February 1944 air raids on Helsinki

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Ike_FI
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February 1944 air raids on Helsinki

Post by Ike_FI » 16 Feb 2003 01:42

As I visited Suomenlinna fortress yesterday, I took a few digi photos of the old 75mm Bofors AA gun that remains on the site of a WWII era AA battery as a monument for air defense of Helsinki. After returning to home I decided to look for some background information.

The Soviets launched a series of three rather large air assaults on Helsinki during February 1944, in order to force Finnish government to accept rather harsh peace conditions. Quite luckily for us, the capitol city survived with surprisingly low civilian casualties despite of threatening prospects - Tallinn had worse luck some weeks later. Today is the 59th anniversary of second raid of the campaign.
February 6/7, 1944
The raid lasted from 19.23 to 21.35 Finnish time (Eastern Europe Time, EET) (Järventaus 1983, p. 343). [Compare the first wave of the Tallinn raid: from 18.30 to 21.12 Central European Time (EET minus one hour).]
216 aircraft took part of the raid (Uusitalo 1988), flying 320..350 sorties (Järventaus 1983, p. 343) and dropping a total of about 2,500 bombs (Järventaus 1983, p. 343), but only 331 bombs were dropped in the target area* (Uusitalo 1988).
Heavy flak fired 7,719 shells, 40-mm flak guns 2,181 rounds and 20-mm flak guns 584 rounds (Järventaus 1983, p. 343).

* – the target area was defined as a circle whose center was in the center of Helsinki (at Töölölahti). Its radius was 10 kilometres. The goal of the defence of Helsinki was to force bombers drop their bomb loads outside of that area.

Among the bombs which hit Helsinki were two 5,000-kg bombs – last ones dropped in WWII according to one source (Geust 1994), but the last-but-ones by another (Ratkin 1996b).

One of the first buildings destroyed in the raid was the former embassy of the USSR on Bulevardi St. (Uusitalo 1988). [After the war when the ruins were demolished, the bricks were used for the dormitories of the Technical University on its new campus in Otaniemi.]

Evacuation of Helsinki was started on the days following the raid (Uusitalo 1988). After the raid Finland sought military help from Germany, and night fighters arrived Malmi a few days later. Also the radar ship (nightfighter guide ship) Togo sailed to Tallinn to act as a lookout post in the middle of the Gulf of Finland. Togo arrived Tallinn on February 15, 1944 (Valtonen 1997).



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February 16/17, 1944
The raid lasted from 19.47 to 23.15 EET, and a second wave followed after this (Järventaus 1983, p. 343).
The estimates of the number of aircraft taking part in the raid vary: one source says 168 (Anon 1943b, part 1, translator's introduction from 1994), another 420 (Uusitalo 1988), carrying over 4,000 bombs, but only 130 of them were dropped within the target area (Uusitalo 1988). Heavy flak fired 12,238 shells, 40-mm flak guns 3,735 rounds and 20-mm flak guns 1,974 rounds (Järventaus 1983, p. 343).



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February 26/27, 1944
The weather in Helsinki was clear, with good visibility, no moon, wind from 348° at 12 metres per second (Seppälä 1979a, p. 43).
The raid started at 18.43 EET (Järventaus 1983, p. 343), the air raid alarm for the general public was given at 18.45 (Seppälä 1979a, p. 43). The estimates of the duration of the entire raid vary: one source suggests over 10 hours (Järventaus 1983, p. 343), another, 13 hours (Uusitalo 1988), although different sources agree that bombers appeared in different waves:

The first wave (attack) 18.43–22.30: about 250 planes attacking in larger formations (20..30, even 50 aircraft); general approach was from the east but also from other directions, attacks from various directions tending to be simultaneous; 15 fires in the target area (Seppälä 1979a, p. 44).
The second wave (tiring) 22.30–2.30: about 150 planes attacking mainly from the east, mainly single or in small formations (2..3 aircraft); almost all were turned away by AA fire (Seppälä 1979a, p. 44).
The third wave (final attack) 2.30–5.05 (Järventaus 1983, p. 343; Seppälä 1979a, p. 44): about 200 planes attacking from different directions, in larger formations (2..10 aircraft) (Seppälä 1979a, p. 44).
All clear was given for general public at 6.30 in the morning (Seppälä 1979a, p. 43).
77 heavy flak guns were operational before the raid (Järventaus 1983, p. 343). Heavy flak fired 14,200 shells and 40-mm flak guns 4,432 rounds (Järventaus 1983, p. 343). All in all 320 heavy flak fire barrages were ordered, helped by 40-mm flak; 20-mm flak could not operate because of high altitude of the bombers (Seppälä 1979a, p. 44). Searchlights caught 15 aircraft for 3..6 minutes and 20 aircraft for shorter time, allowing night fighters to attack; several bombers jettisoned their bombs when being caught by the searchlights (Seppälä 1979a, p. 44). The number of searchlights was found to be too few for the job (Seppälä 1979a, p. 44).

322 aircraft took part of the raid (Anon 1943b, part 1, translator's introduction from 1994), flying about 1,200 sorties (Uusitalo 1988). Only about 10% of all aircraft entered the target area, and only half of the latter bombed it (Seppälä 1979a, p. 44). 338 bombs were dropped within the target area, about 4% of the total bombload (Uusitalo 1988). Nightfighters shot down 4 bombers and flak claimed 8..14 bombers; 3 aircraft were damaged (Seppälä 1979a, p. 44). 67 fires were started in the town, of which 50 were still burning in the morning (Seppälä 1979a, p. 45).

Following aircraft types were identified: TB-7 [Pe-8], DB-3f, SB-2, Pe-2, "DC-3" [Li-2], "Mitchell" [B-25], "Boston". The lend-lease aircraft carried blue roundel around the red star – obviously the US white star had been painted over. The bombers flew at 4,000..5,000 metres altitude, the highest measured altitude being 6,700 m. Most bombs were dropped in level flight. (Seppälä 1979a, p. 44)


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The three February 1944 raids in general
The relatively small amount of damage caused to Helsinki by the three terror raids (Uusitalo 1988) was due to effective anti-aircraft artillery. In February 1944 about 80 flak guns defended Helsinki, most of them over 75 mm in calibre. During the Winter War the number had been around 20. (Uusitalo 1988)
Another important factor was deception – about 15 kms east of Helsinki (at Vuosaari) the coastline resembles that of downtown Helsinki. After a plan by Col. Jokipaltio, several flak guns and searchlights were placed there, and large fires were lit to imitate fires in the town. Many aircraft approaching from east dropped their bombloads there. (Seppälä 1979a, Uusitalo 1988).

95% of bombs fell outside the target area; 10% of attacking aircraft flew on Helsinki; 5% of attacking aircraft dropped their bombs at Helsinki (Seppälä 1979a).

In all three raids only 799 bombs of the total of 10,980 dropped hit built-up areas (Geust 1994), that would make a mere 7.3%. 2,120 sorties were flown in the three raids (Geust 1994).
Source of quote: http://www.hut.fi/~andres/m44/m44hki.htm

Our Finnish members may find additional information at
http://www.ilmatorjunta.fi/itupseeri/1_ ... voitto.htm
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Middle size bombers

Post by gabriel pagliarani » 16 Feb 2003 14:50

What kind of Soviet bomber was able to carry on 5 tons each bombs? All the planes above listed are small and medium size bombers.

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Re: Middle size bombers

Post by Ike_FI » 16 Feb 2003 17:05

gabriel pagliarani wrote:What kind of Soviet bomber was able to carry on 5 tons each bombs? All the planes above listed are small and medium size bombers.
A good question, Gabriel, as none of them were indeed designed for such a load! The site I quoted earlier provides however an explanation: "the four-engined Petlyakov Pe-8 (TB-7) heavy bomber was the only Soviet aircraft capable of transporting the FAB-5000, although overstrained, as it was designed for max. 3000 kg bombload, eg. it did not achieve its normal cruising altitude and speed" - no doubt about the last sentence! (however, what it comes to max load, 4000 kg is favored by most web sources.)

Below are some revised figures I found today from
http://www.ilmatorjunta.fi/itupseeri/4_ ... pommit.htm
- Russian researchers have quite recently provided new information about the types and numbers of bombs dropped during Feb 44 raids:

Regular (explosive) bombs: 2 x 5000 kg (6./7.2.), 26 x 2000 kg, 7 x 1000 kg, 1235 x 500 kg, 3444 x 250 kg, 4520 x 100 kg and 164 x 50 kg. Firebombs: 4252 x ZAP-100 TSK and 2840 x ZAP-50.

Dropped total by date: 6./7.2.= 6991 (6443) pcs, 16./17.2.= 4317 (-) pcs and 26./27.2.= 5182 (6452) pcs, alltogether 16 490 pcs, weighting 2604,7 (2416,5) [metric] tons. (Numbers in parentehsis are alternate figures presented in the text.) Total number of executed bomber flights during these raids: 2120, of which number 2007 planes (94,6 %) dropped their bombs.

It is noteworthy that the total number of ~16500 pcs. presented here is quite a much higher than ~11000 pcs. mentioned in previously quoted source.

Image
Soviet 5-ton bomb

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Post by gabriel pagliarani » 17 Feb 2003 01:01

ehm...my own finnish is zero. I tried to watch your site and I am convinced that russians used standard Havocs after an heavy "slimming care". Almost 2 tons could be saved by taking down turrets, guns, ammos, armours and half crew: the powerful twin turbo-charged double-star american engines helped in taking off. More plausible than a Pe-8 solution (...due to weak engines). But this means that an USAAF ground specialist crew probably took part in such operation. I am sure that some USAAF ground crews were displaced in SU while attempting a "shuttle bombing" over the Reich :roll:

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Post by Ike_FI » 19 Feb 2003 00:31

Gabriel, one may indeed ask who knows what kind of "creative" solutions may have been experimented, anyway today I found another site that seems to suggest that Pe-8:s have actually been used to carry superheavy bombs.

http://www.danshistory.com/ww2/russianb.shtml
In service, the Pe-8 supplemented the twin engined llyushin 11-4 and was used extensively for close support bombing and from 1943 against special targets carrying a 11,0231b (5000kg) weapon over short ranges
Too bad I have no clue what the more complete sources in Russian might say...

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Post by Oleg Grigoryev » 21 Feb 2003 06:16

18 Pe-8 were used one was lost (firts time FAB-5000 was used is 1943 during battle of Kursk) and why exactly AsH-82Fn is a weak engine?

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Reasons to poor performance

Post by JariL » 21 Feb 2003 09:50

<The relatively small amount of damage caused to Helsinki by the three <terror raids (Uusitalo 1988) was due to effective anti-aircraft artillery.

Hi,

The above explanation is an oversimplification. The system used by the Helsinki AA was not especially effective and had been abandonned by other nations long ago. Finns were forced to use it because of lack of modern equipment. There were some clever features embedded, like using magnesium in the shells (strong light effect when the shell exploded) and "dropping" a target immediately when it either turned back or dropped it's bombs.

But in general, the pre calculated targets with 500 m steps in altitude and extending with one kilometer steps to about 14 km from the city center were used because only three of the AA batteries were radar controlled. Chances of hitting a plane was actually very low but the concentrated fire to the pre-calculated targets looked very dangerous, especially during the night. Given a couple of radars, good command structure and well trained AA crews the barrages could be shot at the expected flight path of the incoming plane formations or even individual planes, as far as there was not more than 10-12 planes arriving per minute. Helsinki AA was trained to do just that, and do it well.

However, the Soviet attempt failed mainly because their bomber crews could not orchestrate the attack in the same manner as Bristish and Americans could over German cities. Only during a couple of short moments Soviet bombers were coming in at a density of 12 - 15 planes in a minute, and then invariably some bombers got over their target (British used densities from 20 planes up /minute, with a peak of 45 planes/minute over Berlin in 1944). Soviet bombers did approach from different directions and at different hights, but most of the time there were still only 4 to 8 planes coming in in a minute.

An other very important consequence of inexperience of the Soviet crews was that they could be scared by heavy AA fire. Most of the Soviet crews were more than happy to jettison their loads when the first barrages exploded on their route. This was not the case with the British or US crews who held their course and formations even under heaviest AA fire. But they had years of experiene where as the Soviets had just started to learn their trade again. Remember, that the heavy bomber squadrons of the Soviet airforce were pitted against the Luftwaffe in a desperate attempt to stop the advancing German tank coloumns in 1941. It took several years to repair that damage.

In order to appreciate the importance of overwhelming AA by large amount of planes approaching simultaneously, think about the following: a plane flying at the speed of 350 km/h moves about 100 m/s. With this speed it took a plane about two minutes to cross over the whole area that Helsinki AA could cover and about 10 seconds from one pre calculated target (1000 m interwals) to another. If there is one target, the AA has decent time to determine where to shoot. Start adding targets and you see that the time that the fire control has to make decisions drops dramatically. Also the number of guns shooting the targets goes down lessening the effect. In practise the officer giving the fire commands of course shot targets in some sort of preference order based on size of formation etc. , but he had only a couple of seconds to make his decisions. And every mistake was at least one bomber getting over the city unmolested. No wonder that after the heaviest attack the officer in charge pf fire control collapsed due to stress.

Best regards,

Jari

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Post by Ike_FI » 21 Feb 2003 19:21

Many thanks for additional info, JariL.

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Just for the sake of putting the numbers to proportion, couple of quotes that show how the amount of bombs dropped compares to some better known and more destructive raids:

Helsinki
Dropped total by date: 6./7.2.= 6991 (6443) pcs, 16./17.2.= 4317 (-) pcs and 26./27.2.= 5182 (6452) pcs, alltogether 16 490 pcs, weighting 2604,7 (2416,5) [metric] tons
(146 dead and 356 wounded alltogether, acc.to the second link in my 1st post.)

London
http://london.allinfo-about.com/features/timeline.html
10th May 1941 - a 550 bomber raid dropped more than 700 tons of bombs and thousands of incendiaries. This was probably the worst raid of the Blitz.
Nearly 1500 people were killed and around 1800 seriously injured.
The Chamber of the House of Commons (Parliament) was destroyed.
The House of Lords, Westminster Abbey, Westminster Hall, St James's Palace and Lambeth Palace were amongst the many buildings damaged. Almost all the major mainline railway stations were also damaged as were 14 hospitals, the British Museum and the Old Bailey.
Dresden
http://www.raf.mod.uk/bombercommand/raids/dresden.html
A band of cloud still remained in the area and this raid, in which 244 Lancasters dropped more than 800 tons of bombs, was only moderately successful. The second raid, 3 hours later, was an all-Lancaster attack by aircraft of 1, 3, 6 and 8 Groups, with 8 Group providing standard Pathfinder marking. The weather was now clear and 529 Lancasters dropped more than 1,800 tons of bombs with great accuracy. Much has been written about the fearful effects of this raid. Suffice it to say here that a firestorm, similar to the one experienced in Hamburg in July 1943, was created and large areas of the city were burnt out. No one has ever been able to discover how many people died but it is accepted that the number was greater than the 40,000 who died in the Hamburg firestorm and the Dresden figure may have exceeded 50,000.

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Post by gabriel pagliarani » 05 Mar 2003 16:02

There is a misunderstanding about the previous post of mine: the problem in carrying on a 5 tons bomb (or bigger) is not in the available power necessary for climbing, but in safe centering the whole payload in a single locking point of the fuselage very close to geometrical baricenter. Havoc was previously designed to fit easy changes in flight configurations by reducing (during maintenance and handling at ground, this is the reason of my enquiry) the distance of engines from the edges of the wing, in the while the distribution of fuel between tanks was easily governed during the flight by the 3rd member of the crew (flight engineer). On a 4 engined plane this operation cannot be so effective because the heavy weight of 4 engines ( ..how much heavy was a diesel, Oleg?) is spread on a wider side-section. But the Lancaster was a notable exception to this rule... The engines of Pe-8 (.. why not Mikulin AM-35A 12 cyl. liquid cooled if not the diesel other??) simply had not turbochargers, loosing a wide amount of power at high ceiling. All sources about Helsinki bombing refer about 6000 mt (18000 ft) or not? 18 Pe-8 encountered therefore stronger flak reaction at lower ceiling, if weightened with 5 tons bombs. The count of Jari about the time necessary to fix the target is only partially true because Earth is a sphere and plain calculation he made is affected by trigonometric laws: if only 2 secs were necessary to drop down bombs there were some minutes to prepare it from a 6000 mt. ceiling. Simply Red Aviation on Helsinki was not equipped with the marker-beacons radio facilities & guidance that permitted the higher density of RAF bombers experienced on Hamburg and Dresden, fortunately.

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