Tag: Eismeer

The Focke-Wulf FW 190A Vs the Lavochkin La-5

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The FW 190A Vs the La-5 from the German perspective

In the summer of 1943, a brand-new La-5 made a forced landing on a German airfield providing the Luftwaffe with an opportunity to test-fly the newest Soviet fighter. Test pilot Hans-Werner Lerche wrote a detailed report of his experience. He particularly noted that the La-5 excelled at altitudes below 3,000 m (9,843 ft) but suffered from short range and flight time of only 40 minutes at cruise engine power. All of the engine controls (throttle, mixture, propeller pitch, radiator and cowl flaps, and supercharger gearbox) had separate levers which served to distract the pilot during combat to make constant adjustments or risk suboptimal performance. For example, rapid acceleration required moving no less than six levers. In contrast, contemporary German aircraft, especially the BMW 801 radial-engined variants of the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 front line fighter, had largely automatic engine controls with the pilot operating a single lever and electromechanical devices, like the Kommandogerät pioneering engine computer on the radial-engined Fw 190s, making the appropriate adjustments. Due to airflow limitations, the engine boost system (Forsazh) could not be used above 2,000 m (6,562 ft). Stability in all axes was generally good. The authority of the ailerons was deemed exceptional but the rudder was insufficiently powerful at lower speeds. At speeds in excess of 600 km/h (370 mph), the forces on control surfaces became excessive. Horizontal turn time at 1,000 m (3,281 ft) and maximum engine power was 25 seconds.

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The La-5 had a slightly better climb rate and smaller turn radius, however the Fw-190A-8 was faster at all altitudes and had significantly better dive performance. As a result Lerche’s recommendations for Fw190 pilots were to attempt to draw the La-5FN to higher altitudes, to escape attacks in a dive followed by a high-speed shallow climb, and to avoid prolonged turning engagements. Utilizing MW 50 the German fighter had superior performance at all altitudes.

The La-5 had its defects. Perhaps the most serious being the thermal isolation of the engine, lack of ventilation in the cockpit, and a canopy that was impossible to open at speeds over 350 km/h. To make things worse, exhaust gas often entered in the cockpit due to poor insulation of the engine compartment. Consequently, pilots ignored orders and frequently flew with their canopies open.

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In general, Soviet pilots appreciated the La-5 as an effective fighter. “That was an excellent fighter with two cannons and a powerful air-cooled engine”, recalled pilot Viktor M. Sinaisky. “The first La-5s from the Tbilisi factory were slightly inferior, while the last ones from the Gorki plant, which came to us from Ivanovo, were perfect. At first we received regular La-5s, but then we got new ones containing the ASh-82FN engine with direct injection of fuel into the cylinders. It was perfect. Everyone was in love with the La-5. It was easy to maintain too.” Nevertheless La-5 losses were high, the highest of all fighters in service in USSR, not considering those of the Yak-1. In 1941-45, VVS KA lost 2,591 La-5s, 73 in 1942, 1,460 in 1943, 825 the following year and 233 in 1945.

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The La-5 Vs the FW 190A from the Soviet perspective

FW-109A fighter is a single seat low wing metal monoplane with retractable gear and retractable tail-wheel.

German Luftwaffe command used this fighter primarily on the Western front against the British in the beginning of the war. The FW-190 appeared on the Russian front at the end of 1942.

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FW-190 has a 14-cylinder air cooled, twin-row radial engine. The engine fan is located at the front of the fuselage and is connected to the engine spinner. The fan rotates at three times the speed of the propellor. The engine generates 1,460 hp at nominal power and 1,760 hp at full power. It can only work at full throttle for no more than 1 minute.

The fighter has two machine guns and four cannons, situated as follows:

  •  Two synchronous 7.92 mm MG-17 machine guns in upper engine housing. Machine guns fire at 800 rounds per minute. Each machine gun has 750 rounds.
  • Two synchronous MG-151 cannons in the wing by the fuselage, firing through the propeller. Cannons fire at 500 rounds per minute. Each cannon has 250 rounds.
  • Two synchronous MG-FF 20 mm cannons in the wing, firing outside the propeller diameter. Cannons fire at 520 rounds per minute. Each cannon has 90 rounds.

Guns can be fired simultaneously, or from each of the group separately (machine guns or cannons). Gun fire is selected electrically, by pressing buttons on the pilot control column. The cockpit is equipped with gun round counters. In addition, the FW-190 can carry one 250 kg bomb or a fuel tank.

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Armour on the FW-190 is located in the following areas: the pilot is protected by the engine and 60 mm of armored glass. The nose of the aircraft enclosing the oil radiator is made of 5 mm of armored plate; the rest of the nose comprises 3 mm of armor plating.

There is also an 8 mm armored seat that covers the pilot up to the level of the shoulders. There is room at the base and back of the seat for the parachute. A 5 mm armored plate behind the pilot seat fills the full fuselage profile except the area for the parachute depression. A 12 mm headrest protects pilot’s head and shoulders. There is no armor protecting pilot from the side or below.

Two fuel tanks are located directly under the pilot’s cabin, starting from the rudder pedals and back for a total length of 1.9 meters. Both fuel tanks have a total fuel capacity of 520 liters.

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Russian La-5 pilots that fought the FW-190 successfully are certain that an La-5 has a faster climb-rate and smaller turn-radius than the FW-190. The FW-190s are marginally faster at higher altitudes and possess a better dive rate. Do not engage a FW-190 which has a superior altitude to you, in this situation, the FW-190 is likely to dive from altitude and attempt to attack from the rear in one pass, using the element of surprise. The La-5 has a better performance than the FW-190 at lower altitudes; draw the FW-190 into a turning fight at altitudes below 4,000 meters (13,000 ft.) where the La-5 can easily outmaneuver the FW-190.

The following information about German tactics is derived from experience of our pilots that fought the FW-190:

The enemy mostly stays in obsolete formations when flying, i.e. closely spaced pairs, etc.

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Germans will position their fighters at different altitudes, especially when expecting to encounter our fighters. FW-190 will fly at 1,500-2,500 meters and will attempt to close with our fighters hoping to get behind them and attack suddenly. If that maneuver is unsuccessful they will even attack head-on relying on their superb firepower.

The FW-190 will commit to the fight even if our battle formation is not broken, preferring left turning fights. There have been cases of such turning fights lasting quite a long time, with multiple planes from both sides involved in each engagement.

FW-190 will dive, sometimes inverted, when threatened by our fighters getting on his six. There has never been an occasion of FW-190s attempting to climb away in such situations.

FW-190s will most often fight in separate pairs. The leader will roll and dive to attract our fighters when they get close. The wingman usually climbs away and watches our planes. If our fighters dive after the leader, the wingman will ‘boom-n-zoom’ our fighters and attempt to form up with his leader.

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Enemy fighter tactics are mostly built on individual engagements. This fact has been confirmed by captured FW 190 pilots. Thus, Germans will try everything to break up our formations or at least force single planes to break off from the main groups. As one captured pilot said, “we count on the slow ones”.

Captured FW-190 pilots are familiar with specifics of all our planes, and consider Yak-1, Yak-9 and La-5 to be superior to theirs. It must be however pointed out that FW-190s have not been fighting on our front for long and thus their tactics are still being developed. They are more than likely to change drastically very soon.

Yak-1s, Yak-7s and La-5s fighting the FW-190 have all the factors necessary to win. Our fighters are almost as fast as the FW-190, turn and climb better and have formidable firepower.

The FW-190 has a lot of vulnerable areas. The pilot is exposed during all but the perfect 12 and 6 o’clock attacks. The fuel tanks are not at all protected and are located directly under the pilot. The area in front of the engine housing the oil tank and radiator is most vulnerable as well. The engine fan works at extremely high rotations, if the oil system or fan is knocked out, it will inevitably cause the engine to overheat and flame out or malfunction.

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The electric control circuit for weapons selection is located behind the pilot armor and is not protected. Damage to it will prevent all guns from firing.

The best position for attacking the FW-190 is from its 3 or 9 o’clock. The standard Luftwaffe inverted dive evasion tactic is the most beneficial maneuver to us as it immediately exposes all of the FW-190’s vulnerable areas, namely the fuel tanks and the pilot. Numerous FW-190 fighters have been shot down precisely at the moment they went inverted; planes usually explode in the air when shot down in this manner. It is however not at all easy to catch the FW-190 right at the precise moment it goes inverted.

The rest of the tactics when fighting FW-190 should be no different from any other enemy fighter. The element of surprise and altitude advantage is of course very important, and all other important tactics mentioned above should be considered as well.

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Editor’s Note:

It is unsurprising to observe that both the Germans in their commentary on the La-5 and the Russians in their views on the Focke-Wulf 190A favour their own aircraft’s capabilities in terms of performance, power and armament.

An impartial observer would perhaps conclude that: the La-5 possessed a superior rate of climb and tighter turning radius; whereas the Focke-Wulf 190A held an advantage in speed at all altitudes (although this could be considered a fraction faster when comparing the specifications below) and a superior diving rate from altitude.

Despite both reports, the FW 190A does enjoy an advantage over the La-5 in terms of firepower. The La-5 carries 2 × 20 mm ShVAK cannons with 200 rounds each whilst the FW 190A has 4 × 20 mm MG 151/20 E cannon with 250 rpg, synchronized in the wing roots and 140 rpg free-firing outboard in mid-wing mounts in addition it has 2 × 13 mm (.51 in) synchronized MG 131 machine guns with 475 rpg over the engines which gives the aircraft a considerable ‘punch’.

However, it is my consideration, that on balance, both aircraft are fairly evenly matched and the outcome of any one-on-one engagement would be determined by the quality of the pilots and of tactics employed by the respective combatants.

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Specifications

The Focke-Wulf FW 190A-8

General characteristics

Performance

Armament

  • Guns: * 2 × 13 mm (.51 in) synchronized MG 131 machine guns with 475 rpg
  • 4 × 20 mm MG 151/20 E cannon with 250 rpg, synchronized in the wing roots and 140 rpg free-firing outboard in mid-wing mounts.

FW 190A-8 3-view

 

The Lavochkin La-5

General characteristics

Performance

Armament

  • 2 × 20 mm ShVAK cannons, 200 rounds each
  • 2 × bombs up to 100 kg (220 lb) each.

La-5 3-view

 

References

Lavochkin La-5

  • Abanshin, Michael E. and Nina Gut. Fighting Lavochkin, Eagles of the East No.1. Lynnwood, WA: Aviation International, 1993. ISBN unknown.
  • Bergström, Christer. Bagration to Berlin – The final Air Battle in the East 1944-45. Hersham UK, Classic Publications, 2008. ISBN 978-1-903223-91-8.
  • Bergström, Christer. Kursk – The Air Battle: July 1943. London: Chevron/Ian Allen, 2007. ISBN 978-1-903223-88-8.
  • Bridgman, Leonard (ed.). “The La-5”. Jane’s Fighting Aircraft of World War II. London: Studio, 1946. ISBN 1-85170-493-0.
  • Drabkin, Artem. The Red Air Force at War: Barbarossa and the Retreat to Moscow – Recollections of Fighter Pilots on the Eastern Front. Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK: Pen & Sword Military, 2007. ISBN 1-84415-563-3.
  • Glancey, Jonathan. Spitfire: The Illustrated Biography. London: Atlantic books, 2006. ISBN 978-1-84354-528-6.
  • Gordon, Yefim. Lavochkin’s Piston-Engined Fighters (Red Star Volume 10). Earl Shilton, Leicester, UK: Midland Publishing Ltd., 2003. ISBN 1-85780-151-2.
  • Gordon, Yefim and Dmitri Khazanov. Soviet Combat Aircraft of the Second World War, Volume One: Single-Engined Fighters. Earl Shilton, Leicester, UK: Midland Publishing Ltd., 1998. ISBN 1-85780-083-4.
  • Green, William. Warplanes of the Second World War, Volume Three: Fighters. London: Macdonald & Co. (Publishers) Ltd., 1961 (seventh impression 1973). ISBN 0-356-01447-9.
  • Green, William and Gordon Swanborough. WW2 Aircraft Fact Files: Soviet Air Force Fighters, Part 1. London: Macdonald and Jane’s Publishers Ltd., 1977. ISBN 0-354-01026-3.
  • Liss, Witold. The Lavochkin La 5 & 7 (Aircraft in Profile number 149). Leatherhead, Surrey, UK: Profile Publications Ltd., 1967.
  • Stapfer, Hans-Heiri. La 5/7 Fighters in Action (Aircraft in Action Number 169). Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 1998. ISBN 0-89747-392-2.
  • Stapfer, Hans-Heiri. LaGG Fighters in Action (Aircraft in Action Number 163). Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 1996. ISBN 0897473647
  • Veštšík, Miloš and Jirí Vraný. Lavočkin La-5 (in Czech/English). Prague, Czech Republic: MBI Books, 2006. ISBN 80-86524-10-8.

Focke-Wulf FW 190A

  • A Butcher Bird’s Tale: the Story of the Focke Wulf 190 (DVD). Retrieved: 3 April 2008.
  • Caldwell, Donald L. JG 26: Top Guns of the Luftwaffe. New York: Ivy Books, 1991. ISBN 0-8041-1050-6.
  • Caldwell, Donald L. The JG26 War Diary, Vol. 2: 1943–1945. London: Grub Street Publishing, 1998. ISBN 1-898697-86-8.
  • Caldwell, Donald and Richard Muller. The Luftwaffe over Germany: Defense of the Reich. London: Greenhill Books, 2007. ISBN 978-1-85367-712-0.
  • Caygill, Peter. Combat Legend Focke-wulf Fw 190. Ramsbury, UK: Airlife Publishing Limited, 2002, ISBN 978-1-84037-366-0
  • Donald, David, ed. Warplanes of the Luftwaffe. London: Aerospace Publishing, 1994. ISBN 1-874023-56-5.
  • Forsyth, Robert. JV 44 The Galland Circus. Burgess Hill, Sussex, UK: Classic Publications, 1996. ISBN 0-9526867-0-8.
  • Griehl, Manfred. Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Varianten: Flugzeug Profile 45. Stengelheim, Germany: UNITEC Medienvertrieb E.K., 2008. ISBN 969-0-00005-295-9.
  • Green, William and Gordon Swanborough. The Focke-Wulf 190: Fw 190. Newton Abbot, UK: David & Charles, 1976. ISBN 0-7153-7084-7.
  • Gurney, Gene (Major, USAF). The War in the Air: A Pictorial History of World War II Air Forces in Combat. New York: Bonanza Books, 1962.
  • Jackiewicz, Jacek and Robert Bock. Captured Butcherbirds, Vol. 1. Warsaw, Poland: Ajaks, 2009. ISBN 978-8-39249-142-2.
  • Jackson, Robert. Aircraft of World War II: Development, Weaponry, Specifications. Edison, New Jersey: Chartwell Books, 2003. ISBN 0-7858-1696-8.
  • Janowicz, Krzysztof (with Neil Page). Focke-Wulf Fw 190, Vols 1 & II. London: Kagero Publications, 2001. ISBN 83-89088-11-8.
  • Jessen, Morten. Focke-Wulf 190: The Birth of the Butcher Bird 1939–1943. London: Greenhill Books, 1998. ISBN 1-85367-328-5.
  • Lowe, Malcolm. Production Line to Front Line #5, Focke-Wulf Fw 190. London: Osprey, 2003. ISBN 1-84176-438-8.
  • Manrho, John and Ron Putz. Bodenplatte: The Luftwaffe’s Last Hope: The Attack on Allied Airfields, New Year’s Day 1945. Ottringham, UK: Hikoki Publications, 2004. ISBN 1-902109-40-6.
  • Mondey, David. The Hamlyn Concise Guide to Axis Aircraft of World War II. London: Bounty Books, 2006. ISBN 0-7537-1460-4.
  • Nowarra, Heinz J. The Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Fighters, Bombers, Ground Attack Aircraft. West Chester, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publications, 1991. ISBN 0-88740-354-9.
  • Page, Neil. “Focke Wulf 190: Part One-the Fw 190A-series fighter variants.” Scale Aircraft Modelling, Vol. 24, No. 9, November 2002.
  • Page, Neil. “The Sturmgruppen—Bomber Destroyers 1944.” Scale Aircraft Modelling, March 2001.
  • Price, Alfred. Focke Wulf Fw 190 in Combat. London: Sutton Publishing, 2000. ISBN 0-7509-2548-5.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lapland War – The end of the uneasy alliance between Finland and Germany during World War II.

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The final stages of the Continuation War

On the 9th of June 1944, the Soviet Union opened a major offensive against Finnish positions on the Karelian Isthmus and in the area of Lake Ladoga. On the 21.7 km (13.5 mi)-wide breakthrough segment the Red Army had concentrated 3,000 guns and mortars. In some places, the concentration of artillery pieces exceeded 200 guns for every kilometer of the front (one every 5 m (5.5 yd)). On that day, Soviet artillery fired over 80,000 rounds along the front on the Karelian Isthmus. On the second day of the offensive, the Soviet forces broke through the Finnish front lines. The Soviets penetrated the second line of defence by the sixth day. The Soviet pressure on the Karelian Isthmus forced the Finns to reinforce the area. This allowed the second Soviet offensive in Eastern Karelia to meet less resistance and to capture Petrozavodsk by 28 June 1944. According to Erickson (1991), James Gebhardt (1989), and Glantz (1998), the main objective of the Soviet offensives was to force Finland from the war.

The front line on 4 September 1944, during the last days of the war.
The front line on 4 September 1944, during the last days of the war.

German help for Finland

Finland especially lacked modern anti-tank weaponry which could stop Soviet heavy tanks, and German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop offered these in exchange for a guarantee that Finland would not seek a separate peace again. On the 26th of June, President Risto Ryti gave this guarantee as a personal undertaking, which he intended to last only for the remainder of his presidency. In addition to delivering thousands of hand-held Panzerfaust and Panzerschreck antitank weapons, Hitler sent the 122nd Infantry Division, the half-strength 303rd Assault Gun Brigade, and Luftwaffe Detachment Kuhlmey to provide temporary support in the most threatened defense sectors.

Junkers Ju-87D-5, Stab 3/SG 3 Staffelkapitan Theo Baurle, Detachment Kuhlmey, Immola, Finland 1944
Junkers Ju-87D-5, Stab 3/SG 3 Staffelkapitan Theo Baurle, Detachment Kuhlmey, Immola, Finland 1944.

With new supplies from Germany, the Finnish army halted the Soviet advance in early July 1944. At this point, the Finnish forces had retreated about one hundred kilometres, which brought them to approximately the same line of defence they had held at the end of the Winter War. This line was known as the VKT-line (short for “Viipuri–Kuparsaari–Taipale“; it ran from Viborg to the River Vuoksi to Lake Ladoga at Taipale), where the Finnish Army stopped the Soviet offensive in the Battle of Tali-Ihantala in spite of Soviet numerical and materiel superiority. The front stabilized once again.

Finland’s exit from the war

A few battles were fought in the latter stages of the war. The last of them was the Battle of Ilomantsi, a Finnish victory, from 26 July to 13 August 1944. The struggle to contain the Soviet offensive was exhausting Finnish resources. The German support under the Ryti-Ribbentrop Agreement had prevented a disaster, but it was believed the country would not be able to hold another major attack. The Soviet advances against German Army Groups Center and North further complicated matters for Finland.

With the front being stable so far, it was a good time for Finland to seek a way out of the war. At the beginning of August President Ryti resigned to allow Finland to sue for peace again, which the new government did in late August. The Soviet peace terms were harsh, but the $600,000,000 reparations demanded in the spring were reduced to $300,000,000, most likely due to pressure from the United States and Britain. However, after the ceasefire the Soviets insisted that the payments should be based on 1938 prices, which doubled the amount. This sum constituted half of Finland’s annual gross domestic product in 1939.

The Moscow Armistice

The Moscow Armistice was signed between Finland on one side and the Soviet Union and United Kingdom on the other side on September the 19th, 1944, ending the Continuation War. The Armistice restored the Moscow Peace Treaty of 1940, with a number of modifications.

The final peace treaty between Finland and many of the Allies was signed in Paris in 1947.

Conditions for peace

The conditions for peace were similar to what had been agreed in the Moscow Peace Treaty of 1940: Finland was obliged to cede parts of Karelia and Salla, as well as certain islands in the Gulf of Finland. The new armistice also handed all of Petsamo to the Soviet Union, and Finland was further compelled to lease Porkkala to the Soviet Union for a period of fifty years (the area was returned to Finnish control in 1956).

Areas ceded by Finland to the Soviet Union following the Moscow Armistice.
Areas ceded by Finland to the Soviet Union following the Moscow Armistice.

Harsher conditions included Finnish payment of $300,000,000 ($4 billion in today’s dollars) in the form of various commodities over six years to the Soviet Union as war reparations. Finland also agreed to legalise the Communist Party of Finland (after it had made some changes to the party rules) and ban the ones that the Soviet Union considered fascist. Further, the individuals that the Soviets considered responsible for the war had to be arrested and put on trial, the best-known case being that of Risto Ryti. The armistice compelled Finland to drive German troops from its territory, leading to the Lapland War 1944–45.

Risto Ryti - 5th President of Finland.
Risto Ryti – 5th President of Finland.

The Lapland War (Finnish: Lapin sota; Swedish: Lapplandskriget; German: Lapplandkrieg) was fought between Finland and Nazi Germany from September 1944 to April 1945 in Finland’s northernmost Lapland Province. While the Finns saw this as a separate conflict much like the Continuation War, German forces considered their actions to be part of the Second World War. 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.

Prelude

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.

Generaloberst Lothar Rendulic.
Generaloberst Lothar Rendulic.

Change of Finnish leadership led the Germans already 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 Jäger Brigades.

The Baltic

On 2 September 1944, after the Finns informed the Germans of the cease fire between Finland and the Soviet Union, the Germans started seizing Finnish shipping. However since this action resulted in a Finnish decision not to allow ships to sail from Finland to Germany and nearly doomed the material evacuations of Operation Birke it was rescinded. After the order was called off, the Finns in turn allowed Finnish shipping to be used to hasten the German evacuations. The first German naval mines were laid in Finnish seaways on 14 September 1944, allegedly against Soviet Naval Forces, though since Finland and Germany were not yet in open conflict at the time the Germans warned the Finns of their intent.

On 15 September 1944 the German navy attempted to seize the island of Hogland in Operation Tanne Ost. This immediately prompted the Finns to remove their shipping from the joint evacuation operation. The last German convoy departed from Kemi on 21 September 1944 and was covered with both submarines and later (south of Åland) by German cruisers. After the landing attempt, a Finnish coastal artillery fort prevented German netlayers from passing into the Baltic Sea at Utö on 15 September as they had been ordered to intern the German forces. However already on 16 September a German naval detachment consisting of the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen escorted by 5 destroyers arrived to Utö. The German cruiser stayed out of range of the Finnish 152 mm guns and threatened to open fire with its artillery that outdistanced the Finnish guns unless the Finns allowed the German netlayers to pass. The Finns permitted the netlayers to pass due to the threat posed by the heavy cruiser.

German cruiser Prinz Eugen.
German cruiser Prinz Eugen.

A Finnish landing operation started on 30 September 1944 when three transport ships (SS Norma, SS Fritz S and SS Hesperus) without any escorts departed from Oulu towards Tornio. They arrived on 1 October and managed to disembark their troops without any interference. Also a second wave of four ships on 2 October and a third wave – three ships strong – managed to disembark largely without trouble with only a single ship being lightly damaged by German dive bombers. On 4 October bad weather prevented Finnish air cover from reaching Tornio which left the fourth landing wave vulnerable to German Stuka dive bombers which scored several hits sinking SS Bore IX and SS Maininki alongside the pier. The fifth wave on 5 October suffered only light shrapnel damage despite being both shelled from shore and bombed. The first Finnish naval vessels Hämeenmaa, Uusimaa, VMV 15 and VMV 16 arrived with the sixth wave just in time to witness German Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor bombers attacking the shipping at Tornio with Henschel Hs 293 glide bombs without results. Arrival of naval assets made it possible for the Finns to safely disembark heavy equipment which played an important role during the Battle of Tornio.

Focke-Wulf FW-200 Condor
Focke-Wulf FW-200 Condor

Sailors on Finnish ships in German-held ports, including Norway, were interned, and German submarines sank several Finnish civilian vessels. German submarines also had some success against Finnish military vessels, including the sinking of the minelayer Louhi. The most dire result of Finland concluding the Moscow Armistice with the Soviet Union was that now Soviet naval forces could circumvent the existing German naval mine barriers located on the Gulf of Finland by using the Finnish coastal seaways. This allowed Soviet submarines now based in the Finnish archipelago to gain early access to the German shipping in the southern Baltic Sea.

Lapland

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.

Finnish Order of Battle:

75,000 Troops, comprising;

  • 3rd Division
  • 6th Division
  • 11th Division
  • 15th Brigade
  • Border Jäger Brigade
  • JR 50 Infantry Regiment
  • JR 53 Infantry Regiment

Notes

  1. Most of the 75,000 Finns served until the end of October 1944, but the number dropped to 12,000 men in December 1944.
  2. The Finnish Jäger Brigade was formed during the Civil War in Finland (27th January to May 1918) the Jägers were engaged on the “White” (non-communist) side in the war and formed the nucleus of the new Finnish Army. In Finland, these 2,000 volunteers were simply called The Jägers (Finnish pl. Jääkärit).

 

Finnish Jäger troops on patrol.
Finnish Jäger Ski-troops on patrol.

Finnish Armoured Division

  • HQ of the Armoured Division
    • Armoured Brigade
      • 1st Armoured Battalion (T-26, T-26E light-tanks), Armoured car company with FAIs and BA-10s
      • 2nd Armoured Battalion (T-26, T-26E, a heavy tank company with KV-1s, T-28s and T-34 medium tanks)
      • Armoured AA Battery (Landsverk Anti II)
      • Assault Gun Battalion (StuG IIIG)
      • Armoured Training Battalion (older types and a few T-26s)
    • Jaeger Brigade
      • 2nd Jaeger Battalion
      • 3rd Jaeger Battalion
      • 4th Jaeger Battalion
      • 5th Jaeger Battalion
      • Armoured Jaeger Battalion (towed 50 mm and 75 mm AT guns)
    • 14th Heavy Artillery Battalion
    • 6th Signals Battalion
    • 2nd Pioneer Battalion
    • Separate Armour Company (BT-42 assault-gun)
Finnish Armoured Division STUG III.
Finnish Armoured Division STUG III.

Ilmavoimat

  • Hävittäjälentolaivue 26 (HLeLv 26 – Flying Squadron 26) Brewster 239, 13 Aircraft.
  • Lentolaivue 28 (LLv.28) and TleLv 13, Mörkö-Moranes took part in the Lapland War as reconnaissance and ground attack aircraft. 41 aircraft were converted from remaining stocks of M.S. 406 and 410 fighters. 13+ aircraft.
  • Tiedustelulentolaivue 12 (TLe.Lv.12 -Reconnaissance Squadron 12) formed on the 14th of February 1944. The Squadron flew six V.L. Myrsky Fighters during the Lapland War. The Fighter-Reconnaissance Squadron 12 Myrsky aircraft detached to Fighter Squadron 26 and moved to Kemi on the 23rd of October 1944. Three days later a two-ship Myrsky section flew the first war mission for the aircraft type in the Lapland War when they flew a recce mission to the Muonio-Enontekiö area. The Myrskys flew a few missions in November, when one aircraft was lost in a forced landing after take-off. The Myrskys returned to their peace time base in early 1945.
  • Lentoryhmä Sarko, Pommituslentolaivue 44 (PLe.Lv.44), Junkers Ju 88A-4/R, 10 Aircraft.
  • LeR 4, Pommituslentolaivue 44, Dornier Do 17 Z-1, 2 and 3, 10 Aircraft.
  • Finnish air assets were supported by 617 aircraft of the 7th Soviet Air Army.
Brewster B.239
Brewster B.239

Notes

  1. Finland’s 159 Messerschmitt Bf 109’s were not committed to the campaign due to concerns that confusion would ensue in aerial combat with Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6 aircraft.
  2. On the 3rd of October 1944 During the War in Lapland, HLeLv 26 Brewster’s covered the Finnish landings in Tornio and achieved the final aerial victories of the Brewster 239. Six Brewster 239s intercepted 12 Junkers Ju-87D’s shooting down two. The main role of Brewster’s during this war was reconnaissance, and no aerial opposition was met. Because of highly accurate radar-guided German FLAK heavy casualties were suffered. 4 Brewster’s were shot down by FLAK and 2 pilots were killed. Two aircraft were lost in accidents. In January 1945 the squadron was disbanded and all seven surviving Brewster’s were sent for refurbishment at the State Aircraft Factory – Valtion Lentokonehtedas (VL).
  3. Two Finnish Junkers Ju-88A-4/Rs were lost during the Lapland War. Wrk. No. 0883860, GL+QM, delivered to the Ilmavoimat on 20/08/43, was shot down by a German Fighter on 10/10/44. Unit: LeLv 44. The second, Wrk No. 0883863, KG+KE, delivered 11/04/43, was shot down by German AAA on 15/10/44. Unit: LeLv/PLeLv 44.

Wermacht Order of Battle:

20th Mountain Army: 214,000 Troops (including units stationed in Norway)

  • XVIII Mountain Corps; SS Mountain Division North and the 7th Mountain Division
  • XXXVI Mountain Corps; 169th Infantry Division and the 163rd Infantry Division
  • XIX Mountain Corps; 2nd Mountain Division, 6th Mountain Division, 210th Infantry Division + 4 infantry regiments.
Troops of the 20th Mountain Army Gebirgsjäger.
Troops of the 20th Mountain Army Gebirgsjäger.

Notes

  1. Gebirgsjäger (German pronunciation: [ɡəˈbɪʁksˌjɛːɡɐ]) are the light infantry part of the alpine or mountain troops (Gebirgstruppe) of Germany and Austria. The word Jäger (meaning “hunter” or “huntsman”) is a characteristic term used for light-infantry or light-infantryman in German-speaking military context.

AOK Norwegen (Army Headquarter Norway)

(Reserves: 196 Infantry Division, 214 Infantry Division, 280 Infantry Division, Tank brigade Norway)

  • LXXI Corps; 230th Infantry Division, 270th Infantry Division and the 199th Infantry Division
  •  XXXIII Corps; 14 Luftwaffe Field Division, 702nd Infantry Division and the 295th Infantry Division
  • LXX Corps; 269th Infantry Division, 280th Infantry Division, 274th Fortress Division and the 710th Infantry Division

Notes

  1. Most of the 214,000 Germans served until the end of August 1944, but the number dropped quickly as the Germans withdrew or proceeded to Norway.

Luftwaffe

All Luftwaffe units had left Central and Southern Finland at the signing of the Armistice Agreement between Finland and the Soviet Union in Moscow on September the 19th 1944. Detachment Kuhlmey, based at immola airfield had left by the 23rd of July, Schlachtgeschwader 3s Junkers Ju-87Ds left Pori airfield the same day. I./JG 302 Messerschmitt Bf 109G6/R6 Nightfighters returned to defence of the Reich duties on May the 15th 1944. The remainder of Luftwaffe units based in Finland were either re-assigned to the Eastern Front to bolster German efforts to stop the Soviet advance; sent to France in order to fight Allied Forces in Normandy or re-located to Norway where German units continued to fight Soviet Air Regiments which were clearing the remainder of the German forces based in Finland from the Arctic. German units in Northern Norway undertook missions against the Soviet Air Force from 12 Air-bases, including; Bardufoss, Bodø and Kirkenes.

Luftlotte 5 (Air Fleet 5, North)

During 1944 Luftlotte 5 was reorganized; Nord Ost became, briefly Ff Eismeer before becoming Ff 3; Nord West became Ff 4; and Lofoten became Ff 5.

On the ground LgK Norwegen became Kommandierende General der Luftwaffe (K.G.) in Norwegen, covering ground and air formations in Norway, while LgK Finnland became K.G. Finnland, with a similar remit in Finland and, later, northern Norway.

As the Soviets advanced North and Westwards from 1944, these organizations became increasingly irrelevant as German forces were forced to retreat and their air strength diminished. By the end of World War II they existed largely on paper.

Jagdgeshwader 5 ‘Eismeer’ (No. 5 Squadron ‘Ice Sea’);

Approximately 27-36 Focke-Wulf 190A-8 and Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6 Aircraft.

III./JG 5 and IV./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.

On 1 August 1944 Major Heinrich Ehrler was promoted to Geschwaderkommodore of JG 5.

Prior to the start of the Soviet Offensive, the defending Germans had been ordered to abandon Petsamo on 15 October and Kirkenes by the beginning of November.

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.

Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6, W.Nr. 411960, Stab III./JG 5
Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6, W.Nr. 411960, Stab III./JG 5

Autumn maneuvers

As the Finns wanted to avoid devastation to their country, and the Germans wished to avoid hostilities, both sides wanted the evacuation to be performed as smoothly as possible. By 15 September 1944 a secret agreement had been reached by which the Germans would make their withdrawal timetable known to the Finns, who would then allow the Germans to destroy roads, railroads and bridges. In practice, friction soon arose both from the destruction caused by the Germans and from the pressure exerted on the Finns by the Soviets, and there were several incidents between the armies. The Finns deployed their 3rd Division, 11th Division, and 15th Brigade to the coastal area, the 6th and the Armoured Division to Pudasjärvi, and the Border Jaeger Brigade to the eastern part of the country.

The village of Ivalo destroyed by Germans during the Lapland War.
The village of Ivalo destroyed by Germans during the Lapland War.

Initial clashes

The first open violence between Finnish forces and the 20th Mountain Army took place 20 km southwest of Pudasjärvi, at around 08:00 on the 28th of September 1944, when Finnish advance units first issued a surrender demand then opened fire on a small German rearguard contingent. This took the Germans by surprise, as the Finns had previously agreed to warn them should they be forced to take hostile action against them. After the incident partial contact was re-established: the Germans told the Finns they had no interest in fighting them, but would not surrender. The next incident took place on 29 September at a bridge crossing the Olhava river between Kemi and Oulu. Finnish troops, who had been ordered to take the bridge intact, were attempting to disarm explosives rigged to the bridge when the Germans detonated them, demolishing the bridge and killing the Finns’ company commander, among others. On the 30th of September the Finns attempted to encircle the Germans at Pudasjärvi by way of flanking movements through the forests, and managed to cut the road leading to the north. By then, however, the bulk of the German force at Pudasjärvi had already left, leaving behind only a small detachment which, after warning the Finns, blew up a munitions dump.

Finnish troops under fire from the German 20th Mountain Division.
Finnish troops under fire from the German 20th Mountain Division.

Fighting intensified on 1 October 1944, when the Finns launched a risky seaborne invasion near Tornio, on the border with Sweden. The landing had originally been planned as a diversionary raid, with the main assault to take place at Kemi, where the Finnish battalion-sized Detachment Pennanen (fi. Osasto Pennanen) was already in control of important industrial facilities on the island of Ajos. Various considerations – including a far stronger German garrison at Kemi, already alerted by local attacks – made the Finns change the target to Röyttä (Tornio’s outer port). The Finns initially landed the 11th Infantry Regiment (JR 11), which, together with a Civic Guard-led uprising at Tornio, managed to secure both the port and most of the town, as well as the important bridges over the Torne River; however, the attack soon bogged down due to disorganization – some of it caused by alcohol looted from German supply depots – and stiffening resistance. During the ensuing Battle of Tornio the Germans fought hard to retake the town, as it formed an important transportation link between the two roads running parallel to the Kemijoki and Tornionjoki rivers, respectively. Their forces initially consisted of Division Kräutler (of roughly reinforced-regiment strength) and were later reinforced with an armored company (2nd company of Panzer Abteilung 211), two infantry battalions, and the Machine Gun Ski Brigade Finnland. The Finns reinforced their troops with two infantry regiments (JR 50 and JR 53) and managed to hold the area, beating back several German counterattacks. Heavy combat lasted for a week, until 8 October 1944, when the Germans were finally forced to withdraw.

The bridge over Torne river today.
The bridge over the Torne river today.

Meanwhile Finnish troops were advancing overland from Oulu towards Kemi, the 15th Brigade making slow progress even in the face of meager German resistance. Their advance was hampered by the efficient destruction of roads and bridges by the withdrawing Germans, as well as a lack of fighting spirit in both Finnish troops and their leaders. The Finns attacked Kemi on 7 October 1944, attempting to encircle the Germans with a frontal attack by the 15th Brigade and an attack from the rear by Detachment Pennanen. Strong German resistance, civilians in the area, and ‘liberated’ alcohol prevented the Finns from fully succeeding in trapping all the Germans. Though Finnish forces took several hundred prisoners, they failed to prevent the Germans from demolishing the important bridges over the Kemijoki river once they began their withdrawal on 8 October.

Further action in The Lapland War

As Allied war efforts against Germany continued, the leadership of the 20th Mountain Army, as well as the OKW, came to believe it would be perilous to maintain positions in Lapland and in northern Norway east of Lyngen, and began preparations for withdrawal. After long delays, Hitler accepted the proposal on 4 October 1944, and it was codenamed Operation Nordlicht on 6 October 1944. Instead of a gradual withdrawal from southern Lapland into fortified positions further to the north while evacuating all material, as in Operation Birke, Operation Nordlicht called for a rapid and strictly organized withdrawal directly behind Lyngen fjord in Norway while under pressure from harassing enemy forces.

As the Germans withdrew, movement was mostly limited to the immediate vicinity of Lapland’s three main roads, which constricted military activities considerably. In general the actions followed a pattern in which advancing Finnish units would encounter German rearguards and attempt to flank them on foot, the destroyed road network preventing them from bringing up artillery or other heavy weapons. As Finnish riflemen slowly picked their way through the dense woods and marshland, the motorized German units would simply drive away and take up positions further down the road.

Finnish Riflemen outflanking German Forces by advancing through forests.
Finnish Riflemen outflanking German Forces by advancing through forests.

Finnish forces began pursuing the Germans. The Finnish 11th Division advanced north from Tornio on the road running along the Torne River while the 3rd Division marched from Kemi towards Rovaniemi. After the 6th and the Armoured Division linked up at Pudasjärvi they advanced northward, first towards Ranua and then to Rovaniemi. The Border Jaeger Brigade moved north along the eastern border, depositing border guards as it advanced. Due to the destruction of the road network the Finns were forced to use combat troops for repair work; at times, for example, the entire 15th Brigade was committed to road construction. Finnish forces advancing from Kemi towards Rovaniemi did not see any real action, as Finnish troops on foot were not able to keep up with withdrawing motorized German units; however, on the road leading from Ranua towards Rovaniemi there were several small battles, first at Ylimaa, then Kivitaival, then Rovaniemi. North of Rovaniemi the Finns encountered heavily fortified German Schutzwall positions at Tankavaara. On the road running along the Torne and Muonio rivers, the German withdrawal went so smoothly that there was no fighting until the Finnish 11th Division reached the village of Muonio.

A Finnish T-26 Light Tank from the Armoured Brigade in heavy weather 1944.
A Finnish T-26 Light Tank from the Armoured Brigade in heavy weather 1944.

At Ylimaa on 7 October the Finns captured documents detailing German positions, forcing them to fight a delaying action off their pre-set timetable; however, as the forces were roughly even numerically, the Finnish lack of heavy weapons, and exhaustion from long marches, prevented the Finnish Jaeger Brigade from trapping the defending German 218th Mountain Regiment before it received permission to withdraw on 9 October. At Kivitaival on 13 October the tables were turned and only a fortuitous withdrawal of the 218th Mountain Regiment saved the Finnish 33rd Infantry Regiment from being severely mauled. The German withdrawal allowed the Finns to surround one of the delaying battalions, but the German 218th Mountain Regiment returned and managed to rescue the stranded battalion. The first Finnish units reaching the vicinity of Rovaniemi were components of the Jaeger Brigade advancing from Ranua on 14 October. The Germans repelled Finnish attempts to capture the last intact bridge over Kemijoki river and then left the mostly demolished town to the Finns on 16 October 1944.

Finnish demobilization and difficult supply routes began to take their toll, and at Tankavaara barely four battalions of the Finnish Jaeger Brigade attempted, unsuccessfully, to dislodge the German 169th Infantry Division, 12 battalions strong, entrenched in prepared fortifications. Finnish forces first reached the area on 26 October but gained ground only on 1 November, when the Germans withdrew further to the north. At Muonio on 26 October the German Kampfgruppe Esch, 4 battalions, and the 6th SS Mountain Division “Nord” again had numerical and material superiority in the form of artillery and armor support, which prevented the Finns from gaining the upper hand, despite initially fairly successful flanking operations by the 8th and 50th Infantry Regiments. The Finnish plan had been to prevent the SS Mountain Division, marching from direction of Kittilä, from reaching Muonio, and thereby trap it; however, the delaying actions of Kampfgruppe Esch and the destruction of the road network made it impossible for the Finns to reach Muonio before the SS Mountain Division.

 

Gebirgsjäger 6th SS Mountain Division "Nord".
Gebirgsjäger 6th SS Mountain Division “Nord”.

The Petsamo-Kirkenes Offensive

After the armistice between the Soviet Union and Finland on 4 September 1944, the Petsamo region (though still largely occupied by the Germans) again became part of Russia, and the Finnish government agreed to remove the remaining German forces from its territory by 15 September (leading to the Lapland War). During the retreat of the German 20th Mountain Army, called Operation Birke, the decision was made by the German Armed Forces Command to withdraw completely from northern Norway and Finland in Operation Nordlicht. During the preparations for this operation, the Russians went over to the offensive on the Karelian Front.

Soviet Infantry on the Karelian Front.
Soviet Infantry on the Karelian Front.

The preparations

The Stavka decided to move against the German forces in the Arctic in late 1944. The operation was to be undertaken jointly by the Karelian Front under the command of General Kirill Meretskov and the Northern Fleet under Admiral Arseniy Golovko. The main operations were to be conducted by 14th Army, which had been in the Arctic since the beginning of the war. Meretskov was provided with several units specially configured to meet the requirements for operations in the far north. The 126th and 127th Rifle Corps consisted of light infantry with a number of ski troops and naval infantry. The Soviets also had 30 engineer battalions, numerous horse- and reindeer-equipped transportation companies, and two battalions equipped with U.S.-supplied amphibious vehicles for river crossings. In addition, the Soviets massed thousands of mortars and artillery pieces, 750 aircraft, and 110 tanks (while the Germans lacked any armour), making Soviet forces far superior to the Germans.

General Kirill Meretskov.
General Kirill Meretskov.

Soviet preparations, which had lasted for two months, had not gone unnoticed by the Germans. The highly capable General Lothar Rendulic, who served as both head of the 20th Mountain Army and overall theater commander, was well aware of the threat posed by the upcoming offensive. Prior to the start of the Soviet drive, the defending Germans had been ordered to abandon Petsamo on 15 October, and Kirkenes by the beginning of November.

The offensive

The offensive can be divided into three phases: the breakthrough of the German position, the pursuit to Kirkenes, and the battle for Kirkenes, including the southward pursuit that followed it. During the offensive several amphibious landings were conducted by naval infantry and army units. Initially, the Germans’ intended withdrawal was hampered by Hitler’s strict orders to Rendulic to evacuate all supplies from the Petsamo region before abandoning it.

Despite intensive planning before the offensive, the initial attack on 7 October immediately met with problems. Poor visibility made it difficult to co-ordinate artillery and fire support, slowing the assault; nevertheless, after some fierce fighting the Soviets broke through the German lines on the Titovka River. Blowing up the bridges behind them, the Germans retreated. The Soviets pursued, and over the following days conducted several amphibious landings to cut off the German forces. On 10 October the Germans shifted the 163rd Division, which was already withdrawing from Finland to Norway, to the Petsamo region to bolster their defenses. On 13 October the Soviets were poised to attack German forces around the town of Petsamo, and units of the 126th light Rifle Corps were able to establish a roadblock on the only escape route; however, troops of the German 2nd Mountain Division was able to clear the roadblock on 14 October, securing the retreat of Rendulic’s forces. The Soviets captured Petsamo on 15 October, but due to supply problems, then had to halt the offensive for three days.

German 2nd Mountain Division.
German 2nd Mountain Division.

For the rest of the campaign the Soviets advanced after the withdrawing Germans along the coast of Norway, with the Soviets trying to block and cut off German units on their retreat. But because of constant supply shortcomings and German delaying efforts, which forced sizable forces to be detached to road reconstruction, the Soviets were not able to achieve success and the Germans escaped with the bulk of their forces intact. The Germans abandoned Kirkenes on 25 October and finally on 29 October Meretskov halted all operations except reconnaissance.

The outcome

The Soviet offensive ended with a victory for the Red Army, however the Wehrmacht 20th Mountain Army successfully performed an orderly retreat with the bulk of its forces intact just like it did against Finnish forces during their retreat through Lapland carried out at the same time. Soviet failure to inflict clear defeat on the withdrawing Germans was largely due to the supply issues caused by efficient German destruction of road connections in the area. With often the only road available being out of service due damage and mines both supplies and heavy equipment, like artillery, could not be transported to front lines in sufficient quantities while lighter equipped forces were at disadvantage against heavily armed German forces.

The Soviet commander Meretskov was promoted to the rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union, and was given a prominent command during the Red Army’s attack on Japanese-heldManchukuo, in August 1945. The Petsamo–Kirkenes Operation is notable in that it was the last major offensive in an Arctic environment. It had been studied intensively in the Soviet Army for this reason.

Forces involved:

Soviet

14th Army, total; 133,500 men

  • 31st Rifle Corps
  • 99th Rifle Corps
  • 131st Rifle Corps
  • Corps Pigarech
  • 126th (light) Rifle Corps
  • 127th (light) Rifle Corps

7th Air Army

  • 318 Fighters: LaGG 5, Yak 3, Yak 9, P-40, P-39
  • 193 Ground Attack Aircraft: Ilyushin Il-2
  • 136 Bombers: Ilyushin Il-4, Petlyakov Pe-2
Bell P-39Q Airacobra of 19th GvIAP Shongoi airfield, 1944. Personal aircraft of Capt.Pavel Kutakhov (13+28 victories).
Bell P-39Q Airacobra of 19th GvIAP
Shongoi airfield, 1944. Personal aircraft of Capt.Pavel Kutakhov (13+28 victories).

In the same area the Northern Fleet operated an air arm with a total of 275 aircraft, but these were not called upon to support the offensive of the ground forces, but rather used to target the German shipping along the coast of Norway.

German

20th Mountain Army

XIX Mountain Corps, total; 45,000 men

Luftwaffe

German air assets in theatre had been estimated at a total of 160-180 aircraft, of which half were fighters. These included Bf-109 and FW-190 fighters, Arado-66 night bombers and Ju-87 Stukas. The Soviets thus on paper enjoyed a 6-to-1 superiority in air strength.

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 25th of November 1944. The Finnish Jaeger Brigade pursuing them had by then been depleted in manpower due to demobilization. In northwest Lapland there were on 4th of 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 the 26th of November. The German 7th Mountain Division held these positions until the 10th of 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 25th of April 1945.

Consequences

From the start of the war the Germans had been systematically destroying and mining the roads and bridges as they withdrew. However after the first real fighting took place the German commander, General Lothar Rendulic, issued several orders with regards to destroying Finnish property in Lapland. On the 6th of October a strict order was issued which named only military or militarily important sites as targets. On the 8th of October after the result of the fighting in Tornio and Kemi region became obvious the Germans made several bombing raids, targeting factory areas of Kemi and inflicting heavy damage on them. However on the 9th of October the demolition order was extended to include all governmental buildings with the exception of hospitals. On the 13th of October all habitable structures, including barns, though making an exception for hospitals and churches, were ordered to be destroyed north of the line running from Ylitornio via Sinettä (small village ~20 km NWN of Rovaniemi) to Sodankylä (including the listed settlements) in northern Finland. Though it made sense from the German perspective to do this to deny pursuing forces from getting any shelter it had a very limited effect on the Finns who unlike the Germans always carried tents with them and did not require any shelter.

At Rovaniemi the Germans initially concentrated mainly on destroying governmental buildings but once fire got loose several more were destroyed. German attempts to fight the fire however failed and a train loaded with ammunition caught fire at Rovaniemi railroad station on the 14th of October, resulting in a massive explosion which caused further destruction as well as spreading the fire throughout the primarily wooden buildings of the town. German attempts to fight the fire had failed by the time, on the 16th of October, they abandoned the now ruined town to the advancing Finns.

The town of Rovaniemi destroyed by the Germans.
The town of Rovaniemi destroyed by the Germans.

In their retreat the German forces under General Lothar Rendulic devastated large areas of northern Finland with scorched earth tactics. As a result, some 40–47% of the dwellings in the area were destroyed, and the provincial capital of Rovaniemi was burned to the ground, as were the villages of Savukoski and Enontekiö. Two-thirds of the buildings in the main villages of Sodankylä, Muonio, Kolari, Salla and Pello were demolished, 675 bridges were blown up, all main roads were mined, and 3,700 km of telephone lines were destroyed.

In addition to the property losses, estimated as equivalent to about US $300 million in 1945 dollars (US$ 3.93 billion in 2014), about 100,000 inhabitants became refugees, a situation that added to the problems of postwar reconstruction. After the war the Allies convicted Rendulic of war crimes, and he was sentenced to 20 years in prison, although charges concerning the devastation of Lapland were dropped. He was released after six years.

The military casualties of the conflict 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. 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.

 

Bibliography

  • Kijanen, Kalervo (1968). Suomen Laivasto 1918–1968 II. Helsinki: Meriupseeriyhdistys/Otava.
  • Leskinen, Jari; Juutilainen, Antti, eds. (2005). Jatkosodan pikkujättiläinen (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Werner Söderström Osakeyhtiö. ISBN 978-951-0-28690-6.
  • Lunde, Henrik O. (2011). Finland’s War of Choice: The Troubled German-Finnish Alliance in World War II. Newbury: Casemate Publishers. ISBN 978-1-61200-037-4.
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  • A.A.Gorter, W.T.Gorter, M.N.Suprun. Frigjoringen av Ost-Finnmark 1944-1945. -Arkhangelsk-Vadso: “Arkhangelsk Pomor”, 2005- 312 s.: ill. А.А.Гортер, В.Т.Гортер, М.Н.Супрун. Освобождение Восточного Финнмарка, 1944-1945.-Архангельск-Вадсе:”Архангельск Помор”,2005. -312 с.: илл. ISBN 5-7536-0146-4.
  • Raunio, Jukka. Myrsky – suomalaisen hävittäjäkoneen tarina. Suomen Ilmailuhistoriallinen Lehti, special issue 1, 2002.
  • Stemman, Karl. “Finland’s Fighter Finale”. Air Enthusiast. Issue 23, December 1983—March 1984, pp. 10–19, 80. Bromley, Kent UK: Pilot Press, 1983.
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Heinrich Ehrler Geschwader kommodore of JG 5 “EISMEER”

C/O of 3 JG 5 Heinrich Ehrler
C/O of 3 JG 5 Heinrich Ehrler

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.

Jagdgeschwader 5 Emblem.
Jagdgeschwader 5 Emblem.

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 5 Eismeer 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.

DKM Tirpitz 1944.
DKM Tirpitz 1944.

Ehrler was in command of 9./JG 5 at Fliegerhorst Bardufoss 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.

Pilot - Uffz.Gerhardt Eisermann. Herdla, JG 5, March-April 1945.
Pilot – Uffz.Gerhardt Eisermann. Herdla, JG 5, March-April 1945.

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 Reichskommissar Josef 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.

Me 262, Pilot - Obfr. Rolf Prigge, Brandenburg-Briest, 1945.
Me 262, Pilot – Obfr. Rolf Prigge, Brandenburg-Briest, 1945.

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.

Quotations

“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!”

Awards

    • 2nd Class (19 September 1941)
    • 1st Class (21 January 1942)
    • Knight’s Cross on 4 September 1942 as Leutnant and pilot in 6./JG 5
    • 265th Oak Leaves on 2 August 1943 as Hauptmann and Gruppenkommandeur of III./JG 5

Recovered BF 109 G-2

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.

Heinrich Ehrler's - Bf 109G-2, JG 5 "Eismeer".
Heinrich Ehrler’s – Bf 109G-2, JG 5 “Eismeer”.

REFERENCES

 

 

 

 

Revell 1/32 Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6 Late & Early Version – REVIEW

 

Bf 109G

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.

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History

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

Jagdgeschwader 5 Emblem

Was a Luftwaffe fighter Wing 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.

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1942

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-Ost Obstlt. 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.

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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.

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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. Leutnant Heinrich Ehrler (6. JG 5) was awarded the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes on 4 September for 64 victories.

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1943

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 Hauptmann Gerhard 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 Hauptmann Horst 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.

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1944

In 1944 I. Gruppe was redesignated as III./JG 6 and sent to France, and it was never replaced. In June – July 1944, Gruppenkommandeur Theodor 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.

On 1 August 1944 Major Heinrich Ehrler was promoted to Geschwaderkommodore of JG 5.

From September 1944 to April 1945 in Finland’s northernmost Lapland Province, The Lapland War (Finnish: Lapin sota; Swedish: Lapplandskriget; German: Lapplandkrieg) was fought between Finland and Nazi Germany.

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.

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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.

9

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.

22

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).

14

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 (W) = Wreck (U) = Unknown Location

JG 5’s Messerschmitt Bf 109E survivors

  • Bf 109E-3 1983, ex-5/JG 5 “Red ?”, Charleston Aviation Services, Colchester, UK (R)
  • Bf 109E-3 2023, ex-Bf 109E-7, ex-8/JG 5 “Black 9” (pilot Ofw. Walter Sommer) – crashed 27 May 1943, Military Aviation Museum, Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA (R)
  • Bf 109E-3 3285, ex-Bf 109E-7, ex-4/JG 5 “Black 12”, “White 4”, “Yellow 2”, Finnish AF Museum, Tikkakoski (S)
  • Bf 109E-3 3523, ex-CS + AJ, ex-Bf 109E-7, ex-5/JG 5 “Red 6”, Jim Pearce, Sussex, UK (S)

note: cockpit section from Bf 109G-2

JG 5’s Bf 109F survivors

  • Bf 109F-4 7108, ex-NE + ML, ex-9/JG 5, Central Finland Aviation Museum, Tikkakoski, Finland (D)
  • Bf 109F-4 7485, ex-9/JG 5 “Black 1” Charleston Aviation Services, UK (S)
  • Bf 109F-4 10144, ex-6/JG 5 “Yellow 7” (pilot Fw. Albert Brunner) – crashed 5 September 1942, Air Assets      International, Bloomfield, Colorado (R)
  • Bf 109F-4 10212, ex-JG 5, Air Assets International, Bloomfield, Colorado, USA (S) : note: wings and parts
  • Bf 109F-4 10256, ex-11/JG 5 “<“, Air Assets International, Bloomfield, Colorado, USA (S)
  • Bf 109F-4 10276, ex-JG 5, Air Assets International, Bloomfield, Colorado, USA (S)
  • Bf 109F-4 w/rn unknown, ex-JG 5 “White 4”, Belgian (R)

JG 5’s Bf 109G survivors

  • Bf 109G-2 10394, ex-6/JG 5 “Yellow 2” (pilot Fw. Erwin Fahldieck) – crashed 29 April 1943, Malcolm Laing, Texas, USA (R)
  • Bf 109G-2 13427, ex-9/JG 5 “Yellow 2”, Russia (S)
  • Bf 109G-2/R1 13470, ex-CI + KS,  ex-8/JG 5 “White 4”, Norsk Luftfartsmuseum, Bodo, Norway (R)
  • Bf 109G-2/R6 13927, ex-6/JG 5 “Yellow 6”, USA (W)
  • Bf 109G-1/R2 14141, ex-DG + UF, ex-2/JG 5 “Black 6”, Flyhistorisk Museum, Sola, Norway (R)
  • Bf 109G-2 14798 (VH-EIN), ex-GJ+QP, ex-8/JG 5 “Black 10”, Christopher Kelly, Seaforth, Australia (R)
  • Bf 109G-6 411768 ex-FN + RX, ex-RW + ZI, ex-II/JG 5 “Black 1”, Vadim Zadorozny Technical Museum, Moscow, Russia (D)

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JG 5’s Focke-Wulf Fw 190 survivors

  • 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)

Commanding officers

Geschwaderkommodore

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Gruppenkommandeure

I./JG 5

  • Major Joachim Seegert, January 1942 – April 1942
  • Hauptmann Gerhard von Wehren, April 1942 – February 1943
  • Hauptmann Gerhard Wengel, February 1943 – 10 January 1944
  • Oberleutnant Robert Müller, 10 January 1944 – 25 January 1944
  • Major Erich Gerlitz, 25 January 1944 – 16 March 1944
  • Major Horst Carganico, 26 March 1944 – 27 May 1944
  • Hauptmann Theodor Weissenberger, 4 June 1944 – 14 October 1944

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II./JG 5

  • Major Hennig Strümpell, January 1942 – April 1942
  • Hauptmann Horst Carganico, April 1942 – 26 March 1944
  • Hauptmann Theodor Weissenberger, 26 March 1944 – 3 June 1944
  • Oberleutnant Hans Tetzner, 4 June 1944 – 19.7 1944
  • Oberstleutant Franz Wienhusen, 1 September 1944 – October 1944
  • Hauptmann Herbert Treppe, February 1945 – May 1945

III./JG 5

  • Hauptmann Günther Scholz, March 1942 – June 1943
  • Major Heinrich Ehrler, June 1943 – May 1944
  • Hauptmann Franz Dörr, May 1944 – May 1945
  • Oberleutnant Rudolf Glöckner, 1944/1945

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IV./JG 5

  • Hauptmann Hans Kriegel, unknown – April 1944
  • Oberleutnant Rudolf Lüder, 3 October 1943 – unknown
  • Hauptmann Fritz Stendel, 15 May 1944 – May 1945

Staffelkapitäne

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.

12

The Kit

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.

17

Construction

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.

DSCF1424

DSCF1425

DSCF1426

DSCF1428

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.

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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.

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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.

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Final Construction

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.

 

Conclusion

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.

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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.

References

Richard Reynolds.