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Norway’s Bravest Sons

A wave of resentment flooded over me. Hatred of the Nazis bored into every organ of my body. Why Sergeant Skarning? Why not me? I was sitting right beside him!

It seemed he had so much more to live for than I. In a seething rage I checked my rifle and headed for the canal again. I was joined by every rifleman in the area.

— Yngvar Stensby, 99th Infantry Battalion (Separate)

One of the U.S. Army’s more distinct units, we neglected to include the 99th Infantry Battalion in our America Triumphant game. It’s high time we fixed that.

In 1942, the United States Army eagerly awaited combat with the Germans. Many senior American officers and civilian leaders considered it a moral obligation to open a “Second Front” to relieve pressue on the Soviet Union as quickly as possible.

Nazi-occupied Norway was a favorite target of some planners. In January 1942, Winston Churchill pushed hard for Operation Jupiter, a landing in far northern Norway. This operation would capture the bases used by the air and surface raiders then attacking the convoys to Murmansk. Operation Sledgehammer, a wide-ranging plan for many landings in Europe, also foresaw operations in Norway. The Norwegian segment, called Operation Plough, featured large-scale commando raids rather than a full invasion. King Haakon of Norway and his exiled ministers opposed the large-scale economic devastation of their country, and preferred that the Germans be driven out completely with a conventional assault.

In the summer of 1942, the U.S. Army set up the 99th Infantry Battalion (Separate) to be ready for such operations. The men would be Norwegians, Norwegian immigrants, and second-generation Americans of Norwegian descent. All would be fluent in Norwegian. The troops gathered in July 1942 at Camp Ripley in Minnesota, and trained in ski operations, guerrilla tactics and other special operations as well as their standard infantry training. And yes, their weapons training included expertise in the Thompson sub-machine gun.

While the unit often flew the Norwegian flag and its men made a habit of speaking Norwegian rather than English even when fluent in both, it was a formal part of the U.S. Army in all respects. The War Department had been adamant in this respect: No precedent would be set for establishing foreign military units in the United States, drawing on potential U.S. military manpower.

At year’s end the Norwegians moved to Colorado for mountain warfare training, and shipped out for England in September 1943. By this time an invasion of Norway had become much less likely, and the battalion eventually became the palace guard for First Army headquarters.


Lt. Col. Harold D. Hansen commanded the 99th.

In late June 1944, the 99th moved to France, but spent its time training and on security duties. Not until late August did the Norwegians see limited combat duty, attached to the 2nd Armored Division. Through September and October they fought alongside 2nd Armored and 30th Infantry divisions, but higher headquarters still seemed to be lacking an appropriate mission. Throughout November the 99th served in First Army’s rear areas, on the lookout for nonexistent German paratroopers.

The battalion saw its heaviest combat in the Battle of the Bulge, when it was reinforced with tank destroyers and armored infantry and sent to hold Malmedy against Skorzeny’s 150th Panzer Brigade. “They were good,” Private Howard R. Bergen recalled later, “but not good enough.”

The Norwegians smashed the SS attack, and held the crossroads for most of January before being sent back to France for re-training as part of the 474th Infantry Regiment, a unit made up of the 1st Special Service Force (the so-called Devil’s Brigade). The new unit never saw serious combat, and in June, the 99th went to Oslo for ceremonial duties before returning to the U.S. in October.

The Norwegian unit became surplus as soon as it was sent to France. Though it had specialized training and fought very well during its brief commitments to battle, commanders don’t seem to have had great confidence in it and the Norwegians were clearly considered an eight-ball outfit. This was definitely an unfair assessment, but there weren’t a lot of missions calling for Norwegian skiers in Belgium. Why the battalion was not attached to the 10th Mountain Division in Italy, despite having trained with the 10th in Colorado, is not clear.


Soldiers of the 99th enter Eisden, Belgium,
alongside 60th Armored Regiment’s Shermans.

The 99th does not appear as a separate unit in America Triumphant; at some point, game designers have to limit the number of pieces they put in play and a single battalion is a mite small for a game of this scale. In our Web updates, we’re under no such limitation and can add whatever we like. Therefore, today we’ve got a free download for the 99th. The 99th counter also represents the several companies of the 526th Armored Infantry Battalion that operated under its command during the Battle of the Bulge. It has only one step.

The 99th enters play as an 18 Dec reinforcement anywhere on the north edge of the map. There are no special restrictions in its use.

Click here to download the 99th.