Canada VA rejects WWII war hero
Petter Blindheim, 94, of the Royal Norwegian Navy, applied for long-term care one year ago
Richard Woodbury & Angela MacIvor
A 94-year-old Norwegian veteran living in Canada has been classified as an Allied veteran, but that doesn’t mean he will automatically be allowed entry into a Halifax veterans’ facility for care, his son says.
The case of Petter Blindheim, a decorated war hero who received six medals while serving with the Royal Norwegian Navy, has sparked outrage in Canada and in Norway because of the Canadian government’s initial refusal to classify him as an Allied veteran. That classification has prevented him from being allowed into the Camp Hill Veterans’ Memorial hospital, which is where he would like to be cared for.
Allied veterans are entitled to benefits under the War Veterans Allowance (WVA).
Blindheim was turned down for care because he enlisted during the German occupation of Norway during the Second World War and fought as part of the “resistance” effort, Veterans Affairs Canada ruled.
During one particular battle in 1942 aboard the Montbretia, a Norwegian corvette, he was honored for saving the lives of his fellow crewmen in between torpedo attacks.
“He removed the primer of his depth charge after the ship was torpedoed. A second torpedo hit that ship shortly after. He was one of 27 survivors out of a crew of 74,” his son told CBC’s Information Morning.
The effects of that deadly attack sent the remaining crew to Camp Norway in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, where Blindheim returned immediately after the war in 1945. He settled in Halifax years later and still lives there.
Blindheim always planned to spend his final days at Camp Hill Veterans Memorial Hospital, his son says. But Veterans Affairs rejected his application.
Blindheim’s son, Peter Blendheim (Blindheim’s wife changed the spelling of their son’s name to make it sound more English), says he received a call recently from Veterans Affairs Canada stating his dad would now be recognized as an Allied veteran.
“Here’s the catch—Camp Hill [is] specifically for three groups of people, I’ve been told: Canadian vets, Allied vets who meet special requirements, Korean vets who meet special requirements. So, now we’re going further down the rabbit hole,” Blendheim told CBC’s Information Morning on June 7.
“What’s special requirements? It turns out special requirements are specialized care that cannot be provided by the community facilities that exist.”
Blendheim says the Veterans Affairs person told him that an example would be something like a contagious disease.
“If they were going to make it so difficult for an Allied veteran to get admitted to Camp Hill, they should just say point blank, ‘We’re not taking Allied veterans in Camp Hill. There’s no application form for you,’” said Blendheim. “We would never have made a stink. We would never have complained.”
The family first applied to have thier father admitted for care at Camp Hill about a year ago. In the last year, he sprained his back and broke his arm, and Blindheim’s 73-year-old wife can no longer manage his care.
“He always thought Camp Hill was an option, and my father can’t understand why he’s being denied,” said Blendheim.
In Canada, the case has generated an outpouring of support for Blindheim.
In Norway, the case is attracting lots of media attention, but the focus is more on the Canadian government’s view that Norway surrendered to Germany in the Second World War, according to Blendheim.
“What is this business about surrender? They were occupied, they didn’t surrender. They don’t see it as a surrender,” he said.
Veterans Affairs has a narrow window of eligibility for former members of the Norwegian Armed Forces: between April 8, 1940, the date Norway was invaded by Germany, and June 9, 1940, when Germany formally occupied Norway.
“Any service with the Norwegian Armed Forces during the period of its occupation, i.e. from June 10, 1940 to May 8, 1945 (the date World War II terminated in the European theatre), is deemed resistance service and, as such, is not considered qualifying service for WVA purposes,” the federal department said on June 1 in an email.
Blindheim is one of the only Norwegian Second World War veterans living in Canada.
This article originally appeared in the June 17, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.