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Finnish Lieutenant Lauri Pekuri's Brewster B-238 No. BW-372 rises from Lake Kolejärvi with the help of a Russian recovery crew.

Last of the Buffalos

By Jon Guttman
5/2/2018 • Aviation History Magazine

On June 25, 1942, Finnish Lieutenant Lauri Pekuri shot down two Soviet Hawker Hurricanes before another set his Brewster B-239, No. BW-372, on fire, forcing him to ditch in Lake Kolejärvi, in eastern Karelia, and swim ashore. In the summer of 1998, BW-372 was recovered from the lake in remarkably good shape, and after a series of travels and negotiations ended up in the National Museum of Naval Aviation at Pensacola, Fla. After further talks with Finland, however, the NMNA has agreed to loan the fighter to the Aviation of Central Finland/Finnish Air Force Museum for 31⁄2 years. 

BW-372 has a unique combat history. In January 1942 Paavo Koskela knocked down a Polikarpov I-153 with the airplane’s wingtip. Lauri Pekuri used the repaired Buffalo to shoot down seven Hawker Hurricanes before ditching in the lake. 

While the U.S. Navy considers the Brewster F2A-1 Buffalo a pioneer, as its first carrier-based monoplane fighter with retractable landing gear, the Finns revere its B-239 export version as symbolic of their courage and sacrifice in Finland’s two wars with the Soviet Union, in 1939-40 and 1941-44. Since BW-372 is the only original Buffalo in existence, the Finns don’t plan to make it flight-worthy. Rather, they intend to restore it to the condition it was in when it was orginally raised from the lake and have it ready for display in time for their next air force anniversary, March 6, 2009. Whether the NMNA will further restore the plane with carrier landing equipment as an F2A-1 is an issue that may be addressed in 2012.

 

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