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Erkki Palosuo Recalls Winter War In Vuosaari

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[ Erkki Palosuo, a military pilot, recalls memories from the Winter War time in Vuosaari | Credits ]

The article was originally published in Vuosaari-magazine 25.10.2000.
Author: Eero Honkanen
Published on Virtuaalilentäjät ry web page with the permission of editor-in-chief E. Honkanen and Erkki Palosuo.
Translated into English by Markku Immonen.

Special thanks to Lauri Volanen for asking for permission to publish the article and arranging it.

The article features the interview of Erkki Palosuo, Finnish Flight Badge number 472, who worked as a military pilot in the Winter War. During the Continuation War, Palosuo flew a SB-2-bomber in LentoLaivue 6 squadron sinking several Soviet submarines and in 1944 with Blenheims as a vice Squadron Commander in PLeLv 42.

A military pilot recalls memories from the Winter War time in Vuosaari

Erkki Palosuo. Photo: Vuosaari-lehti & Eero Honkanen, 2000. In the early issues of this year, we told about an airbase in Vuosaari during the Winter War era 1939-1940 and a memorial that was being planned in its memory. (Editor's note: the memorial has been since erectec). What was the life like in the Vuosaari base, what kind of men were the pilots of the Winter War? In this article, one of them, Erkki Palosuo, a pilot and an observer of a Ripon reconnaissance plane tells us about it.

Erkki Palosuo, 88 (in 2000), has a light step and his memory works well. To assist the memory there are also accurate notes, flight logs, from which all the flights, times and dates can be found. Palosuo reminisces about the early times of his military career:

The planes were taken to shelter in Kallvik.

- In '35 I enlisted in Viipuri. First I went through artillery and air reserve officer schools and on top of that cadet school.
- I entered the war as a Second Lieutenant in LentoLaivue 36 squadron. In October '39 Blackburn Ripon reconnaissance planes located in Santahamina were moved to overnight shelters in Kallvik of Vuosaari. In November the mechanics and pilots with their staff moved to Vuosaari under great secrecy.
- The destination was held from us so well that the staff were marching to Porvoo in the night, before they were redirected to Vuosaari. When they reached there, it was early morning already (Palosuo laughs).
- Shortly after the transfer, right in the beginning of the war, 9 Soviet bombers swept over Kallvik to bomb the base in Santahamina. Luckily our planes were well protected and no damage occurred in Vuosaari. Our mission was reconnaissance all the way from Saarenmaa to the end of the Gulf of Finland.

In planes with open cockpits fur coats had to be worn

What was the Blackburn Ripon like to fly?
- The Ripons were old, slow and clumsy to fly, a little like sitting in a bathtub, (Palosuo chuckles).
- However, they were safe and easy to fly, the planes had open cockpits, so all the possible fur coats had to be worn to not freeze. The observer was equipped with binoculars. For communication, the men had a tube through which they could speak.
- Signals were also given by knocking on the back or head.
- For example, a knock on the head meant: Pull down!

The first flight was about to be the last

Erkki Palosuo. Photo: Vuosaari-lehti & Eero Honkanen, 2000.
Flying Ripon was a little like sitting in a bathtub.
- Already on the first flight, my plane got a mission to do reconnaissance in the Paldiski harbour - In the daytime! Flight master Turkka was the pilot. In head wind the speed had dropped to one hundred km/h and a warship at the mouth of the harbour started shooting at us fiercely. Still I wanted to get even closer, because the mission wasn't completed. At the same time Turkka started to pull up.
- I found out the reason for that when I saw two Tsaikka-fighters (I-15) next to us. At the last moment we got to the safety of a cloud and happily to home.
- Without getting any wiser from this, the next flight was sent to the same mission as a day flight. The crew of the plane foresaw their fate of being shot down, and after that Ripons were only used in night operations.

In Vuosaari we were as safe as in a bank

- In the beginning of December '39 we flew a "tragicomic" flight to Ahvenanmaa. In Maarianhamina our own anti-air guns tried to shoot us down. The planes that came behind were caught in the fire from our own fleet, says Palosuo.
- The mansion, in which we were accommodated, was very cold and the heating costs were massive in the end of the war.
- Time was killed by playing cards and studying English.
- In the clear weather we dared to ski on the frozen sea for there was no fear of bombing then. When we got a flight gig, we were fetched in cars from Vuosaari like we would have been more important men! The curvy road (Kallvik road) went to Malmi through the wooded Vuosaari.

Erkki Palosuo. Kuva: Vuosaari-lehti & Eero Honkanen, 2000. The rooms used for accommodation had to be put in similar order as they were in the beginning of the war.
- The gigantic closet that we had taken out from upstairs with ropes also had to be taken back with the help of a dozen men.
- The owner of the house, an old lady, nearly had a stroke when she saw that we had winched the closet back up. I thought I would get rid of the closet, the lady moaned. We wouldn't winch the closet down though, it must still be there even today. (Palosuo laughs).

The Continuation Wwar went in flight duties too. First the captured Russian SB-2-planes were used against submarines successfully and after that Palosuo took part in the Lappland War with Blenheim aircrafts. The adventures of the Continuation War in the anti-aircraft fire and air combat would be a subject for another story. Palosuo ended his war trip as a Captain and a Flight Commander.

The studies that were started during the war eventually led to a geophysics professorship in a university and the department manager in the Institute of Marine Research.

The familiar places were found in Vuosaari

I take the witty super grandpa back to his home in Töölö. We drive through Kallahti.
- That's where our canteen was, Palosuo points to the present club house Saseka. And that's our lodging, Palosuo calls out when he sees Kesäranta of Kallahti.

Before Töölö, I ask, were you ever afraid?
- No, it wasn't much more than this, driving the car.
- Sometimes we drove straight and sometime we had to do a few turns too!


The article was originally published in Vuosaari-magazine 25.10.2000.
Published on Virtuaalilentäjät ry web page with the permission of editor-in-chief E. Honkanen and Erkki Palosuo.
Copyright: Eero Honkanen & Vuosaari-lehti 2000.
Translated into English by Markku Immonen.



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