Virtual pilots cater to Air Force veterans from Oulu
Eino Estama - Blenheim/Junkers 88 pilot in chatting mood |
Blenheim/Junkers 88 pilot tries out the simulator |
About flight training |
Interviewing Mr Eino Estama |
Questions concerning bombing missions on Junkers 88 |
The flight discipline of the bombers |
About enemy fighter equipment |
A special incident? |
Elo Tapani, sub hunter |
Esko Tervo - Dornier 17 machine gunner/radio operator |
Stories from other pilots from Oulu |
Get the pilot |
The Brewster men get moose meat |
Fire is no pleasant flying companion |
Food to besieged St Petersburg |
Overtly eager AA men |
I-16 vs AA machine gun |
The Siilasvuo fellow ducks and covers |
Other flight stories |
As a POW in Russia |
About the Messerschmitt's emergency power settings |
Virtual pilots cater to Air Force veterans from Oulu
On March 2nd-4th 2001, the virtual pilot organization "Virtuaalilentäjät r.y." arranged a weekend meeting. On Saturday, March 3rd, Air Force veterans from Oulu were invited to enjoy the hospitality of the younger aviation enthusiasts. During the visit they were also demonstrated the hobby of simulator flying, "virtual aviation". Coffee with many kinds of delicatessen was offered, not forgetting shots of stronger drinks. The day passed smoothly and our group of hobbyists enjoyed the visit immensely, as it is not often that you get to meet such a group of true craftsmen. W hope the veterans enjoyed themselves too. At least they received plenty of salutes from the online flight simulator environment, we noticed greetings from Australia, Japan, USA, UK, Brazil and Belgium, among others.
The visiting veteran were:
Elo Tapani, machine gunner/radio operator, SB-2, sub hunter
Estama Eino, pilot, Blenheim and Junkers 88 bombers, later 200+ flight hours with Me 109
Kauppila Kauko, pilot (didn't make it to the front), later flight controller
Sallanko Raimo, mechanic
Tervo Esko, machine gunner/radio operator, Dornier Do 17
Original Finnish language article translated to English by SubLt Markku Herd, Finnish Navy.
Raimo Sallanko, Esko Tervo and Kauko Kauppila watch WarBirds.
As in previous photo, in front Elo Tapani (2nd from left)
Eino Estama, Esko Tervo and Elo Tapani.
The guests enjoying the menu.
The virtual pilots have also met veterans in the centre of Oulu, where the veterans have regular meetings every second week. Some members of Virtuaalilentäjät r.y. who haven taken part in these occasions are Pekka "Neck" Koski, Risto "Korva" Korva and Olli "Ok" Korhonen, of the virtual squadron VLeLv Icebreakers.
In addition to the above veterans, in different cafeteria meetings at least the following men have been encountered:
Estama Valte, fighter pilot - Morane Saulnier, 109.
Kukkonen Matti, fighter pilot - Brewster.
Paronen Onni, chief master sergeant, fighter pilot - 109 and such.
Sutela Jorma, mechanic.
Vuopohja Arne, mechanic.
Tuomas ??, assistant mechanic at Luonetjärvi, 4th Flight Regiment.
Something we'd like to point out: mr. Onni Paronen, chief master sergeant, is actually one of the highest ranking flying officers in the Finnish Air Force. He is highly valued by the other veterans from Oulu, and several times mentioned as "our most highly honored member". He is always reserved the end of the table chair, the most valuable position, in the veteran's meeting. He is the last pilot of his rank alive in Finland. I, the author of this article, greatly envy those member of our virtual pilot's community who have had the honour of meeting him and I sincerely hope I will have a chance to meet him in person some day.
Photos from the veteran's cafe meeting march 2001
This article has been writted based on the discussions and interviews during the veteran visits and cafeteria meetings.
From the right, Kauko Kauppila and Eino Estama.
Elo Tapani, Matti Kukkonen and Esko Tervo.
Elo Tapani, Raimo Sallanko and Reijo Pirkonen.
Eino Estama - Blenheim/Junkers 88 pilot in chatting mood
Mr Eino Estama has experience of the Blenheim and Junkers 88 bombers. Mr. Estama was eager to speak and possessed sharp tongue. During our discussions and interviews he made sure that the material is absolutely not going to be used for any commercial purposes.
Another of Eino's conditions was: "I won't tell any tall tales of heroics. I tell only what is true."
More of Eino's and his brother Edvald's ("Valte") stories can be read in the article The Estama Brothers visit the Virtual Pilots.
During the war Eino got to fly several types of planes. During his training he got naturally acquainted with several planes. In addition to bombers he reiceived later full training for the Me 109 fighters, apparently after the war. Subsequently he has over 200 flight hours in the 109.
He had even a chance to try out the Russian I-153 fighter, the "Chaika". The Chaika was one of the best biplanes ever built - relatively fast, well equipped and especially agile. Eino told us that during one flight he decided to pull a loop. "I pulled the stick back and it made three loops before I was able to ease the stick again," he chuckled. The Chaika had proven its nimbleness.
Eino stayed in our compaly as long as nine hours, so we got to discuss lots of things. The sauna was warmed up in the evening and Eino got a good steam. In the night we drove him back home, where he showed us some his old films of post-war flying. "The feed for my family came from air," Eino told, as he used to fly cargo, mail, officials, people and so on with a small plane he had imported from America.
Blenheim/Junkers 88 pilot tries out the simulator
Eino was seduced to try the WarBirds simulator. It wasn't easy to convince him, but eventually he took off. When Eino started out his flight simulation career with a Me 109 F fighter, we informed the other pilots online that a genuine wartime pilot was taking off. More greetings and virtual salutes flooded in. After some trying, the true pilot got the toy plane in the air.
It wasn't easy, the controls of a home computer aren't very similar to those of a real plane. The overtly sensitive and "numb" stick was the biggest problem, since the movements gave no tactile response like that of the genuine plane does. Additionally, the control stick of a real fighter plane doesn't slip on the table, but is firmly attached to the cockpit floor. The pedals didn't feel right either, but eventually a proper grip was found and the plane stayed airborne.
It took several tries, though. At times Eino left the computer "to cool off", but after a little 'refueling' break he returned to the keyboard, "I'm so pig-headed that I'll try once more..."
After a while Eino decided to try the Junkers 88 bomber, after all it was his plane. And so the actual Ju-88 pilot guided the virtual Ju-88 into virtual sky.
Again this was reported to the other virtual pilots, who showed respect to our pilot by flying nearby. Our special thanks go to the friendly Japanese who flew in formation with Eino's Ju-88.
Eino compared the simulated Ju-88 to his real plane. The biggest difference was again the feel of the controls. "My Junkers had a robust stick, you felt well what you were doing." Otherwise the flight was graceful.
After a break Eino tried the Me 109 G too. Note his light, precise grip of the stick.
Generally the visitors who watched and tried simulator flying noted that it looks good, and in their analysis the biggest problems of home computer simulations were the absence of seat-of-the-pants feeling and the modelling of the pilot. When you don't feel the movements of the plane in your bottom or the stick, a major portion of the flying experience is left out. Likewise the pilot model, for example a proper modelling of G forces, is lacking.
Eino's brother Valte, who used to fly Morane and 109, had earlier mused how fun it was to watch the simulator, where you could see what planes there were flying (from the small airplane identification text below the actual plane, in computer monitor). "Wish we'd had those then, so we would have known the Russkie planes when they came. It was kinda funny when you didn't know what plane it was. When even the flight controllers couldn't identify them."
About flight training
Eino told about his training and compared it to those of the Russians and the Germans. At worst, the eastern neighbor sent cadets with some 30 flight hours to the front in fighter planes. Also the training level of Germans at the late stages of the war is well known. In contrast, according to Eino the quality and amount of training was never reduced in Finland. Every single pilot was ready and prepared when he came to frontline squadrons, with at least 150 flight hours behind him and full education, including maneuver and combat training. Eino praised his training as very good and comprehensive.
Every pilot received the same full-length, comprehensive training before they were separated into squadrons. The members of Eino's course were apparently asked what they wanted to fly, and Eino chose bombers.
Interviewing Mr Eino Estama
Eino Estama being interviewed.
Aviation enthusiasts had made questions that I presented to Eino during a relaxed interview.
Note: Mr. Estama did not fly actual bombing mission on Ju-88 during the war. His knowledge on the subject is based on his later flying and learning from the older pilots. Therefore: the information here is not first-hand. Basically his answers are mostly quite correct, though contrary to his answer, the Finnish Ju-88s DID use dive bombing technique very often. Both level and dive bombing was used depending on the target, but the "Big Stukas" did dive bomb more often than on level, in Finnish use.
Questions concerning bombing missions on Junkers 88:
How big was the Ju 88 payload? How many bombs per target? Were they 500 or 1000 kg bombs, perhaps smaller?
We had 500 kg bombs, but it depended on what the target was. Mostly we carried 500 and 250 kg bombs. I don't remember so well.
The lecturer visiting Ilmasilta air guild told that 2x500 and 2x250 kg bombs were used a lot in summer '44.
Yes, it was about the same with us. But it depended completely on the target, did we use mine bombs, or sensitive or something else. We didn't much use incensive bombs.
What were the usual targets besides the summer '44 battles, before the summer war? 1942, '43?
The Finnish Army was still in Äänislinna (Petroskoy) and we held Carelia, so it was mostly supportive bases and airfields.
(Questions about bombing the Murmansk Railroad)
Let's say the Murmansk Railroad. The far-patrolling rangers were allowed to go there and the track was attacked too, but north of Kuusamo, it was Germans who operated there. They bombed the Railroad and also the city of Murmansk.
How often did you fly?
It depended on the weather. And the HQ, how they ordered. And how much planes we had available.
During the summer war you flew as much as you could?
What was the normal bombing altitude?
It depended a lot on the target. Sometimes we bombed at 3000 meters (10,000'). We usually didn't dive bomb with the Ju 88. (Editor's note: incorrect). 3000-4000 meters (10,000'-13,500') it usually was. But you can't generalize, it depended on the target and the weather. Sometimes it was two kilometers (6,500'), sometimes higher.
How about glide bombing? How high did you start diving at target, and when did you pull up?
It depended on the direction of attack, how high was the cloud cover, were we above or below clouds. Glide bombings are made so that the engine sound doesn't give you away. But we did glide bombings very rarely, usually we bombed level. (Editor's note: basically, two errors here, remember Eino does not speak from personal experience. Throttling back was done to not exceed the maximum speed in dive.).
What about the bombing process?
The navigator calculated the situation all the time and guided the pilot right, left...
Eino described the Ju 88 bombing method. The most important detail of the plane was a good bomb sight, an electronic device where the bombardier input altitude, wind, speed and so on. It was like a rudimentary computer. The pilot had the sights and all he had to do was to keep the aiming reticle over the target. Then you dropped the bombs and the pilot pushed a button on the stick that activated the autopilot that pulled the plane out of the dive. The G forces were so high in the straightening, you weren't strong enough to pull the plane up from the fast dive by hand anymore.
All in all, Eino praised the Junkers 88, "wonderful machine." All systems were electric, you could even turn the propellor blades to rest from the cockpit if you were flying with one engine only. The Blenheim, for example, had no such property, but the stopped propellor slowed you down in single engine flight.
How were the bombs dropped? Single or cluster? How about aiming, did you aim in one certain spot like a house, or did you just try to hit the general area?
Again, it depended on the target. What your orders were, what are you trying to hit. We made a precise plan before flight, deciding from what direction we closed in and how we bombed. The lead plane called the shots. If there were changes they were told over radio, but usually there was none. It depended on the situation if we dropped all at once, in clusters or one by one; you can't generalize.
The flight discipline of the bombers
Väinö Pokela and Kauko Aho had spoken about escorting bombers, how the Blenheims had especially in the summer '44 battles flown in long lines, like cattle.
I don't understand what you mean. (A long explanation of Aho's and Pokela's stories) No, I don't agree with that. Flew like cattle? We had very strict orders, who flew on whose wing. Each had his own place. It was very disciplined, the planes were 150-300 meters (500'-1,000') apart. The discipline was very strict, but it wasn't even needed to keep us in formation. And we had good escort, they protected us well. Even if the Russkies got close, they were always nearby and coming to help.
About enemy fighter equipment
What enemy fighter types caused you most problems?
They were all equally bad.
Did you have any information of the enemy plane types, did you get any knowledge of new planes before you got to examine those shot down?
We all had an idea what there were. For example, in the beginning there were Chaikas, I-153's, I-16's. Then came MiGs, Yaks, and then the Russians received Tomahawks, Kittyhawks, Hurricanes from England, it was very diverse. But Yaks and Migs, those were the worst.
How about when the enemy got new planes, did you know anything of their capabilities and armament?
Nothing before one attacked. Then we watched what it shoots with, did it have cannon, machine guns, and so on. But nothing before that happened. The Russians didn't inform us. If only they had told us what guns they had, we would have paid good money for that information.
How were you able to recognize planes? At what distance could you tell a friendly plane from enemy?
We knew all basic characteristics of Russian planes quite well. Those with good eyesight could recognize them two kilometers away (1,25 miles). But in some cases we could tell only when they were at our side.
Did you ever fire the Messerschmitt cannon? If you did, how did it feel? It was a big piece, the butt of the gun was in the cockpit, did it kick back when firing?
Yes, there it was between your legs and I fired it many times. But it didn't feel at all. There was the engine roar and radio headset on ears, you didn't feel the gun over those.
A special incident?
Could you tell of something strange or special that happened?
I tell no stories about heroes. But this happened after the war, when I was flying a Blenheim from Luonetjärvi to Kauhava. (The superior officer) said that I should bring three pigs back to Luonetjärvi. When he asked a Sergeant, it was the same as a direct order. So I flew to Kauhava. It was wintertime. Three pigs were brought there with a sleigh and I loaded them in the plane. On our way back to Luonetjärvi the weather turned bad. I tried to go below clouds, but they hung so low that I had to climb higher, between two cloud layers. The radist gave directions to beacons all the time. We found the airfield and the landing was no problem, the field was familiar. The cabin wasn't completely airtight, some snow had blown in and I had to wipe it off me.
There comes the fellow then and asks, "Did you bring the pigs?" "Sure." But when we looked, all three pigs were stiff and still. They had frozen to death, since I had had to climb so high because of the weather. In three kilometers (10,000') the temperature dropped low. But he wasn't mad at me.
After the war, Eino worked a lot in Soviet Union. Once he was in Carelia, visiting a man called Viktor..
Viktor's wife was called Tamara. She was from some part of Asia, she had deep, brown eyes. I was their guest there. We went to see the town and Tamara took my arm. She didn't speak Finnish, but her husband did very well, he had been doing reconnaissance in Finland. I told him that what reconnaissance, you have been a spy.
I told to Viktor that now I'll take your Tamara to Finland with me. Viktor said, we're in for a duel then. It doesn't matter, I said, don't you know one Finn equals ten Russkies. He said, that's not true anymore. True, I said, it's now thirteen Russkies. And then we all burst laughing.
It should be told here that I have many friends in Russia. I've been in an aircraft carrier in Murmanks. But I promised I won't tell anyone what I saw there. I can tell that it was a mighty, massive ship. The ship's captain said that since I had the Finland's war pilots organization's (Pilven Veikot, Fellows of the Clouds) pass that proved I was a war pilot, that was a certified pilot in Finland and had been flying in the front, I could visit them. All their pilots were on leave, he said, that's why the ship was in port. His quarters were magnificent, his TV screen covered a whole wall. He showed certain things there. It was grand ship. But I won't tell anything because I gave my word. He said he dared to show me the ship, because I was a wartime pilot and promised silence.
Isn't it so that you get what you give. And friendship knows no borders. Ordinary people, ordinary Russians, soldiers, pilots, they are very friendly and fine people. Very hospitable. That's how it is. The war is over. But we're still winners since we have independent fatherland. War never builds, peace does. All those who fought, they defended their homeland. And the Germans even defended our homeland, too. They all followed the oath they had sworn. The responsibility belongs to those who give the commands, not to us.
Elo Tapani, sub hunter
The very lively Mr Tapani Elo was a gunner/radio operator during the war in a SB-2 bomber, that hunted Soviet submarines. Mr Elo spoke briefly of his experiences and answered some questions.
Elo Tapani reads Aero-magazine from 1927.
Tapani recalled how enlisted very young, he was 17-18 years of age when he joined the ranks of the Air Force.
I asked about flying the SB-2 and the reliability of the plane, there are many stories of the Russian bomber that do little to bolster your confidence. The answer came quick, though: "No, it was very reliable. More so than the Blenheim." And Tapani told of how they did four-hour search flights over the sea. It went all fine and no accidents happened, though "some planes were shot down from the squadron in the north."
It was cold travel, though. The SB-2 had no electric heating of any kind, the crew had to wear thick clothes. In addition, the Russian bomber had twin machine guns in the nose, though the actual weapons were usually removed. But the holes were there, "it was like two icicles thrusting inside the plane."
How were the depth charges set in the plane?
We carried two charges. One was set to go off in five meters (17'), the other in fifteen (50').
You never had an "incident" with enemy planes, but did you see others in the air?
We never saw Russians, but Germans flew there.
Fighters, recon planes?
The SB had a gunner position in the back, that's where Tapani sat. His armament was a Russian machine gun. The gunner was well attached to the turret, and he could control the turning speed with a pedal. According to Tapani, the turret turned very quickly if you wanted, so you could follow even fast targets. Strapped into a well controllable turret, shooting back would have been very easy, especially as the gun was belt-fed, unlike that of the Blenheim. But in forceful movements the gunner would have been pressed into whatever direction, hanging in his harness, which would have made firing more difficult.
Tapani talked about his machine guns. Five different kinds of rounds were loaded into the belt, but he could not remember the exact ratio any more. The SB machine gun had a habit of going "wild", the weapon occasionally didn't stop firing when the trigger was released. Tapani's solution to these cases was gripping the ammo belt and snapping it in two with a sharp tug.
When speaking of the powerful movements and the gunner getting thrown about by G forces, Tapani is reminded of one unusual incident. The writer's memory claims Tapani was in a Blenheim. The pilot decided to pull a loop. But the speed wasn't enough - and the plane remained standing upright. "It felt awful, hanging in the restraints and wondering which way we'd go next. Fortunately it fell to side over the wing and levelled."
At this point Eino Estama burst into laughter and told how he once pulled a Blenheim into a loop. But he managed to do it.
As Eino laughed, your writer began to feel that this wasn't the whole story, and asked: "May I guess, you didn't warn the gunner at all?" "No, we didn't. We just decided it with the bombardier, and then did it."
Tapani commented, "That's how it was, they never told anything to us in the back."
Esko Tervo - Dornier 17 machine gunner/radio operator
It wasn't easy in the infantry
Mr Esko Tervo, later a Dornier 17 radist/machine gunner, "tried out" the Army in the Winter War. "It was not easy." Being in the Air Force was gentlemen's work compared to it, you could sleep in proper bed with sheets...
Valte Estama remembers one short episode in the Continuation War... "I had once to visit there, in the front lines, to show the infantry what a Finnish plane insignia looks like. I passed them low in a Messerchmitt, and I could see heavy metal raining at them all the time. That slope where they were located was flashing all the time."
He had thought, "you can't survive there. It's impossible. A human being can't live there, there's no tree stump over two feet standing in that slope."
A parachute jump out of a Dornier 17
"It was a normal flight. Uneasy skies. June 11th, '44. The Russkies came over the River Rajajoki (Border River), the weather was bad. We were supposed to bombard tank columns on the road at 400 meters (1,300'). According to recon, there was a 30 kilometers (19 miles) long column of tanks advancing. Every plane that could fly took up. Six Dorniers from our squadron. One returned before reaching the target."
Later Tervo explained why that plane did not go to the target: "the bombardier had forgotten his parachute, and the pilot didn't accept that and turned back. After all, the pilot was responsible of us other guys in the plane."
Tervo told how it had been difficult in the target area, when the troops were mixed and there was no front line. "Some were doing counter-attack, others were retreating, still others were in reserve and knew nothing of what was going on." The pilots didn't know even if they were in home or enemy territory - and so the Russian AA could surprise the Dornier and score a direct hit after Kivennapa. Tervo supposed the hit was by a 40mm cannon, since those were the most dangerous Russian AA weapons. "If it had been 20mm fire, there would have been much more of it, so thick we would have seen tracers."
The plane was hit in the fuel tank. Burning fuel burst the walls of the fuel tank and leaked into the cockpit.
"I was in the bottom of the plane, bottom gunner's position. Others went out from the top hatch. That turned the flames up there, so that you couldn't go there anymore. I tried with the bombardier to open the bottom hatch, but it didn't open. He pulled the switch and I was kicking the hatch. And I fell out with the hatch.
But the bombardier didn't follow. I wonder if the flames turned back down, and he was burned alive right there. When burning fuel leaks in, you burn right away. The plane came down in flames.
I had enough sanity left to first extinguish the flames on my clothes, then open the chute. Then it occurred to me that perhaps it's not yet time for me to die.
Apparently the plane turned to climb when it got hit. I was hanging from the chute and watched a friend hanging below, I saw the plane go into dive inverted. I wondered what was wrong with my friend, he was squirming with his legs. Was there a hole in his chute? The Russians were shooting a lot below. He got hit in his bottom. There were high fir trees, both of our chutes got tangled in the trees. I managed to get down, and I went to help my friend. I carried him in my back and then we ran. I ran as far as I could, when I couldn't anymore we took shelter under a tree. I pulled my friend there and looked how he was hit. I was going to tear a shirt for bandages, but he said, "don't tear it, it is army property." We calmed down, took a breath, and listened.
We heard foreign talk. Peeking out, we saw Russkies going in line. Passed by... Something was amiss, though, and they proved to be Finns afterall, just Swedish-speaking. They arranged our trip to field hospital and took us behind lines."
The wounded friend, Jouko Kokko, got first aid. Tervo managed to contact their unit and found his way back to the squadron base. He got no wounds except for burns in the face. He commented the shooting down and Kokko getting wounded, "they shot from the ground, but it doesn't matter where it comes from when it hits."
Tervo also told that he had read more of the situation afterwards and confirmed that the front line was completely confused in the region. There were both Russians and Finns wandering about between Neukinjärvi and Kivennapa, even some Russian armored units too that were tens of kilometers behind the lines.
According to Tervo, the bombardier was called Lufgren (Luftgren?).
Stories from other pilots from Oulu
For foreigners: war-marshall Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim is the most important single figure in the Finnish history. He led the "white" forces in Finnish civil war 1917-1918, won that war and later accepted the position of supreme commander of Finnish Army, leading the country through the three wars 1939-1945. More about Mannerheim at www.mannerheim.fi.
Unfortunately the writer forgot to write down the name of the storyteller.
When Marshall Mannerheim was mentioned in a discussion, one of the veterans said "I even met him once." Once when in Kauhava Mannerheim had popped in for a visit, and the superior officer had ordered the closest boys to stand in attention by the road.
And of course Mannerheim noticed the boys when leaving, young fellows as they were. He ordered the driver to stop at them. Mannerheim had opened his window and asked something. "There we stood in awe and no one could say a word. Mouth wouldn't open, brain didn't work." The Marshall watched for a while, humphed and told the driver to continue.
Get the pilot
There was some kind of additional training being done in the Air Warfare School of Kauhava. Older and higher officers came to the course to study and to fly. When flying, cadets from the school did the instructing. It was said to the students, who were lieutenants, majors and other officers, that "the pilot is in charge. If he tells you to jump, you jump."
The storyteller was at the side of the plane, waiting for his student. There then comes marching an older officer and ordered, "cadet, go fetch the pilot of this plane."
"Sir, I am the pilot of this plane. You take the front seat, I'm in the rear seat. And remember, if I tell you to jump, you jump."
The Brewster men get moose meat
Story by Edvald "Valte" Estama.
Valte Estama spoke about the anecdote in Hans Wind's book, how Brewsters were sent to Hirvas to support Morane's in autumn 1942.
They ate a whole barrel of my moose meat, that one time they visited. A couple of weeks they were there and ate the whole barrel. It was so old moose that the kitchen didn't accept it anymore, they had said that moose meat has to be young when brought there. So we put the meat in ice, so it softens for eating. When the Brewster pilots got there, the first thing they asked when they got out of plane:
"Yea, we have heard you eat only moose meat here?"
"Yea, thats what we do."
"Could we just see some, even a little bit?"
"Come to the quarters, we'll give you some."
And Estama chuckled over the story, "they got so excited about it." During their stay in Hirvas, the Brewster men ate only moose, they never even visited the squadron kitchen. When leaving, they asked if they can take a little meat to the guys in the Brewster squadron. The Morane men gave all that was left.
They did their job though, didn't they?
Yes, but I wonder if it was so safe to fly so bloated... I wonder why the kitchen didn't like it, they said it was hard but still tasted so good.
Fire is no pleasant flying companion
Told by Matti Kukkonen.
Mr. Kukkonen was on a mission with a Brewster. The plane was hit and caught fire. The cockpit was completely in flames and the pilot couldn't see anything anymore. He had to protect his face and eyes with one hand, the other was on the throttle. He pushed the fighter first into a nose dive, thinking that he couldn't bail out of the plane, but at least he could land the plane quickly and get out. "Fire is no pleasant companion in the cockpit. When diving, it dawned to me that I'm sitting in a veritable catapult. I pushed the canopy open, opened my restraints, levelled the plane and gave the stick a quick shove. Suddenly the plane wasn't there any more."
Nobody had seen what shot him down. The plane suffered only one hit. Someone thought that perhaps a Russian fighter had lifted its nose and almost accidentally hit from far below, since the teller had been after another Russian fighter. "I had good aim, (the russkie) flew so badly. I followed easily, and just as I was pushing the trigger, my own plane was in flames."
After jumping the pilot surveyed the ground during his drop and looked for the best paths through the forest to safety. He delayed opening his chute until low, "in the ground attack plane altitude." Just as his chute popped open, two attack planes zoomed past. "Bugger, there comes the reaper man," flashed in the pilot's mind but the Russians didn't fire, they kept on flying east. The plane fell to no-man's-land and east wind brought the pilot to home side.
A fellow pilot did the same trick later in the war in Lapland, also with a Brewster. Because the storyteller had told him what had happened, he had improved the method: when pushing the stick, he had kicked out with his legs. Effectively ejected.
Food to besieged St Petersburg
Told by chief master sergeant Matti Kukkonen.
The storyteller's squadron was based in Carelia in '42. St Petersburg was under siege and there was severe lack of supplies in the city. The Russians carried food from Arkangel with every possible fashion, including airplanes. One evening the weather was bad, but an engine sound was heard in the air. The fighters didn't take off in so bad weather, though. Then an apparently lost twin-engined plane appeared at the edge of the airfield. The plane was on its way to St Petersburg, but unfortunately (for it) it spotted the squadron's airfield and decided to land. The runway was a long one and the plane stopped halfway.
People looked out of the plane and the squadron personnel watched in wonder, they couldn't know what plane it was. The crew of the AA machine gun on the airfield were closer and saw better, and began to fire at the landed plane. The teller thought this was a bad mistake, they could have captured the plane in one piece. As it was, there was enough of runway for the crew to take off - but it was hit so badly that it crashed nearby. Three men were found in the wreckage and the hull was full of food. One man survived the crash badly wounded, but the commander of the AA department shot him, which very much angered the storytelling veteran. "You shouldn't do that, ever!"
"It was a quite peculiar incident..."
Overtly eager AA men
One veteran wondered how the AA men were so eager to shoot at own planes. Perhaps the AA men from reserves knew very little plane types, though few pilots were any better. But it felt like that the basic rule of the AA was, if a plane was seen coming from the east, it was a Russkie.
For example, in the first day of war (Winter War?) a Fokker flight took off, its commander was recalled to be Matti Kukkonen, and headed east. The planes flew over an own train during the take-off. Matti Kukkonen didn't get higher than 50 meters (170'), when own infantry fired at his plane and killed him. "But you can't blame anyone, it was all new and strange. You don't even need to be nervous, but..."
Many others were shot down by friendly fire too. One man had been in dogfight east from Karhumäki and was returning low towards home. An antitank gun was located in the front line - and just as the pilot comes over the front, the gun fires a single shot - hits - and both the plane and the pilot come down in pieces. Nothing was left of the pilot, he could be identified only by his ring.
"How on earth one antitank gun can hit with one shot, when the plane comes from clouds. Fortunately our AA was more sparse than the Russkie's," the pilots stated.
Petri Nygren clarifies the incident:
The story refers to the shooting down of Lt Pulliainen at Juustjärvi, Miinavaara at June 28th, 1944. Juustjärvi lies about 45km (28 miles) south from Seesjärvi. Lt Pulliainen (MS-308) was in the area with Sgt Vahtikari and Sgt Hattinen, engaged in a dogfight with two Airacobras. During the air battle, Finnish infantry began to fire among the planes with 20mm AT guns. Pulliainen's fighter nose-dove into ground and exploded, which II/47.KevItPtri (Light Anti-Aircraft Battery) also noticed from their positions four kilometers (2,5 miles) away. The shooting down is based on Hattinen's claim. He didn't witness the incident himself, but according to him the AC's never got behind the MS's. In the section detailing this time in the chronicle of 56th Jaeger Regiment, there is a photograph titled "...remnants of a ground attack plane shot down with an AT rifle." There are no big bits of steel plate typical for the Il-2. A short while later an order was given out in the 21st Brigade, that AT guns were allowed to be used only against attacking aircraft.
The coast guard station at Käkisalmi was recalled to house an AA battery with especially itchy trigger fingers. When planes were returning from Lake Ladoga, their path often passed near the battery. "If you didn't shoot the IFF signal flare, they certainly shot at you with all they got. We flew past them by all the time, month after month, and they just never learned to recognize a Brewster. Day or night, they shot at you every time. You could pass only by giving the IFF signal flare."
Another AA battery was especially hard headed. They fired at the plane and the pilot shot the IFF signal. But they only thought "that plane must be armored, look at those sparks" and kept shooting.
I-16 vs AA machine gun
Told by Valte Estama.
Near the end of the Winter War, Russkies were almost constantly over the squadron base. There was a bunker near a place called Yrjöläntalo, that had a Maxim AA mg on top. The gun was constantly manned by a couple of men. Once Russian I-16's attacked the field, the only time during the Winter War when they gained such a surprise that no one could take off.
One I-16 began making runs at the AA gun. "I saw then the bravest man I've ever seen with my own eyes," the teller said. The I-16 and the gun fired face-to-face several times, and the gunner had no protection at all. The gun was mounted, so the man was very visible a target. And the gunner won, the I-16 spurted smoke and was forced to land. "It's a tough spot, being opposed like that. It's a tough guy who can stay begind the gun."
The Siilasvuo fellow ducks and covers
General Siilasvuo was one of the most important and able Finnish generals of World War II. He orchestrated the wilderness battles of Kuhmo, where his tiny forces won Finland the first victory of the Winter War, completely destroying two Soviet divisions, inventing the "motti" tactics and routing Soviet's attempt to cut Finland in two.
The pilots wondered why the staff headquarters of General Siilasvuo had no AA cover. Once Mikko Linkola suggested, when his swarm of four Brewsters was taking off towards Äyräpää, that on their way back the others should follow him, and over the Raisila presbytery push full throttles and put propellor to small angles. "When four planes passed over the presbytery with full throttle, it was one helluva noise."
Said Mikko was a real joker and creative trickster. The squadron liaison officer in the HQ was Sakari Kokkonen, otherwise known to be an amiable man, but as the pilots were laughing over their story at the base, Sakari phones in and lets them hear it.
"Goddamn boys what you did! I tried to tell them (in the HQ) that those are own planes, I recognized the engine sound, but even the Siilasvuo fellow dove under the dinner table."
Mr Osmo Jalovaara comments:
By your description, this could be Major Mikko Linkola, later agricultural councillor, who gained reputation with Pelle Sovelius as merry two Lieutenants already in the 30's in Utti. Linkola was a Fiat and Brewster flight commander in 26th Squadron, among others. He was known as "Lizardly-Linkola-from-Lunkula" because of his unique way to answer phone. One anecdote from his later years demonstrates Linkola's quick tongue. Mr Joppe Karhunen, fighter ace and a known war books author, and Mikko Linkola happened to meet. Linkola asked Karhunen: "Why do you Joppe make up your stories, why can't you tell how it really was and what happened?" Karhunen replied, "Well you see, as an author I have creative liberty. - By the way, have you bought my latest book?" Linkola: "No - you see, I have reader's liberty!"
Other flight stories
One of the gentlemen was doing, apparently after the wars, low-level flying in remote areas, in summer nights. And every time there was a house, there always was a man outside taking a leak. "When you're awakened at night and go to see what the noise was, what else should you do?"
Speaking of the noise, another gent recalled how a Messerschmitt made a dip over the airfield so fast that the sound came behind. And it wasn't a quiet one.
As a POW in Russia
One gent had been taken prisoner. Finnish POW's were loaded in train near St Petersburg to be taken to prison camp. The train stopped over a bridge. Underneath the railway bridge was a road with plenty of Red Army traffic.
All of the men happened to be infected with red fever, and the only toilet the train had was a hole in the car floor. Since all the men were "lock'n'load," they took turns over the hole and one aimed, "ready, set, go!" All of the patients took turns in sending their regards to the neighbors. The babbling below was said to reach wholly new levels of volume.
Said gent remembered an Army Corporal who also had been caught. He was wounded through his lungs, and what little was left of his leg (foot?) had to be cut off. The other men supported him during the march to the camp. Because once he'd reach the camp, his chances would be a lot better, they took at least some care of the wounded there. He was a robust man, and probably he survived.
About the Messerschmitt's emergency power settings
It's being said that the Finns removed the emergency power from the Me 109 G-2 in '43, because it stressed the engine too much. But did the G-6 have it? The 50:50 mixture of water and methanol injected to the engine for better power?
"Yes, there was the emergency power. But it wasn't to be used longer than 3-4 minutes. It improved power and altitude. But the Me had only one setting when opened. In addition to the cold start, of course. Väinö might know."
Looks like the Me's the gents flew didn't have injection, but full power was known as the emergency power. The throttle stick apparently had a step before full power setting, since one of the pilots told "you had to force the stick to get full power. In the same stick."
It was discussed how the Germans flew 50 hours with the Daimler Benz-engine, but the Finns flew 100 hours. So removing the injection improved the engine durability.
Last modified: 2006-02-02 10:23