Lapland War

Lapland War

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Lapland War

caption = German withdrawal From Finland 1944
partof=World War II
place=Lapland, Finland
date= October 1 1944 – April 25 1945
result=German strategic retreat
combatant1 = flagicon|Germany|Nazi Nazi Germany
combatant2 = flagicon|Finland Finland
commander1=flagicon|Germany|Nazi Lothar Rendulic flagicon|Germany|Nazi Matthias Krautler

flagicon|Germany|Nazi August Krakau
commander2=flagicon|Finland Hjalmar Siilasvuo flagicon|Finland Aaro Pajari

flagicon|Finland Ruben Lagus
casualties1=1,200 killed
2,300 wounded
1,300 captured
casualties2=774 killed
3,000 wounded
262 missing

The Lapland War (Finnish: "Lapin sota") were the hostilities between Finland and Nazi Germany between September 1944 and April 1945, fought in the Finland's northernmost Lapland Province. The war is notable in that the Finnish army had to demobilize their forces while fighting the German army off their lands. The German forces retreated to Norway and Finland managed to uphold its promise to the Soviet Union.


Since June 1941 Germany and Finland had been at war with the Soviet Union, co-operating closely in the Continuation War. 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. Casualties among the POWs were high, due in part to the fact that many of the POWs had been captured in southern Europe and were still in summer uniform. In addition, the Germans accumulated stores in the region. Thus they were ready in September 1944, when Finland declared the Moscow Armistice with the Soviet Union.

Progress of operations

While German ground troops withdrew northward, the German navy mined the seaward approaches to Finland and attempted to seize the island of Gogland in Operation Tanne Ost. Sailors on Finnish ships in German-held ports (including Norway) were interned and German submarines sank several Finnish civilian vessels.Although some Wehrmacht and Finnish army officers tried to organize a relatively peaceful withdrawal, fighting broke out between German and Finnish forces even before the Soviet-Finnish armistice was signed. Fighting intensified when the Finns sought to comply with the Soviet demand that all German troops be expelled from Finland.

The Finns were thus placed in a situation similar to that of Italy and Romania, who, after surrendering to the Allies, had to fight to free their lands of German forces. The Finns' task was complicated by the Soviet demand that the major part of Finnish armed forces must be demobilized at the same time, even during the campaign against the Germans.

General Hjalmar Siilasvuo, the victor of Suomussalmi, led the Finns against the Germans under General Lothar Rendulic. Striking first at Kemi-Tornio and in October and November 1944, Siilasvuo drove the Germans out of most of northern Finland. Hard battles were fought at "Tankavaara" and "Kaunispää" where the Germans made a stand to cover their retreat towards Norway.

Most of the civilian population of Lapland, totalling 168,000 persons, was evacuated to Sweden and Southern Finland prior to start of the hostilities with the exception of the inhabitants of Tornio area. The evacuation was carried out as a cooperative effort of German and Finnish authorities. [ [ Finnish National Broadcasting Company YLE: Evacuation of Lapland] Retrieved 22-2-2007. Real Audio Clip. fi] However, the Germans conducted severe scorched earth warfare, burning most buildings in the province. The town of Rovaniemi was destroyed completely, all important bridges demolished and the roads extensively mined. On the other hand, hundreds of women who had been engaged to German soldiers left with the German troops, meeting diverse fates. [ [ Finnish National Broadcasting Company YLE: Naiset saksalaisten matkassa] WWW-page and linked Real Audio clip. Retrieved 22-2-2007 fi; [ Finnish National Broadcasting Company YLE: Paluu miinavaaraan.] WWW-page and linked Real Audio clip. Retrieved 22-2-2007 fi; [ Finnish National Broadcasting Company YLE: Jälleenrakennus] WWW-page and linked Real Audio clip. Retrieved 22-2-2007 fi]


In their retreat the German forces under General Lothar Rendulic devastated large areas of northern Finland using scorched earth tactics. Total of 40–47 % the dwellings in the area were destroyed, and the provincial capital of Rovaniemi was burned to the ground, as well as Savukoski village. Two thirds of the buildings in main villages Sodankylä, Muonio, Kolari, Salla and Ivalo were demolished. 675 bridges were blown up and all main roads were mined, 3,700 km of telephone lines were destroyed. In addition to the property losses, estimated as equivalent to about US $300 million (in 1945 dollars, which is equivalent to $3.15 billion in 2005 dollars), about 100,000 inhabitants became refugees, a situation that added to the problems of postwar reconstruction. (After the war the Allies convicted Rendulic of war crimes, and he was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was released after six years.)

The last German troops were expelled in April 1945. By that time only 600 Finnish troops, mostly fresh recruits, were left facing them due to the Soviet demand for demobilisation of the Finnish army. Because of this, the latter half of the Lapland War is known in Finland as the Children's Crusade.

Military casualties of the conflict were relatively limited: 774 KIA, 262 MIA and about 3,000 WIA for the Finnish troops, and 1,200 KIA and about 2,000 WIA for the Germans. 1,300 German soldiers became POWs, and were handed over to the Soviet Union, according to the terms of the armistice with the Soviets. [ [ Lapland War] Retrieved 2-22-2007]


ee also

*History of Germany
*History of Finland
* Operation Tanne Ost
*World War II

External links

* [ Pictures from Wars during Finland´s independence: The War of Lapland] (maps, photos from front, songs and radio speeches)

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