Monday, April 18, 2022

Aimo Koivunen - A Harrowing WWII Story

It’s hard to imagine the rigors of battle or the stress of fighting or fleeing for your life in a war situation. I can only imagine how any advantage would be a boon if you knew the enemy was closing in. Today, we’re going to look at a unique story from WWII, a Finnish soldier who survived the impossible.

Aimo Koivunen

In March of 1944, Finland had been fighting the Nazis for several months. Aimo Koivunen was part of a team of soldiers on ski patrol searching out the German forces. When his team came across a Nazi camp, the German’s gave chase. Aimo followed his fellow soldiers but fell behind. 


He was racing as fast as he could but the Nazi soldiers were closing in on him and he couldn’t see the rest of his team. He had one hope. In his pocket, he had a vial of perviten pills, tablets given by the German command to help their soldiers have an edge in battle. (These tablet were what we call meth today.) I didn’t find out why Aimo had this vial of pills.


Ski Patrol

Because he was fleeing on skis and the temperatures were so cold, Aimo’s mittens hindered his ability to take a tablet. He dumped the whole vial into his palm and downed them all—enough methamphetamines for a whole squad of soldiers. 


Aimo did get the boost he needed and escaped the German soldiers, but he also lost his team and ended up disoriented and unsure where he was. He saw hallucinations but one of the strangest happenings was when he thought he was approaching a camp of his fellow soldiers but they turned out to be Nazis. 


Pervitin Container from 
WWII, Wikimedia

By the time he realized his mistake, it was too late to turn around, so he skied right through the center of the camp. The Germans thought he was a fellow soldier, so as he skied past their tents, they moved their boots aside for him. They ended up giving chase again and he managed to evade them after a day of hard skiing. 


Stumbling on an abandoned cabin, Aimo went inside and made a fire to warm up. Only he made the fire in the middle of the floor and fell asleep. He woke up to find the cabin on fire and moved away from the fire. He fell asleep again but did wake in time to somehow get out of the cabin before it collapsed on him.


He found a second shelter from the cold—an abandoned German encampment. He didn’t realize they had booby-trapped the camp as they left until he stepped on a land mine. The explosion took off his foot and threw him into a ditch thirty feet away. 


Siberian Jay

Aimo stayed in the ditch figuring he would die. He had no help, no way to contact anyone, and was still not over the effects of the drugs he’d taken. The temperatures had dipped close to 0° F. His only sustenance were pine needle tea, and a Siberian jay that he caught and ate raw.


A patrol of Finns stumbled across him as he lay in the ditch. They were not equipped to help him or to get him to safety. He was hovering near the brink of death. They promised they would send someone for him and, true to their word, they sent a rescue party. His rescuers took him to a field hospital to get help. 


Aimo Koivunen
in uniform
By this time Aimo had been missing for two weeks. They discovered he’d skied 250 miles through snow and frigid temperatures. At the hospital, his pulse was 200 beats a minute and he only weighed 96 pounds. 


Aimo was treated and went on to live to the age of 71. He didn’t like to talk about his time in the war but he did write about his experience with the meth and the trip through the snow and cold. He entered the story in a magazine competition and won 2nd place for the story.


I live in the desert and can’t imagine surviving the cold, let alone all the injuries and drug hallucinations. This story amazes me every time I read about it. Have you ever heard of Aimo Koivunen? What are your thoughts? I would love to hear from you.

Nancy J Farrier is an award-winning author who lives in Southern Arizona in the Sonoran Desert. She loves the Southwest with its interesting historical past. When Nancy isn’t writing, she loves to read, do needlecraft, play with her cats, and spend time with her family. You can read more about Nancy and her books on her website:


  1. Thanks for posting today. I've never heard of this man. I can't imagine surviving what Mr. Koivunen did. I didn't know armies were supplied with meth or ANY drugs, I wouldn't have assumed a soldier would take drugs.

    1. Connie, I had no idea about this either. I do not believe this is a current day practice. This story is pretty crazy. Thanks for commenting.

    2. Narcotics have been used in combat for a very long time. The German and Imperial Japanese were issued Pervitin and other stimulants to combat fatigue. These 'wonder drugs' were also prescribed on the home front (there's some very interesting reading on Pervitin being employed to try to lift general morale as the war effort was going poorly.) The US were also issued benzidrine, among many other drugs.

    3. This is definitely still a current practice, especially in the US. We just don't hear as much about it as we'd like to.

  2. Wow, this is pretty crazy! I had never heard of him, but I feel like I learn a lot of history through your posts. Thank you!

    1. Thank you, Linda. I’m glad you enjoy the posts.

  3. Wow! It's amazing that he lived. The Nazis taking meth explains a lot. Thanks for sharing.

  4. The Fins were actually allied with Germany. Aimo fought in both the Winter War, and the Continuation War campaigns of WWII.