|Axis Warplane Survivors, Co-belligerent Air Forces of Finland, Iraq, San Marino and Thailand
Axis Warplane Survivors,
Co-belligerent Air Forces of Finland, Iraq, San Marino and Thailand
Data current to 24 Sep 2018.
The Finnish Air Force (FAF or FiAF) (Finnish: Ilmavoimat) is one of the branches of the Finnish Defence Forces. Its peacetime tasks are airspace surveillance, identification flights, and production of readiness formations for wartime conditions. As a separate branch of the military, the Finnish Air Force is one of the oldest in the world, having existed officially since 6 March 1918.
Finland was forced into the Second World War when the “Winter War“ began on 30 November 1939 when the Soviet Air Force bombed 21 Finnish cities and municipalities. The Soviet Union is estimated to have had about 5,000 aircraft in 1939, and of these, some 700 fighters and 800 medium bombers were brought to the Finnish front to support the Red Army’s operations. As with most aerial bombardment of the early stages of the war, the damage against the Finnish industry and railways was relatively limited.
At the beginning of the Winter War, the Finnish Air Force was equipped with only 17 bombers and 31 fighters. There were also 54 liaison aircraft but 20 of these were only used as messengers. The most modern aircraft in the Finnish arsenal were the British-designed Bristol Blenheim bombers that had been license-built in Finland. The primary fighter aircraft was the Fokker D.XXI, a cheap but manoeuvrable design with a fabric-covered fuselage and fixed landing gear. In theory, this force should have been no match for the attacking Soviet Red Air Force.
In order to prevent their aircraft from being destroyed on the ground, the Finns spread out their aircraft to many different airfields and hid them in the nearby forests. The Finns constructed many decoys and built shrapnel protection walls for the aircraft. Soviet air raids on Finnish airfields usually caused little or no damage as a result, and often resulted in interception of the attackers by the Finns as the bombers flew homeward.
As the war progressed, the Finns tried desperately to purchase aircraft wherever there were any to be found. This policy resulted in a very diverse aircraft inventory, which was to cause some major logistical problems until the inventory became more standardized. The Finnish Air Force was to consist of numerous American, British, Czechoslovakian, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Soviet, and Swedish designs. Other countries, like South Africa and Denmark, sent aircraft to assist in the Finnish war effort. Many of these purchases and gifts did not arrive until the end of the hostilities, but were to see action later during the Continuation and Lapland wars.
To make up for its weaknesses of being equipped with few and obsolete fighters, the FiAF mainly focused on attacking enemy bombers from directions that were disadvantageous to the enemy. Soviet fighters were usually superior in firepower, speed and agility, and were to be avoided unless the enemy was in a disadvantageous position. A good example of the wisdom of this strategy was the surprise attack on the Immola air base in late February 1940 by some 40 Soviet fighters. The Finns were surprised during takeoff and lost seven planes, one Fokker D.XXI and six Gloster Gladiators.
As a result of these tactics, the Finnish Air Force managed to shoot down 218 Soviet aircraft during the Winter War while losing only 47 to enemy fire. The Finnish anti-aircraft gunners also had 314 confirmed downed enemy planes. 30 Soviet aircraft were captured – these were “kills” that landed more or less intact within Finland and were quickly repaired.
The Finnish Air Force was better prepared for the Continuation War. It had been considerably strengthened and consisted of some 550 aircraft, though many were considered second-rate and thus “exportable” by their countries of origin. Finland purchased a large number of aircraft during the Winter War, but few of those reached service during the short conflict. Politics also played a factor, since Hitler did not wish to antagonize the Soviet Union by allowing aircraft exports through German-controlled territory during the conflict.
New aircraft types were in place by the time hostilities with Soviet Union resumed in 1941. Small numbers of Hawker Hurricanes arrived from the United Kingdom, Morane-Saulnier M.S.406s from France, Fiat G.50s from Italy, a few dozen Curtiss Hawk 75s captured by the Germans in France and Norway then sold to Finland, when Germany began warming up its ties with Finland, and numerous Brewster B239s from the neutral USA strengthened the FiAF. The FiAF proved capable of holding its own in the upcoming battles with the Red Air Force. Older models, like the Fokker D.XXI and Gloster Gladiator, were replaced in front-line combat units with the new aircraft.
A small number of Caudron C.714 light fighter aircraft developed by Caudron-Renault for the French Armée de l'Air just prior to the start of the Second World War were supplied to Finland. Six Caudron C.714s were received in a semi-assembled state. An additional 10 were on the dockside at the time of France's Armistice with Germany, subsequently, further shipments were halted. After assembly, operations in Finland were limited to test flights and, in September 1941, combat flights with the fighters were prohibited. The aircraft were maintained on the roster until they were retired and scrapped on 30 December 1949. One example, CA-556 was transferred to the maintenance personnel school as an instructional airframe.
The FiAF’s main mission was to achieve air superiority over Finland and prevent Soviet air power from reinforcing their front lines. The fighter squadrons were very successful in the Finnish offensive of 1941. A stripped-down, more manoeuvrable, and significantly lightened version of the American Brewster B239 Buffalo was the FiAF’s main fighter until 1943. Results with this fighter were very good, even though the type was considered to be a failure in the US Navy and with British Far East forces. In the Finnish use, the Brewster had a victory rate of 32:1 – 459 kills to 15 losses. German Messerschmitt Bf 109s replaced the Brewster as the primary front-line fighter of the FiAF in 1943, though the Buffalos continued in secondary roles until the end of the wars.
Other types of aircraft, especially the Italian Fiat G.50 and Curtiss Hawk 75 also proved capable in the hands of well-trained Finnish pilots. Various Russian designs also saw action when lightly damaged “kills” were repaired and made airworthy.
Dornier Do 17s (received as a gift from Hermann Göring in 1942) and Junkers Ju 88s improved the bombing capability of the Finnish Air Force. The bomber force was also strengthened with a number of captured Soviet bombers, which had been taken in large numbers by the Germans during Operation Barbarossa. The bomber units flew assorted missions with varying results, but a large part of their time was spent in training, waiting to use their aircraft until the time required it. Thus the bomber squadrons of Flying Regiment 4 were ready for the summer battles of 1944, including the Battle of Tali-Ihantala.
While the FiAF was successful in its mission, the conditions were not easy. Spare parts for the FiAF planes were scarce - parts from the US (Buffalo & Hawk), Britain (Hurricanes), and Italy (G.50) were unavailable for much of the war. Repairs took often a long time, and the State Aircraft Factory was burdened with restoration/repair of Soviet war booty planes, foreign aircraft with many hours of flight time, and the development of indigenous Finnish fighter types. Also, one damaged bomber took up workshop space equalling three fighters. Finland was required to expel or intern remaining German forces as part of its peace agreement with the Soviets in mid-1944. As a result, the final air battles were against retreating Luftwaffe units. The Finnish Air Force did not bomb any civilian targets during either war. Curiously, overflying Soviet towns and bases was also forbidden, as to avoid any unneeded provocations and to spare equipment. According to Kalevi Keskinen’s and Kari Stenman’s book Aerial Victories 1–2, the Finnish Air Force shot down 1,621 Soviet aircraft while losing 210 of its own aircraft during the Continuation War.
Preserved combat aircraft from the Winter War and Continuation War in Finland include:
Polikarpov I-16UTI two-seat trainer, Reg. No. UT-1, in the Keski-Suomen Ilmailumuseo, Tikkakoski, Finland;
Hawker Hurricane Mk. I, (Serial No. HC-452), ex N2394, Keski-Suomen Ilmailumuseo, Tikkakoski, Finland;
Hawker Hart, Reg. No. Fv 714, displayed in Finnish Air Force markings in the Flygvapenmuseum, Linköping, Sweden. This aircraft was part of the F19 volunteer force sent to Finland.
Gloster Gladiator, (Serial No. G5/59066), Yellow H, Rweg. No. Fv 278, displayed in Finnish Air Force markings in the Flygvapenmuseum, Linköping, Sweden. This aircraft was also part of the F19 volunteer force sent to Finland.
Gloster Gauntlet, (Serial No. GT-400), ex-K5271, Lentomuseo Kymi, Finland.
Fokker D.XXI III/11, Reg. No. FR-110, partial replica, in the Keski-Suomen Ilmailumuseo, Tikkakoski, Finland;
Curtiss Hawk 75A-6, (Serial No. 13659), Reg. No. CU-554, recovered in Russia, now under restoration in New Zealand.
Caudron C.714, No. 6, Reg. No. CA-556, Vesivehmaan Varastohalli, Lahti, Finland.
Brewster B-239, No. 39, Reg. No. BW-372, recovered from Russia in 1998, being restored at the National Museum of Naval Aviation, Pensacola, Florida.
VL Humu, (Serial No. 632567), Reg. No. HM-671, Keski-Suomen Ilmailumuseo, Tikkakoski, Finland;
VL Pyry Mk. II, No. 26, Reg. No. PY-27, Suomen Ilmailumuseo, Helsinki, Finland.
VL Pyörremyrsky, No. 1, Reg. No. PM-1, Keski-Suomen Ilmailumuseo, Tikkakoski, Finland;
Bristol Bulldog Mk. IV, (Serial No. 7810), Reg. No. BU-59, Hallinporti Ilmailumuseo, Halli, Tampere, Finland.
Bristol Blenheim Mk. IV, VI/3, Reg. No. BL-200, Keski-Suomen Ilmailumuseo, Tikkakoski, Finland;
Blackburn Ripon IIF, No. 12, Reg. No. RI-140, Vesivehmaan Varastohalli, Lahti, Finland.
Aero A-32 biplane, Reg. No. AEj-59, Vesivehmaan Varastohalli, Lahti, Finland.
Aviation Museums of Finland
Hallinportii Ilmailumuseo, Hallinportii Aviation Museum, Haukilahdentie 3, 35600 Halli.
Museo Torpin Tykit, The Cannons at Torp Museum, Torppanummentie 73, 10210 Inkoo.
Flying Museum of Karhula’s Flying Club, Kymi Airport. http://users.kymp.net/model0449/e_etumus.htm.
Aviation Museum Association of South-East Finland, Kaakkois Suomen Ilmailumuseo, Lappeenranta Airport, 53600 Lappeenranta.
Keski-Suomen Ilmailumuseo, Aviation Museum of Central Finland, 41160 Tikkakoski.
http://www.k-silmailumuseo.fi/. (BW-372 Brewster Buffalo, Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6Y (MT-507/O)).
Suomen Ilmailumuseo, Finnish Aviation Museum, Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, Tietotie 3, 01530 Vantaa. http://www.ilmailumuseo.fi/. (Fieseler Fi 156K-1 Storch (OH-FSA), Messerschmitt Bf 109G-2 (MT-208)
Ilmatorjuntamuseo, Anti-Aircraft Museum, Klaavolantie 2, 04300 Tuusula. http://www.ilmatorjuntamuseo.fi/.
Paijat-Hameen Ilmailumuseo, Finnish Aviation Museum Society Storage Hangar, Lahti-Vesivehmaa Airfield, Lentokentta, 17130 Vesivehmaa. http://www.lahdenilmasilta.fi/.
The Kingdom of Iraq was briefly an ally of the Axis, fighting the United Kingdom in the Anglo-Iraqi War of May 1941. Anti-British sentiments were widespread in Iraq prior to 1941. Seizing power on 1 April 1941, the nationalist government of Iraqi Prime Minister Rashid Ali repudiated the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of 1930 and demanded that the British abandon their military bases and withdraw from the country. Ali sought support from Germany and Italy in expelling British forces from Iraq.
On 9 May 1941, Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, the Mufti of Jerusalem and associate of Ali, declared holy war against the British and called on Arabs throughout the Middle East to rise up against British rule. Hostilities between the Iraqi and British forces began on 2 May 1941, with heavy fighting at the RAF air base in Habbaniyah. On 25 May 1941, the Germans stepped up offensive operations. The Germans and Italians dispatched aircraft and aircrew to Iraq utilizing Vichy French bases in Syria, which would later provoke fighting between Allied and Vichy French forces in Syria.
The Germans planned to coordinate a combined German-Italian offensive against the British in Egypt, Palestine, and Iraq. Iraqi military resistance ended by 31 May 1941. Rashid Ali and the Mufti of Jerusalem fled to Iran, then Turkey, Italy, and finally Germany, where Ali was welcomed by Hitler as head of the Iraqi government-in-exile in Berlin.
During the time leading up to the coup d’etat, Rashid Ali’s supporters had been informed that Germany was willing to recognise the independence of Iraq from the British Empire. There had also been discussions on war material being sent to support the Iraqis and other Arab factions in fighting the British. On 6 May 1941, in accordance with the Paris Protocols, Germany concluded a deal with the Vichy French government to release war materials, including aircraft, from sealed stockpiles in Syria and transport them to the Iraqis. The French also agreed to allow passage of other weapons and material as well as loaning several airbases in northern Syria, to Germany, for the transport of German aircraft to Iraq. Between 9 May and the end of the month, about one-hundred German and about twenty Italian aircraft landed on Syrian airfields.
Also on 6 May Luftwaffe Colonel Werner Junck received orders that he was to take a small force to Iraq, where they were to operate out of Mosul. The British quickly learned of the German arrangements through intercepted Italian diplomatic transmissions. Between 10 and 15 May the aircraft arrived in Mosul via Vichy French airbases, in Syria, and then commenced regular aerial attacks on British forces. The arrival of these aircraft was the direct result of fevered consultations between Baghdad and Berlin in the days following air strikes carried out by Air Vice-Marshal Smart on Iraqi forces above Habbaniya. The Luftwaffe force, under the direction of Lieutenant General Hans Jeschonnek, was named “Fliegerführer Irak” (Flight Commander Iraq) and was under the tactical command of Colonel Werner Junck. At least 20 bombers were initially promised however in the end Junck’s unit consisted of between 21 and 29 aircraft all painted with Royal Iraqi Air Force markings.
On 14 May 1941, Winston Churchill gave the RAF authorisation to act against German aircraft in Syria and on Vichy French airfields. On the same day, two over-laden Heinkel He 111 bombers were left in Palmyra in central Syria because they had damaged rear wheels. British fighters entered French air space and strafed and disabled the damaged Heinkels. By 18 May, Junck’s force had been whittled down to eight Messerschmitt Bf 110 fighters, four Heinkel He 111 bombers, and two Junkers Ju 52 transports. This represented roughly a 30 percent loss of his original force. Near the end of May, Junck had lost 14 Messerschmitts and 5 Heinkels.
On 27 May, after being invited by Germany, 12 Italian Fiat CR.42s of the Regia Aeronautica Italiana arrived at Mosul to operate under German command and by 29 May, Italian aircraft were reported in the skies over Baghdad. In the end the Luftwaffe found conditions in Iraq intolerable, as spare parts were not available and even the quality of aircraft fuel was far below the Luftwaffe’s requirements. With each passing day fewer aircraft remained serviceable and, ultimately, all Luftwaffe personnel were evacuated on the last remaining Heinkel He 111.
San Marino was ruled by the Sammarinese Fascist Party (PFS) from 1923 and was closely allied to Italy. On 17 September 1940, San Marino declared war on Britain; Britain and the other Allied nations did not reciprocate. San Marino restored relations with Germany, as it did not attend the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. This was done to avoid a repeat of the 1936 incident when San Marino denied a Turkish student entry because he was an enemy alien.
Three days after the fall of Mussolini, PFS rule collapsed and the new government declared neutrality in the conflict. The Fascists regained power on 1 April 1944, but kept neutrality intact. On 26 June, the Royal Air Force accidentally bombed the country, killing 63 civilians. The Fascists and the Axis used this tragedy in propaganda about Allied aggression against a neutral country.
Retreating Axis forces occupied San Marino on 17 September 1944, but were forced out by the Allies in less than three days. The Allied occupation removed the Fascists from power, and San Marino declared war on Germany on 21 September 1844. The newly elected government banned the Fascists on 16 November 1944.
Aviation Museum of Rimini - San Marino
Parco Tematico & Museo dell’Aviazion, Superstrada Rimini – San Marino, Km. 8.500, Via S. Aquilina, 58 Rimini. www.museoaviazione.net/.
The Royal Thai Air Force or RTAF is the air force of the Kingdom of Thailand. Since its establishment in 1913, as one of the earliest air forces of Asia, the Royal Thai Air Force had engaged in many major and minor battles.
In early 1935, Thailand placed an order for 24 Curtiss Hawk IIIs at a cost of 63,900 Baht each, and a manufacturing license was also bought. The first 12 Hawk IIIs were shipped to Thailand in August and the remaining 12 arrived in late 1935, which were named Fighter Type 10. A total of 50 Hawk IIIs were locally built during 1937 and 1939. The type was used against the French in the Franco-Thai War and the Japanese invaders in December 1941, and then relegated for use as trainers. Some of these aircraft were still active in 1949 and one airframe (KH-10) survives in the Royal Thai Air Force Museum.
During the French-Thai War, the Thai Air Force flew the Vought V-93S (American export version of the O3U-6) Corsair biplane scout and observation aircraft and scored several air-to-air-victories against the Vichy France Armée de l’Air.
The Vought O2U Corsair was a 1920s biplane scout and observation aircraft. Made by Vought Corporation, the O2U was ordered by the United States Navy (USN) in 1927. Powered by a 400 hp (298 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1340 Wasp engine, it incorporated a steel-tube fuselage structure and a wood wing structure with fabric covering. Many were seaplanes or amphibians. A single AXV1 (O2U) was supplied to the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service for evaluation in 1923.
During the Second World War the Thai Air Force supported the Royal Thai Army in its occupation of the Burmese Shan States as allies of the Japanese in 1942 and defended Bangkok from allied air raids during the latter part of the war. Some RTAF personnel also assisted the anti-Japanese resistance. During the war five Ki-27s fought in a dogfight with eight North American P-51 Mustangs and 9 Lockheed P-38 Lightnings over Lampang Province in Thailand. The RTAF lost all Ki-27s, but claimed they shot down one P-38 and badly damaged two P-51s. An RTAF Nakajima Ki-43 shot down one USAAF Boeing B-29.
Aviation Museums in Thailand
Royal Thai Air Force Museum, Thanon Phahon Yothin, Don Muang Airport, Bangkok.
Royal Thai Army Aviation Museum, Lop Buri/Sa Pran Nak, Khao Phra Ngam.
Jesada Technik Museum, 100 Moo 2 Ngew-rai, Nakhon Chaisri, Nakhon Pathorn 73120.