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Navy hopes to solve WWII plane mystery

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  • Navy hopes to solve WWII plane mystery

    TALLINN, Estonia (AP) -- Naval experts will begin searching Friday for an airliner that crashed into the Baltic in June 1940 with nine people on board, including a U.S. diplomatic courier considered one of the first American casualties of World War II.

    The oceanographic survey ship Pathfinder will join the Baltic Sea search for an airplane that crashed in 1940.

    The mystery of the plane's fate has since remained unsolved, despite Estonia's efforts to locate the wreckage believed to be lying 300 feet underwater near the tiny island of Keri, some 20 miles northeast of Tallinn.

    "If the aircraft is in the area where we're searching, I'm highly confident we'll find it," said Martin Ammond, senior surveyor aboard the USNS Pathfinder, one of the U.S. Navy's oceanographic survey vessels dispatched to help in the hunt for the missing plane.

    Nine people were on board the plane, the Kaleva, when it disappeared in the frantic days before the Soviet Union annexed the small neighboring Baltic nation.

    Most Estonian and Finnish experts agree that two Soviet fighter bombers shot down the small plane June 14, 1940, minutes after it took off from Tallinn for Helsinki, Finland. The Soviet Union annexed Estonia three days later.

    One of the Kaleva's passengers was Henry Antheil, a 27-year-old diplomatic courier at the U.S. Embassy in Helsinki.

    Antheil, based in Moscow from 1933 to 1939, had been rushed to Tallinn once it had become evident that the Soviet Union was preparing to swallow up Estonia and its Baltic neighbors Latvia and Lithuania.

    "Henry came here to help evacuate materials from U.S. Legation in Tallinn," said U.S. Embassy spokesman Eric A. Johnson, who has done research and written articles on Antheil and the Kaleva case.

    "It was feared that Soviets would come anytime, so all the sensitive materials had to be removed. He was doing a job for his country," he said.

    Carrying several diplomatic pouches, including material from the U.S. Embassy in Riga, the capital of Latvia, Antheil boarded Kaleva along with six other passengers. They never reached their destination.

    Neither the Soviet Union nor Russia acknowledged shooting down the Kaleva.

    Estonia has been unable to find the Kaleva despite intense efforts after regaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

    The Navy vessel was sent to Tallinn after a request by Estonian Defense Minister Jaak Aaviksoo to his U.S. counterpart, Robert Gates, in January.

    The Estonians hope to learn the fate of the Kaleva, a German-made Junkers Ju-52 that was operated by Finland's Aero, later renamed Finnair.

    "This is a unique mission," Ammond said Thursday. "We're not in the business of looking for aircraft or sunken ships, so this is very exciting for my surveyors."

    If the plane is found, it will be up to the Estonian and Finnish governments whether to organize a salvage mission, Johnson said.

    Finnish authorities kept silent about the Kaleva for decades, saying only that the plane crashed due to technical failure. In March 1940, the country had just signed a peace treaty with the Soviet Union after a costly war and did not want to provoke Moscow.

    Max Jakobson, a veteran Finnish diplomat, says he recalls Kaleva's case "vividly."

    "It was a dramatic situation when this plane went missing," Jakobson, a former envoy to the United Nations, told The Associated Press. "There was plenty of talk about it in Finland. Hopefully, the Americans will help solve this case."

  • #2
    Re: Navy hopes to solve WWII plane mystery

    Interessant verhaal! Hierbij nog wat plaatjes!:




    • #3
      Re: Navy hopes to solve WWII plane mystery

      the story

      Kaleva was a Junkers Ju 52 transport plane, belonging to the Finnish carrier Aero O/Y. The aircraft was shot down by two Soviet Ilyushin DB-3 bombers on June 14, 1940, while en route from Tallinn to Helsinki.[1] A few minutes after taking off in Tallinn, Kaleva was joined at close range by two Soviet DB-3T bomber aircraft. The bombers opened fire with their machine guns and badly damaged Kaleva, making it crash into the water a few kilometers northeast of Keri lighthouse. All nine passengers and crew members on board were killed.

      Estonian fishermen had witnessed the attack and crash of the plane. Shortly after the crash the Soviet submarine Shch-301 (Щ-301) surfaced and inspected the fishing boats. After confiscating items taken from the wreck by the fishermen, the Soviets picked up diplomatic mail from the wreck and the sea. The future top-scoring Finnish pilot Ilmari Juutilainen was sent to inspect the crash site. After the Soviets spotted the Finnish airplane, the submarine hid its flag.

      At the time of the incident Finland was not at war with the Soviet Union. The attack was probably part of the Soviet preparations for the full-scale occupation of Estonia, which took place two days after the "Kaleva" incident, on 16 June 1940. The occupation was preceded for several days by a Soviet air and naval blockade, which included preventing diplomatic mail from being sent abroad from Estonia. The passengers on the last flight of "Kaleva" included two German businessmen, two French embassy couriers, one Swede, one American courier and an Estonian woman. The French couriers had over 120 kilograms of diplomatic mail in the plane. The American courier was reportedly transporting the U.S. military codes to safety from Estonia.

      The plane was piloted by Captain Bo von Willebrand, and Tauno Launis was the wireless operator. The American victim was Henry W. Antheil, Jr., younger brother of noted composer George Antheil. Henry worked as a clerk at the U.S. Legation in Helsinki. He was recently honored for his service in a ceremony at the U.S. Department of State. His name was inscribed on the U.S. Department of State's Wall of Honor.

      The Government of Finland did not send any complaints or questions to the Soviets out of fear of hostile Soviet response, and the true reason for the crash was hidden from the public. This was due to the heavy pressure put upon Finland during the Interim Peace by the Soviets. After the outbreak of the Continuation War, the incident was described in detail by the government.
      kaleva junkers landplane.jpg

      kaleva junkers waterplane.jpg


      • #4
        Re: Navy hopes to solve WWII plane mystery

        Goed verhaal

        Er is dus veel bekend betreffende dit verhaal en de positie van het vliegtuig ten tijden van het luchtgevecht en de crash .Hopelijk is er nog iets van terug te vinden na 68 jaar.
        Kaleva position.jpg


        • #5
          Re: Navy hopes to solve WWII plane mystery

          Hier nog een kranten bericht uit 1940 en een foto van het monument ter nagedachtenis .

          Kaleva krant.jpg