Biplane fighter aces

Finland

Luutnantti Olavi Kauko ‘Olli’ Puro

18 November 1918 – 20 June 1999

‘Olli’ Puro was born in Helsinki on 18 November 1918.

He received flying training in 1940-41 at UK 11.

He was promoted to vänrikki (second lieutenant) on 11 February 1941 and posted to LeLv 24 on 22 June 1942. He was posted again on 25 September 1942 to LeLv 6.

Two of Puro’s victories were scored while flying a captured Polikarpov I-153 (IT-18)! The "Tshaika" was mainly used in maritime reconnaissance missions but to some extent also for interception missions.

On 4 October, luutnantti Paltila led a patrol of three I-153s on a reconnaissance flight to Lavansaari when it became involved in a dogfight with five Soviet I-153s. Early in the engagement, IT-17 was shot down and the pilot 28-years-old vääpeli Kaarlo Olavi Salminen drowned. Vänrikki Puro of 3/LeLv 6 reported:

“Mission time 08:10-09:25.
We were on a regular reconnaissance mission with three aircraft, luutnantti Paltila leading the patrol. When going around Lavansaari we went down to the deck due to strong flak. On the west side of the island three Russian Chaikas attacked us from above and after a while two more arrived on the scene. A fierce curving battle turned out and the Russians favoured shooting from opposite directions. Early in the combat I observed vääpeli Salminen’s plane IT-17 turn on its back at about 150 m altitude and then go in a vertical dive into the sea 2-3 km south of the island. I fired at several aircraft from straight ahead and in a turn without any significant results. Finally I got rid of the carousel and was able to climb 300-400 metres altitude, from where I could begin diving and hitting the Russians. Now I could surprise one Chaika approaching from the sun and shot a burst to its engine from 50 metres. A strong black-grey cloud of smoke puffed from the plane and it headed in a shallow dive towards Lavansaari airfield, turning on its back and going into the sea about 1.5 km from the shore. I fired at a few planes still, but then one took me by surprise from the sun hitting my aileron, which was damaged to such an extent that I was forced to break off.
My plane IT-18, which had 7 hits.
Ammunition spent 1,500 rounds.”
They had been in combat with I-153s from 71 IAP-KBF, which reported that at 08:47-09:15 two I-153s took off from Lavansaari for interception, piloted by Starshiy Leytenant N. Kutsheryaviy and Leytenant P. Ivanov. South of the island, they encountered at 300 metres altitude three Finnish I-153s and attacked them by launching the rockets and continuing with machinegun fire to 50 metres. In the next opposite direction firing, one Finn was hit and came down south-west of Lavansaari. The I-153s of Starshiy Leytenant I. Goslov and Leytenant G. Belyakov arrived as reinforcements, damaging one of the Finns with rockets to such extent that it could not make it to the coast on the return flight and went in the sea. There were no won losses.

On a patrol between 10:30-11:40 on 12 November, two I-153s from 3/LeLv 6 led by vänrikki Puro on search of submarines sighted a lone Pe-2 from 73 BAP near Peninsaari. Vänrikki Puro reported:

“At 10:30-11:40, altitude 250-300m. I led a two-plane patrol on a recce mission. After the reconnaissance and when returning at about 300m just under the clouds north of Peninsaari, I observed a single Pe-2 coming towards us about 30 metres lower than me. I attacked it from ahead and shot from a close range a burst into its starboard engine and wing. Then I turned swiftly after it, when I observed the starboard engine pouring smoke. I managed to fire from behind another burst into it, but could not make it to the close range anymore. This burst hit from about 100 metres the starboard engine, when it began to smoke much stronger leaving behind a black trail of smoke having a length of about 50 metres, and the plane began to swerve to the port. At this point the rear gunner fired with the dorsal gun, but the bursts went behind and aside. Barely being able to gain altitude the plane managed to climb in the clouds then engine even stronger smoking heading towards Lavansaari. We did not see it any further, even when kersantti Durchmann and I circled over the area for a while. Ammunition spent 450 rounds. My plane IT-18.”
The Pe-2, which was from 73 BAP, was later seen to crash into the sea, but Puro was only credited with a damaged.

On 16 November 1942, he was transferred to 2/LeLv 30.

On 1 January 1943, 2/LeLv 30 flew with three aircraft to the Gulf of Finland. The reconnaissance report of vänrikki Puro stated:

“Planes and pilots: IT-20 vänrikki Puro, IT-15 kersantti Durchman and IT-18 kersantti Jänkävaara.
Task: To reconnoitre in eastern Gulf of Finland.
Observations: In Lavansaari bay 1 submarine still (1 km NE of the tip of Mustaniemi heading to Kielkouri), 1 tug, 2 patrol boats and 1 motor boat. Flak: One heavy gun firing from Lavansaar’s Kukouri. 40 mm flak from Kielkouri. 20 mm flak from six guns from the shore between Mustaniemi and Kielkouri. Between Seiskari and Peninsaari we encountered one Pe-2 at 300 m altitude heading SE. IT-20 managed to fire at it four times. No visible effect. Shooting distance 400-200 m. The plane was taken by surprise from behind in the same direction and arriving within a shooting range. The Pe-2 could not evade sooner since it began to bank. The gunner did not fire.
Visibility 30 km.
Clouds 8/10.
Cloud base at 500 m.”

On 24 March, a patrol of three I-153s from 2/LeLv 30 was led by vänrikki Puro. They took off at 07:00 and Puro reported:

While leading a three-plane IT patrol on a recce mission we met north of LAvansaari two I-153 fighters. In the ensuing combat the oil tank of IT-13 (pilot kersantti Sauli Jänkävaara) was shot up, which caused the plane to begin smoking and it was forced landed on the pack ice zone located halfway of Peninsaari and Narvi. The pilot was intact and started heading towards Tiurinsaari. Of the combat, it can be specially mentioned that the Russians were very skilful as pilots, but were shooting very long bursts, which were poorly aimed. The guns of my plane jammed right in the first burst and in spite of several cocking manoeuvres, they remained out of order. The Russians tried to follow the smoking plane of kersantti Jänävaara, but kersantti Durchmann and I prevented it. After curvingfor a while the Russians turned towards Lavansaari and landed on the island. Heavy and 40 mm flak kept firing as much as they could during the whole battle. We returned to base, re-fuelled and then took off to shoot IT-13 into fire. When kersantti Jänkävaara had reached the edge of the pack ice, I landed and brought him to safer area by taxiing closer to Tiurinsaari.
My plane IT-18 had no damage.

On 4 April 1943 he was transferred back to LeLv 24 and it’s 2nd Flight.

On 21 April, the Baltic Fleet air force’s Il-2s raided Kotka escorted by Soviet fighters. They were intercepted by all three Brewster flights from LeLv 24, which reported 37 sorties during the day. The Finnish fighters reported intercepting 35 Yak-1s, LaGG-3s and La-5s of the Baltic Fleet air forces between Seiskari and Kronstadt. Kapteeni Karhunen’s six fighters and kapteeni Iikka Törrönen’s six took of at 08:00 to meet the formation. When already in combat, kapteeni Jorma Sarvanto arrived with five more Brewsters. Kapteeni Törrönen reported:

“I took off with my flight of six Brewsters for a scramble to the Gulf of Finland. At Peninsaari I observed five Il-2s and their escort of six LaGG-3 and Yak-1 fighters. After noticing us the enemy aircraft went into a dive and by Seiskari they were already down on the deck. We chased the planes, but did not catch them until on the east side of Seiskari, were kapteeni Karhunen was already waiting for a reception. With the escort fighters ensued a fierce combat, where more enemy fighters appeared their number going up to twenty to thirty by the end of the air battle. I fired at several enemy fighters. Finally one LaGG-3 began to smoke after shooting and crashed in the forest near Lipeva village. After this I was forced into another combat over Tolbuhin-Kronstadt area. Three La-5s attacked me and vänrikki Riihikallio. I shot at a La-5, which had appeared behind the tail of vänrikki Riihikallio, so that it begun to pour smoke and it crashed on the shore of the north-west tip of Kronstadt Island. The enemy fighters carried out well their escort duty. La-5 proved to be rather agile and completely superior in both speed and ability to climb compared to the Brewster.
My plane was BW-380.”
Luutnantti Hans Wind reported:
“I shot at one Yak-1 from straight behind, pulled off after which lentomestari Kinnunen shot at the same plane. After this I shot it from a close range. It began to smoke and dived in about 45o angle to the sea. Soon after this I got behind another Yak-1. I shot, the plane began to smoke instantly going vertically in the sea. The battle shifted over the Oranienbaum encirclement, where after a short curve battle with two Yak-1s I got to fire at one from 20 m at 600 altitude. The plane went vertically in the forest.
Combat altitude 10-6,000m.
My plane BW-393.”
Totally, LeLv 24 claimed 19 Soviet aircraft destroyed. Between 08:00 and 09:30, vänrikki Puro claimed a LaG-5 in a big and violent dogfight 12 km from Oranienbaum when he shot it down in a vertical climb. The Russian aircraft crashed fiercely burning into the sea. Later in the same combat, he claimed a LaGG-3 over Kovenskajan järvi. The other Finnish claimants were:
Ylikersantti Tapio Järvi (BW-377) – 1 Yak-1 25km from Seiskari between 08:00-09:00
Lentomestari Eero Kinnunen (BW-352) – 1 shared Yak-1 15km from Seiskari and 1 LaGG-3 over Oranienbaum between 08:00-09:00
Luutnantti Hans Wind (BW-393) – 1 shared Yak-1 15km from Seiskari between 08:00-09:00 and 1 Yak-1 over Shepeleva and 1 Yak-1 over Oranienbaum between 08:15-09:30
Luutnantti Antti Saikkonen (BW-353) – 1 Yak-1 at Seiskari-Shepeleva between 08:00-09:10
Kapteeni Jorma Karhunen (BW-366) – 1 Yak-1 15km from Seiskari between 08:00-09:20
Vääpeli Martti Alho (BW-383) – 1 Yak-1 in the Ystinskin area between 08:00-09:30
Vänrikki Eero Riihikallio (BW-374) – 1 LaGG-3 over Lubeuskojen järvi between 08:00-09:30
Luutnantti Urho Sarjamo (BW-386) – 1 LaGG-3 over Yhinmäki between 08:00-09:30
Kapteeni Iikka Törrönen (BW-380) – 1 LaGG-3 over Oranienbaum and 1 La-5 over Kronstadt between 08:00-09:30
Ylikersantti Emil Vesa (BW-351) – 1 Yak-1 over Harjavallanjärvi between 08:00-09:30
Kersantti Erkki Pakarinen (BW-357) – 1 La-5 at Yhinmäki-Tolli between 08:10-09:10
Kapteeni Jorma Sarvanto (BW-373) – 1 Yak-1 10km from Shepeleva between 08:45-09:20
Vänrikki Mikko Pasila (BW-388) – 1 Yak-1 10km from Oranienbaum between 08:45-09:20
Ylikersantti Tauno Heinonen (BW-354) – 1 La-5 in the Tollin area between 08:45-09:20
Two Brewsters were lost and the pilots killed. Ylikersantti Tauno Heinonen (BW-354) (totally 4 and 1 shared victories) was heard to report his claim of a La-5 at 09:20 and then didn’t return. Lentomestari Eero Kinnunen (BW-352) (totally 21 and 3 shared victories) was shot down at 09:30. He was reportedly shot down by AA fire and made a forced landing on the sea but was killed before he could be rescued.
Luutnantti Aimo Euramo (MT-206) of 2/LeLv 34 scrambled over Kotka. He intercepted three Pe-2s, which evaded towards Estonia, but one was caught and sent down near the coastline, 15km from Peninsaari at 08:20-09:10 (reported as a probable).
The chronicles of the Baltic Fleet reported that between 08:44-10:01 (Moscow time) five Il-2s of 7 GShAP, protected directly by four LaGG-3s of 3 GIAP while four La-5s of 4 GIAP flew as top cover, attacked landing crafts in the Haapasaari area. The bombs sank one patrol vessel and hit tree landing crafts. On the way to the target area, the formation encountered two Bf 109s north of Lavansaari, one of which was shot down by the top cover swarm of the 4 GIAP. On the return flight, the same detachment clashed near Seiskari with twelve Fiats claiming at first one shot down by Starshiy Leytenant Dimitriy Sotsenko and Leytenant Serafim Filatov. Right after, Kapitan Georgiy Lagutkin sent down one Fiat off the tail of Serzhant Arkadiy Stepanov. Finally two Fiats forced Stepanov so low that he trees at Kovashi village and was killed. The rest of the formation was attacked near Seiskari by 10-14 Fiats and Brewsters. One of the LaGG-3 pair escorted the assault planes to their base and the other pair remained in battle, where Starshiy Leytenant Ivan Minayev and Leytenant Tikhon Zhukhov claimed one Fiat as shot down and returned to base. The end of Minayev’s combat reported stated:
“… The enemy attacked us and shot at us from the distance of 20-30 metres. We retreated and continued to fight as a pair for 15-20 minutes because no other friendly aircraft were in sight. In the combat we tried to avoid becoming under the fire of the enemy. I attacked only when I could aim my fire. One Fiat got behind my tail, I turned steeply to the left. The Fiat passed me and ended in front of me. I turned to the right after it and fired two bursts. The plane began to smoke and fall. I did not observe its falling because behind me came all the time enemy planes from all directions. We were chased all the way to Gory Valdai Lake.”
At 09:49-10:52, four I-16s of 71 IAP-KBF protected returning Il-2s and their landing. At 10:30, they entered combat near Shepelevskiy with four Fokkers, of which one was shot down at Krasnaya Gorka. This was Ylikersantti Tauno Heinonen’s BW-354.
At 09:50-10:00, four La-5s of 4 GIAP, which had taken off to cover returning Il-2s, fought against ten Fiats in the Seiskari-Shepelevskiy area. At first the leader, Kapitan Yegveniy Tsyganov shot one Fiat down in the combat area by attacking from behind and firing at 100-50m range. Tsyganov shot at another separate Fiat, which came down on the coast at Lebyazhye village. Leytenant Viktor Golubov shot one Fiat of Tsyganov’s tail. The Fiat fell in Baternaya Bay. As last, Starshiy Leytenant Gussein Bagirov got hits in one Fiat when shooting from 1,000m behind, this one falling down about 4km from Shepelevskiy lighthouse. Two La-5s were damaged in the combat. One of the Fiats, probably the one claimed by Golubov, was in fact Lentomestari Eero Kinnunen’s BW-352.
At 09:52, another La-5 swarm of 4 GIAP encountered 18 Fiats near Shepelevskiy lighthouse. During the climb, the leader, Kapitan Vasiliy Golubev fired at one Fiat from ahead at 200-30m range hitting the cockpit and the plane crashed on the ice. Seaman Georgiy Kostylev fired at one Fiat from behind at 30-70m and sent it down. Golubev had turned back and fired from 300-200m at one Fiat, which went in a flat spin. Mladshiy Leytenant S. N. Bytshkov attacked one Fiat from behind, shooting it down from 150m range.
Overclaiming seems to have been heavy in this confusing combat with many aircraft taking part. It seems that the Russians claimed 12 and 1 probably shot down while losing one La-5 (Serzhant Arkadiy Stepanov). The Finnish claimed 19 and 1 probably shot down while losing two Brewsters (Ylikersantti Tauno Heinonen and Lentomestari Eero Kinnunen).

On 2 May, the Red Banner Baltic Fleet air force attacked Kotka with 30 aircraft and they were engaged by 18 Brewsters on the south side of the town. In a 60-minute combat, which raged across the Gulf of Finland between 10:00-11:30, the 2nd Flight managed to claim four LaGG-3s shot down into the sea. The cost was high however since the flight leader, kapteeni Ilka Törrönen (BW-380) was killed when he was shot down. Vänrikki Puro described the combat:

“We met an enemy bomber and fighter formation between Someri and Haapsaari heading south-east. I attacked the LaGG-3 fighters, which were escorting Il-2s, going towards Lavansaari. I managed to get behind one LaGG-3 and fired at it for about 3 km distance from behind at 100-50 m range. We descended all the time and finally at about 150 m altitude the burst hit the cockpit and it went straight in the sea about 10 km W from Someri. I chased with luutnantti Sarjamo a further three enemy fighters to east side of Lavansaari, where eight other LaGG-3s came from the south. They attacked us from the sun and in the ensuing curve battle I managed to give a good burst at one in a bank scoring hits between the engine and the canopy of the LaGG-3, when plating sheets flew around and flames came out of the plane. Smoking strongly it went down halfway between Lavansaari and Peninsaari. I fired at least at another six enemy fighters, when one landed immediately to Lavansaari airfield once I had fired from the opposite direction. Low on ammunition the Russians finally broke off and headed east.
Brewster pulls tighter turns than the LaGG-3. The speed about the same at the deck. The Russians very aggressive and enterprising.
My plane BW-387.
The claimants from 2/LeLv 24 were vänrikki Puro who claimed one LaGG-3 10km from Someri and another LaGG-3 over Lavansaari-Peninsari. The third was claimed as a shared vääpeli Martti Alho (BW-383) and ylikersantti Taipo Järvi (BW-377) over Kronstadt. Luutantti Urho Sarjamo (BW-386) claimed the fourth LaGG-3 over Peninsaari.
Three Bf 109s from LeLv 34 also scrambled in the Lavansaari direction, where they were engaged in combat with approximately 30 Soviet aircraft. In the ensuing combat, the Finnish fighters claimed two La-5s. One was claimed by luutnantti Veikko Evinen (MT-203) 15km from Someri between 10:00-11:00 and the second was claimed by vääpeli Urho Lehtovaara (MT-216) over Lavansaari between 10:15-10:55.
The chronicles of the Baltic Fleet reported that at 11:20 (Moscow time), five Il-2s of 7 GShAP, with direct cover of four I-16s of 71 IAP and top cover of five LaGG-3s of 3 GIAP, attacked a gun boat and patrol motor boat in the vicinity of Haapasaari. The gun boat a direct hit from a 100kg bomb and sank. The vessel was actually the gun boat Turunmaa, which was run aground on a shoal to prevent her from sinking and she was later repaired. Over the target the assault planes were attacked by six Fiats and one Bf 109. One Il-2 was shot down when it tried to ram the gun boat Karjala. The direct cover was attacked by two Bf 109s and four Brewsters and the top cover by six Bf 109s. In these battles, one I-16 was damaged and the LaGG-3s sent one Bf 109 down. Soon after this, twelve Fiats attacked the LaGG-3s. In the opposite direction firing, Starshiy Leytenant Ivan Kravtsov claimed one Fiat shot down. This may have been BW-380 flown by kapteeni Iikka Törrönen.
On the return at 11:35, when the detachment approached Lavansaari, it was attacked by four Bf 109s and 12 Brewsters. Leytenant Vasiliy Chernenko shot one Brewster down 10km north-west of Lavanssari.
Two Chaikas of 71 IAP, which had taken off for reception met at 11:30, five Moranes near Lavansaari claiming one shot down by Serzhant Nikolay Karpenko and Serzhant Kucherenko.
At 11:21, four LaGG-3s, four Yak-7s and four I-153s took off from Oranienbaum to protect the flight of Il-2s from Lavansaari to Oranienbaum. The Yak detachment fought a resultless battle 20 minutes later near Lavansaari with two Fokkers.
One LaGG-3 from 3 GIAP was damaged in combat during the day and made a forced landing on Lavansaari.
Totally, the Finnish fighter from 2/LeLv 24 and LeLv 34 claimed six victories while losing one Brewster. The Soviet units claimed four Finnish fighters while suffering one lost Il-2, one damaged LaGG-3 and one damaged I-16.
Luutnantti Aulis Lumme took command over 2/LeLv 24 after the death of kapteeni Törrönen.

During the spring, the Baltic Fleet air forces got a new air base on Seiskari Island and the operations were very intense right from the beginning.
On 20 May, LeLv 24 took of for 43 sorties and fought with 15 Brewsters three air battles around Seiskari between 09:00 and 10:30. First the 2nd Flight sent down both of a LaGG-3 pair, then the 1st Flight destroyed one Yak out of an 8-plane escort detachment and finally the 3rd Flight shot down two Yaks from a thirty-plane formation. Between 09:15-10:45, vänrikkis Eero Riihikallio (BW-374) and Puro (BW-365) claimed a shared LaGG-3 10km east of Seiskari. At the same time claimed luutnantti Urho Sarjamo (BW-386) another LaGG-3 over Tollin majakka. Between 09:00-10:30, Luutnantti Hans Wind (BW-393) claimed a Yak-7B from 13 IAP-KBF over Ystinskin niemi while luutnantti Martti Salovaara (BW-364) claimed a Yak-1 over Kreivinlahti. Another Yak-1 was claimed between 09:15-10:30 10km south of Seiskari by luutnantti Vilppu Lakio (BW-356).
71 lAP-KBF reported having lost one I-16 in Seiskari-Lavansaari area with its pilot Mladshiy Serzhant V. I. Bliznyuk killed. In addition, 21 IAP-KBF lost one Yak-7 and Leytenant Salkov baled out.
During six weeks, the obsolete Brewsters claimed 81 enemy losing three of its own. The excellent results for the Finns were based on staggering the flights in different altitudes and taking full advantage of the pendulum tactics, which came as quite a surprise to the Russians flying faster aircraft.

In the afternoon on 5 June, LeLv 24’s all three flights fought near Kronstadt with 16 fighters against two mixed enemy formations, both consisting of four Pe-2s, 7-8 Il-2 and 10-15 fighters. Kersantti Onni Avikainen (BW-370) claimed one Yak-1 and one Pe-2 over Tollin majakka and vänrikki Jorma Saarinen (BW-374) claimed a Il-2 over the same area. Ylikersantti Tapio Järvi (BW-377) claimed a Yak-1 and a damaged Il-2 over Kronstadt, vänrikki Puro (BW-365) claimed a Yak-1 over Tolli-Kronstadt and luutantti Hans Wind (BW-366 claimed a La-5 over Yhinmäki. The combat took place between 14:30-15:50 (with the exception of luutnantti Wind who recorded 14:40-15:50) without Finnish losses. Kersantti Avikainen reported:

“I observed south of Tolbuhin ten fighters and four Pe-2s. I made the attack from above and behind one Yak-1 and fired a burst after which I pulled up to make another attack. When I began this, I observed that the plane I had fired on made a forced landing in the sea. Then I observed four Pe-2s north of Tolbuhin. I made an attack against the starboard wing plane from above and behind and kept firing down to 30 metres. Just when I managed to pull aside, the aircraft in question exploded.
My plane BW-370.”
A Messerschmitt pair of 1/LeLv 34 was also on the scene and between 15:15-16:25 lentomestari Ilmari Juutilainen (MT-222) claimed a LaGG-3 and a Tomahawk over Oranienbaum and an I-16 over Harjavallanjärvi. He reported:
“We were on a scramble mission with luutnantti Tervoon the east side of Seiskari. I saw two planes fly towards Batemaya bay. I followed them and radioed luutnantti Tervo about this. I caught them at 1,500 metres under the clouds east-north-east of Uusi-Kemovo. I shot at a LaGG-3 flying on the wing, it caught fire and crashed 8 km east of Uusi-Kemovo. I continued my firing toward a Tomahawk, but it pulled up, as did I. When it tried to escape by diving, I shot three times in the fuselage, and shedding pieces around it crashed in a swamp on its back 12kms east-north-east of Uusi-Kemovo. 1 observed more aircraft in the east so 1 turned away. I got now four I-16s behind me from the clouds. I pulled over the clouds when Kovashi flak was shooting. One I-16 came up, I fired, it dived under the clouds, me after. I shot again and still a third time when it pulled up in front of me. I scored a hit in the starboard wing, which broke off. The pilot bailed out with a square parachute while the plane crashed in a swamp 4 km south of the centre of Gory Valdai, burning cheerfully. The flak was fierce when I flew away, inside the encirclement was peaceful. The MT’s cannon is a splendid weapon. No damage to my MT-222.”
The Russian chronicle states that at 16:06, four Il-2s of 7 GShAP, escorted by five LaGG-3s and five Yak-7s, attacked artillery positions at Vohnala on the Karelian Isthmus. Over the target, four Fiats attacked the formation and the fighters sent two of the down without losses.

He was promoted to luutnantti (Lieutenant) on 19 October 1943.

On 14 February 1944, the frontline squadrons received a task prefix into their name and LeLv 24 thus became HLeLv 24.

In the end of April 1944, 2/HLeLv 24 was re-equipped with Messerschmitt Bf 109Gs.

He took part in the big Soviet offensive in the summer of 1944.

On 14 June, pilots performing routine reconnaissance flights (undertaken by a pair of Messerschmitts) were twice forced to fight their way through enemy aircraft in order to complete their mission. Six Soviet aircraft were downed in the process.
Luutnantti Puro led both of the morning recce flights, and on the second sortie, he encountered the largest formation of enemy aircraft that he had ever seen:

“While approaching the target, I observed that a huge bomber formation was releasing its ordnance on the Finnish frontline. I immediately dived at the enemy aircraft, which consisted of approximately 100 bombers and a similar number of fighters. Both luutnantti Saarinen and I were engaged by Russian fighters.
I succeeded in shooting down two La-5s and one Il-2, all of which fell near the frontline between Vammeljoki and Mustamäki. When the bomber formation finally turned back, we took the opportunity to finish off our reconnaissance tasking.
Soon after the first wave of bombers had disappeared, a second formation of 70 aircraft (split into three groups) appeared from the east. Our own anti-aircraft artillery kept up a constant barrage against the Russian aircraft as they approached the frontline, and I added to their spirited attack by expending my remaining ammunition on several Pe-2s and a couple of fighters.
By flying into the midst of such large formations, we successfully confused the gunners aboard the Russian bombers, for they had great difficulty in distinguishing two Messerschmitts from their own fighters. Indeed, their rear gunners did not once open fire on us.
My plane was MT-246.”
Puro’s claims were made between 11:00-12:10 between Vammeljoki-Tyrisevä and the Il-2 was from 703 ShAP. Luutnantti Jorma Saarinen (MT-227) claimed an Il-2 from 703 ShAP over Tyrisevä and an Airacobra over Raivola. These two claims were made between 11:00-12:05.
It seems that both Il-2s are verified with losses from 703 ShAP.

Taking off at 06:20 on 17 June, the commander of 1/HLeLv 24, luutnantti Lauri Nissinen (MT-229), led ten Bf 109s to intercept ten bombers, assault planes and fighters attacking from 2000 meters the Finnish positions at the Kaukjärvi-Perkjärvi area. A La-5 of 159 IAP shot the wing off of top division's leader luutnantti Urho Sarjamo’s aircraft (MT-227) over Perkjärvi and the wreck fell on Nissinen’s Messerschmitt killing both pilots instantly. In spite of this, the Finnish pilots shot down three fighters and four Il-2s. These were claimed by luutantti Puro (MT-246) who claimed one La-5 and a shared Il-2 over Hämeenkyla between 06:20-07:10. The Il-2 was shared with lentomestari Viktor Pyötsiä (MT-244) who also claimed another Il-2 from 448 ShAP over Kaukjärvi between 06:25-07:25. Luutnantti Lasse Kilpinen (MT-206) claimed an Il-2 from 448 ShAP over Suulajärvi between 06:20-07:15. Luutantti Eero Riihikallio (MT-213) claimed a La-5 over Vammeljärvi between 06:20-07:20. Luutantti Kai Metsola (MT-231) claimed an Il-2 from 448 ShAP over Hämeenkylä between 06:25-07:25. Vänrikki Heimo Lampi (MT-235) claimed a La-5 over Vammeljärvi between 06:30-07:40.
It seems that luutnantti Sarjamo was shot down by Starshiy Leytenant Dimitrii Yermakov of 159 IAP, who claimed a Bf 109 over Summa.
Luutnantti Joel Savonen took command of 1/HLeLv 24 after the loss of luutnantti Nissinen.

On 19 June, luutnantti Puro of 2/HLeLv 24 led a patrol on a reconnaissance mission to the Karelian Isthmus, where they met one Pe-2 escorted by six La-5s. In a swift attack between 18:15-18:55, he claimed a La-5 from 159 IAP over Hanhijärvi and a second La-5 over Vatnuori. The second La-5 was claimed into the wing’s account.

20 June was a hectic day for Puro and for the whole Finnish Air Force.
In a sortie in the morning between 08:30-09:20, luutnantti Puro (MT-201) claimed one Il-2, one La-5 and a LaGG-3 (the last one claimed into wing’s account) over Viipuri-Römpötti, lentomestari Viktor Pyötsiä (MT-244) claimed an Airacobra over Hanhijoki (he landed 09:30), vänrikki Heimo Lampi (MT-235) claimed another Airacobra over Oinala which was claimed into wing’s account. Kersantti Eero Halonen (MT-241) claimed one Yak-1, one LaGG-3 (the last one claimed into wing’s account) shot down and one Yak-9 damaged over Vatnuori-Koivisto. The last two pilots landed at 09:40. From this combat, Puro reported:

"On an intercept mission we came across south-east of Viipuri a twenty aircraft strong Il-2 formation and a lot of fighters. In the ensuing combat I got hits in one La-5 from above and behind, when it went in a spin in the middle of Lake Suurijärvi south-east of Johannes. I kept hammering the formation and one Il-2 went down in flames in the forest between Römpötti airfield and Näränjärvi lighting a forest fire. Finally I did put one LaGG-3 into smoke crashing in a shallow dive in the forest at Lempaala.
The Russians had taken older types into service like the LaGG-3 and Yak-1.
My plane was MT-201."
Shortly after 19:00, HLeLv 24 was in the air again intercepting Soviet aircraft. Between 19:15-20:35, luutnantti Puro (MT-201) claimed an Airacobra over Heinjoik and a Pe-2 over Valkjärvi. Ylikersantti Emil Vesa (MT-438) claimed an Airacobra over Punnusjärvi between 19:05-20:15, luutnantti Ahti Laitinen (MT-441) claimed a Pe-2 over Muolaanjärvi between 19:05-20:20 and kersantti Eero Halonen (MT-241) claimed a La-5 and a Pe-2 over Muolaanjärvi between 19:15-20:15.
This day was the peak of air combat during the Soviet offensive in June 1944. The Finnish fighter fought in at least eight battles, claiming 51 victories of which HLeLv 24 claimed 31. Multiple losses were suffered by 14 GIAP with Yak-9s (two Yak-9Ts lost), 29 GIAP (one Yak-9 lost), La-5 equipped 159 IAP (four aircraft lost). P-39 unit 196 IAP (six aircraft lost) plus six Il-2s lost from 448 ShAP, 703 ShAP, 872 ShAP and 943 ShAP while 35 ShAP-KBF lost two Il-2s while 7 GShAP-KBF and 8 GShAP-KBF lost one each.

Between 13:30-14:30 on 23 June, luutnantti Puro's swarm of the 2/HLeLv 24 went on intercept to Tali where 50 bombers escorted by 15 fighters were found. The swarm attacked and luutnantti Eero Riihikallio (MT-213) claimed an Il-4 and a La-5 over Säiniö-Näykkijärvi while luutnantti Aulis Lumme (MT-221) claimed an Airacobra over Kämärän asema. Between 13:30-14:35, luutantti Puro (MT-449) claimed an Il-2 over Muolaanjärvi and two La-5s (from 11 GIAP) over Muolaanjärvi-Suulajärvi.

On 26 June, he claimed a La-5 over Tali between 14:50-15:50. During the same, mission, Kapteeni Hans Wind (MT-439) claimed three Yak-9s over Viipuri-Tali between 14:45-15:45 (one of the Yak-9s was claimed into wing’s account).

On 28 June, the 2/HLeLv 24 fought two separate engagements with dozens of Russian planes and reported 12 shot down enemy aircraft.
The first sortie took off at 14:00 and Puro claimed an Airacobra from 196 IAP between 14:00-14:30 over Tali. During the same engagement, luutnantti Jorma Saarinen claimed three Il-2s (probably from 566 ShAP) and reported the event:

"After getting rid of Russian Yak-9 escort fighters at 2000 to 3000 m, I took a dive at Il-2 formations which were crossing the front lines at Karisalmi and turning left exited over Tali. I attacked five times against groups of five Il-2s without being bothered by the "Mustangs" bouncing about here and there. I saw three Il-2 burn and crash. I ran out of ammo so I had to exit at the best part of the battle. In addition I shot at one "Mustang", but had no time to check my results. Only some Il-2 fired backward.
My plane was MT-452."
During the second sortie, which took off at 16:10, Puro was wounded in both legs by shrapnel, although he succeeded in bringing Bf 109G-6 MT-449 back to base.

He was back in combat on 10 July with a leg still in plaster.
During the early evening on this day, kapteeni Ala-Panula led twelve fighters of 2/HLeLv 24 on a bomber escort mission to Äyräpää. As the bombers neared the target 20 Soviet fighters tried to effect an interception, but the Finnish pilots stood their ground and destroyed six La-5s over Äyräpää. Between 18:35-19:35, luutnantti Puro claimed two La-5s, one damaged La-5 and one Warhawk (from 191 IAP). Vänrikki Johannes Brotherus (MT-452) claimed a La-5 between 14:35-19:45, luutnantti Kai Metsola (MT-477) claimed one La-5 between 18:35-19:55 and ylikersantti Leo Ahokas (MT-480) claimed one La-5 between 18:55-19:40.
Of this combat luutnantti Puro reported:

“On bomber escort in bad visibility weather, I saw some 20 Russian fighters arrive from Suulajärvi to our bombing target of Äyräpää. In the battle we managed to keep the Reds off the bombers despite superior numbers. I managed to shoot one La-5 down east of Äyräpäänjärvi, and two Yak-9s north-east of Vuosalmi. The latter Yak-9 blew up in front of me so close that I got oil and debris on my plane. In addition, when I pulled up I was able to hit one La-5 from below between the wings and the engine, with smoke and fire resulting, but as I stalled myself, I had no chance to see its fate. After that I was hit and had to strive to get back to base.
My plane was MT-479.”
Both 159 IAP and 191 IAP are known to have suffered casualties in this combat.

Between 09:25-10:50 on 15 July, Puro claimed two Yak-9s over Äyräpää.

During an early morning sortie on 19 July, HLeLv 24 encountered Soviet fighters over Äyräpää. Vääpeli Emil Vesa (MT-460) claimed a La-5 (confirmed into Wing’s account) between 04:40-06:10. Between 04:45-06:10, luutnantti Puro (MT-465) claimed a Yak-9 while luutnantti Erik Teromaa (MT-470) claimed two more Yak-9s.

Between 03:00-04:25 on 22 July, luutnantti Puro and his wingman engaged fifty Il-2s, nine Pe-2s and twenty escorting La-5s whilst on a reconnaissance mission to Seiskari. Despite being massively outnumbered, the Finns dived headlong into the unsuspecting Soviet formation, and Puro swiftly downed one Il-2s and a La-5 into the Gulf of Finland. He also claimed an additional Il-2 and La-5 as damaged.

Next day, on 23 July, he claimed his 36th and last victory when he shot down a La-5 over Heinjoki between 12:40-14:05.
At this time, he was the highest scoring pilot still serving with HLeLv 24.

Puro was relieved from the service on 10 November 1944.


Luutnantti Puro in the cockpit of a Messerschmitt in late July 1944.

At the end of the war, Puro was credited with 1 biplane victory and a total of 31 victories. These were claimed in 207 missions.
During his career, he was decorated with the Vapauden Risti of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Classes.

Later Puro became a data processing director in a savings bank.

Puro died on 20 June 1999.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1942                
1 04/10/42 08:10-09:25 1 I-153 (a) Destroyed I-153 IT-18 Lavansaari 3/LeLv 6
  12/11/42 10:30-11:40 1 Pe-2 (b) Damaged I-153 IT-18 Peninsaari 3/LeLv 6
  1943                
2 21/04/43 08:00-09:30 1 LaG-5 (c) Destroyed Buffalo B.239 BW-387 12 km from Oranienbaum 2/LeLv 24
3 21/04/43 08:00-09:30 1 LaGG-3 (c) Destroyed Buffalo B.239 BW-387 Kovenskajan järvi 2/LeLv 24
4 02/05/43 10:00-11:30 1 LaGG-3 (d) Destroyed Buffalo B.239 BW-387 10km from Someri 2/LeLv 24
5 02/05/43 10:00-11:30 1 LaGG-3 (d) Destroyed Buffalo B.239 BW-387 Lavansaari-Peninsaari 2/LeLv 24
  20/05/43 09:15-10:45 ½ LaGG-3 (e) Shared destroyed Buffalo B.239 BW-365 10km E Seiskari 2/LeLv 24
6 05/06/43 14:30-15:50 1 Yak-1 (f) Destroyed Buffalo B.239 BW-365 Tolli-Kronstadt 2/LeLv 24
  1944                
7 14/06/44 11:00-12:10 1 Il-2 (g) Destroyed Bf 109G MT-246 Vammeljoki-Tyrisevä 2/HLeLv 24
8 14/06/44 11:00-12:10 1 La-5 Destroyed Bf 109G MT-246 Vammeljoki-Tyrisevä 2/HLeLv 24
9 14/06/44 11:00-12:10 1 La-5 Destroyed Bf 109G MT-246 Vammeljoki-Tyrisevä 2/HLeLv 24
  17/06/44 06:20-07:10 ½ Il-2 Shared destroyed Bf 109G MT-246 Hämeenkylä 2/HLeLv 24
10 17/06/44 06:20-07:10 1 La-5 Destroyed Bf 109G MT-246 Hämeenkylä 2/HLeLv 24
11 19/06/44 18:15-18:55 1 La-5 (h) Destroyed Bf 109G MT-201 Hanhijärvi 2/HLeLv 24
12 19/06/44 18:15-18:55 1 La-5 (i) Destroyed Bf 109G MT-201 Vatnuori 2/HLeLv 24
13 20/06/44 08:30-09:20 1 Il-2 Destroyed Bf 109G MT-201 Viipuri-Römpötti 2/HLeLv 24
14 20/06/44 08:30-09:20 1 La-5 Destroyed Bf 109G MT-201 Kannas 2/HLeLv 24
15 20/06/44 08:30-09:20 1 LaGG-3 (j) Destroyed Bf 109G MT-201 Kannas 2/HLeLv 24
16 20/06/44 19:15-20:35 1 Airacobra Destroyed Bf 109G MT-201 Heinjoik 2/HLeLv 24
17 20/06/44 19:15-20:35 1 Pe-2 Destroyed Bf 109G MT-201 Valkjärvi 2/HLeLv 24
18 23/06/44 13:30-14:35 1 Il-2 Destroyed Bf 109G MT-449 Muolaanjärvi 2/HLeLv 24
19 23/06/44 13:30-14:35 1 La-5 (k) Destroyed Bf 109G MT-449 Muolaanjärvi-Suulajärvi 2/HLeLv 24
20 23/06/44 13:30-14:35 1 La-5 (k) Destroyed Bf 109G MT-449 Muolaanjärvi-Suulajärvi 2/HLeLv 24
21 26/06/44 14:50-15:50 1 La-5 Destroyed Bf 109G MT-454 Tali 2/HLeLv 24
22 28/06/44 14:00-14:30 1 Airacobra (l) Destroyed Bf 109G MT-449 Tali 2/HLeLv 24
23 10/07/44 18:35-19:35 1 La-5 (m) Destroyed Bf 109G MT-479 Äyräpää 2/HLeLv 24
24 10/07/44 18:35-19:35 1 La-5 (m) Destroyed Bf 109G MT-479 Äyräpää 2/HLeLv 24
  10/07/44 18:35-19:35 1 La-5 (m) Damaged Bf 109G MT-479 Äyräpää 2/HLeLv 24
25 10/07/44 18:35-19:35 1 Warhawk (n) Destroyed Bf 109G MT-479 Äyräpää 2/HLeLv 24
26 15/07/44 09:25-10:50 1 Yak-9 Destroyed Bf 109G MT-452 Äyräpää 2/HLeLv 24
27 15/07/44 09:25-10:50 1 Yak-9 Destroyed Bf 109G MT-452 Äyräpää 2/HLeLv 24
28 19/07/44 04:45-06:10 1 Yak-9 Destroyed Bf 109G MT-465 Äyräpää 2/HLeLv 24
29 22/07/44 03:00-04:25 1 Il-2 Destroyed Bf 109G MT-461 Seiskari-Narvi 2/HLeLv 24
30 22/07/44 03:00-04:25 1 La-5 Destroyed Bf 109G MT-461 Seiskari-Narvi 2/HLeLv 24
  22/07/44 03:00-04:25 1 La-5 Damaged Bf 109G MT-461 Seiskari-Narvi 2/HLeLv 24
  22/07/44 03:00-04:25 1 Il-2 Damaged Bf 109G MT-461 Seiskari-Narvi 2/HLeLv 24
31 23/07/44 12:40-14:05 1 La-5 Destroyed Bf 109G MT-461 Heinjoki 2/HLeLv 24

Biplane victories: 1 destroyed, 1 damaged.
TOTAL: 31 and 2 shared destroyed, 4 damaged.
(a) Claimed in combat with I-153s from 71 IAP-KBF, which claimed two Finnish I-153s without losses. 3/LeLv 6 claimed one Russian I-153 while suffering one I-153 shot down.
(b) Claimed in combat with Pe-2 from 73 BAP. The aircraft was later seen to crash into the sea.
(c) The Russians claimed 12 and 1 probably shot down while losing one La-5 from 4 GIAP (Serzhant Arkadiy Stepanov). The Finnish claimed 19 and 1 probably shot down while losing two Brewsters from LeLv 24 (Ylikersantti Tauno Heinonen and Lentomestari Eero Kinnunen).
(d) The Finnish fighter from 2/LeLv 24 and LeLv 34 claimed six victories while losing one Brewster. The Soviet units claimed four Finnish fighters while suffering one lost Il-2, one damaged LaGG-3 and one damaged I-16.
(e) Claimed in combat with Yak-7s from 21 IAP-KBF. LeLv 24 claimed 4 shot down but it seems that only 1 in fact was lost (Leytenant Salkov safe).
(f) Claim not verified with Soviet records.
(g) Claimed in combat with Il-2s from 703 ShAP.
(h) Claimed in combat with La-5 from 159 IAP.
(i) Claim confirmed into wing’s account.
(j) Claim confirmed into wing’s account.
(k) Claimed in combat with La-5s from 11 GIAP.
(l) Claimed in combat with Airacobras from 196 IAP.
(m) Claimed in combat with Soviet fighters from 159 IAP and 191 IAP. HLeLv 24 claimed six fighters and both Soviet units are known to have suffered casualties.
(n) Claimed in combat with P-40s from 191 IAP.

Sources:
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
Lentolaivue 24 - Kari Stenman and Kalevi Keskinen, 2001 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 1-84176-262-8
Marskalkens Flygande Riddare - Joppe Karhunen, 1958 Söderström & C:o
Polikarpov Fighters in action Pt. 1 - Hans-Heiri Stapfer, 1995 Squadron/Signal Publications, Carrollton, ISBN 0-89747-343-4
‘Pollies’ in Finland – Kari Stenman, 2005 Air Enthusiast November/December 2005 No. 120
Suomen Ilmavoimat part IV – 1942 – Kalevi Keskinen and Kari Stenman, 2007, ISBN 978-952-99743-2-0
Suomen Ilmavoimat part V – 1943 – Kalevi Keskinen and Kari Stenman, 2007, ISBN 978-952-99743-3-7
Suomen Ilmavoimat part VI – 1944 – Kalevi Keskinen and Kari Stenman, 2008, ISBN 978-952-99743-5-1
Venäläiset Hävittäjät - Kalevi Keskinen, Kari Stenman and Klaus Niska, ISBN 951-9035-25-7

Polikarpov fighters in Finnish service




Last modified 09 February 2014