With over a dozen books on the WWII Ilmavoimat already published, Finnish publisher Kari Stenman teams up with aviation author and Finnish Air Force expert Kalevi Keskinnen to write this offering in Osprey's acclaimed Aircraft of the Aces series.
The authors provide 100 pages in six chapters and an appendices of descriptive history, much of which is from first-hand pilot reports, about the Ilmavoimat fighter Lentolaivue (or squadron - abbreviated LLv, later LeLv, later still HLeLv for Havittajalentolaivue - fighter squadron):
- Winter War
- Finnish Offensive of 1941
- Fighting Lend-Lease
- Gulf of Finland
- Soviet Offensive of 1944
- Top Aces
Beginning with the Winter War (the Soviet intimidation and subsequent brutal attack against Finland on 30 November, 1939) through the cease-fire and subsequent "Continuation War" of 1941-44, the book deals with Ilmavoimat's incredible defense of Finnish airspace. When the VVS (Soviet Air Force) commenced their air attacks against Finland with 3,253 aircraft, the Ilmavoimat had only 36 Fokker D.XXIs and 10 Bristol Bulldogs to oppose the Totalitarian Tsunami! Yet by the cease-fire on 13 March 1940, the Finnish David inflicted between 261 to 579 Soviet-acknowledged losses upon Stalin’s Goliath, 207 claimed air-to-air. Their LLv's lost just 23 fighters in action.
The Continuation War began with another communist assault on 25 June 1941 and ended with an armistice on 4 September 1944. Ilmavoimat claimed 1807 kills with Finnish flak slaying another 1345; it lost 257 aircraft in action and another 315 to training and non-operational events. Extraordinarily, recent research into Russian archives reveal the Soviets credited 1855 of their losses to Finnish fighter pilots. So much for exaggerated claims of fighter pilots! Consistent with statistics from World War I to the present, the vast majority of Havittajalentolaivue kills were scored by the minority of pilots who made ace.
Well written and engaging, Messrs. Stenman and Keskinnen begin not with the origins of the oldest independent air force but with the background of the Soviet rape of the Baltic states and intimidation of Finland, moving quickly to the state of the fighter arm. Finland projected that an attack against it would be with massed bombers and built their fighter arm accordingly. Their stunning performance against the VVS was due not to equity in numbers or even quality of equipment, but in ground breaking tactics and doctrine employed with excellent training. In the early 1930s the fighter arm's father, LTC Richard Lorentz experimented with, and implemented, the dual two plane basic formation that the nascent Luftwaffe eventually adopted as the Schwarm. Later, Capt. Gustaf Erik Magnusson toured several of the world's air forces, spending time with the Luftwaffe's new JG 132. The German adoption of the Schwarm convinced the FAF their tactics were sound. Lacking money for training, Ilmavoimat taught just three tactics of attack and emphasized gunnery. Pilots were ordered not to fire beyond 50 m! Highly proficient in these skills, the Ilmavoimat tore huge holes in the VVS! Multiple kills with rifle caliber guns were common. As the Winter War concluded the Fokkers and Bristols were supplemented by the Western democracies providing a trickle of newer aircraft against the Red fascist attack. England sent Gloster Gladiators and later Hurricanes, France sent MS.406s and Caudron-Renault CR.714s, South Africa sent Gloster Gauntlets and Swedish volunteers arrived with a third of their country's air force. Fiat G.50s were bought from Italy and Brewster B-239 Buffalos (the Ilmavoimat did not refer to them as Buffalo) from the United States. The Continuation War convinced Germany to provide Messerschmitts. The Finns even managed to equip a unit with captured Soviet fighters! Thus the Ilmavoimat presents a fascinating scenario of fighter types of enemy origins fighting together against their cousins supplied to Finland’s enemy through Lend-Lease! In the hands of the Ilmavoimat Brewster's Buffalo, infamous deathtrap for American, British, Australian and Dutch pilots fighting the Japanese, became one of the most successful aerial killing machines in history!
Photographs fortify almost every page in the book. The Finns must have had no problem getting cameras and film! This is great because it provides good modeling source material for scrutinizing details for building models. Surprising to me, the Finnish airplanes show very little wear of their paint. Ilmavoimat had very few airframes, the MS.406 appears to have been the most numerous with about 100, followed by 44 Brewster. This fact and the large number of photos gave me a seemingly personal connection with the subjects as one will see many shots of the same particular aircraft over and over. Another fascinating aspect of the numerous photos is the documenting of the riot of various kill markings: wreaths, bars, silhouettes, stars...
Enriching the chronicles of this fascinating air war, Finnish Aces of World War 2 includes:
- Mannerheim Cross history.
- Osprey's usual impressive gallery of artwork featuring 47 aircraft profiles and pilot studies.
- Five lists of aces per phase of the wars.
- Fourteen pages of unit and pilot history and appendices round out the book including: ** biographies of the top aces; a table of their kills, units and victories per aircraft type flown. ** A chart to warm the hearts of all armchair fighter pilots. It is the speed and climb performance per 1,000m of the D.XXI (one with each type of engine), MS.406, G.50, B-239, H.75A-6 and Bf-109G-2, including aircraft serial number and date flown. It is noted these were flown fully loaded with full fuel and onboard ammo.
- Two pages of 1/72 line drawings round out this section. However, these line drawings contain one of the flaws in the book. The depicted Brewster is not a B-239 but a later version of F2A. Compared to the photos in the book the exhaust stacks, prop, hub and gunsight are different, and the line drawing seems a bit longer.
Another flaw in my opinion is that Osprey does not provide any discussion of paint colors of camouflage with the profiles. The only Osprey book I have with color information is Bf-109 Aces of North Afrika. Alas, I accept in assumption that Osprey wants to produce historical works that modelers can use, without entering the contentious debate about colors. Osprey publishes a growing line of well received books about modeling specific vehicles and aircraft in which colors are discussed. I would also have enjoyed a brief history of the pre-war Suomen Ilmavoimat. Also, no mention that the Finnish use of the swastika had no connection to Nazi Germany, predating the Nazi regime by more than a decade, and based on a world-wide ancient symbol.
Finland’s valiant stand against communist fascism is little known in the annals of the Twentieth Century. It is yet another shining example of how a free, democratic, small, motivated country with good tactics and doctrine can prevail in the face of seemingly overwhelming brutal regimes.
This is an excellent book.
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The only Soviet strategic attack which failed was against Finland. Of WWII European combatants, only Finland and Great Britain were never occupied. Part of Finland's success of holding off the Soviet monster was the world's oldest independent air force, the Suomen Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force), which boasts the world’s highest scoring non-Luftwaffe or Japanese aces. Ilmari Juutilainen scored 94 victories, many in the defamed Brewster Buffalo, even against Spitfires. The Western built aircraft with most kills per individual airframe were also Finnish flown.
About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR) FROM: TENNESSEE, UNITED STATES
I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art.
My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling!
My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...