Over half a century after the conclusion of the Second World War there are still areas that are simply begging for more research. Henrik Lunde has discovered one such area and has gone through great lengths to provide a highly detailed operational history of Finland's Continuation War from the point of view of the Axis powers. The initial chapter discusses the position Finland assumed after gaining her independence from Russia following the Bolshevik Revolution. The Winter War is then discussed, including Finland's stand against the Soviet Union. The eventual defeat suffered at the hands of the Red Army created an environment where Finland found itself succumbing to German pressure and needs and moving further away from her independent/democratic stance to a more reliant alliance with and on Germany.
Up to this point there is a variety of literature available, especially on the Winter War. What Lunde seems to gloss over is the Soviet aspect of the political and diplomatic maneuverings that he covers, for which there is also plenty of literature available (in English). The author could have added much more detail to his narrative if he bothered to consult a few more secondary sources that are readily available in detailing the position of the Soviet Union on the eve of both the Second World War and the invasion of the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, Lunde's text is regularly marred by the lack of attention he pays to the Soviet side. Granted, this is not a book that aims to retell the story of the Continuation War from the Soviet point of view, but adding in relevant context and detail that's available in English would not have hurt the overall narrative.
This book can readily be divided into two sections after the invasion of the Soviet Union commences. The operations undertaken in 1941 and early 1942, and those undertaken in 1944. The initial operations feature the Finns taking back the territory they lost in the Winter War, with German help, and then holding back from taking additional territory (aside from a few pieces here and there to help in terms of defensive lines). What follows for the rest of the 1942 and 1943 is a stagnation of the frontlines with limited combat activity as the Germans lack the forces necessary to do anything on their own and the Finns refuse to budge and help with the taking of Leningrad or cutting off Murmansk. Lunde also goes into great detail discussing how the Finns really have no excuse in terms of their guilt in starting this 'War of Choice'. They had planned for it and they cannot simply get out the position they dug themselves into by saying that the Soviets began the war. Lunde shows quite well that German divisions were already stationed in Finland, German planes were operating out of Finnish airstrips and both the Finns and Germans participated in the mining of the Baltic. While it is true that Finnish forces did not begin combat operations until after Soviet forces began bombing Finland, according to Lunde, this was mainly done to garner public support in believing in the myth that Finland was undertaking a defensive war rather than an offensive one.
The second section of the book deals with 1944 and the various attempts by the Finns to get out of the war, while the Germans were attempting to keep them in and eventually had to withdraw/evacuate their units after Finland signed a treaty with the Soviets. Here the majority of combat activity belonged to the Soviets, who initiated numerous offensives and pushed back the Finns and Germans and demonstrated that combined arms operations were a possibility even in the arctic conditions found in the far north of Lapland. Lunde praises the German ability to evacuate the majority of their forces but also admits that many Soviet forces were withdrawn after their initial successful operations to other areas of the Eastern Front and so could not commence or continue operations that would have netted greater gains against the Germans.
Throughout the Continuation War the Germans assumed a very interesting position in relation to Finland. Often times they were bereft of any real choice in terms of operations against the Red Army unless the Finns acquiesced to their demands. And more often than not the Finns simply held back as they had achieved everything they wanted. Unfortunately they did not think things through well enough to understand that if the Germans were to be successful in defeating the Soviets they would be at Hitler's mercy and if the Third Reich were to fall they could hardly do anything of worth against the forces of the Red Army.
Aside from the above mentioned limited representation the Soviets get, there were a few other weaknesses. In mentioning the losses the Soviets suffered in the Winter War the author is unfortunately not aware the official numbers were published years ago in English and are readily available, he, however, quotes inflated estimates. There is mention of the Soviet occupation of the Baltics but nothing to put it into context with Soviet foreign policy and the fact that the occupation only came with the defeat of the last continental power in Europe, France. At times the author doesn't go to the trouble of quoting his sources and, lastly, by the latter part of the book, the author (or maybe editor) forgets that Soviets units were 'rifle' not 'infantry' (for instance, Lunde discusses a 'light infantry corps' when in fact it was a 'light mountain rifle corps'). This at times makes for difficult reading as German and Finnish forces are also listed as 'infantry' and it becomes difficult to separate them all when there are dozens being mentioned.
Nonetheless, overall, this is a fascinating look at the Continuation War and Finland's alliance with the Third Reich. How both attempted to use and help the other and the final results of a dictatorship allying with and at times being at the mercy of a democracy.