Tag: Winter War

Tarja Halonen, the former President of Finland says that Estonia has no reason to fear Russia

Tarja Halonen, president of Finland from 2000-2012

There is no reason for Estonia to panically fear Russia, Tarja Halonen, president of Finland from 2000-2012, told Eesti Paevaleht daily in an interview.

“You are in the European Union, NATO, and you use the euro. In this manner you are not only in a safe house, but have become an independent mature country,” Halonen said. “That is why we say to you sometimes that calm down now and there is no reason to panic. Which does not mean, however, that we say that there’s no reason to be worried looking at Russia,” she added.

In the words of Halonen, Finns know Russians better than Americans do.

“Rule of law, human rights and democracy, they haven’t had very much of them ever and therefore it is difficult to build them up too. They are attempting to achieve it somehow, but it’s difficult work,” Halonen said.

“It was difficult even in Germany when East and West Germany were brought together, but it was only for 50 years that East Germany had been out of the system. Just like Estonia,” she added.

“You forget it easily that we had our one hundred years under the Russian tsar too, we had the Winter War and the Continuation War. We lost a large portion of our country and had to resettle a large number of residents. We paid the Soviets a big amount of money in damages of war. But what I always say is that we were on the easier side,” Halonen said.

“You had your very difficult time – the occupation. That is difficult for us to understand too. So, yes, in my opinion we should be tolerant in the criticism that we level against each other. Our mutual relations have a strong base and we criticize each other not for being there, but just certain things,” the former president of Finland added.

Halonen took part in the festival of opinion culture held in the central Estonian regional capital Paide on Friday and Saturday, where she read the keynote of a discussion titled “How to stand against populism and extremism?”

 

 

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.  

 

 

 

Special Forces in Focus: Sissi – Guerilla Warfare Specialists

Sissi Geurilla Warfare Specialists

The Baltic Post, 26 June 2017

Sissi Insignia

Sissi is a Finnish term for light infantry which conducts reconnaissance, sabotage and guerrilla warfare operations behind enemy lines. The word sissi, first attested in the modern meaning “patrolman, partisan, spy” in 1787, comes to Finnish from Slavic and refers either to a forest bandit or his yew bow.

The Finnish Army Sissi units are trained to conduct long range reconnaissance patrols, gather intelligence from concealed observation posts, raid enemy installations (especially supply depots), conduct road side ambushes and pursue and destroy enemy special forces units.

Finnish Sissi Geurilla Warfare-Recon Team

In wartime, an unspecified number of reservists assigned to Sissi battalions would deploy and operate as small groups up to company size. They are meant to stay behind and covertly operate against enemy forces in their area of responsibility even if regular friendly troops have been forced to retreat. Sissi battalions are part of Finnish Army local troops, unlike the jäger and armored brigades meant for operational use. Sissi units are considered as the elites of the Army conscripts, and many of the units, such as the Paratroopers or Border Jaegers, are formed of volunteers.

Sissi are specialist unconventional guerilla warfare specialists that form part of a highly trained, highly skilled Finnish Special Forces Command.

Wars between Russia and Finland have a long tradition of Finnish sissi warfare. Famous sissi leaders have included Pekka Vesainen (c. 1540—1627), Tapani Löfving (1689–1777, fought during the Greater Wrath), and Olli Tiainen (1770–1833, fought during the Finnish War).

Before the hostilities of Winter War, the Finnish Borderguard formed 25 Independent Battalions (Erillinen Pataljoona) from local reservists along the border area. After the outbreak out of hostilities, a further five Sissi Battalions (Sissipataljoona) were formed from “auxiliary personnel”. These battalions especially those of the latter type, were below their nominal strength in both men and weaponry. These units proved to be effective in using motti tactics in their native area with light infantry weapons and skis.

Finnish soldiers on skis with reindeers, near Jäniskoski, Finland, 20 Feb 1940

In the Continuation War the ad hoc Sissi Battalions were discontinued, but Independent Battalions were raised, 4th Independent Battalion was directly under the command of Supreme Headquarters doing LRRP and raiding missions deep inside Soviet area. In the Battle of Ilomantsi, soldiers of the 4th disrupted the supply lines of the Soviet artillery, preventing effective fire support. In the Ladoga Karelia front the length of the front, absence roads and lack of troops prevented continuous front lines during the trench warfare period. Both armies used a chain of fortified field bases separated by the wilderness, monitoring and controlling the gaps with patrols. Both Finns and Soviets launched raids and recon patrols into enemy territory. Battles were short clashes of lightly armed infantry groups from squadron to battalion in size, with little chance of support or reinforcements.

After the Second World War, Sissi units were de-commissioned and officially Sissi training was discontinued, although many units gave Sissi training for their reconnaissance units. In the beginning of the 1960s, Paratrooper School was established at Utti, infantry and border guard established Sissi training companies thereafter.

Famous sissi troops

  • Ilmari Honkanen, officer in 4th Independent Battalion (ErP 4). Known especially from the destruction of the Soviet military depot in Petrovski Jam.
  • Lauri Törni a.k.a. Larry Thorne, a commander of “Detachment Törni”, the reconnaissance company of the 12th Infantry Regiment during the Continuation War, had a bounty on his head by the Soviets, joined Waffen-SS in 1940 and was sent back home before the Continuation war. After the Finno-Soviet ceasefire he returned to Waffen-SS because he did not believe that Soviets would actually follow the ceasefire agreement. After the war Törni joined US Army and volunteered for the US Army Special forces.
  • Mauno Koivisto, member of “Detachment Törni” during Continuation War, later the President of Finland.
  • Mikko Pöllä, most decorated member of the ErP 4.
  • Onni Määttänen.
  • Paavo Suoranta (Peltonen).
  • Viljo Suokas, killed while on patrol in Sekee 1943.
President Mauno Koivisto 1967

In Finnish, “sissi” means guerrilla, but the term is somewhat misleading when referring to Finnish Defence Force Sissi troops. Sissi forces are not irregular guerrilla or militia forces; they are part of the regular FDF troops trained for operations behind enemy lines. Like most of the Finnish Defence Forces, Sissi battalions are composed of reservists. Their closest foreign equivalents are the Swedish Armed Forces Jägare troops.

Sissi as a description is a person of extraordinary stamina (or Sisu) – e.g. “Sissi weather” (Sissin sää) refers to the worst possible weather conditions, for sissi soldiers prefer these for their operations, since bad weather tends to distract enemy soldiers (any normal soldier tends to think about getting to shelter as soon as possible when bad weather strikes) and hide any noise caused by sissis.

In the Finnish Defence Forces, sissi is used as an umbrella term for all unconventional military applications, such as MREs, which are called “Sissi rations”, also any improvised and/or temporary repair to any equipment is often called “sissiviritys”, literally “sissi fix” or “sissi patch”, in addition any improvised booby-trap, such as a firearm rigged to fire at doorway of a building once someone opens the door, may be called “sissijäynä”, literally “sissi prank”.

Finnish Army Sissi (Ranger-Reconnaissance) on patrol

Volunteers with hobbies such as hunting and hiking are preferred for Sissi training, but any conscript in decent physical condition has a good chance of being assigned to a Sissi training company.

Sissi troops are trained in several brigades under the Finnish Defence Forces. Finnish Border Guard, which is under the Ministry of the Interior, also trains Sissi-troops in Frontier Guard units. In the FDF and Border Guard, Sissi troops are trained in:

  • Kainuun Prikaati
  • Jääkäriprikaati
  • Ivalo Company
  • Onttola Company, Headquarter of North Karelian Border Guard

In addition to this small groups of conscrips (8-10 people) are bi-annually given marine Sissi and reconnaissance training at the amphibious brigade in Dragsvik. The group is usually taken from the “rannikkojääkärit” (Coastal Jaeger) infantry unit. In Finnish Border Guard sissi troops, called Frontier jaegers, are trained in each Border Guard Command. Sissi troops trained in Finnish Border guard are also taught basic duties of border guarding. In Kaakkois-Suomen Rajavartiosto ( Southeast Finland Border Guard District) special Sissi troops (Special frontier jaegers) are also trained in Special forces tactics and techniques. Reserve officers for all Sissi troops are trained at Reserviupseerikoulu. Rivalry between Sissi-troops in different services is traditionally high.

Conscript training in these units is 6 to 12 months long. Leaders of guerrilla warfare platoons and squads serve 12 months whereas crew members serve 6 months. The medical personnel (as also in scout units) serve 9 months, except leaders specialising in medical training serving 12 months.

Conscript in Sissi-company begins with 8-week basic infantry training. After this training becomes more intense. Conscripts are given survival training during every season of the year, they can specialize further into reconnaissance, sniping, dog handling, battlefield medical service or signals. Sissi NCO/Officer training includes additionally signals, demolitions, extended small arms training as well as advanced escape & evasion techniques and ambush tactics. Those unable to cope for either physical or psychological reasons are either given deferments or transferred to a regular infantry training.

Hayha-ampujat

Special Sissi NCOs are also trained to operate in Sissi platoons, called sissiradisti or Sissi signalists. These NCOs are trained in the use of telegraphy for long-range communications.

Besides specially trained sissi troops, everyone in Finnish army at least in theory receives basic training in survival and sissi tactics. All troops and soldiers in Finnish army are theoretically capable of moving from normal warfare to sissi tactics if they are, for example, encircled or their main forces or command structure are destroyed.

Sissi troops are generally not airborne, with the exception of Army Para Jaegers trained in the Utti Jaeger Regiment. Para Jaegers are trained in sissi warfare, with an emphasis on long-range reconnaissance and the addition of close-quarter battle and urban operations training.

Sissi troops also resemble Scout troops (tiedustelijat), who are more specialized at gathering intelligence than the aggressive Sissi troops. In some brigades, Sissi are trained in Scout companies, and vice versa in other brigades, as the training is quite similar.

Sissi Recon Sniper

Sissi troops are un-motorized and are not equipped with heavy weapons or equipment (Except SiRad), their uniforms and weaponry are almost identical with regular infantry issue. Distinctive personal equipment used by Sissi are Savotta “Para Jäger” backpacks used because of extended hikes, camouflage paint and personal camouflage nets. Sissi units have fewer crew served weapons and more sniper rifles than regular infantry.

Mines are an important part of the Sissi tactic of ambushing enemy convoys. They are also used to discourage pursuit after a raid and serve as defences of bivouac. Sissi training includes constructing improvised explosive devices, as well as boobytraps (e.g. from dud artillery shells). Sissi units have a wide variety of land mines at their disposal, including: (Because of Ottawa treaty traditional word mine is nowadays explosion device.)

  • Track Mine TM 65 77 (AT mine)
  • Pipe Explosion Device 68 95 (AP Explosion Device, future uncertain because of Ottawa treaty),[7sometimes called “ovikello”, “doorbell.”
  • Anti-personnel mine 65 98 (AP mine, prohibited by Ottawa treaty)
  • Side Explosion Device 87 (AT Mine)
  • Side Explosion Device 81 (AT Mine)
  • VP 88 Claymore (AP Explosion Device )
  • VP 84 Claymore (AP Explosion Device )
  • Mortar 81mm 81 KRH 71 Y (mortar) both firing and producing guided-launched antipersonnel improvised charges
Finnish mortar squad using the 81 KRH 71 Y Mortar

The National Defense University of Finland hasn’t published any thesis or paper on the 21st century where sissi units and tactics are mentioned. This might be mainly because the FDF has moved to a more flexible defense by reforming its land warfare doctrine leaving no room for tactics and strategies for regiment/company level sissi troops. After organizational changes, the FDF will provide reconnaissance (formerly sissi) training in Kainuun Prikaati, as well as in other major training formations, where they emphasise scout recon. training. That includes reconnaissance, forward observation and fire control but this training no longer leans towards special tactics, weapons, sabotage and woodland area fighting skills. However, the FDF still trains long range reconnaissance patrol units in Utti jaegare Regiment (Paratroopers, one of the elite units of the FDF) and they are trained in woodland area fighting, survival skills, unconventional methods and asymmetric tactics though the major role is geared more towards long range reconnaissance and special operations.

Finnish Border Guard, under the ministry of interior, trains traditional sissi units itself for peace/gray/war time duties. Border Jaegares (or ‘Rajasissi’ – Border Ranger) are trained to operate behind the enemy lines with asymmetric tactics and unconventional weapons and methods as well as do long term operational reconnaissance and aggressive short term reconnaissance and sabotage. Training includes peace time operational methods and the responsibilities of the Border Guard i.e. border control, patrol and tracking and catching illegal intruders. But the training is mostly sissi training with the majority happening in the wilderness.

The future of FDF sissi units is uncertain, clearly decreasing dramatically, but the Finnish Border Guard will maintain sissi training (of a few hundred per year) including the, highly respected, traditional branches such as woodman and survival skills. The FDF have dismissed/are dismissing most of its sissi units and there is fiscal pressure ob the Finnish Border Guard as well, which has already dismantled some regiments of sissi units. The wartime mobilized strength of the Finnish Border Guard is 11,600.

The FDF’s reformed land warfare doctrine is a distributed fighting doctrine so in some sense every soldier in the army is required to understand basic principles of asymmetric tactics and guerrilla warfare.

Sissi Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP)

‘Sissi’ means ‘guerrilla’ or ‘partisan’ in the Finnish language, it doesn’t mean paramilitary or illegal troops without a controlling high command and government. The name only points towards the tactics used in historical guerrilla wars (Freedom fighters / Terrorists). This is an important difference to note as, unlike guerrilla combatants, Finnish sissi don’t hide in the local population and they always carry a belt, cockade, rifle and other signs which makes these units a legal fighting force, by the UN legal definition, alongside regular units. Local civilian support would likely be welcomed but there are no guidelines or a codex for these kinds of situation or interactions and sissis are trained to be invisible to the local population which also helps avoid legally and ethically difficult situations.

 

 

 

 

Finnish Ski Troops – Finland’s Elite Light Infantry

Sissi Unit Emblem.
Sissi Unit Emblem.

Finnish Ski Troops or “Sissi” are light infantry which conducted reconnaissance, sabotage and guerrilla warfare operations behind enemy lines. The word sissi, first attested in the modern meaning “patrolman, partisan, spy” in 1787, comes to Finnish from Slavic and refers either to a forest bandit or his yew bow.

The Finnish Army Sissi units are trained to conduct long range reconnaissance patrols, gather intelligence from concealed observation posts, raid enemy installations (especially supply depots), conduct road side ambushes and pursue and destroy enemy special forces units.

A Finnish Ski patrol with reindeer.
A Finnish Ski patrol with reindeer.

In Finland, long-range patrols (kaukopartio) were especially notable during World War II. For example, Erillinen Pataljoona 4 (4th Detached Battalion), a command of four different long-range patrol detachments; Detachment Paatsalo, Detachment Kuismanen, Detachment Vehniäinen and Detachment Marttina operated throughout the Continuation War phase of the war. These units penetrated Soviet lines and conducted recon and destroy missions. During the trench warfare period of the Continuation War, long-range patrols were often conducted by special Finnish sissi troops. Former President of Finland, Mauno Koivisto, served in Lauri Törni‘s specially designed Jäger Company (called ‘Detachment Törni’) in the Finnish 1st Infantry Division. Lauri Törni became a US citizen and entered the US Army Special Forces. He gave important knowledge in long-range patrolling and was declared MIA during the Vietnam War in 1965, until his remains were found and were buried in Arlington on 26 June 2003.

In wartime, the unknown number of reservists assigned to Sissi battalions would deploy and operate as small groups up to company size. They are meant to stay behind and covertly operate against enemy forces in their area of responsibility even if regular friendly troops have been forced to retreat. Sissi battalions are part of Finnish Army local troops, unlike the jäger and armored brigades meant for operational use. Sissi units are considered as the elites of the Army conscripts, and many of the units, such as the Paratroopers or Border Jaegers, are formed of volunteers.

A Finnish Patrol skiing two-abreast to hide their numbers.
A Finnish Patrol skiing two-abreast to hide their numbers.

History

Before the hostilities of Winter War, the Finnish Army formed 25 Independent Battalions (Erillinen Pataljoona) from local reservists along the border area. After the outbreak out of hostilities, a further five Sissi Battalions (Sissipataljoona) were formed from “auxiliary personnel”. These battalions especially those of the latter type, were below their nominal strength in both men and weaponry. These units proved to be effective in using “motti” tactics of surrounding the enemy before attacking in their native area with light infantry weapons and skis.

In the Continuation War the ad hoc Sissi Battalions were discontinued, but Independent Battalions were raised, 4th Independent Battalion was directly under the command of Supreme Headquarters doing LRRP and raiding missions deep inside Soviet area. In the Battle of Ilomantsi, soldiers of the 4th harassed supply lines of the Soviet artillery preventing effective fire support. In the Ladoga Karelia front the length of the front, absence roads and lack of troops prevented continuous front lines during the trench warfare period. Both armies used a chain of fortified field bases separated by the wilderness, monitoring and controlling the gaps with patrols. Both Finns and Soviets launched raids and recon patrols into enemy territory. Battles were short clashes of lightly armed infantry groups from squadron to battalion in size, with little chance of support or reinforcements.

After the Second World War, Sissi units were de-commissioned and officially Sissi training was discontinued, although many units gave Sissi training for their reconnaissance units. In the beginning of the 1960s, Paratrooper School was established at Utti, infantry and border guard established Sissi training companies thereafter.

Weaponry

The main weapon of the Sissi were their Ski’s. These enabled them to be extremely mobile, to react quickly to potential threats and move quickly when inserted on a long-range patrol by a Heinkel He-59 or Heinkel He-115B aircraft. Finnish Ski troops were notable for fighting with their skis on, whereas their Soviet counterparts removed their skis before combat, thus rendering their mobile advantage ineffectual.

Heinkel He 59 Finnish Air Force.
Heinkel He 59 Finnish Air Force.

Suomi KP/-31

Suomi KP-31.
Suomi KP-31.

The Suomi KP/-31 (Suomi-konepistooli or “Submachine-gun Finland”) was a submachine gun (SMG) of Finnish design used during World War II. It was a descendant of the M-22 prototype and the KP/-26 production model, which was revealed to the public in 1925. The Suomi-konepistooli KP/-31 is often abbreviated to Suomi KP.

The Suomi KP/-31 is regarded by many as one of the most successful submachine guns of World War II, also the soon developed 71-round drum magazine was later copied and adopted by the Soviets for their PPD-40 and PPSh-41 submachine guns. The accuracy of the Suomi was superior to that of the mass-produced PPSh-41, thanks in part to a noticeably longer barrel, with the same rate of fire and the equally large magazine capacity. The major disadvantage of the Suomi KP/-31 was its high production cost.

The Suomi KP/-31 also incorporated a few new design features, including an arrangement whereby the spring was mounted inside the bolt in order to make the gun shorter. Its 50-round quad-column “Casket” box magazine was more reliable than the early 40-round “bullets loaded nose down” drum magazine, and similar applications were used on the Argentinian C-4 submachine gun and present-day 60-round 5.45x39mm AK-74 compatible magazines.

The M-22 and KP/-26 were made by Konepistooli Oy, founded by Master Armorer Aimo Lahti, Captain V. Korpela, Lieutenant Y. Koskinen and Lieutenant L. Boyer-Spoof. The Suomi KP/-31 was designed by Koskinen and Lahti.

The Suomi KP/-31 went into serial production in 1931 by Tikkakoski Oy and most of these weapons were bought by the Finnish Defence Forces. The Finnish Defence Forces were equipped with about 4000 Suomi KP/-31 submachine guns when the Winter War started. During the course of the war, the design was altered with the addition of a muzzle brake, which increased the submachine gun’s overall length by 55 mm. The revised version was designated KP/-31 SJR (suujarru, or “muzzle brake”). Aimo Lahti was displeased with this revision, believing that it decreased muzzle velocity and reduced the weapon’s reliability, and even sought in vain to have the muzzle brake’s designer court-martialed. Ultimately, roughly half of the KP/-31s in Finnish service were of the SJR version. Initially the KP/-31 was issued as a substitute for a light machine gun, and proved inadequate in this role. Instead, soldiers learned by trial and error how to use submachine guns to the best effect. By the time of the Continuation War, Finnish doctrine had been altered to include both a KP/-31 and a light machine gun (usually a captured Degtyaryov DP) in every infantry squad, and by 1943 this had been expanded to two KP/-31s per squad. KP/-31 production continued with the intention of adding a third submachine gun to each squad, but this plan was shelved in 1944 when the Continuation War ended.

Lahti-Saloranta M-26 Light Machine Gun

Lahti-Saloranta M26 Light Machine Gun.
Lahti-Saloranta M26 Light Machine Gun.

The Lahti-Saloranta M/26 (alternatively LS/26) is a light machine gun which was designed by Aimo Lahti and Arvo Saloranta in 1926. The weapon was able to fire in both full automatic and semi-automatic modes. Both 20-round box and 75-round drum magazines were produced, but the Finnish army seems to have only used the smaller 20-round magazine.

In the Winter War, there were two squads in each platoon that provided covering fire for two ten-man rifle squads. In each squad, there was one M/26 gunner, one assistant and the rest of the men carrying rifles.

Lahti-Saloranta M-26 LMG gunner.
Lahti-Saloranta M-26 LMG gunner.

The M/26 won a Finnish Army competition in 1925 where it was selected as the army’s main light machine gun. Production started in 1927 at the Valtion kivääritehdas (VKT), State Rifle Factory, and lasted until 1942. More than 5,000 weapons were produced during that time. China also placed an order for 30,000 M/26s chambered for 7.92x57mm Mauser in 1937, but only 1,200 of these weapons were actually delivered due to Japanese diplomatic pressure. In the summer of 1944, 3,400 M/26s were in use at the front.

The Mosin-Nagant M28/30 sniper rifle

The Mosin-Nagant M28-30 sniper rifle.
The Mosin-Nagant M28-30 sniper rifle.

M/28-30: An upgraded version of the M/28. The most noticeable modification is the new rear sight design. Same sight was used in following M39 rifle only exception being “1.5” marking for closest range to clarify it for users. According to micrometer measurements and comparison to modern Lapua D46/47 bullet radar trajectory data, markings are matched to Finnish Lapua D46/D46 bullet surprisingly accurately through whole adjustment range between 150 m and 2000 m.

The trigger was also improved by adding coil spring to minimize very long pre-travel. Following M39 does not have this improvement. The magazine was also modified to prevent jamming. Magazines were stamped with “HV” (Häiriö Vapaa = Jam Free) letters in right side of rifle. Later M39 uses identical design, but without “HV” -stamp. M/28-30 also have metal sleeve in fore-end of handguard, to reduce barrel harmonics change and to make barrel-stock contact more constant between shots and/or during environmental changes such as moisture and temperature. Later M39 does not have this upgrade.

In addition to its military usage, approximately 440 M/28-30 rifles were manufactured by SAKO for use in the 1937 World Shooting Championships in Helsinki.

M/28-30 model, serial number 60974, was also used by Simo Häyhä, the well-known Finnish sniper. The M28/30 was used as a Civil Guards competition rifle before World War II, as was the case with Simo Häyhä’s personal rifle too. Therefore these rifles were built very well, with the highest grade barrels available and carefully matched headspace. Häyhä’s rifle was still at PKarPr (Northern Karelia Brigade) museum in 2002, then moved to an unknown place by the Finnish Army.

Simo Häyhä the highest scoring sniper in history.
Simo Häyhä the highest scoring sniper in history.

Famous sissi troops

  • Lauri Törni a.k.a. Larry Thorne, a commander of “Detachment Törni”, the reconnaissance company of the 12th Infantry Regiment during the Continuation War, had a bounty on his head by the Soviets, joined Waffen-SS in 1940 and was sent back home before the Continuation war. After the Finno-Soviet ceasefire he returned to Waffen-SS because he did not believe that Soviets would actually follow the ceasefire agreement. After the war Törni joined US Army and volunteered for the US Army Special forces.
  • Mauno Koivisto, member of “Detachment Törni” during Continuation War, later the President of Finland.
  • Mikko Pöllä, most decorated member of the 4th Detached Battalion.

Term and use

In Finnish, “sissi” means guerrilla, but the term is somewhat misleading when referring to Finnish Defence Force Sissi troops. Sissi forces are not irregular guerrilla or militia forces; they are part of the regular FDF troops trained for operations behind enemy lines. Like most of the Finnish Defence Forces, Sissi battalions are composed of reservists. Their closest foreign equivalents are the Swedish Armed Forces Jägare troops.

Sissi as a description is a person of extraordinary stamina (or Sisu) – e.g. “Sissi weather” (Sissin sää) refers to the worst possible weather conditions, for sissi soldiers prefer these for their operations, since bad weather tends to distract enemy soldiers (any normal soldier tends to think about getting to shelter as soon as possible when bad weather strikes) and hide any noise caused by sissis.

In the Finnish Defence Forces, sissi is used as an umbrella term for all unconventional military applications, such as any improvised and/or temporary repair to any equipment is often called “sissiviritys”, literally “sissi fix” or “sissi patch”, in addition any improvised booby-trap, such as a firearm rigged to fire at doorway of a building once someone opens the door, may be called “sissijäynä”, literally “sissi prank”.

Battle of Ilomantsi

Finnish Ski Troops were heavily involved in the Battle of Ilomantsi, which was the last major engagement of the Continuation War, and after nine victories in just a few weeks forced the Soviet Stavka to retract its demands for Finland’s unconditional surrender, due to fears that the Finnish armed forces remained a capable fighting force.

Finnish Sissi LMG crew at Ilomantsi.
Finnish Sissi LMG crew at Ilomantsi.

The Battle of Ilomantsi was a part of the Continuation War (1941–1944). It was fought from July 26 to August 13, 1944, between Finland and the Soviet Union in area roughly 40 kilometers wide and 30 kilometers deep, near the Finnish-Soviet border, close to a small Finnish town of Ilomantsi, in North Karelia. The battle ended with a Finnish victory, as the last major Soviet attack against Finland was stopped here. Of 7000 Finnish soldiers 400 were killed or missing, 1,300 were wounded. The 16,000 (later rising to 20,000) Soviet Forces suffered 13,050 casualties.

Order of battle

Finnish

Finnish forces in the area before the battle consisted of only the 21st Brigade under Colonel Ekman but they were reinforced with Cavalry Brigade and three other battalions—3rd Border Jaeger Battalion and 2 battalion strong detachment P (Os. P). All Finnish forces were subordinated to a temporary formation named Group R (Group Raappana) after its commanding officer Major General Erkki Raappana and was tasked with defeating the advancing Soviet units and recapturing crossroads at Kuolismaa village. During the initial Soviet push the sole unit defending and delaying it was the Finnish 21st Brigade (roughly 7,000 men). As the front in the Karelian Isthmus had been stabilized the Cavalry Brigade was rushed to the Ilomantsi to reinforce the 21st Brigade bringing the Finnish strength at July 31 when the counterattack began roughly to 13,000.

Soviet

General Meretskov’s Karelian Front’s forces advancing towards Ilomantsi consisted of two divisions of Soviet 32nd Army under Lieutenant General Filip D. Garelenko – 176th (Colonel Zolotarjov) and 289th (Major General Tsernuha) divisions. Later as the battle progressed and the advancing divisions were encircled, Soviet forces in the area were reinforced with 3rd, 69th and 70th Naval Infantry Brigades and other formations.

According to Soviet archives, at the beginning of the Karelian Front’s offensive at June 21, 1944 Soviet 176th and 289th Rifle Divisions of the 32nd Army had combined strength of roughly 16,000 men. By the time (June 31) the Finnish counterattack in Ilomantsi started the combined strength of the 176th and 289th division had dropped to 11,000 men. After the soviet 3rd Naval Infantry (ru. Morskaya Pekhota) Brigade and 69th and 70th Naval Rifle (ru. Morskaya Strelkovy) Brigades were brought to support the encircled 176th and 289th Divisions the combined Soviet infantry strength in Ilomantsi was slightly higher than 20,000 men.

The Battle

Parts of Karelia, as they are traditionally divided.
Parts of Karelia, as they are traditionally divided.

At first, the Soviet offensive seemed to be successful as on July 21, 1944, the Red Army units were able to reach the Finnish-Soviet border of 1940, the only time during the entire Soviet offensive of 1944, and—in fact—ever since 1941. Finnish reinforcements arrived on July 28 and on July 31 Raappana started the counterattack. Already on August 1 Finns cut the sole road leading to Soviet 176th division and by August 3 both Soviet divisions were encircled as the Finnish forces utilized envelopment tactics (Encirclement tactics were known as “motti” in Finnish) that drew upon the ancient methods of warfare and those already used by them in the Winter War (1939–1940).

Finnish Ski Troops in action at Ilomantsi.
Finnish Ski Troops in action at Ilomantsi.

Soviets deployed three brigades with armor support to open the road connections to the encircled divisions but Finnish efforts prevented it. Renewed attacks distracted the Finns enough to allow the encircled Soviet forces escape through the dense forests by abandoning their heavy equipment. Given the element of surprise and due to superior numbers of the Soviets the Finnish troops guarding the encircled divisions had little hope of containing organized breakouts especially in forests and so many of the encircled Soviets managed to escape to their own side with last escaping at August 10.

Destroyed Soviet T-26 Tank
Destroyed Soviet T-26 Tank

Source: SA-Kuva

Outcome

Two attacking Red Army divisions were decimated in this last major engagement on the Finnish front, before the armistice was concluded in early September, 1944. Command of the Finnish forces at the Battle of Ilomantsi was carried out by the famed Finnish General—and a Knight of the Mannerheim CrossErkki Raappana.

Military historians note that the two Red Army divisions were completely routed after a week and a half of fighting, leaving behind over 3,200 Red Army soldiers dead, thousands wounded and missing, and over 100 pieces of heavy artillery, approximately 100 mortars and the rest of the Soviet ordnance for the Finns to capture.

Osasto Partinen (Detachment Partinen) in forest of Ilomantsi.
Osasto Partinen (Detachment Partinen) in forest of Ilomantsi.

General Raappana’s men—the so-called Group Raappana (“Ryhmä Raappana” in Finnish)—had fired within ten days over 36,000 artillery shells, aimed at the Soviet forces in Ilomantsi. The Soviet artillery participating in Ilomantsi were able to fire only 10,000 shells during the same period. The main reason for the lower Soviet artillery successes were the Finnish disturbance tactics. For instance, a Finnish guerrilla detachment led by the Knight of the Mannerheim Cross, Lieutenant Heikki Nykänen, destroyed a Soviet convoy of 30 trucks carrying artillery rounds to the battle scene.

Ski Trooper with weapon at the ready on Skis.
Ski Trooper with weapon at the ready on Skis.

Impact

The Finns had achieved victory, and the remnants of the two Red Army divisions had barely escaped destruction, by breaking out from the encirclements. After the battle, Stavka (Soviet Armed Forces Headquarters) brought its offensive to a halt and gave up the demand of Finland’s unconditional surrender.

The Finnish President Mauno Koivisto spoke at a seminar held in August, 1994, in the North Karelian city of Joensuu, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Finnish victory in the crucial Battle of Ilomantsi. The future President of Finland witnessed this battle as a soldier in a reconnaissance company commanded by Finnish war hero and Knight of the Mannerheim Cross recipient, Captain Lauri Törni (who later served in USA as a Green Beret under the name Larry Thorne):

In the summer of 1944, when the Red Army launched an all-out offensive, aimed at eliminating Finland, the Finns were “extremely hard-pressed”, President Koivisto itenerated, but they “did not capitulate”.

“We succeeded in stopping the enemy cold at key points,” the President said, “and in the final battle at Ilomantsi even in pushing him back.”

In a speech on September 4, 1994, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the signing of the armistice ending the Finnish-Soviet hostilities, the Prime Minister of Finland Esko Aho declared:

“I do not see a defeat in the summer’s battles, but the victory of a small nation over a major power, whose forces were stopped far short of the objectives of the Soviet leadership. Finland was not beaten militarily …”

“Finland preserved her autonomy and her democratic social system …”

“Finland … won the peace.”

The Utrio area played a central role in General Erkki Raappana’s—the leader of the 1944 Ilomantsi operation—plan of defence. Fast-moving battalions from the Cavalry Brigade, experienced in forest warfare, were driven through this area between lakes, as a wedge between the attacking Soviet 289th and 176th Divisions. The opening battles fell on the Finnish Light Infantry Battalion 6. When it turned against the encirclements at Leminaho and the Lutikkavaara hill, the Uudenmaa Cavalry Regiment attacked through Utrio and the River Ruukinpohja, with flanking from the Light Infantry Battalion 1.

Wolf

References

 

 

 

The Extraordinary Larry Thorne

Lauri Törni (Larry Thorne) Lauri Allan Törni (28 May 1919 – 18 October 1965), later known as Larry Thorne, was a Finnish Army captain who led an infantry company in the Finnish Winter and Continuation Wars and moved to the United States after World War II. He is known as the soldier who fought under three flags: Finnish, German (when he fought the Soviets in World War II), and American (where he was known as Larry Thorne) when he served in U.S. Army Special Forces in the Vietnam War.

Lauri Törni
Lauri Törni

Early life and military service Christened Lauri Allan Törni, he was born in Viipuri, Viipuri Province (Karelia historical province), (Karelia), Finland, to ship captain Jalmari (Ilmari) and Rosa (née Kosonen) Törni; his sisters were Salme Lesley (born 1920) and Kaija Iris (born 1922). Lauri was athletic and an early friend was future Olympic Boxing Gold Medalist Sten Suvio. After attending business school and serving with the Civil Guard, Törni entered military service in 1938, joining the 4th Independent Jaeger Infantry Battalion stationed at Kiviniemi; as the Winter War began in November 1939, his enlistment was extended and his unit confronted invading Russian troops at Rautu. Career World War II During the battles at Lake Ladoga, Törni took part in the annihilation of the encircled Russian divisions in Lemetti. His feats during these engagements were noticed by his commanders, and toward the end of the war, he was assigned to officer training where he was commissioned a Vänrikki (2nd lieutenant) in the reserves. After the Winter War, in June 1941, Törni went to Vienna, Austria for 7 weeks of training with the Waffen SS, and returned to Finland in July; as a Finnish officer, he was recognized as a German Untersturmführer (Second Lieutenant).

Lauri Allan Törni in Uniform der Waffen-SS
Lauri Allan Törni in Uniform der Waffen-SS

Most of Törni’s reputation was based on his successful feats in the Continuation War (1941–44) between the Soviet Union and Finland. Törni’s military career lasted for 27 years without pause. He volunteered in the military service, entering Battalion 4 of light infantry. As a non-commissioned officer serving in Infantry Battalion 4, Törni was assigned to a supplementary refresher course and ended up in the Winter War. He was a patrol leader and the deputy commander of a Swedish-speaking company within the battalion. Toward the end of the war he took Course 45 in the reserve officers’ school (RUK) in Niinisalo. After RUK Törni was transferred from Infantry Regiment 12 to serve the armed forces as a platoon commander, hired for a supplementary second lieutenant. In May 1941 Finns were being recruited for military service and Törni, too, enlisted as a volunteer. However, he only served in the SS-troops (SS Freiwilligen Bataillon Nordost) in Germany from the beginning of June till the end of July. Due to the great numbers of officers in the battalion, Törni was returned to Finland with several other “extra officers”. Next, Törni became the leader of the tank battalion (founded on August 15, 1941) of the light infantry battalion 8 in the first division. The battalion advanced to Karhumäki, Petrozavodsk and Käppäselkä. Törni was severely wounded by a mine on a nocturnal ski patrol in Malu on March 23, 1942. He was injured by splinters all over his body and suffered from a partial stroke. After Midsummer he returned from the stationary hospital in Seinäjoki to his previous detachment as the 1st company commander, having been promoted to yliluutnantti (First Lieutenant). When the aggressive warfare became stabilized, the detachment was disbanded and Törni was transferred to Infantry regiment 56. In 1943 a famous unit informally named Detachment Törni was created under his command. This was an infantry unit that penetrated deep behind enemy lines and soon enjoyed a reputation on both sides of the front for its combat effectiveness. One of Törni’s men was future President of Finland, Mauno Koivisto. The two served together during the Battle of Ilomantsi, which was the final Finnish-Soviet engagement of the Continuation War during July and August 1944. Koivisto participated in the battle as a soldier assigned to a reconnaissance company under the command of Captain Törni.

Kapteeni Lauri Törni during the Continuation War.
Kapteeni Lauri Törni during the Continuation War.

Törni’s unit inflicted such heavy casualties on Russian units that the Soviet Army placed a bounty on his head of 3 million Finnish Marks. He was decorated with the Mannerheim Cross on 9 July 1944.

Shoulder patch of Detachment Törni
Shoulder patch of Detachment Törni

The September 1944 Finnish peace treaty with the Soviets required Finland to remove German troops from its territory and resulted in the Lapland War; also, much of the Finnish Army was demobilized along with Törni, leaving him unemployed in November 1944. In January 1945, he was recruited by a pro-German resistance movement in Finland and left for saboteur training in Germany, and to organize resistance in case Finland was occupied by the Soviet Union. The training was prematurely ended in March, but as Törni could not secure transportation to Finland, he joined a German Schutzstaffel (SS) unit to fight against Russians near Schwerin, Germany. He surrendered to American and British troops in the last stages of World War II and eventually returned to Finland in June 1945 after escaping a British POW camp in Lübeck, Germany. When Finland withdrew from the war, Törni went to Germany, performing special duties as a Hauptsturmführer (Nazi paramilitary rank, equivalent to Captain) in the SS, from late January until early May 1945. Törni fought the Russians near Schwerin, Germany. He surrendered to American and British troops in the last stages of World War II and eventually returned to Finland in June 1945 after escaping a British POW camp in Lübeck, Germany. Lauri Törnieventually returned to Finland whereupon he was promptly arrested by the ValPo (The State police) for treason for having joined the German Schutzstaffel or SS. After Finland was forced into war against Germany, taking service in the German armed forces was a clear case of treason, and Törni was sentenced to six years in January 1947. Törni was Imprisoned at the Turku provincial prison, he escaped in June, but was recaptured and sent to the Riihimäki State Prison. Finnish President Juho Paasikivi granted him a pardon in December 1948. Lauri Törni faced increasing harrassement by the Red-controlled State Police (Valpo) in Finland, he emigrated in 1949-51 via Sweden and Venezuela to the United States, where he succeeded, after many twists and turns, in enlisting in the US armed forces. US Flag Emigration to the United States In 1949 Törni, accompanied by his wartime executive officer Holger Pitkänen, traveled to Sweden, crossing the border from Tornio to Haparanda (Haaparanta), where many inhabitants were of ethnic Finnish origin. From Haparanda Törni traveled by railroad to Stockholm where he stayed with Baroness von Essen, who harbored many fugitive Finnish officers following the war. Pitkänen was arrested and repatriated to Finland. Remaining in Sweden, Törni fell in love with a Swedish Finn, Marja Kops, and was soon engaged to be married. Hoping to establish a career before the marriage, Törni traveled under an alias as a Swedish seaman aboard the SS Bolivia, destined for Caracas, Venezuela. In Caracas, Törni met one of his Winter War commanders, Finnish colonel Matti Aarnio, who was in exile having settled in Venezuela after the war. From Caracas, Törni hired on to a Swedish cargo ship, the MS Skagen, destined for the United States in 1950. While in the Gulf of Mexico, near Mobile, Alabama, Törni jumped overboard and swam to shore. Now a political refugee, Törni traveled to New York City where he was helped by the Finnish-American community living in the Sunset Park, Brooklyn “Finntown”. There he worked as a carpenter and cleaner. In 1953, Törni was granted a residence permit through an Act of Congress that was shepherded by the law firm of “Wild Bill” Donovan, the former head of the OSS, America’s wartime covert military organization. United States Army In 1953, Törni was granted a permit of residence through the Lodge Act (The Lodge-Philbin Act was a U.S. federal law, passed on 30 June 1950, which allowed for the recruiting of foreign nationals into a military force fighting under the command of the U.S. Armed Forces). He joined the US Army in 1954 and changed his name to Larry Allen Thorne. Joining other highly decorated Finnish American officers who were in Special Forces at the time, he became an instructor in skiing, survival, mountaineering, and guerrilla tactics. He attended airborne school, and advanced in rank; attending Officer Candidate School, he was commissioned as a 1st lieutenant in the Signal Corps in 1957. From 1958 to 1962 he served in the 10th Special Forces Group in West Germany at Bad Tölz. While there he was second in command of a search and recovery mission high in the Zagros mountains of Iran, which gained him a notable reputation. He later received a regular commission and a promotion to captain in 1960.  

Captain Larry Thorne.
Captain Larry Thorne.
10th Special Forces Group Patch.
10th Special Forces Group Patch.

His first tour in Vietnam, from 1963 to 1964, was as the Detachment Commander of SFODA-734 in the Mekong Delta. In February 1965, assigned to MACV, he was instrumental in establishing the SOPs employed by the fledgling Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG).

Larry Thorne, Vietnam 1962.
Larry Thorne, Vietnam 1962.

On October 15, 1965, Thorne was inserted as an observer on the very first MACV-SOG cross-border operation. When the team was inserted, Thorne, who had planned the mission, remained in the area in case the team ran into trouble. Once he received word that the team was safe, he radioed that he was on its way back to base. His helicopter crashed. Although the crash site was located, he was listed as Missing in Action. He was promoted to the rank of Major in December 1965. Vietnam War and death Deploying to South Vietnam in November 1963 to support South Vietnamese forces in the Vietnam War, Thorne and Special Forces Detachment A-734 were stationed in the Tịnh Biên District and assigned to operate Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) encampments at Châu Lăng and later Tịnh Biên. During a fierce attack on the CIDG camp in Tịnh Biên, he received two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star Medal for valor during the battle. This attack would later be described by author Robin Moore in his book The Green Berets. Thorne’s second tour in Vietnam began in February 1965 with 5th Special Forces Group; he then transferred to Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group (MACV–SOG), a classified U.S. special operations unit focusing on unconventional warfare in Vietnam, as a military advisor. On 18 October 1965, he was supervising a clandestine mission during which his Vietnam Air ForceCH-34 helicopter crashed in a mountainous area of Phước Sơn District, Quảng Nam Province, Vietnam, 25 miles (40 km) from Da Nang. Rescue teams were unable to locate the crash site. Shortly after his disappearance, Thorne was promoted to the rank of major.

CH-34 Helicopter.
CH-34 Helicopter.

In 1999, Thorne’s remains were found by a Finnish and Joint Task Force-Full Accounting team and repatriated to the United States following a Hanoi Noi Bai International Airport ceremony that included Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Ambassador Pete Peterson. Formally identified in 2003, his remains were buried on 26 June 2003 at Arlington National Cemetery, section 60, tombstone 8136, along with the Vietnam casualties of the mission recovered at the crash site.

Larry Thorne - Lauri Törni burial at Arlington Cemetary.
Larry Thorne – Lauri Törni burial at Arlington Cemetary.

  Details of service

  • The Finnish Army
    • 3 September 1938, military (reserve)
    • 1 March 1939, reserve corporal
    • 9 May 1940, reserve second lieutenant
    • 5 March 1942, reserve lieutenant
    • 27 August 1944, reserve captain
    • 6 October 1950, removed from officers list
  • Finnish decorations:
    • 2 class medal of freedom, 26 July 1940
    • 1 class medal of freedom, 24 August 1940
    • 3rd class Cross of Liberty, 9 October 1941
    • 4th class Cross of Liberty, 23 May 1942
    • Mannerheim Cross, 9 July 1944
    • 1st Div. memorial cross
    • Defence Forces bronze medal

 

The Mannerheim Cross.
The Mannerheim Cross.
  • German army, the Waffen-SS
    • 18 May 1941, Untersturmführer (Nordost)
    • 15 April 1945, Hauptsturmführer (Sonderkommando Nord)
  • German decorations:
    • 2 class Iron Cross, 11 December 1943

 

Iron Cross Second Class.
Iron Cross Second Class.
  • United States Army
    • 28 January 1954, enlisted
    • 20 December 1954, Private First Class
    • 28 April 1955, Corporal
    • 17 November 1955, Sergeant
    • 9 January 1957, Lieutenant (res.)
    • 30 November 1960, Captain (res.)
    • 16 December 1965, Major (res., posthumously)
  • United States Army decorations:
    • Legion of Merit
    • Distinguished Flying Cross
    • Bronze Star
    • Purple Heart (twice)
    • Air Medal
    • Army Commendation Medal
    • Good Conduct Medal
    • Vietnam Campaign Medal
    • Vietnam Service Medal
    • Combat Infantry Badge
    • Parachute Badge (Master)

Purple Heart.
Purple Heart.
Bronze Star Medal.
Bronze Star Medal.

Legacy In the 1990s, Törni’s name became more and more well-known as a war hero, with numerous books being written about him. He was named 52nd in the Suuret Suomalaiset listing of famous Finns; in the 2006 Suomen Sotilas (Finnish Soldier) magazine listing, he was elected most courageous of the Mannerheim Cross recipients. In Finland, the survivors, friends, and families of Detachment Törni formed the Lauri Törni Tradition Guild. The Infantry Museum (Jalkaväkimuseo) in Mikkeli, Finland, has an exhibit dedicated to Törni, as does the Military Museum of Finland in Helsinki. Thorne’s U.S. memorial is the Larry Thorne Headquarters Building, 10th SFG(A), Fort Carson, Colorado. 10th Group honors him yearly by presenting the Larry Thorne Award to the best Operational Detachment-Alpha in the command. The Special Forces Association Chapter 33 in Cleveland, Tennessee is named after him. In 2010 he was named as the first Honorary Member of the United States Army Special Forces Regiment. In the book The Green Berets by Robin Moore, the “Sven Kornie” (or Captain Steve Kornie) main character in the first chapter was based on Thorne. In their 2013 book Tuntematon Lauri Törni [Unknown Lauri Törni], authors Juha Pohjonen and Oula Silvennoinen argue that Törni’s conviction for treason was justified because the SS training he received at the end of World War II was provided to help achieve a National Socialist coup in Finland. This view is disputed by Törni Heritage Guild members Markku Moberg and Pasi Niittymäki, who acknowledge Törni faced pressure from war and alcohol, but did not support Germany. Moberg also expresses disappointment in what he terms a false picture of a man who is no longer able to defend himself. Finnish historian Jussi Niinistö argues that Törni’s training was motivated by patriotism, not sympathy for a Nazi coup. He takes issue with the book authors, asserting they intentionally stirred up hatred to promote sales of their book; and Niinistö also justifies the context for Torni’s brief post-Continuation War German training with “the fact that in Finland there was a genuine fear that Russia would occupy Finland.” The Swedish power metal group Sabaton have a song on their 2014 album Heroes titled “Soldier of 3 Armies” which is about Törni’s participation in three different military forces. References

 

Osprey Aviation Elite No.4: Lentolaivue 24 – Book Review

LeLv 4 Pages

Authors: Kari Stenman & Kalevi Keskinen.

Lentolavue 24 (No.24 Squadron), arguably the most effective Finnish fighter outfit of World War II, first saw action during the bloody Winter War of 1939-40, when the Soviet Red Army launched a surprise attack on the small Scandinavian country.

Flying obsolescent Fokker D.XXIs, the Squadron enjoyed great success against numerically superior opposition. LeLv 24, re-equipped with the much maligned Brewster Model 239 Buffalo during the temporary ceasefire between the Winter War and the Continuation War.

The Squadron achieved astonishing success with its Brewster Model 239s, using them throughout the Continuation War from its outbreak in June 1941 to its end in September 1944. The unit re-equipped with the Messerschmitt Bf 109G in 1943-44, fully integrating the fighter into the Squadron in April 1944.

Lentolaivue 24s pilots enjoyed further success against the Soviets with the Messerschmitt Bf 109G during the final Soviet summer offensive of 1944. When the armistice was signed in September 1944, LeLv 24 had claimed 877 victories during five years of war.

The book contains 128 pages, 143 black and white wartime photos, 40 color aircraft side profiles, 4 color squadron insignias, one color wartime photo (on the back cover), a map of the air bases in Finland during the war, 4 pages of appendices, and an index.

The colour profiles are of: 4 Bristol Mercury-engine Fokker D.XXIs, 16 Brewster Model 239s, 6 Messerschmitt Bf 109G-2s, 10 Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6s, the Gloster Gamecock II, de Havilland 60X Moth, VL Viima II, VL Pyry and a page depicting ‘Unit Heraldry’.

LeLv 4 Colour Plates

Each colour profile is numbered and contains a detailed description of each aircraft towards the back of the book.

The front cover depicts a pair of LeLv 24 Brewster Model 239’s in combat with a Polikarpov I-16, the lead Brewster B-239 is flown by flown by Capt. Jorma Savanto, shooting down a Polikarpov I-16 east of Leningrad on January 24th, 1943. This painting is by aviation artist Jim Laurier.

LeLv 24 Cover

This edition contains five chapters; 1 Humble Beginnings, 2 Winter War, 3 Finnish Offensive, 4 Stationary War and 5 Soviet Offensive.

This is a concise combat history of a unique elite unit, their aircraft and the pilots that flew them. Kari Stenman and Kalevi Keskinen are recognised experts in the field of the Suomen Ilmavoimat/Finnish Air Force from its inception to the present day.

This volume comes highly recommended to anybody wishing to gain an authoritative insight into Lentolaivue 24 and the Finnish Air Force during World War II.

 

Richard Reynolds.

The importance of the Petsamo Nickel Mines to the Major Powers in World War II

History

Deposits of nickel were found in 1921, after Petsamo became a part of Finland, and in 1934 the deposits were estimated to contain over five million tonnes. Mining operations were started in 1935 by Canadian and French corporations.

Petsamo, situated on the northern coast of Finland (now Russia). Kirkenes can be seen along the coast to the east
Petsamo, situated on the northern coast of Finland (now Russia). Kirkenes can be seen along the coast to the west in Norway.

Construction of a road from Sodankylä through Ivalo to Liinakhamari started in 1916 and was completed in 1931. This made Petsamo a popular tourist attraction, as it was the only port by the Barents Sea that could be reached by automobile.

In the Winter War of 1939–1940, the Soviet Union occupied Petsamo. In the following peace agreement only the Finnish part of the Rybachy Peninsula, with the area of 321 square kilometers (124 sq mi), was ceded to the Soviet Union, although the Soviets had occupied all of Petsamo during the Winter War.

Coastal Batteries at Petsamo
Coastal Batteries at Petsamo

In 1941, during World War II, Petsamo was used by Nazi Germany as a staging area for the attack towards Murmansk. In 1944, the Red Army occupied Petsamo again, and Finland had to cede it to the Soviet Union as part of the Moscow Armistice signed on September 19, 1944; the total ceded area was 8,965 square kilometers (3,461 sq mi). On July 21, 1945, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union decreed to establish Pechengsky District with the administrative centre in nickel on the ceded territory and to include this district as a part of Murmansk Oblast.

The beginnings of Finnish co-operation with Germany

After Nazi Germany’s assault on Scandinavia on April 9, 1940, Operation Weserübung, Finland was physically isolated from her traditional trade markets in the west. Sea routes to and from Finland were now controlled by the Kriegsmarine. The outlet of the Baltic sea was blockaded, and in the far north Finland’s route to the world was an Arctic dirt road from Rovaniemi to the ice-free harbour of Petsamo, from where the ships had to pass a long stretch of German-occupied Norwegian coast by the Arctic Ocean. Finland, like Sweden, was spared occupation but encircled by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. With direct support by Marshal Mannerheim a volunteer unit was formed and sent to Norway to help the fight against the Nazi army. The ambulance unit participated in the war until the Germans conquered the area in which it was serving. The volunteers returned to Finland.

Petsamo Harbour
Petsamo Harbour

Especially damaging was the loss of fertilizer imports, that, together with the loss of arable land ceded in the Moscow Peace, the loss of cattle during the hasty evacuation after the Winter War, and the unfavorable weather in the summer of 1940, resulted in a drastic fall of food production to less than two thirds of what was Finland’s estimated need. Some of the deficit could be purchased from Sweden and some from the Soviet Union, although delayed deliveries were then a means to exert pressure on Finland. In this situation, Finland had no alternative but to turn to Germany for help.

Finland seeks German rapprochement

Germany has traditionally been a counterweight to Russia in Baltic region, and despite the fact that Hitler’s Third Reich had acquiesced with the invader, Finland perceived some value in also seeking warmer relations in that direction. After the German occupation of Norway, and particularly after the Allied evacuation from northern Norway, the relative importance of a German rapprochement increased.

From May 1940, Finland pursued a campaign to re-establish the good relations with Germany that had soured in the last year of the 1930s. Finland rested her hope in the fragility of the Nazi–Soviet bond, and in the many personal friendships between Finnish and German athletes, scientists, industrialists, and military officers. A part of that policy was accrediting the energetic former Prime Minister Toivo Mikael Kivimäki as ambassador in Berlin in June 1940. The Finnish mass media not only refrained from criticism of Nazi Germany, but also took active part in this campaign. Dissent was censored. Seen from Berlin, this looked like a refreshing contrast to the annoyingly anti-Nazi press in Sweden.

Toivo Mikael Kivimäki
Toivo Mikael Kivimäki

After the fall of France, in late June, the Finnish ambassador in Stockholm heard from the diplomatic sources that Britain could soon be forced to negotiate peace with Germany. The experience from World War I emphasized the importance of close and friendly relations with the victors, and accordingly the courting of Nazi Germany was stepped up still further.

The first crack in the German coldness towards Finland was registered in late July, when Ludwig Weissauer, a secret representative of the German Foreign Minister, visited Finland and queried Mannerheim and Ryti about Finland’s willingness to defend the country against the Soviet Union. Mannerheim estimated the Finnish army could last a few weeks without more arms. Weissauer left without any promises.

Continued Soviet pressure

The implementation of the Moscow Peace Treaty created problems due to the Soviet Vae Victis-mentality. Border arrangements in the Enso industrial area, which even Soviet members of the border commission considered to be on the Finnish side of the border, the forced return of evacuated machinery, locomotives, and rail cars; and inflexibility on questions which could have eased hardships created by the new border, such as fishing rights and the usage of Saimaa Canal merely served to heighten distrust about the objectives of the Soviet Union.

The Soviet attitude was personified in the new ambassador to Helsinki, Ivan Zotov. He behaved undiplomatically and had a stiff-necked drive to advance Soviet interests, real or imagined, in Finland. During the summer and autumn he recommended several times in his reports to the Soviet Foreign Office that Finland ought to be finished off and wholly annexed by the Soviet Union.

On June 14, Soviet bombers shot down the Finnish Junkers 52 passenger plane Kaleva. All nine passengers and crew perished.

On June 23, the Soviet Union proposed that Finland should revoke Petsamo mining rights from the British–Canadian company and transfer them to the Soviet Union, or to a joint venture owned by the Russians and the Finns. On June 27, Moscow demanded either demilitarization or a joint fortification effort in Åland. After Sweden had signed the troop transfer agreement with Germany on July 8, Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov demanded similar rights for a Soviet troop transit to Hanko on July 9. The transfer rights were given on September 6, and demilitarization of Åland was agreed on October 11, but negotiations on Petsamo continued to drag on, with Finnish negotiators stalling as much as possible.

The Åland Islands
The Åland Islands

The Communist Party was so discredited in the Winter War that it never managed to recuperate between the wars. Instead, on May 22, the Peace and Friendship Society of Finland and Soviet Union was created, and it actively propagated Soviet viewpoints. Ambassador Zotov had very close contacts with the Society by holding weekly meetings with the Society leadership in the Soviet embassy and having Soviet diplomats participating in Society board meetings. The Society started by criticizing the government and military, and gained around 35,000 members at its height. Emboldened by its success, it started organizing almost daily violent demonstrations during the first half of August which were supported politically by Zotov and a press campaign in Leningrad. The government reacted forcefully and arrested leading members of the society which ended the demonstrations in spite of Zotov’s and Molotov’s protests. The Society was finally outlawed in December 1940.

The Soviet Union demanded that Väinö Tanner be discharged from the cabinet because of his anti-Soviet stance and he had to resign August 15. Ambassador Zotov further demanded the resignation of both the Minister of Social Affairs Karl-August Fagerholm because he had called the Society a Fifth column in a public speech, and the Minister of Interior Affairs Ernst von Born, who was responsible for police and led the crackdown of the Society, but they retained their places in the cabinet after Ryti delivered a radio speech in which he stated the willingness of his government to improve relations between Finland and the Soviet Union.

Väinö Tanner
Väinö Tanner

President Kallio suffered a stroke on August 28, after which he was unable to work, but when he presented his resignation November 27, the Soviet Union reacted by announcing that if Mannerheim, Tanner, Kivimäki, Svinhufvud or someone of their ilk were chosen president, it would be considered a breach of the Moscow peace treaty.

President Kyösti Kallio
President Kyösti Kallio

All of this reminded the public heavily of how the Baltic Republics had been occupied and annexed only a few months earlier. It was no wonder that the average Finn feared that the Winter War had produced only a short delay of the same fate.

British disregard

Compared to the early spring, during the summer of 1940, Finland was not high on the agenda of British foreign policy. To gain support from the Soviet Union, Britain had appointed Sir Stafford Cripps, from the left wing of the Labour Party, ambassador to Moscow. He had openly supported the Terijoki Government during the Winter War and he wondered to Ambassador Paasikivi ‘didn’t the Finns really want to follow Baltic Republics and join the Soviet Union?’ He also dismissively called President Kallio “Kulak” and Nordic social democracy “reactionary“. The British Foreign Office had to apologize for his language to Ambassador Gripenberg.

Sir Stafford Cripps
Sir Stafford Cripps

Britain opposed Finnish-Swedish cooperation and provided support for the Soviet Union to scuttle the initiative, until it became apparent in late March 1941 that it had driven Finland in the direction of the Germans, but by then it was already too late. Finnish foreign trade was another critical issue as it was dependent on the British Navy and the Ministry of Economic Warfare was extremely strict when issuing those so that even Finnish trade (and relations) with the Soviet Union suffered from it.

During the nickel negotiations the Foreign Office pressured the license owning British-Canadian Company to “temporarily” release the license and offered diplomatic support to Soviet attempts to gain control of the mine with the precondition that no ore would be shipped to Germany.

Improved relations with Nazi Germany

Unbeknownst to Finland, Adolf Hitler had started to plan his forthcoming invasion of the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa) now that France had collapsed. He had not been interested in Finland before the Winter War, but now he saw the value of Finland as an operating base, and perhaps also the military value of the Finnish army. In the first weeks of August, German fears of a likely immediate Russian attack on Finland caused Hitler to free the arms embargo. The arms deliveries stopped under the Winter War were resumed.

The next visitor from Germany came on August 18, when a representative of Hermann Göring, arms dealer Joseph Veltjens, arrived. He negotiated with Ryti and Mannerheim about German troop transfer rights between Finnmark in Northern Norway and ports of Gulf of Bothnia in exchange for arms and other material. At first these arms shipments were transferred via Sweden, but later they came directly to Finland. For the Third Reich, this was a breach of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, as well as being for Finland a material breach of the Moscow Peace Treaty—that in fact had been chiefly targeted against cooperation between Germany and Finland. It has been disputed in retrospect whether the ailing President Kallio was informed. Possibly Kallio’s health collapsed before he could be confidentially briefed.

Josef Veltjens
Josef Veltjens

From the campaign to ease the Third Reich’s coldness towards Finland, it seemed a natural development to also promote closer relations and cooperation, especially since the much-disliked Moscow Peace Treaty had, in clear language, tried to persuade the Finns not to do exactly that. Propaganda in the censored press contributed to Finland’s international re-orientation—although with very measured means.

Soviet negotiators had insisted that the troop transfer agreement (to Hanko) should not be published for parliamentary discussion or voting. This precedent made it easy for the Finnish government to keep a troop transfer agreement with the Germans secret until the first German troops arrived at the port of Vaasa on September 21. The arrival of German troops produced much relief to the insecurity of average Finns, and was largely approved. Most contrary voices opposed more the way the agreement was negotiated than the transfer itself, although the Finnish people knew only the barest details of the agreements with the Third Reich. The presence of German troops was seen as a deterrent for further Soviet threats and a counterbalance to the Soviet troop transfer right. The German troop transfer agreement was augmented November 21 allowing the transfer of wounded, and soldiers on leave, via Turku. Germans arrived and established quarters, depots, and bases along the rail lines from Vaasa and Oulu to Ylitornio and Rovaniemi, and from there along the roads via Karesuvanto and Kilpisjärvi or Ivalo and Petsamo to Skibotn and Kirkenes in northern Norway. Also roadworks for improving winter road (between Karesuvanto and Skibotn) and totally new road (from Ivalo to Karasjok) were discussed, and later financed, by Germans.

Ryti, Mannerheim, Minister of Defence Walden and chief of staff Heinrichs decided October 23 that information concerning Finnish defence plans of Lappland could be given to the Wehrmacht to gain goodwill, even with the risk that they could be forwarded to the Soviet Union.

When Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov visited Berlin on November 12, he demanded that Germany stop supporting Finland, and the right to handle Finland in a similar way to Baltic States, but Hitler demanded that there should be no new military activities in Northern Europe before summer. Through unofficial channels, Finnish representatives were informed that “Finnish leaders can sleep peacefully; Hitler has opened his umbrella over Finland.”

Vyacheslav Molotov
Vyacheslav Molotov

Attempted defence union with Sweden

On August 19, a new initiative was launched for co-operation between Sweden and Finland. It called for a union of the two states in exchange for a Finnish declaration of satisfaction with the current borders. The plans were primarily championed by the Swedish Foreign Minister, Christian Günther, and Conservative party leader Gösta Bagge, Education Minister in Stockholm. They had to counter increasing anti-Swedish opinions in Finland; and in Sweden, Liberal and Socialist suspicions against what was seen as right-wing dominance in Finland. One of the chief objectives of the plan was to ensure greatest possible liberty for Sweden and Finland in a presumed post-war Europe totally dominated by Nazi Germany. In Sweden, political opponents criticized the necessary adaptations to the Nazis; in Finland, the resistance centred on the loss of sovereignty and influence—and the acceptance of the loss of Finnish Karelia. However, the general feeling of Finland’s dire and deteriorating position quieted many critics.

The official request for a union was made by Christian Günther on October 18, and Finland’s approval was received on October 25, but by November 5, the Soviet ambassador in Stockholm, Alexandra Kollontai, warned Sweden about the treaty. The Swedish government retreated from the issue but discussions for a more acceptable treaty continued until December when, on December 6, the Soviet Union and, on December 19, Germany announced their strong opposition to any kind of union between Sweden and Finland.

Road to war

During the autumn of 1940, Finnish generals visited Germany and occupied Europe several times to purchase additional guns and munitions. Mannerheim even wrote a personal letter January 7, 1941 to Göring where he tried to persuade him to release Finnish purchased artillery pieces Germany had captured in Norwegian harbours during Weserübung. During one of these visits, Maj. Gen. Paavo Talvela met with Chief of Staff of OKH, Col. Gen Franz Halder and Göring January 15–18, 1941, and was asked about Finnish plans to defend itself in case of new Soviet invasion. The Germans also inquired about the possibility of someone from Finland coming and giving a presentation about the experiences of the Winter War.

After the resignation of president Kallio, Risto Ryti was elected by parliament as the new president of Finland December 19. Johan Wilhelm Rangell formed a new government January 4, and this time the far-right IKL party was included in the cabinet as an act of goodwill toward Nazi Germany.

President Risto Ryti, 1940
President Risto Ryti, 1940

Petsamo Crisis

Finland had negotiated with the Germans since spring 1940 about the production of Kolosjoki nickel mines in Petsamo. On July 1940 Finland made a contract with the German company I.G. Farbenindustrie: 60% of the nickel produced was to be shipped to Germany. The negotiations alarmed the Soviet, which in June claimed for a 75% ownership to the mine and to a nearby power plant together with the right to handle security in the area.

According to German reports, the ore body of Kolosjoki mines had a value of over 1 Billion Reichsmark, and it could fulfil the demand of nickel in the Third Reich for 20 years. Later on, in the end of 1940, the Germans raised their estimate of the Kolosjoki nickel reserves four times larger.

Petsamo Nickel Mines

The Finnish nickel deposits were found in the Petsamo area near the Barents Sea. Until the Paris Peace Treaties, 1947, this was the northernmost part of Finland. In 1934 it was estimated that the deposits contained over five million tons of nickel. In 1935, Canadian and French corporations began mining operations there.

The nickel deposits were a lesser known reason for Allied and German interest in the area during World War II, as potentially of great importance for production of arms and munitions. Both the planned Franco-British support of Finland in the Winter War, and German occupation of Denmark and Norway (Operation Weserübung) were partly motivated by control of the nickel mines.

Nickel is a vital component in the production of Steel Alloy. Alloy steel is steel to which additional alloying elements have been intentionally added to modify the characteristics of steel. Common alloying elements include: manganese, nickel, chromium, molybdenum, boron, titanium, vanadium, and niobium. Additional elements may be present in steel: manganese, phosphorus, sulfur, silicon, and traces of oxygen, nitrogen, and aluminium.

Nickel was a vital component in the production of the Panther Tank
Nickel was a vital component in the production of the Panther Tank (Panzer V)

Other materials are often added to the iron/carbon mixture to produce steel with desired properties. Nickel and manganese in steel add to its tensile strength and make the austenite form of the iron-carbon solution more stable, chromium increases hardness and melting temperature and vanadium also increases hardness while making it less prone to metal fatigue.

Tiger I (Panzer VI)Production Line. The addition of nickel to steel alloy improved the tensile strength of armour
Tiger I (Panzer VI) Production Line. The addition of nickel to steel alloy improved the tensile strength of armour

During the period between the Winter War and the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, there were disputes between Finland and the Soviet Union over mining rights in Petsamo. Finland refused to allow the Soviet Union to mine nickel in Petsamo. This was one of the causes of hostility between the Soviet Union and Finland, which led to the Continuation War. As part of the German invasion, troops from Norway occupied the Petsamo region in 1941, securing the nickel supply.

The Continuation War ended in September 1944, with Finland’s capitulation. Finland ceded Petsamo to the Soviet Union. All subsequent nickel production there has since been under Soviet or Russian authority.

Negotiations with the Soviet had dragged on for six months when the Soviet Foreign Ministry announced January 14 that the negotiations had to be concluded quickly. On the same day, the Soviet Union interrupted grain deliveries to Finland. Soviet ambassador Zotov was recalled home January 18 and Soviet radio broadcasts started attacking Finland. January 21 Soviet Foreign Ministry issued an ultimatum demanding that nickel negotiations be concluded in two days.

When Finnish military intelligence spotted troop movements on the Soviet side of the border, Mannerheim proposed January 23 a partial mobilization, but Ryti and Rangell didn’t accept. Ambassador Kivimäki reported January 24, that Germany was conscripting new age classes, and it was unlikely that they were needed against Britain.

Baron Gustaf Emil Mannerheim
Baron Gustaf Emil Mannerheim

Finnish Chief of Staff Lt.Gen. Heinrichs visited Berlin January 30 – February 3, officially giving a lecture about Finnish experiences in the Winter War, but also including discussions with Halder. During the discussions Halder “speculated” about a possible German assault on the Soviet Union and Heinrichs informed him about Finnish mobilization limits and defence plans with and without German or Swedish participation.

Col. Buschenhagen had reported from northern Norway February 1 that the Soviet Union had collected 500 fishing ships in Murmansk, capable of transporting a division. Hitler ordered troops in Norway to occupy Petsamo (Operation Renntier) immediately if the Soviet Union started attacking Finland.

Mannerheim submitted his letter of resignation February 10 claiming that the continuing appeasement made it impossible to defend the country against an invader. He took his resignation back the next day after discussions with Ryti and after stricter instructions were sent to negotiators: 49% of mining rights to the Soviet Union, the power plant to a separate Finnish company, reservation of the highest management positions for Finns and no further Soviet agitation against Finland. Soviet Union rejected those terms on February 18, thus ending nickel negotiations.

Diplomatic activities

After Heinrichs’ visit and the end of the nickel negotiations, diplomatic activities were halted for a few months. The most significant activities of that time was the visit of Colonel Buschenhagen to Helsinki and Northern Finland February 18 – March 3 when he familiarized himself with the terrain and climate of Lappland. He also had discussions with Mannerheim, Heinrichs, Major General Airo and chief-of-operational-office Colonel Tapola. Both sides were careful to point out the speculative nature of these discussions, although later they became the basis of formal agreements.

Major-General Aksel Airo
Major-General Aksel Airo

Already in December 1940, leaders of Germany’s Waffen-SS had demanded that Finland should show its orientation towards Germany “with deeds”, by which it was clear that it meant enlistment of Finnish troops to the SS. The official contact was made on March 1, and in the following negotiations the Finns tried in vain to transform the troops from SS to Wehrmacht, in commemoration of the World War I-era Finnish Jäger Battalion. Ryti and Mannerheim considered the battalion necessary to reinforce German support of Finland; thence the nickname “Panttipataljoona” (“Pawn battalion”) and the negotiations were concluded on April 28 with the Finnish conditions that Government, Civil Guards or Armed Forces would not enlist and that all military personnel wishing to participate must first take their leave of the Finnish army. (These conditions were designed to limit Finnish commitment to Nazi Germany.) The enlistment was carried out in May, and in June the troops were transferred to Germany where a Finnish SS battalion was founded June 18. Foreign minister Witting informed Sweden, where similar activities were also conducted, already on March 23 about possible enlistment. The British ambassador to Helsinki, Gordon Vereker, notified the Finnish Foreign Ministry May 16 on the issue, demanding an end to the enlistment.

Relations between Sweden and Germany strained in March, and on March 15 Sweden mobilized 80,000 more men and moved military units to the southern coast and western border making it even more likely that Sweden couldn’t support Finland if war broke out. This also affected Swedish-Finnish co-operation as the Finnish interest for intelligence exchange diminished considerably during April.

Race issues were sources of particular concern: the Finns were not viewed favorably by the Nazi race theorists. By active participation on Germany’s side, Finnish leaders hoped for a more independent position in post-war Europe, through the removal of the Soviet threat and the incorporation of the related Finnish peoples of neighboring Soviet areas, especially Karelia. This view gained increasing popularity in the Finnish leadership, and also in the press, during the spring of 1941.

From February to April, Germany prepared Barbarossa in secret, and apart from the above contacts, no operational or political discussions were concluded during this time. Instead they published disinformation, such as claims that the German troop buildup in the East was merely a ruse ahead of a planned invasion of Britain (such a plan had been considered under the codename Operation Sea Lion) or safe training locations from British bombers, to hide their real intentions. When Germany invaded Yugoslavia and Greece beginning on April 6, suspicion of German intentions increased in Finland, though uncertainty still prevailed as to whether Hitler really intended to attack the Soviet Union before the Battle of Britain was concluded.

However, the Finns had, in the past, learned bitterly how a small country can be used as small change in the deals of great powers, and in such a case Finland could have been used as a token of reconciliation between Hitler and Stalin, something which the Finns had every reason to fear, which is why relations with Berlin were considered of the utmost priority for the future of Finland, especially so if the war between Germany and Soviet Union failed to materialize.

Once again the German Foreign Ministry sent Ludwig Weissauer to Finland May 5, this time to clarify that war between Germany and the Soviet Union would not be launched before spring 1942. Ryti and Witting believed that, at least officially, and forwarded the message to Swedish Foreign Minister Günther, who was visiting Finland May 6–9. Witting also sent the information to Finnish-ambassador-to-London Gripenberg. When the war broke out only a couple of weeks later, it was understandable that both Swedish and British governments felt that the Finns had lied to them.

Part of that disinformation campaign was a request to ambassador Kivimäki that Finland should offer proposals for a new border that the Germans could pressure the Soviets to accept in negotiations. On May 30, 1941 General Airo produced five alternative border drafts for delivery to the Germans, who should then propose the best they felt they could bargain from the Soviet Union. In reality, the Germans had no such intentions, but the exercise served to fuel the support among leading Finns for taking part in Operation Barbarossa.

Operations like Barbarossa don’t begin without some advance notice, and worsening of Soviet-German relations, which began with the meeting in Berlin November 12, was visible around the end of March 1941. Stalin tried to improve relations toward the Third Reich by taking the leadership of the Soviet government May 6, backed off from unimportant issues, and fulfilled all trade deals even as German deliveries were late. Part of this policy was also improving relations with Finland. A new ambassador, Pavel Orlov, was named to Helsinki April 23 and a gift of a trainload of wheat was presented to J. K. Paasikivi when he retired from Moscow. The Soviet Union also renounced opposition to a Swedish-Finnish defence alliance, but Swedish disinterest and German opposition to that kind of alliance rendered the proposal moot. Soviet radio propaganda against Finland also ceased. Orlov acted very conciliatory and soothed many feelings which had been raised by his predecessor, but as he failed to solve any critical issues (like the disagreement over Petsamo nickel) or to restart grain imports from Soviet Union, his line was seen only as a new façade on old policy.

British-ambassador-Vereker saw Finland moving towards Germany, and due to his reports, the British Foreign Office had requested easing Finnish trade regulations in Petsamo March 30. On April 28 Vereker reported that the British government should pressure the Soviet Union to return Hanko or Vyborg to Finland as he saw it as the only possible way to secure Finnish neutrality in the case of German-Soviet war.

The Petsamo crisis had disillusioned Finnish politicians, especially Ryti and Mannerheim, creating the impression that peaceful co-existence with the Soviet Union was impossible, and that Finland would survive in peace only if the Soviet Union was defeated, as Ryti presented it to US ambassador Arthur Schoenfeld on April 28. The effect of this general feeling was that voices advocating closer ties with Germany grew stronger and the voices advocating armed neutrality within Finland’s new borders (some among the Social Democrats, and some of the more left-leaning in the Swedish People’s Party) softened. Contacts with Sweden’s Conservative Foreign Minister Günther showed an enthusiasm unusual for the Swedes for the anticipated “Crusade against Bolshevism“.

After the successful occupation of Yugoslavia and Greece by the spring of 1941, the German army’s standing was at its zenith, and its victory in the war seemed more than likely. The envoy of the German Foreign Ministry, Karl Schnurre, visited Finland May 20–24, and invited one or more staff officers to negotiations in Salzburg.

Cooperation with Germany

A group of staff officers led by General Heinrichs left Finland on May 24 and participated in discussions with OKW in Salzburg on May 25 where the Germans informed them about the northern part of Operation Barbarossa. The Germans also presented their interest in using Finnish territory to attack from Petsamo to Murmansk and from Salla to Kandalaksha. Heinrichs presented Finnish interest in Eastern Karelia, but Germany recommended a passive stance. The negotiations continued the next day in Berlin with OKH, and contrary to the negotiations of the previous day, Germany wanted Finland to form a strong attack formation ready to strike on the eastern or western side of Lake Ladoga. The Finns promised to examine the proposal, but notified the Germans that they were only able to arrange supply to the OlonetsPetrozavodsk-line. The issue of mobilization was also discussed. It was decided that the Germans would send signal officers to enable confidential messaging to Mannerheim’s headquarters in Mikkeli. Naval issues were discussed, mainly for securing sea lines over the Baltic Sea, but also possible usage of the Finnish navy in the upcoming war. During these negotiations the Finns presented a number of material requests ranging from grain and fuel to airplanes and radio equipment.

Heinrichs’ group returned on May 28 and reported their discussions to Mannerheim, Walden and Ryti. And on May 30 Ryti, Witting, Walden, Kivimäki, Mannerheim, Heinrichs, Talvela and Aaro Pakaslahti from Foreign Ministry had a meeting where they accepted the results of those negotiations with a list of some prerequisites: a guarantee of Finnish independence, the pre-Winter War borders (or better), continuing grain deliveries, and that Finnish troops would not cross the border before a Soviet incursion.

The next round of negotiations occurred in Helsinki on June 3–6 regarding some practical details. During these negotiations it was decided that Germany would be responsible for the area north of Oulu. This area was easily given to them because it was sparsely inhabited and non-critical to the defence of the more important southern provinces. The Finns also agreed to give two divisions to the Germans in northern Finland (30 000 men) and to the usage of airfields in Helsinki and Kemijärvi (Because of the number of German aircraft, airfields at Kemi and Rovaniemi were added later). Finland also warned Germany that an attempt to establish a Quisling government would cut co-operation and that they considered it very important that Finland not be the aggressor and that no invasion should be launched from Finnish soil.

The negotiations for naval operations continued on June 6 in Kiel. It was agreed that the Kriegsmarine would close the Gulf of Finland with mines as soon as the war began.

The arrival of German troops participating in Operation Barbarossa began on June 7 in Petsamo, where SS Division Nord started southwards, and on June 8 in the ports of the Gulf of Bothnia where the German 169th Infantry Division was transported by rail to Rovaniemi, where both of these turned eastward on June 18. Britain cancelled all naval traffic to Petsamo June 14 in protest of these moves. Starting from June 14, a number of German minelayers and supporting MTBs arrived in Finland, some on an official naval visit, others hiding in the southern archipelago.

S-Boot German MTB
S-Boot German MTB

Finnish parliament was informed for the first time on June 9, when first mobilization orders were issued for troops needed to safeguard the following mobilization phases, like anti-air and border guard units. The Committee on Foreign Affairs complained that parliament was bypassed when deciding on these issues, and protesting that Parliament should be trusted with sensitive information, but no other actions were taken. Swedish ambassador Karl-Ivan Westman wrote that the Soviet-minded “Sextuples”, the far-left Social Democrats, were the reason that parliament couldn’t be trusted in foreign policy questions. When Soviet news agency TASS reported on June 13 that no negotiations were ongoing between Germany and the Soviet Union, Ryti and Mannerheim decided to delay mobilization as no guarantees had been received from Germany. General Waldemar Erfurt, who had been nominated as liaison officer to Finland on June 11, reported to OKW June 14 that Finland wouldn’t finalize mobilization unless the prerequisites were granted. Although the Finns continued on the same day (June 14) with the second phase of mobilization, this time the mobilizing forces were located in northern Finland and later operated under German command. Field Marshal Keitel sent a message on June 15 stating that the Finnish prerequisites were accepted, and the general mobilization restarted on June 17, two days later than scheduled. On June 16, two Finnish divisions were transferred to the German army in Lapland.

Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel
Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel

An airfield in Utti was evacuated by Finnish planes on June 18 and the Germans were allowed to use it for refuelling from June 19. German reconnaissance planes were stationed at Tikkakoski, near Jyväskylä, on June 20.

On June 20 Finland’s government ordered 45,000 people at the Soviet border to be evacuated. On June 21 Finland’s chief of the General Staff, Erik Heinrichs, was finally informed by his German counterpart that the attack was to begin.

To the opening of hostilities

Operation Barbarossa had already commenced in the northern Baltic by the late hours of June 21, when German minelayers, which had been hiding in the Finnish archipelago, laid two large minefields across the Gulf of Finland, one at the mouth of the Gulf and a second in the middle of the Gulf.

These minefields ultimately proved sufficient to confine the Soviets’ Baltic Fleet to the easternmost part of the Gulf of Finland until the end of the Continuation War. Three Finnish submarines participated in the mining operation by laying 9 small fields between Suursaari Island and the Estonian coast with first mines being laid at 0738 on 22 June 1941 by Finnish submarine Vetehinen.

Vetehinen-Class Submarine
Vetehinen-Class Submarine

Later the same night, German bombers, flying from East Prussian airfields, flew along the Gulf of Finland to Leningrad and mined the harbour and the river Neva. Finnish air defence noticed that one group of these bombers, most likely the ones responsible for mining the river Neva, flew over southern Finland. On the return trip, these bombers refueled in Utti airfield before returning to East Prussia.

Finland feared that the Soviet Union would occupy Åland as soon as possible and use it to close naval routes from Finland to Sweden and Germany (together with Hanko base), so Operation Kilpapurjehdus (Sail Race) was launched in the early hours of June 22 to deliver Finnish troops to Åland. Soviet bombers launched attacks against Finnish ships during the operation at 0605 on 22 June 1941 before the Finnish ships had delivered the troops to Åland but no damage was inflicted in the air attack.

Individual Soviet artillery batteries started to shoot at Finnish positions from Hanko early in the morning, so the Finnish commander sought permission to return fire, but before the permission was granted, Soviet artillery had stopped shooting.

On the morning of June 22, the German Gebirgskorps Norwegen started Operation Renntier and began its move from Northern Norway to Petsamo. The German ambassador initiated urgent negotiations with Sweden for transfer of the German 163rd Infantry Division from Norway to Finland using Swedish rail. Sweden agreed to this on June 24.

On the morning of June 22, both the Soviet Union and Finland declared that each would be neutral in respect of the other in the war that was now underway. This precipitated unease in the Nazi leadership, which tried to provoke a response from the Soviet Union by using both the Finnish archipelago as a base, and Finnish airfields for refuelling. Hitler‘s public statement worked in the same direction; Hitler declared that Germany would attack the Bolshevists “(…) in the North in alliance [“im Bunde”] with the Finnish freedom heroes”. This was in flat contradiction of the statement made to parliament by British Foreign Secretary Eden on June 24 affirming Finnish neutrality.

Finland did not allow direct German attacks from its soil to the Soviet Union, so German forces in Petsamo and Salla had to hold their fire. Air attacks were also prohibited, and very bad weather in northern Finland helped to keep the Germans from flying. Only one attack from Southern Finland against the White Sea Canal was approved, but even that had to be cancelled due to bad weather. There were occasional individual and group level small arms shooting between Soviet and Finnish border guards, but otherwise the front was quiet.

To keep a close eye on their opponents, both parties—and also the Germans—performed active air reconnaissance over the border, but no air fights ensued.

After three days, early on the morning of June 25, the Soviet Union made its move and unleashed a major air offensive against 18 cities with 460 planes, mainly striking airfields but seriously damaging civilian targets as well. The worst damage was done in Turku, where the airfield became inoperable for a week, but among civilian targets, the medieval Turku Castle was also destroyed. (After the war, the castle was repaired, but the work took until 1961.) Heavy damage to civilian targets was also sustained in Kotka and Heinola. However, civilian casualties of this attack were relatively limited.

The Soviet Union justified the attack as being directed against German targets in Finland, but even the British embassy had to admit that the heaviest hits had been taken by southern Finland, and airfields where there were no Germans. Only two targets had German forces present at the time of attack: Rovaniemi and Petsamo. Once again Foreign Minister Eden had to admit to parliament on June 26 that the Soviet Union had initiated the war.

A meeting of parliament was scheduled for June 25 1941 when Prime Minister Rangell had been due to present a notice about Finland’s neutrality in the Soviet-German war, but the Soviet bombings led him to instead observe that Finland was once again at war with the Soviet Union. The Continuation War had begun.

One year later, in May of 1942, Jagdgeschwader 5 (JG 5) ‘Eismeer’ was assigned to Petsamo Airfield to protect the nickel mines from Soviet attack, initially; they were equipped with the Messerschmitt Bf 109E-7 ‘Jabo’ (fighter-bomber). The unit remained in Petsamo until February 1944 until being forced to retreat to Kirkenes in Norway by Finnish Forces in the Lapland War. In addition to Petsamo, Luftwaffe units flew missions from Helsinki-Malmi, Turku, Utti, Immola, Kemijärvi, Kemi and Rovaniemi  airfields, from 1941 to 1944.

Petsamo Airfield 1944 courtesy of wolf-hound, Axis History Forum
Petsamo Airfield 1944 courtesy of wolf-hound, Axis History Forum

Coming Soon: Eduard’s 1/32 Messerschmitt Bf 109E-7 build review; flown by Hptm. Günther Scholz, Gruppenkommander of III./JG 5, Petsamo, August 1942.

Bf 109E-7 Hptm. Günther Scholz, Petsamo August 1942
Bf 109E-7 Hptm. Günther Scholz, Petsamo August 1942

Eduard Logo

 

References

 

The Bombing of Helsinki in World War II

University of Helsinki main building after the third 1944 raid.
University of Helsinki main building after the third 1944 raid.

Helsinki was bombed several times during World War II by the Soviet Long-Distance Bomb Group Regiment (Russian: Avia Polk Dahl’nevo Deystviya—APDD), the largest of which took place during 1944, when Soviet Petlyakov Pe-8 Heavy Bombers flew 276 sorties against Helsinki, Tallinn and Pskov. In February 1944, 3 raids were undertaken by the Pe-8 over the city of Helsinki. The raid of the 06th of February 1944 was the largest, comprising 24 Pe-8 bombers from the 45th Division of the Long-Distance Bomb Group. During the second raid on the 07th of February 1944, two super-heavy 5.4 tonne FAB-5000 bombs were dropped on Helsinki, one destroyed the cable works, and the other struck the railway works.

Pe-8 746th APDD 1943.
Pe-8 746th APDD 1943.

When the Soviet Union attacked Finland during the autumn of 1939, Helsinki’s Air Defence was largely unprepared. The defence consisted of four heavy anti-aircraft gun batteries comprising three to four guns each (the 1st Anti-Aircraft Regiment); one light Anti-Aircraft Gun battery and one Anti-Aircraft machine gun Company.

In 1943 the command of Helsinki’s Air Defence was passed to Colonel Pekka Jokipaltio. Jokipaltio set about updating and strengthening the Air Defence system which was improved considerably under his command. During the Continuation War Germany provided two early warning radars and four gun laying radars to Helsinki. In addition, 18 German 88 mm Anti-Aircraft guns were placed in Lauttasaari, Käpylä and in Santahamina.

By February 1944 Helsinki was protected by 13 light and heavy Anti-Aircraft Gun batteries. Air defenses included 77 heavy Anti-Aircraft Guns, 41 light Anti-Aircraft Guns, 36 search-lights, 13 acoustic locators and 6 radars supported by visual spotters. The Air-Defence network was based on the German model and was considered extremely effective in countering the Soviet threat. In fact, when the Allied Control Commission visited Helsinki after the war, its leader Soviet General Andrei Zhdanov was extremely perplexed by the lack of damage.

An 88mm AA Gun at the Finnish Anti-Aircraft Museum.
An 88mm AA Gun at the Finnish Anti-Aircraft Museum.

The Helsinki Air Defence system was supported by 12 German Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6/R6 Night-fighters of Jagdgeshwader 302 based at Malmi and the German Night-fighter Direction vessel (Nachtjagdleitschiff) Togo, From October 1943, Togo cruised the Baltic Sea under the operational control of the Luftwaffe‘s 22/Luftnachrichten Regiment 222. In March 1944, after the three great Soviet bombing raids on Helsinki, she arrived in the Gulf of Finland to provide night fighter cover for Tallinn and Helsinki.

JG 302 Finland 4

Helsinki’s air defenses prioritized stopping bombs from reaching the city over the destruction of air targets. In a special type of barrage, several batteries would fire a wall of flak in front of the approaching bombers in an attempt to scare them into dropping their payloads too early and breaking away. Anti-Aircraft shells had been jury-rigged by drilling the fuse-hole larger and filling the extra space with magnesium mixed with aluminium, turning their explosion from a dull red to a searing white.

Civil defence was well organised and effective in Helsinki. Due to a far-sighted City decree in 1934, air raid shelters had been constructed in all high-rise building basements. All buildings were required to have an appointed civil protection supervisor who was not in the reserves or the armed forces, and as such was usually unfit for military service. This person was tasked to see that all occupants made it to the shelter in an orderly fashion.

There were a few larger shelters built into solid rock, but it was not possible to fit all the citizens of Helsinki into these. Some hospitals were also equipped with subterranean shelters where patients could be relocated during air raids. Others, such as the Children’s hospital, were moved outside the city. One hospital was entirely underground, below the Finnish Red Cross building. Much of the Air Defence system of Helsinki was operated by the City’s Citizen Volunteers which were drawn from organisations such as Suojeluskunta, which provided 16 year old male volunteers to man the Anti-Aircraft Guns and The Lotta Svärd organization, which provided Female volunteers to operate the Searchlight Batteries.

Searchlights at the Finnish Anti-Aircraft Museum.
Searchlights at the Finnish Anti-Aircraft Museum.

Soviet bombing raids on Helsinki during World War II have come to be known as “The Great Raids against Helsinki”. These began on the 30th of November 1939 just 3 hours into the Winter War. Helsinki was bombed a total of eight times during the Winter War. Some 350 bombs fell on the city, resulting in the deaths of 97 people and the wounding of 260. In all, 55 buildings were destroyed.

The Soviet bombings led to harsh reactions abroad. U.S. President Roosevelt asked the Soviets not to bomb Finnish cities. Molotov replied to Roosevelt: “Soviet aircraft have not been bombing cities, but airfields; you can’t see that from 8,000 kilometers away in America”. Molotov is said to have claimed that the Soviets were not dropping bombs but dropping food supplies to the city. The Finnish response was to develop the ‘Molotov Cocktail’ petrol bomb, said to have been so named as it was ‘the drink to go with the food that the Soviets have given us’.

Helsinki was bombed 39 times during the Continuation War. The majority of deaths and damage caused to the City were during the three big raids of 1944. 245 people were killed and 646 were injured from 25th June 1941 to the 19th September 1944.

Raids Bombs Dead Wounded
Winter War 8 about 350 971 260
1941 9 about 80 332 210
1942 17 about 70 683 167
1943 13 about 110 3 21
1 91 deaths on 30 November 1939 2 22 deaths on 9 July 1941 3 51 deaths on 8 November 1942

The Great Raids of February 1944 consisted of three large-scale raids directed at the Finnish capital which were designed to break the resolve of the Finnish people, thus forcing the Finnish Government to the negotiating table in order to end the Continuation War. The raids were conducted on the nights of 6–7th, 16-17th and the 26-27th of February. Joseph Stalin had obtained British and American support for this measure at the Tehran conference in 1943. In this manner the USSR hoped to force Finland to break its ties with Germany and agree to a peace settlement.

Finnish air defense forces counted 2,121 bombers in the three raids of February 1944, which dropped more than 16,000 bombs. Of the 34,200 shots fired against the bombers, 21,200 were with heavy Anti-Aircraft Artillery, and 12,900 were with light Anti-Aircraft Artillery. The Finns deceived Soviet pathfinders by lighting fires on the islands outside the city, and only using the searchlights east of the city, thereby leading the pathfinders to believe that it was the city. Only 530 bombs fell within the city itself. The majority of the population of Helsinki had left the city, and the casualties were quite low compared to other cities bombed during the war.

Of the 22 to 25 Soviet bombers lost in the raids, 18 to 21 were destroyed by Anti-Aircraft Artillery fire, and four were shot down by German night fighters.

In addition to the four-engine Petlyavov Pe-8 heavy bombers, the APDD flew large numbers of twin-engined Ilyushin-4, Lisunov Li-2, North American B-25 Mitchell and Douglas A-20 medium bombers. The B-25s and the A-20s had been supplied to the Soviet Union under the Lend Lease programme from the United States. The Lisunov Li-2 was a Soviet bomber version of the American Douglas DC-3.

B-25 Mitchell APDD
B-25 Mitchell APDD
Douglas A-20G APDD
Douglas A-20G APDD
Ilyushin Il-4 APDD
Ilyushin Il-4 APDD
Lisunov Li-2
Lisunov Li-2 APDD

The first great raid: 6–7 February

The first night saw the most destruction.

The first bombs fell at 19:23. Some 350 bombs fell within the city and approximately 2,500 bombs outside of Helsinki. The total amount of bombs dropped (including the ones that fell into the sea) amounted to some 6,990. Approximately 730 bomber aircraft participated in the raid. The bombers arrived in two waves: 18:51–21:40 on the 06th of February, and 00:57–04:57 on the 07th of February.

The defense fired 122 barrages. The light Anti-Aircraft Artillery fired 2,745 shots and the heavy Anti-Aircraft Artillery fired 7,719 shots. The Finnish Air Force had no night fighters at this time.

100 people were killed, and 300 injured. More than 160 buildings were damaged. The Anti-Aircraft defenses had issued several false alarms in the days leading up to the raid, which had lowered the population’s reaction time considerably.

The second great raid: 16–17 February

After the first raid, a German night fighter group of 12 Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6/R6 fighters with special night fighting equipment of Jagdgeshwader 302 were transferred to the Helsinki-Malmi Airport from the Estonian front. These managed to shoot down six bombers during the following two raids. The anti-aircraft batteries fired 184 barrages and downed two bombers. Heavy Anti-Aircraft Artillery batteries fired 12,238 shots and light Anti-Aircraft Artillery batteries fired 5,709 shots.

Most of the population of Helsinki had voluntarily evacuated to the countryside and the remainder took to their shelters at the first warning. This reduced casualties significantly.

383 bombers participated in the second raid. 4,317 bombs fell on the city, the sea and in the surrounding area, only 100 bombs fell within the city. The warning was sounded at 20:12 and the bombers approached again in two waves: 20:12 to 23:10 on the 16th of February and 23:45 to 05:49 on the 17th of February. The first wave tried to concentrate the bombing by approaching from different directions. The second wave of aircraft came in smaller groups from the east. Finnish intelligence had intercepted messages one hour and 40 minutes before the raid and warned the air defence, which had time to prepare. The air defence sounded the warning 49 minutes before the raid. Radar picked up the first aircraft 34 minutes before the beginning of the bombings.

This time casualty figures were much lower: 25 died and 29 were injured. 27 buildings were destroyed and 53 were damaged.

Petlyakov Pe-8 3-View
Petlyakov Pe-8 3-View

The third great raid: 26–27 February

On the evening of 26th of February, a single Soviet reconnaissance aircraft was spotted over the city. It was a sign of the coming attack. The weather was clear, which helped the attackers. Again Finnish Radio Intelligence intercepted messages of the forthcoming raid, this time 1 hour and 28 minutes before the bombing would commence – although the Soviets tried to maintain radio silence.

Five minutes later, the air surveillance grid, manned by Lotta Svärd auxiliaries, reported approaching bombers. A silent alarm was sounded in the city in good time before the raid. Street lights were turned off, trams and trains were stopped and radio transmissions ended. Because these measures were taken, the enemy had more difficulty finding their target. Citizens proceeded to the shelters in a timely and orderly manner.

The first bombers were picked up by Finnish radar at approximately 18:30, 25 minutes before they would arrive. A few minutes later, the night fighters took off and flew to their pre-determined positions. The Anti-Aircraft Artillery had also been forewarned. The air raid warning was sounded at 18:45. Anti-Aircraft Batteries opened up at 18:53. At 19:07 the first bombs fell.

This last great raid differed from the two previous ones. The battle lasted for some 11 hours and was divided into three different phases. The first one was in the evening and lasted for four hours and concentrated the attacks against the city. The second one was mainly focused on the defending Anti-Aircraft Artillery, but with little success. The last wave hoped to finally flatten the city, but the majority of the aircraft turned away when met with fierce Anti-Aircraft Artillery barrages and night-fighters. The all clear signal was finally sounded at about 06:30 in the morning on the 27th of February.

The damage, compared with the first night, was limited: 21 people were killed and 35 wounded; 59 buildings were destroyed and 135 damaged.

The heavy Anti-Aircraft Artillery fired 14,240 shots and the light Anti-Aircraft Artillery 4,432 shots. Nine Soviet bombers were destroyed. 896 bombers participated in the raid on Helsinki. They dropped 5,182 bombs of which only 290 fell on the city itself.

The damage of the great raids

Thanks to the efficiency of the Anti-Aircraft Artillery and the deception measures that were employed, damage was limited. Only 5% of the bombs fell within the city, and some of these fell in uninhabited park areas causing no damage. In the order of 2,000 bombers participated in the three great raids on Helsinki and dropped approximately 2,600 tons of bombs. Of the 146 people who died, six were soldiers; 356 were wounded. 109 buildings were destroyed. 300 were damaged by shrapnel and 111 were set on fire. The Soviets lost 25 aircraft.

By comparison, Dresden was bombed on the 13th to the 15th of February 1945 by 1,320 bombers, which dropped 3,900 tons of bombs. This force was comparable to the total that attacked Helsinki, but the Dresden raid killed about 25,000 to 35,000 people and the city was almost completely destroyed.

After the war, the Allied Control Commission led by Soviet General Andrei Zhdanov visited Helsinki. Zhdanov was perplexed by the limited damage the city had sustained. The Soviet leadership thought that they had destroyed the city completely and that it was these bombings that had forced the Finns to the peace table.

Väestönsuojelutyö (Civil Defence) poster.
Väestönsuojelutyö (Civil Defence) poster.

Finnish response

The Finnish Air Force responded to the air raids with series of night infiltration bombings of APDD airfields near to Leningrad. The first of these tactical attacks was called “The Night of the Bombers” by their Finnish crews. Finnish bombers – Junkers Ju 88s, Bristol Blenheims, and Dornier Do 17s – either tailed or in some cases even joined formation with returning Soviet bombers over the Gulf of Finland and followed these to their bases. Kari Stenman and Kalevi Keskinen describe the action that took place: “On 25th February the air force CO ordered bomber squadrons PLeLv 42 and 46 to attack these bases under suitable conditions. The Russians were to be mislead by the Finnish bombers joining the formations at night over the Gulf of Finland, when returning, say from a mission to Helsinki. Bomber squadron 46 tested the new tactics on the night of 29th February. Four Dornier Do 17 bombers too off and joined a returning Russian bomber stream over the Gulf of Finland.

The bombers flew to Levashovo airfield and invidually bombed the lit airfield at 2230. The bomb rows hit parked aircraft and shelters. Several fires were built up and a strong explosion shook the airfield. The flak opened fire when the Finns were already on their way home.” Each Dornier Do 17 was equipped with 20 x 50 kg bombs with 0,08 second delay. When the bombers took off and flew towards the Gulf of Finland their own AA artillery at Kotka gave them a goodbye greeting, as they didn’t seem to know the identity of these strange bombers flying in middle of the night. The Finnish bombers navigated their way into middle of the Gulf of Finland, all lights off, looking for a suitable Soviet bomber formation… Finding one, the Finnish Dornier pilots joined the enemy bombers unnoticed, slowly creeping their way inside the Soviet formation.

It took a lot of skill and nerves (a lot of nerves, when thinking about it 60 years later) to stay in the formation, as the Soviet pilots might recognize the strange looking bombers at any moment. After all, the German built Dorniers had completely different outlooks to the Soviet bombers, consisting primarily of Li-2s, B-25s, IL-4s and A-20 Bostons, with two squadrons of heavy Pe-8s. After crossing the front lines the Soviet planes suddenly turned their navigation lights on, feeling safe over their own side of the front lines. With sudden inspirations the Finnish pilots followed the example. With all lights on the huge bomber formation consisting of both Soviet and Finnish bombers flew eastwards, more and more inside the enemy territory, shining brightly in the dark sky.

The Soviet bombers arrived at their home field and readied themselves for landing. The Finnish pilots kept their nerve – and actually joined the Soviet night bombers in their landing circuit, still with navigation lights on. One by one the Soviet bombers landed, with the rest – Finns included – approaching the field. The bombers circled the Soviet airfield, brightly lit in the winter night of the northern hemisphere, landing one by one. And finally – the last Soviet bomber had landed and the bright lights of the field welcomed the last four bombers seen circling in the landing pattern. But instead landing these bombers opened their bomb bays, throttled up and filled the field with 80 shrapnel bombs, filling it with destruction…. The sudden attack was immensely successful. With no warning given, the four Finnish bombers gained complete surprise and attacked the Soviet night bomber field with no opposition.

The Soviet anti-aircraft artillery didn’t have any time to react. The bombs hit the plane rows and plane shelters. Several fires and a large explosions were seen. Keskinen-Stenman comments: “Encouraged by the successes, all regiment squadrons were ordered on March 2nd to participate on large scale attack against Leningrad area airfields. The opportunity came on March 9th when APDD bombers returned from the bombardment of Tallinn, Estonian’s capital. Nineteen Finnish bombers from all four squadrons joined several formations between Seiskari and Kronstadt and followed the APDD aircraft to Gorskaya, Levashovo and Kasimovo airfields.”

After the huge success of these four bombers the whole bomber regiment was ordered to readiness. It took until March 9th until the weather and other conditions made new attack possible. The four bomber squadrons of Flying Regiment 4, the whole Finnish Air Force bomber command, sent total of 19 bombers (or 21, depending on source). 10 Blenheims, 5 Dornier Do 17s and 6 Junkers Ju 88s took off for their mission. Once again the bombers infiltrated the Soviet bomber formations. The Blenheims of PLeLv 42 (bomber squadron 42) followed the APDD from north of Seiskari. PLeLv 44 joined the Soviet bombers near Kronstadt fortress island with five Ju-88s. PLeLv 46 joined the Soviet bombers near Kronstadt with five Dorniers. And PLeLv 48s Blenheims followed the Soviet bombers from Kronstadt.

Bristol Blenheim IV PLeLv 48 1944.
Bristol Blenheim IV PLeLv 48 1944.
Dornier 17Z LeLv 48 1944.
Dornier 17Z LeLv 48 1944.
Junkers Ju 88 PLeLv 44 1944.
Junkers Ju 88 PLeLv 44 1944.

Tactics were similar to the previous mission. Either the bombers joined the Soviet formation and flew alongside them, with landing lights on and joining the landing pattern, or the Finns followed slightly behind. Surprise was total both ways, bombs started to rain on the Soviet airfields when the last bombers were still landing or taxiing on the field. Bombs and the shrapnel struck without warning, Soviet losses of material and personnel were high, as personnel were not sheltered. On some occasions the Finnish bombers attacked while landing operations were still in progress, this must have caused extreme confusion when the airfield defenders saw aircraft still circling the field and couldn’t know whether they are own bombers trying to land or if there are still more Finnish bombers ready to attack.

An example of the effectiveness of these attacks is the bombing of Gorskaja airfield by three Blenheims of PLeLv 48. The three bombers hit their target from 1400 meters, 2140-2145. The planes dropped 28 x 100 kg explosive and 16 x 15 kg firebombs. Hits were observed in the north side of the field with five planes burning. Two more planes were burning in southeast corner of the field, with one storehouse exploding. Paavo Alava, a Blenheim pilot from Bomber Squadron 42, was on the BL-151 on the attack at March 9th. He describes the mission: “Our five planes took off with bellies filled with shrapnel- and firebombs. The tension rose in the cockpit when we were over the Gulf of Finland looking for a suitable enemy formation. There they come! Several planes flying at 500 meters east of Seiskari island, flying eastwards. We performed a quick turn and then as quietly as we could, joined their formation. I could see clearly how the neighbor’s boy sat in his turret, carefree.

A small light was on, he must have already dreamed of the coffee waiting on the ground. There they go! Li-2s and so close that I could shoot them with my machinegun. Sure hit! But I must restrain myself – the mission would fail if they recognize us. Another Soviet bomber formation flew towards us from east – they’re going to bomb Tallinn… Here we were – red stars over Gulf of Finland, with blue swastikas in middle of them. We are over Kronstadt, when the Ruskie planes start flashing signals with red and white lights. We see responding signals from ground. I guess this is permission to come in and land… The planes turn north towards Gorskaja. It was interesting situation – Soviet lead bomber navigates the formation to their home field, which would soon be bombed by enemy bombers flying in the same formation.

The field appears – all lights on. Large numbers of planes are in the landing pattern and more in ground, our four Blenheims dropped their bombs from 1200 meters. One of our Bombardiers remarked “Best regards from the people of Helsinki”. I can see the explosions in the rows of bombers and aircraft shelters. A huge explosion takes place as the fuel storage tanks go up in flames and planes are burning on the ground. This was one of the most successful missions in the history of our squadron. Everything worked perfectly from the beginning to the end.”

Keskinen-Stenman: “At around 2130 they released the bombs on landing airplanes, parked aircraft and runways, causing huge explosions and numerous fires on all airfields. The attacks came as total surprises and only at Levashovo airfield the AAA was on alert, though did not inflict any damage. The airfield strikes continued. On April 4th 34 bombers attacked Kähy airfield north-east from Leningrad, where aerial reconnaissance had observed 57 aircraft. Bombs were dropped at 2030 causing huge explosions. 23 large fires were counted by the retreating bombers. Further strikes were flown during May.” Aarno Ylennysmäki was bombardier in PLeLv 48’s Blenheims and flew a mission in 3rd May against yet another Soviet airfield. He describes the mission: “Vector 270 degrees, five minutes to target, I heard on headphones. The pilot turned and matched altitude to ordered 2900 meters. Then he pushed throttles forward and accelerated to over 300 km/h. At that speed they’d stay a shorter time at the target area over the AAA fire. We would be the 2nd last wave. Behind us follows only the big Stukas, Ju-88s, with their 1000 kg bombs.

Now I saw the first bomb explosions ahead, from the first bomber wave. I took them as my target and then continued to give more exact commands to the pilot as we approached. Two degrees left, straight, one right, here we go, straight ahead. I could see a row of Soviet aircraft in the light from the other burning planes and the row was running straight on the aiming line of the mechanical bombsight. Then the line, aiming dot and the beginning of the plane row connected and I released the bombs. The plane wavered as it got lighter and the signal lights came on showing all the bombs had been released successfully. Only now I had time to watch out and noticed the anti-aircraft fire cloudlets around our plane. Aki, in his turret behind us, was watching downwards when he noticed that a searchlight was trying to find us. He called suddenly “DIVE!”. The pilot pushed his stick almost to the instrument panel and the plane dropped quickly almost thousand meters lower. Then he pulled back and leveled the plane at 1500 meters. The G forces pushed us to our chairs at almost three times our normal weight. A moment later Aki called that a night fighter had flashed past us, just lower. We kept sharp lookout but didn’t see it anymore. The whole regiment returned without any losses. The planes from Onttola base had landed at Immola. The chatter of almost 30 pilots filled the field and we found out, that an enemy night fighter had followed the bombers almost as far as Immola. Next day the Commander of the Air Force arrived to the base and awarded medals to a number of the crews”

Mr. Torsten Sannamo was radio operator / gunner at Bomber Squadron 42 in the time of these attacks. He participated in the bombing of Kähy airfield May 3rd 1944. Mr. Sannamo describes his attack: “Our squadron was the first to arrive to the target. Our bombing altitude was 3100 meters. The enemy AAA fire did not reach our altitude, at least in my case, and my pilot Akke dropped the bomb load on the barracks of the enemy base. From my turret I saw several fires coming up. Our squadron had two groups, both with five planes. Any attacking fighter would have been met with machine gun fire from five guns, but we didn’t see any fighters and we landed at our base at Värtsilä at 2200.” The night of May 18th saw the largest attack against any single target. 42 bombers took off, 41 bombed Mergino airfield right after midnight. The attack was lead by PleLv 44 with their 8 Junkers Ju 88s, with 2 firebomb torpedoes, 1 x 500 kg, 26 x 250 kg and 80 x 50 kg bombs.

Next in the target was PleLv 46 with 9 Dornier Do 17s, altitude 1500 meters, 120 x 50 kg and 30 x 100 kg bombs. Then came the Blenheims, first PleLv 42 with 13 Blenheims, then PleLv 48 with 12 Blenheims. 42 bombed from 1800 meters, PleLv 48 from 1600 meters.  The first major night infiltration bombing took place on 9 March 1944 and they lasted until May 1944. Soviet casualties from these raids could not be estimated reliably, however, large scale raids on Helsinki by the APDD were stopped soon after these infiltration attacks began.

References

  • Torsten A. Sannamo: Kundina hesassa flygaajana krigussa
  • Jukka Piipponen: Onttolan punaiset pirutMäkelä, Jukka (1967). Helsinki liekeissä. Helsinki: Werner Söderström osakeyhtiö. p. 20.
  • Keskinen-Stenman: Suomen Ilmavoimien historia 4 – LeR4
  • Helsingin suurpommitukset Helmikuussa 1944, p. 22
  • Jukka O. Kauppinen; Matti Rönkkö (2006-02-27). “Night of the Bombers”. Retrieved 2010-04-12.  Cite uses deprecated parameters (
  • P. Hirvonen: Raskaan sarjan laivueet
  • help)Martti Helminen, Aslak Lukander: Helsingin suurpommitukset helmikuussa 1944, 2004, WSOY, ISBN 951-0-28823-3
Finnish State Flag with Coat of Arms.
Finnish State Flag with Coat of Arms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

themodelgallery – “The whole Aircraft collection” Gallery

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Gloster Gauntlet Mk.II
Gloster Gauntlet Mk.II
Gloster Gladiator Mk.I
Gloster Gladiator Mk.I
Gloster Gladiator Mk.II
Gloster Gladiator Mk.II
Fiat CR.42 Falco
Fiat CR.42 Falco
Fokker D.XXI
Fokker D.XXI
Fokker D.XXI (Wasp)
Fokker D.XXI (Wasp)
Fiat G.50 Freccia
Fiat G.50 Freccia
Seversky J-9/EP-106
Seversky J-9/EP-106
J-20/Reggiane Re-2000
J-20/Reggiane Re-2000
Brewster Model 239
Brewster Model 239
Messerschmitt Bf 109G-2
Messerschmitt Bf 109G-2
Douglas DC-2 “Hanssin-Jukka”.
Douglas DC-2 “Hanssin-Jukka”.
Curtiss Hawk 75
Curtiss Hawk 75
Dornier Do 17Z-2
Dornier Do 17Z-2
Bristol Blenheim Mk.I
Bristol Blenheim Mk.I
Focke-Wulf FW 200 C-4 CONDOR
Focke-Wulf FW 200 C-4 CONDOR
Fokker D.VII (OAW)
Fokker D.VII (OAW)
Fokker D.XXI 3. Sarja (Mercury)
Fokker D.XXI 3. Sarja (Mercury)
Messerschmitt Bf 109G6/R6
Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6/R6
Morane-Saulnier MS-406C.1
Morane-Saulnier MS-406C.1
Polikarpov I-16 Type 10
Polikarpov I-16 Type 10
Tupolev SB 2M-100A
Tupolev SB 2M-100A
Hawker Hurricane Mk.I
Hawker Hurricane Mk.I
Polikarpov I-16 Type 10/17
Polikarpov I-16 Type 10/17
Ju 87D-5 Russia 1944
Ju 87D-5 Russia 1944
Ju 87D-5, Immola, Finland 1944
Ju 87D-5, Immola, Finland 1944
Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6 JG 5 "Eismeer"
Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6 JG 5 “Eismeer”

Richard Reynolds 2014