Aksel Airo

Aksel Airo

Finnish military leader, lieutenant general; one of the leaders of the General Staff of the Finnish Armed Forces (Finnish) Russian. during the Soviet-Finnish War of 1939-1940 (Winter War) and during the Soviet-Finnish War of 1941-1944 (Continuation War
Date of Birth: 14.02.1898
Country: Finland

  1. Axel Airo - Finnish Military Leader
  2. Early Life and Education
  3. Military Career
  4. Later Life and Political Career

Axel Airo - Finnish Military Leader

Axel Fredrik Airo was a Finnish military leader and Lieutenant General, known for his role as one of the leaders of the General Staff of the Finnish Armed Forces during the Soviet-Finnish War of 1939-1940 (Winter War) and the Soviet-Finnish War of 1941-1944 (Continuation War). He also served as the Chief of the General Staff during the Lapland War in 1944-1945, where Finland fought against Germany.

Early Life and Education

Axel Fredrik was born on February 14, 1898, in Turku, Finland, to a Swedish family. His father, Otto Fredrik Johansson, was either a worker or a homeowner, depending on the sources. In 1906, Otto Fredrik changed the family name from Johansson to Airo, which means "oar" in Finnish.

Axel completed his schooling in 1917 but was unable to continue his education at university. In January 1918, he moved to the territory controlled by the White Finns and enlisted in the Pori Battalion. After studying in Jakobstad at the Artillery School, he participated in battles in Ahvola (now Mikhailovka, Leningrad Oblast) on the Karelian Isthmus and the capture of Viipuri (Vyborg) in April 1918.

Military Career

After the end of the Finnish Civil War, Airo remained in the army, serving as the commander of a battery in Lappeenranta. He attended the Finnish Artillery School, special courses, and then studied in France from 1920-1923. He first attended the Special Cadet School in Saint-Cyr and then the Higher Military School in Paris.

Upon returning to Finland, Airo worked in the Operations Department of the General Staff. From 1933, he served as the Secretary of the Council of Defense. In 1939, shortly after the start of the Soviet-Finnish War, he was appointed as General Quartermaster by the Supreme Commander of the Finnish Army, Carl Gustaf Mannerheim. In this role, Airo effectively led the operational activities of the General Staff, while the Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant General Karl Lennart Oesch, was somewhat sidelined. Airo's talent for comprehensively assessing the situation and making timely decisions proved crucial to the Finnish Army's success in defensive battles on the Karelian Isthmus and offensive actions in the northern sectors of the front during this period.

Airo was also involved in planning for the future war, later known as the Continuation War. In May 1941, he prepared a document outlining the general plans for the offensive operations against the Soviet Union and the potential future borders. Although initially moderate, Airo later planned for the annexation of the Kola Peninsula to Finland by the end of 1941, after Finnish forces had advanced deep into Soviet territory.

Throughout World War II, Airo's military career continued to progress, despite criticism that he was partially responsible for the Finnish Army's lack of success against the advancing Red Army in the summer of 1944. Nevertheless, Mannerheim highly valued Airo, and his position became even higher after Mannerheim assumed the presidency of Finland in August 1944. During the Lapland War, where Finnish forces fought against German forces in northern Finland, Airo was responsible for planning and executing all military operations. In early December 1944, he was appointed as the Chief of the General Staff.

Later Life and Political Career

After retiring, Airo became involved in politics. He started at the municipal level and eventually became a representative of the National Coalition Party at the national level. He was elected to the Finnish Parliament in 1956 and 1962.

On December 6, 1982, Finnish President Mauno Koivisto awarded Axel Fredrik Airo the Order of the White Rose with swords, the highest state honor in Finland, as a recognition of his services to the Finnish state. Airo passed away on May 9, 1985, at his estate in Ristintaypale, a rural community in Heinola.

In 1924, Airo married Aino Wilhelmine Vuori, the daughter of a landowner. They had two children together: Aila Aino (born 1926) and Anya Aino (born 1928).