Ilmari Juutilainen

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Ilmari Juutilainen
Eino Ilmari Juutilainen.jpg
Nickname(s) Illu
Born (1914-02-21)21 February 1914
Died 21 February 1999(1999-02-21) (aged 85)
Allegiance Finland
Service/branch Finnish Air Force
Years of service 1932–47
Rank Lentomestari (equivalent to modern Sotilasmestari(Sergeant Major))
Unit LeLv 24, LeLv 34
Relations Aarne Juutilainen (brother)
Other work Professional pilot

Eino Ilmari "Illu" Juutilainen (21 February 1914 – 21 February 1999) was a fighter pilot of the Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force), and the top scoring non-German fighter pilot of all time. This makes him the top flying ace of the Finnish Air Force, leading all Finnish pilots in score against Soviet aircraft in World War II (1939–40 and 1941–44), with 94 confirmed aerial combat victories in 437 sorties.[1] He himself claimed 126 victories. He achieved 34 of his victories while flying the Brewster Buffalo fighter.[2]

Juutilainen was born in Lieksa, and died in Tuusula. His brother was the Finnish Army Captain Aarne Juutilainen.


Juutilainen was the top scoring Finnish fighter pilot. He flew Fokker D.XXI, Brewster Buffalo, and Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters. He was one of only four people to twice receive the highest Finnish military decoration, the Mannerheim Cross, and is considered the highest scoring non-German ace of all time. Juutilainen finished the war without a single hit to his plane from enemy fighter airplanes (once he was forced to land after a friendly anti-aircraft gun fired at his Bf 109). Like Japanese fighter ace Saburō Sakai, Juutilainen never lost a wingman in combat. He also scored the first radar-assisted victory in the Finnish Air Force on 24 March 1943, when he was guided to a Soviet Pe-2 by a German radar operator, who was testing out the freshly-delivered radar sets, that officially became operational 3 days later.


Fokker D.XXI aircraft in the Finnish air force during World War II. Flying this type of aircraft, Juutilainen scored his two individual victories, plus one shared

Juutilainen entered the Finnish military on 9 September 1932 for his compulsory military service, serving as a pilot in the Finnish Air Force starting in 1935. On 1 May 1935, Juutilainen was promoted to sergeant. He was transferred to LeLv 24, operating from Utti, on March 3, 1939. In October 1939, with the situation worsening, the squadron moved to Immola, closer to the Finnish-Soviet frontier.

During the Winter War (which broke on 30 November 1939) Juutilainen flew the Fokker D.XXI. He scored his first victory on 19 December 1939, shooting down an Ilyushin DB-3 bomber and damaging two more.[3] At the end of the Winter War, Juutilainen had achieved one shared and two individual victories.[4]

During the Continuation War, Juutilainen served in 3/LeLv 24, flying a Brewster B-239 "Buffalo".

On 21 July 1941, Juutilainen and five other Buffaloes scrambled to intercept Soviet fighters from 65th ShAP that were strafing Finnish troops near Käkisalmi. During that sortie, he destroyed a Polikarpov I-153 'Chaika', making him an "ace" in the Brewster Buffalo.[5]

A few days later, on 1 August, seven fighters under the command of First Lieutenant Karhunen destroyed six I-16s near Rautjarvi, and Juutilainen (having been promoted to Warrant Officer in the meantime) claimed two of them.[6]

On the morning of 6 February 1942, while reconnoitering the Petrovkiy-Jam region with other LLv 24 pilots, Juutilainen intercepted seven Tupolev SB bombers escorted by 12 MiG-3s. Juutilainen claimed two SBs.

Finnish Air Force's Brewster B-239 formation during the Continuation War. Flying this type of aircraft, Juutilainen scored 34 out of 94 kills

Juutilainen later recalled:

On 27–28 March 1942, 3/LLv 24 moved to Immola in preparation for a Finnish Army offensive on Suursaari, in the Gulf of Finland. Although grossly outnumbered over the Gulf of Finland, LeLv 24 pilots were more experienced than their Soviet opponents from Red Banner Baltic Fleet. Even when they had the advantage of surprise and height, Soviet pilots did not succeed in shooting down Finnish pilots.[8]

On 28 March, WO Juutilainen, in patrol with Sgt Huotari, attacked some "Chaikas" of 11 IAP over the Suurkyla shoreline, at Gogland, and shot down two of them. These air victories took Juutilainen's tally to 22. A month later, on 26 April, he became his unit's first recipient of the Mannerheim Cross.[9]

On 20 September, he took off with Capt Jorma Karhunen and 3/LeLv 24 pilots for a patrol of the Kronstadt-Tolbukhin (ru)-Seiskari region. Near the Estonian coast, they were bounced by ten Soviet fighters. But the Finnish quickly reacted and managed to down three of their opponents. WO Juutilainen was credited with two kills.[8]

All in all, Juutilainen scored 34 victories in Brewster B-239, 28 of them (including three triple kills) between 9 July 1941 and 22 November 1942, in his BW-364 "Orange 4".[4]

In 1943, Juutilainen was transferred to LeLv 34, which used new Messerschmitt Bf 109G-2s.[3] With the Bf 109, he shot down a further 58 enemy planes. He shot down six Soviet airplanes on 30 June 1944 (all confirmed on Soviet loss records), becoming an ace in a day and parallelling Jorma Sarvanto's score on 6 January 1940 in the Winter War.

Juutilainen refused an officer commission, fearing it would keep him from flying.

His 94th and last victory was a Li-2, the Russian version of the Douglas C-47, shot down on 3 September 1944 over the Karelian Isthmus.[3]

After the wars, Juutilainen served in the air force until 1947. He worked as a professional pilot until 1956, flying people in his De Havilland Moth. His last flight was in 1997 at age 83, in a double-seated F-18 Hornet of the Finnish Air Force.

Juutilainen died at home in Tuusula (Tusby) on his 85th birthday on 21 February 1999.


Bf 109G-2, Wings of Dream Museum in São Carlos, Brazil. Flying this type of aircraft, Juutilainen scored 58 air victories.
Aircraft Victories
Fokker D.XXI 2 1/6
Brewster B-239 34
Messerschmitt Bf 109G 58
Total 94 1/6

Popular culture[edit]

The fictional character Eila Ilmatar Jutilainen in the anime series the Strike Witches is based on him.[10]



  1. ^ Keskinen 1978, p. 4–7.
  2. ^ Stenman and Thomas 2010, p. 85.
  3. ^ a b c Jackson 2003, p. 47.
  4. ^ a b Stenman and Thomas 2010, p. 94.
  5. ^ Stenman and Thomas 2010, p. 14.
  6. ^ Stenman and Thomas 2010, p. 15.
  7. ^ Stenman and Thomas 2010, pp. 22-23.
  8. ^ a b Stenman and Thomas 2010, p. 30.
  9. ^ Stenman and Thomas 2010, p. 24.
  10. ^ "Creator of Strike Witches inspired by Finland". 


  • Juutilainen, Eino Ilmari (translated by Nikunen, Heikki). Double Fighter Knight. Tampere, Finland: Apali Oy, 1996. ISBN 952-5026-04-3. Juutilainen's memoirs that were published in English in 1996.
  • Keskinen, Kalevi; Stenman, Kari and Niska, Klaus. Hävittäjä-ässät (Finnish Fighter Aces). Espoo, Finland: Tietoteas, 1978. ISBN 951-9035-37-0. (Finnish)
  • Jackson, Robert. Air Aces Of WWII. Ramsbury, Marlborough, Airlife, 2003. ISBN 1-84037-412-8.
  • Stenman, Kari and Andrew thomas. Brewster F2A Buffalo Aces of World War 2 (Aircraft of the Aces 91). Oxford UK/Long Island City NY, Osprey Publishing, 2010. ISBN 978-1-84603-481-7.
  • Stenman, Kari and Keskinen, Kalevi. Finnish Aces of World War 2 (Aircraft of the Aces 23). Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing, 1998. ISBN 1-85532-783-X.

External links[edit]

Suomen Ilmavoimien tunnus.svg Finnish World War II aces with over 30 air victories Flag of Finland.svg

Ilmari Juutilainen | Hans Wind | Eino Luukkanen | Urho Lehtovaara | Oiva Tuominen | Olli Puhakka | Olavi Puro | Nils Katajainen | Lauri Nissinen | Kyösti Karhila | Jorma Karhunen