|Part of Eastern Front of World War II|
| File:StuG III Ausf. G.jpg|
Finnish StuG III Ausf. G assault guns.
| Soviet Union|
|C.G.E. Mannerheim|| Kirill Meretskov|
| 530,000 Finns
| 58,715 dead or missing
1,500 civilian deaths
| 200,000 dead or missing |
190,000 hospitalized due to sickness
4,000-7,000 civilian deaths
(note:victims of the Siege of Leningrad are excluded from these totals)
| 1 Italy was officially at war with the Soviet Union from June 1941, but the country's involvement in the Continuation War itself was limited to a flotilla of minor warships that operated in Lake Ladoga.|
2 Although the United Kingdom declared war on Finland in 1941, there was only one British attack on Finnish soil - an air raid at Petsamo carried out on 31 July 1941. State of war nonetheless existed between the two countries. The United Kingdom formally declared war on Finland on 6 December 1941.
|Winter War – Continuation War – Lapland War|
At the time it started, it was named by the Finns to make clear its relationship to the preceding Winter War of 30 November 1939 to 13 March 1940. The Soviet Union, however, perceived the war merely as one of the fronts of the Great Patriotic War against Nazi Germany and its allies. Similarly, Germany saw its own operations in the region as a part of its overall war efforts of World War II.
The United Kingdom declared war on Finland on 6 December 1941, followed by its Dominions shortly afterwards. The Continuation War is a rare case of democracies declaring war on other democracies but the British Empire forces were not major participants in the war. Nazi Germany took part by providing critical material support and military cooperation to Finland. The United States did not fight or declare war against either party, but sent substantial matériel to the Soviet Union for use in the war effort against Germany and its allies.
The formal conclusion of the Continuation War was ratified by the Paris peace treaty of 1947.
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Aims of the War
- 3 Background
- 4 Outbreak of the war
- 5 Finnish Offensive of 1941
- 6 Trench warfare 1942-1943
- 7 Soviet Offensive 1944
- 8 Battles and operations
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 Further reading
Although the Continuation War was fought on the periphery of World War II and the troops engaged were relatively few, its history is intriguing as it represents the only case of a genuinely democratic state participating in World War II on the side of the Axis powers (though never being a signatory of the Tripartite Pact). The United Kingdom declared war on Finland on 6 December 1941, the Finnish Independence Day, with Canada and New Zealand declaring war on Finland on December 7, and Australia and South Africa declaring war on December 8. The United States did not declare war; however, the US government seized Finnish merchant ships in American ports and shut down Finnish diplomatic and commercial offices in the US. The US government later warned Finland about the consequences of continued adherence to the Axis.
The best known British action on Finnish soil was a Swordfish attack on German ships in the Finnish harbour of Petsamo on 31 July 1941. This attack achieved little except the loss of 3 British aircraft, but it was intended as a demonstration of British support for its Russian ally. Later in 1941, Hurricanes of RAF 151 Wing based at Murmansk provided local air cover for Russian troops and fighter escorts for Russian bombers. The British contribution to the war was occasional but significant.
Finnish radio intelligence is said to have participated effectively in German actions against British convoys to Murmansk. Throughout the war, German aircraft operating from airfields in northern Finland made attacks on British air and naval units based in Murmansk and Archangelsk.
Finland adopted the concept of "parallel war" whereby it sought to pursue its own objectives in concert with, but separate from, Nazi Germany.
Major events of World War II, and the tides of war in general, had significant impact on the course of the Continuation War:
- Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa) is closely connected to the Continuation War's beginning.
- The Allied invasion of France (Battle of Normandy) was coordinated with the Soviet major offensive against Finland (9 June–15 July 1944).
- The subsequent US/Soviet race to Berlin brought about the end of the Continuation War by rendering Northern Europe irrelevant.
Aims of the War
Unlike the Winter War, which was a Soviet war of aggression against Finland, the Continuation War was a war of aggression initiated by the Finns, which attempted to rectify the territorial losses of the Winter War and pre-empt Soviet aggression. There is a debate in Finland on whether the country had a realistic option of not joining the German Operation Barbarossa, and about how much of the Finnish action was morally justified. However, there exists a consensus that one of the Finnish main objectives was an attempt to get back the areas lost in the Winter War.
Finland's main goal during World War II was, although it was nowhere literally stated, to survive the war as an independent democratic country, capable of maintaining its sovereignty in a politically hostile environment. Specifically for the Continuation War, Finland also aimed at reversing its territorial losses under the March 1940 Moscow Peace Treaty and by extending the territory further east, to have more non-Finnish land to defend before the USSR would enter Finnish territories. Also some small right-wing groups supported a Greater Finland ideology. Finland's exertion during the World War was, as regards survival and with hindsight, successful, although the price was high in war casualties, reparation payments, territorial loss, bruised international reputation, and subsequent adaptation to Soviet international perspectives during the Cold War (see: Finlandization). The Finnish-German alliance was different from most of the other Axis relationships, an example of which is represented by the participation of Finnish Jews in the fight against the Soviet Union. The Finns did not take any anti-Jewish measures in Finland, despite repeated requests from Nazi Germany.
The Soviet Union's war goals are harder to assess on account of the secretive nature of the Stalinist Soviet Union. Soviet sources maintain that Soviet policies up to the Continuation War were best explained as defensive measures by offensive means: the division of occupied Poland with Germany, the annexation of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, and the attempted invasion of Finland in the Winter War are seen by them as elements in the construction of a security zone or buffer region between the perceived threat from the capitalist powers of Western Europe and the Communist Soviet Union – as some see the post-war establishment of Soviet satellite states in the Warsaw Pact countries and the Agreement of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance concluded with post-war Finland. Notable modern western scholars such as Norman Davies and John Lukacs reject this view and claim that the pre-war Soviet policy was aimed at staying out of the war and regaining land lost after the fall of the Russian Empire.
Before World War II
Although East Karelia has never been part of a modern Finnish state, a significant part of its inhabitants were Finnic-speaking Orthodox Karelians. After the Finnish declaration of independence, voices arose advocating the annexation of East Karelia to "rescue it from oppression". This led to a few incursions to the area (Viena expedition and Aunus expedition), but these were unsuccessful. Finland unsuccessfully raised the question of East Karelia several times in the League of Nations.
In non-leftist circles, Imperial Germany's role in the "White" government's victory over rebellious Socialists during the Finnish Civil War was celebrated, although most preferred British or Scandinavian support over that of Germany. The security policy of an independent Finland turned first towards a cordon sanitaire, whereby the newly independent nations of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Finland would form a defensive alliance against the USSR, but after negotiations collapsed, Finland turned to the League of Nations for security. Contacts with the Scandinavian countries also met with little success. In 1932, Finland and the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression pact, but even contemporary analysts considered it worthless.
The 1920 peace agreement was actively broken by the Soviet Union in 1937 when it stopped Finnish ships travelling between Lake Laatokka (Ladoga) and the Gulf of Finland via the River Neva. The free use of this route for merchant vessels had been one of the articles in the agreement.
The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and the Winter War
The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in 1939 enabled the Soviet Union to pressure Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland. The three Baltic countries soon gave in to Soviet demands, but Finland continued to refuse. As a result, on 30 November 1939, the Winter War began. Condemnation by the League of Nations and by countries all over the world had no effect on Soviet policy. International help to Finland was planned, but very little actual help materialized.
The Moscow Peace Treaty, which was signed on 12 March 1940, ended the Winter War. The Treaty was severe for Finland. A fifth of the country's industry and 11% of agricultural land were lost, as was Viipuri, the country's second largest city. Some 12% of Finland's population had to be moved to the Finnish side of the border. Hanko was rented to the Soviet Union as a military base. However, Finland had avoided having the Soviet Union annex the whole country.
The Moscow Peace Treaty, in 1940, was a shock to the Finns. It was perceived as the ultimate failure of Finland's foreign policy, which had been based on multilateral guarantees for support. Binding bilateral treaties were now sought and formerly frosty relations, such as with the Soviet Union and the Third Reich, had to be eased. Public opinion in Finland longed for the re-acquisition of Finnish Karelia, and put their hope in the peace conference that was assumed would follow the World War. The term Välirauha ("Interim Peace") became popular after the harsh peace was announced.
Although the peace treaty was signed, the state of war and censorship was not revoked because of the widening world war, the difficult food supply situation, and the poor shape of the Finnish military. This made it possible for president Kyösti Kallio to ask Field Marshal Mannerheim to remain commander-in-chief and supervise rearmament and fortification work. During 1940, Finland received material purchased and donated during and immediately after the Winter War. Military expenditures rose in 1940 to 45% of Finland's state budget. A war trade treaty with Britain had little effect due to German occupation of Norway and Denmark.
Nazi Germany attacked Scandinavia on 9 April 1940 (Operation Weserübung). Finland, like Sweden, was spared occupation but was encircled by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. From May 1940, Finland pursued a campaign to re-establish good relations with Germany. The Finnish media not only refrained from criticism of Nazi Germany, but also took an active part in this campaign. Dissent was censored. After the fall of France, the campaign was stepped up.
The implementation of the Moscow Peace Treaty created problems. The forced return of evacuated machinery, locomotives, and rail cars, inflexibility on questions which could have eased hardships created by the new border, such as fishing rights and the usage of Saimaa Canal, heightened distrust about the objectives of the Soviet Union.
Unbeknownst to Finland, Adolf Hitler had started to plan an invasion of the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa). He had not been interested in Finland before the Winter War, but now he saw the value of Finland as a base of operations, and perhaps also the military value of the Finnish army. In the first weeks of August, German fears of a likely immediate Soviet attack on Finland caused Hitler to lift the arms embargo. Negotiations were initiated concerning German troop transfer rights in Finland in exchange for arms and other material. For the Third Reich, this was a breach of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, as well as being for Finland a breach of the Moscow Peace Treaty. Soviet negotiators had insisted that the troop transfer agreement (to Hanko) should not be published making it easy for the Finns to keep a troop transfer agreement with the Germans secret until the first German troops arrived.
Road to war
Despite the Soviet leadership having promised the Finns during the signing of the Moscow Peace treaty that the Soviets would not intervene in Finnish domestic policy, the reality of the interim peace period showed the opposite. After the ceasefire the Soviets demanded the Finnish industrial town of Enso, which clearly was on the Finnish side of the peace treaty border; the Finns accepted and handed over the town. The Soviet involvement in Finnish domestic politics continued with open Soviet support for the extreme left wing organization SNS Friendship Union Soviet-Finland, who openly campaigned for Finland to join the Soviet Union. The Soviets also successfully demanded that the Finnish minister Väinö Tanner resign and that, during the Finnish presidential election of 1940, neither Mannerheim, Kivimäki, Tanner nor Svinhuvud were to be candidates. The most significant event during the interim peace was Soviet foreigner minister Molotov's visit in Berlin where Molotov asked Hitler for a free hand to 'solve the Finnish question'.
The negotiations about Petsamo nickel mining rights had dragged on for six months when the Soviet Foreign Ministry announced in January 1941 that the negotiations had to be concluded quickly. On the same day, the Soviet Union interrupted grain deliveries to Finland. Soviet ambassador Zotov was recalled home 18 January and Soviet radio broadcasts started attacking Finland. Germans in Northern Norway reported in 1 February that the Soviet Union had collected 500 fishing ships in Murmansk, capable of transporting a division. Hitler ordered troops in Norway to occupy Petsamo (Operation Renntier) immediately if the Soviet Union started attacking Finland.
Finns offered half of the mine to Soviets and demanded a guarantee that no anti-government agitation would be done in the mines. These were not enough for Soviets and when Mannerheim declared that any additional concessions would endanger the defence of the country and threatened to resign if those were done, the Finnish side decided to let the negotiations lapse when there was no movement from the Soviet positions.
After the failure of the nickel negotiations, diplomatic activities were halted for a few months. The period did, however, see an increased German interest in Finland.
One sign of the interest was the recruitment of one battalion of Finnish volunteers to the German Waffen-SS, with approval of the Finnish government. It has been concluded that the battalion served as a token of Finnish commitment to cooperation with Nazi Germany. The agreement was that the Finnish volunteers would not be sent to fight against British or Greek forces (the only European nations at war with Germany at the moment of signing) and had the duration of two years. This battalion, named the Finnisches Freiwilligen Bataillon fought as part of SS Division Wiking in the Ukraine and Caucasus. When the time of service was up, the battalion was pulled back from the front in May 1943 and was transported to Tallinn and further to Hanko where it was disbanded on 11 July. The soldiers were then transferred into different units of the Finnish army.
The German Foreign Ministry sent Ludwig Weissauer to Finland 5 May, this time to clarify that war between Germany and the Soviet Union would not be launched before spring 1942. Finnish leadership believed that, at least officially, and forwarded the message to the Swedes and the British. When the war broke out only a couple of months later, it was understandable that both Swedish and British governments felt that the Finns had lied to them.
In the spring of 1941, joint battle plans were discussed with Germany, as well as communications and securing sea lanes. Finland made significant requests for material aid. Finland was willing to join Germany against Soviet Union with some prerequisites: a guarantee of Finnish independence, the pre-Winter War borders (or better), continuing grain deliveries, and that Finnish troops would not cross the border before a Soviet incursion. The arrival of German troops participating in Operation Barbarossa began on 7 June in Petsamo.
The Finnish parliament was informed for the first time on 9 June, when the first mobilization orders were issued for troops needed to safeguard the forthcoming general mobilization phases. On June 20, Finland's government ordered 45,000 people at the Soviet border to be evacuated. On 21 June, Finland's chief of the General Staff, Erik Heinrichs, was finally informed by his German counterpart that the attack was to begin.
Outbreak of the war
Operation Barbarossa had already commenced in the northern Baltic by the late hours of June 21, when German minelayers, which had been hiding in the Finnish archipelago, laid two large minefields across the Gulf of Finland. These minefields ultimately proved sufficient to confine the Soviets' Baltic Fleet to the easternmost part of the Gulf of Finland. Later the same night, German bombers flew along the Gulf of Finland to Leningrad and mined the harbour and the river Neva. On the return trip, these bombers refuelled in Utti airfield. Finland feared that the Soviet Union would occupy Åland so Operation Kilpapurjehdus (Sail Race) was launched in the early hours of June 22 to occupy Åland. Soviet bombers launched attacks against Finnish ships during the operation but no damage was inflicted. Finnish submarines also laid six small minefields at 8:00-10:00 between Suursaari and Estonian coast according to pre-war defensive plans of Finland and Estonia.
On the morning of June 22, the German Gebirgskorps Norwegen started Operation Renntier and began its move from Northern Norway to Petsamo. Finland did not allow direct German attacks from its soil to the Soviet Union, so German forces in Petsamo and Salla had to hold their fire. There were occasional individual and group level small arms shooting between Soviet and Finnish border guards, but otherwise the front was quiet.
After three days, early on the morning of June 25, the Soviet Union unleashed a major air offensive against 18 Finnish cities with 460 planes, mainly striking civilian targets and airfields. The Soviet Union justified the attack as being directed against German targets in Finland, but even the British embassy had to admit that this was not so. German targets were not hit. A small number of Soviet infantry launched attacks over the Finnish side of the border in Parikkala. A meeting of parliament was scheduled for [[wikipedia:June 25|] when Prime Minister Rangell had been due to present a notice about Finland's neutrality in the Soviet-German war, but the Soviet bombings led him to instead observe that Finland was once again at war with the Soviet Union. Later, Finland would join the Anti-Comintern Pact on [[wikipedia:25 November|] 1941. The Continuation War had begun.
Finnish Offensive of 1941
Mobilized Finnish units started moving towards the border on June 21, and they were arranged into defensive formations as soon as they arrived at the border. Finland mobilized 16 infantry divisions, one cavalry brigade, and two "Jäger" brigades, which were practically normal infantry brigades, except for one battalion in the 1st Jäger Brigade (1.JPr), which was armoured using captured Soviet equipment. There were also a handful of separate battalions, mostly formed from Border Guard units and used mainly for reconnaissance. Soviet military plans estimated that the Finns would be able to mobilize only 10 infantry divisions, as they had done in the Winter War, but they failed to take into account the material the Finns had purchased between the wars and the training of all available men. In northern Finland, there were also two German Mountain Divisions at Petsamo and two German Infantry divisions at Salla. Another German infantry division was en route through Sweden to Ladoga Karelia, although one reinforced regiment was later redirected from it to Salla.
When the war started, the Soviet Union had the 23rd Army in the Karelian Isthmus consisting of the 50th, the 19th Corps and the 10th Mechanized Corps, together with 5 Infantry, 1 Motorized and 2 Armored divisions. At Ladoga Karelia, there was the 7th Army consisting of 4 Infantry divisions. In Murmansk-Salla region the Soviet Union had the 14th Army with 42nd Corps, consisting of 5 Infantry divisions (1 as reserve in Archangelsk) and 1 Armored division. Also the Soviets had around 40 battalions, separate regiments and fortification units which were not part of their divisional structure. In Leningrad, there were 3 Infantry divisions and one Mechanized Corps.
The initial German strike against the Soviet Air Force had not touched air units located near Finland, so the Soviets could field nearly 750 Air Force planes and part of the 700 planes of the Soviet Navy against 300 Finnish planes.
The Soviet war against Germany did not go as well as pre-war Soviet war games had envisioned, and soon the Soviet High Command had to take units from wherever they could, so although Soviets had started the war against Finland, they could not follow the initial air offensive with a supporting land offensive. They also had to withdraw the 10th Mechanized Corps with two armoured divisions and 237th Infantry division from Ladoga Karelia thus stripping reserves from defending units.
Reconquest of Ladoga Karelia
Reconquest of the Karelian Isthmus
Conquest of East Karelia
Advance from Northern Finland
The operational border between Finnish and German forces was located southeast from Lake Oulujärvi to the border, and then straight to the east. The Finnish 14.D controlled the southern part of the border, while the northern part was in the responsibility of AOK Norwegen (Col. Gen. von Falkenhorst). The Finnish III Corps (Maj. Gen. Siilasvuo) was southernmost, German XXXVI Corps (Gen. Feige) next and German Mountain Corps (Gen. Dietl) northernmost at Petsamo. Together, they had three infantry, two mountain and one SS ("Nord") divisions and two armoured battalions. Additionally, one IR and one artillery from the German 163th division were diverted there. Against them were the Soviet 14. Army (Lt. Gen Frolov) at Murmansk and part of the 7. Army, together with 6 infantry and one armored divisions and one division strengthening the fortified area.
As Finns had not allowed German attacks across the border before 25 June, the Soviets had ample warning and used the available days to fortify the border region. Also, the concentration of the German forces to the border took longer than anticipated, so the start of the offensive was delayed until June 29, a week later than the beginning of the Operation Barbarossa, thus giving Soviets even more time to prepare their fortifications.
The Mountain Corps broke through the Soviet forces in the early hours of 29 June, and managed to advance almost 30 km to Litsa river, where the offensive had to be stopped due to supply problems on 2 July. When the attack was continued a week later, the Soviets had managed to bring in reinforcements and prepare defensive positions so the attack failed to gain ground.
The XXXVI Corps attacked along the Rovaniemi-Kandalaksha railroad at July 1, but after only a day the SS division "Nord" had lost its fighting capability and it took a week before German 169. and Finnish 6. division managed to capture Salla, and only two days later the whole offensive was stopped by a new Soviet fortified line.
Germans had used all their forces in the offensive and didn't have any available reserves left, so these had to be transported from Germany and Norway. This caused a delay in operations which Soviets used effectively to reinforce their positions and improve their fortifications. OKW was only able to field two infantry regiments to von Falkenhorst, and their willing to micromanage their usage lead to disagreements between OKW and von Falkenhorst, which further prevented their effective usage. Because of this, the renewed offensive failed to gain any ground at September 8 at River Litsa after which OKW ordered forces to defend.
At Salla, XXXVI Corps fared better from 19 August, as the Finnish 6.D had cut Soviet supply routes, forcing the Soviet 104.D and 122.D to abandon their fortified positions and heavy equipment at August 27. This was followed by advancing the operation along the railroad until after almost 50 km the attack was stopped due to exhaustion at the next Soviet defence line at the Verma river on 19 September, von Falkenhorst asked for reinforces from Germany twice to continue his offensive immediately when Soviets were still unorganized, but he was refused.
The Finnish III Corps operated under German AOK Norwegen and was located in Kuusamo-Suomussalmi region. It was a very weak formation with only one infantry division (3.D) and two separate battalions. It was commanded by Mj. Gen. Hjalmar Siilasvuo. Defending against them were Soviet 54. infantry division, which was commanded by Mj. Gen. I.V. Panin, and was reinforced at August with 88. infantry division (Mj. Gen. A.I. Zelentsov) and IR1087 and at November with 186. infantry division and one border guard regiment.
The Corps was ordered to attack towards Uhtua and Kiestinki. When the offensive started on 1 July, the attack was slowed by a Soviet delaying defence and it took until 9 July before the Soviet defences at the river Vuonnisenjoki in the south, and 20 July before the river Sohjananjoki in the north were reached. In the south, the attack continued on 11 July by a flanking attack across the Lake Ylä-Kuittijärvi, but the Soviet defence was so efficient, that the attack had to be stopped in early September without reaching Uhtua, still 10 km away, as the attacking forces had to relocate two battalions to the northern group.
The northern group was reinforced with one infantry regiment from the SS Division "Nord", and the attack continued on July 30. A week later Kiestinki was captured, and the attack continued along the road and railroad eastward. Finnish 53IR advanced much faster along the railroad than other forces, which advanced along the road. The commander of the newly arrived Soviet 88.ID recognized an opportunity, and the Soviet IR758 attacked across the forest behind the Finnish IR, managing to encircle it on 20 August, making IR53 the largest Finnish unit the Soviets managed to encircle during the war.
Finns managed to open a path through the forest next day, but the supply route via the railroad remained closed, so the IR53 retreated through the forest on September 2 after destroying abandoned material. Finnish forces were reinforced with the second IR from SS-Div "Nord", and the Soviet counterattack was stopped 10-15 km east of Kiestinki.
During October the forces were supplied, rested and reinforced with the rest of the SS Division "Nord", but von Falkenhorst and Siilasvuo planned to start a new attack in November. OKW gave order to AOK Norwegen not to attack, but prepare for defence. However, von Falkenhorst and Siilasvuo still started their offensive on November 1. The Finns managed to break through the Soviet defences and one Soviet IR was encircled between Finns and Germans. The situation was threatening to Soviets and they started to transfer the new 186 infantry division from Murmansk to Kiestinki. Mannerheim contacted Siilasvuo and ordered him to stop the attack, as it endangered Finland's relations with the United States. Also OKW repeated its order to von Falkenhorst to stop the offensive, release the SS Division "Nord" and transfer it to Germany. When the order to move to defensive operations was given on 17 November, the last attempt to reach Murmansk railroad failed.
British Empire forces
The delay in starting the Finnish-German offensive from Northern Finland gave the British an opportunity to intervene. Within days of the war starting, the British and the Soviets entered into a formal military alliance. Finland's Army command was disturbed by the possibilities of intelligence activities by the numerically large British military and Consular representation in Finland. Finland suggested restrictions on the British Helsinki Legation in late July. The British were anxious to offer immediate support to their new ally and British submarines, mine layers and aircraft carriers quickly put in an appearance off the north coast of Finland. On 31 July 1941, carrier born aircraft from HMS Furious attacked the harbour at the Finnish town of Petsamo. The British lost 3 aircraft and inflicted only minor damage on a small freighter and harbour facilities. In a further attempt to hinder naval traffic in the area, the Royal Navy mined the approaches to Petsamo.
The British undertook to provide air support in the Murmansk area and RAF 151 Wing was formed for this purpose comprised of reinforced 81 and 134 squadrons. The Wing was commanded by Wing Commander H.N.G. Ramsbottom-Isherwood of the Royal New Zealand Air Force. The first elements of 151 Wing, consisting of 24 Hawker Hurricane IIB aircraft, arrived at Murmansk-Vianga airfield on 28 August 1941 after flying from the carrier HMS Argus. These were quickly reinforced by aircraft, equipment and personnel transported by merchant ship.
The remit of 151 Wing was to provide both training and operational support to the Soviets. The Hawker Hurricane was not the most modern aircraft by late 1941, having been designed in the 1930s with priority given to ease of maintenance and operation in arduous field conditions. But it proved well suited to conditions around Murmansk. Furthermore, the British, Australian and New Zealand ground crew and aircrew were mostly veterans of the Battle of France and Battle of Britain. They were highly experienced. They brought with them a modern radio and radar air control system.
During the following months, the Royal Air Force provided air cover to Soviet troops trying to hold off enemy forces from Murmansk and the Murmansk railway. In particular they provided fighter escorts to Soviet bomber aircraft operating along the front. The RAF pilots carried out their final operational flights in November 1941 by which time the immediate crisis on the front had passed. At that point, they handed their aircraft and equipment over to the Soviet Air Force and returned to Britain.
The 1941 expedition to Murmansk achieved two objectives from the point of view of the British government:
- it provided vital aid to the Soviets at a critical moment;
- it introduced the Soviets to the use of modern technology, control systems and fighter tactics. 
The onset of long arctic nights in November 1941 restricted possibilities for aviation and 151 Wing’s mission was then complete. However the operation was judged to have been a success. Plans were immediately made for the British to return in much greater strength in 1942.
In July 1942, 153 Wing was raised in England with the intention of resuming RAF operations on the front. This was a force comprised of four squadrons of Spitfires and two squadrons of ground-attack Hurricanes. This would have involved around 2,000 British and Dominions personnel. However, by the summer of 1942 the Finland front was completely quiet and so 153 Wing was stood down.
British Empire forces remained active in the Murmansk area from 1942 until 1944, but this activity was mainly maritime patrol and escort duty in support of the Arctic convoys. At various stages, RAF, RAAF and RCAF units operated Catalina, Hampden, Hudson and PhotoSpitfire aircraft out of Vianga and Lakhta.
An airbridge was established between the nearest points of British and Soviet territory - being Sumburgh airfield in the Shetland Islands and Afrikande airfield (about 120km south of Murmansk). This airbridge went through Finnish airspace and significant losses were incurred in using it. Most famously, on 2 September 1942 455 RAAF squadron and 144 RAF squadron flew about 40 Hampden bombers over the route and 6 of these were lost without trace.
On 10 July, the Finnish army began a major offensive on the Karelian Isthmus and north of Lake Ladoga. Mannerheim's order of the day, the Sword scabbard declaration, clearly states that the Finnish involvement was an offensive one. By the end of August 1941, Finnish troops had reached the pre-war boundaries. The crossing of the pre-war borders led to tensions in the army, the cabinet, the parties of the parliament, and domestic opinion. Military expansionism might have gained popularity, but it was far from unanimously championed.
Also, international relations were strained — notably with Britain and Sweden, whose governments in May and June had learned in confidence from Foreign Minister Witting that Finland had absolutely no plans for a military campaign coordinated with the Germans. Finland's preparations were said to be purely defensive.
Sweden's leading cabinet members had hoped to improve the relations with Nazi Germany through indirect support of Operation Barbarossa, mainly channelled through Finland. Prime Minister Hansson and Foreign Minister Günther found however, that the political support in the National Unity Government and within the Social Democratic organizations turned out to be insufficient, particularly after Mannerheim's Sword Scabbard Declaration, and even more so after Finland within less than two months undeniably had begun a war of conquest. A tangible effect was that Finland became still more dependent on food and munitions from Germany.
The Commonwealth put Finland under blockade and the British ambassador was withdrawn. On 31 July 1941, British RAF made an air raid on the northern Finnish port of Petsamo . Damages were limited since the harbour was almost empty of ships.
On 11 September, the US ambassador Arthur Schoenfeld was informed that the offensive on the Karelian Isthmus was halted on the pre-Winter War border (with a few straightened curves at the municipalities of Valkeasaari and Kirjasalo), and that "under no conditions" would Finland participate in an offensive against Leningrad, but would instead maintain static defence and wait for a political resolution. Witting stressed to Schoenfeld that Germany, however, should not hear of this.
On 22 September, a British note was presented (by Norway's ambassador Michelet) demanding the expulsion of German troops from Finland's territory and Finland's withdrawal from East Karelia to positions behind the pre-Winter War borders. Finland was threatened by a British declaration of war unless the demands were met. The declaration of war was exacted on Finland's Independence Day, 6 December. The declaration delayed the state of war until 1200GMT 7 December. The timing with respect to Japanese naval movements toward southeast Asian colonies indicates British declaration of war in the Soviet-Finnish conflict was expected to encourage Soviet declaration against Japan.
In December 1941, the Finnish advance had reached River Svir (which connects the southern ends of Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega and marks the southern border of East Karelia). By the end of 1941, the front stabilized, and the Finns did not conduct major offensive operations for the following two and a half years. The fighting morale of the troops declined when it was realized that the war would not soon end.
Trench warfare 1942-1943
Operation Barbarossa was planned as a blitzkrieg lasting a few weeks. British and US observers believed that the invasion would be concluded before August. In the autumn of 1941, this turned out to be wrong, and leading Finnish military officers started to doubt Germany's capability. German troops in Northern Finland faced circumstances they were not properly prepared for, and failed badly to reach their targets, most importantly Murmansk. Finland's strategy now changed. A separate peace with the Soviet Union was offered, but Germany's strength was too great. The idea that Finland had to continue the war while putting its own forces at the least possible danger gained increasing support, perhaps in the hopes that the Wehrmacht and the Red Army would wear each other down enough for negotiations to begin, or to at least get them out of the way of Finland's independent decisions. Some may also have still hoped for an eventual victory by Germany.
Finland's participation in the war brought major benefits to Nazi Germany. The Soviet fleet was blockaded in the Gulf of Finland, so that the Baltic was freed for the training of German submarine crews as well as for German shipping, especially for the transport of the vital iron ore from northern Sweden, and nickel and rare metals needed in steel processing from the Petsamo area. The Finnish front secured the northern flank of the German Army Group North in the Baltic states. The sixteen Finnish divisions tied down numerous Soviet troops, put pressure on Leningrad — although Mannerheim refused to attack — and threatened the Murmansk railway. Additionally, Sweden was further isolated and was increasingly pressured to comply with German and Finnish wishes, though with limited success.
Despite Finland's contributions to the German cause, the Western Allies had ambivalent feelings, torn between residual goodwill for Finland and the need to accommodate their vital ally, the Soviet Union. As a result, Britain declared war against Finland, but the United States did not. With few exceptions, there was no combat between these countries and Finland, but Finnish sailors were interned overseas. In the United States, Finland was denounced for naval attacks made on American Lend-Lease shipments, but received approval for continuing to make payments on its World War I debt throughout the inter-war period.
Because Finland belonged to the Anti-Comintern Pact and signed other agreements with Germany, Italy and Japan, the Allies characterized Finland as one of the Axis Powers, although the term used in Finland is "co-belligerence with Germany".
International volunteers and support
Like in the Winter War, Swedish volunteers were recruited. Until December, for guarding the Soviet naval base at Hanko, that was then evacuated by sea, and the Swedish unit was officially disbanded. During the Continuation War, the volunteers signed for three to six months of service. In all, over 1,600 fought for Finland, though only about 60 remained by the summer of 1944. About a third of the volunteers had been engaged already in the Winter War. Another significant group, about a quarter of the men, were Swedish officers on leave.
About 3,400 Estonian volunteers took part in the Continuation War.
On other occasions, the Finns received around 2,100 Soviet prisoners of war in return for those POWs they turned over to the Germans. These POWs were mainly Estonians and Karelians who were willing to join the Finnish army. These, as well as some volunteers from occupied Eastern Karelia, formed the Kin Battalion (Finnish: "Heimopataljoona"). At the end of the war, the USSR required members of the Kin Battalion to be handed over. Some managed to escape before or during transport, but most of them were either sent to the Gulag or executed.
Jews in Finland
Finland refused to allow extension of Nazi anti-Semitic practices. Finnish Jews served in the Finnish army, and Jews were not only tolerated in Finland but most Jewish refugees were granted asylum (only 8 of more than 500 refugees were handed over to the Nazis). The field synagogue in Eastern Karelia was one of the very few on the Axis side during the war. In the few cases in which Jewish officers from Finland's defence forces were awarded the German Iron Cross, they declined.
Finnish occupation policy
About 2,600–2,800 Soviet prisoners of war were handed over to the Germans. Most of them (around 2,000) joined the Russian Liberation Army. Many of the rest were army officers and political officers, and based on their names, 74 of them were Jews, most of them dying in Nazi concentration camps, while some were given to the Gestapo for interrogation. Sometimes these hand overs were demanded in return for arms or food.
The latter was especially scarce in 1942 in Finland due to a bad harvest, and for primarily this reason the number of deaths in Finnish camps rose dramatically. Punishments for escape attempts or serious breaking of rules included solitary confinement and execution. Out of 64,188 Soviet POWs, 18,318 died in Finnish prisoner of war camps.
After the war, based on the testimonies of the former prisoners of war, criminal charges were preferred against 1381 Finnish camp staff, resulting in 723 convictions and 658 persons released. They were accused of 42 executions, 242 murders. There were the seven cases led death under the request of former prisoners, 10 cases of death as a result of the tortures, eight infringements of the property rights, 280 official infringements and 86 other crimes.
A significant number of Soviet immigrants who had come to East Karelia after 1917 were placed in concentration camps. These were Russian women, young children, and the elderly as almost all of the working age male and female population was either drafted or evacuated: only ⅓ of original population of 470 000 remained in East Karelia when the Finnish occupiers arrived, and only half of them were Karelians. About 30% (24,000) of remaining Russian population were confined in camps, 6,000 of them refugees on the move captured when awaiting Soviet transportation over Lake Onega, and 3,000 from the southern side of the River Svir, allegedly to secure the area behind the front line against partisan attacks. The first of the camps were set up on 24 October 1941 in Petrozavodsk. During the spring and summer of 1942 3,500 detainees died of malnutrition. During the last half of 1942 the number of detainees dropped quickly to 15,000, and as the nutrition situation improved, only 500 more people died during the last two years of war.
Soviet partisan activity
Soviet partisans operated in Finland and in Karelia from 1941 to 1944. 24,000 ethnic Russians were interred by occupying Finnish forces. 4,000-7,000 of them died, mostly from hunger during the spring and summer of 1942 due to failed harvest of 1941. Segregation in education and medical care between Karelians and Russians created resentment, making many ethnic Russians support the partisan attacks.
Soviet partisans conducted a number of operations. The major one failed when the 1st Partisan Brigade was destroyed in the beginning of August 1942 at lake Seesjärvi. Partisans distributed propaganda newspapers "Pravda" in Finnish language and "Lenin's Banner" in Russian language. One of the leaders of the partisan movement in Finland and Karelia was Yuri Andropov.In East Karelia most partisans attacked Finnish military supply and communication targets, but on the Finnish side of the border, almost two thirds of the attacks targeted civilians, killing 200 and injuring 50, including children and elderly.
Soviet Offensive 1944
Overtures for peace
Finland began to actively seek a way out of the war after the disastrous German defeat at the Battle of Stalingrad in January–February 1943. Edwin Linkomies formed a new cabinet with peace as the top priority. Negotiations were conducted intermittently in 1943–44 between Finland and its representative Juho Kusti Paasikivi on the one side, and the Western Allies and the Soviet Union on the other, but no agreement was reached. Stalin decided to force Finland to surrender, first with a terror bombing campaign. The air campaign in February 1944 included three major air attacks on Helsinki, involving a total of over 6000 bombing sorties. However, Finnish anti-aircraft defences managed to repel the raids; it is estimated that only about 5% of the bombs hit the planned targets. Major air attacks also hit Oulu and Kotka. However, because of radio intelligence and effective AA defences the number of casualties was small.
Recapture of Karelian Isthmus
On 9 June 1944, the Soviet Union opened a major offensive against Finnish positions on the Karelian Isthmus and in the Lake Ladoga area (it was timed to accompany D-Day). On the second day of the offensive, the Soviet forces broke through the Finnish lines and, in the succeeding days, made advances that appeared to threaten the survival of Finland. On the 21.7 km wide breakthrough point the Soviet Union had concentrated 2,851 45-mm guns and 130 50-mm guns. On the heaviest places in Karelian isthmus, the Soviet Union had concentrated over 200 guns for each frontier kilometer (one for each 5m). On 9 June, Soviet artillery fired over 80,000 rounds at the Karelian isthmus. Soviet troops liberated Petrozavodsk on 28 June 1944. Before they retreated, the Finns delivered two weeks worth of food to the locals.
Finland especially lacked modern anti-tank weaponry, which could stop heavy Soviet tanks, and German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop offered them in exchange for a guarantee that Finland would not again seek a separate peace. On 26 June, President Risto Ryti gave this guarantee as a personal undertaking, which he intended to last for the remainder of his presidency. In addition to material deliveries, Hitler sent some assault gun brigades and a Luftwaffe fighter-bomber unit to temporarily support the most threatened defence sectors.
With new supplies from Germany, the Finns were now able to handle the crisis, and halted the Soviets in early July 1944. At this point, the Finnish forces had retreated about one hundred kilometres bringing them to approximately the same line of defence they had held at the end of the Winter War. This line was known as the VKT-line (for "Viipuri–Kuparsaari–Taipale", running from Vyborg to River Vuoksi, and along the river to Lake Ladoga at Taipale) where the Soviet offensive was stopped in the Battle of Tali-Ihantala in spite of their numerical and material superiority. Finland had already become a sideshow for the Soviet leadership, who now turned their attention to Poland and southeastern Europe. The Allies had already succeeded in their landing in France and were pushing towards Germany, and the Soviet leadership did not want to give them a free hand in Central Europe. Although the Finnish front was once again stabilized, the Finns were exhausted and wanted to get out of the war.
To the Armistice
Mannerheim had repeatedly reminded the Germans that in case their troops in Estonia retreated, Finland would be forced to make peace even on extremely unfavourable terms. Soviet-occupied Estonia would have provided the Soviets a favourable base for amphibious invasions and air attacks against Helsinki and other cities, and would have strangled Finnish access to the sea. When the Germans indeed withdrew, the Finnish desire to end the war increased. Perhaps realizing the validity of this point, initial German reaction to Finland's announcement of ambitions for a separate peace was limited to only verbal opposition. However, the Germans arrested hundreds of sailors on Finnish merchant ships in Germany, Denmark and Norway.
President Ryti resigned, making a separate peace possible, and Finland's military leader and national hero, Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim, was extraordinarily appointed president by the parliament, accepting responsibility for ending the war.
On 4 September, the cease-fire ended military actions on the Finnish side. The Soviet Union ended hostilities exactly 24 hours after the Finns. The Moscow armistice was signed in Moscow on 19 September between the Soviet Union and Finland. Finland had to make many concessions: the Soviet Union regained the borders of 1940, with the addition of the Petsamo area; the Porkkala Peninsula (adjacent to Finland's capital Helsinki) was leased to the USSR as a naval base for fifty years and transit rights were granted; Finland's army was to demobilize in haste, and Finland was required to expel all German troops from its territory. As the Germans refused to leave Finland voluntarily, the Finns had no choice but to fight their former allies in the Lapland War. The Finns were also to clear the mine fields in Karelia (including East Karelia) and in the Gulf of Finland. The mine clearance was a long operation, especially in the sea areas, lasting until 1952 and inflicting casualties of 100 killed and over 200 wounded, most of them in Lapland.
Battles and operations
- Finnish reconquest of Ladoga Karelia (1941)
- Finnish reconquest of the Karelian Isthmus (1941)
- Finnish occupation of East Karelia (1941)
- Operation Silberfuchs (1941)
- Fourth strategic offensive (1944)
- Battle of Tali-Ihantala (1944)
- Battle of the Bay of Viipuri (1944)
- Battle of Vuosalmi (1944)
- Battle of Nietjärvi (1944)
- Battle of Ilomantsi (1944)
- Finnish Waffen SS volunteers
- Military history of Finland
- History of Finland
- History of the Soviet Union
- List of Finnish corps in the Continuation War
- List of Finnish divisions in the Continuation War
- List of Finnish wars
- Lotta Svärd
- Paasikivi-Kekkonen Line
- Luftwaffe Northern (Arctic) detachment(Luftflotte 5)(Finland-Norway)
- RAF 151 Wing based at Murmansk
- Figure indicates total number of all men in service in the theatre of war.
- Manninen, Ohto, Molotovin cocktail- Hitlerin sateenvarjo, 1994, Painatuskeskus, ISBN 951-37-1495-0
- National Defence College (1994), Jatkosodan historia 6, Porvoo. ISBN 951-0-15332-X
- FAA archive :raid on Petsamo]
- Great Soviet Encyclopedia, Finland, Moscow, 1974, ISBN 0-02-880010-9
- World War II :Finland
- FAA archive :raid on Petsamo]
- The Royal Air Force in Russia :Hurricanes at Murmansk
- Ahtokari, Reijo and Pale, Erkki: Suomen Radiotiedustelu 1927-1944 (Finnish radio intelligence 1927-1944), Helsinki, Hakapaino Oy, pp. 191-198, ISBN 952-90-9437-X
- Jatkosodan synty suomalaisen menneisyyden kipupisteenä (Finnish)
- SUOMEN MARSSI JATKOSOTAAN (Finnish)
- http://www.uta.fi/~tuulikki.vuonokari/fin-1.html "Jews in Finland During the Second World War" by Tuulikki Vuonokari
- http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B0DE6DA1038F93BA35756C0A961948260 Letter to the New York Times by Mark Cohen, Executive Director of Holocaust Publications in New York, April 28, 1987
- (Russian)The problem of ensuring the security of Leningrad from the north in light of Soviet war planning of 1932-1941 by V.N. Baryshnikov: The actual war with Finland began first of all due to unresolved issues in Leningrad's security from the north and Moscow's concerns for the perspective of Finland's politics. At the same time, a desire to claim better strategic positions in case of a war with Germany had surfaced within the Soviet leadership.
- (Russian)Финская война. Взгляд "с той стороны". A.I.Kozlov:After the rise of National Socialism to power in Germany, the geopolitical importance of the former "buffer states" had drastically changed. Both the Soviet Union and Germany vied for the inclusion of these states into their spheres of influence. Soviet politicians and military considered it likely, that in case of an aggression against the USSR, German armed forces will use the territory of the Baltic states and Finland as staging areas for invasion - by either conquering or coercing these countries. None of the states of the Baltic region, excluding Poland, had sufficient military power to resist a German invasion.
- (Russian) Stalin's Missed Chance, by Mikhail Melyukhov:The English-French influence in the Baltics, characteristic for the '20s - early '30s was increasingly limited by the growth of the German influence. Due to the strategic importance of the region, the Soviet leadership also aimed to increase its influence there, using both diplomatic means as well as active social propaganda. By the end of the '30s, the main contenders for the influence in the Baltics were Germany and the Soviet Union. Being a buffer zone between Germany and the USSR, the Baltic states were bound to them by a system of economic and non-aggression treaties of 1926, 1932 and 1939
- Norman Davies 2007 'No simple victory'ISBN978-0-670-01832-1 hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
- Seppinen, Ilkka, Suomen ulkomaankaupan ehdot, 1939-1944, 1983, ISBN 951-9254-48-X
- Nordberg, Erkki, Arvio ja ennuste Venäjän sotilaspolitiikasta Suomen suunnalla, 2003, ISBN 951-884-362-7
- [[wikipedia:Encyclopædia Britannica Premium|]], Finland, 2006, http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-26105
- Jokipii, Mauno, Jatkosodan synty, 1987, ISBN 951-1-08799-1
- Wuorinen 1948 pp.130-133
- RAF campaigns :Murmansk, 1941]
- Lend-Lease airforce writings :Mark Sheppard
- RAAF in Russia In spring 1942 the Hampdens were refurbished into torpedo-carriers and soon the Australians were informed about the oncoming trip to Russia for particpation in the "Orator" operation targeted to cover the convoy PQ-18. The Admiralty did not want to repeat the tragedy of the convoy PQ-17, destroyed by the U-boats and Luftwaffe. But, first of all, the British wanted to protect the convoy from the German surface fleet and, especially, from the battleship "Tirpitz" – the "King of the Ocean" which was terrifying the Allies during the whole war. :Vladimir Kropunik
- RAF aircraft crashed in Swedish Lapland :wreck and remains of crew recovered, 1976
- Wuorinen 1948 p.135
- Rautkallio, Hannu, Suomen juutalaisten aseveljeys (Finnish Jews as German Brothers in Arms), 1989, Tammi
- Helsingin Sanomat 8 November 2003: Wartime refugees made pawns in cruel diplomatic game.
- Ylikangas, Heikki, Heikki Ylikankaan selvitys Valtioneuvoston kanslialle, Government of Finland
- Laine, Antti, Suur-Suomen kahdet kasvot, 1982, ISBN 951-1-06947-0, Otava
- Maanpuolustuskorkeakoulun historian laitos, Jatkosodan historia 1-6, 1994
- (Russian)"Равнение на Победу" (Eyes toward Victory), the Republic of Karelia (Russian). the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation, National Delphi Council of Russia. Retrieved on 2006-08-10.
- (Russian)Andropov Yuri Vladimirovich. Biography.
- (Finnish)Eino Viheriävaara, (1982). Partisaanien jäljet 1941-1944, Oulun Kirjateollisuus Oy. ISBN 951-99396-6-0
- Veikko Erkkilä, (1999). Vaiettu sota, Arator Oy. ISBN 952-9619-18-9.
- Lauri Hannikainen, (1992). Implementing Humanitarian Law Applicable in Armed Conflicts: The Case of Finland, Martinuss Nijoff Publishers, Dordrecht. ISBN 0-7923-1611-8.
- (Finnish)Tyyne Martikainen, (2002). Partisaanisodan siviiliuhrit, PS-Paino Värisuora Oy. ISBN 952-91-4327-3.
- Vehviläinen, Olli (2002). Finland in the Second World War: Between Germany and Russia. New York: Palgrave. ISBN 0-333-80149-0.
- Jokipii, Mauno (1987). Jatkosodan synty. Otava. ISBN 951-1-08799-1.
- Sana, Elina (1994). Luovutetut/ The Extradited: Finland's Extraditions to the Gestapo. WSOY. ISBN 951-0-27975-7.
- Seppinen, Ilkka (1983). Suomen Ulkomaankaupan ehdot 1939-1944. ISBN 951-9254-48-X.
- Schwartz, Andrew J. (1960). America and the Russo-Finnish War. Washington, D.C.: Public Affairs Press.
- Platonov, S.P. (editor) (1964). Битва за Ленинград. Voenizdat Ministerstva oborony SSSR.
- Maanpuolustuskorkeakoulun Historian laitos (editor) (1994). Jatkosodan historia 1-6. WSOY.
- Leskinen, Jari & Juutilainen, Antti (editors) (2005). Jatkosodan pikkujättiläinen. WSOY. ISBN 951-0-28690-7.
- Хельге Сеппяля Финляндия как оккупант в 1941-1944 годах Журнал "Север" ISSN 0131-6222, 1995. See
- Finnish National Archive Luovutukset: Research on prisoner-of-war deaths, extraditions and deportations from Finland between 1939-55, Research project, See
|Campaigns and theatres of World War II|
| Poland | Phony War | Denmark & Norway | France & Benelux countries | Britain |
Eastern Front 1941-45 | Continuation War | Western Front 1944-45
|Asian and Pacific Theatres|
|China | Pacific Ocean | South-East Asia | South West Pacific | Manchuria 1945|
|The Mediterranean, Africa and Middle East|
| Mediterranean Sea | East Africa | North Africa | West Africa | Balkans |
Middle East | Madagascar | Italy
|Atlantic Ocean | Strategic bombing | Attacks on North America | Arctic | Antarctica | Caribbean Sea | Attacks on Australia|
| Chinese Civil War | Soviet-Japanese Border War | Winter War |
French-Thai War | Anglo-Iraqi War | Greek Civil War | Sino-Japanese War | Lapland War | Ecuadorian-Peruvian War
- Wuorinen, John H. (editor) (1948). Finland and World War II 1939-1944. The Ronald Press Company.
|World War II|
|Participants||Theatres||Main events||Specific articles|
Civilian impact and atrocities
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