Battle Of Leningrad

Fights on the Finnish front

June 22, when Germans attacked USSR, Finland declared neutrality but Russian attacked the Finnish military ships from air. The Finnish territory were bombardment from the base Hanko and in several places the Russian-Finnish border have broken. In this time the German and Finnish military ships mine the Finnish gulf, and the German aircraft bombarded Hanko island.

Despite of military preparations in Finland, occasion to the beginning of war became the Soviet bombardments of the Finnish cities and airfields on June 25, 1941 by 480 Soviet aircrafts. At decisive session of parliament in the same evening was declared, that the war begins with same, with what Winter war - from an attack of the Soviet Union. The military cooperation with Germany could be ignored, as the deputies had about them vague representation. The group under a management Risto Ryti, Karl-Gustav Mannerheim and Vaino Tanner, supervising external politics of government, has gone on the introduction of Finland in considered favourable war for returning of Karelia.

From a beginning of war in Lapland arrived four German divisions of army "Norway": two overland from north Norway in area Petsamo, one overland from north Norway in Salla and one on the sea from Germany in Salla. Besides by rail from Oslo through Sweden in Hanko should be thrown 163-th field division, hardly more than year back played the basic role in capture Scandinavia. However strengthenings Hanko were recognized powerful enough, and German 163-th division was transferred to a reserve in Karelia.

At the expense of additional preparation the Finns managed to increase military forces up to 16 divisions. The main staff settled down in Mikkeli. The most powerful Finnish group (7 divisions) has made the "Karelian" army in area Yonsu. The staff of a German group in Lapland has settled down in Rovaniemi. 3-rd Finnish army corps in Kuusamo was transferred under German command.

Irrespective of the expected introduction of the Finns into war against the Soviet Union put forward to Kirkenes (Northern Norway) the mountain-rifle corps of the general Dietl, which in 1940 protected Narvik, had a task with the beginning of war to grasp important economically Petsamo area, taking place on the Finnish territory, and defence it from Russian. Then the mountain-rifle corps should grasp Murmansk, sole not freezing port Russian on Northice ocean.

Simultaneously six Finnish airfields with the beginning of war were transferred at disposal of German 5-th air fleet. However in autumn the naval forces of Germany have returned on the bases, and the air forces further worked only in controllable Lapland.

June 22, the Dietl corps has passed the Norwegian-Finnish border and has occupied Pechenga area, not having met resistance Russian. Before the battle actions against Murmansks have begun, some extent compelled introduction of Finland into war.

In the central part of Finland the army corps with structure of one division and several parts of armies SS was thrown. Efforted by Finnish parts and have put a task to grasp Salla and then advance on Kandalaksha to cut the Murmansk railway. Both German corps submitted command by army "Norway", which staff was already transferred in Rovaniemi. The basic forces of the Finnish army were concentrated by two groups on the southeast of the country, with the purpose to return the important areas seized in Russian spring by 1940, and then, coordinating the actions with offensive of German group of armies "North" to advance till both side of the Ladoga lake.

The German and Finnish armies offensive have begun from the Finnish territory in different time. June 29, mountainrifle corps on Far North has passed in attack. In the beginning it was quickly advanced and behind some days has passed 30-40 kms. But then in result all of growing resistance of the Soviet troops and progress on deserted stony tundra the German armies have exhausted. The offensive was stopped far from the Zapadnaya Litsa river, by which there should be Dietle's corps. Russian have landed in rear of the mountain-rifle corps, and against them it was necessary to direct Finnish field regiment.

The Englishmen also came to the aid of the new ally: the planes which have risen from an aircraft carrier, bombarded Petsamo and important for supply of German armies Kirkenes port.

September 7 the Dietl's corps has renewed offensive and has reached Zapadnaya Litsa river. But up to Murmansks still there were 50 kms till a straight line. The battle actions have accepted trench warfare character, which up to the end of war and did not manage to be changed. The persistent fights, developed soon on all fronts, have required the maximal pressure of forces and have not allowed enough to strengthen the mountain-rifle corps. Besides it would be possible to supply large German forces only at significant expansion of a road network in North Finland, and for this purpose was not neither working hands, nor engineering. Thus, Murmansk was not taken during all war.

Jule 1, 1941 German XXXVI Corps (169th, SS Nord and Finnish 6th Divisions) start to attack in the Salla sector aiming to cut Murmansk railroad. III Corps crosses border in Uhtua sector. The difficulties weren't smaller which should be overcome at offensive on Salla 36-th German corps which has not accustomed with this theatre of military actions. The German armies which have begun here offensive should advance through a huge wood with numerous lakes and bogs. Such district favoured to a defense and forced frequently to resort detours, inconvenient and taking away a lot of time to break resistance of Soviets. Nord division was to make a frontal attack on the Soviet positions in front of Salla while the 169-th field division attacked on their northern flank and the 6-th Finnish division was to drive deep behind the Soviet 122-th rifle division to Allakurtti from the southern flank. 5 Jul 1941 German advance stops in Salla. Finnish 14-th infantry regiment is sent to help. 7 Jul 1941 Germans take Salla and are exhausted. 14-th Division takes Repola and Omelia Germans had put 36-th corps with SS-division Nord, 169-th division and Finnish 6-th Division to cut the Murmansk Railroad in town of Kem on the coast of White Sea. Soviet 122-nd division and other units however made furious resistance in battles of Salla and Kairala. Nevertheless during heavy fights as a result of slow, but correct progress to the end of August the German armies have reached old Russian-Finnish border. Further, overcoming persistent resistance to district, using a favourable condition, of Russian armies, Germans have managed to advance for 40 kms to Kandalaksha. Then the offensive of the German-Finnish armies was finally stopped. German attack was stopped in the River Verma. Germans stayed there until October 1944.

The situation of 3-rd Finnish army corps coming on Louhy was not better. Despite of all heroic efforts, it has not advanced further Uhta city. Kestenga became accidentally the main point where Finnish and German forces tried to cut the Murmansk railroad. It wasn't meant to be the point where the railroad was to be cut, but easy early advances gave the impression that this was the right point to cut the railroad. Battles however got stuck after attack by III corps (Finnish Group J and German SS-division Nord) in July-August 1941, but troops were worn out and no advance could be made since enemy brought in new combat formations.

30 Jun 1941 Mannerheim establishes "Karelian" Army to organise offensive in the northern Karelia. The Army has 2 Corps, the VI and VII and Group O, which are composed of 5 divisions, 2 jaeger brigades and a cavalry brigade. Army has also one German division , 163-rd, in reserve. The main forces of the Finnish armies came till both side of the Ladoga lake and should advance to the north of the Ladoga lake to the Onega lake subsequently come between lakes to the river Svir and from this boundary to take part in general offensive to Leningrad.

Jule 10, 1941 "Karelian" Army launches her first large offensive, which leads to a breakthrough in Korpiselka and to the collapse of Soviet defences north of Lake Ladoga. Korpiselka was the place where first breakthrough of the attack of summer 1941 was made by 5-th division of VI corps. After fierce fights on July 21, Finnish has reached by the right flank Salmy on the east coast of the Ladoga lake, and on the next days-old Russian-Finnish border. July 26, its left flank has reached Petrozavodsk on the west coast of the Onega lake. However extremely desirable impact for Germans on the south for forge Russian forces could not be undertaken, as Russian continued persistently keep in rear of the Finnish armies in Suoyarve area, and also still defended on the right flank at Yanisyarve lake. August 8, 1941 1-st corps (7-th, 19-th, later 2-nd divisions) is established to destroy encircled enemy in shores of Ladoga. August 15, 1941 7-th division takes town of Sortavala, first of the three towns in territory ceded in 1940, which is taken back. Soviet 198-th and 168-th divisions had to retreat from town of Sortavala and environs in late August 1941 after heavy fight to the shores of Lake Ladoga. They had to evacuate in barges via lake leaving all heavy equipment behind.

Very fierce fights order Russian on the Karelian isthmus, defending approaches to Leningrad. August 21, 1941 18-th Finnish division is attacking Soviet defences from the rear. 24 Aug 1941 8-th Finnish division crosses Gulf of Viborg in Lihaniemi and Soviet forces in Viborg is soon encircled. When the 18-th and 12-th divisions closed in on Viborg from the east the main part of three Soviet divisions was encircled. Soviet forces had to abandon their heavy weapons and vehicles, and start to flee in small groups. Two divisions, 43-rd and 123-rd were heavily beaten, their heavy weapons were in Finnish hands and Viborg was taken as the result of this campaign. At the end of August the Finns have grasped area, for which the winter went such persistent struggle, with especially important for Vyborg city.

From the north side the coming Finnish armies of September 4, have occupied Beloostrov city. On September 5, Olonets city was taken, in 2 days the Finns came to the Svir river. After persistent fights they managed to force the river and September 12, grasp Podporogye. Encirclement, captured Leningrad, were compressed. It was necessary to overcome small distance, that the advanced parts of German army coming from the south, have incorporated to the Finns. The affinity of the desired purpose gave enemy armies strength and persistence for furious attacks on defensive of the Soviet armies.

At the same time, the Finns aspired to supervise district before forward edge of a defense in East Kareliya to secure east border. After offensive of the Finnish armies in the summer and autumn of 1941, Finnish High Command has tried to weaken cooperation with German army, that the war of Finland with USSR has remained detached and was not dissolved in world war. The Finns, for example, have not agreed to participate in a capture of Leningrad, about what was officially declared on negotiation in Mikkeli on September 4, 1941.

The attenuation of German offensive was unpleasant unexpectedness for "Karelian front", which September 4, when Germans came nearer from the south to Leningrad, have begun prompt progress on the river Svir and have reached it in three days in Lodeynoye pole area. They hoped, that soon will incorporate with German armies, advanced to the south of the Ladoga lake on the east. Instead of this September 26, German command has addressed to the Finns with the urgent request to render in area of the river Svir as stronger pressure on Russian armies is possible to facilitate a situation of corps conducting fierce fights in area to the south of the Ladoga lake. But the Finnish army, which north flank under Petrozavodsk itself should constrain strong counter-attacks, be unable to do this. Finnish troops take Petrozavodsk on October 1, after a month of continuous fighting in the wilderness. Offensive in the northern direction from Petrozavodsk by 7-th corps is launched, the aim is to take favourable defensive positions along Maaselka Isthmus. It continues until December with continuous fighting. In October 4, a Finnish unit refuses to cross Svir under enemy fire. In the end of October Finnish forces take defensive positions in front between lakes Ladoga and Onega after heavy action with new 114-th Soviet division. In October - November 1941 Karl Mannerheim has refused to participate in the Tikhvin operation and has given to understand command of 3-rd army corps, that Finland not necessary lost the soldier in planned Germans operation in capture of the Murmansk railway. In the beginning of October Karl Mannerheim and president Ryti decide not to continue attack towards White Sea because the USA has threatened to declare war if Finns cut the Murmansk railroad.

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