Why did Finns photographed Leningrad in summer 1939?

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Aroma
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Why did Finns photographed Leningrad in summer 1939?

Post by Aroma » 17 Nov 2002 20:32

Did anyone saw article from Etelä-Suomen Sanomat 17.11 "Suomalaiset Leningradin taivaalla kesällä 1939" (Finns in the Leningrad sky in summer 1939). It tells about several(23 if I remember correct) missions where Bristol Blendheim plane with 3 crew members flew over and photographed Leningrad, Kronstad, and southern beach of gulf of Finland. Germany used same region in their attack to Leningrad in 1941. Only few people knew about these missions and no one still knows who neened these pictures. Captain Armas Eskola who flew all 23 missions believes that Germany was behind it...

JariL
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Hard to tell

Post by JariL » 18 Nov 2002 08:48

Hi,

This is the first time I have seen this information. Sounds a bit far fetched that FAF would have done photographing flights on German account in 1939. More plausible reason would be own security needs. The situation in Europe was already getting tense and photographic information, or spying if the planes flew over Soviet territory, could have revealled any troop concentrations on the Soviet side of the Finnish and Estonian borders. Strength and location of the Soviet Baltic Fleet would probably also have been of interest. If there was any co-operation with some other nation, I would guess it was Estonia. Especially given the recently published study on Finnish-Estonian co-operation in coastal defence.

Regards,

Jari

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Harri
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Post by Harri » 18 Nov 2002 10:23

I have also red about these flights. They are well described in Kavo Laurila's book about Finnish long-range patrol pilots (published in 2002) and also in the book(s) of Joppe Karhunen. These stories are written/told by Capt. Eskola himself so they should be reliable.

Eskola says that he saw German officials at Helsinki in the FAF Staff. Finns also received new Zeiss cameras from Germany for these missions, so it is more than likely that this photography operation was mutual Finnish-German one. Why these regions were photographed is another thing, but it is always good to know what is behind the frontier because situation was becoming "hotter" all the time...

My theory is that photographing was done for the making of new better maps. On the other hand Soviet Union carried out similar kind of job in Finland and for sure elsewhere too. These flights were called "ghost flights" in Finland and happened before Winter War. For example Lt. T. Huhanantti was about to crash with an unknown plane near Utti air base in 1938 (or 39?). That plane flew with all lights off and Finnish pilots believed that it would have been in secret duties. But was it a Soviet one? The Commander of FAF ordered that Huhanantti should admit that he saw nothing.

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Lars Gyllenhaal
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ghost flights

Post by Lars Gyllenhaal » 18 Nov 2002 11:22

Hi,

AFAIK Soviet "Ghost flights" over Finland were common in 1934 and also just before WWII. There was a big trial against Finnish helpers (beacon maintenance) of these flights and it seems that this trial proved that the Soviet flights really had occured. However, I have only one source for this information: the book "Skuggan över Norden" by Valentin Sjöberg, that was written for political reasons, i.e. anti-bolshevism. Who knows of later and more objective sources?

Cheers,

JariL
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Cameras may not be very important

Post by JariL » 18 Nov 2002 13:51

Hi Harri,

I don't think the fact that the cameras were manufactured by Zeiss is very relevant. Zeiss manufactured most if not of all cameras that Finns used for aerial photography. One type manufactured by Zeiss was designed by Nenonen's staff. Zeiss bought the patent.

It is an other matter if German officers have been present. Still I don't really see what possible benefit Finns could have had from the business. Being caught on a mission does not sound worth the trouble if the only beneficiary was a third power. German-Finnish relations were not the best possible in 1938 or 1939 either. There must be something more to it than has been mentioned in the references quoted here.

Regards,

Jari

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Harri
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Re: Cameras may not be very important

Post by Harri » 18 Nov 2002 14:29

JariL wrote:I don't think the fact that the cameras were manufactured by Zeiss is very relevant. Zeiss manufactured most if not of all cameras that Finns used for aerial photography. One type manufactured by Zeiss was designed by Nenonen's staff. Zeiss bought the patent.
I thought Gen. Nenonen just invented the method of stereo photographing and Zeiss made the camera systems for that. I don't know any details so I may be wrong but this indicate that Finns and Germans co-operated in this sector already much before WW II.
JariL wrote:It is an other matter if German officers have been present. Still I don't really see what possible benefit Finns could have had from the business. Being caught on a mission does not sound worth the trouble if the only beneficiary was a third power. German-Finnish relations were not the best possible in 1938 or 1939 either. There must be something more to it than has been mentioned in the references quoted here.
I didn't say "German officers" because officials Eskola met wore civil clothes but spoke German. It is also possible that these guys were not Germans.

Of course we Finns get these photographs too. It seems that another country partispated in these missions - perhaps financing them, supplying films and cameras etc. The primary reason for these flights was for sure mapping. Perhaps spying newest Soviet ships and aircraft (types and numbers) could be other reasons.

I don't think military relationships would have been as bad as political relationships. You forget that Gen. Halder visited in Finland in the summer 1938 (IIRC). Many Finnish officers visited in Germany for example Capt. "Eka" Magnusson (later Commander of Flying Squadron 24) who got to know interesting things on German air defence in 1938. Heinkel He 112 "cannon fighter" was demonstrated at Utti after that visit, but was fortunately not bought (it was a "sheep in wolf's clothes" according to Suomen Ilmailuhistoriallinen Lehti / Finnish Aviation History Magazine).

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Finnish observation posts

Post by Octavianus » 18 Nov 2002 17:58

Ave amici a Finlandia,

This is a very interesting post. Thank you for posting it on this forum. I would like to give some more fuel to this discussion by asking some further questions. I hope you don't mind me doing this. The questions are:

a.) Did Finland have any naval intelligence surveillance stations along the Baltic Sea coastline and on the islands of Suursari, Seiskari and Laavansaari, from which it could easily monitoring the movements of the Soviet Baltic Fleet? I have read in some book some years ago that from the Finnish border town and famous sea resort before the war, TERIJOKI, today known as Zelenogorsk, you could very easily saw all the movements of the Soviet Baltic Fleet in Kronstadt and Sankt Petersburg?.

b.) If these aerial reconnaissance flights really happen, how come the Soviets were not aware of them? I mean the fact that someone could made twenty-three air missions unharmed over Kronstadt and Sant Petersburg, the second largest city in Soviet Union and the largest Soviet Naval Base in the Baltic, in such a tense time as it was 1939 is leaving me in some skepsis. Was either the Soviet air defence so badly manned and led or ..... Also, how come the Soviet spy, one Finnish officer in the Finnish headquarters did not introduce to the Soviets that such reconnaissance flights are being carried ourt over Soviet Union? Unless of course, if they were kept in absolute secrecy even in the Finnish Military Command.

Gratiam,

Octavianus

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Antti V
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Post by Antti V » 18 Nov 2002 18:10

Soviet battleship Gangut, photographed from Finnish U-boat in late 1930s somewhere on Gulf of Finland, or so is claimed. I don´t know is that true but very much possible. I have seen this same photo larger from where you can see waves on very close of photo´s down part, like photographed from surface level.

This photo is from skalman.nu

Image

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Hanski
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Post by Hanski » 18 Nov 2002 20:34

It would seem extremely risky to fly such missions over the very city whose security was used as the pretext for territorial demands on the Karelian Isthmus. If the Blenheim would have been shot down, it would have offered an immediate reason to attack, so the risks were politically high explosive.

On the other hand, Blenheim was a comparatively fast aircraft compared to Soviet fighters at that time (Polikarpov I-16), and obviously the missions were flown in a very high altitude to avoid detection visually or by sound. Apparently the weather had to be bright for good photographic resolution.

Air surveillance radar systems were not operative on the Soviet side then, so the Blenheim would have been revealed only with bad luck from an airborne Soviet fighter.

The number of missions, 23, sounds high. Do the sources give the reason for this? Was it perhaps "basic research" to determine a reference point regarding normal peacetime military activity, to be compared with troop concentrations later?

Antti V, are you quite sure about the name of the battleship above?

My bet is it's the "Oktyabrskaya Revolyutsiya", or October Revolution.

"Gangut" is an interesting story in itself. The Soviet / Russian naval history celebrates an unknown naval battle, "The Battle of Gangut", which few know about in the west. "Gangut" is actually the Russian way of pronouncing the Swedish "Hangö Udd", for "Hankoniemi" in Finnish. As far as I remember, The Imperial Russian Fleet had success in its waters against the Royal Swedish Navy sometimes in history. But I have not heard of "Gangut" given as a name to a warship.


Hanski

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Antti V
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Post by Antti V » 18 Nov 2002 20:44

Oktyabrskaya Revolyutsiya and Gangut are same ship. Problem is that here seems to be several Gangut battleships but according to this website Gangut was rebuilt and renamed after October revoluiton, if this is right:
http://web.ukonline.co.uk/aj.cashmore/r ... angut.html

Same name (Gangut) is used by Skalman.nu too, as well many other sources for this ship. Now I don´t know was here one or two Gangut class battleship as I have always believed.

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Post by Mark V » 18 Nov 2002 20:56

Antti V wrote:Soviet battleship Gangut, photographed from Finnish U-boat in late 1930s somewhere on Gulf of Finland, or so is claimed. I don´t know is that true but very much possible. I have seen this same photo larger from where you can see waves on very close of photo´s down part, like photographed from surface level.

I have also seen those pics, but i don't anymore remember the book's name. Many excellent quality pictures about Baltic Fleet vessels , and like you said - all photographed from very near and very low - like through periscope. I only have small reservation, those pics had so good quality that i have some reservation about them photographed through periscope - need more information...

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Hanski
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Post by Hanski » 18 Nov 2002 21:01

I'll be damned! You are right indeed, Antti V, Gangut is the previous name for Oktyabrskaya Revolyutsiya. Thank you for enlightening me about this detail of naval history that I have been ignorant about.

But I still claim the etymology of the word "Gangut" stems from the Russian version of the Swedish name for the Cape of Hanko (which can be seen in maps of the coastline of the Gulf of Finland), protruding towards the southwest from the city of Hanko.

Hanski

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Juha Tompuri
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Post by Juha Tompuri » 18 Nov 2002 23:17

Hi,

Oktyabrskaya Revolyutsiya, ex Petropavlovsk
Marat, ex Gangut
Sevastopol, ex Parishkaya Kommuna, ex Sevastopol

Juha

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Post by Tapani K. » 19 Nov 2002 08:18

hmononen wrote: But I still claim the etymology of the word "Gangut" stems from the Russian version of the Swedish name for the Cape of Hanko (which can be seen in maps of the coastline of the Gulf of Finland), protruding towards the southwest from the city of Hanko.
Peter the Great of Russia created the Russian navy and during the Great Northern War his navy gained its' first major victory near the Hankoniemi or Hangö Udd in Swedish. The opposing force was the Swedish navy.

Like Hanski assumed Gangut is the russianized form of the Swedish and it has been a tradition in the Russian and Soviet navies to name ships after this battle which they see as the begiiniing of the Russian/Soviet naval greatness.


regards,
Tapani K.

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More about camera and about the visits of the German officer

Post by JariL » 19 Nov 2002 09:25

HI Harri,

<I thought Gen. Nenonen just invented the method of stereo <photographing and Zeiss made the camera systems for that. I don't <know any details so I may be wrong but this indicate that Finns and <Germans co-operated in this sector already much before WW II.

Nenonen did not invent the method but he and his staff improved it a lot increasing the efficiency by 20 times compared to what it was before. This led to a situation where the army was mapping Finland 5 to 10 times faster than the civilian authorities.

Zeiss was not selected because it was a German company but because it was the best. And in some areas it still is. Some Japanese camera manufacturers still use lenses made by Zeiss because of their superior quality. So the fact that the equipment was "made in Germany" is not very significant.

What comes to the visits of German officers in Finland that was the policy German government followed in Finland. The more the diplomatic relationships deteriorated the more German foreign office used the inofficial channel that soldiers provided. Because of personal relationship between many Finnish and German officers it was relatively easy to get an invitation. German political goal was to prevent Finland becoming one of the Scandinavian neutrals. Those days both Germany and Russia allowed Finland only to choose side not to stay out. From Finnish point of view, the ministery of foreign affairs did not understand how the visits of German and western, especially British, military would be interpreted in Soviet Union. Obviously Berlin understood very well how the visits would be interpreted.

Wipert von Blücher's (German ambassador in Finland) comments that have been quoted in many history books are very revealing. He clearly saw how the German influence in Finland deteriorated towards the end of the 1930's and he did his best to slow down the process. Using visits of the military was one of the ways he recommended. He also tried other measures, like inviting Finnish artists to visit Germany. Unfortunatley Olavi Paavolainen's visit turned into a disaster from Blüchers point of view. As Blücher himself noted "ten years would not be enough to make good of the damage caused by Paavolainens book" (Kolmannen valtakunnan vieraana , Guest of the Third Reich).

Without more information I still find it hard to believe that FAF would have photographed Leningrad area on German account given the potential consequencies of getting caught. I don't doubt that Abwehr could well have received copies of the photos through some deal.

Regards,

Jari

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