Brewster fighter awaiting 2018 homecoming

The Brewster fighter rests inside the Finnish Air Force Museum. Credit: Finnish Air Force Museum via the National Naval Aviation Museum.

The Brewster fighter rests inside the Finnish Air Force Museum.
Credit: Finnish Air Force Museum via the National Naval Aviation Museum.

Photo Above: A close examination of the fuselage photo will reveal two examples of unique artwork. Forward of the canopy is a lynx, and barely visible on the vertical stabilizer is the “Prancing Elk” or “Farting Elk” image. The authors of Lentolaivue 24 point out (page 92) that the lynx LLv 24 unit badge was “worn by Brewster Model 239s only.” Similarly, the elk symbol was exclusive to 2/LLv 24 B-239s. Evidently, the elk design was “inspired by Walt Disney’s Hiawatha.”

20th April 2012 (updated 8th June 2016) | Aviation aficionados may wish to visit Pensacola sometime next year to view a unique and historically relevant remnant. The only extant Brewster Model B-239 (BW-372) belongs to the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Fla. This surviving example is currently on display at the Finnish Air Force Museum and is currently scheduled to return to Pensacola in summer 2018.

The Brewster fighter rests inside the Finnish Air Force Museum.Credit: Finnish Air Force Museum via the National Naval Aviation Museum.

The Brewster fighter rests inside the Finnish Air Force Museum.
Credit: Finnish Air Force Museum via the National Naval Aviation Museum.

In Finland the aeroplane sits silently, its ungainly appearance belying a legacy of superior service. Visitors’ eyes transfix at the sight of the silent mass of aluminum, steel and fabric. By staring at the plane and its diminished condition, a result of air combat and decades of submersion, one can almost transport back to June 25, 1942.

Violet's 1942 Civil Air Patrol ID photo.

Violet’s 1942 Civil Air Patrol ID photo.

That day, in the city known as the “Birthplace of Aviation” (and Orville Wright) a young woman named Violet Hogan was celebrating her graduation from secondary school and  contemplating joining the Civil Air Patrol. She would also begin working at Frigidaire. This corporation was, according to Wright State University library archives and the General Motors Heritage Center, producing “.50 caliber Browning machine guns” for Brewster and other manufacturers in addition to “aircraft propellers and parts, hydraulic controls for airplanes and other military items.” Concurrently, the Brewster Aeronautical Corporation was busy producing later models of the plane referred to as “Buffaloes.”

Lauri PekuriPhoto: Wikipedia

Lauri Pekuri
Photo: Wikipedia

The Continuation War was beginning, and more than four thousand (in excess of 7,300 kilometers) flying miles distant young Finnish aviators were at the controls of several Model B-239s. They were on patrol above the communist Soviet Union. A Finnish pilot by the name of Lauri (Ohukainen) Pekuri was one of the fliers. Pekuri soon found himself in an aerial melee over near the Sekehe aerodrome. Lauri managed to down two Soviet Air Force Hawker Hurricanes. However, his Brewster (BW-372) took hits from pursuers, and Pekuri had to make an emergency landing onto a lake. He ditched successfully and swam to shore. However, the stricken aircraft sank to the bottom. There it remained for decades.

However, admirers of the type and aviation historians had not forgotten the submerged airplane. After all, according to Kari Stenman and Kalevi Keskinen (Lentolaivue 24, page 54) 1st Lt. Pekuri scored “seven victories in this machine between March 30 and June 25 . . . .” Thus, groups of Finns and Russians searched for the Brewster at the behest of the National Naval Aviation Museum.

In June 1998, after much searching and the elapse of some four years, the submerged “bison’s” resting place in became known. Crews raised the B-239 to the surface that August. A documentary titled Hunt for the Lost Brewster records the search and recovery.

The National Naval Aviation Museum took physical possession of BW-372 during 2004. Sometime afterward, the Finnish Air Force Museum received it on loan. Recently, a National Naval Aviation Museum representative informed the author of the following: The Brewster will likely remain in Finland “until at least mid 2014 after which point we plan to return it the Naval Aviation Museum. The Buffalo, at our direction, is displayed in a preserved status as it was found at the bottom of the lake in Russia where it crash landed during the Continuing War in the 1940s. Except for removal of dirt and debris, the arrestment of minor surface corrosion, and the repair of handling damage in the recovery, it remains as it was found including the combat and crash damage.”

The operational history of the type began on December 8, 1939, when the U.S. Navy deployed the rotund naval fighter that was in many ways revolutionary for the time. The aircraft was of aluminum construction and monoplane design. It possessed a retractable undercarriage, could attain more than 300 mph in level flight, enjoyed a decent turning radius and roll ability and was fairly maneuverable. Armament was impressive, consisting of powerful .50-caliber machine guns. With slower and less formidably armed biplanes still the standard in many navies and land-based air forces, the new Brewster represented a marked improvement in aeronautical design and aircraft performance.

Soon after its U.S. Navy operational acceptance, Finland expressed interest in the aeroplanes. After U.S. government approval on December 16, 1939, Finland purchased a number of the early production Brewsters. Not long afterward, beginning in the summer of 1941, Finns piloting their Model B-239s found success in combat against Soviet aircraft.

Several authors chronicle the struggles of airmen who flew Brewsters. Kari Stenman authored Lentolaivue 24 (Osprey Aviation Elite 4). Brian Cull, Paul Sortehaug and Mark Haselden address the topic in their book titled Buffaloes Over Singapore: RAF, RAAF, and Dutch Brewster Fighters in Action over Malaya and the East Indies 1941-42. Additional information appears within the pages of these publications: Martin Caiden’s The Ragged, Rugged Warriors; F2A Buffalo in Action – Aircraft No. 81 by Jim Maas, Don Greer and Perry Manley; and Brewster F2A Buffalo Aces of World War 2 (Aircraft of the Aces) by Kari Stenman, Andrew Thomas and Chris Davey.

The Brewster fighter models have disparate records. In Finnish service the Model B-239 excelled. Contrarily, in American, British, British Commonwealth and Dutch use “Buffaloes” were unappreciated and even disdained by military aviators in the Far East and South Pacific. The following truism succinctly sums up the above controversy: “One man’s trash is another’s treasure.” Regardless of one’s opinion of the Brewsters, the National Naval Aviation Museum owns a very rare winged jewel.

Note: The location of a watery grave belonging to another Brewster came became known last summer. This Buffalo lies in shallow coastal waters just off the Midway Atoll airstrip. The fighter sank in February 1942 after U.S. Marine pilot Lt. Charles W. Somers Jr., of VMF 221, landed short of the runway while returning to base in the midst of a Pacific squall.
The author (John Stemple) wishes to thank the National Naval Aviation Museum and the Finnish Air Force Museum for providing photos and comments. He also thanks Marja Lampi for providing a prerelease copy of Hunt for the Lost Brewster (E-Mail:

External Links & Readings

Kari Stenman and Kalevia Keskinen, Lentolaivue 24, Osprey Aviation Elite 4, Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2001.

Civil Air Patrol

Frigidaire history

The Frigidaire Center

Brewster Buffalo

Hunt for the Lost Brewster (E-Mail: )

Lauri Pekuri

National Naval Aviation Museum

Wright Brothers

Brewster Aeronautical Corporation

Brewster found off Midway

VMF 221

VMF 221 at Midway

4 Responses to Brewster fighter awaiting 2018 homecoming

  1. Marja Lampi says:

    Would you like to have this authentic documentary about search and lifting? I could send it to you. I am one of the searchers and the producer of the film. There is a trailer at the end of the text. Where can I send it?
    Marja Lampi

  2. Icebreaker Productions
    Hunt for the Lost Brewster
    Posted on 04/08/2011
    A thrilling documentary about the WW2 hero fighter plane Brewster Buffalo BW 372 found and lost. A story about the passion of people entangled in its history, their wins and losses, personal tragedies and international intrigues involving Finland, Russia and the USA.

    An international team searches for a fighter plane Brewster worth millions of dollars in the oligarchs ruled Russia in 1994 – 1998. According to the Finnish pilots who fought in the Second World War Brewster was a splendid and highly praised aircraft. During their mission the searchers find themselves in the middle of the most unpredictable adventures.

    Besides Finland the U.S. manufactured Brewsters were used in the USA, Great Britain and its possessions in the Pacific Ocean and in the Netherlands. 44 Brewsters were brought from the USA to Finland through Norway and Sweden in 1940. They were put together in Trollhättan in Sweden. The only time in its history Swedish antiaircraft defence was in action for political reasons while Brewsters were flown over Stockholm archipelago to Finland. Brewsters took part in the Battle of Midway in June 1942 where the Japanese shot down 13 planes out of 26.

    BW-372 – the only Brewster in the world – was found inRussia in 1998 and was taken through Moscow and Ireland to the USA in obscure circumstances. Its journey to the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Florida, took six years. BW-372 was exchanged for three Lockheed P-3 submarine defence and marine surveillance planes. In 2008 the plane suddenly appeared in Finland. It is scheduled to be returned to the USA in 2012.

    CATEGORY: Historical Documentary LENGTH: 58’ MATERIAL: BetaSP + m/e DIRECTOR: Anna Kulicka-Soisalon-Soininen SCRIPT: based on Marja Lampi and Vladimir Prytkov book “Kadonneen Brewsterin metsästys” (“Hunt for the Lost Brewster”) SCRIPT & EDIT: Sanna Liinamaa RELEASED: 2011, YLE TV1, Finland PRODUCTION: Tellus Tops Films, Marja Lampi DISTRIBUTION: Icebreaker Productions, Marita Rainbird


    For years a famous aviation writer and Brewster Buffalo Association activist Dan Ford has followed this case on his website A trailer of the documentary Brewster – Pearl of the Sky (original Finnish title) is on the front page of Annals of the Brewster Buffalo, which has about 1 500 – 2 000 visitors every day including the US Navy staff. Leading aviation journals like Flight Journal, Warbirds, Classical Wings in New Zealand and journals like Guardian and The Independent have also written about the matter.

    Brewster – Pearl of the Sky was broadcast on the history slot of Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE TV1 on 16 March 2011. The documentary had 299 000 viewers which is clearly above the slot’s average of 240 000. It is the second highest viewing figure of the season.

    The re-run was on 20 March 2011 with 114 000 viewers. The total number of viewers was 413 000 in a country of 5,2 million inhabitants. On YLE’s internet slot Arena there were 32 700 viewers.

  3. Marja Lampi says:

    Just for you to correct :It is a Tellus Tops Films documentary, Icebreak Productions has just been a deliver, but after next week the deliver aill be the Finnish tv YLE.. Marja

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