germans of the cease fire between Finland and the Soviet Union, the Germans started seizing Finnish shipping. However since this action resulted in a Finnish decision not to allow ships to sail from Finland to Germany and nearly doomed the material evacuations of Operation Birke it was rescinded. After the order was called off, the Finns in turn allowed Finnish shipping to be used to hasten the German evacuations. The first German naval mines were laid in Finnish seaways on 14 September 1944, allegedly against Soviet Naval Forces, though since Finland and Germany were not yet in open conflict at the time the Germans warned the Finns of their intent.

On 15 September 1944 the German navy attempted to seize the island of Hogland in Operation Tanne Ost. This immediately prompted the Finns to remove their shipping from the joint evacuation operation. The last German convoy departed from Kemi on 21 September 1944 and was covered with both submarines and later (south of Åland) by German cruisers. After the landing attempt, a Finnish coastal artillery fort prevented German netlayers from passing into the Baltic Sea at Utö on 15 September as they had been ordered to intern the German forces. However already on 16 September a German naval detachment consisting of the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen escorted by 5 destroyers arrived to Utö. The German cruiser stayed out of range of the Finnish 152 mm guns and threatened to open fire with its artillery that outdistanced the Finnish guns unless the Finns allowed the German netlayers to pass. The Finns permitted the netlayers to pass due to the threat posed by the heavy cruiser.

German cruiser Prinz Eugen.
German cruiser Prinz Eugen.

A Finnish landing operation started on 30 September 1944 when three transport ships (SS Norma, SS Fritz S and SS Hesperus) without any escorts departed from Oulu towards Tornio. They arrived on 1 October and managed to disembark their troops without any interference. Also a second wave of four ships on 2 October and a third wave – three ships strong – managed to disembark largely without trouble with only a single ship being lightly damaged by German dive bombers. On 4 October bad weather prevented Finnish air cover from reaching Tornio which left the fourth landing wave vulnerable to German Stuka dive bombers which scored several hits sinking SS Bore IX and SS Maininki alongside the pier. The fifth wave on 5 October suffered only light shrapnel damage despite being both shelled from shore and bombed. The first Finnish naval vessels Hämeenmaa, Uusimaa, VMV 15 and VMV 16 arrived with the sixth wave just in time to witness German Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor bombers attacking the shipping at Tornio with Henschel Hs 293 glide bombs without results. Arrival of naval assets made it possible for the Finns to safely disembark heavy equipment which played an important role during the Battle of Tornio.

Focke-Wulf FW-200 Condor
Focke-Wulf FW-200 Condor

Sailors on Finnish ships in German-held ports, including Norway, were interned, and German submarines sank several Finnish civilian vessels. German submarines also had some success against Finnish military vessels, including the sinking of the minelayer Louhi. The most dire result of Finland concluding the Moscow Armistice with the Soviet Union was that now Soviet naval forces could circumvent the existing German naval mine barriers located on the Gulf of Finland by using the Finnish coastal seaways. This allowed Soviet submarines now based in the Finnish archipelago to gain early access to the German shipping in the southern Baltic Sea.

Lapland

The cease fire agreement between Finland and the Soviet Union contained requirements that the Finns break diplomatic ties with Germany and publicly demand the withdrawal of all German troops from Finland by 15 September 1944. Any troops remaining after the deadline were to be disarmed and handed over to the Soviet Union. Even with the massive efforts of the Germans in Operation Birke this proved impossible, the Finns estimating it would take the Germans three months to fully evacuate. The task was further complicated by the Soviet demand that the major part of Finland’s armed forces be demobilized, even as they attempted to conduct a military campaign against the Germans. With the exception of the inhabitants of the Tornio area, most of the civilian population of Lapland (totaling 168,000 people) was evacuated to Sweden and Southern Finland. The evacuation was carried out as a cooperative effort between the German military and Finnish authorities prior to the start of hostilities.

Finnish Order of Battle:

75,000 Troops, comprising;

  • 3rd Division
  • 6th Division
  • 11th Division
  • 15th Brigade
  • Border Jäger Brigade
  • JR 50 Infantry Regiment
  • JR 53 Infantry Regiment

Notes

  1. Most of the 75,000 Finns served until the end of October 1944, but the number dropped to 12,000 men in December 1944.
  2. The Finnish Jäger Brigade was formed during the Civil War in Finland (27th January to May 1918) the Jägers were engaged on the “White” (non-communist) side in the war and formed the nucleus of the new Finnish Army. In Finland, these 2,000 volunteers were simply called The Jägers (Finnish pl. Jääkärit).

 

Finnish Jäger troops on patrol.
Finnish Jäger Ski-troops on patrol.

Finnish Armoured Division

  • HQ of the Armoured Division
    • Armoured Brigade
      • 1st Armoured Battalion (T-26, T-26E light-tanks), Armoured car company with FAIs and BA-10s
      • 2nd Armoured Battalion (T-26, T-26E, a heavy tank company with KV-1s, T-28s and T-34 medium tanks)
      • Armoured AA Battery (Landsverk Anti II)
      • Assault Gun Battalion (StuG IIIG)
      • Armoured Training Battalion (older types and a few T-26s)
    • Jaeger Brigade
      • 2nd Jaeger Battalion
      • 3rd Jaeger Battalion
      • 4th Jaeger Battalion
      • 5th Jaeger Battalion
      • Armoured Jaeger Battalion (towed 50 mm and 75 mm AT guns)
    • 14th Heavy Artillery Battalion
    • 6th Signals Battalion
    • 2nd Pioneer Battalion
    • Separate Armour Company (BT-42 assault-gun)
Finnish Armoured Division STUG III.
Finnish Armoured Division STUG III.

Ilmavoimat

  • Hävittäjälentolaivue 26 (HLeLv 26 – Flying Squadron 26) Brewster 239, 13 Aircraft.
  • Lentolaivue 28 (LLv.28) and TleLv 13, Mörkö-Moranes took part in the Lapland War as reconnaissance and ground attack aircraft. 41 aircraft were converted from remaining stocks of M.S. 406 and 410 fighters. 13+ aircraft.
  • Tiedustelulentolaivue 12 (TLe.Lv.12 -Reconnaissance Squadron 12) formed on the 14th of February 1944. The Squadron flew six V.L. Myrsky Fighters during the Lapland War. The Fighter-Reconnaissance Squadron 12 Myrsky aircraft detached to Fighter Squadron 26 and moved to Kemi on the 23rd of October 1944. Three days later a two-ship Myrsky section flew the first war mission for the aircraft type in the Lapland War when they flew a recce mission to the Muonio-Enontekiö area. The Myrskys flew a few missions in November, when one aircraft was lost in a forced landing after take-off. The Myrskys returned to their peace time base in early 1945.
  • Lentoryhmä Sarko, Pommituslentolaivue 44 (PLe.Lv.44), Junkers Ju 88A-4/R, 10 Aircraft.
  • LeR 4, Pommituslentolaivue 44, Dornier Do 17 Z-1, 2 and 3, 10 Aircraft.
  • Finnish air assets were supported by 617 aircraft of the 7th Soviet Air Army.
Brewster B.239
Brewster B.239

Notes

  1. Finland’s 159 Messerschmitt Bf 109’s were not committed to the campaign due to concerns that confusion would ensue in aerial combat with Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6 aircraft.
  2. On the 3rd of October 1944 During the War in Lapland, HLeLv 26 Brewster’s covered the Finnish landings in Tornio and achieved the final aerial victories of the Brewster 239. Six Brewster 239s intercepted 12 Junkers Ju-87D’s shooting down two. The main role of Brewster’s during this war was reconnaissance, and no aerial opposition was met. Because of highly accurate radar-guided German FLAK heavy casualties were suffered. 4 Brewster’s were shot down by FLAK and 2 pilots were killed. Two aircraft were lost in accidents. In January 1945 the squadron was disbanded and all seven surviving Brewster’s were sent for refurbishment at the State Aircraft Factory – Valtion Lentokonehtedas (VL).
  3. Two Finnish Junkers Ju-88A-4/Rs were lost during the Lapland War. Wrk. No. 0883860, GL+QM, delivered to the Ilmavoimat on 20/08/43, was shot down by a German Fighter on 10/10/44. Unit: LeLv 44. The second, Wrk No. 0883863, KG+KE, delivered 11/04/43, was shot down by German AAA on 15/10/44. Unit: LeLv/PLeLv 44.

Wermacht Order of Battle:

20th Mountain Army: 214,000 Troops (including units stationed in Norway)

  • XVIII Mountain Corps; SS Mountain Division North and the 7th Mountain Division
  • XXXVI Mountain Corps; 169th Infantry Division and the 163rd Infantry Division
  • XIX Mountain Corps; 2nd Mountain Division, 6th Mountain Division, 210th Infantry Division + 4 infantry regiments.
Troops of the 20th Mountain Army Gebirgsjäger.
Troops of the 20th Mountain Army Gebirgsjäger.

Notes

  1. Gebirgsjäger (German pronunciation: [ɡəˈbɪʁksˌjɛːɡɐ]) are the light infantry part of the alpine or mountain troops (Gebirgstruppe) of Germany and Austria. The word Jäger (meaning “hunter” or “huntsman”) is a characteristic term used for light-infantry or light-infantryman in German-speaking military context.

AOK Norwegen (Army Headquarter Norway)

(Reserves: 196 Infantry Division, 214 Infantry Division, 280 Infantry Division, Tank brigade Norway)

  • LXXI Corps; 230th Infantry Division, 270th Infantry Division and the 199th Infantry Division
  •  XXXIII Corps; 14 Luftwaffe Field Division, 702nd Infantry Division and the 295th Infantry Division
  • LXX Corps; 269th Infantry Division, 280th Infantry Division, 274th Fortress Division and the 710th Infantry Division

Notes

  1. Most of the 214,000 Germans served until the end of August 1944, but the number dropped quickly as the Germans withdrew or proceeded to Norway.

Luftwaffe

All Luftwaffe units had left Central and Southern Finland at the signing of the Armistice Agreement between Finland and the Soviet Union in Moscow on September the 19th 1944. Detachment Kuhlmey, based at immola airfield had left by the 23rd of July, Schlachtgeschwader 3s Junkers Ju-87Ds left Pori airfield the same day. I./JG 302 Messerschmitt Bf 109G6/R6 Nightfighters returned to defence of the Reich duties on May the 15th 1944. The remainder of Luftwaffe units based in Finland were either re-assigned to the Eastern Front to bolster German efforts to stop the Soviet advance; sent to France in order to fight Allied Forces in Normandy or re-located to Norway where German units continued to fight Soviet Air Regiments which were clearing the remainder of the German forces based in Finland from the Arctic. German units in Northern Norway undertook missions against the Soviet Air Force from 12 Air-bases, including; Bardufoss, Bodø and Kirkenes.

Luftlotte 5 (Air Fleet 5, North)

During 1944 Luftlotte 5 was reorganized; Nord Ost became, briefly Ff Eismeer before becoming Ff 3; Nord West became Ff 4; and Lofoten became Ff 5.

On the ground LgK Norwegen became Kommandierende General der Luftwaffe (K.G.) in Norwegen, covering ground and air formations in Norway, while LgK Finnland became K.G. Finnland, with a similar remit in Finland and, later, northern Norway.

As the Soviets advanced North and Westwards from 1944, these organizations became increasingly irrelevant as German forces were forced to retreat and their air strength diminished. By the end of World War II they existed largely on paper.

Jagdgeshwader 5 ‘Eismeer’ (No. 5 Squadron ‘Ice Sea’);

Approximately 27-36 Focke-Wulf 190A-8 and Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6 Aircraft.

III./JG 5 and IV./JG 5 were transferred to the Arctic Front from Southern Norway in August 1944. The Gruppe joined the first of several large air battles commencing on October 9, opposing the final Soviet offensive against Petsamo. When the day was over, III. and IV./JG 5 had claimed 85 Soviet aircraft shot down (among them the 3,000th victory for JG 5) against the loss of only one pilot killed.

On 1 August 1944 Major Heinrich Ehrler was promoted to Geschwaderkommodore of JG 5.

Prior to the start of the Soviet Offensive, the defending Germans had been ordered to abandon Petsamo on 15 October and Kirkenes by the beginning of November.

In November 1944 IV./JG 5 returned to Southern Norway. Up to the end of the war this unit formed the air defence against the Allied raids on targets in Norway, principally the submarine bases at Trondheim and Bergen.

Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6, W.Nr. 411960, Stab III./JG 5
Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6, W.Nr. 411960, Stab III./JG 5

Autumn maneuvers

As the Finns wanted to avoid devastation to their country, and the Germans wished to avoid hostilities, both sides wanted the evacuation to be performed as smoothly as possible. By 15 September 1944 a secret agreement had been reached by which the Germans would make their withdrawal timetable known to the Finns, who would then allow the Germans to destroy roads, railroads and bridges. In practice, friction soon arose both from the destruction caused by the Germans and from the pressure exerted on the Finns by the Soviets, and there were several incidents between the armies. The Finns deployed their 3rd Division, 11th Division, and 15th Brigade to the coastal area, the 6th and the Armoured Division to Pudasjärvi, and the Border Jaeger Brigade to the eastern part of the country.

The village of Ivalo destroyed by Germans during the Lapland War.
The village of Ivalo destroyed by Germans during the Lapland War.

Initial clashes

The first open violence between Finnish forces and the 20th Mountain Army took place 20 km southwest of Pudasjärvi, at around 08:00 on the 28th of September 1944, when Finnish advance units first issued a surrender demand then opened fire on a small German rearguard contingent. This took the Germans by surprise, as the Finns had previously agreed to warn them should they be forced to take hostile action against them. After the incident partial contact was re-established: the Germans told the Finns they had no interest in fighting them, but would not surrender. The next incident took place on 29 September at a bridge crossing the Olhava river between Kemi and Oulu. Finnish troops, who had been ordered to take the bridge intact, were attempting to disarm explosives rigged to the bridge when the Germans detonated them, demolishing the bridge and killing the Finns’ company commander, among others. On the 30th of September the Finns attempted to encircle the Germans at Pudasjärvi by way of flanking movements through the forests, and managed to cut the road leading to the north. By then, however, the bulk of the German force at Pudasjärvi had already left, leaving behind only a small detachment which, after warning the Finns, blew up a munitions dump.

Finnish troops under fire from the German 20th Mountain Division.
Finnish troops under fire from the German 20th Mountain Division.

Fighting intensified on 1 October 1944, when the Finns launched a risky seaborne invasion near Tornio, on the border with Sweden. The landing had originally been planned as a diversionary raid, with the main assault to take place at Kemi, where the Finnish battalion-sized Detachment Pennanen (fi. Osasto Pennanen) was already in control of important industrial facilities on the island of Ajos. Various considerations – including a far stronger German garrison at Kemi, already alerted by local attacks – made the Finns change the target to Röyttä (Tornio’s outer port). The Finns initially landed the 11th Infantry Regiment (JR 11), which, together with a Civic Guard-led uprising at Tornio, managed to secure both the port and most of the town, as well as the important bridges over the Torne River; however, the attack soon bogged down due to disorganization – some of it caused by alcohol looted from German supply depots – and stiffening resistance. During the ensuing Battle of Tornio the Germans fought hard to retake the town, as it formed an important transportation link between the two roads running parallel to the Kemijoki and Tornionjoki rivers, respectively. Their forces initially consisted of Division Kräutler (of roughly reinforced-regiment strength) and were later reinforced with an armored company (2nd company of Panzer Abteilung 211), two infantry battalions, and the Machine Gun Ski Brigade Finnland. The Finns reinforced their troops with two infantry regiments (JR 50 and JR 53) and managed to hold the area, beating back several German counterattacks. Heavy combat lasted for a week, until 8 October 1944, when the Germans were finally forced to withdraw.

The bridge over Torne river today.
The bridge over the Torne river today.

Meanwhile Finnish troops were advancing overland from Oulu towards Kemi, the 15th Brigade making slow progress even in the face of meager German resistance. Their advance was hampered by the efficient destruction of roads and bridges by the withdrawing Germans, as well as a lack of fighting spirit in both Finnish troops and their leaders. The Finns attacked Kemi on 7 October 1944, attempting to encircle the Germans with a frontal attack by the 15th Brigade and an attack from the rear by Detachment Pennanen. Strong German resistance, civilians in the area, and ‘liberated’ alcohol prevented the Finns from fully succeeding in trapping all the Germans. Though Finnish forces took several hundred prisoners, they failed to prevent the Germans from demolishing the important bridges over the Kemijoki river once they began their withdrawal on 8 October.

Further action in The Lapland War

As Allied war efforts against Germany continued, the leadership of the 20th Mountain Army, as well as the OKW, came to believe it would be perilous to maintain positions in Lapland and in northern Norway east of Lyngen, and began preparations for withdrawal. After long delays, Hitler accepted the proposal on 4 October 1944, and it was codenamed Operation Nordlicht on 6 October 1944. Instead of a gradual withdrawal from southern Lapland into fortified positions further to the north while evacuating all material, as in Operation Birke, Operation Nordlicht called for a rapid and strictly organized withdrawal directly behind Lyngen fjord in Norway while under pressure from harassing enemy forces.

As the Germans withdrew, movement was mostly limited to the immediate vicinity of Lapland’s three main roads, which constricted military activities considerably. In general the actions followed a pattern in which advancing Finnish units would encounter German rearguards and attempt to flank them on foot, the destroyed road network preventing them from bringing up artillery or other heavy weapons. As Finnish riflemen slowly picked their way through the dense woods and marshland, the motorized German units would simply drive away and take up positions further down the road.

Finnish Riflemen outflanking German Forces by advancing through forests.
Finnish Riflemen outflanking German Forces by advancing through forests.

Finnish forces began pursuing the Germans. The Finnish 11th Division advanced north from Tornio on the road running along the Torne River while the 3rd Division marched from Kemi towards Rovaniemi. After the 6th and the Armoured Division linked up at Pudasjärvi they advanced northward, first towards Ranua and then to Rovaniemi. The Border Jaeger Brigade moved north along the eastern border, depositing border guards as it advanced. Due to the destruction of the road network the Finns were forced to use combat troops for repair work; at times, for example, the entire 15th Brigade was committed to road construction. Finnish forces advancing from Kemi towards Rovaniemi did not see any real action, as Finnish troops on foot were not able to keep up with withdrawing motorized German units; however, on the road leading from Ranua towards Rovaniemi there were several small battles, first at Ylimaa, then Kivitaival, then Rovaniemi. North of Rovaniemi the Finns encountered heavily fortified German Schutzwall positions at Tankavaara. On the road running along the Torne and Muonio rivers, the German withdrawal went so smoothly that there was no fighting until the Finnish 11th Division reached the village of Muonio.

A Finnish T-26 Light Tank from the Armoured Brigade in heavy weather 1944.
A Finnish T-26 Light Tank from the Armoured Brigade in heavy weather 1944.

At Ylimaa on 7 October the Finns captured documents detailing German positions, forcing them to fight a delaying action off their pre-set timetable; however, as the forces were roughly even numerically, the Finnish lack of heavy weapons, and exhaustion from long marches, prevented the Finnish Jaeger Brigade from trapping the defending German 218th Mountain Regiment before it received permission to withdraw on 9 October. At Kivitaival on 13 October the tables were turned and only a fortuitous withdrawal of the 218th Mountain Regiment saved the Finnish 33rd Infantry Regiment from being severely mauled. The German withdrawal allowed the Finns to surround one of the delaying battalions, but the German 218th Mountain Regiment returned and managed to rescue the stranded battalion. The first Finnish units reaching the vicinity of Rovaniemi were components of the Jaeger Brigade advancing from Ranua on 14 October. The Germans repelled Finnish attempts to capture the last intact bridge over Kemijoki river and then left the mostly demolished town to the Finns on 16 October 1944.

Finnish demobilization and difficult supply routes began to take their toll, and at Tankavaara barely four battalions of the Finnish Jaeger Brigade attempted, unsuccessfully, to dislodge the German 169th Infantry Division, 12 battalions strong, entrenched in prepared fortifications. Finnish forces first reached the area on 26 October but gained ground only on 1 November, when the Germans withdrew further to the north. At Muonio on 26 October the German Kampfgruppe Esch, 4 battalions, and the 6th SS Mountain Division “Nord” again had numerical and material superiority in the form of artillery and armor support, which prevented the Finns from gaining the upper hand, despite initially fairly successful flanking operations by the 8th and 50th Infantry Regiments. The Finnish plan had been to prevent the SS Mountain Division, marching from direction of Kittilä, from reaching Muonio, and thereby trap it; however, the delaying actions of Kampfgruppe Esch and the destruction of the road network made it impossible for the Finns to reach Muonio before the SS Mountain Division.

 

Gebirgsjäger 6th SS Mountain Division "Nord".
Gebirgsjäger 6th SS Mountain Division “Nord”.

The Petsamo-Kirkenes Offensive

After the armistice between the Soviet Union and Finland on 4 September 1944, the Petsamo region (though still largely occupied by the Germans) again became part of Russia, and the Finnish government agreed to remove the remaining German forces from its territory by 15 September (leading to the Lapland War). During the retreat of the German 20th Mountain Army, called Operation Birke, the decision was made by the German Armed Forces Command to withdraw completely from northern Norway and Finland in Operation Nordlicht. During the preparations for this operation, the Russians went over to the offensive on the Karelian Front.

Soviet Infantry on the Karelian Front.
Soviet Infantry on the Karelian Front.

The preparations

The Stavka decided to move against the German forces in the Arctic in late 1944. The operation was to be undertaken jointly by the Karelian Front under the command of General Kirill Meretskov and the Northern Fleet under Admiral Arseniy Golovko. The main operations were to be conducted by 14th Army, which had been in the Arctic since the beginning of the war. Meretskov was provided with several units specially configured to meet the requirements for operations in the far north. The 126th and 127th Rifle Corps consisted of light infantry with a number of ski troops and naval infantry. The Soviets also had 30 engineer battalions, numerous horse- and reindeer-equipped transportation companies, and two battalions equipped with U.S.-supplied amphibious vehicles for river crossings. In addition, the Soviets massed thousands of mortars and artillery pieces, 750 aircraft, and 110 tanks (while the Germans lacked any armour), making Soviet forces far superior to the Germans.

General Kirill Meretskov.
General Kirill Meretskov.

Soviet preparations, which had lasted for two months, had not gone unnoticed by the Germans. The highly capable General Lothar Rendulic, who served as both head of the 20th Mountain Army and overall theater commander, was well aware of the threat posed by the upcoming offensive. Prior to the start of the Soviet drive, the defending Germans had been ordered to abandon Petsamo on 15 October, and Kirkenes by the beginning of November.

The offensive

The offensive can be divided into three phases: the breakthrough of the German position, the pursuit to Kirkenes, and the battle for Kirkenes, including the southward pursuit that followed it. During the offensive several amphibious landings were conducted by naval infantry and army units. Initially, the Germans’ intended withdrawal was hampered by Hitler’s strict orders to Rendulic to evacuate all supplies from the Petsamo region before abandoning it.

Despite intensive planning before the offensive, the initial attack on 7 October immediately met with problems. Poor visibility made it difficult to co-ordinate artillery and fire support, slowing the assault; nevertheless, after some fierce fighting the Soviets broke through the German lines on the Titovka River. Blowing up the bridges behind them, the Germans retreated. The Soviets pursued, and over the following days conducted several amphibious landings to cut off the German forces. On 10 October the Germans shifted the 163rd Division, which was already withdrawing from Finland to Norway, to the Petsamo region to bolster their defenses. On 13 October the Soviets were poised to attack German forces around the town of Petsamo, and units of the 126th light Rifle Corps were able to establish a roadblock on the only escape route; however, troops of the German 2nd Mountain Division was able to clear the roadblock on 14 October, securing the retreat of Rendulic’s forces. The Soviets captured Petsamo on 15 October, but due to supply problems, then had to halt the offensive for three days.

German 2nd Mountain Division.
German 2nd Mountain Division.

For the rest of the campaign the Soviets advanced after the withdrawing Germans along the coast of Norway, with the Soviets trying to block and cut off German units on their retreat. But because of constant supply shortcomings and German delaying efforts, which forced sizable forces to be detached to road reconstruction, the Soviets were not able to achieve success and the Germans escaped with the bulk of their forces intact. The Germans abandoned Kirkenes on 25 October and finally on 29 October Meretskov halted all operations except reconnaissance.

The outcome

The Soviet offensive ended with a victory for the Red Army, however the Wehrmacht 20th Mountain Army successfully performed an orderly retreat with the bulk of its forces intact just like it did against Finnish forces during their retreat through Lapland carried out at the same time. Soviet failure to inflict clear defeat on the withdrawing Germans was largely due to the supply issues caused by efficient German destruction of road connections in the area. With often the only road available being out of service due damage and mines both supplies and heavy equipment, like artillery, could not be transported to front lines in sufficient quantities while lighter equipped forces were at disadvantage against heavily armed German forces.

The Soviet commander Meretskov was promoted to the rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union, and was given a prominent command during the Red Army’s attack on Japanese-heldManchukuo, in August 1945. The Petsamo–Kirkenes Operation is notable in that it was the last major offensive in an Arctic environment. It had been studied intensively in the Soviet Army for this reason.

Forces involved:

Soviet

14th Army, total; 133,500 men

  • 31st Rifle Corps
  • 99th Rifle Corps
  • 131st Rifle Corps
  • Corps Pigarech
  • 126th (light) Rifle Corps
  • 127th (light) Rifle Corps

7th Air Army

  • 318 Fighters: LaGG 5, Yak 3, Yak 9, P-40, P-39
  • 193 Ground Attack Aircraft: Ilyushin Il-2
  • 136 Bombers: Ilyushin Il-4, Petlyakov Pe-2
Bell P-39Q Airacobra of 19th GvIAP Shongoi airfield, 1944. Personal aircraft of Capt.Pavel Kutakhov (13+28 victories).
Bell P-39Q Airacobra of 19th GvIAP
Shongoi airfield, 1944. Personal aircraft of Capt.Pavel Kutakhov (13+28 victories).

In the same area the Northern Fleet operated an air arm with a total of 275 aircraft, but these were not called upon to support the offensive of the ground forces, but rather used to target the German shipping along the coast of Norway.

German

20th Mountain Army

XIX Mountain Corps, total; 45,000 men

Luftwaffe

German air assets in theatre had been estimated at a total of 160-180 aircraft, of which half were fighters. These included Bf-109 and FW-190 fighters, Arado-66 night bombers and Ju-87 Stukas. The Soviets thus on paper enjoyed a 6-to-1 superiority in air strength.

German retreat to Norway

For most practical purposes the war in Lapland ended in early November 1944. In north-eastern Lapland after holding the Finns off at Tankavaara the Germans withdrew swiftly from Finland at Karigasniemi on 25th of November 1944. The Finnish Jaeger Brigade pursuing them had by then been depleted in manpower due to demobilization. In northwest Lapland there were on 4th of November only 4 battalions of Finnish troops left and by February 1945 a mere 600 men. The Germans continued their withdrawal but stayed in fortified positions first at Palojoensuu (village ~50 km north of Muonio along the Torne river) in early November 1944 from where they moved further to positions along the Lätäseno river (Sturmbock-Stellung) on the 26th of November. The German 7th Mountain Division held these positions until the 10th of January 1945 when northern Norway had been emptied and positions at Lyngen fjord were manned. Some German positions defending Lyngen extended over the Finnish side of the border, however no real activity took place before the Germans withdrew from Finland on 25th of April 1945.

Consequences

From the start of the war the Germans had been systematically destroying and mining the roads and bridges as they withdrew. However after the first real fighting took place the German commander, General Lothar Rendulic, issued several orders with regards to destroying Finnish property in Lapland. On the 6th of October a strict order was issued which named only military or militarily important sites as targets. On the 8th of October after the result of the fighting in Tornio and Kemi region became obvious the Germans made several bombing raids, targeting factory areas of Kemi and inflicting heavy damage on them. However on the 9th of October the demolition order was extended to include all governmental buildings with the exception of hospitals. On the 13th of October all habitable structures, including barns, though making an exception for hospitals and churches, were ordered to be destroyed north of the line running from Ylitornio via Sinettä (small village ~20 km NWN of Rovaniemi) to Sodankylä (including the listed settlements) in northern Finland. Though it made sense from the German perspective to do this to deny pursuing forces from getting any shelter it had a very limited effect on the Finns who unlike the Germans always carried tents with them and did not require any shelter.

At Rovaniemi the Germans initially concentrated mainly on destroying governmental buildings but once fire got loose several more were destroyed. German attempts to fight the fire however failed and a train loaded with ammunition caught fire at Rovaniemi railroad station on the 14th of October, resulting in a massive explosion which caused further destruction as well as spreading the fire throughout the primarily wooden buildings of the town. German attempts to fight the fire had failed by the time, on the 16th of October, they abandoned the now ruined town to the advancing Finns.

The town of Rovaniemi destroyed by the Germans.
The town of Rovaniemi destroyed by the Germans.

In their retreat the German forces under General Lothar Rendulic devastated large areas of northern Finland with scorched earth tactics. As a result, some 40–47% of the dwellings in the area were destroyed, and the provincial capital of Rovaniemi was burned to the ground, as were the villages of Savukoski and Enontekiö. Two-thirds of the buildings in the main villages of Sodankylä, Muonio, Kolari, Salla and Pello were demolished, 675 bridges were blown up, all main roads were mined, and 3,700 km of telephone lines were destroyed.

In addition to the property losses, estimated as equivalent to about US $300 million in 1945 dollars (US$ 3.93 billion in 2014), about 100,000 inhabitants became refugees, a situation that added to the problems of postwar reconstruction. After the war the Allies convicted Rendulic of war crimes, and he was sentenced to 20 years in prison, although charges concerning the devastation of Lapland were dropped. He was released after six years.

The military casualties of the conflict were relatively limited: 774 killed in action (KIA), 262 missing in action and about 3,000 wounded in action (WIA) for the Finnish troops, and 1,200 KIA and about 2,000 WIA for the Germans. 1,300 German soldiers became prisoners of war, and were handed over to the Soviet Union according to the terms of the armistice with the Soviets. The extensive German land mines caused civilian casualties for decades after the war, and almost 100 personnel were killed during demining operations. Hundreds of Finnish women who had been engaged to German soldiers or working for the German military left with the German troops, meeting diverse fates.

 

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