Vyborg–Petrozavodsk Offensive

The Vyborg–Petrozavodsk Offensive or Karelian offensive was a strategic operation by the Soviet Leningrad and Karelian Fronts against Finland on the Karelian Isthmus and East Karelia fronts of the Continuation War, on the Eastern Front of World War II. The Soviet forces captured East Karelia and Viborg. After that, however, the fighting reached a stalemate.

In January 1944, Soviet forces raised the Siege of Leningrad and drove the German Army Group North to the Narva-Lake Ilmen-Pskov line. Finland asked for peace conditions in February, but the Finnish Parliament (Eduskunta) considered the received terms impossible to fulfill. After Finland had rejected the peace conditions, and Germany denied the Soviets from the Baltic Sea at Narva, the Stavka (Main Command of the Armed Forces of the Soviet Union) started to prepare for an offensive to force Finland's exit from the war. More likely the aim was however to conquer Finland.

In order to destroy the Finnish Army and to push Finland out of the war, the Stavka decided to conduct the Vyborg–Petrozavodsk Offensive. The strategy called for a two-pronged offensive, one from Leningrad via Viborg to the Kymi river, and the second across the Svir River through Petrozavodsk and Sortavala past the 1940 border, preparing for an advance deep into Finland. The plan called for the Finnish army to be destroyed on the Karelian Isthmus, and the remains blocked against the western shore of Lake Ladoga between the two assaults and Lake Saimaa.

The main strategic objectives of the offensive were to push Finnish forces away from the north of Leningrad, to drive Finland out of the war, and to create better conditions for a major offensive to the south against Germany.

Vyborg–Petrozavodsk Offensive
Part of World War II and the Continuation War
Soviet IS-2 tank destroyed in Karelia.
DateJune 10 – August 9, 1944[1]
LocationKarelo-Finnish SSRLeningrad Oblast
Initial Soviet tactical victory, ended to stalemate
Nazi Germany Germany
 Soviet Union
Commanders and leaders
Finland C.G.E. Mannerheim
Finland Karl Lennart Oesch
Soviet Union Leonid Govorov
Soviet Union Kirill Meretskov
Units involved
Finland Karelian Army
  • II Corps
  • III Corps
  • IV Corps
  • V Corps
  • VI Corps
Soviet Union Leningrad Front
Soviet Union Karelian Front
Red Army flag.svg 32nd Army
75,000 soldiers (Karelian Isthmus,initially)
268,000 soldiers (after reinforcements both Karelian Isthmus and Karelian Front)
1,930 artillery pieces
110 tanks/assault guns (30-40 modern, StuG III, T-34, KV-1)
248 aircraft (less than 100 modern, bf-109, Ju-88)
451,500 soldiers (+5 new divisions were sent later to Karelian Isthmus)
10,500 artillery pieces
800 tanks
1,600 aircraft
Casualties and losses
Karelian Isthmus: 9,300 deceased
32,400 wounded (Karelian Isthmus June 9 - July 15)
3,000 captured (all fronts)
Karelien Front: 3,600 deceased and 12,100 wounded(June 9 - July 15). Based on database of deceased Finnish milatary persons excluding non-battle deaths. Total: 12,932 soldiers deceased (June 9 - July 15 in all fronts and all military branches) and 2,786 (July 16-August 9.)Deceased soldiers in all fronts (June 9 - August 9, 1944): 10,008 KIA, 2,870 DIW (died in wounds), 2,802 MIA and confirmed deceased, 39 died in captivity, 726 non-combat deaths.
Vyborg Offensive:
Leningrad Front (10 June – 20 June)
6,018 KIA & MIA
24,011 WIA & sick. Finnish estimation based on Soviet data and recalculations of losses including reinforcments and all units (Tapio Tiihonen,2000): 60,000 KIA,WIA,MIA (52,000 losses of units and 8,000 losses of replacements)[2]
Svir-Petrozavodsk Offensive: Karelian Front (21 June – 9 August)
16,924 KIA & MIA
46,679 WIA & sick.[2]
Virojoki-Lappeenranta Offensive (Finnish estimate based on Soviet data): Leningrad Front (21 June – 15 July)
15,000 KIA & MIA
53,000 WIA & sick. Finnish estimation (Tapio Tiihonen,2000): 129 000 KIA, WIA, MIA (based on recalculation of Soviet data, units, reinforcements. Tiihonen found contradictory information there.) Total military losses of Soviet offensive in Karelian Isthmus: (June 9 - July 18): 189,000 KIA,WIA and MIA
Baltic Fleet and Lake Ladoga/Lake Onega Detachments (Whole duration) 732 KIA & MIA
2,011 WIA & sick.

The Finnish army had been preparing defensive fortifications since 1940, and three lines of defence on the Karelian Isthmus. The first two were the "Main line", which was constructed along the frontline of 1941, and the VT-line (Vammelsuu-Taipale) running 20 km behind the main line. These lines were reinforced with numerous concrete fortifications, but the work was still ongoing. 

The third line, the VKT-line (Viipuri-Kuparsaari-Taipale) was still on the drawing board and the construction of the fortifications began in late May 1944 at the Viborg sector of the line. At the northern bank of the Svir River (Finnish: Syväri) the Finnish army had prepared a defence in depth area which was fortified with strong-points with concrete pillboxes, barbed wire, obstacles and trenches. After the Winter War, the Salpa Line was built behind the 1940 border with concrete bunkers in front of the Kymi river.

To overcome these obstacles, the Stavka assigned 11 divisions and 9 tank and assault gun regiments to the Leningrad Front. That meant that there were 19 divisions, 2 division strength fortified regions, 2 tank brigades, 14 tank and assault gun regiments at the Isthmus, all of which included over 220 artillery and rocket launcher batteries (almost 3,000 guns/launchers). Around 1,500 planes from the 13th Air Army and the Baltic Fleet naval aviation also contributed to the operation which included surface and naval infantry units of the Baltic Fleet.

To the east of Karelia, the Stavka planned to use 9 divisions, 2 sapper brigades, 2 tank brigades and 3 assault gun regiments, raising the whole strength to 16 divisions, 2 fortified regions, 5 separate rifle brigades, 2 tank brigades, 3 assault gun regiments and 3 tank battalions. They were supported by Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega naval flotillas and the 7th Air Army.

Vyborg Offensive
At the Karelian Isthmus front there were on average 120 Red Army artillery pieces for every kilometer, with up to 220 artillery pieces per kilometer on the breakthrough sector at Valkeasaari. In addition to heavy coastal artillery of the Leningrad area and the guns of the capital ships of the Baltic Fleet (Oktyabrskaya Revolutsiya, Kirov, Maxim Gorky) Stavka had also assigned heavy siege artillery (280 to 305 mm) to support of the attack.

Russian tank in the city of Vyborg

Russian troops in the city of Vyborg

On June 9, a day before the main Soviet offensive, the 1,600-strong 13th Air Army conducted a major aerial assault. At the same time, artillery units of the Leningrad Front and the Baltic Fleet shelled Finnish positions for 10 hours. The Finnish Army was in a well-fortified position, but the Soviet air attacks surprised the defending Finnish army and undermined its resistance causing many Finnish units to retreat and suffer from thousands of desertion
On June 10, the Soviet 21st Army spearheaded by 30th Guards Corps opened the offensive on the Valkeasaari sector which was defended by 1st Infantry Regiment of Finnish 10th Division. During the day, the Soviet units captured frontline trenches and destroyed fortifications, shattering the first Finnish defense line at the breakthrough sector.

On June 13, the Soviet 21st Army's offensive reached the partially completed VT-line.
The defensive position was breached at Kuuterselkä already on June 15. Though the line was breached the Finnish resistance managed to delay further Soviet advances.

Simultaneous to Kuuterselkä the Soviet 23rd Army attempted to break through at a perceived weak point in the Finnish VT-line at Siiranmäki. Siiranmäki was the first place where Finnish troops were able to use Panzerfausts and Panzerschrecks imported from Germany. Though Finnish troops managed to contain the Soviet breakthrough at Siiranmäki it was not enough to keep the VT-line as Kuuterselkä had already been breached. Soviet 98th Infantry Corps fighting in Siiranmäki against Finnish 7th Regiment announced to have lost during period of June 13 to June 16: 3 784 soldiers including 887 killed in action based on their own report.

Mannerheim had asked for German help, and on June 17 Gefechtsverband Kuhlmey arrived in Finland, followed on June 21 by the 303rd Assault Gun Brigade (at half strength) and the 122nd Infantry Division. Also, new German anti-tank weapons, Panzerfausts and Panzerschrecks, were issued to Finnish army troops. Late on June 21, German foreign minister von Ribbentrop arrived to Finland in an attempt to extract political concessions from the military help.

On June 21, Stavka ordered continued attacks on the Imatra-Lappeenranta-Virojoki defence line, on the Salpa Line sector of the front. Another group would attack northwards to Käkisalmi (now Priozersk, Russia) and surround the Finns defending the eastern VKT-line while preparations would be made for an advance towards Kotka, Kouvola and the Kymi river.

On June 21 the Finnish government asked for Soviet peace terms. The response arrived on the next day and it demanded Finnish capitulation before any conditions could be presented. This created confusion in the Finnish government, where Ryti and Tanner were willing to repeat the inquiry about the conditions, while others opposed the capitulation. During the meeting Marshal Mannerheim was called, and he stated that the Soviet demand constituted an unconditional surrender. When Paasikivi's negotiation trip to Moscow in March 1944, which was initiated by the Soviet ambassador in Stockholm, but turned out to be a Soviet dictation of terms,was remembered, the government decided to interpret the Soviet response as a demand for unconditional surrender.

It seemed that after Finnish unwillingness to accept the Soviet proposals in April 1944, owing to excessive reparation demands, Finland was to be offered only unconditional surrender.[20] This was in line with Churchill's statement that as an Axis belligerent, Finland's surrender must be unconditional. The Soviet authorities denied this interpretation in an article published in Pravda on July 2, 1944, Furthermore, it is also known that at June 26 Stalin even told American ambassador Harriman that US diplomats could try to clarify to the Finns that he did not intend to take over the country. An unsigned draft document called "The Terms for Finnish Unconditional Surrender" was found in October 1993 in the Russian Foreign Ministry archive, which led some historians to conclude that unconditional surrender was indeed the Soviet goal. According to Baryshnikov this and similar drafts for the other countries the USSR was at war with existed since 1943, and they were replaced by new ones in the summer of 1944.

With Finnish army reinforcements, there were 268,000 Finnish army troops with 2,350 guns, 110 tanks/assault guns and 250 planes facing the two Red Army Fronts; 40% of the men and guns, and all the tanks were on the Isthmus. In total, the Red Army had a 1.7:1 advantage in men, 5.2:1 advantage in guns, and 6–7:1 advantage in planes and tanks against the Finnish army. However Finnish forces with 14 infantry divisions (a' 12 000), one armour division (9 200), 5 infantry regiments (a' 5 100), one cavalry regiment (4 300), 7 independent front border jaeger battalions, coastal defence forces and HQ/Corps artillery units even with full strength had less than 230,000 men. Less than 40 Finnish tanks and assault guns were modern (StuG III, T-34, KV-1) and less than 100 aircraft too (bf-109 dayfighter and Ju-88 medium bomber). With these figures Red Army material advantage was about 1:20 at mid June 1944 (armour and aircraft).

The offensive continued on June 25, when the Red Army breached the VKT-line at Tali, between the Viborg Bay and the Vuoksi river. On June 26 the Finnish president Ryti gave the guarantee to Ribbentrop that Finland would fight to the end alongside with Germany. When it became evident that a breakthrough was not possible at Ihantala, the Leningrad Front attempted to double envelope the defenders with the twin assaults at the Viborg Bay and Vuosalmi. However, the Finnish army was able to hold its positions on these sectors of the front. On July 12 Stavka ordered Leningrad front to release offensive elements from the Finnish front, and on July 15, the Red Army troops were ordered to assume a defensive posture, and offensive elements (mostly armor) were transferred to the German front for use in Operation Bagration.

                                       Panzerfaust quick reference

Swedish volunteers, 
Corporal Tore Lindgren served in Finnish army from autumn of 1942

                                                 destroyed tanks

                                                     destroyed tanks

                                  Finnish Pak 75 mm
Finnish 81 mm Tampella mortar
However, how much Soviet combat forces were sent from Karelian Isthmus to other fronts are questionable. Captured reports, strength of Red Army regiments and battalions especially in Ihantala and Äyräpää are suggesting heavy losses. Estimated 10 divisions had less than 2 000 soldiers each which underlined these units had few soldiers left in battalion level. Losses were heavy especially among Guard Divisions.

Soviet tried to penetrate deep west after Battle of Ihantala: in Äyräpää until July 18 and in Karelian Front even in early August. All offensives continued until very end - when there was no chaches to make final decisive breakthrough.

6 kommenttia:

  1. Vastaukset
    1. Hi, Rodger.
      Thank you.
      I found a few "new"
      (I keep a small new-year break, and I have the flu)

  2. Vastaukset
    1. Moi, S-K
      Thank you for the greeting
      Happy New Year to you and your family.
      I've been wondering where you are,
      maybe you have moved off green island

  3. No, im still here bud, I have just been very busy and not doing any hobbie stuff of late.

    1. Nice to hear. All of you are fit and well life
      Thank you and let's be proud of our small beautiful own countries,
      I answer your previous comments same word.


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