The wreck of Kaleva possibly found

Aero's Ju-52
Aero's Ju-52 "Kaleva" (OH-ALL) at Malmi Airport.

Correction: The find described below was later confirmed not to be "Kaleva". The airliner, shot down during the Intermediate Peace in June 1940, still eludes underwater search teams. The sea bottom on the crash site lies deep and is full of canyons which make locating the wreck very difficult.

1 June 2004

In spring 2004 came the news that the P-38 reconnaissance aircraft of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, missing for 60 years, had been found in the sea near Marseille. The remains of the Swedish DC-3 reconnaissance aircraft, shot down by the Soviet Air Force in 1952 over the Baltic Sea, have also been found and raised from the depths recently. Now it seems like the sea is going to give back a third long-lost mystery whose fate touched Malmi Airport and all Finnish people deeply 64 years ago during the intermediate peace between Finland and the Soviet Union.

About 20 km from the Estonian coast at the depth of 90 meters, the Estonian Navy have found a wreck believed to be the Junkers Ju-52 airliner "Kaleva" of Aero o/y, shot down in summer 1940.

"With our equipment we found a wreck which may be Kaleva," says Ingrid Mühling of the Estonian Defence Forces General Staff in an interview by SL Õhtuleht. "We will certainly go back and study the wreck in more detail, as this time it wasn't possible to use robots."

Two SB-2 bombers of the Soviet Air Force shot Kaleva down on its scheduled flight from Tallinn to Helsinki on 14 June 1940 near Keri island shortly before the "socialist revolution" and annexation of Estonia to the Soviet Union. The nine passengers and crew members on board were all killed.

Kaleva took off on its last flight towards Malmi Airport from Tallinn. The Finnish crew consisted of captain Bo von Villebrand and wireless operator Tauno Launis. The passengers were two German businessmen, two French diplomatic messengers, one Swede, one American and one Estonian. The American courier was reportedly transporting the U.S. military codes to safety from Soviet-threatened Estonia, and it is known that the French messengers alone were carrying a courier pouch of more than 120 kilos. These documents and a secret traffic blockade related to preparations of the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states are the probable reason for shooting down Kaleva.

After just a few minutes of flight, Kaleva was joined at close range by two Soviet SB-2 bombers that had taken off from a base in Estonia. The bombers opened fire with their machine guns, and Kaleva crashed on its left side into the sea two or three kilometers northeast of Keri lighthouse.

Estonian fishermen witnessed the attack and the following events. According to them, shortly after the crash a Soviet submarine surfaced. It inspected the Estonian fishing boats at the scene and picked up mail from the sea and from the wreck. A Finnish Brewster fighter from Malmi Airport, piloted by Ilmari Juutilainen who later became the ranking Finnish fighter ace of WWII, appeared soon overhead to assess what had happened. Upon noticing Juutilainen's arrival, the submarine hid its flag.

In the tense political situation of the day, no complaint was made to the Soviet Union about destroying a passenger aircraft during peacetime, and the official Finnish inquiry did not reveal the true cause of the crash to the general public. The wreck of Kaleva went missing for more than 60 years.

(source: Etelä-Suomen Sanomat newspaper, 1 June 2004)