The Soviet Offensive in Estonia,
August – October 1944
The Red Army pushed into Estonia in August 1944 and available Luftwaffe imagery coverage shows Soviet progress through October.
The key city of Narva fell on 26 July and coverage on 31 July and 9 August (Graphic 1) showed the town shortly after its capture. The town, railroad yard and major bridges had been destroyed but other smaller bridges had either survived or been rebuilt. Narva airfield had been rendered unserviceable by trenching and showed evidence of bombing and artillery shelling.
As was the case in other recently occupied areas the Soviets prepared small tactical airfields to support future operations. At least five airfields were identified for the first time between August (Graphic 2) and September.
By mid-September, the Red Army had progressed through the town of Johvi, 50 km west of Narva (Graphic 3). Johvi rail yard had sustained recent probable bomb damage but no attempt had been made to demolish the airfield, which on 26 May was occupied by the Estonian-manned Nachtschlachtgruppe 11 (Graphic 4). Airfield facilities at Poltsamaa and Rakvere had been systematically demolished.
According to available information western Estonia remained in German hands until the Tallinn Offensive in mid-September 1944. However, coverage of Parnu on the Gulf of Riga revealed the Soviet Air Force was already using the nearby airfield by 22 August (Graphic 5), when 225 aircraft --a mixture of IL-2, YAK and Po-2--were deployed.
The Red Army began an offensive against the Estonian offshore islands by late September 1944, landing on the largest island, Saaremaa on 5 October. On 16 January 1945 there were 128 Soviet aircraft --YAK and possible Hurricane-- deployed at Monnuste Airfield on the southwest side of Saaremaa (Graphic 6). Facilities at the Kihelkonna Seaplane Station on the northwest side of the island had been destroyed by 10 October.