Meet The Soldier Who (Accidentally) Had An Epic Drug Trip ... In The Middle of WWII

Meet The Soldier Who (Accidentally) Had An Epic Drug Trip ... In The Middle of WWII

The Second World War was the most devastating conflict in history, a titanic struggle waged across five continents and costing countless lives. The inferno brought out the best in some and the worst in others. And then one guy it didn't really bring anything out in, because he accidentally did enough speed to kill an orca and wound up scampering through the woods, biting the heads off small animals and staging ski-based drive-bys on the deeply confused Red Army. This is a story about that person. 

Aimo Koivunen Was An Ordinary Soldier Until He Accidentally Guzzled Meth Like A Crank-Loving Cookie Monster

Back in 1944, Finland was allied with Nazi Germany, while trying to communicate through body language alone that they really weren't with those guys and would totally be willing to switch sides if given half the chance. Facing a major Soviet invasion, the Finns sent a long-range ski patrol through the winter snows of Lapland to scout things out. Among the scouts was a young soldier named Aimo Koivunen. According to a short memoir he wrote in the ‘70s (helpfully translated into English here), Koivunen and his patrol had just settled down under some spruce trees to make a tactical cup of tea when gunfire erupted all around them. Soviet ski troops came shooting down a nearby hill, seeking to encircle the Finns, who grabbed their own skis and sought to escape.

Depiction of Birkebeiner skiers carrying Prince Haakon to safety during the winter of 1206

Knud Bergslien

Unfortunately, Scandinavian uniforms aren't very aerodynamic. 

What followed was an epic ski chase across a frozen landscape. Koivunen tried to throw the Soviets off by planting mines behind the patrol, but the cunning Soviets simply skied around the mines, which he had admittedly been planting in full view of them. The Finns had no choice but to simply try to outski the enemy. Yet as the chase went on, Koivunen felt his energy starting to flag. His comrades encouraged him to press on, but the exhaustion soon became overpowering. Luckily, the Finns had a secret weapon: Meth! 

The patrol had been equipped with a stockpile of methamphetamine pills to keep their energy up in the heat of battle. Ironically, Koivunen had always strongly disapproved of these drugs, which was why he was considered trustworthy enough to carry the whole stash. Now, with his life on the line, he reached for the meth. Unfortunately, it proved impossible to get a lone pill out of the bottle with his clumsy winter mittens. And taking them off would have slowed him down, plus made his fingers cold. So he just dumped out the entire bottle and swallowed all 30 pills. Which was supposed to be enough to last an entire patrol for weeks. And that's when things got weird.

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Our Hero Finds Himself Completely Zooted On High-Octane Nazi Shabu

Koivunen had swallowed something called Pervitin, which sounds like a special ointment for guys who sniff hair on the bus, but was actually a German brand of methamphetamine. Now, the recommended maximum dose of Pervitin -- a drug made for combat, let's remember -- was supposed to be a pill a day. Aimo Koivunen had just choked down 30 at once in the most heroic dry swallow of all time. Unsurprisingly, he soon felt a sudden burst of energy, shooting through the snow like a bullet through butter. Frankly, we're surprised he didn't develop Flash-like superpowers and zip down to the Sahara for some quick sun tanning. But equally unsurprising was the fact that he soon started to crack up. 

According to Koivunen, he began to see the landscape stretch and distort in front of him, and started to experience mysterious blackouts and gaps in his memory. His patrol still had no idea what was going on, they just observed their flagging comrade suddenly turn into an Olympic-level skier who kept zooming around them shouting gibberish. Concerned by his erratic behavior, and probably also by the way he kept vibrating in and out of sight and speaking the true name of God, they decided to take away all his ammunition. Meanwhile, Koivunen himself was finding it increasingly hard to focus. His last thought before blacking out entirely was "hmm, maybe it was a mistake to take all the meth."

Pervitin, 0,003 gramm l-phenyl-2-methylamino-propan pro

Jan Wellen

Why, a single one of these gives you enough strength to hurl a shopping cart full of doll heads off the overpass. 

When he regained consciousness, Koivunen found himself randomly skiing through an unfamiliar landscape. He was all alone, having somehow outpaced both his own patrol and the entire pursuing Red Army. He had no ammunition, couldn't even tell what day it was, and was still juiced up on Nazi super-meth like a junkie Captain America. It was going to be a wild ride. 

The Forgotten Nazi Speed Epidemic

It's almost forgotten now, but the Nazis were on more drugs than Keith Richards could even dream of. Pervitin had been invented in 1938, as a patriotic German alternative to foreign methamphetamines. It was sold over the counter and quickly became wildly popular with both the public and the Nazi leadership, who saw it as the key to an energetic, efficient society. There was even a popular brand of meth chocolates, which was specifically marketed as a way for housewives to lose weight while maintaining enough energy to do the housework. 

Holiday Tin of Pralines

Schoggi.Lover/Wiki Commons

Eww, my meth has caramel in it!

The Wehrmacht issued Pervitin to soldiers as a matter of course, with tank crews ordered to take an extra-strong dose before the invasion of France in 1941. Which means that whenever Nazi soldiers show up in movies, they should probably all be sweating straight through their uniforms and angrily accusing each other of being fake friends. Use quickly spread outside of battle, with an informal poll of German officers in France revealing most used Pervitin regularly in order to stay up later drinking. And this was a powerful drug. During the invasion of Russia, a tired soldier was given two pills to stay awake. He happily marched through the night, then had a double amputation the next morning, having stumbled on even as frostbite took his feet. 

Not that even meth was strong enough for what Hitler wanted his soldiers to achieve. In 1944, Nazi scientists developed a one-man submarine designed to launch surprise attacks on Allied ports. But getting there would require the single crewman to stay awake for days. So they also developed an extremely powerful cocaine chewing gum capable of keeping a sailor twitching with energy the whole way. Unsurprisingly, spending days doing cocaine in a tiny suicide submarine caused many of them to have massive mental breakdowns, veering wildly off course as they clawed at the metal walls. Even they had it better than the concentration camp prisoners who were ordered to test the gum by walking around a circular track until they collapsed near death from exhaustion. 

The really surprising thing is that there were any drugs left for the army after the Nazi top brass got through with them. Hermann Goering, in particular, was captured at the end of the war desperately dragging around a suitcase of 20,000 codeine pills, of which he popped 20 a day. Meanwhile, Hitler, who prided himself on his healthy lifestyle, was secretly completely dependent on a shady doctor named Theo Morell. Despite being named like a mushroom, Dr. Morell preferred a cocktail of steroids and opiates, as well as large doses of oxycodone. After an assassination attempt in 1944, doctors also started giving Hitler regular cocaine injections. Because this was a time when good medical advice was just going "losing a world war? Have you tried doing speedballs about it?" It's even been suggested that Hitler's erratic behavior in the final months of the war was down to withdrawals after the Allies bombed German drug factories. 

Adolf Hitler

Brazilian National Archives

Curiously, when the Allies reached the bunker they found all the copper stripped out of the walls. 

As good friends, the Germans naturally shared their drugs with their allies, meaning that Finnish troops were also issued Pervitin at this time, although they were reportedly somewhat less enthusiastic about using it. Which brings us back to Aimo Koivunen, who found himself stranded in Lappland, out of food, out of options, and worst of all, out of meth. 

Koivunen Was Trapped In The Wilderness, Hunted By A Mysterious Wolverine (And Also The Red Army)

Koivunen had a vague idea that he should try to find his patrol, but unfortunately he was still tweaking like Aaron Paul the week he got too into method acting. He experienced repeated blackouts as he skied across the Arctic landscape, coming around to find himself arguing with imaginary figures, or inexplicably climbing random hills. He took to making soup out of pine needles, and became fixated on a set of wolverine tracks stretching across the snow. At one point, he tried to lie down and get some sleep, only to find himself under attack by a spectral dream-wolverine. In his memoir, Koivunen remembers dreaming of shining eyes as the wolverine stalked him, but managed to snap out of his fear paralysis and grab his knife as the creature pounced. He awoke to discover himself trying to stab a tree. 

Wolverine in Sweden during spring time

Jonathan Othén

These things weigh like 20 pounds btw. 

Finally, Koivunen spotted campfires in the distance. He was so overjoyed to have found his patrol that he charged forward, forgetting that he was standing on the edge of a small cliff. After regaining consciousness, he picked himself up and skied frantically toward the camp. As he got closer, he noticed that it was too big to be his patrol, but decided it must be some Germans instead. It was only as he started shooting down the final hill that he noticed the Red Army uniforms and realized he was heading for the same group of elite Soviet skiers who had been hunting his patrol in the first place. 

By this point, it was too late to stop, or even steer around the camp. And Koivunen had no ammunition for his gun. So he had no choice but to keep skiing as fast as he could. He just had time to observe the open mouths of the Russians as they observed a single twitching man in full Finnish army uniform zoom in terror through their camp. Fortunately, they were all too shocked to shoot at him, and actually politely pulled their feet out of the way as he shot by. Unfortunately, they quickly snapped out of it and gave chase. Which meant that Koivunen now found himself in a second life-or-death ski chase with the exact same Russians. 

Imperial Japanese Army ski troops on maneuveurs in Chishima Islands

Domei Tsushin

"Vlad, do you think there's any chance we're another hallucination?"
"Dmitri, what did we agree about you talking?"

This one was actually even more epic than the first, possibly because the Russians had some questions they really needed answering about what the hell just happened. They skied for hours, up and down hills, and across snow-covered swamps. At times, Koivunen was able to gain a considerable lead, at others he could feel his pursuers right behind him. But Koivunen was still powered by a Cthulhu-sized dose of the ol' electric vein-popper and he managed to persistently evade his pursuers, who were presumably increasingly puzzled by the unstoppable super-skier who kept screaming and flailing at imaginary wolverines. Finally, a massive snowstorm blew up, allowing Koivunen to escape by skiing straight through it like the sandstorm in Fury Road.

Apparently Meth Makes You Immune To Fire (But Not Explosions)

At long last, Koivunen came across some shelter when he stumbled onto an empty wooden cabin. However, he was still a little cold, so he set fire to it, then lay down inside to get some sleep. That sounds like our trademark humor, but no, we're completely serious. He chopped up some wood and lit a fire on the wood floor of the wood cabin, then curled up beside it and went to sleep. He woke up to discover a huge fire spreading out of control, but just moved a little farther away from it and went back to sleep. When the roof started collapsing, he inched over to a part of the cabin that wasn't collapsing and resumed his slumber. When the whole cabin began to come down, he crawled out and grumpily went to sleep in the cabin's sauna, where he lit another fire. 

 Northwest Crown Fire Experiment, Northwest Territories, Canada


Eventually he ran out of Finland to burn and scooched himself all the way into Sweden.

Having somehow enjoyed a comfy sleep in a burning cabin, Koivunen resumed skiing the following night. Unfortunately, he now had a bunch of smoke inhalation to contend with on top of the meth, plus a head injury from falling off that cliff earlier, so things were a little confused. Long story short, he mistook the North Star for the light of a friendly cabin and tried to ski into the sky. After puzzling out the problems with that plan, he kept going until he came across a German camp. Surely the Nazis would save the day! Unfortunately, Koivunen found the camp to be completely deserted. He also discovered that the Germans had planted a bunch of booby traps before they left. Specifically, he found that out when he stepped on a landmine. 

The explosion turned Koivunen's right foot into a combination of "grated flesh" and "bone splinters." Refusing to take the hint about this goddamn camp, he dragged himself across to the nearest cabin and pulled open the door. Which sent off a second booby trap. 

 landmine found at Newburgh Aberdeenshire in Dec 2012

Alanatabz/Wiki Commons

"This may sound crazy, but I'm starting to think these Nazis are real jerks!"

This explosion sent him hurling 30 feet through the air like a Frisbee. He regained consciousness some time later, finding himself in a hole of snow three feet deep, holding a smoldering ski pole in one hand and the door handle in the other. The explosions had blasted most of his clothes off and left him too injured to walk. He just about managed to start a small fire with the remains of the door and boiled some snow, but the situation was desperate. 

The Moral: There's Always A Ray Of Hope (So Bite Its Head Off And Drink Its Blood)

After crouching in his hole all night, Koivunen had just about given up. Just then, a Siberian jay landed to inspect this strange sight. In Lapland, the jay is considered to be a symbol of friendship and hope. It was a magical moment as Koivunen stared at the beautiful bird on the crisp white snow. Naturally, he lunged at it with his ski pole and bit its head off, then proceeded to devour it raw. 

Shortly afterward, he heard Finnish shouts, and another long-range patrol suddenly appeared. Doubtless they were quite surprised to see a fully nude man with pupils dilated like dinner plates, covered in blood and gnawing on a raw bird. Frankly, we'd have opened fire immediately rather than risk a snow-zombie attack. But the Finns were made of tougher stuff and quickly recognized one of their own. Koivunen was saved!

A Siberian Jay (Perisoreus infaustus) in a spruce forest near Evenstad

Bouke ten Cate

Meanwhile, the Siberian Jay rescue patrol had arrived just a little too late. 

Or not. Actually, one of the Finns immediately stepped on another landmine and his patrol realized they couldn't transport him and Koivunen. So they just left, promising that they would definitely be right back. Cut to several days later and Koivunen had fully given up and was contemplating ending it all with a landmine he'd dug up when a rescue team arrived, complete with sappers to clear the mines. When he arrived at the hospital, he weighed less than 100 pounds and his heart was beating 200 times per minute. Which is apparently very bad, meaning that we need to make some lifestyle changes. 

Amazingly, Koivunen survived and returned to Finland, where he settled down and started a family. According to his son, he didn't like to talk about his war experiences much, although we can't think why. He finally wrote a short memoir in 1977, after a local magazine held a contest for soldiers to tell their stories. It took ... second place. Now, if you'll excuse us, we're off to dedicate the rest of our lives to discovering what the hell beat that story.


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