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Fighting Over Finland

Fighting Over Finland

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Published by Inveteratus
Article on the air war over Finland during WW2.
Article on the air war over Finland during WW2.

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Inveteratus on Mar 22, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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03/29/2013

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lUlJllliUUVt':f
1
lllUllU
.~'.n
1939-40theoutnumberedFinnishairforcegallantlyresistedtheRussianonslaught
,~..-.!\{
glanceatthemapofNorthernEuropeandScandinaviaImmediatelyshowsthestrategicimportanceofFinland'spositioninrelationtotheSovietUnion.In1939thenarrowGulfofFinland,givingaccesstotheimportantRussiancityofLeningradandtotheislandnavalbaseofKron-stadt,wasdominatedtothenorthbyFinland,andtothesouthbytheindependentstatesofLatvia,LithuaniaandEstonia.Attheeasternendofthegulfisanarrowstripofland-theKarelianIsthmus-betweentheseaandthevastLakeLadoga.Atthesouthoftheisthmus,onlyafewmilesfromtheRusso-Finnishborder,isLeningrad.FearingNaziaggression,theRussianshadalreadysoughttoextendlong-standingnon-aggressiontreatiesbyseekingbasesonFinnishislandsinthegulf,oreventheexchangeofthesefortractsofundevelopedlandnorthofLakeLadoga.TheseadvanceshadbeenresolutelyresistedbytheFinns,astheyhadbytheotherindependentBalticstates,untilthesignatureoftheRibbentrop-MolotovPactofAugust1939designatedthemasbeingintheRussian,ratherthantheGermansphereofinfiuence.FollowingtheRussianinvolvementintheoccupationofPolandthefollowingmonth,Latvia,LithuaniaandEstoniaaccededtoSovietdemandsformilitarybasesontheirsoil.Althoughthesenewbasesthreatenedthewhole.,
Below:licence-built
developedsoutherncoastofFinland,includingthecapital
examplesoftheFokker
Helsinki.andotherportslikeTurkuandKotka,theFinns
C-Xequippedtwoofthe
refusedincreaseddemandsforSovietpenetration.
threeFinnishreconnaissanceunitsdeployedinthearmyco-operationrole.Bottom:December
1939
sawtheintroductionontheFinnishfrontoftheRussianPolikarpov
/-16
fighter.
which
wastoservewiththebiplanel-ISbis
All-out
attackHowever,nowtheRussiansbegantodemandmilitarybasesonthemainlandatHankoCape,islandsinthegulf,andanorthwardadjustment'oftheborderontheKarelianIsthmus,closetothecityofViipuri.ThisinitselfwouldhavemeantthelossoftheMannerheimLine,Finland'smaindefensivepositionontheisthmus,andthemostconvenientandobviousinvasionrouteintothecountryasawhole.Nocompromiseofferswereevenconsidered,andon29November1939theSovietUnionbrokeoffdiplomaticrelationswithFinland,claimedthattherehadbeenborderviolations,andonthenextdaylaunchedanall-outattack,includingheavyairraidsbyEstonian-basedbombersonHelsinkiandothertownsinthesouth.Ontheground,tenFinnishdivisionsandtworegimentsfaced30largerandbetter-equippedRussiandivisionsbackedupbysixtankbrigades.MostofthestrengthofbothadversarieswaslocatedaroundLakeLadoga,
2344
 
fJdflicularlytothesouthontheKarelianIsthmus.IntheairtheFinnshadasmall,butwell-trainedairforcewith145aircraft,114ofwhichwereoperational.Toco-operatewiththearmyinKareliawerethreereconnaissancesquadrons,TLeLv10,12and14.ThefirsttwowereequippedwithFokkerC-Xbiplanes,builtunderlicencefromtheDutch,TLeLv10employingitsaircraftinthedive-bomberrole.TLeLv14hadfourC-Xs,butthebulkofitsequipmentcomprisedtheolderFokkerC-VEs.Afourthsquadron,T~eLv16,operatedBlackburnRiponlIFandJunkersK43floatplanesindetachmentsthrough-outtheeasternpartofthecountryforoverwateropera-tions.ThemainoffensivestrengthrestedonjusttwosquadronsPLeLv44and46,whichbetweenthemcom-prised14licence-builtBristolBlenheimIbombers.Fordefencethereweretwofightersquadrons,HLeLv24and26;theformerandtwoflightsofthelatterhadrecentlyre-equippedwithFokkerDXXImonoplanes-againbuiltunderlicence.AttheoutbreakofwarthetwoflightsinHLeLv26whichwereequippedwiththeseaircraftwereattachedtoHLeLv24,leavingonlythethirdflightwiththeparentunitwithtenelderlyBristolBulldogIVAbiplanes.Thirty-fiveFiatG50monoplaneshadbeenorderedfromItaly,butweredelayedontheirwaythroughGermany.Apartfromtrainers,first-linestrengthwascompletedbyanothereightfloatplanes.~TheRussiansinitially'employed696aircraftindirect.,._...--pportoftheirarmies,Withafurther200orsooperating
-r
romEstonia,acrosstheGulfofFinland.Inthefarnorththe14thArmyatMurmanskwassupportedbytwoflightregimentswith18ANT35(TB-3)heavybombers,14
1
u)'OlevSB-2mediumbombersand48PolikarpovI-15bist})pianefighters.TheNinthArmyintheUkhtaareahada
';;-;gle
flightregimentwith18TB-3sand24SB-2s,while
WINTER
WAR/WAR
IN
THE
AIH
theSeventhArmyintheKarelianIsthmusareahadfourregimentswith42SB-2sand941-I5bisfighters.GreateststrengthwasonthenorthLadogaLakesectorwiththeEighthArmy,totallingtenflightregimentsinfivebrigadeswith280SB-2sand34IlyushinDB-3bombers,32Poli-karpovR-5reconnaissancebiplanesand92J-I5bis.Estonian-basedbombersClearlythesmallnumberofbombersandreconnaissanceaircraftavailabletotheFinnsallowedlittlemorethanoccasionalnuisanceandreconnaissancemissionsby
Aboveleft:fourteen
singleaircraftorpairsbut,fromthestart,thefighterswere
BristolBlenheimbombers
toplayanimportantpart.Spreadinflightsthroughoutthe
comprisedFinland'smain
southernpartofthecountry,theyhadnotreceived
offensivestrengthatthe
sufficientwarningtointercepttheraidsofthefirstdayof
startofthewar.More
war,butearlyonIDecemberwhenEstonian-based
aircraftwereaddedlater.
.bombersagainapproached,theywereready.Thefirst
Left:anumberofRussian
bomber,aDB-3,wasbroughtdowntocrash-landina
bomberswerecaptured
snowdriftearlyinthemorningbyLtEinoLuukkanean.
intactbyFinnishforces.
Thisaircraftwaslaterexaminedandtheinformation
Below:manycombat
derivedregardingitsunarmouredwingfueltanksallowed
typesofbothsideswere
manysuccessfulattackstobemadeonothersofthetype.
equippedwithski
Beforethedaywasoutotherflightshadaccountedfor
undercarriagesfor
anotherDB-3andeightSB-2s;theonlylosswasasingle
operationfromsnow.A
DXX]shotdownbymistakebyFinnish
anti-aircraft.,
FinnishBlenheimhomberis
fire.EventheBulldogswereinaction,claimingdamageto
-·pictured.
oneRussianfighterfortheloss_ofoneoftheirown.
Bottom:moremodern
Nextday,however,aviolentsnowstormbeganwhich
equipmentdidnotreach
wastolastfornearlythreeweeksandputanendtoall
theFinnsintheshapeof
aerialactivity.Ontheground,operationscontinued;the
theMesserschmittBfI09G,
mainRussianattackontheMannerheimLinemetstrong70
ofwhichweredelivered,
resistanceandwashaltedby6December,butnorthof
untiltheContinuationWar
LakeLadogaanduptotheUkhtaarea,deepadvances
againstRussiaof1941-44
 
weremadeagainsttheweakdefences.TheRussianswerer'-U-equippedforwintercampaigning,however,keepingto.hefewroadsinunweildy,slow-movingconvoys.Nowsmallpartiesofhighly-mobileFinnsequippedwithskiscuttheseconvoysupintosmallsectionsanddestroyedthem.AtSuomussalmitwofulldivisionsweretotallydestroyedinDecember,whileelsewhereterriblelossesweresustained,theRussianadvanceonthewholeTola-jarvi-Suojarvifrontbeingbroughttoahalt.Russianairreinforcementswerebroughtupwhentheweatherimprovedinmid-December-includingPoli-karpovI-16monoplanefighters-butinitiallythisdidlittletochangethesituationintheirfavour.FokkerDXXIsinterceptingaraidonSaarenpaa,southofVyborg,on19DecemberwereabletoclaimIISB-2sandDB-3s,andapairofI-16swithoutloss,whileduringpatrolsovertheKarelianfrontonthe23rd,IImoreair-craftwereshotdownbytheDXXIsforasingleloss,anSB-2alsofallingtoaBulldog.TwodayslateronChristmasDay,3FlightofHLeLv24wasdispatchedtoVartsilatosupporttroopsofIVCorpsnorthofLadoga,wheretwoofthepilotsatoncebroughtdownfourSB-2s;fourmorebombersfelltoothermembersofthesquadronstillinthesouth,andbytheendoftheyeartheDXXIshadbeencreditedwith50victories,includingoneR-5,eightI-16s,twoI-15bisbiplanesand39bombers.ThenewyearstartedwithfurthercombatsastheFinnscounter-attackedbothontheisthmusandnorthofthe~ke.Themostnotablecombatofthewaroccurredon,January
1940.
wheneightDB-3sraidedtheUttiarea.One,._wasshotdownby
Lt
Per-ErikSovelius,theothersevenbeingcaughtaftertheyhadbombedKuopioby
Lt
JormaSarvanto,Althoughhisfighterwasriddledbyreturnfire,2346
')
Sarvantoperseveredsingle-handeduntilhehadshotdownsixofthelightly-armouredbombers.Soveliusthenappearedatthesceneofthebattleanddispatchedtheremainingaircraft.Helpwasnowathand,mostimmediatelyfromneigh-bouringSweden.Avolunteerunit,Flygflottilj19,wassenttooperateintheLakeKemiareaagainsttheSovietNinthArmy.ThisarcticareahaduntilnowenjoyednoairsupportandtheSwedesweremostwelcome.FourHawkerHartreconnaissance-bombersand12GlosterJ-8GladiatorMarkIsarrivedunderthecommandofMajorHugoBeckhammeron11January1940..Followingthebombingoftheirairfieldsoonafterarrival.jheyweredetachedinflightstoseveralstrips,buttheyhadalreadyclaimedtheirfirstvictim-anI-15bison12January,shotdownbyVanrJacobi.
r
\
\_
Top:BritishaidtothebeleagueredFinnsincludedagiftof10GlosterGladiatorMarkIIbiplanefighters.Centre:theSovietTupolevSB-2wasthemostwidely-deployedmediumbomberoftheWinterWar.Above:aSoviet-builtPolikarpov1-153which,havingbeencapturedbyFinnishforces,wasemployedagainstitscountryoforigin

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