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Soviet Red Banner Northern Fleet
Red Banner Northern Fleet (Северный флот in Russian, or Severniy flot), a part of the Soviet Navy, created in 1933 for the purpose of defending Soviet territory beyond the Arctic circle (Заполярье, or Zapolyariye). The Northern Fleet was headquartered at Severomorsk.
During World War I, Russia ran into a problem of protecting the Barents Sea transportation routes, used by Russian and Royal Navy ships, from the Kaiserliche Marine and its submarines. Therefore, on June 19, 1916, the Arctic Sea Flotilla (Флотилия Северного Ледовитого океана, or Flotiliya Severnogo Ledovitogo okeana) was established. After the October Revolution, the Soviets put together the White Sea Flotilla (Беломорская флотилия, or Belomorskaya flotiliya) in Arkhangelsk in March of 1920, which would later be renamed to the Naval Forces of the North Sea (disbanded in January of 1923).
In order to form the Northern Fleet, the Soviets transferred a number of ships from the Baltic Sea to the North (2 destroyers, 2 patrol boats, 2 submarines). They left Kronstadt on May 18, 1933 and came to Murmansk on August 5, thus, forming the Northern Flotilla (Commander – Zakhar Zakupnev; replaced by Konstantin Dushenov in March of 1935). The second party of ships (1 destroyer, 1 patrol boat, 1 submarine, 2 minesweepers) arrived in the port of Soroka (White Sea) in September of 1933. The town of Polyarny became the main base of the flotilla in 1935. The first party of airplanes for the flotilla arrived at Murmansk in September of 1935. On May 11, 1937, the Northern Flotilla was renamed to the Northern Fleet. By this time, the Soviets had already organized coastal and air defense artillery, built airfields, and received new ships.
During the Winter War of 1939-1940, the ships of the Northern Fleet blocked the Finnish military base in Petsamo. By June of 1941, the Northern Fleet had already included 8 destroyers, 15 submarines, 2 torpedo boats, 7 patrol boats, 2 minesweepers and 116 airplanes. In August of 1940, the Soviets created the White Sea Military Base for the purpose of defending the coastline, bases, ports and other installations, which would be renamed to the White Sea Flotilla a year later (Commanders: Rear-Admiral M.Dolinin (since August of 1941), Vice Admiral G.Stepanov (since October), and subsequently Rear-Admiral Stepan Kucherov and Vice-Admiral Yuri Panteleyev ).
The North Fleet in World War II
During the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945, the Northern Fleet defended the coastlines of the Rybachiy and Sredniy peninsulas, secured internal and external transportation routes, provided support to the maritime flank of the 14th Army, deployed marines, participated in the Petsamo-Kirkenes Operation in 1944; a part of the Northern Fleet’s personnel (up to 10,000 men) took part in the land warfare , as well.
During the war, the Northern Fleet was reinforced with aviation and ships from the Pacific Ocean and Caspian Sea. Also, Great Britain temporarily provided its ships to the USSR in exchange for the Italian ships, captured during the war and destined to be divided between the allies.
During the war, the Northern Fleet secured safe passage for 1463 ships in external convoys and 2568 ships in internal convoys. Its submarines, torpedo boats and aviation sank 192 transport ships and 70 military ships of the enemy. In addition, the Northern Fleet damaged 118 transport, military, and auxiliary ships.
2 airborne regiments, squadron of submarine hunters, 8 submarines and destroyer “Гремящий” (Gremyaschiy, or “rattler”) were promoted to the Soviet Guards' status for their skillful military operations. Many formations, units and ships were awarded with orders. 85 sailors of the Northern Fleet received the title of the Hero of the Soviet Union (3 of them - twice). More than 48,000 men were awarded with orders and medals. On May 7, 1965 the Northern Fleet was awarded with the Order of the Red Banner.
In September of 1955, the Soviets were the first ones in the world to launch a ballistic missile from a submarine. The first Soviet submarine “Б-67” (B-67) with ballistic missiles on board became a part of the Northern Fleet in June of 1956.
On July 17, 1962, after having traveled under the Arctic ice, the Soviet nuclear submarine Leninskiy Komsomol (Lenin’s Komsomol) surfaced in the North Pole region for the first time in the world and raised the Soviet flag and the Navy pennant (see USS Nautilus). Russian submarines have visited the North Pole region more than 300 times since then.
In September of 1963, two nuclear submarines of the Northern Fleet made a journey under the Arctic ice cap and reached the Pacific Fleet for the first time in history. More than 25 Russian submarines did the same in the following years.
Commanders of the Northern Fleet
- Konstantin Ivanovich Dushenov (since May, 1937)
- Valentin Petrovich Drozd (since May, 1938)
- Arseniy Grigoriyevich Golovko (since September, 1940)
- V.I.Platonov (since August, 1946)
- Andrey Trofimovich Chabanenko (since April, 1952)
- Vladimir Afanasiyevich Kasatonov (since February, 1962)
- Semeon Mikhailovich Lobov (since May, 1964)
- Georgi Mikhailovich Yegorov (since March, 1972)
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