by Jukka Raustia
Also, Finnish Brewsters had reflector sights and reliable armament of three heavy machine guns and one rifle-caliber mg. (later on four heavy MG's) and seat armour.
The Finnish Air Force also used innovative modern air combat tactics, such as largely relying on finger four / Thach Weave / Schwarm, whatever you call it, against doctrinal Soviet tactics, such as using three plane flights and "Spanish circle" described later on.
In 1941 many of the Finnish Buffalo pilots had had combat experience during the Winter War, and air combat tactics were modified and developed. Mock dogfights were made against captured russian planes. Training with Brewsters hadn't been so good as it might have been, since the severe shortage of aviation fuel in 1940-1941.
The quality of Soviet planes in 1941, when the best kill ratio 67.5 - 1) was achieved, was lower than Brewsters, most common types being used were SB-2, DB-3, I-16 and I-153.
Finally, there was element of luck. The fighter squadron the Brewsters were in most of the war, 24, was commanded by an excellent commander, Major G. Magnusson, a great organizer and tactician who is considered to be "Grand Old Man" of the Finnish fighter aviation. By almost sheer luck, some of the finest pilots of the Finnish Air Force were in the Brewster Squadron when the war started, such as Hans Wind, Ilmari Juutilainen, Joppe Karhunen and Lauri Nissinen, each one of them later on gaining huge kill numbers also with Messerschmitt 109G-2's and G-6's.
The Brewsters probably could have made even more kills, but the Finnish fighter control system during the Brewster's golden age in 1941-42 was abysmal. For an example, sometimes the alert messages were only somekind like this: "Village of Inkeroinen is being bombed" and arrived as much as 15 minutes too late. But by the summer 1944 it was excellent.
Criticism against Finnish ground control system and FAF brass in general has been extremely harsh by Joppe Karhunen, a Brewster ace and an aviation historian.
In 1st of April 1945 the swastika insignia was changed into present white-blue-white roundel. Insignia was changed because the Allied High Commission in Finland wanted it. And since swastika didn't get very good P.R. during the WW II the roundel is still the Finnish national insignia.
Only BW-367, BW-378 and BW-384 [were individually named] as far as I know. BW-367 was named "Tre Bröder" since the money for it was donated by three swedish brothers. BW-378 was named "Otto Wrede" but I don't know why. And BW-384 was nicknamed "Noka" since money for it was donated by workers of Nokia. (The same firm which makes cellular phones nowadays.)
In general, only a few FAF planes have ever carried anykind of nicknames or personal paintings. However, victory markings were painted, usually as white stripes in the tail. (Major Luukkanen used labels of Karelia beer instead...)
During the time Finnish Embassy was negotiating with plane makers, the Soviet Union attacked Finland _without official declaration of war_. Only modern fighters in Finland were 36 Fokker D.XXI's, the Soviets had about 2000 fighters and therefore Finnish embassies were instructed to buy any modern fighter planes at all costs, directly from storage. In the USA laws about selling war materials to a country in war weren't an issue, since Finland wasn't in war _de jure_, and there were 44 Brewster 239's just about to be completed for the USN. (Finland hadn't declared war on Soviet Union, and Soviet Union considered their own puppet "People's Government of Finland" being the legitimate government of Finland.)
But there were laws prohibiting selling of armament headed for the USN or the US Army. But with clever lawyers a plot was made; the fighters headed for Finland were declared surplus by the USN, and so they could be bought by the Finland after all USN equipment, such as machine-guns, sights, emergency rafts and instruments were taken away.
And so 44 Brewsters were bought in 16th of December 1939, with a price of 54000$ a piece + delivery costs. (compare this with modern fighter costs...) The Finnish Brewsters weren't equipped with standard Wright R-1820-34 -engines since they weren't available for foreign sales, they were equipped with refurbished R-1820 G-5 -engines instead, taken from DC-3 airliners.
Only six planes arrived to Finland during the Winter War which ended in 13th of March, and they didn't get into anykind of action. The last ones were in Finland by 1st of May 1940.
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Posted May 2015. Websites ©1997-2015 Daniel Ford. All rights reserved.