Karhila ciel de gloire - histoire des as de l\'aviation de 1914 à nos jours
KARHILA Kyosti Keijo Ensio "Kossi"




Né le 2 mai 1921 à Rauma

Lieutenant (Luutnantti) - Chef d'Escadrille 

29 victoires aériennes individuelles
7 victoires aériennes en collaboration

304 missions de combat (392 heures de vol de guerre)

- Croix de la Liberté 2eme Classe
- Croix de la Liberté 3eme Classe
- Croix de la Liberté 3eme Classe & Feuilles de chène
- Croix de la Liberté 4eme Classe
- Continuation War
- Croix de Fer de 2eme Classe


Here is a nice snap of Finnish Bf 109 G-2 "MT-213" of 2./LLv 34, Suulajärvi airfield, May of 1944. Karhila'a "MT-229" camuflage looks probably very similiar.


It was the 20 August 1943. Lieutenant Kyosti "Kossi" Karhila was another pilot of the 3rd flight of FAF HLeLv 43 based in Kymi air base North of Kotka on the southern coast of Gulf of Finland. The task of the flight was to defend the towns of Kotka and Hamina, their harbour and the adjacent sea area with its military objects against Soviet Air Force.

Four Bf 109 G-2 fighters were airworthy that day at 14:41 hours as there was an alert: Four enemy Il-2M's escorted by eight fighters approaching Someri island, situated 50 km South from the base. Finnish pilots hurried to their fighters: Flight Commander Captain Puhakka , his wingman Sgt. Nuorala, Flight Master Tuominen and Lt. Karhila .

Lt. Karhila climbed in the cramped cockpit of the "MT-229" while two mechanics worked hard hand-cranking the flywheel of the inertia starter. The pilot closed the hood and went through the pre-start check list before starting the engine. When testing the magnetos, the no.2 magneto made the engine drop 150 rpm. That was a bad sign but Karhila did not care: he gave a sign to remove the chocks . He prepared for takeoff after Flt.Mstr Tuominen, because the narrow airstrip could take only one fighter at a time. He had to wait for one minute so that the previous fighter's slipstream would disappear, worrying about the possibility of his own engine overheating.

Now Karhila applied power so that the Messer began to roll. He steered the fighter with brakes and aligned it with the runway. Then he gently applied more power, and to be able to control the huge torque of the three bladed prop he pulled the stick to keep the tailwheel on the ground. The Me's weak spot was its undercarriage: the weak stilt-like legs and narrow wheelbase made it accident-prone. The pilot kept increasing power, all the time feeling with his feet when the rudder would "bite".

As Karhila felt that the rudder was responding, he eased the stick and allowed the tailplane rise. Now he gently applied full power, because he was able to counter the torque with pedals. The Daimler-Benz engine growled at its' characteristic low note, accompanied by the falsetto whine of the supercharger. The fighter was now accelerating on its main wheels, the propeller blade tips sweeping seven (!) centimeters from the runway gravel. The pilot waited until the Bf had accumulated enough speed. Then the powerful engine pulled the fighter off the ground at a light pull of the stick.

This was a normal Bf 109 take off. Any Meesserschmitt pilot had to be able to do all this juggling without thinking about it. (Not everyone made it: one FAF pilot, whose name better be withheld, smashed five Bf's at start before he was rejected from training...) When airborne, Karhila pulled in the undercarriage, landing flaps and radiator gills. Next he adjusted power and set the prop pitch control to automatic. Then he eased the seat belt across his chest to be better able to look in the rear sector. His guns were loaded and the Revi gunsight illumination was on. Lieutenant Karhila and "MT-229" were ready and willing to fight the enemy. The pilot could not tell whether he was a part of his aircraft or whether the fighter was a part of him...

Karhila followed Cpt. Puhakka in 3000 m. They were not really flying in a finger-of-four formation as they should have and they were trained to do. Karhila and Tuominen were experienced and self-confident pilots who were hungry for more victories and unwilling to fly as anybody's wing men.

The enemy turned back before attacking having seen the four Me's, but the Finnish fighters pursued them and caught up with the enemy formation over the Gulf of Finland west of Seiskari Island (note: the Finnish names of those islands). Karhila saw the Flight Commander attack two enemy fighters. He looked around and there, below him he saw four "Sturmoviks" and six La-5 and Yak-7 fighters flying South.

Karhila was just about to attack them as his instinct told him to look back. There, 20 meters from his tail he saw the nose of a La-5 with big white prop spinner shining in sunlight. Without thinking the Finnish pilot slammed the stick to the right and kicked the right pedal. He heard a crack in the left wing of the Me, but the rest of the enemy salvo missed his fighter with the sound of a passing express train, tracers flying. Karhila allowed his Messer do two rapid turns in flat roll, contrails extending from the wingtips. Where did the La appear ? He continued in a 30 to 45 degree dive to NW with full power and "squirmed". He had checked the rear sector some seconds before. When tightening his curve the Finnish pilot saw the Lavotchkin 50 m behind his tail, looking menacing. The enemy must have dived from the sun.

Karhila kept diving with full power, but he was unable to shake off the enemy. For a second he was at a loss what to do, but then he decided that attack would be the best defence. He had to turn the nose of his fighter at the enemy at any means. Karhila pulled the stick as hard as he could, steering his fighter in a climbing left curve.

He curved tighter and tighter, increasing his rate of climb at the same time. He saw that the enemy was losing on him, but at the same moment he felt how his Me was about to stall. He eased the stick and barely recovered the fighter from complete stall. As the Bf 109 returned to full control, he was flying horizontally. The La-5 was on the same altitude, on the opposite side of their common turning circle.

Now Karhila curved tight again and soon he had the enemy in his gunsight. He fired for the first time at 150 m. The La-5 half-rolled and dived, the Finnish pilot followed. The enemy pulled out of the dive, Karhila aimed and fired again at a range of 200 m. The La-5 made another half-roll and dive, striving for the AA cover of a Soviet base on Peninsaari Island. The enemy was now 800 m ahead of him but Karhila was catching up fast.

When Karhila was within range and fired at 300 m, the enemy apparently decided to use the same manouver that had saved Karhila: the La-5 pulled into a tight left climbing curve. The Finnish pilot allowed the enemy turn for a second before following. The Me was more manouverable than the LA-5, he approached the enemy fast.

At the range of 75 m Karhila aimed with rough deflection and opened fire, shooting brief salvoes. The enemy fighter took hits in its fuselage. When the range was 50 m, the La-5 broke in two just behind the cockpit. Karhila's Messer was for a moment surrounded by flying debris.

The tailless La-5 rocked violently, then nosedived. More debris fell off, then the enemy pilot bailed out. Soon his parachute opened and the pilote splashed in the sea. Karhila watched with fascination how the tail end of the enemy fighter slowly fell, the rudder flipping and showing the red star on both sides of the tailplane. Then he realised what really happened and he shouted in the radio: "Anybody saw - I shot a La-5!". It was his victory no. 18.

A Bf 109 fighter passed overhead - it was Oippa Tuominen who responded and congratulated. Karhila saw a white streak on the sea: a Soviet speedboat arrived to rescue the La-5 pilot from his cold bath.

Now the "MT-229" engine began to act up, making the fighter vibrate violently every now and then. Also there was a big hole in the left wing. It certainly had been a close shave, and Karhila took course to the base with low power, anxious to avoid any more fighting this time.

He made a victory pass over the base before landing. Landing a Bf 109 was nearly as tricky as taking off. The pilot had to control the attitude of the fighter so that the nose would not be too down - the prop would literally "bite dust" - nor should the plane be allowed to stall at low altitude and smash the flimsy undercarriage legs.

But Karhila landed expertly. He parked the "MT-229" and climbed out of the cockpit. The ground crew already had heard the good news, they also could see that soot from the muzzle flashes of the guns had soiled the nose of the fighter and the pilot was drenched in sweat and his knees appeared to be a bit weak. There also was a gaping hole in the left wing...

Everybody congratulated Karhila for his victory. To "bag" a La-5, a very dangerous opponent, after being surprised by it proved excellent flying skill. What Kossi Karhila had experienced was the nightmare of any fighter pilot - but he had been able to "turn the tables" and survived . You could not find a happier man in Kymi air base that day.

He had been lucky, too, because the mechanics told that the enemy hit had virtually split the main spar of the wing and it had been a miracle that the damaged wing had withstood the stress of the battle and the victory pass. The wing had to be replaced before "MT-229" was airworthy again. The other pilots had not been very lucky: Capt Puhakka's guns had jammed and Flt.Mstr. Tuominen could not prove that he had shot down one Boston bomber.

Kyosti Keijo Ensio Karhila was born on 2 May 1921 in Rauma. In 304 battle missions he scored 32 1/4 victories. His civilian job after war was an airliner pilot. Currently retired.

More exciting details from Karhila career please check in his most interesting interview, exclusive for WW2AS!


Années Fonction Secteur
S/Lt 10/05/41
VR 2 20/12/44
LeLv 32 18/03/41   Continuation War
Lieutenant 14/03/43
VR 3 06/07/42
LeLv 30 10/03/42   Continuation War
VR 3 tlk 16/10/42
1./LeLv 32 10/05/42   Continuation War
VR 4 14/06/41
LeLv 34 20/04/43   Continuation War
EK 2 02/09/42
HLeLv 30 06/03/44   Continuation War
              HLeLv 34 15/06/44   Continuation War
              3./HLeLv 24 30/06/44 Chef d'Escad Continuation War
              HLeLv 30 21/07/44 Chef d'Escad Continuation War

Ne se voit pas attribuer la Croix de Mannerheim, le nombre maximal de décoration pour les officiers de réserve ayant été atteint.

Date Heure Type Unité Statut Pilote Type Numéro Unité Lieu
10/08/41 . . I 16 Détruit (1/2)   H 75A CU 567 LeLv 32 Kannas
13/08/41 . . I 153 Détruit (1/2)   H 75A CU 561 LeLv 32 Kannas
18/08/41 . . I 153 Détruit . H 75A CU 570 LeLv 32 Kannas
03/09/41 . . I 153 Détruit . H 75A CU 566 LeLv 32 Kannas
17/09/41 . . MiG 1 Détruit . H 75A CU 553 LeLv 32 Kannas
19/09/41 . . MiG 1 Détruit . H 75A CU 560 LeLv 32 Kannas
15/06/42 . . Yak 1 Détruit . H 75A CU 560 1./LeLv 32 Aunus
28/06/42 . . Pe 2 Détruit (1/2) . H 75A CU 560 1./LeLv 32 Aunus
05/07/42 . . I 16 Détruit . H 75A CU 560 1./LeLv 32 Aunus
21/08/42 . . I 16 Détruit . H 75A CU 560 1./LeLv 32 Aunus
29/09/42 . . Pe 2 Détruit (1/2) . H 75A CU 571 1./LeLv 32 Aunus
09/11/42 . . MiG 1 Détruit (1/2) . H 75A CU 571 1./LeLv 32 Aunus
09/11/42 . . Pe 2 Détruit (1/4) . H 75A CU 571 1./LeLv 32 Aunus
09/02/43 . . Pe 2 Détruit . H 75A CU 560 1./LeLv 32 Aunus
11/02/43 . . U 2 Détruit . H 75A CU 560 1./LeLv 32 Aunus
11/02/43 . . LaGG 3 Détruit . H 75A CU 560 1./LeLv 32 Aunus
11/02/43 . . LaGG 3 Détruit . H 75A CU 560 1./LeLv 32 Aunus
04/05/43 . . LaGG 3 Détruit . Me 109 MT 214 LeLv 30 Suomenlahti
04/05/43 . . LaGG 3 Détruit . Me 109 MT 214 LeLv 30 Suomenlahti
21/05/43 . . La 5 Détruit . Me 109 MT 224 LeLv 30 Suomenlahti
19/07/43 . . Pe 2 Détruit . Me 109 MT 224 LeLv 30 Suomenlahti
20/08/43 . . La 5 Détruit . Me 109 MT 229 LeLv 30 Suomenlahti
28/05/44 . . La 5 Détruit . Me 109 MT 403 LeLv 30 Suomenlahti
21/06/44 . . Il 2 Détruit . Me 109 MT 405 LeLv 34 Kannas
30/06/44 . . Yak 9 Détruit . Me 109 MT 436 3./LeLv 24 Kannas
01/07/44 . . Il 2 Détruit . Me 109 MT 461 3./LeLv 24 Kannas
03/07/44 . . Il 2 Détruit . Me 109 MT 461 3./LeLv 24 Kannas
04/07/44 . . P 51 Détruit . Me 109 MT 460 3./LeLv 24 Suomenlahti
05/07/44 . . Yak 9 Détruit . Me 109 MT 461 3./LeLv 24 Suomenlahti
07/07/44 . . P 51 Détruit . Me 109 MT 461 3./LeLv 24 Suomenlahti
09/07/44 . . Il 2 Détruit . Me 109 MT 461 3./LeLv 24 Kannas
10/07/44 . . Yak 9 Détruit . Me 109 MT 461 3./LeLv 24 Kannas
10/07/44 . . La 5 Détruit . Me 109 MT 461 3./LeLv 24 Kannas
11/07/44 . . La 5 Détruit . Me 109 MT 461 3./LeLv 24 Kannas
16/07/44 . . Yak 9 Détruit . Me 109 MT 460 3./LeLv 24 Kannas
18/07/44 . . La 5 Détruit . Me 109 MT 460 3./LeLv 24 Kannas


Suomen ilmavoimien historia 11: Hävittäjä-ässät (Finnish fighter aces); Keskinen, Stenman, Niska