Lakhta Landing Operation

The 'Lakhta Landing Operation' was a Soviet tactical amphibious operation by the forces of the Onega Military Flotilla during the 'Svir-Petrozavodsk Offensive Operation', within the overall context of the 'Vyborg-Petrozavodsk Offensive Operation', to block the road needed by the Finns for the withdrawal of their troops through the village of Sheltozero to Petrozavodsk (26 June 1944).

During the 'Svir-Petrozavodsk Offensive Operation', which began on 21 June between the eastern shore of Lake Ladoga and western shore of Lake Onega, the forces of General Major Aleksei N. Krutikov’s 7th Army of General Kyrill A. Meretskov’s Karelia Front defeated elements of Kenraaliluutnantti Paavo Juho Talvela’s Aunuksen Ryhmä (Olonets Group) and began an advance to the north, in the process passing along the western shore of Lake Onega. Fighting a stubborn retreat, the Finns destroyed all lines of communication lines and mined the area, factors which greatly reduced the pace of the Soviet offensive toward Petrozavodsk. In order to accelerate the offensive, the Soviets planned an amphibious undertaking in which a reinforced infantry company would be transported to the south-west along Lake Onega from the area of Kaskesruchey on 26 June to be landed in the area of Lakhta Bay, some 12.5 miles (20 km). The landed force was then to destroy the Finnish rearguard and thereby ensure the further advance of the main strength of General Major Vasili K. Sopenko’s 368th Division.

Under the command of Kapitan Leytenant V. I. Shimkov, a small detachment of two armoured gunboats and one patrol boat of Kapitan 1-go ranga N. V. Antonov’s Onega Military Flotilla was assigned the task of delivering and then supporting the landing force. The 6th Company of the 1224th Regiment was assigned to the landing force for lack of any suitable marine units in the area, and this company was selected because it had just distinguished itself in the Soviet crossing the Svir river and therefore possessed current combat experience. The company was reinforced with heavy machine guns and mortars, and an engineer unit and signallers were attached to it. The number of troops to be landed was 97 or, according to some sources, 104 men.

At 11.00 on 26 June, an armoured gunboat with a landing party on board left the undertaking’s launch area, and by 13.00 the Soviet detachment reached Lakhta Bay near Blatsk Omut, some 1,650 yards (1500 m) from Sheltozero, and immediately approached the part of the shore occupied by the Finns. Under the cover of gun and machine gun fire from the armoured gunboats, the men of the landing party came ashore: many of the men jumped straight into the water and entered the battle on the move. Several Finnish patrols appeared, but these were swiftly driven back from the shore.

The Soviet company drove forward toward the road that was to be blocked. However, using their forces in the vicinity, the Finns immediately gave the order to move men, machine guns, mortars and artillery toward the threatened area, giving them an advantage in the order of 3/1 over the Soviets.

The armoured gunboats which had delivered the landing party remained at the landing site and provided gunfire support to the Soviet company as they advanced. The boats' fire managed to drive the Finns from a dominating height at a fork in the road in the northern outskirts of Sheltozero. The Finns immediately counterattacked, and while repelling this counterattack, the Soviet company commander was killed and the landing party’s sole radio set was destroyed, leaving visual signals as the only method of communication with the boats. A senior sergeant platoon commander assumed command of the company.

For four hours, the paratroopers repelled Finnish counterattacks with the support of fire from the armoured gunboats. By 18.00, the vanguards of the 368th Division had reached the battlefield and the landing’s task had been completed: it had held out until the approach of the main force, after which the Finnish rearguard abandoned the defensive line and melted its way through the local forest to rejoin the Finnish main force. On the following day, the Finns left Sheltozero without resistance, and the road to Petrozavodsk was open.

According to the report of the commander of the Finnish rearguard before his retreat, his force had completely destroyed the Soviet landing, killing as many as 120 Soviet soldiers. According to Soviet data, 25 or, according to one source, 82 Soviet soldiers lost their lives. Another document listed the losses of the 368th Division on 236 June as 31 officers and men killed. According to Soviet data, the Finnish losses were in the order of 80 men killed or wounded, and the award citation for the Soviet company commander states that during the landing operation 32 Finnish soldiers were killed and one was taken prisoner. The Finns admitted the loss of 26 men killed or wounded.