A Success or a Disaster?
Events at Tallinn were comparable to the Allied evacuation of Dunkirk over a year earlier. At Dunkirk, 338,000 Allied soldiers escaped the Germans. This was accomplished under British air cover and over a much shorter distance, 20 miles compared with 200 at Tallinn.
The results of the Tallinn breakout are disputed as simultaneously a success and a disaster. Despite the loss of more than 11,000 evacuees, including roughly 3,000 civilians, almost 17,000 people, mostly evacuated ground troops, reached Leningrad and joined in the defense of the city. The Kirov was saved, along with the destroyers Minsk and Leningrad. Of the original 10 destroyers, five were lost, mostly of the old Novik class. The guns mounted on Kirov and the destroyers assisted in the defense of Leningrad, and the majority of the smaller naval vessels made it back as well. The real losses were among the civilian vessels, with more than 40 of them, including 19 large transports, sunk.
The Soviet government offered little official comment about the events. To this day, virtually no declassified information exists on the evacuation of Tallinn.
This article originally appeared in 2018 and is being republished due to reader interest.
This article by Victor J. Kamenir originally appeared on the Warfare History Network.
Image: Wikimedia Commons