|Nickname(s)||"Crépe" and "Stan Laurel"|
|Born||November 6, 1916
|Died||August 3, 1999 (aged 82)
|Years of service||1939–1968|
|Unit||No. 24 Sqn
No. 34 Sqn
|Commands held||Carelian Wing|
Lauri Pekuri (born November 6, 1916 in Helsinki, Finland, died August 3, 1999 in Spain) was a World War II fighter ace of the Finnish Air Force and a Finnish jet aircraft pioneer. Pekuri had changed his name in 1942, having before been named Lauri Ohukainen. This older name can still be found in aviation literature.
Lauri Pekuri began flying as a youth in the 1930s Helsinki. He left college to participate in the Civic guards and sports. On his first attempt to join the Finnish Air Force he failed in the psychological tests and due to his bad academic record. Instead he became an NCO at the Mikkeli artillery battery. In 1939 he tried out again for the air force and was admitted. He had then completed his interrupted college studies.
Pekuri was sent to Parola and Tyrvängö during the Winter War where he got to fly second-line Gloster Gamecocks, Bristol Bulldogs and ASJA Jaktfalk fighters. He managed to accumulate about 100 flying hours.
After the Winter War he applied to the officer's school. In 1941 he was sent to Hävittäjälentolaivue 24, who flew Brewster Buffaloes. In order to fly these fighters he trained on Fokker D.XXIs. On 4 October 1941 Pekuri fought his first air battle against a Soviet I-153 fighter, which crashed mainly due to pilot errors. Pekuri continued to better his kill statistics over the following years.
On 25 June 1942 Pekuri participated in a large aerial battle over the Soviet Sekehe airfield. He managed to down two Soviet Hawker Hurricanes, but his Brewster Buffalo (BW-372) was also hit and he was forced to make an emergency landing on a lake. He made it safely to his own lines but the aircraft sank to the bottom. The aircraft was located and recovered in the 1990s and it is the only surviving Brewster Buffalo today. It is today displayed at the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida. In the fights over Sekehe the Soviets lost seven aircraft.
In February 1943 Pekuri participated in the obtaining of Messerschmitt Bf 109G-2 fighters from Germany. The aircraft were transported from Neustadt, near Vienna. The Germans were surprised that not one single plane was destroyed during transport, when they themselves suffered losses up to 20% since they employed less qualified pilots to do the work.
During a flight from Immola to Lappeenranta on June 16, 1944, Pekuri's aircraft was damaged when engaging an Ilyushin Il-2. The engine stopped and he had to bail out behind enemy lines. He wandered for over a week towards his own lines, but was finally captured and sent to a prison in Leningrad. He was released in December 1944. After medical quarantine and recovery he returned to his squadron. Contrary to the original plans, this squadron of Bf 109s did not participate to the Lapland War due to a similar type used by Germans, and the dangers of misidentification.
Pekuri achieved 18.5 victories in World War II (12.5 with Buffaloes and 6 with Bf 109s).
After World War II, Pekuri rejoined the Air Force and took part in transforming the air force into the jet age. He became the first Finnish citizen to break the sound barrier, in an RAF Hawker Hunter numbered GN-101, flying in passive glide in Finnish airspace. He flew and evaluated Folland Gnats and was responsible on ensuring the purchased fighters fulfilled the terms of agreement.
After the purchase of Gnats had been completed, Pekuri evaluated the MiG-19 fighter. In his report he recommended against purchasing the aircraft. The main reasons given were that the weapons were insufficient (giving the impression that no air-to-air missiles were usable) and that manufacturing had been terminated in favour of soon-to-be Mach 2-class fighters already planned for the Soviet airforce.
Pekuri also participated in the evaluation of the MiG-21 fighters that were to be purchased to Finland. Pekuri planned the training for the type based on Soviet training both theoretical and practical given to group of pilots including himself. The fighters were transferred to Finland by Soviet pilots which was on the terms of the purchase. During the evaluations for the future fighter Pekuri was the first Finnish pilot to break Mach 2 flying a Dassault Mirage III.
Pekuri finally retired in 1968 with the rank of Colonel, having commanded the Carelian Wing. After his military career he continued working in civilian aviation, as the manager of the aviation maintenance training for Wihuri Oy. In the 1980s he moved to Spain where he wrote his memoirs. He died on August 3, 1999.
- Keskinen, Kalevi; Stenman, Kari and Niska, Klaus. Hävittäjä-ässät (Finnish Fighter Aces). Espoo, Finland: Tietoteas, 1978. ISBN 951-9035-37-0. (Finnish)
- Pekuri, Lauri: Tasavallan kauppamiehenä (?)
- Pekuri, Lauri: Spalernajan vanki, (WSOY, 1993)
- Pekuri, Lauri: Hävittäjälentäjä, (WSOY: Juva 2006)
- 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.
- Hävittäjälentäjä pp.299-300
- Hävittäjälentäjä p.316
- Hävittäjälentäjä p.311
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