Operation Steinhäger

(brand of German gin)

'Steinhäger' was a German and Finnish unsuccessful amphibious assault on the Soviet positions on Narvi island in the Gulf of Finland (27/28 June 1944).

Supported by the torpedo boats T 8, T 10 and T 30 of Korvettenkapitän Karl Kassbaum’s 2nd Torpedoboots-Flottille, minesweepers M 15, M 18, M 19, M 22 and M 30 of Korvettenkapitän Dr Emil Kieffer’s 3rd Minensuch-Flottille and motor minesweepers R 67, R 68, R 76 and R 249 of Kapitänleutnant Walter Erich Schneider’s 1st Räumboots-Flottille, the 108-man Finnish assault unit was landed by Kapteeniluutnantti Jääsalo’s 2nd Vartiomoottorivenelaivue (patrol boat flotilla) with nine motor launches and the patrol vessel Vasama, and the 1st and 2nd Moottoritorpedovenelaivueen (motor torpedo boat flotillas), commanded by Kapteeniluutnantti Jouko Pirhonen and Kapteeniluutnantti Salo with four and five motor torpedo boats respectively.

The plan was that German ships should destroy the targeted Soviet positions by artillery fire and the Finnish troops would then land and destroy everything on the island. The island would not be occupied, but any Soviet attempts to restore their positions the island were to be prevented.

At 22.40 the naval gunfire support groups were in their designated locations, all about 6,560 yards (6000 m) from the island. The torpedo boats T 30, T 8 and T 10 were to the north, the minesweepers M 15, M 19 and M 22 to the west and the minesweepers M 18 and M 30 to the north-east of the island. These ships had not yet opened fire when the Soviet artillery on Narvi surprised them by opening fire at 22.43. The torpedo boats returned fire and the exchange of continued for seven minutes before the Soviet artillery ceased fire. The German ships then pulled back to the east into their planned waiting area and continued to fire on the island until 23.15. The Finnish craft approached the island at this point, but they were still 3,500 yards (3200 m) to the north of it when the Soviets once again opened fire against the German ships, which then seemed to retreat after M 19 had been hit. At 23.20 the Finnish commander decided to wait to see if the Germans resumed their gunfire bombardment. The Soviet artillery on Narvi was still firing effectively, however, and as the German support seemed to depart, the commander of the Finnish craft carrying the troops decided that it was not possible to press ahead with the planned landing and cancelled the operation at 23.50.

The operation was thus a failure because of the strong Soviet defences and inadequate co-ordination between the German and Finnish forces. The Soviet positions on the island were later shelled, on 15/16 July, by three German torpedo boats, which were engaged by Soviet patrol boats.