In February 1944 the Soviet Air Force started its actions against Helsinki, the capital of Finland. This was the ADD, the Long Range Aviation, the equivalent to the Bomber Command (in a sense). All together the over 2 000 bombing sorties took place in the three raids dropping more than 16 000 bombs (around 2 600 tons of bombs).
The raids took place during the nights of the 6-7, 16-17 and 26-27 of February 1944. First raid had over 700 bombers, the second one almost 400 bombers and the last one nearly 900 bombers. The aircraft types used were mostly Il-4 (or DB-3F, Soviet 2-engined bomber), Li-2 (licensed produced bomber variant of DC-3), B-25 (lend-lease Mitchell) and A-20 (lend-lease Havoc).
Finnish air defenses for Helsinki consisted of 70 heavy AA guns (at least 75 mm) and around 40 lighter guns. The Finns had prepared special AA shells by adding magnesium and aluminum to the explosive making the explosion much brighter and dangerous looking. Some of the heavy AA batteries had Würzburg radars for targeting while overall situation was followed with pair of longer range Freya radars. During the later raids a flight of German night fighters was present.
The casualties of the raids were fairly low as only 146 people lost their lives in them altogether (from whom 6 were military losses) and 356 were wounded, most of them during the first raid. The Soviet losses were 25 aircraft. Finnish deception measures and effective AAA barrage firing resulted in most of the bombers releasing their bomb loads either at decoy targets or well short of targets.
The bombings were nicknamed as ‘rauhanpommitukset’ or ‘bombings for peace’ as it was seen as an attempt by the USSR to force Finland out of the war. The Soviet leadership was under the impression that the bombings had been much more devastating and that they would have been forcing Finland into concessions while actually only relatively minor damage had been inflicted.