Operation Tuloksin Landing Operaton

The 'Tuloksin Landing Operation' was a Soviet amphibious undertaking by the Ladoga Military Flotilla against Finnish forces within the 'Svir-Petrozavodsk Offensive Operation' (23/27 June 1944).

When planning the 'Svir-Petrozavodsk Offensive Operation', General Kyrill A. Meretskov, commander of the Karelia Front, decided that elements of Kontr Admiral Viktor S. Cherokov’s Ladoga Military Flotilla should deliver and land forces in the rear of the Finnish forces in the area between Vidlitsa and Tuloksa on the eastern shore of Lake Ladoga. The undertaking’s objective was to cut the road and railway along the shores of Lake Ladoga allowing the Finns to bring men, weapons and equipment to the front line along the Svir river. Should the landing prove successful, further development would threaten to envelop Kenraaliluutnantti Paavo Talvela’s Finnish Olonets Ryhmä (otherwise Aunuksen Ryhmä and thus deprive the Finns of convenient lines of retreat and/or evacuation and also their ability to occupy intermediate defence lines.

Podpolkovnik A. V. Blak’s 70th Naval Brigade (3,169 men) of the Karelian Front was allocated as the core of the landing force, which was to be delivered by four transports, two minesweepers, two smaller craft and one rescue vessel. The landing craft detachment comprised 12 KM boats, 19 tenders and nine motor boats, escorted by six submarine chasers, two motor torpedo boats and one former German high-speed landing barge captured in 1942 near the island of Sukho. Fire support for the landing was to be provided by five gunboats, and two armoured boats. A detachment was also created to cover the landing should Finnish vessels make an appearance: this force included two 'M' class submarines, which were to be pre-positioned in the landing area. In total, 78 vessels, craft and boats were involved in the operation, and this was almost the entire strength of the Ladoga Military Flotilla. The landing forces were commanded by Kapitan 1-go ranga N. I. Meshchersky under the overall command of Cherokov, who selected the landing site on the basis of it convenience for an amphibious assault and the local weakness of the Finnish defences as revealed by a thorough reconnaissance of the lake’s east shore during May and the first half of June.

Air cover for the landing and subsequent development was assigned to General Leytenant Ivan M. Sokolov’s 7th Air Army and the Air Force of the Baltic Fleet (237 aircraft of three assault regiments, two bomber regiments, one fighter regiment and a reconnaissance element).

The launch point for the 'Tuloksin Landing Operation' was Novaya Ladoga on the lake’s southern shore to the east of Leningrad.

The shore which was to be attacked was defended by the Finnish Ladoga Coastal Defence Brigade, whose units were widely scattered. Along the coast was a barbed wire entanglement, one to two rows deep, reinforced in the most likely landing areas and on the various river mouths. There were positions for small-calibre coast-defence guns and also machine gun positions. Given the nature of the Finnish defences, the Soviet forces intended for the operation were significant, and considerable effort had been expended in the thorough reconnaissance before the landing and in the creation of a carefully schemed organisation to plan and further support the landing. Each of the marine landing battalions was allocated fire support from a dedicated detachment of vessels, radio-equipped artillery observers were allocated, and duplicated channels of communication were readied. The commander of the landing detachment had his own artillery command post and could therefore concentrate the fire of all the Soviet vessels against any threatened area: during the battle, Blak many extensive use of this capability.

At 05.00 on 23 June, the vessels of the artillery support detachment opened fire on the landing area, and at 05.30 there followed an air attack. At 05.55 the vessels and craft of the first assault wave approached the shore and, under the cover of a smoke screen, began to land their embarked troops, who were supported by the fire of the gunboats. Two waves of men were landed at an interval of four hours.

The landing of the first wave was wholly unexpected by the Finns, and as a result the first wave lost only six men wounded. The Finns opened fire only after the landing craft had already approached close to the shore and started to land their men. Taking advantage of this circumstance, the flotilla landed 3,667 men, 30 pieces of artillery, 62 mortars, 72 anti-tank guns and 108 heavy and light machine guns. The Soviets quickly seized a beach-head 2.8 miles (3.5 km) wide and 1.25 miles (2 km) deep, and cit the shoreline road linking Olonets and Pitkyaranta. The Finnish artillery unit in the landing area was swiftly overcome, the Finns losing three guns and 10 tractors and vehicles with ammunition, and seven men taken prisoner. The Finns hastily committed additional forces, and from the afternoon of 23 June began to counterattack the landing. The Finns' first attacks were disordered and scattered, but the Finnish effort was then intensified.

To support the landing, Soviet aircraft flew 347 sorties on this day, and from a time early in the morning of this first day, between 14 and 18 Finnish aircraft tried to attack the landing vessels and craft, but were driven off by the Soviet vessels' anti-aircraft fire, which brought down one aeroplane. The Finnish aircraft managed to achieve one hit on a landing vessel, but this caused only minor damage, wounding seven men, two of them seriously. (According to Finnish data, only five aircraft took part in the raid, and supposedly sank one transport and caused a fire on a second such vessel.)

Fighting continued throughout the second half of the day on 23 June and all night, and Finnish units attacked continuously. By the morning of 24 June, the men of the Soviet landing force were starting to experience a lack of ammunition: a few hours earlier Finnish artillery had destroyed an ammunition-carrying barge as it approached the beach-head. By the middle of the day the Soviet force was in a critical situation even as the Finnish strength increased steadily: two Finnish regiments, one separate reserve battalion, and one armoured train were already committed. Taking advantage of the deteriorating weather, which from the second half of the day prevented Soviet air support sorties, the Finns made a determined effort to drive the Soviets back into the water of Lake Ladoga. Once the Finns had broken into the Soviet defences and neared the brigade commander’s headquarters, Blak ordered all his headquarters staff, supplemented by the waking wounded, into the fray. As the delivery of ammunition from Novaya Ladoga was difficult as a result of the storm that was now raging, Cherokov ordered all vessels and craft covering the landing to close the shore and concentrate their fore on the Finnish counterattack, and also to transfer part of their ammunition to the landed force. Several Soviet pilots also flew sorties, very risky in inclement weather, to drop containers of ammunition into the beach-head. By the evening, the Finnish attacks had been repulsed: in just the first two days of the battle, the Finns made 16 counterattacks.

Realising that the Finns now had the opportunity to strengthen their forces, Cherokov decided to land the second echelon of the assault force, which was the 3rd Separate Marine Brigade led by Kapitan 1-go ranga S. A. Gudimov, on 25 June despite the stormy weather, and by the end of the day 2,443 more men had been landed. The strength of the landed force now exceeded 4,900 men with 115 pieces of artillery and mortars. The situation changed again in favour of the Soviets, who were able to move the landed force forward and improve its positions. The last Finnish counterattacks were driven back, and the Finns then used only artillery and mortars against the Soviet beach-head. During the night and morning of 26/27 June the Soviets landed the rest of the 3rd Marine Brigade, artillery and anti-aircraft regiments, and by this time 4,907 men, 59 pieces of artillery and 46 mortars had landed in the beach-head. During the landing of this assault echelon, a towed ammunition-carrying barge hit a mine and was destroyed.

In view of the successful development of the Karelia Front’s main offensive, on 26 June the Finns abandoned all consideration of further attacks on the beach-head and concentrated their efforts on the evacuation of their troops from the Svir river line. Unable to use the railway and road from Pitkäranta, the retreating Finns had no alternative but to abandon heavier weapons, equipment and supplies as they retreated along country roads bypassing the beach-head.

Shortly after 00.00 on 27 June, the landing force linked with the advancing units of the 7th Army and continued the Soviet offensive to the north and participated in the seizure of Vidlitsa. Gunboats and boats continued their gun fire support for the Soviet offensive.

The 'Tuloksin Landing Operation' had ended in complete Soviet success and achieved the objectives which had been set for it. In theory, the Finns could have used the 21.75-mile (35 km) distance between the landing and the front line to its south-east in order to achieve a quick strengthening of its forces tackling the landing, but was too late with such a decision; when the Finnish units diverted from the front arrived, the Soviet landing force had already taken and prepared advantageous positions.

The Soviet losses were 190 men killed and 346 men wounded in the 70th and 3rd Brigades. and four men killed and 30 men wounded in the Ladoga Military Flotilla. The Soviets also lost two patrol boats (I-42 and KM-15) driven ashore in the storm on 25 June, though these were recovered and repaired after the operation, one motor boat and one towed barge sunk by artillery fire, and five vessels and craft damaged by Finnish aircraft and artillery. These last were one landing vessel and four barges, which remained operational serviceable and continued to carry out combat missions until the end of the operation.

According to Soviet data, the activities of the land forces, ships and aircraft killed as many as 1,300 Finns; took 16 Finns prisoner; destroyed 36 artillery batteries and individual guns, 17 mortar batteries, 15 bunkers, 56 machine gun positions, up to 50 vehicles and three aircraft; and captured six guns, one tankette, as many as 80 machine guns and a large quantities of ammunition.