Väinö Pokela - Brewster And Messerchmitt Pilot In Hostile Skies
Quick index to to the stories:
The crash landing of MT-208 |
The failed recovery of MT-208 |
Dead man skiing |
The cannon Messerschmitt and Kössi's medal |
Stories of air combat victories |
Questions concerning the weapons and night flights |
The Finns in war time Germany |
Escorting bombers |
Memories about Eka Magnusson |
As a Messerschmitt trainer |
Memories of Ilmari Juutilainen |
Personal post-war pilot experiences |
Väinö Nikolai Pokela, b. 27.11.1918.
Joined HLeLv 30 Aug.31 1941; Sep.5 HLeLv 24; Feb.9 1943 HLeLv 34 schwarm commander (HLeLv = Fighter Squadron)
VR4 and VR3 (Vapaudenristi = Cross of Liberty)
Original finnish language article translated by SubLt Markku Herd, Finnish Navy. Many thanks!
The crash landing of MT-208
Väinö Pokela was in the sticks of the Me 109 G-2 -type MT-208 on Aug.1 1946, when his machine gun fire hit the connection mechanism of the target sheet and tore it loose. Mr Pokela manoeuvred his fighter to successful crash landing in the sea. The plane was recovered in the summer of 1999 to be reconstructed for the Finnish Aviation Museum. We interviewed Mr Pokela for a video presentation about the crash landing. Further information about the MT-208 and its recovery on 1999 is found at http://www.kolumbus.fi/grendelb/kuvat/mt-208/. Mr Väinö Pokela has the following story to tell:
A Fokker was pulling the target sheet that had a 20 kg (44 lbs) lead weight to keep it straight behind the plane.
I came from above, and when I fired the burst it tilted like this (vertical), since it had the lead weight. This is how I saw the sheet (gestures the way the sheet was vertical) and here was the weight. And I flew right through it. The bullets hit somewhere in the locking mechanism.
I saw at the left how the sheet went into the air intake, and then I saw the turbine pressure and revs begin to drop.
I guess I could have glided the plane back to base, but there was a thundercloud above it. So I began looking for a place for crash landing. There was Luvianlahti bay and a peninsula with some fisherman's hut, I made sure there were no rocks at the surface for me to crash in. I sorted through my options in my mind.
First I jettisoned the canopy. I recall it didn't come loose when I fired the charges, only after I opened the locking latch it whooshed off. I wondered if I should open both my restraints and swimming vest, then I decided to open only the restraints so I could soften the blow with my legs. I raised my feet on the dashboard.
I had seen before Oippa Tuominen perform a water landing at Someri. I hadn't known it was Oippa then, but we had both tried to shoot at the same Pe-2. I came from below and he from above. And he had more speed so he got in between. He fired so close that I saw a square bit come off the target's right wing, a big piece, and smash right into his propeller. Down he went and I followed him going all the way to the water. He glided to the end, slightly pulled up, and then went like this (shows with hand gestures a soft landing). I don't remember if he came out of the cockpit after it went underwater. But he didn't jettison the canopy, I guess he noticed it only when in the water.
I had canopy no more, my belts were open and the oxygen/radio all off. I saw it wasn't deep, only 5-10 meters (15-35 feet) so I let it go to the bottom. And when I felt it was down there, I came out fast.
It was still in that bay. Only small ripples on the surface. I brought the plane down calmly, almost like an ordinary three-point landing except without gear. There were two fishermen who came fast as hell to ask where the other one was, 'nobody here but me.'
We went to the fishermen's hut at the shore I mentioned. There was a phone and I called the base where I was. So Captains [Kormo?] and Linkola left to pick me up. The Commander gave them a bottle of cognac to bring me. On their way in the car they got the idea that Pokela doesn't like cognac anyway and so were completely drunk when they arrived. Typical.
By the way, the ejector of the canopy was piano wire instead of regular wire. It was sabotage. After all the plane was assembled by Polish, Checks and such. It made no difference, I knew it comes off when I open it. I just have to watch out that the armor doesn't hit my neck.
I don't remember how the plane hit the water, if it made any big splash. Of course some, but the landing was so neat it wasn't bad. And it was almost at standstill already.
What did you do when the sheet was sucked in?
Nothing whatsoever, I could only note that the engine stops now. And so it did. I let the engine run as long as it did, since there was no danger in it.
How long was the sheet?
Over 10 meters (35')? The Arms people might know. The line was 500 meters (1650')? Can't say. We just fired our 7.92mm MG's at it.
There were several cases of flying into the target sheet. This was different in that when the round hit the sheet's connection it came loose and was suddenly up like a cinema screen. And usually when a plane has hit it like that, the lead weight has destroyed the plane. This time there was no trace of the lead in the plane, the weight went past below.
During the temporary peace (between Winter War and Continuation War) [someone - name garbled] flew into the sheet and hit the weight. And of course the whole plane came apart. It was at the same place. I was an officer cadet then, and was there picking up the remains of his guts.
The failed recovery of MT-208
The first recovery attempt was a sorry sight. I got conscripts for the job and pretty quickly we got the plane lifted from the bottom. We began to tow it with a tug. The weather was clear. Then comes just one thundercloud, goes over the boat and the sea gets rough. The plane was to the side of me, it hit the bottom of the boat, and the Captain says we have to cut it loose. There were more conscripts than there were life vests. And of course not all of them could swim. So I told the Captain to take an axe and cut the wire. He raised the axe and asked, "Who takes the responsibility?" I said, "I do, let it go." I couldn't endanger the conscripts because of a wrecked airplane, those are two different things altogether.
Dead man skiing
It happened to me in '42 ... there was constantly very cold, so always when we flew over the front we fired at a lake to test our weapons. It was so harsh a winter that all moving parts had to be washed with spirit. But that spirit was good for drinking too. So the mechanics used it very sparingly for the weapons.
The sky was overcast and the snow was fresh, so there was no comparison.
(Another pilot in the wing) He believed he was high, but came to crash on the ice.
There was no front line there, just some watch outposts. We asked the infantry to recover the body. They sent men to do that, and we had already decided to adopt his newborn son as our squadron's godson. But then the 'corpse' came skiing to meet the recovery team. It was quite a situation when he flew in shallow angle into two-meter (6') deep snow, and then himself flew into the snow, but he got only a concussion. Then he took a backpack from the hull of the plane that contained food, half a liter booze and folding ski's. He had folded the skis into his feet and strapped them into his boots, but the straps went under the skis so they held well but didn't slide at all. He got out of it with only slight concussion. So we didn't become godfathers after all.
That fellow was quite intelligent, graduated at age of 17 from Tampere Polytechnic as first of his class and with recommendation for University. But he didn't go on with his studies, he went to work and was technical manager at a nail factory. Young guy. And when the war began he came to fly, didn't want to make nails any more.
The cannon Messerschmitt and Kössi's medal
It was quite a thing, with three cannons and two mg's. G6R6. The cannon machine. But nobody wanted to fly it, because it was clumsy. The only man who wanted to fly it was Kössi Karhula. 32 victories. He was suggested to receive the Mannerheim cross, but it was told that the Air Force quota was already filled. So he got VR2 (Vapaudenristi Class 2 = Cross of Liberty Class 2). The only Lieutenant who got one. But he didn't receive the 50.000 Marks that was included with the cross.
He may be the same wing commander who said that it's good that the commander has the slowest plane, so others can follow better?
Possibly. He's still alive in Westend, Helsinki.
Stories of air combat victories
Of course we asked of Mr Pokela's victories. He thought a moment and...
There was one I-153 that almost killed me, made the mistake of pulling up right in front of me so I nearly crashed into it.
And then there was a Pe-2. Well, what was that bomber? Two engines, fast. Pe-2. And one La... thinks... well I have some I haven't reported too. Well-l, one La-5 at the summer offensive of '44.
We were alerted from Kymi. And the first combat I got in had 200 bombers and 96 fighters to protect them, and there were four of us. I remember how it squeezed my throat. And of course we split up when attacking. But even if we had been outnumbered hundred to one, only one could have come at a time. Every time we tried to fire at one, there were two or three behind.
According to Suomen Ilmavoimien Historia 11: Hävittäjä-Ässät (the History of the Finnish Air Force, vol. 11: Fighter Aces), Mr Pokela has five official victories:
13.2.1942 - Maaselkä - BW-381: ½ Hurricane
4.3.1942 - Maaselkä- BW-381: 1 DB-3
4.10.1942 - Maaselkä - BW-357: ½ I-153
2.6.1943 - Bay of Finland - MT-214: 1 Pe-2
11.9.1943 - Bay of Finland - MT-205: 1 La-5
17.6.1944 - Carelian isthmus - MT-422: 1 La-5
Questions concerning the weapons and night flights
What effect does the weapons' recoil have?
Nnooo, it has no effect, you don't push the trigger all the time. You fire accurate shots. And you don't have so many rounds.
Smoke? The smoke of the cannon or the mg's? Does it affect visibility when firing?
Nothing, no smoke, no effect to view.
I suppose you didn't do much night flying?
Then in May I flew at night, right through a big swarm. And before I could bring myself around, it was gone. Nowhere to be seen.
A bomber swarm?
Impossible to find too, I suppose?
Except for these, the Finns didn't do much actual night missions?
No, and they didn't get into the night fighter activity either.
There were 110's and 109's from a German night flying squadron?
Yes, at Malmi airbase.
The Finns in war time Germany
I was in Germany to get planes at the end of August, when 250 Flying Fortresses came to bombard that airfield. So we ran away and took cover in a field ditch, and hoped they'd be accurate.
Yes, we had ten planes there and two remained in flying condition.
During the last training flight, my engine caught fire in the start. So I had to do a forced landing. There was a Finnish bachelor in the German (flying) school. His father had come to Finland in 1918, but hadn't taken Finnish citizenship, so the boy was there doing flight training. His name was Torsten (Totti) Hellmich. He brought me a radio, and when I was leaving he drove me to the Tempelhof airfield. A couple of days later he went to the west in a J2G6, and was shot down a couple of weeks later. I brought his last greetings to his family in Loviisa.
The reason for the forced landing was that a friend, I don't tell the name, had started it in such a way that the propellor adjustment was on manual and set to half past twelve position. And that position may be used only on automatic. When he had started the engine with this forbidden setting, the revs went too high. There were unconditional orders that if this happens, it had to be reported immediately and the plane may not take off. When the revs were 2800. He didn't do it, he thought it'd be some German to fly it next. Ten years later, after a couple of drinks, he confessed to me. He regretted deeply and I told him to never mind, I'd have done the same.
Written afterwards from memory: During Mr Pokela's stay there, Germany suffered defeat in Africa. The evacuation of Tunis was in progress and planes flew to Germany too, even to the very airfield where the Finns were. The Germans weren't in pristine shape and told quite some stories of their escape. The pilots had stuffed a mechanic or two into the hull of a Messerscmitt and bound more into the wings. One 109 could thus bring even four men and the pilot home.
Anything else from fetching the fighters? There aren't many stories.
The headmaster of the school was a Major, and so was the commander of our group. If the same situation arose in Finland, our Major would have invited the other to the same dining table. But this one didn't, he was a typical "etappenschwein" (waypoint pig) who had got his position with political connections. So when we had lunch for the first time, Ehrnrooth lights a cigarette for dessert. And when this commander saw a man smoking from the end of the long table, he yelled loud "wer raucht da?!" (who is smoking there) to see who it was. Typical German.
I also had an incident with Germans once, at the airfield of Riga. I got engine trouble at the airfield of Prague and I had to stay there. The engine was fixed and I followed by myself later. I landed at Riga and saw that the parking site was close by. But I should have taxi'd a kilometer first, do a long trip round, to get there so I crossed through a strip of grass. The Commander's adjutant came right away and ordered me to the Commander's office.
So I went to see the Commander, and he brought his face this close to me (about five inches) and began to yell. Suddenly he realised I wasn't German and asked, "sprechen Sie Deutsch?" All I could say was "kar nix." So he silenced, looking sheepish. The plane had still German insignia, it got repainted in Finland.
There was one incident that there were four of us (escorts), and in the end there was just me. The photography plane just led row after row... then the AA stopped, so I knew they got fighters in the air.
Then I was at right, and saw a Yak coming at left. I had no choice but fire across his nose so he sees he's being fired upon. Can't do much aiming at that situation.
At the same time this Blenheim fired up, turned, I followed it, it kept shooting and went thataway.. The radio squelched, "I got the shithead". We had radio monitoring on all the time, there in Kettula where that Stella Polaris team was, they listened to radio traffic on both sides all the time...
Blenheim now, it has (unclear on the tape, some lator), so it couldn't sustain long dive, and one of its engines blew, it wasn't a hit but that dive. The Blenheim landed at Kilpasilta, I went to Lake Suulajärvi. It wasn't until after the war in '47, when I flew a Me to Tampere, this Aimo Juhola was a test pilot there. He came to meet me at the plane, hands deep in pockets, and said "you remember me?"
"Sure I remember, they were trying to make you a dead man there."
He told there are certain moves he had invented for such a situation, but they wouldn't have saved him. I wouldn't have any difficulties following them.
There's a mention of said incident in the join publication of the Air Force
Guilds, "Torjuntavoitto 1944, Ilmaviesti, Syksy 1994". The article is written by
the former Air Force Commander in Chief Heikki Nikunen, who refers to the
veteran pilot Aimo Juhola's examination of airborne intelligence during the
assault on the isthmus. A (translated) quote:
LeLv 48 had only two PE's in its roster at the time, one in flying condition,
whose one engine stopped halfway to a photograph mission. In that situation,
photography was ordered to be done with available equipment, suitability
notwithstanding. As soon as weather permitted, the airbases of Gorskaya,
Shuvalovo, Levashovo and Kasimovo were photographed on March 6. 1944 by a
Blenheim BL-185, escorted by three MT fighters.
The BL was attacked by LA-5 fighters already before crossing the frontier line,
but the escorting MT's piloted by Pokela, Juutilainen and Lönnfors repelled the
attack. The mission was continued and the airfields got photographed, but in the
end run the BL was attacked again and suffered hits under enemy fire. In the
escape dive, one of the engines overheated. The plane nevertheless made it to
The BL was piloted by Aimo Juhola, talented test flight and PE pilot. He
commented the flight in his typical calm fashion to be benefical to himself,
that he got a war mission in a Blenheim. The intelligence data was used at night
March 9.-10. when LeR4 bombarded said airfields, having stealthily joined
Russian formations that were returning from bombing mission.
Those BL flights weren't easy... photographing fighter bases for 20 minutes, row after row.
Completely predictable flight path...
Those BL flights weren't easy... One was sent to survey for fighter bases at the Aunus isthmus, on the east coast of Lake Ladoga. Visual surveillance, no cameras at all. an of course it was shot down as soon as it got there. A pair of fighters would have done the job quite as well, since it was without cameras.
Such an order from the commanders again...
But the commanders were persons who didn't fly themselves.
Same thing as in the Winter War, the few Blenheims we had were made to support ground troops with low-altitude bombings. And many were of course lost.
Mostly those bombings only your ourselves... Too heavy losses to the gains.
(War on summer 1944) When the whole fighter force was stationed in the Lappeenranta base, of course it was raided. After that our 34th Squadron was moved to Laukonsaari (?), we got only surveillance and escort missions. Escorting bombers in Viipuri, Tai and Ihantala when they flew in long row, it was like herding cattle, go now go. We lost no bombers, so the escorts weren't for nothing.
Memories about Eka Magnusson
About Eka Magnusson for our foreign friends. Quote from Fighter Tactics Academy: "is considered to be the "father of Finnish fighter tactics" along with Richard Lorentz. They both served as commanders of LeLv 24, Fighter Squadron 24 during the 1930's. With the information from some of the leading aviation powers of the time they developed and optimized the Finnish fighter training system and tactics in a way that would produce 94 Finnish aces during WWII and 129 victories with the Fokker D.XXIs, 477 with the Brewsters and 663 with the Messerschmitts. Exchange ratios were 16:1 with Fokkers, 34:1 with Brewsters and 25:1 with Messerschmitts during the war. Magnusson's own squadron would score 877 victories making it the highest scoring single fighter squadron in history.
There were five of us cadets when we went in August 1941. He told us, "I refer to my officers by first name - but it doesn't mean that younger officers can call me just 'you.' But I will give that permission later, in its time."
My German flight boot hurt my toe so badly that it had to be operated in the Viipuri hospital. After that I was walking at the airfield with a felt boot in one foot and a flight boot in the other. So Magnusson came, looked at me from head to toes and said, "Well, Pokela is available to go as a Messerschmitt training." I said, "But Colonel, sir, I don't have the qualification to be a trainer." He eyed me again and said, "Doesn't Pokela know that in the Air Force, assignment to a job gives qualification to it, too?" So I ended up there.
As a Messerschmitt trainer
After the war I was the head trainer (in Utti) for the MT's (Messerchmitt 109s). Ten cadets came to each of the Rissala, Pori and Utti bases. I asked, "Is there any limits?" "No limits." "Any program?" "There's no program either." So I made up the training program, I could choose my assistants and I took Salmela and Onni Karhunen. That was our club of three, they did all the work and I got all the honor. Since there were no limits, I chose two of the best mechanics. They flew appx. 28 hours each. Then in Rissala and Pori the cadets had flown some 3-4 hours and received bad training. They damaged planes and that caused commotion in the HQ.
So they did a survey, how it was possible that there were lousy students in one school and good in other. I had other students too, at the end of the war, some were such goddamn blockheads who couldn't do anything even after being shown three times over.
I had one Technical University student who learned well and earned his wings. Some ten years ago (written down fall 2000) we were in Sweden to see the JAS, we sat together there. And he said, "You were a good commanding officer, never too military." And also one Lieutenant from the Military College too, who snapped to attention when I just looked at him. I had to tell him, "Don't you always give me such scare!" He became Colonel eventually.
About the MT training, how badly did it pull to the side? Was it really difficult to take off?
It was a big problem.
The reason was that the new pilots had flown Pyry before, which was sensitive as hell to fly. Old pilots had Fiat experience, and that one has stiff stick. The usual reason for turning (when taking off) was that they forgot to lock the heel.
If you forgot to lock the heel, the plane began to turn when speeding up. When the plane was taxiing to starting place, the heel was locked from the cockpit and you began to speed up. By pulling the stick you kept the tail in the ground until you felt in the pedals that the plane is responding to the fin. Then you let the tail rise and kept the plane level, until you took off. It wasn't difficult to take off, but if you left the heel to turn freely, the plane began to turn when speeding up, and the results were often destructive.
The case of one trainee...
When the training began I said, you take that other plane and we'll fly to Kymi. He started first and I watched him go. Began to turn, hit a ditch and caught fire. I came there, so did the fire squad. But I couldn't go close because he had full armament and the rounds were going off at the nose. I took his burned wallet to his parents later.
When I could look in the cockpit, I saw he had forgotten to lock the heel. I had told this fellow too, many times over. "Always when you increase the throttle, push both brakes to feel if it turns." When the heel brake is open, it can turn anywhere. And the propeller was so big that it took the plane with it.
"This is why I expressed it so much, always remember to lock the heel. It was the main reason why we lost MT's and pilots in take-offs."
By the way, how was it in start? Heel still down?
The heel was still in the ground... or there was bad visibility to front. All you had to do was to keep the heel down and let go, and when you felt the rudders move, then you let the tail rise.
They made then bigger tail rudders of wood, near the end of the war. They were brought to us too, and we had to replace them again with metallic rudders when they broke down. They weren't as durable as the metallic ones.
Another incident - a MT broke in two at the nose...
Yeah, it was the mechanic's fault. He had fixed Fiat's before, and their throttle is opposite to that of the MT's. The more you pulled, the more revs you got. A human error.
It was a difficult plane. You had to learn it all over from the beginning, to climb into tree's top from the ground.
MT's dive properties? Many claim that the MT becomes stiff as hell in a dive, difficult to bring up in high speed, the controls lock up?
Nnnooo, they don't lock up.
It was usually because you exceeded diving speed limits. Guys didn't remember you shouldn't let it go over.
We had also Lauri Mäittälä, he took (unclear tape), he had to evade and exceeded the speed, and the rudders broke off. He fell in a well in the Isthmus. He was later collected from there, he's now there in Askola cemetery.
The controls don't lock up, they become stiffer of course but don't lock. And of course you couldn't straighten up (shows a 'straightening' from a dive directly up) like an arrow.
A (translated) quote from "Messerchmitt Bf 109 ja Saksan sotatalous" (Messerschmitt Bf 109 and the German war economy) by Hannu Valtonen: Heimo Lampi, page 298: The warning was at 880 km/h. You shouldn't exceed that, because the plane would break down. Pokela and I each had to exceed that limit twice. A pen can't describe what it felt to sit in the cockpit waiting, when it shatters. I have never gotten over that trapped feeling.
How about trimming to level flight?
It flew like on rails even when shooting. Nono, they are talking completely....
Hannu Valtonen's "Messerchmitt Bf 109 ja Saksan sotatalous" book has multiple references to Väinö Pokela's trainer career. Page 306 has Mr Pokela's own 'pilot's view' of the MT. Other Pokela references:
Sakari Heiskanen (page 285): I got used to MT in 34th Squadron at Lake Suulajärvi. Pokela was an excellent trainer. Start-up caused no problems, when you opened the throttle steadily. It was no trick, those who had twisting problems were too hasty.
Börje Hielm (page 285): MT training continued for the younger ones for whole year 1947, for example the night fighter training was given in late autumn. The trainers in Utti were Captain Väinö Pokela, assisted by Flight Master Onni Paronen. ... Like Captain Pokela taught before the first solo flight, the twisting tendency to left was easy to master.
Heimo Lampi (page 298): Väinö Pokela's thankless job was to train all BW pilots to MT. Myself, too. I got to the MT wing with two introductory flights, but not everybody did.
Esko Nuuttila (page 300): My MT trainer was Captain Väinö Pokela. It was a magnificent feeling to get up in the air after the FA. It was like sitting on the engine, going fast. I had no trouble with the twisting tendency.
Aulis Rosenlöf (sivu 307): After Pilot Course 8 I got into a group that was ordered to Flight Regiment 3 and its training wing. Our commander was Captain Väinö Pokela. Väinö Pokela was the best pilot with most MT training experience. He had been in the same job in Germany after all.
Pekka Tanner (page 313): There were four of us "green" men, who admired our tool. Lieutenant Pokela took us under his command. He taught us the MT's structure, engine and weapons systems, flight properties, radio use and many little gimmicks. He was an unmatched teacher when instructing the tricks of a new plane. The first couple of days we spent at the airfield watching planes taking off and landing: unfortunately two planes tilted forcefully to the left and the landing gear broke. And every once in a while "Poke" called us together, to go through some parts of the training program.
Memories of Ilmari Juutilainen
Eino Ilmari Juutilainen, or "Illu", was the highest scoring ace of Finnish Air Force. With 96 officially credited victories he is one of the greatest combat pilots of all time. No enemy aircraft ever managed to shot even a single hole at his plane. Read about Illu Juutilainen from Fighter Tactics Academy's article.
Now he kills himself!
Introduction: Ilmari Juutilainen's 44th war flights against five La-5's, the fight goes higher and higher, reinforcements arrive and he separates with a nosedive, levels out with the trim.
I know that incident. We came from the shore and one plane wasn't refueled yet, it was Illu Juutilainen's plane. So five La-5's came over the base, and Illu went and started up. It was a crazy act. "Now he's going to kill himself!" We had an AA team nearby, and I ran there, some 50-100 meters, and told the Sub- Lieutenant there to "shoot all who go after Illu, so he can take off properly. He'll cope when he gets up." And so he did.
And then he climbed higher and higher, he had to scratch the windows with his nails to see around. And those five La-5's couldn't make a single hole in his plane.
That were over when he took off...
And he didn't shoot down any of them, but this was the incident. Then he broke off with a dive, they didn't even try to follow. Guess they were out of ammo or fuel.
How fast could you go with it? How fast did you dare to fly in a dive, what was the limit?
It was ... 720 (kilometers/hour), if I remember right. You weren't supposed to exceed it but we did it many times. And as the air was thin up there, so we often had to go vertical when escorting a photographing plane.
Ilmari's trip to brig
Mr Pokela told Illu to move a training biplane to other side of the field. Well, Illu did, but not by taxiing as he should have, since it would have been too long. So he flew the plane to the other side at 20cm (8 inches) above ground. It would have been just ok, if the squadron commander hadn't seen the stunt. He didn't like it at all. Illu was sent to brig! When Pokela visited Juutilainen next week, he was sitting on a park bench outside the guard house and totally enjoyed his "vacation"...
There's additional information in the book "Ässien Ässä Sodan Taivaalla - Eino Ilmari Juutilaisen tarina" ("Ace of Aces on the War Skies - the Story of Eino Ilmari Juutilainen")
Going to Sauna in dark
It was the more peaceful time of the Continuation War, and the squadron was in the back. There was constant threat of saboteurs, and feared by all outside guarded areas. One time the men were marching to sauna on a path through forest, in darkness. Suddenly a SMG fires from the woods and bullets whisked all around. The men flung themselves to the ground - and then they heard Illu's laughter.
"Goddamn Illu, we could have shot you!" the men complained, after all each had a Nagan pistol on their belts. "You couldn't hit me, I'm behind a big rock," came the answer from the night.
Personal post-war pilot experiences
How long is a German soon?
The Germans, I have many good friends in Germany, really nice, but there are some really miserable people there too. One night I went to Frankfurt (after the war, passenger plane) and the plane needed de-icing. The system was that the planes were de-iced as they were prepared to start. Our representative was a very attractive young woman, and I asked her when the de-icing would come, I had seen there had been German planes who had come after me and soon continued. One right next to us. Coming soon, she said. But again there left Germans who had come after me. And again I asked, when the de-icing comes, and again he said, "soon". When I asked for the third time, and again she answered "soon," I asked "wie lange ist Deutsche bald?" She didn't bear any grudge, though.
Mr Pokela was piloting a passenger plane that bore the President of Finland to a state visit to Hungary. The Hungarian Air Force had a tradition of giving fighter escorts to foreign Heads of State from the borders. As the Captain of the plane Mr Pokela discussed with the commander of the Hungarian escort pilots, arranging the schedule - when the plane begins taxiing, when in the end of the runway, when it takes off.
They discussed other matters too, and the Hungarian asked if Mr Pokela flew in the war. When the answer was affirmative, he asked what planes. "Brewsters and Messerschmitts."
"It felt like an ice wall had been lowered between us. The man was thoroughly communist and flying MT made me a Nazi in his eyes." Well, they arranged the rest of the matters. Finally Mr Pokela was at the end of the runway with his plane and passengers, ready to take off.
Engine up and... "Then I decided to take revenge. I held the brake for 30 seconds more, then let go and began the take-off. Right then the Hungarian fighters flew over in formation. They couldn't catch me before the border!"
I've been in Kronstadt before
Mr Pokela was piloting a passenger plane to Leningrad. Passenger planes are guided completely from the ground - and Mr Pokela noticed that the radar was directing them to the no-fly zone, over the fortress area of Kronstadt. The ground radar has to be obeyed, so the plane flow on the forbidden zone, finally landed and...
"I saw already when taxiing, how a fat Soviet Air Force officer ran on the field with medals clinging. When the plane came to stop, he was there to inquire why we were on the no-fly zone, why we flew there."
Mr Pokela and the crew explained - you fly where the ground control directs you. And the tower guided them there. Mr Pokela suggested they'd solve the argument by going to the tower and listening to the tapes, how it was. The Russian hesitated, though, that maybe it wasn't necessary after all.
"I don't think they even had recorders there (laughs heartily). To lighten the situation I mentioned that this wasn't the first time I flew over Kronstadt. He wondered about that. I told that last time I was there, heavy AA fired like hell. He gives a chuckle and pats my shoulder, says that it's nothing, let's forget it. I guessed since he was an Air Force man and had lots of medals, that he had flown in the war himself."
At this point Mr Pokela speaks of the feeling of camaraderie between military pilots. "We were at work there." And when the war ended, so did hostility. "I fail to understand holding such grudges, like that Hungarian did." On the contrary, Mr Pokela thinks wartime pilots regard each other quite reasonably and
brotherly, they've all been in the same work.
This article has the summary of interview with mr. Väinö Pokela, and it is based on notes and partial audio recording. VLeLv Icebreakers met and interviewed Väinö Pokela during summer 2000 at Finnish Aviation Museum. © VLeLv Icebreakers 2000/2001, Virtuaalilentäjät r.y./Finnish Virtual Pilots Association. Interview by Jukka "grendl" Kauppinen and Timo "kossu" Niiranen. Recording and writing by Jukka Kauppinen. English translation by SubLt Markku Herd, Finnish Navy.
Last modified: 2006-10-07 16:17