Johan Pitka

Johan Pitka

Infobox Military Person
name= Johan Pitka
lived=February 19 1872 - 1944

caption=Monument to Johan Pitka in Tallinn.
serviceyears= 1918–1920
unit= Estonian Navy
battles=Estonian War of Independence
World War II
awards=Cross of Liberty (Estonia)

Johan Pitka VR I/1 KCMG (February 19 1872 Jalgsema, Võhmuta vald, Estonia - disappeared 1944, probably September, Läänemaa, Estonia) was a famous Estonian military commander during the Estonian War of Independence.

Early life

Pitka studied at Käsmu, Kuressaare and Paldiski marine schools and became Captain. From 1889 to 1907 he commanded different ships. From 1904 to 1911, he lived in Great Britain. After the start of the Russian Revolution in 1917, Pitka became active in society and started organizing returning Estonian soldiers who fought in the Russian Army during World War I. He was forced to go underground after communists sentenced him to death. After the start of the German occupation in 1918, Pitka started organizing the Defence League.

Estonian War of Independence

In the Estonian War of Independence, the Defence League was one of the main forces of the Republic of Estonia, and at that time Pitka started organizing armoured trains. The first one was ready 10 days after the start of the war, and the second became ready two weeks later. In total, five armoured trains were built during the war, and they played a crucial role in the Estonian victory. Many called Pitka "father of armoured trains" for this.

Pitka also was the main organizer of the Estonian Navy. In December 1919 he became Commander-in-Chief of the navy and led it in all major operations including supporting the 1st Division in the capture of Narva from the Russian SFSR and supporting the 3rd Division by attacking Landeswehr naval fortifications at Riga. In September he achieved the rank of Rear Admiral. Pitka retired in November 1919.

Life after war and death

From 1924 to 1930 Pitka lived in Canada. After returning to Estonia he was one of the leaders of the League of Liberators for a short time but left the organization in 1932. In 1937 he was a member of the National Constituent Assembly. In 1940 he escaped from Soviet occupation to Finland.

Pitka returned to Estonia in spring 1944. In September 1944 the Germans were retreating, and Jüri Uluots organized a new Estonian government headed by Otto Tief. Pitka organized the last defence of Tallinn against the advancing Red Army. The circumstances of his death remain unknown. Several stories relate his death either to a battle against a Soviet tank group or perishing on the stormy Baltic Sea when trying to make his way to Sweden aboard one of the last small boats fleeing the country.

See also

*Freikorps in the Baltic


* [ Admiral Johan Pitka]
* [ Exhibition 2007: Admiral Pitka - 135]
* Voldemar Pinn. "Admiral Pitka elu ja surm: raamat mehest, kel Eestimaal kaheksa hauda". Tartu: 1993.
* Ülo Kaevats et al. 2000. "Eesti Entsüklopeedia 14". Tallinn: Eesti Entsüklopeediakirjastus, ISBN 9985-70-064-3

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