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A street car and a building ablaze during the Bombing of Helsinki (probably February, 1944).

The Great Raids of February, 1944 were three massive bombing operations over Helsinki conducted by the Soviet Union against Finland. The aim of the raids was to demoralize the Finnish peoples into submission. Because of Finland's ties with Nazi Germany, the United States and Britain backed the USSR when it was proposed at the Tehran Conference (1943).

February 6, the first night of the bombing, brought the most destruction to Finland's capital. Starting at 7:23 PM, 730 bomber aircraft dropped approximately 350 bombs on Helsinki, while another 2,500 bombs fell outside the city. The Finnish Air Force had no night fighters at the time of the raid, and was therefore limited to the use of AA guns. 100 people were killed during the first night of the raid, and 300 were injured. Many people were unprepared for the attacks, as they were conditioned to ignore the warnings after several false alarms issued by the Finnish AA defenses.

After the first raid, 12 Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6 (German night fighters) were transferred to Helsinki. By the time of the second raid, most of Helsinki's population had voluntarily evacuated to the countryside.

Only 383 bombers participated in the second raid, on February 16. 25 died in the second raid, and another 29 were wounded. 27 buildings were destroyed and 53 damaged.

Ten days later, the most massive, yet least destructive air raid was launched. The last raid was much longer than the first two; it lasted 11 hours and was split into three stages. The first stage consisted of persistent bombing of the city, much like the previous raids. The second stage aimed to neutralize Finnish AA, but saw no results in that respect. The third stage was a massive attack that aimed to flatted the city, but the Finnish AA an night fighters were able check Soviet bombers. 21 people were killed in this final raid, and 35 were wounded. 59 buildings were destroyed and 135 damaged. Only 25 Soviet planes were lost in the February raids.

The USSR thought it had succeeded in flattening Helsinki and didn't learn of the limited damage until Allied Control Commissioner Andrei Zhdanov visited Helsinki after the war.


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Taken in February 1944