Mark Solonin. 25 June. Stupidity or aggression? Part 3


Chapter 3.1 TUESDAY, 17 JUNE

That fearsome year, day of 17 June was a Tuesday. Usual summer work day. Headers of the central Soviet newspapers breathed with serenity quite close to boredom. The editorial in “Izvestiya” was entitled: “On Kolkhoz consumer goods and local initiative”. Further on went articles “Results of the new bond issue implementation” and “Trade union-Komsomol cross-country race began”. Some animation was discovered only on the last page. There was published there a passionate appeal by the leadership of “Galvtincan”: “Return empty glass jars and bottles!”. Aganst the backdrop of this peaceful delight looked especially contrasting the titles on the second page of the issue devoted to events of the foreign life: “War in Europe”, “War in Syria”, “War in Africa”, “Bombing of Cypress and Gibraltar”, “Military measures of the United States”. Every reader could therefore visually evaluate the fruits of wise, eternally peaceful foreign policy of the Soviet Union.

Exactly that day, 17 June 1941, raised on combat alarm 1st tank division of the 1st mechanized corps (Leningrad military district), began boarding echelons going to the transpolar Alakurtti for “performance of a special task” (TSAMO, fund 3422, list 1, case 7, sheet 2). The exact text of this order (called in the 1st mechanized corps commander report personal order by LMD headquarters head Major General Nikishev”), unfortunately, is unknown. It was turned impossible to find this document in archive funds of the 1st mechanized corps (f. 3422) and 1st tank division (f. 3000). Strictly speaking, the only written confirmation of a most important circumstance that in the order were used words “combat”, “combat alarm”, are published in 1987 recollections by the 1st tank division commander V.I.Baranov (“raised on the eve on combat alarm, tankers were on the railway loading sites where they were placing their vehicles on platforms...”) (Baranov, p. 177). By the way, in this case — as in many others — real facts are no less eloquent than paper documents.

A demonstrative confirmation of the fact that already 17 June 1941 the 1st tank began performing a combat task may be the picture of a state, in which the 1st tank division left the location of its continuous deployment in the settlement Strugi Krasnye near Pskov. Colonel General I..Golushko (those days a lieutenant only just graduated from Kiev tank school) describes in his memoirs what he saw when he arrived in the former camp of the 1st tank division: “except for a sergeant-major who introduced himself as head of the tank park, there was already nobody there... Remaining tanks 20 units “BT-5” and “BT- 7” — were considered in conservation. I reviewed them and only gasped: some without gear boxes, others without batteries, from some removed machine guns... To my question, what all this meant the sergeant-major answered that the regiment, raised on alarm (emphasis added. - M. S.), took everything that was possible to set running...” (Golushko, 1977).

That is what is called: at war is as at war. By a measure of the peace-time 20 abandoned, dismantled tanks is a crime. But the Command of the 1st tank division already 17 June 1941 knew that the peace time for them and for the entrusted units came to an end. And that meant that they should load on railway platforms not losing even a minute, ruthlessly dismantling out of order tanks into spare parts. It was a huge job: the division had 372 tanks, 53 armored vehicles, 12 super modern 152-mm cannon L-20 weighing seven ton each, 1.5 thous. automobiles of various assignation, more than 10 thousand people, hundreds of tons of fuel and munitions. All this had to be loaded in echelons and sent in the area of new deployment. Hard to tell how long such massive job would take in our time. Impossible but fact — in the night on 19 June first echelons had already left from the loading stations. They arrived on the Alakurtti station at night 22 June. Last two echelons were loaded during 24 June (i.e., two days after the beginning of the Soviet-German war) and arrived in Trans-Polar region 26-27 June (TSAMO, fund 217, list 1221, case 183, sheet 1, 7, 27).

17 June, the very day when 1st tank division received the order to begin loading in echelons departing in Trans-Polar region, command personnel of the 10th mechanized corps of Leningrad MD departed for a drill. The corps was based in southern suburbs of Leningrad (Pushkin, Pavlovsk, Gatchina). But leadership of the district decided to conduct a command-headquarters drill in the north of the Karelian isthmus, in the area of Vyborg. The drill was designed for five days, i.e., through 22.06. But 21 June at 0900 hours the drill was rung off and the entire command personnel was sent to Vyborg to analyze the drill. After the analysis the order was issued to leave immediately to own units” (TSAMO, fund 3019, list 1, case 7-, sheet 1).

Active preparation to war was going on also in the most remote area of the future “Finnish front”, on Hango peninsula. On the eve of war a lance sergeant S.V. Tirkeltaub was serving in the communications battalion of 8th special rifle brigade. He writes in his recollections: “...2 June 1941 on Hango arrived Leningrad military district Commander .. Popov. All officers, from company commanders and up gathered in the hall of former city management. They were informed (and it immediately became a widely known secret) about the possibility of German and Finish attack on the Soviet Union. The same day the Command of naval base announced the cancellation of leave for military personnel and other corresponding measures... In the morning 19 June in battalion sounded signal of the next combat alarm, this time it turned out not at all training... We were seated in vehicles and sent to the defence line. We never returned in our barracks on Hango. Immediately followed the order to spread the telephone communications line and to begin the daily duty. In the morning 20 June the sergeant-major distributed live bullets and grenades. This never happened before... In the first minutes of 22 June on the entire peninsula howled sirens, rambled tanks and trucks. Woke up telephones that were silent three days. The communications people transmitted reports to headquarters: such and such battalion took the defence line, such and such company took initial position...” (Tirkeltaub).

The sergeant’s recollections mostly match the memoirs of the very main head for Hango naval base — USSR Narkom of the navy admiral N.G. Kuznetsov. Although referring to the story by Hango naval base commander S.I.Kabanov, admiral Kuznetsov writes: Late at night 19 June from behind the border in Hango arrived the Soviet plenipotentiary representative in Finland S,I.Zotov.

He informed that it was necessary to expect the beginning of war with Germany and Finland and that two Hitler’s divisions were already unloading in the port of Turku. Without declaring alarm I ordered to raise the 335th rifle regiment and one battalion of the 343rd artillery regiment. These units before dawn without noise should occupy combat area and firing positions at the line of land defence. During 20th and in the night on 21 June all forces of the on the order of the Military Council were placed on total combat readiness.

20 June in Hango arrived from Leningrad a diesel-electric ship Iosif Stalin”, which, according to the schedule, should have the same day departed by the return haul. Difficulty of the situation forced a delay of the diesel-electric ship. In the first day of war with Germany (actual uploading began 21 June but the steamer departed from shore at 1800 hours 22 June. - M.S.) on it were evacuated from Hango to Tallinn about 6 thousand women and children(Kuznetsov, 2000).

The quoted text includes one very strange detail: “from behind the border in Hango arrived the Soviet plenipotentiary representative in Finland S.I. Zotov”. First, S.I. Zotov two months before the described events stopped being a plenipotentiary representative and was recalled from Helsinki. Second, since when do the officers of the diplomatic department (plus crossing the border!) hand operative information to military and navy commanders? In many months of the existence of a naval base on Hango stable radio communications were maintained with it. In an extreme case, for personal handing of a super-secret information it was possible to send an orderly to run on a combat ship (2—3 hours) or on an aircraft (20 min. of flight). Airdrome on Hango existed, two squadrons of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet air force 13th fighter aviation regiment were based there. Of course, in modern publications notes are found that everything was much simpler, and a “feat of the spy” had quite ordinary reason: “Orlov and the USSR military attaché in Finland Captain 2nd rank Taradin took their families from one of dachas in the territory of Hango ”.

In any case, the Command of the naval base on Hango found out about soon coming start of war not at all from “plenipotentiary” running over the border. Exactly that day, 19 June 1941, exactly Narkom of the navy admiral Kuznetsov issued an order about transfer of the Baltic, North and Black Sea fleets on the regime of “Operative readiness No. 2”.

Specific content of the measures conducted in the regime of “Operative readiness No. 2” was defined as early as 23 June 1939 by a Directive from Narkom of the navy No. 9760. The fleet on this command changed to the following state:

“ —fleet combat core on a 4-hour readiness to go to the sea;

—    fleet in commission on peace time in 6-hour readiness to enter combat activities;

to force ships’ repairs;

to carry on watch on all bases and to conduct systematic air intelligence at sea;

— to distribute aviation on operative airdromes(Platonov, 2005).

However, the most amazing details of the last peace days may be found in memoirs of Leningrad district Commander .. Popov. First of all, it must be noted that we perhaps wrongly named the position of Lieutenant General .. Popov. Was he 20 June 1941 still the Commander of Leningrad military district or already Northern front? The precise response to this question is very important. Fronts in the Soviet Union were never created in peacetime. Unfolded in the end of 1930’s Far-Eastern front is the only example of “exception confirming the rule”, — border with the Japan occupied China continuously flared up with there greater, there smaller armed conflicts. Unfolding the fronts at western border of the USSR always preceded a speedy beginning of combat activities. So it was also in September 1939 (before invading Poland), in January 1940 (in the beginning of the second phase of the “winter war”) and in June 1940 (on the eve of “liberating” Bessarabia and Bukovina).

The creation date of the Northern front accepted in the Soviet historiography (24 June 1941) is a clear disinformation. Held in TSAMO (fund 217, list 1221, case 183, sheet 1) “Operative summary No. 01 from headquarters of the Northern front” was signed at 2200 hours 22 June 1941. It is possible that this provisional line (evening of 22 June) is not an accurate indication of the moment of Leningrad military district transformation into the Northern front. It is already more than 15 years exactly known that 19—21 June 1941 fronts in secret documents were mentioned as really existing units. For instance, a telegram from General headquarters’ head of 19 June 1941 to the Kiev SMD Commander said the following. “The People’s Commissar for the defence ordered: by 22.06 1941 to the Directorate come in Ternopol leaving in Kiev subordinated to you district directorate... Assignment and redeployment of the front (emphasis added. - M. S.) directorate to hold in the strictest secret and to warn about it the district headquarters’ personnel” (Year 1941 – lessons and conclusions", 1992). Another noteworthy document was compiled in the neighboring with Leningrad Baltic district at 1430 hours 21 June 1941. It sets the task beginning with this night until a special order to introduce blackout in garrisons and force locations”. It would be nothing amazing in this except for the signature: “Assistant Commander of Northwest front for anti-air force defence Colonel Carlin” ("Military-Historical Journal", No. 5/1989).

The earliest known use of the words “Northern front” is found in written manu propria by Malenkov (secretary of the CC, member of the Main Military Council) text of draft resolution by the Politbureau CC VKP(b) of 21 June 1941. To entrust Com. Meretskov with general management of the Northern front with departure to the location... To appoint as a member of the Northern front Military Council Com. Kuznetsov...” (Russia-XX , Documents. Year 1941, Book 2, 1998).

In those troubling days when about soon coming war already guessed military heads from company commanders up”, Lieutenant General Popov with a group of district’s top command personnel departed from Leningrad to the Trans-Polar region.

What for? If one believes written in 1964 and published in 1968 memoirs of General Popov, that is for what. After the 10th of June a Directive was received from the Narkom for the Defence. It formed a large commission chaired by Leningrad military district Commander with the assignation of a task to chose sites for the construction of airdromes for basing fighter and bomber aviation on the shores of the Barents Sea("Defense of Leningrad. 1941 -1944", 1968).

It is hard to believe. Or more exactly — impossible. The district Commander (and not simple district but the district being prepared to be turned in an active front), the General allowed to participate in a super secret Conference of the Red Army top command personnel in Stalin’s office 24 May 1941, had the multitude of other concerns beside personal selection of suitable “sites for the construction of airdromes” in uninhabited tundra of Kola peninsula. And again, if we believe memoirs of Popov, the expedition had to last the entire month! And this is no joke: “By the end of our meeting with .Golovko (the North fleet Commander), he informed us that the destroyer allocated for the commission and for the choice of airdromes, on which I was supposed to ride, was ready to go at sea, and proposed to fine-tune the time of the departure. It didnt sit right with me to part with the dry land almost for a month. However, it was of course impossible not to comply with Narkom’s Directive”.

Totally incomprehensible — where, on which seas had to steam the destroyer allocated for the commission for the selection of airdromes”. Within “almost a month” it would be possible to get to Alaska and back. And if it was a matter of “the shores of the Barents Sea”, i.e., about a travel maximum from Murmansk to the northeastern extremity of the Kola Peninsula, for a destroyer (at average speed of 20 knots) it would be a one day ride...

Further events (the meeting of .. Popov with Rear Admiral .G.Golovko was 20 June) were evolving as follows. “...After some deliberations it was found reasonable to report over the phone about our feelings. And now, the Narkom is online. Short report about the environment at the land border, at sea and in the air and a sincere statement that under these conditions going at sea is inexpedient.

It is good that you called, sounded in the earpiece the voice of the Narkom. — We will postpone at this time going at sea. Immediately return to Leningrad”. The fleet Commander and Komandarm (14th army Commander Lieutenant General V. A. Frolov) present at this conversation with Narkom saw in the cancellation of the sea travel some confirmation of our apprehensions...”

Strange. Operative readiness No. 2 was announced on the Northern fleet 19 June at 1700 hours. It could (and must have) to a substantially greater extent “confirm apprehensions”. Somewhat strange looks also the management order at the level of Narkom for the defence — Commander of one of five border districts (or already fronts). It is good that you called”. Good. And what if he did not call? So would the Commander ride away in the marine cruise for a month?

Also in Murmansk, after discussing the situation with the 14th army Commander, .. Popov made a decision whose sense is categorically impossible to translate into Russian language:

We believed it absolutely necessary to expand our decision about switching the forces on Kandalaksha theatre to the defence also on the troops intended for cover and defence of Murmansk theatre and coasts of Rybachy and Kola peninsulae, which the Komandarm requested very much and was permitted”.

What does it mean? First, the information about a decision made “about switching the forces on Kandalaksha theatre to the defence”. And before that, before making decision “about switching to the defence” — what other task did the “troops on Kandalaksha theatre” have? And if the decision “about switching to the defence” is indeed made (and some other decision with others tasks cancelled?), why then exactly at the same hours the 1st tank division on the order of the district command begins hurried redeployment from Pskov to Alakurtti? Going further. If the 14th army troops were intended “for cover and defence of Murmansk theatre”, why the Komandarm had to request “very much” the permission to switch to... defence?

The return in Leningrad described in ..Popov’s memoirs, also causes numerous questions: in Leningrad I returned in the Polar Arrow” train. Day of 21 June spent in the carriage went quietly.

In Petrozavodsk where we arrived about 4 o’clock in the morning 22 June (here and thereafter emphasis added. - M. S.), beside the awaiting us Komandarm (Commander of the 7th army) Lieutenant General F.C. Gorelenko, us met also secretary of the Karelo-Finnish SSR CC and head of Kirov railway. First of all they informed about the received order from Moscow: to unhook the carriage of the Commander from the train and off schedule without stops deliver him to Leningrad, for which assign individual locomotive. This locomotive is ready and in a few minutes it will be possible to depart.

The order of urgent delivery of the Commander’s carriage in Leningrad, naturally, caused in them concern and apprehension. However, those hours and minutes we could only guess that some events doubtlessly associated with war are imminent. We could explain nothing to Comrades. And as the shunting locomotive was already pulling the carriage on the station’s rails, we had to briefly say about the situation and decisions made in the north, i.., in the 14th army area, and suggest to Komandarm Gorelenko, in whose area the Finnish units were already advanced to the border, urgently to put the troops on combat readiness and take the defence under the cover plan.

We with a member of the Military Council Corps Commissar Klementyev racked our brains guessing what meant this order of our urgent delivery to Leningrad... On one of stations somewhere midway to Leningrad, about 7 o’clock in the morning our more than modest train made its first stop. The commandant with a gas mask on his left side (a symbol of combat readiness) appeared in the carriage, introduced himself and reported that the stop was caused by the need to check axle-bearings and would be very short. The farther ride to Leningrad is planned without a single stop. But the most important, he continued with noticeable agitation, approximately an hour ago over the selective telephony from Leningrad was transmitted the following information, only for information of head of the station and the commandant. The Germans bombed in the west about 4 o’clock in the morning a number of our cities and railway nodes and after a strong artillery shooting crossed the border and invaded our territory...”

So, at 0400 hours 22 June 1941 Commander of the Leningrad district (already called in documents of the Supreme command “North front”) and Commander of one of three front’s armies (F.C. Gorelenko) just only “rack their brains guessing” that “some events are imminent”. At that, for some reason, the Komandarm at 4 o’clock in the morning (for people leading their normal lives it is night) does not sleep. Does not sleep also the secretary of the Karelo-Finnish CC Comrade Kupriyanov, although for him the district Commander is no superior head and he is not obligated to meet at the station his passing by train. Further, at 7 o’clock in the morning 22 June the Commander still does not have any reliable information about the war begun three hours ago and learns about it from “the Commandant with a gas mask on his side”. The Commandant of some minuscule station has already been informed about the started war. An hour ago. And the district (front) Commander — has not been, yet.

Could all this be true? No, it could not. A renowned Directive by the Narkom for the Defence No.1 (“During 22—23 June 1941 is possible a sudden attack of the Germans on the fronts of LenMD, Baltic Special Military District, WestOVO, KOMD and OdMD...”) arrived to the headquarters of Leningrad district at one o’clock 22 June 1941 and was immediately brought to attention of armies’ and corps' Commanders. Numerous confirmations of this fact may be given. Today it is already possible to quote precise archive references of the documents. But we will not do it and will simply continue reading the memoirs of .. Popov: “In the morning 22 June we returned to Leningrad... Meeting us at the station General .P. Pyadyshev right there in the carriage briefly outlined the situation. About 0100 hours was received Narkom’s Directive warning that 22—23 June was possible an attack of Hitler’s forces on our country. The Directive demanded to put the troops on combat readiness and to man firing points in fortified areas on the international border. The district headquarters was right away gathered on combat alarm and corresponding directions were sent to the troops...”

Therefore, even if we assume such flagrant slovenliness as absence of radio communication means and encrypting devices in the carriage of the district Commander, at least at 0400 in the morning, after meeting with the 7th army Commander General Gorelenko, Popov must have learnt from him the content of Directive No. 1. After this, it was already totally unnecessary to rack the brains guessing.

Assiduously prepared by Soviet writers, the reader, of course, “knows” that there were no radio communications in the Red Army, that “history left us little time” and that the commands in the army were transmitted with pennants, signal bonfires, tam-tams, in best case over the wire telephone. Alas, documents and facts do not support a bold hypothesis that Stalin organized production of aircraft, tanks, guns, armoured vehicles, tower trucks, mortars (in Cyclopean amounts at that) but forgot means of radio communications. As of 1 January 1941 in the USSR Armed forces were:

— front radiostations (RAT) — 40 units (on average 8 per every one of five future fronts );

— army and corps (RAF, RSB) — 1,613 units (on average 18 per every rifle and mechanized corps );

— regiment (5AK) — 5,909 units (on average 4 per every regiment) (Russia-XX Century, Documents. Year 1941, Book 2, 1998).

Overall — 7,566 radiostations of all types. Of course, this number does not include tanks and aircraft radiostations. And all these — as of 1 January 1941. Soviet radio-factories continued their “peaceful creative labor”, and by 22 June there must have become even more means of radio communications. At least, the plan for 1941 envisioned issuing 33 RAT, 940 RSB and RAF, 1,000 5. In the quoted above report memo by the USSR Narkom for the Defence, unfortunately, are absent availability data of the RAF precursor — powerful (500 w) radiostation 11-AK, albeit there were very many of these complexes in the troops. For instance, in Kiev SMD as of 10 May 1941 were 5 RAT complexes, 6 — RAF, 97 — RSB and 126 units of 11-. Plus 1,012 regiment 5 (Russia-XX Century, Documents. Year 1941, Book 2, 1998).

Now it is worth explaining what all these capital letters mean. Radiostation RSB was being typically installed on the automobile chassis, it had radiated power of up to 50 w and provided the telephone connection distance of 300 km, i.e., in actuality in the army or even front activities corridor. RAF is substantially more powerful (400—500 w) apparatura complex installed on two “ZIS-5” trucks. The front radio communications complex RAT could be considered a real hardware wonder of the 1940’s. Huge power (1.2 kw) enabled the telephone communications at a distance of 600 km, and the telegraph communications, up to 2,000 km. The transmitter schematics provided the opportunity of working on 381 fixed communications channels with automatic frequency tuning. So, our assumption that only for a reason of extreme slovenliness in one of five border districts Commander’s carriage could be no powerful radiostation and one of 247 available cipher communications devices “Baudot”, is quite justified...

Let us, however, return together with General Popov in Leningrad. “...On the Nevsky Avenue where we were riding in the district headquarters reigned usual for these Sunday hours animation. There was not yet officially announced about the beginning of war... In the district headquarters was Army General Meretskov who came in the morning (emphasis added. - M. S.) as the representative of the Narkom... Having arrived in the headquarters, I immediately went to the office of the district headquarters head General C.N. Nikishov where found . . Meretskov who was talking with somebody on the telephone... Having sketched with C.N. Nikishov a work plan for the nearest hours, we with .. Meretskov descended in office in order for figuring out in all details the situation on the Finnish border...” (Defence of Leningrad…1968).

If we trust the written, Popov saw Meretskov at the district (front) headquarters in the morning 22 June, no later than at 1200 hours (“the beginning of the war has not yet been announcedi.e., Molotov speech on the radio”). And did not simply “saw” Meretskov but spoke with him, discussed with him plans of the first priority measures... However, .. Meretskov himself for some reason categorically does not remember this: “...During the day of 22 June I switched on the radio and heard the speech of the People’s Commissar of foreign affairs V.M.Molotov about villainous attack of the Fascist Germany on our country. Now my fellow travelers, General P.PVechny and aid Lieutenant S.. Panov, received response to the question, for what we are riding in Leningrad .

Having arrived in Leningrad, I immediately rushed to the district headquarters. I was met with joy, everybody wanted to hear a live word from a representative of Moscow, to get a verbal order. In place were Major General C.N. Nikishov and corps Commissar N.N. Klementyev... The district Commander .. Popov at the moment the war began was inspecting some district units... The district headquarters worked with maximum stress. A restless night was coming. I was informed that 23 June in Leningrad arrived from Murmansk the district Commander .. Popov... The morning of the second day of war has come. I received an urgent summon to Moscow” (Meretskov, 1988).

So, it follows from Meretskov’s recollections that he arrived in Leningrad already after Molotov’s speech on the radio, i.e., after 1200 hours. He have not met the district Commander either during the day, or evening or ever in the entire short time of his stay in Leningrad. And what is already completely strange — Klementyev (a Member of the district Military Council who was returning from Murmansk — in Popov’s version — in the same carriage with him) in Meretskov’s version was already during the day 22 June in Leningrad. What was it? Have Lieutenant General Popov lagged behind the train?

We will later return to the enigmatic and tragic history of Meretskov’s trip in Leningrad. I n the meantime we will mark the only thing that may be with full justification say, the truth about last pre-war days of .. Popov and .. Meretskov, which they refused to say. Or (which is even more likely) this right was refused to them by the “literature consultants”.


17 June 1941 most important events were also occurring on the other side of the future front. That day in Finland began general mobilization. This decision was preceded by noteworthy events sufficiently characterizing the extent of mutual mistrust of future allies (Finland and Germany).

As we know, Hitler’s leadership developed (and very successfully implemented) a complex, multi-level disinformation scheme, which had to hide Wehrmacht's strategic unfolding for war with the Soviet Union. One element of this disinformation campaign was spreading rumors about ostensibly being conducted (or being prepared) negotiations between top leadership of Germany and the USSR. In the process of these negotiations, the German party would ostensibly demand from the USSR in the form of ultimatum big concessions, up to “lease of Ukraine”. These rumors, spread over the diplomatic and intelligence channels, must have, on one side, “explained” concentration of German forces at the border with the USSR as an element of psychological pressure on Moscow, and on the other, blunted vigilance of the Soviet leadership, who were suggested to wait for the presentation of ultimatum (which in reality have never been voiced). The mental confusion was strengthened by the renowned Statement of TASS of 13 June 1941. This statement, in particular, said: “Germany did not address to the USSR any claims and is not proposing any new, more close agreement. For this reason no negotiations on this subject could take place”. In the environment created by mutual efforts of the German, Soviet and English special services nobody already trusted anything. The statement by TASS in many governmental offices was perceived as clandestine invitation of Berlin to negotiations.

The Finnish leadership was also included on the list of disinformation subjects. Mannerheim in his memoirs writes: In mid-May German Ministry of foreign affairs was interested to know, which suggestions Finland may have in order to take them in consideration in negotiations conducted with the Soviet government and which, as expected, must result in relaxation in emerged tensions by peaceful way... However, after a short time we were forced acknowledge that the information about negotiations was taken from the wall and that this entire story was pure bluff(Mannerheim, 2003).

Early in June 1941 in Helsinki strengthened apprehensions that Germany and the USSR were negotiating between themselves behind the back of Finland and maybe — at the expense of Finland. Quite likely appeared a situation where Hitler — within the framework of a new large agreement with Stalin — would provide the latter with “carte blanche” for the occupation of Finland or maybe two dictators were negotiating “amicable” division of Finland (like in real history in the fall 1939  they subdivided Poland). In such very uncertain environment, the Finnish leadership did not want to start the full-scale mobilization (which the Soviet leadership could quite justifiably view as a hostile act) before receiving from Germany specific explanation of the situation.

The exact text of the Finnish request (transferred to Berlin through Buschenhagen) is not known. In general, versions of various historians boil down to this: Finland wanted to get either accurate information that war between Germany and the USSR was unavoidable, or guarantees that in the process of political negotiations Moscow and Berlin would not conclude new deal at the expense of Finland’s interests. The response was received 15 June in the form of a telegram from Keitel to Colonel Buschenhagen, in which the latter was supposed to inform the Finns that “demands and conditions forwarded by Finland relative taking corresponding measures, may be considered doable(Zimke, 2005). Hardly this convoluted and indistinct phrase may be considered “an agreement about attack on the Soviet Union”. Nevertheless, even Professor .Jokoipii (on selective quotation of whose fundamental work parasite our domestic “denunciators of Finnish militarists”) was forced to admit that “along with verbal agreements this was the only document, to which president Ryti could refer when the deputation from four parties 21 June 1941 tried to find out from him what were guarantees of the German help ” (Mauno Jokoipii, 1999).

How “active” did Finnish plan the defence? Mannerheim maintains that operative plans of the Finnish army were initially strictly defensive. We had only one plan of war, and it was defensive. The force grouping, according to this plan, was created exceptionally for performing defensive tasks. The assertion that Finland ostensibly was preparing to conduct offensive actions does not correspond to the facts. The fact that the first attempt of offensive in the area north of Ladoga was undertaken by us three weeks after the beginning of war, and we switched to the subsequent offensive actions for a purpose of liberating Vyborg and Karelian isthmus after three more weeks thereafter, is a testimony that we had to regroup the troops for the offensive” (Mannerheim, 2003).

At the same time, the 3rd Finnish army corps (6th infantry division in Kusamo area and 3rd infantry division north of Suomussalami) under command of a “winter war” hero General Siilasvuo already 15 June was transferred in operative subordination to the headquarters of “Norway” army. This meant clear readiness to participate in German offensive on Kandalaksha. An order in the “Norway” army, signed 22 June 1941, demanded to begin offensive by the 36th German and 3rd Finnish corps 1 July 1941 (Zimke, 2005). Today it is already known that as early as at the stage of the June conference of Finnish and German Generals a decision was made about the separation of responsibility areas approximately along the 65th parallel running through Oulu and Suomussalami. North of this line all troops were subordinated to the German army “Norway” headquarters and south of it — to the Finnish Supreme Command.

Operative plan of the Finnish army “Karelia” (five infantry divisions, two Ranger and one cavalry brigades), which began in reality an offensive along the eastern shore of Lake Ladoga 10 July, was signed (and brought to notice of the German command) 28 June 1941. It was already after the Soviet bombing of 25—26 June and after the formal entering of Finland in war (Zimke, 2005). On the other hand, it is easy to guess that the work on the plan of a largescale offensive began earlier than 3 days prior to its signing... As reported by .Jokoipii, the events were unfolding as follows: “...Initial defensive plans of Finland, tied in mostly with the corridor from Vyborg Bay to Lake Saima, began in June 1941 gradually acquiring offensive character. It is seen from redeployment of some detachments northward from Lake Ladoga. With the beginning of the mobilization the General headquarters issued 18 June a series of orders wherein, together with defensive tasks stated briefly and in passing, were set broad and exact offensive objectives (so-called alternative plans)... From the defensive line Salla in reserve of the forces advancing on Sortavala and Hiitola were redeployed 5, 15 and 19 divisions...”

All this sounds not very convincing. It is not clear why “exact offensive objectives” are stated in form of some “alternative plans”. Absent from the .Jokoipii version also a clear answer to a question of who and when was supposed to select one of several “alternatives”?

No less active was planned also the defence of Finland’s sea borders. As the navy subject is beyond the competency of this author, we will restrict ourselves to a detailed quotation from the work of a professional. The Finland’s navy was entrusted with two main tasks — providing for its own navigation in the northern areas of the Baltic Sea and also the conduct of active operations on the communications of the Soviet fleet in the Gulf of Finland and in the area of Aland Islands.

The Finnish Command intended to perform the first task by way of convoys, of capturing Aland Islands and the Soviet naval base Hango, creating mine-artillery positions in the area of Aland Islands and on approaches to skerry communications and Gulf of Finland, organization of patrols and trailing mines in these areas. All this should have prevented the penetration of Soviet ships, especially submarines, in the Gulf of Bothnia.

The second task was planned to perform by way of destroying ships and vessels by submarines and cutters and also laying active mine barriers. Finnish Command planned to lay 79 active and defensive mine barriers with the total of 1,898 mines, which was close to 80% of their total reserve. Out of this number in first two days after the beginning of combat activities it was planned to lay in the Gulf of Finland and in Aland islands area 38 barriers — total of 1,002 mines, on the third day — four barriers, 170 mines, and the rest on contingency directions. The mine weapon was planned to be used mostly for the defensive purposes, for the creation of mine-artillery positions (emphasis added. - M. S..). For covering the coast it was planned to lay mine barriers of great density and at a distance of most efficient action of own coastal artillery fire — of low density” (Platonov, 2005). 

Responsibility zones of the fleets were subdivided along the 26th meridian of longitude (approximately 70 km east of the line Helsinki — Tallin), namely: east of this longitude the Finnish fleet operates, west of it — the German one.

It followed from this decision, in particular, that the mighty corridor of mine barriers in the mouth of the Gulf of Finland, tightly closing the Red Banner Baltic Fleet exit in the Baltic Sea, was very favorable for the Germans. Therewith they got rid of the threat of the enemy fleet appearance next to the German cities and ports of the Baltic Sea. At the same time, the Finns were left by this decision face to face with huge Soviet fleet (only two battleships — “Marat” and “October Revolution” — carried 24 long range 305-mm guns). And only absolute helplessness of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet Command saved in the future the south coast of Finland from destruction by the fire of sea guns ...                                 

For mining exits from the Gulf of Finland the Germans in period 12 through 19 June redeployed in skerries of the Finnish coast in Turku and Porkkala-Udd area a group of light ships. It included:

— 6 mine layers;

— 18 torpedo cutters;

— 12 small minesweeper (this term means the smallest from three class of minesweepers), and also 4 tugs and several auxiliary vessels.

Except for torpedo cutters and one mine layer (“Brummer”, which prior to capturing by Germans was in Norwegian navy and was called “Albatross”), all vessels were re-equipped vessels of the cargo and passenger fleet. With these forces the Germans began (and successfully for them completed) the operation of blocking the Baltic Fleet (already transferred since 19 June into the regime of Operative readiness No.2), at that literally in the area of its main base (Tallinn).

“16— 19 June 1941 a German fleet ship group, intended for activities from Finnish naval bases, arrived in Helsinki and Turku. Commanders of the German and Finnish forces operated independently and were not subordinated to each other (emphasis added. - M. S.). Interaction for reaching common operative objective was due to their agreement with one another. Based on coordinated decisions of their Commanders, their headquarters developed corresponding operative documents. Exchange of them was conducted only regarding the issues related to the security of sailing (borders of mined areas, identification signals, navigation signs, etc.)

Minelayers received an order of final preparation to combat activity 19 June, and 21 June came a code signal for the conduct of active minelaying operation. The minelaying began at 2330 hours 21 June.

A group of minelayersNord(three layers) protected by 6 cutter sweepers and 4 torpedo cutters laid in several installments barriers between the island of Bengtsher and cape Takhkuna (Kiuma island). After this in conditions of a light white night German vessels sailed only 3.5 km from shore of Khiuma Island northeast for the continuation of minelaying. At 0221 hours, they were attacked by machine gun fire from two Soviet aircraft. German vessels began uselessly firing but one flying boat continued chasing the grouping... At 0300 hours, the grouping entered the Finnish skerries and anchored at a new, well camouflaged anchorage.

A mine group “Cobra(three layers) protected by 5 cutter sweepers and 6 torpedo cutters laid barriers north of cape Pakrinem ... At the time of minelaying Soviet coastal observation points several times queried the German vessels by light Morse code. They did not answer but the “Kaiser” lighted anchor lights. In view of the movement of Soviet vessels, the barriers were laid with some deflection from the initial plan, after which the German vessels without any obstruction returned in Finland skerries...

...Thereafter, the minelaying continued every night. In particular, 24 June by laying bottom mines north of Takhkuna lighthouse was closed still remaining free for large ships thoroughfare along the north shore of Khiuma (Dago) island... Therefore, the adversary in just first three days of war created the mine threat at exits from bases and at major sea communications of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet, having laid overall 1,060 anchor contact mines and about 160 bottom proximity mines(Platonov, 2005).

The aforementioned light houses, islands and capes, if marked on the geographic map, form several lines of mine barriers crossing the entrance in the Gulf of Finland in north-south direction, approximately in the corridor from Hango — Khiuma island  to Porkalla — Tallinn. The night attack by two Soviet aircraft mentioned in the ledgers of German vessels is also confirmed in Soviet sources. For instance, Admiral V.F. Tributs (in time of war Commander of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet) in his memoirs writes: “...at 0330 hours a Senior Lieutenant Trunov and Lieutenant Puchkov from the 44th aviation squadron, on an intelligence flight on aircraft MBR-2 discovered unknown vessels manoeuvering in the Gulf of Finland. Descending to 600 meters, the aircraft took the course to them but were met by flak fire. As was found later, those were enemy surface vessels laying mines(Tributs, 1985).

The apparent time difference is because the Germans made records in the ship ledger on Berlin time, which is different from Moscow time by one hour.

The Baltic Fleet was behind the adversary with laying its own mine barriers at the entrance to the Gulf of Finland approximately by one day. Of course, it was behind not because of excessive peacefulness and not because of notorious “trust in the pact of nonaggression signed by the Germans ”. The fleet Command raised the issue of immediately beginning laying mines as early as 19 June, but there was no approval from Moscow. About this, practically in the same words are writing in their memoirs both former Narkom of the navy N.G.Kuznetsov and former head of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet headquarters Yu..Panteleyev: “...I recall that the Baltic people asked for it (to begin laying mines. - M.S.) even earlier, when switched to readiness No. 2, that is 19 June. But I could not permit this it was beyond my authority. That is why on the Baltics this order was received at 0630 hours 22 June... Then came additional order: “Lay mines 24/7, use whatever is available: destroyers and other vessels”. I remember as L.. Galler personally called Tallinn and asked to speed up this operation: after all, we had to lay several thousand mines...” (Kuznetsov, 2000).

“... Some time thereafter I spoke on HF communications with deputy Narkom of the navy Admiral L.. Galler.

“Comrade Panteleyev! It is necessary to take all measures for expeditious laying mine barriers... Please, report about this to the Fleet Commander.”

“Copy that! Will report!” I said and could not restrain myself: Lev Mikhaylovich, how many times did we request permission to begin laying mines! But we were refused. And now they hurry us from all sides as if we understand nothing”...

Galler interrupted me:

Listen up, honey, let us not getting into details now. This is later, and now I am urgently asking you to report to the Fleet Commander and to act expeditiously...” (Panteleyev, 1965).

The action began rapidly and decisively. The same day, 22 June 1941, the Baltic Fleet Command issued such order to the 2nd submarine brigade Commander:

“1. The adversary is using the Baltic Sea for his military transport; adversary combat vessels showed up in southwestern waters of Finland. The information about minelaying is available only in the area of Glotov Bank.

2. Your task: unfold submarines in the middle and northern parts, sink all adversary vessels under the right of unlimited underwater war (emphasis added. - M. S..) (Basov, 1980).

It remains only to note that national belonging of “adversary vessels”, which were to be “sunk under the right of unlimited underwater war”, in this order is not indicated.




“To the Commanders of 14th, 7th and 23rd armies, Commanders of 19th rifle corps and 50th rifle corps.

A dawn of 22 June the Germans began bombing Sebastopol, Libava, Vindava. Began combat activities [in] the area of Krystynopol of Kiev military district and within borders of Baltic OVO. Combat activities was begun by the Germans...” (TSAMO, fund 217, list 1221, case 6, sheet 2).

With this Directive the Leningrad district Military Council began the war. Remarkably, the fact so obvious for a modern reader (“combat activities was begun by the Germans”) was not so ordinary for contemporaries of the events. Apparently that is why the district’s Supreme Council believed necessary to specially emphasise it...

In the first days of war troops of the Leningrad district turned out in a special situation. They were separated from the Germans who began combat activities, by a 400-kilometer corridor of the territory within the responsibility zone of the Baltic OVO. This circumstance enabled mobilization and operative unfolding on the Northern front in pre-planned, “nominal” regime. At 1045 hours 22 June to the headquarters of the armies was sent the order of the content, which to the beginning of artillery cannonade at the border were not able to get the armies of the Baltic, Western and Kiev districts: Enact the cover plan immediately”. All cover plans of the mobilization and unfolding in border districts (including LenMD cover plan) included active operations of the aviation over the contiguous territory. However, as in the morning of 22 June the issue of a method and scale to conduct “active defence” on the Finnish border has not yet been solved, after the demand to enact the cover plan followed the phrase: “Not to cross the border onland and in the air without special order(TSAMO, fund 377, list 10877, case 1, sheet 3).

Not encountering armed counteraction, district (front) troops operated quite in unison and neatly.

Operative summary No. 01 by the 23rd army headquarters informs that already by 1940 hours 22 June army’s rifle corps (19th rifle corps and 50th rifle corps) occupied the cover area according to plan(TSAMO, fund 377, list 10877, case 30, sheet 1). At 2200 hours 22 June was signed operative summary No. 01 from the Northern front headquarters: “The Northern front troops are taking their areas [according to] cover plan and began mobilization under P-41 (mobilization plan of 1941. - M.S.)... 1st tank division is proceeding on the railway to Alakurtti station, by 2000 hours arrived two echelons... Hango Peninsula. The units are in combat readiness. Families of the service personnel are evacuated 22 June at 1800 hours by oil ship Iosif Stalin”... There is no record by 7th and 23rd armies of border violations on the front by onland troops during the day ” (TSAMO, fund 217, list 1221, case 183, sheet 1-3).

The same day, 22 June, came to motion also main strike groupings of the Northern front: 1st and 10th mechanized corps. First by count combat order (no number, handwritten) the 10th mechanized corps Commander Major General I.G.Lazarev issued at 0850 hours 22 June: Raise the units and put on combat readiness. To be ready for departure(TSAMO, fund 3444, list 1, case 2, sheet 4). The next order the same day (no number and without exact time indicated): “After expiration of units’ combat readiness timing in the night on 23.6.1941. to be prepared for departure. Approximately, the area of c-h [church] Heinioki” (TSAMO, fund 3444, list 1, case 2, sheet 6). Strangely, this order included a direction: “Not to distribute ammunition”.

However, already at 2310 hours 22 June the corps commander ordered to equip combat vehicles with appropriate munitions. Distribute to shooters”.

By the evening of 23 June 10th mechanized corps’ groupings (21st and 24th tank divisions, 198th motorized division) exited the point of pre-war deployment and concentrated on southern outskirts of Leningrad. In the night of 23rd on 24 June a huge, rumbling and abundantly smoking “iron flow” of the 10th mechanized corps (as of 1 June 1941 the corps included 469 in good order tanks, 86 armoured vehicles, 34 track towers, 1,090 auto-vehicles and 450 bicycles) came through Leningrad to the north in the direction of Vyborg (Internet site "RKKA Mechcorps” (mechkorps.rkka.ru) referring to TSAMO, fund 38, list 11373, case 67). The corps divisions had a task to come in the area of station Kyamyarya, settlement Heinioki, settlement Muola, station Tali (see map No. 6).

In the 1st mechanized corps headquarters the first in order combat order (without number) came at 1050 hours 22 June: “To Commanders of the 3rd tank division and 163rd moto-rifle division – to raise and prepare for the departure. The departure time and trajectory will be given additionally” (TSAMO, fund  217, list 1221, case 60, sheet 2). At 1415 hours 22 June the corps Commander Major General L. Chernavsky issued combat order No. 1: “To Commanders of 3rd tank division, 163rd moto-rifle division, 5th mbr (motorbike regiment). Prepare units on total combat readiness. Units disperse in covered places of camps and take all protection measures. Readiness to the departure - continuous...” (TSAMO, fund  1400, list 1, case 17, sheet 1). At last, at 2211 hours 22 June divisions of the 1st mechanized corps received order to begin immediately marching on the trajectory Pskov — Luga — Krasnogvardeysk (Gatchina) and by morning 24 June concentrate in the area of the southern suburbs of Leningrad (Pushkin, Pulkovo). All this quite corresponded with all known pre-war plans, under which the 1st mechanized corps as the main reserve of the front Command concentrated south of Leningrad.

However, a careful study of the original documents allows discovering something new. For instance, a combat order (unnumbered) for the advance of the 163rd motorized division signed by the 1st mechanized corps Commander at 2205 hours 22 June is typed on the circulation side of a topographic map (TSAMO, fund  1400, list 1, case 17, sheet 4). Possibly, in the corps headquarters at that moment there was no clean sheet of writing paper, and time already counted by hours and minutes. There is nothing amazing in it for first days of war begun not at all under the Soviet Command plans. Something else is remarkable: “at hand” in headquarters of a mechanized corps deployed in Pskov area turned out not a topographic map of the Pskov Province, and not a map of the adjacent Latvia, and not even a map of hostile Germany but a topographic map ... of Finland. These maps were provided to the 163rd mechanized division in plenty. On the reverse of the topographic map sheets of the southern Finland are typed the order of passwords and counterparole for 24 June (TSAMO, fund  1400, list 1, case 27, sheet 2), the order of the division Commander about fortifying the intelligence battalion by a platoon of BT-5 tanks as of 2400 hours 24 June (TSAMO, fund  1400, list 1, case 27, sheet 8), a report memo about circumstances of the accident with an armoured vehicle “B-20” of 26 June...

Out of chronology of the events, we will note right away that after all 163rd mechanized division never got to the front of war with “White Fins”. 30 June 1941, in connection with a catastrophic environment emerged in the corridor of Northwestern front after the Germans crossed West Dvina (Daugava) River, 1st mechanized corps was taken off from the Northern front and redeployed in new (in actuality — old, initial) area of Pskov — Ostrov, towards advancing units of Wehrmacht's 4th tank group. For a war with German-Fascist aggressors in own territory pre-war plans and pre-war maps did not work. Moreover, they became a dangerous “material evidence”. That is why 29 June head of the Northern front headquarters' operative department Major General Tikhomirov issued the following order to head of the 1st mechanized corps headquarters Colonel Limorenko: “Maps available in the corps are not to be carried along. Send one 1.5 ton vehicle to get new sets of maps(TSAMO, fund 3422, list 1, case 17, sheet 11).

Having gotten this direction, Colonel Limarenko at 2320 hours 29 June issued the following order to his subordinates: “Commanders of the 3rd tank division and 163rd moto-rifle division, immediately send to the corps headquarters one vehicle each and one representative for a trip to the Northern front headquarters for getting maps. Earlier received maps, all without exception (emphasis added. - M. S.), prepare to return and return directly to the map storage in Leningrad” (TSAMO, fund 1400, list 1, case 17, sheet 29). They were unable to return “all without exception”. Already after the actual crush of the 163rd mechanized division, 31 July 1941, the list of operative duty officers of the 163rd mechanized division management is again written of circulation map of Finland... (TSAMO, fund 1400, list 1, case 27, sheet 55-56).

We will return now to 23 June 1941. Maximum length of the trajectory for units of the 1st mechanized corps on the march to Gatchina was 200—250 km. For track vehicles (tanks, artillery pullers) a march of such length is a great and difficult task. Difficult but quite doable. As has already been mentioned, Manstein's 56th tank corps made 300 km from the border to Daugavpils (Dvinsk) in four days. Approximately same length raid conducted from the borders to Daugava also Reinhardt’s 41st tank corps (see map No. 8). At that, the Germans not simply marched but (as is still customary to believe) “were overcoming fierce resistance from the Red Army units”.

The 1st mechanized corps groupings (3rd tank and 163rd motorized divisions), not encountering even the weakest counteraction from land or air adversary, came in Krasnogvardeysk (Gatchina) area in two days but with huge “losses”. Gathering getting behind on march wheeled and track vehicles continued several more days. Judging by operative summary No. 7 of the 3rd tank division headquarters, even by 28 June out of 337 divisions tanks in working order in the concentration area were only 255 units. Out of 40 heavy triple turret tanks -28 lagged behind on march for a reason of “burnt coupling” 17 vehicles (TSAMO, fund 3422, list 1, case 1, sheet 15-20). Only by 0100 hours 30 June (operative summary No.11) the number in working order tanks grew to 278 (TSAMO, fund 3422, list 1, case 1, sheet 26). If tanks may have had “burnt coupling”, the personnel losses on march in the deepest rear have no explanation.

Nevertheless, in the 3rd tank division headquarters documents in division as of 28 June were only 7,359 people (commanders — 665, junior commanders — 1,147, foot soldiers — 5,547) (TSAMO, fund 3422, list 1, case 22, sheet 8). These are very strange numbers. Under the organization chart, the tank division should have had 10,941 personnel. Already by 1 June 1941, manning of the 1st mechanized corps was 87% (VIZH No. 4/1989). After 1st of June units and groupings of western districts were replenished with personnel under the so-called BUS (“large training drill”), i.e., hidden mobilization. 23 June mobilization in the Soviet Union became open and universal, and the troops of Leningrad district (Northern front) were overall replenished with mobilized reservists to the organization chart norm.

Any explanations regarding why numerical strength of the 3rd tank division personnel by 28 June was (still? already?) 67% of the organization chart norm, in division headquarters documents could not be discovered. Some idea of how the march of the 1st mechanized corps units was going on may be gotten from an order signed by the corps Commander and head of headquarters after 25 June (exact date is not indicated in the document). The order said “Concentration of the corps groupings conducted from Pskov in the Krasnogvardeysk area showed that groupings’ and units’ headquarters do not know how to organize, supply, regulate the march and control it. Commanders of units and detachments do not command convoys, do not organize their combat supplies, technical trailing, evacuation and restoration of lagging behind and in-emergency hardware. Movement of the convoy occurs unorganized and also randomly. Gathering points of emergency vehicles are not assigned. Command personnel do not manage detachments on march. Vehicle commanders do not manage drivers, vehicles are moving and stopping as they wish. March discipline is completely absent. No signal pennants on vehicles. Convoys are not manageable, vehicles do not have their assigned positions in convoys...” (Collection of combat documents from Great Patriotic War No. 33, pg. 33).

It is hard to believe that the subject of the order is first in number and formation time Red Army mechanized corps created on the basis of 13th and 20th Red Banner tank brigades, “veterans” of the first Finnish war. In terms of equipping by tanks, armoured vehicles, pullers and automobiles the 1st mechanized corps was among RKKA five best mechanized corps. In September 1940 the corps participated in a large drill when tank units of the corps during 7 days performed marches, crossed Velikaya River and then successfully broke through into the operative depth of defence of the “hypothetical adversary”...

By the way, incomparably more significant was movement’s direction and not its tempo and organizing. Future events (when literally in a few days after concentration in Gatchina area units of the 1st mechanized corps moved back, to Pskov and Ostrov) showed that if march tempo were zero, it would have been even better for the good of the cause. During the same time interval, in first days of war, the Northern front Command continued with the tenacity of a wound up “musical box” to perform, point after point, the pre-war operative plan. The German tank divisions breakthrough to Shaulyay, Kaunas and Vilnius did not exert any apparent effect on the decisions and actions of the Soviet Command in Leningrad. Besides, it is hard to tell if the Northern front Command knew about a catastrophic development of events in the corridor of the Northwestern front (the Baltic military district).

From positions of today this issue sounds wild, and nevertheless — 24 June, on the third day of war Northern front headquarters issued combat order No. 5. Paragraph 3 of this document is perceived today only as a sample of “cemetery” humor. The experience of first days of war showed that huge role in fighting against Germans plays the initiative of commanding personnel. Due to the exercised initiative it was possible to arrest the offensive of German forces on the Western and Southwestern fronts except one area where Germans were able to advance 20 km due to a huge advantage in forces(TSAMO, fund 217, list 1221, case 60, sheet 5).

Repeating once again — this is not the text of the front-page article from ab area newspaper. This is a combat order of the front headquarters.

Document with the label “top secret”, which army, corps and division commanders must have used as direction in their practical actions. It is also worth noting that this document appeared, probably, in the process of some clash of opinions. By hand (maybe by deputy to the head of front headquarters, Major General Tikhomirov) are introduced two eloquent corrections. After the words “it was possible to arrest” is written: “almost everywhere”.

The words “except one area” are crossed out and replaced with: “in some areas”. But even with these corrections the picture of tragic events on the western borders was distorted to unrecognizability. Consoling (or deceiving) themselves and their subordinates, the Northern front Command continued to work out, point after a point, the already hopelessly outdated pre-war operative plan.

The 163rd motorized division barely had time to concentrate in Gatchina area as from the Northern front headquarters came (at 1430 hours 24 June) a combat order No.5. At 1700 hours 24.6.1941 the division must exit its area and concentrate in the area of Syami, Pedrise, Rakvere. Upon arrival in the stated area to establish observation of the Bay of Finland along the northern coast of Estonian SSR. The main task is not to allow landing of marine and airborne troops in this area(TSAMO, fund  217, list 1221, case 60, sheet 7). Even earlier, 22 June (the time in the Directive is not indicated), the 191st rifle division from the reserve of the Northern front Command received the order to “immediately march out in raid and take for defence the area of the southern coast of Gulf of Finland from Narva to port of Kunda(TSAMO, fund 217, list 1221, case 6, sheet 3). Envisioned in the pre-war cover plan of Leningrad district — and completely absurd in really emerged situation — defence of the Estonian coast from “adversary marine landing” continued even further on.

At 0500 hours 26 June under a combat order No. 8 from the Northern front headquarters armored train No. 60 was sent into the area Narva — Tallinn (TSAMO, fund 217, list 1221, case 60, sheet 8). 26 June at 0745 hours commander of the 1st mechanized corps received combat order No. 8 from the Northern front headquarters, which set a task “to send one tank battalion of “-26” to Estonian SSR on the station Tipa (between Rakvere and Tallinn. — ..) (TSAMO, fund  217, list 1221, case 60, sheet 8). The order was complied with, and at 1040 hours 27 June the 3rd tank battalion of 25th tank regiment (163rd mechanized division) was sent on the railway to the station Tapa (TSAMO, fund 3422, list 1, case 7, sheet 2).

It must be, however, clarified that not all these orders about redeployment of the Northern front units from a passive area (southern suburbs of Leningrad) into even more passive ones (northern coast of Estonia) were fulfilled. For instance, already at 0015 hours 25 June in 163rd moto-division through a communications courier from the Northern front headquarters Major Dobrovolsky (on a sheet of paper the size of a cigarette box, written by hand) came new order of head of the front headquarters. “To Commander, 163rd mechanized rifle division. The front Commander ordered to stop the movement. To camouflage unit stop areas and provide for the turn of direction” (emphasized in the original. - M.S.) (TSAMO, fund 1400, list 1, case 17, sheet 10). Where exactly it was supposed to turn, nobody knew. 25 June the 163rd mechanized division Commander issued the following order to his subordinates: All units, urgently put together draft orders for the march. Do not include points of the march as they will be indicated additionally... To load for the night all mobile property, munitions and armaments on vehicles” (TSAMO, fund 1400, list 1, case 19, sheet 11).


At the time when in the southern segment of a giant in length Northern front were going on these feverish realignments, in the transpolar North, thousands of kilometres from Leningrad, rumbled gun salvos of a real war. Certainly, so far the guns were flak cannon and the war was going on in the air and at sea, not on the ground.

Judging by “Chronicles of Great Patriotic War on the Northern marine theatre” (multi-volume documental description of fleet combat activities compiled in 1945—1949 by the Historical department of the Narkomat of Navy), for the first time German reconnaissance aircraft were shot at by flak artillery of the North fleet Main base (Polyarny — Murmansk) at 2050 hours 18 June ("Chronicles…22.06.1941 - 31.12.1941). The same day Kandalaksha was overflied by three unknown aircraft. 19 June at 1132 hours flak batteries opened fire at German intelligence “Junkers-88”, which at great altitude (7,500 m) flew over the Main base. 240 shells were expended, alas, with no result. 20 June at 1645 hours unknown aircraft appeared in the skies over Severomorsk and was also shot at uselessly by the North fleet flak artillery. It is noteworthy that no traces were found in documents and really occurring events of the notorious “Stalin’s order forbidding to shoot down German spy aircraft”. On the transgressor aircraft was conducted massive fire (overall the North fleet anti-aircraft defence force had 17 four-gun batteries of 76-mm flak cannon), and if they were not shot down, it was not at all for the reason of excessive peacefulness...

22 June at 1035 hours the North fleet Military Council received an order from Narkom of the navy: Send submarines in Vardø area to Vaidagub lighthouse with the task to conduct unlimited war against transports and combat ships not allowing them in Varanger-fiord("Chronicles…22.06.1941 - 31.12.1941) (see map No. 9). Therefore, before the North fleet was set the task of beginning combat activities in territorial waters of German-occupied Norway. At 1850 hours 22 June, new Directive from Narkom of the navy No. 7/27 phrased the tasks even more decisively:

“1. Continue destroying aviation of the adversary by joint with army strikes and destroying transports in Varanger-fiord by submarines.

2. At the slightest indication of movement destroy transports in Petsamo by the fire of destroyers and batteries and by joint with the army aviation strikes. Torpedo-vessels, conduct fire from Kutovaya.

3. Interdict the use by the adversary of Ainovsky Islands by the fire of field batteries” (Russian Archive. Great Patriotic…, vol. 21(10), 1994).

23 June in Directives from Moscow were introduced some restrictions on the fleet actions in Norwegian waters: “Deputy People’s Commissar of the navy Admiral Isakov ordered the North fleet Military Council not to send its aviation farther Petsamo and Vardø and in Porsanger-fiord and Tana-fiord allowed to use no more than two submarines. The rest of the submarines must lock the entrance to the Varanger-fiord and cover the approaches to Kola Bay and the throat of the White Sea” (see map No. 9).

The same day (23 June) was once again confirmed the prohibition to open combat activities against Finland: “People’s Commissar of the navy issued a Directive to the North fleet Military Council on the order of the Supreme Command until a special order to conduct no combat activities against Finland ” (Chronicles of Great Patriotic … 22.06.1941 - 31.12.1941 …1999).

Judging by the memoirs of the former Narkom of the navy, this decision was preceded by a lively discussion: “22 June it was relatively quiet on our land border with Finland. However, the German aviation already that day bombed North fleet vessels and airdromes. Late at night 22 June I spoke for a long time over the telephone with the fleet Commander Rear Admiral .Golovko. “A stupid situation: they bomb us but we consider Finland a non-belligerent party!” Arseny Grigoryevich got excited. “But so far against you operates only the German aviation, besides from Norwegian airdromes”, — I explained...” (Kuznetsov, 2000).

German aviation continued to conduct strong air reconnaissance in the area of the North fleet main base.

“Since 0450 through 1930 hours adversary aviation conducted single and group raids on the North fleet Main base and coast of the Motovsky and Kola Bays and Sredny and Rybachy Peninsulas. At this, two bombs were dropped in the area of Polyarnoye Main base, two — in Murmansk and one — in the area of the bay fortified area, some bombs were delayed actions. At 0548 hours in the Pereyma Strait, two adversary aircraft dropped two bombs on our tug boat, hitting water behind its stern...

Adversary aircraft were shot at by flak machine gun fire and attacked by our fighter aviation... The North fleet Commander stated to unit commanders that in the course of 22—23 June a number of ships shot at their aircraft. SKA submarine chaser shot at own “I-15” chasing adversary aircraft, torpedo ships “Kuybyshev” and “Uritsky” shot at own “SB” despite notification. The North fleet Commander ordered to act boldly, decisively, without nervousness. ...” (Chronicles of the Great Patriotic War … 1999).

The North fleet air force also began active combat operations. For instance, 23 June nine SB bombers from 72nd Combination Aviation Regiment performed sortie for the reconnaissance and bombing of the airdrome Hebukten (next to a Norwegian city of Kirkenes). Due to a low cloud cover, they did not discover the airdrome. Next day bombers of the 72nd aviation regiment found airdrome Hebukten. Judging by the record in the North fleet Ledger of combat activities, after the bomb strike on the airdrome was observed fire”, and fleet radio intelligence and data said: at 1853 hours radiostation Kirkenes notified their aircraft about damaged airdrome”. When returning from the assignment, one SB was shot down by German fighter planes. This was a first loss in the Trans-Polar skies.

The same day, 24 June, was also reached a first victory: Senior Lieutenant B. Safonov (future best ace of the Transpolar skies) on the fighter plane I-16 at 1940 hours shot down a German “Junkers-88” from a Luftwaffe bomber group KG-30. It is not impossible that one more adversary bomber was shot down: Lieutenant Rogozhin on I-16 in the Kildin Island area attacked “Junkers”, which then disappeared in the clouds. The same day on the airdrome Hebukten after fulfilling a combat task crushed Ju-88 (tail number 2342; under the Luftwaffe quantitative estimate — “65% damaged”). Possibly, unsuccessful landing was caused by damages to the aircraft after an engagement with a Soviet fighter plane (Chronicles of the Great Patriotic War…, 1999; Mardanov, Defending Russian Arctic, Internet site www.airwar.ru).

The operative summary No.06 of the Northern front (do not confuse with fleet) headquarters as of 1000 hours 25 June, describes the events of the third day of war in Trans-Polar region as follows. During the period since 1230 hours 24 June the adversary conducted a number of raids on Murmansk, Shanguy, Teriberka, Cape Mishukov in groups of one to five bombers. There were no losses and destruction. Our ZA (flak artillery) and North fleet aviation shot down three aircraft...” (TSAMO, fund 217, list 1221, case 183, sheet 19).

Concluding a short review of the events in first days of war on the North front, we will return now to the main subject, the events of the Soviet-Finnish confrontation. Strictly speaking, there were almost no “events” (if to understand under this word active combat activities of the parties involved).

On the land front, there were no events at all. Already in a first in count Directive of the Northern front Military Council was quite specific direction: “Not to cross over and not to fly over the border with Finland. Destroy violators on your territory” (TSAMO, fund 217, list 1221, case 6, sheet 3). On the other hand, beginning at 22 June 1941 the word “adversary” (inalienably present practically in each order, operative summary, report, etc.) either by default relates to the neighbor beyond the Soviet-Finnish border or directly and clearly includes the Finnish army. For instance, in a combat order No. 01 from the 23rd army headquarters, signed at 1630 hours 23 June 1941, we read:

“1. Adversary (Finnish and German army) is grouping in the territory of Finland up to one infantry division in the Petrozavodsk and up to seven infantry divisions in the Vyborg theatres.

2. The 23rd army has a task of defending the fortifications along the international border, in Kexholm and Vyborg fortified areas, firmly holding them and not allowing invasion by the adversary of our territory” (TSAMO, fund 3444, list 1, case 22, sheet 3). 

Even more amazing phrase is discovered in the ledger of combat activities of the 23rd army. Theoretically, this document had to be conducted directly at the time of the events it describes. However, practically — and especially in the environment of a catastrophic crush in the first weeks of war — the records in Ledgers of combat activities often were done after the fact or even by the people who were not witnesses to and participants of the described combat activities. For instance, Ledger of the Western front combat activities with a description of events in the first days of was war is signed by Lieutenant General Malandin. He spent the first week of war in Moscow and only after the crush of front and arrest of top commanding personnel got in on duties of deputy to head of headquarters in actually newly created Western front (Collection of documents No. 35, pg. 11). Fate of the Northern front’s 23rd army was not so tragic, and in June 1941 the army headquarters operated in the environment of only “close to combat”. That is why it is rather difficult to guess when the record was made dated 23 June, which says: Breaking peace treaty, Finland also waged war against the USSR” (TSAMO, fund 377, list 10877, case 42, sheet 2).

This is a very strange record. Even not going for a discussion of which party “waged war” against the other one, having violated at this the peace treaty, it may be unambiguously stated that 23 June 1941 this phrase jumped strongly ahead of real events. Operative summaries from the 23rd army, 10th and 1st mechanized corps headquarters with monotonous consistency inform that no encounters with land and air adversary occurred, no losses”. Whereas the information that “Ryti declared Finland in a state of war with the Soviet Union” flied from one headquarters to the next early in the morning 27 June, i.e., even with actual delay of one day. First record about real combat actions on the front of the 23rd army (“in the course of day and night 29.6 the adversary in groups from companies to battalions tried to penetrate through the international border”) appeared even two days later (TSAMO, fund 377, list 10877, case 42, sheet 6).

Most likely, an enigmatic record of 23 June was made in Ledger of 23rd army combat activities post factum, but also in this case it is a sufficiently demonstrative testimony to the general mood of the Northern front command personnel: Finland was unconditionally viewed as “the adversary”, and the start of war with her as only a matter of time. Of course, similar “feelings” emerged not only (and not so much) in Leningrad but also in Moscow. And here we must agree with Professor V.N. Baryshnikov in that in the USSR, Finland was unconditionally viewed as one of equal participants of the German coalition in war against the Soviet Union”.

One of few representatives of the USSR top military-political leadership who paid in his memoirs attention to the events in the beginning of the 2nd Soviet-Finnish war, former Narkom of the navy N.G. Kuznetsov numerously uses phrases like this:

“...Despite a peaceful agreement concluded with Finland in March 1940, we were not deluding ourselves by hope that Ryti government would be a good neighbor... Knowing numerous facts, we did not doubt: if Finland did not enter war against us simultaneously with Germany 22 June, it was only out of tactical considerations...”

Practically the same thoughts and feelings expressed in his published in 1968 recollections former North front (Leningrad VO) Commander .. Popov : “It was difficult to find the reason why neither the Germans nor Finns began immediately an offensive simultaneous with the unfolding of combat activities on western borders of our country” (Defense of Leningrad..., 1968).

Remarkably, even Berlin was forced to take not so “non-alternative” position. As we know, Hitler in his radio address at 0600 hours 22 June 1941 for obviously provocation purposes stated: “...Cooperating with their Finnish friends, comrades-in-arms of the winners of Narvik hold shores of the Polar Ocean. German divisions commanded by the winner of Norway guard the Finnish land together with heroes of Finnish battles for liberation operating under the leadership of their Marshall...” (Russia-XX , Documents… , 1998).

This declaration caused indignation in Helsinki and bewildered questions in London and Washington. As a result, Ribbentrop, meeting with foreign journalists was forced in actuality to disavow Hitler’s statement. As presented by the Marshall Mannerheim himself, the events evolved as follows. As Finland did not take an obligation to enter the war together with Germans, and we numerously emphasized this circumstance, Hitler had no right to make such one-sided statement. I could not but think that such behavior had an objective to put Finland before fait accompli, which would force the Russians to attack. But, on the other hand, I am certain that the Russians in any case would have hardly refused to attack Finland...

... In order to clarify Finland’s position, the Ministry of foreign affairs the same day sent out to our foreign representatives, including those working in Moscow and Berlin, a circular telegram, which stated that Finland wanted to remain on the positions of neutrality but will be defending herself if attacked by the Soviet Union. This statement was repeated once again two days later in an information bulletin intended for Embassies. Our statement was taken into consideration in Germany as well, judging by a comment on the press-conference at Wilhelmstraße, which said in particular that our position was misunderstood and that is why Finland should be henceforth considered a neutral country. The foreign minister of England, speaking in parliament, stated that England considers Finland neutral (emphasis added. - M. S.) and that, as is known, no changes occurred in relations between Finland and the Soviet Union...” (Mannerheim, 2003).

Be it as it may, but approaching the last shaky edge between peace and war, both parties — Finland and the Soviet Union — did not step over it. There remained ever fewer opportunities for the prevention of an armed conflict but they still existed. The main thing was — up to 25 June there were no fatalities. By a lucky turn of events, blood was not spilt even in those cases when theoretically it was possible.

A first important combat operation of the Finnish fleet became landing forces on the Aland Islands. These islands at the entrance to the Gulf of Bothnia (i.e., in the territorial waters of Sweden and Finland) belonged to Finland but due to numerous international agreements must have had the status of a demilitarized zone. For control of the observance of this regime on the islands was located a Soviet Consulate. The idea of capturing the Alands in the very first days of war and breaking through of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet in the Gulf of Bothnia was continuously present in operative plans of the Soviet Command at least since the spring of 1939. Regardless of what Finnish intelligence knew and what it did not know about plans of the Soviet leadership, strategic significance of the Aland Islands, locking “as a chain” the entrance to the Gulf of Bothnia, was obvious to any military expert.

During the night of 21st on 22nd June from the continent on the archipelago on 23 vessels were brought 5,000 Finnish military personnel with combat hardware including among other 69 guns. Despite the fact that the appearance of Finnish forces on the islands (indisputably a beak of an international agreement) did not create a direct threat for the Soviet Union (or rather — created only additional obstacles for a possible invasion by the Soviet fleet territorial waters of Finland and Sweden), the reaction was instantaneous. Already at 0600 hours 22 June (i.e., at the same time when in far away Moscow only just began (!!!) a conference in Stalin’s office) aircraft of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet carried out bomb strikes on Finnish ships and fortifications on the island of Korpo (30 km west of Turku). However, judging by the available sources, there were no losses of vessels and victims among personnel. The personnel of the Soviet Consulate (31 people) were by force but also without victims moved to the continent on a Finnish ship and then returned to the Motherland (Mauno Yokipii, 1999).

Prior to 25 June installed by the Finnish submarines mine barriers in the Gulf of Finland also did not cause losses and victims. First minelaying was conducted during the night of 21 on 22 June. Then it was continued 23 and 24 June. (There are some communications about ostensibly occurring minelaying 17 or even 14 June; they are concoctions). Mine barriers were laid in Western parts of the main navigation channels in the Gulf of Finland, in the area of Gogland (Suursaari) Island and lighthouses Rodsher and Vaindlo.

Jokoipii’s work, incidentally, includes assertion that mine barriers were set also in “Kunda Bay” near the Estonia coast. Kunda is a small settlement (5 thous. people in early 1990’s) where the same-name small river empties into the Gulf of Finland. From the times immemorial, there was a fishing pier there (at more recent times the cement factory appeared there). What and what for was there to mine, at that as a first priority, in unclear. Remarkably, neither memoirs of the Narkom of the navy Kuznetsov nor memoirs of the former Commander of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet (and later — a doctor of historical sciences) admiral Tributs say nothing about the Finnish mine barriers in Kunda Bay. No surprise that many modern Russian compilers deemed it necessary to “strengthen and correct” on this issue a long-suffering book by .Jokoipii and replaced in his contraptions “Kunda Bay” with Narva Bay or Kopor estuary. And the most unscrupulous went even farther east and without any sentiments “mined” Kronstadt...

The Red Banner Baltic Fleet began laying mine barriers in the area of Gogland Island several days later. A first information about appearance of the mine barriers in the central parts of the Gulf of Finland came in the morning 24 June. Mine trawlers escorting “Kazakhstan” transport discovered six floating mines eight miles southwest of the Vaindlo light-house... All six mines were found in the area where, according to official data obtained in 1944 from the Finnish Command, their submarine laid barrier I-3. Maybe the Finns made some typical errors at the preparation of their submarine mines. Maybe the mines had some technical faults. But some of them either emerged on the surface at laying or broke from the anchor a little later ...  On the 4 July a mine layer Ural” and destroyer “Kalinin” were laying in the passage between islands Vaindlo and Rodsher a mine barrier 14-. The mine-layers were escorted by a patrol craft Purga” and two sea guard cutters... A few minutes before finishing the mine-laying, when the group approached the area of unknown (at the time) Finnish barrier I-78, forward, left and right of the trajectory were discovered five emerged mines of the adversary... The discovered mines were shot by the marine guard cutters escorting the group ...” (Platonov, 2005).

The first loss became Soviet escort cutter No.143. It blew up on the mine installed by the Finnish submarines in the Vaindlo lighthouse area. But this happened during the night on 3 July, i.e., a week after the official declaration of war.

Coming back to the events of 22—24 June 1941, it must be, of course, recognized that it is impossible totally to deny any possible losses on the contact line of two armies. (It could have happened, for instance, at the time of groups of troops’ intelligence working in the adjacent territory, and such actions — at least from the side of the Red Army — are known). Nevertheless, the choice between “a bad peace” and full-scale armed conflict still existed.


Chapter 3.3 FORMULATING THE ISSUE             


Our narrative approached its main point — the events of 25 June 1941. These events began at the eve of 24 June 1941 when, signed by the Narkom for the Defence USSR Marshall Timoshenko, was issued a Supreme Command Directive. For the first time ever this Directive was published only in 1996. Following is its full text:

“24 June 1941.

1. It became known from reliable sources that the German troops are concentrating in the territory of Finland having the objective to carry out a strike on Leningrad and capture the area of Murmansk and Kandalaksha. By this time are concentrated up to four infantry divisions in the area Rovaniyemi, Kemiyarvi and a group of unknown numerical strength in the Kotka area and north of Hango Peninsula.

The German aviation also is systematically arriving in the territory of Finland. From there, it conducts raids on our territory. According to available data, the German Command intends very soon to carry out an aviation strike on Leningrad. This circumstance acquires decisive significance.

2. For a purpose of preventing and disrupting aviation strike on Leningrad planned by the German Command in Finland, I AM ORDERING:

The Northern front Military Council, since 25.06.1941 to begin combat activities of our aviation and by continuous raids day and night to crush the adversary aviation and liquidate airdromes in the area of southern coast of Finland (points Turku, Malmi, Porvoo, Kotka, Kholola, Tampere) and in areas Kemiyarvi, Rovaniyemi close to Karelian Isthmus (northern Finland. - M.S.).

To conduct the operation together with the Northern and Baltic fleets’ air force, to notify about this the fleet Command.

Simultaneously, to put on full combat readiness the anti-aircraft defence of Leningrad and to provide for the safe cover of Leningrad from raids of the German aviation with sufficient number of fighter planes.

Submit to me copies of issued orders by 2400 hours 24.06.1941.

From the Supreme Command, People’s Commissar for the defence S.. Timoshenko” (TSAMO, fund 48, list 3408, case 3, sheet 279-280).

When was this Directive developed and approved? As was already mentioned, 22—23 June the Northern front and North fleet headquarters received categorical directions of diametrically opposite content (“not to cross and not to fly over the border with Finland”). The published version of the Directive’s text does not include either time or clerical number. However, it is possible to restore the chronology approximately. The Directive was signed several hours before midnight — otherwise the subordinates would not be able “to submit copies of issued orders by 2400 hours”. On the other hand, judging by the “Ledger record of persons”, Narkom for the defence Timoshenko and head of the General headquarters operative directorate Vatutin (at that moment locum tenens commander to head of the General headquarters who was Zhukov sent to the Southwestern front) entered Stalin’s office at 1730 hours and exited at 2055. At the same time in Stalin’s office were Molotov, Beria and Voroshilov. It is reasonable to assume that exactly these people exactly at that time made a decision, which was then formalized as a Directive of the Supreme Command.

None of the mentioned persons left memoirs. The memoirs (numerous at that) wrote former Narkom of the navy admiral N.G. Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov also was in Stalin’s office 24 June but very shortly — only 15 minutes (1645 to 1700 hours). Judging by the admiral’s recollections, at this meeting was discussed the question of Finland: “...At the conference and in I.V. Stalin’s office at night of 24 June I reported about overflights of Hango by Finnish and German aircraft, about bombing of our ships in Polyarny and not only about the concentration of German forces on the Finnish-Norwegian border (the government already knew about this) but also that they were advancing over the Finnish territory to our borders...” (Kuznetsov, 2000).

25 and 26 June Sovinformbureau informed about the decisions made. The Sovinformbureau information for 24 June published 25 June (i.e., at the day when massive aviation strikes began) read: “Finland allowed her territory at the disposal of German forces and German aviation. For 10 days already, the concentration is going on of the German forces and German aviation in the areas adjacent to the USSR borders. 23 June 6 German aircraft flying from the Finnish territory tried to bomb Kronstadt area. The aircraft were driven away. One aircraft was shot down, four German officers were captured. 24 June 4 German aircraft tried to bomb Kandalaksha area and in Kuolayarvi area some units of the German forces tried to cross the border. Aircraft were driven away. German force units were repelled. There are captured German soldiers”.

The Sovinformbureau summary for 25 June (published 26 June) mentioned combat actions of the Soviet aviation against Finland: “Our aviation incurred a number of crushing blows on German airdromes in Finland and also bombed Memel, adversary vessels north of Libava and oil storages of Constanta port”. As we see, this event was not specially emphasized: it was just mentioned in a complex sentence together with others bombing, and somewhat inarticulately (in Finland’s territory could be German aircraft, German aviation units but not “German airdromes”).

Sovinformbureau did not inform about the break of diplomatic relations, recall of the ambassadors, annulment of the Moscow peace treaty, and at last, about declaration by the Soviet Union of war on Finland — and that was bare truth.

The Soviet Union did not break, did not recall, did not annul and did not declare — neither before beginning of the aviation raids nor after tem.

In this sense the situation was drastically different from how at the end November 1939 was begun the “winter war”. It is noteworthy that the Fascist Germany began war against the USSR differently: already an hour after the first gun salvos on the border the German Ambassador in Moscow handed to Molotov official statement of the German government, and at 0600 hours (Berlin time) with radio-address about the beginning of the war with the Soviet Union spoke Hitler himself.

Finland announced that she is in the state of war with the Soviet Union the next day, 26 June 1941. About this Sovinformbureau also said nothing! Neither 26 June, nor any subsequent day. What is even stranger is that, for instance, about the declaration of war by Hungary Sovinformbureau conscientiously informed 28 June.

Two mentioned Sovinformbureau communications (for 24 and 25 June) is the entire “information massif”, which the Soviet people was provided with about the circumstances of the beginning of the 2nd Soviet-Finnish war.

Substantially more detailed these events were described in 1960—1970’s in memoir and history literature.

Here are several typical texts.

The recollections of the former North front Commander .. Popov (the book was published in 1968 but the article was written by .. Popov in March 1964). In response to attempts by the Finnish aviation 23 and 24 June to bomb Leningrad, Kronstadt and cities of the K-F SSR (here and thereafter emphasis added. - M. S.) the Narkom ordered to prepare and 25 June to conduct by joint forces of the front’s, North and Baltic fleets bomber aviation a simultaneous strike on the basing airdromes of the German and Finnish aviation in the territory of Finland... About 20 airdromes were subjected to powerful strikes. In the process were destroyed or damaged numerous adversary aircraft...”

“Order of Lenin Leningrad military district. Historical outline” (“Lenizdat”, 1968.): 23 and 24 June German aircraft based in Finland tried to conduct raids on Leningrad, Kronstadt and cities in Karelia. In order to forestall their further attacks, Soviet aviation at dawn 25 June incurred powerful strikes on 18 airdromes of the adversary and destroyed on the ground 30 enemy aircraft. Besides, in air engagements were shot down 11 aircraft. Strikes on the enemy airdromes continued also in subsequent days...”

Memoirs of the Chief Marshall of Aviation (before the war —Leningrad district air force Commander) .. Novikov “In the skies of Leningrad” (“Science”, 1970.): “First three days we fought only with single and small groups of adversary aircraft, which attempted to feel air approaches to the city... Soviet fliers did not allow in June bombing of Leningrad, Kronstadt, Vyborg and cities in Karelia. However, giving credit to our pilots we understood that adversary’s failure to a substantial extent was caused by low activity of his aviation, his main strike force had not yet entered fighting... We needed to take urgent measures in order to rid Leningrad of the fate of cities, which were subjected to rabid bombing in the very first hours of war. Such measures could be our active actions in the air.

Early in the morning 25 June, I was at the communications node placed in the basement of the district headquarters building. Last preparations, fine-tuning the data, short conversations with commanders of aviation groupings, and the motors roared on airdromes. Air armada of 263 bombers and 224 fighter planes and attack aircraft rushed to 18 most important adversary airdromes.

The raid lasted several hours. One group replaced the other. Some objects were subjected to 3 — 4 strikes. As a result, in the first day the enemy lost 41 combat machines. Success was obvious and the operation continued. In six days 39 airdromes of the adversary were subjected to strikes. In air fighting engagements and on land the enemy lost 130 aircraft and was forced to pull his aviation back on remote rear bases beyond the radius of our fighter plane activities. This redeployment, naturally, restricted manoeuver of the enemy bombers... This first in the history of the Soviet aviation multi-day operation convinced us that massive strikes on rear airdromes was a safe means to fight the enemy aviation...”

Major General of aviation, Professor .N. Kozhevnikov, “Command and headquarters of the Soviet Army air force in the Great Patriotic war” (Moscow, “Science”, 1977): On some directions where the environment was favourable, Soviet fliers, conducting active air engagements, simultaneously carried out powerful blows on the enemy airdromes. Such environment formed in the first days of war in the northern area of the Soviet-German front. There, the German-Fascist troops began offensive only 29 June 1941. In order to weaken the enemy aviation grouping on this direction and to disrupt the prepared raid on Leningrad the Supreme Command ordered to prepare and conduct massive strikes on airdromes in Finland and Northern Norway. There, the aviation units of German 5th air fleet and Finnish aviation were based. The Command of the Northern front air force developped and 24 June approved by the Northern front Military Council plan to destroy the enemy aircraft on airdromes on the northwestern theatre.

For the participation in the operation overall were involved 540 aircraft.

Early in the morning, 25 June 236 bombers and 224 fighter planes carried out first massive strike on 19 airdromes. The enemy did not expect such blow, was in actuality caught unawares and was not able to organize counteractions. As a result, Soviet fliers successfully performed bombing of the aircraft parking, fuel and munition storages. On airdromes was destroyed 41 enemy aircraft. Our aviation did not have losses. During next five days, on the same and newly found by the air reconnaissance airdromes were carried out several more of efficient strikes. According to the data of air photo-monitoring, Soviet fliers attacked overall 39 airdromes, conducted about 1,000 sorties, destroyed and damaged 130 adversary aircraft. Command of the German-Fascist forces in Finland and Northern Norway was forced to pull back its aviation onto the remote rear airdromes and to abandon for the nearest time raid on Leningrad...”

It would be possible to quote several more texts but they all will be like one another – like nesting dolls. The general line of the story was imposed, and to mid-1990’s it practically did not suffer noticeable changes. We will try to phrase this “line” of the official Soviet historical propaganda as much precise and specific as possible.

1. The political component of the events (factual beginning of the full-scale undeclared war) is completely passed by in silence. This side of the occurred events simply does not exist in writings of the Soviet historians. Discussed is only one of large Soviet air force operations. No more than that.

2. The main (or even the only!) object of the strikes are declared basing airdromes of the “adversary aviation”.

3. The result of the operation — above all praise. “Success was obvious”, the adversary suffered huge losses (130 aircraft — this is two thirds of the entire Finnish aviation), a few survived enemy aviation units are forced to retreat “on remote rear airdromes”. Our aviation “did not have losses” (in Kozhevnikov's version) or, possibly, had some losses but not deserving mentioning.

4. Under the general line of totally ignoring foreign political component of the 25 June events the fact that one of the results of the “operation” was entering Finland in the war against the USSR is not mentioned at all.

This is a brief digest of what during half a century Soviet historians and memoirists were united about.

Noticeable differences, however, may be found in the evaluation of really occurred and/or potentially possible adversary activities and also — which is absolutely not typical of the Soviet historiography — in formulation of purposes and tasks, for the solution of which was conducted overall so successful an operation. In these moments is observed great scatter of opinion.

Sovinformbureau information (“23 June 6 German aircraft flying from the Finnish territory attempted to bomb Kronstadt area. Aircraft were driven away. One aircraft was shot down and four German officers taken prisoners”) is very specific (indicated the place, time and the number of aircraft) and — as we will show in the future  — very close to reality.

The former North front Commander in his recollections is writing about “attempts of the Finnish aviation” to bomb “Leningrad, Kronstadt and cities in Karelia”. It appears, the “attempts” were very-very timid, as 13 pages before the quoted phrase .. Popov writes that “Leningrad and other objects in the district territory were not subjected bombing ” (“Defense of Leningrad. 1941 -1944… Recollections and diaries", 1968).

Official (vintage 1968) history of the Leningrad military district is already saying about “German aircraft”, which, as it turns out, attempted to conduct raids”. How is it? Took off, flew somewhat, half way to the target changed their minds and returned? If the aircraft crossed the international border and at least approached Leningrad or some unnamed “cities in Karelia”, then the raid has already taken place. It could have been successful (for the attackers) or not, but in any case exactly the “raid” and not an “attempt of a raid” took place.

Marshall Novikov almost in “open text” informs that any raids “on Leningrad and cities in Karelia” did not happen at all (“we fought only with single and small groups of adversary aircraft attempting to feel air approaches to the city”). It is very important that not even a single word Novikov says about the German aviation units ostensibly based on Finnish airdromes.

Professor Kozhevnikov does not mention any raids on Leningrad and only uses a general phrase: “favourable environment formed...”

The objective of the operation after Popov is revenge: “In response to attempts by the Finnish aviation to bomb Leningrad...”. Whereas Novikov maintains that only urgent measurescould rid Leningrad of the fate of cities subjected to rabid bombing”. Kozhevnikov, without philosophizing, returns to the initial phrasing in the Supreme Command Directive (“in order to disrupt the raid on Leningrad being prepared ”).

Additional — hardly noticeable for “broad reading mass” but understandable for specialists — distinctions between the monograph by Kozhevnikov and other descriptions of 25 June 1941 are:

— appearance of specific names of the German aviation grouping (“5th Air fleet”);

— appearance of conjunction “and” (“massive strikes on airdromes in Finland and Northern Norway… the aviation units of German 5th air fleet and Finnish aviation were based...”).

Up to the end of the Soviet epoch, the monograph by Kozhevnikov, in actuality, defined the maximum acceptable disclosure level of the subject of 25 June 1941, which was possible for “party historians” willing to preserve remains of self-respect and scientific conscientiousness.

New times — new songs. Strictly speaking, there are exactly two new “songs” as of this moment. First one is a fundamental work by a Finnish historian .Jokoipii cloned (sometimes with quotation marks and reference to the source, more often without) in compositions by Messrs. Baryshnikovs (father and son), Shirokorad and others of that ilk. Second one is a book by Solonin (2005). In this book, apparently, for the first time in domestic historiography was proposed to recognize, at last, the following indisputable facts. In the first three days of war, 22—24 June 1941, the German aviation in numbers deserving to be mentioned, was not based on Finnish airdromes and did not conduct raids on “Leningrad and cities in Karelia”. It was also proposed to include the fact of really occurred 25 June aviation strike into the general outline of the events, which began 17 June 1941 with redeployment of the 1st tank division in the Trans-Polar region and ended in unsuccessful attempt to invade the Finnish territory by 10th mechanized corps.

The collision of so diametrically opposite approaches led to a tempestuous (and mostly impolite) discussion. As was to be expected, the position of voluntary resuscitators of decomposed Communist propaganda myths was quite paradoxical. First they lengthy and indignantly protest against the ostensible substitution in the book by . Solonin of politically motivated “exposures” and vulgar “debunking” in place of historical study. After plentiful outrage they — even not trying to begin a discussion of real events in their interconnection (which, probably, is exactly the subject of historical science) — they themselves engage in noisy denunciations. Only they denounce, of course, Finland. And they ladle an inexhaustible reserve of “denouncing” (in their view) facts from one and the only source (of course, this role is played by still the same book by .Jokoipii or its homegrown “clones”).

Logic (if this word is appropriate here) of the “denunciations” in best case is constructed in the image and likeness of a sophism known even to the ancients: “Can you consider as bold a person with at least one hair on his scalp?” As applied to the problem of 25 June 1941 this “logic” works as follows. A single fact is dug out (and multiannual labor of Professor Jokoipii provided the readers with such facts in plenty) testifying about unfriendly attitude of Finland to the mighty eastern neighbor. After that a conclusion is made that Finland again “did not leave for the Soviet leadership any other choice...”

In order to bring the squabble on the level of functional discussion it should begin, in our view, with the very main. The very main is maximum precise definition of the substance of the issues under discussion. Only clear formulation of questions will enable making a step to the derivation of equally clear and specific answers.

Taking into account deep and multiannual “overloading” of the problem with ideological “garbage”, it would be needed equally straight and clear to define also the circle of issues, which WILL NOT BE DISCUSSED. So:

1. The question of Finland’s (of the government, military command, parties, parliament, people) attitude to the Soviet Union will not be discussed. Why? Because this is a very simple question. There is no need to guess — and no need to spend years digging in archive dust for finding in advance known answer. Finland hated Stalin and Stalin’s empire. Nothing else could have been expected after the aggression of 1939, after the perishment of dozens of thousands people in the ice hell of the “winter war”, after a hundred thousand high explosive and incendiary bombs dropped on unprotected Finnish cities, after banishment from dear houses 400 thousand people. Masochism as a heavy mental disorder is found in some unlucky people. However, history does not know cases of mass, “nationwide” masochistic insanity. In any case — Finland was not suffering of this infirmity.

2. Questions formally-legal (whether or not Finland in the morning 25 June 1941 was a neutral country; is it possible to treat her cooperation with Hitler’s Germany as a military alliance?) also will not be discussed. Why? For two reasons.

First, because, nobody can embrace the boundless, and a discussion of legal issues is outside the bounds of this study. Author of this book does not consider himself sufficiently competent for a discussion of issues so complex. Moreover, hardly it would be possible to find two specialists in the international law who could be able to come to the same view of that situation. At least, in foreign politics departments of the USA and Great Britain they were unable to come to a unified opinion. The USA refused to declare war on Finland. As a result, in the capital of Finland fighting against the USSR worked the diplomatic representation of the main military ally of the USSR. Britain — under the strong pressure of Stalin — agreed to recognize Finland as a German ally and to declare war on it. But even this happened only 6 December 1941, i.e., after the main events of the 2nd Soviet-Finnish war already ended up.

Of course, complex issues may be made very simple if to view them according to the known “pickpocket logic” who believes that everything began and ended up in that in crammed bus he was caught by the hand and beaten on his face. The pickpocket, naturally, does not like to remember where previously were his hands and how many somebody else’s wallets from somebody else’s pockets he has stolen... Finland’s neutral status was put in very serious doubt already by the fact of placement in her territory of the military base of a foreign state (Soviet naval base in Hango). This circumstance was substantially strengthened by the fact of uncontrolled, in actuality, transit of military equipment and troop detachments on Finland’s railways from Vyborg in Hango.

At last, the very concept of “neutrality” is applicable, apparently, only to the sovereign states. The applicability of the term “sovereignty” to a neighbour whose government silently listens (and even accepts and carries out!) directions of the neighbour about a candidate for the new president or enters in negotiations about forced transfer of his natural riches (nickel of Petsamo) as concession to the same mighty and unceremonious neighbour – this applicability causes certain doubts...

Second, a discussion of the legal casuistry does not make us even a bit closer to answering the questions, which ought in the title of this book and are its main subject. It is not at all the matter of whether the Soviet Union had formal reasons for carrying out a bomb blow on Finland or not. This book is written in order to figure out a different question: whether the decision made 24 June and implemented 25 June provided for the USSR security overall that of its “second capital” — in particular?

As applied to the specific historical conditions of June 1941, this question is transformed into the other one: whether these actions facilitated successful conduct of war against the main adversary — Hitler’s Germany.

On a primitive household level, this simple logic may be illustrated by the following example. The law does not forbid (so every citizen has the right) to go into the forest and lie down to sleep naked on the snow in winter. However, absolute majority of normal sober people do not hurry to use this right. Why? Because it is harmful for health (in certain cases — lethal), despite being legal from formally legal viewpoint.

Now let us turn from cartoonish metaphors to direct historical analogies.

Bulgaria was ally to Hitler’s Germany. This is a fact confirmed by official joining of Bulgaria with the “Tripartite Pact”, deployment into her territory of the German army and in actuality participation of the Bulgarian army in joint with Wehrmacht combat actions in the Yugoslav territory. Nevertheless, the Soviet Union did not begin in summer 1941 combat activities against Bulgaria. Although the capability of the Black Sea fleet and its aviation quite allowed it.

Japan was most important Hitler’s Germany ally. This country was part of notorious “axis Berlin — Rome — Tokyo”. Moreover, Japan for a number of years conducted politics very hostile toward the USSR. So “hostile” that the countries two times were on the brink of a full-scale war with one another. Nevertheless, neither in June nor in July 1941 did the Soviet Union declare war on Japan, begin undeclared combat activities on the ground, in the skies and at sea. On the contrary, quite a lot of effort was applied not to begin a war in the Far East.

Italy was the oldest ally of Hitler’s Germany. Moreover, Italy officially announced war on the Soviet Union. It was done 1200 hours 22 June 1941. The Italians would have declared war even earlier but before midday it was impossible to find the Soviet Ambassador in Rome Com. Gorelkin (that Sunday morning he lounged on a beach).

From Venice to Lvov is just 1,000 km as the crow flies. Theoretically, Soviet long-range bombers (DB-3f, r-2, B-7) had the flight range of 3,000 km and more. Abstractly speaking, the entire industrially developed north Italy (Milan, Turin, Genoa, Florence) was within accessibility envelope of the Soviet bomber aviation. But a delirium idea to begin in summer 1941 combat activities against Italy, which declared war on the Soviet Union, was not even discussed, and even more so — was not implemented. Albeit with formally-legal viewpoint such insane step would be completely blameless...

Ending up counting what will not be discussed in this book, we will now formulate seven major questions:

1. Which forces (units, grouping, aircraft) of the German and Finnish bomber aviation were based on Finland’s airdromes?

2. What combat activities against the Soviet Union this aviation grouping conducted during 22—24 June 1941? What actions were planned by the adversary Command for the nearest days and weeks?

3. What was a real scale of the threat created by the grouping of adversary aviation in Finland, compared both with others threats hanging over Leningrad and with the capabilities of Leningrad’s anti-air force defence, of the Northern front and Red Banner Baltic Fleet fighter aviation?

4. What did the Soviet Command, Soviet intelligence know about the deployment of adversary aviation units in Finland, about his actions and plans?

5. What was a real reason to make 24 June 1941 a decision about carrying out the aviation strike on Finland, what were the real objectives and tasks of this operation?

6. What was a direct result of the aviation strike by the Soviet air force on Finland (losses of the parties, change in plans of the parties)?

7. How did the aviation strike of 25 June reflected on the general course of war by the Soviet Union against Germany and her allies?

Questions No.No. 1, 2, 3 and 6 are rather simple. And the fact of a half-century absence in the domestic historiography of clear and generally recognize answers to such simple questions is a shame. Question No. 7 is much more complex, an unambiguous response hardly will be found but a discussion of this problem is possible and desirable. As for the questions No. No. 4 and 5, they could not be resolved within the framework off the available as of this moment source base but at least an attempt of their discussion also has the right of existence.




We will not be divulging a terrible military secret if we remind that combat aircraft do not fly in flocks as free birds but conduct combat activities as part of corresponding detachments, units and groupings. Units and grouping have their numbers, headquarters and combat banners. And also quite specific places of the deployment (basing). All these are amenable to specific accounting and description. Such description — as applied to the German and Finnish aviation — was already long ago performed by the efforts of two generation of professional historians. What is required from us is only a conscientious work on the level of a modest student’s abstract. Before proposing the reader a super-brief “abstract” compiled based on (Yokipii Mauno, 1999; Zefirov, 2003; Zefirov, 2000; Zimke, 2005; Groehler, 1985; Geust in Collection of articles “From war to peace…, 2006; Mardanov, www.airwar.ru; Price, 1997; Balke, 1989; Suprun and Larintsev, www.arcticwar.pomorsu.ru; "Soviet Air Force in Great Patriotic war", 1968; Stenman and Keskinen, 2007), we will define the used terminology and definitions. This is more than necessary taking into account that the German, Finnish and Soviet air force had different structure and numerical strength of basic tactical units (alas, there was no concern among military leaders about the convenience of future historians).

We will start with the German aviation. After all, its presence in the Finnish territory became, as is customary to believe, the main reason for the events of 25 June 1941. The basic tactical unit of the Luftwaffe was aviation group.

The Luftwaffe aviation group included three wings (“Staffeln”), 12 crews each. A wing, in its turn, was subdivided into three elements, 4 crews each. A completely staffed under the organization chart Luftwaffe aviation groups must have included (with the headquarters element) 40 crews. Several groups (usually three) formed tactical grouping, which in the Russian language literature is customary to call squadron (“Geschwader” in-German). Several Luftwaffe Geschwadern formed an aviation corps. The top organization structure in the Luftwaffe was Air fleet, which usually included two aviation corps, i.e., 5 to 12 squadrons, overall 500 — 1,000 crews.

Squadrons were denoted as follows: JG (fighter squadron), KG (bomber squadron), StG (storm squadron). Squadrons armed with multi multipurpose double-engine fighter planes-bombers “-110” were denoted ZG (“destroyers”) or SKG (“speed bombers”). The Luftwaffe aviation groups were denoted as component part of corresponding squadron. For instance, II/KG-53 is the second group of the 53rd bomber squadron[1].

There was no special navy aviation in German Armed force (like the Soviet navy air force or USA marine aviation). For joint activities with the navy within the framework of the general Luftwaffe structures were created special groupings. For instance, on the directly related to the subject of our book Baltic theatre of military operations was unfolded a grouping entitled “Fliegerführer Ostsee” (which may be translated as “the Baltic aviation command”). It included a bomber group KGr-806, a group of hydro-aircraft (Aufkl.Gr-125) and a squadron of tactical intelligence.

The basic tactical unit in the Soviet aviation was aviation regiment. Before the war under the then active organization chart a Soviet aviation regiment included five squadrons, 12 crews each and the command element, altogether 62— 64 crews (i.e., a Soviet regiment in the number of crews was one and a half times a Luftwaffe aviation group).

In the Soviet air force were formed fighter (IAP, or Fighter Aviation Regiment), bomber (BAP, or Bomber Aviation Regiment), storm (ShAP, or Storm Aviation Regiment) and intelligence (RAP, or Intelligence Aviation Regiment) aviation regiments. Each regiment had its “personal” number (for instance, 123rd IAP, 40th BAP). Sometimes the name of a bomber regiment included its functional property: high-speed bomber (SBAP), long-distance bomber (DBAP), heavy bomber (BAP). Several regiments (3 to 5) were joined in an aviation division: fighter (IAD or Fighter Aviation Division), bomber (BAD or Bomber Aviation Division), combination (SAD or Combination Aviation Division). Storm aviation regiments in the beginning of war were part of SAD's. Intelligence aviation regiments usually were not part of aviation divisions and were subordinated directly of the front Command (1—2 Intelligence or Storm Aviation Regiments in district/front aviation).

Navy in the USSR had its own, separate from land forces, aviation. On the level of detachments and units (element, squadron, regiment) structure of the navy air force was no different from the structure of front aviation. However, there were no divisions in the navy air force, and a grouping of two (usually) aviation regiments was called a brigade. Another distinction of the navy air force was so-called “mine-torpedo” regiments (MTAP, or Mine-Torpedo Aviation Regiment). These regiments were armed with long-range bombers DB-3 / DB-3f specially equipped for dropping sea depth mines and aviation torpedoes.

Extremely small (compared with giant aviation of the eastern neighbour) air force of Finland quite whimsical structure when two units identical in the type could have 3 to 33 aircraft. Additional confusion was introduced by the fact that the tactical unit approximately corresponding with the German aviation group was called in Finnish air force “aviation squadron” (Lentolaivuie, abbreviated — LLv). A grouping of several Lentolaivuie and approximately corresponding with strongly understaffed Luftwaffe squadron was called “aviation regiment” (Lentorykmentti).

In order to simplify further narration of events we will disturb the correctness of verbatim translation and call here and thereafter the basic tactical unit of Finnish air force (LLv) a “group”, and its component detachments — “squadrons”. Under the organization chart, a group must have had three squadrons, 12 crews each. Fighter and bomber groups in the Finnish aviation did not differ in names, which, by the way, will not make big problems for the reader as none of three bomber groups (LLv-42, LLv-44, LLv-46) participated in combat actions of June 1941.

Having finished with the discussion of terminology we will now turn to the accounting of numbers and to the deployment of the parties’ air forces.

Situation, in which the Luftwaffe command on the Eastern front turned out, could at first sight appear hopeless. The forces were very small. Small in comparison with the numerical strength of the adversary (i.e., Soviet air force) aviation, small compared with any theoretical norms, small compared with the experience of previous campaigns.

In May 1940, Germans managed to concentrate on the Western Front the largest grouping of Luftwaffe forces in all time of the Second World War. Wehrmacht offensive in the Netherlands, Belgium and northern France, on a 300 km front as the crow flies (from Arnhem to Saarbrucken), was supported in the air by two air fleets (2nd and 3rd). They included 27 fighter and 40 bomber aviation groups, 9 groups of dive-bombers Ju-87 and 9 groups of multipurpose double-engine -110. Total of 85 groups, 3,641 combat aircraft (not including outdated biplanes “Aeado” -68 and “Henschel” Hs-123, not including intelligence, transportation and sanitary aviation). Operative density was 12 aircraft per one kilometer of the offensive front.

22 June 1941 on the Eastern front was concentrated (including Luftwaffe units deployed in northern Norway and Rumania) 22 fighter and 29 bomber aviation groups, 8 groups of dive-bombers Ju-87 and 4 groups of multi-purpose double-engine Me-110. Total of 63 groups, 2,344 combat aircraft (including out of order). After the previous multi-months engagements in the Balkans and over the Mediterranean, technical state of the Luftwaffe aircraft park was depressing. Average percent of battle-ready aircraft was about 77%. Such aviation groups as II/JG-77, III/JG-27, I/StG-2, II/KG-53, III/KG-3, I/ZG-26, arrived on the Eastern front with less than half of the organization chart number of in working order aircraft on the inventory.

Minimum length of the offensive front even in the very first day of war was 800 km as the crow flies (from Klaipeda to Sambor). Two weeks thereafter, the front increased almost twice (1,400 km as the crow flies from Riga to Odessa). Even without accounting for the losses of the first days, average operative density of the German aviation declined to 2 aircraft per kilometer of the front of offensive (again, including out of order machines).

It only remains to add that according to the pre-war concept of Soviet military science, the front of offensive operation demanded densities of 15—20 aircraft per kilometer. Even Hitler, albeit it is customary to treat him as paranoid, understood disparity between the forces and the task. “With such huge expanses the Luftwaffe is incapable simultaneously to work the front over entirely; in the beginning of war the aviation can dominate only over parts of the giant front. That is why it must be used only in close interaction with land operations...” (Russia-XX century, Documents…, 1998).


Now let us look at the situation from the other side, from the side of Germany’s adversaries. In May 1940 fighter forces of the French aviation in the zone of combat activity included 34 squadrons, i.e., on the order of 400—450 fighter planes. Taking into account the Netherlands, Belgium fighter aviation and expeditionary forces of the British air force, numerical strength of the western allies’ grouping increases to 50 squadrons, 600— 650 fliers. The Soviet air force (fighter aviation of five western districts and two navies) had on the order of 260 squadrons, 3,550 fliers (there was substantially greater  number of aircraft-fighter planes as in many aviation regiments in connection with rearmament with new types of fighter planes accumulated dual set of aircraft).

Is it necessary to prove that in such conditions the German Command had no capability or desire to render “charitable help” to her newly acquired allies? The situation was defined by words “I don’t have enough myself”. Even for the protection of crucially important strategic object — the area of Rumanian oilfields in Ploesti, in whose preservation Germany was interested, if anything, more than Rumania herself, — was allocated only one fighter group (III/JG-52). With the aircraft of the 52nd squadron headquarters, the oilfield area was covered by only 47 “Messerschmitts”.

Let us now move from the general — to the particular, to analysis of the situation on the northern flank of war. The offensive of the Army Group “North” from Eastern Prussia through Baltics and Pskov on Leningrad supported from the air Luftwaffe’s 1st Air fleet. The fleet had 8 bomber (II, III/KG-1, I, II, III/KG-76, I, II, III/KG-77) and 4 fighter (I, II, III/JG-54, II/JG-53) groups on whose inventory were (including out of order machines) 240 medium double-engine bombers Ju-88 and 164 single-engine fighter planes Bf-109F. Total of 404 combat aircraft. The 1st Air fleet did not have a single dive bomber Ju-87 (this inalienable participant in any “documental” film about the beginning of war), or a single fighter plane-bomber -110. Which, in particular, means quite limited opportunity for aimed bombing of such point targets as aircraft on airdrome airfields...

We will note in parentheses that in most publications by the domestic historians, even in the most recent (Morozov, 2007) in the 1st Air fleet is “discovered” at least half as much aircraft. Elegant sharper’s tricks (not changed even a bit over the last half-century) continue to please the eye. The first and major is summing up combat aircraft (fighter planes, bombers, attack aircraft) with intelligence, communications, transportation, sanitary aircraft, large and small. Of course, such summing up is conducted only as applied to German aviation. And as auxiliary aircraft quantitatively are always plentiful, the numbers may be obtained whichever one wishes. This is the same as: “In the yard of a peasant Pupkin there are two horses, one ox, two cows and 20 sheep, total of 25 heads of livestock”. And is it not correct? And to make matters worse, to the fighter planes of the 1st Air fleet are added two groups from anti-air force defence of Germany, not a single of them even once crossed the USSR border. To the bombers are added intelligence hydro-aircraft from Fliegeifuhrer Ostsee grouping, which not even once appeared in the skies over the Soviet Baltics... As a result, the Chief Marshall of aviation ..Novikov in his memoirs without turning an eyelash informs that “in the first days of July on the Leningrad theatre began operating German 1st Air fleet of 1,070 combat aircraft...”

By the way, the aforementioned phrase includes important (and for the purposes of this chapter — the main) admission. Units and groupings of Luftwaffe’s 1st Air fleet on the “Leningrad theatre” appeared “in the first days of July”, i.e., only after the catastrophic crush of the Northwestern front (Baltic OVO) allowed the German Command to redeploy Luftwaffe aviation groups from Eastern Prussia on airdromes of the occupied Baltic states and Pskov Province. Whereas in the first days of war groupings of the 1st Air Fleet fought the Northwestern front aviation (which was numerically three times the adversary and two times his number of crews) and supported from the air the offensive by the 41st and 56th Wehrmacht’s tank corps. Of course, no redeployment occurred of the 1st Air Fleet units to Finland, i.e., over many hundreds of kilometres from the area of German forces combat activities, and to events in the first weeks of war in the skies above Leningrad and cities of Karelia the aviation groups of the 1st Air fleet had no direct relation. The first (at this, unsuccessful) attempt of German bombers to break through to Leningrad from the southwest was undertaken only 20 July. Whereas the first massive raid on Leningrad happened even later — 6 September 1941 (Inozemtsev, 1978).

In the European Arctic operated German 5th Air Fleet. Aviation groups of the 5th Air Fleet were deployed on airdromes of occupied in spring 1940 Norway. The main task of the 5th Air Fleet was protecting giant in extension (more than 2,000 km), dissected by countless skerries coastal line of Norway from possible landing of English sea-drops. Besides, the 5th Air Fleet was entrusted the task of reconnaissance and fight with English transportation and combat vessels in northern Atlantic. With the tasks so broad, the 5th Air Fleet was the smallest in the Luftwaffe (as of 24 June 1941 the fleet had 283 combat aircraft of all type, from which battle-capable were only 189 machines).

It is no secret that the operation in the Soviet Trans-Polar region for the purpose of capturing Murmansk and Kandalaksha was viewed by Wehrmacht's Command as senseless distraction of forces from the solution of main task. And in the framework of the provision of crush of the Soviet Union in the process of a short campaign this scepticism was quite justified.

The transportation “corridor” from the USA through the north Atlantic in Murmansk acquired strategic significance substantially later. Moreover, in spring 1941 nobody could say with certainty whether the Soviet-American military cooperation would emerge at all. And nevertheless, Hitler’s order had to be complied with. So, the army Command planned two offensive operations (from the area Petsamo on Murmansk, from the area Salla on Kandalaksha), and the 5th Air Fleet Command formed special “aviation grouping Kirkenes”, which was assigned to support the German forces offensive in Trans-Polar region.

Subordinated to Colonel Nielsen in the “aviation grouping Kirkenes” were the following units and detachments:

— group of dive-bombers IV/StG-1;

— one squadron from bomber group II/KG-30;

— two squadrons from fighter group IV/JG-77;

— one element of multitask fighter planes-bombers from Z/JG-77.

In mid-June 1941, these units and detachments were concentrated in the northern Norway, on airdromes Hebukten (near Kirkenes) and Banak (near Lakselven) (see map No. 9). As of 24 June 1941, Luftwaffe’s grouping on the USSR border included:

— 42 dive-bombers Ju-87; out of those 39 (from other sources — 33) in working order;

— 12 medium double-engine bombers J-88, out of those 10 in working order;

— 22 fighter planes “Messerschmitt” Bf-109E;

— 4 double-engine fighter planes-bombers -110.

Actually, one of the two fighter squadrons was deployed on the airdrome Banak (250 km west of the Soviet border) and in combat actions practically did not participate. Fighter cover for the German forces advancing on Murmansk had to provide one and only squadron of “Messerschmitts”. After the beginning of Soviet-German war (but before the beginning of offensive by the Dietl’s mountain-rifle corps on Murmansk), this squadron (13/JG-77) was redeployed on the airdrome Luostari located in the territory of Finland, several kilometres from borders with the USSR. These 10 in working order “Messerschmitts” on the airdrome Luostari were the first and only Luftwaffe’s fighter aviation detachment deployed in the territory of Finland.

In the operative subordination of the “aviation grouping Kirkenes” Command was transferred also one element of long-range reconnaissance aircraft (3 double-engine “Dornier” Do-17) from 124th intelligence group (1.(F)/124). This detachment was deployed on the airdrome of a Finnish city Rovaniyemi. Starting on 18 June 1941 it conducted several intelligence raids over the Soviet territory. Most likely, the overflight above Kandalaksha of exactly these aircraft was recorded in North fleet Command reports.

Therefore, in the territory of northern Finland even before 25 June 1941 was deployed German aviation (one squadron of fighter planes and one element of long-range reconnaissance aircraft, overall 13 in working order aircraft). This “aviation”, of course, could not subject Leningrad to a rabid bombing” (which, on the assertion of Marshall Novikov, Soviet Command expected). And not only because fighter planes are not suited for solving such tasks. From Luostari to Leningrad — 1,100 km as the crow flies. The technical range of the “Messerschmitt” Bf-109 is insufficient at this even for a suicidal one-way flight...

The German aviation grouping in Trans-Polar region took a stand against the Soviet air force 1st aviation division (1st SAD) and North fleet aviation. The 1st SAD included three aviation regiments: two fighter (145th IAP and 147th IAP) and one bomber (137th BAP). The North fleet air force included so-called “combination aviation regiment” (72- SAP), which had fighter, bomber and intelligence/reconnaissance squadrons. By the start of combat activities (29 June 1941) the Soviet aviation grouping in Trans-Polar region was:

— 49 light double-engine bombers SB, out of those 43 — in working order;

— 72 fighter planes I-16, out of those 67 — in working order;

— 51 fighter I-153, out of those 48 — in working order.

Therefore, in the number of bombers, forces of the parties were approximately on par, but in the number of combat-ready fighter planes the Soviet air force had 11-fold advantage. Strictly speaking, on the inventory of 147th IAP and 72nd Combination Aviation Regiment was also 47 fighter planes “I-15bis” but these machines by that time were already outdated and hardly suitable for air engagement (these aircraft were used mostly for attacking land targets).

In the territory of southern (or rather central) Finland was also deployed German aviation. This “aviation” comprised one element of long-range reconnaissance aircraft commanded by Hauptmann Bolle. On the inventory of this element was three aircraft (two “Dornier” Do-215 and one “Heinkel” -111). Between 20 June and 13 September 1941, this element was deployed on a Finnish airdrome Luonetyarvi (near Yuvyaskyulya). From there, it conducted numerous intelligence overflights above the Soviet territory.

Let us summarize. Before the beginning of Soviet aviation strikes on Finland (i.e., before 25 June 1941) in the Finnish territory were based three German aviation detachments:

— fighter plane squadron on the airdrome Luostari (Petsamo area);

— element of intelligence/reconnaissance planes on the airdrome Rovaniyemi (northern Finland);

— element of intelligence/reconnaissance planes on the airdrome Luonetyarvi (Yuvyaskyulya area, central Finland);

Altogether 18 aircraft (12 fighter planes, 6 long-range intelligence/reconnaissance aircraft, 0 bombers).

And that was all that happened. The remaining 2,326 combat aircraft (99.23% of the total Luftwaffe grouping unfolded for war against the USSR) were deployed in the territory of northern Norway, East Prussia, occupied Poland and Rumania. By 25 June 1941 many Luftwaffe aviation units (first of all — fighter ones) were already deployed on Soviet airdromes. Of course, the aforementioned number (99.23%) should not be taken too seriously as the numerical strength of the “Luftwaffe grouping in Finland” (18 aircraft) was substantially under the arithmetic error in the determination of the total number of German aircraft on the Eastern front.

However, the aviation deployment does not exhaust all possibilities of using the territory of a friendly country. For instance, American aviation was never deployed in the USSR territory (at least not even one of books we know such expressions are used). Nevertheless, a widely known fact is that in summer 1944 allied bombers based on British islands, after having dropped bombs on German military targets in southern Poland, landed in the Soviet territory (in Poltava area), where they were filled up with fuel for the return flight.

Something similar occurred also in June 1941. Here, we must return to already mentioned bomber group KGr-806. This aviation group (30 “Junkers” Ju-88, out of those 18 in working order) was part of “Baltic Aviation Command”, was deployed in East Prussia (Proveren airdrome) and must have operated in the interest of the navy. However, the main task of the German navy was to “lock” the Red Banner Baltic Fleet (in the number and tonnage of surface combat ships good and proper exceeding the available German fleet forces) in the Gulf of Finland and not to allow its exit in the Southwestern Baltic Sea. This task the Germans solved with huge success by laying in first two- days of war a dense system of mine barriers at the exit from the Gulf of Finland (in the corridor from Hango to Dago Island). After this, the Baltic Fleet surface vessels did not undertake even one attempt to enter the Great Baltic.

Nevertheless, “store is no sore”, and simultaneously with laying mine barriers in the mouth of Gulf of Finland the German Command planned laying bottom magnetic mines in Kronstadt area. In accomplishing this task was involved one squadron (10 aircraft) from KGr-806 and one element (4 “Junkers” Ju-88) from “coastal” aviation group KüD.Fl.Gr-506. Theoretically, estimated flight range of Ju-88 allowed performing this task without intermediate landing and refueling. The distance from Kronstadt to airdrome Proveren is 900 km as the crow flies and quoted in any reference book maximum flight range of “Junkers” Ju88A-5 is 2,250 km. However, maximum range has to be “paid” in the minimum bomb load, which in this case was for the Germans undesirable. That is why it was decided, after performing the task to land for refueling in Finland on the airdrome in Utti (in Kouvola area).

This shrank total length of the trajectory almost in half and every “Junkers” could carry two heavy aviation mines weighing 985 kg each.

The raid was conducted early in the morning 22 June 1941. In the area of Kronstadt naval base was dropped (Soviet data) 25 bottom magnetic mines. The fact that the operation was conducted in the first hours of war was not at all accidental.

Heavy loaded “Junkers”, without any fighter plane cover, had to operate in an area where for their interception theoretically could be raised several hundred Soviet fighter planes. In such conditions, only suddenness of the strike allowed the Germans to count on success.

Besides aviation raid in the night 21 on 22 June, KGr-806 bombers appeared in the air space over the Gulf of Finland and Karelian Isthmus also in the night 22 on 23 June (see the following Chapter). Most likely, they were performing a similar task of mining approaches to Kronstadt with subsequent landing and refuelling on Finnish airdromes Utti, Hyvinkaa and Malmi (two latter ones in Helsinki area) but this version needs additional study.

Having completed a search for tiniest traces of the German aviation on the Finnish land, we will now make a brief review of the structure and deployment of the aviation whose presence in the territory of Finland causes no doubts. By June 1941, the Finnish air force included 5 fighter groups (LLv-24, LLv-26, LLv-28, LLv-30, LLv-32) on whose inventory was (including out of order vehicles), respectively, 33, 26, 27, 23 and 24 aircraft.

Besides, the aviation groups LLv-6, LLv-12 and LLv-14 had, respectively, 5, 10 and 12 fighter planes. Therefore, only in combat units of Finland’s air force was 160 aircraft-fighter planes of eight (!) different types. We will be discussing the deployment, armament and combat capabilities of Finnish fighter aviation in the following chapters devoted to the course and outcome of the Soviet “bomber offensive” 25—26 June. In this Chapter, we will establish the structure and combat capabilities of Finland’s bomber aviation.

Bomber aviation of Finland comprised three groups (LLv-42, LLv-44, LLv-46). On their inventory, correspondingly, was 9 (nine), 8 (eight ) and 7 () aircraft. The major basing location was airdrome Siikakangas (45 km northeast of Tampere). There, LLv-42 and LLv-44 were deployed. Headquarters of Lentorykmentti-4 under Lieutenant Colonel Somerto and bombers of the LLv-46 group were based on the airdrome Luonetjärvi. Besides, in the aforementioned understaffed group LLv- was a bomber element (three captured Soviet SB taken in the process of the “winter war”). This group was based in Turku area. Overall, on the inventory of bomber units of the Finnish air force was, therefore, 27 aircraft.

Major types of bombers were English “Blenheim” (20 aircraft) and captured Soviet SB (3 aircraft). The LLv-46 group had 4 more aircraft, which in different sources were called captured Soviet DB-3 and American transport “Douglas” DC-3. In major tactical-technical and weight parameters and development time “Blenheim” was “a brother” to the most mass-produced Soviet bomber SB. First flight of Tupolev's SB was 30 December 1934, first “Blenheim” rose in the skies 12 April 1935. Similar was also the basic design concept of these aircraft: a light double-engine bomber with quite modest bomb load but with high maximum velocity enabling eluding an encounter with enemy fighter planes.


Weight empty

Takeoff weight

Engines capacity

Velocity near ground

Max velocity

Max bomb load, kg

Max range w/bombs

Blenheim Mk-IV



2x905 hp




1,870 km / 454 kg

SB bis-2 (1939)



2x950 hp




1,350 km / 500 kg


By the summer of 1941 both aircraft were morally outdated. The idea input at their designing turned out stillborn. Best fighter aircraft (Soviet MiG-3, German “Messerschmitt” Bf-109F-2) developed maximum velocity of 628 and 600 km/hour, respectively, and caught up with the so-called “high-speed bombers” of the 1930’s with the same ease as a sport car catches up with a pedestrian. Of course, in the Soviet Union were undertaken serious efforts for upgrading the SB. In the end of 1940 began mass production of the latest modification of this combat vehicle — dive (!) bomber Ar-2.

Due to substantially “refined” aerodynamics and installation of capacity boosted to 1,100 hp motors -105, the dive-bomber Ar-2 reached velocity of 443 km/hour near the ground and 512 km/hour at the elevation of 5 km. The design allowed dropping at diving the bombs of both internal and external load (maximum 2 bombs FAB-500 + 2 FAB-250).

Unfortunately, in February 1941 Ar-2 manufacturing was folded down. Only 198 dive-bombers Ar-2 were made.

Back to the events of June 1941, we must recognize that two dozen Finnish bombers, taking off from airdromes in Tampere and Yuvyaskyulya area, theoretically were capable to carry out a bomb strike on Leningrad (400 km as the crow flies from Tampere). No less important to note at once also the other indisputable fact: the distance from Tampere to Leningrad with accuracy of up to one micron is equal to the distance from Leningrad to Tampere. Therefore, the Soviet air force also had technical capability for hitting basing airdromes of the Finnish bomber group. Especially if we take into account that on the inventory of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet air force bomber regiments, together with SB, were long-range bombers DB-3f (91 in order aircraft) with maximum flight range of more than 3,000 km.

Nevertheless, not a single Soviet aviation bomb dropped on airdromes Siikakangas and Luonetyarvi. Moreover, during 25—26 June the Soviet aviation did not even undertake a single attempt to attack these airdromes. Just one this fact forces strongly to doubt the version that the Red Army Command was very worried that meagre forces of the Finnish (or deployed on the Finnish airdromes German) aviation would subject Leningrad to a “rabid bombing”. By the way, taking into attention the structure and numerical strength of Leningrad anti-air force defence, fighter aviation of the Northern front (Leningrad VO) air force and Baltic Fleet air force, there should not have been grounds for worries.

Now, from Finland’s aviation to a brief review of the Soviet air force. Like a fairy-tale Lemuel Gulliver we get here from “the country of Lilliputians into the country of giants” (see map No. 10). Closest to the border with Finland was deployed 5th IAD (divisions headquarters in Vyborg). On Karelian Isthmus (airdromes Suur Merijoki, Majaniemi, Grivochki) were deployed two fighter regiments of this division (7th and 159th IAP). A third regiment (158th IAP) was at the “diametrically-opposite end” of the district’s territory, south of Pskov (airdrome Veretenye). Besides, on the Karelian Isthmus, Kexholm area, was based 153rd IAP of the 55th SAD (divisions headquarters in Petrozavodsk).

In close proximity to Leningrad were deployed three fighter aviation divisions: 3rd IAD (headquarters in Gorelovo), 39th IAD (headquarters in Pushkin) and 54th IAD (headquarters in Levashovo). On the airdromes Gorelovo, Vitino, Ropsha, Zaytsevo Lezye, Kolpino, Levashovo and Uglovo were deployed 19th IAP, 44th IAP, 154th IAP, 156th IAP, 26th IAP and 157th IAP.

One more regiment (155th IAP from 39th IAD) was based on airdrome Gorodets (120 km south of Leningrad).

A necessary clarification relates to the very notion of “airdrome”. All aforementioned airdromes were either the so-called “base”, i.e., besides the flying field proper there must be everything necessary for combat work of the flying personnel and aviation hardware (reserves of fuel and munitions, repair, technical, sanitary, meteorological services and detachments). Together with the base also existed the so-called “operative” airdromes. At those, there was only minimum of necessary equipment for production of flights. In an epoch when a fighter aircraft was 2—3 ton and had landing velocity of no more than 120—140 km/hour, a flat field after minimum preparation of the runway, equipment and simple covers for the flight and technical personnel and installation of a few gas tanks could be used as operative airdrome in summer. That is why the number of operative airdromes was many times the number of base airdromes.

For instance, in western military districts in the USSR as of 1 January 1941 there were 614 airdromes of all types. By 15 July was constructed 164 more airdromes. In particular, in Leningrad military district as of I January 1941 already was 86 airdromes and 25 more was constructed in the first six months (TSAMO, fund 35, list 28737, case 1, sheets 7, 33, 116, 292, 294).

The nine mentioned aviation regiments (not counting 158th IAP and 155th IAP) had 472 pilots fighter-fliers. There were substantially more aircraft. It is impossible to state the exact number as in the Leningrad district air force was going on intense replacement of the aircraft park. In some fighter regiments (7th IAP, 159th IAP, 153rd IAP) there was twice aircraft than fliers. The approximate number of fighter planes in the stated nine aviation regiments was 620—650 units including at least 160 most up-to-date fighter planes MiG-3 (Leningrad district’s fighter units received “MiG’s” among the very first, in February — March 1941). Judging by memoirs of the former district air force Commander, 105 more “MiG’s” were at the stage of assembly and test flights.

The above regiments did not exhaust Leningrad district’s fighter aviation. On the eve of war in LenMD at the stage of formation were eight more aviation regiments. Thus, on Mainiemi airdrome (Karelian Isthmus) were being formed 191st, 192nd and 193rd fighter regiments. Besides, in Tallinn area was deployed 38th IAP (47 in working order I-16, 53 fliers). This regiment, with respect to the organization, was part of the Northwestern front air force but territorially it was closest of all to Helsinki and practically did not take part in combat actions of the Northwestern front in the first days of war (Germans approached Estonia substantially later).

Besides, in direct proximity of Leningrad were also deployed main forces of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet air force including 61st fighter brigade (brigade headquarters — new Peterhoff). Overall, on the inventory of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet’s air force three fighter regiments and seven non-integrated squadrons were (data from different sources) on the order of 350 aircraft-fighter planes, from which about 300 were battle-capable (I-16—137; I-153—100; MiG-3— 32; Yak-1 —8) (Central archive FSB RF, fund 14, list 4, case 1047, sheets 403-419). Making no claims of especial accuracy, it is possible to say that in general the Soviet Command could set against each Finnish air force bomber on the order of 30 fighter planes.

The fighter aviation was main but not only component of the anti-aircraft defence system.

Beside fighter planes, for fighting adversary aviation was also land-based flak artillery. The domestic historiography seldom and reluctantly remember about this component of the anti-air force defence system, with a mandatory sob (“early in the war there was acute shortage of flak means...”). No arguing this. Flak means — as money — are always “acutely short”. But not everywhere equally “acutely”. As already was mentioned in previous chapters, by the start of the “winter war” Finland had on the inventory 38 (thirty eight) medium calibre flak guns (76-mm “Bofors” /29) and 53 (fifty three) low calibre 40-mm “Bofors” /38.

The capital of the British empire, the city of London, in the process of renowned “battle of Britain” (September—October 1940) was protected  by 452 flak guns of all calibres.

Leningrad flak artillery (2nd corps PVO[2]) by spring 1941 was rearmed with most up to date 85-mm flak cannon ("Defense of Leningrad...”, 1968). Older 76-mm flak cannon also remained in the district. As a result, by the war beginning, the 2nd corps of anti-air force defence had on the inventory about 600 85 mm, 246 76 mm, 60 small calibre guns and 230 flak machine guns. And also 483 search light stations, 297 barrier balloons and 8 radar stations RUS-1 ("History of the Order of Lenin Leningrad military district", 1968).

All radar stations of the 72nd non-integrated radio battalion were unfolded on the Finnish theatre. First line of five radars was along the border with Finland and the south shore of the Gulf of Finland, from Korpiselkä to Kingisepp. Three other radar stations were unfolded in the area of Pitkyaranta, Kexholm and Ligovo.

The Baltic Fleet naval bases had, of course, their non-integrated PVO means. For instance, Kronstadt naval base was defended (in addition to most powerful flak artillery of combat ships) also by 48 flak guns (calibre 76 mm) and 8 flak guns calibre 85 mm. Besides, the Northern anti-air force defence zone (Commander — Major General F.Ya. Kryukov) included Vyborg brigade area of the anti-air force defence (474th flak artillery regiment in Vyborg and 225th non-integrated flak-artillery battalion in Kexholm). Southern approaches to Leningrad covered Luga PVO brigade area with six flak-artillery battalions.

The quoted facts are sufficiently eloquent and hardly need special comments. However, it is impossible not to include competent view of Chief Marshall of aviation USSR, former Commander of Leningrad district air force .. Novikov: North of Leningrad the adversary set forth against us the Finnish aviation and German 5th Air fleet, total of 900 aircraft. Such forces the district aviation could handle. But early in July...” (Novikov, 1970). So, in view of the district aviation Commander, “the district aviation could handle” non-existent nine hundred aircraft of the 5th Air Fleet and Finnish aviation. Then, it can be suggested, the real adversary grouping (in no way more than half a hundred Finnish and German bombers on airdromes of the southern and central Finland) did not create for Leningrad a threat by “overwhelming force”...




Now we figured out the structure and deployment of the Finnish aviation and detachments of the German aviation based on the territory of Finland. Let us turn to the second question — what combat activities against the Soviet Union this aviation grouping conducted during 22—24 June 1941? Before beginning a review of a few available documents and now known facts, it is still necessary to make one general note.

The transition from peaceful life (even if this life was service in the army or navy) to war, to continuous, every single moment threat to lose the life, health, honor (in a case of noncompliance with the assigned combat task) is a severe stress. This word (“stress”) was not in vogue then. However, unavoidable stress and errors unavoidably caused by it, confusion, sometimes panic were multiply strengthened by enigmatic pre-war “Stalin’s games”. The sense of these “games” even until this day causes fierce argument among historians. It was even less understandable to contemporaries of the events, senior Red Army and navy commanders who were demanded “to meet possible sudden strike” but at this carefully to camouflage heightened combat readiness” andnot to yield to provocations” (Muller-Gillibrand, 2002).

The reader sufficiently familiar with the domestic memoir literature and historical journalism should know a commonly spread myth “about admiral Kuznetsov and Sebastopol”. Briefly, the myth is: the Narkom of the navy N.G.Kuznetsov “was not afraid to break Stalin’s prohibition” and issued fateful order about putting the navy on “combat readiness”. As a result, the first raid of German aviation on Sebastopol was successfully repelled, at that with large losses for the aggressor.

At slightly more detailed review of facts, the following details are discovered.

The Narkom of the navy directive sent at 0150 hours 22 June to the Command of fleets practically verbatim copied similar Directive No.1 sent to the military districts Command signed by the Narkom for the Defence Timoshenko. It included all aforementioned Delphic directions. On the main Black Sea fleet base, events were evolving as follows. At 0215 hours 22 June, the Black Sea fleet anti-air force defence headquarters issued an order about the introduction of a black-out regime in Sebastopol. For a total certainty, the “main circuit breaker” of the city power-supply was switched off. Sebastopol immersed in Cimmerian darkness of a southern summer night. Only two lighthouses were blindingly shining, the Inkerman and Kherson ones. Wire communications with them were interrupted (ostensibly by saboteurs). A courier from the headquarters for some reason did not get to the Inkerman lighthouse, and it, with visual range of 24 nautical miles, continued to light revealing the city and port.

At 0235 hours 22 June the RUS-1 radar station on cape Tarkhankut discovered an air target coming from west. At 0305 hours, the sound direction finding stations identified the noise of aviation motors at a distance of 20 km from Sebastopol. The technology was working blamelessly. It was more difficult with people. Commanders of all rank started feverishly to search to whom it was possible to shuffle off the burden of responsibility for the decision to open fire. The Black Sea fleet Commander vice-admiral Oktyabrsky nobody knows why began ringing Moscow, head of the General headquarters Zhukov, albeit the fleet was in no way subordinated to Zhukov. Zhukov evaded any specific direction and recommended “to report to the Narkom of the navy”. The operative duty officer of the fleet headquarters (that night it was a Black Sea fleet flag chemist Captain 2nd rank N.. Rybalko) received, in his turn, the following instruction from admiral Oktyabrsky: Keep in mind that if there is even one our aircraft in the air, tomorrow you will be shot”. If one wants to believe the recollections of N.. Rybalko himself, he and head of the fleet headquarters Rear Admiral I.D. Eliseyev made a decision to open fire on the unknown aircraft. After which the following conversation occurred between Rybalko and Commander of the fleet anti-aircraft defence Colonel I.S. Zhilin: “...I immediately called Colonel Zhilin, transmitted the order to open fire. Colonel Zhilin replied: “Keep in mind, you are bearing total responsibility for this order. I am recording it in the ledger of combat activities”. I repeated the order to Com. Zhilin and said: “Record it wherever you wish, I realize my responsibility, but you open fire on the aircraft”. That was the end of our conversation...”

Of course, Zhilin himself in his recollections writes that he was not able to gain any specific instruction either from head of the fleet headquarters or from head of the Black Sea fleet air force headquarters Colonel Kalmykov. Ostensibly, he himself, at his own risk and peril ordered commanders of anti-air craft defence units “to consider any aircraft, which appears in Sebastopol area, an enemy aircraft, to illuminate them with searchlights and open fire on them”. Even if such order actually was indeed issued, it was badly implemented. A first bomber appeared above Sebastopol at 0313 hours 22 June. It was discovered and illuminated by searchlights but at the same moment, an order came to turn the searchlights off and not to open fire. Head of the 61st flak-artillery regiment headquarters I.K. Semenov explained it by the order from the fleet anti-air force defence headquarters. However, Zhilin refers to fuzzy actions by the regiment commander himself. Be it as it may, first “Heinkel-111” dropped two heavy magnetic mines in the waters of Sebastopol bay and flew out scot-free.

Overall, in the first raid on the main Black Sea fleet base in Sebastopol participated 4 (four) German bombers “Heinkel-111” from deployed in Rumania aviation group KG-27. The aircraft attacked the target one by one, at long time intervals (15—25 min.) and dropped bottom magnetic mines on parachutes. Altogether, 8 mines were dropped. These mines (strictly speaking, their parachutes) caused additional panic in the Black Sea fleet headquarters. It was decided there that the adversary was unloading an airdrop for catching the fleet headquarters. The commanders in the headquarters building hurriedly created a group assigned to take perimeter defence...

Second, third and fourth “Heinkels” were shot at by the flak artillery of the Sebastopol anti-aircraft defence. Total of 2,150 shells were shot (on average — 500 per one enemy aircraft). Plus, at German bombers conducted fire ship flak artillery. Not a single aircraft was shot down but the accuracy of mine drop under fire from the Soviet flak cannon drastically declined. Only one mine out of six hit the bay, three mines exploded onland, two dropped in the shallow water and automatically blew up. A record in the ledger of combat activities and testimonies of many participants of the events state that the fourth bomber at 0410 hours was shot down and dropped in the sea. However, judging by German documents, the KG-27 group had no irrietrievable losses that day (as opposed, for instance, to KG-55, which 22 June irretrievably lost 11 aircraft -111 in the skies above the Western Ukraine) ("22 June 1941. Navy enters the fight").

Those were real events early in the morning 22 June 1941 in Sebastopol. Newspaper “Red Crimea” in an article entitled “So it was” described their 24 June 1941 as follows:

“... Numerous crossing search light rays continued doggedly to search the sky covered with ominous clouds. And when a thick cloud layer tore for a moment, search light rays caught up within the formed holes with brigandine vehicles. Uselessly flouncing, darting from one side to another the vultures tried again to hide behind dense clouds, under the cover of a dark night. Precision artillery fire of our batteries went straight into the target... The enemy unsuccessfully attempted to hide behind the clouds but well-aimed fire caught him everywhere.

Here, one of the brigandine aircraft, damaged by a cannon shell, darted up and, somersaulting, engulfed in the growing flame, blisteringly fell in the sea as a rock. Such was soon the fate of another Fascist bomber. The others in panic turned to stampede. German Fascists who attacked Sebastopol received a deserved rebuff...”

And here is another description of the same events (we will not name the author of the memoirs):

“...At three fifteen in the morning mighty rays of search-lights cut the cloudless starry skies and rocked as pendulums, groping the firmament where, strengthening every second, a monotonous boom was spreading over. At last from the side of the sea appeared frightening armada of low-flying aircraft. Their endless corvine rows interchangingly darted (emphasis added. - M. S.) along the Northern bay. Batteries of coastal flak artillery and fleet vessels opened hurricane fire on them and mingled the combat order... Morose silhouettes of still unknown bombers there flared in the rays of search lights, there disappeared in the emptiness of the skies, then they were again caught by the search-lights and followed to the end of the Northern bay... In the end, several aircraft were shot down. We clearly saw as one aircraft dropped in the sea...”

Perhaps, the reader already has a question — why this entire story about the events so far from Leningrad and Finland Black Sea? The answer is simple: without clear understanding of a psychological atmosphere of the first days of war, it is impossible adequately to read and understand the documents of that time and recollections of the events’ participants.

Here, for instance, Red Banner Baltic Fleet 1st submarine brigade Commander Captain, 1st rank N.P. Egipko writes in his memoirs:

During the day (22 June) above Ust-Dvinsk where the submarine brigade was located, toward Riga flew 15—20 aircraft with red stars on the wings. Through the binoculars, I very clearly distinguished these insignia. Somewhat later, we heard explosions in the area of the airdrome near Riga. I, being the senior marine head in Ust-Dvinsk, ordered in case the enemy aircraft return, to open flak fire. But on return the aircraft went farther into the sea, and flak shooting appeared unsuccessful...” (Egipko, 2000).

Now we will switch from memoirs to genuine documents. A Combat order (no number) of 23 June 1941, signed by head of the 1st mechanized corps headquarters Colonel Limarenko, says: “Cases are recorded of German aircraft with red stars(TSAMO, fund 1400, list 1, case 17, sheet 5). We read in the order from the 163rd mechanized division commander (1st mechanized corps) of 24 June 1941: “Fascist aircraft use the coloring and insignia of Soviet aircraft” (TSAMO, fund 1400, list 1, case 19, sheet 6). No less indicative also the following fragment from a report about combat actions of the Sortavala border group (signed by Captain Boldyrev 24 October 1941). “... Since 24 June the adversary aviation began conducting regular intelligence flights over our territory to a depth of 2—6 km. Since 28 June 1941 adversary aircraft, using the absence of active counter-means in the rear of the group area, began shooting from machine guns settlements, trains, dropping bombs on railway bridges and roadbed. Absolute majority of enemy aircraft were flying with the USSR insignia...” ("Border troops of the USSR…, 1976).

What was it? With the probability close to 100%, it is possible to maintain that the Soviet insignia were never used on combat aircraft of the Luftwaffe and Finnish aviation and all communications of the first days of war about bombing Soviet force positions by red-star aircraft are fruits of confusion and chaos. Simply, in some cases this confusion showed up in reports based only on unchecked rumors, in some others, in real facts of bombing own forces (by the way, there were no fewer cases of shooting at own aircraft by the flak artillery). All said should not be understood as a call for indiscriminate denial of reliability for any documents of the first days of war. Of course, not — the documents are necessary to study, check their reliability, compare with others known facts and documents. Not to reject “out of hand” but also not to turn every letter of an archive document in a gospel truth only because the paper this “letter” is written on had already yellowed of time...




The operative summary No. 01 of the Northern front headquarters signed by Major General Nikishov at 2200 hours 22 June 1941 takes three pages typewritten text (TSAMO, fund 217, list 1221, case 183, sheet 1-3). No mention of adversary aviation raids in the front headquarters summary.

As for four fighter aviation divisions directly covering Leningrad (5th IAD, 39th IAD, 3rd IAD and 54th IAD), for the period of our interest are accessible only operative documents of the 39th IAD. We were unable to discover the fund of the 54th IAD. Possible reason is that as early as 19 June 1941 was issued an order of the Narkom for the Defence USSR about reorganization of the 3rd and 54th divisions into 7th fighter aviation corps of the country’s anti-aircraft defence. The fund of the 3rd IAD includes only documents of the political department for a later period and still secret documents of the military prosecutor. Whereas operative documents held in the fund of the 5th IAD begin for some reason from 15 August 1941...

We read in the operative summary of the 39th IAD (headquarters in Pushkin) No. 1 of 0600 hours 23 June 1941: “The 39th IAD from 0230 22 June through 0600 23 June was not conducting sorties having units in combat readiness” (TSAMO, fund 20102, list 1, case 2, sheet). The intelligence summary No. 01 of 1800 hours 22 June states: “Adversary aircraft in the basing area of the division units are not noticed”.

This is the information, which 39th IAD headquarters received independently. Whereas in the part of the intelligence summary No. 01, which was based on information received from the neighbors and/or superior headquarters, appears a description of two episodes of war in the air. Five elements of “-110” headed to Kronstadt, one element at the elevation 1,500 m, two elements at the elevation 70—80 m. When shot at by our flak artillery and at the appearance of our fighter planes, [they] flew on Virolahti (a settlement on the shore of the Gulf of Finland next to the border.  - M.S.).

At 0400 hours two triple-engine adversary aircraft torpedoed vessls in Kronstadt area, our flak artillery shot down one adversary aircraft” (TSAMO, fund 20102, list 1, case 3, sheet 1)

Most likely, about the same two episodes is writing in his memoirs former Northern front (Leningrad district) air force Commander .. Novikov: “...The war came in the city at 3 o’clock in the morning when Leningraders were still fast asleep. At that time, high in the sky rushed nine fighter planes led by a Senior Lieutenant Mikhail Gneushev. Another twenty minutes, and near Leningrad flared up a first air fight fighter fliers Shavrov and Boyko entered the engagement with the element of “Me-110”. At 0400 hours, German aircraft tried to mine the navigating channel in the Gulf of Finland but were driven away by marine fliers. Somewhat later 14 “-109” attempted to storm one of our airdromes near Vyborg. The enemy was met and driven away by a group of fliers from the 7th fighter aviation regiment headed by a Senior Lieutenant Nikolay Svitenko(Novikov, 1970). 

In a known monograph “Leningrad under the wing” written by Lieutenant Colonel I.G. Inozemtsev these same events are described as follows: “...At four o’clock in the morning 12 aircraft in three groups conducted raid on Kronstadt area and dropped mines in the waters of the Gulf of Finland. At the same time 14 double-engine fighter planes Me-110 appeared at a low altitude in the area of Vyborg airdrome. Towards them flew out on alarm the duty element of I-153 aircraft from 7th fighter aviation regiment and then four more fighter planes headed by the squadron commander Senior Lieutenant P.I. Svitenko. The Soviet fliers attacked “Messerschmitts”, which, not accepting the fight and hurried to disappear toward the Gulf of Finland...” (Inozemtsev, 1978).

The episode with double-engine “-110” is completely made up from the beginning and to the end. There was not a single aircraft of this type in Luftwaffe’s 1st Air fleet. The 5th Air Fleet had them but four Me-110 from airdrome Banak in the Norway Arctic could not get to Vyborg even “one way”. Neither the Finnish air force nor Luftwaffe detachments, which intermittently appeared in June 1941 on Finnish airdromes, did not have “Me-110”. At last, completely unbelievable looks the information that 14 (fourteen) -110 “hurried to disappear” from one element (3 aircraft) of rather outdated biplans I-153. Should such encounter have taken place in reality, most likely, the count of losses by Leningrad district air force would have opened already early in the morning 22 June...

It is difficult even to imagine, which real event could have become a reason for the appearance of rumors about “14 double-engine fighter planes” above Vyborg. Certain external similarity with Me-110 had only “Dornier” Do-215 (double-engine and two keels), and in a predawn dusk these aircraft could be confused. Two Do-215 were used in the elements of long-distance intelligence on the Finnish airdrome Luonetyarvi. However, 2 are no 14, and the long-distance intelligence aircraft conducted flights in adversary deep rear at the maximum possible altitude. Long-distance intelligence aircraft do not fly at altitude 1,500 m and even more so at the altitude 70—80 m above ground — this is both dangerous and inexpedient (the review area of the adversary’s territory shrinks).

In reports by the Command of NKVD borders forces show up even “endless crow swarmsof “43 German aircraft”, which at 0350 hours 22 June ostensibly violated the border and ran the course on Karelian Isthmus” ("Border troops ... 1941", 1976). Of course, this frightening armada of low-flying aircraft” did not leave any material traces like aircraft shot down and dropped in the Soviet territory, dropped bombs, bomb craters and destructions...

“Two triple-engine adversary aircraft”, which ostensibly “torpedoed vessels in Kronstadt area”, and again — “12 German aircraft, which tried to mine navigating channel in the Gulf of Finland”. These are, most likely, same very 14 “Junkerses” Ju-88 from the aviation groups KGr-806 and Kü.Fl.Gr-506, which at dawn 22 June mined approaches to Kronstadt naval base and after successfully completing the job (they were  driven away by sea fliersonly in the writings of Soviet memoirists) landed for refuelling on the Finnish airdrome Utti.

Mining the Kronstadt bay was noted (but unfortunately not stopped) also by the Red Banner Baltic Fleet Command. Former Commander of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet admiral Tributs in his memoirs writes: “... at 0445 hours Commander of the Kronstadt naval base Rear Admiral V.I. Ivanov reported to me over the telephone that he himself saw several enemy aircraft drop mines in the Kronstadt navigation channel and open portion of Leningrad sea canal. And one aircraft shot at a transport Lugaon the Krasnogorsk roadstead (Tributs, 1985).

Reliability of the raid on Kronstadt causes no doubts. But it should be noted that relatively accurate description of the events is provided only in his post-war recollections by ..Novikov. The intelligence summary No. 01 from the 39th IAD headquarters written immediately after the events includes very significant inaccuracies: 2 aircraft instead of 14, “triple-engine aircraft” (which could have only been heavy transportation Ju-52) instead of double-engine bombers Ju-88, “torpedoing” instead of really occurred depth mine drop. For the purpose of this study, it is more important to note that neither compilers of the intelligence summary No. 01 nor the former air force Commander of Leningrad district say even a single word about the usage of Finnish airdromes for raids on Kronstadt. Most likely, the fact of German aircraft landing and refuelling on the Finnish airdrome Utti was not known to the Soviet Command.

All recorded in the available combat reports (or mentioned in post-war books) Combat activities in the sky above Leningrad Province and Karelia in first day of war are limited to two episodes, which occurred early in the morning.




In the night of 22 on 23 June, the actions of German aviation in the skies above northern approaches to Leningrad received most irrefutable confirmation — by the flak artillery was shot down a German bomber. The aircraft fell on the Soviet territory, the entire crew (4 people) were taken prisoners. This fact was lapidary but also accurately recorded in operative summary No. 02 from the Northern front headquarters at 1000 hours 23 June: Eights. The 2nd anti-aircraft defence corps rose. Fire positions repelled during the night a raid of enemy aircraft [on] Leningrad. Flak artillery on the Karelian Isthmus shot down one German aircraft” (TSAMO, fund 217, list 1221, case 183, sheet 6).

In more detail — and substantially less reliable — this episode is described in a combat report No. 1 from the Northern zone of anti-aircraft defence headquarters of 0800 hours 23 June. “1. From 0100 to 0200 23 June the adversary aviation in two groups, up to 7—9 bombers each, attempted at the elevation 50—200 m to conduct a raid on points in Leningrad along the trajectory: international border Vyborg — Terioki [Zelenogorsk]. Met by the flak artillery fire in Gorskaya-Sestroretsk area, one group changed course and flew out toward Kronstadt where by the Red Banner Baltic Fleet flak artillery fire were shot down 4 aircraft, which fell in the sea. Second group flew out toward Pesochnaya Station (25 km north of downtown Leningrad) and dropped bombs in the area of military camp. No victims and destruction. This group was shot at by the flak artillery of the 2nd corps PVO, 2 aircraft were shot down. Dispersed remains of the adversary group flew off northwest in Finland...” (TSAMO, fund  217, list 1221, case 109, sheet 1-2).

The information about ostensibly “aircraft dropped in the sea” is like a Russian saying “and nobody will be the wiser...”[3]. There is usually nothing to confirm the reliability of such reports. As for the second aircraft “downed” in the area of Pesochnaya station, this information may be only slightly exaggerated. A known Finnish aviation historian . Geust, in the morning 23 June one “Junkers” Ju-88 (crew commander — Lieutenant E. Satorius) from the 3rd squadron of group KGr-806 was shot down above Karelian Isthmus and a second one crushed at landing on a Finnish airdrome Utti, and one of the crew members perished. It is not impossible that the aircraft was damaged by the fire from Soviet flak cannon, and this was the reason of the crush-landing.

.. Novikov also writes about one (not two) German bomber shot down in the night on 23 June: “...In the night on 23 June air alarm signal sounded in the city of Lenin. For the first they were speaking about flak guns. 194th flak-artillery regiment of the anti-aircraft defence met with its fire a group of Yu-88 bombers flying from the side of the Gulf of Finland. At 0010 hours sharp the battery of Senior Lieutenant .T. Pimchenkov shot down first air predator with the Fascist swastika on the wings. The crew of the destroyed Ju-88 parachuted and was taken prisoners...” (Novikov, 1970).

There is no other information about combat actions in the skies above Leningrad in documents of the Soviet Command beside contradictive information about the air raid in the night 22 on 23 June. A first German bomber shot down by fighter planes of the Northern front air force was, really, shot down 23 June. But it happened 250 km from Leningrad. In the morning 23 June a flier of the 158th IAP  Fighter Aviation Regiment Lieutenant .V. Chirkov, piloting the most up-to-date at tat moment fighter Yak-1, shot down in the area between Pskov and Ostrov a German bomber (the pilot identified it as “Heinkel-111 but on the inventory of Luftwaffe’s 1st Air fleet there were no bombers of this type; most likely, it was “Junkers” Ju-88). In any case, this episode has nothing to do with the history and usage of Finnish airdromes by the German aviation.




No information about combat clashes, aviation raids and bombing came this day.

We read in a morning operative summary No. 04 of the Northern front headquarters as of 1000 hours 24 June: Fifth. The adversary air force usssing single aircraft and elements, continue to conduct intelligence toward Leningrad. The district air force is ready for combat activities. Aviation of the anti-aircraft defence is patrolling over Leningrad. Between 0600 hours 23 June and 0600 hours 24 June were conducted 231 sorties. There were no encounters with adversary aircraft” (TSAMO, fund 217, list 1221, case 183, sheet 14).

Evening operative summary No. 05 as of 2200 hours 24 June almost verbatim repeats in this respect the morning one: Seventh. The front air force in on combat readiness. There were no encounters with adversary aircraft. The anti-aircraft defence aviation is patrolling over Leningrad” (TSAMO, fund 217, list 1221, case 183, sheet 16).

Similar communications are also discovered in operative summaries from the Northern front groupings.

The operative summary from the 23rd army headquarters No. 04 as of 2000 hours 24 June: “...p.6. There were no encounters with the air adversary, no losses ” (TSAMO, fund 377, list 10877, case 30, sheet 6).

Operative summaries No.No. 3, 4, 5 from the 39th IAD headquarters (the last one — as of 1800 hours 25 June) monotonously repeat one and the same phrase: “the units accomplished tasks of anti-aircraft defence by patrolling in zones, no adversary discovered , no air headquarters engagements(TSAMO, fund 20102, list 1, case 2, sheet 3 -10).

Operative summaries from the 10th mechanized corps headquarters (the corps unfolded in Vyborg area, i.e., in direct proximity from the border with Finland) from 23 through 28 June include the information that “the corps did not establish any contact with adversary, there were no air raids on the corps units from the side of the adversary” (TSAMO, fund 3444, list 1, case 29, sheet 3-14).

The day 24 June 1941 was followed by night. A morning operative summary No. 06 from the Northern front headquarters as of 1000 hours 25 June states: First. night was quiet. Cover units of the Northern front troops occupy previous areas...

... 8th rifle brigade on the Hango peninsula without changes. No collisions with adversary occurred. The adversary air force by single aircraft continues to conduct intelligence towards Vyborg, Kexholm...” (TSAMO, fund 217, list 1221, case 183, sheet 19).

And that is all that happened. Or rather — that was all that was in June 1941 recorded in documents of the Soviet Command. By the peace-time standards — in the skies above Leningrad was occurring one extraordinary happening after the other. Whereas compared with what was going on in the Northwestern, Western and Southwestern fronts corridor (Lithuania, Latvia, Belorussia, Western Ukraine) in the first three days of war, since 22 through 24 June, Karelia and Leningrad Province could be considered a quiet, sleepy resort city in the period of “off season”.

It will be sufficient to remind that in the corridor of the stated three fronts only in the first days of war German aviation conducted on the order of 4 thous. sorties. In one day. Dozens of airdromes, railway stations, Red Army command points and headquarters were subjected 22 June to numerous massive bombing. Wehrmacht's tank and motorized divisions on a number of theatres made 200—250 km, thus coming into deep rear of the western districts of the Soviet force grouping. Uncontrolled remains of former armies, corps and divisions began disorderly eastward withdrawal. In the Western and Northwestern fronts’ corridor the situation was already beginning to assume the semblance of an unheard of military catastrophe. And under this “perspective”, against the scale of such catastrophe, the Supreme Command Directive of 24 June 1941, in which a grouping of German forces “of undetermined numbers” and the German aviation ostensibly “systematically arriving in Finland’s territory” are declared a threat “acquiring decisive significance...” looks at least strange.

It is worth mentioning in conclusion of this Chapter one more episode, equally insignificative and unreliable. Nevertheless, for the information of most inquisitive readers it is worth telling.

In memoir literature one finds mentions that 22—23 June the German aircraft bombed Hango naval base. Some authors write that in happened in the morning, some others, in the evening. Even numbers are stated — 20 aircraft. On the other hand, in documents of the Northern front headquarters there is no mention of Hango bombing:

Operative summary No. 01 from the Northern front headquarters of 2200 hours 22 June “Hango Peninsula units combat readiness. Families of the military personnel are being evacuated 22 June at 1800 hours on the oil-burner Iosihp Stalin” (TSAMO, fund 217, list 1221, case 183, sheet 1-3).

Operative summary No. 06 from the Northern front headquarters of 1000 hours 25 June “8th rifle brigade on the Hango peninsula, without changes. No collisions with adversary occurred...” (TSAMO, fund 217, list 1221, case 183, sheet 19).

A first mention of combat actions on Hango appears only in operative summary of the Northern front headquarters No. 08 of 0700 hours 26 June but even there it is only a matter of shooting by land artillery: “8th rifle brigade in the night on 26 June the adversary opened rare artillery and mortar fire on the entire peninsula. Our aviation and artillery are conducting fire on adversary aggregations. The base personnel are fortifying antitank and anti-infantry obstacles(TSAMO, fund 217, list 1221, case 183, sheet 27).

The Narkom of the navy Admiral N.G.Kuznetsov in his memoirs also writes only about “overflights above Hango” (“at the conference in I.V. Stalin’s office at night 24 June I reported about overflights by Finnish and German aircraft above Hango, about bombing of our ships in Polyarny...”). But not about bomb blows on the naval base, which was subordinated to the fleet, so N.G. Kuznetsov would be the first one to learn about bombing of Hango.

The testimony of a live events’ eye-witness sounds so: “...In the very first day of war above the peninsula appeared German bombers. I saw only one element of three aircraft and assume that the bombs were dropped without a certain in advance selected target. Whether or not there were more aircraft, I don’t know but the raid continued in the morning only for a few minutes and did not resume during the day. The bombs were dropped, as they say, all over the shop. In actuality, nothing was hit. The entire garrison was in reliable covers... Another fruitless bombing was repeated by the Germans the following day...” (Tikeltaub, "My second war").

The author of this book believes that most probable explanation of the events in the morning of 22 June on Hango will be bombing of the base by one element (three aircraft) from the Red Banner Baltic Fleet air force. Exactly at that time (early in the morning 22 June) the Baltic Fleet aviation bombed Finnish vessels and fortifications on Aland Islands (and this is very close to Hango).

In an endless labyrinth of coastal skerries the commander of one element made an error in choice of the target and dropped unaimed bombs on the wrong peninsula.

A version with German bombers appearing above Hango seems very doubtful for a very simple reason — what for? This base (i.e., foothold for landing of the Soviet forces) was a problem for the Finns but in no way for the German. The naval base Hango was no bother for the Germans. Absolutely. The German fleet did not plan to breakthrough in the Gulf of Finland. The other way around — it was mining the entrance in the Gulf. In the morning of 22 June, Luftwaffe did not have “spare” aircraft, spare crews and spare bombs. The Germans would hardly risk aircraft and fliers (from airdromes in East Prussia to Hango is on the order of 600—700 km “one way”, therefore, no cover of bombers by fighter planes was possible) only out of “solidarity” with the future ally (Finland). During the entire war, not a single German aircraft and not a single German ship even approached Hango. In any case, this issue requires further study.




Early in the morning 25 June 1941, combat aircraft of the Northern front air force and Red Banner Baltic Fleet crossed Finland border. Before narrating the course of this operation, assigned tasks and reached results we should as accurate as possible familiarize with the structure and deployment of forces of the parties (see map No.11).

Bomber aviation forces of the Leningrad district (Northern front) were relatively small (small compared with huge numerical strength of fighter aviation defending air approaches to the “second capital” of the USSR).

In direct proximity of Leningrad was deployed the 41st BAD (headquarters in Gatchina). It included four bomber aviation regiments. 22 June 1941 division commander Colonel Novikov issued combat order No. 1, under which division’s regiments were dispersed on operative airdromes: 10th BAR or Bomber Aviation Regiment — airdrome Gorodets, 201st BAR — airdrome Sumsk, 202nd BAR — airdrome Kerstovo, 205th BAR — airdrome Krestsi (TSAMO, fund 20104, list 1, case 1, sheet 1). The 10th bomber was “old” cadre aviation regiment. It took part in the “winter war” and was awarded for “feats” performed during that war by the order of Combat Red Banner. The 201st, 202nd and 205th regiments were relatively “young” — their formation began in the end of 1940. By the way, one should not think that the “young” regiments were stuffed only with graduates of flying schools — the command personnel was usually fliers with great combat experience. For instance, in 202nd BAP, “the regiment commander Colonel N.F. Efimov was awarded order of Lenin and order of Red Banner, a regiment navigator Major I. Gabuniya was awarded two orders of the Red Banner. Government awards had also commanders of squadrons, their deputies and navigators... They all had substantial service and combat experience of Spain, of fighting engagements at Lake Khasan, Khalkhin-Gol River, in war with White Fins and in time of the liberation raid in western Ukraine and western Belorussia...” (Gapeyonok, 2002).

A characteristic feature of “two hundredth” regiments was the fact that at total staffing by the flying personnel they had relatively small number of combat aircraft. Judging by memoirs of the former Northern front air force Commander .. Novikov, on the inventory of the 41- BAD were 114 aircraft (Novikov, 1970). Most likely, Marshall of the aviation stated the total number of aircraft, including those provisionally out of order. In documents of the 41st BAD fund was indicated the exact numerical strength of the combat-ready aircraft in regiments of the division as of 27 June 1941 (TSAMO, fund 20104, list 1, case 3, sheet 12-13). Earlier data (as of 22 or 25 June) are not available. Nevertheless, summing up the number of remaining as 27 June 1941 aircraft with numbers of combat losses we are getting the following minimum (exactly “minimum” as besides combat losses there could have been technical out of order and accidents) numbers:

10th BAR

38 SB

201th BAR

25 SB


19 SB

205th BAR

13 SB

Total in 41 BARs

95 SB

2nd aviation division was deployed substantially south of Leningrad (headquarters in Staraya Russa). The division included three bomber (2nd, 44th and 58th BAR or Bomber Aviation Regiment) and one storm (65th ShAP or Storm Aviation Regiment) aviation regiments. The presence of a storm regiment moved this division in the category of “combination”, and in most documents it is called 2nd SAD. However, in actuality any mention of the participation by 65th ShAP armed with light fighter planes-biplans I-15 bis, in the aviation strike on Finland is not found, and in reality the 2nd SAD operated as a bomber grouping. This division, an old cadre division of the Soviet air force, was quantitatively and qualitatively staffed better than 41st BAD. On the inventory of its two regiments (2nd and 58th) already came most up to date at that moment diving bombers r-2 and Pe-2.

As of 23 June 1941 the division was deployed: headquarters 58th BAR on the airdrome of St. Russa, 44th BAR on the airdromes Tulebl and Ivanovka, 2nd BAR on the airdrome Krestsi (all in Novgorod area). The number of combat-ready aircraft in the following Table is based on headquarters documents of bomber regiments (TSAMO, fund 20013, list 1, case 11, sheet 16, 18, 20).


Combat-ready aircraft


2nd BAR

23 SB + 21 Ar-2


44th BAR

? SB + ? Pe-2


58th BAR

38 SB + 14 Pe-2


Total 2nd SAD




55- SAD (headquarters in Petrozavodsk) one bomber aviation regiment (72nd BAR), on whose inventory were 45 bombers SB (out of those, 40 in working order) and 4 new Pe-2.

Total — 44 combat-ready aircraft (data as of 1 June 1941) (Air force headquarters, "Soviet aviation in the Great Patriotic war of 1941 -1945 in numbers", Group pf authors headed by V.G. Nikiforov, 1962. Declassified in 1992. Internet site www.ilpilot.narod.ru).

Therefore, the Northern front air force could use in massive aviation blow on Finnish airdromes about 280 in working order bombers. Characteristic feature of the Northern front bomber units was substantially greater number of crews (on the order of 450) compared with in working order aircraft (Air force headquarters, "Soviet aviation in the Great Patriotic war of 1941 -1945 in numbers", Group pf authors headed by V.G. Nikiforov, 1962. Declassified in 1992. Internet site ! .

We will emphasize once again that all numbers describing the amount and technical status of combat aircraft should be viewed only as approximate, which differ with scatter of 10— 15% even in documents of the same divisions. Nothing amazing about it — aircraft in military aviation is expendable material, which continuously renewed, is broken, repaired, etc. Correspondingly, absolutely accurate numbers of combat-ready aircraft is impossibly to produce in principle.

The Red Banner Baltic Fleet air force (Commander — Major General of aviation V.V. Ermachenkov) included three bomber regiments. They were: 1st Mine-Torpedo Aviation Regiment, 57th BAR, 73rd BAR. The first two were components of the 8th bomber brigade and were deployed on airdromes Bezzabotnoye and Kotly (30—70 km west of Leningrad). Marine aviation airdromes were in close proximity of the south (Soviet) shore of the Gulf of Finland, and on the inventory of the 1st Mine-Torpedo Aviation Regiment and three (out of five) squadrons of the 57th BAR were long-range bombers DB-3/DB-3f. From the stated airdromes they could reach practically any point in the southern and central Finland. The 73rd BAR (five squadrons armed with bombers SB and Ar-2) was deployed on airdrome Pyarnu in Estonia. Only on the inventory of the stated three aviation regiments of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet air force were 174 combat-ready aircraft, out of those 91— DB-3, 66— SB, 17— Ar-2 (Ivanov, 1973; Morozov, 2002; Lavrentyev et al.,1983).

The marine aviation in all countries (and the Soviet Union is no exception) is the elite of Armed forces. The reason for this is very simple: “the sea does not forgive”. Neither I-16 nor DB-3 could force-land on water. The parachute is no help above the northern sea — in the ice water of winter Baltic or Barents Seas people do not live long. The very first piloting error, loss of orientation, poor preflight preparation of the aircraft become for a marine aviation crew the last one. That is why there are no poor fliers in navy aviation. And among all marine aviation groupings the Red Banner Baltic Fleet air force had the greatest combat experience. This experience this was acquired on the same theatre of military operations where it had to operate in June 1941. Ports of the Gulf of Finland and Gulf of Bothnia (Helsinki, Turku, Vaasa, Pori, Kotka) were a permanent presence in all pre-war operative plans of the Baltic Fleet air force as first priority bombing targets. From the times of the “winter war” remained two other “first priority targets” — Finnish iron-clads of coastal defence “Ilmarinen” and “Vyaynyameynen” (there simply were no other large surface ships in Finland’s navy), which in December 1939 were not possible either to sink or damage.

The preparation to a new war in sky above the Baltic was quite dogged. That is what writes about this in his memoirs former navigator of the 1st Mine-Torpedo Aviation Regiment, Lieutenant General P.I. Khokhlov: “...The preceding education and combat activities (“winter war”. - M.S.) gave their results. Crews could fly in the day-time in formation detachments, and two squadrons could perform flights also during the night time, under favourable meteorological conditions... In regiments appeared sniper crews in bombing and mine-laying. There were many flights using means of radio-navigation. Aircraft DB-3 already at that time were equipped with fixed loop radio compasses RPK-2, which were expertly used in flights. Most trained crews mastered flights in clouds. On average every crew flew in 1940 more than 200 hours(emphasis added. - M. S..) (Khokhlov, 1988).

200 hours of annual flight experience is quite a decent figure. Especially against the background of unending in the domestic pseudo-historical literature sad groaning that the flight crews of the Soviet aviation in summer 1941 were “immature juveniles”, drop-out cadets with annual flight experience of 4 hours of the “box pattern”...


Finland fighter aviation was most numerous portion of a small air force in this country. Organization of the Finnish fighter planes was in five relatively well-manned naviation groups.

1. LLv-24, Commander Major Magnusson. This was most experienced and most efficient (based on results of the “winter war”) fighter group in the Finnish air force. The LLv-24 included four squadrons (unusually large number), three of them (25 aircraft) were deployed on airdrome Vesivehmaa (Lahti area), and one — on the airdrome Selyanpya in the area of railway station Kouvola (in the Soviet documents this airdrome is often called “Valekala” — after the closely located settlement). Only on the inventory of the LLv-24 group were 33 fighter planes “Brewsterof American manufacturing.

2. LLv-26, Commander Major R. Haryu-Jante. All three squadrons of the group were deployed on the airdrome Ioroynen (20 km southeast of the railway station Pieksamaki). On the inventory of the LLv-24 group were 26 fighter planes “Fiat” G-50 of Italian manufacturing.

3. LLv-28, Commander Captain S.I. Sirin. Three squadrons of the group were deployed on the airdrome Naarayarvi (8 km west of the station Pieksamaki). On the inventory of the group were 27 fighter planes “Moran” MS-406 of French manufacturing.

4. LLv-32, Commander Captain E. Heynilya. This aviation group with its miserly forces must have covered the country capital and important railway node Rihimyaki-Hyvinkaa. Two squadrons of the aviation group LLv-32 were deployed on the airdrome Hyvinkaa (40 km north of Helsinki). They were armed with outdated even by the time of the “winter war” fighter planes Fokker” D-21 of Dutch manufacturing. Besides, fighter planes of the group were and physically quite rundown, as they were the “Fokkers” made under license on the factory in Tampere as early as in spring—summer 1939 and went through the entire war. A result was that out of 24 fighter planes of the group LLv-32 only 12 were combat-ready 25 June 1941.

5. LLv-30, Commander Captain S. Bemer. The group had three squadrons, out of which only one (2nd) was completely staffed with aircraft. Two squadrons, on whose inventory were 18 fighter planes “Fokker” D-21 (put together in Tampere after the “winter war” and equipped with more powerful American engine PWR-1830) were deployed on the airdrome of the port city Pori. The 1st squadron of the group LLv-30 was deployed on the airdrome Hollola (Lahti area). On its armament were 5 fighter planes “Hurricaneof English manufacturing.

Besides the stated five fighter groups there were also three undermanned (half of the organization chart number) groups whose squadrons were scattered over the entire southern Finland. The 2nd squadron of the group LLv-12, on whose inventory were 3 “Gladiators(outdated even by the time of the “winter war” English fighter-biplane), was deployed on the airdrome Puumala (50 km east of Mikkeli). The 3rd squadron of the group LLv-12, on whose inventory were 7 “Fokkers”, was based on the airdrome Mikkeli.

The 1st squadron of the group LLv-14 was deployed on the airdrome Utti (area of the railway station Kouvola). Its armament included 6 “Gladiators”. The 3rd squadron of LLv-14 group was based on the airdrome Padasjoki (45 km north of Lahti). On its armament were 6 Fokkers”. 5 fighter planes (captured Soviet I-153) were in the 3rd squadron of group LLv-6 based on the airdrome of the city of Turku (Stenman and Keskinen, 2007).

Two more squadrons (1/LLv-12 on the airdrome Joroinen and 2/LLv-14 on the airdrome Valekala) were in reserve as in the end June 1941 they were rearming with tentatively “new” American fighter planes “Houk” -36.

Overall, in fighter units of the Finnish air force were 160 aircraft of eight different types. Out of them in combat-ready sate by 25 June 1941 were 148 units. A third of all fighter planes (52 in working order aircraft) were significantly shabby veterans of the “winter war”: Dutch “Fokkers” and English “Gladiators”. It is worth noting at once that in summer 1941 there was not a single German “Messerschmitt” on the inventory of the Finnish air force (first Bf-109 G-2’s, total of 30 units, were purchased by Finland only in spring 1943.).

Depressing variety of aircraft and aviation motors was not the only problem for the technical services of the Finnish aviation regiments. Repairs and servicing of the aviation hardware had to be done practically without original factory spare parts. The reason for this will be understandable if we recall the origin of the Finnish air force aircraft-fighter planes.

It was better only with “Fokkers”. The crush and occupation of Holland by the Wehrmacht did not immediately reflect on the situation in the Finnish air force as Finland providently purchased in summer 1937 the license for unlimited manufacturing of “Fokkers” on the state aviation factory in Tampere. However, for “unlimited” as well as for bare minimum production of the aircraft were needed engines. Finland, of course, did not have own production of aviation motors. On “Fokkers” of the Finnish assembly were installed, first, English motors “Bristol-Mercury”, and then — substantially more powerful American R-1830 “Twin Wasp”. After the occupation of Norway and appearance of the German military and naval bases just a few kilometres from the Finnish port Petsamo, the transport corridor between Finland and Atlantics was practically closed.

Therefore, the capability of getting new English or American motors, aircraft and spare parts for them declined almost to zero. Of course, folding down the cooperation was also affected by a steady German-Finnish rapprochement, which did not remain secret either for London or for Washington. As for getting French aviation hardware, the deliveries stopped simultaneously with liquidation of the independent France. Of course, in the future (1941 — 1942) the Germans sold to Finland (sold for money, not at all gifted out of the feeling of allied solidarity) captured “Morans” (57 aircraft) and American “Hawks” (44 aircraft), captured in the course of engagements in France. Up to the spring of 1943 this “thin rivulet” of delivery of the aircraft maximum worn down, damaged in fighting engagements was one of two available sources of upgrading the Finnish air force aircraft park. The second source was captured Soviet fighter planes and their motors.

Detailed analysis of tactical-technical parameters of the Finnish air force fighter planes is far beyond the task of this study. Just a very brief review.

Fighter “Fokker” D-2I was developed as simple in exploitation, reliable and inexpensive fighter for the colonial forces of the Dutch West India. This strive to maximum simplification and cost-cutting of the design predetermined the use of non-retractable chassis, which for the aircraft of second half of 1930’s was already a clear anachronism. In armament (4 machine guns of rifle calibre) and engine capacity (750 hp) this fighter corresponded to early modifications of renowned Soviet “Ishak” (I-16, type 10) but was noticeably heavier (2,050 kg against 1,716 kg) and had smaller than for I-16 velocity and rate of climb.

The French fighter “Moran” MS 406 first rose in the air 8 August 1935. This was one of the first in the world fighter planes of a “new wave” (“sharp-nosed” high-speed fighter planes-monoplans with liquid cooling motors and retractable chassis) and the first mass-produced fighter with cannon armament. First could not become best: the main inborn flaw of this aircraft was mismatch between the engine capacity and weight of the design. The following Table shows that even compared with the heaviest modification of “Ishak” I-16, type 28, the “Moran” armed with two 20-mm cannon, at lower by 200 hp engine capacity, was half ton heavier. As a result, per-unit energy of the “Moran” MS-406 was one and a half times lower than for I-16. And that predetermined low acceleration and manoeuvrability parameters.

In order to somehow “stretch out” maximum velocity of the aircraft to the lech mark of 500 km/hour on “Moran” was used unheard of engine cooling radiator retractable into the fuselage. The result was that with the radiator released in the air flow, the “Moran” could not even reach 450 km/hour, and with retracted, the engine fast “boiled”. Besides, “Moran’s” fuel tank did not have protection, flier seat did not have armoured back and hydraulic system appeared quite whimsical. The very first air engagements with German “Messerschmitt’s” convinced the French Command that the “Moran” aged without really having time to be born. In spring, 1940 French fighter aviation groups began feverishly to rearm with more sophisticated aircraft. Only in three weeks, 10 May through 5 June, six fighter groups of the French aviation “relieved themselves” of “Morans” and changed to “Dewoitine” D-520, “Bloch” MB-152 and American “Hawk”.

For the Finnish aviation the “Moran” (first aircraft came in February 1940 and had time to participate in the “winter war”) was a precious gift. This fighter was capable of catching up in the air with the Soviet bomber SB, and the cannon enabled the fighter to conduct efficient storm of land targets.

In the future, in time of the 2nd Soviet-Finnish war, the “Moran” was also used as “attack fighter aircraft”, in particular for fighting on railway communications (20-mm cannon at close distance punched through the walls of locomotive boiler). Another “advantage” of the French veteran on the Finnish service was the fact that the aviation motors -100/-103/ -105 installed on Soviet bombers SB, Ar-2 and Pe-2, fighter planes YaK and LaGG represented a boosted licensed version of “Hispano-Suiza” 12Y-31 installed on the “Morans”. Therefore, among the fragments of shot down Soviet aircraft the Finns received a rich source of spare parts to “Moran” motors...

Italian “Fiat” G-50, American “Hawk” and “Brewster”, Soviet I-16, despite all their difference in appearance were aircraft of the same class and the same generation: manoeuvrable fighter planes of the end of 1930’s with air-cooled motor. Last modification of I-16, due to a powerful motor and record low weight (with a consequence of uniquely high thrust/weight ratio) exceeded it “coevals” in the parameters of horizontal and vertical manoeuvrability, not a bit conceding in velocity. An advantage of “Americans” was aerodynamic perfection (substantially lower aerodynamic resistance coefficient). Because of this, they exceeded the “Ishak” in capability of speeding up at diving. They also had traditional for all aircraft of the US air force great fuel reserve, correspondingly — great (huge by the measure of the Soviet air force) flight range. It is worth it to note the fact that the “Fiat” and “Brewster”, armed with large calibre machine guns, doubtlessly exceeded in fire power machine gun modifications of “Ishak” (I-16, type 18 and type 24).


Weight empty

Take-off weight

Take-off capacity

Max velocity

Vertical velocity, m/min



Moran MS-406








I-16 type 28








Hawk P-36








Fiat G-50








Brewster B-239








I-16 type 24








Overall, fighter aircraft of the Finnish air force in major technical-tactical parameters quite matched the so-called “outdated” Soviet fighter planes (I-16 and I-153) of the beginning of the war. A difference, and a striking one at that, was in the history of their combat application. Thousands of “Ishaks” and “Seagulls” were abandoned on border airdromes in the very first days and weeks of war. Whereas “Brewsters”, “Fiats” and “Morans” continued to fight successfully up to the summer 1944. Finnish fliers piloting these “museum specimens”, continued to shoot down anything they encountered in the air: new Soviet Yak-9 and La-5, American “lend-lease” “Cobras” and “Kittyhawks”... 29 July 1944 sergeant V. Rinkeneva, piloting a “Seagull” I-153, shot down “Aerocobra” R-39. This is not a “hunter’s story” but a real fact, and the shot down aircraft was discovered on the ground in the area of station Loymola (Zefirov, 2003).

Now, let us return from discussion of tactical-technical parameters to more important for this Chapter issue of basing the Finnish fighter aviation. Having marked on a geographic map all stated fighter groups and squadrons, we discover only seven “airdrome nodes”:

— area of station Pieksamaki, airdromes Naarayarvi and Joroinen, total of 53 fighter planes;

— area of Lahti, airdromes Vesivehmaa, Hollola and Padasjoki, total of 36 fighter planes;

— area of Pori, airdrome Pori, total of 18 fighter planes;

— area of station Kouvola, airdromes Valekala (Seleniya) and Utti, total of 14 fighter planes;

— area of Helsinki, airdrome Hyvinkaa, total of 12 in working order fighter planes;

— area of Mikkeli, airdromes Mikkeli and Puumala, total of 10 fighter planes;

— area of Turku, airdrome Turku, total of 5 fighter planes.

The entire fighter aviation was deployed on 12 airdromes. If we remove from this list such airdromes, on which were deployed only 3—8 aircraft, only five airdromes will remain: Naarayarvi (27 aircraft), Joroinen (26 aircraft), Vesivmehmaa (25 aircraft), Pori (18 aircraft) and Hyvinkaa (12 aircraft). Concentration of the aviation on so few airdromes, doubtlessly, created a dangerous situation for the Finnish party — fighter groups themselves turned into targets for a destroying blow from the air.

By comparing this number of airdromes with the number of bomber regiments in the North fleet air force and air force of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet, it is easy to see that the Soviet Command could allocate for a strike on each of five major airdromes of the Finnish air force two regiments of bombers covering them at this with three regiments of fighter planes...

It is rather difficult to understand the logic behind such distribution of the fighter aviation. The state capital and two largest (by the Finnish measure) cities (Turku and Tampere) are covered by disproportionately small forces. The largest grouping of fighter planes (two aviation groups, one third of all battle-capable aircraft) are in the area of station Pieksamaki, at a distance 200—250 km from the borders, from Helsinki and Tampere. An impression is formed that the Finnish leadership, not excluding the possibility of a sudden massive blow by the Soviet Union, pulled out main forces of the fighter aviation in the depth of the country.

Such decision becomes understandable if we again look on a geographic map. Finland’s capital, most important ports, railways and central stations are on the coast of the Gulf of Finland or in direct proximity of it. For a purpose of building a system of anti-aircraft defence, this circumstance creates a huge problem. The point is that in the absence of radars (in summer 1941 there were no radars in anti-aircraft defence of Finland) the entire air attack notification system was based on using many hundreds of visual observation posts (amended on most important directions with sound location installations). For instance, Leningrad anti-aircraft defence had 263 observation posts VNOS (“air observation, notification and communications”) and 23 non-integrated posts of the fighter aviation homing (all these in addition to eight radar stations!).

In the anti-aircraft defence system of Moscow was seven radar stations and 610 posts VNOS. It was not possible to place comparable number of posts VNOS in the waters Gulf of Finland, thus the enemy aircraft could appear above the airdrome in suburb of Helsinki or Turku before the siren of air alarm would sound.

In any case, in actuality the existing 25 June 1941 deployment of the Finnish air is force absolutely incompatible with a version that the Finnish army already in June 1941 was unfolded for invading the Soviet “Karelo-Finland”. And the aviation, as we see, showed up many hundreds of kilometres from the area of future offensive of the Finnish army land forces (it began 10 July in Ladoga Karelia, in the corridor Joensu — Ilomantsi). That is not the way to prepare for the offensive. On the eve of 22 June 1941 the Germans unfolded their fighter groups at a distance of only a few dozen kilometres from the Soviet borders, after beginning of the invasion the fighter groups literally “squeezed up” very tight to the front line. Frequently Luftwaffe fighter planes landed on the airdromes (former Soviet), which were located a few kilometres from the covered bridges and crossings.

Very similar tactics was followed by the Command of the Finnish air force. We read the following in signed 15 December 1941 “Certificate of accounting the engagements of the Patriotic War on the front of 23rd army”. It must be noted that the aviation of the adversary had their airdromes substantially closer to the battlefield than our aviation, and it would appear above the target much faster than our fighter planes would arrive(TSAMO, fund 377, list 10877, case 42, sheet 99). And if Finnish Command already in mid-June made a decision to start offensive, the fighter groups would have turned out substantially east of those airdromes, on which they were found (or rather, should have found) the strike of the Soviet aviation.

This narrative does not say at all that the destruction of the Finnish aviation on the basing airdromes could have been simple and “no loss” operation. Finnish aviation, of course, conceded in numbers to the bomber forces of the Northern front and Baltic fleet air force (approximately in proportion 1 to 3) but this simple arithmetic is not at all a guarantee of success. The very task of destruction (or at least substantial weakening) of the adversary aviation in the process of several first strikes on airdromes is extraordinarily complex. This issue deserves separate discussion as over long years of the Soviet historical propaganda (or “propagandist history” — whichever way one likes it better) a legend formed about superefficiency ostensibly inalienably ingrained in this tactical technique. In the entire Soviet “mythology of war” there was no, if anything, a myth more established and taking root than the myth of “sudden crushing blow on the airdromes”. Before pouring over the reader the next exhausting flow of numbers and facts we will quote two rather characteristic fragments from literary (we may even say — fantastic) creations. “...From the dusk of the skies jumped off three aircraft, crossed in a daisy clipping flight the border of the flying field and rushed to long rows of the parked fighter planes. In a second, they were already above them and from their bellies poured a torrent of two-kilogram fragmentation bombs. Incandescent fragments cut into the wings and fuselages, punched through the fuel tanks... Flows of flaring gasoline engulfed one fighter after another. Three “Heinkel-111” lazily turned back and flew once again over the airdrome pouring with machine gun fire flaring fragments at the time when overwhelmed fliers jumped from their beds. In two minutes the division stopped existing as a combat unit... The division Commander was standing among the fragments and weeping...” (Jackson, 1970).

“...The flying personnel of aviation units subjected to attack showed tenacity. Officers rushed to vehicles despite exploding bombs and machine gun fire from the attacking aircraft. They pulled the aircraft from burning hangars. Fighter planes ran over the bomb crater-dug field toward impenetrable wall of smoke screen and continuous blaze of explosions. Many right away cartwheeled in the bomb craters, the others flew into the air thrown by bomb blows, and dropped as a heap of burning fragments... Still, some managed to take off. With the courage of blind desperation and spite, not following any plan, not in formation they entered the fight...” (Shpanov, 1939).

A comparison of the content (and even style) of these two texts opens at once a way to fine-tune the discussed concepts.

War is an armed opposition of two sides, two adversaries, each of them for achieving victory shows “tenacity”, “courage”, sometimes — “spite” caused by “blind desperation”. A blow from air on the enemy aviation basing airdromes should be viewed as one of tactical techniques to conduct war. However, if fliers of one party are sleeping as innocent babies and only their commander is not sleeping and bitterly weeping; if the aircraft filled up (!) with fuel without any oversight and protection are standing in “long rows” on the airdrome abandoned by personnel, this is no war. This should be called something different (criminal negligence, malicious violation of Statutes and Instructions, mass desertion, treason) but not at all “war”. And in order to destroy “long rows” of unattended aircraft even three “lazily turning” bombers is too much of a luxury. It would be simpler and cheaper to send a dozen saboteurs armed with “shivs” (for punching fuel tanks) and matches (for kindling “Flows of flaring gasoline pouring from the holes”).

If, however, we discuss a blow on airdromes in terms and categories of war (i.e., in consideration of unavoidable counteraction from armed adversary), this tactical method appears very complex, costly and risky measure. Why?

First of all, because the very main component of the combat aviation is not aircraft but fliers. Blow on airdromes — even most successful for the attacking party — results only in the destruction of the aircraft. And the aircraft in aviation (repeating it again) — are no more than expendable material. Whereas the attacking party is losing in the air above the airdrome not only aircraft but also the fliers. At that, losing irretrievably — a pilot shot down above the airdrome perishes (it is practically impossible to parachute in a daisy clipping flight) or is captured. In the military language, both cases are called “irretrievable loss”.

Second, it is much more difficult to destroy an aircraft onland than in the air. A flying object is vulnerable in flight. One and only hole in the engine cooling radiator, one and only drawing pull cut by a fragment of the flak shell, a piece of the elevation rudder torn away by the explosion of the smallest calibre shell will result in the drop or — in the most favourable case — in forced landing, in which aircraft, most likely, will be finally destroyed. If this landing occurs in the territory of the adversary (and in a raid on an enemy airdrome that is, most likely, what will happen), the downed aircraft will be in the category of “irretrievable losses”. And again, together with the flier very deficient at war.

To destroy irretrievably an aircraft parked onland is possible only at direct hit of the aviation bomb. Fragmentation “wounds” from an aviation bomb exploded on the side put aircraft out of commission but only for the time of repair. This time — depending on the extent of damages, equipment and qualification of repair services — may take several days or even a few hours. Is it easy to make a direct hit of an aircraft by a bomb? The data of the Main Directorate of the Red Army air force say that a crew of an SB bomber at bombing from elevation 2 km on average achieved 39% hit by dropped bombs of a 200 by 200 meter quadrangle. At that, average circular error from the aiming point was 140 meters (Air Force Headquarters, "Soviet aviation in the Great Patriotic war of 1941 -1945 in numbers", 1962). Simply speaking, any aimed bombing of such point target as aircraft is out of the question. Moreover, for aimed bombing target must be seen — and this in a case of a strike on airdromes causes big problems.

Simplest camouflage nets (or even a simple bunch of green branches) in combination with false targets (simple and cheap dummy aircraft nailed out of plywood, boards and cardboard) make the task of visual identification of aircraft onland almost insoluble. It is possible to materialize this “almost” only by flying at very low elevation (50—100 m). This is no simple task (at the time there was no trace of any automatic following of the local topography) and very dangerous (at such altitude the aircraft may be shot down even by a dense rifle fire). But even this is not all — in order to exclude the defeat of aircraft by fragments of a bomb dropped from it, the bombing should be done either from elevation over 300—500 metres or with delayed action detonator. However, the latter technique turned out even less effective as horizontally flying bomb after the drop from a very low elevation bounced and dropped at a completely accidental point.

High explosive aviation bomb FAB-100 (most common munition of the Soviet bomber aviation) made in the ground a crater 10—15 metres in diameter. A hundred of mobilized duds from the nearby villages could fill it in half an hour. By hand. Using hardware, it was even easier to restore a dirt runway destroyed in the raid. Again, it is necessary to keep in mind that the I-16 fighter of mentioned modifications (type 24, type 28) had takeoff velocity of 130 km/hour, takeoff run of 210 m and roll distance of 380 m. As a runway for fighter planes of such class could serve a flat glade packed by a roller or covered with easily removable metal panels. That is why attempts to put an airdrome out of commission by the destruction of dirt runways would have been even costlier and inefficient deal...

It is worth mentioning that the legend of super-efficiency of strikes on airdromes was invented by the Soviet “historians” after a fact. Invented when it was needed to find a relatively decent explanation to a terrible crush of the Soviet air force in summer of 1941. Whereas military specialists knew well quite limited capabilities of this tactical technique way before 22 June 1941.

Based studying the experience of war in Spain, completely correct conclusions were made: “...In the first period of war both parties conducted intense actions on airdromes for a purpose of achieving air domination. Subsequently, however, they almost completely rejected it (here and thereafter emphasis added. - M. S.). The experience showed that actions on airdromes produce quite limited results.

First, because the aviation is positioned on airdromes dispersed (no more than 12—15 aircraft per airdrome) and well camouflaged. Second, airdromes are covered by the flak artillery and machine guns, which force the attacking aviation to drop bombs from high elevation at low probability of a hit. Third, damages of the flying field by aviation bombs turn out so insubstantial that they almost do not delay sorties of the aircraft; small damages of the flight field were rapidly fixed and the disrupted communications, restored.

Very often bombers dropped the bombs on an empty airdrome as the adversary aviation had the opportunity to rise in the air ahead of time. For instance, in July 1937 mutineers conducted 70 raids on the airdrome in Alcala in groups of up to 35 aircraft. As a result of these raids 2 people were wounded, two aircraft and a truck destroyed...” (Lyubarsky, 1939).

In the wake of Spain were engagements in China and on Halhin-Gol. New combat experience showed again that strike on airdromes, remaining important component of the fight for air domination, was no miraculous means allowing with one sweep of the “magic wand” to destroy adversary aviation. At the renowned conference of the RKKA top command personnel 23—31 December 1940 the combat experience was summarized as follows:

G.P. Kravchenko: “The main thing is air engagement... I base it on my own experience. At the time of activities on Halhin-Gol for the crush of only one airdrome I had to make sorties several times as part of the regiment. I flew with 50—60 aircraft whereas on this airdrome was only 17—18 aircraft”.

S.M. Budenny: “You mentioned the loss on airdromes. And what was the ratio of loss on airdromes and in the air?”

G.P. Kravchenko: “I believe that the ratio of losses on the airdromes will be as follows: in particular, on Halhin-Gol I had so — 1/8 I destroyed onland and 7/8 in the air”.

G.M. Shtern: “And that is approximately the ratio in other places” ("Russian archive. The Great Patriotic…, 1993).

Similar pattern also appeared in process of the renowned “Battle of Britain”. For instance, in the first four days of the German aviation offensive, since 12 through 15 August 1940, Luftwaffe pilots destroyed on airdromes 47 English fighter planes — at the cost of loss of 122 own aircraft. The following “round” of the battle in the sky above the Royal air force airdromes occurred between 23 August and 7 September. The English lost then 277 fighter planes but the Germans lost 378 aircraft of all types. Taking into account that many English pilots were able to use parachute and safely land on own land, the flier loss ratio (in different periods of the “Battle of Britain”) was 5 to 1 or even 7 to 1. Of course, not in favour of the attacking party.

Back to a real history of the Great Patriotic War, we also may state very eloquent facts. In the course of the entire war, aircraft losses by the Soviet air force on airdromes were the smallest category of losses. Specifically in 1942, 1943, 1944 from strikes of the adversary on airdromes was irretrievably lost, respectively, 204, 239, 210 aircraft, which was 2.47%, 2.52%, 2.68% of the total irretrievable losses (Air Force Headquarters, "Soviet aviation in the Great Patriotic war of 1941 -1945 in numbers", 1962). In others words, on a hugely long front of the war the numerically huge (at least 10 thous. combat aircraft) Soviet military aviation was losing to strikes on airdromes less than one aircraft a day! The losses so low were not because the adversary completely rejected strikes on airdromes. For instance, in 1944 was 1,416 sorties by the German aviation for a purpose of attacking the Soviet airdromes (ibid). Therefore, for the destruction of one Soviet aircraft onland the adversary expended 6.7 sorties. This fits rather poorly with entertaining stories about “three lazily turning ”Heinkels”, which are destroying the entire aviation division (i.e., about 200— 300 aircraft), and all this “in two minutes”...

All things considered, in certain situations such tactical technique as a strike on basing airdromes of the enemy aviation may be necessary (or even the only choice). It cannot be completely written off the arsenal of possible means in the fight for air domination. The essence and purpose of a strike on the airdromes may be very briefly and in a simplified way described so: irretrievable loss of aircraft and fliers in exchange for gain in time. Adversary airdromes and deployed on them aviation units subjected to the strike rapidly restore their combat capacity. But at war happen situations when gain of even a couple of days solves a lot. That is why before beginning of large offensive operations were often conducted massive raids on airdromes of the adversary. Even a short-time decline in activity of the enemy aviation so achieved was a substantial help to land troops at the most difficult for them stage of breaking through adversary defences.

There were situations when strikes on airdromes became the only possible means of degrading activity of the enemy aviation. For instance, early in 1941 both English and German bomber aviation switched to the tactics of night raids on adversary cities and military bases. Despite huge efforts (and no small successes) in the creation and practical utilization in combat units the means of radar aircraft detection, night fighter planes turned out at that moment powerless in their fight with bombers invisible in the night dark. It was practically impossible at that time to undertake anything else but very low-efficiency and leading to huge losses raids on basing airdromes of the adversary bombers.

Now, what conclusions from these general considerations could be made as applied to planned for 25 June 1941 operation of the Soviet air force?

The match between the task and method to accomplish it causes huge doubts. There was no need to use such risky and costly tactical method as the strike on adversary airdromes. Not even speaking about that the Finnish Command did not plan to bomb Leningrad. (They did not attempt to do it even when the frontline was at a distance of a five-minute flight to the Palace Square). Besides, in June 1941 the Northern front and Baltic Fleet fighter aviation had all necessary to intercept and destroy in the air couple dozen Finnish bombers. Such evaluation of the situation in no way changes due to possible participation of one German bomber squadron from KGr-806 in ostensibly planned by the “German Command in Finland” raid on Leningrad.

But is it possible that the Soviet Command was misinformed? Maybe, making decision about carrying out a blow on Finnish airdromes, it acted based on erroneous view that on airdromes of the southern Finland were concentrated large forces of German aviation? So large that the available seven hundred fighter plane fliers (in the Northern front and Red Banner Baltic Fleet air force was more than a thousand in working order aircraft) and most powerful flak artillery grouping of the 2nd anti-aircraft defence corps could not repel massive raid of the German aviation on Leningrad ?

Possibly. Errors in such complex and risky business as military intelligence are common. But in such a case, assuming that on Finnish airdromes were hiding many hundreds of German “Messerschmitts” and “Junkerses”, the Soviet Command should have been preparing to a strike on such airdromes most seriously. Preparing to a large-scale and hard fight in the air, not to “lazily turning” three SB over Finnish airdromes. However, main components of “serious preparation” to the conducted of such operation are well known.

First, scrutinous intelligence, the identification of most significative objects for attacks, identification of fighter aviation grouping and flak artillery of the adversary.

Second, the allocation of such array of forces, which would be able to create an overwhelming advantage in the sky above the airdromes selected for the strike. “It is not possible to be equally strong everywhere”, — maintains categorically paragraph 11 of the Red Army Field Book (PU-39). And farther: “Victory is achieved by a decisive advantage over the adversary on the main direction”. There was a real opportunity for creation of such advantage. At the disposal of the Soviet Command was on the order of 450 in working order bombers. Which means that for a strike on each large enemy aviation basing airdrome could have been allocated up to half a hundred bombers.

Third, the concentration of forces in space must be amended by the concentration in time. Simpler speaking, the main forces and resources must have been invested in a crushing first blow. The first, most powerful and unexpected by the enemy. “Surprize operates overwhelmingly” — this, 16th in counting paragraph of PU-39 every Red Army commander should have known full surely. The possibility for carrying out a crushing sudden blow was created. The USSR Government did not break diplomatic relations with Finland, did not put in any ultimatum, did not declare about annulment of the Moscow peace treaty, etc. Therefore, all necessary conditions for a sudden (or perfidious — if we use the language of politic) attack were created.

Fourth, “only the concentration of exceeding forces and means is insufficient for achieving victory...

It is necessary to reach the interaction of the branches of forces... The interaction of the branches of forces is the major condition of a success in an engagement...”

In this case, compliance with the Statute’s demand suggested the organization of the closest interaction between Bombers fighter plane units and groupings. All necessary conditions for the organization of such interaction were in place. There were fighter planes — in numbers twice exceeding the number of bombers. There were suspension fuel tanks for fighter planes I-16, developed and tested as early as in spring 1939, put on mass production in the fall 1939 and produced in numbers of a few thousand units. With suspension tanks the flight range of I-16, type 24 increased to 670 km. This was sufficient, operating from Leningrad airdrome node, to escort bombers to the line Helsinki — Lahti — Mikkeli. There were captured in spring — in summer 1940 airdromes on Karelian Isthmus, on the southern (Estonian) coast of the Gulf of Finland, on Hango Peninsula. Taking off from these airdromes the fighter planes could escort bombers without any suspension tanks. At last, there were hundred and fifty most up to date fighter planes MiG-3, which not only exceeded Finnish fighter planes in speed (by 150—200 km/hour) but also had the flight range at least of 700 km.

Fifth, for a strike on airdromes should have been used aviation munitions specially developed for defeating area targets. Such munitions were on the inventory of the Soviet air force. Those were rotation-scattering aviation bombs (RRAB) capable of scattering 116 small fragmentation bombs -2.5 over the area of one hectare and the so-called “spraying devices”, which could be used to profusely pour the adversary airdrome with flame liquid S or with white phosphorus suspension. There were also very simple underwing magazines B-500 holding 108 flame bombs ZB-1 or 67 fragmentation bombs -2.5.

Military specialist will doubtlessly be able to add to this list also sixth, seventh, eighth point...

25 June 1941 approximately everything was done so. Only with the accuracy of the other way around.


Chapter 3.7 WEDNESDAY, 25 JUNE


“The front and armies’ air force bomber units at 0620 hours initiated the performance of tasks of destroying adversary aviation on his airdromes” (TSAMO, fund 217, list 1221, case 183, sheet 21). This short phrase was placed almost at the very end of the morning operative summary No. 6 from the Northern front headquarters of 25 June 1941. It just remains to assume that the Northern front Command discern nothing extraordinary in this event. “Initiated the performance”. Remarkably, no words “Finnish” or “German” are used in the summary. Everything is clear to everybody without additional explanations: “adversary aviation”. The very fact of bombing adjoining territory caused no comments from the document compilers. Most amazing — there is NO mention of the Supreme Command Directive of 24 June. Not a single word also about the need to “prevent a raid by the German aviation on Leningrad”.

Evening operative summary No. 7 from the Northern front headquarters (2000 hours 25 June 1941) was more detailed: “...Ninth. The armies’ and front air force were performing the task of destruction the adversary aviation on his airdromes.

Bombing was conducted of the flying fields and airdrome facilities. Subjected to bombing were all known airdromes in the southern parts of Finland to the parallel Mikkeli — Turku (this line is parallel to the line of the Soviet-Finnish border but not to the geographic parallels.  - M.S.). In most cases are noted successful hits of hangars, flying fields and on some airdromes aircraft were subjected to bombing. In air fighting engagements shot down 4 adversary aircraft, besides, successful hits are noted on Keinikeinen airdrome (Kauniainen, western suburb of Helsinki. - M.S.) (15— 17 aircraft) and Joroinen airdrome where up to 20 aircraft were subjected to bombing. From our aircraft, 11 “SB” did not return on their bases and landing places are not established of 10 SB.

Aviation of the anti-aircraft defence continued to cover Leningrad. No encounters with adversary occurred, no losses.

Tenth. The Red Banner Baltic Fleet continues setting barriers. The Red Banner Baltic Fleet air force bombed iron-clads and Turku airdrome, one adversary aircraft” (TSAMO, fund 217, list 1221, case 183, sheet 27).

This summary contains plenty of valuable information. First, information about a mighty blow, about “first in the history of the Soviet aviation multi-day operation” is placed as the ninth paragraph in the total list of the day’s events. The Northern front Command as previously does not see in this aviation raid anything of “decisive significance”. We will note at once that no other noticeable and significative events occurred that day on the Northern front. The first paragraph of the operative summary No. 7 includes completely ordinary information: “First. The Northern front troops by cover units are conducting defensive operations in their areas continuing the concentration to the border of mobilized units” (TSAMO, fund 217, list 1221, case 183, sheet 26).

Second, the word “German” is nowhere used. As object of the strike was as previously named “adversary aviation” deployed on Finland airdromes. “National belonging” of the adversary is not indicated. This unknown “adversary” did not even attempt to carry out a response strike (in the skies above Leningrad no encounters with adversary occurred, no losses”).

Third, this summary shows that the Soviet aviation suffered perceptible losses (“11 “SB” did not return on their bases”), and even at 8 o’clock in the evening the places of forced landing of 10 more bombers were not known. Therefore, seasoned Soviet military historians with General ranks either have not read the documents or blatantly lied asserting “our aviation did not have losses”. Becomes understandable also “a creative technique” used by the Soviet historians to come up with 30 (or even 41) “destroyed on the ground enemy aircraft”. The compilers of operative summary No. 7 admit honestly “bombing was conducted of flying fields and airdrome facilities”, i.e., unaimed, “blanket”, and only on “some airdromes aircraft were subjected to bombing”. However, the Soviet historians summed up the aircraft, discovered (but not at all destroyed!) on the airdrome Joroinen (how and with what results the raid on this airdrome was occurring will be explained later) and Kauniainen (where there were no airdrome or aircraft at all). And they received “looked for number”: 17 + 20 = 37. Plus “4 adversary aircraft shot down in air fighting engagements”. The final result is 41.

Fourth, judging by the operative summary No. 7, the strike was carried out not only on objects in southern parts of Finland (the location of the airdrome Joroinen may be called “central Finland”). Not a word is said about any strikes on positions of the German forces in northern Finland. Only 27 June, in the morning operative summary No. 10 appears a first mention of actions by the Soviet aviation on the transpolar segment of a huge in length Northern front:

“The 1st SAD and the North fleet aviation 25.6 conducted several sorties but because of the fog objectives were not fulfilled, for this reason 26.6 there were no sorties... 26.6 7 aircraft “Ju-87” bombed the airdrome Africanda (Murmansk area - M.S.), 17 hundred kilogram bombs were dropped, no damages, 1 junior specialist killed” (TSAMO, fund  217, list 1221, case 183, sheet 31).

A strange “fog”, notwithstanding which German dive-bombers performed 26 June raid on airdrome Africanda, dissipated in operative summary No. 11 (2000 hours 27 June). It turns out that the Soviet aviation also conducted 26 June active combat actions. In the operative summary No. 11 appears, at last, a mention of airdrome Luostari, i.e., the only Finnish airdrome where German fighter planes were deployed: “1st SAD since 1400 hours 26 June through 0100 hours 27 June bombed the airdrome Luostari, port Petsamo, Kemiyarvi and Rovaniyemi, conflagrations are noted” (TSAMO, fund 217, list 1221, case 183, sheet 34).

Of course, there were also operative summaries No. 8 (0700 hours 26 June) and No. 9 (2000 hours 26 June). Regarding the issue discussed in this Chapter summary No. 8 said the following : “...Sixth. 2nd anti-aircraft defence corps did not have collisions with the adversary, the anti-aircraft defence aviation patrolled above Leningrad. Seventh. The Northern front air force conducted reconnaissance near adversary airdromes, no encounters with the adversary” (TSAMO, fund 217, list 1221, case 183, sheet 27).

The content of operative summary No. 9 is even shorter: “The front air force did not conduct combat activities and intelligence flights” (TSAMO, fund 217, list 1221, case 183, sheet 27).

In a word, “crushing blow”, “first multi-day operation of the Soviet air force” already in the second day has been actuality discontinued. At least, exactly such conclusion may be made based on documents of the front Command. An operative summary No. 11 (2000 hours 27 June) already customarily states: “...Seventh. The Northern front air force in elements and pairs of aircraft conducted intelligence flights of adversary airdromes and force concentrations. The anti-aircraft defence aviation is patrolling above Leningrad ...” (TSAMO, fund 217, list 1221, case 183, sheet 36).

Now let us “adjust the focus” and look how events evolved 25 June 1941 directly in bomber units of the Northern front aviation (see map No.12).

At 0400 hours 25 June in the 41st BAD headquarters was compiled a combat order No. 3 (there probably was a typo with the order number as late at night of the same day was signed order No. 2).

“1. Reliable data is that the adversary is preparing a strike on Leningrad. Continues the concentration of land and air forces. The adversary air force, based on intelligence information, is based on airdromes Mikkeli, Heynola, Mantyharju, Valekala.

2. 41st AD by by consequtive strikes of small groups (3 to 9 aircraft) during 25.6. destroys adversary hardware on airdromes Mikkeli, Mantyharju, Heynola, Valekala conducting at least 4 strikes on every airdrome . Bombing elevation: 2,000—3,000 m(TSAMO, fund 20104, list 1, case 1, sheet 3).

At the same time, at 0400 hours, order of similar content was signed and in headquarters of the 2nd SAD

“1. Adversary continues to concentrate land and air forces preparing a strike on Leningrad. Basing the aviation on airdromes Luumyaki, Utti, Kouvola, Kotka, Borgo (Porvoo).

2. 2- SAD with 25 June during days by consecutive strikes in small groups 3—5 aircraft aviation adversary his airdromes. First blow as ready. Intensity at least 4 strikes on each adversary airdrome”.

Analysis of the orders signed at the same hour in Gatchina and in Staraya Russa doubtlessly testifies that they were compiled based on one order of a superior Command. It is of extraordinary importance to note the textual similarity of these orders with the Directive of the Supreme Command (“reliable data is that the adversary is preparing a strike on Leningrad. Continues the concentration of land and air forces in the territory of Finland...”). As for the decision reflected in these orders, with such organization of the operation the fulfilment of the task set in the Supreme Command Directive (“to crush adversary aviation and liquidate airdromes in the area of the southern coast of Finland”) may have better been forgotten. The issue now was only the price, which will be paid for a total collapse.

For starters, the deployment of the Finnish aviation (there was no other aviation “in the area of southern coast of Finland”) was identified extraordinarily inaccurately. Only at three points (Valekala, Utti, Mikkeli) out of nine mentioned in the orders (Mikkeli, Heynola, Mantyharju, Valekala, Luumyaki, Utti, Kouvola, Kotka, Porvoo) were actually deployed Finnish fighter planes: 8 “Brewsters” on the airdrome Valekala, 6 “Gladiators” on the airdrome Utti, 7 “Fokkers” on the airdrome Mikkeli. Only 20 aircraft (mostly — most outdated) may have theoretically been hit by a bomb blow of the two Soviet aviation divisions. The airdrome node in the area of Lahti where were deployed 36 fighter planes including three squadrons of the best fighter group in Finnish air force (LLv-24) was not identified at all. The faraway airdromes (Naarayarvi and Yoroynen) where were deployed most modern — on the measure of Finnish air force — fighter planes were not mentioned even in one word.

Instead of a sudden crushing first blow was planned a light “tapping” of Finnish airdromes “by small groups of 3—5 aircraft during day-time”. Understandably, the first “small group” could only alert the adversary and inform him about possible following raids. Bombing from the elevation of 2—3 km and use of relatively small number (usually — six per one aircraft) of high explosive aviation bombs made the probability of destruction of the adversary aircraft almost zero. The district air force Commanders, bomber divisions’ and regiments’ Commanders did not think about using cassette munitions. At last, there was not planned any interaction with fighter aviation (and there was none in reality), and “small groups” of “high speed” bombers SB, which long ago lost their “high speed” status, flew without any fighter cover to meet with Finnish airdromes.

The result turned out quite predictable.

The 41st bomber division. One regiment (205th BAR) did not participate 25 June in the aviation strike and did not perform even one combat sortie. The other three regiments (10th, 201st and 202nd BAR), which had, respectively, 38, 25 and 19 in working order aircraft, “since 0745 to 1500 hours 25.6 in groups of 6 to 9 aircraft operated destroying hardware on adversary airdromes”. (TSAMO, fund 20104, list 1, case 3, sheet 3). Overall, 62 sorties were conducted (on average 0.76 sortie per one in good order aircraft — and this is not considering aircraft of the 205th BAR). Operative summaries of the division headquarters (No. 1 of 1400 and No. 2 of 1900 hours 25 June) enable to restore the following development of the events:

10th BAR. Three squadrons of the regiment received a task of attacking airdromes Mikkeli and Mantyharju. Overall, 32 sorties were conducted. “No adversary aircraft were discovered on airdrome Mikkeli. Bombs hit the edge of the airdrome...” Two squadrons tried to bomb inexistent airdrome Mantyharju. Judging by operative summary No. 2, one squadron did it so that “bombs overshot and hit the railway station Mantyharju”, the other squadron “did not discover any aircraft hardware on the airdrome Mantyharju”. The report does not say where and how this squadron got rid of bombs. In the process of the raid, one SB bomber was shot down by adversary fighter planes (judging by the Finnish data, by “Brewsters” from LLv-24). The other SB was damaged but was able to reach to the Soviet territory and made crush-landing.

201st BAR. As operative reports of the division headquarters show, the regiment commander decided not to comply with the direction of superior headquarters about carrying out “sequential strikes by small groups”. In the first raid on airdrome Heynola (which did not exist in reality) were sent two squadrons, total of 18 SB bombers. “Crews of the 201st BAR did not discover airdrome Heynola (naturally, it did not exist. - M.S.). Bombing was conducted from 0840 to 0843 hours on the alternate target railway station and storages. 108 FAB-100 and 17 FAB-50 bombs were dropped... Near the target were attacked by adversary fighter planes, total of 9 aircraft, type “Me-119” (so in the original, “-119”. - M.S.). They had insignia — red stars. The fire was conducted from a distance of 50 — 70 meters. In the air engagement were shot down 2 “Messerschmitts”. 6 aircraft did not return on the base...”

Six aircraft were shot down and collapsed on the ground in Finnish territory. Among the perished were squadron commanders of the 201st BAR Major (from other sources — Lieutenant Colonel) Paniushek and Captain Stoylik (Geust in: “From war to peace. USSR and Finland in 1939 -1944. 2006”).

There is information that among the documents of perished squadron commander Paniuskek were found two theatre tickets for the night of 25 June (Zefirov, 2003). If this is not a legend but real fact, it is an eloquent testimony of, mildly speaking, not serious attitude both to the adversary and to the beginning war, with which the operation 25 June 1941 was planned and conducted.

A Finnish historian K.F. Geust in his article, devoted to the events of 25 June, writes:

“... Finnish VNOS service 25 June completely shamed itself. Albeit fighter squadrons were deployed close to the bombed cities they did not receive alarm signal. In some places alarm sounded when bombers were already above the airdrome...” (Geust in: “From war to peace. USSR and Finland in 1939 -1944. 2006.”).

In the case of a raid by 201st BAR on Heynola this hard-hitting criticism is quite fair. Albeit the main forces of the fighter group LLv-24 were deployed on the airdrome Vesivehmaa, i.e., approximately 20—25 km from Heynola, not a single fighter was timely risen for the interception. The alarm on the airdrome sounded only after the people in Vesivehmaa saw clouds of smoke rising over the burning city (125 high explosive aviation bombs made their business). A group of 18 Soviet bombers was attacked by only one on duty pair of “Brewsters” from the 2nd LLv-24squadron deployed on the Valekala airdrome (northeast of st. Kouvola). The Finnish data indicate that these two fighter planes (Sr. Sergeant E. Kinnunen and Jr. Sergeant Kh. Lampi) shot down 4 bombers. The other two aircraft, as Lampi reported, after attacks “began smoking” (Zefirov, 2003). Possibly, bombers of the 201st BAR on the way back from the target were attacked by main forces of LLv-24 whose pilots stated about three shot down adversary aircraft by the end of the day.

The mention of “two shot down in an air engagement” adversary fighter planes is not without foundation as both “Brewsters” after the fight with 18 bombers returned on the base with bullet holes and E. Kinnunen received a light wound to his hand. As for the “Messerschmitts” ME-119 with red stars”, nine of which “from a distance of 50 — 70 meters” ostensibly attacked the group of bombers from the 201st BAR, this enigma does not surrender to deciphering... Aircraft with such insignia did not exist; “Messerschmitt-109” had the silhouette so characteristic (narrow, long, sharp-nosed) that at a distance of 70 m it was impossible to confuse it with a thick snub-nosed “Brewster” (a jargon name for this aircraft was “flying tanker”). At last, on Finnish aircraft was, of course, painted not a red star but swastika, very large at that...

The first raid became for the 201st BAR the last. This regiment did not participate any more in combat actions of 25 June 1941.

202nd BAR. We will note at once that combat activities of this regiment were most successful not only among the units of the 41st BAD but also among all bomber regiments of the Northern front air force. The 202nd BAR bombed Finnish aviation’s real basing airdromes (Valekala and Utti). Taking into account that Utti airdrome was also used by the German bombers from KGr-806 in the process of “shuttle raids” on the Kronstadt naval base, it is possible to say that also “German airdromes in Finland” were bombed. Overall, 12 sorties were performed. Airdromes were bombed from the elevation of 3 km, at this “on the airdrome Valekala blaze was seen and after that, conflagration”. One bomber from the 202nd BAR was shot down by Finnish fighter planes. Bombers’ onboard shooters ostensibly shot down one “Messerschmitt”, this time “109”.However, Finnish sources do not report any losses onland or in the air above Valekala, Utti, Kouvola (TSAMO, fund 20104, list 1, case 3, sheet 1-5).

Total results of the 41st BAD combat activities are included in the following Table:


In good order aircraft




Shot down


10th BAR



Mikkeli & Mantyukaeyu airdromes

Mikkeli railway st.



201st BAR



Heynola airdrome

Heynola railway st.



202nd BAR



Utti airdrome

Utti & Valkelya airdrome



205th BAR














2nd combination aviadivision. This division, quantitatively and qualitatively armed substantially better than the 41st BAD, operated 25 June 1941 extraordinarily passively. Capabilities of the division were limited already by the fact that bomber regiments of the division continued to be deployed in Staraya Russa area, i.e., about 350 km from the attack targets. With the time necessary for gaining the altitude and with cruising speed of SB 320 km/hour the flight to a target and back took at least 2.5 hours. Using numerous airdromes of Leningrad node and Karelian Isthmus as forward operative airdromes was not planned and was not practically done. By the way, taking into account the length of the light day in June, two sorties per one in good order aircraft a day — first day of the “crushing blow on the adversary airdromes” — would be quite real. In actuality the 2nd SAD bombers performed 25 June less than one sortie per three in working order aircraft.

The operative summary from the division headquarters No. 5 (1900 hours 25 June) says:

“1. Consecutive strikes by 3—5 aircraft the 2nd AD conducted sorties for the destruction of adversary air force hardware on airdromes Luumyaki, Utti, Kouvola, Kotka, Borgo. Total conducted 41 sorties...” (TSAMO, fund 20013, list 1, case 7, sheet 6).

The archive case of the 2nd SAD contains reports from commanders of each of three division’s bomber regiments. It makes it possible to restore events of the day 25 June in sufficient detail:

2nd BAR. During the period since 0645 to 1345 hours three elements performed 9 sorties on the airdrome Luumyaki (there is a railway station Luumyaki but there was no airdrome there). Dropped 54 FAB-100 and 12 FAB-50. The reports honestly state that “no aircraft hardware noticed on Luumyaki airdrome”. The bombs were dropped on the “flying field” of a airdrome non-existent airdrome. In the area of railway station Luumyaki 2nd BAR bombers were attacked by five adversary fighter planes, which shot down one and damaged one SB. Most likely, those were fighter planes of still the same 2nd squadron of LLv-24 deployed on the airdrome Valekala. At least two more shot down Soviet bombers were that day ascribed to the aforementioned Sr. Sergeant E.Kinnunen (perished 21 April 1943 after more than 300 sorties and 22 shot down adversary aircraft) (Zefirov, 2003).

44th BAR. In the period since 0620 to 1308 hours, four groups performed 18 sorties. During the flight to the target over the Gulf of Finland two SB collided in the air. One was broken and collapsed in the sea, the second one was damaged but was able to reach the ground. Perhaps exactly in this collision perished squadron commander Major Kosyakin as, judging by the operative summaries, the 44th BAR did not have that day any losses from adversary fighter planes and flak artillery.

The main bomb blow was carried out on the central railway station Kouvola. The airdrome Utti was bombed by one element (3 aircraft), and from a safe (both for the attackers and attacked) elevation of 6.5 km. To hit the target from such elevation was possible only with the application of guided glider bombs with television aiming.

58th BAR. Four groups of SB bombers performed 15 sorties. Most up to date dive bombers Pe-2 of this regiment (as well as dive bombers -2 from the 2nd BAR) did not participate in the raid.

Objects of the strike must have become non-existent in reality airdromes Borgo (Porvoo) and Kotka (port cities on the coast of the Gulf of Finland). Actual results of the raid were as follows:

— 2 aircraft bombed railway station Porvoo from the elevation 6 km as “airdrome was not discovered”. Even from lower elevation, it would not be possible to discover airdrome Porvoo as it simply did not exist. Finnish data were that 6 bombs dropped on the city of Porvoo where several buildings burnt down. The third aircraft of this element “separated from the group and dropped bombs independently on a settlement” (the settlement name is not indicated);

— five SB from the elevation 3 km bombed “settlement Pyuttse” (probably, Pyuthya, 15 km west of Kotka) as “airdrome Kotka was covered with strong clouds”. Not having discovered the target, bombers must have attacked alternate target (which always was in the flight assignment). It was possible simply to drop bombs in the Gulf of Finland but the settlement for some reason seemed the preferable target;

— the next group (4 SB) showed great perseverance and from relatively low elevation (1,400 m) bombed airdrome Kotka but “as adversary aircraft was not discovered on the airdrome (actually, there was no airdrome), bombing was performed of workshops or hangars buildings. Bombing results were not observed and not photographed as after the drop [of bombs] at once were covered by clouds”;

at 1320 hours last that day’s raid was conducted by an element (3 SB’s), which from the elevation 3 km bombed “port building as the airdrome Kotka was not discovered ” (TSAMO, fund 20013, list 1, case 11, sheet 16-20).

There were no encounters with Finnish fighter planes and aircraft losses in 58th BAR. Perhaps the explanation is that a primitive Finnish VNOS system simply did not have time to react to the bombers appearing just for a few minutes from the side of the sea.

Total results of the 2nd SAD combat activities are listed in the following Table:


Aircraft in working order




Shot down


2nd BAR



Luumyaki aerodrome

Luumyaki railway station



44th BAR



Utti aerodrome, Kouvola station

Utti aerodrome (3 sorties) and railway Kouvola station



58th BAR




Poraoo railway station, Kotka port and city











55th combination aviation division. The only bomber aviation regiment of this division (72nd BAR) deployed on airdrome in Petrozavodsk received a task to attack airdromes Joensu and Joroinen. A large railway station Joensu is continuously present as a first priority strike object in pre-war operative plans of the Soviet command. At the same time, airdrome Joroinen is not mentioned either in pre-war Leningrad cover plan (although 14 airdromes stated there by name) nor in the Supreme Command Directive of 24 June 1941 (“liquidate airdromes in the area of the southern coast of Finland keeping in mind points Turku, Malmy, Porvoo, Kotka, Holola, Tampere in the areas of adjacent to Karelian Isthmus and in the area Kemiyarvi, Rovaniyemi”).

Most likely, Soviet intelligence and fact basing airdrome Joroinen fighter groups Finnish air force (LLv-26, 26 fighter planes “” G-50). mentioned  and approximately in 40 km northwest from airdrome Joroinen airdrome  Naarayarvi, groups LLv-28 in (27 French fighter planes “Moran ” MS-406).

result 72- BAR or Bomber Aviation Regiment without fighter cover attack “ ” Finnish aviation. , albeit airdrome  Joroinen and his , , entrance in radius  actions  most up to date fighter planes MiG-3 from unfolded north Karelian isthmus 7- IAP OR Fighter Aviation Regiment, 159- IAP OR Fighter Aviation Regiment and 153- IAP OR Fighter Aviation Regiment. Quite bombers in area  and fighter planes -153 ( 7- IAP OR Fighter Aviation Regiment and 153- IAP OR Fighter Aviation Regiment their was more than hundreds in working order), flight range which 600 km. with Finnish fighter planes, “” quite could fighter plane . but interaction with fighter regiments organized .

11.45 groups (14 or 15, data sources) bombers SB from 72- BAR or Bomber Aviation Regiment relatively ( Finnish to them data 1000 ) approached airdrome Joroinen. Tactical and actions  command  regiments , it would appear, were  and element — bombers approached airdrome exactly in moment , when 2- squadron LLv-26 after  long in with airdrome Joroinen. in parentheses , exactly such situation (enemy raid  airdrome  in time  aircraft) often in historiography and for explanation reason  colossal losses Soviet their air force: Germans ostensibly always “ time ...” Blow groups 72 BAR or Bomber Aviation Regiment for bombing and airdrome Joroinen “ time ” ( viewpoint Finns ). only reaction Finnish fliers-fighter planes appeared timely , and .

immediately in and attacked multi exceeding among adversary . in result ( Finnish to them data) three bomber were  directly in area  airdrome , , disorderly bombs, returned . through several radio 3- squadron LLv-26 interception bombers 72- BAR or Bomber Aviation Regiment in area  settlement (12 km southeast from Joroinen). in air blow groups 72- BAR or Bomber Aviation Regiment was finally crushed . Judging by report commander Finnish squadrons Lieutenant . , by the end of survived only four  , “ one  from which ” [52]. in actuality Finnish fighter planes shot down 10 ( was ), 9 bombers 72- BAR or Bomber Aviation Regiment. SB was already Soviet territory Soviet to them fighter plane . among perished was commander  squadrons 72- BAR or Bomber Aviation Regiment Captain  . Finnish fighter groups LLv-26 lost in day one aircraft in , ( report  command  72- BAR or Bomber Aviation Regiment and already traditional information about “ shot down in the process air “Messerschmitt ”) [52].

, last days  became one bomber  72- BAR or Bomber Aviation Regiment, Joensu “Moran ” from LLv-28 in 13.00 Finnish time.


now first . Bomber units air force Northern front , on the inventory and at least 280 in working order aircraft ( more than 400 combat-ready crews), 25 June 1941 objects territory and Finland order 130 sorties. including airdromes, which in actuality deployed Finnish fighter planes, bombs more than 30 aircraft (15 airdromes Utti and Valekala, 15 — airdrome Joroinen). this one aircraft  adversary was destroyed  , at least, serious  damaged  or in . airdromes basing Finnish bomber groups (Siikakangas and Luonetyarvi) and elements German (Luonetyarvi) was one sorties.

19 bombers (10 from 72- BAR or Bomber Aviation Regiment, 8 from 41- BAD, 1 from 2- SAD) was Finnish fighter planes . One SB from 72- BAR or Bomber Aviation Regiment was Soviet fighter planes , in collision two  aircraft one SB from 44- BAR or Bomber Aviation Regiment. irretrievabl losses 21 aircraft , 16% from sorties. quite losses. for comparison , , for instance, in time  war in Spain and losses bombers SB 2% from ; losses bombers Luftwaffe in critical “Battle of Britain” (July — September 1940 .) order 5% from sorties [48].

second day “multi operation and Soviet their air force” active combat activities air force Northern front declined almost to .

Operative summary  No. 3 headquarters 41- BAD from 19.00 26 June following : “ period  with 1.30 to 4.00 26.6 202- BAR or Bomber Aviation Regiment two  intelligence and bombing military objects... Other units divisions sorties ” [292]. attention time  conducted “intelligence flights ”.

June in Leningrad , of course , “”, but , air intelligence after  ...

Operative summary  No.4 (1.00 27 June) : “41- 26.6 combat activities ” [293].

27 June 1941 in 8.00 in headquarters 41- BAD was signed Combat order  No.4 (first after  25 June). in were  following task :

“1. Adversary  troops borders Northern front ...

2. 41- BAD during days 27.6 intelligence and , bombing , following areas ( list 19 Finnish .  - M.S.) for a purpose installed forces and grouping and forces adversary , installed systems defensive corridor (emphasis added. - M. S..) adversary .

3. without fighter planes tasks ...” [294].

, already in the morning 27 June “airdrome ” operation days 41- BAD . order No. 4 tasks directly with combat actions land forces. , 41- BAD operative command 23- army, unfolded north Karelian isthmus. Remarkabl , in the morning 27 June 1941 goal intelligence and “systems defensive corridor adversary ”. , besides preparation offensive ( “counterstrike ”), such task  explain impossibly.

New attempt sortie , this time — with fighter cover , 27 June losses. , adversary  in this minimum participation. in operative summary No. 5 headquarters 41- BAD ( 15.00 27 June) : “41- during days 11 / in intelligence and grouping and adversary ... 10- BAR or Bomber Aviation Regiment and 205- BAR or Bomber Aviation Regiment combat activities ... in - Kexholm (i.e., Soviet territory .  - M.S.) one SB from 201- BAR or Bomber Aviation Regiment or our flak artillery , or fighter planes ... in 202- BAR or Bomber Aviation Regiment element SB attacked . One SB and , one (crew  parachute ), third SB damaged  and forced )” [2951.

Operative summaries No. 6 and No. 7 ( 20.00 27.6. and 15.00 28.6.) again : “41- combat activities ...” [296].

A similar picture is silhouetted in Operative summaries No.No. 6, 7, 8, 9 from the 2nd SAD headquarters. There were no sorties 26 July, 27 June one element (3 aircraft) from 44th BAR flew for air reconnaissance in the area of Dvinsk (Daugavpils). That day, 27 June 1941, turned out to be a day of elevated activity of the Soviet fighter planes. In the operative summary No. 9 we read: “Were attacked by “MiG’s” of the 159th IAP, one shot down” (TSAMO, fund 20013, list 1, case 7, sheet 12). Who exactly was “shot down” (bomber or the attacking fighter); what happened with the aircraft and crew; at last, how come a fighter from the 159th IAP deployed on Karelian Isthmus turned out in the way of bombers flying from the area of Staraya Russa to Daugavpils, was impossible to establish based on this summaries...


Substantially more actively, efficiently but also assertively operated the Red Banner Baltic Fleet air force.

It is only that these actions even formally had nothing in common with “destruction of German aviation on Finnish airdromes”. The Baltic Fleet air force rained down sufficiently powerful and organized blows on long ago (since the times of the “winter war”) and in detail studied targets: adversary naval bases and vessels and ports Turku, Salo, Helsinki, Kotka.

Especial “attention” of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet air force Command, apparently, attracted the city and port Turku. It was bombed by the aviation squadrons of all three bomber regiments of the fleet aviation. Beginning at 0700 hours 25 June large groups of the Soviet bombers (54 SB and 30 DB-3) carried out strikes on the port facilities in Turku, on ships in haven (of course, the priority targets, as previously, were two Finnish iron-clads of coastal defence “Vaynemyaynen” and “Ilmarinen”, which again survived the aviation raid). Soviet bombers at the time of the raid on Turku were covered by two squadrons of fighter planes from 13th IAP of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet air force deployed on Hango airdrome (i.e., approximately 80 km from Turku).

Bombed was also located next to the port Turku airdrome. As was already mentioned, on the airdrome in Turku was based a very small aviation group LLv-6 with 3 captured SB and 5 captured fighter planes I-153. In the raid one SB was damaged (another information — destroyed), and this was the only reliably known loss by the Finnish aviation from a “crushing blow on airdromes” 25 June 1941. Besides, on the airdrome flying field “was destroyed one building and killed 5 horses” (Geust, in “From war to peace. USSR and Finland in 1939 -1944. 2006”).

Bombers of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet air force in area Turku did not suffer losses that day.

Less successful for the attackers was a raid on Rihimyaki railway station. It was conducted in the morning 25 June by a group of long-range bombers DB-3. About 0800 hours seven shabby “Fokkers” from the deployed on the airdrome Hyvinkaa aviation group LLv-32 intercepted bombers in the area of settlement Kerava (20 km northeast of Helsinki, i.e., practically immediately after they crossed the coastal corridor of the Gulf of Finland). The events of that morning are so described in the recollections of a LLv-32 veteran: “The Russians immediately turned back and went in the opposite direction but Lieutenant V.Evinen opened fire and shot down two enemy aircraft. One fell in the area of Malmi, the other in the Gulf of Finland. Alarm signal sounded this day several more times on the airdrome Hyvinkaa but dense clouds of dust from taking-off fighter planes forced the adversary bombers turn back before the interceptors had time to take off” (Olavi Junnila, 2002).

Information about two shot down DB-3 may correspond with reality because only the 1st Mine-Torpedo Aviation Regiment (one of the two bomber of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet air force regiments on whose inventory were long-range bombers of this type) lost irretrievably in air fighting engagements of the first days of war 3 aircraft (Morozov, 2002). The same day, 25 June, the fleet aviation carried out strikes on the ports Kotka and Salo, suburbs of Helsinki (Tikkurila was bombed by 18 aircraft, Puistola by 8) (Geust, in “From war to peace. USSR and Finland in 1939 -1944. 2006”). Central areas of the Finland capital were not bombed (possibly, from foreign policy considerations because in this case diplomatic representations of the future main Stalin’s allies could have become victims of the raids).

Former navigator of the 1st Mine-Torpedo Aviation Regiment, Lieutenant General P.I. Khokhlov in his remarkably “imprecise” memoirs writes: Our regiment in the process of this operation was destroying adversary aircraft on the airdromes Lahti and Lappeenranta. There, as observed by the crews, occurred explosions and conflagrations, were destroyed 17 German aircraft” (Khokhlov, 1988). Even though the raid on Lahti and Lappeenranta is not a fruit of imagination of the memoirist or his “literary consultants”, to discover there “17 aircraft”, plus to identify them as “German”, was very difficult. Airdromes Hollola and Vesivehmaa (main basing airdrome of LLv-24) located next to the city of Lahti were not subjected to raids of the Soviet aviation 25 June. Moreover, taking into account that there were deployed three squadrons of the best Finland air force fighter group there, it is possible to assume quite reasonably that a raid on Vesivehmaa would have ended up for the 1st Mine-Torpedo Aviation Regiment with the similar results as the raid of the 72nd BAR on Joroinen airdrome. As for a large railway stations and city Lappeenranta, on the airdrome positioned next to the city there was not a single detachment of the Finnish (not even speaking about German) aviation...

Early in the morning 26 June combat activities of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet air force were resumed with previous sweep and persistence.

At dawn (between 0300 and 0400 hours), 9 SB bombers (18 according to other sources) again appeared in the sky above Turku. A pair of “Chaykas” I-153 from LLv-6 took off for interception and in the area of Korpoo settlement (Aland Islands) warrant officer T. Hyamelya shot down one bomber, which, as land observers reported, fell into the sea (Zefirov, 2003).

In three hours, at 0615 26 June a large group of bombers (SB according to Finnish data) again bombed the airdrome, port and city of Turku. “Damaged were the runway and several hangars, damaged were three aircraft, perished one mechanic and two people were wounded. In the city, the damages were more significant: 13 people from the civil population perished and 29 wounded. The entire near sea area of Turku flared, 18 stone and 101 wooden buildings were destroyed...” (Geust in “From war to peace. USSR and Finland in 1939 -1944. 2006”). Among the destroyed buildings was Turku medieval fortress. The following wave of bombers carried out a strike on Turku between 1020 and 1105 hours. The same day, 26 June, were carried out blows on Helsinki suburbs, on ports Kotka, Porvoo, Salo, airdromes Malmi (Helsinki area) and Utti.

The Baltic Fleet air force did not suffer 26 June 1941 other irretrievable losses beside the bomber shot down early in the morning above Korpoo.

The Airdrome in Turku was destroyed so strongly that survived under bombs five I-153 from LLv-6 were redeployed on the airdrome of Hummela (40 km west of Helsinki) (Zefirov, 2003). Therefore, rebasing of the adversary aviation under the strikes of the Soviet air force did take place in reality. The only difference was that redeployed were not “German aircraft to the far-away rear airdromes” but 5 (five) captured Soviet I-153 from Turku to Helsinki, i.e., even closer to the Soviet shore of the Gulf of Finland.

Summing up the activities of the Baltic Fleet air force it is necessary to note that they suffered substantially smaller — in comparison with the Northern front air force — losses (two bombers DB-2 and one SB) and reached noticeable (and in Turku — even very noticeable) results. The Baltic Fleet air force was able to destroy one adversary aircraft (captured SB) and put for some time out of commission Turku airdrome.

On the other hand, all attempts to put out of commission combat vessels of the Finnish navy again turned out useless. Have not been used also capabilities of long-range bombers DB-3 available on the inventory of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet air force. With rare exceptions, bomb blows were carried out on objects positioned directly on the coast of the Gulfs of Finland and Bothnia. Not a single raid was conducted in the depth of the country. Neither the largest industrial center of Finland, Tampere (specifically indicated in the Directive of Supreme Command of 24 June) nor basing airdromes of the Finnish bomber aviation (Siikakangas and Luonetyarvi), or most important basing airdromes of Finnish fighter planes (Pori, Hyvinkaa, Vesivehmaa, Joroinen, Naarayarvi) were subjected to bombing. In actuality, long-range bombers of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet air force deployed on the airdromes Kotly and Bezzabotnoye (i.e., directly near the coast of the Gulf of Finland) operated at substantially smaller radius than bomber regiments of the 41st BAD equipped with light SB bombers.

Statistics is science of large numbers, and the results of two days of combat activities are hardly sufficient for serious conclusions. That is why we will put it this way: it is not impossible that exactly such tactics by the Red Banner Baltic Fleet air force (choice of targets positioned directly on the coast, and actual ignoring the task set in the Supreme Command Directive of 24 June), in combination with weakness of the Finnish systems VNOS caused minimum losses by the bomber aviation of the fleet. In any case, there are no data that bombers of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet air force and their escorting fighter planes repelled the attack and shot down in the air even one Finnish fighter.

To complete the chronicles of events 25—26 June it only remains to mention briefly the about combat actions by the Soviet aviation in the transpolar north of Finland.

Should the aviation strike of 25 June 1941 represented in reality a reaction to the actions by German forces in the territory of Finland (may it be a reaction hasty and poorly organized), then main forces of the Soviet aviation must have been sent to objects in Transpolar area where four German divisions were completing last preparations to the offensive on Murmansk and Kandalaksha. In actuality, no regrouping of the Northern front air force and/or air force of the internal military districts to the Murmansk theater was conducted, and the Soviet aviation was operating in the same grouping as it was found in the evening 24 June by the Supreme Command Directive.

As was already mentioned in previous chapters, the North fleet air force began active combat operations from the first days of war. The first raid on the airdrome Hebukten (in the territory occupied in Norway by the Germans) was conducted 23 June. 25 June the zone of activities for the North fleet aviation and Northern front 14th army was only expanded due to the inclusion among the strike targets also airdromes in the territory of Finland. Weather conditions, really, obstructed aviation actions (practically the entire last week of June in the Murmansk — Petsamo area were hanging low clouds and was raining). However, Soviet air force combat activities were not as miserly as they were described in first operative summaries of the Northern front headquarters.

At 0125 hours 25 June the North fleet Military Council received a Directive from the Narkom of the USSR navy about the beginning of military activities against Finland, which verbatim repeated the text of Supreme Command Directive from 24 June.

Same as in instructions from the Northern front air force command, “raids were ordered in day-time by small groups of three to nine aircraft conducting at least four strikes on every airdrome”. The bombing elevation was set at 2,500—3,000 m, bombing results must have been photographed. A first blow was instructed to be carried out at 0430 hours. If the clouds prevented bombing from the assigned elevation, to bomb from beneath the clouds("Chronicles of the Great Patriotic War…” 1999. Quoted from www.eismeerfront.com). In addition to these general demands the Narkom of the navy ordered “to include among active operations against Finland a strike on Petsamo and transports there, the aviation and also artillery, both coastal and naval(ibid).

Up to 24 June the intelligence summaries of the 1st SAD (headquarters in Murmansk) name as basing locations of the German aviation only airdromes in Norway territory (Vadse, Hebukten, Banak, Tromse, Narvik, Bode, Tronheim). Only in intelligence summary No. 5 (of 1200 hours 24 June) appears, certainly not confirmed by anything and absolutely unspecific, information: “Established the presence of German aircraft and aviation groups in the territory of Finland” (TSAMO, fund 20005, list 1, case 1, sheet 5). Nevertheless, the fact of the German aircraft redeployment (actually it was one squadron of fighter planes from JG-77) on the border airdrome Luostari did not remain unnoticed. The airdrome Luostari became (or rather must have become) first in line target of the bomber blows.

Early in the morning (the words “at dawn” in this case are inappropriate as in the end of June the sun in Transpolar region does not go below the horizon), at 0452 hours 25 June eight SB from the 72nd Combination Aviation Regiment of the North fleet air force flew out for bombing Luostari. However, low clouds and fog forced the command to return the entire group on the airdrome. But this was only the start of the day. At 1350 hours a pair of intelligence SB from the 72nd Combination Aviation Regiment at low elevation of 500 meters approached the airdrome and, despite the flak fire, flew over the flying field and established the presence of “Messerschmitts” on the airdrome.

After this the next five SB from the 72nd Combination Aviation Regiment from the elevation 500 meters without losses bombed the flying field on Luostari airdrome (the adversary, by the way, also did not lose in the process of this raid even a single aircraft).

A fourth attempt to bomb airdrome Luostari turned out unsuccessful. The element of bombers from the 72nd Combination Aviation Regiment on approach to the target (once again repeating, airdrome Luostari was located just a few kilometres from the border) was shelled by the Soviet flak artillery. Evading the flak fire, aircraft flew in the clouds where they lost bearings. One bomber was unable to find its airdrome and forced-landed in an uninhabited tundra (where the aircraft was sitting to the end of the year). Luostari was also bombed by several aircraft from 137th BAR (1st SAD). At last, at 1800 hours airdrome Luostari was stormed by four fighter planes I-16 from 145th IAP of the same division (Mardanov, 2002). There were no losses either on our or on the German side in these raids.

Intelligence summary No. 8 from the 1st SAD headquarters (of 1630 hours 25 June) recorded the following result: During 25.06 units of the 1st SAD intelligence and combat actions established: there are adversary aircraft on the Luostari airdrome, the numbers and type unknown. Aircraft are camouflaged by the trees(TSAMO, fund 20005, list 1, case 1, sheet 8). More specific but quite inaccurate were also the data of 14- army intelligence, according to which on the airdrome Luostari were 8—10 camouflaged bombers and 6—8 fighter planes”. Only 27 June data of the aviation intelligence matched the real situation: “The North fleet aviation intelligence discovered up to 10 aircraft on the airdrome Luostari” ("Chronicles of the Great Patriotic War…", 1999. Quoted from  www.eismeerfront.com).

Luostari airdrome was far from the only object of the air attack on 25 June. The North fleet aviation attempted to bomb a Norwegian port Kirkenes but got in strong fog and returned to base. Subjected to bombing was also Finnish port Liinakhamari in the Petsamo area. At night 25 June, the fleet air force carried out a bomb blow on the Norwegian airdrome Banak where German bombers were deployed. The result of the raid is not known exactly but two bombers from the North fleet air force did not return. The information about four “Me-110” shot down this day is not supported by the adversary documents.

26 June 1941 the North fleet air force was conducting single and group raids on Petsamo, Kirkenes, Luostari and Vadsø. Judging by documents of the fleet headquarters, “conflagrations emerged on the adversary airdromes... Fire of our coastal batteries from Sredny Peninsula and bombing by our aircraft damaged the radiostation in Petsamo, conflagration is observed...” ("Chronicles of the Great Patriotic War…", 1999. Quoted from www.eismeerfront.com). Bombers from the 137th BAR (Finnish data: 9 aircraft) performed a long-distance raid in the depth of Finland and subjected to bomb strike the city and airdrome Rovaniyemi (more than 400 km as the crow flies from Murmansk). Up to 12 adversary aircraft were noted on Rovaniyemi airdrome (TSAMO, fund 20005, list 1, case 1, sheet 11). The same day six SB (probably, also from 137th BAR) bombed Kemiyarvi. In both cases losses and destruction were minimal (Geust…) The element of Luftwaffe long-range intelligence aircraft deployed in Rovaniyemi, as well as a squadron of fighter planes on the airdrome Luostari suffered no losses in aircraft on 25—26 June.




Early in the morning (it is possible to say, during the night) 27 June 1941 from headquarters to headquarters flew (as it is supposed in such cases, with the label “top secret”) an urgent communication: “Ryti declared Finland in a state of war with the USSR”. This uniformity of strange phrasing (not “Finland declared” but “Ryti declared”) allows to assume that one for all command came down “from the very top” and then was copied on subordinated rungs.

The North fleet headquarters sent out the notification about the beginning of a war at 0215 hours 27 June. At this, all services were proposed to heighten vigilance("Chronicles of the Great Patriotic War …" 1999. Quoted from www.eismeerfront.com).

Head of the1st mechanized corps headquarters Colonel Limarenko at 0500 hours 27 June sent out in all corps’ detachments and groupings (overall was prepared 18 copies) the following information: “Ryti declared Finland in the state of war with the Soviet Union. Take measures to strengthen combat readiness” (TSAMO, fund 1400, list 1,  case 17, sheet 15).

The order issued in 10th mechanized corps was more detailed: “Ryti declared Finland in the state of war with the USSR. Commander  corps, in pursuance of the order by the army Commander, ordered:

To put all detachments on total combat readiness for activities.

On the fire by the adversary — respond with all might of our fire.

Rebuff adversary tanks  with the entire system of fire. To our units: do not open fire first.

Commanders: personally check combat readiness of units to actions and record this in detail in operative summary as of 2400 hours 27 June and in special combat report.

Head of 10th mechanized corps headquarters Colonel Zayev(TSAMO, fund 3444, list 1, case 2, sheet 67).

Preserved in the archive copy of this order has no number, date or time. The previous document in the archive case dated 0020 hours 27 June, therefore the order was signed in the interval from dawn to midnight 27 June. Possibly (judging by some moments in the content), the order was compiled already after the following Directive of the Northern front Military Council came in headquarters of the 10th mechanized corps:

“Commanders of 7th and 23rd armies, commanders of 19th rifle corps, 50th rifle corps, 70th rifle corps, 1st mechanized corps, 10th mechanized corps:

1. Troops of the Northern front, being in continuous readiness to repelling adversary offensive, continue to strengthen and develop the defence corridors paying main attention to the creation of antitank obstacles, preparation of barriers and mining to the entire depth according to plan.

2. Before adversary land units begin combat activities, do not open fire. Only when the adversary opens artillery fire first or at his sudden tank attack, descend with all might of our artillery on tanks , on reconnoitred artillery fire positions of the adversary and concentration areas of his tanks and infantry and mortar fire on infantry starting positions.

Com. Troops, Northern front, Popov

Member of the Military Council Klementyev

Member of the Military Council Shtykov

Member of the Military Council Kuznetsov” (TSAMO, fund 3422, list 1, case 6-, sheet 2).

The form in this case is as notable as the content. The Military Council Directive was issued without a number and without a date. Of course, on the typewritten sheet with the Directive’s text is a corner stamp: “Operative department of LenMD headquarters, outgoing No. 3009, 27.6.1941”. Why “LenMD headquarters” if already since the evening of 22 June all documents were coming from the Commander (and headquarters) of the Northern front, and this very Directive is signed by the front, not district Commander? Further, in the Directive’s “header” is missing 14th army (one of three armies of the Northern front) and is present non-existent in reality 70th rifle corps. Most likely, the compilers meant 70th rifle division, which actually existed, was not component part of rifle corps and was subordinated directly to the front command. At last, the document does not have the signature of head of district headquarters — and this is already very strange. According to the Regulation about the District Military council approved 16—17 May 1937, the Military council included three persons: District Commander, head of headquarters and the so-called Member of the Military Council, i.e., party representative, Commissar) ("Russian Archive. Great Patriotic. Orders of the People’s Commissar for the defence…", 1994). All known combat orders, operative summaries and Directives in the first days of war signed head of the Northern front headquarters Major General Nikishov or (quite seldom) his Deputy, head of the headquarters operative department Major General Tikhomirov. Here, however, there are no their signatures.

It remains to assume that the Directive was prepared in a hurry and nervous fluster. Most certain confirmation of the “nervous fluster” in the front headquarters is the fact that the Commander decided to fortify his decision by the signatures at once of three party bonzes: corps Commissar N.N.Klementyev, first secretary of Leningrad Gorkom Dvision Commissar .. Kuznetsov and second of Leningrad Obkom Brigade Commissar T.F. Shtykov.

Now we will switch from form to the content. What kind of event did so agitate military and party leaders of the topmost rank?

Not only in Moscow but also in Helsinki for 25 June 1941 was assigned a big and important measure. 25 June in Finnish parliament had to be held a closed session devoted to a discussion of the foreign politics situation of Finland in connection with the beginning of a Soviet-German war. As narrated by K.-G. Mannerheim, the following was planned: “Government intended 25 June to introduce in the parliament a statement that it made the decision to maintain neutrality (emphasis added.- M. S.). The report of prime-minister was ready in the evening of 24 June but the events of the following day forced the government to reconsider the issue...” (Mannerheim, 2003).

In this issue Marshall Mannerheim, mildly speaking, “is playing hankey-pankey” (which, by the way, is quite understandable taking into account that the memoirs were written during those months in the end of 1940’s when the state sovereignty of Finland hanged by a thin thread). At night 24 June 1941, three Wehrmacht divisions and the motorized brigade SS “Nord” have already been in the Arctic Finland and were preparing to invade the USSR territory. One would be hard pressed to call it the politics “of supporting Finland’s neutrality”. Most likely, prime-minister Johan Wilhelm Rangell was preparing to a very difficult conversation with parliamentarians, and this conversation could quite possibly end up in the change of head of government.

Out of 200 positions in the Finnish parliament 85 belonged to the social democrats and only 8 positions (4% of all votes) to deputies from very right-wing, anti-Soviet and anticommunist party “Patriotic People’s movement” (IKL). With such breakdown of political forces, steps undertaken in secret from the parliament of pulling Finland into war on the side of Fascist Germany could cause very harsh reaction. Moreover, 20 June president of the country Risto Ryti met with deputies of the Social-democratic fraction in the parliament and assured them that Finnish troops would not be used for the for attack on the Soviet Union. And on the eve of this meeting, 19 June, the leader of social democrats, one of most influential politicians in the country V. Tanner (the foreign minister in time of the “winter war”) at the conference of trade union and worker organizations leaders stated that our troops will be used only for the defence of the country but not for offensive actions”.

At dawn 25 June the Soviet leadership presented Finnish proponents of the “war-revanche” with a gift, about which they did not dare even to dream. (Possibly, this “gift” for them was set up by the German allies, but about this a little later). To the accompaniment of bombs exploding in Helsinki suburbs the prime-minister Rangell said from the parliament pulpit: The air raids against our country, bombing of unprotected cities, murder of peaceful civilians — all this clearer than any diplomatic estimates showed the attitude of the Soviet Union to Finland. This is war. The Soviet Union repeated the attack by which it tried to break the resistance of the Finnish people in the “winter war” of 1939 — 1940. As at that time, we will rise for the protection of our country”.

At night 25 June the parliament made a decision to consider Finland as being in the state of war against the USSR. The next day, 26 June 1941 with radio-appeal to the nation spoke the country’s president R. Ryti. “...Now that the Soviet Union in connection with war between Germany and the USSR expanded its military actions on the territory of Finland attacking peaceful civilians, our duty is to defend ourselves. We will do it resolutely and unanimously with all available to us moral and military means. Our capability to come out successfully from this second defensive war this time is completely different than it was last time, when we were under the brunt of the eastern giant. Armed forces of the great Germany under the leadership of genius Chancellor Hitler are successfully fighting together with us against known to us armed forces of the USSR... The Soviet Union will not be able now to set forth against our armed forces the same crushingly exceeding forces, which last time made our defensive struggle hopeless.

Now the Soviet Union turned out numerically equal in the struggle, and the success of our defensive struggle is certain("On both sides of the Karelian front…”,1995).

Radio appeal (in comparison with a newspaper article) has an advantage of being heard on the radio. Therefore, in order to find out the content of the statement by Finland’s president it was not necessary to perform the next “feat of a spy” sending him in complete uniform and with parachute behind his back to capture a newspaper stand in Helsinki. Moreover, if we want to believe memoirs of the Soviet intelligence resident in Helsinki .. Sinitsin, he recruited some “prominent political and social person in Finland” known until this day only by the spy sobriquet Monck. With the availability of such “spy outlets”, Moscow and Leningrad should have found out about the decision made by the Finnish parliament at night 25 June even before the radio-appeal by Ryti, i.e., during the night from 25 to 26 June...

By the way, the main thing is not in hours and minutes but in something totally different — what was so amazing in what Soviet Generals in Leningrad and Marshalls in Moscow saw (heard)? What other reaction to massive bombing of Finland did they expect? And were not the Finnish troops called “adversary troops” in all documents of the Northern front units and groupings already beginning on 22—23 June?

Now, we will turn from rhetorical questions to substantive issues.

The Directive of the Northern front Military Council unambiguously demanded to give initiative to the adversary (“Before adversary land units begin combat activities, do not open fire. Only when the adversary opens artillery fire first or at his sudden tank attack...”). Let us for a while leave alone numerous mentions of “adversary tanks” and the need to pay main attention to the creation of antitank obstacles”, which are in the Directive of the Military Council and order of the 10th mechanized corps commander. (All these with complete absence of German or Finnish tank units on the front of the 23rd and 7th armies). Another thing is more important — why was it ordered “not to open fire first”? Why and for what purpose was it necessary to gift the adversary with the initiative and all obvious tactical advantages of the first strike?

The only possible explanation (and justification) of such strange operative art may be sudden occurred political interests, which prevailed over military expediency. If anything, “Second Coming” of a legendary idea “do not submit to provocations”. However, exactly this logic in this case simply amazes by its absurdity. “Ryti declared war”. Finland already is in a state of war with the USSR. War is already officially declared, and no “provocations” after this can happen in principle. The only thing remaining now is to hand a corresponding statement of the Soviet government to the Finnish Ambassador in Moscow and after this to start implementing pre-war plans of the “active defence”. Without any restrictions.

In June 1941 everything was done “with the accuracy of the other way around”[4]. 25 June without a declaration of war, without recalling the Ambassador from Helsinki, without official notification about annulment of the Moscow peace treaty of 1940 on the territory of Finland is carried out a massive bomb blow. Even cities (Mikkeli and Rovaniyemi) located 100—150 km from borders become objects of the attack. Two days thereafter the troops deployed directly at the borders are ordered to wait when the adversary passes in offensive but not to open fire first. That is, when it was not allowed — then it was allowed. And when it was already allowed — it was not allowed?

Signed the same day order No. 1 of the Finnish army Supreme Commander Marshall Mannerheim sounded much more certainly:

“Soldiers of Finland!

Our glorious Winter war ended up in a hard peace. Despite the concluded peace, our country was for the enemy an object of shameless threats and continuous blackmail. Together with criminal instigation directed to the subversion of our unity it shows that the enemy from the very beginning did not consider peace continuous. Concluded peace was only armistice, which has now ended.

You know the enemy. You know permanency of his purposes directed to the destruction of our homes, our faith and our Fatherland and to the enslavement of our people. The same enemy and the same threat are now at our borders.

Without cause, he insolently attacked our peaceful people and subjected to bombing various parts of the country. The future of the Fatherland demands new feats from you.

I am calling up on you for a holy war with the enemy of our nation. Fallen heroes of war rise from the graves and stand next to us today, when we together with mighty military forces of Germany, as brothers in arms, decisively go on a crusade against the enemy in order to provide safe future for Finland.

Comrades-in-arms! Follow me this last time — now, when again is rising the people of Karelia and a new dawn is coming for Finland” (Document published on site www.heninen.net).


Chapter 3.9 WHAT WAS IT?


Now we may already return to the questions, which were formulated in Chapter 3.3. Let us list them in the indicated there order of ascending complexity.

— Which forces (units, groupings, aircraft) of the German and Finnish bomber aviation were deployed on Finland’s airdromes?

— What combat activities against the Soviet Union this aviation grouping conducted 22—24 June 1941? What actions were planned by the adversary Command for the nearest days and weeks?

— What was the real scale of threat created by the adversary aviation grouping in Finland, compared both with others threats hanging over Leningrad and with capabilities of Leningrad anti-aircraft defence, of the Northern front and Red Banner Baltic Fleet fighter aviation?

— What was a direct result of the Soviet air force aviation strike on Finland (losses of the parties, change in plans of the parties)?

— What did the Soviet Command, Soviet intelligence know about the deployment of adversary aviation units in Finland, about his actions and plans?

— was the real reason of making 24 June 1941 the decision of carrying out an aviation blow on Finland, what were real objectives and tasks of this operation?

— How did the aviation blow of 25 June reflected on the general course of Soviet Union’s war against Germany and her allies?

We will try to find an answer to the last of the listed questions in the following part of this book. As for the group of the first four questions, the real facts and quite reliable documents identified and described in previous chapters enable to provide exhausting answers to them.

In the territory of Finland (on airdromes Rovaniyemi and Luonetyarvi) were deployed two elements (total of 6 aircraft) of long-range aviation intelligence. On the transpolar airdrome Luostari was based one squadron (total of 10 in working order “Messerschmitts”) of Luftwaffe fighter planes. Besides, one squadron of German bombers (no more than 12 aircraft) from deployed in East Prussia aviation group KGr-806 several times landed for refuelling on Finnish airdromes Utti and Malmi (southern Finland).

Active combat operations of the Soviet and German aviation began since the very first days of war (i.e., already 22—23 June). However, it was not above Leningrad but in the Transpolar region, in the sky above Kirkenes, Petsamo, Murmansk, Rybachy Peninsula. Both parties in the started war conducted combat activities disregarding Finland’s state borders. Soviet bombers carried out blows on military objects in the territory of German occupied Norway. German aircraft bombed the North fleet main base in Murmansk area, attacked Soviet vessels in the Barents Sea, conducted air intelligence in Murmansk and Kandalaksha area.

All sorties of Luftwaffe aircraft in the transpolar region were conducted exceptionally from airdromes in the Norway territory (Hebukten and Banak). German fighter planes overflew on the Finnish airdrome Luostari only 24—25 June and up to the beginning of Wehrmacht land forces offensive on Murmansk did not take part in combat actions (not counting repelling attacks by the Soviet air force on Luostari airdrome). The bombers (long-range Ju-88 and dive-bombers Ju-87) in the first weeks of the German offensive continued to base on large Norwegian airdromes Hebukten and Banak and only substantially later, after the eastward advance of land forces, began using airdromes in Luostari, Alakurtti, Kemiyarvi.

“German bombers deployed in Finland” did not conduct any raids on Leningrad and cities in Karelia. Neither on the first not on any following day of war. For a very simple reason — they have never been there. In the first days of war Luftwaffe 1st Air fleet supported combat activities of land forces in Baltics from the bases on airdromes in East Prussia. In the future, no rebasing of the Luftwaffe aviation units occurred into the territory of southern and/or central Finland. And it would not make any operative sense. It was simpler, closer and safer to bomb Leningrad from airdromes in the territory of occupied Pskov and Novgorod Provinces (damaged in the time of raid bombers had to fly no more than 100 km over the waters of the Gulf of Finland).

The issue of national identity (Soviet or German aviation) of a few aircraft having dropped 22 June bombs on Hango peninsula needs further clarification. In any case, a Soviet military base located in actuality occupied Finland territory can in no way be included on the list “Leningrad and cities of Karelia”.

In the first two days of war German bombers two times conducted mining of the bay at Kronstadt naval base. In the process, these aircraft (no more than 14 “Junkers-88” from KGr-806 and Kb.Fl.Gr-506) made landing for refuelling on Finnish airdromes Utti and Malmi. Against the total scale of mine laying by the Germans in waters of the Gulf of Finland (more than 2.5 thous. mines of all types), these operations were negligibly small fraction. Aviation mining was discontinued on the second day of war. Most likely because the risk of losing aircraft operating without any fighter cover in a zone of most powerful Leningrad and Kronstadt anti-aircraft defence was evaluated by the German Command as excessive. However, the main factor was that after successful for the Germans completion of mining in the exits from the Gulf of Finland this risk was justified by nothing. Prevent mining from the air of Kronstadt Bay could and and must have the Soviet fighter aviation. After this had not happened any actions — including bombing of the airdrome Utti — became examples of what is called “lock the stable door after the horse is stolen”.

Very small Finland’s bomber aviation (23 light double-engine bombers “Blenheim” and SB) conducted no raids on Leningrad. Not only in June 1941 but also when the Finnish army came to the 1939 border and the frontline ran 30 km from the centre of Leningrad. During the entire war in Finnish aviation was active Mannerheim’s order categorically prohibiting any flights of Finnish aircraft above Leningrad. As for the intelligence flights, Finnish aviation really conducted them in the border zone even before official declaration of war. However, in this case the Finnish party only “mirror-imaged” actions of the Soviet aviation. The Soviet aviation conducted air intelligence of the territory of Finland absolutely disregarding borders during the entire period of “armistice” (March 1940 through June 1941).

The Northern front and Baltic Fleet air force fighter aviation grouping concentrated in Leningrad and Karelian Isthmus area, was one of mightiest in all USSR Armed forces. Its numerical strength dozens of times exceeded the number of German aircraft (bombers or spies), which even episodically appeared on airdromes of the southern and central Finland. Besides, the system of Leningrad anti-aircraft defence included most powerful grouping of flak artillery without peers in the world. (London and Berlin anti-aircraft defence did not have such number of flak guns). Leningrad anti-aircraft defence system was built counting on rebuffing massive raids by the aviation of largest European powers (Germany, England and their possible allies). Correspondingly, an assumption that couple dozen of Finnish or German bombers represented “lethal threat for Leningrad” is a complete absurd.

Equally absurd are also dissertations that only such extraordinary measures as sudden and perfidious blow on Finnish airdromes could “rid Leningrad of the fate of cities, which were subjected to rabid bombing”. Unfortunately, Leningrad was subjected to “rabid bombing”. And more than once. If it were possible to speak about history in subjunctive mood, to rid Leningrad of this bitter destiny could have successful rebuffing of Wehrmacht offensive in Baltics, creation of stable defence on Western Dvina and effective actions of the fighter aviation. All these had absolutely nothing to do with Finland.

As for the real task of the aviation strike begun in the morning 25 June, the assumption that it was directed against German aviation and land forces in Finland and had as its goal “to disrupt raid on Leningrad that was being readied” can emerge only based on study of the Soviet Command orders and directives. Sure, it is possible to read something like this in the orders. However, actual operations of the Soviet air force is very difficult to interpret this way:

1. The only Luftwaffe detachment deployed on vast expanses of the southern and central Finland, was an intelligence element (two “Dornier” D-215 and one “Heinkel” -111) on the airdrome Luonetyarvi.

It is ludicrous to discuss a “threat”, which these three aircraft represented to Leningrad. Nevertheless, if the goal of the operation was “destruction of German aviation deployed on Finnish airdromes”, exactly the airdrome Luonetyarvi should have become the attack object No. 1. However, not a single Soviet aircraft appeared in the sky above Luonetyarvi, and not a single bomb dropped on this airdrome’s flying field.

2. Abstractly speaking, Finnish bomber aviation would be able to conduct a raid on Leningrad — but not a single raid was conducted on two major airdromes of its basing (Siikakangas and Luonetyarvi).

3. The airdrome Utti, which 22—23 June was used for refuelling of German bombers, was included on the general list of targets. However, no special emphasis could be found of its priority importance either in orders of the 41st BAD Command or in orders of the 2nd SAD Command. For instance, 2nd SAD, having on armament 142 in working order bombers, allocated for the raid on airdrome Utti one element (three aircraft) from 44th BAR, which element bombed Utti one time from the elevation of 6.5 km. The 41st BAD bombed airdromes Valekala and Utti, having performed at this overall (for the two stated airdromes) only 12 sorties. Hardly may this be called compliance with the Supreme Command Directive of 24 June, which demanded “by continuous raids, day and night, to crush the adversary aviation and liquidate airdromes”.

4. Via ports of the Gulf of Bothnia (Oulu and Vaasa) on the territory of Finland was brought the 169th Wehrmacht infantry division. Probably, some detachments of German forces still remained there. However, these ports were not subjected to even one strike — and this is keeping in mind that the distance from basing airdromes of long range bombers of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet air force (1st Mine-Torpedo Aviation Regiment, airdrome Bezzabotnoye and 57th BAR, airdrome Kotly) was no greater than 600—650 km. This is, no doubt, is within the operating radius of long range bombers DB-3/DB-3f, which were on the inventory of two stated regiments in the number of 91 in working order aircraft.

5. Let us assume that bombing of ports in the Gulf of Bothnia could be considered a belated attempt “to catch up with a ship that sailed”. On the contrary, the destruction of a trunk railway line Oulu — Rovaniyemi — Salla could have had most serious consequences as through it was conducted purveyance of the entire grouping of the German forces in Transpolar region. Nevertheless, there were not even attempts to solve this task, and not a single raid was conducted on railway stations of this line.

Now let us approach the evaluation of the course and outcome of the aviation strike 25—26 June from a different angle. Which objects had in actuality become targets for bombers?

Overall, at least 12 targets were attacked (excluding the airdromes), namely:

— large railway stations (Rihimyaki, Kouvola, Luumyaki, Lappeenranta, Mantyharju, Mikkeli, Joensu);

— main ports in the Gulf of Finland (Turku, Salo, Porvoo, Kotka);

—Helsinki suburbs.

Let us now compare this list with the pre-war cover plan of mobilization and operative unfolding of the Northern front forces (Leningrad district). We immediately discover a clear similarity of purposes and tasks: “By powerful strikes on the railway node Kouvola, bridges over Kyumin-joki River and force groupings to disrupt and delay the concentration and unfolding of adversary forces... By active operation of the aviation to provide dominance in the air and by powerul strikes on the concentration in the area Joensu, Kajaani, Kuopio to disrupt the transport...”

In the cover plan were listed by name 12 airdromes in the southern and central Finland, which must have become objects of first priority blows: Kouvola, Kotka, Utti, Sillanpaa, Mikkeli, Porvoo, Lahti, Hollola, Hiiuula, Padasjoki, Savonlinna, Hamina.

That is what most likely happened. Having received 24 June the Supreme Command Directive, the Northern front air force Command (as well as the Baltic Fleet air force Command) pulled out from their safes pre-war operative plans and used them as the basis for orders of conducting “first multi-day operation”. In which case it would not be possible not to recognize that the Supreme Command simply did not leave them time either for supplemental intelligence of the targets or for a careful preparation of the strike itself (interaction with fighter planes, optimum choice of munition, etc.). This, by the way, does not remove a question why half of “in advance identified adversary airdromes” did not exist at all, and, the other way around, many most important airdromes (Vesivehmaa, Naarayarvi, Joroinen, Hyvinkaa, Siikakangas, Luonetyarvi) did not get on this list.

Overall, “the first Soviet air force multi-day operation” is simply astounding in its disorderliness and inefficiency. Reading once again a description of this operation in the version of a Major General, Professor and Doctor of Sciences .N. Kozhevnikov: “...The Northern front air force Command developed and 24 June approved by the Northern front Military Council a plan of destruction of the enemy aircraft on airdromes on the northwestern theatre. 540 aircraft were to participate in the operation.

Early in the morning 25 June, 236 bombers and 224 fighter planes carried out a first massive blow on 19 airdromes. The enemy, not expecting such blow, was actually caught unawares and was unable to organize counteractions. As a result, the Soviet fliers successfully conducted bombing of the aircraft parking spaces, fuel and munition storages. 41 enemy aircraft was destroyed on airdromes. Our aviation did not have losses.

During the following five days on the same and newly identified by air intelligence airdromes were carried out additionally several effective strikes. Based on the air photographic control, Soviet fliers attacked overall 39 airdromes, conducted nearly 1,000 sorties, destroyed and damaged 130 adversary aircraft. The German-Fascist force Command in Finland and Northern Norway was forced to pull back its aviation onto remote rear airdromes and refuse for the nearest time the raids on Leningrad...”

The only words of truth in this text are geographic names (Leningrad , Finland, Norway) and the name of the month (June). All the rest — against the background of real, tragic and shameful facts, — looks like a specimen of “black humour”.

The operation continued exactly two days. Already on the second day (26 June) bomber units of the Northern front air force performed only several intelligence flights over the Finnish territory. The total number of airdromes of real Finnish aviation basing, which became objects of the bomb blow, was five (Turku, Valekala, Utti, Mikkeli, Joroinen). May be to this list could be added one more airdrome, which was called by a 1st Mine-Torpedo Aviation Regiment navigator “airdrome Lahti” (possibly, the airdrome in Hollola). If we include also a transpolar airdrome Luostari, the total number of practically futilely attacked airdromes will reach seven. Only on one airdrome (Turku) was put out of commission one and only aircraft. For a strange irony of fate it turned out to be a captured Soviet bomber SB. All other “blows on airdromes” were either totally futile or resulted in heavy losses among the attackers (9 bombers of the 72nd BAR shot down at the time of raid on airdrome Joroinen). In two days the Northern front and Baltic Fleet air force irretrievably lost 24 bombers. Main basing airdromes of Finnish fighter planes (Pori, Hyvinkaa, Vesivehmaa, Joroinen, Naarayarvi) did not suffer at all. No “rebasing of the adversary aviation on remote rear airdromes” occurred at all. Totally fantastic numbers (“39 airdromes”, “130 adversary aircraft”) are impossible to connect even remotely with any real events...

So dramatic a mismatch between the stated goal and reached result compels us to return again to the history with the emergence of the Supreme Command Directive of 24 June. Where from did the information come about basing of the German aviation in the Finland’s territory, at that in especially great numbers? And if the authors of this Directive themselves believed in the presence in Finland of large forces of the German aviation, how could they have approved an operation plan, under which for bombing of Finnish airdromes would have sortied “small groups of 3—5 aircraft”, at that without fighter escort? Such tactics resulted in great and completely unjustified losses even in collision with small Finnish aviation (armed, on top of everything, by morally outdated and physically worn out fighter planes). How could it have ended up if on airdromes in the southern Finland actually were parked hundreds of most up-to-date “Messerschmitts”?

Let us read once again the first, recital part of the Supreme Command Directive:

1. It became known from reliable sources that the German troops are concentrating in the territory of Finland having the objective to carry out a strike on Leningrad and capture the area of Murmansk and Kandalaksha. By this time are concentrated up to four infantry divisions in the area Rovaniyemi, Kemiyarvi and a group of unknown numerical strength in the Kotka area and north of Hango Peninsula.

The German aviation also is systematically arriving in the territory of Finland. From there, it conducts raids on our territory. According to available data, the German Command intends very soon to carry out an aviation strike on Leningrad. This circumstance acquires decisive significance.

2. For a purpose of preventing and disrupting aviation strike on Leningrad planned by the German Command in Finland, I AM ORDERING:

It is impossible not to notice obvious inconsistence of this text: It became known from unnamed “reliable sources” that in the territory of southern Finland were concentrated German troops “of unknown numerical strength”.

If the grouping’s numerical strength was not established even approximately and the area of its unfolding was determined with “accuracy” of 200 km (from Hango to Kotka), where then was the “reliability” of these enigmatic “sources”? Also noteworthy is quite strange initial unfolding area of the grouping, which ostensibly “has the objective to carry out a strike on Leningrad”. How was it possible to hit Leningrad from the corridor on the north coast of the Gulf of Finland? To conduct a troop landing operation under the cover of two ill-fated ironclads?

Or to wait until the bay is covered by a strong ice?

On the other hand, the numerical strength of the German force real grouping in Transpolar region is determined quite accurately (“up to four infantry divisions”). In actuality in Petsamo area were unfolding two mountain-rifle divisions and in Kemiyarvi—Salla area, one infantry division (169th infantry division) and motorized brigade SS “Nord”. Task set by the German Command to these groupings was defined very precisely (“to catch the area of Murmansk and Kandalaksha”). We will note parenthetically that this is not at all trivial conclusion. Both these toponyms (Murmansk and Kandalaksha) are encountered on one line in the pages of most books devoted to the events of war in Transpolar region. In reality, these two cities are separated by a corridor of uninhabited rocky desert 200 km wide. To catch Murmansk and Kandalaksha is not one but two independent operations, in which troops of two strike groupings would not have “shoulder to shoulder contact”. The German Command themselves brooded for a long time the expediency of these simultaneous two operations and the military historians are arguing about this even today.

The error in identification of the German force concentration area (“concentrated up to four infantry divisions in the area Rovaniyemi, Kemiyarvi”) is, at least, understandable. Until morning of 22 June German troops (169 infantry division and brigade SS “Nord”) were really deployed only in the area Rovaniyemi — Kemiyarvi. The grouping targeted for catching Murmansk (2nd and 3rd mountain-rifle divisions) crossed over the Norwegian-Finnish border in a corridor Kirkenes — Petsamo only 22 June. The fact that 24 June in Moscow this fact was not yet known and grasped, is a blunder, but still quite understandable and explicable blunder — the top Command simply did not have time to receive and evaluate the new intelligence information.

As for the grouping of possible adversary on the front of 23rd army (in the north of the Karelian Isthmus), it was also determined by troops’ intelligence of the Northern front (Leningrad VO) quite close to reality. In actuality there were no German forces in southern Finland, and in the corridor from the shore of the Gulf of Finland to station Parikkala were concentrating (after the completion of mobilization and operative unfolding of the Finnish army, i.e., early in July 1941) seven infantry divisions. Those were the 2nd army corps of 2nd infantry division, 15th infantry division, 18th infantry division, the 4th army corps of 4th infantry division, 8th infantry division, 12th infantry division, and also 10th infantry division from the army reserve (see map No. 13). Besides, in the area north of Hango Peninsula was unfolding 17th Infantry division.

Now let us turn to documents of the 23rd army and 10th mechanized corps. Combat order No. 01 (16.30 23 June) from headquarters of the 23rd army defines the adversary numerical strength as follows: “Adversary (Finnish and German army) is grouped in the territory of Finland, up to 1 infantry division in Petrozavodsk (i.e., in the corridor of the neighbour, 7th army. - M.S.) and up to 7 infantry divisions in Vyborg theater” (TSAMO, fund 3444, list 1, case 22, sheet 3). Numerical strength of the adversary, as we see, was established accurately, the error is only in the supposition about the presence in this theatre of German forces. By the end of June (i.e., already after the appearance of Supreme Command Directive from 24 June) erroneous intelligence data become noticeably more numerous:

— Intelligence summary No. 9 from 23rd army headquarters (0500 hours 27 June), noted the appearance of inexistent in reality “tank regiment in the area Imatra—Yakola” (TSAMO, fund 3444, list 1, case 52, sheet 22).

— final intelligence summary from 10th mechanized corps headquarters for 22—29 June: “By 28.6 the concentration of Finnish forces on our borders was mostly completed. All kinds of intelligence established that before the front of 23rd army are concentrated at least nine infantry divisions with tanks, motorized infantry and bicycle units. Installed the presence of German light and medium tanks. Assumed also the presence of heavy tanks...” (TSAMO, fund 3444, list 1, case 52, sheet 40).

So, the rumours about German tanks strengthen, numerical strength of infantry divisions of the Finnish army is overestimated by 29 % from reality (9 instead of 7). As we see, there are errors in the intelligence work but by percentages, not by the order of the magnitude.

And in any case there is no ground for suggestions that the Northern front troops intelligence did not have any idea of the situation beyond the borders.

On the issue of numerical strength and deployment of the German aviation in Finland the ill-fated Supreme Command Directive said nothing specific at all (“German aviation also systematically arrives in the territory of Finland”). Where to? How many? Why this vague “arrival” all of a sudden acquired “decisive significance” remains only to guess. The only specific (at this completely fantastic) numbers are discovered only in one of records from the “Chronicles of war on the North theatre” (compiled in 1944—1945 based on the Journal of combat activities and other documents from the North fleet headquarters). In the record from 27 June (i.e., after receiving the Supreme Command Directive) appears such information: “Based on the data of the Northwestern front troops intelligence (sic in the original. - M.S.), total numerical strength of the German aviation in northern parts of Norway reached 400 aircraft, in Finland 600 aircraft” ("Chronicles of the Great Patriotic ..." 1999. Placed on the internet-site www.eismeerfront.com).

The Northwestern front (i.e., former Baltic military district ) had nothing to do with the northern Norway. Most likely, document compilers made an error, and actually had in mind Northern front (i.e., former Leningrad military district). However, in documents of the Northern front headquarters “600 German aircraft in Finland” are not at all discovered. The number of German aircraft continuously is monitored only intelligence summaries of the 1st SAD headquarters (Murmansk). Aircraft, judging by this summary, are exactly where they have been in reality, i.e., in Norway. Their numerical strength was established quite close to reality:

— Intelligence summary No. 4 (1900 hours 23 June) “p.2. Established basing of adversary aviation on airdromes: Hebukten — up to 50 aircraft, Banak — up to 32, — up to 30, Narva — up to 20, Bode (Bude) — up to 11, Tronheim — up to 45” (TSAMO, fund  20005, list 1, case 1, sheet 4).

— Intelligence summary No. 10 (2300 hours 26 June) at 1810 hours on airdrome Luostari camouflaged 8—10 bombers and 6—8 fighter planes, on airdrome Rovaniyemi were up to 12 aircraft” (TSAMO, fund  20005, list 1, case 1, sheet 11).

Comparing these summaries with known today real situation we see that the total number of Luftwaffe 5th Air fleet aircraft in Norway is substantially undercounted (188 instead of approximately 280), however, the number of “grrrouping Kirkenes” aircraft (on airdromes Hebukten and Banak) is indicated practically accurately. In others words, intelligence of the 1st SAD had quite vague idea of the numbers of German aviation in remote from it south Norway and (i.e., thousands kilometers from Murmansk) but its direct adversary identified with sufficient accuracy. The summary of 26 June substantially overblew the number of aircraft on the Finnish airdrome Luostari but the general intelligence information has great similarity with reality.

Approximately similar picture looms from documents of the North fleet headquarters (quoted from the “Chronicles”; airdrome Kirkenes for uniformity of the text will be named Hebukten, airdrome Lakselven — Banak).

— Record of 24 June: According to the data of the Northern Fleet radio-intelligence in Hebukten were 62 aircraft, out of those 11 “Ju-87”, 7 “Hsh-126”, 11 “Me-110” and “Me-109”, 3 “Courier”, 6 “Storch”, 4 “Ju-52” (total 42, the rest were probably identified as civilian. - M.S.), on airdrome Banak 30 aircraft, including not established number of He-111”, in Tromso — up to 20 aircraft”;

— Record of 26 June: According to data of the Northern Fleet radio-intelligence, the adversary aviation deployed: in Hebukten 23 bombers, 12 intelligence craft, 6 fighter planes and 6 transport; in Banak— 7 bombers, 2 fighter planes  and 7 transport; in Tromso — 17 aircraft, in Budo — 12 aircraft, in Narvak 18 aircraft and in Tronheim 34 aircraft “Ju-87” ("Chronicless of the Great Patriotic”… 1999. Quoted from the Internet site www.eismeerfront.com).

The number and types of Luftwaffe combat aircraft of the airdromes Hebukten and Banak are established quite accurately (actually, there were 54 bombers and long-range intelligence craft, 26 fighters Bf-109 Me-110). In any case, no “400 aircraft in the northern part of Norwayand even less so — “600 aircraft in Finlandwere stated in the intelligence summaries from Murmansk.

Conclusion, which may be made based on all these documents, is as follows. The “reliable sources”, on which was based enigmatic Supreme Command Directive of 24 June, were very far from Leningrad and Murmansk, from the Northern front and North fleet headquarters. In a word, reliable sources” were in Moscow. Neither Northern front nor North fleet command identified the concentration of non-existent in reality adversary land and aviation units. Neither Northern front nor North fleet command independently, without instruction from Moscow were preparing to rebuff mythical blows. Whereas the top command clearly demonstrated clear professional unsuitability. Most important decision is made hastily, possible political aftermath is not evaluated even “one move forward”, intelligence is replaced with a collection of pettish rumors, the operation is prepared and conducted counting on blind luck and ends up in a costly crush.

With this discussion the reason, which induced the Supreme Command (i.e., Stalin and his especially trusted advisors) to make 24 June 1941 a decision about carrying out the aviation strike on Finland, could be complete. Except for in the same days in Moscow was arrested and immediately thrown in the torture dungeon Deputy Narkom for the Defence USSR, plenipotentiary representative of the Supreme Command on the North front, former head of the RKKA General headquarters Army General .. Meretskov. This strange coincidence is a reason to come up with one more, very shaky and practically unprovable hypothesis. Those willing can review it in the following Chapter.




A hypothesis, which will be narrated in this Chapter (we are emphasizing once again — the Chapter, which the reader may skip without the slightest damage), is based on the following four assumptions.

1. Repressions, which wave after the wave were rolling on top echelons of Stalin’s nomenclature, including leaders of the army, fleet and military industry, were illegal — but they were not accidental.

If not all then at least many arrest and shootings were caused not by spontaneous flare-ups of Stalin’s blind anger but reflected a ruthless fighting of clans in his closest circle. The beginning of the war changed only “the price of issue”: if earlier the fight was for proximity to the Master and associated with this privileges, for positions, state orders, bonuses and awards, now at stake was life. A deeply correct notice by I Bunich was that “German Generals, risking their lives, set up conspiracies against Hitler whereas Soviet Generals set up conspiracies saving their own life”.

2. The main means of removing competitors was, naturally, slander. In the time of peace (if such word combination may at all be used toward the history of Stalin’s empire) the content of slander could be most variable. It could be “wrecked the delivery of new fighter planes on the inventory”; “in a wrecking way hastened the delivery on the inventory of unsafe and unfitting to requirements air force fighter planes”; “in a wrecking way lowered production plan of armor-piercing shells in order to leave the Red Army unnamed in the face of the enemy”; “in a wrecking way had overblown production plan of armor-piercing shells in order to bring chaos and disorganization in the work of military industry”, etc. After the start of war, especially after SUCH start, the most saleable article in the slander market became accusations in the “loss of vigilance”, “wrecking carelessness”, “criminal inactivity”, etc.

3. Hitler’s leadership — as opposed to Soviet historians — was not at all sure that Finland would enter the war. Besides, there are different ways to “enter the war”. Providing airdromes and anchorages is one level of participation. Letting the German forces through the territory of northern Finland is the other. Total mobilization of all country’s human and economical resources and coming on the offensive by 16 divisions create completely different situation. In Berlin, they understood that the alliance with the Nazi causes substantial antagonism in all layers of the Finnish society. That is why they were very much interested for the “first shot” to be made by the Red Army. At that, this “shot” should be as much as possible noticeable and loud.

4. After 22 June 1941, dozens of high-positioned Red Army commanders changed sides to the enemy. This is no hypothesis, this is a fact. It is not impossible that some Generals (and other leaders close to making most important military decisions) began their cooperation with the adversary even before 22 June 1941.

Having phrased initial assumptions, let us now familiarize closer with main character of the history tragedy.

Kirill Afanasyevich Meretskov was born 7 June 1897 in Nazaryevo village (Zaraysky parish, Ryazan Governorate). Since the age of fifteen, he worked as a metal worker on Moscow factories. In May 1917, not even reaching 20 years of age, joined Bolshevik party. In summer 1918 organized in Sudogda city (Vladimir Governorate) a Red Guard group, with which he participated in the suppression of “kulak mutinies”. Was wounded in engagements, after convalescing was sent to study in just created Academy of the General headquarters. The Civil War continued, and Meretskov, together with other students of the Academy, was several times sent to the front. Sometime in the 1920s he was assistant to head of 6th cavalry division headquarters whose commander was Timoshenko — future Narkom for the defence of the USSR.

After graduation from the Academy in 1921, a young headquarters officer begins a rapid rise on the service ladder. In July 1928, at the age of 31 he becomes deputy head of headquarters in Moscow military district. Then — head of headquarters of Moscow and Belorussian military districts. In Belorussian district, on the border with main at that moment potential adversary — Poland, Meretskov was head of headquarters under Uborevich (one of the brightest Soviet commanders who became in 1937 the main player of the “military-Trotskyist conspiracy”. In January 1935 Meretskov is appointed head of headquarters in the Special Red Banner Far-Eastern army, i.e., head of headquarters to one more future “enemy of the people” — knight of the Red Banner order No. 1 (another information is that order No 1 was awarded to Nestor Makhno), future Marshall Blyukher. In the fall 1936, Meretskov is sent to Spain where he serves as a military advisor at the republican army General headquarters.

Any of these three episodes in the biography: the association with “exposed enemy of the people” Uborevich, the association with “exposed enemy of the people” Blyukher, personal participation in an unsuccessful Stalin’s attempt to secure a footing beyond Pyreneans, would be sufficient for vanishing forever in bloody meet-grinder of 1937—1938. Believe it or not, in addition to everything Meretskov in 1931 was for on-site training in Germany. However, nothing terrible happened. Meretskov continued his unswerving rise, not missing “even one rung”. In September 1938, he is appointed Commander of Volga, and the following year, Leningrad military district. Despite a tragic collapse of developed by him plan of “liberating” Finland, Meretskov is awarded the star of a Hero of the Soviet Union, rank of Army General and in August 1940 becomes head of the RKKA General headquarters.

Above this could be only the position of a Narkom for the Defence of the USSR, but such summit was inaccessible to Meretskov in principle — he was not among the status “heroes of the Civil War”, comrade-in-arms of Voroshilov, Timoshenko, Budenny, Kulik in the 1st Cavalry army, Stalin’s accomplices in punishing Trotsky and Trotskyites. In any case, the position of head of the General headquarters meant access to most important military secrets of the country. Mobilization plan, plans of Red Army strategic unfolding, plans of combat hardware and munition production, operative and mobilization plans of districts — all these super-secret documents went through the hands of head of the General headquarters. Correspondingly, appointment to such position meant the highest trust by Comrade Stalin to a young (43 years) Army General.

January 1941 the curve of Meretskov’s continuous career growth made first, so far quite reversible, bend. Stalin appointed to the position of head of the General headquarters a “rising star” of the Soviet top brass, hero of Halhin-Gol G.. Zhukov. Meretskov’s resignation was more than honorable. He kept the rank of Army General and was appointed a deputy to the Narkom for the Defence USSR for combat preparation of forces. On the eve of a great war it was a very important position, this appointment again testified total trust to Meretskov from Stalin and his closest circle, including the Narkom for the Defence Timoshenko.

21 June 1941 by the decision of the Politbureau CC (i.e., in actuality — decision by Stalin) Meretskov is appointed plenipotentiary representative of the Red Army Supreme command on the North front and immediately goes to the place of the new service in Leningrad. 23 June 1941, in the second day of war, is formed the Supreme Command. At the Command was created the institute of “permanent advisors to the Supreme Command”. Meretskov was among them, together with such trusted by Stalin people as Molotov, Beria, Shaposhnikov, Zhdanov    , Kulik, Malenkov, Mekhlis...

Meretskov’s fall from the summit of authority into a blinding darkness of Lubyanka cellars was lightning-fast and overwhelming. 23 June he is recalled from Leningrad to Moscow and in a few days (exact arrest date is unknown) handed to NKGB executioners. The only possible thing to say with total certainty is the fact that the arrest of a deputy to the Narkom for the Defence could not occur without a direct personal authorization by the “Master”. No “Beria satraps” independently decided such questions (not even saying that during the stated period Comrade Beria did not have direct relationship with the NKGB leadership). Early in September 1941 Meretskov is released and right from the prison cell, again in the position of a representative of the Supreme Command, sent on Karelian front. Soon he is appointed Commander of the 7th army, then Volkhov and Karelian fronts.

Meretskov’s health and forces were irretrievably broken. A common historical legend is that Stalin even allowed mutilated by torture General to report sitting. Khrushchev in his memoirs writes: “When I saw Meretskov last time, it was already not Meretskov but his shadow. Previously he was a young General, physically strong, and now he could barely walk...” Albeit Meretskov did not reach great (and even small) success commanding the fronts, Stalin awarded him with the rank of Marshall (26 October 1944) and knight of the top Commander’s award, order of “Victory” (8 September 1945). In August 1945, Stalin allowed Meretskov to become nominal leader of the 1st Far-Eastern front and the vanquisher of the Japanese Quantun army. The epithet “nominal” is only the statement of a sad truth. Meretskov did not know either troops entrusted to him or the adversary. Last time he was on the Far East 9 years back. And if Japan by that moment had not been already knocked out by the American bombing, such command could have ended very sadly...  But Stalin, apparently, decided to gift to Meretskov a possibility to enter the history of the war in aureole of at least one bright victory.

Many legends grew around the history of a surprising arrest and even more amazing release of .. Meretskov. In particular, one can often read that “Meretskov’s arrest was foredoomed long before June 1941”. As proof of this thesis are quoted rumors that by the moment of arrest “interrogators” have already accumulated testimonies of 40 people about a “wrecking activity” by Meretskov. Such “logic” is based, alas, on elementary misunderstanding of the functioning mechanism of Stalin’s dictatorship. On each without exception top military or party dignitary was continuously accumulated “incriminating evidence”. This system was tuned up and set on “mass production”. At that, the procedure established in the end of 1930s was that NKVD secret agents regularly reported to top Red Army commanders the “incriminating evidence” accumulated on their subordinates. Exposing “testimonies” of 40 or 140 stool pigeons held in secret safe were the same inalienable attribute in living of the top Stalin’s nomenclature as a black service car (whose make was strictly ranked depending on the position), state dacha with inventory numbers on tables and sofas and a clinic closed for lesser mortals...

We will explain this with one extraordinarily bright example. 8 May 1940 Stalin relieved Voroshilov from a position of the Narkom for the Defence. And not simply “relieved” but gave to sign at parting a multi-page “Act of assuming the Narkomat for the defence of the USSR by Com. Timoshenko from Com. Voroshilov” ("Russian archive. The Great Patriotic...", 1994). This amazing document listed a couple dozen of work directions in the defence outfit, for each of which was stated “unsatisfactory status”, “exceptional neglect” and replacement of the business by “paper reports”. This “indictment”, unambiguously testifying that Comrade Voroshilov ruined the defence of the country so rigorously and comprehensively as no enemy agent squeezing into the Kremlin could have done. The document was signed (beside Voroshilov) by the new Narkom for the defence Timoshenko and two CC secretaries, Zhdanov and Malenkov. And what? Did this act testified that “arrest of Voroshilov was already forejudged”? Nothing of the kind — Voroshilov was right away appointed to the topmost position of the leader of the Committee for the Defence at the SNK USSR. Formally speaking, Narkom Timoshenko was his subordinate. 30 June 1941 “Marshall-wrecker” Voroshilov was made a member of the State Committee for the Defence, i.e., was included among those five people (Stalin, Molotov, Voroshilov, Malenkov, Beria), in whose hands was concentrated the absolute authority in the country. Remarkably, neither the Narkom for the defence Timoshenko not then head of the General headquarters Zhukov were among these“five strongest”.

Arrest of the Army general Meretskov was not a unique phenomenon of those insane days. Beginning with the second half of May 1941 in the top echelons of the USSR military leadership rolled, ever more and more expanding, the avalanche of arrests under the so-called “aviators’ case”. In two months, without stopping for war, were arrested:

— three former Red Army air force Commanders (Loktionov , Smushkevich, Rychagov);

— head of the USSR Main directorate of the anti-aircraft defence (Shtern);

— assistant to the air force Supreme Commander for the long range aviation (Proskurov);

— RKKA air force head of headquarters and his deputy (Volodin and Yusupov);

—    Far Eastern front air force Commander (Gusev);

— Leningrad VO Deputy air force Commander (Levin);

—    Northwestern front air force Commander (Ionov);

—    Western front air force Commander (Tayursky);

—    Southwestern front air force Commander and head of headquarters (Ptukhin and Laskin);

—    Moscow VO air force Commander (Pumpur);

— assistant to Orel VO air force Commander (Shakht);

— assistant to Volga VO air force Commander (Alekseyev);

— head of air force Military Academy command and navigators’ personnel (Arzhenukhin);

— head of air force NII (Filin);

— head of aviation armaments NIP (Shevchenko).

This list, of course, is far from complete. It includes only commanders of the topmost rank. Simultaneously with the “aviators’ case” was unfolding (thought at somewhat slower tempo and scale) the “case of artillerists”, under which were arrested Narkom of armaments Vannikov, Narkom of munitions Sergeyev, his deputies Khodyakov, Inyashkin, Shibanov and Khrenkov, Deputy head of the Main artillery directorate Savchenko, his deputies, designers of artillery systems, dozens of other commanders, engineers, executives...

Arrest of Meretskov occurred simultaneously with the arrests of aviation commanders. Which, however, cannot in itself be the proof of an interaction between these “cases”. In any case, one — and very important — difference is in that Meretskov was released whereas all aforementioned accused in the “aviators case” were shot. Shooting was in several “runs”, 16 October 1941 to 23 February 1942, but shot have been everybody. But Meretskov was pardoned by Stalin, which is perhaps, the greatest oddity and enigma in the “Meretskov case”.

Turning now from the grapevine, enigmas and guesses to documents we discover that as of today are known exactly two documents directly related to the story with the arrest and release of Meretskov.

Both these documents were published in the newspaper “Trud” [“Labor”] No. 230 of 14 December 2001. It appears somewhat strange and completely not “academically” but this is reality. The first “document” is information by the leadership of Central FSB archive that the file of the investigatory case of .. Meretskov is destroyed. Exactly so — not lost, not made secret, simply destroyed. The second document is a letter, with which 28 August 1941 Meretskov himself appealed to Stalin. This letter, which in sound logic should have been destroyed together with ostensibly destroyed “Meretskov case”, had not been destroyed. The Central FSB archive graciously provided (and could, we may note, refuse to provide — the archive is departmental, does not belong in the system of the federal archive service, decisions by the pettiest clerks of this outfit are not subject to any appeal) this document to a “Trud” correspondent Sergey Turchenko who published it in the article “Letter from Lefortovo”. Here is the complete text of this letter:

“To CC VKP (b) Secretary Stalin I.V.

At a stressful time for our country when from each citizen is required to give himself completely for the protection of the Motherland I, having some military experience, am isolated and cannot participate in the liberation of our Motherland from the enemy onslaught. Working earlier in responsible positions, I always fulfilled Your assignments conscientiously and at full strength.

I request You once again to trust me, to let me on the front and to any work, which You would find it possible to entrust to me, to prove my devotion to You and Motherland.

I was for a long time preparing for war with Germans, I want to fight with them, I detest them for the insolent attack on our country, give me a possibility to fight, I will revenge to them to the last of my capabilities, will not spare myself to the last drop of blood, will fight to total destruction of the enemy. I will take all measures to be useful to You, to the army and to our great people.

28.VIII.1941. . Meretskov”.

What substantial information could be extracted from this text? Not a word in clear form about reasons of the arrest, about presented accusations. There are no in this letter also so natural under the circumstances words about own innocence, about falsity and baselessness of the presented accusations.

And only in the last paragraph appears a phrase deserving close attention: I was for a long time preparing for war with Germans, I want to fight with them, I detest them for the insolent attack on our country, give me a possibility to fight…” Strange words. The war is in the third month, it is already called Great Patriotic. Two million people from those with legal release from draft under mobilization wrote themselves in people’s guard (official data). And in such a time a professional soldier in the rank of an Army General considers it necessary to prove, persuade, assure Stalin that he “wants to fight with Germans”, that he “detests” them.

Why would it be so? It remains to assume that somebody (possibly, Stalin himself) earlier doubted Meretskov’s desire to “fight with Germans”.

This assumption is not too improbable. At least, a real and documented case is known when Comrade Stalin asked such questions. It was 1 August 1938, at the time of armed conflict with Japanese at sadly renowned Lake Hasan. That time Stalin in a telephone conversation with the Far-Eastern front Commander Blucher asked him such question: Tell me, Com. Blucher, honestly, do you have a desire to fight with the Japanese for real? If you don’t have such desire, tell it straight, as appropriate to a Communist...” ("Russian Archive. The Great Patriotic..., 1994). No doubt, Marshall Blucher responded his question directly, correctly, “as appropriate to a Communist”. But this already could not change the fate prepared for him...

Besides published relatively recently Meretskov’s letter to Stalin, there are also widely known, multiply published memoirs of Marshall Meretskov (Meretskov, 1988). The enigmatic story associated with the arrest and happy deliverance from inevitable, it would appear, shooting is covered in memoirs by total, absolute silence. At the first sight. At more careful reading it is possible to find in Meretskov’s recollections a rather strange fragment, possibly most directly associated with the enigma of the arrest and with the main subject of our study. The style in this case is as important as the content, so the quotation will be unavoidably long: “...Perhaps, millions of Soviet people still remember as they spent the evening before the unforgettable Sunday of 22 June 1941. I also did not forget this evening.

I was summoned by my direct boss, Narkom for the defence, who was last days especially stressed. And albeit I understood the reason for his nervous state, albeit I saw through my own eyes what was going on on the Western border, Narkom’s words unusually piercingly and disturbingly entered my consciousness. S.. Timoshenko said that time:

Possibly, war will begin tomorrow! You will have to be a representative of the Supreme Command in Leningrad military district. Its troops you know well and will be able, if need be, help leadership of the district. The main thing not to yield to provocations.

What is my authority in a case of armed attack? I asked.

Self-possession, first of all. To be able to distinguish a real attack from local incidents and not to allow them to grow over into a war. But be in combat readiness. In a case of attack you know yourself what to do.

So, the previous directive stays. To preserve peace for the country for as long as possible: a year, half a year, a month. We’ll get the harvest in. We’ll erect new defence factories. New mechanized corps will come into service. We will start the production of high-speed aircraft. Maybe, the international situation will improve. And if does not improve, if the war still begins but not now, later, it will be easier to enter it. To gain time at any price! Another month, half a months, another week. War will possibly begin tomorrow. But we have to try to use anything for it not to begin tomorrow. To do maximum possible and even a little of impossible...” (Meretskov, 1988).

In the light of what is known today about plans and actions of the USSR top military-political leadership, insistent, verbose dissertations about “crop harvest” and construction of “new defence factories” look like some delirium. In the evening of 21 June 1941 in the Kremlin they clearly realized that to the beginning of a war remained days or even hours. It was already too late to hope for “improvement of international situation”. It will not be possible either to construct new factories or to harvest crops ripening in the fields before the beginning of combat activities. There could be no longer doubts about it. Troops’ intelligence reported that the Germans were removing barbed wire obstacles on the border and in the air was hanging the ramble from motors of tanks coming to the border. East of the border on the basis of border military districts have already been unfolded fronts whose headquarters, on the order of the Narkom Timoshenko were advancing on the field command points. The time was now counted in hours and minutes, and Deputy to the Narkom for the Defence USSR Army General Meretskov knew all these perfectly. It was not a matter of “harvest” any longer...

All absurd becomes absolutely logical if we only assume that it was not a matter of war with Germany but of war with Finland. Then, this entire long, emotionally strung up monolog becomes quite reasonable. Even if war with Finland begins “a month, half-months, a week” later, this already will give huge advantage to the Red Army. Both Timoshenko and Meretskov at night 21 June understood that Hitler still could jump ahead of them. The Red Army will be forced to enter war in a very hard situation. The mobilization is still not complete (although quite a lot was done within the framework of hidden mobilization). Operative unfolding of force groupings on the western theatre of military operations was only beginning. Dozens of the Second Strategic echelon divisions were still in railway cars scattered over giant expanses from the Far East to Smolensk and Shepetovka. One more adversary (Finland) and one more active front on the northern approach to Leningrad were now totally untimely.

Neither Timoshenko nor Meretskov or Stalin himself expected catastrophe on such scale, which happened in reality. Moscow hoped that even in an environment so unfavourable the Red Army would only slightly move back and then would be able to pass in counteroffensive. This is not a hypothesis, this is a fact. Directive No. 3, sent in troops at 2120 hours 22 June, signed by Timoshenko and Zhukov, set the task to take Lyublin and Suvalki “by the end of 24 June”. Possibly, that was usual “planning-Soviet style”: If you want to get a truck load of bricks — order two, may be they will bring in one. Maybe not 24 June, but 4 July, but Stalin hoped to move combat activities in the adversary territory in the nearest future.

With such ideas about possible evolution of military-political situation, it was extraordinarily important to pull back the start of war with Finland albeit by a couple of weeks. After passing of the Red Army in decisive offensive in the West, the Finnish leadership would think ten times whether they should “tack on” their country to a disintegrating cart of the Third Reich. That is why at night 21 June before Meretskov could be set a task “to do maximum possible and even a touch of impossible” in order for a war with Finland “would not begin tomorrow”.

In the following pages of Meretskov’s memoirs we discover a direct confirmation of the hypothesis that he believed that it was possible to pull back the start of a war with Finland and strove to the implementation of this possibility. “...On the Soviet-Finnish border it was quiet so far. Apparently, Finland was buying time in order to make most favourable for herself decision. But how long did she intend to wait? A month, a week, a day?.. In connection with this I assigned a group of district headquarters officers to estimate what and how much the district may need under various situations: if Finland comes forward straight away, comes forward later or does not come forward at all (emphasis added - M. S.); if we would be sent reinforcement, would not be sent them or we would have to help other districts, etc... In the time of peace, it is impossible to foresee all combinations, which may occur after the beginning of war, especially when the war itself goes not the way it was supposed to. In such cases it is necessary to show maximum efficiency and restructure plans according to specific circumstances...”.

23 June 1941 the direction for maximum possible delay in the beginning of combat activities was in actuality confirmed by the instructions coming in the Northern front and North fleet headquarters “not to overfly and not cross the border on land, not to conduct any combat activities against Finland until a special order”.

Then came the day of 24 June, and somebody reported to Stalin information received from “reliable sources” that on Finnish airdromes concentrated huge forces of the German aviation (600 combat aircraft, i.e., even more than was in reality only in Luftwaffe’s 1st Air fleet). This “somebody” was able to convince Stalin in reliability of his mysterious “sources”. It is possible that after what happened in the morning 22 June on the Western Front there was no need to persuade Stalin for too long. In an environment of overall nervousness and confusion, which reigned in Kremlin those days and hours, a decision was immediately and also without deliberations made to “carry out a preemptive strike on adversary airdromes in Finland”.

Maybe Meretskov, unfamiliar with the reports from enigmatic “reliable sources”, had the imprudence to object. Maybe he simply insufficiently eagerly supported the next wise decision of the omniscient leader [“vozhd”]. In an environment of a “spy hysteria” raised already to the limits of mass insanity, this was sufficient for a question: “Tell me honestly, Comrade Meretskov, as is appropriate to a Communist, do you have a desire to really fight the Germans and their sidekicks? If you don’t have such desire, say it openly...”

Hat is after this happened all that happened in reality.

Who and, the main thing, what for dumped off on Stalin this clear disinformation? There is no answer to this question, and hardly a reliable response to such questions will be found in the foreseeable future. Disinformation could have been inserted through intelligence channels by German special services, very interested in provoking a full-scale war between Finland and the USSR. The people reporting this disinformation to Stalin might not have realized that the adversary was using them for his purposes. It is impossible to eliminate also a direct and recognized betrayal.

On the other hand, everything could have occurred without any participation from the adversary but simply within the framework of the next fit of inter-clan struggle in Stalin’s close circle. Saving himself or striving to “louse up” Timoshenko, somebody could have insistently drawn Stalin’s attention to “myopic and criminal negligence” of the army leadership, which already “slumbered away” one sudden adversary blow and was now preparing to oversleep a second such blow on Leningrad. In a word — the field for guesses and conspirological versions is widely open... Alas, within the framework of available (or better to say, unavailable) source base it is impossible to say anything more definite.

Let us further assume that after some time Stalin received the exhausting proof that the “reliable sources” deceived him. Such proof was the fact of the absence of even a few German aviation raids on Leningrad. Whatever and however he was reported about “brilliant results” of raids on “German airdromes in Finland”, Stalin was not so naïf and so ignorant in military matters to believe that “Stalin’s falcons” at one stroke destroyed onland all 600 adversary aircraft. Absence of raids on Leningrad better than any spy “sources” testified that there is and was no German aviation on the Finnish airdromes. Moreover — and worse — by the end of summer 1941 Stalin received most convincing confirmations that it was no good to provoke Finland for war. In the end August 1941, Finnish troops, not waiting for Stalin’s “concessions”, took completely back all territories lost under conditions of the Moscow peace treaty of 1940, and in Ladoga Karelia they even moved much farther east from borders of 1939 .

Sometimes, although very seldom, Stalin remembered about his devoted servants who were b“slandered by scoundrels”. Seldom, but such happened. It happened, for instance, with arrested 7 June 1941 Narkom of armaments Vannikov. As a response gratitude, Comrade Vannikov headed later Soviet “atom project” and handed to Comrade Stalin the “munition” of immeasurable might. And early in September 1941 the fate also smiled on Meretskov.


[1] , . –  - .

[2] Anti-aircraft defense.

[3] Literally, “to hide the ends under the water”

[4] Meaning in the exactly opposite direction.

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Mark Solonin. 25 June. Stupidity or aggression? Part 3
Part 3. TEN DAYS OF SUMMER 1941 TUESDAY, 17 JUNE That fearsome year, day of 17 June was a Tuesday. Usual summer work day. Headers of the central Soviet newspapers breathed with serenity quite close to boredom. The editorial in Izvestiya was entitled: On Kolkhoz consumer goods and local initiative.
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