Thursday, January 19, 2017

American Troops in Norway

Obama's Farewell to Putin
The Obama administration in its final days chose to deploy USA Marines to Norway (   Some Jarheads will soon be improving their skiing abilities.  What else does this move signify?

Clearly the outgoing US administration is sending a message to Putin's Russia.  The deployment seems to be a response to Russian attempts to hack the American election.  Norway shares a small border with Russia.  The outgoing administration is making the argument, quite properly in my view, that NATO is not only not "obsolete" -- it remains highly relevant for those interested in deterring Russian aggression and preserving the peace in Europe.  By such means TV fictions such as 2015's Occupied will remain fictional (see video below).  The self-determination of small nations that border much larger and more powerful neighbors must be protected.

The US military has not deployed ground troops to Norway since World War II.  As noted below, the US Air Force has had a long standing presence in Norway.

We related the story of America's earlier involvement in Norway during World War II in the Norway chapter of America Invades...

"The Nazis invaded Norway in April 1940 and occupied it for the remainder of the war in Europe. Haakon VII, king of Norway, fled with a government in exile to England. The king and his government landed in Rotherhithe on the Thames in southeast London—the same spot the Mayflower left from with the Pilgrims in 1620. King Haakon VII would worship with his family at St. Olav’s Church in Rotherhithe and would also give wartime broadcasts to the Norwegian people from this church.

In Norway, with German support, Vidkun Quisling formed a collaborationist government.
Not surprisingly, since we weren’t actually in the war at the time, we didn’t have anything much to do with the fighting in Norway in 1940. However, two incidents do stand out.

On April 21, 1940, Captain Robert Moffat Losey, serving as US military attaché in Norway, while trying to ensure the safe evacuation to Sweden of American diplomats, was killed by Luftwaffe bombs.
FDR Statue
Grosvenor Square, London
And in the summer of 1940, President Roosevelt sent a troopship, the USS American Legion on a special mission to Petsamo in what was then northern Finland (it’s now, after border changes, in Russia). Its main mission was to evacuate Crown Princess Martha of Norway, plus hundreds of other assorted civilians, including one Dane then called Børge Rosenbaum. This it successfully did, being the last neutral ship out of Petsamo. On arrival in the United States, Princess Martha went on to become close (very, very close, some suggest) to President Roosevelt while Børge Rosenbaum went on to become Victor Borge. However, it wasn’t just people that the USS American Legion rescued from Petsamo that day; it also carried away something that would make a huge contribution to the US war effort. Taken on board at Petsamo was a Swedish-made 40 mm twin-mount Bofors anti-aircraft gun. In America, the USN would adopt the type, order its domestic production, and fit it on its ships.
After the launch of Operation Barbarossa, the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, the Axis occupation of Norway became a particular thorn in the Allies’ side as Norwegian air and sea bases were used to prey on the arctic convoys that were bringing lend-lease supplies to the Soviet Union. Film star Douglas Fairbanks Junior was a naval lieutenant aboard the USS Wichita in the summer of 1942 and witnessed the disastrous PQ 17 convoy that was almost wiped out by German attacks. Plenty of supplies did, however, get through on convoys.

In addition, the German presence in Norway helped assure the transportation of vital Swedish iron ore for use in building the Wehrmacht war machine. Consequently, Churchill repeatedly advocated Operation Anvil, a projected Allied invasion of Norway, to address these concerns. Eisenhower and others in the Allied staff, however, believed that Operation Anvil would be a distraction from the cross-channel invasion of France through Normandy; they prevailed in Allied strategy sessions.
As a result, most of the opposition to German forces in Norway came from brave Norwegians in the resistance. But not all of it.

We conducted assorted air operations over occupied Norway. For example, we were part of the campaign to prevent a Nazi atomic bomb. The Germans were attempting to make heavy water for their nascent nuclear program and using a hydroelectric plant in Vermork, Norway, to do so. In 1943, this plant was hit by a 143-plane raid of USAAF B-17s that did extensive damage.

William Colby of the OSS

But not all US operations in Norway during World War II were to be in the air. On March 24, 1945, a squadron of B-24 Liberators launched Operation RYPE (Norwegian for “grouse”) dropping a team of specially trained OSS forces near Jarlsbad in central Norway. The thirty-six-man group immediately linked up with Norwegian resistance forces. The 99th Battalion, who were proficient skiers and demolition experts, managed to destroy the Tangen bridge near Jorstad. On May 12, 1945, they took over Steinkjer from German forces. Major William Colby, who was later appointed head of the CIA by President Nixon, was the leader of the OSS team in Norway.

On June 10, 1945, the 99th Infantry Battalion would form the honor guard for Crown Prince Olaf’s triumphant parade through Trondheim.

Norway was a founding member of NATO in 1949. Norway’s strategic location on the northern approaches to the Soviet Union made it an important area for bases for the USAAF and USN during the Cold War.

Even after the end of the Cold War, tensions could still occur in the area. For example, on January 25, 1995, Norway launched a rocket to gather scientific data on the Northern Lights near Svalbard. The launch had not been publicly disclosed in advance, and its trajectory was near Russian territory, which caused a minor crisis with the Russians who briefly panicked, fearing that it was a US submarine-launched missile. Thus, Norwegian scientists nearly started World War III after the Cold War had ended.

And we still have strong military links with Norway. For instance, the USAF’s 501st Combat Support Wing remains based in Stavanger to this day. Norway is a NATO member. The Norwegians sent troops to fight alongside our own in the coalition forces in Afghanistan, and Norwegian jets played a major role in the operations in Libya in 2011."

With the dawn of the new Trump administration, one can only hope that the NATO will be strengthened rather than junking the system that has preserved peace in Europe since in 1948 (pace Yugoslavia).

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