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 Studia Historica Septentrionalia 57


Jussi Jalonen, Comradeship-in-arms and friendship between men; jäger colonels Armas Kemppi and Eino Polón.

Due to its gender-exclusive nature, military life has traditionally formed one important environment for the formation of social contacts between men. Likewise, the natural friendship between men has played a significant part in the formation of all military establishments. The sense of solidarity, loyalty and friendship between men is the decisive factor which provides the soldiers with the ability to defy death and with the ability to kill, in the name of the virtue of camaraderie. Among officers and all other men for whom military life is the primary livelihood, this comradeship-in-arms has become a part of an extremely elaborate code of honour and professional ethics.

This article focuses on the friendship of jäger officers Armas Kemppi and Eino Polón as a showcase of camaraderie and male friendship. Berndt Eino Edvard Polón was a scion of a wealthy upper-class family from Helsinki, whereas Armas Arthur Kemppi was a son of a carpenter from Viipuri. Both of them joined the 27th Royal Prussian Jäger Regiment in 1916, but whereas Armas Kemppi was able to continue his career in the Finnish Army all through the interwar period, Eino Polón had to resign already in 1922 after experiencing a violent war neurosis. Having returned to service in 1935, captain Eino Polón served as a company commander under lieutenant colonel Armas Kemppi. During the years preceding the Winter War, both men became close friends, as Eino Polón accepted Armas Kemppi as his superior officer and also as his ideal figure of a commander.

The friendship of both men was strengthened still further in the battles of Taipale in 1939–1940, as Eino Polón distinguished himself as a battalion commander in Armas Kemppi’s regiment. During the Continuation War, Eino Polón earned a Mannerheim Cross and rose to the rank of a colonel, but also lost both of his sons killed in action, and eventually also his wife, who died from paralysis; Armas Kemppi, on his part, became the scapegoat of the disastrous defeat of Viipuri in 1944 and ended his military career in front of a court-martial. In the middle of these ordeals, both men were able to rely on their mutual moral support and find comfort from their friendship. The same friendship made the recovery and reorientation to the post-war situation easier for both men. The friendship of the two old jäger colonels was stronger than even death; three decades after Armas Kemppi had passed away, Eino Polón still remained loyal to his old friend and continued his campaign for a neutral, new inquiry on the true reasons of the loss of Viipuri, demanding a posthumous pardon for his friend.

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