The Northern Flank D+12 (21 July, 1987) Part I


As the hours crept by and Colonel General Vladimir Arkhipov became more current with the overall situation in his new command, he found himself growing more perturbed. It was clear that his predecessor had been a blundering fool with not even a basic understanding of modern war. This lack of knowledge was responsible for the many squandered opportunities in the first twelve days of the war. Had his predecessor been at least semi-competent, Norway would’ve been secure, the Norwegian Sea a veritable Soviet lake, and air superiority over the entire region assured by now. This was not the case though, and Arkhipov had neither the time, nor inclination to dwell on it further.

By mid-day, Arkhipov simply did not know if the overall ground situation in his theater was salvageable or not. It was going to require a colossal effort to resume the offensive in Norway and Finland. In fact, the future of operations in Norway was directly tied to those underway in Lapland. He had sent some of his most capable subordinates there assess what was happening on the ground in both locations, and the reports he received back did not give him much confidence. Upon arriving at his new headquarters the previous morning, Arkhipov’s first order of business was to temporarily halt the advances in Finland and Norway. Soviet ground forces were ordered to adopt a defensive posture for 24 hours to allow NWTVD’s new commander to determine what the next phase of operations would be.

The 24-hour mark was now approaching its end and Arkhipov remained undecided. Future ground operations were dependent on the strategic picture. It remained unclear if a renewed push deeper into Norway and Finland would do any good at this time. It was already made abundantly clear that his sea and air forces were locked in semi-permanent defensive postures for the moment. NATO was pushing hard in the skies, and at sea, thus the lion’s share of the fighting was taking place there. Being honest with himself, Arkhipov admitted the battles taking place in those realms mattered more than the ones on the ground. NATO bombers, and warships were a dagger aimed at the Soviet Union. Arkhipov’s primary responsibility was keeping the war as far away from Soviet soil as possible. If that meant more time, material, and effort devoted to the air and sea battles, so be it.

As a compromise of sorts, the theater commander ordered the 54th Motor Rifle Division in northern Finland, as well as Soviet ground formations in Norway to extend their defensive postures by 15 hours. With luck, this would give the air and sea situations enough time to resolve themselves and give Arkhipov and his ground commanders time to build a realistic plan for the next phase of operations.

Giving the matter no further thought, Arkhipov turned his attention to matters in the air over Northern Norway, and in the Barents and Norwegian Seas. As the afternoon hours passed by, he became more involved with this, and barely acknowledged the 1637 report that the last Soviet troops at Andoya were surrendering.

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