Battle of the Kerch Peninsula
The Battle of the Kerch Peninsula, which commenced with the Soviet Kerch-Feodosia landing operation and ended with the German Operation Bustard Hunt, was a World War II battle between Erich von Manstein's German and Romanian 11th Army and the Soviet Crimean Front forces in the Kerch Peninsula, in the eastern part of the Crimea. It began on 26 December 1941 with an amphibious landing operation by two Soviet armies intended to break the Siege of Sevastopol. Axis forces first contained the Soviet beachhead throughout the winter and interdicted its naval supply lines through aerial bombing. From January through April, the Crimean Front launched repeated offensives against the 11th Army, all of which failed with heavy losses; the Red Army lost 352,000 men in the attacks. Superior German artillery firepower was responsible for the Soviet debacle. On 8 May 1942, the Axis struck with great force in a major counteroffensive codenamed Trappenjagd which concluded by around 19 May 1942 with the liquidation of the Soviet defending forces.
Manstein used a large concentration of airpower armed infantry divisions, concentrated artillery bombardments and amphibious assaults to break through the Soviet front in its southern portion in 210 minutes, swing north with the 22nd Panzer Division to encircle the Soviet 51st Army on 10 May and annihilate it on 11 May. The remnants of the 44th and 47th Armies were pursued to Kerch, where the last pockets of organized Soviet resistance were eradicated through German aerial and artillery firepower by 19 May; the decisive element in the German victory was the campaign of airstrikes against the Crimean Front by Wolfram von Richthofen's 800 aircraft-strong VIII. Fliegerkorps, which flew an average of 1,500 sorties per day in support of Trappenjagd and attacked Soviet field positions, armored units, troop columns, evacuation ships and supply lines. German bombers used up to 6,000 canisters of SD-2 anti-personnel cluster munitions to kill masses of fleeing Soviet infantrymen. Manstein's outnumbered 11th Army suffered 7,588 casualties, while the Crimean Front lost 176,566 men, 258 tanks, 1,133 artillery pieces and 315 aircraft in three armies comprising twenty-one divisions.
Total Soviet casualties during the five month-long battle amounted to 570,000 men, while Axis losses were 38,000. Trappenjagd was one of the battles preceding the German summer offensive, its successful conclusion allowed the Axis to concentrate their forces on Sevastopol, conquered within six weeks. The Kerch Peninsula was used a launching pad by German forces to cross the Kerch Strait on 2 September 1942 during Operation Blücher II, a part of the German drive to capture the Caucasus oilfields. On 8 December 1941, the Soviet supreme command, ordered General-Lieutenant Dmitry Timofeyevich Kozlov's Transcaucasian Front to begin planning for a major operation to cross the Kerch Strait and link up with the Soviet Separate Coastal Army holed up in Sevastopol, thereby liberating the Crimea from the Germans; the ambitious operation, the first major amphibious operation in Soviet history, was founded upon Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin's belief in the German Wehrmacht's imminent collapse. The plan was drawn up by the Transcaucasian Front's chief of staff General-Major Fyodor Tolbukhin.
Tolbukhin's plan was too complicated for Soviet Navy's abilities. It was based on multiple small landings at separate locations at separate times instead of one large, simultaneous landing. Five transport groups from Rear-Admiral Sergey Gorshkov's Azov Flotilla would land 7,500 soldiers from the 224th Rifle Division and 302nd Mountain Rifle Division of the 51st Army on eight isolated beaches north and south of Kerch. After the Germans were distracted by this, the 44th Army would land at Feodosiya in the German rear. Naval gunfire support would be provided by the Black Sea Fleet; the Soviet Air Forces, would contribute air cover from the Taman Peninsula. The Soviets had the men and troop transports on hand but were compelled to use fishing trawlers for the actual landings due to the lack of landing craft, had little experience with large-scale joint operations and were impeded by the stormy winter weather. A German Messerschmitt Bf 110 reconnaissance aircraft noted the buildup of Soviet naval forces and reported it to Lieutenant General Hans Graf von Sponeck's XXXXII Army Corps headquarters.
Sponeck issued a general alert for enemy amphibious landings in the Kerch Peninsula. The mass of Sponeck's units had been transferred for the assault on Sevastopol and he had only the 46th Infantry Division under Lieutenant General Kurt Himer who had assumed his command on 17 December, two coastal artillery battalions equipped with obsolete World War I artillery pieces, a combat engineer regiment and a Luftwaffe anti-aircraft battalion; the 46th Infantry Division up to strength, was woefully overextended holding down the entire Kerch Peninsula against potential Soviet landings. Sponeck's only backup was the Romanian 8th Cavalry Brigade near Alushta. On the evening of 25 December 1941, the 224th Rifle Division and 83rd Naval Infantry Brigade were packed into small craft on the Taman Peninsula and began to pass the Kerch Strait. Group 2 disembarked at Cape Khroni to the northeast of Kerch, it consisted of the gunboat Don, the transports Krasny Flot and Pyenay, a tugboat, two motor barges that carried three T-26 light tanks and a few artillery pieces, 16 fishing trawlers.
Whaleboats were substituted for landing craft, resulting in tediously slow landings and the drowning of men and equipment. 697 men from the 2nd Battalion of the 160th Rifle Regiment landed at Cape
Soviet evacuation of Tallinn
The Soviet evacuation of Tallinn called Tallinn disaster or Russian Dunkirk, was a Soviet operation to evacuate the 190 ships of the Baltic Fleet, units of the Red Army, pro-Soviet civilians from the fleet's encircled main base of Tallinn in Soviet-occupied Estonia during August 1941. Soviet forces had occupied Estonia in June 1940. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union began on 22 June 1941, German forces advanced through the Soviet-occupied Baltic states, by the end of August the Estonian capital of Tallinn was surrounded by German forces, while a large part of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet was bottled up in Tallinn harbour. In expectation of a Soviet breakout, the Kriegsmarine and the Finnish Navy had started on 8 August 1941 to lay minefields off Cape Juminda on the Lahemaa coast. While Soviet minesweepers tried to clear a path for convoys through the minefields, German coastal artillery installed a battery of 150 mm guns near Cape Juminda and the Finnish navy gathered their 2nd Motor Torpedo Boat Flotilla with patrol boats VMV9, VMV10, VMV11 and VMV17.
At the same time the German 3. Schnellbootflottille with E-boats S-26, S-27, S-39, S-40 and S-101 was concentrated at Suomenlinna outside Helsinki. German Junkers Ju 88 bombers from Kampfgruppe 806 based on airfields in Estonia were put on alert. On 19 August the final German assault on Tallinn began. During the night of 27/28 August 1941 the Soviet 10th Rifle Corps disengaged from the enemy and boarded transports in Tallinn; the embarkation was protected by smoke screens, the mine-sweeping in the days before the evacuation began was ineffective due to bad weather, there were no Soviet aircraft available for protecting the embarkation. This, together with heavy German shelling and aerial bombardment killed at least 1,000 of the evacuees in the harbour. Twenty large transports, eight auxiliary ships, nine small transports, a tanker, a tug, a tender were organized into four convoys, protected by the Soviet cruiser Kirov, with Admiral Vladimir Tributs on board, two flotilla leaders, nine destroyers, three torpedo boats, twelve submarines, ten modern and fifteen obsolete minehunters, 22 minesweepers, 21 submarine chasers, three gun boats, a minelayer, thirteen patrol vessels and eleven torpedo boats.
On 28 August KG 77 and KGr 806 sank the 2,026 grt steamer Vironia, the 2,317 grt Lucerne, the 1,423 grt Atis Kronvalds and the 2,250 grt ice breaker Krisjanis Valdemars. The rest of the Soviet fleet were forced to change course; this took them through a mined area. As a result, 21 Soviet warships, including five destroyers, sank. On 29 August, the Luftwaffe, now reinforced with KG 76, KG 4 and KG 1, accounted for the transport ships Vtoraya Pyatiletka and Leningradsovet sunk. In addition, the ships Ivan Papanin, Saule and the Serp i Molot were damaged by I./KG 4, which sank three more. Some 5,000 Soviet soldiers died; that evening the armada was attacked by Finnish and German torpedo boats, the chaotic situation made organized mine sweeping impossible. Darkness fell at 22:00 and the Soviet armada stopped and anchored at midnight in the mined water. Early on 29 August Ju 88 bombers attacked the remains of the convoys off Suursaari, sinking two transports. Meanwhile, the undamaged ships made best speed to reach the safety of the Kronstadt batteries.
The damaged merchant ship Kazakhstan disembarked 2300 men of the 5000 on board before steaming on to Kronstadt. In the following days ships operating from Suursaari rescued 12,160 survivors; the Soviet evacuation of Tallinn succeeded in evacuating 165 ships, 28,000 passengers and 66,000 tons of equipment. At least 12,400 are thought to have drowned in circumstances little known outside the former Soviet Union; the event was long. The evacuation may have been the bloodiest naval disaster since the battle of Lepanto. On 25 August 2001, a memorial was unveiled at Juminda. Latvian Icebreaker Krišjānis Valdemārs Soviet Submarine S 5 - 28 August 1941, Gulf of Finland Soviet Submarine S 6 Soviet Submarine Shch 301 - 28 August 1941, off Cape Juminda Soviet Destroyer Yakov Sverdlov - 28 August 1941, off Mohni island Soviet Destroyer Kalinin - 28 August 1941, off Cape Juminda Soviet Destroyer Artem - 28 August 1941, off Cape Juminda Soviet Destroyer Volodarski - 28 August 1941, off Cape Juminda Soviet Destroyer Skoryi - 28 August 1941, off Cape Juminda Patrol vessel Sneg - 28 August 1941, off Cape Juminda Patrol vessel Tsiklon- 28 August 1941, off Cape Juminda Gunboat I-8 - 28 August 1941, off Cape Juminda Gunboat Amgun Minesweeper No. 71 - 28 August 1941, off Cape Juminda Minesweeper No. 42 - 28 August 1941, off Cape Juminda Minesweeper T-214, off Cape Juminda Minesweeper T-216, off Cape Juminda Minelayer TTS-56 Minelayer TTS-71 Minelayer TTS-42 Netlayer Vyatka Netlayer Onega Guard ship Saturn Submarine chaser MO 202 Motor torpedo boat TK 103 25 large and 9 smaller merchantmen, including: Estonian transport SS Eestirand - 24 August 1941, off Prangli Island VT -511/ALEV VT-512/TOBOL VT-547/JARVAMAA EVERITA VT-518/LUGA VT-512/KUMARI BALKHASH JANA VT -584/NAISSAAR VT -537/ERGONAUTIS VT -530/ELLA AUSMA Tanker TN-12.
Mines damaged destroyer Minsk, destroyers Gordy and Slavnyi, minesweeper T-205 and other ships. List of shipwrecks in August 1941 Bergstrom, Christer. Barbarossa - The Air Battle: July–December 1941. London: Chevron/Ian Allan. ISBN 978-1-85780-270-2. Mati Õun: Juminda miinilahing 1941 – maailmasündmus meie koduvetes (Juminda sea battle
Eastern Front (World War II)
The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of conflict between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union and other Allies, which encompassed Central Europe, Eastern Europe, Northeast Europe, Southeast Europe from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945. It has been known as the Great Patriotic War in the former Soviet Union and modern Russia, while in Germany it was called the Eastern Front, or the German-Soviet War by outside parties; the battles on the Eastern Front of the Second World War constituted the largest military confrontation in history. They were characterized by unprecedented ferocity, wholesale destruction, mass deportations, immense loss of life due to combat, exposure and massacres; the Eastern Front, as the site of nearly all extermination camps, death marches and the majority of pogroms, was central to the Holocaust. Of the estimated 70-85 million deaths attributed to World War II, over 30 million, the majority of them civilian, occurred on the Eastern Front.
The Eastern Front was decisive in determining the outcome in the European theatre of operations in World War II serving as the main reason for the defeat of Nazi Germany and the Axis nations. The two principal belligerent powers were Germany and the Soviet Union, along with their respective allies. Though never engaged in military action in the Eastern Front, the United States and the United Kingdom both provided substantial material aid in the form of the Lend-Lease to the Soviet Union; the joint German–Finnish operations across the northernmost Finnish–Soviet border and in the Murmansk region are considered part of the Eastern Front. In addition, the Soviet–Finnish Continuation War may be considered the northern flank of the Eastern Front. Germany and the Soviet Union remained unsatisfied with the outcome of World War I. Soviet Russia had lost substantial territory in Eastern Europe as a result of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, where the Bolsheviks in Petrograd conceded to German demands and ceded control of Poland, Estonia, Latvia and other areas, to the Central Powers.
Subsequently, when Germany in its turn surrendered to the Allies and these territories were liberated under the terms of the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 at Versailles, Soviet Russia was in the midst of a civil war and the Allies did not recognize the Bolshevik government, so no Soviet Russian representation attended. Adolf Hitler had declared his intention to invade the Soviet Union on 11 August 1939 to Carl Jacob Burckhardt, League of Nations Commissioner, by saying: Everything I undertake is directed against the Russians. If the West is too stupid and blind to grasp this I shall be compelled to come to an agreement with the Russians, beat the West and after their defeat turn against the Soviet Union with all my forces. I need the Ukraine as happened in the last war; the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact signed in August 1939 was a non-aggression agreement between Germany and the Soviet Union. It contained a secret protocol aiming to return Central Europe to the pre–World War I status quo by dividing it between Germany and the Soviet Union.
Finland, Estonia and Lithuania would return to the Soviet control, while Poland and Romania would be divided. The Eastern Front was made possible by the German–Soviet Border and Commercial Agreement in which the Soviet Union gave Germany the resources necessary to launch military operations in Eastern Europe. On 1 September 1939 Germany invaded Poland, starting World War II. On 17 September, the Soviet Union invaded Eastern Poland, and, as a result, Poland was partitioned among Germany, the Soviet Union and Lithuania. Soon after that, the Soviet Union demanded significant territorial concessions from Finland, after Finland rejected Soviet demands, the Soviet Union attacked Finland on 30 November 1939 in what became known as the Winter War – a bitter conflict that resulted in a peace treaty on 13 March 1940, with Finland maintaining its independence but losing its eastern parts in Karelia. In June 1940 the Soviet Union illegally annexed the three Baltic states; the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact ostensibly provided security to the Soviets in the occupation both of the Baltics and of the north and northeastern regions of Romania, although Hitler, in announcing the invasion of the Soviet Union, cited the Soviet annexations of Baltic and Romanian territory as having violated Germany's understanding of the Pact.
Moscow partitioned the annexed Romanian territory between the Ukrainian and Moldavian Soviet republics. Adolf Hitler had argued in his autobiography Mein Kampf for the necessity of Lebensraum: acquiring new territory for Germans in Eastern Europe, in particular in Russia, he envisaged settling Germans there, as according to Nazi ideology the Germanic people constituted the "master race", while exterminating or deporting most of the existing inhabitants to Siberia and using the remainder as slave labour. Hitler as early as 1917 had referred to the Russians as inferior, believing that the Bolshevik Revolution had put the Jews in power over the mass of Slavs, who were, in Hitler's opinion, incapable of ruling themselves but instead being ruled by Jewish masters; the Nazi leadership, saw the war against the Soviet Union as a struggle between the ideologies of Nazism and Jewish Bolshevism, ensuring territorial expansion for the Germanic Übermensch, who according to Nazi ideology were the Aryan Herrenvolk, at the expense of
Battle of Uman
The Battle of Uman was the German offensive operation against the 6th and 12th Soviet Armies — under the command of Lieutenant General I. N. Muzychenko and Major General P. G. Ponedelin, respectively; the battle occurred during the Kiev defensive operation between the elements of the Red Army's Southwestern Front, retreating from the Lwow salient, German Army Group South commanded by Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, as part of Operation Barbarossa on the Eastern Front during World War II. The Soviet forces were under overall command of the Southwestern Direction, commanded by Marshal Semyon Budyonny, which included the Southwestern Front commanded by Colonel General Mikhail Kirponos and Southern Front commanded by General Ivan Tyulenev; the battle finished by the encirclement and annihilation of 6th and 12th armies to the southeast of the Uman city. In the initial weeks of Operation Barbarossa, Army Group South had advanced East, defeating several Soviet mechanized corps at the great tank Battle of Brody 23–30 June.
The armies of the Southwestern Front were ordered to retreat to the line of fortifications along the old Soviet-Polish border of 1939. III and XXXXVIII Motorized corps of the 1st Panzer Group wedged in between the 5th and 6th Soviet armies. On July 5, XXXXVIII Motorized Corps cracked a weak defense on the Stalin Line and began to move embracing the right flank of the 6th Army. A new Soviet counter-attack was attempted on July 9 in the direction of Berdychiv to prevent further advance of the 1st Panzer Group to the east; the fighting continued until July 16, the 11th Panzer Division lost 2,000 men, but Soviet troops failed and on July 16 the German offensive continued. Further to the north, the mobile units of the III Motorized Corps overcame the Stalin Line and reached the approaches to Kiev; the command of Army Group South intended to capture Kiev while Hitler and the High Command insisted on a strike in the southern direction, which guaranteed the encirclement of the Soviet troops in conjunction with the 11th Army.
The compromise solution proposed the capture of Belaya Tserkov and after that a strike in the south-west direction towards the 11th Army. Such a decision left the possibility, instead of a strike to the southwest, to continue the offensive from Kiev farther east, beyond the Dnieper, but Kiev was secured by a separate fortified area, the rear communications of the III Motorized Corps were under attack from the 5th Army. So, in the opening days of Battle of Uman the task of encircling the 6th and 12th armies from the north and the east was to be done by divisions of the XXXXVIII Motorized Corps only. To help them, the third unit of the 1st Panzer Group, the XIV Motorized Corps, was transferred from the south and committed to action between the III and XXXXVIII Motorized corps in the direction to the Belaya Tserkov. Infantry units of the German 6th Field Army on the north hastened to replace the advanced tank units, the 17th Field Army on the west continued to pursue retreating forces of the Soviet 6th and 12th armies.
The advance of the 11th Field Army from the Soviet-Romanian border was suspended by Soviet counterblows, its attack from the south towards Vinnytsia was postponed. Most of the Soviet forces were depleted, having withdrawn under heavy assaults from the Luftwaffe from the Polish border, the mechanised units were reduced to a single "Corps" after the Brody counter-offensive, its mechanised infantry now fighting as ordinary rifle troops; the Axis forces were divided into those of 1st Panzer Group that had suffered significant losses in matériel, but retained combat effectiveness, the large infantry formations of the German and Romanian armies that attempted to advance from the West to meet the armored troops north of Crimea, the initial strategic objective of Army Group South. Since July 15, the XXXXVIII Motorized Corps of Wehrmacht repulsed the counter-attacks of the Soviet "Berdichev Group" and resumed the offensive; the 16th Panzer Division seized the city of Kazatin. On the left, the 11th Panzer division was in the gap between Soviet armies, so by July 16 it made a deep breakthrough to the South-East.
By July 18, the division advanced another 50 km, crossed the Ros' River and captured the settlement of Stavishche. The 16th Panzer Division, forced to repel counterattacks of the Soviet 6th Army, advanced slower, but by July 17 its forward detachment seized the Ros' station, where was an important Soviet base of rear services support. July 18, units of the 6th army managed to recapture the station. Further to the North, the XIV Motorized Corps advanced to Belaya Tserkov, but met counterattacks by the 26th Army; this army had no time to prepare the offensive, its divisions didn't have time to concentrate. They couldn't beat out the 9th Panzer Division from Belaya Tserkov, they for a short time captured Fastov. The advance of the 26th Army soon stopped, but its attacks contained the mobile units of the 1st Panzer Group. A similar situation was with the Panzer divisions of the III Motorized Corps. Halder, the chief of OKH, irritably wrote on July 18 that "the operation of the Army Group «South» is losing its shape", that "enveloping flank of the 1st Panzer Group is still hang about in the area of Berdichev and Belaya Tserkov".
At the same time the 17th Field Army from the West was approaching too and Halder feared that the future "cauldron" will not trap significant enemy forces. Meanwhile, the 17th Field Army tried to implement a shortcut version of the original plan, according to which the Soviet troops were to be surrounded to the
World War II
World War II known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries; the major participants threw their entire economic and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China, it included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, the only use of nuclear weapons in war. Japan, which aimed to dominate Asia and the Pacific, was at war with China by 1937, though neither side had declared war on the other. World War II is said to have begun on 1 September 1939, with the invasion of Poland by Germany and subsequent declarations of war on Germany by France and the United Kingdom.
From late 1939 to early 1941, in a series of campaigns and treaties, Germany conquered or controlled much of continental Europe, formed the Axis alliance with Italy and Japan. Under the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union partitioned and annexed territories of their European neighbours, Finland and the Baltic states. Following the onset of campaigns in North Africa and East Africa, the fall of France in mid 1940, the war continued between the European Axis powers and the British Empire. War in the Balkans, the aerial Battle of Britain, the Blitz, the long Battle of the Atlantic followed. On 22 June 1941, the European Axis powers launched an invasion of the Soviet Union, opening the largest land theatre of war in history; this Eastern Front trapped most crucially the German Wehrmacht, into a war of attrition. In December 1941, Japan launched a surprise attack on the United States as well as European colonies in the Pacific. Following an immediate U. S. declaration of war against Japan, supported by one from Great Britain, the European Axis powers declared war on the U.
S. in solidarity with their Japanese ally. Rapid Japanese conquests over much of the Western Pacific ensued, perceived by many in Asia as liberation from Western dominance and resulting in the support of several armies from defeated territories; the Axis advance in the Pacific halted in 1942. Key setbacks in 1943, which included a series of German defeats on the Eastern Front, the Allied invasions of Sicily and Italy, Allied victories in the Pacific, cost the Axis its initiative and forced it into strategic retreat on all fronts. In 1944, the Western Allies invaded German-occupied France, while the Soviet Union regained its territorial losses and turned toward Germany and its allies. During 1944 and 1945 the Japanese suffered major reverses in mainland Asia in Central China, South China and Burma, while the Allies crippled the Japanese Navy and captured key Western Pacific islands; the war in Europe concluded with an invasion of Germany by the Western Allies and the Soviet Union, culminating in the capture of Berlin by Soviet troops, the suicide of Adolf Hitler and the German unconditional surrender on 8 May 1945.
Following the Potsdam Declaration by the Allies on 26 July 1945 and the refusal of Japan to surrender under its terms, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August respectively. With an invasion of the Japanese archipelago imminent, the possibility of additional atomic bombings, the Soviet entry into the war against Japan and its invasion of Manchuria, Japan announced its intention to surrender on 15 August 1945, cementing total victory in Asia for the Allies. Tribunals were set up by fiat by the Allies and war crimes trials were conducted in the wake of the war both against the Germans and the Japanese. World War II changed the political social structure of the globe; the United Nations was established to foster international co-operation and prevent future conflicts. The Soviet Union and United States emerged as rival superpowers, setting the stage for the nearly half-century long Cold War. In the wake of European devastation, the influence of its great powers waned, triggering the decolonisation of Africa and Asia.
Most countries whose industries had been damaged moved towards economic expansion. Political integration in Europe, emerged as an effort to end pre-war enmities and create a common identity; the start of the war in Europe is held to be 1 September 1939, beginning with the German invasion of Poland. The dates for the beginning of war in the Pacific include the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War on 7 July 1937, or the Japanese invasion of Manchuria on 19 September 1931. Others follow the British historian A. J. P. Taylor, who held that the Sino-Japanese War and war in Europe and its colonies occurred and the two wars merged in 1941; this article uses the conventional dating. Other starting dates sometimes used for World War II include the Italian invasion of Abyssinia on 3 October 1935; the British historian Antony Beevor views the beginning of World War II as the Battles of Khalkhin Gol fought between Japan and the fo
Arctic naval operations of World War II
The Arctic Circle defining the "midnight sun" encompasses the Atlantic Ocean from the northern edge of Iceland to the Bering Strait. The area is considered part of the Battle of the Atlantic or the European Theatre of World War II. Pre-war navigation focused on the international ore trade from Narvik and Petsamo. Soviet settlements along the coast and rivers of the Barents Sea and Kara Sea relied upon summer coastal shipping for supplies from railheads at Arkhangelsk and Murmansk; the Soviet Union extended the Northern Sea Route past the Taymyr Peninsula to the Bering Strait in 1935. The Winter War opened the northern flank of the eastern front of World War II. Arctic naval presence was dominated by the Soviet Northern Fleet of a few destroyers with larger numbers of submarines and torpedo cutters supported by icebreakers; the success of the German invasion of Norway provided the Kriegsmarine with naval bases from which capital ships might challenge units of the Royal Navy Home Fleet. Luftwaffe anti-shipping aircraft of Kampfgeschwader 26 and Kampfgeschwader 30 operated intermittently from Norwegian airfields, while routine reconnaissance was undertaken by Küstenfliegergruppen aircraft including Heinkel He 115s and Blohm & Voss BV 138s.
To support the Soviet Union against the German invasion, the Allies initiated a series of PQ and JW convoys bringing military supplies to the Soviet Union in formations of freighters screened by destroyers and minesweepers. Escorting cruisers maneuvered outside the formation, while a larger covering force including battleships and aircraft carriers steamed nearby to engage Kriegsmarine capital ships or raid their Norwegian bases; the Soviet Union and Germany employed smaller coastal convoys to maintain the flow of supplies to the Soviet arctic coast, transport strategic metal ores to Germany, sustain troops on both sides of the northern flank of the eastern front. Soviet convoys hugged the coast to avoid ice while German convoys used fjords to evade Royal Navy patrols. Both sides devoted continuing efforts to minelaying and minesweeping of these shallow, confined routes vulnerable to mine warfare and submarine ambushes. German convoys were screened by minesweepers and submarine chasers while Soviet convoys were protected by minesweeping trawlers and torpedo cutters.
A branch of the Pacific Route began carrying Lend-Lease goods through the Bering Strait to the Soviet Arctic coast in June 1942. The number of westbound cargo ship voyages along this route was 23 in 1942, 32 in 1943, 34 in 1944 and 31 after Germany surrendered in 1945. Total westbound tonnage through the Bering Strait was 452,393 in comparison to 3,964,231 tons of North American wartime goods sent across the Atlantic to Soviet Arctic ports. A large portion of the Arctic route tonnage was fuel for Siberian airfields on the Alaska-Siberia air route. 6 September 1939: Bremen was the first of 18 German merchant ships to take refuge in Murmansk after avoiding British naval patrols in the Atlantic. 30 November 1939: The Winter War offensive against Petsamo was supported by Soviet Northern Fleet destroyers Kuibishev, Karl Liebknecht and Grozny. April 1940: Operation Weserübung included an invasion of Narvik by troops embarked aboard ten Kriegsmarine destroyers. Covering battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau engaged HMS Renown.
4 May 1940: The Polish destroyer Grom was sunk off Narvik by a KG 100 bomber. 21 May 1940: HMS Effingham was scuttled after grounding on a shallow pinnacle off Narvik. 4 June 1940: Operation Alphabet troopships Monarch of Bermuda, Sobieski, Lancastria, Oronsay, Arandora Star, Royal Ulsterman, Ulster Prince, Ulster Monarch and Duchess of York began evacuation of 24,600 Allied soldiers from Narvik. 8 June 1940: With some of the longest range naval gunnery hits documented and Gneisenau sank the British aircraft carrier HMS Glorious and her escorting destroyers HMS Acasta and Ardent during Operation Juno. 9 July 1940: Raider Komet sailed north from Bergen and waited near Novaya Zemlya until 13 August 1940 for ice conditions to allow passage through the Matochkin Strait into the Kara Sea. Komet proceeded east with the assistance of three Soviet icebreakers to enter the Pacific Ocean through the Bering Strait on 5 September 1940. Soviet submarine Shch-423 made a similar trip from Murmansk to Vladivostok from 5 August to 17 October.
25 July 1940: Admiral Hipper sailed for a two-week Arctic patrol. 15 August 1940: Army transport USAT American Legion departed Petsamo for New York City carrying American nationals from Finland, Latvia, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands. American Legion carried Princess Märtha of Sweden with her children, a Bofors 40 mm gun manufactured in Sweden which became the prototype for American manufacture of the primary United States Navy anti-aircraft gun of World War II. 25 August 1940: HMS Norfolk and HMAS Australia sailed for a five-day patrol to Bear Island. 16 October 1940: HMS Furious launched an airstrike against the Tromsø seaplane base. 4 March 1941: HMS Edinburgh and Nigeria covered the Operation Claymore raid on Lofoten. 11 April 1941: HNoMS Mansfield destroyed the Øksfjord fish oil factory. 7 May 1941: Destroyers HMS Somali, Eskimo and HMAS Nestor captured code documents aboard the German weather ship München near Jan Mayen while covered by cruisers HMS Edinburgh and Birmingham. HMS Nigeria made a similar capture of the weather ship Lauenburg on 28 June.
25 June 1941: The Soviet troopship Mossovet brought reinforcements to Titovka.
Black Sea campaigns (1941–44)
The Black Sea Campaigns were the operations of the Axis and Soviet naval forces in the Black Sea and its coastal regions during World War II between 1941 and 1944, including in support of the land forces. The Black Sea Fleet was as surprised by Operation Barbarossa as the rest of the Soviet Military; the Axis forces in the Black Sea consisted of the Romanian and Bulgarian Navies together with German and Italian units transported to the area via rail and Canal. Although the Soviets enjoyed an overwhelming superiority in surface ships over the Axis, this was negated by German air superiority and most of the Soviet ships sunk were destroyed by bombing. For the majority of the war, the Black Sea Fleet was commanded by Vice Admiral Filipp Oktyabrskiy, its other commander being Lev Vladimirsky. All of the major Soviet shipyards were located in the Ukraine and Crimea and were occupied in 1941. Many incomplete ships which were afloat were evacuated to harbors in Georgia which provided the main bases for the surviving fleet.
These ports such as Poti, however had limited repair facilities which reduced the operational capability of the Soviet Fleet. On 22 June 1941, the Black Sea Fleet of the Soviet Navy consisted of: Romanian naval forces in the Black Sea consisted of four destroyers, four torpedo boats, eight submarines, three minelayers, one submarine tender, three gunboats and one training ship; as Turkey was neutral during World War II, the Axis could not transfer warships to the Black Sea via the Bosphorus. However, several small ships were transferred from the North Sea via rail and canal networks to the Danube; these included six Type IIB U-boats of the 30th U-boat Flotilla which were dis-assembled and shipped to Romania along the Danube. They were re-assembled at the Romanian Galați shipyard in late 1942 and afterwards sent to Constanța; the Germans transported 10 S-boats and 23 R-boats via the Danube and built armed barges and KTs in the captured Nikolayev Shipyards in Mykolaiv. Some ships were obtained in Romania and Hungary, converted to serve the German cause, such as the S-boat tender Romania, the minelayer Xanten and the Anti-submarine trawler UJ-115 Rosita.
Additional vessels were built in German or local shipyards, captured from Soviets, or transferred from the Mediterranean nominally as merchant ships. In total, the German naval forces in the Black Sea amounted to 6 coastal submarines, 16 S-boats, 23 R-boats, 26 submarine chasers and over 100 MFP barges; the German Black Sea fleet operated hundreds of medium and small warships or auxiliaries before its self-destruction prior to the defection of Bulgaria. Few vessels were able to make good their escape via the Danube; the Croatian Naval Legion was formed in July 1941. It was comprised some 350 officers and ratings in German uniform, but this swelled to 900–1,000, their first commander was Andro Vrkljan replaced by Stjepan Rumenović. The Croats' purpose in posting a naval contingent to the Black Sea was to evade the prohibition on an Adriatic navy imposed by the 18 May 1940 Treaty of Rome with Italy; this prohibition limited the Croatian Navy to a riverine flotilla. Upon its arrival at the Sea of Azov, managed to scrounge up 47 damaged or abandoned fishing vessels sailing ships, to man them hired local Russian and Ukrainian sailors, many deserters from the Soviet Navy.
The Legion acquired 12 German submarine hunters and a battery of coastal artillery. Lieutenant Josip Mažuranić notably commanded the submarine hunter UJ2303. Despite Bulgaria's neutral status in the German-Soviet war, the Bulgarian navy was involved in escort duties to protect Axis shipping against Soviet submarines in Bulgarian territorial waters; the small Bulgarian Navy consisted of 4 old torpedo boats, 3 modern German-built motor torpedo boats, 4 Dutch-built motor torpedo boats of the Power type, 2 SC-1 class submarine chasers and 3 anti-submarine motor launches. In late August 1944, 14 MFP landing barges were transferred to Bulgaria; the Italian Navy dispatched a small force to the Black Sea. The force dispatched included a flotilla of torpedo motorboats. Hungary became landlocked in the aftermath of World War I, but some Hungarian merchant ships were able to reach the Black Sea via the Danube River. Hungarian cargo ships were operated as part of Axis sea transport forces on the Black Sea, thus participated in the Axis evacuation from Crimea.
On June 26 the Soviet forces attacked the Romanian city of Constanța. During this operation, the destroyer leader Moskva was lost to mines while evading fire from coastal batteries; the Black Sea Fleet supplied the besieged garrison in Odessa and evacuated a significant part of the force at the end of October, but lost the destroyer Frunze and a gunboat to the German dive bombers in the process. The Black Sea Fleet played a valuable part in defeating the initial assault on Sevastopol. In December, there was an amphibious operation against Kerch which resulted in the recapture of the Kerch Peninsula. A naval detachment including the cruiser Krasnyi Krym remained in Sevastopol to give gunfire support. Soviet submarines raided Axis shipping on the Romanian and Bulgarian coasts, sinking 29,000 long tons of shipping. During fall of 1941, both sides laid many mine fields in southern Black Sea: Romanian defensive minefields sunk at least 5 Soviet submarines during this period, however during such operations the Axis forces lost the Romanian minelayer Regele Carol I, sunk by a mine laid by Soviet submarine L-4: 2 of the 5 Soviet submarine