The magnitude of World War II often overshadows the fighting that occurred between Finland and the Soviet Union during the Winter War of 1939-40 and the Continuation War of 1941-44. During these conflicts, Finnish pilots destroyed 1,808 Russian aircraft in aerial combat and achieved an overall 7.5:1 "kill" ratio, all while never operating more than 150 fighters at one time. Out of these two wars, Warrant Officer Eino Juutilainen emerged as Finland's highest scoring ace with 94 1/6 victories. Born in 1914, he entered the world's second oldest air force in 1932 completed flight training, and was stationed in southern Finland when the Soviet Union invaded his country in November 1939.
Flying Dutch-built Fokker D-XXI fighters, he was credited with shooting down 2 1/6 aircraft during the bitter 16-week Winter War. As his country fought against Russia in the subsequent Continuation War, Juutilainen destroyed 34 more Soviet aircraft while flying the American-built Brewster Buffaloes and, in 1942, was awarded Finland's highest medal of valor--the Mannerheim Cross. He later transitioned to the newly acquired Me-109G fighters and his tally increased by another 58 aerial victories. In mid- 1944, Juutilainen received his second Mannerheim Cross, making him one of only two Finnish aviators to be so decorated.
On 3 September 1944, he also had the distinction of shooting down the last Russian aircraft of the Continuation War. During his 437 combat missions flown in both wars, Juutilainen scored victories against 22 different types of Soviet, British, and American built aircraft flown by the Russians; more remarkably, his aircraft was never hit by enemy fire. Following the war, he left the Finnish Air Force, purchased his own aircraft, and began a career as a private pilot, flying transport operations throughout Finland.
The Brewster Buffalo was originally produced in 1937 for the US Navy and became the first monoplane to enter the Navy inventory. World War II found an updated F2A Buffalo in service with both the US Navy and Marines in the Pacific and with the Royal Air Force in Burma. However, the aircraft became known as the "flying coffin" due to its limited armament and maneuverability. In contrast to the plane's reputation in the Pacific, Finnish fighter pilots cherished the Buffalo and called it "Taivaan Helmi" (Pearl of the Sky). Flying earlier model Buffalo B-239s marked with the light blue swastika national emblem of Finland, Eino Juutilainen and his fellow members of No. 24 Flying Squadron achieved 447 aerial victories against the Soviets while losing only 19 of their own aircraft.