Osasto Arho, a naval detachment in October 1944

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Osasto Arho, a naval detachment in October 1944

Post by Lotvonen » 26 Nov 2023 08:59

Janne wrote in 2007:
OK then: the "mirror operation"´in October 1944 was about the Soviets landing on the Baltic islands still occupied by the Germans and the Finnish unit which participated in the operation in a very hush-hush manner was Osasto Arho, consisting of 50 small motorboats (used by fishers) nd a similar number of small wooden ships (used for coastal trade). In this operation eight sailors were lost on the return leg, probably in an attack by a German sub.

The unit involved in the operartion in September 1941 was Osasto Virkki, which consisted of the passenger steamer Porkala which had sailed between Helsinki and Ekenäs (and before that between Mariehamn and Turku as Åland or Åland I) and 30 (originally, engine troubles, damages and lack of reparation facilities dwindled the amout to 20) small motorboats. At first the unit landed Estonian of the group Erna on the Estonian mainland and then participated in OPeration Beowulf II, the German landing on the Baltic islands still occupied by the Soviets. The commander or the unit was severely wounded in Ormussaari and the 2nd Lt. of my question was killed in Muhunsaari (Moon island) where he was buried until his remains were shipped back to Finland in December same year.

Since no one came close enough (and there were IMHO too few people trying to make an educated guess), I'll simply throw a dart and the person who feels a sharp object hitting him in the eye shall pose the question!
Further to the subject:

©Veikko Huuska 20.11.2023 23:27 päivitetty 20.11.2023 23:27
Published in website Uusi Suomi, in Finnish, this is an unauthorized translation

Detachment Arho (Os.Arho) and their mystical operations in the Baltic coast in October 1944

Knight of the Mannerheim Cross and holder of the German Iron Cross, Lieutenant Commander Jouko Olavi Kaarle Arho
was posted as the CO of this outfit named after him in late September 1944. They subsequently had an unusual fighting experience in the waters of Hiiumaa/Dagö island as a part of the Soviet Baltic Fleet against German forces. Detachment Arho comprised one hundred transport vessels manned by Finnish crews. Under Soviet command they had to fight in the Dagö landing unexpectedly and against international law.

Estonian sources are telling that the information about the operation had been declared secret in Finland for 80 years, the period expiring in the autumn of 2024. What could be the reason for secrecy and why has it not been broken long ago `?
Could it really be that the commanders, NCO s and sailors ordered in that one hundred motor boat and galeases has been excluded from the official (Finnish) war history, into oblivion and darkness for 80 years ? Were the next of kin informed about the fate of the eight men KIA, the number of WIA and ill ones is also unknown. What made the participants shut their mouths ? Why are their war records incomplete ?

These details are taken under scrutiny below:
According to the stipulations of the armistice signed in Moscow on the 17.9.1944 the Finnish military forces were strictly limited, mainly for the defence of their sovereignty. As to the navy the article no.13 stipulated:
Finland is not allowed to upkeep greater military force than

b) a navy with a personnel of 4500 and total displacement of 10000 tonnes.

This implied a strong shrinking of the Finnish navy.
Furthermore, Article 16 :
“After this treaty has taken effect Finland is invited to join the international organization responsible for the de-mining of European waterways, the Commission of the Barents sea, Baltic sea and Black sea zone, and Finland is to keep their mine sweeping equipment in their entirety available to be used by the de-mining central commission until the post-war de-mining periond is over, which is determined by the central commission. “
This implied a crude duty to participate with considerable number of vessels and men to de-mine the considerable minefields of the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic sea. During the war there had been discussion in Finland if enemy POW s could be employed in landmine field de-mininig or should our own men be employed. After the armistice treaty took effect there was no problem any more. Finns had to participate in naval de-mining
In accordance with the armistice treaty the “Allied Control Commission# - in practice Soviets – ordered Finland to subordinate ASAP vessels needed by the Soviet troops.
Finnish GHQ set up a detachment to be led by Lt. Cmdr Jouko Olavi Kaarlo Arho ( 14.12.1908 Tampere – 27.2.1950 Turku).
Arho had been the CO of the minelayer Ruotsinsalmi, and a specialist in mine-laying and mine sweeping. As the CO of the minelayer Louhi he had laid mines already during the Winter War. For his distinguished service he had been nominated as a Knight of the Mannerheim, recommended by the Navy CO General Väinö Valve on the 8th February 1943. Consequently he was the best man for the task at hand. After his Baltic command he went on de-mining after the war during 1944 to 1950.
Lt. Cmdr Arho's military record sheet available in the Sotapolku database is very deficiently filled. The data on his participation in action ends in the year 1942. It is mentioned that he was WIA on the 4th July1944 in Eastern Gulf of Finland. The following is a little unclear marking: Kev. Los 4.12.44 (?). Promotion: on the 4th June 1949 to Commander, as per Order of the day 19/49, President of the Republic.

“Jatkosodan historia” (vol. 5) tells the following on the naval action on the Bay of Viipuri on the 4th to 5th July 1944: “With reference to the action of the Light Naval Detachment (Kev.Los), Navy CO V.Valve issued orders to the navy to prepare for an attack to the Bay of Viipuri. For this purpose a battle group comprising Kev.Los vessels was set up on the 1st July 1944 under the command of Lt. Cmdr O. Arho, named Battle Group Arho (Os.Arho).
Arho is here mentioned as Olavi Arho, whereas some other sources are calling him Jouko Arho. “Jatkosodan historia” vols 1-6 do not mention anything about the detachment Arho which was set up after the armistice or their action.
Arho was decorated with the Eiserne Kreutz II in Sept. and with the Mannerheim cross in February 1943 (no. 104).

“Sotapolku” database includes the following information on his career after the armistice:
Continuation War: 18.9.1944-2.10.1944 Saat.Os.
Lapland War: 3.10.1944-19.10.1944 Hanko satamatsto.
Lapland War: 20.10.1944-14.12.1944 Os.Arho
Lapland War: 15.12.1944-27.4.1945 IV Raiv.Os./TurLA.
The dates must be inaccurate.
Osasto (Os.) Arho – creation and action
The Soviet Union demanded from Finland wooden ships since the German magnetic mines laid in the Baltic waters made it hazardous to cross the straits between the Estonian mainland and the islands, also preventing landings with metal hulled ships. The order comprised 50 galeases and 60 motor boats with Finnish crews, provided with food and fuel for ten days.
The vessels were to be ready in Hanko as soon as the 2nd October 1944.
Os. Arho was assembled in a stick and carrot method, volunteers were scarce for such a mission on the mined autumnal sea. In Hanko, Russian gunboats were watching over the formation of the detachment.
The first vessels sailed from Hanko in the evening of 2nd October 1944 and the rest of them four days later. This was a case of Finnish pragmatism, Mannerheim's war realism which had to be soon applied in the direction of Lapland as the Soviet Union demanded accelerated expulsion of Germans from the Finnish soil.
Mr. Jorma Virtanen informs in his “ Jormanmaailma” website on the 15.4.2003 about this special kind of episode of naval war :
Off Rohuküla
The Finnish boat convoys sailed via Osmussaari island to Haapsalu and to the outer harbour of Rohuküla where Russians took over the deployment of the boats. Finnish crews remained in the galeases. Another Finnish boat detachment was positioned E of Tallinn.
Although the Finnish vessels were to be used only for non-combat supply and transport duties on the Estonian coast, Finnish galeases with their crews were forced to join action.
In Rohuküla Finnish galeases were loaded with soldiers, artillery and horses which were shipped on the 4th October across Väinämeri to Hiiumaa, in the harbour of Heltermaa. The return cargo to Rohuküla comprised wounded Soviet soldiers.
Late the same night the full loaded Finnish vessels departed for the main island of Saaremaa where Germans had retreaded from Muhu. On the 5th October two landing outfits and two brigades were shipped to Taaliku and Triigi. During this operation German artillery sunk one galeass loaded with shells and her crew
Finns on the Soviet side against Germans
When our delegation was visiting Hiiumaa in September 2023 our excellent guide presented us a Soviet-Estonian depiction of a landing battle. A heavy landing battle at a storm swept coast. Landing boats are met by lively German fire, ensuing casualties.
The guide was aware of the fact that even seasoned aficionados of war history hardly know this detail of the Finnish history. Those days in early October 1944 are indeed well shrouded in secrecy. According to sources available eight Finns were KIA in those battles on the Estonian coast. After the battle of the 4th October Finns were no more sent to fighting but for supply transports between Virtsu and Kuivatsu. Soviets did not allow the sailors to disembark , instead they stayed in their vessels off Rohuküla village.
Extract of the Finnish Wikipedia article on the Moonsund landing operation:
”In the small hours of 2nd October 1944 the Soviet CIX AC launched a landing on Hiiumaa which was defended only by two German battalions. The bridgehead position was reinforced by troops shipped with Finnish vessels and the island was totally in Soviet hands on the 3rd October. Germans had withdrawn their troops to Saaremaa during the night.
Soviet invasion of Saaremaa started on the 4th October 1944 with fire preparation by artillery and air force at the causeway from Muhu to Saaremaa. The same morning two Soviet Estonian divisions were landed in six points, the focal point being at the causeway and Orissaare. German forces were unable to prevent the landings even though they scored artillery hits in three or four Finnish troop transport vessels. At the causeway Germans managed to check the advance of Soviet forces until on the 5th October overpowering landing forces arrived from the South . The German forces CO Schimer ordered his troops to retreat to Sõrve Peninsula for evacuation to Courland. Kuressaar was abandoned on the 8th October

As to the number of the WIA as well as the total number of the Finnish detachment, no data is available. For example the Sotapolku website does not list the Osasto Arho commanders and rank-and-file names and the names of soldiers posted in the outfit . It is only their CO, Arho who is mentioned. The war dead database does not list any names of casualties of an outfit called Os.Arho .
Different sources give varying numbers of Finnish losses. Jorma Virtanen is mentioning that there were eight drowned men and sixteen galeasses and twenty-two motorboats sunk. German U-boats sunk five of the galeasses.
According to the updated information this autumn Germ,an U-boats sunk five galeasses and another three were shipwrecked or disappeared.
Whatever was a Galeass considered to be in 1944 so one ship crew may have comprised three to ten men of which 3 to 4 were needed to operate the vessel. (ref. Historia | Meriperinneyhdistys Stella Polaris ry (kaljaasi.net) ) What about the motorboat crews ? A fleet of 100 boats (50+50) included at least 150 men, if each boat comprised a crew of three, probably the absolute minimum? If the outfit was to be involved in fighting instead of just transporting, the number of men would have to be considerably larger?
These questions may be answered next year, in 2024, as the secrecy on the documents concerning this operation are made available. This is what I was told in Estonia. Why did not Finnish war historians or aficionados of naval history did not demand the archives to be opened long a´go ?
Is it possible that some participants to the operation have written memoirs or diaries ? Overall the entire secrecy over the Os. Arho is curious since the Finnish Army had to operate in Lapland up to the end of April 1945. Probably the fact that Finns were in action against Germans in the Estonian islands already starting the 3rd October 1944 was to be covered up. Back then the military action against Germans was to be limited although the landing in Tornio had taken place already on the 1st October 1944.
Most of Os. Arho vessels returned to Hanko on the 25th October 1944. The last galeasses arrived on the 7th Nov.1944.
Military historian Niilo Lappalainen published his book “Veljeskansojen kohtalonvuosilta” (WSOY, 1999) and estimated that the impressed Finnish outfit made a surprisingly large impact in the Soviet action against the strong rearguard action led by Marshall Schörner.
Does anyone have any more information about this detail of the war history ? If so, we are interested to learn that.
At the latest in 2024 as the above-mentioned secrecy is to be ended!
This kind of white patches of war history are odd. Especially considering that the Continuation War and the Winter War are the most researched periods of the Finnish history
Author: Veikko Huuska Ikaalinen

Seppo Koivisto
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Re: Osasto Arho, a naval detachment in October 1944

Post by Seppo Koivisto » 26 Nov 2023 14:12

Some years ago there were few Finnish newspaper articles of the Detachment Arho, maybe when the book by Lappalainen was published. The English Wikipedia article mentions also the role of the Detachment Arho.
Earlier thread of Jouko Arho.

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Re: Osasto Arho, a naval detachment in October 1944

Post by Kalle2 » 27 Nov 2023 09:40

Very strange that someone has got the impression that the documents of Osasto Arho are still secret!

In the Finnish Navy files in the Finnish MIlitary Archive (since many years attached to the Finnish National Archive) all documents have been normally available after 25 years (= since 1969)!

Thus the establishment documents of Osasto Arho (negotiation report from meeting with the Allied Control Commission 30 September 1944) are in file T17378/2332, and the fInal operation report (13 January 1945) in file T17380/2370).

Several memories of participants have been published (most however in local and war veteran publications).

In the interesting memoirs of professor Paavo E. Kauppinen (Itämeri merisodan varjossa, published by University of Tampere, 1995) the operation is described on pages 142-147.

Furthermore, a Russian view of the operation was published by Konstantin Strelbitskiy (Chairman of Naval History Club in Moscow) in the Finnish Yearbook of Military History (Sotahistoriallinen aikakauskirja), Vol. 16 (1997), pages 153-156.

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