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The Soviet Navy at the Outbreak and During the Great Patriotic War: Introduction

Based on the articles by
V.N. Krasnov, Candidate of Naval Sciences, Captain;
E.A. Shitikov, Candidate of Technical Sciences, Laureate of the Government Award, Vice-Admiral.

At the first session of the USSR Supreme Council, held January 1938, V.M. Molotov, the Chairman of the People’s Commissar Council, declared the following: “Our mighty Soviet power must have such sea and ocean fleet that would comply with her interests and would be worthy of our great mission”. The Soviet Premier’s words reflected the point of view of the USSR government – first of all, its head – Stalin – which had undergone significant changes concerning the main aspects of the further Navy formation process. It was exactly the time when the 10-year “Big Shipbuilding Programme” was introduced in accordance with which it was planned to start battleships and heavy cruisers construction which would represent ocean might and strength of the country.

Following the initial version of the 19-year programme, by 1946, the Soviet Fleet would have had 15 battleships, 15 heavy and 28 light cruisers, 144 destroyers, 336 submarines, dozens of ships of other types and hundreds of battle boats.

Thus, in contrast to the first and second “piatiletka” (five-year plan introduced by the Soviet government) where the main attention had been focused on means and instruments for a “small-scale war” at sea and, first and foremost, submarines, the “Big Shipbuilding Programme” was chiefly concentrated on battleships and cruisers construction.

However, the emphasis placed on large surface ships building did not exactly correspond to the demands of naval science as well as to the existing points of view on warfare at sea. In connection with rapid development of aviation and submarines, the era of battleships might and total supremacy was coming to its end.

There is no doubt that orientation of the Soviet shipbuilding policy was, to a large extent, influenced by those impressive results and experience shown by the leading sea powers which continued intensive battleships construction. In the middle of the 1930s, at the shipyards of six countries there were as many as 20 battleships under construction, though the proportion of the large surface ships in the foreign fleets became smaller. Though, they still continued to construct aircraft-carriers.

The fact that the USSR economy could not support and secure the construction of such a fleet was quite obvious. The construction costs of only four first battleships of the Soviet Union type amounted to as much as a quarter of the country annual budget. Nowadays, it is not a secret anymore that implementation of the plans drawn up for the 1st and 2nd piatiletkas had been systematically undermined. On the whole, both piatiletkas remained unfulfilled. The system of financing the current construction on account of future plans advances flourished. Thus, the percentage of “unfinished ships” increased.

Formation and further development of extended fleet required some re-organization and modernization of the fleet management system as well as enhancement and diversification of the shipbuilding industry management. In December, 1937, the People’s Commissariat of the Navy was established, and in January 1939 – People’s Commissariat of the Shipbuilding Industry.

Five major groups of shipbuilding factories and shipyards started to appear: Leningrad group, South group, Far-Eastern group, Northern group and the Central one (river group). The first two produced up to 2/3 of total shipbuilding output.

15 July, 1938, the foundations of the first new battleship the Soviet Union (project 23) were laid at the Baltic Shipyards in Leningrad. B.G. Chilikin was the chief designer of that ship. Prominent naval scientists such as A.N. Krylov, Y.A. Shimanskiy, P.E. Papkovich, V.G. Vlasov provided consulting services to him.

Two years after this lead battleship construction, three more battleships were laid: the Soviet Ukraine in Nikolaev, the soviet Russia and the Soviet Belorussia in Molotovsk (Severodvinsk since 1957). It was a common notion that the soviet-made battleships would be the world’s largest war ships. Their standard displacement was 59 150 tons with length of 260 m, breadth of 38 m and draft of 9.27 m. With a nominal main engines capacity of 201 000 horse-power, the battleship could develop a speed of 28 knots. Her main caliber battery included ten 406-mm weapons in three turrets. The main armour belt thickness reached 402 mm. The battleships construction process took a very slow pace. Technical output plans were broken mainly due to constant delays in materials and equipment delivery. By the end of 1940, readiness availability of the Soviet Union was 19, 44% while the Soviet Ukraine - only 7%.

In November, 1939, heavy cruisers the Kronshtadt (Leningrad) and the Sebastopol (Nikolaev) under project 69 were laid. Their displacement capacity was approximately 35 000 tons. Main caliber battery consisted of nine 305-mm weapons in their three-gun turrets. Total speed was 32 knots. By the beginning of the war, the cruisers readiness availability reached 12%.

In September, 1938, lead light cruiser the Kirov under project 26, which had been laid in Leningrad in October 1935, was put into service. Her chief designer was A.I. Maslov. Two years later, the Baltic Sea Fleet added to its arsenal another light cruiser the Maxim Gorky under project 26-bis, while the Black Sea Fleet, right at the outbreak of the Great Patriotic War, was equipped with the new cruisers Voroshilov and Molotov. All these four cruisers took an active part in the war, were damaged in the course of sea battles but still remained in operation. In Komsomolsk-on-Amur, light cruisers the Kalinin and the Lazar Kaganovich of project 26-bis were under construction. They were allotted to the Pacific Ocean Fleet during the war years.

19 October, 1940, the Soviet government made a decision on termination of the battleships and heavy cruisers construction, while one of the battleships under construction was sent for disassembling. It was ordered to concentrate all their efforts on small-size and medium-size warships building and to continue completion of large ships with high percentage of readiness availability. On the whole, the Soviet shipbuilding was once again re-directed for submarines and light surface ships construction. Nevertheless, the completion of ships of various classes, laid before, continued.

The next stage of the Soviet-cruiser-building was design and keel-laying of the light cruisers under project 68. Seven cruisers in accordance with this project were laid in Leningrad and Nikolaev in 1939-1940. They managed to launch five of them before the war started.

By the beginning of the Great Patriotic war, the lead cruiser Chapaev was finished by 35%. She was commissioned in 1950 under project 68K, which had been revised and modified taking into account the battle experience (chief designer – N.A. Kiselev). An extended series of cruisers was constructed following the project 68-bis (chief designer – A.S. Savichev). The lead cruiser Sverdlov was allotted to the Baltic Fleet in 1952.

In 1938-1941 as well as during the war, the Soviet Fleets were constantly equipped with new destroyers of project 7 and project 7U.

A new torpedo-boat destroyer, under project 30, was designed by the group of constructors headed by A.M. Yunovidov. The lead ship of this series, the Ognevoy, was laid in NIkolaev in August 1939. It was planned to put her to the standard receiving-passing tests in December 1941. Unfortunately, the war delayed further construction of Ognevoy. She was completed and commissioned in Poty in 1944-1945. Before the war, ten hulls of future torpedo-boat destroyers under project 30 had been built.

Mass construction of new destroyers began only in the first post-war decade following a modified and improved project 30-bis this time. Welded-hull destroyers were armed with four 130-mm guns in two turrets and equipped with radar installations and sonar devices.

After a rather lengthy pause, design and construction of guard-ships resumed. In 1937-1039, a design office headed by Y.A. Koperzhinskiy worked out a project of guard-ship the Yastreb (“Hawk”) of project 29. They managed to launch six ships of this series before the war. During the war years (1944), the lead ship Yastreb, under the improved project 29, was allotted to the fleet. Displacement of this guard-ship was 998 tons, speed – 33, 5 knots; she was armed with three 100-mm guns and four 37-mm anti-aircraft guns. She also had three-tube 450-mm torpedo-tube. As many as 24 mines could be taken on her board. Two bomb-release gears with depth-charges complexes were fixed on her stern. The rest five ships launched were completed after the war following the project 29K.

In 1938, following the order of the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs, a frontier-guard ship of project 122 was designed. Having slightly modified it, the Soviet Navy used this project as a large submarine-chaser. Under the project 122A (chief designer N.G. Loschinskiy), a series of big submarine-chasers was laid. The first two – the Artillerist and the Miner – were allotted to the Caspian Sea flotilla in November 1941. Three years later, they, together with other ships of this project, were re-based to the Black Sea Fleet.

At the outbreak and during the war, a large number of small-size submarine-chasers of MO-2 and MO-4 type with displacement of 56 tons and full speed of 25, 5 knots were built (chief designer – L.L. Ermash). These ships had wooden hulls. Their battery included two 45-mm guns as well as two bomb-release gears with depth-charges sets. They could take on board four mines. Apart from that, each chaser was equipped with portable hydro-phone station.

Since 1943, the fleet started being equipped with small-size submarine-chasers of OD-200 type with displacement of 47 tons and speed of 28 knots. Their battery consisted of 37-mm and 25-mm guns. Total number of small submarine-chasers of MO-2, MO-4 and OD-200 types reached 334 units. The ships of these series became the most universal and multi-purpose ships of the Great Patriotic War. They landed troops, were on patrol duty, escorted transports and submarines as well as suppressed fire sectors on shore.

Armoured small-size submarine-chasers of project 194 (chief designer A.N. Tyushkevich) were built in besieged Leningrad and were sent to the Baltic Fleet since 1943. Their displacement capacity was 61 tons with a speed reaching 23 knots; their battery included one 45-mm gun and 37-mm submachine gun, two bomb-release gears with depth-charges and hydro-acoustic station. In all, 66 armoured chasers were built. They were aimed for action in skerry areas, and were to provide fire-support of the land forces and participate in landing operations.

During the pre-war years, a further developmental impulse was given to anti-torpedo ships construction. A project of a high-speed mine-sweeper (project 59), under the direct leadership of the chief designer L.M. Nogid, had been worked out by the end of 1938. Apart from contact sweeps, she had also an electro-magnetic one. The battery consisted of two 100-mm guns and one 45-mm gun and three 37-mm submachine guns. The lead mine-sweeper “Vladimir Poluhin” and the 2nd ship “Vassiliy Gromov”, laid down in 1939, were put to the receiving-passing tests in Leningrad and sent to the fleet during 1942-1943. Displacement of this mine-sweeper was 879 tons. The steam-turbine installation was capable of developing a speed of 22,4 knots without sweep and 19 knots with sweep. They were equipped with bomb-release and bomb-dropping gears with depth-charges complexes as well as hydro-acoustical station.

The Baltic Sea Fleet mine-sweeping forces, which were in a desperate need of anti-torpedo ships during the war, were replenished with 100-ton mine-sweepers of project 253L which had been built at two Leningrad shipbuilding factories under severe blockade conditions. The first ship was commissioned in January 1944. Those mine-sweepers were built in two series: MT-1 and MT-2. Their displacement was approximately 100 tons, full speed with three active diesel engines reached 12,5 knots (without sweep). Mine-sweeping complex included acoustic, electro-magnetic sweeps and paravane-sweep, 24 mines. The battery consisted of two 45-mm guns.

The construction of mine-layers of “L” type (XIII-bis series) began as early as 1938. A new diesel engine “1D” allowed to increase the surface speed. The set of torpedoes and mines was also extended, and the livability and habitality of inner compartments was significantly improved. Beginning from the 1940th, new ships of “Leninist” type started being equipped with hydrophone stations “Mars” and submarine sound communication “Surius”.

At the very first days of the Great Patriotic War, the USSR Navy disposed of 19 underwater mine-layers of “Leninist” type of four different series.

On the eve of the war, during 1938-1941, 13 submarines of “Sch” type (X-bis series) were laid. Nine of them were completed during the war years, two others – after the war while the construction of the rest two was terminated.

Among the medium-size submarines, adopted by the fleet during the last three pre-war years, were 15 submarines of “S” type (IX-bis series).

Small-size submarines of XII series were designed by s design group headed by P.I. Serdyuk. They were single-hull, all-welded and single-shaft submarines. Unlike VI series, their solid hull was divided into six compartments. Displacement – 209/258 tons, surface speed – 14 knots, submerged speed – 7,8 knots. Small submarine of XII series had two bow torpedo-tubes with four torpedoes. Her battery consisted of one 45-mm gun. In the pre-war period, the Soviet Fleet was supplied with28 ships of such kind. 17 more ships had been under construction and were completed during the war.

In 1939, a project of a more perfect small-size submarine of series XV was proposed byy an engineer group headed by F.F. Polushkin. This submarine had two-shaft electric power installation, while her torpedo armament was increased by four guns. By 1947, the fleet received ten such submarines.

Between 1934 and 1936, under the direct leadership of M.A. Rudnitskiy, the chief designer, naval officer and research worker of the Scientific-Technical Bureau of the Navy, a cruiser submarine of “K” type (series XIV) was designed which became, by right, the pride and joy of both the soviet seamen and ship-builders. In the Receiving Act of the lead submarine of “K” type issued by the State Committee, it was stated that “in terms of her tactical elements and key technical characteristics she excels all foreign submarines of her type, especially, in armament and speed. The biggest, the most high-speed and powerful”.

Two-hull submarine of “K” type had a displacement of 1500/2100 tons and two diesel engines of total capacity of 8400 h.p. which allowed her to develop a surface speed of 22 knots. In submerged position with electric engines her speed reached 10 knots. Operating submergence depth was 100 meters. Maximum endurance was up to 15 00 miles. Her armament included two 100-mm and two 45-mm guns. There were six torpedo-tubes in the bow of this seven-compartment submarine while her aft and superstructure could place two more tubes. General allowance of ammunition totaled 24 torpedoes. The submarine mine-ballast tank could place as many as 20 mines which could be dropped through the hatchway under keel. Her non-pressure hull, bulkheads of the pressure hull and tank were all-welded. However, the State Committee registered the weak points of the “K” submarine as well. Among them were insufficient noise dampening, unreliable mine equipment construction and imperfect torpedo load system.

Six cruising submarines of “K” type were received by the Soviet Fleet before the war. The same number was under construction. They were completed and sent to the Fleet during the war years.

By the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, cadre ships of the USSR Navy numbered 3 battleships, 7 cruisers, 59 flotilla leaders and destroyers, 218 submarines, 269 torpedo-boats, 22 guard-ships, 88 mine-sweepers, 77 submarine-chasers and several other ships and boats as well as auxiliary vessels. 219 ships including 3 battleships, 2 heavy and 7 light cruisers, 45 destroyers and 91 submarines were under construction. In terms of their tactical characteristics and operational effectiveness the Soviet surface ships were up to foreign analogues with which foreign fleets were equipped. They were notable for their high speed parameters, proper safety characteristics, sufficient survivability, operability and unsinkability. These cruisers and destroyers were armed with highly-reliable long-range 180-mm and 130-mm artillery complexes.

Big and medium submarines, together with guard-ships and mine-sweepers, were equipped with single-gun 100-mm deck artillery installations B-24. Unfortunately, medium-caliber artillery (130-mm, 100-mm) was not multi-purpose and universal and could not attack air targets. 37 anti-aircraft guns of 70K type were designed and added to armoury before the war, but their mass production began only in the middle of the war which, no doubt, had a negative effect on the ship anti-aircraft defence.

With the purpose of main caliber artillery control, special fire-gun control systems “Molniya AÖ” and “Mina-7” were constructed; they had high-precision task solution parameters. The first domestically-produced anti-aircraft artillery control devices and instruments (ÌÏÓÀÇÎ) such as “Horizon” (for cruisers) and “Soyuz” (for destroyers) were added to armoury between 1940 and 1941. However, their serial production was hampered, and by the beginning of the war a large number of our ships did not have such systems. Automated ÌÏÓÀÇÎ- system was tested on the flotilla leader the Baku in 1943. In this system, the full angles of the guns and tubes direct laying with due regard of ship rolling were determined against the target flight altitude and its velocity vector.

During the war, a power stabilizer directional gyroscope was invented which soon became the major instrument for ship artillery gyroscopia. It was installed on cruisers, destroyers and guard-ships.

The production of fire-control system significantly increased towards the end of the war, especially during the first post-war years. For example, in 1944, 21 such systems were produced, in 1945 0 54 units, while in 1946 the Fleet received 99 units. The Soviet ships started being equipped with the cruising systems “Molniya AÖ-68” and “Zenit-68”.

Naval artillerymen were highly-trained in sea-target firing because the naval colleges paid a lot of attention to this particular subject. Shore-based target firing, on the contrary, did not receive as many study hours whereas it is shore-based target firing that was predominant during naval operations.

Submarines were distinguished for their tactical-technical characteristics, powerful weaponry and survivability but, unfortunately, up to the very last period of the war, they were not equipped with high-speed and traceless torpedoes. In the course of the war, our submarines were gradually equipped with non-bubble torpedo-firing complexes.

Main types of torpedoes which were added to ships armoury were torpedoed 53-38 while to airplane armoury – torpedoes 45-36 (high- and low-altitude torpedo-bombing). The torpedo-firing control systems badly required radical and fundamental modification and improvement.

Lack of amphibious vessels and insufficient number of mine-sweepers can be attributed to main drawbacks of the Soviet pre-war naval forces. The war ships and vessels appeared to be defenseless against the enemy non-contact weaponry. The first domestically-built non-contact mine-sweepers were put into operation by the end of 1942 as a result of joint efforts by scientists and engineers under the direct leadership of N.N. Andreev and L.M. Brekhovskih (they were sent to the fleets in 1943-1944 (aerial mines AMD-500 and AMD-1000)).

The Navy Headquarters understood the importance of the Northern Fleet for the country defence potential, however, during pre-war years, it had very few ships (among them were 8 destroyers, 2 torpedo-boats, 7 guard-ships, 15 submarine-chasers and 15 submarines). Coast guard was only in the process of its formation. By that time, it consisted of 70 guns with calibers ranging from 45 mm to 180 mm. Anti-aircraft defence disposed of several anti-aircraft divisions. The Fleet Air Forces had 116 airplanes (49 fighters, 11 bombers and 56 reconnaissance planes) which could be based on one land and two sea aerodromes.

The Baltic Sea and Black Sea Fleets numbered 200 ships of various types and more than 600 airplanes including modern fighters MIG-3 and torpedo-bombers. A well-developed network of bases and aerodromes was available in those fleets. Their coast guard armament included the following weaponry: 424 large-caliber (up to 305 mm) and medium-caliber ordnance, anti-aircraft divisions as well as railway artillery.

The Pacific Ocean Fleet, in comparison with other fleets, had the biggest number of submarines (91), torpedo-boats (135) and airplanes (1183). However, here, just like in the Northern theatre of sea warfare, destroyers were the largest ships. Two cruisers were in the process of construction.

Apart from the above-mentioned fleets, the USSR Navy disposed of five river and two lake flotillas.

On the whole, despite the outlined drawbacks in the fleets development, military shipbuilding, naval weaponry and ship-borne weapons construction, by the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, the Soviet Navy was formed and it was capable of conducting military operations either in cooperation with land forces or independently in the neighboring seas with the purpose of coast defense and enemy sea shipping undermining. Skillful and talented admirals headed the Navy.

22 June, 1941, at 4 o’clock in the morning, Germany, without any preliminary warning, treacherously attacked the Soviet Union. The Great Patriotic War began. The Nazi Germany aviation conducted bomb raids on the naval bases in Kronshtadt, Riga, Libava, Sebastopol, Izmail. The Soviet Fleets anti-aircraft forces, which were put on operational readiness #1 only several hours before the war following the order of People’s Commissar N.G. Kuznetsov, were trying hard to repulse the enemy aviation attacks. None of the fleet ships was lost during that first day of war.

The opening period of the GPW was especially difficult for the Soviet Army and Navy.

Towards the end of November 1941, the enemy succeeded in occupying the Baltic countries, Belorussia, most of the territory of Soviet Ukraine and large part of the RSFSR.

The hardest period of the GPW for the USSR lasted from 22 June, 1941 to 18 November, 1942.

During those arduous terrible months, the Navy’ primary task was to help the land forces on the seaside directions as well as to protect home sea lines of communication and disturb the enemy ones. The soviet ships, along with other branches of the Navy, took an active part in the heroic defense of the naval bases in Hanko, Libava, Odessa and Sebastopol, in exhausting battles for Leningrad where naval artillery played a very significant role. It was used, mainly, for combating the enemy heavy artillery which heavily bombarded the city and for remote targets firing.

The seamen were also engaged in the land operations. Crew members and naval colleges’ students formed brigades and independent marines battalions. In 1941alone, almost 150 000 seamen were sent to the land front, one third of whom fought near Moscow.

During the first two war weeks, the central mine-artillery line near the Gulf of Finland effectively functioned at the Baltic Sea Fleet. Over this period, more than 3 000 mines and 500 anti-mine constructions were set up. 8 August, 1941, our naval aviation delivered the first bombing attack on Berlin. An emergency re-deployment operation of the Baltic Fleet ships from Tallinn to Kronshtadt carried out between 28 and 30 of August was extremely difficult and dangerous. During this transfer, in conditions of complete enemy dominance on the both shores of the Gulf of Finland, one third out of 153 units of war ships, transport vessels and floating vessels was destroyed by mines and enemy aviation. And, yet, main cadre ships made it safely to Kronshtadt. The ships and vessels managed to evacuate 17 00 people from Tallinn. Despite the blockade of the eastern part of the Gulf of Finland, the Baltic Sea Fleet submariners, displaying courage, forced anti-submarine defensive lines, thus, gaining the strategic outlet to the open sea in order to get the opportunity to operate on the enemy lines of communication. In 1942, they sank 29 enemy vessels.

At the Black Sea, defensive constructions and mine-fields were erected near Sebastopol and Odessa, Novorossiysk and Tuapse, in the Bay of Kerch and Batumi. Towards the end of June 1941, a naval attack group of the Black Sea Fleet ships, including flotilla leaders the Moscow and the Kharkov, delivered an artillery attack on the Romanian naval base Constance. On the New Year’s Eve of 1942, the Black Sea Fleet conducted the largest Kerch-Feodossiya landing operation. Two armies of the Caucasus front, naval units, more than 250 ships and vessels, including cruisers the Red Caucasus and the Red Crimea together with 600 airplanes were engaged in that historic operation. Towards the end of the 2nd January, our land troops cleared the Kerch Peninsula which significantly improved the critical situation with besieged Sebastopol. Unfortunately, some time later, the enemy dislodged Soviet troops from this peninsula.

Submarines of the Black Sea Fleet operated on the enemy lines of communication conducting, together with surface ships, sea shipping in Sebastopol and evacuating people and valuable property from the city.

The heroic defense of Sebastopol, which lasted 250 days, was possible, to a large extent, owing to the Black Sea Fleet’s activity. Apart from being directly engaged into the base defensive operations, the fleet secured normal communication between the garrison and the rear districts of the Northern Caucasus sea-coast.

The Northern Fleet played a key role in the Murmansk front stabilization by protecting its own lines of communication and constantly undermining the enemy ones situated along the Northern Norway sea-coast. With formation of the anti-Hitler coalition and extension of application of the American Law on lend-lease, the USSR started to receive military weaponry, equipment and food supplies from the allies. Three routes for military cargoes transportation were opened: Northern, Pacific Ocean and Iranian.

During the first war period, 20 convoys numbering 288 vessels left the ports of Great Britain and Iceland and took the Northern Route to go Arkhangelsk and Murmansk. The Soviet transport vessels sailed from the USSR to the west carrying traditional soviet export goods, first and foremost, strategic raw materials. On their way, the allies’ convoys were escorted by the British Navy ships. The Northern Fleet was responsible for the convoy ships protection starting from the 20º meridian eastward and south-eastward. Securing that sea shipping under the lend-lease agreements became one of the major missions of the fleet.

The second period of the Great Patriotic War (November 1942 – end of 1943) was marked by the Soviet troops counter-offensive operation and defeat of the 330 000-strong group of Germans near Sebastopol. Resulting from the increased military production output and extension of military reserves, the USSR managed to gain both economic and military superiority over Nazi Germany.

During this period, the Navy continued to assist the land troops on the sea-coast flanks and started to take a more active part in military operations on the sea lines of communication. The river flotillas provided direct fire-support of the troops. Fleets and flotillas kept on landing operational and tactical troops, carrying out troops and equipment transportation on the sea and river routes. An important role was played by the Volga River military flotilla which was responsible for securing Volga River strategic oil-communication. The Black Sea Fleet conducted a number of landing operations in districts of Novorossiysk, Taganrog and Mariupol. The Kerch-Eltingen landing operation resulted in Kerch beachhead capture which later allowed us to accomplish successful military operations for liberation of the Crimea.

Unlike the first period of the GPW, when it was mainly submarines that were active on the sea lines of communication, beginning from 1943 they started to engage aviation on a large scale. Almost half of the enemy sank transport tonnage is the result of the aviation attacks. Airplanes with mine-torpedo weapons were added to the fleets Air Forces’ armoury. Aviation started to play a key role in the operations directed at enemy sea transportation lines undermining. Submarines activity was to a large extent hindered by the poor instrumentation and equipment of repair depots with modern machinery and appliances, while at the Baltic Sea Fleet they had to deal with powerful anti-submarine constructions erected by the enemy. The fact that the Soviet Air Forces finally managed to win air superiority and equip the ships with efficient anti-aircraft guns was conducive to the anti-aircraft defence enhancement. The most valuable sea shipping started being covered by fighters. Moreover, losses of ships while transporting cargoes reduced.

The third period of the GPW (January 1944-May 1945) was marked by the USSR Army conducting offensive operations on all the battle-fronts. The Navy participated in most of them.

With the joint efforts of the Leningrad and Volkhov fronts together with the Baltic Sea fleet, the 900-day-long blockade of Leningrad was raised. The naval artillery and aviation, by waging an attack, helped our troops to break the enemy defense. The fleet carried out transportation of the 2nd attack army troops to the Oranienbaum beachhead. In September-October 1944, together with the Leningrad front troops, the fleet conducted successful operations for the Moonzund Islands liberation. In the course of the offensive along the Ukrainian right sea-coast, the Soviet troops reached the USSR frontier and then stepped on the Romanian territory.

The 4th Ukrainian front troops, supported by the independent Priozersk army and Black Sea Fleet, liberated the Crimea.

Throughout the third period of the war, the main operational activity of the fleets and flotillas included the following: landing of sea and river landing force; artillery support of the army flanks; transportation of the troops, equipment and machinery. The Fleet proved itself to be a powerful striking force capable of making abrupt, unexpected changes in the coastal land forces operation zone. The fleets’ independently-conducted operations usually included, first of all, submarine and naval aviation operations in the North, on the Black and Baltic Seas. It is in those operations that the Soviet Air Forces achieved its greatest and most impressive results.

During the war against Japan in August-September 1945, the Pacific Ocean Fleet successfully landed a number of operational and tactical landing bodies. In close cooperation with the Soviet Army units, the fleet liberated South Sakhalin, Kuril Islands, ports along the Korea eastern coast and Port-Artur.

The Amur River flotilla helped land forces in the complete defeat of the Japanese Quantum army in Manchuria. It also secured the river forced crossing operations, provided fire-support of the troops in the course of offensives along the Sungari River and landed tactical landing forces.

During the Great Patriotic War, the Navy sank 708 warships and auxiliary vessels of Germany and its allies as well as 791 transport vessels of total tonnage of 1, 84 million tons. The validity and adequacy of these data can be proved by different sources. Almost half of the ships and vessels sank was the direct result of the Air Forces attacks. Submarines accounted for 5% of the enemy warships and 20% of transports and supply ships. The destruction of 15% of the German ships and vessels was owing to mine weaponry. The USSR Navy surface ships sank 53 warships and auxiliary vessels as well as 24 enemy transports. In general, during the GPW, the Navy caused the Nazi enemy very substantial damages. “They have fulfilled their soldier’s duty to our Motherland till final victory” – was stated in the Final Order issued by the Commander-in-Chief.