Biplane fighter aces


Lentomestari Lauri Johannes ‘Lasse’ Lautamäki

28 October 1909 – 10 March 1970

Lautamäki was born on 28 October 1909 in Ylistaro.

He received flying training in 1928-29.

He was posted to LLv 26 on 31 May 1938 as a vääpeli.

He was promoted to lentomestari (Warrant Officer) on 31 March 1939.

Lautamäki saw action in both the Winter War and in the Continuation War. In the beginning of the Winter War he served in LLv 26's Osasto (Detachment) Heinilä (1st Flight) flying Bristol Bulldogs.

On 14 January 1940 Turku was bombed and several buildings were destroyed. Six Bulldogs of the Osasto Heinilä/LLv 26 took off from Littoinen. One SB was shot down jointly by lentomestari Lautamäki (BU-72) and AA artillery. The bomber crashed at Perniö.
The bomber was from 10 AB, which reported that ten SB2 bombed fuel stores in the port of Turku.

In the end of January 1940, LLv 26 received its first Gloster Gladiators and Oiva Tuominen, Ilmari Joensuu, Lauri Lautamäki, Pentti Tevä, Jörn Ulrich, Knut Kalmberg and Lentomestari Artola were attached to the nine-plane detachment Kivinen, led by luutnantti Ensio Kivinen. They transferred first on 5 February 1940 to Mensunkangas and from there to Värtsilä on 9 February 1940. There their mission was to protect the troop movements by IV corps and group Talvela from Russian aerial attacks.

Shortly after midday on 11 February, three Gladiators from LLv 26 fought with 15 I-16s over the north shore of Jänisjärvi. At 13:30, ylikersantti Oiva Tuominen (GL-255) claimed an I-16 from 49 IAP over Soanlahti. Five minutes later, at 13:35, lentomestari Lautamäki (GL-253) succeeded in shooting down another I-16 from 49 IAP over Jalovaara.
Both claims are credited as probables (confirmed by the HQ without witnesses).

Detachment Kivinen encountered various enemy formations north of Ladoga on 13 February. One of the formations they encountered during the day was I-16s from 49 IAP, 8 VA (neither side sustained any losses).
In the afternoon on 13 February, lentomestari Lautamäki (GL-253) and ylikersantti Oiva Tuominen (GL-255) were first scrambled at 14:00 and sent to Matkaselkä. After this there was an alarm - a large Russian bomber formation was approaching! Luutnantti Knut Kalmberg (GL-260) and Kivinen took off first as they were in readiness with running engines. Five others followed so all nine Gladiators of Kivinen's unit were airborne. They met nine I-15bis fighters and engaged them. Six Russians tried to form a "Spanish ring"-defensive circle. Kalmberg attacked these Russians, but as he started shooting, three other Russians attacked him and hit his Gladiator. He tried to disengage by diving, but his plane went into a spin and dived into the ground at Havuvaara, killing him. Meanwhile, Kivinen’s Gladiator was hit in the engine. He disengaged with a steep dive and landed at Värtsilä. The rest of the Gladiators were now dogfighting with the Russians. In the dogfight Jörn Ulrich was hit and wounded. He made a forced landing with the last of his strength between Kuhilasvaara and Havuvaara. His Gladiator GL-257 was badly damaged and not repaired anymore. In this fight, Ilmari Joensuu (GL-256) claimed one I-15bis at 14:40 while Ulrich was credited for the destruction of two between 14:15 and 15:05. Other Finnish pilots in this engagement were Pentti Tevä and lentomestari Niilo ‘Arpinaama’ Artola. Artola was not a pilot of LLv 26 but a Blackburn Ripon pilot of LLv 16. He was on a familiarization flight with a Gladiator when the Soviet fighters appeared. He joined the battle although he was not sure how to operate the guns! However, he managed to fire a bust on an I-15 chasing a Finnish Gladiator. It seems that the I-15bis fighters were from 49 IAP, which lost Starshii Politruk M. A. Kochmala (I-15bis), who was KIA after claiming two Gladiators. 49 IAP also claimed a Fokker during the day when Leitenant Yakov Filippovity Mikhin of Aviagruppa Tkachenko claimed one in a ”taran” ramming attack at Värtsilä. Mikhin managed to return to his airfield with his damaged I-16.
As Lautamäki and Tuominen were returning from their uneventful flight, they met nine enemy bombers from 39 SBAP, 8 VA, which had taken off from Lotinanpelto (at River Svir) at 13:00, with the task of bombing fortifications north of Pyhäjärvi (hill 108,8) and dropping leaflets. In the ensuing dogfight Tuominen claimed 3 and 1 shared SBs in seven minutes and 1 I-152 while Lautamäki claimed the second half in the shared SB (this aircraft was claimed at Jänisjärvi). Ylikersantti Tuominen reported:

“When I was patrolling with lentomestari Lautamäki in Jänisjärvi station area, I noticed nine SBs arriving east of Suojärvi and heading west. I signalled lentomestari Lautamäki and turned towards the enemy planes. The enemy formation banked to east and east of Soanjoki I caught them and shot the port wing aircraft into fire. It crashed in the woods. So did the next one after a minute. And the third crashed into a small pond.
Then nine more bombers arrived from Loimola direction joining the others. At first I thought they were fighters as the distance grew a little, but I caught them over Kivijärvi and shot at the starboard wing aircraft. When I fired a second burst, it crashed in flames to the north bank of Kivijärvi Lake.
At the same time an I-15 took off from the ice, I shot it immediately down at the edge of the forest, where it crashed in fire. My fighter had two bullet holes in the wings fired from the ground.
Own aircraft GL-255.”
39 SBAP lost three SBs, all of them from the 5th eskadrilya. They had taken off at 13:00 from Lodejnoye pole to bomb hill 108,8 east of Pyhäjärvi and to drop leflets when they become involved in air combat over Suistamo. The first lost was c/n 14/217, which crashed at Jänisjärvi with crew-members Mladshii Leitenant N. M. Parshikov, Kapitan S. N. Pitek and Starshina A. A. Baranov killed. The second was c/n 16/115, which crashed at Kivijärvi with crew-members Leitenant I. A Tarasenko, Starshii Leitenant N. V. Begichev and Starshina I. Ye. Dunayev killed. The third was c/n 11/219, which crashed at Roikonkoski after having been hit in both fuel tanks and catching fire with crew-members Leitenant A. G. Lazarykov, Starshina V.Grudinin and Starshina Sibirkulin killed while Leitenant I. S. Kramtsov parachuted at 14:50 (Moscow time) and was taken POW the following day. This was the second operational mission by the 5th eskadrilya; the first one was made the day before.
Lautamäki and Tuominen landed again at 15:30.
Lautamäki and Tuominen landed again at 15:30.
Lautamäki frequently flying as Tuominen’s wingman, said:
“I just wonder how Oippa does it, he just squirts once and the bomber is in flames. I have to make several attacks to get the same result.”

One I-16 was destroyed by Lautamäki (GL-253) above Heinjoki on 26 February. This claim has not been possible to verify with Russian sources and it seems that no Soviet aircraft was lost in this area during this day.

He continued to serve in LLv 26 during the Continuation War, flying the Fiat G.50.

On 13 August 1941, LLv 26 escorted an artillery fire-control aircraft over Aunuksenjoki, south of River Tuulos, Lake Ladoga.
At 14:00, when luutnantti Lauri Hämäläinen’s (FA-3) swarm (kersantti Ilmari Joensuu (FA-35), alikersantti Klaus Alakoski (FA-28) and ylikersantti Sulo Suikkanen (FA-18)) was changing the shift with luutnantti Olli Puhakka’s (FA-1) swarm (vänrikki Eero Enroth (FA-3), lentomestari Lautamäki (FA-26) and one unknown pilot), nine I-153s of 195 IAP and 197 IAP attacked the fire controller. In five minutes of combat, the eight Fiats claimed all Russians. The victories were claimed by Hämäläinen, Joensuu (one and one damaged), Alakoski, Suikkanen (two I-153s), Puhakka (two I-153s), Enroth and Lautamäki. Puhakka initially claimed one damaged and one destroyed, but the Air Force HQ recorded it as two destroyed:

“At Hoski, I saw two I-153s at about 200 m altitude, I attacked and shot the latter quite close and saw the bullets hit the fuselage. Then I saw two more above me and pulled up. When I looked back to the scene, I saw already two Fiats having attacked and saw one I-153 parting company and sliding to southeast. It came down at Alavoinen and catching fire. After that I tried to get behind the tail of another. The other two were already fired at by other Fiats. The whole battle occurred in a small area. When I finally got behind one and shot very near, I saw after pulling up and going down again that no Chaikas remained. My plane was FA-1.”
Hämäläinen’s swarm’s mission lasted from 13:00-14:10 while Puhakka’s swarm’s mission lasted from 13:45-14:45.
The 195 IAP lost two I-153s (Leytenants I. D. Vinogradov and A. F. Ilyin KIA) and 197 IAP lost one (Leytenant K. F. Meshalkin KIA).

From left to right: Luutnantti Olli Puhakka, vänrikki Eero Enroth and lentomestari Lautamäki at Lunkula on 13 August 1941.
Source SA-Kuva.

Between 17.40 and 18.25 on 15 August, Lautamäki’s pair of the 1/LLv 26 was scrambled for intercept to Aunus, were eight I-153s fighters circled. Lautamäki claimed one over Troitsankontu.
The I-153 was from AG Ladoga.

On 16 September, LLv 26 was transferred to LeR3 and transferred to Immola.

Between 14:40-15:20 on 1 November, lentomestari Lautamäki (FA-6) and kersantti P. Saarni (FA-1) together claimed an observation balloon over Kylätjatko, Kannas.

On 3 May 1942, there was a reorganisation of the Finnish Air Force and at the same time, there was a redesign of the names of the units and thus LLv 26 became LeLv 26.

In August 1942, a German-Italian naval detachment began to arrive to Lake Ladoga. It was tasked with harassment of the supply traffic to Leningrad in the southern part of the lake. The detachment operated for three months in Lake Ladoga and fiats from LeLv 26 were often assigned in protection of the outfit.

Around midday on 24 August, Luutnantti Olli Puhakka’s seven Fiats of 2/LeLv 26 were sent on an interception in the Konevitsa area. Here a combat ensued with six Il-2s escorted by four I-16s. All the escorting Russian aircraft were claimed shot down. Lentomestari Lautamäki (FA-18) claimed a probable I-16 (confirmed by the HQ without witnesses) over Saunasaari between 12:30-13:10. Luutnantti Puhakka (FA-10) claimed an I-16 over Mikkulainen between 12:35-13:20. Lentomestari Oiva Tuominen (FA-32) claimed an I-16 over Saunasaari between 12:40-13:20. Vänrikki Reino Stenberg (FA-21) claimed an I-16 over Lumisuo between 12:40-13:20.
The Russians reported that at 12:00-13:20, six Il-2s of 57 ShAP-KBF were escorted by ten I-16s, four Hurricanes, four Yak-1s and one LaGG-3 attacking an enemy naval detachment near Konevitsa. At 12:24, they were attacked by four Bf 109s and two minutes later by 12 Fiats. Of the enemy aircraft, five Fiats and one Bf 109 were shot down. At 12:28, the ground attack aircraft sank three barges and four patrol motor boats at Sortanlahti bay. At 12:55, the detachment was attacked by another four Bf 109s, of which one was sent down.

On 26 August, luutnantti Olli Puhakka’s seven Fiats from 1st and 3rd Flights were scrambled in poor weather to Konevitsa, where a formation of seven I-16s, six LaGG-3a and four Il-2s were engaged. Lentomestari Oiva Tuominen reported:

“At 11:05-12:00, altitude 1,800-100m.
On the return the radio at Saunasaari informed us of four Victors coming straight at us. I observed the planes when the Russian flak shot at them. I climbed at the side??? At 1,800 metres I was at the same level as the last plane. I attacked it when all four I-153s came at me. I shot at one during the curve and the altitude fell too 200m. Three planes pulled a little altitude when I was able to shoot at the fourth and it started to pour some smoke and after a while exploding into pieces. The other three attacked me at the same time, when after rolling a while with them got to fire on one in a bank, when it crashed in a 45o angle to the ground. Two fled south. I returned low on fuel.
My plane FA-18.”
In the engagement between 11:05-12:00, lentomestari Tuominen (FA-18) claimed two I-153s as probables (confirmed by the HQ without witnesses) over Miikkulainen - Lumisuo, kersantti Osmo Länsivaara (FA-21) claimed one Il-2 over Konevitsa, lentomestari Lautamäki (FA-13) claimed a Hurricane over Konevitsa and ylikersantti P. Saarni (FA-32) claimed a damaged I-16 over Konevitsa.
In a second engagement between 11:20-11:35, vänrikki Nils Trontti (FA-33) claimed a Hurricane over Saunasaari.
The Soviets reported that at 10:28-11:47, eight Hurricanes of 3 GIAP-KBF escorted four Il-2s of 57 AP-KBF to Sortanlahti. Shortly after the strike the detachment was attacked by two Fokkers and four ”Capronis”. In the combat five Capronis were claimed shot down over Konevitsa. These were claimed by kapitan Khanyafi Khametov, starshiy politruk Nikolay Kosorukov, kapitan Georgiy Kostylev, kapitan Igor’ Kaberov and starshiy leitenant Aleksey Yevgrafov. One Il-2 and Khametov’s Hurricane did not return even if it seems that Khametov was safe. Khametov was killed in a crash with a DB-3f (he was a passenger) on 7 January 1943.

Lautamäki was posted to KoeL on 8 May 1943 as a test pilot.

Lautamäki was credited with 1 biplane victory and a total of 4 victories, scored on 250 sorties, at the end of the war.
During his career, he was decorated with the Vapauden Mitali 1st Class and the Vapauden Risti 4th Class.

He resigned from duty on 24 August 1949.

He later worked as a light plane pilot.

Lautamäki died on 10 March 1970.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  14/01/40   1 SB (a) Shared destroyed Bulldog IVA BU-72 Perniö 1/LLv 26
  11/02/40 13:35 1 I-16 (b) Probable Gladiator II GL-253 Jalovaara LLv 26
  13/02/40 14:00-15:30 ½ SB (c) Shared destroyed Gladiator II GL-253 Jänisjärvi LLv 26
1 26/02/40   1 I-16 (d) Destroyed Gladiator II GL-253 Heinjoki LLv 26
2 13/08/41 13:45-14:45 1 I-153 (e) Destroyed Fiat G.50 FA-26 Aunuksenjoki LLv 26
3 15/08/41 17:40-18:25 1 I-153 (f) Destroyed Fiat G.50 FA-26 Troitsankontu LLv 26
  01/11/41 14:40-15:20 1 Balloon Shared destroyed Fiat G.50 FA-6 Kyläjatko, Kannas LLv 26
  24/08/42 12:30-13:10 1 I-16 Probable Fiat G.50 FA-18 Saunasari LeLv 26
4 26/08/42 11:05-12:00 1 Hurricane (g) Destroyed Fiat G.50 FA-13 Konevitsa LeLv 26

Biplane victories: 1 and 2 shared destroyed, 1 probably destroyed.
TOTAL: 4 and 2 shared destroyed, 2 probably destroyed, 1 shared balloon.
(a) Claimed in combat with SBs of 10 AB. Claimed as a shared with AA artillery.
(b) Claimed in combat with I-16s from 49 IAP.
(c) Claimed in combat with 39 SBAP, 8 VA. LLv 26 claimed four bombers while three were actually lost. All three SBs were from the 5th eskadrilya. The first was c/n 14/217, which crashed at Jänisjärvi with crew-members Mladshiy Leytenant N. M. Parshikov, Kapitan S. N. Pitek and Starshina A. A. Baranov killed. The second was c/n 16/115, which crashed at Kivijärvi with crew-members Leytenant I. A Tarasenko, Starshiy Leytenant N. V. Begichev and Starshina I. Ye. Dunayev killed. The third was c/n 11/219, which crashed at Roikonkoski after having been hit in both fuel tanks and catching fire with crew-members Leytenant A. G. Lazarykov, Starshina V.Grudinin and Starshina Sibirkulin killed while Leytenant I. S. Hramtsov parachuted at 14:50 (Moscow time) and was taken POW the following day.
(d) This claim has not been possible to verify with Russian sources and it seems that no Soviet aircraft was lost in this area during this day.
(e) Claimed in combat with I-153s from 195 IAP and 197 IAP. LLv 26 claimed nine victories but it only seems that 195 IAP lost two I-153s (Leytenants I. D. Vinogradov and A. F. Ilyin KIA) and 197 IAP lost one (Leytenant K. F. Meshalkin KIA).
(f) I-153 from AG Ladoga.
(g) Claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 3 GIPA-KBF, which claimed 5 ”Capronis” while losing 1 Hurricane. LeLv 26 claimed 1 Hurricane without losses.

All aces of Stalin 1936–1953 – Mikhail Bykov, 2014
Finnish Aces of World War 2 - Kari Stenman and Kalevi Keskinen, 1998, Osprey Publishing, London, ISBN 1-85532-783-X
Hävittäjä-Ässät (Finnish Fighter Aces) - Kalevi Keskinen, Kari Stenman and Klaus Niska, 1994 Apali, Tampere, ISBN 952-5026-00-0
Ilmavoitot, osa 1 - Kalevi Keskinen and Kari Stenman, ISBN 952-99432-8-8
Ilmavoitot, osa 2 - Kalevi Keskinen and Kari Stenman, ISBN 952-99432-8-8
LeR 2 - Kalevi Keskinen and Kari Stenman, 2001, ISBN 951-98751-0-7
Red Stars 5 - Baltic Fleet Air Force in Winter War – Carl-Fredrik Geust, Samuil Tirkeltaub and Gennadiy Petrov, 2004 Apali, Tampere, ISBN 952-5026-31-0
Red Stars 7 - Talvisota Ilmassa - The Winter War In the Air - Carl-Fredrik Geust, 2011 Apali Oy, Tampere, ISBN 978-952-5877-04-5
Oiva ”Oippa” Tuominen - from mechanic to Knight (WWII Ace Stories) - Ossi Juntunen, 1999
Soviet Aces 1936-1953
Soviet Fighter Pilots 1936-1953 - Mikhail Bykov
Suomen Ilmavoimat part II – 1928-40 – Kalevi Keskinen and Kari Stenman, 2006, ISBN 952-99743-0-2
Suomen Ilmavoimat part III – 1941 – Kalevi Keskinen and Kari Stenman, 2007, ISBN 978-952-99743-1-3
Suomen Ilmavoimat part IV – 1942 – Kalevi Keskinen and Kari Stenman, 2007, ISBN 978-952-99743-2-0
Additional information kindly provided by Alexey Andreev and Carl-Fredrik Geust.

Last modified 13 October 2022