BOMBING OF HELSINKI. Finland. Russo-Finnish War. 1939. On 30 November 1939 the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics achieved surprise by opening its attack on Finland with a two wave strategic bombing attack on the capital, Helsinki. At 0920 the first wave attacked the Helsinki airport; approximately one hour later a second attack wave hit the port and the railroad station. After their bombs were released, the Soviet aircraft conducted low level strafing attacks over the city. These were classic attacks on the population; Helsinki had no air defense system, and the Finnish Air Force, although highly competent, was very limited in numbers of available fighter aircraft.
Bombing accuracy was abysmally bad - one hanger on the airfield was hit, bombs hit the square in front of the train station, and one bomb hit the Soviet legation's building. Although weather is reported as having been clear, and attacks were delivered from low altitude without any opposition, no target of military or industrial significance was hit. This lack of accuracy was not limited to the Soviet Air Force - see for example, similar accuracy problems in the bombing of Guernica and of Warsaw by the Luftwaffe. Expectations that bombing attacks would destroy civilian morale received an early blow as Finnish civilians are reported to have ignored the attack.
During the remainder of the war, Finnish sources indicate the Soviets conducted 2075 aerial attacks that could be considered strategic. Finland suffered 2600 civilian fatalities. In the balance, Finnish anti-aircraft artillery and fighter aircraft claimed destruction of from 500 to 600 Soviet aircraft.
Sources: Mosier, John, Loyola University, The Blitzkrieg Myth: How Hitler and the Allies Misread the Strategic Realities of World War II, New York, New York, United States of America, HarperCollins Publishers, 2003.
Entry 03114 - posted 27 December 2003