Operation Silver Fox

World War II in the Arctic

the Arctic 1941.0903

Operation Silver Fox

Arctic disputes, Winter War, Weather War, World War II, Cold War, Climate Change (3 September 1941)

Historical Map of the Arctic & the Far North

On June 22, Germany invaded the Soviet Union, with Finland joining in a few days later. In the Arctic, German and Finnish forces crossed into northern Russia in an attempt to seize Murmansk but were slowed by the terrain and beaten back by a stubborn Soviet resistance. Thus, despite German advances almost everywhere else, the Soviet Union's only year-round ice-free Atlantic port remained open to shipments of Allied supplies.

Main Events

Pan-American Security Zone extension

The United States extended the Pan-American Security Zone to 26 degrees West, as far as the Azores. The extension brought the zone to within 93 km of Iceland, a major convoy staging area.

Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact

The Empire of Japan signed a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union, safe-guarding both nations against a war on multiple fronts. The treaty was signed in Moscow by Foreign Minister Yosuke Matsuoka and Ambassador Yoshitsugu Tatekawa for Japan and Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov for the Soviet Union. At the same time, the Soviet Union pledged to respect the territorial integrity and inviolability of Manchukuo, while Japan did the same for the Mongolian People's Republic.

Sinking the Bismarck

With her fuel tanks damaged after the Battle of Denmark Strait, the German battleship Bismarck was making for the port of Brest in German-occupied France when she was intercepted on 26 May by torpedo bombers from the British aircraft carrier Ark Royal, whose strikes disabled her steering gear. The following day, she was sunk in a full-on attack by British battleships and cruisers.

Operation Barbarossa

At 3:15 am the Axis Powers led by Nazi Germany launched the invasion of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, bombing cities in a broad arc from Kronstadt to Sevastopol as some three million troops advanced across the border. Within hours the momentum of the Axis attacks had completely destroyed the Soviet organizational command and control, paralyzing every level of command, and it was only at 7:15 am that Soviet leader Josef Stalin announced the invasion to the Soviet Armed Forces and called upon them to act.

Continuation War begins

In the morning, the Soviet Union launched an air offensive against German airfields in Finland, unintentionally hitting several Finnish cities. In the wake of the bombings, the Finnish parliament accepted that Finland was under attack, declaring war on the Soviets. The war became known as the Continuation War, as it occurred a little over a year after the Winter War ended.

Operation Silver Fox

In Operation Silver Fox, German and Finnish forces attacking from northern Norway and Finland attempted to capture Murmansk, the key Arctic port of the Soviet Union. In the first phase, Operation Reindeer, the Germans secured Petsamo, after which they followed with northern (Operation Platinum Fox) and southern (Operation Arctic Fox) offensives, aiming to cut off and capture Murmansk. These latter attacks were stopped by the Soviets, allowing Murmansk to continue to function throughout the war.

US occupation of Iceland

The United States 1st Provisional Marine Brigade landed in Iceland, replacing the British garrison on the island.

Atlantic Charter

The United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill issued the Atlantic Charter as a joint declaration at Naval Station Argentia, Newfoundland. The charter detailed the goals and aims of the Allied powers concerning World War II and the post-war world, even though the US was not yet officially involved in the War. It had eight principal points, most notably that the Allies sought no territorial gains, accepted the right of national self-determination, and strove for disarmament, free-trade, and global cooperation.

Operation Gauntlet

In Operation Gauntlet, Canadian, Norwegian, and British forces landed on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, destroying radio stations and coal mines around Barentsburg and Longyearbyen. On 3 September, they withdrew to Arkhangelsk on the liner RMS Empress of Canada and Royal Navy support ships, evacuating some 800 Norwegian and Soviet nationals.

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