Norwegian War Sailors getting the recognition they deserve

Photo: Lois Berseth Hedlund  “The stone” is a fittingly simple memorial to Norwegian sailors in New York.

Photo: Lois Berseth Hedlund
“The stone” is a fittingly simple memorial to Norwegian sailors in New York.

Victoria Hofmo
Brooklyn, N.Y.

The Norwegian War Sailors (WWII) are drawing a lot of attention these days. This is partly because there are so few of these heroes remaining but also to atone for the bad treatment they received from the Norwegian government after the war. They fought for almost 30 years to get their past due wages.

One wonderful tribute was a luncheon held on October 27 at the Norwegian Maritime Museum in Oslo, Norway. A traveling stipend was offered to allow as many as possible to attend. This gathering grew out of a new project, the Krigsseilere Register (War Sailor’s Register), which was launched in January of this year.

Under the umbrella of the Norwegian Center for War Sailor History, the website explains their purpose as follows: “This national register will have all Norwegian men and women [who] sailed in the Norwegian Merchant Fleet between 1939 and 1945, upon finishing. We also include Norwegians in Norwegian or Allied Navy as well as those who sailed on Allied and neutral merchant ships between 1939 and 1945. International sailors who sailed for Nortraship and the Norwegian Home fleet will also be registered.”

Two folks from Brooklyn, (Karl) Aksel Andresen and his partner Sylvia Kristiansen attended, as well as Olav Aune from Staten Island. Heavy hitters attending included the Norwegian Prime Minister and a representative from NATO. But of course the most important guests were the sailors themselves.

Kristiansen stated, “A few got up and spoke…. Many spoke about what they went through during the war and how the ships went down. It was to honor those left who served during the second world war.”

Andresen added, “I shook hands with the Prime Minister and said hi. I sat right next to her when she gave a speech. They took pictures of us all and we each got a book about Norway during the war.”

It was also a time to connect and to reconnect. “I met a lot of friends I knew during the war and they remembered a lot of the places in Brooklyn, such as the Danish Club,” explained Andresen.

“I ran into one guy from Albany who had his son with him. We had worked at the same company in New York. I also got to meet people for the first time that had been corresponding with me. A woman from San Francisco who is writing a book about the sailors and the President of Seamen’s Veteran’s Club in Haugesund [Andresen’s hometown] were there. We had also been in touch, before we met here. There was a woman who had published a photo essay book highlighting the War Sailors, about 24 of us. Sylvia and I were in it. That author was there.”

Andresen is already looking for ways to include the new folks he met in Norway with activities in New York. “David Gold, a guy who lives in Connecticut and works for NATO, picked Sylvia and I [sic] up and brought us to the museum. I want to invite him to Battery Park to the stone next year.”

“The stone” is a monument erected by the Norwegian Sailors and Navy to thank the U.S. for its hospitality. A later tablet was added that gives tribute to those who served. Each May the Scandinavian East Coast Museum visits the stone with the sailors to remember them and those they lost.

If you have any queries about family members who sailed in the war or about the historical events, please email krigsseilerregisteret@stiftelsen-arkivet.no.

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 2, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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