On December 16, 1940, after the conclusion of the Winter
War, the Finnish government adopted the Mannerheim Cross as part of its system
of honours. The honour was created at the urging of the Finnish
Commander-in-Chief Carl Gustav Emil Mannerheim to reward members of the armed
forces of Finland, irrespective of military rank.
authors chronicle the 19 recipients of the Mannerheim Cross who served in the
Finnish Air Force during the Winter, Continuation and Lapland Wars. The problem
is that most of the chronicling is in Finnish. However, there is a short
overview, in English, of each of the recipients at the end of the book. There
are also well captioned pictures, in English, throughout this volume.
But even with the limited use of English, one can get a
sense of the unbelievable bravery of these Finnish airmen. One thing is clear,
one did not need to be an “ace” to be a recipient of the Mannerheim Cross. Many
of the “Flying Knights’ were merely observers in reconnaissance aircraft or
bomber pilots. Take for example Lt. Paavo Elias Kahla, who had completed 141
missions as an observer. He was recognized for his skill in gathering
information for the military forces and facing both the hazards of enemy
fighters and poor weather. On one occasion he crawled to the front seat of his
Fokker C. X. after the pilot had been killed. Kahla flew the aircraft back to
his base sitting on the lap of the dead pilot, only to flip the aircraft when he
could not pull the stick back far enough because of his confined position. He
There is also Lauri Alfred Äijö, the last surviving FAF Mannerheim Cross
recipient, as of the beginning of 2003, who was a “triple threat”. He was
recognized for carrying out 104 successful long-range reconnaissance,
photographing and bombing missions.
But the pictures tell a wonderful story also. Like the picture of Eino Luukkanen,
with a satisfied look on his face, standing in front of the tail of his Buffalo
with 17 kill marks on the fin. As to the kill marks, for every aircraft shot
down he would paste a label from a bottle of Lahden Erikos beer on the fin.
Then there is the picture of Lt. Tauno Iisalo standing in front of his Ju 88
holdding his young son Matti. Looking more like a father and son at an air show,
than a pilot who was on his way to completing 127 missions.
I must admit at the outset, this book may have a very
limited audience. No question about it, being able to read Finnish will be very
helpful. But even if you don’t read Finnish, for those interested in the smaller
air forces in general and the Finnish Air Force in particular, this is rewarding
volume. As usual, the pictures are many and quite clear, and the profiles of the
aircraft of the Mannerheim Cross recipients are well done. Of course I recommend
this book, if for no other reason than to get more people interested in the
Finnish Air Force.
A selection of pictures and color profiles in this book may be seen on
the Kari Stenman Publishing web site at
Thanks to Kari Stenman for the sample.
All Keri Stenman
Publishing books are available
direct from the publishers,
who now accept credit cards (Visa, Mastercard).
Review Copyright © 2004 by
Page Created 06 May, 2004
Last updated 07 May, 2004
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