Bombing of Tallinn in March 1944

At the beginning of February 1944 Estonia became the backup to the WW II frontline. The Germans had their provisions and supply depots, reserve units etc here. The Tallinn harbour was a significant transport terminal for supplying the Narva front. 

The Soviet long-distance aircraft attacked Tallinn during the evening of 9 March 1944 and early the following morning. The first attack started at 6.30 p.m. and lasted two and a half hours. It was followed by another attack from 2 a.m., lasting for an hour and a half. According to the German navy headquarters in Tallinn, the attack caused only limited military damage. 50 soldiers and 121 prisoners were killed, and there were 140 soldiers wounded. The first attack caused great damage to the Tallinn air defence.

Much greater damage was done to the civilian sector – about 20% of buildings in Tallinn burnt down, the historical old town suffered considerably, as did the national symbol, the Estonia Theatre. Over 600 hundred civilians died, and about 500 were wounded.

Ca 300 airplanes of different types participated in the attack. According to data from various German military institutions, about 25 were shot down, plus 10 were destroyed the same night by the Finnish air force. The big losses of the attackers are considered the main reason why an attack on that scale was not repeated.

Besides Tallinn, the Soviet long-distance aircraft attacked other centres near the front – Helsinki, Riga, Liepāja and Pskov. The oft-repeated claim that the attack was directed at the civilian population in order to break the Estonians’ will to resist, cannot be proved. The Soviet aircraft had previously bombed many Russian towns as well in similar manner. The aims were military; civilian casualties were the result of the incompetence of the attackers as well as of military inevitability.

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