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Lapland war 1944-45: Germans out of Finland

Discussion in 'Winter and Continuation Wars' started by Kai-Petri, Jun 5, 2003.

  1. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    [​IMG]


    The Lapland War is a name used for the hostilities between Finland and Germany between September 1944 and April 1945. It carries its name since it was fought in the northernmost province of Finland, Lapland.

    As early as the summer of 1943, the German high command began making plans for the eventuality that Finland might make a separate peace agreement with the Soviet Union. The Germans planned to withdraw their forces northward in order to shield the nickel mines near Petsamo. During the winter of 1943-1944, the Germans improved the roads from northern Norway to northern Finland by extensive use of POW labour (many captured in southern Europe and still in summer uniform; casualties were high), and they accumulated stores in that region. Thus the Germans were ready in September 1944, when Finland made peace with the Soviet Union.

    The conditions set by the Soviet Union for the cease fire included a paragraph stating that the Finns had to drive the German forces out of Finland in two weeks. This demand gave rise to several difficulties for the Finns. Firstly, they had to start disarming and demobilize their own armed forces (once again according to the ceasefire terms). Secondly, two weeks was a very short time and the Germans would not allow themselves to be dislodged that easy in an eventual conflict.
    The Finns as well as the Germans were under the impression that the coming conflict would be handled in a civilized manner, keeping the collateral and military losses to a minimum. The scorched earth policy were to be adopted sparsely with only bridges and railroads being destroyed during the German retreat.

    Waldemar Erfurth, the German liaison at the Finnish Headquarters, received insurances that the German Mountain Army would have the Finns support in their retreat. Colonel Usko Sakari Haahti was dispatched to the German HQ in Rovaniemi in order to get the operations to run smoothly. A demarcation line was set up running along Ule river and on to the southeast. All German units south of this line were to be withdrawn quickly, while the Finnish 15th brigade and 6th division followed without making contact with the "enemy".

    By mid-September 1944 things started to look somewhat bleaker. The negotiators in Moscow were put under increasing pressure. The demands in the ceasefire act were changed and now the Finns had to intern the German forces still in northern Finland. After a German attempt to capture the island Hogland in the southern parts of Finland, Mannerheim demanded that the German forces left the costal areas around the Gulf of Bothnia as well as the areas around Suomussalmi. On September 17 the Germans agreed. Two days later the interim peace treaty was signed in Moscow and the Finnish troops withdrew to the other side of the new border. An allied control commission were sent to the Finnish headquarters in St Michel and the pressure was increased on the Finns to push the Germans out and intern those that did not leave. This pressure more or less forced the Finnish high command into action. The Finnish Armored division were sent to Lapland together with the 3rd, 6th and 11th divisions and the Border Jaeger brigade. By the 21st, none of the above units were involved in any fighting, but they followed the German retreat as best they could.

    On the night of September 30, the Finns set off for Tornio with boats and the next day they disembarked in the harbor. A small detachment of Germans were captured by elements of the Jaeger company. The event took place to the north of the agreed upon "demarcation line" and the German commander Rendulic, demanded that the prisoners should be released immediately or the agreement between the two sides would be annulled, and a full scale war would be the consequence. The deadline for the release of the Germans passed and as a consequence large parts of Lapland would be destroyed according to the principles of the scorched earth tactics.(?)

    In addition to the property losses, estimated as equivalent to about US$ 300 million (in 1945 dollars), about 100,000 inhabitants became refugees, a situation that added to the problems of postwar reconstruction

    The German evacuation of Rovaniemi began on October 14 and when the Finnish forces captured the city two days later, fires were still raging everywhere.

    As November approached, even more Finnish soldiers had to be sent home due to the peace treaty with the Russians. The final act of the Lapland war had to be played out by conscripts and regular officers. After a careful advance the Finns arrived in front of the German "Sturmbock" position defended by the 7th Gebirgsdivision. Due to the abysmal personel situation on the Finnish side, the operations virtually ceased after a few attempts to negotiate the German defenses, and it wasn't until the Germans pulled back on January 16 1945 that the position was overrun. From the "Sturmbock" line the Germans retreated to the Lynge position in Norway. The defense line did stretch into Finnish territory, but by the end of April, they started to abandoning these positions too, and on April 25 the Lapland war was officially over.



    Finnish losses in the Lapland war 15.9.1944 - 25.4.1945:

    Killed or mortally wounded 774
    Captured or missing 262
    TOTAL 1 036

    German losses in the Lapland war

    The German losses in the Lapland war amounted to approx. 1 000 killed, 2 000 wounded and 1 300 taken prisoner.


    http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lapland_war

    http://www.skalman.nu/third-reich/awards-lapland.htm

    http://www30.brinkster.com/huttunen/laplos.htm
     
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  2. C.Evans

    C.Evans Expert

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    Another of your greats Kai!!!

    I've wanted to study more on the Lappland war. I saw a Documentary on it once about 3 years ago on the History Channel.

    The Germans had to move about with all or most of their forces moving about looking like a giant amoeba. The Germans had also constructed a raised highway made of wood. Which I thought was a construction wonder.

    I wonder if this "raised highway" still exists?
     
  3. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Carl,

    don´t think the wooden highway is there anymore. At least haven´t heard of that...

    And as we can see from the casualties it was kinda "friendly" war even though the Germans burned Lapland to the ground. Actually I see no good reason for that except some kinda Hitler´s order to do the same in Northern Finland as in Russia.A group of prisoners leading to it-maybe.But feels like exaggerating this action, or maybe an "invented" reason?

    :confused:
     
  4. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    Very interesting, Kai! I did not know of that war. Fortunately, the surrender of Finland did not happen as that of Italy. It would not have been nice to fight the Finnish on full scale at their territory. [​IMG]
     
  5. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Second World War ended for Finland on 27.4.1945 as the last German troops were finally driven out of Lapland.

    [​IMG]

    Finnish war flag is being raised by the road to Skibotten near the Norwegian border on 27.4.1945 to mark the end of Lapland War.

    http://hkkk.fi/~yrjola/war/finland/end.html
     
  6. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    The Lapland war badge and cloth worn by the Finnish troops , the latter of which was worn on the shoulder , I think.
     
  7. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    A fascinating story Kai, I didn't know Lapland was burnt to the ground and that the Germans stayed in Finland almost up to V.E. Day.
     
  8. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    The Germans left "greetings" like these wherever they burnt cities down to the ground in Lapland...
     
  9. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    Not very friendly....thanks for nothing.
     
  10. Tomcat

    Tomcat The One From Down Under

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    Cheers for that mate, it is great to read about it.
     
  11. hyde

    hyde Member

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    Yes and no actually. At the time there was three parallel roads in Lapland leading towards Norway. These roads were small and not paved so they weren't for supporting hundreds of military vehicles. The Germans used logs and blanks to support some marshy and soft stretches of the road.

    After the war when the government started to rebuild the infrastructure the main roads were given a high priority and they usually just paved the new roads on top of the old ones. So the current roads are almost 100% the same the Germans used/build during their retreat.
    And by almost I mean that every now and then there is a few hundred meter stretches of the old road looping around the straight build new road.
     
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  12. Paul Errass

    Paul Errass Member

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    Interesting stuff Kai , taking out the political and Wartime situation i always find it sad that on a human and soldierly level Finnish and German troops who had fought together for so long ended up fighting each other during the retreat.

    cheers

    Paul
     
  13. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    I got the Finnish Lapland clasp from Kai some time ago.
     
  14. ksugeeth

    ksugeeth Member

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    interesting stuff.. unlike the germans, russians, the british or the english ( and her commonwealth), what would have been the mindset of the italian, french, or finnish soldier having to change his view of the enemy who was earlier his own ally, when things went wrong? would he still manage to keep the same feeling of patriotism towards his leader?
     
  15. Lotvonen

    Lotvonen Member

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    Rank-and-file Finnish soldiers did not particularly love German soldiers. The main gripe, that the Soviet propaganda utilized, was that (too) many Finnish women fell to the charm of Germans. In 1944 Finnish troops were battle-proven and experienced, used to take orders without much thinking. When they then saw literally everything burned down and mined by Germans, there was no problem fighting their previous "Waffenbrueder".
     
  16. hyde

    hyde Member

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    Yeah sure, but it still was something totally different than with the Russians. They were never considered to be an enemy. They were not loved, but they certainly were not hated either. Both my granfathers were Laplanders, both of their houses were burned, both of them fought alongside the Germans in the 6th Infantry Division and neither of them hated the Germans. Infact they always said that the Germans saved Finland in 1940-44. So even with Lapland war there still was a strong positive sentiment towards the "Aseveljet".
     
  17. C.Evans

    C.Evans Expert

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    Sorry I had not seen this before but thank you very much for the information ;-))
     
  18. yan taylor

    yan taylor Member

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    I have found an old article on a Finnish Stug III Company, The Germans supplied the Stugs to Finland to give them some armour to take on the Russian tanks, I am not sure if the Germans actually sold these vehicles to Finland or were given to them, But if they were used in action against there former owners it must have been a shock to the German troops who had to take on these AFVs.
     
  19. hyde

    hyde Member

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    Finns bought 59 Sturmgeschütz III's, mostly the model G, during 1943-44. The price was set at 165 000 reichmarks a piece. All were delivered but only 29 took part in the Continuation war and although the Stug battalion was placed in the north during the Lapland war they didn't see any action worth mentioning. The bad terrain, strong German anti-tank capability and demobilisation of the veteran crews being the main reasons for it.
    The Finnish armoured brigade had T-26, T-34, Pzkpfw IV and Stug III tanks in Lapland. The brigade scored one captured French Renault tank as destroyed and lost two of its own tanks due breakdowns during the entire Lapland war. The brigade was disbanded soon after Rovaniemi fell in October.
     
  20. yan taylor

    yan taylor Member

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    Thanks Hyde, so the Germans did sell there armour to its allies, I thought I have seen somewhere that they also sold weapons to the Italians too, they must have made some cash over the war years, they also supplied weapons to Hungary & Romania, I dont know about Bulgaria.
     

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