Jorma Kalevi Sarvanto est né à
Turku, le 22 février 1912, à l'époque où
la Finlande était un Grand Duché autonome de l'Empire
Russe. Son père, Kaarle Konstantin Sarvanto, un patriote, était
tailleur. Jorma était intéressé par l'aviation
et l'histoire glorieuse des As de la première guerre mondiale.
Il lu tout ce qu'il pouvait trouver au sujet de Richtofen, Guynemer
et les autres. Volontaire dans la garde civile, son patriotisme s'en
trouve renforcé, le préparant à sa future carrière
militaire. En 1933, il débute sa formation militaire dans un
régiment d'infanterie. Souhaitant entrer dans l'Armée
de l'Air, il passe avec succès les examens d'aptitude avant d'être
admis à l'école des Officiers de Réserve de Kauhava.
Il finit sa formation en 1934 et devient officier de réserve.
Jorma retourne alors à la vie civile, en pleine période
de dépression économique. Jorma décide alors de
s'inscrire à l'école des Officiers d'Active et il débute
son entraînement à l'automne 1934. Saravnto termine sa
formation de pilote et de navigateur en mai 1937.
Sarvanto est tout d'abord envoyé à
la Base Aérienne numéro 1 à Utti, une base où
sont installés de vieux chasseurs Bristol Bulldog. En 1938, les
premiers Blenheim Mk I arrivent et Sarvanto sert alors comme navigateur.
Saravnto veut cependant occuper des fonctions de pilote mais celles-ci
sont toutes occupées par des Officiers plus anciens. Sarvanto
est promu Lieutenant le 16 mai 1939 et transferé à la
LeLv 24 selon ses désirs. L'unité est équipée
de Fokker D XXI depuis 1937. Les appareils sont fabriqués sous
licence en Finlande. Ils sont propulsés par des moteurs construits
aussi sous licence et équipés de 4 mitrailleuses de 7,7
mm. Sarvanto devient un très bon pilote de Fokker et surtout
un excellent tireur avec des taux de réussite de ses tirs de
92 %. En tant que personne, Sarvanto est décrit comme un camarade
serviable, songeur et calme. Sarvanto dénotait par rapport aux
autres pilotes plus extrovertis. Son goût pour la musique lui
valut le surnom de "Zamba". Sarvanto apprend, comme ses camarades,
à faire avec les caractéristiques du D XXI, déjà
obsolète avec son train fixe et son armement insuffisant. L'avion
est trop lent pour intercepter les bombardiers et trop peu agile pour
affronter les chasseurs. Toutefois, le D XXI présente une bonne
stabilité pendant le tir et peut se lancer dans des piqués
de 20 à 60° pour échapper à ses adversaires.
Il peut aussi manoeuvrer en piqué, ce qui lui permet de sortir
de celui-ci dans une position contraire à ce que l'adversaire
est en droit de s'attendre. En revanche, le D XXI est d'une maintenance
aisée, ce qui dans la perspective d'une dispersion des forces
disponibles sur des lacs gelés ou dans des zones isolés
reste un grand avantage.
Le chef d'Escadron, le Capitaine Magnusson est
un vétéran de la Guerre d'Espagne, utilisant son expérience
de la guerre aérienne moderne pour entraîner ses hommes.
A cette époque, tous les officiers savent qu'ils seront submergés
par le nombre en cas d'agression étrangère. Malgré
cet état de fait, les pilotes sont tous prêt à défendre
leur pays contre tout agresseur potentiel. Le Lt Sarvanto dispose alors
d'un peu de temps pour se ménager une vie privée et c'est
en Août 1939 qu'il épouse mademoiselle Eine Artemo en la
cathédrale de Turku. Leur lune de miel allait cependant être
rapidement interrompue par le déclenchement de la seconde guerre
La guerre d'hivers débute le 30 novembre
1939. Selon les instructions de Staline, un faux accrochage entre forces
Russes et Finlandaises est fabriqué de toute pièce pour
justicier l'attaque de la Finlande par les forces Russes. A cette époque
la Force Aérienne Finlandaise ne compte que 115 appareils en
service dont seulement 36 chasseurs D XXI de la LeLv 24. La supériorité
numérique des Soviétique est énorme avec un rapport
de 1 pour 20. La tâche de la LeLv 24 est d'intercepter les bombardiers
ennemis et de prévenir les attaquent contre les sites stratégiques.
La première victoire est officiellement remportée le 1
décembre 1939. Ce jour Sarvanto ne vole pas mais les pilotes
Finlandais revendiquent 11 victoires pour la perte d'un appareil et
de son pilote. Le mauvais temps empêche toute activité
aérienne pour les 3 semaines à venir. Sarvanto reçoit
son baptême du feu le 19 décembre. Après deux missions
infructueuses, il intercepte 2 bombardiers SB 2 et parvient à
en abattre 1. Tirant d'une bonne distance, il voit ses traçeuses
pénétrer dans l'avion ennemi qui prend rapidement feu
avant de s'écraser. Désormais, il sait parfaitement en
quoi consiste la guerre aérienne.
Sarvanto remporte son premier doublé le
23 décembre. Au cours de la matinée, arrivé au
terme d'une mission infructueuse, il apprend la présence de 9
SB2 dans son secteur, au Sud d'Antrea. Il est alors seul et n'a plus
beaucoup de carburant mais il se lance à la recherche des bombardiers
qu'il trouve rapidement. Il s'attaque à l'appareil de gauche
qui lâche ses bombes pour tenter d'échapper à son
assaillant. Se faisant tirer dessus par un mitrailleur défensif,
Sarvanto effectue un looping qui l'ammène au-dessus du bombardier.
Il place alors le bombardier dans son viseur et touche les deux moteurs,
provoquant la chute de l'appareil Soviétique. Déjà
Sarvanto se lance à la poursuite des 8 autres bombardiers et
malgré sa vitesse insuffisante il parvient à rattraper
l'un d'entre-eux sur lequel il tire, perforant le réservoir d'huile,
obligeant ainsi le bombardier à effectuer un atterrissage forcé
peu après. N'ayant quasiment plus de carburant, Sarvanto rentre
à sa base... avec deux victoires à son actif.
In the morning of the 25th the pilot saw several
contrails at 6000m approaching from the south. The flight scrambled.
Sarvanto climbed towards the enemy, but as he was just 500 m behind,
the engine of his Fokker failed! He turned to glide to the base, seeing
how his brothers-in-arms shot down three SB-2s. Suddenly he saw 6 SB-2s
below: having enough altitude, he turned his gliding fighter towards
the enemy for a feint attack. The enemy bombers released their loads
and fled. At landing Sarvanto tried to restart the engine but the cockpit
was filled with black smoke. Despite that, he brought the plane home
in one piece. It turned out that one piston of the Mercury engine had
been split due to overstress.
The Fokker squadron had been very successful
in their actions. The 100th victory was celebrated on the 31st of December
1939 (Remark: actually the score was lower, the squadron had scored
96 confirmed kills during the whole of the Winter War. But due to the
pilots' desperate task to fight tremendous superiority, this was a good
chance to boost morale.) Usually the squadron leader, now promoted to
Major, had ordered silence and lights off in his pilots' "dormitory"
at 20:15, but now he summoned the men of the flight he personally led
at 23:00 and made a speech, then offered the men some brandy before
sending them to bed at midnight.
Next week Lt. Sarvanto had his greatest glory
day - for details please check in the story: Jorma Sarvanto and six
kills in five minutes.
Having suffered considerable bomber losses (at
least 50 by 7 January 1940) to Fokkers the Soviet Air Force no more
sent out unescorted bombers. Now the Fokker pilots had to attack from
a higher altitude, dive past the escort fighters, take a quick shot
at the bombers and disengage by diving on if only possible. By February
new fighters ( 30 Gladiators, 30 Morane-Saulniers, some 30 Fiat G50)
started becoming operational, but to no relief for the Fokker pilots,
who were logging up to 6 flying hours a day. At the same time virtually
half of the Soviet air force was concentrated on the Finnish front,
providing a 30 to one superiority ratio.
Lt. Sarvanto fought on. On the 17th of January
he was playing "lone wolf" as René Fonck had done in
WW1. He received a message about the bombing of Lappeenranta, so he
took altitude and waited for the returning bombers. Soon he saw 9 SB-2s
(of 54. SBAP) 2500 m below flying south. He dived at them and easily
caught a straggler, shooting it in flames. As he attacked the wing SB,
again the other bombers slowed down to allow their gunners to fire at
the fighter. He had to leave one smoking SB as they crossed the front
line and I-16 fighters appeared at horizon.
On the evening of the 3rd of February 1940 the
air surveillance reported 30 unescorted bombers. The Fokkers at Ruokolahti
base scrambled. The pilots saw three 9-plane squadrons of DB-3 bombers,
which all turned South having detected the Fokkers. Sarvanto shot down
one and damaged another. The Fokkers' machine guns malfunctioned due
to extremely cold weather, although the armourers had removed all oil
and grease from the Brownings and lubricated their gliding surfaces
with graphite. Only two enemy bombers were shot down.
On the 15th of February Lieutenant Sarvanto had
to climb to 7000 m to find unescorted bombers. He intercepted three
DB-3s of 1.MTAP, shooting down one, the other two escaped, being faster
than the Fokker at high altitude. He intercepted and damaged 3 bombers
on the 16th and two more on the 17th. By now the squadron was desperately
short of tracer, armour piercing and incendiary ammunition. The pilots
had to use mostly plain solid bullets, nearly inefficient against well-armoured
On 18th of February 1940 five Fokkers intercepted
12 unescorted bombers. Sarvanto attacked 3 DB-3s that were flying behind
9 SB-2s, which the other fighters engaged. First he eliminated the rear
gunners of two bombers - the third bomber dived and escaped. Sarvanto
worked methodically, having nothing to fear. He fired at the left engine
of the nearest DB, making it stop, then he aimed at the right engine,
the Fokker riding on the slipstream of the victim. One brief salvo transformed
the DB into glider. The remaining DB was more active, it "squirmed"
to avoid being hit. Sarvanto hung after the bomber and fired every time
he had the target in his sights. But his machine guns were jamming,
he could make only one or two shots at a time. The DB escaped. At the
base Sarvanto scolded the armourer who had loaded his ammo belts.
On the next day Sarvanto was flying in a section
(4 fighters) that intercepted 6 slow ski-equipped SB-2s that did not
have fighter escort. Sarvanto attacked the wing bomber and made its
engines smoke, but two other "Katiushka's" slowed down to
enable the gunners to shoot at his FR, one from each side. He managed
to get the other SB rear gunner in his sights and kill him, but now
he was flying wing to wing with the other SB whose gunner kept getting
hits in his FR. Sarvanto throttled back his engine and desperately tried
to turn his guns at the enemy. The Fokker nearly stalled, but he saw
the SB turret in his sighting scope and pushed the trigger just as oil
splashed on his windscreen. The last thing he saw before the scope went
black was how the SB gunner collapsed behind his weapon. The fighter
pilot disengaged, fearing engine damage. His wingman, Sgt. Kinnunen
finished off the damaged SB. The score to Sarvanto was one shared SB,
On the 21st of February 1940 he shared one DB-3
with two other pilots, an incident he did not consider worth describing.
That was to be his final, totaling 12 5/6 confirmed victories in Winter
War. Once in February he bounced I-16 fighters strafing his base but
his bullets did not have any effect on them. Twice he escaped an I-16
attack. He did not describe these incidents in his book published in
1941 in order not to disclose any secrets of tactics, and later when
interviewed he did not return to the matter.
On the 29th of February 1940 he witnessed on
the ground the black day of the FAF: 6 I-153s and 18 I-16s bounced the
Ruokolahti base and shot down 5 Gladiators of Squadron 26. One FR piloted
by Lt. Harmaja rammed with one "Ishak", the only destroyed
enemy. The fighter pilots were told that bombers were approaching. Only
they were not bombers, but fighters with auxiliary tanks. Some fool
for an observer had believed that the fuel tanks under fighter bellies
made them bombers!
During the final days of the war from the 4th
to the 11th of March 1940 Sqn 24 was assigned to ground strafing attacks
at the columns of the Red Army advancing on the ice of the Gulf of Finland
at Viipuri. Among the other pilots Lt. Sarvanto fired more than ten
thousand MG rounds in two weeks at the enemy infantry on open ice. The
enemy positioned AA weapons on the ice and set up fighter bases in immediate
vicinity. Once Sarvanto was bounced by three I-153s, but was saved by
the poor enemy tactics. The enemy fighter wingmen were not allowed individual
flying, they were trained to follow the leader and to fire their guns
when the leader did, whether or not having any target in their sights.
The war ended on the 13th of March 1940. Finland
had retained her freedom at the cost of 23.000 men killed in action
and loss of 13% of the territory. 25 of the D.XXI's were airworthy on
that day. FAF pilots had shot down 207 enemy planes and lost 68 of their
own aircraft to enemy fighters and anti-aircraft fire. 54 pilots and
airmen were killed in action, 75 wounded. The Finnish pilots had succeeded
sometimes in preventing enemy air raids, and often disturbing and limiting
The most painful experience of the war to Lt.
Sarvanto was the loss of a friend, Lt. Vuorela on the 30th of January
1940. In the afternoon of that day heavy air activity was interrupted
due to rising fog. Pilot Vuorela was to transfer FR-78 from Ruokolahti
base to Lappeenranta for overhaul and he took off without permission,
believing to be able to arrive before the weather would get too bad.
When Sarvanto called the base to warn about fog in Lappeenranta, it
was too late. Vuorela did not respond to radio calls, either. At night
a crashed Fokker with dead pilot in it was found in a forest. A fighter
pilot had to fight not only the enemy but the elements, too.
Squadron 24 was re-equipped in April with American
Brewster fighters, purchased in January but failing to arrive in time.
At the request of a publisher Lt. Sarvanto wrote
a book about his war experiences, titled "Hävittäjälentäjanä
Karjalan taivaalla" (in English "A Fighter Pilot above Karelia"),
which was reprinted a few years ago on the 50th anniversary of the Winter
War. The book is very interesting although processed by censorship cutting
details and containing some patriotic tendency.
Finland was again drawn in the war as the German
Army invaded Soviet Union in June 1941. Lt. Sarvanto was a Flight Commander
in Squadron 24. He shot down one SB-2 on the 25th June and one Pe-2
on the 29th June 1941. Lieutenant Sarvanto was promoted to the rank
of Captain on the 4th of August 1941, and transferred to the Air Force
Headquarters on the 19th of October 1941. Then he served as test pilot
in from 8 May to 17 July 1942. He was ordered that day to Germany for
special tasks, and he returned to his old squadron on the 16th of January
1943. He had not lost his touch and scored two more victories, 21 April
1943 one Yak-1 and 9 May 1943 one Yak-7. His total score is 16 5/6 confirmed
On the 9th of July 1943 he started his studies
at the Military Academy, making it possible to advance to higher grades.
Having completed the academy he served as the commander of Replacement
Squadron 35 from the 22nd of June to the end of the war.
Jorma Sarvanto retired from the FAF service as
Lieutenant Colonel on 8th of June 1960.
Sarvanto was a modest man and he did not allow
his Ace reputation influence his private life, which ended on the 16th
of October 1963. He had one son and three daughters. His hobbies were
shooting with rifle and pistol, swimming, music and the English language.
Lt Jorma Sarvanto's FR-97: First aircraft of the series III. Test flight
on the 16th of March 1939. Transferred to Squadron 24 on the 24th of
July 1939. Propeller damaged when reserve ensign E. Savonen hit the
target plate during air-to-air gunnery practice over Käkisalmi.
On the 30th of November 1939 was in the 4th flight of Squadron 24, pilot
Lt. Jorma Sarvanto. On the 6th of January 1940 received hits during
air combat, Lt. Sarvanto landed the aircraft at Utti and he wasn't wounded.
Plane was sent for repairs, back in the squadron on the 20th of June
1940. Was in the inventory of Squadron 32 since the 19th of April 1940.
On the 7th of November 1940 ran over FR-91 that was landing in front
of FR-97 at Siikakangas, E. Parviainen wasn't hurt.
Transferred to the Valmet aircraft factory on
the 14th of February 194. Transferred to the 2nd flight of Squadron
32 on the 29th of June 1941 and to the first flight of Squadron 14 on
the 14th of July 1941. On a recce flight on the 25th of July 1941 to
the Nuijamaa area was hit while strafing road traffic, ensign O. Häkli
was lost when the aircraft crashed into woods. Written off on the 10th
of August 1941 after 250 flight hours. Lt. Jorma Sarvanto achieved eight
victories with the aircraft.
Winter War was being fought and it was the 6th of January 1940 at Utti
air base. At dawn (about 8:30) the weather was fairly favourable for
enemy bombers. The cloud cover at 300 to 400 m was ragged, providing
enough visibility for orientation, and then haze up to 4000 m.
Four Squadron 24 Fokker D.XXI fighters with ski
undercarriage were located at the base. At 9:30 the air surveillance
reported enemy planes. The Fokkers were sent to intercept, but due to
poor visibility the enemies could be encountered by chance only.
Lieutenant Per-Erik "Pelle" ("Clown")
Sovelius was returning from an unsuccessful search at Lappeenranta to
the base as he heard in his headphones: - 'Enemy planes north of Hamina
at 3000m!'. He intercepted eight DB-3 bombers, which were flying in
a line abreast formation, and shot down one, spending all his ammunition
on it. The remaining bombers continued northwards, and bombed Kuopio
(situated deep inland). The Fokker pilots at Utti kept their flying
gear on and waited for the returning bombers. Lt. Sarvanto ordered his
ground crew to warm up his Fokker D.XXI, coded "FR-97", "white
2", which was painted forest green on top surfaces and sky blue
Message was received at 11:50 - '7 bombers flying
south following the northern railway!'. The pilots from 4./Sqn 24 (Lentolaivue
- Fighter Squadron) climbed in their fighters, warmed up the engines
and turned their radios on. Lieutenant Jorma Sarvanto listened to the
radio traffic, soon he and his wingman (constituting one patrol) were
ordered to take off. After take off the wingman found that he had an
engine problem (snow had clogged the engine air intake during take off)
and he had to return. Lt. Sarvanto continued alone at the optimum rate
of climb, direction North to meet the enemy.
The second patrol took off after noticing that
Lieutenant Sarvanto had to go alone, but Sarvanto had a good head start.
Now the clouds had disappeared from the sky at Utti, and Sarvanto discovered
the handsome formation of DB bomber bellies lit by dim sun shining through
the haze. He counted seven silver coloured DB-3 bombers. To the left
- a wedge of three, to the right - four abreast, all no farther than
one plane length from each other. There was no fighter escort.
Sarvanto continued climbing, turning right to
south. For a moment he was within the range and sector of the bomber
nose gunners, but remained unnoticed due to sun glare. When he was at
the same altitude of 3000 m with the bombers, he was about 500m behind
them. Sarvanto pursued the enemy at full power. He decided to attack
the leftmost wing bomber, although the third from left was closest to
him, to avoid getting into cross-fire from the rear gunners. At a distance
of 300 m his plane vibrated unpleasantly - he had flown in a bomber
gunner MG salvo.
The fighter pilot kept on approaching the bombers.
At a distance of 20 (twenty) meters he aimed at the fuselage of his
victim, the left wing bomber, and pressed the trigger briefly. The tracers
hit the target. Next, he shifted his aim at the rear gunner of the tail
bomber, and shot him. Lt. Sarvanto then carefully aimed at the right
engine of the first bomber and fired a brief burst. The bomber's engine
caught fire. He repeated the same maneuver at the tail bomber with similar
result. Two burning DB-3 bombers were leaving the formation.
Jorma Sarvanto cheered aloud and attacked the
right wing of the formation while the bomber rear gunners blazed at
his Fokker. He fired at each engine of the nearest bomber, making them
smoke and forcing the bomber to leave the formation. Then he engaged
the other bombers at a very close range. Each victim caught fire after
two to three brief bursts of MG fire. Sarvanto glanced back - the smoking
bomber was now in flames and diving to the ground.
Now Sarvanto decided to destroy every aircraft
of the DB-3 formation. Some burning bombers made a slow half-roll before
diving down, another pulled up before diving down. All the time they
were flying south, the sun shone red through the haze low in southern
horizon unless dimmed by smoke from a burning enemy plane.
Bomber no.6 was much more resistant to his bullets.
The Fokker wing guns were out of ammo by now, but finally the DB-3 caught
fire, and Finnish pilot could engage the last bomber. He had already
eliminated the rear gunner, so he could fly close to the target. He
aimed at one engine and pressed the trigger. Not a single shot. Sarvanto
pulled the loading lever and retried shooting, but again in vain. He
had spent his ammunition. There was nothing to do but leave the bomber
alone and return to the base.
Columns of black smoke hung in the air and burning
bomber wrecks could be seen on the ground. Sarvanto checked his instruments,
there was no damage to vital parts, but his radio was dead and the Fokker's
wings resembled Swiss cheese. When preparing for landing he found that
the hydraulic pump for the landing flaps did not work, but he landed
successfully despite that.
Lt. Sarvanto felt very satisfied as he parked
his Fokker, but he did not quite get out of the cockpit before his cheering
ground crew grabbed him and threw him in the air. The flight lasted
25 minutes and the actual battle around four minutes, during which he
shot down 6 DB-3 bombers belonging to the 6th DBAP of the Soviet Air
Force. Two Soviet airmen bailed out and were taken prisoners, but the
sources do not mention their names. The mechanics counted 23 hits from
the bomber rear gunners in FR-97, some of them near the cockpit, necessitating
several weeks' repairs at the State Aircraft Factory. The patrol that
took off afterwards pursued the surviving bomber and finally Lt. Sovelius
shot it down in the Gulf of Finland East of Suursaari. The same day
the commander of 3./Sqn 24, Lieutenant Eino Antero Luukkanen, scored
another single SB-2 bomber.
This feat received tremendous publicity in the
word press, who considered it a world record at the time. Most major
Western newspapers published a photo of Lt. Sarvanto holding a large
greased sheet of aluminium with a big "5" on it, a trophy
from one of the victims.
The reasons for this unusual success were: accurate
shooting at a close range; the bombers were passive and lacked fighter
escort; and the armourers had disregarded the regulations and had loaded
the Fokker's MG belts with a larger proportion of scarce and expensive
incendiary and armour piercing ammunition (Lt. Sovelius had spent all
his ammo on just one bomber of the same formation in the morning).
Lt. Jorma Sarvanto holding a piece from one of
the six DB-3 bombers he shot down in less than five minutes on the 6th
of January 1940.
Jorma Kalevi Sarvanto was the top Finnish ace
of the Winter War, credited with 12 5/6 victories. During the Continuation
War he downed four Soviet planes more, flew the Brewster B-239 ("2"
on BW-357 and "2" on BW-373 callsign), then his total rose
to 16 5/6 kills in 251 war missions.