The 99th Infantry Battalion (separate) was a battalion of Norwegian-speaking soldiers in the US Army. Created in July of 1942 at Camp Ripley, Minnesota, the battalion originally consisted of 1,001 soldiers. The battalion was attached to the Second United States Army; however, it was labeled "Separate" because it was not attached to a specific regiment.
Background[edit | edit source]
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Department of War considered how the military could use foreigners and bilingual, first-generation immigrants from German-occupied areas to assist the war effort. The initial assessment concluded that it would be "un-American" to train foreign troops on US soil, prompting the Norwegian government to refuse a request to recruit Norwegians in the United States for military training in Canada. After a time, however, the Department of War decided to set up special units of US citizens from certain ethnic groups for operations in countries occupied by the Axis powers.
The following five battalions, established in 1942, were organized based on ethnic groups:
- 1st Filipino Infantry Battalion: Filipino (the nucleus of later 1st and 2nd Filipino infantry regiments)
- 99th Infantry Battalion (separate): Norwegian
- 100th Infantry Battalion (separate): Japanese
- 101st Infantry Battalion (separate): Austrian (dissolved in 1943 before active service)
- 122nd Infantry Battalion (separate): Greek
A Polish unit was also proposed but never created.
The Crews[edit | edit source]
In Norwegian historiography, the men of Battalion 99 are often referred to as Norwegian Americans. This is only partially correct; the original intention was to transfer voluntary "Norwegian nationals" from existing armies. These people were foreigners who had begun the immigration process, which was a condition of enlistment. The battalion was allowed to contain only United States citizens who spoke Norwegian.
In his book, The 99th Battalion, the Norwegian novelist Gerd Nyquist estimates that they may have constituted 50 percent of the original workforce – about 500 men. One of Nyquist's sources from the battalion said 40 percent of the battalion had been Norwegian citizens (around 400 soldiers). This figure was the result of an informal survey conducted by Nyquist; however, the survey was limited to 152 respondents.
Based on information from a veteran of the battalion, Max Hermansen argues in his book D-dagen 1944 og norsk innsats that there were approximately 300 Norwegians in the battalion.
Training[edit | edit source]
In October, 1942, the battalion moved to Fort Snelling, Minnesota; and again in December, 1942, to Camp Hale in Colorado for training in winter warfare and alpine warfare. On September 5, 1943, Battalion 99 was shipped out from New York to Scotland. In the UK, the battalion was stationed in Perham Down Camp between Salisbury and Andover. The training there was for infantry purposes as D-Day approached, and it became increasingly clear that the battalion would receive its baptism by fire in Operation Overlord.
OSS Norwegian Special Operations Group[edit | edit source]
During the stay at Camp Hale in 1943, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) asked for volunteers from the battalion. The OSS selected 80 enlisted men and twelve officers for what would become OSS Norwegian Special Operations Group (NORSOG). OSS special operations groups were the American's counterpart to Britain's Special Operations Executive. NORSOG was initially intended for action in Norway, but, by 1944, the crew was instead used in operations behind German lines in France. In early 1945, NORSOG operated in Norway where they performed railway sabotage until the liberation (Operation Lapwing, also known as Operation Grouse).
In Combat[edit | edit source]
Battalion 99 landed on Omaha Beach on the evening of June 22, 1944, and then attended the final battle at Cherbourg. As a "separate" battalion, it belonged to no regiment, but was attached to different formations as needed. From September, the battalion operated in Belgium. During Christmas 1944, the battalion was involved in the Battle of the Bulge.
The battalion participated in the following campaigns:
- Normandy - June 22, 1944 – July 24, 1944
- Northern France - June 25, 1944 – September 14, 1944
- Rhineland (Würzlen - Aachen) - September 15, 1944 – December 16, 1944
- Ardennes-Alsace - December 17, 1944 – January 18, 1945
- Central Europe - April 4, 1945 – May 11, 1945
Battalion 99 spent 101 days in combat. The casualties suffered were 52 killed in combat, 207 wounded and six missing in action.
The following individual decorations and medals were awarded to members of Battalion 99:
- 15 Silver Stars
- 20 Bronze Stars
- 305 Purple Hearts
- 763 Good Conduct Medals
- 814 Combat Infantry badges
474th Regiment[edit | edit source]
On January 19, 1945, Battalion 99 joined the 474th Regiment (separate) in Child-sur-Mer. The regiment was recently formed, partly to prepare for a possible invasion of Norway after scheduling option RANKIN B: a partial German withdrawal from Norway. At this point, the German forces in Norway evacuated and burned Finnmark, and retreated behind the Lyngen Line. A scenario where the Germans had to retreat south of Dovre, making it possible to establish the Norwegian government in Trondheim, seemed likely.
On April 2, the regiment moved to Aachen, in Germany. Battalion 99's tasks consisted mainly of patrolling and the suppression of pockets of continued German resistance until May 11.
The 474th Regiment, with the Battalion 99 motor pool on the tip, was between April 15–18, 1945, responsible for the transport of Nazi treasures found in checked mines. The convoy, named "Task Force Hansen," transported 3,762 bags of currency, 8,307 gold bars, 3,326 bags of gold coins, and numerous bags of silver, platinum, jewelry and art treasures to a safe place in the Frankfurt area.
Literature[edit | edit source]
Gerd Nyquist: Battalion 99 (1981). Howard R. Bergen: 99th Infantry Battalion US Army (1945). Sgt. John Kelly: Company 'D' United States Army (1945). Sharon Wells Wagner: Red Wells, An American Soldier in World War 2 (2006). Bruce H. Heimark: The OSS Norwegian Special Operations Group in World War II (1994). Knut Flovik Thoresen: Soldat på vestfronten, historien om Alf Dramstad (2010). Robert A. Pisani: The Canal Drive, The 99th Infantry Battalion and the Liberation of Belgian Limburg, September 1944 (2012).
References[edit | edit source]
- "99th Infantry Battalion (Separate)." 99th Infantry Battalion (Sep) - World War 2 Educational Foundation, 2013. Web.
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