Arctic naval operations of World War II

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Arctic naval operations of World War II
Part of the Eastern Front of World War II
Barents Sea map.png
Map of the area of greatest naval activity.
Date1939–1945
Location
Result Allied victory
Belligerents
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Germany Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom
Flag of the Soviet Union.svg  Soviet Union
Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svg  United States

The Arctic Circle defining the "midnight sun" encompasses the Atlantic Ocean from the northern edge of Iceland to the Bering Strait. The area is often considered part of the Battle of the Atlantic or the European Theatre of World War II. Pre-war navigation focused on fishing and the international ore trade from Narvik and Petsamo. Soviet settlements along the coast and rivers of the Barents Sea and Kara Sea relied upon summer coastal shipping for supplies from railheads at Arkhangelsk and Murmansk. The Soviet Union extended the Northern Sea Route past the Taymyr Peninsula to the Bering Strait in 1935. [1]

Arctic Circle Boundary of the Arctic

The Arctic Circle is one of the two polar circles and the most northerly of the five major circles of latitude as shown on maps of Earth. It marks the northernmost point at which the centre of the noon sun is just visible on the December solstice and the southernmost point at which the centre of the midnight sun is just visible on the June solstice. The region north of this circle is known as the Arctic, and the zone just to the south is called the Northern Temperate Zone.

Midnight sun natural phenomenon when daylight lasts for more than 24 hours, occuring only inside or close to the polar circles

The midnight sun is a natural phenomenon that occurs in the summer months in places north of the Arctic Circle or south of the Antarctic Circle, when the Sun remains visible at the local midnight.

Atlantic Ocean Ocean between Europe, Africa and the Americas

The Atlantic Ocean is the second largest of the world's oceans, with an area of about 106,460,000 square kilometers. It covers approximately 20 percent of the Earth's surface and about 29 percent of its water surface area. It separates the "Old World" from the "New World".

Contents

The Winter War opened the northern flank of the eastern front of World War II. Arctic [2] naval presence was initially dominated by the Soviet Northern Fleet of a few destroyers with larger numbers of submarines, minesweepers, and torpedo cutters supported by icebreakers. The success of the German invasion of Norway provided the Kriegsmarine with naval bases from which capital ships might challenge units of the Royal Navy Home Fleet. Luftwaffe anti-shipping aircraft of Kampfgeschwader 26 (KG 26) and Kampfgeschwader 30 (KG 30) operated intermittently from Norwegian airfields, while routine reconnaissance was undertaken by Küstenfliegergruppen aircraft including Heinkel He 115s and Blohm & Voss BV 138s. [3] To support the Soviet Union against the German invasion, the Allies initiated a series of PQ and JW convoys bringing military supplies to the Soviet Union in formations of freighters screened by destroyers, corvettes and minesweepers. Escorting cruisers typically maneuvered outside the formation, while a larger covering force including battleships and aircraft carriers often steamed nearby to engage Kriegsmarine capital ships or raid their Norwegian bases.

Winter War 1939–1940 war between the Soviet Union and Finland

The Winter War was a military conflict between the Soviet Union (USSR) and Finland. It began with a Soviet invasion of Finland on 30 November 1939, three months after the outbreak of World War II, and ended three and a half months later with the Moscow Peace Treaty on 13 March 1940. The League of Nations deemed the attack illegal and expelled the Soviet Union from the organisation.

Eastern Front (World War II) theatre of conflict during World War II, encompassing Central Europe, Eastern Europe, Northeast Europe (Baltics), and Southeast Europe (Balkans)

The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of conflict between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union (U.S.S.R.), Poland and other Allies, which encompassed Central Europe, Eastern Europe, Northeast Europe (Baltics), and Southeast Europe (Balkans) from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945. It has been known as the Great Patriotic War in the former Soviet Union and modern Russia, while in Germany it was called the Eastern Front, or the German-Soviet War by outside parties.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

The Soviet Union and Germany employed smaller coastal convoys to maintain the flow of supplies to the Soviet arctic coast, transport strategic metal ores to Germany, and sustain troops on both sides of the northern flank of the eastern front. Soviet convoys hugged the coast to avoid ice while German convoys used fjords to evade Royal Navy patrols. Both sides devoted continuing efforts to minelaying and minesweeping of these shallow, confined routes vulnerable to mine warfare and submarine ambushes. German convoys were typically screened by minesweepers and submarine chasers while Soviet convoys were often protected by minesweeping trawlers and torpedo cutters. A branch of the Pacific Route began carrying Lend-Lease goods through the Bering Strait to the Soviet Arctic coast in June 1942. The number of westbound cargo ship voyages along this route was 23 in 1942, 32 in 1943, 34 in 1944 and 31 after Germany surrendered in 1945. Total westbound tonnage through the Bering Strait was 452,393 in comparison to 3,964,231 tons of North American wartime goods sent across the Atlantic to Soviet Arctic ports. [4] A large portion of the Arctic route tonnage was fuel for Siberian airfields on the Alaska-Siberia air route. [5]

Naval mine explosive weapon for use in seas and waterways, triggered by the targets approach

A naval mine is a self-contained explosive device placed in water to damage or destroy surface ships or submarines. Unlike depth charges, mines are deposited and left to wait until they are triggered by the approach of, or contact with, any vessel. Naval mines can be used offensively, to hamper enemy shipping movements or lock vessels into a harbour; or defensively, to protect friendly vessels and create "safe" zones.

M-class minesweeper (Germany)

The M class were the standard minesweeper of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine during World War II. The vessels were the primary force in Germany's harbor defense command and were organized administratively into minesweeper flotillas.

<i>Vorpostenboot</i>

Vorpostenboot, also referred to as VP-Boats, flakships or outpost boats, were German patrol boats which served during both World Wars. They were used around coastal areas and in coastal operations, and were tasked with – among other things – coastal patrol, ship escort, and naval combat.

1939 - Early conflict and Winter War

Soviet Northern Fleet destroyer Grozny. Groznyy(EM)1942.jpg
Soviet Northern Fleet destroyer Grozny.
<i>Orfey</i>-class destroyer

The Orfey-class destroyers were built for the Baltic Fleet of the Imperial Russian Navy. They were modified versions of the earlier destroyer Novik and the Derzky class. These ships were larger, had triple torpedo tubes and an extra 102 mm (4.0 in) gun. One ship, Engels, was fitted with a 305 mm (12 in) recoilless rifle for testing in 1934. Fourteen ships were completed in 1914–1917 and fought in World War I and during the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War. The survivors fought in World War II.

<i>Gnevny</i>-class destroyer ship class

The Gnevny class were a group of 29 destroyers built for the Soviet Navy in the late 1930s. They are sometimes known as the Gremyashchiy class and the official Soviet designation was Project 7. These ships fought in World War II.

1940 - Invasion of Norway

Destroyers Diether von Roeder and Wolfgang Zenker landing troops at Narvik. Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-758-0056-35, Norwegen, deutsche Kriegsschiffe.jpg
Destroyers Diether von Roeder and Wolfgang Zenker landing troops at Narvik.
HMS Warspite supporting Allied troops at Narvik. HMS Warspite, Norway 1940.jpg
HMS Warspite supporting Allied troops at Narvik.
Operation Weserübung code name for Germanys assault on Denmark and Norway during the Second World War

Operation Weserübung was the code name for Germany's assault on Denmark and Norway during the Second World War and the opening operation of the Norwegian Campaign. The name comes from the German for "Operation Weser-Exercise", the Weser being a German river.

German battleship <i>Scharnhorst</i> Scharnhorst-class battleship

Scharnhorst was a German capital ship, alternatively described as a battleship or battlecruiser, of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine. She was the lead ship of her class, which included one other ship, Gneisenau. The ship was built at the Kriegsmarinewerft dockyard in Wilhelmshaven; she was laid down on 15 June 1935 and launched a year and four months later on 3 October 1936. Completed in January 1939, the ship was armed with a main battery of nine 28 cm (11 in) C/34 guns in three triple turrets. Plans to replace these weapons with six 38 cm (15 in) SK C/34 guns in twin turrets were never carried out.

German battleship <i>Gneisenau</i> Scharnhorst-class battleship

Gneisenau was a German capital ship, alternatively described as a battleship and battlecruiser, of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine. She was the second vessel of her class, which included one other ship, Scharnhorst. The ship was built at the Deutsche Werke dockyard in Kiel; she was laid down on 6 May 1935 and launched on 8 December 1936. Completed in May 1938, the ship was armed with a main battery of nine 28 cm (11 in) C/34 guns in three triple turrets, though there were plans to replace these weapons with six 38 cm (15 in) SK C/34 guns in twin turrets.

Burning fish oil tanks on Lofoten viewed from HMS Legion during Operation Claymore. HMS Legion Lofoten raids.jpg
Burning fish oil tanks on Lofoten viewed from HMS Legion during Operation Claymore.
HMS <i>Edinburgh</i> (16) Edinburgh-class cruiser

HMS Edinburgh was a Town-class light cruiser of the Royal Navy, which served during the Second World War. She was one of the last two Town class cruisers, which formed the Edinburgh sub-class. Edinburgh saw a great deal of combat service during the Second World War, especially in the North Sea and the Arctic Sea, where she was sunk by torpedoes in 1942.

HMS <i>Nigeria</i> (60) Crown Colony-class cruiser, launched 1939

HMS Nigeria was a Crown Colony-class light cruiser of the Royal Navy completed early in World War II and served throughout that conflict. She was named for the British colony of Nigeria.

Operation Claymore

Operation Claymore was the code name for a British commando raid on the Lofoten Islands in Norway during the Second World War. The Lofoten Islands were an important centre for the production of fish oil and glycerine, used in the German war economy. The landings were carried out on 4 March 1941, by the men of No. 3 Commando, No. 4 Commando, a Royal Engineers Section and 52 men from the Norwegian Independent Company 1. Supported by the 6th Destroyer Flotilla and two troop transports of the Royal Navy, the force made an unopposed landing and generally continued to meet no opposition. The original plan was to avoid contact with German forces and inflict the maximum of damage to German-controlled industry. They achieved their objective of destroying fish oil factories and some 3,600 t of oil and glycerine. The British experienced only one accident; an officer injuring himself with his own revolver and returned with some 228 German prisoners, 314 loyal Norwegian volunteers and a number of Quisling regime collaborators.

1941 - Invasion of the Soviet Union

1942 - PQ convoys

Tirpitz waiting in Norway for another Allied convoy. Tirpitz altafjord 2.jpg
Tirpitz waiting in Norway for another Allied convoy.
HMS Edinburgh during the battle for convoy QP 11. HMS Edinburgh stern torpedo damage 1941 IWM MH 23866.jpg
HMS Edinburgh during the battle for convoy QP 11.
HMS King George V with bow damage from collision with HMS Punjabi. HMS King George V after collision.jpg
HMS King George V with bow damage from collision with HMS Punjabi.
KG 26 He 111 torpedo planes attacked convoys PQ 15, 16 and 17. Bundesarchiv Bild 183-L20414, Torpedoangriff mit Heinkel He 111.jpg
KG 26 He 111 torpedo planes attacked convoys PQ 15, 16 and 17.
U-255, painted white for arctic camouflage, returning to base after attacking convoy PQ 17. PQ17 U255 back.jpg
U-255, painted white for arctic camouflage, returning to base after attacking convoy PQ 17.
Convoy PQ 18 under attack by KG 30. Torpedo explosion in convoy c1942.jpg
Convoy PQ 18 under attack by KG 30.

1943 - JW convoys

SBD Dauntless dive bomber from USS Ranger during the Bodo airstrike. SBD-3 CV-4 Norway 1943 NAN10-1-45.jpg
SBD Dauntless dive bomber from USS Ranger during the Bodø airstrike.
Aircraft carriers of Operation Tungsten preparing for an airstrike on Tirpitz. HMS Jamaica tirpitz raid.jpg
Aircraft carriers of Operation Tungsten preparing for an airstrike on Tirpitz.

1944 and 1945 - Last operations

USCG cutter Northland operating off Greenland. Northland Color 1.jpg
USCG cutter Northland operating off Greenland.
Soviet Northern Fleet ships carrying landing parties for the Petsamo-Kirkenes Offensive. Kirkinesdesant.jpg
Soviet Northern Fleet ships carrying landing parties for the Petsamo–Kirkenes Offensive.

Notes

  1. Drent, Jan Commercial Shipping on the Northern Sea Route p. 4
  2. Wartime navigation over the ocean within the Arctic Circle should not be confused with the Arctic Ocean as it may have subsequently been defined to exclude areas within the Arctic Circle.
  3. 1 2 Wood & Gunston pp. 64–75
  4. Vail Motter pp. 481–482
  5. "Arming the Soviets". Columbia Magazine. Retrieved 2012-07-13.
  6. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 3
  7. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 8
  8. Grove pp. 7–35
  9. Brown p. 31
  10. Brown p. 32
  11. Rohwer & Hummelchen pp. 21&22
  12. Kemp pp. 65–67
  13. Muggenthaler pp. 54–59
  14. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 30
  15. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 29
  16. Cressman p. 29
  17. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 32
  18. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 39
  19. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 53
  20. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 58
  21. Rohwer & Hummelchen pp. 62&71
  22. Rohwer & Hummelchen pp. 70&71
  23. Ruge p. 222
  24. 1 2 Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 73
  25. 1 2 Brown p. 48
  26. 1 2 3 Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 75
  27. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 76
  28. Rohwer & Hummelchen pp. 76&77
  29. 1 2 Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 77
  30. Brown p. 49
  31. "Patrols by U-571". Guðmundur Helgason. Retrieved 2012-07-04.
  32. "ShCh-422" . Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  33. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 87
  34. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 90
  35. 1 2 Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 89
  36. "ShCh-402" . Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  37. Rohwer & Hummelchen pp. 93&96
  38. 1 2 Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 101
  39. Rohwer & Hummelchen pp. 97&101
  40. "K-3" . Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  41. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 103
  42. "M-174" . Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  43. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 106
  44. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 111
  45. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 110
  46. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 114
  47. "S-102" . Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  48. Brown p. 56
  49. Irving pp. 4–6
  50. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 117
  51. Rohwer & Hummelchen pp. 120&123
  52. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 123
  53. Rohwer & Hummelchen pp. 121&125
  54. Grove pp. 117–121
  55. 1 2 Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 131
  56. Kemp p. 237
  57. 1 2 3 Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 134
  58. 1 2 Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 137
  59. "M-171" . Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  60. Brown p. 61
  61. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 139
  62. Morison p. 166
  63. "11th Flotilla". Guðmundur Helgason. Retrieved 2012-06-24.
  64. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 140
  65. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 141
  66. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 143
  67. Brown p. 65
  68. Irving
  69. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 151
  70. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 152
  71. Ruge p. 275
  72. Brown p. 68
  73. Macintyre pp. 292–312
  74. Macintyre pp. 312–317
  75. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 173
  76. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 174
  77. Brown p. 75
  78. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 178
  79. Stephen pp. 179–197
  80. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 185
  81. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 189
  82. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 191
  83. 1 2 Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 195
  84. Cressman p. 152
  85. "M-122" . Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  86. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 201
  87. "S-101" . Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  88. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 205
  89. 1 2 "S-55" . Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  90. 1 2 "S-56" . Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  91. "13th Flotilla". Guðmundur Helgason. Retrieved 2012-06-24.
  92. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 221
  93. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 225
  94. Stephen p. 198
  95. Grove pp. 123–131
  96. Cressman p. 185
  97. Stephen pp. 198–218
  98. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 256
  99. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 257
  100. 1 2 Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 262
  101. Brown p. 105
  102. 1 2 Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 264
  103. 1 2 Grove pp. 131–136
  104. Rohwer & Hummelchen pp. 272–273
  105. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 276
  106. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 279
  107. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 285
  108. Brown (1977), p. 37
  109. Grove p. 137
  110. 1 2 Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 299
  111. 1 2 3 Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 298
  112. Brown pp. 122&123
  113. 1 2 Ruge pp. 286&287
  114. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 303
  115. Taylor p. 142
  116. Brown p. 124
  117. "S-104" . Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  118. Brown p. 125
  119. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 309
  120. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 313
  121. Grove p. 139
  122. 1 2 Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 318
  123. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 322
  124. "14th Flotilla". Guðmundur Helgason. Retrieved 2012-06-24.
  125. Brown p. 138
  126. Brown p. 139
  127. 1 2 3 Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 334
  128. Brown pp. 139&140
  129. Macintyre p. 444
  130. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 348
  131. Rohwer & Hummelchen p. 350

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References