60 years since the Soviet mass offensive on the Karelian Isthmus - help for Finland arrived via Malmi Airport

9 June 2004

The final phase of the Continuation War between Finland and the Soviet Union, the Soviet mass offensive on the Karelian Isthmus began 60 years ago on 9 June 1944. Prepared well and in top secrecy, the offensive was designed upon massive superiority in numbers and materiel in all branches.

When the offensive had been launched, the Finnish armed forces desperately needed materiel and reinforcements to stabilize the situation. Both were obtained without delay from Germany, where the high command deemed the stabilization of the northeastern front important although the Allied beach-head in Normandy, established 6 June, was probably the at the center of attention.

Malmi Airport was from the beginning intensely involved in this dire moment of the nation. The 70-aircraft Detachment Kuhlmey of the Luftwaffe arrived in Finland via Malmi Airport already on 12 June. Weapons aid was also quickly flown in for stopping the tanks of the Red Army.

"Wo ist denn Immola?"

Pentti Salminen, then a young assistant mechanic at Malmi Airport, describes the events in his article From swamp to main airport in Finland:

"A unit of the German Luftwaffe, led by Lt.Col. Kurt Kuhlmey, hurried in summer 1944 to help stop the Soviet troops in their breakthrough attack on the Karelian Isthmus. About a hundred aircraft were flying in the immediate vicinity of the Airport all at once, firing flares of various colors and asking for landing permission. The transfer flight from Germany had been a long one, everyone was short of fuel and eager to land. There were Stuka dive bombers, Focke-Wulf 190 fighters and as support aircraft Italian three-engined Savoia-Marchettis. An agreement was achieved and the airplanes landed in every direction on the runways, even two at a time. Among the pilots was one unfortunate fellow: a Focke-Wulf landed with locked wheel brakes, resulting in a somersault and a hero's death far from home. The aircraft were quickly refuelled and continued their transfer to Immola, right away down to business at the front.

"The world had turned upside down; I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw German panzerfausts and panzerschrecks unloaded from Aero's passenger aircraft into army lorries which then drove off towards the Karelian Isthmus. Then the aircraft were quickly boarded by Finnish pilots on their way to Germany to pick up replacement aircraft for our dwindling Air Force. Now we were fighting for our existence."