Cape Pikshuyev Landing Operation

The 'Cape Pikshuyev Landing Operation' was a Soviet reconnaissance and sabotage undertaking planned and executed by the Soviet Northern Fleet to destroy a German stronghold on Cape Pikshuyev (11 September 1941).

In order to prevent the use of Motovsky Bay by Soviet coastal shipping, to attack Allied delivery of Lend-Lease shipments to the port of Murmansk, and to block access to the sea by the ships of the Northern Fleet, Generaloberst Eduard Dietl’s 20th Gebirgsarmee deployed along the southern coast of the Barents Sea a network of observation posts, as well as batteries of artillery. The most powerful of these small strongholds was that on Cape Pikshuyev, some 4.67 miles (7.5 km) from the mouth of the Zapadnaya Litsa river, and comprising a strong defensive position characterised by three fortified positions designed and constructed for extended all-round defence. All of the defensive structures were built of stone and concrete, and included numerous machine guns in pillboxes. The core of this arrangement was part of a single defence system along the coast, and was covered by the interlocking firing arcs of several batteries. The strongpoint was garrisoned by the 220 men of a single reinforced company of mountain troops, as well as a battery of four 75-mm (2.95-in) guns and 10 mortars.

The Soviet command of the Soviet Northern Defence Region, with the assistance of the headquarters of Admiral Arseni G. Golovko’s Northern Fleet, prepared an operation to destroy this German position, take prisoners and prise open the Germans' entire defence system. The preparation of the undertaking took several weeks and was extremely thorough.

The assault detachment comprised 326 men in the form of one reconnaissance company and one machine gun company of the 12th Separate Marine Brigade, one engineer platoon and two groups of artillery spotter officers under the command of Major A. P. Borovikov.

The landing was to be carried out at two points, after which the landed detachments, of approximately equal numbers, were to pass round the flanks of the German position on each side, link in its rear and finally combine to fall on the position from the rear. In case of unforeseen situations, another company was held in reserve to reinforce the landing party. To support the landing, three batteries of 152-mm (6-in) coastal artillery were allocated, and provision was also made for six more coastal batteries, with guns in the calibre range between 1000 and 180 mm (3.94 and 7.09 in) could also be delivered. A squadron of aircraft of the Air Force of the Northern Fleet was also allocated. Local command was exercised by the commander of the 12th Separate Marine Brigade, Polkovnik V. V. Rassokhin, and the personnel for the operation were selected well in advance and cycled through an intensive programme of combat training.

The Northern Fleet allocated to the undertaking three patrol boats, three minesweeping boats and three small submarine chasers, as well as the appropriate landing boats and a patrol vessel. The operation was launched from the Eina pier on the Rybachy peninsula.

The landing took place on the night of 11 September, and was unhindered by the Germans. At 04.30 both groups had linked in the designated area and then attacked the Pikshuyev stronghold, which had been destroyed by 08.00. All three German strongpoints had been captured and their structures destroyed with explosives. Covered by the fire of coastal artillery fire, the landing force re-embarked and returned to Eina Bay. There were no losses among the naval vessels, but one boat received minor damage when it struck some rocks.

In this little engagement, 180 Germans were killed, and nine were taken prisoner: the latter included the position’s commander. The Soviets also took 16 machine guns and 200 small arms. On Cape Pikshuyev six pillboxes, 13 bunkers, 10 dug-outs and eight warehouses were destroyed, as were four pieces of artillery, 10 mortars, the electricity generating equipment and weather reconnaissance equipment.

The landing force’s losses were, according to different sources: 24 men killed or died from their wounds and 37 men wounded, or 29 men killed and 32 men wounded.

The Soviets also seized important information about the Germans' defence system on the Arctic coast, and this was of great benefit to the Soviets as they planned and executed later undertakings and also for the organisation of safe navigation routes in Motovka Bay.