“The 99th Battalion” available in English
Christine Foster Meloni
Erik Brun’s father, Christian Brun, was a member of the 99th Battalion (known as the Viking Battalion) in World War II. Erik’s current mission in life is to acquaint the American public with the battalion’s significant role in the war effort.
In 2011, 70 years after the formation of the 99th, the surviving veterans were presented with the Norwegian World War II Medal in a ceremony at the Norwegian Embassy in Washington, D.C. (For numerous photos of this very special event, go to the battalion’s website at www.99battalion.org/index_files/deltagermedaljen.htm.)
Gerd Nyquist, Norwegian novelist and resistance fighter during the war, wrote a history of the battalion entitled Bataljon 99, which was published by H. Aschehoug & Co. in 1981. It was finally translated into English and published in March 2014 by the WWII Educational Foundation. Initially only available to veterans of the 99th Battalion, their relatives, and historical institutions, this important book is now available to the general public.
Earlier this year Erik Brun addressed the Washington, D.C., Sons of Norway lodge and emphasized the important of Nyquist’s book in introducing this remarkable battalion to American readers. He also stressed the crucial role of the WWII Education Foundation in spreading the word about the battalion, especially given the huge quantity of primary material that is finally coming to light. The response of the audience, made up mostly of Norwegian Americans, was very enthusiastic.
Brun presented a brief history of the battalion. It was officially formed in May of 1942. The American War Department had notified the Commanding General, Army Ground Forces, to organize, as soon as possible, a battalion of Norwegian nationals to serve as part of the U.S. Army. This unit was to be organized as an infantry battalion and was to be a separate battalion, not part of a regiment.
The War Department had been looking at the approximately 380,000 resident aliens living in the U.S. who were of service age. The plan was to create several “foreign legions.” The decision was made to start this highly classified experiment with the Norwegian Battalion.
The battalion was activated in mid-December 1942 at Camp Ripley in Minnesota and stationed at Fort Snelling. There were one thousand handpicked men, Norwegian citizens and Norwegian Americans, all speakers of Norwegian. They were then sent to Camp Hale in Colorado to be trained as ski troops. The ski and mountain warfare training at elevations of up to 14,000 feet in the jagged Rockies was extremely grueling.
They finally went to Europe in September 1943, where they spent 101 days in combat. They participated in campaigns in Normandy (landing on Omaha Beach on June 22, 1944), Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace (participating in the Battle of the Bulge), and Central Europe.
The U.S. Wartime Office of Static Services (OSS) asked for 75 volunteers from the battalion to go behind enemy lines. In 1944 this operational group was dropped behind German lines in France and in early 1945 it operated in Nazi-occupied Norway.
After the surrender of Germany, the Viking Battalion was sent to Oslo and served as the Honor Guard to Norwegian King Haakon VII when he returned from exile. The battalion also assisted in disarming almost 400,000 German Occupation troops stationed in Norway. The men returned to the United States in October 1945.
The casualties suffered by the battalion were 52 killed in combat, 207 wounded, and six missing in action.
Copies of both the hardback and paperback editions of the book The 99th Battalion are available from online booksellers including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and Aperture Press.
For more information about the 99th Battalion, visit its website, www.99Battalion.org, or contact Erik Brun, President of the 99th Battalion Educational Foundation, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 6, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.