On the 12th of September 1923, the charter establishing the ‘Aero Company OY’ (Aero Ltd.) was signed in Helsinki heralding the birth of what would become Finnair, the National carrier of Finland. On the 9th of October the same year, the company was entered into the trade register beginning operations on the 1st November following the first shareholders meeting.
Aero OY was founded by Gustaf Snellman, Fritiof Åhman and Bruno Otto Lucander. Consul Bruno Lucander became the company’s first managing director, bringing with him experience in long-distance air travel gained in his time as General Manager of the company ‘Finland Spedition-Central Ab-Suomen Välityskeskus O/Y’ from 1918. His company had handled the interests of the Estonian airline ‘Aeronaut’ in Finland, when Aeronaut had begun operating flights from Tallinn to Helsinki.
Lieutenant-Colonel Arne Somersalo, the first Commander-in-Chief of the Suomen Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force) served as a technical advisor to the board of directors from 1923. The company received 500,000 Marks from the Government upon its founding; this was increased to 1 million Marks on the 12th December. Aero OY carried 269 passengers in its first year.
Late in 1923, the Estonian airline Aeronaut was acquired by the German company Junkers Flugzeugwerke A.G. and a Junkers F.13 went into service on the Helsinki route. The aircraft was a single-engine monoplane, equipped with a closed cabin and seats for four passengers. The crew consisted of a pilot and a mechanic.
Aeronaut had shown that the Junkers F.13 was up to the challenge of operating in the harsh conditions of Northern Europe which convinced Lucander that the aircraft should be the first choice for Aero.
In summer 1923 Lucander concluded an agreement with the Junkers Flugzeugwerke A.G. for the delivery to Aero of one aircraft plus technical help and personnel in exchange for a 50 per cent holding in the Finnish company.
On the 14th of March 1924, Aero took delivery of its first aircraft, a German-registered Junkers F.13 D-335. The Junkers Factory pilot Heinrich Putz flew the aircraft to Helsinki three days later. Its maiden commercial flight was on the 20 March 1924, when it carried 162 kilos of mail from Helsinki to Tallinn.
Aero was based at Katajanokka, Helsinki where in 1923 the facilities consisted of a small terminal building and one seaplane ramp.
On June 2nd 1924, Aero began operations from Helsinki to Stockholm with the cooperation of the Swedish airline ABA. Operations were conducted with the Junkers fitted with floats because at that time Helsinki and Tallinn had no airfields.
Stockholm offered a rail link to Gothenburg, which offered flight connections to Copenhagen, Oslo and London. Both ABA and Aero operated between Helsinki and Stockholm during the summer. The Helsinki to Stockholm route was not as successful as the Helsinki to Tallinn route which was supported by the Nord-Europa Union of airlines which was supported by the Junkers factory with a connection to Königsberg, which in turn had a rail link to Berlin.
During the summer of 1924, Aero employed its first Finnish pilot, Gunnar Lihr, which brought the total number of employees to seven. The company was keen to interest the Finnish people in aviation giving 833 public demonstration flights in 1925.
Regular flights between Helsinki and Tallinn continued throughout 1925, in May 1926 the Junkers factory’s Nord-Europa Union and the Trans-Europa Union were merged into a single conglomeration of sixteen airlines. The Union of German airlines formed soon after this with the absorption of the German company Aero Lloyd into Deutsche Luft Hansa. Support for Aero OY from Junkers would decline after this merger as the Junkers factory focused its attention on the larger German carriers.
In 1926, Aero purchased a three engined, 9 passenger Junkers G 24 with help from the Government in the form of a state guaranteed loan. The aircraft was bought to Helsinki on the 4th June and put into service on the Stockholm route. The Junkers G 24 was equipped with skis which restricted its operations to the summer months.
In 1927, Aero became a member of IATA (The International Air Transport Association); The company was given the code, “AY”, which stands for Aero Yhtiö which means “company” in Finnish.
Later that year, the company’s Managing Director Bruno Otto Lucander, embarked on Aero’s first around-Finland flight. Several journalists were embarked on the flight taking the first flying tour of the country which went as far north as Rovaniemi on the Arctic Circle.
The aim of the tour was to demonstrate to Aero’s board of directors that the commercial domestic routes of the company could be expanded to include the territories to the north.
At this stage Aero was enthusiastic about the possibility of building one or more permanent airports on land. They were however keenly aware that the 3 million population of Finland with its 187,888 lakes, were reluctant to build airstrips on land. As a result Aero remained with its current seaplane operations, opening Turku-Ruissalo air harbour in May 1927 enabling flight traffic to start between Turku and Stockholm.
During June 1928, an Aero Junkers F.13 piloted by Gunnar Lihr took part in the search for the explorer Umberto Nobile’s airship Italia, which had crashed on Spitzbergen after running into a storm on the way back from Nobile’s failed flight to the North Pole. Lihr succeeded in rescuing one of the expedition team, a feat which brought considerable publicity in the world’s press for both Lihr and Aero.
The fortunes of Aero looked set to change when in August 1929 Managing Director Bruno Otto Lucander died suddenly. Gunnar Ståhle, one of the original three directors from 1923, took over. The fortunes of the company looked in doubt as there was talk of a sell-out from Aero’s major stake-holder, Junkers. However, Finnish investors stepped in and saved the company. So at the beginning of the 1930’s Aero became an entirely Finnish operation.
The 1930s began in a spirit of Nordic cooperation. Aero and ABA launched the ‘Scandinavian Air Express’. This was done to market both Aero’s and ABA’s routes between Helsinki and Stockholm and Aero’s Helsinki-Tallinn route. Onward flight connections to major European destinations from Stockholm opened up the European market to Aero. Flights to Copenhagen became available as did an Aero operated route to Amsterdam from Stockholm.
The first major passenger carrying aircraft was purchased by Aero in 1932. This was a Junkers Ju 52/3m on floats. This was a three-engined, low-winged large aircraft seating 14 passengers.
Initially the aircraft was restricted to flying in the summer months only as it was on floats. It was quickly fitted with wheels which would enable the aircraft to fly the economically lucrative Helsinki-Stockholm route. The first Ju 52/3 went into service on 1 July 1932. In the period 1932-42, Aero took delivery of five Ju 52/3m aircraft.
On the 8th September 1935 the dream of the Aero Company’s board of directors would be realised with the opening of Finland’s first civil airport at Turku Artukainen. The opening of Stockholm’s first civil airport at Bromma on the 23rd of May 1936 increased the pressure on Helsinki to open its own international hub. Flights began from Malmi in December 1936, although the airport was not opened officially until May 1938.
Aero’s seaplane fleet would be consigned to history with a last seaplane flight from Helsinki Katajanokka to Stockholm Lindarängen on 15 December 1936. After this, the fleet was completely on wheels, and Aero operated at last from solid ground.
Aero expanded its fleet in March 1937 with the purchase of two D.H. 89A Dragon Rapides. The aircraft, a seven passenger, 2 piston-engined bi-plane was purchased with a special purpose in mind; it would take on Finland’s first scheduled domestic service between Helsinki and Viipuri. This service started on the 1st of May 1937. Just two days afterwards the service between Helsinki and Tampere was started. In 1938 the Viipuri route was extended to Imatra and the Tampere route extended to Vaasa. A year later, the northern route was extended as far as Oulu and Kemi.
During the 1930s Aero OY consolidated its existing services extending only its Tallinn route via Riga and Kaunas to Berlin. There were however many plans for international services set to coincide with the 1940 Olympic games due to be held in Helsinki.
To realise these plans, two Focke-Wulf FW 200B Condor Aircraft were ordered by Aero in 1938. The FW 200 was a German all-metal four-engine monoplane originally developed by Focke-Wulf as a long-range airliner which resulted from a proposal by Kurt Tank of Focke-Wulf to Dr. Rudolf Stuessel of Deutsche Lufthansa to develop a landplane to carry passengers across the Atlantic Ocean to the USA.
This fitted in with Aero’s plans to develop a transatlantic service in cooperation with other Nordic airlines. The war unfortunately curtailed Aero’s plans for the time being. They never received their Condors as all available aircraft were requisitioned by the Luftwaffe and the Olympic Games due to be held in 1940 in Helsinki never took place.
In 1939 war broke out across Europe. The Russians and Germans invaded Poland; Russia invaded Finland on November 30th 1939 and then Estonia in 1940. The Finns forced the Soviet Union to the negotiating table in March of 1940 ceding up to 10% of its territory in the armistice. The Estonians weren’t so lucky. They were occupied. All available transport aircraft in Finland were requisitioned by the Suomen Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force).
Aero’s Dragon Rapides were requisitioned for use by the 4th Supplementary Flying Regiment. The Junkers 52 transports were put to work on the new Vaasa to Stockholm route as it was deemed too dangerous to operate these vulnerable aircraft out of Helsinki. However the Turku-Stockholm route was still flown on an irregular basis.
The Finnish Air Force would be Finland’s first operator of a commercial airliner with a retractable undercarriage, the Douglas DC-2. The DC-2 was an airliner and transport aircraft of U.S. manufacture. It accommodated three crew and 14 passengers. The first DC-2 baptized “Hanssin-Jukka” achieved almost legendary status as a bomber in the Winter War and later as a personnel transport. Carl Gustaf von Rosen bought the aircraft from KLM and donated it to the Suomen Ilmavoimat. Two additional aircraft were purchased in 1949. The DC-2 was in use until 1955. The Air Force operated three DC-2s from 1940 to 1956.
Of the 3,900 passengers carried during the Winter War, 1,500 were children evacuated to Sweden. On one flight, an Aero 14-seat Junkers Ju 52/3m carried 42 passengers, of whom 26 were children.
Between the Winter War and the Continuation War (13th March 1940 to 25th June 1941), Aero resumed flights to Tallinn on the 2nd April 1940 and to Stockholm two days later. The service to Tallinn was severely disrupted when on June 14 while the world’s attention was focused on the fall of Paris to Nazi Germany a day earlier, one of Aero’s Ju 52 transports was shot down by the Soviet Air Force.
Two Soviet bombers downed one of Aero’s Junkers Ju 52/3m fleet “Kaleva” flying from Tallinn to Helsinki carrying three diplomatic pouches from the U.S. legations in Tallinn, Riga and Helsinki and over 120 kilograms of diplomatic mail by two French embassy couriers. A US Foreign Service employee Henry W. Antheil Jr., the French couriers and other passengers were killed in the crash.
On June 17th Estonia fell to the Soviet Union. The occupation was complete by June 21st and Aero’s operations to Tallinn ceased for the duration of the war.
The company instead switched its attention to starting flights to Petsamo in Northern Finland. This service finally began on 2 June 1940. Known as the “Petsamo Express”, it flew passengers from Helsinki to Petsamo via Tampere, Vaasa, Kokkola, Oulu, Kemi, Rovaniemi and Sodankylä in eight and a half hours. In October 1940, Mariehamn was added to the domestic network. The peace between Finland and the Soviet Union would not last.
The Continuation War began on the 22nd of June 1941 and lasted until the 19th September 1944. Throughout this second war between Finland and Soviet Russia, Aero aircraft made a considerable number of transport flights both in Finland and abroad. Despite the war-time conditions, Aero flew to Berlin during 1943 and 1944. Fuel shortages were a problem, but flights to Rovaniemi and Stockholm continued.
During the Continuation War with the Soviet Union, Aero was forced to operate out of Pori on a temporary basis as both Helsinki and Turku airfields had been placed under military control. Aero found once again that its major assets had been requisitioned by the Imavoimat.
When peace finally came Malmi Airfield was placed under the control of the Allied Control Commission (ACC). Aero’s fleet was transferred to Hyvinkää where flights to Stockholm were resumed in January 1945, both direct and via Turku and Mariehamn.
These flights were stopped by order of the ACC. Aero were not able to re-start services until August 1945 and these services were restricted to domestic flights only.
After the war Gunnar Ståhle left his post as managing director of Aero. The board of directors accepted his resignation in December 1945.
Aero was approaching a new era. It was obvious that as long as it remained a private company it would not manage to make the major acquisitions necessary nor cover the rapidly rising operating costs. As a result, the Finnish State acquired a 70% majority holding in the company in 1946. The remaining 30% was held by private companies, the situation remains much the same today.
Gunnar Ståhle was succeeded as Managing Director of Aero first by C.J. Ehrnrooth and then by Uolevi Raade. On 14 June 1947, Lieutenant-General Leonard Grandell was appointed managing director.
Aero’s administration was reorganised. A 12-member Supervisory Board (later increased to 18 members) appointed a six-member Board of Directors, with the Chairman of the Board also serving as the company’s President & CEO.
Aero chose the Douglas DC-3 as its first post war passenger carrying aircraft. The DC-3 was manufactured in vast numbers during World War 2 and hundreds of these were available from US surplus stocks in Europe. Aero began operating the type in May 1947 and began using the name Finnish Airlines on all of its aircraft. The first stewardesses were recruited to fly on the DC-3’s; initially they only flew on the Helsinki-Kemi and Helsinki-Kuopio routes.
The introduction of the DC-3 foresaw the phasing out of Aero’s older assets and led to standardisation of the fleet: in 1947, the last Rapide was sold and the DC-2s were withdrawn from service. Two Ju-52/3m aircraft remained in service until 1949, when they were also retired.
In 1949, Aero became a member of the new IATA (International Air Transport Association), the airline code AY, was re-instated after being withdrawn during the war and is still in use by Finnair today. In 1951 Aero flew from Helsinki to nine domestic and four foreign destinations.
Helsinki finally got it’s Olympic Games in 1952. It was a notable year for Aero with passenger numbers topping 100,000 for the first time. Helsinki Airport was opened in June near Seutula. The official opening took place on 10 July, and by October all flights had been transferred from Malmi to the new airport.
Although Aero converted its original 21-seat DC-3s to carry 26 passengers, aircraft of this type had had their day. In September 1951, Aero ordered three twin-engine Convair 340s from the USA.
The Convair had a modern fuselage, engines and systems. It also featured a pressurised cabin. The aircraft was put into service on 19 April 1953 on the Helsinki-Copenhagen-Dusseldorf route. Initially it carried 44 passengers; the number was later increased to 52. In the period 1953-1964, Aero purchased a total of eight Convair 340s. The Convairs meant that Aero was able to begin scheduled flights between Helsinki and Moscow becoming the first western airline to operate this service.
In spring 1953, Aero started to use the name Finnair in its marketing. This became the company’s official name on 25 June 1968.
Finnair, the flag carrier of Finland was born.
The aircraft depicted are the Revell 1:144 Airbus A320 and the Eduard 1:144 Junkers Ju-52/m transport. Both kits were completed by the editor in July 2017.
Mauno Koivisto, who has died aged 93, was Finland’s last Cold War president, serving two six-year terms from 1982 to 1994 and cautiously steering the country out of isolation and into the European Union.
Popularly known as “Manu”, he was once described in the New York Times as a “self-made man who regularly wears darned socks and who conveys the impression of sturdy self-reliance, without the slightest vestige of pomp or show”. He was a great favourite with Finnish voters.
“Finlandisation” was the derogatory term used in the West to describe the country’s Cold War policy of remaining neutral but in reality being highly compliant with the Soviet Union. As a veteran of both the bitter 1939-40 Winter War against the Soviets and the so-called Continuation War of 1941-44, Koivisto understood as well as any the need for Finland to establish a modus vivendi with her huge, volatile neighbour.
He had had his knuckles rapped in 1968 when, as Finland’s prime minister under the long presidency of Urho Kekkonen, his government had condemned the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, earning a thinly veiled piece of sabre-rattling in the Soviet newspaper Izvestia calling for the establishment of Soviet military bases in Finland against a supposed West German threat. The situation only calmed down after a meeting between Kekkonen and the Soviet statesman Alexei Kosygin, followed by a “vacation” trip to Moscow by Koivisto two weeks later.
Under Kekkonen, who had served as Finland’s president from 1956 to 1981, there had been considerable media censorship and limitations on freedom of expression, to the extent that many questioned whether the country could be regarded as a democracy.
Books deemed critical of the Soviets had been banned, along with numerous films including The Manchurian Candidate. Soviet defectors were sent back as a matter of policy; Soviet atrocities were not reported and Finnish nationalist groups were heavily restricted.
A lanky man with a long, craggy face, in his early years as President Koivisto continued the policy of “active neutrality”, including the practice of returning Soviet defectors to the Soviet Union. But at the same time he introduced modest measures of democratisation, refraining from using some of the more authoritarian powers assumed by his predecessor and encouraging parliamentary institutions.
Above all, he charted a new course in foreign policy by cultivating good relations with both East and West, a task made easier by the arrival of Mikhail Gorbachev in the Kremlin in 1985. The two men became close and Koivisto, who was fluent in Russian, helped to broker improved relations between the USSR and the US; in 1990 he hosted a summit meeting between President George HW Bush and the Soviet leader.
The early 1980s were a period of free-market prosperity in Finland, buoyed up by relatively cheap supplies of Soviet energy and the market in eastern Europe for Finnish consumer and industrial goods that would have been difficult to sell in the West.
The collapse of the Soviet Union, however, created huge structural and political problems. In the early 1990s Finnish unemployment soared to about 14 per cent, the economy plunged into recession and the delicate political balancing act with Moscow began to look shaky as the three neighbouring Baltic republics, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, sought to establish their independence and looked to Finland for support. Suddenly caution seemed to be a luxury Finland could ill afford.
Koivisto worked hard to persuade the West of the urgent need of the Soviet Union (and subsequently of Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States), for external economic support. While he avoided any public support of the Baltic independence movement, its representatives were allowed to work from inside Finland.
Meanwhile, gambling on his continuing good relations with Russia’s leaders, he began the process of leading Finland out of international isolation. When in 1990, after German reunification, he unilaterally renounced the military clauses of the 1947 Paris Treaty, which placed restrictions on Finnish defence forces, there was no official protest from Moscow.
The following year, as the Soviet Union disintegrated, he renounced the 1948 Finnish-Soviet pact, which pledged Finnish military assistance if Russia were attacked from the north and which had hindered Finland’s integration with European security structures. Emboldened by the collapse of the Soviet Union, in 1992 Koivisto initiated the process of Finnish accession to the European Union, the final terms of which were agreed on the day he left office. Finland joined the EU in 1995.
The son of a ship’s carpenter, Mauno Henrik Koivisto was born on November 25 1923, in the southern port city of Turku. At the beginning of the Winter War in 1939 he volunteered aged 16 for a field firefighting unit.
During the Continuation War, he served in a reconnaissance detachment operating behind enemy lines. He was awarded the Order of the Cross of Liberty (2nd class) and was promoted to the rank of corporal.
After the war, Koivisto joined the Social Democratic Party and graduated from the University of Turku with a degree in Philosophy and a PhD in Sociology. After graduation he became a banker, rising to become managing director of the Helsinki Workers’ Savings Bank from 1959 to 1967.
By this time he had emerged as a key figure among the Social Democrats and he went on to serve as chairman of the board of the Bank of Finland, a position he retained until 1982 and in which he was widely credited as the architect of the country’s prosperity.
He also served twice as prime minister, from 1968 to 1970 and 1979 to 1982, and despite friction over Czechoslovakia, he succeeded in moving cautiously beyond the limited Finno-Soviet sphere, overseeing Finland’s membership of the OECD in 1969 and participation in UN peacekeeping operations.
He also announced that Finland would play host to the 35-nation European Conference on Security and Cooperation that would lead to the Helsinki accords of 1975. However, he backed off from a proposed Nordic Economic Union with other Scandinavian countries for fear of jeopardising Finland’s neutral status.
In his spare time Koivisto liked playing volleyball, whittling and relaxing in a log cabin outside Helsinki that he had largely built himself.
In 1952 he married Tellervo Kankaanranta, who survives him with their daughter.
Mauno Koivisto, born November 25 1923, died May 12 2017
Sissi is a Finnish term for light infantry which conducts reconnaissance, sabotage and guerrilla warfare operations behind enemy lines. The word sissi, first attested in the modern meaning “patrolman, partisan, spy” in 1787, comes to Finnish from Slavic and refers either to a forest bandit or his yew bow.
The Finnish Army Sissi units are trained to conduct long range reconnaissance patrols, gather intelligence from concealed observation posts, raid enemy installations (especially supply depots), conduct road side ambushes and pursue and destroy enemy special forces units.
In wartime, an unspecified number of reservists assigned to Sissi battalions would deploy and operate as small groups up to company size. They are meant to stay behind and covertly operate against enemy forces in their area of responsibility even if regular friendly troops have been forced to retreat. Sissi battalions are part of Finnish Army local troops, unlike the jäger and armored brigades meant for operational use. Sissi units are considered as the elites of the Army conscripts, and many of the units, such as the Paratroopers or Border Jaegers, are formed of volunteers.
Sissi are specialist unconventional guerilla warfare specialists that form part of a highly trained, highly skilled Finnish Special Forces Command.
Wars between Russia and Finland have a long tradition of Finnish sissi warfare. Famous sissi leaders have included Pekka Vesainen (c. 1540—1627), Tapani Löfving (1689–1777, fought during the Greater Wrath), and Olli Tiainen (1770–1833, fought during the Finnish War).
Before the hostilities of Winter War, the Finnish Borderguard formed 25 Independent Battalions (Erillinen Pataljoona) from local reservists along the border area. After the outbreak out of hostilities, a further five Sissi Battalions (Sissipataljoona) were formed from “auxiliary personnel”. These battalions especially those of the latter type, were below their nominal strength in both men and weaponry. These units proved to be effective in using motti tactics in their native area with light infantry weapons and skis.
In the Continuation War the ad hoc Sissi Battalions were discontinued, but Independent Battalions were raised, 4th Independent Battalion was directly under the command of Supreme Headquarters doing LRRP and raiding missions deep inside Soviet area. In the Battle of Ilomantsi, soldiers of the 4th disrupted the supply lines of the Soviet artillery, preventing effective fire support. In the Ladoga Karelia front the length of the front, absence roads and lack of troops prevented continuous front lines during the trench warfare period. Both armies used a chain of fortified field bases separated by the wilderness, monitoring and controlling the gaps with patrols. Both Finns and Soviets launched raids and recon patrols into enemy territory. Battles were short clashes of lightly armed infantry groups from squadron to battalion in size, with little chance of support or reinforcements.
After the Second World War, Sissi units were de-commissioned and officially Sissi training was discontinued, although many units gave Sissi training for their reconnaissance units. In the beginning of the 1960s, Paratrooper School was established at Utti, infantry and border guard established Sissi training companies thereafter.
Famous sissi troops
Ilmari Honkanen, officer in 4th Independent Battalion (ErP 4). Known especially from the destruction of the Soviet military depot in Petrovski Jam.
Lauri Törni a.k.a. Larry Thorne, a commander of “Detachment Törni”, the reconnaissance company of the 12th Infantry Regiment during the Continuation War, had a bounty on his head by the Soviets, joined Waffen-SS in 1940 and was sent back home before the Continuation war. After the Finno-Soviet ceasefire he returned to Waffen-SS because he did not believe that Soviets would actually follow the ceasefire agreement. After the war Törni joined US Army and volunteered for the US Army Special forces.
Mauno Koivisto, member of “Detachment Törni” during Continuation War, later the President of Finland.
Mikko Pöllä, most decorated member of the ErP 4.
Paavo Suoranta (Peltonen).
Viljo Suokas, killed while on patrol in Sekee 1943.
In Finnish, “sissi” means guerrilla, but the term is somewhat misleading when referring to Finnish Defence Force Sissi troops. Sissi forces are not irregular guerrilla or militia forces; they are part of the regular FDF troops trained for operations behind enemy lines. Like most of the Finnish Defence Forces, Sissi battalions are composed of reservists. Their closest foreign equivalents are the Swedish Armed Forces Jägare troops.
Sissi as a description is a person of extraordinary stamina (or Sisu) – e.g. “Sissi weather” (Sissin sää) refers to the worst possible weather conditions, for sissi soldiers prefer these for their operations, since bad weather tends to distract enemy soldiers (any normal soldier tends to think about getting to shelter as soon as possible when bad weather strikes) and hide any noise caused by sissis.
In the Finnish Defence Forces, sissi is used as an umbrella term for all unconventional military applications, such as MREs, which are called “Sissi rations”, also any improvised and/or temporary repair to any equipment is often called “sissiviritys”, literally “sissi fix” or “sissi patch”, in addition any improvised booby-trap, such as a firearm rigged to fire at doorway of a building once someone opens the door, may be called “sissijäynä”, literally “sissi prank”.
Volunteers with hobbies such as hunting and hiking are preferred for Sissi training, but any conscript in decent physical condition has a good chance of being assigned to a Sissi training company.
Sissi troops are trained in several brigades under the Finnish Defence Forces. Finnish Border Guard, which is under the Ministry of the Interior, also trains Sissi-troops in Frontier Guard units. In the FDF and Border Guard, Sissi troops are trained in:
Onttola Company, Headquarter of North Karelian Border Guard
In addition to this small groups of conscrips (8-10 people) are bi-annually given marine Sissi and reconnaissance training at the amphibious brigade in Dragsvik. The group is usually taken from the “rannikkojääkärit” (Coastal Jaeger) infantry unit. In Finnish Border Guard sissi troops, called Frontier jaegers, are trained in each Border Guard Command. Sissi troops trained in Finnish Border guard are also taught basic duties of border guarding. In Kaakkois-Suomen Rajavartiosto ( Southeast Finland Border Guard District) special Sissi troops (Special frontier jaegers) are also trained in Special forces tactics and techniques. Reserve officers for all Sissi troops are trained at Reserviupseerikoulu. Rivalry between Sissi-troops in different services is traditionally high.
Conscript training in these units is 6 to 12 months long. Leaders of guerrilla warfare platoons and squads serve 12 months whereas crew members serve 6 months. The medical personnel (as also in scout units) serve 9 months, except leaders specialising in medical training serving 12 months.
Conscript in Sissi-company begins with 8-week basic infantry training. After this training becomes more intense. Conscripts are given survival training during every season of the year, they can specialize further into reconnaissance, sniping, dog handling, battlefield medical service or signals. Sissi NCO/Officer training includes additionally signals, demolitions, extended small arms training as well as advanced escape & evasion techniques and ambush tactics. Those unable to cope for either physical or psychological reasons are either given deferments or transferred to a regular infantry training.
Special Sissi NCOs are also trained to operate in Sissi platoons, called sissiradisti or Sissi signalists. These NCOs are trained in the use of telegraphy for long-range communications.
Besides specially trained sissi troops, everyone in Finnish army at least in theory receives basic training in survival and sissi tactics. All troops and soldiers in Finnish army are theoretically capable of moving from normal warfare to sissi tactics if they are, for example, encircled or their main forces or command structure are destroyed.
Sissi troops are generally not airborne, with the exception of Army Para Jaegers trained in the Utti Jaeger Regiment. Para Jaegers are trained in sissi warfare, with an emphasis on long-range reconnaissance and the addition of close-quarter battle and urban operations training.
Sissi troops also resemble Scout troops (tiedustelijat), who are more specialized at gathering intelligence than the aggressive Sissi troops. In some brigades, Sissi are trained in Scout companies, and vice versa in other brigades, as the training is quite similar.
Sissi troops are un-motorized and are not equipped with heavy weapons or equipment (Except SiRad), their uniforms and weaponry are almost identical with regular infantry issue. Distinctive personal equipment used by Sissi are Savotta “Para Jäger” backpacks used because of extended hikes, camouflage paint and personal camouflage nets. Sissi units have fewer crew served weapons and more sniper rifles than regular infantry.
Mines are an important part of the Sissi tactic of ambushing enemy convoys. They are also used to discourage pursuit after a raid and serve as defences of bivouac. Sissi training includes constructing improvised explosive devices, as well as boobytraps (e.g. from dud artillery shells). Sissi units have a wide variety of land mines at their disposal, including: (Because of Ottawa treaty traditional word mine is nowadays explosion device.)
Track Mine TM 65 77 (AT mine)
Pipe Explosion Device 68 95 (AP Explosion Device, future uncertain because of Ottawa treaty),[7sometimes called “ovikello”, “doorbell.”
Anti-personnel mine 65 98 (AP mine, prohibited by Ottawa treaty)
Side Explosion Device 87 (AT Mine)
Side Explosion Device 81 (AT Mine)
VP 88 Claymore (AP Explosion Device )
VP 84 Claymore (AP Explosion Device )
Mortar 81mm 81 KRH 71 Y (mortar) both firing and producing guided-launched antipersonnel improvised charges
The National Defense University of Finland hasn’t published any thesis or paper on the 21st century where sissi units and tactics are mentioned. This might be mainly because the FDF has moved to a more flexible defense by reforming its land warfare doctrine leaving no room for tactics and strategies for regiment/company level sissi troops. After organizational changes, the FDF will provide reconnaissance (formerly sissi) training in Kainuun Prikaati, as well as in other major training formations, where they emphasise scout recon. training. That includes reconnaissance, forward observation and fire control but this training no longer leans towards special tactics, weapons, sabotage and woodland area fighting skills. However, the FDF still trains long range reconnaissance patrol units in Utti jaegare Regiment (Paratroopers, one of the elite units of the FDF) and they are trained in woodland area fighting, survival skills, unconventional methods and asymmetric tactics though the major role is geared more towards long range reconnaissance and special operations.
Finnish Border Guard, under the ministry of interior, trains traditional sissi units itself for peace/gray/war time duties. Border Jaegares (or ‘Rajasissi’ – Border Ranger) are trained to operate behind the enemy lines with asymmetric tactics and unconventional weapons and methods as well as do long term operational reconnaissance and aggressive short term reconnaissance and sabotage. Training includes peace time operational methods and the responsibilities of the Border Guard i.e. border control, patrol and tracking and catching illegal intruders. But the training is mostly sissi training with the majority happening in the wilderness.
The future of FDF sissi units is uncertain, clearly decreasing dramatically, but the Finnish Border Guard will maintain sissi training (of a few hundred per year) including the, highly respected, traditional branches such as woodman and survival skills. The FDF have dismissed/are dismissing most of its sissi units and there is fiscal pressure ob the Finnish Border Guard as well, which has already dismantled some regiments of sissi units. The wartime mobilized strength of the Finnish Border Guard is 11,600.
The FDF’s reformed land warfare doctrine is a distributed fighting doctrine so in some sense every soldier in the army is required to understand basic principles of asymmetric tactics and guerrilla warfare.
‘Sissi’ means ‘guerrilla’ or ‘partisan’ in the Finnish language, it doesn’t mean paramilitary or illegal troops without a controlling high command and government. The name only points towards the tactics used in historical guerrilla wars (Freedom fighters / Terrorists). This is an important difference to note as, unlike guerrilla combatants, Finnish sissi don’t hide in the local population and they always carry a belt, cockade, rifle and other signs which makes these units a legal fighting force, by the UN legal definition, alongside regular units. Local civilian support would likely be welcomed but there are no guidelines or a codex for these kinds of situation or interactions and sissis are trained to be invisible to the local population which also helps avoid legally and ethically difficult situations.
In Finland, long-range patrols (kaukopartio) were especially notable during World War II. For example, Erillinen Pataljoona 4 (4th Detached Battalion), a command of four different long-range patrol detachments; Detachment Paatsalo, Detachment Kuismanen, Detachment Vehniäinen and Detachment Marttina operated throughout the Continuation War phase of the war. These units penetrated Soviet lines and conducted recon and destroy missions. During the trench warfare period of the Continuation War, long-range patrols were often conducted by special Finnish sissi troops. Former President of Finland, Mauno Koivisto, served in Lauri Törni‘s specially designed Jäger Company (called ‘Detachment Törni’) in the Finnish 1st Infantry Division. Lauri Törni became a US citizen and entered the US Army Special Forces. He gave important knowledge in long-range patrolling and was declared MIA during the Vietnam War in 1965, until his remains were found and were buried in Arlington on 26 June 2003.
In wartime, the unknown number of reservists assigned to Sissi battalions would deploy and operate as small groups up to company size. They are meant to stay behind and covertly operate against enemy forces in their area of responsibility even if regular friendly troops have been forced to retreat. Sissi battalions are part of Finnish Army local troops, unlike the jäger and armored brigades meant for operational use. Sissi units are considered as the elites of the Army conscripts, and many of the units, such as the Paratroopers or Border Jaegers, are formed of volunteers.
Before the hostilities of Winter War, the Finnish Army formed 25 Independent Battalions (Erillinen Pataljoona) from local reservists along the border area. After the outbreak out of hostilities, a further five Sissi Battalions (Sissipataljoona) were formed from “auxiliary personnel”. These battalions especially those of the latter type, were below their nominal strength in both men and weaponry. These units proved to be effective in using “motti” tactics of surrounding the enemy before attacking in their native area with light infantry weapons and skis.
In the Continuation War the ad hoc Sissi Battalions were discontinued, but Independent Battalions were raised, 4th Independent Battalion was directly under the command of Supreme Headquarters doing LRRP and raiding missions deep inside Soviet area. In the Battle of Ilomantsi, soldiers of the 4th harassed supply lines of the Soviet artillery preventing effective fire support. In the Ladoga Karelia front the length of the front, absence roads and lack of troops prevented continuous front lines during the trench warfare period. Both armies used a chain of fortified field bases separated by the wilderness, monitoring and controlling the gaps with patrols. Both Finns and Soviets launched raids and recon patrols into enemy territory. Battles were short clashes of lightly armed infantry groups from squadron to battalion in size, with little chance of support or reinforcements.
After the Second World War, Sissi units were de-commissioned and officially Sissi training was discontinued, although many units gave Sissi training for their reconnaissance units. In the beginning of the 1960s, Paratrooper School was established at Utti, infantry and border guard established Sissi training companies thereafter.
The main weapon of the Sissi were their Ski’s. These enabled them to be extremely mobile, to react quickly to potential threats and move quickly when inserted on a long-range patrol by a Heinkel He-59 or Heinkel He-115B aircraft. Finnish Ski troops were notable for fighting with their skis on, whereas their Soviet counterparts removed their skis before combat, thus rendering their mobile advantage ineffectual.
The Suomi KP/-31 (Suomi-konepistooli or “Submachine-gun Finland”) was a submachine gun (SMG) of Finnish design used during World War II. It was a descendant of the M-22 prototype and the KP/-26 production model, which was revealed to the public in 1925. The Suomi-konepistooli KP/-31 is often abbreviated to Suomi KP.
The Suomi KP/-31 is regarded by many as one of the most successful submachine guns of World War II, also the soon developed 71-round drum magazine was later copied and adopted by the Soviets for their PPD-40 and PPSh-41 submachine guns. The accuracy of the Suomi was superior to that of the mass-produced PPSh-41, thanks in part to a noticeably longer barrel, with the same rate of fire and the equally large magazine capacity. The major disadvantage of the Suomi KP/-31 was its high production cost.
The Suomi KP/-31 also incorporated a few new design features, including an arrangement whereby the spring was mounted inside the bolt in order to make the gun shorter. Its 50-round quad-column “Casket” box magazine was more reliable than the early 40-round “bullets loaded nose down” drum magazine, and similar applications were used on the Argentinian C-4 submachine gun and present-day 60-round 5.45x39mm AK-74 compatible magazines.
The M-22 and KP/-26 were made by Konepistooli Oy, founded by Master Armorer Aimo Lahti, Captain V. Korpela, Lieutenant Y. Koskinen and Lieutenant L. Boyer-Spoof. The Suomi KP/-31 was designed by Koskinen and Lahti.
The Suomi KP/-31 went into serial production in 1931 by Tikkakoski Oy and most of these weapons were bought by the Finnish Defence Forces. The Finnish Defence Forces were equipped with about 4000 Suomi KP/-31 submachine guns when the Winter War started. During the course of the war, the design was altered with the addition of a muzzle brake, which increased the submachine gun’s overall length by 55 mm. The revised version was designated KP/-31 SJR (suujarru, or “muzzle brake”). Aimo Lahti was displeased with this revision, believing that it decreased muzzle velocity and reduced the weapon’s reliability, and even sought in vain to have the muzzle brake’s designer court-martialed. Ultimately, roughly half of the KP/-31s in Finnish service were of the SJR version. Initially the KP/-31 was issued as a substitute for a light machine gun, and proved inadequate in this role. Instead, soldiers learned by trial and error how to use submachine guns to the best effect. By the time of the Continuation War, Finnish doctrine had been altered to include both a KP/-31 and a light machine gun (usually a captured Degtyaryov DP) in every infantry squad, and by 1943 this had been expanded to two KP/-31s per squad. KP/-31 production continued with the intention of adding a third submachine gun to each squad, but this plan was shelved in 1944 when the Continuation War ended.
Lahti-Saloranta M-26 Light Machine Gun
The Lahti-Saloranta M/26 (alternatively LS/26) is a light machine gun which was designed by Aimo Lahti and Arvo Saloranta in 1926. The weapon was able to fire in both full automatic and semi-automatic modes. Both 20-round box and 75-round drum magazines were produced, but the Finnish army seems to have only used the smaller 20-round magazine.
In the Winter War, there were two squads in each platoon that provided covering fire for two ten-man rifle squads. In each squad, there was one M/26 gunner, one assistant and the rest of the men carrying rifles.
The M/26 won a Finnish Army competition in 1925 where it was selected as the army’s main light machine gun. Production started in 1927 at the Valtion kivääritehdas (VKT), State Rifle Factory, and lasted until 1942. More than 5,000 weapons were produced during that time. China also placed an order for 30,000 M/26s chambered for 7.92x57mm Mauser in 1937, but only 1,200 of these weapons were actually delivered due to Japanese diplomatic pressure. In the summer of 1944, 3,400 M/26s were in use at the front.
The Mosin-Nagant M28/30 sniper rifle
M/28-30: An upgraded version of the M/28. The most noticeable modification is the new rear sight design. Same sight was used in following M39 rifle only exception being “1.5” marking for closest range to clarify it for users. According to micrometer measurements and comparison to modern Lapua D46/47 bullet radar trajectory data, markings are matched to Finnish Lapua D46/D46 bullet surprisingly accurately through whole adjustment range between 150 m and 2000 m.
The trigger was also improved by adding coil spring to minimize very long pre-travel. Following M39 does not have this improvement. The magazine was also modified to prevent jamming. Magazines were stamped with “HV” (Häiriö Vapaa = Jam Free) letters in right side of rifle. Later M39 uses identical design, but without “HV” -stamp. M/28-30 also have metal sleeve in fore-end of handguard, to reduce barrel harmonics change and to make barrel-stock contact more constant between shots and/or during environmental changes such as moisture and temperature. Later M39 does not have this upgrade.
M/28-30 model, serial number 60974, was also used by Simo Häyhä, the well-known Finnish sniper. The M28/30 was used as a Civil Guards competition rifle before World War II, as was the case with Simo Häyhä’s personal rifle too. Therefore these rifles were built very well, with the highest grade barrels available and carefully matched headspace. Häyhä’s rifle was still at PKarPr (Northern Karelia Brigade) museum in 2002, then moved to an unknown place by the Finnish Army.
Famous sissi troops
Lauri Törni a.k.a. Larry Thorne, a commander of “Detachment Törni”, the reconnaissance company of the 12th Infantry Regiment during the Continuation War, had a bounty on his head by the Soviets, joined Waffen-SS in 1940 and was sent back home before the Continuation war. After the Finno-Soviet ceasefire he returned to Waffen-SS because he did not believe that Soviets would actually follow the ceasefire agreement. After the war Törni joined US Army and volunteered for the US Army Special forces.
Mauno Koivisto, member of “Detachment Törni” during Continuation War, later the President of Finland.
Mikko Pöllä, most decorated member of the 4th Detached Battalion.
Term and use
In Finnish, “sissi” means guerrilla, but the term is somewhat misleading when referring to Finnish Defence Force Sissi troops. Sissi forces are not irregular guerrilla or militia forces; they are part of the regular FDF troops trained for operations behind enemy lines. Like most of the Finnish Defence Forces, Sissi battalions are composed of reservists. Their closest foreign equivalents are the Swedish Armed ForcesJägare troops.
Sissi as a description is a person of extraordinary stamina (or Sisu) – e.g. “Sissi weather” (Sissin sää) refers to the worst possible weather conditions, for sissi soldiers prefer these for their operations, since bad weather tends to distract enemy soldiers (any normal soldier tends to think about getting to shelter as soon as possible when bad weather strikes) and hide any noise caused by sissis.
In the Finnish Defence Forces, sissi is used as an umbrella term for all unconventional military applications, such as any improvised and/or temporary repair to any equipment is often called “sissiviritys”, literally “sissi fix” or “sissi patch”, in addition any improvised booby-trap, such as a firearm rigged to fire at doorway of a building once someone opens the door, may be called “sissijäynä”, literally “sissi prank”.
Battle of Ilomantsi
Finnish Ski Troops were heavily involved in the Battle of Ilomantsi, which was the last major engagement of the Continuation War, and after nine victories in just a few weeks forced the Soviet Stavka to retract its demands for Finland’s unconditional surrender, due to fears that the Finnish armed forces remained a capable fighting force.
The Battle of Ilomantsi was a part of the Continuation War (1941–1944). It was fought from July 26 to August 13, 1944, between Finland and the Soviet Union in area roughly 40 kilometers wide and 30 kilometers deep, near the Finnish-Soviet border, close to a small Finnish town of Ilomantsi, in North Karelia. The battle ended with a Finnish victory, as the last major Soviet attack against Finland was stopped here. Of 7000 Finnish soldiers 400 were killed or missing, 1,300 were wounded. The 16,000 (later rising to 20,000) Soviet Forces suffered 13,050 casualties.
Order of battle
Finnish forces in the area before the battle consisted of only the 21st Brigade under Colonel Ekman but they were reinforced with Cavalry Brigade and three other battalions—3rd Border Jaeger Battalion and 2 battalion strong detachment P (Os. P). All Finnish forces were subordinated to a temporary formation named Group R (Group Raappana) after its commanding officer Major General Erkki Raappana and was tasked with defeating the advancing Soviet units and recapturing crossroads at Kuolismaa village. During the initial Soviet push the sole unit defending and delaying it was the Finnish 21st Brigade (roughly 7,000 men). As the front in the Karelian Isthmus had been stabilized the Cavalry Brigade was rushed to the Ilomantsi to reinforce the 21st Brigade bringing the Finnish strength at July 31 when the counterattack began roughly to 13,000.
General Meretskov’s Karelian Front’s forces advancing towards Ilomantsi consisted of two divisions of Soviet 32nd Army under Lieutenant General Filip D. Garelenko – 176th (Colonel Zolotarjov) and 289th (Major General Tsernuha) divisions. Later as the battle progressed and the advancing divisions were encircled, Soviet forces in the area were reinforced with 3rd, 69th and 70th Naval Infantry Brigades and other formations.
According to Soviet archives, at the beginning of the Karelian Front’s offensive at June 21, 1944 Soviet 176th and 289th Rifle Divisions of the 32nd Army had combined strength of roughly 16,000 men. By the time (June 31) the Finnish counterattack in Ilomantsi started the combined strength of the 176th and 289th division had dropped to 11,000 men. After the soviet 3rd Naval Infantry (ru. Morskaya Pekhota) Brigade and 69th and 70th Naval Rifle (ru. Morskaya Strelkovy) Brigades were brought to support the encircled 176th and 289th Divisions the combined Soviet infantry strength in Ilomantsi was slightly higher than 20,000 men.
At first, the Soviet offensive seemed to be successful as on July 21, 1944, the Red Army units were able to reach the Finnish-Soviet border of 1940, the only time during the entire Soviet offensive of 1944, and—in fact—ever since 1941. Finnish reinforcements arrived on July 28 and on July 31 Raappana started the counterattack. Already on August 1 Finns cut the sole road leading to Soviet 176th division and by August 3 both Soviet divisions were encircled as the Finnish forces utilized envelopment tactics (Encirclement tactics were known as “motti” in Finnish) that drew upon the ancient methods of warfare and those already used by them in the Winter War (1939–1940).
Soviets deployed three brigades with armor support to open the road connections to the encircled divisions but Finnish efforts prevented it. Renewed attacks distracted the Finns enough to allow the encircled Soviet forces escape through the dense forests by abandoning their heavy equipment. Given the element of surprise and due to superior numbers of the Soviets the Finnish troops guarding the encircled divisions had little hope of containing organized breakouts especially in forests and so many of the encircled Soviets managed to escape to their own side with last escaping at August 10.
Two attacking Red Army divisions were decimated in this last major engagement on the Finnish front, before the armistice was concluded in early September, 1944. Command of the Finnish forces at the Battle of Ilomantsi was carried out by the famed Finnish General—and a Knight of the Mannerheim Cross—Erkki Raappana.
Military historians note that the two Red Army divisions were completely routed after a week and a half of fighting, leaving behind over 3,200 Red Army soldiers dead, thousands wounded and missing, and over 100 pieces of heavy artillery, approximately 100 mortars and the rest of the Soviet ordnance for the Finns to capture.
General Raappana’s men—the so-called Group Raappana (“Ryhmä Raappana” in Finnish)—had fired within ten days over 36,000 artillery shells, aimed at the Soviet forces in Ilomantsi. The Soviet artillery participating in Ilomantsi were able to fire only 10,000 shells during the same period. The main reason for the lower Soviet artillery successes were the Finnish disturbance tactics. For instance, a Finnish guerrilla detachment led by the Knight of the Mannerheim Cross, Lieutenant Heikki Nykänen, destroyed a Soviet convoy of 30 trucks carrying artillery rounds to the battle scene.
The Finns had achieved victory, and the remnants of the two Red Army divisions had barely escaped destruction, by breaking out from the encirclements. After the battle, Stavka (Soviet Armed Forces Headquarters) brought its offensive to a halt and gave up the demand of Finland’s unconditional surrender.
In the summer of 1944, when the Red Army launched an all-out offensive, aimed at eliminating Finland, the Finns were “extremely hard-pressed”, President Koivisto itenerated, but they “did not capitulate”.
“We succeeded in stopping the enemy cold at key points,” the President said, “and in the final battle at Ilomantsi even in pushing him back.”
In a speech on September 4, 1994, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the signing of the armistice ending the Finnish-Soviet hostilities, the Prime Minister of FinlandEsko Aho declared:
“I do not see a defeat in the summer’s battles, but the victory of a small nation over a major power, whose forces were stopped far short of the objectives of the Soviet leadership. Finland was not beaten militarily …”
“Finland preserved her autonomy and her democratic social system …”
“Finland … won the peace.”
The Utrio area played a central role in General Erkki Raappana’s—the leader of the 1944 Ilomantsi operation—plan of defence. Fast-moving battalions from the Cavalry Brigade, experienced in forest warfare, were driven through this area between lakes, as a wedge between the attacking Soviet 289th and 176th Divisions. The opening battles fell on the Finnish Light Infantry Battalion 6. When it turned against the encirclements at Leminaho and the Lutikkavaara hill, the Uudenmaa Cavalry Regiment attacked through Utrio and the River Ruukinpohja, with flanking from the Light Infantry Battalion 1.
Kurenmaa, Pekka; Lentilä, Riitta (2005). “Sodan tappiot”. In Leskinen, Jari; Juutilainen, Antti. Jatkosodan pikkujättiläinen (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Werner Söderström Osakeyhtiö. pp. 1150–1162. ISBN951-0-28690-7.
Malmi, Timo (2005). “Jatkosodan suomalaiset sotavangit”. In Leskinen, Jari; Juutilainen, Antti. Jatkosodan pikkujättiläinen (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Werner Söderström Osakeyhtiö. pp. 1022–1032. ISBN951-0-28690-7.
Raunio, Ari; Kilin, Juri (2008). Jatkosodan torjuntataisteluja 1942–44 [Defensive battles of Continuation War 1942–44] (in Finnish). Keuruu: Otavan Kirjapaino Oy. pp. 76–81. ISBN978-951-593-070-5.
Ilomantsin mottitaistelut 26.7.-13.8.1944 (The motti-battle in Ilomantsi). Ilomantsi sodassa (Ilomantsi at war). In Finnish: Nykyisen Ilomantsin itäosissa käytiin kesällä 1944 yli viikon mittainen kiivas torjuntataistelu, jossa kaksi viivyttämällä kulutettua neuvostodivisioonaa pysäytettiin, paloiteltiin motteihin ja lyötiin lähes täydellisesti. Tämä suurtaistelu varmisti armeijamme puolustuksen pitävyyden jatkosodan raskaina viimeisinä päivinä. “A week-long vehement defensive battle was fought in the eastern parts of what is now Ilomantsi, where two Soviet divisions were stopped, cut up into mottis, and almost completely destroyed. This operation secured our army’s defence in the tough final days of the Continuation war”.
Heinrich Ehrler was born on the 14th of September 1917. Ehrler’s distinguished combat career earned him the shared title of ‘Top Combat Ace’ with Theodor Wessenberger, each scoring 208 victories.
Unfortunately, Heinrich Ehrler’s career was to end in controversy after he was blamed for the loss of the German Battleship, DKM Tirpitz on the 12th of November 1944. Erhler was a scapegoat, he was blamed for the sinking of the battleship as his unit based at Fliegerhorst Bardufoss with 12 operational Focke-Wulf Fw 190 A-3s, arrived too late to save the stricken ship.
As Ehrler was in command of 9./JG 5, the responsibility of the loss of the German Capital Ship fell to him. Ehrler was charged and faced a Court Martial hearing in Oslo on the grounds that he had ignored the Kriegsmarine requests for help and had underestimated the seriousness of the attack. Ehrler was found guilty. He was relieved of command, demoted and sentenced to three years and two months Festungshaft (honorable imprisonment). Ehrler had been recommended for the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords prior to the disaster, but the award was not approved.
Ehrler’s sentence was later commuted and his loss of rank rescinded, and on the 27th of February 1945 he was transferred to JG 7, where he was assigned to fly the Messerschmitt 262 in the last desperate days of World War II, flying intercept missions against Allied Bombers.
Prior to these events, Heinrich Ehrler had been a rising star in the Luftwaffe. Heinrich Ehrler started his career in the Luftwaffe in a flak-artillery unit, but transferred to pilot training early in 1940. Ehrler was posted to 4./Jagdgeschwader 77 (JG 77—77th Fighter Wing) based in Norway. He scored his first victory in May 1940. JG 77 supported X. Fliegerkorps (under Luftflotte 5) in operations against Britain from bases in Norway, often providing fighter cover for Stuka attacks against British shipping. JG 77 was restructured as JG 5Eismeer in January 1942. JG 5 operated from bases in northern Norway and Finland, and they mostly engaged Russian aircraft, but were also given the task of intercepting British raids on Norway.
Ehrler achieved his second victory on 19 February 1942. He was promoted to Leutnant and made Staffelkapitän (squadron leader) in 6./Jagdgeschwader 5 (JG 5—5th Fighter Wing) after his 11th victory on 20 July. On 4 September, he was awarded the Ritterkreuz (Knights Cross) for 64 aerial victories. By 1 June 1943 he was promoted to Hauptmann and appointed Gruppenkommandeur (Group Commander) for II./JG 5. During this period he was also awarded the Eichenlaub (Oak Leaves) to his Ritterkreuz. On 25 May 1944, he achieved nine victories in one day, bringing his tally up to 155. On 1 August, he was appointed to Geschwaderkommodore (Wing Commander) of JG 5 and at the same time was promoted to Major.
The Sinking of the Tirpitz
On the 12th of November 1944, RAF Avro Lancaster bombers from 617 and No.9 Squadrons, flew their final mission to bomb the Battleship Tirpitz. The Lancaster’s flew to Håkøya due west of Tromsø where the Tirpitz was based.
Ehrler was in command of 9./JG 5 at FliegerhorstBardufoss with 12 operational Focke-Wulf Fw 190 A-3s. The Staffel was at 10 minutes’ readiness status due to the continuing pressure of British bombers in the Tromsø area. Ehrler’s unit was scrambled airborne, but he received conflicting messages as to the enemy aircraft location and course. Some reports claimed Alta was the target area, others indicated Bodø. When it finally became clear that the target was the Tirpitz, it was too late for the fighters to intercept, and the Tirpitz was destroyed with the loss of many lives.
As Commander of 9./JG 5, Heinrich Ehrler was accused of dereliction of duty during his Court Martial. After he had been relieved of his command, Walter Schuck, one of his junior officers, appealed to ReichskommissarJosef Terboven. On 12 January 1945, Terboven hand-delivered Schuck’s affidavit in support of Ehrler to Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring. Further investigations and testimonies indicated that the aircrews did not know that the Tirpitz had been moved to the new location at Håkøya a couple of weeks earlier. The investigation concluded the reason for the failure was poor communication between the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe. Ehrler was exonerated. Shortly afterward, the Führer HQ announced Ehrler’s release and return to front-line service, where he would have the chance to “rehabilitate himself.” Ehrler’s sentence was commuted and his loss of rank rescinded. He was reassigned to an Me 262 fighter squadron in Germany.
Transfer to Germany
Ehrler was transferred to Jagdgeschwader 7 (JG 7—7th Fighter Wing) on 27 February 1945. JG 7 was equipped with the MesserschmittMe 262 jet fighter, and was given the task of Reichsverteidigung (Defense of the Reich). During the next five weeks, Ehrler scored a further 8 kills, bringing his tally to 206.
On the morning of 4 April 1945, Major Ehrler flew his last sortie and achieved the last three of his 208 recorded victories. Flying out of JG 7’s airfield at Brandenburg-Briest, accompanied by his wingman, was in the skies 50 kilometers east of Hamburg when B-24 Liberators from the 448th Bombardment Group began forming their bombing run of Parchim. Ehrler attacked the lead 714th Bombardment Squadron, downing two B-24 Liberator bombers: Lt J. J. Shafter’s “Miss-B-Hav’n,” (B-24J-1-FO 42-95620) and Lt Mains’ “Red Bow” (B-24M-10-FO 44-50838). At the time of the attack, two P-51 Mustangs were pursuing Maj Ehrler, and he was being fired upon by the bomber’s gunners, taking hits from the tail and waist gunners of Lt G. Brock’s B-24 “My Buddy” (B-24H-25-FO 42-95083) who reported pieces of fuselage flying off the jet. The attack took place over Büchen.
Minutes later, as the 448th Bombardment Group circled back towards their Group RP at Stendal, Ehrler engaged a third Liberator, “Trouble in Mind” (B-24H-30-FO 42-95298) flown by Capt. John Ray’s crew over Kyritz.
52°57′N 12°23′E / 52.950°N 12.383°E / 52.950; 12.383). A reference is made by surviving crew members to cannon hits in the fuselage that destroyed the Liberator, but Ehrler had only moments before radioed Maj Theodor Weissenberger that he was out of ammunition and intended to ram the bomber. In any case, both planes were destroyed in the ensuing explosion. The B-24 crashed at Krüllenkempe, near Havelberg, Maj Ehrler’s jet fell to earth in the woods of Scharlibbe, where he was killed. His body was recovered the following day at Scharlibbe, near Stendal, where he was buried. Ehrler’s grave at Stendal confirms the date of death as 4 April 1945.
“Theo, I have run out of ammunition. I’m going to ram this one. Good bye. We’ll see each other in Valhalla.” – Heinrich Ehrler’s last transmission over the Squadron Radio Network before he rammed the B-24 bomber “Trouble in Mind,” piloted by Captain John Ray, destroying both aircraft and killing himself. “Theo” refers to Theodor Weissenberger.
Walter Schuck who followed the R/T exchange over the loudspeaker in the ops room recalls Ehrler’s last words slightly differently. He believes they were: “Theo, Heinrich here. Have just shot down two bombers. No more ammunition. I’m going to ram. Auf Wiedersehen, see you in Valhalla!”
Heinrich Ehrler’s Messerschmitt BF 109G-2, number 13605 of 6./JG 5 was shot down over northwestern Russia on June the 21st, 1943. The aircraft was discovered, and was later purchased and recovered by warplane restorer Jim Pearce in November 2003. The aircraft was flown by Ehrler on his 200th kill. He would continue to fly missions with JG 5 until his transfer back to Germany joining JG 7 in February 1945, to fly the Me 262. The Bf 109 was shot down by Russian Flak and was forced to land in the tundra, where the aircraft remained until it was recovered. It is currently being restored.
Deposits of nickel were found in 1921, after Petsamo became a part of Finland, and in 1934 the deposits were estimated to contain over five million tonnes. Mining operations were started in 1935 by Canadian and French corporations.
Construction of a road from Sodankylä through Ivalo to Liinakhamari started in 1916 and was completed in 1931. This made Petsamo a popular tourist attraction, as it was the only port by the Barents Sea that could be reached by automobile.
In the Winter War of 1939–1940, the Soviet Union occupied Petsamo. In the following peace agreement only the Finnish part of the Rybachy Peninsula, with the area of 321 square kilometers (124 sq mi), was ceded to the Soviet Union, although the Soviets had occupied all of Petsamo during the Winter War.
In 1941, during World War II, Petsamo was used by Nazi Germany as a staging area for the attack towards Murmansk. In 1944, the Red Army occupied Petsamo again, and Finland had to cede it to the Soviet Union as part of the Moscow Armistice signed on September 19, 1944; the total ceded area was 8,965 square kilometers (3,461 sq mi). On July 21, 1945, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union decreed to establish Pechengsky District with the administrative centre in nickel on the ceded territory and to include this district as a part of Murmansk Oblast.
The beginnings of Finnish co-operation with Germany
After Nazi Germany’s assault on Scandinavia on April 9, 1940, Operation Weserübung, Finland was physically isolated from her traditional trade markets in the west. Sea routes to and from Finland were now controlled by the Kriegsmarine. The outlet of the Baltic sea was blockaded, and in the far north Finland’s route to the world was an Arctic dirt road from Rovaniemi to the ice-free harbour of Petsamo, from where the ships had to pass a long stretch of German-occupied Norwegian coast by the Arctic Ocean. Finland, like Sweden, was spared occupation but encircled by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. With direct support by Marshal Mannerheim a volunteer unit was formed and sent to Norway to help the fight against the Nazi army. The ambulance unit participated in the war until the Germans conquered the area in which it was serving. The volunteers returned to Finland.
Especially damaging was the loss of fertilizer imports, that, together with the loss of arable land ceded in the Moscow Peace, the loss of cattle during the hasty evacuation after the Winter War, and the unfavorable weather in the summer of 1940, resulted in a drastic fall of food production to less than two thirds of what was Finland’s estimated need. Some of the deficit could be purchased from Sweden and some from the Soviet Union, although delayed deliveries were then a means to exert pressure on Finland. In this situation, Finland had no alternative but to turn to Germany for help.
Finland seeks German rapprochement
Germany has traditionally been a counterweight to Russia in Baltic region, and despite the fact that Hitler’s Third Reich had acquiesced with the invader, Finland perceived some value in also seeking warmer relations in that direction. After the German occupation of Norway, and particularly after the Allied evacuation from northern Norway, the relative importance of a German rapprochement increased.
From May 1940, Finland pursued a campaign to re-establish the good relations with Germany that had soured in the last year of the 1930s. Finland rested her hope in the fragility of the Nazi–Soviet bond, and in the many personal friendships between Finnish and German athletes, scientists, industrialists, and military officers. A part of that policy was accrediting the energetic former Prime Minister Toivo Mikael Kivimäki as ambassador in Berlin in June 1940. The Finnish mass media not only refrained from criticism of Nazi Germany, but also took active part in this campaign. Dissent was censored. Seen from Berlin, this looked like a refreshing contrast to the annoyingly anti-Nazi press in Sweden.
After the fall of France, in late June, the Finnish ambassador in Stockholm heard from the diplomatic sources that Britain could soon be forced to negotiate peace with Germany. The experience from World War I emphasized the importance of close and friendly relations with the victors, and accordingly the courting of Nazi Germany was stepped up still further.
The first crack in the German coldness towards Finland was registered in late July, when Ludwig Weissauer, a secret representative of the German Foreign Minister, visited Finland and queried Mannerheim and Ryti about Finland’s willingness to defend the country against the Soviet Union. Mannerheim estimated the Finnish army could last a few weeks without more arms. Weissauer left without any promises.
Continued Soviet pressure
The implementation of the Moscow Peace Treaty created problems due to the Soviet Vae Victis-mentality. Border arrangements in the Enso industrial area, which even Soviet members of the border commission considered to be on the Finnish side of the border, the forced return of evacuated machinery, locomotives, and rail cars; and inflexibility on questions which could have eased hardships created by the new border, such as fishing rights and the usage of Saimaa Canal merely served to heighten distrust about the objectives of the Soviet Union.
The Soviet attitude was personified in the new ambassador to Helsinki, Ivan Zotov. He behaved undiplomatically and had a stiff-necked drive to advance Soviet interests, real or imagined, in Finland. During the summer and autumn he recommended several times in his reports to the Soviet Foreign Office that Finland ought to be finished off and wholly annexed by the Soviet Union.
On June 14, Soviet bombers shot down the Finnish Junkers 52 passenger plane Kaleva. All nine passengers and crew perished.
On June 23, the Soviet Union proposed that Finland should revoke Petsamo mining rights from the British–Canadian company and transfer them to the Soviet Union, or to a joint venture owned by the Russians and the Finns. On June 27, Moscow demanded either demilitarization or a joint fortification effort in Åland. After Sweden had signed the troop transfer agreement with Germany on July 8, Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov demanded similar rights for a Soviet troop transit to Hanko on July 9. The transfer rights were given on September 6, and demilitarization of Åland was agreed on October 11, but negotiations on Petsamo continued to drag on, with Finnish negotiators stalling as much as possible.
The Communist Party was so discredited in the Winter War that it never managed to recuperate between the wars. Instead, on May 22, the Peace and Friendship Society of Finland and Soviet Union was created, and it actively propagated Soviet viewpoints. Ambassador Zotov had very close contacts with the Society by holding weekly meetings with the Society leadership in the Soviet embassy and having Soviet diplomats participating in Society board meetings. The Society started by criticizing the government and military, and gained around 35,000 members at its height. Emboldened by its success, it started organizing almost daily violent demonstrations during the first half of August which were supported politically by Zotov and a press campaign in Leningrad. The government reacted forcefully and arrested leading members of the society which ended the demonstrations in spite of Zotov’s and Molotov’s protests. The Society was finally outlawed in December 1940.
The Soviet Union demanded that Väinö Tanner be discharged from the cabinet because of his anti-Soviet stance and he had to resign August 15. Ambassador Zotov further demanded the resignation of both the Minister of Social Affairs Karl-August Fagerholm because he had called the Society a Fifth column in a public speech, and the Minister of Interior Affairs Ernst von Born, who was responsible for police and led the crackdown of the Society, but they retained their places in the cabinet after Ryti delivered a radio speech in which he stated the willingness of his government to improve relations between Finland and the Soviet Union.
President Kallio suffered a stroke on August 28, after which he was unable to work, but when he presented his resignation November 27, the Soviet Union reacted by announcing that if Mannerheim, Tanner, Kivimäki, Svinhufvud or someone of their ilk were chosen president, it would be considered a breach of the Moscow peace treaty.
All of this reminded the public heavily of how the Baltic Republics had been occupied and annexed only a few months earlier. It was no wonder that the average Finn feared that the Winter War had produced only a short delay of the same fate.
Compared to the early spring, during the summer of 1940, Finland was not high on the agenda of British foreign policy. To gain support from the Soviet Union, Britain had appointed Sir Stafford Cripps, from the left wing of the Labour Party, ambassador to Moscow. He had openly supported the Terijoki Government during the Winter War and he wondered to Ambassador Paasikivi ‘didn’t the Finns really want to follow Baltic Republics and join the Soviet Union?’ He also dismissively called President Kallio “Kulak” and Nordic social democracy “reactionary“. The British Foreign Office had to apologize for his language to Ambassador Gripenberg.
Britain opposed Finnish-Swedish cooperation and provided support for the Soviet Union to scuttle the initiative, until it became apparent in late March 1941 that it had driven Finland in the direction of the Germans, but by then it was already too late. Finnish foreign trade was another critical issue as it was dependent on the British Navy and the Ministry of Economic Warfare was extremely strict when issuing those so that even Finnish trade (and relations) with the Soviet Union suffered from it.
During the nickel negotiations the Foreign Office pressured the license owning British-Canadian Company to “temporarily” release the license and offered diplomatic support to Soviet attempts to gain control of the mine with the precondition that no ore would be shipped to Germany.
Improved relations with Nazi Germany
Unbeknownst to Finland, Adolf Hitler had started to plan his forthcoming invasion of the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa) now that France had collapsed. He had not been interested in Finland before the Winter War, but now he saw the value of Finland as an operating base, and perhaps also the military value of the Finnish army. In the first weeks of August, German fears of a likely immediate Russian attack on Finland caused Hitler to free the arms embargo. The arms deliveries stopped under the Winter War were resumed.
The next visitor from Germany came on August 18, when a representative of Hermann Göring, arms dealer Joseph Veltjens, arrived. He negotiated with Ryti and Mannerheim about German troop transfer rights between Finnmark in Northern Norway and ports of Gulf of Bothnia in exchange for arms and other material. At first these arms shipments were transferred via Sweden, but later they came directly to Finland. For the Third Reich, this was a breach of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, as well as being for Finland a material breach of the Moscow Peace Treaty—that in fact had been chiefly targeted against cooperation between Germany and Finland. It has been disputed in retrospect whether the ailing President Kallio was informed. Possibly Kallio’s health collapsed before he could be confidentially briefed.
From the campaign to ease the Third Reich’s coldness towards Finland, it seemed a natural development to also promote closer relations and cooperation, especially since the much-disliked Moscow Peace Treaty had, in clear language, tried to persuade the Finns not to do exactly that. Propaganda in the censored press contributed to Finland’s international re-orientation—although with very measured means.
Soviet negotiators had insisted that the troop transfer agreement (to Hanko) should not be published for parliamentary discussion or voting. This precedent made it easy for the Finnish government to keep a troop transfer agreement with the Germans secret until the first German troops arrived at the port of Vaasa on September 21. The arrival of German troops produced much relief to the insecurity of average Finns, and was largely approved. Most contrary voices opposed more the way the agreement was negotiated than the transfer itself, although the Finnish people knew only the barest details of the agreements with the Third Reich. The presence of German troops was seen as a deterrent for further Soviet threats and a counterbalance to the Soviet troop transfer right. The German troop transfer agreement was augmented November 21 allowing the transfer of wounded, and soldiers on leave, via Turku. Germans arrived and established quarters, depots, and bases along the rail lines from Vaasa and Oulu to Ylitornio and Rovaniemi, and from there along the roads via Karesuvanto and Kilpisjärvi or Ivalo and Petsamo to Skibotn and Kirkenes in northern Norway. Also roadworks for improving winter road (between Karesuvanto and Skibotn) and totally new road (from Ivalo to Karasjok) were discussed, and later financed, by Germans.
Ryti, Mannerheim, Minister of Defence Walden and chief of staff Heinrichs decided October 23 that information concerning Finnish defence plans of Lappland could be given to the Wehrmacht to gain goodwill, even with the risk that they could be forwarded to the Soviet Union.
When Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov visited Berlin on November 12, he demanded that Germany stop supporting Finland, and the right to handle Finland in a similar way to Baltic States, but Hitler demanded that there should be no new military activities in Northern Europe before summer. Through unofficial channels, Finnish representatives were informed that “Finnish leaders can sleep peacefully; Hitler has opened his umbrella over Finland.”
Attempted defence union with Sweden
On August 19, a new initiative was launched for co-operation between Sweden and Finland. It called for a union of the two states in exchange for a Finnish declaration of satisfaction with the current borders. The plans were primarily championed by the Swedish Foreign Minister, Christian Günther, and Conservative party leader Gösta Bagge, Education Minister in Stockholm. They had to counter increasing anti-Swedish opinions in Finland; and in Sweden, Liberal and Socialist suspicions against what was seen as right-wing dominance in Finland. One of the chief objectives of the plan was to ensure greatest possible liberty for Sweden and Finland in a presumed post-war Europe totally dominated by Nazi Germany. In Sweden, political opponents criticized the necessary adaptations to the Nazis; in Finland, the resistance centred on the loss of sovereignty and influence—and the acceptance of the loss of Finnish Karelia. However, the general feeling of Finland’s dire and deteriorating position quieted many critics.
The official request for a union was made by Christian Günther on October 18, and Finland’s approval was received on October 25, but by November 5, the Soviet ambassador in Stockholm, Alexandra Kollontai, warned Sweden about the treaty. The Swedish government retreated from the issue but discussions for a more acceptable treaty continued until December when, on December 6, the Soviet Union and, on December 19, Germany announced their strong opposition to any kind of union between Sweden and Finland.
Road to war
During the autumn of 1940, Finnish generals visited Germany and occupied Europe several times to purchase additional guns and munitions. Mannerheim even wrote a personal letter January 7, 1941 to Göring where he tried to persuade him to release Finnish purchased artillery pieces Germany had captured in Norwegian harbours during Weserübung. During one of these visits, Maj. Gen. Paavo Talvela met with Chief of Staff of OKH, Col. Gen Franz Halder and Göring January 15–18, 1941, and was asked about Finnish plans to defend itself in case of new Soviet invasion. The Germans also inquired about the possibility of someone from Finland coming and giving a presentation about the experiences of the Winter War.
After the resignation of president Kallio, Risto Ryti was elected by parliament as the new president of Finland December 19. Johan Wilhelm Rangell formed a new government January 4, and this time the far-right IKL party was included in the cabinet as an act of goodwill toward Nazi Germany.
Finland had negotiated with the Germans since spring 1940 about the production of Kolosjoki nickel mines in Petsamo. On July 1940 Finland made a contract with the German company I.G. Farbenindustrie: 60% of the nickel produced was to be shipped to Germany. The negotiations alarmed the Soviet, which in June claimed for a 75% ownership to the mine and to a nearby power plant together with the right to handle security in the area.
According to German reports, the ore body of Kolosjoki mines had a value of over 1 Billion Reichsmark, and it could fulfil the demand of nickel in the Third Reich for 20 years. Later on, in the end of 1940, the Germans raised their estimate of the Kolosjoki nickel reserves four times larger.
The nickel deposits were a lesser known reason for Allied and German interest in the area during World War II, as potentially of great importance for production of arms and munitions. Both the planned Franco-British support of Finland in the Winter War, and German occupation of Denmark and Norway (Operation Weserübung) were partly motivated by control of the nickel mines.
Nickel is a vital component in the production of Steel Alloy. Alloy steel is steel to which additional alloying elements have been intentionally added to modify the characteristics of steel. Common alloying elements include: manganese, nickel, chromium, molybdenum, boron, titanium, vanadium, and niobium. Additional elements may be present in steel: manganese, phosphorus, sulfur, silicon, and traces of oxygen, nitrogen, and aluminium.
Other materials are often added to the iron/carbon mixture to produce steel with desired properties. Nickel and manganese in steel add to its tensile strength and make the austenite form of the iron-carbon solution more stable, chromium increases hardness and melting temperature and vanadium also increases hardness while making it less prone to metal fatigue.
During the period between the Winter War and the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, there were disputes between Finland and the Soviet Union over mining rights in Petsamo. Finland refused to allow the Soviet Union to mine nickel in Petsamo. This was one of the causes of hostility between the Soviet Union and Finland, which led to the Continuation War. As part of the German invasion, troops from Norway occupied the Petsamo region in 1941, securing the nickel supply.
The Continuation War ended in September 1944, with Finland’s capitulation. Finland ceded Petsamo to the Soviet Union. All subsequent nickel production there has since been under Soviet or Russian authority.
Negotiations with the Soviet had dragged on for six months when the Soviet Foreign Ministry announced January 14 that the negotiations had to be concluded quickly. On the same day, the Soviet Union interrupted grain deliveries to Finland. Soviet ambassador Zotov was recalled home January 18 and Soviet radio broadcasts started attacking Finland. January 21 Soviet Foreign Ministry issued an ultimatum demanding that nickel negotiations be concluded in two days.
When Finnish military intelligence spotted troop movements on the Soviet side of the border, Mannerheim proposed January 23 a partial mobilization, but Ryti and Rangell didn’t accept. Ambassador Kivimäki reported January 24, that Germany was conscripting new age classes, and it was unlikely that they were needed against Britain.
Finnish Chief of Staff Lt.Gen. Heinrichs visited Berlin January 30 – February 3, officially giving a lecture about Finnish experiences in the Winter War, but also including discussions with Halder. During the discussions Halder “speculated” about a possible German assault on the Soviet Union and Heinrichs informed him about Finnish mobilization limits and defence plans with and without German or Swedish participation.
Col. Buschenhagen had reported from northern Norway February 1 that the Soviet Union had collected 500 fishing ships in Murmansk, capable of transporting a division. Hitler ordered troops in Norway to occupy Petsamo (Operation Renntier) immediately if the Soviet Union started attacking Finland.
Mannerheim submitted his letter of resignation February 10 claiming that the continuing appeasement made it impossible to defend the country against an invader. He took his resignation back the next day after discussions with Ryti and after stricter instructions were sent to negotiators: 49% of mining rights to the Soviet Union, the power plant to a separate Finnish company, reservation of the highest management positions for Finns and no further Soviet agitation against Finland. Soviet Union rejected those terms on February 18, thus ending nickel negotiations.
After Heinrichs’ visit and the end of the nickel negotiations, diplomatic activities were halted for a few months. The most significant activities of that time was the visit of Colonel Buschenhagen to Helsinki and Northern Finland February 18 – March 3 when he familiarized himself with the terrain and climate of Lappland. He also had discussions with Mannerheim, Heinrichs, Major General Airo and chief-of-operational-office Colonel Tapola. Both sides were careful to point out the speculative nature of these discussions, although later they became the basis of formal agreements.
Already in December 1940, leaders of Germany’s Waffen-SS had demanded that Finland should show its orientation towards Germany “with deeds”, by which it was clear that it meant enlistment of Finnish troops to the SS. The official contact was made on March 1, and in the following negotiations the Finns tried in vain to transform the troops from SS to Wehrmacht, in commemoration of the World War I-era Finnish Jäger Battalion. Ryti and Mannerheim considered the battalion necessary to reinforce German support of Finland; thence the nickname “Panttipataljoona” (“Pawn battalion”) and the negotiations were concluded on April 28 with the Finnish conditions that Government, Civil Guards or Armed Forces would not enlist and that all military personnel wishing to participate must first take their leave of the Finnish army. (These conditions were designed to limit Finnish commitment to Nazi Germany.) The enlistment was carried out in May, and in June the troops were transferred to Germany where a Finnish SS battalion was founded June 18. Foreign minister Witting informed Sweden, where similar activities were also conducted, already on March 23 about possible enlistment. The British ambassador to Helsinki, Gordon Vereker, notified the Finnish Foreign Ministry May 16 on the issue, demanding an end to the enlistment.
Relations between Sweden and Germany strained in March, and on March 15 Sweden mobilized 80,000 more men and moved military units to the southern coast and western border making it even more likely that Sweden couldn’t support Finland if war broke out. This also affected Swedish-Finnish co-operation as the Finnish interest for intelligence exchange diminished considerably during April.
Race issues were sources of particular concern: the Finns were not viewed favorably by the Nazi race theorists. By active participation on Germany’s side, Finnish leaders hoped for a more independent position in post-war Europe, through the removal of the Soviet threat and the incorporation of the related Finnish peoples of neighboring Soviet areas, especially Karelia. This view gained increasing popularity in the Finnish leadership, and also in the press, during the spring of 1941.
From February to April, Germany prepared Barbarossa in secret, and apart from the above contacts, no operational or political discussions were concluded during this time. Instead they published disinformation, such as claims that the German troop buildup in the East was merely a ruse ahead of a planned invasion of Britain (such a plan had been considered under the codename Operation Sea Lion) or safe training locations from British bombers, to hide their real intentions. When Germany invaded Yugoslavia and Greece beginning on April 6, suspicion of German intentions increased in Finland, though uncertainty still prevailed as to whether Hitler really intended to attack the Soviet Union before the Battle of Britain was concluded.
However, the Finns had, in the past, learned bitterly how a small country can be used as small change in the deals of great powers, and in such a case Finland could have been used as a token of reconciliation between Hitler and Stalin, something which the Finns had every reason to fear, which is why relations with Berlin were considered of the utmost priority for the future of Finland, especially so if the war between Germany and Soviet Union failed to materialize.
Once again the German Foreign Ministry sent Ludwig Weissauer to Finland May 5, this time to clarify that war between Germany and the Soviet Union would not be launched before spring 1942. Ryti and Witting believed that, at least officially, and forwarded the message to Swedish Foreign Minister Günther, who was visiting Finland May 6–9. Witting also sent the information to Finnish-ambassador-to-London Gripenberg. When the war broke out only a couple of weeks later, it was understandable that both Swedish and British governments felt that the Finns had lied to them.
Part of that disinformation campaign was a request to ambassador Kivimäki that Finland should offer proposals for a new border that the Germans could pressure the Soviets to accept in negotiations. On May 30, 1941 General Airo produced five alternative border drafts for delivery to the Germans, who should then propose the best they felt they could bargain from the Soviet Union. In reality, the Germans had no such intentions, but the exercise served to fuel the support among leading Finns for taking part in Operation Barbarossa.
Operations like Barbarossa don’t begin without some advance notice, and worsening of Soviet-German relations, which began with the meeting in Berlin November 12, was visible around the end of March 1941. Stalin tried to improve relations toward the Third Reich by taking the leadership of the Soviet government May 6, backed off from unimportant issues, and fulfilled all trade deals even as German deliveries were late. Part of this policy was also improving relations with Finland. A new ambassador, Pavel Orlov, was named to Helsinki April 23 and a gift of a trainload of wheat was presented to J. K. Paasikivi when he retired from Moscow. The Soviet Union also renounced opposition to a Swedish-Finnish defence alliance, but Swedish disinterest and German opposition to that kind of alliance rendered the proposal moot. Soviet radio propaganda against Finland also ceased. Orlov acted very conciliatory and soothed many feelings which had been raised by his predecessor, but as he failed to solve any critical issues (like the disagreement over Petsamonickel) or to restart grain imports from Soviet Union, his line was seen only as a new façade on old policy.
British-ambassador-Vereker saw Finland moving towards Germany, and due to his reports, the British Foreign Office had requested easing Finnish trade regulations in Petsamo March 30. On April 28 Vereker reported that the British government should pressure the Soviet Union to return Hanko or Vyborg to Finland as he saw it as the only possible way to secure Finnish neutrality in the case of German-Soviet war.
The Petsamo crisis had disillusioned Finnish politicians, especially Ryti and Mannerheim, creating the impression that peaceful co-existence with the Soviet Union was impossible, and that Finland would survive in peace only if the Soviet Union was defeated, as Ryti presented it to US ambassador Arthur Schoenfeld on April 28. The effect of this general feeling was that voices advocating closer ties with Germany grew stronger and the voices advocating armed neutrality within Finland’s new borders (some among the Social Democrats, and some of the more left-leaning in the Swedish People’s Party) softened. Contacts with Sweden’s Conservative Foreign Minister Günther showed an enthusiasm unusual for the Swedes for the anticipated “Crusade against Bolshevism“.
After the successful occupation of Yugoslavia and Greece by the spring of 1941, the German army’s standing was at its zenith, and its victory in the war seemed more than likely. The envoy of the German Foreign Ministry, Karl Schnurre, visited Finland May 20–24, and invited one or more staff officers to negotiations in Salzburg.
Cooperation with Germany
A group of staff officers led by General Heinrichs left Finland on May 24 and participated in discussions with OKW in Salzburg on May 25 where the Germans informed them about the northern part of Operation Barbarossa. The Germans also presented their interest in using Finnish territory to attack from Petsamo to Murmansk and from Salla to Kandalaksha. Heinrichs presented Finnish interest in Eastern Karelia, but Germany recommended a passive stance. The negotiations continued the next day in Berlin with OKH, and contrary to the negotiations of the previous day, Germany wanted Finland to form a strong attack formation ready to strike on the eastern or western side of Lake Ladoga. The Finns promised to examine the proposal, but notified the Germans that they were only able to arrange supply to the Olonets–Petrozavodsk-line. The issue of mobilization was also discussed. It was decided that the Germans would send signal officers to enable confidential messaging to Mannerheim’s headquarters in Mikkeli. Naval issues were discussed, mainly for securing sea lines over the Baltic Sea, but also possible usage of the Finnish navy in the upcoming war. During these negotiations the Finns presented a number of material requests ranging from grain and fuel to airplanes and radio equipment.
Heinrichs’ group returned on May 28 and reported their discussions to Mannerheim, Walden and Ryti. And on May 30 Ryti, Witting, Walden, Kivimäki, Mannerheim, Heinrichs, Talvela and Aaro Pakaslahti from Foreign Ministry had a meeting where they accepted the results of those negotiations with a list of some prerequisites: a guarantee of Finnish independence, the pre-Winter War borders (or better), continuing grain deliveries, and that Finnish troops would not cross the border before a Soviet incursion.
The next round of negotiations occurred in Helsinki on June 3–6 regarding some practical details. During these negotiations it was decided that Germany would be responsible for the area north of Oulu. This area was easily given to them because it was sparsely inhabited and non-critical to the defence of the more important southern provinces. The Finns also agreed to give two divisions to the Germans in northern Finland (30 000 men) and to the usage of airfields in Helsinki and Kemijärvi (Because of the number of German aircraft, airfields at Kemi and Rovaniemi were added later). Finland also warned Germany that an attempt to establish a Quisling government would cut co-operation and that they considered it very important that Finland not be the aggressor and that no invasion should be launched from Finnish soil.
The negotiations for naval operations continued on June 6 in Kiel. It was agreed that the Kriegsmarine would close the Gulf of Finland with mines as soon as the war began.
The arrival of German troops participating in Operation Barbarossa began on June 7 in Petsamo, where SS Division Nord started southwards, and on June 8 in the ports of the Gulf of Bothnia where the German 169th Infantry Division was transported by rail to Rovaniemi, where both of these turned eastward on June 18. Britain cancelled all naval traffic to Petsamo June 14 in protest of these moves. Starting from June 14, a number of German minelayers and supporting MTBs arrived in Finland, some on an official naval visit, others hiding in the southern archipelago.
Finnish parliament was informed for the first time on June 9, when first mobilization orders were issued for troops needed to safeguard the following mobilization phases, like anti-air and border guard units. The Committee on Foreign Affairs complained that parliament was bypassed when deciding on these issues, and protesting that Parliament should be trusted with sensitive information, but no other actions were taken. Swedish ambassador Karl-Ivan Westman wrote that the Soviet-minded “Sextuples”, the far-left Social Democrats, were the reason that parliament couldn’t be trusted in foreign policy questions. When Soviet news agency TASS reported on June 13 that no negotiations were ongoing between Germany and the Soviet Union, Ryti and Mannerheim decided to delay mobilization as no guarantees had been received from Germany. General Waldemar Erfurt, who had been nominated as liaison officer to Finland on June 11, reported to OKW June 14 that Finland wouldn’t finalize mobilization unless the prerequisites were granted. Although the Finns continued on the same day (June 14) with the second phase of mobilization, this time the mobilizing forces were located in northern Finland and later operated under German command. Field Marshal Keitel sent a message on June 15 stating that the Finnish prerequisites were accepted, and the general mobilization restarted on June 17, two days later than scheduled. On June 16, two Finnish divisions were transferred to the German army in Lapland.
An airfield in Utti was evacuated by Finnish planes on June 18 and the Germans were allowed to use it for refuelling from June 19. German reconnaissance planes were stationed at Tikkakoski, near Jyväskylä, on June 20.
On June 20 Finland’s government ordered 45,000 people at the Soviet border to be evacuated. On June 21 Finland’s chief of the General Staff, Erik Heinrichs, was finally informed by his German counterpart that the attack was to begin.
To the opening of hostilities
Operation Barbarossa had already commenced in the northern Baltic by the late hours of June 21, when German minelayers, which had been hiding in the Finnish archipelago, laid two large minefields across the Gulf of Finland, one at the mouth of the Gulf and a second in the middle of the Gulf.
These minefields ultimately proved sufficient to confine the Soviets’ Baltic Fleet to the easternmost part of the Gulf of Finland until the end of the Continuation War. Three Finnish submarines participated in the mining operation by laying 9 small fields between Suursaari Island and the Estonian coast with first mines being laid at 0738 on 22 June 1941 by Finnish submarine Vetehinen.
Later the same night, German bombers, flying from East Prussian airfields, flew along the Gulf of Finland to Leningrad and mined the harbour and the river Neva. Finnish air defence noticed that one group of these bombers, most likely the ones responsible for mining the river Neva, flew over southern Finland. On the return trip, these bombers refueled in Utti airfield before returning to East Prussia.
Finland feared that the Soviet Union would occupy Åland as soon as possible and use it to close naval routes from Finland to Sweden and Germany (together with Hanko base), so Operation Kilpapurjehdus (Sail Race) was launched in the early hours of June 22 to deliver Finnish troops to Åland. Soviet bombers launched attacks against Finnish ships during the operation at 0605 on 22 June 1941 before the Finnish ships had delivered the troops to Åland but no damage was inflicted in the air attack.
Individual Soviet artillery batteries started to shoot at Finnish positions from Hanko early in the morning, so the Finnish commander sought permission to return fire, but before the permission was granted, Soviet artillery had stopped shooting.
On the morning of June 22, both the Soviet Union and Finland declared that each would be neutral in respect of the other in the war that was now underway. This precipitated unease in the Nazi leadership, which tried to provoke a response from the Soviet Union by using both the Finnish archipelago as a base, and Finnish airfields for refuelling. Hitler‘s public statement worked in the same direction; Hitler declared that Germany would attack the Bolshevists “(…) in the North in alliance [“im Bunde”] with the Finnish freedom heroes”. This was in flat contradiction of the statement made to parliament by British Foreign Secretary Eden on June 24 affirming Finnish neutrality.
Finland did not allow direct German attacks from its soil to the Soviet Union, so German forces in Petsamo and Salla had to hold their fire. Air attacks were also prohibited, and very bad weather in northern Finland helped to keep the Germans from flying. Only one attack from Southern Finland against the White Sea Canal was approved, but even that had to be cancelled due to bad weather. There were occasional individual and group level small arms shooting between Soviet and Finnish border guards, but otherwise the front was quiet.
To keep a close eye on their opponents, both parties—and also the Germans—performed active air reconnaissance over the border, but no air fights ensued.
After three days, early on the morning of June 25, the Soviet Union made its move and unleashed a major air offensive against 18 cities with 460 planes, mainly striking airfields but seriously damaging civilian targets as well. The worst damage was done in Turku, where the airfield became inoperable for a week, but among civilian targets, the medieval Turku Castle was also destroyed. (After the war, the castle was repaired, but the work took until 1961.) Heavy damage to civilian targets was also sustained in Kotka and Heinola. However, civilian casualties of this attack were relatively limited.
The Soviet Union justified the attack as being directed against German targets in Finland, but even the British embassy had to admit that the heaviest hits had been taken by southern Finland, and airfields where there were no Germans. Only two targets had German forces present at the time of attack: Rovaniemi and Petsamo. Once again Foreign Minister Eden had to admit to parliament on June 26 that the Soviet Union had initiated the war.
A meeting of parliament was scheduled for June 25 1941 when Prime Minister Rangell had been due to present a notice about Finland’s neutrality in the Soviet-German war, but the Soviet bombings led him to instead observe that Finland was once again at war with the Soviet Union. The Continuation War had begun.
One year later, in May of 1942, Jagdgeschwader 5 (JG 5) ‘Eismeer’ was assigned to Petsamo Airfield to protect the nickel mines from Soviet attack, initially; they were equipped with the Messerschmitt Bf 109E-7 ‘Jabo’ (fighter-bomber). The unit remained in Petsamo until February 1944 until being forced to retreat to Kirkenes in Norway by Finnish Forces in the Lapland War. In addition to Petsamo, Luftwaffe units flew missions from Helsinki-Malmi, Turku, Utti, Immola, Kemijärvi, Kemi and Rovaniemi airfields, from 1941 to 1944.
Coming Soon: Eduard’s 1/32 Messerschmitt Bf 109E-7 build review; flown by Hptm. Günther Scholz, Gruppenkommander of III./JG 5, Petsamo, August 1942.
Notes: Eduard 1/72 scale mask CX215 for Pe-8 used at £5.99 from Hannants UK.
The development and combat history of the Petlyakov Pe-8 can be seen in the previous article on this website by clicking on the picture below:
When the box for this kit came in the post, I was astonished at its size. I knew that the Pe-8 was big, but this was impressive. The box is also beautifully illustrated, is made from strong good quality cardboard and is in the ‘flip-top’ opening style, which makes a project of this scope much easier to manage, as the parts can be stored in the box with the lid open where they can be easily accessed.
This was my first Zvezda kit and I had no idea what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised and impressed at a box full of quality parts. The kit comprises seven large frets in grey injection moulded plastic and one fret of clear parts. Also included are the decal sheet and a 12 page black and white instruction booklet with 54 easy to follow steps. The moulds are crisp and clean with fine recessed panel lines and the initial dry fit of the fuselage and wings indicated that this kit would go together accurately without any major concerns.
The parts were carefully washed in a weak warm soapy solution to remove the mould release. Once dry, the contents were primed with grey auto primer from a rattle can. The build began with the AM-35A engines. An unusual feature of this aircraft is the addition of two 12.7-millimeter (0.50 in) Berezin UBT machine guns in the ShU barbettes in the inner engine nacelles. Construction of the four engines is straight forward, the fit is excellent and the process ends at step 13 of the instruction booklet.
Stages 14 to 21 deal with the construction of the wings. To give you an idea of the scale of these units they represent 39 metres in span compared to the B-17G which is 31.62 metres. The wheel bays are well detailed with cross bracings and rib frames. The upper and lower halves of the wings were glued, taped and left overnight to dry. Once dry, the four engine units were added to the wings which were fitted without the need for any filler. The wings were then set to one side whilst the undercarriage was painted using Humbrol 129 grey (this included the wheel hubs). The large main-wheels were easy to paint, however, masks are provided for the hubs in Eduard’s Pe-8 mask set.
The only slightly challenging aspect of this kit was the assembly of the four-piece undercarriage. Just a little care and concentration was required and once this sub-section had been completed, the wheel-well doors were glued into position.
Sections 23 to 48 deal with the interior construction of the Pe-8. Zvezda’s kit is well furnished with an engineer’s station, navigators table, bulkheads which include windows above the bulkhead access doors and a well detailed cockpit. The pilot and co-pilot are seated in a tandem configuration, which adds further interest to this fascinating aircraft.
The Petlyakov Pe-8’s defensive armament consists of a retractable ShVAK in the MV-6 dorsal turret, another ShVAK in a KEB tail turret, twin ShVAKs in the nose turret and as mentioned earlier, two 12.7-millimeter (0.50 in) Berezin UBT machine guns in each ShU barbette in the inner engine nacelles. The turrets were masked with Eduard’s Pe-8 mask set and the gun positions were assembled as per sections 23 to 32 of the instructions, and then left to one side to be added later in the build process.
Section 33 deals with the preparation of the fuselage halves. Once the interior had been airbrushed, in this case with Humbrol Hu33 Black, the clear windows were fitted and the window to the rear of the passenger door was cut-out using a hobby knife. This procedure is clearly shown in sections 33 and 34.
Once all of the interior sub-assemblies had been constructed, they were attached to the fuselage floor and the integrated main-spars and then glued into position into one of the fuselage halves. The tail-plane main-spar was added together with the tail-wheel and the fuselage halves were then glued together, taped and left overnight to dry.
Next, the dorsal turret and fairing was fitted as well as the two-piece canopy, tail cap and pre-assembled horizontal tail surfaces. This was followed by fitting the nose and tail gun positions before the wings were attached. After the kit had dried, a small amount of filler was added around the engine nacelles and the seams were rubbed down using 600 grit wet and dry paper.
I decided to build the FAB 5000Kg Bomb, displayed with the undercarriage doors open. Alternatively the FAB 2000 NG bomb can be used giving the modeller the choice of two massive munitions that this impressive aircraft carried.
Camouflage and Markings:
After researching the combat history of the Petlyakov Pe-8, I wanted to build one of the aircraft that took part in the raids against Helsinki, Tallinn and Pskov in 1944. The camouflage scheme was simple but looked effective. From 1943 onwards the Soviet Long-Distance Bomb Group Regiment (Russian: Avia Polk Dahl’nevo Deystviya—APDD) began adopting deep black ‘noch’ undersurface camouflage intended for night operations, with the upper-surfaces a combination of deep black and Soviet VVS ‘All Dark Green’.
The airframe was airbrushed with Humbrol Hu33 black before being masked off in preparation for the distinctive (White Ensign Models WEMCC ACS18) WW2 Soviet VVS all Dark Green. The decals were then applied using micro-set and micro-sol decal setting solutions. This particular Petlyakov Pe-8 represents ‘Red 8’ of the 45th Division of the Long-Distance Bomb Group Regiment (APDD). This machine is unusual in that it includes upper-wing stars, which were rare on ‘noch’ or night Bombers.
The final stage of construction involved adding the propellers and spinners, aerials and aerial wires, before a final coat of Johnson’s Klear was applied to seal in the decals.
This kit surpassed all of my expectations. It represents excellent value for money, it is beautifully detailed and it provides the modeler the opportunity to build Soviet ‘Heavy Metal’ from the World War 2 era which is usually the preserve of the post-war age. As for Zvezda, I cannot recommend them enough. I am looking forward to building their Ilyushin Il-4T Torpedo Bomber. I am definitely a convert.
The Petlyakov Pe-8 was conceived from a requirement to replace the Soviet Union’s ageing fleet of Tupolev TB-1 (ANT-4) and Tupolev TB-3 (ANT-6) bombers, which had become obsolete at the outbreak of World War II in 1939. The Pe-8 was the only four-engined heavy bomber in the Soviet fleet during the war, with the exception of the Petlyakov Pe-8, the Soviet Air Force (Russian: Военно-воздушные силы, tr.Voyenno-Vozdushnye Sily, literally “Military Air Forces”) favoured twin-engined medium bombers as the Luftwaffe had done for the duration of WWII.
Design and development of the Pe-8 began with its first flight on the 27th of December 1936. The aircraft remained in service until 1944. Deliveries to the Soviet Long-Distance Bomb Group Regiment (Russian: Avia Polk Dahl’nevo Deystviya—APDD) began in 1940. Although the Pe-8 was built in limited numbers (only 93 were constructed), it was used in “morale raids” to boost Soviet spirits in the early campaigns of Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, which began on the 22nd of June 1941. The Petlyakov Pe-8 conducted its first bombing attack on Berlin in August of the same year.
In addition to attacking Berlin, German airfields, Railway yards and factories, one example of the Pe-8 was used to fly the People’s Commissar of Foreign Affairs (Foreign Minister) Vyacheslav Molotov from Moscow to the United States in 1942.
The Petlyakov Pe-8 was originally designated as the ‘Tupolev TB-7’ it was re-named as the Petlyakov Pe-8 after its Chief Designer Vladimir Petlyakov was killed in a plane crash in 1942. The Pe-8 experienced a high loss rate during the war. This was largely due to the aircraft being perceived as a high-value target by Luftwaffe pilots. The loss rate of these aircraft, whether from mechanical failure, friendly fire, or combat, doubled between 1942 and 1944.
Because of this and the Soviet armed Forces gaining ascendency over the Luftwaffe and Wehrmacht, the type was withdrawn from service in 1944. The Petlyakov ended its career as a V.I.P. transport, test aircraft and a few supported the Soviet Arctic operations until the late 1950s.
Design and Development
The development of the Petlyakov Pe-8 began in 1934 when it was recognised that the ageing and obsolete Tupolev TB-3 (ANT-6) bombers would need to be replaced by a modern design with a greater range and bomb carrying capacity. These requirements specified a bomber that could carry 2,000 kg (4,400 lb) of bombs 4,500 km (2,800 mi) at a speed greater than 440 km/h (270 mph) at an altitude of 10,000 metres (32,808 ft), figures that were twice the range, speed and service ceiling of the TB-3.
The Tupolev Design Bureau (OKB) led by Andrei Tupolev was given the task of developing the new bomber. Andrei Tupolev handed the work to a team led by Vladimir Petlyakov and the project received the internal bureau designation of ANT-42. The resulting aircraft, a four-engined, mid-wing cantilevermonoplane, was initially designated as the TB-7 (Russian: Тяжёлый Бомбардировщик, Tyazholy Bombardirovschik—Heavy Bomber) by the VVS and owed more to the streamlined design of the Tupolev SB than to the block-like design of the TB-3.
The bomber was built mainly of duralumin, with two steel spars in the wings, although the ailerons were fabric-covered. The pear-shaped monocoque fuselage required the pilots to sit in tandem, offset to the left. In the prototype, space for a fifth engine, an auxiliary Klimov M-100, was reserved inside the fuselage, in a fairing above the wing spars and behind the pilots. It was intended to drive a supercharger that supplied pressurized air to the Mikulin AM-34 FRN engines, with the installation designated ATsN-2 (Russian: Agregat tsentral’novo nadduva—Central Supercharging Unit). Subsequent models omitted the internal engine, and provided seating for a flight engineer and radio operator, behind and below the pilots. The bombardier sat in the nose and manned a turret armed with a 20-millimeter (0.79 in) ShVAK cannon that covered a 120° cone ahead. A prominent chin gondola, nicknamed the ‘beard’, protruded beneath the nose. The dorsal gunner sat at the rear of the ATsN fairing with a sliding hood covering a 7.62-millimeter (0.300 in) ShKAS machine gun and another ShKAS mounted in a ventral hatch. The tail gunner had a powered turret with a ShVAK and, most unusually, there were manually operated ShVAK cannon mounted at the rear of each inner engine nacelle. Crewmen had access to these positions through the wing or by a trapdoor in the upper wing surface. The large internal bomb bay racks held up to 4,000 kg (8,800 lb) of bombs; external racks held a single 500-kilogram (1,100 lb) FAB-500 bomb under each wing. A single FAB 5000Kg bomb could be carried in a modified bomb-bay.
The maiden flight of the unarmed prototype, piloted by M. M. Gromov and without the ATsN installation, occurred at Khodynka Aerodrome on 27 December 1936. After successful initial trials, the ATsN system was installed for the State acceptance trials in August 1937 and the AM-34RNB engines were fitted during the tests. Gromov reported that the rudder was ineffective and that the outer engines overheated. Subsequent wind tunnel testing identified a problem with the aerodynamics of the radiators and nacelles. To solve this problem, the outer engines’ radiators were moved into deep ducts under the inner nacelles and the rudder was enlarged and redesigned with a smooth skin.
Construction of a second prototype began in April 1936, incorporating lessons from the first aircraft and feedback from the VVS. Designers widened the fuselage by 100 mm (3.9 in); the ‘beard’ was also widened and the tail section was modified to lessen resistance and improve rudder function. A reconfigured control system included an autopilot and the engineers redesigned portions of the electrical system. The engines were changed to the more powerful AM-34FRNVs and a redesigned undercarriage was fitted to the airframe. Two additional fuel tanks increased the craft’s range. The defensive and offensive armament was revised, and the bomber’s weaponry expanded to twin ShKAS guns in the nose, nacelle and tail turrets and a dorsal turret with a ShVAK; this design eliminated the ventral gun. The bomb bay was modified to allow for a single 5,000-kilogram (11,000 lb) FAB-5000 bomb to be carried and provisions were added to carry VAP-500 or VAP-1000 poison gas dispensers under the wings.
The arrests of both Tupolev and Petlyakov in October 1937, during the Great Purge, disrupted the program and the second prototype did not make its first flight until 26 July 1938. Although this prototype served as the basis for the series aircraft, further modifications were made to the armament. New weaponry included a retractable ShVAK in the MV-6 dorsal turret, another ShVAK in a KEB tail turret and a 12.7-millimeter (0.50 in) Berezin UBT machine gun in each ShU barbette in each inner engine nacelle. Another fuel tank further increased the range, and the ‘beard’ was removed entirely, replaced by a more streamlined nose. Authorization for production was slow for several reasons, including the Great Purge, but also due to the scarcity of resources, and a shortage of workers. Although production facilities in the Kazan Factory No. 124 were ready as early as 1937, the order to begin was not given until 1939.
Manufacture and supply problems, particularly with the engines, complicated the construction of the aircraft. Production of the ATsN superchargers could not be organized in any systematic way and only the first four Pe-8s were equipped with them. Factory No. 124 shut down its Pe-8 production line at the beginning of 1940 while alternative engines were evaluated. Somewhere in the massive Soviet chain of command, the decision was made to proceed without the superchargers. The unavailability of the Klimov M-100 engine of the ATsN-2 installation required a design change, although this modification allowed a commander and radio operator to be carried in its place. Then, to compound the problem further, the production of AM-34FRNV engines ended in the second half of 1939. Only two or four Pe-8s were equipped with them. Eighteen of the aircraft produced by the end of 1940 were fitted with AM-35A engines.
In 1940, six aircraft without engines were fitted with Mikulin AM-35A engines, while VVS officials evaluated both the Charomskiy ACh-30 and Charomskiy M-40aircraft Diesel engines. At least nine Pe-8s were fitted with Diesel engines in 1941, but neither the ACh-30 nor the M-40 was entirely satisfactory, despite greatly increasing the range of the aircraft. All surviving Pe-8s were re-engined with AM-35As by the end of 1941. Production continued slowly at Factory No. 124; most of the factory’s resources were devoted to the higher-priority Petlyakov Pe-2, a successful light bomber. The Tupolev TB-7 was re-designated as the Pe-8 after Petlyakov was killed in a Pe-2 crash on 12 January 1942.
The 1,380-kW (1,850-hp) Shvetsov ASh-82 radial engine was proposed as a replacement to alleviate the shortage of engines and this modification went into production in late 1942. The exhaust arrangements of the ASh-82 were not compatible with the gun turrets in the rear of the engine nacelles and the guns were removed, reducing the aircraft’s defensive capability. At the end of 1943, the nose turret was deleted in favor of a manually operated ShKAS machine gun in a more streamlined nose. This version of the aircraft proved to have much the same range as the diesel-engined versions, but reliability was greatly improved. Production of the Pe-8s totaled 93.
The last Pe-8s were completed in 1944 as Pe-8ONs (Russian: Osobovo Naznacheniya—Special Mission) with Charomskiy ACh-30B engines and a fillet at the base of the vertical stabilizer. These were special VIP transports with a seating capacity of twelve and a cargo capacity of 1,200 kilograms (2,646 lb. Sources disagree if the armament, either partly or entirely, was removed.
When Operation Barbarossa began on 22 June 1941, only the 2nd Squadron of the 14th Heavy Bomber Regiment (Russian: Tyazholy Bombardirovochnyy Avia Polk—TBAP), based at Boryspil was equipped with Pe-8s, but was not ready for combat. Two of its nine Pe-8s were destroyed by German air strikes shortly after the war began, before the Pe-8s were withdrawn out of reach in Kazan. Stalin ordered that the squadron be reformed into a regiment, and that it strike targets deep inside German territory. Theoretically, this tactic would boost Soviet morale by demonstrating the vulnerability of the enemy. The squadron was re-designated on 29 June as the 412th TBAP and began training for long-range missions. On or about 27 July it was again renamed, this time as the 432nd TBAP. On the evening of 10 August, eight M-40-engined Pe-8s of the 432nd TBAP, accompanied by Yermolaev Yer-2s of the 420th Long-Range Bomber Aviation Regiment (DBAP), attempted to bomb Berlin from Pushkino Airfield near Leningrad. One heavily loaded Pe-8 crashed immediately upon take off, after it lost an engine. Only four managed to reach Berlin, or its outskirts, and of those, only two returned to their base. The others landed elsewhere or crash-landed in Finland and Estonia. The aircraft of the commander of the 81st Long-Range Bomber Division, CombrigMikhail Vodopianov, to which both regiments belonged, was attacked mistakenly by Polikarpov I-16s from Soviet Naval Aviation over the Baltic Sea and lost an engine; later, before he could reach Berlin, German flak punctured a fuel tank. He crash-landed his aircraft in southern Estonia. Five more Pe-8s were lost during the operation, largely due to the unreliability of the M-40s. Seven Pe-8s were lost during the month of August alone, rendering the regiment ineffective. During this period, the surviving aircraft were re-equipped with AM-35As, which gave them a shorter range, but a more reliable engine.
By 1 October 1941, the regiment mustered fourteen Pe-8s after having been replenished by new aircraft from the factory. It spent the rest of the year conducting night raids on Berlin, Königsberg and Danzig as well as German-occupied cities in the Soviet Union. The regiment was re-designated as the 746th Separate Long-Range Aviation Regiment (Russian: Otdel’nyy Avia Polk Dahl’nevo Deystviya—OAPDD) on 3 December. No aircraft were reported on hand two days later after this designation, but eleven were on strength on 18 March 1942. During the winter of 1941–42, the regiment was assigned the destruction of a railroad bridge over the Volga River, near Kalinin. In April 1942, one aircraft flew diplomatic personnel and mail on a non-stop flight from Moscow to Great Britain. This was a test run for a flight carrying Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov and his delegation from Moscow to London and then to Washington, D.C. and back, for negotiations to open a second front against Nazi Germany (19 May–13 June 1942). The flight crossed German-controlled airspace on the return trip without incident. From August 1941 to May 1942, the regiment flew 226 sorties and dropped 606 tonnes (596 long tons; 668 short tons) of bombs. In the course of these missions, they lost 14 bombers, five in combat, and the rest from engine malfunction. The regiment received 17 Pe-8s as replacements. Sixteen aircraft were on hand on 1 May 1942, but the number had only increased to seventeen two months later; the regiment was losing aircraft almost as fast as they were being replaced.
The 890th Long-Range Aviation Regiment (Russian: Avia Polk Dahl’nevo Deystviya—APDD) was formed on 15 June 1942 and both regiments were used to bomb German-held transportation centers of, among others, Orel, Bryansk, Kursk and Poltava. The pace of activity increased and the regiments flew as many missions in August as they had in the first ten months of the war. By the eve of the Soviet counterattack at Stalingrad, Operation Uranus, on 8 November the regiments had fourteen Pe-8s on hand. Under the command of the 45th Long-Range Bomber Aviation Division (Russian: Dal’nebombardirovochnaya Aviatsionnaya Diviziya—DBAD), they did not participate in the Stalingrad air attacks.
In 1943, from the division’s primary airfield at Kratovo, southeast of Moscow, the regiments bombed transportation centers, airfields and troop concentrations. The railroad yard at Gomel was a favorite target and the regiment dropped approximately 606 tonnes (596 long tons; 668 short tons) of bombs there between February and September 1943. It is not clear if these sorties were made by Pe-8s alone or in combination with other aircraft. In addition, the regiment dropped the first FAB-5000 bomb on Königsberg in April 1943, continuing the pin-prick attacks against targets deep in the German rear. In May 1943, efforts shifted to disrupt the German concentration of forces for the Battle of Kursk. In one sortie, the 109 bombers of the 45th DBAD struck the rail junction at Orsha during the evening of 4 May, most of which were not Pe-8s; the German High Command reported the destruction of 300 rail wagons and three ammunition trains.
By 1 July, the regiment had 18 Pe-8s for deployment during the early phase of the Battle of Kursk. The long-range aviation units continued to attack targets in the German rear areas at night, supporting the Soviet ground offensive in the Orel Bulge, called Operation Kutuzov that began on 12 July. The Germans had transferred the nightfighters of the Fourth Group of Nightfighter Wing 5 (IV./Nachtjagdgeschwader 5), flying a mix of Junkers Ju 88 and Dornier Do 217 aircraft, to counter the Soviet raids near the Orel area. Initially, the night fighters were ineffective against the Soviet raids, until the deployment of their ground radar system. Once the Germans had use of their radar, after the night of 17–18 July, Soviet losses skyrocketed. Although the Germans flew only fourteen sorties that night, they claimed eight kills. On the night of 20–21 July, Captain (Hauptmann) Heinrich Prinz zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, commander of IV./NJG 5, shot down three enemy aircraft. The exhaust plume of the ASh-82 engine may have been a contributing factor; the engines lacked flame dampening exhausts, making their plume visible from a distance. Despite its losses, the 746th was re-designated as the 25th Long-Range Guards Aviation Regiment (GAPDD) on 18 September 1943 in recognition of its achievements.
Removal from combat
The loss of Pe-8s to all causes—mechanical, combat, friendly fire—had steadily increased from one aircraft per 103 flights in 1942 to one per 46 sorties in 1944. Despite the losses, production kept pace with need. The number of aircraft belonging to the 45th DBAD continued to rise; 20 were on hand on 1 January 1944 and 30 on 1 June.
The Pe-8s flew 276 sorties in 1944 against Helsinki, Tallinn and Pskov. In February 1944, 3 raids were undertaken by the Pe-8 over the city of Helsinki. The raid of 06/02/1944 was the largest, comprising 24 Pe-8 bombers from the 45th Division of the Long-Distance Bomb Group Regiment (APDD). During the second raid on the 07/02/1944,two super-heavy 5.4 tonne FAB-5000 bombs were dropped on Helsinki, one destroyed the cable works, and the other struck the railway works.
The FAB-5000 Bomb
The FAB-5000 5 tonne bomb was the culmination of a series of munitions developed by Zavod 67 in 1933. A requirement was tendered by the Soviet experimental design bureau (OKB) for a 2000kg+ weapon that could be carried by the Tupolev ANT-40. Manufacture of the new FAB 2000SV began in 1936, the munition was technically sound, however, construction was slow and insignificant quantities of the bomb were produced.
The FAB 2000SV weighed 2135 kg, including its explosive filling of 818 kg of amatol. The weapon was carried externally on the TB-3, as there were no aircraft in the VVS inventory that could carry a 2000kg payload internally until the introduction of the Petlyakov Pe-8.
The FAB 2000SV was manufactured, virtually without modification, well into the middle of 1943. Several variants were produced, including; the FAB 2000 M43, the FAB 2000 M44, the FAB 2000 NG 1943 and the FAB 5000kg bomb.
It was unusual in Soviet bomb design during the GPW for a single engineer to have a major role in the development of a series manufactured munition, but with the VVS’ titanic 5000 kg weapon, this was apparently the case. At the NKB’s Design Bureau 35, Head Engineer N. Gelperin worked extensively on heavy bombs for the VVS from the late 1930s. On the 6th of May 1943 the NKO issued instruction No. 0340 to manufacture a 5000 kg version of one of Gelperin’s several prototypes.
The large body was comprised of three main sections, of welded construction. High quality AB-1 nickel was employed for the main body and nose section, while the tail cone could utilize AB-1 or APUB. The large fins were spot welded to the tail cone unit, supported by heavily reinforced steel rods welded on the starboard side. The aft section of the fins were additionally reinforced with steel plates. The fuse pockets were positioned fore and aft.
To suspend the bomb in the aircraft, an entirely new mounting method was developed. Three (two in the prototypes) threaded inserts were built, which were integral to the main housing. These were designed to accept a 16 mm bolt with a simple mounting lug at the top end. A length of heavy gauge steel cable was affixed to each side of the bomb, which was designed to help the armourers when lifting the munition into place. This arrangement is detailed in the factory drawings which were supplied in Pir’ev and Raznichenko’s official VVS bomb history, along with a note that provision was made to alternately utilize bomb straps to store the FAB 5000.
Series production of the FAB 5000 began during the summer of 1943. The munition’s official designation appeared to be “FAB 5000”, but Pir’ev and Raznichenko also described that in period documentation the nomenclature “FAB 5000NG” was common, this acknowledging the contribution of designer N. Gelperin (N.G.). This mighty weapon was used for the first time in regular service during the Orel-Belgorod counter-offensive operations following Kursk, mainly against troop and vehicle concentrations. The calculated zone of lethality for a non-armoured target in proximity to a ‘normally fused’ FAB 5000 blast was given as 428 meters. However, it was also noted that FAB 5000s were used in the demolition of a fortress at Koningsberg earlier in the year. As mentioned earlier, two super-heavy 5.4 tonne FAB-5000 bombs were dropped on Helsinki, one destroyed the cable works, and the other struck the railway works.
Aviation historian Yefim Gordon maintains that the Pe-8 flew its last mission on the night of 1–2 August 1944, but the Statistical Digest of the VVS contradicts this claim, showing 31 Pe-8s assigned to 45th DBAD on 1 January 1945 and 32 on hand on 10 May 1945. However, during this period the 45th DBAD only had three regiments, none of which used the Pe-8 as their primary aircraft, so while the 45th DBAD may have had Pe-8s, these may not have been in use as the primary combat aircraft.
The 890th began to fly Lend-LeaseB-25 Mitchells in the spring of 1944 and was itself re-designated as the 890th Bomber Aviation Regiment on 26 December 1944. The 362nd APDD was formed in early 1944 with four Pe-8s received from the other two regiments, but these were returned in the spring of 1944, when the regiment began to convert to the Lend-Lease Mitchells.
The contribution that the Petlyakov Pe-8 made during World War II cannot be underestimated. During 1941, when it seemed that the Nazi war machine was unstoppable, the bombing raids that this aircraft made on Berlin proved to the Germans that the Allies and especially the Soviet people were still in the fight. In a very real sense, the Pe-8 represented hope to an occupied Europe.
In my next article I shall be reviewing the Zvezda 1:72 scale Petlyakov Pe-8.
Helsinki was bombed several times during World War II by the Soviet Long-Distance Bomb Group Regiment (Russian: Avia Polk Dahl’nevo Deystviya—APDD), the largest of which took place during 1944, when Soviet Petlyakov Pe-8 Heavy Bombers flew 276 sorties against Helsinki, Tallinn and Pskov. In February 1944, 3 raids were undertaken by the Pe-8 over the city of Helsinki. The raid of the 06th of February 1944 was the largest, comprising 24 Pe-8 bombers from the 45th Division of the Long-Distance Bomb Group. During the second raid on the 07th of February 1944, two super-heavy 5.4 tonne FAB-5000 bombs were dropped on Helsinki, one destroyed the cable works, and the other struck the railway works.
When the Soviet Union attacked Finland during the autumn of 1939, Helsinki’s Air Defence was largely unprepared. The defence consisted of four heavy anti-aircraft gun batteries comprising three to four guns each (the 1st Anti-Aircraft Regiment); one light Anti-Aircraft Gun battery and one Anti-Aircraft machine gun Company.
By February 1944 Helsinki was protected by 13 light and heavy Anti-Aircraft Gun batteries. Air defenses included 77 heavy Anti-Aircraft Guns, 41 light Anti-Aircraft Guns, 36 search-lights, 13 acoustic locators and 6 radars supported by visual spotters. The Air-Defence network was based on the German model and was considered extremely effective in countering the Soviet threat. In fact, when the Allied Control Commission visited Helsinki after the war, its leader Soviet General Andrei Zhdanov was extremely perplexed by the lack of damage.
The Helsinki Air Defence system was supported by 12 German Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6/R6 Night-fighters of Jagdgeshwader 302 based at Malmi and the German Night-fighter Direction vessel (Nachtjagdleitschiff) Togo, From October 1943, Togo cruised the Baltic Sea under the operational control of the Luftwaffe‘s 22/Luftnachrichten Regiment 222. In March 1944, after the three great Soviet bombing raids on Helsinki, she arrived in the Gulf of Finland to provide night fighter cover for Tallinn and Helsinki.
Helsinki’s air defenses prioritized stopping bombs from reaching the city over the destruction of air targets. In a special type of barrage, several batteries would fire a wall of flak in front of the approaching bombers in an attempt to scare them into dropping their payloads too early and breaking away. Anti-Aircraft shells had been jury-rigged by drilling the fuse-hole larger and filling the extra space with magnesium mixed with aluminium, turning their explosion from a dull red to a searing white.
Civil defence was well organised and effective in Helsinki. Due to a far-sighted City decree in 1934, air raid shelters had been constructed in all high-rise building basements. All buildings were required to have an appointed civil protection supervisor who was not in the reserves or the armed forces, and as such was usually unfit for military service. This person was tasked to see that all occupants made it to the shelter in an orderly fashion.
There were a few larger shelters built into solid rock, but it was not possible to fit all the citizens of Helsinki into these. Some hospitals were also equipped with subterranean shelters where patients could be relocated during air raids. Others, such as the Children’s hospital, were moved outside the city. One hospital was entirely underground, below the Finnish Red Cross building. Much of the Air Defence system of Helsinki was operated by the City’s Citizen Volunteers which were drawn from organisations such as Suojeluskunta, which provided 16 year old male volunteers to man the Anti-Aircraft Guns and The Lotta Svärd organization, which provided Female volunteers to operate the Searchlight Batteries.
Soviet bombing raids on Helsinki during World War II have come to be known as “The Great Raids against Helsinki”. These began on the 30th of November 1939 just 3 hours into the Winter War. Helsinki was bombed a total of eight times during the Winter War. Some 350 bombs fell on the city, resulting in the deaths of 97 people and the wounding of 260. In all, 55 buildings were destroyed.
The Soviet bombings led to harsh reactions abroad. U.S. President Roosevelt asked the Soviets not to bomb Finnish cities. Molotov replied to Roosevelt: “Soviet aircraft have not been bombing cities, but airfields; you can’t see that from 8,000 kilometers away in America”. Molotov is said to have claimed that the Soviets were not dropping bombs but dropping food supplies to the city. The Finnish response was to develop the ‘Molotov Cocktail’ petrol bomb, said to have been so named as it was ‘the drink to go with the food that the Soviets have given us’.
Helsinki was bombed 39 times during the Continuation War. The majority of deaths and damage caused to the City were during the three big raids of 1944. 245 people were killed and 646 were injured from 25th June 1941 to the 19th September 1944.
1 91 deaths on 30 November 1939 2 22 deaths on 9 July 1941 3 51 deaths on 8 November 1942
The Great Raids of February 1944 consisted of three large-scale raids directed at the Finnish capital which were designed to break the resolve of the Finnish people, thus forcing the Finnish Government to the negotiating table in order to end the Continuation War. The raids were conducted on the nights of 6–7th, 16-17th and the 26-27th of February. Joseph Stalin had obtained British and American support for this measure at the Tehran conference in 1943. In this manner the USSR hoped to force Finland to break its ties with Germany and agree to a peace settlement.
Finnish air defense forces counted 2,121 bombers in the three raids of February 1944, which dropped more than 16,000 bombs. Of the 34,200 shots fired against the bombers, 21,200 were with heavy Anti-Aircraft Artillery, and 12,900 were with light Anti-Aircraft Artillery. The Finns deceived Soviet pathfinders by lighting fires on the islands outside the city, and only using the searchlights east of the city, thereby leading the pathfinders to believe that it was the city. Only 530 bombs fell within the city itself. The majority of the population of Helsinki had left the city, and the casualties were quite low compared to other cities bombed during the war.
Of the 22 to 25 Soviet bombers lost in the raids, 18 to 21 were destroyed by Anti-Aircraft Artillery fire, and four were shot down by German night fighters.
The first bombs fell at 19:23. Some 350 bombs fell within the city and approximately 2,500 bombs outside of Helsinki. The total amount of bombs dropped (including the ones that fell into the sea) amounted to some 6,990. Approximately 730 bomber aircraft participated in the raid. The bombers arrived in two waves: 18:51–21:40 on the 06th of February, and 00:57–04:57 on the 07th of February.
The defense fired 122 barrages. The light Anti-Aircraft Artillery fired 2,745 shots and the heavy Anti-Aircraft Artillery fired 7,719 shots. The Finnish Air Force had no night fighters at this time.
100 people were killed, and 300 injured. More than 160 buildings were damaged. The Anti-Aircraft defenses had issued several false alarms in the days leading up to the raid, which had lowered the population’s reaction time considerably.
The second great raid: 16–17 February
After the first raid, a German night fighter group of 12 Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6/R6 fighters with special night fighting equipment of Jagdgeshwader 302 were transferred to the Helsinki-Malmi Airport from the Estonian front. These managed to shoot down six bombers during the following two raids. The anti-aircraft batteries fired 184 barrages and downed two bombers. Heavy Anti-Aircraft Artillery batteries fired 12,238 shots and light Anti-Aircraft Artillery batteries fired 5,709 shots.
Most of the population of Helsinki had voluntarily evacuated to the countryside and the remainder took to their shelters at the first warning. This reduced casualties significantly.
383 bombers participated in the second raid. 4,317 bombs fell on the city, the sea and in the surrounding area, only 100 bombs fell within the city. The warning was sounded at 20:12 and the bombers approached again in two waves: 20:12 to 23:10 on the 16th of February and 23:45 to 05:49 on the 17th of February. The first wave tried to concentrate the bombing by approaching from different directions. The second wave of aircraft came in smaller groups from the east. Finnish intelligence had intercepted messages one hour and 40 minutes before the raid and warned the air defence, which had time to prepare. The air defence sounded the warning 49 minutes before the raid. Radar picked up the first aircraft 34 minutes before the beginning of the bombings.
This time casualty figures were much lower: 25 died and 29 were injured. 27 buildings were destroyed and 53 were damaged.
The third great raid: 26–27 February
On the evening of 26th of February, a single Soviet reconnaissance aircraft was spotted over the city. It was a sign of the coming attack. The weather was clear, which helped the attackers. Again Finnish Radio Intelligence intercepted messages of the forthcoming raid, this time 1 hour and 28 minutes before the bombing would commence – although the Soviets tried to maintain radio silence.
Five minutes later, the air surveillance grid, manned by Lotta Svärd auxiliaries, reported approaching bombers. A silent alarm was sounded in the city in good time before the raid. Street lights were turned off, trams and trains were stopped and radio transmissions ended. Because these measures were taken, the enemy had more difficulty finding their target. Citizens proceeded to the shelters in a timely and orderly manner.
The first bombers were picked up by Finnish radar at approximately 18:30, 25 minutes before they would arrive. A few minutes later, the night fighters took off and flew to their pre-determined positions. The Anti-Aircraft Artillery had also been forewarned. The air raid warning was sounded at 18:45. Anti-Aircraft Batteries opened up at 18:53. At 19:07 the first bombs fell.
This last great raid differed from the two previous ones. The battle lasted for some 11 hours and was divided into three different phases. The first one was in the evening and lasted for four hours and concentrated the attacks against the city. The second one was mainly focused on the defending Anti-Aircraft Artillery, but with little success. The last wave hoped to finally flatten the city, but the majority of the aircraft turned away when met with fierce Anti-Aircraft Artillery barrages and night-fighters. The all clear signal was finally sounded at about 06:30 in the morning on the 27th of February.
The damage, compared with the first night, was limited: 21 people were killed and 35 wounded; 59 buildings were destroyed and 135 damaged.
The heavy Anti-Aircraft Artillery fired 14,240 shots and the light Anti-Aircraft Artillery 4,432 shots. Nine Soviet bombers were destroyed. 896 bombers participated in the raid on Helsinki. They dropped 5,182 bombs of which only 290 fell on the city itself.
The damage of the great raids
Thanks to the efficiency of the Anti-Aircraft Artillery and the deception measures that were employed, damage was limited. Only 5% of the bombs fell within the city, and some of these fell in uninhabited park areas causing no damage. In the order of 2,000 bombers participated in the three great raids on Helsinki and dropped approximately 2,600 tons of bombs. Of the 146 people who died, six were soldiers; 356 were wounded. 109 buildings were destroyed. 300 were damaged by shrapnel and 111 were set on fire. The Soviets lost 25 aircraft.
After the war, the Allied Control Commission led by Soviet General Andrei Zhdanov visited Helsinki. Zhdanov was perplexed by the limited damage the city had sustained. The Soviet leadership thought that they had destroyed the city completely and that it was these bombings that had forced the Finns to the peace table.
The Finnish Air Force responded to the air raids with series of night infiltration bombings of APDD airfields near to Leningrad. The first of these tactical attacks was called “The Night of the Bombers” by their Finnish crews. Finnish bombers – Junkers Ju 88s, Bristol Blenheims, and Dornier Do 17s – either tailed or in some cases even joined formation with returning Soviet bombers over the Gulf of Finland and followed these to their bases. Kari Stenman and Kalevi Keskinen describe the action that took place: “On 25th February the air force CO ordered bomber squadrons PLeLv 42 and 46 to attack these bases under suitable conditions. The Russians were to be mislead by the Finnish bombers joining the formations at night over the Gulf of Finland, when returning, say from a mission to Helsinki. Bomber squadron 46 tested the new tactics on the night of 29th February. Four Dornier Do 17 bombers too off and joined a returning Russian bomber stream over the Gulf of Finland.
The bombers flew to Levashovo airfield and invidually bombed the lit airfield at 2230. The bomb rows hit parked aircraft and shelters. Several fires were built up and a strong explosion shook the airfield. The flak opened fire when the Finns were already on their way home.” Each Dornier Do 17 was equipped with 20 x 50 kg bombs with 0,08 second delay. When the bombers took off and flew towards the Gulf of Finland their own AA artillery at Kotka gave them a goodbye greeting, as they didn’t seem to know the identity of these strange bombers flying in middle of the night. The Finnish bombers navigated their way into middle of the Gulf of Finland, all lights off, looking for a suitable Soviet bomber formation… Finding one, the Finnish Dornier pilots joined the enemy bombers unnoticed, slowly creeping their way inside the Soviet formation.
It took a lot of skill and nerves (a lot of nerves, when thinking about it 60 years later) to stay in the formation, as the Soviet pilots might recognize the strange looking bombers at any moment. After all, the German built Dorniers had completely different outlooks to the Soviet bombers, consisting primarily of Li-2s, B-25s, IL-4s and A-20 Bostons, with two squadrons of heavy Pe-8s. After crossing the front lines the Soviet planes suddenly turned their navigation lights on, feeling safe over their own side of the front lines. With sudden inspirations the Finnish pilots followed the example. With all lights on the huge bomber formation consisting of both Soviet and Finnish bombers flew eastwards, more and more inside the enemy territory, shining brightly in the dark sky.
The Soviet bombers arrived at their home field and readied themselves for landing. The Finnish pilots kept their nerve – and actually joined the Soviet night bombers in their landing circuit, still with navigation lights on. One by one the Soviet bombers landed, with the rest – Finns included – approaching the field. The bombers circled the Soviet airfield, brightly lit in the winter night of the northern hemisphere, landing one by one. And finally – the last Soviet bomber had landed and the bright lights of the field welcomed the last four bombers seen circling in the landing pattern. But instead landing these bombers opened their bomb bays, throttled up and filled the field with 80 shrapnel bombs, filling it with destruction…. The sudden attack was immensely successful. With no warning given, the four Finnish bombers gained complete surprise and attacked the Soviet night bomber field with no opposition.
The Soviet anti-aircraft artillery didn’t have any time to react. The bombs hit the plane rows and plane shelters. Several fires and a large explosions were seen. Keskinen-Stenman comments: “Encouraged by the successes, all regiment squadrons were ordered on March 2nd to participate on large scale attack against Leningrad area airfields. The opportunity came on March 9th when APDD bombers returned from the bombardment of Tallinn, Estonian’s capital. Nineteen Finnish bombers from all four squadrons joined several formations between Seiskari and Kronstadt and followed the APDD aircraft to Gorskaya, Levashovo and Kasimovo airfields.”
After the huge success of these four bombers the whole bomber regiment was ordered to readiness. It took until March 9th until the weather and other conditions made new attack possible. The four bomber squadrons of Flying Regiment 4, the whole Finnish Air Force bomber command, sent total of 19 bombers (or 21, depending on source). 10 Blenheims, 5 Dornier Do 17s and 6 Junkers Ju 88s took off for their mission. Once again the bombers infiltrated the Soviet bomber formations. The Blenheims of PLeLv 42 (bomber squadron 42) followed the APDD from north of Seiskari. PLeLv 44 joined the Soviet bombers near Kronstadt fortress island with five Ju-88s. PLeLv 46 joined the Soviet bombers near Kronstadt with five Dorniers. And PLeLv 48s Blenheims followed the Soviet bombers from Kronstadt.
Tactics were similar to the previous mission. Either the bombers joined the Soviet formation and flew alongside them, with landing lights on and joining the landing pattern, or the Finns followed slightly behind. Surprise was total both ways, bombs started to rain on the Soviet airfields when the last bombers were still landing or taxiing on the field. Bombs and the shrapnel struck without warning, Soviet losses of material and personnel were high, as personnel were not sheltered. On some occasions the Finnish bombers attacked while landing operations were still in progress, this must have caused extreme confusion when the airfield defenders saw aircraft still circling the field and couldn’t know whether they are own bombers trying to land or if there are still more Finnish bombers ready to attack.
An example of the effectiveness of these attacks is the bombing of Gorskaja airfield by three Blenheims of PLeLv 48. The three bombers hit their target from 1400 meters, 2140-2145. The planes dropped 28 x 100 kg explosive and 16 x 15 kg firebombs. Hits were observed in the north side of the field with five planes burning. Two more planes were burning in southeast corner of the field, with one storehouse exploding. Paavo Alava, a Blenheim pilot from Bomber Squadron 42, was on the BL-151 on the attack at March 9th. He describes the mission: “Our five planes took off with bellies filled with shrapnel- and firebombs. The tension rose in the cockpit when we were over the Gulf of Finland looking for a suitable enemy formation. There they come! Several planes flying at 500 meters east of Seiskari island, flying eastwards. We performed a quick turn and then as quietly as we could, joined their formation. I could see clearly how the neighbor’s boy sat in his turret, carefree.
A small light was on, he must have already dreamed of the coffee waiting on the ground. There they go! Li-2s and so close that I could shoot them with my machinegun. Sure hit! But I must restrain myself – the mission would fail if they recognize us. Another Soviet bomber formation flew towards us from east – they’re going to bomb Tallinn… Here we were – red stars over Gulf of Finland, with blue swastikas in middle of them. We are over Kronstadt, when the Ruskie planes start flashing signals with red and white lights. We see responding signals from ground. I guess this is permission to come in and land… The planes turn north towards Gorskaja. It was interesting situation – Soviet lead bomber navigates the formation to their home field, which would soon be bombed by enemy bombers flying in the same formation.
The field appears – all lights on. Large numbers of planes are in the landing pattern and more in ground, our four Blenheims dropped their bombs from 1200 meters. One of our Bombardiers remarked “Best regards from the people of Helsinki”. I can see the explosions in the rows of bombers and aircraft shelters. A huge explosion takes place as the fuel storage tanks go up in flames and planes are burning on the ground. This was one of the most successful missions in the history of our squadron. Everything worked perfectly from the beginning to the end.”
Keskinen-Stenman: “At around 2130 they released the bombs on landing airplanes, parked aircraft and runways, causing huge explosions and numerous fires on all airfields. The attacks came as total surprises and only at Levashovo airfield the AAA was on alert, though did not inflict any damage. The airfield strikes continued. On April 4th 34 bombers attacked Kähy airfield north-east from Leningrad, where aerial reconnaissance had observed 57 aircraft. Bombs were dropped at 2030 causing huge explosions. 23 large fires were counted by the retreating bombers. Further strikes were flown during May.” Aarno Ylennysmäki was bombardier in PLeLv 48’s Blenheims and flew a mission in 3rd May against yet another Soviet airfield. He describes the mission: “Vector 270 degrees, five minutes to target, I heard on headphones. The pilot turned and matched altitude to ordered 2900 meters. Then he pushed throttles forward and accelerated to over 300 km/h. At that speed they’d stay a shorter time at the target area over the AAA fire. We would be the 2nd last wave. Behind us follows only the big Stukas, Ju-88s, with their 1000 kg bombs.
Now I saw the first bomb explosions ahead, from the first bomber wave. I took them as my target and then continued to give more exact commands to the pilot as we approached. Two degrees left, straight, one right, here we go, straight ahead. I could see a row of Soviet aircraft in the light from the other burning planes and the row was running straight on the aiming line of the mechanical bombsight. Then the line, aiming dot and the beginning of the plane row connected and I released the bombs. The plane wavered as it got lighter and the signal lights came on showing all the bombs had been released successfully. Only now I had time to watch out and noticed the anti-aircraft fire cloudlets around our plane. Aki, in his turret behind us, was watching downwards when he noticed that a searchlight was trying to find us. He called suddenly “DIVE!”. The pilot pushed his stick almost to the instrument panel and the plane dropped quickly almost thousand meters lower. Then he pulled back and leveled the plane at 1500 meters. The G forces pushed us to our chairs at almost three times our normal weight. A moment later Aki called that a night fighter had flashed past us, just lower. We kept sharp lookout but didn’t see it anymore. The whole regiment returned without any losses. The planes from Onttola base had landed at Immola. The chatter of almost 30 pilots filled the field and we found out, that an enemy night fighter had followed the bombers almost as far as Immola. Next day the Commander of the Air Force arrived to the base and awarded medals to a number of the crews”
Mr. Torsten Sannamo was radio operator / gunner at Bomber Squadron 42 in the time of these attacks. He participated in the bombing of Kähy airfield May 3rd 1944. Mr. Sannamo describes his attack: “Our squadron was the first to arrive to the target. Our bombing altitude was 3100 meters. The enemy AAA fire did not reach our altitude, at least in my case, and my pilot Akke dropped the bomb load on the barracks of the enemy base. From my turret I saw several fires coming up. Our squadron had two groups, both with five planes. Any attacking fighter would have been met with machine gun fire from five guns, but we didn’t see any fighters and we landed at our base at Värtsilä at 2200.” The night of May 18th saw the largest attack against any single target. 42 bombers took off, 41 bombed Mergino airfield right after midnight. The attack was lead by PleLv 44 with their 8 Junkers Ju 88s, with 2 firebomb torpedoes, 1 x 500 kg, 26 x 250 kg and 80 x 50 kg bombs.
Next in the target was PleLv 46 with 9 Dornier Do 17s, altitude 1500 meters, 120 x 50 kg and 30 x 100 kg bombs. Then came the Blenheims, first PleLv 42 with 13 Blenheims, then PleLv 48 with 12 Blenheims. 42 bombed from 1800 meters, PleLv 48 from 1600 meters. The first major night infiltration bombing took place on 9 March 1944 and they lasted until May 1944. Soviet casualties from these raids could not be estimated reliably, however, large scale raids on Helsinki by the APDD were stopped soon after these infiltration attacks began.
Torsten A. Sannamo: Kundina hesassa flygaajana krigussa
Jukka Piipponen: Onttolan punaiset pirutMäkelä, Jukka (1967). Helsinki liekeissä. Helsinki: Werner Söderström osakeyhtiö. p. 20.
Keskinen-Stenman: Suomen Ilmavoimien historia 4 – LeR4
Helsingin suurpommitukset Helmikuussa 1944, p. 22
Jukka O. Kauppinen; Matti Rönkkö (2006-02-27). “Night of the Bombers”. Retrieved 2010-04-12. Cite uses deprecated parameters (
P. Hirvonen: Raskaan sarjan laivueet
help)Martti Helminen, Aslak Lukander: Helsingin suurpommitukset helmikuussa 1944, 2004, WSOY, ISBN 951-0-28823-3
Franz Dörr was a World War 2 Luftwaffe Fighter Ace, born on 10 February 1913 in Mannheim. He was a recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes), which was awarded for success in military leadership or extreme battlefield bravery.
Franz Dörr’s career had relatively humble beginnings. During the first campaigns of the war in Poland and France, Dörr served as a reconnaissance pilot flying the Fieseler Storch. During the spring of 1941, Feldwebel Dörr was transferred to 1.(Erg.)/Jagdgeschwader 3 (JG 3), under the command of Hans von Hahn, based in the Netherlands.
On 1 January 1942, 1.(Erg.)/JG 3 was re-designated 7./Jagdgeschwader 5 (JG 5) and relocated to the Northern front. By the end of 1942, Dörr had increased his victory total to 12. He claimed his 20th victory on 18 August 1943. Dörr was appointed Staffelkapitän of 7./JG 5 on 14 September 1943. By the end of 1943, Dörr had accumulated 37 aerial victories. May 1944 was to see Dörr begin an amazing series of victories: six victories on 16 May, four on 25 May, five on 26 May, four on 15 June, eight on 17 June, five on 27 June, seven on 28 June, five on 4 July and four on 17 July.
Oberleutnant Dörr was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross on 19 August 1944 for 99 victories. On 1 August 1944, Dörr was appointed Gruppenkommandeur of III./JG 5. He claimed another six victories on 23 August to record his 100th through 106th aerial victories. In October 1944, Dörr claimed 22 Russian aircraft shot down, including six on 9 October and five on 21 October.
In November 1944, Franz Dörr with IV./JG 5 returned to Southern Norway. Up to the end of the war, this unit formed the air defence against Allied raids on targets in Norway, principally the submarine bases at Trondheim and Bergen.
Franz Dörr survived the war. He died on 13 October 1972 in Konstanz.
During World War II Franz Dörr was credited with 128 victories in over 437 combat missions. All but one of his victories were claimed over the Eastern front, including 16 Il-2 Stormoviks.
Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 – Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtsteile [The Bearers of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross 1939–1945 — The Owners of the Highest Award of the Second World War of all Wehrmacht Branches] (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6.
Obermaier, Ernst (1989). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Luftwaffe Jagdflieger 1939 – 1945 [The Knight’s Cross Bearers of the Luftwaffe Fighter Force 1941 – 1945] (in German). Mainz, Germany: Verlag Dieter Hoffmann. ISBN 978-3-87341-065-7.
Patzwall, Klaus D.; Scherzer, Veit (2001). Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941 – 1945 Geschichte und Inhaber Band II [The German Cross 1941 – 1945 History and Recipients Volume 2] (in German). Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall. ISBN 978-3-931533-45-8.
Patzwall, Klaus D. (2008). Der Ehrenpokal für besondere Leistung im Luftkrieg [The Honor Goblet for Outstanding Achievement in the Air War] (in German). Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall. ISBN 978-3-931533-08-3.
Scherzer, Veit (2007). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives [The Knight’s Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany According to the Documents of the Federal Archives] (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.
Spick, Mike (1996). Luftwaffe Fighter Aces. Ivy Books. ISBN 0-8041-1696-2.
Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 3, 1. Januar 1944 bis 9. Mai 1945 [The Wehrmacht Reports 1939–1945 Volume 3, 1 January 1944 to 9 May 1945] (in German). München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2.
Kit: Revell 1/32 04665 Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6 Late & Early Version.
Price: £24.99 available from Spot-On Models & Games, Fleet Street, Swindon.
Decals: 2 options.
Reviewer: Richard Reynolds.
Notes: Montex SM32144 1/32 Mini Mask for Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6 (Revell) used.
A great deal has been written about the Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6, therefore, the focus of this article shall be on its service with Jagdgeschwader 5 in Finland and later Norway with a review article of Revell’s excellent 1/32 scale Bf 109G-6 accompanying the history of JG 5. The historical text is attributed to Werner Girbig, the authority on JG 5 during World War II, and my own contribution, giving the unit context in the wider perspective of the war, particularly in Finland.
Jagdgeschwader 5 (JG 5) Eismeer
Was a LuftwaffefighterWing that served during World War II. As the name Eismeer (Ice Sea) implies, it was created to operate in the far North of Europe, namely Norway, Scandinavia and northern parts of Finland, all nearest the Arctic Ocean. Just over two dozen fighter aircraft that once served with JG 5 during the war still survive to the present day, more than from any other combat unit in the Axis air forces of World War II.
JG 5 was formed when elements of the I. Gruppe/JG 77 already stationed in Norway was redesignated as I./JG 5 in January 1942. The II. Gruppe was newly created and III. Gruppe was formed from elements of I./JG 1 in May. The unit had the responsibility for providing fighter-cover over occupied territories under Luftflotte 5, and also to provide fighter support for the Heer (Army) units fighting on the Arctic front in the Murmansk area. JG 5 also had the important task of disrupting traffic on the Murmansk rail-line, as this was the main artery of the Karelian Front defenders.
I. Gruppe was based on the west coast of Norway, in Stavanger, to defend against Allied anti-shipping attacks. II. and III. Gruppe was stationed at Petsamo in Finland, to support operations in the East. JG 5 had to cope with challenges that were unique within the Luftwaffe, from 24-hour days during summer when the sun never set, to the complete darkness and extreme cold of the Polar winter.
By the beginning of Polar Summer of 1942, Luftflotte 5 had been reinforced and by July 1942 possessed a total of 250 serviceable aircraft. Operationally, these were controlled by Fliegerfuhrer Nord-OstObstlt. Walter Lehwess-Litzmann, responsible for operations over the front-line and by Fliegerführer Lofoten, Oberst.Ernst-August Roth, responsible for anti-shipping operations. Due to the air superiority established by II. And III./JG 5 early in the year, Luftflotte 5 enjoyed a numerical and considerable qualitative superiority, and the Soviet opposition amounted to just 170 serviceable combat aircraft. Fliegerführer Nord-Ost also benefited from a Freya early-warning radar network.
During the summer the Soviets brought in new units, including 20 lAP equipped with the new Yak-l and an effective counter to the Bf 109-F. On 19 July 7./JG 5’s Lt. Bodo Helms and Ofw. Franz Dorr claimed one Yak-1 each, and Uffz. Werner Schumacher claimed two fighters shot down. ( Actual Soviet losses were five: a MiG-3, 3 Airacobras and Kittyhawks, and a Hurricane.) In return, JG 5’s Fw.190 pilots Leopold Knier and Uffz. Hans Dobrich (14 victories) were shot down. Both German pilots bailed out. Knier was taken prisoner, but Dobrich walked back to his own lines.
Luftflotte 5 recorded 26 combat losses in July 1942, while the VVS lost 32 of its own aircraft shot down or missing, mainly to JG 5.
On 21 August, 6./JG 5 claimed 14 Soviet fighters shot down. According to Soviet records 2 LaGG-3s and 2 1-16s were shot down over Vayenga, and two aircraft made forced landings. JG 5 lost two Bf 109s, one flown by Staffelkapitän of 6./JG 5, ObIt. Hans Dieter Hartwein (16 Kills) posted missing.
During this period, over claims were made by both sides. JG 5 claimed some 72 victories in August, but Soviet records indicate 24 Soviet aircraft lost with another 7 damaged and 13 aircraft missing, and another 4 were shot down by ground fire.
As 1942 wore on, the increased Allied air pressure towards Norway meant that a part of III. Gruppe and the newly created IV. Gruppe had to be stationed around Trondheim. A second part of III. Gruppe was stationed in Kirkenes, both to provide cover from marauding Soviet Air Force formations, and to help with the intensifying attacks against the Arctic convoys. LeutnantHeinrich Ehrler (6. JG 5) was awarded the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes on 4 September for 64 victories.
By January 1943 I. and IV./JG 5 were stationed in Southern Norway, being equipped with the Fw 190A-2, A-3 and A-4. I./JG 5 had its bases on Lista, Sola, Kjevik and Herdla in the southern part of Norway. IV./JG 5 were distributed on bases around Trondheim, and were equipped with Bf 109Fs and Fw 190As. II. and III. Gruppe faced the Soviets on the Polar Sea Front; at this time they were equipped with the Bf 109F-4. Stab, 4./JG 5 and 6./JG 5 were stationed in Alakurtti, 5., 8., and 9./JG 5 were stationed at Kirkenes and 7./JG 5 was based at Petsamo. As early as March 1943 6. Staffel (commanded by Hpt. Heinrich Ehrler) reached 500 victories.
In early 1943 a Jabo (fighter-bomber) unit was formed within JG 5. 14.(J)/JG 5 was equipped with modified Fw 190A’s and commanded by Hptm. Friedrich-Wilhelm Strakeljahn. In May 1943 the unit was responsible for the sinking of two submarines and two freighters within three days and by the end of 1943 has claimed to have sunk over 39,000 tons of Soviet merchant shipping in over 1,000 sorties.
In June 1943 Oberstlt. Gotthard Handrick was transferred to 8. Jagddivision, and replaced by the Gruppenkommandeur III./JG 5, Major Günther Scholz. Mid 1943 also saw JG 5 at its maximum strength. It consisted of 14 Staffeln; 12 regular single-engine fighter Staffels equipped with the Bf 109 and Fw 190, one Bf 110-equipped Zerstörerstaffel and finally the Jabo unit, 14.(J)/JG 5 with the Fw 190. 1943 was also the last year in which JG 5’s four Gruppen had any sense of operational unity. I and II. Gruppe left Norway and Finland for good in late 1943 to fight the rest of the war away from their parent Geschwader.
In November 1943, I. Gruppe moved to Romania as protection for the vital Ploieşti oil refineries. The gruppe were placed under the command of Luftflotte 1 for the remainder of 1943. Gruppenkommandeur since February 1943 is HauptmannGerhard Wengel. He died defending Sofia in combat with USAAF on 10 January 1944, when, after I./JG 5 fighters destroyed 3 Flying Fortresses, his Me 109 crashed near Radomir. On 26 March 1944 HauptmannHorst Carganico was appointed Gruppenkommandeur of I./JG 5 participating in the Reichsverteidigung (Defense of the Reich). After combat with USAAF B-17’s on 27 May 1944, he was killed when his Bf 109 crashed after hitting high tension cables while forced-landing near Chevry, France. Carganico had claimed 60 kills.
In 1944 I. Gruppe was redesignated as III./JG 6 and sent to France, and it was never replaced. In June – July 1944, GruppenkommandeurTheodor Weissenberger was credited with 25 victories over Normandy (half the total score by the whole unit during this period).
II. Gruppe was transferred to Northern Russia under the command of Luftflotte 1, and then redesignated as IV./JG 4 and sent back to Germany in early 1945.
IV./JG 5 and 14./JG 5 were transferred to the Arctic Front from Southern Norway in August 1944. The Gruppe joined the first of several large air battles commencing on October 9, opposing the final Soviet offensive against Petsamo. When the day was over, III. and IV./JG 5 had claimed 85 Soviet aircraft shot down (among them the 3,000th victory for JG 5) against the loss of only one pilot killed.
A peculiarity of the war was that the Finnish army was forced to demobilise their forces while at the same time fighting to force the German army to leave Finland. German forces retreated to Norway, and Finland managed to uphold its obligations under the Moscow Armistice, although it remained formally at war with the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the British Dominions until the formal conclusion of the Continuation War was ratified by the 1947 Paris peace treaty.
Germany and Finland had been at war with the Soviet Union since June 1941, co-operating closely in the Continuation War. However, as early as the summer of 1943, the German High Command began making plans for the eventuality that Finland might make a separate peace agreement with the Soviet Union. The Germans planned to withdraw their forces northward in order to shield the nickel mines near Petsamo.
During the winter of 1943–1944, the Germans improved the roads from northern Norway to northern Finland by extensive use of prisoner of war (POW) labour in certain areas. Casualties among these POWs were high, in part because many of them had been captured in southern Europe and were still in summer uniform. In addition, the Germans surveyed defensive positions and made plans to evacuate as much materiel as possible from the region and made meticulous preparations for withdrawing their forces. On 9 April 1944 the German withdrawal was named Operation Birke. While in June 1944 the Germans started actively constructing fortifications against an enemy advance from the south, the accidental death of Generaloberst Eduard Dietl on 23 June 1944 brought Generaloberst Lothar Rendulic to the command of the 20th Mountain Army.
A change of Finnish leadership led the Germans, in early August 1944, to believe that Finland would attempt to achieve a separate agreement with the Soviet Union. The Finnish announcement of the cease fire triggered frantic efforts in the German 20th Mountain Army which immediately started Operation Birke and other material evacuations from Finland. Large amounts of materiel were evacuated from southern Finland and harsh punishments were set for any hindering of the withdrawal. Finnish forces were moved to face the Germans, which included the 3rd, 6th, and 11th Divisions, the Armoured Division as well as the 15th and Border Jaeger Brigades.
On 2 September 1944, after the Finns informed the Germans of the cease fire between Finland and the Soviet Union. The cease fire agreement between Finland and the Soviet Union contained requirements that the Finns break diplomatic ties with Germany and publicly demand the withdrawal of all German troops from Finland by 15 September 1944. Any troops remaining after the deadline were to be disarmed and handed over to the Soviet Union.
Even with the massive efforts of the Germans in Operation Birke this proved impossible, the Finns estimating it would take the Germans three months to fully evacuate. The task was further complicated by the Soviet demand that the major part of Finland’s armed forces be demobilized, even as they attempted to conduct a military campaign against the Germans. With the exception of the inhabitants of the Tornio area, most of the civilian population of Lapland (totaling 168,000 people) was evacuated to Sweden and Southern Finland. The evacuation was carried out as a cooperative effort between the German military and Finnish authorities prior to the start of hostilities.
German retreat to Norway
For most practical purposes the war in Lapland ended in early November 1944. In north-eastern Lapland after holding the Finns off at Tankavaara the Germans withdrew swiftly from Finland at Karigasniemi on 25 November 1944. The Finnish Jaeger Brigade pursuing them had by then been depleted in manpower due to demobilization. In northwest Lapland there were on 4 November only 4 battalions of Finnish troops left and by February 1945 a mere 600 men. The Germans continued their withdrawal but stayed in fortified positions first at Palojoensuu (village ~50 km north of Muonio along the Torne river) in early November 1944 from where they moved further to positions along the Lätäseno river (Sturmbock-Stellung) on 26 November. The German 7th Mountain Division held these positions until 10 January 1945 when northern Norway had been emptied and positions at Lyngen fjord were manned. Some German positions defending Lyngen extended over the Finnish side of the border, however no real activity took place before the Germans withdrew from Finland on 25 April 1945.
In November 1944 IV./JG 5 returned to Southern Norway. Up to the end of the war this unit formed the air defence against the Allied raids on targets in Norway, principally the submarine bases at Trondheim and Bergen.
The military casualties of the Lapland War were relatively limited: 774 killed in action (KIA), 262 missing in action and about 3,000 wounded in action (WIA) for the Finnish troops, and 1,200 KIA and about 2,000 WIA for the Germans. 1,300 German soldiers became prisoners of war, and were handed over to the Soviet Union according to the terms of the armistice with the Soviets. There was only one recorded aircraft shot down in aerial combat; on the 10/10/1944, a Finnish Junkers Ju 88A4/R (3860, GL+QM, JK-256) was shot down by a German fighter. The extensive German land mines caused civilian casualties for decades after the war, and almost 100 personnel were killed during demining operations. Hundreds of Finnish women who had been engaged to German soldiers or working for the German military left with the German troops, meeting diverse fates.
The Sinking of the Tirpitz
On 12 November 1944 Avro Lancaster bombers of 9 and 617 Squadrons raided the Tirpitz in Tromsø fjord. Major Ehrler scrambled to intercept at the head of a formation of JG 5 Bf 109G’s, but the fighters were too late. The Tirpitz was sunk with the loss of a thousand sailors. Ehrler was court martialed and sentenced to three years Festungshaft, and stripped of his command. (He was killed flying with JG 7 on 4 April 1945).
Surviving aircraft that served with JG 5
About twenty of JG 5’s Messerschmitt Bf 109s, comprising six E-models, eight 109F-models and seven G-models; and five of JG 5’s Focke-Wulf Fw 190s, four of them A-models and one F-model, survive into the 21st century, believed to be (at about 27 aircraft) the highest number of surviving World War II-era piston-engine German combat aircraft from any single Geschwader-designated operational unit. The oldest existing aircraft of all that served with JG 5 in World War II is the Bf 109E-3 with Werknummer 1983 that was assigned to JG 5’s 5th Staffel, housed at Charleston Aviation Services, Colchester, England in the UK currently undergoing restoration, with the oldest Fw 190 remaining in the world, the A-2 model that served with JG 5, bearing Werknummer 5476, existing in Texas awaiting restoration. The lone surviving Fw 190F model that served with JG 5 is under restoration in Massachusetts to possibly become the first restored, original F-series BMW 801 radial-engine Fw 190 since the end of World War II to fly again in coming years. It was originally being restored by The White 1 Foundation in Kissimmee, Florida, until its 2012 transfer to the Collings Foundation in Stow, Massachusetts. A former IV Gruppe/JG 54 Fw 190A, Werknummer 1227 and initially found nearly intact in a Russian forest near Saint Petersburg, Russia in 1989, was the first-ever BMW 801 powered Fw 190 of any version to fly since World War II, with its own first flight occurring during the summer of 2011 in Washington State, USA.
In the following text, the following Condition odes apply: (A) = Airworthy (D) = Display (R) = Under restoration (S) = Stored = Wreck (U) = Unknown Location
Fw 190 A-2, Wk. Nr. 5476, from JG 5, owned by Wade S. Hayes and currently located in Texas USA. It is thought to be one of the oldest Fw 190s still in existence. (R)
Fw 190 A-3, Wk. Nr. 2219, from IV./JG 5, recovered from underwater location, currently being rebuilt for the Norwegian Air Force Museum. (R)
Fw 190 A-8, Wk. Nr. 350177, from 12./JG 5, owned by Jon W. Houston and located at the Texas Air Museum in Rio Hondo, Texas, USA. (R)
Fw 190 A-8, Wk. Nr. 732183, from 12./JG 5 as flown by Rudi Linz, a German ace with 79 victories, this aircraft was shot down over Norway by a British Mustang during the ‘Black Friday’ raid on 9 February 1945. The aircraft is currently owned by John W. Houston and currently under restoration at the Texas Air Museum. (R)
Fw 190 F-8, Wk. Nr. 931862, from 9./JG 5, “White 1” as flown by Unteroffizier Heinz Orlowski, who examined his former aircraft personally in 2005, during its restoration. Shot down by P-51s over Norway, and is a second surviving Axis aircraft from the February 9, 1945 “Black Friday” engagement. Previously under restoration in Kissimmee, Florida, USA by The White 1 Foundation, transferred to The Collings Foundation in 2012, and is still expected to be returned to airworthy status. (R)
Oberleutnant Rudolf Lüder, 3 October 1943 – unknown
Hauptmann Fritz Stendel, 15 May 1944 – May 1945
13. (Z)/JG 5
Olt Felix Maria Brandis, 25.1.42 – 2.2.42
Olt Max Franzisket, February 1942 – March 1942
Oberleutnant Karl-Fritz Schloßstein, March 1942 – June 1942
Oberleutnant Hans Kirchmeier, June 1943 – September 1943
Hauptmann Herbert Treppe, September 1943 – July 1944
14. (Jabo)/JG 5
Hauptmann Friedrich-Wilhelm Strakeljahn, February 1943 – February 1944.
The kit is supplied in an ‘end-opening’ box, the contents consist of; 13 sprues in medium-density grey injection moulded plastic, 3 clear sprues of assorted canopy components for both the early and late versions of the Bf 109G-6, one decal sheet with decals for two versions including stencil data and a 13 page instruction booklet in black and white in A4 format with an additional A4 colour reference guide. The instructions include a plan of the parts, sections of which are blanked out that are not required for this build. At a glance, this is by no means a basic kit. I am impressed that Revell can produce a kit with this many parts for the money. The kit is well moulded, the detail is crisp with subtle recessed panel lines and the canopies are crystal clear.
Construction begins with the cockpit. This is well detailed with a beautifully moulded cockpit floor, foot pedals and is well furnished with the kind of details and accessories that you would expect from an after-market set. The only supplementary details that I added were some seatbelts and instrument dials from Inscale. The cockpit assembly was firstly primed using grey auto-primer from a rattlecan before being airbrushed using Humbrol 67 grey. The inside of the fuselage was similarly airbrushed, which completes stages 1 to 10.
The wing-spar is added in stage 11, stages 12 to 18 are concerned with constructing the tailwheel assembly and the three-piece engine covers. Place the engine covers to one side until the cockpit has been cemented into the fuselage and left overnight to dry.
At each stage of the build, you are given the option to select parts for either the ‘early’ or ‘late’ versions of the Bf 109G-6. I had elected to build the late version. I would advise cutting away the parts for the version that you aren’t building with side-cutters and putting them in the spares box to avoid any mistakes. Next, the interior parts of the wings were primed and airbrushed with Humbrol 67. Revell have manufactured an excellent undercarriage bay, unusually, the wing sections are in 5 pieces, which look daunting but work very well. Once the wheel-well detail has been completed and the upper-wing inner-sections have been cemented in place, the lower wing is then attached. Once dry, the outer upper wings are glued into place and construction of the tail surfaces begins.
As I had chosen the ‘late’ version, the tall-tail was selected. The horizontal tail surfaces have separate elevators, the fabric detail of which are well detailed. Stages 45 to 49 are concerned with the flaps, ailerons and slats. The ailerons and flaps were modelled in the ‘down’ position as they would be if the aircraft were parked on the ground.
The undercarriage came next. This was slightly unusual in that each undercarriage leg came in two separate halves. Nevertheless, this is an innovative kit although I have to confess that I’d have preferred one-piece units. At this point, I skipped ahead a little by masking off the ‘Erla Haube’ canopy, priming the interior and airbrushing the unit with Humbrol 67 before affixing with white glue.
The remainder of the build consisted of constructing the fuel tank, and adding accessories.
Camouflage & Markings
The aircraft was finished as Bf 109G-6, W.Nr. 411960, Stab III./JG 5, Gossen, May 1945. This Bf 109 was flown by Hauptmann Franz Dörr. The undersides and fuselage halves were airbrushed using Humbrol Matt 247 (RLM 76 Lichtblau). The airframe was primed and pre-shaded with Humbrol 33 black. The top of the fuselage and wings were then masked using Blu-Tac and airbrushed with Humbrol Matt 246 (RLM 74 Grau). The fuselage halves were then airbrushed with Humbrol Matt 245 (RLM 75 Grun) in a ‘mottle’ effect with the airbrush compressor set on low-pressure. Once dry, the airframe was masked and airbrushed with RLM 75 Grun. The under-outer wings were airbrushed with WEM RLM 04 Gelb, yellow theatre bands. Finally, the masking was removed and the airframe was given 2 coats of Johnson’s Klear.
The propeller assembly was the final element of the construction phase. The propeller blades were airbrushed with Humbrol 91 Schwartzgrun and the hub and back plate with Humbrol satin 131 green. After drying, the spinner decal was applied with decal setting solution and left overnight to mould to the spinner hub. The decals were applied and the kit was given a final coat of Johnson’s Klear.
This kit is truly excellent. It is amazing how Revell can produce such a finely detailed kit furnished with so many parts and options for such a low price. This kit comes very highly recommended.
Thanks to Chris and Bob Hext at Spot-On Models & Games UK for the review sample.
There will be a follow-up article coming soon on this aircraft’s pilot Hauptmann Franz Dörr.
Bjørn Hafsten[et al.](1991). Flyalarm – Luftkrigen over Norge 1939-1945, Sem & Stenersen AS. (ISBN 82-7046-058-3).