Finland

Discussions on the Winter War and Continuation War, the wars between Finland and the USSR.
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oscar
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Finland

Post by oscar » 10 Jun 2003 12:16

Did Finland have any intentions to move further in to Soviet union than to the former border between SU and Finland? Were they halted and by who ? Why was there for example no offensive to cut of Murmansk from the rest of SU?

JariL
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Finns did go further than the old border to Lake Onega and..

Post by JariL » 10 Jun 2003 13:03

<Did Finland have any intentions to move further in to Soviet union than <to the former border between SU and Finland? Were they halted and by <who ? Why was there for example no offensive to cut of Murmansk from <the rest of SU?

and river Svir. Finnish troops had reached all there objectives by December 1941. Karelian Isthmus was again in Finnish hands, Red Army had evacuated Hanko and Finnish troops were at deep in Russian Karelia.

Please note that the following is not to downplay resistance offered by the Red Army that was in most cases very determined.

In Karelian Isthmus Finnish troops were stopped at the old border by the Finnish HQ. The retaken area was declared part of Finland by the Parliament.

In East-Karelia Finnish troops crossed river Svir and established a beach head on the Southern bank of the river. This was done in accordance with the German overall plan. There the troops were ordered to dig in. Some historians claim that had the order not been given, it would have happened in practise anyway. There was some open revolts in some units because the men did not see any point in going any further. Most Finns were willing to fight to get back what was lost in the Winter War but a crusade to topple Soviet Union was far less popular idea.

The approach towards Murmansk railroad was German business. Finnish 3rd Army Core was under German command and acted as the spearhead of the attack once German attempts had failed. The poor bastards who had to fight this campaign did not know that politics had entered the picture and that they were not supposed to make it. General Siilasvuo was between the rock and the hardplace trying to please both the Germans and Mannerheim. Germans wanted him to open the way to the rail road and Mannerheim warned him from doing so at any cost. The end result was a "war play" where the Finnish troops at the front made their best in hard and bloody fighting and the HQ sabotaged their effort as best as they could. Finnish, German and Russian soldiers who died in the forests could have no clue what was going on in the political field. They did not get to the Murmansk railroad and Siilasvuo burned his personal relations with the Germans so badly that it was no coincidence that he was ordered to lead the Lappland war against Germans 1944-45.

German 20th mountain army tried to take Murmansk but was stopped at river Litsa. It stayed put there for 3 years.

Regards,

Jari

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Harri
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Re: Finland

Post by Harri » 10 Jun 2003 13:18

oscar wrote:Did Finland have any intentions to move further in to Soviet union than to the former border between SU and Finland?
Probably there were plans, the high command staffs are for that. Finns did move further than to the old border in East Karelia.
oscar wrote:Were they halted and by who?
Finnish troops were halted by the Finnish Commander-in-Chief Marshal Mannerheim but there were political decisions behind these orders. Also opinions of other countries like Sweden and USA effected on the background.
oscar wrote:Why was there for example no offensive to cut of Murmansk from the rest of SU?
There were many long-range patrol hits and also air raids. Actually cutting the Murmans railway was German's operation which was assisted by the Finns. All three attacks (towards the city of Murmansk and Murmans railway directions) in the north didn't succeed.

There was a plan to cut the Murmansk railway at Louhi station from where the new railway to Archangelsk left. That plan was worked out in 1942 by Colonel V. Nihtilä (Chief of Operative Department of Finnish HQ) and Major General E. Raappana (Commander of 14th Division) and someone whom I don't remember right now.

This plan didn't realized mainly because of political reasons. US had announced that they will declare war against Finland if US supplies are destroyed on Murmansk railway. Other reasons, I Think, were that Finnish HQ would have need those divisions which were at Karelian Isthmus for the attack (one army corps) although at that time our III AK was almost useless with Germans. Finnish army had just been deminished and this attack would probably have needed re-mobilization.

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Post by varjag » 11 Jun 2003 13:03

While the Finnish government retained mostly a realistic approach to the war and it's outcome we should not forget the wider aims of some hotheads in Finnish politics, notably the IKL - whose aims in the heedy days of 1941 and 1942 strived for very much more ambitious aims in what was known as 'Far-Karelia'. To which must be added claims by Finland after victory, to some trade monopolies in 'the Baltic area' - notably that of oil and coal, which, presumably was going to be 'cleared' through Helsinki Traders to other Baltic countries such as Sweden and Denmark.

JariL
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IKL was not a mjor factor

Post by JariL » 11 Jun 2003 14:38

Hi varjag,

IKL ws not a major factor in Finnish politics and it was not only IKL that supported the idea of Greater Finland. In general uniting all Finns under one state was a dream of the academic youth those days. Some Finnish industrial companies would have gladly taken control over natural resources in Russian Karelia after the war and there were certainly ambitions towards some sort of post war leading position among the Nordic countries in Finland. On the whole these ambitions did not play a prominent role in Finnish politics but they are an indication on surprisingly large freedom of speech during the war. Social democratic party opposed annexation of Soviet Karelia and most of the center party was on the same lines. But still if Soviet Union had collapsed we do not know what would have happened.

Regards,

Jari

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Re: Finland

Post by gabriel pagliarani » 14 Jun 2003 23:52

Harri wrote: ...There was a plan to cut the Murmansk railway at Louhi station from where the new railway to Archangelsk left. That plan was worked out in 1942 by Colonel V. Nihtilä (Chief of Operative Department of Finnish HQ) and Major General E. Raappana (Commander of 14th Division) and someone whom I don't remember right now.
This plan didn't realized mainly because of political reasons. US had announced that they will declare war against Finland if US supplies are destroyed on Murmansk railway. Other reasons, I Think, were that Finnish HQ would have need those divisions which were at Karelian Isthmus for the attack (one army corps) although at that time our III AK was almost useless with Germans. Finnish army had just been deminished and this attack would probably have needed re-mobilization.
Murmansk and Archangelsk were consdered separated targets, therefore. Why? In other posts was written that the supply lines of naval convoys from Hull (England) were directed towards Murmansk. in other posts towards Archangelsk. Why this difference? Probably that region had the same strategical relevance of Malta, Alexandria, Sevastopol, Stalingrad. Why Germans stopped?

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Harri
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Post by Harri » 15 Jun 2003 00:35

Germans were stopped by the Soviets. And Finland was unwilling to help/advance further because of the US political pressure. We had also achieved our goals in the war.

Convoys were directed to Murmansk harbour because it stayed open of ice unlike Archangelsk. The new railroad from Louhi to Archangelsk was the only way from Murmansk because Finns had cut the direct route to Leningrad direction.

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Post by gabriel pagliarani » 15 Jun 2003 22:38

Harri wrote:Germans were stopped by the Soviets. And Finland was unwilling to help/advance further because of the US political pressure. We had also achieved our goals in the war.

Convoys were directed to Murmansk harbour because it stayed open of ice unlike Archangelsk. The new railroad from Louhi to Archangelsk was the only way from Murmansk because Finns had cut the direct route to Leningrad direction.
Consequently, by cutting off new railroad from Lohui. it would be possible to cut off any naval supply towards SU during winter. Having Murmansk shut off and with Archangelsk de-iced only 4 months per year, no doubt about SU capitulation before Stalingrad. What an error from OKW not doubling units on that frontline!

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The Northern Front

Post by Sami_K » 16 Jun 2003 00:52

gabriel pagliarani wrote:Consequently, by cutting off new railroad from Lohui. it would be possible to cut off any naval supply towards SU during winter. Having Murmansk shut off and with Archangelsk de-iced only 4 months per year, no doubt about SU capitulation before Stalingrad. What an error from OKW not doubling units on that frontline!
More forces wouldn't have guaranteed success. The terrain at the theater of operations was very poor for an Army like Wehrmacht.

Even basic necessities, like firewood, had to be transported by mules or horses. There were little or no roads in the area, and thus both sides had to construct roads in the tundra to supply even the forces they had.

I recommend reading:
http://www.cgsc.army.mil/carl/resources ... bhardt.asp
Especially the Wether & Terrain part, and remember that the MSR's didn't exist in 1941 when the Germans had the best shot for taking Murmansk.

Cheers,
Sami

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Post by gabriel pagliarani » 16 Jun 2003 14:57

Powerful site, Sami! Thanks. But there are written also these words:
"..Chapter 5 explains the important contribution of the Northern Fleet to the success of the ground offensive. In chapter 6, a detailed and documented account of Soviet special operations is addressed. "
Sami, the Russian offensive towards Kirkenes destroyed the real "Damocle's sword" hang on the heads of Soviet H.Q. till 1941 and represented by XX German Mountain Division. And without maritime logistic support from Northern fleet that offensive was not yet possible. Althought from 1941 to 1944 Wehrmacht never attempted a decisive strike towards the railroad gaving a further chance to S.U. Better it was in trying a desperate offensive that waiting to be suppressed as they did in 1944, when the war was lost on other theatres. Only who dare wins.

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Damocle's Sword

Post by Sami_K » 16 Jun 2003 19:03

gabriel pagliarani wrote:Powerful site, Sami! Thanks.
- You're welcome. I still prefer reading it in the form of book, but for quick reference the text on a website is excellent.
The site also has several other books available, many of which are worth a read.

gabriel pagliarani wrote: But there are written also these words:
"..Chapter 5 explains the important contribution of the Northern Fleet to the success of the ground offensive. In chapter 6, a detailed and documented account of Soviet special operations is addressed. "
Sami, the Russian offensive towards Kirkenes destroyed the real "Damocle's sword" hang on the heads of Soviet H.Q. till 1941 and represented by XX German Mountain Division. And without maritime logistic support from Northern fleet that offensive was not yet possible. Althought from 1941 to 1944 Wehrmacht never attempted a decisive strike towards the railroad gaving a further chance to S.U. Better it was in trying a desperate offensive that waiting to be suppressed as they did in 1944, when the war was lost on other theatres. Only who dare wins.
It was simply easier for the Soviets to bring in supply and troops than for the Germans. Can't recall how much detail Gebhardt gives about the German problems providing supply to their troops (if any, after all its mainly written using Soviet sources), but the Murmansk RR worked also as a supply route northwards, instead of just bringing western allied equipment southwards. This was a logistical edge that the Red Army had in the North, and with which the Germans couldn't compete.

You could call the presence of the German forces near Murmansk as a "Damocle's Sword", but it certainly was a dull one.

It took a long time before the German High Command dropped the idea of trying to get to Murmansk, but it simply wasn't possible with the forces available (and thus the absence of serious attempts after the intitial advance) and thanks to the numerous fronts in which Germany was engaged, there was little to spare for the distant theater in the far north.

Cheers,
Sami

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Harri
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Post by Harri » 16 Jun 2003 21:59

Here is some background for the discussion:

In the 1930's it was estimated in Finland that only a regiment sized units at maximum could operate along each main routes in Northern Finland. Finland had spared a separate battalion for each such direction. Massive Soviet attack surprised Finns along long Eastern border when the whole Soviet divisions attacked almost through impassable regions.

The funniest/hardest situations were at Petsamo region (in the far North) where two Soviet divisions attacked against a single Finnish frontier company (Capt. Antti Pennanen) and at Juntusranta north from Suomussalmi (and famous Raate Road) where a regiment from Soviet 163.D was opposed by a Finnish half-platoon (field guard) from Separate Battalion 15 (Er.P 15). The first messages told that the guard is facing a Soviet Battalion. Finnish HQ didn't believe that because there were no roads on the Soviet side. Next more urgent message which told about the attack of the whole Soviet regiment was so unbelievable that a higher officer was sent to check out what the young chief of the field guard was telling about. But he was absolutely right! After that Finnish HQ sent rapidly two battalions (PPP 6 and Er.P 16) to stop the advancing Soviet troops. New higher command called Group Susi [= wolf] (Lt.Col. P. Susitaival) was also formed.

Winter War really opened the eyes of the Finns: it seemed that much bigger formations than battalions could operate along each main direction. Finns told later to Germans that supply could be arranged only for one division along each small road. Eventually Germans doubled their divisions for each direction. Supposed supply problems were the main reason why there was no clear emphasis of forces and troops were almost equal in size in all three directions (Petsamo - Murmansk, Salla - Kantalahti and Kuusamo - Kiestinki). Soviet side didn't have the same supply problems because they had more roads in their rear and Murmansk railway which was partially double-tracked.

German divisions were really massive and needed four times more transport trains than Finnish divisions because they were so heavily equipped. Finnish divisions were much lighter both in equipment and also in supply. Finnish railways in the north (for example route Oulu - Kemijärvi) were built of light rails and so the typical trains there were slow (30 - 45km/h), light and small, about 10 - 12 wagons. These supply routes were nothing compared to Murmansk railroad where heavy trains ran about 60 - 70km/h and contained easily at least 30 - 40 wagons.

This was a bit off topic but explains the backgrounds of the attack plans in the summer 1941. Supply problems on German side were real and affected to all planning. Besides Germans couldn't use ships very effectively on the coast of Norway due to British and Soviet interference which became more and more serious problem when war went on.

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Post by gabriel pagliarani » 17 Jun 2003 23:04

If I have understood correctly your post, Harri, simply soviet Arctic Divisions just solved those relevant problems in logistics before beginning Winter War, in the while no Axis big unit was able to be displaced and managed so far near Pole (like Soviet divisions were, evidently) in Arctic Tundra. If it is correct, Kirkenes offensive in 1944 was not surely an exploit as Gebhardt picted and surely wasn't the 1st Arctic Large Scale Offensive never attempted. The only important difference obviously was in success of Soviets: Winter War failed, Kirkenes no. Please watch this adherent topic:
http://www.thirdreichforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=24623
...nice thread indeed!
Regards.

Sami_K
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Problems solved?

Post by Sami_K » 18 Jun 2003 16:58

gabriel pagliarani wrote:If I have understood correctly your post, Harri, simply soviet Arctic Divisions just solved those relevant problems in logistics before beginning Winter War
They didn't.

A contribution to the successful Finnish defense along the "Wilderness Front" was that the Red Army had simply too much men & material being supplied over a logistical network not capable of dealing with so large formations. But in 1944 the Red Army had a far better logistical network in operation than in 1939, and were far better in making the ground work before an offensive.

gabriel pagliarani wrote:...in the while no Axis big unit was able to be displaced and managed so far near Pole (like Soviet divisions were, evidently) in Arctic Tundra.
Except the Finns, of course, but this took place in the Lapland War.

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Post by Hyttinen » 30 Jun 2003 11:47

Germans often asked for Finns to cut the Murmansk railroad, but Mannerheim kept telling them that it cannot be done before the city of Leningrad falls. Mannerheims point was, that after Leningrad would be free of enemies, Finns could pull some forces from their southwest front to north. Without these reserves the attack could not be done. (as my source I've used the memoirs of general paavo Talvela).
There were plans to move forwards. I've seen a picture of three generals, Lagus, Raappana and Airo around a map. The text under the picture said they were planning the attack to Murmansk railroad. The picture was in some book, can't remember which one.

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