21 suomalaisen sotaupseerin
288 sivua ja kuvaliite.
The unpopular head of Finnish
The men are standing by a
vast, shining writing table in the Kremlin on Saturday, 14 October 1939.
– May I ask you a question?
the forty year old Finnish Colonel Aladàr Paasonen says to Josef
Stalin, the Secretary General of the Soviet Communist Party.
– Please! Stalin smiles behind
his pipe. He wears a brown military coat and jodhpurs.
– You have said, that the
Soviet Union does not want one inch of foreign territory and will not give up
one inch of its own. How does this agree with your claims for Finnish
The face of the Finnish
Counsellor of State Juho Paasikivi becomes even redder, due to sheer
anger. Stalin remains silent for a while. Then he raises his finger, like a
– I will explain it for you,
please try to understand this. What we took from Poland was ours and what has
happened between the Baltic States and the Soviet Union has only strengthened
their independence. And as far as it comes to our proposition to Finland, you
have to decide for yourself, whether you will agree or not.
On the 5 October 1939 the
Soviet Foreign Secretary Vjatšeslav Molotov, Josef Stalin’s closest
associate, had contacted Aarno Yrjö-Koskinen, the Finnish envoy in
Moscow. – The Soviet Union wants to discuss certain concrete political
questions with the Finnish government, he had said.
Finland had decided to send a
delegation to Moscow, headed by Counsellor of State Juho Paasikivi, the Finnish
envoy in Stockholm.
– The government has not
assigned any military advisor to the delegation, Colonel Aladàr Paasonen, the
adjutant of the President Kyösti Kallio, had said to Field Marshal Gustaf
Mannerheim. – Most of the questions to be discussed are going to be
– The Colonel is quite right,
the Marshal had said. – How about it, would you like to go yourself?
That’s why young Paasonen is
In the Kremlin Paasikivi reads
a memo written by Colonel Paasonen. Paasikivi says that Finland is fully
capable of defending its neutrality. – It is impossible for any navy to
navigate the almost impassable waters of the northern shore of the Gulf of
Finland without our assistance. The safety of Leningrad depends solely on who
controls the shore of Finland.
Paasikivi hands over the memo
to Stalin. – This would be an interesting article in a military journal, the
Secretary General remarks. – But it does not give a satisfactory answer to the
question of the defence of Leningrad.
The Soviet Union makes demands
that Paasikivi is not authorized to discuss. The delegation returns to Helsinki
to get further instructions.
Colonel Paasonen also attends
the two succeeding delegations to Moscow, but no solution is achieved. On
Sunday, November 26 the Soviet Union arranges an artillery provocation at the
Finnish border in Mainila on the Carelian Isthmus and claims that Finland has
bombarded Soviet territory.
The heroic Finnish-Soviet
Winter War breaks out on Thursday, November 30 as Soviet tanks cross the
border. The war lasts for 105 days and ends in a defence victory. Finland
maintains its independence but has to surrender islands in the Gulf of Finland
and vast territories on the Carelian Isthmus near Leningrad.
Colonel Aladàr Paasonen was a
strange and mysterious person. Marshal Gustaf Mannerheim never promoted him to the
rank of general, even though the old commander-in-chief trusted his head of intelligence
in many ways. Paasonen belonged to his inner circle; during the Continuation
War 1941–1944 he sat at the marshal’s permanent dinner table in Mikkeli, where
the Finnish HQ was situated.
Paasonen was described as a
dark, quiet and somewhat secretive military officer. – Of course that agrees
with being the head of intelligence, an adjutant in the Finnish wartime HQ
Aladàr Antero Zoltàn Béla
Gyula Arpàd Paasonen was born in Budapest, Hungary, on 11 December 1898. His
father was Heikki Paasonen, then a professor at the University of
Budapest. Earlier Dr. Paasonen had been a professor in Finno-Ugric languages at
the University of Helsinki. His mother was a Hungarian named Mariska Paskay
The Finnish Independence and
Civil War began in January 1918. Aladàr Paasonen fought on the white side and
was promoted sub-lieutenant. He graduated as student from the secondary school
in Hämeenlinna, Finland, in the same spring. After the war Paasonen attended
the German Fahnenjunker-course in Hamina. He continued his military
education at the Finnish Cadet School and was promoted lieutenant in 1920.
As Paasonen was skilled in
languages he was sent to France to the Saint-Cyr Infantry School. After
that he attended École Supérieure de Guerre, the French War College. At
that time one of the teachers at the infantry school was a certain Major Charles
de Gaulle, who attended the same war college course as Paasonen.
– De Gaulle was definitely one
of the brightest officers attending the course, Paasonen said. – He was very
confident. The teachers were careful in judging his solutions.
Paasonen was promoted captain
in 1923. In the next year Paasonen was commissioned to the Finnish General
Staff. He was promoted major in 1926 and was made the first commander of the
newly founded army Service Battalion. In 1929, at the age of only 31, he was
In 1931 Paasonen was sent to
Moscow and two years later to Berlin as military attaché. In 1935 he was
appointed as assistant to the commander of the Finnish War College. He was also
appointed as senior teacher of tactics.
After the presidential
elections in Finland in 1937 Lieutenant-Colonel Paasonen was ordered to report
to the newly elected president Kyösti Kallio. Paasonen was a nominee as senior
adjutant to the President.
– What kind of diet do you
prefer? was the president’s first question. He was using a Finnish euphemism
– Mr. President, I’m not a
teetotaller, but not a drinker either, Paasonen replied. – If you accept me as
your senior adjutant, I will always tell you my opinion frankly. Even, if we
would disagree on the matter.
– I will be happy to have you
with me, Kallio said.
In 1937 Paasonen was promoted
colonel. In the following year he married a Hungarian girl named Flóra Ilona
Barta. They had three children; Aladàr Heikki Gyula, Flóra
Tuulikki and Anna-Maria.
The meeting of the Council of
State on the day the Winter War began was dramatic. Red-starred airplanes flew low
over central Helsinki and the sounds of bombardment were heard. The Russian
airplanes were shooting at defenceless civilians. After the meeting the
President and Colonel Paasonen decided, however, to walk from the Council
building to the Presidential palace.
At the palace the junior
adjutant asked how the Finnish government had decided to respond to the
– Gunpowder! President Kallio,
66, said in a loud voice waving his hands. – That’s what they deserve.
On 5 December 1939 Paasonen
was appointed to the delegation which was sent to the Geneva-based League of
Nations to present the Finnish plea to condemn the Soviet aggression. But
Paasonen wanted to fight.
– I will do as I’m told,
Paasonen said to the Foreign Minister Väinö Tanner. – Even though I was
going to ask for a war commission.
–You will have time enough for
that when you return, the Foreign Minister said.
In Geneva the Swedish
delegation crushed every attempt to a united proposal from the Nordic countries
to expel the Soviet Union from the League of Nations.
– If Finland had asked the
Swedish government, we would have told them to be moderate, the head of the
Swedish delegation Gösta Undén said at a meeting of the Nordic
The head of the Norwegian
delegation, the chairman of the Parliament Carl Hambro, was a keen
friend of Finland. He smiled scornfully at the Swede. The meeting was a fiasco.
– The timid Swedish attitude
was criticised in the League, Paasonen said.
However, on December 14 the
Soviet Union was expelled from the League of Nations. The Scandinavian
countries abstained. The League recommended the members to provide material and
humanitarian aid to Finland.
After Geneva Colonel Paasonen
was sent to Paris to buy weapons. The list was long: Howitzers, cannons,
anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, machine-guns, rifles, hand grenades,
The purchase of weapons went
well. The Prime Minister of France Éduard Daladier also proved to be a
keen friend of Finland. The French airplanes were in Finland before the Winter
War ended. France sent to Finland fourteen shiploads of war material through
Norway. Part of this arrived before the end of the war.
More weapons, including
bombers, were bought from France, Britain and the United States. The head of
the Polish exile government, General Wladyslaw Sikorsky, promised
several thousand men, but Sweden refused to permit them to pass through Sweden.
France and Britain promised to
send four elite divisions, 57 000 men, to Finland through Norway and
Sweden. They were to be in Finland in the beginning of March. This is to be
compared to the Finnish fighting force of 275 000 men at the beginning of
– It would be a horrible thing
if the allied troops really were to come, the old king of Sweden Gustaf V
sighed in his Stockholm castle. – But we can’t stop them, can we?
The need for intervention
troops ended when Finland signed the peace treaty in Moscow on March 13 1940.
But the plan to send allied troops helped Finland in the peace negotiations.
– The allied intervention
threat increased the need for the Kremlin to negotiate, Paasonen said. – It
also led to the abandoning of the pro-Soviet Otto-Ville Kuusinen puppet
regime in Terijoki on the Carelian Isthmus.
Continuation War began on 25 June 1941. President Kallio had resigned in
December and died on the same day of a heart attack at Helsinki railway
station. In June Colonel Paasonen asked the new President Risto Ryti to
relieve him from his duties as senior adjutant. He told the commander-in-chief Gustaf
Mannerheim that he was available for service at the front.
– Two days later the HQ phoned
me, Paasonen said. – The Marshal offered me the command of the 5th
The war took the regiment to
the Carelian Isthmus and the re-capture of Viipuri and later to East Carelia.
The regiment advanced to Petroskoi, the capital of Soviet-Carelia, and from
there on to Karhumäki. – During the seven months I gained good experience,
Paasonen said. – I learned to respect the brave Finnish soldier and also the
tough enemy. I thought then that every Finnish officer should take part in the
unique fight of our people as a commander at the front.
In late January 1942 Paasonen
was ordered to report to the HQ in Mikkeli. – I have recalled you from your
regiment because I plan to appoint you as head of the HQ intelligence section,
the Marshal said. – What do you think of such a transfer?
– I don’t think you should
replace anyone in that post in the middle of a war, Paasonen replied.
The Marshal was surprised to
hear the refusal. – The Colonel might be right, he said after a while. – I will
consider your point.
The next day Paasonen was
again summoned to the commander-in-chief. –What you said yesterday might be
true, the Marshal said. – But anyhow, I will make the replacement.
The matter was settled.
– I knew that it wouldn’t be
an easy job, Paasonen said. – From the beginning I had had doubts about German
victory. I also understood what a defeat would mean to Finland. When our army
crossed the old border I thought that we lost a great diplomatic asset, which
would have given us a chance to come to an agreement with the allies and the
Russians after the war. We might have had a chance to keep our old borders with
only small changes. I knew that, because of my opinions, I would become very
unpopular in the HQ.
Paasonen inherited from his
predecessor, Colonel Lars Melander, an organisation that knew what it
was doing. But there were also weak spots. – Most of the problems were in
foreign intelligence. We didn’t have a body for such intelligence analysis. We
had neglected to collect intelligence data from Germany and its allies, mainly
because of lack of personnel.
The HQ intelligence section
comprised 2 400 persons. It included the 4th Detached
Battalion, which was engaged in long distance reconnaissance patrols and
sabotage behind the front line.
In July 1942 Paasonen
accompanied Marshal Gustaf
Mannerheim on a visit
to the State Chancellor Adolf Hitler at the German HQ in Rastenburg, East Prussia. The reason
for the visit was that Hitler had paid a visit to Finland on the Marshal’s 75th
Colonel-General Alfred Jodl
gave a survey in his bunker of operations. – We will make an offensive with Heeresgruppe
Mitte, Jodl said. – And after that we will demolish St. Petersburg.
Hitler clarified Jodl’s point.
– Of course only, if Finland does not need St. Petersburg.
Gustaf Mannerheim, who had
spent many years in the former Russian capital in the service of the Czar,
looked somewhat aghast. – But he did not comment on the German proposal,
Shortly before Christmas 1942
Paasonen travelled to Copenhagen, Denmark, to meet the head of the Abwehr,
the German armed forces’ intelligence organisation, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris.
Paasonen had met Canaris six months earlier in Tallinn and wanted to discuss
Canaris’ views on the outcome of the war.
Paasonen told Canaris in
private that Germany would inevitably lose the war. – The United States is a
very rich country, Paasonen said. – Its participation in the war will be
crucial. The resources of Germany and its allies are draining and the Red Army
is still very strong.
Canaris stared for a moment at
the Finnish head of intelligence. – Herr Oberst, I completely agree, the
admiral said after a moment of silence. – Germany cannot win the war. As a
matter of fact, we have already lost it. The Red Army is not beaten and the
resources of the Allies are inexhaustible.
Returned to Helsinki, Paasonen
gave an account of the discussion to President Risto Ryti and later to his
nearest superior, General of the Infantry Erik
Heinrichs, the chief of staff in the Finnish HQ.
In February 1942 Paasonen gave
a presentation in the HQ on the general war situation to the political leaders
and the high military command. The German 6th Army commanded by
Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus had been completely destroyed in
Stalingrad in January. The Hungarian, Italian and Romanian troops had also been
– Germany and its allies have
lost sixty divisions, Paasonen said. – They can’t be replaced. It is only a
question of time before Germany will face a second front in the west. I am sure
that Germany will lose the war – and with it goes Finland.
The listeners agreed with
Paasonen, who was requested to make a report in the same terms to the
Parliament in Helsinki.
– Be as realistic as you were
with us, the Marshal said. – Let them hear it. Don’t pull your punches. Most of
them are guilty of the situation that we are in. If they had not hindered us in
building our defences in the 30’s, we would not be in this bad position.
The intelligence colonel told
Parliament in a closed session the same things that he had said in the
HQ. – A new Moscow peace is the best we can get, he said, referring to
the outcome of the Winter War.
The response to his report was
bad. – One MP of the right wing People’s Patriotic Movement IKL said
that they should have booed me. The Parliament was not ready for such a
realistic analysis. On the other hand, I got letters from Members of Parliament
thanking me for a brave performance.
Paasonen saw Admiral Canaris
for the last time in November 1943. They met at Zossen, south of Berlin, where
the bureaus of the Abwehr had been evacuated. Paasonen had been ordered
to speak about Germany’s short-sighted policy in the Baltic countries and the
Ukraine. The treatment of the national minorities had made it impossible for
those countries to take part in the fight against the Soviet Union.
– It’s too late, Canaris
In April 1944 Paasonen was
informed that Canaris had been removed from his post. Soon after that the
Admiral was imprisoned and accused of conspiracy against Hitler.
– Canaris’ life ended tragically,
Paasonen said. – He was hanged very cruelly.
The Finnish peace negotiations
failed in the winter of 1944 and Helsinki was bombed several times. – The
breakdown of the German siege of Leningrad made me believe, that the Russians were
going to launch a massive attack on the Carelian Isthmus.
General Lieutenant Aksel
Airo was, as
the quartermaster general in the Finnish HQ, head of the military operations.
He thought that there would be no attack. – And if there would be one, that our
main defence line would hold.
Colonel Valo Nihtilä, the head of the HQ
operational section, agreed. – The main line will hold for at least a month, he
– How can it last for a month,
when we don’t even have tank barricades? Paasonen said. – We will not hold for
It held exactly one day.
It became still clearer that
the Russians were preparing for an attack on the Carelian Isthmus. – As from
late March many new Red troops had arrived in the Isthmus. In the middle of May
the enemy began to dig trenches towards the Finnish lines.
In the last week of April
Colonel Paasonen suggested that the troops should be withdrawn from the
uttermost front line. – We should only leave machine guns there.
Paasonen mentioned an example:
The French tactics at the Champagne front in July 1918. Expecting a German
offensive the French troops were withdrawn to rear lines. Only machine guns
were left in the front line. The Germans shelled the empty lines and their
attack failed at the rear lines.
– It was “Der schwarze Tag
der Deutschen Armee”, Paasonen said. The Black Day of the German army. –
But my proposal was not accepted. The troops had to retreat from the front line
in disorder. The 10th Division almost completely collapsed and it
also lost most of its artillery.
The Red Army’s main attack was
launched on 10 June 1944. – I have to admit one thing, the Marshal said to
Paasonen the very same day. – I did put more weight on the opinions of General
Airo than on yours. But what else could I have done?
Paasonen did not comment. –
The moment was too tragic to tell the commander-in-chief what we could have
Expecting a massive enemy
attack Paasonen had organized an intelligence operation in the lost territory.
One-man radio patrols from the 4th Detached Battalion were left
behind. They were supplied with provisions for two months.
– The HQ got immediate
information of the moves of the enemy, Paasonen said. – In the middle of July
we received information, which told us that the enemy was withdrawing artillery
and tank regiments from the Isthmus. The attack was over.
All the patrols on the Isthmus
survived, though they had to swim across the broad Vuoksi River. The patrols
left behind in Eastern Carelia also all survived. – This was one of the finest
Finnish intelligence operations during WW2.
elected President in August and a very harsh peace treaty was signed in
September 1944. In July 1945 the Marshal told Paasonen to leave the country
because Paasonen had been involved in the Stella Polaris operation, the
evacuation of Finnish signal intelligence material and personnel to Sweden.
In the middle of July 1948
Paasonen got a letter from Lugano, Switzerland, in which the Marshal asked
Paasonen to help him in writing his memoirs. Paasonen agreed. – Though I am not
a historian, he said.
Paasonen outlined the contents
of the memoirs and assisted the Marshal until January 1951, when the task was
finished. On 20 January the Marshal was taken ill and died eight days later.
– There is a peculiar
greatness in the death of the Marshal, Paasonen said. – He was predestined to
pass away on the anniversary of his first crucial achievement in Finland. In
the night of 28 January 1918 he disarmed the Russian garrisons in Finland. It
was the basis for the fight for Finland’s independence.
Colonel Aladàr Paasonen
finished his own memoirs in April 1974 in Flourtown, Pennsylvania, where he
lived his last years. He died on 6 July the same year.
The last journey of the
On the evening of 17 December
1940 President Kyösti Kallio, who just had resigned from office, was to travel home
to his farm in Nivala, situated in Ostrobothnia, Northern Finland. The
President and his wife bid farewell to the personnel of the Presidential Palace
and went by car to the railway station. The streets were crowded with students
The farewell ceremony was held
at the presidential suite of the railway station. Present were the newly
elected President Risto Ryti, Marshal Gustaf Mannerheim and other prominent
– That was without question
the most burdensome day in the life of President Kallio, Paasonen said. – It
was a great effort for him and he paid heavily for it. The band played the
Finnish military anthem of honour Porilaisten marssi.
– When the president reached
the guard of honour he stumbled. I was deliberately very near behind him. When
he fell I managed to take him into my arms. I felt his last heartbeats.
The President was taken to his
carriage. – The physician only had to confirm that his journey had ended.