As advertised, I was at Fort Snelling National Cemetery on Saturday morning, helping to dedicate a memorial to the men of the 99th Infantry Battalion (Separate), a World War II commando unit organized and trained for an invasion of Norway. Most of its members were either Norwegian merchant sailors stranded by the Occupation, or Norwegian-American boys. Requirements were Norwegian heritage, ability to speak the language, and the ability to ski.
Although the invasion never happened as such, they participated in commando actions (some of them became part of the legendary OSS), and participated in the battle for Europe. The man in the grave above died in 1944, probably in Belgium, where the unit saw fierce fighting.
I was asked to read an invocation for the ceremony, and then I helped place battalion flags on the graves of all the 99th members buried in the cemetery. A couple of my Viking friends came too, and I thank them. It was a moving occasion. No 99th veterans were present, but a couple of their widows were there, along with some descendants.
I mentioned earlier that I’ll be participating in the dedication of a war memorial at Fort Snelling Cemetery in Minneapolis this Saturday, May 25. The event will be in honor of the 99th Infantry Battalion (Separate) of which I’ve written several times before. I actually have no personal connection to the unit, except for ethnicity and historical interest. But they’ve invited me to give the invocation, and I will be doing that. In Viking costume.
To see a local TV report on the event and on the unit itself, follow this link.
Today is Syttende Mai, Constitution Day, Norway’s foremost national celebration. I have my Norwegian flag flying at my house, as is my wont when the weather permits on this date. There are rumors of rain, but so far so good.
If you’re in the Twin Cities area, and longing for a chance to look on my kindly visage (now that Grumpy Cat has left us), there are a couple opportunities coming up.
This Sunday I’ll be at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis for the Vikings Family Day. It was supposed to be outside, but it’s looking like weather will drive us indoors. I’ll have books to sell, if you can find me. 12:00 to 5:00 p.m.
And on Saturday, May 25, I’ll be at Fort Snelling Cemetery for the dedication of the new memorial to the 99th Infantry Battalion (Separate). The time will be 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
And here’s the final poster produced by the 99th Infantry folks. I’m quite happy with it. No, that’s not true. I’m delighted.
What you can’t see in the original picture (below) is that I’m surrounded by snow. Lots and lots of snow. And it’s snowed a few inches since the picture was taken. I mentioned to someone that it’s kind of like living in the trenches in WWI (except for minor details like automatic weapons fire). We have trenches to walk in, and trenches to drive in. We generally don’t go anywhere without a trench.
The gas company sent an announcement that we should check that the vent pipes around our gas meters are clear. If they’re blocked, we could suffocate. But to get to mine, I’d have to plow through two or three feet of snow — more where the snow shoveling piles are. And I’m pretty sure I’m not going to do that. From a distance, it looks as if the snow isn’t drifted very high just at that point.
Anyway, you may recall my small involvement with the group devoted to memorializing the 99th Infantry Battalion (Separate), the commando battalion recruited from Norwegian expatriates and Norwegian-Americans during World War II.
I was recently asked to be their “spokesviking,” and they asked for some pictures of me in my kit, in the James Montgomery Flagg “I WANT YOU” style. I meant to get photos taken during our reenactment group’s Viking feast last week, but the forces of nature made that impossible, as is their wont in these parts.
So I got a friend over to take some yesterday. Here’s one. I sent several off to the 99th people, and I’ve seen a preliminary mock-up of what they’re going to do with it. It’s pretty cool. I look forward to sharing the finished product.
It was quite a weekend. By an old bachelor’s standards, anyway. I take some pride in having got through it with my natural force unabated.
Saturday was the big event at Camp Ripley (believe it or not), Little Falls, Minn., for the 75th anniversary of the activation of the 99th Infantry Battalion (Separate), the US Army’s Norwegian “foreign legion” in World War II. The festivities actually began the day before and continued through the evening, but I was only there Saturday afternoon. (That doesn’t mean I wasn’t invited to do more; I was. But I had to get home and unload my car for the following day’s exertions.)
Saturday afternoon was the public event. Besides us Vikings, there was an informational booth explaining about the unit’s history. There was also a small encampment of World War II reenactors:
[A photo belongs here, but our account doesn’t seem to allow posting from Photobucket anymore.]
As previously announced, I’ll be at Camp Ripley, near Little Falls, Minnesota tomorrow, for the 75th anniversary of the activation of the 99th Infantry Battalion (Separate), the special commando unit created by the US Army for the possible invasion of Norway in World War II. The event is at the Military History Museum, and is open to the public from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.
The address is 15000 Hwy 115, Little Falls, Minn. 56345.
On August 12, the Vikings and I will be attending the 75th Anniversary of the Activation of the 99th Infantry Battalion (Separate), also known as the Viking Battalion, at Camp Ripley, near Little Falls, Minnesota. The address is 15000 Highway 115, Little Falls 56345.
I’ve told you about the 99th before. They were a “foreign legion” brigade recruited mostly from stranded Norwegian merchant sailors and Norwegian-Americans, after the Occupation of Norway. They served with distinction in the Battle of the Bulge, and participated in the “Monuments Men” operation. At the end of the war they were in charge of the transition back to civilian rule in Norway. A few of them were siphoned off for special duty, and became part of the original core of the OSS (later the CIA).
The event will be open to the public from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
The organization’s web site is here. There’s also a Facebook group.
Last week I was contacted on Facebook by a fellow who’s involved in a Viking commemoration a tad different from the kind I’m used to. But I was honored to be asked to assist him, and I want to publicize his effort. He’s the president of a group devoted to memorializing a remarkable World War II US Army unit.
The 99th Infantry Battalion (Separate), also known as the Viking Battalion, was organized in 1942 at Camp Ripley, Minnesota. Its purpose was (originally) a specific, specialized one (that’s what the word “Separate” means). It was intended for the invasion of Norway – an option for the European invasion that remained under consideration long into the war. The bulk of its manpower came from Norwegian merchant sailors who’d been stranded overseas by the German invasion in 1940, plus Norwegian-American young men, many of whom had grown up speaking Norwegian. They trained for mountain warfare in Colorado, and later as commandos in Scotland.
As it worked out, of course, the invasion happened in Normandy. The 99th participated in that action and its aftermath, and fought with distinction in the Battle of the Bulge. Finally they were sent to Norway after the surrender, in order to help establish order and evacuate the German occupation troops in an orderly manner.
There’s going to be a special commemoration event on Saturday, August 12, at Camp Ripley, near Little Falls, Minnesota. I’ve been asked to be there in Viking costume (just to confuse the visitors, I imagine) and I may bring some other Vikings along. If you’re interested in the event, let me know in comments, or just watch this space. I’ll be keeping you posted.