Top of the world

German troops enjoying a photo opportunity in Finnish Lapland, probably in 1941. Apart for fighting the persistent mosquitos and getting a tan in the midnight sun, that’s about all the fun that could be had there.

Much of the war on the extreme north end of the Eastern Front was low intensity, with patrols and raids, but no major offensives. The Finnish government had to balance between their co-belligerent, Germany, and the Western Allies. Any attempts to cut the railroad from Murmansk to the south, thereby stopping the transport of supplies brought in by the Atlantic convoys, were called off. The Germans relied on the Finns in the north, and couldn’t do much about it. Then, in the summer of 1944, the Soviets launched an offensive against Finland, and forced them to accept a ceasefire under the condition that the German troops vacated Finland within two weeks. That it was impossible to do that on such short notice was something all factions knew, but the Finns had to swallow that bitter pill.

This was the cause of the Lapland War, where the erstwhile comrades-in-arms had to fight each other. The Germans fought a fighting withdrawal, using the scorched earth tactic, which in turn forced Finnish civilians to flee, many of them across the Torne River to safety in Sweden. The Lapland War wound down in early November, and a relative, uneasy peace returned to Finnish Lapland.


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