Lapland War

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Lapland War
Part of the Eastern Front of World War II
LapinSota.jpeg
A sign the Germans left in Lapland with "As a thanks for not demonstrating brotherhood in arms" written on it
Date
  • 15 September 1944 – 27 April 1945
  • (7 months, 1 week and 5 days)
Location
Lapland, Finland
Result Finnish victory
Belligerents
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Germany Flag of Finland.svg Finland
Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg Soviet Union [lower-alpha 1]
Commanders and leaders
Strength
214,000 [lower-alpha 2] 75,000 [lower-alpha 3]
Casualties and losses
  • ~1,000 dead
  • ~1,300 POW
  • ~2,000 wounded
  • ~4,300 total casualties [8]
  • 774 dead
  • 262 missing
  • 2,904 wounded
  • 3,940 total casualties [8]

The Lapland War (Finnish : Lapin sota; Swedish : Lapplandskriget; German : Lapplandkrieg) was fought between Finland and Nazi Germany effectively from September to November 1944 in Finland's northernmost region, Lapland, during World War II. Although Finns and Germans had been fighting the Soviet Union (USSR) together since 1941 during the Continuation War, the Soviet Vyborg–Petrozavodsk Offensive in the summer of 1944 forced Finnish leadership to negotiate a separate peace agreement. The Moscow Armistice demanded Finland break diplomatic ties with Germany and expel or disarm any German soldiers remaining in Finland after 15 September 1944.

Finnish language language arising and mostly spoken in Finland

Finnish is a Finnic language spoken by the majority of the population in Finland and by ethnic Finns outside Finland. Finnish is one of the two official languages of Finland ; Finnish is also an official minority language in Sweden. In Sweden, both Standard Finnish and Meänkieli, a Finnish dialect, are spoken. The Kven language, a dialect of Finnish, is spoken in Northern Norway by a minority group of Finnish descent.

Swedish language North Germanic language spoken in Sweden

Swedish is a North Germanic language spoken natively by 10 million people, predominantly in Sweden, and in parts of Finland, where it has equal legal standing with Finnish. It is largely mutually intelligible with Norwegian and to some extent with Danish, although the degree of mutual intelligibility is largely dependent on the dialect and accent of the speaker. Norwegian and Danish in written format are usually easier understood by Swedish speakers than when spoken due to the differences in tone, accent and intonation. Swedish is a descendant of Old Norse, the common language of the Germanic peoples living in Scandinavia during the Viking Era. It has the most speakers of the North Germanic languages. While being strongly related to its southern neighbour language German in vocabulary; the word order, grammatic systems and pronounciations are vastly different.

German language West Germanic language

German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol in Italy, the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.

Contents

The Wehrmacht had anticipated the turn of events and planned an organised withdrawal to German-occupied Norway called Operation Birke (Birch). Despite a failed offensive landing operation by Germany in the Gulf of Finland, the evacuation proceeded peacefully at first. The Finns escalated the situation into warfare on 28 September after Soviet pressure to adhere to the terms of the Armistice. The Finnish Army was required by the USSR to demobilise while at the same time pursuing German troops out of Finnish soil. After a series of minor battles, the war came to an effective end in November 1944 when German troops had reached Norway or its vicinity and took fortified positions. The last German soldiers left Finland on 27 April 1945 and the end of World War II in Europe came soon after.

<i>Wehrmacht</i> unified armed forces of Germany from 1935 to 1945

The Wehrmacht was the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer (army), the Kriegsmarine (navy) and the Luftwaffe. The designation "Wehrmacht" replaced the previously used term Reichswehr, and was the manifestation of the Nazi regime's efforts to rearm Germany to a greater extent than the Treaty of Versailles permitted.

Withdrawal (military) military operation

A withdrawal is a type of military operation, generally meaning retreating forces back while maintaining contact with the enemy. A withdrawal may be undertaken as part of a general retreat, to consolidate forces, to occupy ground that is more easily defended, or to lead the enemy into an ambush. It is considered a relatively risky operation, requiring discipline to keep from turning into a disorganized rout or at the very least doing severe damage to the military's morale.

German occupation of Norway Nazi occupation of Norway during World War II

The German occupation of Norway during World War II began on 9 April 1940 after German forces invaded the neutral Scandinavian country of Norway. Conventional armed resistance to the German invasion ended on 10 June 1940 and the Germans controlled Norway until the capitulation of German forces in Europe on 8/9 May 1945. Throughout this period, Norway was continuously occupied by the Wehrmacht. Civil rule was effectively assumed by the Reichskommissariat Norwegen, which acted in collaboration with a pro-German puppet government, the Quisling regime, while the Norwegian King Haakon VII and the prewar government escaped to London, where they acted as a government in exile. This period of military occupation is in Norway referred to as the "war years" or "occupation period".

The Finns considered the war a separate conflict because hostilities with other nations had ceased after the Continuation War. From the German perspective, it was a part of the two campaigns to evacuate from northern Finland and northern Norway. Soviet involvement in the war amounted to monitoring Finnish operations, minor air support as well as entering north-eastern Lapland during the Petsamo–Kirkenes Offensive. Military impacts were relatively limited with both sides sustaining around 4,000 in total casualties—although the Germans' delaying scorched earth and land mine strategies devastated Finnish Lapland. The Wehrmacht successfully withdrew and Finland upheld its obligations under the Moscow Armistice, although it remained formally at war with the USSR and the United Kingdom until ratification of the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty.

Petsamo–Kirkenes Offensive conflict

The Petsamo–Kirkenes Offensive was a major military offensive during World War II, mounted by the Red Army against the Wehrmacht in 1944 in northern Finland and Norway. The offensive defeated the Wehrmacht's forces in the Arctic, driving them back into Norway, and was called the "Tenth Shock" by Stalin. It later expelled German forces from the northern part of Norway and seized the nickel mines of Pechenga/Petsamo.

Scorched earth military strategy

A scorched-earth policy is a military strategy that aims to destroy anything that might be useful to the enemy while it is advancing through or withdrawing from a location. Any assets that could be used by the enemy may be targeted, for example food sources, water supplies, transportation, communications, industrial resources, and even the local people themselves.

Land mine Explosive weapon, concealed under or on the ground

A land mine is an explosive device concealed under or on the ground and designed to destroy or disable enemy targets, ranging from combatants to vehicles and tanks, as they pass over or near it. Such a device is typically detonated automatically by way of pressure when a target steps on it or drives over it, although other detonation mechanisms are also sometimes used. A land mine may cause damage by direct blast effect, by fragments that are thrown by the blast, or by both.

Prelude

A view in 2007 to the south-east from Sturmbock-Stellung
, a fortified German position in Finland 100 km (62 mi) from Norway Sturmbock stellung.JPG
A view in 2007 to the south-east from Sturmbock-Stellung, a fortified German position in Finland 100 km (62 mi) from Norway

Germany and Finland had been at war with the Soviet Union (USSR) since Operation Barbarossa began in June 1941, co-operating closely in the Continuation War and Operation Silver Fox with the German 20th Mountain Army (German : 20. Gebirgsarmee) stationed in Lapland. As early as the summer of 1943, the German high command Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW) began to plan for the eventuality that Finland might negotiate a separate peace agreement with the Soviet Union. The Germans planned to withdraw their forces northward in order to shield the nickel mines near Petsamo (Russian : Pechenga). [9] During the winter of 1943–1944, Germans improved the roads from northern Norway to northern Finland by extensive use of prisoner-of-war labour in certain areas. [10] Casualties among the labouring prisoners were high, in part because many of them had been captured in southern Europe and were still in summer uniform. In addition, the Germans surveyed defensive positions and planned to evacuate as much materiel as possible from the region, and meticulously prepared for withdrawal. [11] On 9 April 1944, the German withdrawal plan was designated as Operation Birke. [11] In June 1944, the Germans started to construct fortifications against a possible enemy advance from the south. [12] The accidental death of Generaloberst Eduard Dietl on 23 June 1944 brought Generaloberst Lothar Rendulic to the command of the 20th Mountain Army. [13]

Operation Barbarossa 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union during the Second World War

Operation Barbarossa was the code name for the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union, which started on Sunday, 22 June 1941, during World War II. The operation stemmed from Nazi Germany's ideological aims to conquer the western Soviet Union so that it could be repopulated by Germans (Lebensraum), to use Slavs as a slave labour force for the Axis war effort and to annihilate the rest according to Generalplan Ost, and to acquire the oil reserves of the Caucasus and the agricultural resources of Soviet territories.

Continuation War 1941–1944 war by Finland and Germany against the Soviet Union

The Continuation War was a conflict fought by Finland and Nazi Germany, as co-belligerents, against the Soviet Union (USSR) from 1941 to 1944, during World War II. In Russian historiography, the war is called the Soviet–Finnish Front of the Great Patriotic War. Germany regarded its operations in the region as part of its overall war efforts on the Eastern Front and provided Finland with critical material support and military assistance.

The German Lapland Army was one of the two army echelon headquarters controlling German troops in the far north of Norway and Finland during World War II. It was established in January 1942, and renamed the 20th Mountain Army in June 1942. On 18 December 1944, the 20th Mountain Army absorbed the German 21st Army.

After the devastating Soviet strategic Vyborg–Petrozavodsk Offensive in southern Finland from June to July and a change in Finnish leadership in August 1944, Finland negotiated a separate peace agreement with the USSR. [14] The ceasefire agreement required the Finns to break diplomatic ties with Germany and publicly demand the withdrawal of all German troops from Finland by 15 September 1944. Any troops remaining after the deadline were to be expelled or disarmed and handed over to the USSR. [15] [16] Even with the German withdrawal operation, the Finns estimated it would take three months for the Wehrmacht to fully evacuate. [17] The task was further complicated by the Soviet demand that the majority of the Finnish Defence Forces be demobilised while conducting a military campaign against the Germans. [18] Before deciding to accept the Soviet demands, President Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim, former Finnish commander-in-chief, wrote a letter directly to Adolf Hitler: [19]

Finnish Defence Forces combined military forces of Finland

The Finnish Defence Forces are responsible for the defence of Finland. A universal male conscription is in place, under which all men above 18 years of age serve for 165, 255, or 347 days. Alternative non-military service for all men, and volunteer service for all women are possible.

Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim Finnish military leader and statesman

Baron Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim was a Finnish military leader and statesman. Mannerheim served as the military leader of the Whites in the Finnish Civil War, Regent of Finland (1918–1919), commander-in-chief of Finland's defence forces during World War II, Marshal of Finland, and the sixth president of Finland (1944–1946).

Adolf Hitler Leader of Germany from 1934 to 1945

Adolf Hitler was a German politician and leader of the Nazi Party. He rose to power as Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and later Führer in 1934. During his dictatorship from 1933 to 1945, he initiated World War II in Europe by invading Poland in September 1939. He was closely involved in military operations throughout the war and was central to the perpetration of the Holocaust.

Our German brothers-in-arms will forever remain in our hearts. The Germans in Finland were certainly not the representatives of foreign despotism but helpers and brothers-in-arms. But even in such cases foreigners are in difficult positions requiring such tact. I can assure you that during the past years nothing whatsoever happened that could have induced us to consider the German troops intruders or oppressors. I believe that the attitude of the German Army in northern Finland towards the local population and authorities will enter our history as a unique example of a correct and cordial relationship [...] I deem it my duty to lead my people out of the war. I cannot and I will not turn the arms which you have so liberally supplied us against Germans. I harbour the hope that you, even if you disapprove of my attitude, will wish and endeavour like myself and all other Finns to terminate our former relations without increasing the gravity of the situation.

Order of battle

German

The 20th Mountain Army had been fighting the Soviet Karelian Front since Operation Barbarossa along the 700 km (430 mi) stretch from Oulu River to the Arctic Ocean. It now comprised 214,000 soldiers, a considerable amount of them under SS formations, led by Generaloberst Rendulic. The number of active troops decreased quickly as they withdrew to Norway. The army had 32,000 horses and mules and 17,500–26,000 motorised vehicles as well as a total of 180,000 t (200,000 short tons) in rations, ammunition and fuel to last for six months. The army was positioned as follows: [6] [20] [21]

The Karelian Front was a front of the Soviet Union's Red Army during World War II, and operated in Karelia.

Oulujoki river of Finland

Oulujoki, Swedish: Ule älv (in modern Finnish literally "Oulu River", originally in old Northern Ostrobothnian dialect literally "Flood River", is a river in Oulu province, Finland. Its origin is Oulujärvi and its watershed area covers a significant part of Kainuu region. It flows into the Bothnian Bay at Oulu. Port of Oulu is located at the mouth of the river.

Arctic Ocean The smallest and shallowest of the worlds five major oceans, located in the north polar regions

The Arctic Ocean is the smallest and shallowest of the world's five major oceans. The International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) recognizes it as an ocean, although some oceanographers call it the Arctic Sea. It is classified as an estuary of the Atlantic Ocean, and it is also seen as the northernmost part of the all-encompassing World Ocean.

Finnish

The III Corps (Finnish : III armeijakunta, III AK) led by Lieutenant General Hjalmar Siilasvuo gradually shifted from the defence of the Vyborg–Petrozavodsk Offensive to the latitude of Oulu and was fully repositioned by 28 September. The III Corps consisted of the 3rd, 6th and 11th Divisions as well as the Armoured Division. Additionally, four battalions formerly under German command were converted into separate detachments. Two regiments, Infantry Regiment 15 and Border Jaeger Regiment, reinforced the III Corps. In total, Finnish ground forces in the Lapland theatre were 75,000 strong. The number of Finnish troops dropped sharply as the Germans withdrew and the Finnish Army was demobilised; by December 1944 only 12,000 were left. Due to this, the Finnish soldiers were mostly conscripts, as veterans were transferred away from the front. The latter part of the war was therefore dubbed the "Children's Crusade" (Finnish : lasten ristiretki) in Finland. [7] [21]

Phases of the war

Operations Birke and Nordlicht, the German withdrawal from Finland from 6 September 1944 to 30 January 1945 The German withdrawal from Finland.jpg
Operations Birke and Nordlicht, the German withdrawal from Finland from 6 September 1944 to 30 January 1945

Evacuation and naval operations in September

The announcement on 2 September 1944 of the ceasefire and the Moscow Armistice between Finland and the USSR triggered frantic efforts by the 20th Mountain Army, which immediately started Operation Birke. Large amounts of materiel were evacuated from southern Finland and harsh punishments were set for any hindering of the withdrawal. [22] The Germans began to seize Finnish shipping. Finland responded by denying ships to sail from Finland to Germany and nearly doomed the materiel evacuations of Operation Birke. So the order was rescinded and then the Finns, in turn, allowed Finnish tonnage to be used to hasten the German evacuations. [23] The first German naval mines were laid in Finnish seaways on 14 September 1944, allegedly for use against Soviet shipping, though since Finland and Germany were not yet in open conflict, the Germans warned the Finns of their intent. [24]

Germans evacuating equipment from Oulu on 19 September 1944 German evacuation from Oulu.jpg
Germans evacuating equipment from Oulu on 19 September 1944

As the Finns wanted to avoid devastation of their country, and the Germans wished to avoid hostilities, both sides strove for the evacuation to be performed as smoothly as possible. [25] By 15 September, a secret agreement had been reached by which the Germans would inform the Finns of their withdrawal timetable, who would then allow the Germans to use Finnish transportation for evacuation as well as to destroy roads, railroads and bridges behind their withdrawal. [26] In practice, friction soon arose both from the destruction caused by the Germans and from the pressure exerted on the Finns by the Soviets. [27] [28]

On 15 September 1944, the Kriegsmarine tried to land and seize the island of Suursaari in Operation Tanne Ost to secure shipping routes in the Gulf of Finland. The USSR sent aircraft to support the Finnish defenders and the Kriegsmarine failed to capture Suursaari. [29] [30] After the landing attempt, a Finnish coastal artillery fort at Utö island prevented German net-laying ships from passing into the Baltic Sea on 15 September, as they had been ordered to intern the German forces. On 16 September, a German naval detachment consisting of the German cruiser Prinz Eugen escorted by five destroyers arrived at Utö. The German cruiser stayed out of range of the Finnish 152 mm (6.0 in) guns and threatened to open fire with its artillery. In order to avoid bloodshed, the Finns allowed the net-layers to pass. [31] [32] In response to the German operations, Finland immediately removed its shipping from the joint evacuation operation, but the evacuation from Lapland to Norway progressed according to the secret agreement. The last German convoy departed from Kemi in northern Finland on 21 September 1944 and was escorted by submarines and, starting from south of Åland Islands, by German cruisers. [29]

Initial land battles in September and October

The lack of Finnish aggression did not go unnoticed by the Allied Control Commission monitoring adherence to the Moscow Armistice and the USSR threatened to occupy Finland if the terms of expelling or disarming the Germans were not met. Thus, Lieutenant General Siilasvuo ordered the III Corps to engage. The first hostilities between the Finnish Army and the 20th Mountain Army in Lapland took place 20 km (12 mi) southwest of Pudasjärvi, at around 08:00 on 28 September 1944, when Finnish advance units first issued a surrender demand and then opened fire on a small German rear-guard contingent. [16] [33] [34] This took the Germans by surprise as the Finns had previously agreed to warn them should they be forced to take hostile action against them. [33] After the incident, partial contact was re-established. The Germans told the Finns they had no interest in fighting them, but would not surrender. [33] The next incident took place on 29 September at a bridge crossing the Olhava river between Kemi and Oulu. Finnish troops, who had been ordered to take the bridge intact, were attempting to disarm explosives rigged to the bridge when the Germans detonated them, demolishing the bridge and killing, among others, the Finnish company commander. [35] On 30 September, the Finns attempted to encircle the Germans at Pudasjärvi into a pocket (called a motti in Finnish, originally meaning 1 m3 (35 cu ft) of firewood) with flanking movements through the forests and managed to cut the road leading north. By then, however, the bulk of the German force at Pudasjärvi had already left, leaving behind only a small detachment which, after warning the Finns, blew up a munitions dump. [36]

The risky landings for the Battle of Tornio, on the border with Sweden next to the Gulf of Bothnia, began on 30 September 1944 when three Finnish transport ships (SS Norma, SS Fritz S and SS Hesperus) departed from Oulu towards Tornio without any air or naval escorts. They arrived on 1 October and disembarked their troops without any interference. The landing had originally been planned as a diversionary raid, with the main assault to take place at Kemi, where the Finnish battalion-sized Detachment Pennanen (Finnish : Osasto Pennanen) was already in control of important industrial facilities on the island of Ajos. Various factors—including a stronger than expected German garrison at Kemi already alerted by local attacks—made the Finns switch the target to Röyttä, Tornio's outer port. [37] The Finns initially landed the Infantry Regiment 11 (Finnish : Jalkaväkirykmentti 11) of the 3rd Division, which, together with a Civic Guard-led uprising at Tornio, managed to secure both the port and most of the town as well as the bridges over the Tornio River. The Finnish attack soon bogged down due to disorganisation caused in part by alcohol looted from German supply depots as well as stiffening German resistance. During the ensuing battle, the German Divisionsgruppe Kräutler, a reinforced regiment, conducted several counterattacks to retake the town as it formed an important transportation link between the two roads running parallel to the Kemi and Tornio Rivers. As ordered by Generaloberst Rendulic, the Germans took 262 Finnish civilian hostages in an attempt to trade them for captured soldiers. The Finns refused and the civilians were later released on 12 October. [38]

Gebirgsjager of the XVIII Mountain Corps attacking behind Panzer
cover in 1942 when Finland and Germany were still at war with the USSR together Gebirgsjager advancing in Arctic Front.jpg
Gebirgsjäger of the XVIII Mountain Corps attacking behind Panzer cover in 1942 when Finland and Germany were still at war with the USSR together

A second wave of four Finnish ships arrived on 2 October and a third wave—three ships strong and with Brewster F2A fighter escorts—landed its troops with only a single ship being lightly damaged by German Stuka dive bombers. On 4 October, bad weather prevented Finnish air cover from reaching Tornio, leaving the fourth landing wave vulnerable. Stuka bombers scored several hits and sank the SS Bore IX and the SS Maininki alongside the pier. [39] The fifth wave on 5 October suffered only light shrapnel damage despite being both shelled from shore and bombed from the sky. The Finnish Navy's gunboats Hämeenmaa, Uusimaa and VMV-class patrol boat s 15 and 16 arrived with the sixth wave just in time to witness German Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor bombers attacking the shipping at Tornio with Henschel Hs 293 glide bombs without results. Arrival of naval assets allowed the Finns to safely disembark heavy equipment to support the battle and around 12,500 soldiers in total arrived during the landings. [40] The German forces were reinforced by the 2nd Company of Panzer Abteilung 211, two infantry battalions and the MG-Ski-Brigade Finnland. [41] The Finnish Infantry Regiment 11 was reinforced with Infantry Regiments 50 and 53. [42] The Finns beat back German counterattacks for a week until 8 October, when the Germans withdrew from Tornio. [43] Meanwhile, Finnish troops were advancing overland from Oulu towards Kemi, with the 15th Brigade making only slow progress against meager German resistance. [44] Their advance was hampered by the destruction of roads and bridges by withdrawing Germans as well as a lack of spirit in both the Finnish troops and their leaders. [45] The Finns attacked Kemi on 7 October, attempting to encircle the Germans into a motti with a frontal attack by the 15th Brigade and an attack from the rear by Detachment Pennanen. [46] Strong German resistance, civilians in the area, and looted alcohol prevented the Finns from fully trapping all the Germans. Though Finnish forces took several hundred prisoners, they failed to prevent the Germans from demolishing the bridges over the Kemi River once they began to withdraw on 8 October. [47]

From the start of the war, the Germans had systematically destroyed and mined the roads and bridges as they withdrew in a delaying strategy. After the first hostilities took place, Generaloberst Rendulic issued several orders on destroying Finnish property in Lapland. On 6 October, a strict order was issued which classified only military sites or military necessities as targets. On 8 October, the Germans bombed and heavily damaged factory areas of Kemi. [48] On 9 October, the demolition order was extended to include all governmental buildings with the exception of hospitals. On 13 October, "all covers, installations and objects that can be used by an enemy" were ordered to be destroyed in northern Finland in a scorched-earth strategy. [34] [49] [50] Though it was logical for the Germans to deny pursuing forces any shelter, it had a very limited effect on the Finns, who always carried tents for shelter. [51]

German withdrawal effective by November

When Allied advances continued, German high command OKW and 20th Mountain Army leadership asserted that it would be perilous to maintain positions in Lapland and east of Lyngen municipality in northern Norway. Likewise, Minister of Armaments and War Production Albert Speer had determined that German nickel stores were sufficient and holding Petsamo was unnecessary. Preparations for further withdrawal began. Hitler accepted the proposal on 4 October 1944, and the plan was codenamed Operation Nordlicht on 6 October. [52] Instead of a gradual withdrawal from southern Lapland into fortified positions further to the north while evacuating materiel, as in Operation Birke, Operation Nordlicht called for a rapid and strictly organised withdrawal directly behind Lyngen Fjord in Norway, while under pressure from harassing enemy forces. [52] As the Germans withdrew towards the town of Rovaniemi, a road junction point in Lapland, and Norway, movement was mostly limited to the immediate vicinity of Lapland's three main roads, which constricted military activities considerably. In general, the withdrawal followed a pattern in which advancing Finnish units would encounter German rear guards and attempt to flank them on foot, but the destroyed road network prevented them from bringing up artillery and other heavy weapons. As Finnish infantry slowly picked their way through the dense woods and marshland, the motorised German units would simply drive away and take up positions further down the road. [53]

A Finnish soldier cooking with his dog, Hupi ("Joy"), at Leivejoki, 40 km (25 mi) south of Rovaniemi, in October 1944. Hupi followed its master during three wars--according to the photographer. Bonfire and dog during Lapland War.jpg
A Finnish soldier cooking with his dog, Hupi ("Joy"), at Leivejoki, 40 km (25 mi) south of Rovaniemi, in October 1944. Hupi followed its master during three wars—according to the photographer.

On 7 October, the Finnish Jaeger Brigade forced the German Mountain Regiment 218 to fight a delaying action off of their pre-set timetable at Ylimaa, some 65 km (40 mi) south of Rovaniemi. The opposing forces were roughly even numerically and the lack of heavy weapons and exhaustion from long marches prevented the Finnish brigade from trapping the defending Germans before it received permission to withdraw on 9 October after causing substantial losses to the Finns. [54] On 13 October, the tables were turned at Kivitaipale, some 20 km (12 mi) south of Rovaniemi, and only a fortuitous withdrawal by the Mountain Regiment 218 saved the Finnish Infantry Regiment 33 from being severely mauled. The German withdrawal allowed the Finns to surround one of the delaying battalions, but Mountain Regiment 218 returned and managed to rescue the stranded battalion. [55] The Germans initially concentrated on destroying governmental buildings in Rovaniemi, but the fire spread and destroyed housing beyond that. German attempts to fight the fire failed and a train loaded with ammunition caught fire at the railroad station on 14 October, resulting in an explosion which spread the fire throughout the primarily wooden buildings of the town. [56] The first Finnish units to reach the vicinity of Rovaniemi on 14 October were components of the Jaeger Brigade advancing from Ranua. The Germans repelled Finnish attempts to capture the last intact bridge over the Kemi river and then left the mostly scorched town to the Finns on 16 October 1944. [57]

A burnt tree and ruins in Rovaniemi pictured on 16 October 1944 after the German withdrawal Burned tree and ruins.jpg
A burnt tree and ruins in Rovaniemi pictured on 16 October 1944 after the German withdrawal

Finnish demobilisation and difficult supply routes took their toll. At Tankavaara, 60 km (37 mi) south of Ivalo, barely four battalions of the Finnish Jaeger Brigade attempted, unsuccessfully, on 26 October to dislodge the twelve-battalion-strong German 169th Infantry Division, entrenched in prepared fortifications. Finnish forces gained ground only on 1 November, when the Germans withdrew northward. [58] Likewise, on 26 October at Muonio, 200 km (120 mi) south-east of defensive positions in Norway, the German 6th SS Mountain Division Nord reinforced by Kampfgruppe Esch again had numerical and material superiority with artillery and armoured support. This prevented the Finnish 11th Division from gaining the upper hand despite initially fairly successful flanking operations by Infantry Regiments 8 and 50. The Finns planned to isolate the SS Mountain Division, marching from the direction of Kittilä in the south-east, before Muonio and thereby entrap it within a motti. The delaying action by Kampfgruppe Esch and the destroyed road network thwarted the Finnish strategy. [59]

The Soviet Karelian Front, led by General Kirill Meretskov, initiated its Petsamo–Kirkenes Offensive and started to push the XIX Mountain Corps towards Norway from Soviet territory along the Arctic coast on 7 October. [60] By 25 October, the front captured the Norwegian port of Kirkenes. [61] The 14th Army pursued German troops withdrawing southwest from Petsamo and Kirkenes approximately 50 km (31 mi) into Finnish territory along Lake Inari. By 5 November, Soviet reconnaissance troops met with the Finnish Army at Ivalo. [62] Likewise, the 26th Army had followed the withdrawing XVIII Mountain Corps around 50 km (31 mi) over the Finnish border in southern Lapland to Kuusamo and Suomussalmi, but left the area in November. The Soviet troops in Ivalo did not leave until September 1945. [63]

Finnish soldiers raise the flag at the three-country cairn between Norway, Sweden and Finland on 27 April 1945 after the end of the Lapland War and thus, the end of World War II in Finland Kolmen valtakunnan rajapyykki 27.4.1945.png
Finnish soldiers raise the flag at the three-country cairn between Norway, Sweden and Finland on 27 April 1945 after the end of the Lapland War and thus, the end of World War II in Finland

For most practical purposes, the war in Lapland concluded in early November 1944. [64] After holding Tankavaara, the Germans swiftly withdrew from north-eastern Lapland at Karigasniemi on 25 November 1944. The Finnish Jaeger Brigade pursuing them had by then been mostly demobilised. [65] In north-western Lapland, only four battalions of Finnish troops were left on 4 November and by February 1945, a mere 600 men. The Germans continued their withdrawal but remained in positions first at Palojoensuu village, 150 km (93 mi) from Norway, in early November 1944. From there, they moved to the fortified Sturmbock-Stellung position along the Lätäseno River, 100 km (62 mi) from Norway, on 26 November. The German 7th Mountain Division held these positions until 10 January 1945 when northern Norway had been cleared and positions at Lyngen Fjord were manned. [64] On 12 January, the Finnish minelayer Louhi was sunk with the loss of its ten sailors in the Gulf of Bothnia by the German submarine U-370 using an acoustic G7es torpedo. [39] Some German positions defending Lyngen extended over to Kilpisjärvi on the Finnish side of the border, but no major activity occurred. The Wehrmacht completely withdrew from Finland by 27 April 1945 and a Finnish battle patrol raised the flag on the three-country cairn between Norway, Sweden and Finland to celebrate the end of the wars. [64]

Aftermath

The 20th Mountain Army successfully withdrew most of its over 200,000 men as well as supplies and equipment from Lapland to continue defending occupied Finnmark from the USSR. According to American historian Earl F. Ziemke, "it had no parallel" as an evacuation across the Arctic in winter. [66] The casualties of the conflict were relatively limited: 774 killed, 262 missing and around 2,904 wounded Finns. Germany experienced around 1,000 deaths and 2,000 wounded. 1,300 German soldiers became prisoners of war and were handed over to the USSR according to the terms of the armistice. [8] The German delaying operations left Lapland devastated. In addition to 3,100 buildings demolished elsewhere in Finland, estimates of destroyed infrastructure in Lapland are as follows: [67] [68]

The reconstruction of Lapland lasted till the early 1950s, although the railroad network was not functional until 1957. [67] In addition to the demolished infrastructure, the Wehrmacht extensively laid mines and explosives in the area. By 1973, over 800,000 cartridges, 70,000 mines and 400,000 other explosives had been demined in Lapland, a total of 1,142,000 units. [69]

See also

Notes

  1. Minor air support in Operation Tanne Ost only. Further extent of Soviet belligerence in the Lapland War is debatable. Gebhardt and Ziemke mention the war and the Soviet Petsamo–Kirkenes Offensive as strategically overlapping or as a continuum of events without a clear stance. [1] [2] Jowett and Snodgrass write about the war as a conflict between German and Finnish troops, but include the offensive in the war's timeline. [3] Zabecki begins by mentioning that Lapland extends to Norway and the USSR. He states that the "Finnish War of Lapland" started between Finland and Germany, but links the Soviet offensive to it. [4] Jaques writes the offensive as a part of the war in a dictionary of battles. [5]
  2. Most of the 214,000 Germans served until the end of August 1944, but the number plummeted as the Germans withdrew or proceeded to Norway. [6]
  3. Most of the 75,000 Finns served until the end of October 1944, but the number dropped to 12,000 soldiers in December 1944. [7]

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References

Citations

  1. Gebhardt 1989, pp. 2–4.
  2. Ziemke 2002, pp. 391–401.
  3. Jowett & Snodgrass 2012, p. 16.
  4. Zabecki 2015, p. 1552.
  5. Jaques 2007, p. 792.
  6. 1 2 Elfvengren 2005, pp. 1124–1149.
  7. 1 2 Kurenmaa & Lentilä 1980, pp. 1150–1162.
  8. 1 2 3 Ahto 1980, p. 296.
  9. Ahto 1980, pp. 15–20.
  10. Ahto 1980, p. 21.
  11. 1 2 Ahto 1980, pp. 37–41.
  12. Ahto 1980, pp. 45–46.
  13. Ahto 1980, p. 43.
  14. Ahto 1980, pp. 48, 59–61.
  15. Lunde 2011, p. 317.
  16. 1 2 Gebhardt 1989, p. 2.
  17. Lunde 2011, p. 327.
  18. Lunde 2011, p. 319.
  19. Nenye et al. 2016, p. 275.
  20. Ziemke 2002, pp. 391–393.
  21. 1 2 Ahto 1980, pp. 13–14.
  22. Ahto 1980, pp. 62–71.
  23. Kijanen 1968, p. 220.
  24. Kijanen 1968, p. 221.
  25. Lunde 2011, pp. 337–338.
  26. Lunde 2011, pp. 338–339.
  27. Lunde 2011, pp. 339–341.
  28. Ziemke 2002, pp. 393–394.
  29. 1 2 Kijanen 1968, p. 225.
  30. Ziemke 2002, p. 394.
  31. Kijanen 1968, pp. 229–230.
  32. Grooss 2017, p. 231.
  33. 1 2 3 Ahto 1980, pp. 142–144.
  34. 1 2 Ziemke 2002, p. 395.
  35. Ahto 1980, pp. 146–147.
  36. Ahto 1980, pp. 148–149.
  37. Ahto 1980, p. 150.
  38. Ahto 1980, p. 153.
  39. 1 2 Grooss 2017, p. 232.
  40. Kijanen 1968, pp. 226–227.
  41. Ahto 1980, pp. 166–167, 177, 195.
  42. Ahto 1980, pp. 177, 195.
  43. Ahto 1980, pp. 202–207.
  44. Ahto 1980, pp. 207–210.
  45. Ahto 1980, pp. 210–211.
  46. Ahto 1980, pp. 212–213.
  47. Ahto 1980, pp. 213–214.
  48. Ahto 1980, p. 215.
  49. Nenye et al. 2016, p. 533.
  50. Jowett & Snodgrass 2012, p. 17.
  51. Ahto 1980, pp. 216–218.
  52. 1 2 Lunde 2011, pp. 342–343, 349.
  53. Ahto 1980, pp. 230–232.
  54. Ahto 1980, pp. 232–245.
  55. Ahto 1980, pp. 245–250.
  56. Ahto 1980, pp. 219–222.
  57. Ahto 1980, pp. 251–252.
  58. Ahto 1980, pp. 268–278.
  59. Ahto 1980, pp. 280–294.
  60. Gebhardt 1989, pp. 31–32.
  61. Gebhardt 1989, pp. 72–73.
  62. Gebhardt 1989, pp. 82–83.
  63. Nevakivi 1994, pp. 55, 58.
  64. 1 2 3 Ahto 1980, pp. 294–295.
  65. Ahto 1980, pp. 278–280.
  66. Ziemke 2002, p. 396.
  67. 1 2 Kallioniemi 1989, p. 59.
  68. Ursin 1980, pp. 383–385.
  69. Arrela 1983, pp. 5–8.

Bibliography

Finnish

  • Ahto, Sampo (1980). Aseveljet vastakkain – Lapin sota 1944–1945[Brothers in Arms Opposing Each Other – Lapland War 1944–1945] (in Finnish). Helsinki: Kirjayhtymä. ISBN   978-951-26-1726-5.
  • Arrela, Veli (1983). Tuhkasta nousi Lappi: Lapin jälleenrakentamista sanoin ja kuvin (in Finnish). Lapin maakuntaliitto. ISBN   9519947086.
  • Elfvengren, Eero (2005). "Lapin sota ja sen tuhot". In Leskinen, Jari; Juutilainen, Antti (eds.). Jatkosodan pikkujättiläinen (in Finnish). Werner Söderström Osakeyhtiö. ISBN   978-951-0-28690-6.
  • Kallioniemi, Jouni (1989). Lapin sota 1944–1945: Suursodan loppunäytös pohjoisessa (in Finnish). Teospiste. ISBN   952-90-1285-3.
  • Kijanen, Kalervo (1968). Suomen Laivasto 1918–1968 II (in Finnish). Helsinki: Meriupseeriyhdistys/Otava. ISBN   978-951-95298-2-0.
  • Kurenmaa, Pekka; Lentilä, Riitta (2005). "Sodan tappiot". In Leskinen, Jari; Juutilainen, Antti (eds.). Jatkosodan pikkujättiläinen (in Finnish). Werner Söderström Osakeyhtiö. ISBN   978-951-0-28690-6.
  • Nevakivi, Jukka (1994). Ždanov Suomessa − Miksi meitä ei neuvostoliittolaistettu? (in Finnish). Otava. ISBN   951-1-13274-1.
  • Ursin, Martti (1980). Pohjois-Suomen tuhot ja jälleenrakennus saksalaissodan 1944–1945 jälkeen (in Finnish). Pohjois-Suomen historiallinen yhdistys. ISBN   951-95472-0-7.

English

Further reading