Operation Platinum Fox
Operation Platinum Fox (German: Platinfuchs) was a German and Finnish military offensive launched during World War II. Platinfuchs took place on the Eastern Front and had the objective of capturing the Barents Sea port of Murmansk. It was part of a larger operation, called Operation Silver Fox (Silberfuchs).
At the launch of Operation Barbarossa on 22 June 1941, German units of Alpine Corps Norwegen were sent east from Norway to occupy Petsamo, in Operation Reindeer (Renntier). There they joined Finnish forces poised on the border of Soviet territory. These divisions of Norwegen were, for the most part, elite mountain troops specially trained to operate above the Arctic Circle. As part of Barbarossa, the Finnish-German forces were to launch Operation Silver Fox (Silberfuchs), aimed at attacking Murmansk from two directions. The first assault from Finnish Petsamo was codenamed Platinfuchs. The second attack aimed first to attack Kandalaksha from Salla and then threaten Murmansk from the south. This operation was codenamed Operation Arctic Fox (Polarfuchs).
On 29 June 1941 the Platinfuchs phase of Silberfuchs was launched. The Norwegen Corps under the command of Generalleutnant Eduard Dietl, consisting of the German 2nd Mountain Division and German 3rd Mountain Division and the Finnish Ivalo Border Guard Battalion crossed the border and proceeded on Murmansk. The initial advance was slow. The German offensive met with lots of problems from the first day of the offensive on, as the rough terrain with bad roads made any advance difficult. The German units also lacked proper maps and had to advance mostly through unknown terrain.
The two divisions advanced in two directions. In the south the 2nd Mountain Division was able to penetrate the Soviet lines at the Titovka Valley in one day after fierce fighting and secured a bridge over the river. In the north the 3rd Mountain Division also made good progress in the first hours to secure the neck of the Rybachy Peninsula.
Nevertheless the offensive soon met with heavy Soviet resistance, especially from units of the Soviet Northern Fleet. After a heavy Soviet counterattack, the Germans resumed their offensive to the east to the Litsa River. With the element of surprise lost, the Germans were only able to establish a small bridgehead over the river. After a heavy Soviet counterattack on 7 July, Dietl requested more reinforcements, but he received only a motorized machine-gun battalion from Norway.
On 10 July a new plan had to be made, after a copy of the offensive plan fell into Soviet hands. The 2nd Mountain Division had to expand the bridgehead, while the 3rd Mountain Division had to advance on the south and establish another bridgehead. The renewed attack was again initially successful, but after the Soviets landed with two battalions on the other side of the Litsa Bay, Dietl had to stop the offensive. Things now became worse for the Germans, as the thinly stretched forces had to hold a 57 km long frontline along the Litsa River to the Rybachy Peninsula. With the absence of roads, the supply situation also deteriorated and the offensive stalled. Dietl asked for more reinforcements and Hitler, after initially being reluctant, agreed to transfer the 6th Mountain Division to Dietl's command. After more arguing, in August the 388th and 9th SS Regiments were also assigned to the operation.
Dietl now made plans to renew the offensive, with the fresh SS regiments leading the assault, in September before the onset of the winter would make it difficult to fight. But a combination of British and Soviet surface ships and aircraft, which constantly attacked German shipping to the northern ports, hampered the arrival of reinforcements and supply and would delay the arrival of the 6th Mountain Division to October. Nevertheless on 8 September Dietl started with the renewed offensive without the 6th Mountain Division. The initial assault failed badly and the SS regiments, untrained for arctic warfare, took heavy casualties. The Germans made some progress, but a Soviet counterattack stopped the offensive immediately. Constant attacks by Soviet submarines and British surface ships (consisting of a force of two aircraft carriers, two cruisers and six destroyers) also sunk numerous German ships and worsened the supply situation even more. For this reason von Falkenhorst prohibited German shipping from sailing east of the North Cape on 13 September. Hitler again pressured to continue the offensive, but Dietl made it clear, that with the dire supply situation and without further reinforcements no further advance was possible. More Soviet reinforcements arrived in the area and on 21 September the German offensive was broken off. On mid-October the 2nd Mountain Division withdrew to Petsamo and the 6th Mountain Division replaced the 3rd Mountain Division along the Litsa line.
Operation Platinum Fox was a German failure. Although Dietl was able to make some ground, his insufficient forces were soon stopped by the Soviets. The presence of British-Soviet naval forces at the Barents Sea hampered German efforts to adequately supply his forces and the general unwillingness of the German High Command to reinforce something which they considered as a secondary theater paved the way for the only successful Soviet resistance in the early stages of Operation Barbarossa. The failure of Platinfuchs had a major impact on the course of the war in the east. Over the course of the war, the Soviet Union received approximately a quarter of its Lend-Lease supplies through the port of Murmansk, and the port of Arkhangelsk, contributing to its continued resistance.
Order of battle
Under the direct command of AOK Lappland
- Finnish Separate Detachment (Petsamo) (Erillinen Osasto (Petsamo))
- 14th Finnish Infantry Regiment (Jalkaväkirykmentti 14 (JR 14))
- Mann & Jörgensen (2002), pp. 83–84
- Mann & Jörgensen (2002), p. 81
- a mixed unit consisting of drafted and volunteered sailors and marine units
- Mann & Jörgensen (2002), pp. 81–87
- Mann & Jörgensen (2002), p. 87
- Mann & Jörgensen (2002), p. 82
- Mann & Jörgensen (2002), p. 85
- Mann & Jörgensen (2002), pp. 85–86
- Mann & Jörgensen (2002), pp. 86–87
- http://www.feldgrau.com/econo.html Of all the lend-lease aid, approximately 50% was delivered via the Pacific, 25% via Persia and 25% via the northern route to Archangel and Murmansk.
- Charles C. Sharp, Red Guards: Soviet Guards Rifle and Airborne Units 1941 to 1945, Soviet Order of Battle World War II Vol. IV, Nafziger, 1995, p 46
- JR 14 war diary. http://digi.narc.fi/digi/view.ka?kuid=3411488
- * Mann, Chris M. & Jörgensen, Christer (2002), Hitlers Arctic War , Hersham, UK: Ian Allan Publishing Ltd, ISBN 0-7110-2899-0