Author: Juhana Lepoluoto
Originally published in the newspaper 'Keskisuomalainen' on December 6th, 2001.
INDEPENDENCE DAY, 2001
The lonely grave of the Knight of the Mannerheim Cross awaits caretakers
One day, back in the distant 50's, the restaurant table of a Jyväskylä merchant was approached by a penniless man. An ex-soldier who had suffered his punishment, stripped of honor after a closed-doors trial. Said person asked the occupant of the table, if he could join him.
- The Commander is always welcome to my table, the recently passed-on Ture Mattila is said to have responded.
Until his premature death almost three decades ago in 1964, the Knight of the Mannerheim Cross, a fighter ace with 56 victories, Lieutenant Colonel Eino Luukkanen worked in his ex-subject's family business and lived in a city apartment owned by Mattila. Mattila had also been a fighter pilot in the war, fighting successfully under the command of Luukkanen, the latest in the famed 34th Fighter Squadron.
- Ture Mattila had very warm relationship with his former superior, Nyyssönen said.
- Mattila regretted the last stages of his commander's life and he sought for the redemption of his superior.
Squadron Commander Eino Luukkanen (left .) and oberleutnant H. Götz.
The Knight's honour must be returned
The difficult time of Luukkanen's life rose to headlines again last year, when Juha Pohjonen's book of Finnish cases of treason was published. Luukkanen and one of his subjects was accused of handing Finnish air photo maps to the Swedes during the so-called great espionage case of Jyväskylä.
Nyyssönen has perused the book thoroughly and agrees with the late Mattila. Luukkanen never admitted revealing any material to Sweden's Säpo (Secret police), but he said he had taken an Air Force plane over the western border to bring fruits and drinks to his pilots. At that time, Finland was still poor and everything was rationed.
Nyyssönen says also that many of Air Force officers currently on duty agree, that the brilliant pilot knight who had done great services to the Fatherland must be rehabilitated.
Getting stripped of honour must have been so hard a blow to Luukkanen, that it probably quickened his death. His heart failed in October 1964, but still before his death he worked in Mattila's company.
- After his commander's death, Ture Mattila contacted his fellow pilots and arranged a collection. This stone was erected with those funds, Nyyssönen told.
A ten year contract was made with the parish of the caretaking of the grave, but after that the resting site of the pilot knight fell on ill repair. A couple of years ago the guild of flight technics repaired the degraded stone.
A place of pilgrimage
While we were at the grave, Nyyssönen cleaned the lower portion of the stone, where the number of Luukkanen's victories is said to be 51. According to current records, the real number is 56. Luukkanen, who flew the greatest number of combat flights (441), was third in the victory list of Finnish aces right after Ilmari Juutilainen and Hans Wind. On Independence Days there are often candles on the lonely grave, but the place is not in proper care.
- As far as I know, there's no designated caretaker, Nyyssönen said.
- I have visited this grave with high-ranking officers. One thought aloud, whether the Air Force would take the grave as a traditional site. At least then someone would take care of this.
But Eino Luukkanen is not forgotten. Using his name on the Internet search engine easily produces over 100 hits.