The 'Arctic and Karelia Strategic Defensive Operation' was the complex of Soviet defensive undertakings in the first stages of the German 'Barbarossa' and Finnish 'Jatkosota' campaigns (29 June/10 October 1941).
The strategic defensive operation’s four sub-operations were the 'Murmansk-Kandalaksha Defensive Operation' (29 June/19 September), the 'Vyborg-Kexholm Defensive Operation' (29 June/23 September), the 'Kestenga Defensive Operation' (1 July/10 October) and the 'Defensive Operations on the Petrozavodsk, Ukhinsk-Rugozersk and Olonets Directions' (1 July/10 October).
At the beginning of these operations, the two sides fought along the Finnish/Soviet border between the maritime border by the Barents Sea in the north to the northern coast of the Gulf of Finland in the Vyborg (Viipuri in Finnish) region in the south as well as Lakes Ladoga and Onega. In overall term, the front was 500 miles (800 km) long, and the eventual Soviet retreats varied in depth between 30 and 90 miles (50 and 150 km). On the Rybachy peninsula the Germans failed to achieve any penetration, and this was the only place in which the Germans failed to secure any toehold on Soviet territory throughout the war.
By the end of the 'Arctic and Karelia Strategic Defensive Operation', the front line passed from the north-east of Leningrad in the Sestroretsk area to the western shore of Lake Ladoga along the line of the old Finnish/Soviet border through Lake Lembolovskoye, south of the Vyun river, along the southern edge of the Lumi-Sow (irresistible) bog, through Verkhniye Nikulyasy to Cape Tappari, from the eastern shore of Lake Ladoga approximately along the Svir river to Lake Onega, along the southern and eastern shores of Lake Onega to the area of Povenets, from which there was then no continuous front as the line passed approximately along fortified areas of Povenets, Rugozero, Ukhta, Kestenga, an area to the west of Kandalaksha, west of the Zapadnaya Litsa river and the southern coast of the Barents Sea slightly to the east of the mouth of the Zapadnaya Litsa river, as well as in the Rybachy peninsula.
This theatre was the most northerly of those associated with the Eastern Front, and operation lasted from 29 June to 10 October, the date of the operation’s beginning determined by the start of the German and Finnish 'Rentier', 'Platinfuchs' (i), and 'Silberfuchs' offensives in the the centre and north of the Finnish front, and its end by the cessation of active offensive operations by German and Finnish troops along all of the front except the Medvezhyegorsk area. The next major operations in the same region were the 'Vyborg-Petrozavodsk Strategic Offensive Operation' of June/August 1944 and the 'Petsamo-Kirkenes Strategic Offensive Operation' of August 1944.
In the German planning for 'Barbarossa', only limited objectives, mainly for the defence of northern Norway and Lapland and especially the nickel mines of Petsamo, were allocated for the Finnish front. The Finns were co-belligerents but not formally allies of the Germans, and their strategic object was primarily the recovery of Finnish territory lost to the Soviets in the 'Talvisota' (winter war) of 1939/40. The most important task of Generaloberst Nikolaus von Falkenhorst’s Norway-based Armee 'Norwegen' (up to 19 December 1940 the Armeegruppe XXI) during this eastern campaign remained the defence of Norway and, in 'Rentier', of the Petsamo nickel-ming area of Finland, together with a secondary task of advancing to Murmansk in the northern USSR, whose loss would interdict the Soviet receipt of weapons, equipment and other resources through this port, which was ice-free even in the winter.
At the start of the campaign, the German plan began with the advance of General Eduard Dietl’s Gebirgskorps 'Norwegen' of two mountain divisions eastward along the southern coast of the Barents Sea in the direction of Murmansk. The first Germans task was to break through the Soviet resistance on the border, to capture Titovka and the Rybachy peninsula, and then in three or four days to reach the Kola inlet and Murmansk. The fact that the Germans believed they would take Murmansk rapidly is attested by the German navy’s nomination of an officer as the Seekommandant 'Murmansk' (Murmansk sea commandant). It should be noted, however, that at the beginning of the campaign Murmansk did not at all have the strategic importance for Germany that it later gained as the Western Allies started to feed weapons and supplies through the port.
Meanwhile, the main German forces were to advance during 'Polarfuchs' (i) in the region to the south of Murmansk along the rail line linking Rovaniemi in Finland via Salla to Kandalaksha on the north-western coast of the White Sea in order to isolate the Soviet forces in the Kola peninsula, after which part of the forces would begin an offensive to the north along the rail line connecting Murmansk and Leningrad, and meet the eastward-moving mountain troops near Murmansk, and the other part would continue operations together with Finnish troops on the eastern or western shore of Lake Onega depending on the offensive’s progress.
The Finnish operational plan was co-ordinated with that of the Germans, but included specifically Finnish elements such as the seizure of the Soviet naval base on the Hanko peninsula in south-west Finland on the junction of the Gulf of Finland and the Gulf of Bothnia. Details of the Finnish plan were released to the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht only on 28 June, and revealed that the Finns had conceived of operations on two axes. First, in the north, Finnish troops were to co-operate with the Armee 'Norwegen', which was to exercise operational control: the main task of the Finnish units as part of the Armee 'Norwegen' was to secure the southern flank of the German advance, for which the Finnish troops were to move forward from the Suomussalmi area toward Ukhta, and after the latter’s capture press forward in the direction of Kem. A subsidiary auxiliary offensive was also planned through Kestenga toward Louhi. Second, in the south, Finnish troops were to undertake their main offensive with the forces of Kenraaliluutnantti Erik Heinrichs’s Karjalan Armeija' (Army of Karelia) along the eastern shore of Lake Ladoga. The plan was to strike along both shores of the Jänisjärvi lake and a subsequent offensive along the eastern shore of Lake Ladoga through Olonets to Lodeynoye Pole. Kenraalimajuri Paavo Talvela’s (from 29 June Kenraalimajuri Taavetti Laatikainen’s II Armeijakunta (corps) was to hold the defence on the border and at the same time wait for the order to launch an auxiliary strike in the area of Elisenvaar and Hiitola as a preliminary to the seizure of Lahdenpohja. One division was also to attack posed to strike at the Repola and Lentiera.
The Finnish operation on the Karelian isthmus, along the western bank of Lake Ladoga, was not planned for the first stage of hostilities, but was to be implemented as and when events developed favourably for the German and Finns farther to the north. Moving from the Gulf of Finland to the Vuoksi river, Kenraaliluutnantti Karl Lennart Oesch’s IV Armeijakunta was to remain on the defensive along the border.
In accord with its plan to cover the border of the USSR, the Soviet high command ordered General Leytenant Markian M. Popov’s Leningrad Military District (from 24 June 1941 the North Front) to ensure the defence of Leningrad in the Vyborg and Keksholm areas; to prevent any breakthrough of the Soviet defensive front and any Finnish advance to Lake Ladoga; to ensure the uninterrupted operation of the Kirov railway; and to hold the Rybachy and Sredny peninsulas, and to cover Murmansk and the coast of the Kola peninsula from the Iokanga river to the border with Finland.
In the north, General Leytenant Valerian A. Frolov’s 14th Army (122nd Division, 1st Tank Division and 14th Division) was assigned the task of covering the border from the Barents Sea to Staraya Kuzema, Regozero and Pisto, with the primary objective of covering Murmansk, as well as obstructing any German naval undertakings in the Kola inlet and Motovsky bay, preventing the landing of amphibious assault forces, and covering the Kirov railway in the Kandalaksha and Loukhsky areas against the threat posed by the German Armee 'Norwegen' and the XXXVI Gebirgskorps. The 14th Army’s undertakings were to be combined with the actions of the Northern Fleet and the 1st Mixed Air Division.
In the centre, General Kirill A. Meretskov’s 7th Army (168th Division, 71st Division and parts of the 54th Division) was to cover the border from the junction with the 14th Army to Putsari, Ristalakhti, Kerimyaki and Kangaslahti, with the main tasks of covering the border on the Ukhta, Rebolsk and Petrozavodsk directions, the Kirov railway against the Finnish forces of Kenraalimajuri Woldemar Hägglund’s VII Armeijakunta, Kenraalimajuri Paavo Talvela’s VI Armeijakunta, Kenraalimajuri Woldemar Oinonen’s 'Oinonen' Ryhmä (group) with Eversti Gustaf Ehrnrooth’s Ratsuväkiprikaati (cavalry brigade) and the 2nd Vuoristoprikaati (mountain brigade), 14th Divisioona, and Kenraalimajuri Hjalmar Siilasvuo’s III Armeijakunta.
In the south, General Leytenant Piotr S. Pshennikov’s 23rd Army (General Major Vladimir I. Scherbakov’s L Corps and General Leytenant Mikhail N. Gerasimov’s XIX Corps) was to cover the border from the Gulf of Finland along the Karelian isthmus with the main task of covering the Karelian isthmus area and, as a consequence, covering Leningrad from any threat arriving from the north-west by the Finnish focus of the IV Armeijakunta and II Armeijakunta respectively.
In the zone occupied by the 14th Army, there was never a continuous front line. This was a result of the terrain, climatic conditions, lack of communications and supply difficulties. Thus battles were fought in isolation from each other in the Murmansk, Kandalaksha and Kestenga area. On 22 June, before the start of the main operation, the Gebirgskorps 'Norwegen' carried out 'Rentier' in order to protect the nickel-mining area of Petsamo. Generalmajor Ernst Schlemmer’s 2nd Gebirgsdivision took up positions in the area of Linahamari and Petsamo, and Generalleutnant Hans Kreysing’s 3rd Gebirgsdivision dispersed to the south as far as Luostari.
The Gebirgskorps 'Norwegen' launched an offensive at 03.30 on 29 June in the sector between Pechenga Bay and Luostari. In addition, 55 miles (88 km) to the south the Finnish 'Ivalo' Pataljoona made a small offensive in the area to the north of the Lutto river to take Ristikenta. Border units, the 23rd Fortified Area and the 14th Division, which began to deploy to two of its regiments along the border on 22 June defended these areas. The first to enter combat were the border troops of the NKVD: one of its outposts held its defensive position for 19 days, repelling 60 attacks, before pulling back on receipt of the order to do so. In general, however, the border units were quickly crushed. Three hours later, the 3rd Gebirgsdivision, advancing from Luostari in the direction of the Chapr lake, began crossing the Titovka river as the German offensive spread toward Motovka. The 2nd Gebirgsdivision also advanced without problem except for the left-flank Gebirgsjägerregiment, whose task was to capture the Rybachy peninsula, which was held by the 23rd Fortified Area. The Rybachy peninsula was not taken by German troops, who managed only to blockade the peninsula by 4 July 1941. By 30 June, units of the 2nd Gebirgsdivision, pursuing the 95th Regiment of the 14th Division that had for lack of time not been reinforced, and then the 325th Rifle Regiment, took Titovka.
Meanwhile, the German command, faced with the lack of a road from the Titovka river to Motovka, was forced to change its plans and pull back most of the 3rd Gebirgsdivision in order to send it after the 2nd Gebirgsdivision, though one regiment managed to move along rivers to the north, where it linked with units of the 2nd Gebirgsdivision.
Part of the mountain corps, continuing the offensive, reached Zapadnaya Litsa bay and the eponymous river debouching into it, and from 6 July began to cross the Zapadnaya Litsa river. By that time, the 52nd Division and the regrouped units of the 14th Division had deployed along the river. Heavy fighting ensued. and by the end of the day, only one battalion of the 2nd Gebirgsdivision had managed to cross the river, and two battalions of the 3rd Gebirgsdivision to create a bridgehead a little more than 0.9 miles (1.5 km) wide. The Soviet command, encouraged by the stubborn defence of the river line, on 6 and 7 July landed troops on the southern and western shores of Zapadnaya Litsa bay, and as a result the Germans had to allocate forces to cover their troops' northern flank.
During the night of 6/7 July, in order to assist units of the 52nd Division in a counterattack against the German units in the bridgehead, the Soviets delivered a tactical assault on the southern shore of Zapadnaya Litsa bay. This took the form of an amphibious landing by a some 530 men of one one battalion by craft (three patrol vessels, two minesweepers, four patrol boats and three submarine chasers) of Vitse Admiral Adrei G. Golovko’s Northern Fleet. There was also a naval gunfire support element in the form of the destroyer Kuybyshev and three patrol boats, and coastal batteries of the fleet were also allocated for additional support. Air cover was provided by 12 fighters. The commander of the landing forces was the commander of the local maritime guard force, Kapitan 1-go ránga V. I. Platonov. The landing greatly disturbed the German defenders and destroyed several German positions before the Soviet battalion broke through to join the main forces.
On July 7, a battalion of of up to 500 border guards landed on the western shore of Zapadnaya Litsa bay for a reconnaissance and to make a diversionary raid. The landing was made from a naval force of two patrol ships, three patrol boats and four motor launches. The Germans deployed a significant force to the site of the Soviet landing, and the attempt of these Soviet troops to break through to the main forces ended in failure. During July 9, the landed men were removed by two patrol ships.
The decision to make this pair of landings was an improvisation, and all the preparations were carried out within one day. They were predicated on the achievement of complete tactical surprise, and the known sensitivity of the Germans to any threat to the very limited communications linking their forces advancing on Murmansk with the supply bases on the border. On the whole, this Soviet decision was justified inasmuch as both landings played a positive role in the development of the battle and forced the diversion of significant German to checking the landings.
On 7 July, the Germans held their bridgehead, but on the night of 8/9 July were driven from their positions by a counterattack and abandoned the bridgehead. Dietl reported that in the current situation, the offensive could not be continued without reinforcement. As a result, one German motorised machine gun battalion was transferred to bolster the Gebirgskorps 'Norwegen', and on 9 July Eversti Lennart Hannelius’s Finnish Jalkaväkirykmentti 14 (infantry regiment) also arrived.
On 13 July the Germans resumed their offensive. Seven battalions of the 2nd Gebirgsdivision managed to cross the river at the place where it flows into the bay and advanced more than 1.85 miles (3 km). The division’s task was to advance to the east to a chain of lakes and then turn to the south in order to outflank the Soviet defence and also ensure the crossing of the Zapadnaya Litsa river by units of the 3rd Gebirgsdivision. Soviet troops continued their stubborn resistance, however, and the German made little progress.
Using the experience gained in the small landings of 6 and 7 July, the Soviet land and naval commanders now decided to undertake an enlarged version of the two earlier amphibious assaults. This third landing had as its object the capture and retention of a beach-head on the western shore of Zapadnaya Litsa bay. This would create an unusual situation: only a short distance apart would by a Soviet coastal beach-head and, on the bank of the river flowing into the bay a German bridgehead to the south and east of the Soviet beach-head. This latter would threaten the road vital to the existence of the German bridgehead and, possibly, lead to the bridgehead’s destruction. The location of the Soviet beach-head would be more stable than that of the German bridgehead as the Northern Fleet was essentially unchallenged in these waters and could thus ensure logistic continuity for the Soviet land forces. The operation was also planned and prepared with greater care than had been possible with the earlier pair of extemporised landings.
On 14 July, a Soviet naval force of three patrol ships, three minesweepers and five patrol boats was used to land, on the western coast of Zapadnaya Litsa bay, a tactical assault part of the 14th Division’s 325th Regiment and one battalion of marines, a total of 1,600 men, with the naval gunfire support of one destroyer, one patrol ship, four patrol boats. Cover was provided by three destroyers. Simultaneously with the main landing, a reconnaissance and diversionary group of 50 men was landed in the area of Cape Pikshuyev. The landing managed to occupy a fairly significant beach-head, and the Germans began hastily to move reinforcements, including units from their bridgehead, toward the Soviet beach-head. On 15 July, the Germans made their first attempt to drive the Soviet landing force into the bay, but this attempt was repulsed. On 16 July, 715 more marines were landed to reinforce the initial landing and the Soviet forces fought a determined resistance from positions they had quickly fortified, repelling several German attacks every day, and exploiting the advantages offered by naval vessels and artillery for the provision of fire support. On 18 July, the Germans launched a decisive attack on the beach-head and pushed back the Soviet troops, but the overall effect was to halt the German offensive on Murmansk. Between 24 and 26 July, elements of the 14th Army succeeded in driving back the German troops.
The landing force and its supporting naval vessels were attacked by Germany aircraft, and some of the smaller craft were destroyed or damaged. Even so, the logistical supply of the landing force and the delivery of reinforcements were not interrupted. The air arm of the Northern Fleet tried to provide support to the ground forces, but was less successful than the German warplanes.
On 1 August the Germans launched another attack on the beach-head, in this instance pushing the Soviet defenders farther back. It had already become obvious to the Soviets that it had become impossible to defeat the German forces without recourse to further reinforcement. On 1 August, therefore, the Soviets decided to evacuate their landing force. The operation was carried out on 2 August by 15 patrol boats and nine motor launches under cover of a smoke screen. Some 1,300 men, all their weapons and equipment, food and horses were transferred to the eastern coast of the Zapadnaya Litsa bay to strengthen the land front, and 240 wounded men were shipped to Polyarny under cover of Soviet warplanes. After their movement of the evacuated troops to the eastern coast, the naval vessels headed for the local naval base without air cover German warplanes struck and sank one patrol boat and four motor launches.
Despite the identified shortcomings, in general the landing operation was successful. It had proved possible to divert significant German forces against the beach-head, to compel the Germans to bring to a halt their offensive toward Murmansk, and to provide reliable defence of the beach-head and naval support for the landing. This operation is one of the best Soviet amphibious operations during what came totalled the 'Great Patriotic War'. Co-operation between the landing force, naval forces, the higher command elements, the coastal artillery and the air forces had been created to a satisfactory standard. The significant number of troops committed enabled the Soviets to organise a stable defence and successfully repulse Germans attacks for a substantial time.
Throughout this period, the front on the German bridgehead sector rearmed essentially static, and German reinforcements at this time included Oberst Wilhelm Daser’s 388th Infanterieregiment and SS-Standartenführer Paul Nostitz’s 9th SS Infanterieregiment.
The Germans launched a new offensive on 8 September. Both mountain infantry formations advanced in the first days: the 2nd Gebirgsdivision to the south from the bridgehead it had occupied more than 3.1 miles (5 km) in two days, and the 3rd Gebirgsdivision, crossing the river, to the north. If the development of the operation had been aisuccessful as the German hoped, the 52nd Division and the 14th Division, defending the line along the river, would have been surrounded, and German troops would have seized control of important roads. The German operation prevented the full implementation of the contemporary Soviet plan to cross the river between the salients held by 388th Infanterieregiment and the 9th SS Infanterieregiment was defeated, and the mountain units were stopped by counterattacks. As early as 12 September, the mountain units were able to make limited advances: the 2nd Gebirsdivision moved another 0.9 miles (1.5 km) to the south, and the 3rd Gebirgsdivision captured the isthmus between the two lakes, but this was almost the end of the success enjoyed by the Gebirgskorps 'Norwegen'. The Soviet command brought the newly formed 186th Division into the battle, and on 18 September Dietl decided to end the offensive. On this same day the 3rd Gebirgsdivision began to withdraw units across the Zapadnaya Litsa river, and by 24 September the entire division had crossed. After reducing its bridgehead, the 2nd Gebirgsdivision began to prepare its defensive positions for winter warfare. Thus ended the German offensive toward Murmansk.
The result of the German operation in the Murmansk direction was, in general, inconclusive. Considering the fact that the main task of the Armee 'Norwegen' was not to capture Murmansk, but to provide for its own security in the area of Petsamo, the German units as a whole fulfilled their operational task. Despite the fact that the Rybachy peninsula remained in Soviet hands, the Soviet units did not represent any serious threat to the nickel mines, confining themselves instead to shelling, reconnaissance and sabotage operations. The German decision to take Murmansk was made only in September, at the end of the operation. On the other hand, keeping in mind the Soviet goal of holding Murmansk and preserving the integrity of the Kirov road, the Soviet command had achieved its objective. However, it should be noted that the German command ultimately had made an egregious strategic miscalculation in considering Murmansk to be an unimportant objective, which it later became as Allied supplies began to put into the USST via this port.
The losses of German troops in the operation toward Murmansk were 10,290 men killed and wounded in the course of an advance of 14.9 miles (24 km).
The next German offensive was 'Polarfuchs' (i) directed toward Kandalaksha, and intended to reach the White Sea and thereby cut off the Soviet troops in the Kola peninsula. The primary German formation involved in this undertaking was General Hans Feige’s Höheres Kommando zbV XXXVI of von Falkenhorst’s Armee 'Norwegen' and comprising Eversti Verner Viikla’s Finnish 6th Division, SS-Gruppenführer und Generalleutnant der Waffen-SS Karl Demelhuber’s SS Kampfgruppe 'Nord' (from September the SS Division 'Nord') and Generalleutnant Kurt Dittmar’s (from 29 September Generalleutnant Hermann Tittel’s) 169th Division, together with Eversti Uno Fagernäs’s Finnish 3rd Divisioona of Kenraalimajuri Hjalmar Siilasvuo’s Finnish III Armeijakunta. The opposition to the German and Finnish undertaking was found by General Leytenant Filipp D. Gorelenko’s (between September and November General Polkovnik Kirill A. Meretskov’s) 7th Army of General Leytenant Markian M. Popov’s Karelia Front, and the primary Soviet formations committed at this time were the The primary Soviet forces involved in 'Polarfuchs' (i) were the 54th, 88th, 104th and 122nd Divisions, the 1st Tank Division and the 'Grivnik' Separate Brigade. The 122nd Division and the 1st Tank Division had only just been transferred from the area of Pskov. The main events on the border took place in the area of Salla. The German plan was for the 169th Division to advance in the area to the north of the city, and the SS Kampfgruppe 'Nord' to cross the border along the road linking Rovaniemi and Kandalaksha road and south of Salla to attack this latter from the south. Thus these formations were to surround Salla and press forward on the road to Alakurtti and thence to Kandalaksha. The Finnish 6th Divisioona was to cross the border 45 miles (72 km) to the south of Salla on the night of 1 July and develop its offensive to the north-west, attacking Kairal from the south and the main force attacking in its rear toward Alakurtti.
The German forces moved forward at 16.00 on 1 July. The 169th Division attacked north of Salla in three directions: attacking straight toward the town, one of the division’s regiments was able to advance a mere 545 yards (500 m), after which it was counterattacked and retreated in panic. The two regiments advancing to the north gained more ground, so the left-flank regiment, which was advancing along the Tenniyo river, was able to advance more than 1.85 miles (3 km). The SS Kampfgruppe 'Nord' was not combat-capable in any real sense of the phrase, and was unable to advance. On the following day, tank-supported Soviet infantry counterattacked the 169th Division, driving the regiment advancing in the centre back to its start line. Between 3 and 6 July, continuous fighting took place in the area to the north of Salla, where German troops broke through to the Kuola river, but to the south of Salla the 1st Tank Division proved more successful. Early in the morning of 4 July, the Höheres Kommando zbV XXXVI's headquarters staff were witness to an amazing event: the entire SS force made rushed rapidly on motorcycles back toward Rovaniemi with Soviet tanks in hot pursuit. For several hours, the men of the corps headquarters, including Feige and his chief-of-staff, stopped the SS men and sent some of them back to their positions, ands others to the headquarters of the Armee 'Norwegen', which was half-way toward Kemijärvi, but some of the SS soldiers raced on without stopping some 50 miles (80 km) to Kemijärvi, where they forced the local commandant to blow a bridge over the Kemi river in order to halt the Soviet armour which, the SS men claimed, was about to arrive.
The failure of the SS Kampfgruppe jeopardised the entire German operation, and as a result the Finnish 6th Division was ordered not to advance on Alakurtti, as originally planed, but rather on Kairala. On 6 July, crossing the Kuola river, the 169th Division managed to break into Salla from the east, but was quickly driven back. On 7 July the attacks on Salla continued, and it was only with the withdrawal of the 122nd Division on the night of 6/7 July to the south-east in the direction of Lampel, that Salla was finally taken. The SS Kampfgruppe began a pursuit of the 122nd Division, and the 169th Division pressed forward fruitlessly to the east in the hope of preventing the Soviet troops from organising any effective defence near Kairal along the Ala lake, but failed as there were already two regiments of the 104th Division in that area. On 10 July, the attacks of the 169th Division were repulsed, just as the regiment of the Finnish 6th Divisioona was also driven back: thus cut the road and railway 3.1 miles (5 km) to the east of Kairal. The Germans now decided to encircle the Soviet forces in Kairala, for which they attacked to the north of Kairala with elements of their 169th Division supported by the Finnish 6th Division from the south. By 21 July, Feige had already reported that the most that was achievable was the capture of outer defences of of Kairala, and that farther progress into Allakurti would be impossible. On 24 July, the German and Finnish forces, after being counterattacked, appreciated that they could not drive the Soviets from Kairal and called an end to their their offensive. Adolf Hitler approved this decision on 30 July. After advancing some 13 miles (21 km), the German and Finnish offensive had failed with the loss of some 5,500 men killed or wounded. The German command now deemed it better to concentrate its efforts still farther to the south in the area of Kestenga and Louhi, all the more so as the offensive of the Finnish III Armeijakunta was developing relatively quickly sand successfully in that area.
In the middle of July, most of the 1st Tank Division was withdrawn from the positions it was holding near Alakurtti and sent to Leningrad. This helped to persuade the Germans and Finns to make a further effort ion the direction of Kandalaksha. After a series of contradictory orders, it was decided to take the position near Kairala with an advance from the south, and almost all of the available troops and artillery were therefore concentrated in the zone of the Finnish 6th Divisioona, leaving only a screening force at Kairala. At the end of a very difficult regrouping, on 19 August the combined forces began their offensive. The regrouping had seemingly passed unnoticed by the Soviets, and despite stubborn resistance, on 20 August the German and Finnish forces cut the road and railway between Nurmi lake and Mt Nurmi. By 22 August, parts of the 122nd Division and 104th Division had been almost completely surrounded and began to exfiltrate from the encirclement along a road, to the north of the lake, which had previously known to the Germans and Finns, while simultaneously defending the corridor in serious fighting. On 27 August, one battalion of the SS Kampfgruppe broke through the Soviet lines at Kairal, and on that day the encirclement of the town was finally completed. The German and Finnish forces began a pursuit. Despite this, most of the men of the 122nd Division and 104th Division managed to escape from the encirclement, although they had to abandon most of their heavy weapons, transport and equipment. Falling back, the Soviet troops occupied pre-prepared positions on the outskirts of Alakurtti and the bridgehead on the Tuntsa river. Until 30 August, the frontal attacks of the German and Finnish could not destroy the Soviet defence, but on that day the Soviet troops were forced to abandon the bridgehead and move to the river’s eastern bank. On 1 September, Soviet troops also evacuated the eastern part of Alakurtti and retreated to the Vojta river. From 6 September, the 169th Division in the north and the Finnish 6th Division in the south, proceeded to assault the revised Soviet positions.
Except for the actions of one of the 169th Division's regiments, which managed to reach the height near Verman lake from the north, the attackers achieved no success. However, the regiment that broke through became caught in fighting for the height, and only on 10 September managed to take it. This did not solve the problems of Feige’s corps, however, for the Soviet troops, constantly counterattacking the breakthrough regiment, pulled back a short distance, regrouped and by 15 September had taken up defensive positions in the previously prepared defensive line along the Verman river between the German and Tolvand river, still retaining several bridgeheads, and prevented the Germans from any farther advance. German and Finnish units in this area were now completely exhausted, and had suffered losses so heavy that the 169th Division was declared incapable of performing even defensive missions. The corps' losses totalled 9,463 men killed or wounded and, despite the instructions of Hitler to maintain the offensive on Kandalaksha, in the first half of October the Germans and Finns halted all offensive action and went over to the defensive.
The main Finnish force in the new offensive toward Kestenga was the III Armeijakunta, which had been holding the front between Kusamo and Suomussalmi since a time before the start of the war. The corps' 6th Divisioona took part in the attack on Kandalaksha, and the 3rd Divisioona was divided into two groups, each of which included one infantry regiment and attached units, including border guards. One regiment, together with a single German tank company and a detached battalion of the 6th Division, remained in reserve. Concentrated in the area to the south of Kusamo, Ryhmä 'J' was entrusted with the task of attacking Kestenga and Loukhi, while Ryhmä 'F', concentrated in the area to the east of Suomussalmi, was entrusted with the task of attacking Ukhta and Kem. In the path of Ryhmä 'J' were the 242th Regiment and the 290th Light Artillery Regiment of the 104th Division.
The Finnish offensive developed very quickly despite the difficulty of the border area’s terrain, and with the exception of some border guard units there was little Soviet resistance. On 5 July, the Ryhmä 'J' reached Makareli, 16.75 miles (27 km) to the east of the border, and on 6 July the Finnish unit entered the first moderate-size engagement, the Battle of Tungozero. On 10 July the un it approached Tungozero, and on 19 July reached the Sofyanga river after 39.75-mile (64-km) advance. The German command, inspired by the pace of the offensive, by the end of July had reinforced Ryhmä 'J' with one infantry regiment and one artillery battalion of the SS Kampfgruppe. The Soviet command possessed practically no reserves: the Murmansk infantry brigade, formed from the militia in Murmansk and in he area, had been redeployed to the offensive zone. On 30 July, the Ryhmä 'J' crossed the Sofyanga river, at the same time landing troops to the west of Topozero. After stubborn fighting, on 7 August the Soviet troops abandoned Kestenga, and the Finnish and German troops continued their offensive toward Louhi. On 15 August, the advanced elements of the Finnish force, advancing by rail in the defile between the Elovoye and Lebedevo lakes, met the advanced units of the 88th Division, which had been transferred as rapidly as possible from Arkhangyel’sk. As they arrived, units of the 88th Division were committed to battle. Between August and October, Soviet troops pushed back the Finnish and German forces, and by the end of October had thrown them back to the line between the Yarosh-Yarvi and Bolshoye Lagi-Yarvi lakes, some 8.1 miles (13 km) to the east of Kestenga. Apart from further minor front-line changes, there was no further advance by the Finnish and German forced in this sector.
To the south of these operations under control of the 14th Army, there was the zone supervised by the 7th Army. In this area the Ryhmä 'F', formed from the 3rd Divisioona, was advancing toward Ukhta against units of the 54th Division extended from Voinitz to Rebola. By the beginning of the offensive, two of the division’s regiments were deployed along the banks of the Voynitsa river. As with the advance of the Ryhmä 'J' toward Kestenga, the advance of the Ryhmä 'F' developed rapidly: moving forward from the area to the east of Suomussalmi on 5 July, the group marched toward the settlements of Ponga and Guba, and from 10 July toward Voinitsa. By that time, a reserve regiment had joined the offensive, and by 10 July the group had reached Voinitsa. Fighting for this latter settlement continued for nine days, after which the units of the 54th Division left Voinitsa, undertaking a fighting retreat toward Ukhta. On 23 July Finnish troops reached Korpijärvi, whence in a two-column advance lasting to 28 July they advanced along the northern shore of the Sredne Kuito lake and, farther to the north, along the road linking Korpijärvi and Ukhta in the direction of the Eldanka lake, 12 miles (19 km) to the north-west of Ukhta. In addition, some of the Finnish troops were also despatched along the southern shore of the Sredniy Kuito lake and, meeting almost no position, reached the village of Enonsu, located on the shore opposite Ukhta, on 2 August. Some units moved as far to the east as Luusalmi.
Some small units advancing along the northern shore of the lake were checked at the turn of the Kis-Kis river, where Soviet troops put up stubborn resistance. On 19 August the offensive toward Ukhta was stopped, in part because the German command considered the Kestenga axis more promising. In the first days of September, Finnish troops again attempted to break through the Soviet positions, but were stopped in their tracks by two rehabilitated and regrouped regiments of the 54th Division.
On 3 July, Eversti Erkki Raappana’s Finnish 14th Divisioona, reinforced with two Jäger battalions and totalling about 20,000 men, advanced toward Lieksa, Rebola and Rogozero. The Finns were opposed by only the 337th Regiment of the 54th Division based on Rebola and reinforced by an artillery division and the NKVD’s 73rd Border Detachment to a strength of about 4,000 men. Between 3 and 24 July, the Soviet troops defeated the Finnish attacks on Rebola. On 15 July, however, a Finnish detachment bypassed the Rebola area from the south-west, and the 337th Regiment was forced to withdraw to the north and then to the east despite its total ignorance of the area. Only the regiment’s rearguard units and the Rebolsk militia battalion remained in Rebola. On 26 July, the Rugozersk light infantry battalion arrived to the rescue, and the Belomorsk and Tunguda light infantry battalions arrived at Kochkoma’s railway station. Despite this, there Soviets abandoned Rebola on 26 July. In the first days of August, the Soviets created a fresh division out of the remnants of the forces falling back from Rebola: this extemporised division numbered about 6,000 men, who took up positions to the east of Rebola along the Chirko-Kem river, and fought well to hold these positions until the middle of August. On 15 August, the Finns broke through the division’s defences and on the following day the Soviet troops withdrew to pre-prepared positions along the Pizma river. From 19 August, Finnish units stormed the Soviet positions, but it was only on 6 September that they achieved some success as they created gaps in the division’s defences. Despite the fact that the Soviets than managed to restore the situation, the Finnish attacks continued, and under their pressure, and the division was ordered to fall back farther to the east to a line 6.1 miles (10 km) from Rugozero, a task achieved on 12 September. Farther to the east in this sector, the Finnish troops made no more advances for the rest of the war.
In the south of the 'Arctic and Karelia Strategic Defensive Operation', where six Soviet divisions of the 7th Army faced the one German and 12 Finnish divisions of the four corps comprising Heinrichs’s Karjalan Armeija and the Kaakkois Armeija (Army of Karelia and South-East Army), the Finnish objectives were Petrozavodsk and Olonets. This undertaking was the largest and most significant offensive carried out by the Finns in the 'Jatkosota'. For the part of the offensive to the south-east along the northern and eastern shores of Lake Ladoga, Kenraalimajuri Paavo Talvela’s VI Armeijakunta and Kenraalimajuri Woldemar Hägglund’s VII Armeijakunta, supplemented by the 'Oinonen' Ryhmä, were allocated. The area of this part of the Finnish offensive was held by a number of Soviet border guard units and the 168th Division and 71st Division.
It was on 10 July that the Finns launched their offensive. The main blow was delivered in the most northern area of the sector, by the VI Corps reinforced by Eversti Ruben Lagus’s 1st Jääkäriprikaati (rifle brigade) from the area slightly to the north of Vyartsilä. The Finnish attack took the form of a wide hook to the south-east past the eastern of the Janisjärvi lake, and fell on the 71st Division. The Soviet formation could not hold its positions and had to fall back; the division’s left-flank unit was the 367th Regiment, and together with the divisional headquarters this was cut off from the main forces in the Sortavala region, along with the 168th Division. The 'Oinonen' Ryhmä was advancing on the division’s right flank, and in the van was the 1st Jääkäriprikaati (infantry brigade), a highly mobile unit, and on 12 July this took Kokkari and the village of Tolvajärvi. The brigade then turned to the south, and on 14 July took Muanto, then on 16 July at Loimola cut the railway line and reached the eastern coast Lake Ladoga to the Pitkyaranta areas after an advance of 66.5 miles (107 km). A little later, other elements of the VI Corps also reached the shore of Lake Ladoga and took Vyartsilya, while some other elements were slowed by the Soviet resistance at Soanlahti. On 16 July this Soviet resistance crumbled, and bypassing the Janisjärvi lake from the south, took up defensive positions. Meanwhile, the VII Armeijakunta's advance along the western shore of the Janisjärvi lake encountered the stubborn defence of the 168th Division, which until September held a section of Lake Ladoga’s shore, which by that time was already pressed by the Finns on three sides. With access to the shore of Lake Ladoga, the Finns transferred Eversti Paavo Paalu’s 1st Divisioona to the Loimola area in order to cover the flank, sent Generalleutnant Erwin Engelbrecht’s subordinated German 163rd Division to Suvilakhti. After this, the VI Armeijakunta resumed its offensive along the eastern shore of Lake Ladoga, sending part of its strength in the direction of the Tulm lake. On 21 July, after three days of heavy fighting, Finnish troops took Salmi, on 22 July seized Mansila and on 24 July reached the Tuloksa river, on which it halted. The decision to halt was connected in large part with the fact that the Soviet infantry, supported by the 3rd Marine Brigade, 452nd Motorised Regiment and 7th Motorcycle Regiment, on 23 July crossed the Vidlitsa river and launched a counterattack in order to drive the Finns back to Salmi on 24 July the Soviets landed troops to the west of Salmi. The Soviet troops managed to penetrate between 3.1 and 5 miles (5 to 8 km) into the Finnish defences in some places, but by 24 July the Soviets had been forced to retreat to Tuloksa. During the later days of July and early days of August, the Finns and Soviets fought on the Tuloksa river, and the 163rd Division remained in combat in the lake area to the north of the railway line lining Loimola and Suvilahti.
The Soviet command reinforced its strength in Karelia during July 1941: two regiments of the 3rd Leningrad Militia Division arrived along the Tuloksa line, militia units were formed in Petrozavodsk and the area round it, and the 282nd Division was deployed to the outskirts of Petrozavodsk.
At the end of August the fighting flared up once more. The headquarters of the VII Armeijakunta was transferred to the Suvilahti area, where it united under its command part of the VI Armeijakunta's forces, and the formations and units which had been part of the VII Armeijakunta came under the command of Eversti Einar Mäkinen’s I Armeijakunta, which was created on 8 August. This led to the start of an offensive toward Sortavala, which was taken on 16 August and almost drove the 168th Division into Lake Ladoga. Toward the end of August, Suvilahti fell to the Finns, whose VII Armeijakunta advanced to the isthmus between the Säämäjärvi and Sotjärvi (Syamozero and Shotozero in Russian) lakes. On 21 September, the 314th Division arrived to boost the strength of the Soviet defenders in Karelia.
On 4 September, the Karjalan Armeija resumed its offensive. At that time, it was disposed as follows: from the border to the northern shore of the Syamozero lake were the brigades of the 'Oinonen' Ryhmä, two divisions of the VII Armeijakunta were on the isthmus between the lakes, the VI Armeijakunta of three divisions and one Jäger brigade occupied positions from Vedlozero along Tulokse river to its mouth, and the 163rd Division was in reserve. After the artillery had dropped a powerful artillery bombardment, the VI Armeijakunta went onto the offensive, broke through the defensive positions of the 3rd Militia Division, which was encircled, and within three days reached the Svir river at Lodeynoye Pole, in the process taking Olonets on 5 September. On the opposite, southern bank of the river, the fresh 314th Division, which had arrived from 2 September, was deployed, and the 67th Division, created from a miscellany of units operating in this area, and the 3rd Marine Brigade, which had retreated along the shore of Lake Ladoga, managed to maintain a foothold on the northern bank of the Svir river. By the middle of September, the VI Corps had taken almost the entire northern bank of the river and, with part of its forces from the south, headed toward Petrozavodsk. At the beginning of October, the corps' remaining forces had managed to force the Svir river near Lake Onega and secure a bridgehead 60 miles (96 km) wide and 11.75 miles (19 km) deep. However, in fighting with the 21st Division that arrived in Svir, the bridgehead suffered a significant reduction.
Meanwhile the VII Armeijakunta, advancing on Petrozavodsk from the south-west, had by 7 September neared the village of Pryazha. The Soviet command had transferred the 313rd Division into this area, and between 12 and 19 September this fought heavy battles with the Finnish troops trying to take the village, which changed hands several times. The Finnish command undertook a flanking manoeuvre, cutting the road linking Pryazha and Olonets, and some of the units on the left wing of the Petrozavodsk defence force were forced to start retreating to Petrozavodsk under the threat of encirclement. On 21 September, there VII Armeijakunta resumed the offensive from the area of Pryazha, and by 23 September had thrown the Soviet troops back to Vilge, 10 miles (16 km) from Petrozavodsk. On 22 September, Finnish units reached the shore of Lake Onega to the south of Petrozavodsk in the area of the village of Shoksha and launched an offensive on it from the south. The 'Oinonen' Ryhmä of the II Armeijakunta, transferred from the Karelian Isthmus, was advancing on the city from the north-west. Petrozavodsk was defended by the battered 313rd and 272nd Divisions, as well as the 37th Division, which had been formed from a miscellany of army and NKVD regiments available in Petrozavodsk during July 1941 as the Petrozavodsk Division. In addition, the 1st and 2nd Light Brigades, of which one took up defensive positions to the south of the city and the other those to the north in the area of Shuiskaya station to prevent the Finns from cutting the road to Kondopoga and cut off Petrozavodsk from the north. These measures were inadequate, however, and on 3 October, after bloody fighting, the Soviet troops were forced to abandon Petrozavodsk and retreat, making their way to Kondopoga, and the Finnish troops continued their offensive from Petrozavodsk toward Kondopoga and Medvezhyegorsk.
The defence of the most southerly part of the front, on the Karelian isthmus between Lake Ladoga and the Gulf of Finland, was the responsibility of the 23rd Army. Here the Finns deployed the I Corps, Kenraalimajuri Paavo Talvela’s (from 29 June Kenraalimajuri Taavetti Laatikainen’s) II Armeijakunta, Kenraaliluutnantti Karl Lennart Oesch’s IV Armeijakunta and Kenraalimajuri Taavetti Laatikainen’s V Armeijakunta against the formations of the 23rd Army and those of the erstwhile left flank of the 7th Army. The operation on the Karelian isthmus was preceded by an undertaking toward Petrozavodsk and Olonets, as a consequence of which the 7th Army was cut in two, of which the left flank then came under the command of the 23rd Army. By the start of the Finnish major offensive, therefore, the 23rd Army was already partially surrounded by Finnish forces, who continued to hold Sortavala, from the north and north-east.
Up to 1 July, the only hostilities in this area were skirmishes in the air and on the ground in the border areas: on 29 June, for example, Finnish troops exerted limited pressure in the Enso (Svetogorsk in Russian) area on the Soviet border troops, which fought back on the following day. On 1 July, the Finns launched their offensive proper, striking first at Elisenvaara on the boundary between the 23rd Army and 7th Army. The Finns quickly overrun the Soviet border defences, but by 3 July the Soviets had restored the situation by the 142nd Division and the 198th Motorised Division of the X Mechanised Corps.
Major hostilities began on 31 July as formations and units of the II Armeijakunta went over to the offensive from their positions on the border between the Vuoksa and Pyaozero rivers. The Finns' primary objective as the capture of the Hiitola railway junction and thus cut the Soviet line of communication with the Sortavala area. The 142nd Division and the 198th Motorised Division, which were retreating in the direction of Lahdenpohja, came under attack. On 5 August the two divisions attempted a counterattack in the aerate the west of Lahdenpohja, but achieved no success and were pushed back. The Finnish offensive was resumed on 6 August, and Eversti Jussi Sihvo’s new 10th Divisioona was committed by the Finns. On 9 August, the new formation reached the shore of Lake Ladoga, taking Lahdenpohja in the process, and on 11 August the main forces of the II Armeijakunta took Hiitola and the corps' right flank, secured the shore between Hiitola and Kexholm (Priozersk in Russian). The Soviet command deployed a fresh formation, the 265th Division, which attempted a counterattack on Hiitola and Ojärvi, but by 10 August this counterstrike had come to an end. At the same time, the I Armeijakunta assaulted Sortavala, which fell on 16 August as there remaining Soviet troops were driven back to the shore. Thus the right flank of the 23rd Army was cut into three unequal groups: to the north of Lahdenpohja, between the I Armeijakunta and the left flank of the II Armeijakunta, the 168th Division with the regiment of the 71st Division was pressed against the shore and the regiments of the 115th Division, between the flanks of the II Armeijakunta to the north and north-east of Hiitol, were surrounded. From 12 August, the 142nd Division and the 198th Motorised Division, which were now a consolidated group under the command of Polkovnik Donskov, were surrounded in the area to the west of Kexholm. From 12 August, all these Soviet troops were evacuated by the vessels of Kapitan 1-go ránga Viktor P. Bogolepov’s Ladoga Military Flotilla. The evacuation of those units cut off on 9 August from the main forces and pressed against the northern shore of Lake Ladoga, continued to 20 August, by which time 23,000 persons several thousand horses, 700 vehicles and 150 pieces of artillery had been saved. Meanwhile, the Finnish offensive continued to develop. On 13 August the II Corps was deployed to the south and began to advance toward Paakkola, and on 16 August crossed the Vuoksa river. The corps' left flank advanced through Kexholm to the south, clearing the western shore of Lake Ladoga, an rea in which the Soviet command simply had nothing to hold back the Finns. The emerged the real threat that the forces of the 23rd Army in the Viipuri (Vyborg in Russian) would be completely encircled. The crossing of Vuoksa river had triggered the addition to the Finnish offensive of the IV Armeijakunta near Viipuri on 21 August. By that time, the Soviet command had arrived at the conclusion that a systematic withdrawal of the 43rd Division and 123rd Division from the post-1940 'new' border area, as well as of 115th Division from the Vuoksa line, which had been under attack since the beginning of the II Armeijakunta's offensive. However, the planned withdrawal failed: by 23 August the II Armeijakunta had struck from the bridgehead on the Vuoksa river and advanced 8.1 miles (13 km) to the east of Viipuri by 25 August, in the process cutting the railway line to Leningrad. At the same time, one division of the IV Armeijakunta crossed Viipuri bay and cut the retreat routes of the Soviet troops in the Viipuri area. As a result, in the last days of August the retreating Soviet units were compressed into a 'cauldron' near Porlammen (Porlampi in Russian), where there was fierce fighting until 31 August before the last Soviets surrender. Their loss of the Porlammen 'cauldron' cost General Major Vladimir V. Kirpichnikov’s Soviet forces 17,000 men (7,000 killed, 1,000 wounded and 9,000 taken prisoner) out of a starting total of about 35,000 men; the Soviets also lost large quantities of equipment and weapons. Under Oesch’s command, the Finns had committed some 43,000 men, of whom 700 were killed, and about 2,700 wounded. Elements of the Soviet forces (43rd Division and 123rd Division) managed to evade the encirclement and reach Koivisto for evacuation to Kronshtadt by vessels of Vitse Admiral Vladimir F. Tributs’s Baltic Fleet.
By the end of August, therefore, there had developed a situation in which between the 'old' border and the front line, practically nothing except as few scattered units were left for the Soviets to attempt interference with the Finnish advance toward Leningrad. The Soviet command created a new line of defence along the fortifications located along the 'old' border, and in these were based, by the beginning of September, the 142nd Division and the 198th Motorised Division evacuated across Lake Ladoga, the 43rd Division and the 123rd Division evacuated across the Gulf of Finland, and the 291st Division. On 4 September, Finnish troops approached the new fortified area with Eversti Aaro Pajari’s 18th Division crossing the Sestra river and taking Belostrov (Valkeasaari in Finnish) near the north-eastern coast of the Gulf of Finland to the north-west of Leningrad. During September, with the exception of skirmishes, the front stabilised as the Finns had no intention of becoming in a battle for north-western Leningrad in concert with the German assaults on the city from the south.
Even as these land operations were taking place, these was a small amount of naval warfare in the Barents Sea and in the Gulf of Finland as well as on some lakes.
In the Barents Sea, the German navy had been allocated, for lack of resources, only limited tasks such as the defence of German convoys and bases, as well as actions against Allied convoys. Thus the level of naval support to the ground forces during the 'Arctic and Karelia Strategic Defensive Operation' was extremely limited. In the area in which 'Platinfuchs' took place, the primarily German naval element was Kapitän Schulze-Hinrichs’s 6th Zerstörerflottille, of which the destroyers Richard Beitzen, Herman Schoemann, Hans Lody, Freidrich Eckholdt and Karl Galster arrived in the Norwegian extreme north-eastern port of Kirkenes on 10 July. On 12/13 July, these destroyers were operating Kharlov Island, where they located and attacked a Soviet convoy consisting of two trawlers and one patrol vessel towing fuel containers from Murmansk to Jokanga, and destroyed the patrol vessel Passat and one of the trawlers. On 22/24 July, near Teriberka, the destroyers sank the hydrographic vessel Meridian, and then on 10 August sank the patrol vessel Tuman, which was patrolling off Kildinsky. The operations of the reach, was sunk. The combat activity of the 6th Zerstörerflottille ended at this juncture, and the destroyers returned to Germany for repair and refurbishment.
On the Soviet side, the Northern Fleet was more heavily involved, largely in seeking to defeat German air attacks from the very beginning of the campaign. The fleet operated with its own air component, supervising coastal defences and disrupting German communications. Of the Soviet naval efforts, the most significant was the organisation and landing of troops in the Bolshaya Zapadnaya Litsa bay: attacking the northern flank of the Gebirgskorps 'Norwegen', this represented a real threat to the northern flank of the corps' formations and units, and thus made a signal contribution to the fact that the German troops could not break through the defences on the Zapadnaya Litsa river and advance to Murmansk. Another of the fleet’s operations directly influenced the development of events in the land theatre was the sinking by a Soviet submarine, on 30 August off the coast of Norway, of two transport vessels carrying reinforcements and supplies for the Gebirgskorps 'Norwegen', which was already experiencing serious supply problems. In addition to the disruption of the flow of supplies, the actions of the Northern Fleet called into question the rapid redeployment to the north of Generalmajor Ferdinand Schörner’s 6th Gebirgsdivision to bolster the German strength in the Arctic theatre.
Like the Northern Fleet, the Baltic Fleet took an active part in operations between June and September, helping to fight German and Finnish air attacks from the first day of the war, operating with its own air arm and supervising coastal defences. Of particular note was the evacuation of 23rd Army units from the Koivisto area on 1/2 September, as a result of which more than 27,000 soldiers, 188 pieces of artillery, 950 vehicles, and more than 2,000 horses were removed. When boarding the ships, the troops were covered by a regiment of the Baltic Fleet’s sailors and coastal artillery. The invaluable assistance of the Baltic Fleet was also to be found in the fire of hundreds of the Baltic Fleet’s guns in calibers between 3.93 and 16 in (100 and 406 mm) on ships, railway platforms and the forts of Kronshtadt island, which engaged Finnish troops in the Karelian fortified area.
The actions of the Finnish naval forces in the eastern part of the gulf were concerned primarily with minelaying.
On Lake Ladoga, the Ladoga Military Flotilla had been established in October 1939. The flotilla’s main base was Shlisselburg (later Petrokrepost and known to the Germans as Schlüsselburg ), but after the outbreak of the war the ships were based in Saunasaari, now the Dalyokaya bay. The flotilla comprised one gunboat, two patrol vessels, seven minesweepers, 12 patrol boats, and one separate aviation squadron of 13 short-range flying boats. After the outbreak of the war the vessels were based in Saunasaari, now Dalyokaya bay. The flotilla’s first operation was an unsuccessful landing on the northern shore of Lake Ladoga near Lunkulansari island on 24 July behind the VI Corps' elements advancing on the Svir river, and on 26 July on Mantsinsari island. Gunboats and armoured boats of the flotilla fired on Finnish troops and fortifications on the western and northern shores of Lake Ladoga. Vessels of the Ladoga military flotilla also carried out the evacuation of Soviet units from the lake’s western shore and later from the islands of Lake Ladoga. From 12 September, the flotilla was involved in the delivery of supplies to besieged Leningrad.
Of the operations by the Finnish naval arm should be noted the landing on Rahmansaari island, which was held by 4th Marine Brigade and as a result of which the Soviet forces finally departed, and also the landings on Rahmansaari and later Heinasenma and Verkkosaari islands.
To the north-east of Lake Ladoga, Lake Onega was also the scene of some naval activity. Here the Soviet forces was the Onega Military Flotilla, which was re-established in August 1941 with its base at Petrozavodsk. At the time of its re-establishment, the flotilla had one command vessel, eight armoured boats, six gunboats, seven patrol and minesweeping boats, four fast launches, one marine battalion, and a number of auxiliary craft; by August 1941, the flotilla was centred on a gunboat division with six gunboats, one minesweeper, two minesweeping boats, two patrol boats and, it was planned, six armoured boats. The flotilla’s most notable operations were the operations of September 1941, starting from 19 September, in which the flotilla’s vessels provided fire support to the ground forces along the southern shore of Lake Onega, along the Svir river and even in Svir bay. Moreover, on 22/24 September the small forces of the Onega Military Flotilla carried out an unsuccessful landing in the area of Vyazostrov and Gakruchei.
After they had reached the lake, the Finns seized several of the Soviet vessels and managed to bring some of them into their own service, but the achievement, if any, of these Finnish-manned boats remain unknown.
Ultimately, and including the somewhat later operation for the defence of Medvezhyegorsk, the Finns and Germans came to a halt along the line, from north to south, of the Zapadnaya Litsa river 37 miles (60 km) to the west of Murmansk, along the river and lake system some 56 miles (90 km) to the west of Kandalaksha, 25 miles (40 km) to the west of Loukhi, 6 miles (10 km) to the west of Ukhta, Rugozero, Maselgskaya station, Povenets, Lake Onega, the Svir river to the north-western approaches to Leningrad. The most important successes achieved by the Soviet troops defending the Arctic coast region and Karelia were the preservation of the bases of the Northern Fleet and Murmansk, which was the only ice-free port in the European part of the USSR; the preservation of the railway communication on the northern section of the Kirov railway, which is strategically important in terms of delivery of goods arriving in Murmansk; the creation of a stable defence along the line of the Svir river, which ultimately prevented a possible bypass of Lake Ladoga by Finnish troops from the south; and the creation of a stable defence along the line of the Karelian fortified region, which ended all possibility of Finnish troops capturing Leningrad from the nor-west.
The Germans had effectively fulfilled their main task of ensuring the safety of Petsamo, but failed to reach the coast of the White Sea within their intention of cutting off the Soviet troops on the Kola peninsula. Their task of taking Murmansk was not executed. The Finns' plans for the operation are uncertain (and controversial inasmuch as their plans have been taken to include the creation of a 'Greater Finland'), but one thing which is certain is that Finland sought to regain the territory it had lost during the 'Talvisota' winter war of 1939/40, which it achieved. Finland’s further plans, obviously, depended largely on Germans plans and the course of the war.
Information on German losses differ slightly between a total of 21,501 men lost to 20,720 men, the letter comprising 4,419 men killed, 953 men missing and 15,348 men wounded. The total of Finnish casualties was in the order of 46,365 persons, of which 9,923 persons were killed, 2,206 missing and 34,236 injured. The ratio of losses in manpower was thus about 2/1 in favour of the German and Finnish troops, and in terms of irrecoverable losses about 3.8/1 in favour of the Finns and Germans.