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Memoirs of a reserve military aviator during years 1934-1945

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Memoirs of a reserve military aviator during 1934-1945 | Training in a squadron | Training in an observer squadron | Service in the mobilized army | Service in an additional refresher course and in the mobilized army


This page contains the memoirs of Joel A. Savonen during his career as a military aviator. Joel Savonen joined the Finnish Air Force reserve officer training on 6.6.1934 and his aviation career continued until the end of the Second World War.

The memoirs of Joel Savonen have been written down by Olli Savonen who originally presented the stories in his web pages in address http://pasila.lib.hel.fi/~444os/jas/. With the authorization of Olli Savonen the story has been duplicated on this page.

English translation: Marko Enkenberg and Petri Hallberg.
Proof-reading: Ville "Camouflage" Pitkänen.
Other help: Teemu "Teme" Perheentupa.
Editing: Jukka "Grendel" Kauppinen.  



Memoirs of a reserve military aviator during 1934-1945

Joel A. Savonen
Born 22.8.1914 Died 18.9.1998

A Finnish aviation magazine AERO No.1 January 1934 had the following announcement:

The Air Force reserve officer training in Kauhava will begin on 6.June 1934. To participate on the course you have to be at least 17 years of age but not over 25. To become a reserve officer you also have to fulfil one of the following requirements:

1) To apply to service as a volunteer

2) To be in regular service

3) Conscripts who have already completed their service time in the regular service

Priority is given to those who have completed their reserve officer training. The deadline for applications is 1.3.1934 to which date the applications must be delivered to the Headquarters of the Air Force and directed to the Commander of the Armed Forces. If requested, further information on the requirements can be obtained from the Headquarters of the Air Force in Helsinki, Maneesikatu 2b A.

On 6.6.1934 I was accepted to participate in the reserve officer training course after applying and participating in tests at the psycho-physiological facilities on 20.4.1934

The training was divided into pilot and observer courses. The reserve officers' training consisted of the following special courses: air war and air combat training, courses on engines, aircraft, weapons and shooting, photography, meteorology, flight regulations, radio and radio communications training.  

Training in a squadron

My trainer was Capt. J. Piponius and the aircraft was a Smolik-143. After 13 hours and 10 minutes (86 landings) of co-pilot flights and observations conducted, the commanding officer Maj. N. Jusu accepted me as a pilot. Following this, I immediately flew my first solo flights (1 hour 20 minutes and 9 landings).

The following training in a squadron consisted of 41 hours of solo flights with a basic trainer aircraft and five hours with two-seater warplanes until the end of the course, resulting in the total of 46 hours. During the course I also made, in addition to landing and turning training, target landings with AE-aircraft (16 landings), travel flights with Smolik aircraft (six flights along different routes within eight hours), emergency landing training (25 landings) and also altitude flights at 2000 meters and 4000 meters, equipped with a plotter.  

Training in an observer squadron

The observer course consisted of the following parts:

1. Gunnery training consisting of

a) mg ground gunnery 1-11

b) mg camera gunnery 1-4

c) mg air gunnery 1-5 shooting at ice which were graded from excellent to bad

2. Photography training, in which we used 15 discs and 6 films and which also consisted of 3 target photography, 4 angle photography, angle-stereo photography, 4 picture angle-row and 6 picture vertical-row photography using a fixed mounted camera, which were also graded from excellent to bad.

3. Bomber training, which consisted of training with a Bygrave bomber- training device, fly-over bombing targeting with an optical Goertz sight and a Lindström mechanical sight, and also bombing without a sight and using the sights mentioned before.

4. Navigation training which consisted of 100 kilometer and 300 kilometer three-point flights and determining the wind direction and force, and determining the O/S, K/S and LSA.

5. Radio and signalling training which consisted of:

a) Telegraphing training requiring 50 characters /min to both transmit and receive.

b) Radio flights, which consisted of a training flight using telegraphing and telephone, and a reconnaissance mission using radio transmitting.

c) Message throwing practice from various altitudes, which were graded from excellent to bad.

d) Message grabbing training, three grabs using an anchor.

6. Reconnaissance training, which consisted of:

a) Visual reconnaissance and message dropping

b) Position reconnaissance, position description and message dropping

c) Reconnaissance and radio messaging

The Air Force reserve officer school (RUK in Finnish) course 4 finalists photographed at the course closing at Kauhava on the yard of the training unit on 24.5.1935. On the front row are the course's chief Capt. Rantanen and younger officer Kannas.

My Air Force reserve officer school training register has the following announcement:

I have given the reserve military aviator's certificate to pilot and observer number 44/35 Pky 10/35 res. off. student Savonen.

Date 25.5. 1935
Commander of the Air Force

J. F. Lundqvist

After the RUK had ended I was given the rank of a Reserve Officer Cadet and ordered on 3.6.1935 to Suur-Merijoki L.As.5 (Flight Station 5).

In the RUK closing ceremony the Air Force Commander J.F. Lundqvist had already announced that all officers will receive training as observers. This meant that my future training took place in reconnaisance squadron LLv 12 located at Merijoki.

There the training consisted of target towing, target shooting using the observer machinegun, mg-camera shooting, reconnaissance flight, message deployment and capturing, photography and formation flying training with the AEj and FO aircraft which were flown for 30 hours during 1.7.-13.8.1935.

After I completed two and a half hours of training and inspection flights, I got to fly the MO aircraft (DeHavilland Moth) alone for hours, practicing elevator turns, spirals, and target landing practise. I was released of the regular service and moved to the reserves on 19.8.1935, having served the full time of 440 days. I was promoted to Second Lieutenant on 19.8.1935.

The first refresher course was held at the Kauhava Air Academy 29.6. - 18.7.1936 in the officers´ refresher course. After training and inspection flights with the Smolik, TU, AE, and AEj aircraft I practiced dive shooting for an hour with AEj and TU aircraft. After that I flew as a pilot with nine reserve second lieutenants who flew with me as observers, performing air gunnery and bombing practices. I also did bombing flights with three reserve´s second lieutenants with TU and AEj aircraft.

To maintain piloting skills there was a possibility to participate in an additional refresher course on 29. - 31. 12. 1936 in LLv 10 (Flight Squadron 10) at LAs.1(Flight Station 1). At this time I flew MO and AEj aircraft combined for three hours and further five hours in the same squadron on 11. - 15. 6. 1937 flying MO aircraft.

The Academic Air Guard Association (further on referred as AAGA) had acquired numerous Tuisku aircraft from the Air Force to be used in the training of their reserve pilots. The training was led by Capt. Sven Siren.

Active members of the Academic Air Guard Association accompanied by Capt. Sven Siren and pilots participating in the training.

On this first course of AAGA on 27.9. - 10.10.1937 we practiced 180 degree turns, sliding turns, vertical curves and turns, rapid vertical maneuvers at 500 to 800 meter's altitude for about 2 1/2 hours in addition to combat Immelmans. Finally we practiced patrolling for five hours and formation flying for an hour.

The AAGA course was held on 8. - 18.3.1938 in Santahamina and led by Capt. S. E. Siren.

Course participants in militia officers´ uniforms, accompanied by their trainers Capt. Siren and 2nd Lt. U. Nieminen.

At that time I flew target flights with a Tuisku aircraft with Reserve Second Lieutenants Palonperä, Uusitalo, Melkas, and Second Lieutenant Jauri flying with me as observers. The frontal attacks were made from both above and below, the altitude varying between 500 - 1000 meters, for a total flight time of 12 hours.

The instrument flying course of the Air Defence Union of Finland was held on 4.4 - 5.5.1938 at Malmi airfield. The course was lead by Capt. L. Huhtinen, MSgt Koskinen being the pilot. Tuisku aircraft were used during this course. The total flight time was 11 hours on my behalf.

On 4.6. - 22.6.1938 I took part on a refresher course with LLv./I Ilm. Os.(Flight Section) /38 lead by Major N. Jusu. After an inspection flight with a Tuisku aircraft (TU) I did four landing practices with a single-seater Gloster Gamecock (GA), after which I did some aerobatics. After that we practised landings, turns, high-speed turns, and targeting in dives with single-seater Bristol Bulldogs (BU). Then we practised patrol flying and dive targeting with TU and BU aircraft a few times. We also flew GA aircraft and did dive-shooting practices for an hour and a half, targeting practices with both AEj and BU aircraft and one weather flight of one hour, up to 5500 meters height. My total flight time during this refresher course was 15 hours.

On 3. - 6.10. 1938 I participated a refresher course with Llv26. During the course we practiced patrol flying, attacking and targeting an aerial target with BU aircraft and shooting at ground targets in dives with GA aircraft. Total flight hours at this time was 6 hours.

On 27.10. - .3.12.1938 there was a voluntary refresher course arranged by the headquarters of the Air Force, lead by Capt. L. Huhtinen. During the course I did dive targeting practices with GA aircraft for a total of eight hours, instrument flying practice with AEj aircraft for a total of 5 1/2 hours from which 3 1/2 hours flying in clouds. I also did low flight practices for an hour with both TU and GA aircraft. My total flight time during this course was about 20 hours.

The AAGA's third course was held on 28.2. - 17.3.1939. The course was lead by Capt, Sven Siren. We practiced patrolling and attacking from ahead and above, and also from above and behind, flying the BU aircraft. After that I flew AEj-51 aircraft as a target , as Reserve Second Lieutenants Simberg, Palonperä, Laukkanen and Uusitalo acted as observers as BU patrols performed closing-in and mock attacks as mentioned before. They also practiced attacking from ahead below and from behind.

On 12.4. - 24.4.1939 I participated a voluntary training, led by Capt. L.Huhtinen, during which we performed dive-attack training with GA aircraft, instrument flying with TU aircraft, evasive manoeuvres with AEj aircraft and about a two hour travel flight with MO aircraft during the total of 12 hours of flight time.

On 28 - 29. 9.1939 I participated a refresher course in flight squadron LLv26 where I trained combat immelmans, diving turns, climbing turns and aerobatics under the direction of Flying Officer J. Vuorela.  

Service In Mobilized Army

I reported to duty on 10. 10.1939 in Lento R 2 (Flight Regiment). After that I was transferred several times: On 11. 10. 1939 to T/ Lento R 2 (reconnaissance squadron) where I did several dive targeting exercises and machine gun shooting at ground targets with a GA aircraft and also targeting practices at a target aircraft with a GA aircraft for a couple of hours. The squadron commander was Capt. Kaarle Lejon.

On 6. 12. 1939 I was commanded to Ilm. KV2, and on 20. 12. 1939 to LLv 22, and on 14. 10. 1940 to IPE's disposal to get fighter aircraft from Sweden. The flights to Sweden were made with AERO's JU-52 aircraft.

The first four Gloster Gauntlets, which were delivered to my group we test-flew in Högernäs air force base on 18. 1. From there we flew them to Turku on 19. 1. the flight altitude being 3000 meters above Ahvenanmaa as was ordered. The flight time was 1h 30 mins. On the same day we flew the planes from Turku to Utti.

Gloster Gauntlet

The next three Gloster Gladiator aircraft we went to get from Barkarby airfield on 26. 1. 1940 the time of departure being 12:30. The pilot of GL-254 was reserve 2nd Lt. Lasse Lehtonen, GL- 256 was piloted by Sgt Asser Wallenius, and GL-259 was piloted by me. The flight from Barkarby to Turku was again made over Ahvenanmaa in 3000 meters height, the flight time being one and a half hours. On the same day we continued to Littoinen and on the next day to Utti, where we landed at 14:00. On 6.2. 1940 I flew GL-267 from Stockholm to Turku, where I landed at 12:40. The altitude was at this time 500 meters due to low cloud ceiling and only 200 meters when I flew to Parola through Littoinen and to Utti on the next day.

Gloster Gladiator

On 9.2.1940 we brought GL-271 and GL-272 with res. 2nd Lt Lehtonen at 200 meters altitude first from Barkarby to Littoinen and after that on the same day we flew them to Parola where we landed at 17:00.

After this the Res. 2nd Lts Lasse Lehtonen and Joel Savonen were ordered, among other pilots, to get Italian Fiat G-50 fighters to Finland from Vesterås, Sweden.

Fiat G-50

After one of those planes was damaged in landing after a test flight, possibly because of bad weather or because the information that was provided to the pilot, sergeant Asser Wallenius about the qualities of the plane was inadequate, we were prohibited to fly a familiarization flight with them even though they had a retractable landing gear. Thus after a theoretical familiarization of the plane's features we took off with Second Lieutenant Lehtonen from Vesterås airfield 15.2.1940 at 11:15 and after 1½ hours of flight at the altitude of 1000 meters (3330 feet) and passing Ahvenanmaa we landed at Turku airfield. Before I landed my plane FA-12, Lehtonen who was flying behind me in another FA had watched nervously if my other landing gear would come out, since it lowered and locked much later than the other. We flew the planes to Utti during the same day at the altitude of 500 meters (1670 feet) and landed there at 17:00.

After this we got an assignment to pick up American Brewster-239 fighters, planes which were designed for carrier use, from the Saab aircraft factory in Trollhättan. The planes had been delivered there dismantled in crates. They were assembled to test flight condition at the factory, with the aid of foreign technical staff.

Brewster 239

After the first BW was damaged in landing after a test flight flown by Captain J. Karhunen, probably because of inadequate information of the plane's technical features, the manufacturer sent Robert Winston from USA to Trollhättan to act as a test pilot.

Robert Winston with BW-mechanics in Trollhättan airfield.

26.2.1940 I flew a 30-minute familiarization flight with BW-352. The maximum altitude was 2000 meters (6670 feet). 27.2. I performed a 30-minute test flight with BW-353 at an altitude of 1000 meters (3300 feet). 29.2. I flew a 45-minute test flight with BW-355 at an altitude of 3000 m (10000 feet) and during the same day another 25-minute test flight with BW-353 at an altitude of 3500 m (11700 feet). Although Robert Winston had wondered the low total flying hours of the pilots that had been sent to pick up the Brewsters, with the instructions of the test pilot the planes were easy to control and their flying characteristics were almost identical.

On March 1st the first four Brewsters were ready for departure at Trollhättan airfield.

Pilots second lieutenant Joel Savonen, Warrant Officer Pasi Jääskeläinen, second lieutenant Lasse Lehtonen, sergeant J. Virta and test pilot Robert Winston. On the background are packing crates in which the planes were brought from Norway to Trollhättan.

While we were waiting for takeoff clearance, Countess Sparre, wife of the head of the airplane factory, came to my plane and brought me a gift. An FN pistol with two clips. Unfortunately I don't have it any more, since I handed it over to my unit by mistake when we were discharged in 1944.

We took off from Trollhättan at 11:45 and first flew to Vesterås airfield at an altitude of 1500 meters (5000 feet). We landed there at 12:55. From there we continued at 14:00 at an altitude of 3500 m (11700 feet) straight to Säkylä ice field where we landed at 15:25. After we had landed and taxied to the edge of the field we had to wait for a long time before the ground crew showed up. They had apparently got frightened of the enormous sound the four Brewsters made and thought that they were enemy planes. From Säkylä I flew my plane BW-353 to Hollola at 5.3.

After the Winter War was over on 13.3. I flew in AERO's plane back to Stockholm and from there I took a train to Trollhättan. From there I received a new BW-354, which I flew first to Vesterås at an altitude of 1500 m (5000 feet) and landed there at 15:00. From there I continued at 16:00 straight to Säkylä at an altitude of 1500 m (5000 feet) where I landed at 17:15. From there I flew to Tampere during the same day and landed there at 18:30.

20.3.1940 I flew BW-354 to Captain Heinilä's squadron 12 in Hollola. 21.3. I performed there a climb test to 5000 meters (16700 feet) with BW-365 while the total flying time was 30 minutes. 24.3. I flew an aerobatics training flight at an altitude of 2000 m (6700 feet) and on 27.3. a 30-minute low flying training flight at an altitude of 10 meters (33 feet) with BW-362, a 20-minute test flight with BW-361 and a 20-minute low flying test with BW-360.

4.4. I flew BW-362 to Malmi for squadron 24 where I was transferred that same day. In squadron 24 between 6.4. and 13.6. the training program included aerobatics, low flying, patrol flights, radio test flights 1 - 4 a climb test with BW to 7000 meters (23300 feet), dive tests at 3500 meters (11600 feet) and finally about 1½ hours of patrol flight exercises at altitudes of 500 to 1000 meters (1660 - 3330 feet). I was discharged from active duty 15.6.1940.

I got promoted to lieutenant by the supreme commander's order of the day number 126 28.10.1940.

After I applied for air traffic controller duty at Helsinki airport, the ministry of travel and general affairs ordered reserve officer Joel Savonen as an extra second air traffic controller to Helsinki airport beginning 1st of January 1941. The order was signed by minister Väinö V. Salovaara.  

Service during extra exercises and with mobilized troops

LeLv24 commander Gustaf "Eka" Magnusson.
I reported for duty in HLeLv. 24 (fighter squadron 24) on 18.6.1941. There I performed ground shooting-, patrol flight- and aerobatics exercises, a climb test to 5000 meters (16700 feet), one hour patrol flight in a group of eight planes and a half-hour radio test flight with the Brewster on 24.6.

25.6.1941 we flew the first three search flights with Brewsters within two hours and at altitudes of 2400 - 4500 meters (8000 - 15000 feet). 28.-29.6 we also flew three intercept flights against Russian planes at altitudes of 1000 - 3400 meters (3300 - 11300 feet) and within 4½ hours.

29.6. our schwarm (1/24) of four planes under the command of lieutenant Olli Mustonen was transferred to Vesivehmaa Mikkeli airfield to protect the headquarters. Between 30.6. and 6.7. we were sent on several intercepts utilizing the alarm principle. The altitudes varied between 500 and 4000 meters (1670 - 13300 feet). 8.-14.7.1941 we flew five about 1 to 1½ hour search flights and three 20-minute intercepts based on alarms.

On 14.7. I was with my patrol pair corporal R. Malin ordered to Nummela airfield. Our duty was to protect the field hospital at the Hanko front against attacks of Russian airplanes. On midday of 15.7. I flew a one-hour reconnaissance flight over the northern part of Hanko peninsula at an altitude of 3000 meters (10000 feet). Between 15:00 and 16:30 I flew a cover flight at 6000 meters (20000 feet). No Russian planes were sighted on these flights. The next night we received an alarm and climbed to 1000 meters over the area to be covered. There we intercepted one attacking plane and I got a chance to fire long bursts at it from behind. At that time my plane was suddenly hit and got about a football-sized hole in the left wing, between the ammunition box and fuel tank. Because of this I returned to Nummela airfield. Later we got information from the coast guard that the plane I had fired at had crashed into the sea. On the 16th our patrol flew back to Mikkeli.

1/HLeLv 24 flight commander Eino Luukkanen, who later became commander of HLeLv 34.

Fokker D.XXI
As a clarification I should mention that our front-line flight of 16 pilots normally always had eight planes ready for scramble and either the flight leader's or deputy leader's pilot groups were on call. In the next account when I'll use expression 'our flight' I mean the pilot group that participated in the front-line action and whose leader I was.

18.-19.7. after our flight had been transferred back to our squadron we participated in three aerial combats against the fighters escorting Russian bombers that were attacking Sakkola. Between 19.7. and 1.8. our flight flew 10 intercept-, escort- or search missions at 4000 meters. The flights reached as far as Käkisalmi and Römpötti.

1.8.1941 I was assigned to Fighter Squadron 25 (HLeLv 25) where until 20.9. I flew about 30 hours with GT-, TU- and PY-planes.

20.9. I was assigned back to my old flight 1/HLeLv 24, now led by Captain Eino Luukkanen, which had transferred to the captured Nurmoila airfield. Between September 26 and October 7 our flight flew several search- and escort missions while the infantry was crossing Syväri. On 7.10. our flight shot down one DB and one SB. Between 9.10. and 25.10. we flew reconnaissance missions around Vytegra and escorted FK reconnaissance planes. We also flew search and intercept missions and the total flying time in October was 22 hours. In November the enemy flight activity was very low, I myself participated in only one reconnaissance mission, two weather flights and one search mission. In December I also flew just one FK escort mission, a couple of search missions and one reconnaissance mission to Osta.

After the beginning of January in 1942 enemy air activity increased again. Therefore in January and in the beginning of February our flight flew search and intercept missions almost daily, reconnaissance missions to Osta, Aleksevskaja, Krestnojärvi, Monestirskaja and Lotinanpelto. We also flew escort for FKs, covered infantry and transports.

During the last week of April our flight flew search reconnaissance missions around Lotinanpelto - Uusi Laatokka - Laatokka - Tokarevo. In May we flew on consecutive days 9.5. - 15.5. about two-hour missions covering infantry, reconnaissance missions around Rebrovo and Gruchino. We flew also six intercept missions and one Blenheim escort mission. 30.5. our flight flew to Hirvas airfield.

On June 1st while I was the acting deputy commander of 1/LeLv 24 I received an order by telephone, that I should send two Brewsters to Malmi to escort German transport planes between Immola and Malmi. At 16:35 that same day I and ltm. Veikko Rimminen departed for Malmi where we landed at 18:35. From the Air Force HQ I got an information, that I would get two more Brewsters as reinforcement. They also came to Malmi, one piloted by H. Wind and the other, if I remember correctly, sergeant T. Järvi.

On June 4th we were notified that the planes to be escorted were approaching and we took off at 12:05. When the escortees were above Malmi I and Rimminen started to follow them. I could not see the other BW patrol. While the flight continued towards Immola the cloud cover got lower and lower all the time. Wind asked for a permission to land to Vesivehmaa with his wingman because of bad weather. I gave him the permission since the cloud cover was yet lower and it seemed that he did not have visual contact to us or the transports. I told him to follow us to Immola if the weather improved.

While the flight progressed the weather got so bad that it was hard to keep both transports in sight at the same time and Rimminen as an experienced pilot suggested that each of us would follow just one plane. We continued to Immola this way. At the airfield I lost sight with the other planes and to reduce the risk of collision I decided to land on the short crossing runway. After I landed at 13:25 I watched the landing of one of the transports. As the heavy plane was braking heavily, it looked like the brakes were smoking. I was waiting by my plane when major Carlsson approached me and asked why I hadn't come to report to Hitler after the escort mission. It was only at this point when I found out who had been in the planes that we were escorting. During meal I was sitting by a German officer who I had been told was the pilot of Hitler's plane. During our discussions he did not mention any problems while approaching the airfield. When the weather later improved, also Wind's patrol was able to fly to Immola.

The escort mission from Immola to Malmi was normal, weather was good and all four Brewsters were escorting. We took off from Immola at 18:30 and when we came to Malmi, German fighters were in the air waiting to take over the escort duty. We landed at Malmi at 19:30.

The next day we returned to Hirvas from where we were ordered to Suulajärvi on 11.6. From there we flew three intercept and search missions on the same day 13.6. and during the next days 14.-18.6 five intercept and search missions and one escort mission during which we damaged one PE-2 -plane. In July the enemy's air activity increased and as a result we flew 19 intercept- and infantry covering missions around Someri and a BARCAP mission at Lavansaari. During these missions we participated in four aerial combats with I-16 -planes. On August 7th our flight was transferred to Römpötti. From there we flew 14 search and intercept missions, an escort mission for BL at 5500 meters (Valkeasaari) and participated in two aerial combats at Kronstadt and Kreivilahti destroying one I-16 fighter. September, October and November were quite calm for our flight. During these three months I flew three intercept missions, four search missions near Seiskari and Tolli, one escort mission for a BL and one reconnaissance mission to Ontajärvi. At Tolli our flight shot down one HC fighter in a battle that was fought on 25.10. My total flying time during these three months was about 25 hours.

On 14.12.1942 I was transferred to the squadron of the Air Academy (Le.SK) where I got familiar with PY and JF planes, practised aerobatics with VI- and PY-planes and flew one-hour training flights in the clouds with flight students V. Hellens and Aapro in a Tuisku. The squadron commander was V. Savolainen.

12.2.1943 I was transferred back to 1/HLeLv. 24 where the flight leader was my course mate from RUK-4, Jorma Sarvanto.

1/HLeLv. 24: Front row from the left: Captain Jorma Sarvanto, lieutenant Hans Wind, reserve lieutenant Joel Savonen, Warrant Officer Viktor Pyötsiä, sergeant Pellinen, sergeant Kalevi Anttila and reserve lieutenant Kai Metsola. In the back from the left: Second lieutenant U. Viinikka, reserve second lieutenant Mikko Pasila, sergeant Lehtovaara, reserve second lieutenant Cke Roos, reserve second lieutenant Kim Lindberg, sergeant Saukkonen, staff sergeant Aimo Vahvelainen, sergeant J. Lilja, sergeant E. Hällfors.

On the last days of February and early March I participated in BL escort missions, five search missions and two reconnaissance missions. Between April 12th and 19th we flew 8 search missions and 18.4. our flight destroyed two Yak-1 -planes in aerial combat and one PE-2 the next day. In May we flew numerous intercept-, search- and escort missions and participated in aerial combats near Seiskari, Lavansaari and Tytärsaari. On 21.6. we escorted for two hours a BL flying a reconnaissance mission above the front at 6000 meters (20000 ft).

In June we flew eight search- and intercept missions and two BL escort missions. In July we flew five search- and intercept missions and on the eighth we escorted a BL which was directing artillery fire. In August we flew eight intercept missions. On 20.8. our flight shot down one LaGG-3 fighter in an aerial combat which was fought at 4500 meters (15000 ft).

In September we flew four intercept missions, during which our flight fought two aerial combats and shot down one LaGG-3 fighter. On October 9th we escorted BL-bombers twice when they were flying reconnaissance missions in the area of Kronstadt - Toksova at 8000 meters (26700 ft), first at noon and again three hours later. In November we flew four intercept- and three BL escort missions during which our flight damaged two LaGG-3 and one Yak-7B fighters in aerial combats that were fought at 8200-8500 meters.

Accidents happen. Leftmost plane BW-371 after landing to a rainy, soft field. Other pictures show BW-375, Joel Savonen's usual plane. He scored five and 1/2 victories in BW-375.

Brewsters in various accidents. Plane numbers not known.

December 1943 and January 1944 were quiet. In late March we flew three intercept missions, two BW escort missions and one reconnaissance mission.

In the end of March the first German Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-2 (Editor's note: At Savonen's text the plane is described as G-6. But MT-226 was a G-2 and the plane in German markings seems to be G-6, for example lacking the machine gun humps in the nose) fighter landed at our base, piloted by Oberleutnant H. Götz.

The commander of our squadron, captain Eino Luukkanen and oberleutnant H. Götz in front of the plane.

The serial number of the plane was MT-226. On 29.3. after captain Luukkanen and Oberleutnant Götz had briefed me about the technical- and flying characteristics of the plane, I flew a 35 minute familiarization flight at 700 meters and made one landing. I had no problems whatsoever, the plane was easy to fly and I had no trouble in landing.

I still flew with Brewster on 30.3. and 2.4. I flew one reconnaissance- and three intercept missions and on the last mission we got into an aerial combat and our flight damaged one LaGG-3 plane. According to my flight log I had flown 379 hours with Brewsters so far.

Starting on April 5th our flight led by captain A. Lassila flew with MTs. In April I first did some landing practice with MT-207, then turning exercises and climb test to 7000 meters (23300 ft) with MT-225. On 13.4. and 26.4. we were escorting photo reconnaissance BWs that flew at 4500 and 4000 meters. I also flew 20 - 30 minute test flights with MT-216, MT-231 and MT-235 and two reconnaissance missions. On 7.5. we were escorting BWs for an hour between 12:00 - 13:00 and flew an intercept mission between 15:00 and 15:40. On 8.5. we flew a search mission to Motti at 5000 meters (16600 ft). On 25.5. we flew two intercept missions and on 26.5. we flew from Suulajärvi to Nurmoila. On 28.5. we flew a one-hour intercept mission during which we participated in an aerial combat at 5000 meters. During 3.-4.6. we flew two intercept missions and in the evening we flew from Nurmoila to Immola. On 9.6. we first flew a 40-minute intercept mission and immediately after landing another alarm was made. Right after we got airborne we found ourselves in an aerial combat. Between 11.6. and 21.6. we flew six intercept- and two reconnaissance missions and during those missions took part in three aerial combats.

After this I was sent to Germany to pick up new Messerschmitt Bf-109 fighters from Insterburg. On 25.6. at 16:15 I took off from Insterburg airfield in the first MT and after flying below 200 meters (660 ft) I made a stop at Riika where I landed at 17:15. From there I took off at 18:40 and after continuing below 200 meters I landed at Malmi airfield at 19:55. On 26.6. I took off from Insterburg in another MT and again flew to Riika below 200 meters. I landed there at 20:25. When I was about to continue to Malmi, I taxied to a bomb crater that had not been properly filled with sand. One gear of the MT sank into the soft ground and the tail rose high and then dropped down so that the fuselage of the plane bent. A German lieutenant approached me with a couple of riflemen and took me to their post. I got permission to telephone the Finnish Air Force headquarters for instructions and the German lieutenant made contact with major Pauli Ervi who was acting as a liaison officer in Germany. After I explained him what had happened to the plane he asked to speak to the German lieutenant. After a few minutes the German lieutenant gave back the phone and Ervi told me that a German general who was inspecting the German northern army happened to be in Riika and had promised to take me in his plane to Jurgenfeld airfield, which was near Insterburg. In about half an hour I climbed into a staff Heinkel, introduced myself to the general and sat into a comfortable leather armchair. The plane took off immediately.

While I was talking with the general I told him that I had been escorting planes carrying Adolf Hitler and field marshal Keitel on their way to congratulate marshal Mannerheim on his 75:th birthday with four American Brewster fighters and that I had received a German medal "Das Verdienstkreutz des Ordens vom Deutchen Adler Dritter Stufe mit Schwertern" for this in front of a Finnish guard company.

I also told him that during winter war I had been in Sweden many times picking up English and American fighter planes. The general asked me about how Swedish officers felt about the current situation in Lapland. Of course I had no up-to-date knowledge about this, but I mentioned that the Swedes had participated in battles that were fought in Lapland during winter war and had made a significant contribution committing whole infantry- and air force units.

After we landed to Jurgenfeld and I was leaving the plane, I heard the general tell to a major who was waiting for us that he should fullfill all wishes of this Finnish Lieutenant. After the general had left the major asked me what I wanted. I asked for transportation to Insterburg and some cigarettes. I got a packet of 400 Bulgarian cigarettes and a bottle of wine and my transportation to Insterburg airfield was arranged in a Fieseler Storch. From there I received a new Messerschmitt Bf-109G fighter, equipped with an extra fuel tank. I took off from Insterburg at 18:00 and again flew below 200 meters over the Baltic Sea to Malmi where I landed at 20:00.

Between July 2nd and July 22nd the enemy air activity was very high and therefore our flight flew intercept missions on nine days. On seven days we escorted BL's and JK's, covered infantry on six days and flew reconnaissance missions on six days.

At the end of August I was again ordered to Insterburg, Germany. In Germany on 23.8. at 10:40 - 11:00 I flew a test flight with a new Messerschmitt Bf-109 G fighter at 1000 meters (3300 ft) and 15 minutes after landing I departed to Riika airfield in the same plane. I followed my orders which stated that altitude should be kept at about 50 meters and landed in Riika at 12:50. From there I took off the next day at 16:10 and flew at 50 meters to Malmi where I landed at 17:25. On 25.8. I flew my plane to Kuorevesi.

Pilots of 1/HLeLv 24 at Suulajärvi, April 1944. From left: 1Lt K. Metsola, Sgt. A. Koskelainen, 1Lt M. Pasila, 1Lt L. Nissinen, WO Viktor Pyötsiä and 2Lt H. Lampi.

I was discharged on 10.11.1944 following the general demobilization. After the control commission had taken Malmi airfield into it's use I was transferred to Hyvinkää airfield as an air traffic controller.

In the middle of February 1945 I received a call from Malmi airfield and I was asked if I could take in a passenger plane that was coming from Sweden and could not land at Malmi because of bad weather. The weather was good at Hyvinkää so I said yes. After that I got a call from the ministry of foreign affairs and I was told that the representative of USA, secretary Maxwell Hamilton and his wife were passengers on that plane. I was also ordered to escort them to Helsinki. I asked for transportation from the rural police office and they told me that they only had one wood-gas car and even that was out of the office. After that I called the station master of Hyvinkää railway station and asked when was the next train to Helsinki. He told me that the next passenger train was coming after two hours. After I explained the situation to the station master I asked him to empty a comfortable compartment of the train for the guests after it arrived. Then I contacted the ministry of foreign affairs and told them about the situation. They advised me to arrange a possibility for a meal for the waiting period. Near the station at the other end of a bridge there was restaurant Ahjo where suitable service was available. After the plane landed we drove the guests with the airfield ambulance to restaurant Ahjo. After the meal I walked over the bridge to the railway station with our guests and when the train arrived we got into the compartment that had been reserved for us.

On our way to Helsinki I told the guests about how the Finns felt about the things that our eastern neighbour had forced on us. Transferring of 400000 people from Karelia from their homes and jobs, disposition of large land areas and the huge reparations that were ordered to be paid by the country that had been attacked. When the train arrived in Helsinki the Russian leadership of the control commission was there waiting for Hamilton.

In about two weeks a driver from the US embassy showed up at our home and brought a polite invitation signed by Julia Hamilton to arrive to five o'clock tea the next day with my wife. A car from the embassy picked us up at the appointed time. The discussions with secretary Hamilton showed that his views on Russians and communism in general differed from Finnish views which he indicated by saying that "You Finns know them better since you live near them". Secretary Hamilton mentioned that my wife and I were the first Finnish guests they had invited to the US embassy.

After the control commission banned also the flights of Finnish airliners I asked for a permission to resign from my job as an air traffic controller and it was approved.

Bottom row, rightmost photo: Master Sergeant A. "Vaffe" Vahvelainen.

Joel Savonen's logbook entiries April-June 1942. Including the historical Adolf Hitler escort mission.

The author with Illu Juutilainen at Kalastajatorppa in 1996.

Joel Adiel Savonen
Born 22.8.1914
Units: 20.12.1939 LeLv 26 - 18.6.1941 LeLv 24 - 2.8.1941 LeLv 25 - 21.9.1941 LeLv 24 - 15.12.1942 LeSK - 13.2.1943 LeLv 24 flight leader . Returned to civilian lize 10.11.1944.
Honors: VR4, VR3.

16.7.1941 - BW-361 - 1 I-16
6.10.1942 - BW-362 - 1/2 SB-2bis
25.10.1942 - BW-375 - 1 Hurricane
18.4.1943 - BW-375 - 2 Yak-1
19.4.1943 - BW-375 - 1/2 Pe-2
20.8.1943 - BW-375 - LaGG-3
28.9.1943 - BW-375 - 1 LaGG-3
17.6.1944 - MT-235 - 1 MiG-1  



The "Memoirs of a reserve military aviator during years 1934-1945" was written by Joel Savonen and typed from his father's notes by Olli Savonen. The memoirs was originally published by Olli Savonen in his web pages at http://pasila.lib.hel.fi/~444os/jas/. The article has been published and translated by Finnish Virtual Pilots Association by Olli Savonen's permission.

Copyright Olli Savonen 2001.
Translation Copyright Virtuaalilentäjät ry - Finnish Virtual Pilots Association 2002.

English translation: Marko Enkenberg and Petri Hallberg.
Proof-reading: Ville "Camouflage" Pitkänen.
Other help: Teemu "Teme" Pitkätupa.
Editing: Jukka "Grendel" Kauppinen.

Photographs: Joel Savonen via Olli Savonen.
If you can help with recognizing persons and situations in the photos please contact us at jukka . kauppinen @ jmp . fi.

Viimeksi muokattu: 2003-10-23 18:47