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Operation Arctic Fox

Operation Arctic Fox (from the German Unternehmen
Polarfuchs) was the codename given to a campaign by
German and Finnish forces during World War II against
Soviet Northern Front defenses at Salla, Finland in July
1941. The Operation was part of a larger Operation
called Operation Silver Fox (Silberfuchs) which aimed
at capturing the vital port of Murmansk. The operation was conducted parallel to Operation Platinum Fox
(Platinfuchs) in the far north of Lappland. The principal
goal of Operation Arctic Fox was to capture the town of
Salla and then to advance in the direction of Kandalaksha
(Finnish: Kantalahti) to block the route to Murmansk.

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Background

Salla was one of the areas occupied during the Soviet invasion of Finland in 1939. The German XXXVI Corps,
consisting of both German and Finnish troops, carried
out Operation Arctic Fox as part of the larger Operation
Silver Fox (Silberfuchs), which aimed at capturing the Soviet port at Murmansk.
This was part of the overall attack on the Soviet Union,
Operation Barbarossa, and was, for the Finns, part of the The original plan for Operation Arctic Fox
initial phase of their Continuation War (Jatkosota).

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Kandalaksha and to cut the Murmansk line. For this the
Finnish 6th Division had to capture Alakurtti and Käyrälä
from Kuusamo from the south of Salla. From the north
the 169th Division had to attack frontal against the Soviet
defenses at the Tenniö River. The 6th SS Mountain Division had to advance along the Salla – Kandalaksha road.
Further south, the Finnish III Corps with the Finnish 3rd
Division supported the attack. The Finnish III Corp’s
units were placed under German High Command for the
operation. The ultimate goal for the Finnish forces was to
cut the Murmansk supply-lines at Loukhi and Kem. For
this the Finnish 3rd Division was split into two forces,
Group J and Group F. Group J was ordered to advance
from Kuusamo and take Kestenga, while Group F was to
attack from Suomussalmi and capture Ukhta.[6]

Preparation and plan

In the preceding Operations Blue Fox 1 and Blue Fox 2
(Blaufuchs I and Blaufuchs II) the German units were
transferred into the Arctic. The 169th Division was
shipped directly from Stettin to Oulu and then on to
Rovaniemi by train. The SS-Infantry Kampfgruppe Nord
was created as a mixed unit of the 6th and 7th Motorized SS Infantry Regiments, two artillery battalions and
one reconnaissance battalion. This unit was mostly untrained and more a police unit and therefore unsuited
for harsh arctic warfare.[3] The unit was later renamed
to 6th SS Mountain Division Nord and led by General
Demelhuber. While the unit was transferred, a transport
ship caught fire killing some 110 troops.[3] Attached to
the German and Finnish force were 2 small Panzer units: 3 Arctic Fox
The Panzer-Abteilung 211 which consisted of captured
French tanks[4] and Panzer-Abteilung 40 which consisted The offensive commenced on 1 July 1941 with the
mainly of Panzer I's and Panzer II's.[5]
Finnish 6th Division crossing the border at midnight.
The goal of the operation was to take Salla and then Several hours later the 6th SS Mountain Division Nord
to proceed along the railway eastwards, to capture started its frontal assault against the Soviet line, but was
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but made only slow progress. facing difficulties with arctic forest fighting. This meant that. the Finnish 6th Division headed the renewed drive of the XXXVI Corps. With the Finns stopping their offensive in the south on 17 November too. Group F advanced very fast 64 km (twice as many as the Germans in the whole July) through rough terrain to the Vyonitsa River. Three days later. where the old 1939 Soviet border fortifications were situated. as well as Group F’s drive on Ukhta. where it destroyed several encircled Soviet units from 10 to 19 July. Until that the Finnish 3rd Division had killed 3. while the 169th Division turned toward Apa and the Lake Kuola.[11] 5 Orders of battle 5. On 30 October the offensive began and after two days a Soviet regiment was encircled. On 27 and 29 July. The XXXVI Corps was unsuited. The German command now decided to support Group F’s thrust on Ukhta and transferred the SS Division Nord south to support Group F of the Finnish 3rd Division. possibly after consultation with Mannerheim not to get too deeply involved in Germany’s war. for two weeks. but was thrown back by strong Russian counterattacks. On 30 July they moved across the river and defeated the Soviet forces in the region. Group J’s advance east of Kestenga stalled. the Soviet 122nd Rifle Division did not receive any supplies and had to live • Finnish 3rd Division . A heavy Soviet counterattack drove them back out of the town. as neither Murmansk nor the railway at Kandalaksha was captured. lost Alakurtti and later withdrew to the Voyta River. On 14 October it was decided to halt the Ukhta-offensive and instead support Group J’s advance east of Kestenga.1 Finnish III Corps (under German Command) station. the Finns decided not continue the offensive. At the beginning of August 1941.1 German XXXVI Corps • 169th Infantry Division • SS-Division Nord (mot) • Finnish 6th Division In addition. the Finnish 3rd Division in the south was making good progress.[8] While the German advance stalled. The Soviets also received massive reinforcements. On 16 July von Falkenhorst. The German advance stalled.1. the Finns cleaned the perimeter which lasted until 13 November. the Soviets retreated to the Tuutsa River. especially the 6th Division of the III Finnish Corps. the corps made two separate attacks against the Soviets which led to nothing. Group J advanced to the canal between the Lake Pya and Lake Top. this marked the end of Operation Arctic Fox.[7] It was not until the 169th Division supported the attack. All three Soviet divisions now formed a formidable defense line around the lakes. as well as the towns of Alakurtti and Käyrälä. ill-trained and unprepared for arctic warfare and therefore made only small progress while suffering heavy casualties.[9] 5 ORDERS OF BATTLE off its field dumps. Instead of continuing the offensive. The 169th Division followed. while XXXVI Corps was exhausted after months of constant warfare.[7] On 9 July the 169th Division reached the town of Käyrälä. The Division’s first opponent was the Soviet 54th Division. The Soviets had to leave most of their artillery behind and in the heavy fighting some 50 Soviet tanks were destroyed. On 7 August the Finns captured Kestenga (Kiestinki) after fierce fighting. arrived and pressured Feige to renew the offensive. The German casualties were heavy and the attack was finally called off at the end of September. the SS Division Nord pursued the 122nd Rifle Division toward Lampela. On 6 September XXXVI Corps made a frontal assault against the Soviet lines.600. XXXVI Corps also prepared for a new attack.[2] During the successful advance of the Finnish forces in the south. In the face of the new German thrust. commander of Army Norway. In the next days the SS Division tried repeatedly to break through the Soviet lines. Afterwards. that the Germans broke through the Soviet defenses on 6 July and captured Salla. The Soviets transferred additional troops (the 88th Rifle Division as well as the independent Grivnik brigade) into the region.[10] 4 Conclusion During Operation Arctic Fox the Germans and Finns were able to make some ground and took Salla as well as Kestenga. because of an overstretched frontline. but overall the operation failed in terms of its strategic goals. but due the limited resources and an overstretched frontline the Finnish commander Hjalmar Siilasvuo ordered to not proceed with the offensive. made good progress and inflicted heavy casualties on the Soviet forces.000 Russians and captured 2. but all attempts failed.2 not able to make any gains. The Soviets now formed a strong defense line from Lake Verkhneye Verman to Tolvand – the so-called VL or Verman Line. but on 8 July a general Soviet retreat of the 122nd Rifle Division allowed the Germans to capture the town again. The Finnish units. a Finnish jaeger (jääkäri) battalion was in• Two Finnish jaeger (jääkäri) battalions[1] serted into the largely unoccupied 240 km (150 mi) area • Panzer-Abteilung 211 between the Murmansk and Kandalaksha directions of advance and was able to cut the sole railway connecting Kandalaksha with forward Soviet positions at the Nyam 5.

Hitlers Arctic War . ISBN 0-7110-2899-0 • Shirokorad. Jürgen. Hoffmann. pp. 94 [12] The division was known to have some new KV-1 heavy tanks.B. Raffaele.1 Soviets 14th Army • 122nd Division (Soviet Union) (occupying border defences) • 104th Division (Soviet Union) (located in Kandalaksha) • 1st Tank Division (Soviet Union) (located in Kandalaksha)[12] • 88th Division (Soviet Union) • Grivnik brigade 5. ACT publisher. Förster. 90–93 [10] Mann & Jörgensen (2002). 87 [4] http://www. Northern wars of Russia (Северные войны России) Moscow. 2006 • Mann. Finland at War 1939–45.htm [5] http://www. p. Philip S.lexikon-der-wehrmacht. p. Müller.lexikon-der-wehrmacht. 90 [9] Mann & Jörgensen (2002). Brent. 30 [2] Chapter 3. Translated by Dean S. Shirokorad [3] Mann & Jörgensen (2002). Snodgrass. Rolf-Dieter. 89 [8] Mann & Jörgensen (2002). Joachim. 7 References • Boog. Chris M. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Ewald Osers. p. Attack on the Soviet Union. p. ISBN 0-19822886-4. Ernst. 93–95 [11] Mann & Jörgensen (2002). Christer (2002). Osprey Publishing.2. Gerd R. p. UK: Ian Allan Publishing Ltd.htm [6] Mann & Jörgensen (2002).de/Gliederungen/ PanzerAbt/PanzerAbt40-R. p. pp. Ruggeri. Klink. Germany and the Second World War IV.. Hersham. • Jowett.2 5. Snodgrass. Ueberschär. Louise Willmot.2. Horst. Part X. (1998). & Jörgensen.. A.2 7th Army • 54th Division (Soviet Union) 6 Citations and notes [1] Jowett. 88 [7] Mann & Jörgensen (2002). Ruggeri (2006).3 • Panzer-Abteilung 40 5. McMurry. 2001 (in Russian) .de/Gliederungen/ PanzerAbt/PanzerAbt211-R.

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