The fourth Stalinist blow: the defeat of the Finnish army
On June 10, 1944, the Vyborg-Petrozavodsk operation began. The offensive of Soviet troops in Karelia in 1944 was already the fourth “Stalinist strike”. The attack was carried out by the troops of the Leningrad Front on the Karelian Isthmus and the troops of the Karelian Front on the Svir-Petrozavodsk direction with the support of the Baltic fleet, Ladoga and Onega naval flotillas.
The strategic operation itself was divided into Vyborg (June 10–20) and Svir-Petrozavodsk (June 21 – August 9) operations. The Vyborg operation solved the problem of defeating Finnish troops on the Karelian Isthmus. Svir-Petrozavodsk operation was supposed to solve the problem of liberation of the Karelian-Finnish SSR. In addition, local operations were carried out: Tuloksinskaya and Björk landing operations. The operations involved troops of the Leningrad and Karelian fronts, which had 31 infantry divisions, 6 brigades and 4 fortified areas. Soviet fronts totaled more than 450 thousand soldiers and officers, about 10 thousand guns and mortars, more than 800 tanks and self-propelled guns, more than 1,5 thousand aircraft.
The fourth "Stalinist strike" solved several important tasks:
- The Red Army supported the allies. 6 June The Norman operation began, the long-awaited second front was opened. The summer offensive on the Karelian Isthmus was supposed to prevent the German command from transferring troops to the west from the Baltic states;
- it was necessary to eliminate the threat of Leningrad from Finland, as well as important communications that led from Murmansk to the central regions of the USSR; to liberate the city of Vyborg, Petrozavodsk and most of the Karelo-Finnish SSR from enemy troops by restoring the state border with Finland;
- The headquarters planned to inflict a decisive defeat on the Finnish army and withdraw Finland from the war, force it to conclude a separate peace with the USSR.
After successfully conducting the winter-spring campaign of 1944, the Headquarters determined the objectives of the 1944 summer campaign. Stalin believed that in the summer of 1944 it was necessary to clear the entire Soviet territory from the Nazis and restore the state borders of the Soviet Union along the whole line from the Black Sea to the Barents Sea. At the same time, it was obvious that the war would not be completed on the Soviet borders. It was necessary to finish off the German "wounded beast" in his own lair and free the people of Europe from German bondage.
1 May 1944. Stalin signed a directive on the beginning of the preparation of the troops of the Leningrad and Karelian fronts for the offensive. Particular attention was paid to the need to conduct an offensive in the specific conditions of the terrain in which the Red Army already had to wage a heavy and bloody struggle during the Winter War of 1939-1940. On May 30, the commander of the Karelian Front, KA Meretskov, reported on the progress of the preparation of the operation.
5 June Stalin congratulated Roosevelt and Churchill on his victory - the capture of Rome. The next day, Churchill announced the start of the Norman Operation. The British Prime Minister noted that the beginning was good, the obstacles were overcome, and the large landing forces landed successfully. Stalin congratulated Roosevelt and Churchill on the successful landing of troops in northern France. Also, the Soviet leader briefed them on the further actions of the Red Army. He noted that according to the agreement at the Tehran Conference, an offensive would be launched in mid-June at one of the important sectors of the front. The general offensive of the Soviet troops was scheduled for the end of June and July. 9 June Joseph Stalin further informed the British Prime Minister that preparations for the summer offensive of the Soviet troops were completed, and an offensive on the Leningrad front would begin on June 10.
It should be noted that the transfer of the military efforts of the Red Army from the south to the north was unexpected for the German military-political leadership. In Berlin, it was believed that the Soviet Union was capable of carrying out large-scale offensive operations in only one strategic direction. The liberation of the Right-Bank Ukraine and the Crimea (the second and third Stalinist attacks) showed that the main direction in 1944 will be southern. In the north, the Germans did not expect a new large offensive.
Vyborg operation (10 June - 20 June 1944 of the year)
Forces of the parties. THE USSR. For the Vyborg operation, the forces of the right wing of the Leningrad Front under the command of Army General (from 18 June 1944 of Marshal) Leonid Aleksandrovich Govorov were involved. On the Karelian Isthmus, the 23 Army was already under the command of Lieutenant-General A. I. Cherepanov (in early July, the army was led by Lieutenant-General V. I. Shvetsov). She was strengthened by Colonel-General D. N. Gusev's 21 Army. Gusev's army was to play a major role in the offensive. Considering the power of the Finnish defense, in three years the Finns built powerful defensive fortifications here that strengthened the “Mannerheim Line”, the Leningrad front was significantly strengthened. Two artillery breakthrough divisions, an artillery cannon brigade, 5 artillery battalions of special power, two tank brigades and seven SAU regiments were transferred to its structure.
The 21 th army under the command of Dmitry Nikolaevich Gusev included the 30 th Guards, 97 th and 109 th rifle corps (a total of nine rifle divisions), as well as 22 th fortified area. Gusev's army also included: the 3 th Breakout Artillery Corps, five tank and three self-propelled artillery regiments (157 tanks and self-propelled artillery installations) and a significant number of individual artillery, sapper and other units. The 23 th army under the command of Alexander Ivanovich Cherepanov included 98 th and 115 th rifle corps (six rifle divisions), 17 st fortified, one tank regiment and self-propelled artillery regiment (42 tank and ACS), 38 artillery divisions. In total, both armies had 15 rifle divisions and two fortifications.
In addition, 108 and 110 rifle corps from the 21 army (six rifle divisions), four tank brigades, three tank regiments and two self-propelled artillery regiments were in reserve at the front (total tank front grouping comprised more than 300 armored vehicles) , as well as a significant number of artillery. In total, more than 260 thousand soldiers and officers were concentrated on the Karelian Isthmus (according to other data - about 190 thousand people), about 7,5 thousand guns and mortars, 630 tanks and SAU and about 1 thousand aircraft.
From the sea, the offensive was supported and secured by the coastal flanks: the Red Banner Baltic Fleet under the command of Admiral V.F. Tributs - from the Gulf of Finland, the Ladoga military flotilla of Rear Admiral V.S. Cherokov - Lake Ladoga. Ground forces supported the 13th Air Army under the leadership of Lieutenant General aviation S. D. Rybalchenko. The 13th Air Army was strengthened by the reserves of the Supreme High Command Headquarters and consisted of about 770 aircraft. The air army consisted of three bomber air divisions, two assault air divisions, the 2nd Guards Leningrad Air Defense Corps of Air Defense, fighter air divisions and other units. Baltic Fleet aviation numbered about 220 aircraft.
Plans of the Soviet command. The terrain was difficult to reach - forests and swamps, which made it difficult to use heavy weapons. Therefore, the command of the Leningrad Front decided to deliver the main blow by the forces of the 21 Army Gusev on the coastal direction in the area of Sestroretsk and Beloostrov. Soviet troops were to advance along the northeast coast of the Gulf of Finland. This made it possible to support the advance of ground forces by ship and coastal artillery, and the landing of amphibious assault forces.
Cherepanov's 23 Army was supposed to conduct active defenses in the first days of the offensive. After the release of the 21 Army to the Sister River, the army of Cherepanov also had to go on the offensive. The remaining three armies of the Leningrad front, concentrated on the Narva sector of the Soviet-German front, had to intensify their actions at this time in order to prevent the transfer of German divisions from the Baltic to the Karelian Isthmus. In order to misinform the German command, a few days before the Vyborg operation, the Soviet command began to spread rumors about the proximity of a major offensive by the Red Army in the Narva region. To do this, held a series of activities of intelligence and other nature.
Finland. Soviet forces on the Karelian Isthmus were opposed by the main forces of the Finnish army: units of the 3 Corps under the command of Lieutenant General J. Siilasvuo and 4 Corps of General T. Laatikainen. The reserve of commander-in-chief KG Mannerheim was also located in this direction. 15 June they were merged into the Karelian Isthmus Task Force. The group included: five infantry divisions, one infantry and one cavalry brigade, the only Finnish armored division (located in the operational reserve in the area of Vyborg), as well as a significant number of individual units. Three infantry divisions and an infantry brigade occupied the first line of defense, two divisions and a cavalry brigade - the second lane. In total, the Finns had about 100 thousand soldiers (according to other sources - about 70 thousand people), 960 guns and mortars, more than 200 (250) aircraft and 110 tanks.
The Finnish army relied on a powerful defensive system that was created on the Karelian Isthmus during the three years of war, as well as on the improved Mannerheim Line. The deep-echelon and well-prepared defense system on the Karelian Isthmus was called the Karelian Wall. The depth of the Finnish defense reached 100 km. The first line of defense went along the front line, which was established in the fall of 1941 of the year. The second line of defense was located approximately at a distance of 25-30 km from the first. The third line of defense passed along the old “Mannerheim Line”, which was improved and further strengthened in the Vyborg direction. Vyborg had a circular defensive belt. In addition, the rear, fourth line of defense was outside the city.
In general, the Finnish army was well equipped, had extensive experience in fighting in wooded and swampy and lake areas. Finnish soldiers had high morale and fought hard. The officers supported the idea of “Great Finland” (due to the annexation of Russian Karelia, the Kola Peninsula and a number of other territories) advocated an alliance with Germany, which was supposed to help Finnish expansion. However, the Finnish army was significantly inferior to the Red Army in terms of guns and mortars, tanks, and especially on airplanes.
Finnish soldiers in cover, June 1944 of the year
The offensive of the Red Army
The beginning of the offensive. Breakthrough of the first defense zone (9-11 June). On the morning of June 9, the artillery of the Leningrad Front, coastal and naval artillery began to destroy the enemy's fortifications that had been previously discovered. On the 20-kilometer front of the front of the positions of the 21 Army Gusev, the density of ground artillery fire reached 200-220 guns and mortars. Artillery fired non-stop 10-12 hours. On the first day, they tried to destroy the enemy’s long-term defenses throughout the depth of the first line of defense. In addition, they conducted an active counter-battery struggle.
At the same time, a massive blow to enemy positions was dealt by Soviet aircraft. About 300 attack aircraft, 265 bomber, 158 fighter and 20 reconnaissance aircraft of the 13 Air Army and Naval Aviation took part in the operation. The intensity of air strikes is indicated by the number of sorties per day - 1100.
Aviation artillery strikes were very effective. Later, the Finns admitted that as a result of the Soviet fire, many defenses and barriers were destroyed or badly damaged, and the minefields were blown up. And Mannerheim wrote in his memoirs that the thunder of Soviet heavy guns was heard in Helsinki.
Late in the evening, the reinforced advanced battalions of the 23 Army began reconnaissance in force, trying to penetrate the Finnish defense system. In some areas have achieved little success, but in most areas there was no progress. The Finnish command, realizing that this was the beginning of a major offensive, began to consolidate the battle formations.
Early in the morning of June 10, Soviet artillery and aviation resumed strikes against Finnish positions. The Baltic Fleet ships and coastal artillery played a major role in the strikes on the coastal direction. 3 squadron destroyers, 4 gunboats, batteries for the Kronstadt and Izhora coastal defense sector, 1-I Guards naval railway brigade participated in the artillery preparation. Naval artillery strikes Finnish positions in the Beloostrov area.
The effectiveness of artillery barrage and 9-10 June air strikes is indicated by the fact that only a small area in the Beloostrov area destroyed 130 bunkers, armored caps, bunkers and other fortifications of the enemy. Almost all the wire barriers were torn down by artillery fire, anti-tank obstacles were destroyed, minefields were blown up. The trenches were badly damaged, the Finnish infantry suffered heavy losses. According to the testimony of prisoners, the Finnish troops lost up to 70% of the composition of those parts that occupied the advanced trenches.
After a three-hour artillery preparation, parts of the 21 Army went on the offensive. Artillery, after the completion of artillery preparation, supported the attacking troops. The main blow was struck at the front of the Rayayoki - Old Beloostrov front - the height of the 107. The offensive began successfully. The 109 th infantry corps under the command of Lieutenant General I. P. Alferov was advancing on the left flank - along the coast, along the railway line to Vyborg and along the Primorskoe highway. In the center along the Vyborg highway, the 30 th Guards Corps of Lieutenant-General N. P. Simonyak advanced. On the right flank in the general direction, the 97 th rifle corps of Major General MM M. Busarov advanced on Kallelovo.
The army of Gusev on the very first day broke through the enemy defenses (in Moscow, this success was noted with salute). The 30 Guards Corps advanced a day to 14-15 km. The Soviet soldiers freed Old Beloostrov, Mineila, forced the Sestra River. In other areas, progress was not as successful. 97-th corps went to the sister.
The command of the Leningrad front for the development of success created two mobile groups from tank brigades and regiments, they were given to the 30 guards and 109 rifle corps. June 11 Soviet troops advanced another 15-20 km and reached the second line of defense of the enemy. At the village of Kivennape, which was a key hub of the Finnish defense, a Finnish tank division launched a counterattack against the Soviet troops. Initially, her attack had some success, but soon the Finns were thrown back to their original positions.
On the same day, the 23-I army of Cherepanov began the offensive. The army struck a blow with the 98 Infantry Corps of Lieutenant General GI Anisimov. In the afternoon, the right-flank 23 Corps of the 97 Army was transferred to the 21 Army. In exchange for the 21 Army, Gusev from the front reserve was handed over to the 108 Infantry Corps.
The Finnish 10 Infantry Division, which was holding the defensive in the direction of the main attack, was defeated and suffered heavy losses. She fled to the second line of defense. 11 June it was taken to the rear for re-formation and replenishment. The Finnish command was forced to urgently transfer troops from the second line of defense and from the reserve (3-I infantry division, cavalry brigade - they stood in the second line of defense, tank division and other units) to the defense zone of the 4-second army corps. But this could not radically change the situation. Realizing that holding the first lane of defense did not come out, by the end of the day 10 June, the Finnish command began to withdraw troops to the second lane of defense.
In addition, Mannerheim began to transfer troops to the Karelian Isthmus from other directions. On June 10, the Finnish commander ordered the transfer of the 4 Infantry Division and 3 Infantry Brigade from Eastern Karelia. June 12 sent the 17 Division and the 20 Brigade to the Karelian Isthmus. Mannerheim hoped to stabilize the front in the second line of defense.
To be continued ...
- Alexander Samsonov
- The fourth Stalinist blow: the defeat of the Finnish army
The fourth Stalinist strike: the liberation of Vyborg
Fourth Stalinist strike: Svir-Petrozavodsk operation
Subscribe and stay up to date with the latest news and the most important events of the day.