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Corporal Lampi
[At right: Corporal Lampi photographed 15 minutes after his first fight, 25 June 1941]

First combat in a Brewster fighter (part 3)

continued from part 2

  The target is looming bigger and bigger.  Now!  Again the 12 millimeter shakes my plane and the firing whips towards the target.  I see the jet of bullets come close to grazing the left engine of my plane, but it passes it by.

  I reach the same height as my target and have to stop firing and check the sight.  The tracer emits a shrill sound from my plane, I see a jet of gunfire sweeping over the SB’s left engine so that it begins to weakly smoke.  But now all of a sudden I have other things to do. 

  The whole time the machinegunners of the leading squadron are ejecting rounds at me, but without hitting.  Now the leading squadron gets quick assistance from the wing squadrons.  All of a sudden I notice that I am encircled.  All around me swinging bomber planes fire towards me in a whirl.  I dive sharply so that my destruction in this game is a question of a moment. 

  But I do not let go of my leading plane.  It must come down!  As my declared death sentence is imminent.

  I turn again for a new attack and I notice that the same leading plane has separated from the formation.  It is presently in a sharp dive with its nose towards the oncoming direction of the bombers.  Apparently its left engine is so badly damaged that the plane can no longer remain in the formation and is now trying to get rid of me by plunging.   It has let its bomb off into the wind.

  Now I do not hesitate a moment, in the blink of an eye I turn my plane into a sharp dive and try to meet up with the SB which is sinking continually downwards.  Its apparent goal is to fly to the surface, so that I can not attack it from underneath rather only from directly above so that its machinegunner can fire at me without any obstacles.  I muster up the last remnants of power from my engine and catch up quickly with the SB.  This game must end quickly so I can go and pursue other planes during their return flight. – But something else was waiting for me.

  I was only about one hundred meters from the plane when it straightened into a surface flight.  At the same time I notice the slow circling of its propeller blade, indicating the pilot has put the engine in idle position.  I also notice that the barrels of the machine guns are pointed towards the sky which is a sign that the machine gunman has at some point during the combat been wounded.

  I now try to get my sight on the SB, not too successfully, however, as my great speed in no time has brought me on top of the bomber that has slowed its speed down on purpose.   I point the nose of my plane downwards, but am now in danger of colliding with the left wing of the SB.  The distance is only about 10 meters.  Although I try everything possible to slow down the speed of the bomber, I do not manage to get into a shooting position, I just swing alongside the bomber.

  At the same time I see something which makes my heart leap.  All of a sudden about 30 meters away pointing towards me are the barrels of the machine guns and I see clearly the eyes of the gunman who is standing as he aims at me.  An old, familiar trick from World War I has succeeded – and there I am on a tray, ready to go down, unable to fire back.

  I am not able to do a thing when the machine gun round starts firing in front of the cockpit of my plane.  I hear a shot when a bullet hits the cartridge belt of the machine gun to the right ahead of me and breaks it.  Another bullet wipes the rivet row of the gas tank in front of my leg so that two rivets fly loose and gas starts to gush out onto my legs.  I realize that destruction is imminent now and at the same time I gather all my strength by struggling to make a sharp battle immelman to the left while the jet of the bullets accompanies me closely.  Another moment yet and I’m safe.

  Now I am really flaring.  First at myself and then at the one who just fired at me.  I pull at the cockpit of my Brewster towards the bomber plane despite the gas which is sputtering about and go into an angry dive.  In my thoughts I am screaming at my adversary: you will go down!  Go down, no matter how difficult you are!  I will fight even as far as Moscow, but you won’t be coming home from this trip!

  I force myself to calm down, take sight of the SB point already far off and approach it quickly.  I see how my recent attacker is pointing his guns towards me and already starts to shoot a short series from afar.  The first thing I have to do is set accounts with him!  I take sight of my machinegunner, who I now see clearly and when I put my finger on the trigger, I am sure I have made a hit.  The man lets go and the barrels point upwards.  I see from close that now nothing is happening.  First me, now you, it is war’s merciless law, I am able to think while preparing my plane for my last attack.

  The left engine of the SB is weakly smoking but the right one is still pulling at full force, anyway in a flash it is now the fires coming out of my machinegun.  Still one hit to the left engine and at the same moment the plane dives over a little lake and falls straight down into it.  A couple of flashes on the surface of the lake and the game is over. – The commander of the squadron, Lieutenant-colonel Feodor Panjusik, has flown his last flight.

  I make an honourary circle over the place, I rock my plan to the people waving on the beach and I turn towards home.

  A quiet languor fills my soul.

  I crack open the hood of the cockpit as the gas leak is starting to make me dizzy.  I notice that my legs are completely drenched in gas so it is continually splashing the hole of the rivet.  One small spark and my whole plane will explode to pieces.

  Like waking up from a dream I notice quickly the beauty of the nature below me.

  I am soon at the home airfield and I start to descend.  Then I experience my last start: to get onto the surface of the airfield I step hard on both of the wheels’ brakes but only the right side works.  My plane is close to falling on its wings, but with the help of the strong engine I am able to correct it. – The reason for this will be discovered later when the damages on the plane obtained in the fight are studied.  The brake fluid tube was shot broken in the battle and that’s why the wheel was unable to brake.

  Still a short roll to the parking place, gas closed and ignition off.

  My first war flight has ended.

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