The Norwegian Home Guard has been visiting Camp Ripley the last couple of weeks, training in what turned out to be our not-so-cold weather environment. This exchange program has been in place for 39 years, and remains one of the highlights of the year for the Camp and, indeed, all of Morrison County.
This year, at one of the dinners, after the formalities were exchanged, a film was shown reminding us that the United States’ alliance and, indeed, its indebtedness to Norway goes back a long way.
The documentary described how the Germans overran Norway at the beginning of World War II. After taking over, the Nazis commandeered a factory, and began producing heavy water that the Germans hoped to use to produce the first atom bomb.
Norwegian commandos led a raid on the plant, however, and managed to inflict severe damage, delaying the Germans’ atomic effort.
Eventually, as the war effort turned against the Nazis, they decided to take the atomic bomb project back to the homeland. They loaded the heavy water that had been produced on a ferry. Again, Norwegian commandos intervened and managed to sink the ferry before it reached Germany, and all the heavy water was lost.
Had Adolf Hitler and the Nazis been able to develop the atom bomb before the Allies, it could have made a decisive difference in the outcome of the war. The world would be a much different place today, and not for the better.
We Americans like to think that we played the pre-eminent role in stopping the Nazis, but the facts are that it took all of the Allies to get the job done. Norway, as the documentary showed, was crucial as well.
After watching the movie, the natural conclusion was that it is good we are still friends. Let us hope that the exchange program goes on for at least another 39 years and beyond.