The German Conquest of the Baltic Islands
Publication Year: 2008
In October 1917, an invasion force of some 25,000 German soldiers, accompanied by a flotilla of 10 dreadnoughts, 350 other vessels, a half-dozen zeppelins, and 80 aircraft, attacked the Baltic islands of Dago, Osel, and Moon at the head of the Gulf of Riga. It proved to be the most successful amphibious operation of World War I. The three islands fell, the Gulf was opened to German warships and was now a threat to Russian naval bases in the Gulf of Finland, and 20,000 Russians were captured. The invasion proved to be the last major operation in the East. Although the invasion had achieved its objectives and placed the Germans in an excellent position for the resumption of warfare in the spring, within three weeks of the operation, the Bolsheviks took power in Russia (November 7, 1917) and Albion faded into obscurity as the war in the East came to a slow end.
Published by: Indiana University Press
Series: Twentieth-Century Battles
List of Maps
Dates, Times, and Names
In 1917, the Russians still used a Julian calendar, placing them thirteen days behind the remainder of Europe. In Russian documents, the German invasion of the Baltic Islands began on 29 September 1917 rather than 12 October 1917. ...
In most instances, a single author receives credit for writing a work of history. The reality is that many people contribute to the final product, and I would like to express my gratitude, only hoping I do not leave out anyone. ...
One Submarine UC-58, Tagga Bay, 28 September 1917
Once he was certain the smudge on the horizon was actually land, Lieutenant Karl Vesper ordered his boat to dive. The UC-58, a new minelaying submarine commissioned only a few months before, submerged and remained on its southerly course. The 400-ton U-boat glided noiselessly under the surface as its engines switched from diesel to electric. ...
Two The Strategic Importance of the Baltic Islands
When the war broke out in 1914, neither Germany nor Russia felt the Baltic Islands had any significance. France remained the center of interest for the German army. The Imperial Fleet looked to the North Sea and the Royal Navy. The ground forces of Russia did focus on Germany. ...
Three The Decision to Mount Operation Albion
On the 18th of September, 1917, at 10 PM, ten military officers boarded the train from Berlin to K
Four The Islands and Their Defenses
The last ice age was not kind to the Baltic islands. Glaciers scoured the terrain, leaving it flat and largely featureless. The land was low, with the few higher elevations usually located on the north part of the islands and facing west, subsiding gently to the south and east. ...
Five The Invasion
At four in the morning on the 11th of October, Lieutenant General Hugo von Kathen, the commander of the XXIII Reserve Corps, ate breakfast. Of medium build and height, von Kathen was clean-shaven except for a full “handlebar” moustache. Popular before the war, especially since the kaiser sported one, ...
Six Ösel, 12–13 October 1917: The Central Island
Artur Toom was the first to hear the German guns firing the morning of the 12th of October. He was the lighthouse watchman at Filzand (Vilsandi) Island, on the west coast of
Seven Ösel, 12–16 October 1917: The Island’s Ends
“Keep in mind,” said Lieutenant Colonel Kurt Fischer, commander of Infantry Regiment 131, “this is an effort to save German lives.” With those words, First Lieutenant von Oppen, accompanied by several soldiers and a translator, headed south at 8 AM on the 14th from the village of Tehomarti toward the Russian lines. ...
Eight The Capture of Moon and Dag
The Russians understood the importance of Moon Island. Moon formed the midway point between
Nine The Naval Battle for the Baltic Islands
The most important mission the German navy faced during the campaign for the Baltic Islands was the safe transport of the landing force to the islands and its successful lodgment ashore. With that done, the navy then had to provide artillery support to the army’s operations. ...
At dawn on the 20th of October, Bakhirev and his collection of ships steamed into the Russian naval facility at Lapvik, Finland, having made good their escape from the Moon Sound. The crews had no time to celebrate their good fortune. Skippers quickly moved the vessels to repair facilities in order to get them back to combat-ready status ...
For the German soldiers of the landing corps and sailors of the Naval Task Force, successful in battle, came a flurry of congratulatory messages. The kaiser, Field Marshal von Hindenburg, and General von Hutier all penned notes of praise. The services expressed their gratitude through awards and promotions. ...
Appendix: A Word on Sources