Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Lapland War (1944–1945)

From late 1940, some 200,000 German troops came to be based in Finland, mostly in the north. The German presence in Lapland, under Generaloberst (colonel general) Eduard Dietl, was relatively harmonious with locals until late 1944.

The Soviet Union launched a major assault in the summer 1944, and by September had forced Finland into a cease-fire treaty, which demanded that the Finns drive out the German troops, on an unrealistic schedule. The Moscow Armistice, signed on 19 September 1944, demanded that Finland break diplomatic ties with Germany and expel or disarm any German soldiers remaining in Finland after 15 September 1944.

This was difficult in the south, downright impossible in remote Lapland where the 200,000-man German 20th Mountain Army could not have left the country in two weeks if it had withdrawn at full speed, assuming the Germans had even wanted to do so.

At first, both the Finns and Germans merely pretended to be at war, but the increasing Soviet pressure soon turned the mock war into a real war.

The “pretend” war escalated into actual war (the Lapland War, 1944–1945) with considerable devastation in northern Finland.

The German military, disappointed with the betrayal of their Finnish brothers-in-arms and concerned about the progress of the Allied forces into Germany, retreating German troops adopted “scorched earth” tactics. While casualties were relatively low, material losses were high.

After a series of minor battles, the war came to an effective end in November 1944, when German troops had reached Norway or its vicinity and took fortified positions.

This Lapland War (as it would come to be known) resulted in a comparatively small number of casualties—both sides lost about 1,000 men killed and 3,000 wounded. Material losses were enormous. The Germans destroyed not only their former bases and camps, but also burned down every Finnish village within their reach, in total some 16,000 buildings. Over 1,000 road bridges, some 100 railroad bridges and 40 ferries were blown up; 170 km of railroad, 9,500 km of road and almost 3,000 culverts were destroyed; and most electricity poles cut down.
Lapland War (1944–1945)

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