Lt. "Nipa" Katajainen awaiting in Bf 109 cocpit for takeoff order. In the text is his portrait, with rich decorated uniform by Finnish awards.
Characteristic to Katajainen's career was the frequency of accidents and damages. In July 1941, before the war broke out, he lost the other undercarriage leg of his BW at takeoff. He successfully landed on one wheel and wingtip, and the mechanics repaired the plane in base in one week.
He scored his first victory on 28 June 1941 over Southern Finland when shooting down one SB-2 bomber. But the bomber gunner managed to damage the engine of his fighter, so that Katajainen had to return to base.
On a reconnaisance flight in October 1941 the enemy AA damaged again the engine of the Brewster so badly that the engine initially stopped in mid-air. By applying pressure in the fuel system with the manual pump and by using the priming pump Katajainen managed to restart the engine. He also was able to maintain enough power to enable the BW limp to base at Mantsi at treetops. During the long slow return flight he developed an aversion for the smell of pine resin: he had been flying so low that the smell of the forest filled the cockpit.
When based at Solomanni, in early 1942 Katajainen took his BW to a test flight after repair. The engine failed at takeoff. "Nipa" turned back, although he did not have enough speed. The BW nosed over at the bumpy landing and the propeller was damaged.
Katajainen also had had successful battles: his score was 13 by August 1942. Then, unexplicably, he was transferred to LeLv 6 to be trained into bomber pilot! LeLv 6 was equipped with war-booty SB-2 bombers used for anti-submarine and maritime reconnaisance duties. His friends in high places started a clandestine campaign to return him back to LeLv24, but he had to fly reconnaisance and anti-submarine patrols with SB-2 planes over the Baltic for six months.
Katajainen was back in LeLv 24 in early 1943. On 6 June 1943 he was wounded in action. Enemy 20 mm shell exploded in the wing of his Brewster above the Gulf of Finland. He was wounded in one leg quite seriously. He managed to return to base, but he was hospitalized for weeks and he was granted recuperation leave for several months. During that time he got married.
"Nipa" Katajainen returned eventually to service and since 27 February 1944 he was in Messerschmitt training. After briefing he took off for his first flight, but at the final of the take-off the fighter engine began to smoke: it was in fire. He was ordered over the radio to make a belly-landing. This he managed to do, and the Me survived. It was found that the engine had been damaged earlier and it happened to fail just when Katajainen was flying.
One week later he had the second try. At takeoff a gust of wind spread a blinding screen of snow on the Me just at takeoff. Katajainen could not see how he drifted a little to the left, and the left wing was caught in the snow bank on the side of the runway. Katajainen had to take off at too low speed. The Me stalled and crashed. The plane was a total loss, but it did not catch fire. Katajainen suffered a concussion of the brain and was grounded for several months.
While recovering, Katajainen received a letter from his squadron pals: there is going to be a lot of action coming. He went to a medical examination and was found fit to fly in June 1944. His third attempt to fly with the Bf 109 was successful.
As replacement Bf 109 planes were supplied, Katajainen continued his string of victories on 21 June 1944. In the next 10 days he shot down 17 enemy planes, making his total score 35. A week later (on 28 June) he was Hans Wind's wingman on his last flight .
On 3 July 1944 Katajainen flew in an enemy AA trap pursuing an Il-2M formation at low altitude. The enemy got a 23 mm hit in the engine cooling system of the "MT-462". With good luck he managed to take the damaged plane over the front and make a belly landing on a field, with glycol boiling in the engine.
Two days later the flight was sent to assist Finnish escort fighters defending Finnish bombers attacking enemy ships near Viipuri. Katajainen shot down one Yak-9, but then a 40mm shell fired from a ship exploded in the right wing. There was a jagged hole that a man could put his head through. The Me was badly damaged in other parts, too. The engine began to smoke and fuel fumes penetrated in the cockpit, making the pilot groggy. He took course to Lappeenranta. Katajainen was half unconscious as he approached the base. He belly landed at a speed of 500 kmh. At the first impact the Me made a 200 m bounce, then another impact, then a 100m bounce. At the third impact the plane cartwheeled, the wings were ripped off first, then the engine. As the wreck of the fighter stopped, ground crews went to see what was left of the pilot. "Nipa" was found alive but unconscious amid the wreckage. He briefly returned to consciousness as he was given first aid and Col.Ltn. Magnusson granted him a decoration. He was flown to a hospital in Mikkeli where he met his friend Hans Wind .
After the war with Soviet Union was over Katajainen was demobilised on 10 November 1944 with the rank of Sr.Sgt.Maj. His total score was 35 1/2 victories during 196 missions. In December of 1944 he was granted the Mannerheim Cross.
He was working as civil servant for City of Helsinki until retirement. He died in Helsinki in 1997.