The picture taken at Utti Airport in April 1943 shows LeLv 34 pilots Lentomestari Yrjö
Olavi Turkka (left) and Majuri Eino Luukkanen. „Pappa“ Turkka was transferred to the
unit on April 16 and achieved 17.5 victories during the war. Luukkanen became the third
most successful Finnish fighter pilot with 54 victories. During the aerial battles on May
21 off Lavansaari Turkka achieved one victory and Luukkanen two. Photo: SA-Kuva
A group of LeLv 34 members in front of their Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-2 fighters in April
1943 at the Utti base. On the right is Vääpeli Antti Tani (20.5 v.) in a life jacket and next
to him, back to the camera, Vääpeli Onni Paronen (10.5 v.). Both were very experienced
pilots with a number of victories on the Moranes and Fiats respectively. Both recorded
their first victories with Messerschmitts on May 21, 1943. Tani shot down Il-2 from the
7th GShAP and Paronen claimed I-153. Photo: SA-Kuva
time). A pair of Finnish fighters from 3/LeLv 34 and three or four German „Messerschmitts“ encountered four I-153s and four I-16s. In actual fact, they were probably
Fw 190s from 7./JG 26. South of Lavansaari, Mietusch claimed an I-153, Kemethmüller an I-16, and Hptm. Günther Kelch one that he identified as a LaGG-3. Their
Finnish colleague Luutn. Y. Turkka also claimed an I-153. In the combat, I-16 pilot St.
Serzh. Anton Deryabin and I-153 pilot Abram J. Olshanskiy, who claimed a Finnish
Bf 109 a day earlier, were killed.
Around 1600 hours (Moscow time), another formation of fighters from the 71st IAP
KBF was in search of the convoy. Again, this unit was bounced by enemy fighters
over Lavansaari. These were initially identified as two Bf 109s and four Fw 190s. In
fact, the patrol was attacked by a quartet of Bf 109s from 2/LeLv 34. These may
have been joined by fighters from 7./JG 26 and II./JG 54, because the Soviets claimed to have been confronted by twelve enemy aircraft.
An I-153 was claimed by Vänr. M. Kirjonen flying MT-230: „We engaged 7-8 enemy
I-153 fighters at a height of 1000 m NW of Lavansaari. I attacked two of the Russians
head on. When I looked down, I saw an MT attack them from below. I made a turn
boats trying to save Sitnikov. The Soviet pilots were once again bounced by enemy
fighters and claimed to have damaged one Bf 109, but St. Serzh. Afansiy Sofyin was
lost in the combat. In this case, the enemy contact was probably not Finnish, but Fw
190s from 5./JG 54 under the command of Oblt. Maximilian Stotz. At 1527 hours, he
announced the shooting down of a Polikarpov I-153 at an altitude 800m northwest
of Lavansaari. (2)
The Germans also attacked the torpedo boats. They hit Vessel No.23 and its commander, St. Lt. Piotr Nikitich Ilyin, subsequently died of his injuries. The vessel was
damaged to the point where it could not reach Lavansaari under its own power
and needed to be towed.
There was more intensive fighting that evening. Prior to 2000 hours Moscow time,
a pair of patrol boats were unsuccessfully attacked by three Il-2s from the 7th
GShAP escorted by five LaGG-3s and a single Yak-7B from the 13th IAP and a quartet of La-5s from the 4th GIAP. This occurred near Tytärsaari. The Soviet group
was attacked on its return flight by Finnish and German fighters. The Soviets were
helped out by the arrival of another four Yak-7Bs from the 13th IAP and eight La-5s
from the 4th GIAP.
The Finnish side had eleven Bf 109s taking part in the fight, under the command
of Maj. Eino Luukkanen from LeLv 34, sixteen LeLv 24 Brewster Buffalos, along
with a dozen Fw 190s from II./JG 54. This means that there were over sixty aircraft
engaged in combat west of Lavansaari.
The Soviets claimed the destruction of two Fw 190s and a single Bf 109. However,
no Finnish or German losses are known of. Two Il-2s were shot down, and one
bellied in at Lavansaari, two of them to the credit of Finnish Messerschmitts. The
fighter escort lost three aircraft, and one also put down in an emergency landing
on the island airstrip. This essentially corresponds to the claims of four destroyed
(including one probable) by LeLv 34. The pilots of the Buffalos came away with
no kills. However, one LaGG-3 was claimed by Oblt. Stotz at 1907 hours. He shot
it down at a height of 1500m over the southwest coast of Lavansaari. If he was
correct in his reporting of the victim being an in-line fighter, then that could have
been the Ukrainian pilot Sgt. Pavel I. Volokh of the 2nd eskadril'ya of the 13th IAP,
or the Belorussian Serzh. Mikhail F. Volkov of the 1st eskadril'ya of the same unit.
Hptm. Klaus Mietusch in a picture from 1944 in the cockpit of Bf 109 G-6 already as commander of III./
JG 26 on the Western Front. In the first half of 1943, he flew his 7th Staffel with the Fw 190 fighters on
the Eastern Front and achieved fifteen victories against the Soviet Air Force, four of them during May
21. He was killed on September 17, 1944 in a duel with the American fighter ace Lt William Beyer (9 v.)
from the 376th FS, 361st FG. Photo: Bundesarchiv via Wikimedia Commons
and after this, I saw three aircraft go down. The MT had lost 2/3 of its right wing
and one of the I-153s had lost both wings on the other side. The planes crashed
near each other 5-8 km west from the northern tip of Lavansaari. The other I-153
crashed south of these two. I saw one pilot come down with his parachute and
(Formation Leader) Evinen told me that it was a Russian because the parachute
had a square shape.“
I-153 pilots Lt. Gavrilov and St. Serzh. Nizhnik together claimed one Bf 109 shot
down. The same type of claim was made by Ml. Lt. Viktor Parfyonov and St. Serzh.
Nikolay Bryukhamov, this pair flying I-16s. During the combat, St. Serzh. Anatoly
Sitnikov collided with an enemy aircraft and managed to bail out, but drowned in
the waters down below. His counterpart in that collision, Luutn. Tauno V. Saalasti,
didn’t survive either, and crashed in the aircraft he was flying, MT-228.
Three I-153s took off from Lavansaari at 1600 hours. They were to help their returning colleagues get on the ground safely, and to also provide cover for torpedo
Afanasiy Mikhailovich Sofyin
The pilot of the I-153 that was shot
down in the afternoon rescue mission
was of Russian nationality, and was
born in 1923 in the Volsk, Saratov District. He joined the military in 1941 and
graduated from avition school in his
hometown. In January 1943 he was assigned to the 2nd eskadril'ya of the 71st
IAP KBF, completed about ten combat
flights and during his service reached
the rank of Starshiy Serzhant. Two
members of his family also died in the
war. Father Mikhail Semenovich Sofyin
has been missing since 1942. His son
Grigoriy Mikhailovich fell in battle in the
Kursk region in September 1943.
St. Serzhant Afanasy Mikhailovich Sofyin
Part of so irrecoverable loss report with record about death
of st. Serzhant A. M. Sofyin.
INFO Eduard - March 2021