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Author, film researcher and member of the Swedish Military History Commission.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Stahlhelms in Space

As I wrote some months ago, Darth Vader´s helmet was not as inspired by the classic German Stahlhelm (steel helmet) as one might think. But next year a movie will appear featuring totally WWII-style Stahlhelms in space. On planet earth the Stahlhelm is still serving in at least one country.

This post about the lasting influence of the most classic steel helmet is a sequel to "From Dürer To Darth". If you have not read that one you might want to do so before reading what follows.

Without any inspiration from yours truly my wife recently purchased something for our son that proves just how universal Darth Vader´s helmet has become:

Yes, Darth Vader´s reach now extends to the the socks of our children.

Now I must correct myself, in my previous Stahlhelm-post I wrote "During the final years of East Germany the basic Stahlhelm design was adopted by the US Armed Forces. The result was the PASGT". As an American reader kindly has pointed out to me, that sentence made it sound almost as if the US Armed Forces developed the PASGT-helmet from the Stahlhelm. I was expressing myself carelessly - sorry about that. I think the resemblance of the PASGT-helmet with Stahlhelms was unintentional. The resemblance did, however, lead to the PASGT-helmet being called the "Fritz-helmet".

A helmet similar to the "Fritz" was adopted by the Swedish Armed Forces in 1990, the m/90 helmet. Here is a photo of a guy training for United Nations service wearing a m/90 with a blue helmet cover.

The "Swedish Fritz", the m/90 helmet. I reckon this photo is from 1999.

Swedish firefighters had adopted an even more German-style helmet long before the m/90, but I am not sure when they started using these:

Old Swedish firefighter helmet, in the Piteå Museum. Does someone know when it was intoduced?

But the PASGT-helmet and m/90 can hardly compare with Finnish postwar helmets. For one thing, original German WWII-issued Stahlhelms continued to see service in the Finnish Armed Forces well after WWII and the "new" steel helmet introduced in 1955, the M55 (or m/55), was a copy of the the German WWII M40.

In the field the Finnish Armed Forces used the M55 well into the 1980s and I believe they retained it for ceremonial use a bit longer, does someone know exactly when they stopped using them?

I am not sure which year the armed forces of Afghanistan stopped using original German M16/18 helmets. But there is a photograph from US President Eisenhower's visit to Afghanistan in 1959 where they are still being worn.

There is at least one country that still to this day is using Stahlhelms, Chile:

Chilean military guards of honour still use a Chilean variant of the German M35 helmet. This photo was taken in 2009 in Santiago, Chile. PHOTO: Master Sgt. Adam M. Stump, USAF

From Peter Suciu´s really amazing helmet site I also understand that these Chilean helmets were introduced in the 1930s. The shape is closest to the German M35 helmet. The last (?) batch was produced in the 1980s.

A final question to you, dear reader, exactly which helmet model is featured in the coming movie "Iron Sky"? In the trailer for this dark science-fiction comedy you can see both Stahlhelms and MP 40s on the moon:



So, which is it? Are the storm troopers on the moon wearing repro/original M35s, M40s, M42s or perhaps Finnish M55s? The latter would be most suitable considering it is mainly a Finnish production. Interestingly, the cast of "Iron Sky" includes some internationally rather well-known actors such as Götz Otto, who played Otto Günsche in "The Downfall". The premiere of "Iron Sky" is now more or less exactly one year away (December 2011).

Will "Iron Sky" cement the Stahlhelm as a symbol of Nazism and evil? Possibly, but I find it quite interesting that not only in Finland and Chile the Stahlhelm is not automatically associated with Nazism, and not even with German soldiers. Where do you think the below hero monument stands?

The Warsaw insurgents monument. PHOTO: Cezary Piwowarski

Yes, in Warsaw. The soldiers are Polish guerrillas, resistance fighters. They often wore German helmets as can be seen in numerous wartime photographs.

Well, that was my concluding take on the influence and significance of the Stahlhelm, from sock icon to "Iron Sky".

P.S.
There is a movie being made in what was once the heart of Swedish America, Minnesota, that features both Stahlhelms and PASGT-helmets. It is called "Souvenirs" and the trailer has made me really keen to see the end result. Watch the trailer:



Not that surprisingly the "Souvenirs" movie website includes some Swedish American names, such as Fryklund.

P.S. No. 2
Thanks to a blog reader and helmet collector I am now aware of this almost-too-good-to-be-true Iraqi helmet actually inspired by Darth Vader´s helmet. No kidding!

European Volunteers in Vietnam

While writing Swedes at War, we, the authors, were only aware of two Swedish citizens who fought as volunteers for the United States in the Vietnam War. Since then, thanks to our readers, we have found some more.

In our book we mention Björn Dahlin and Per-Olof Ödman who both joined the US Marine Corps to fight in Vietnam. Both saw heavy fighting but survived. I can recommend Björn Dahlin´s memoirs (they are in English) if you would like to know more about him.

If you are interested in a modern Swedish officer´s analysis of the war itself, then this is the book to get, here in its brand new paperback format:


I agree with the quote on the cover from a Swedish newspaper review of the book: "a real gem". Marco Smedberg, who has written the book, is a lieutenant colonel in the Swedish Army and editor-in-chief of Militär Historia, the leading Swedish military history journal.

Vietnamkrigen ("The Vietnam Wars") has the important subtitle "1880-1980". This book is thus not only about the United States and Vietnam but so much more. Smedberg puts everything into context and as objectively as possible. The book is filled with more or less unknown facts and good quotes from all sides. Plus good photos and proper maps.

Perhaps most importantly, Smedberg shows how Vietnam lessons still apply in today´s wars where western high-tech forces meet guerrilla tactics.

I think this book deserves to be translated. But if you can read Swedish you should get it now.

Going back to the subject of Swedes in US uniform in Vietnam we have since the publication of our book become aware of some more Swedish volunteers, including one on the opposing side. Some day we will write a sequel to Swedes at War, focusing on the Swedes in wars and conflicts after 1945. In that book (several years away) we will present these other Swedes and also write more about drafted Swedish American soldiers in Vietnam. It was only at the very end of writing our book that I became aware of that my own family had a member in the US Special Forces in Vietnam, who was killed in action there.

Vietnam War movies are also part of Marco Smedberg´s book. He lists eighteen movies, and not just American ones. Interestingly, Smedberg reports that "The Green Berets" (1968), the one with John Wayne portraying a character based on the the real-life Finnish volunteer Lauri Törni/Larry Thorne, was at first banned in Sweden. I had heard so but forgotten about it.

Thanks to Smedberg´s Vietnam movie list I also discovered "Rescue Dawn", a movie about a German volunteer in the USAF:



I have not yet seen it but would certainly like to. The Wikipedia-page about "Rescue Dawn" is very detailed, as is the page about the German volunteer pilot, Dieter Dengler. It would appear that family experiences in Germany during WWII motivated Dengler to join the USAF.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sarah Palin´s Nordic Predecessors

No less than three governors of Alaska have been Nordics, two of them ethnic Swedes. The latter were also officers of the Russian Imperial Navy.

Adolf Etolin, an ethnic Swede from Finland who ruled Russian America 1840-45, on the cover of K-G Olin´s amazing book. In the background Novoarkhangelsk, which today is Sitka.

The Arctic has entered a period of both great industrial and military development. History is again being written up north. Reason enough to look back at one of the most amazing aspects of Arctic history, that Russia ruled Alaska not that long ago, until 1867, and just some years less than the United States now has ruled the territory (Russia: 134/USA: 143 years).

It is only one year ago since one of the Russian political parties, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, dropped Alaska from its party emblem. Here is a photo of the party shield I took myself in 1993 when I met and interviewed party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky:

The photo I took in 1993 of Liberal Democrat leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky (left). In the background the party emblem sporting both Alaska and Finland. Only in 2009 the map was replaced with one showing a modern map of Russia.

The Zhirinosky map may mainly have been a way of gaining attraction but on the other hand he is still today supported by ten percent of the Russian electorate (he peaked at 23 percent in 1993) and has since been made a vice-chairman of the Russian State Duma and a colonel of the Russian Army - positions that he still holds today.

Well, should Alaska´s former governor Sarah Palin continue to rise in American politics it is probably a good thing Zhirinovsky has removed Alaska from his shield.

Sadly, my grandmother´s brother in Alaska had moved from there by the time I was able to go there. But now I have been able to make up for that thanks to a recent book by Karl-Gustav Olin, Alaska: ryska tiden ("Alaska: The Russian Era"). Thanks to it I am now aware of Palin´s Nordic predecessors. No less than three Nordics have been governors of Alaska. The above pictured ethnic Swede Adolf Etolin had a quite typical background among the Russian civil servants in Alaska. K-G Olin reports that at the time (1840s) citizens from Russian Finland dominated among the white population in Alaska.

The penultimate governor of Russian America was another ethnic Swede from Finland, Johan Hampus Furuhjelm. Like Etolin he was a navy man and ended his naval career as Commander of the Russian Baltic Fleet.

K-G Olin spent about two years researching for this book and he must surely be Finland´s greatest expert on the subject. It is hard to imagine that Olin has missed some archive, diary or previously published book on the subject. Thus the book is a goldmine of information and it is also very well illustrated.

So far, Alaska: ryska tiden, is only available in Swedish. Hopefully it will someday be translated. Here is the author´s website.

Someone may have noticed I wrote Alaska has had three Nordic governors. That is correct, many years after the United States had purchased Alaska for 7 million Dollars (largely possible due to the Crimean War) another Nordic was made governor of Alaska, but this man, Waino Hendrickson, had not been born in Finland, he was the child of Finnish immigrants.

Imagine for a moment if Russia had not accepted the offer by the United States, and had retained Alaska. How probably very different not only the history of the Arctic then would have turned out. For one thing, Sarah Palin would probably be unknown.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Viking Versus Viking



I will here review and compare two books that do not have that much directly to do with my main area of research, Swedes at war in the 20th century. But as Vikings were a reoccuring theme among Swedes in both world wars, even in the Spanish Civil War and with the WWII Allies, I think Vikings are OK for me to blog about ;-)

The Viking Manifesto and Leadership Principles of the Vikings both were published in 2007, so I hardly think the authors read each others books until their own had been published.

Let me first make one thing clear: neither one of these books should be taken that seriously regarding historical accuracy. These are above all books about the legacy of the Vikings, and they are both entertaining, light-hearted books. However they at the same time manage to be inspiring and thought-provoking. These are both books that I will return to many times.

The Viking Manifesto by Steve Strid and Claes Andréasson focuses on how to do business in the modern world, inspired by the Vikings, e.g. through quotes from Hávamál.

Brands is perhaps what the authors discuss best. The authors have refreshing ideas about marketing, especially about how to adopt a target group. Let me examplify this with a quote from the book: "A Viking always begins by making himself the target group. He asks himself: What do I want personally? What sort of brands and products do I like?"

Another thing I appreciate with this book is its attitude towards money, summed up by "Money is a good servant, but a bad master".

Finally, do not miss the warning "All assault, rape, drug use, theft, property damage and killing of monks referred to in this book are meant for literary and metaphorical purposes only". I guess that was almost seriously meant considering the risk of getting sued by a US lawyer...

The Leadership Principles of the Vikings by Jan Kallberg is in some respects a very similar book, but as the title says it is focused on leadership, which can be applied far outside the world of business. However, business is a reoccuring theme, as are the military tactics of the Viking raiders.

Kallberg´s book is a bit more serious than The Viking Manifesto but is at times at least as hilarious. I love the way Kallberg has matched nationalistic Viking illustrations with new captions like "Hey, dude, we are here to talk to you about bullshitting! The fortune and gold of Atlantis were gone centuries ago, liar!"

This to illustrate that the Vikings, according to Kallberg, had zero tolerance for "corporate bullshit".

Two more favourite quotes from the book:

"The Dark Ages was a troublesome era in world history but it also resembles the changes we are facing in the early 21st century with turbulence in the economy and the social order, and with questions about our belief system."

and:

"Vikings would redefine the corporate concept in a heartbeat by first dismissing all leaders who are only title holders and can not lead when there is uncertainty and hardship."

To sum up things, Leadership Principles of the Vikings is not always as well-written & edited as The Viking Manifesto, but I still think you should get both books.

Tiger Tanks in Sweden

Shortly after WWII the Swedish Army purchased some Panzers from the Allies for testing, such as a Panther and a King Tiger (Tiger II). The latter was shot to pieces, but since a couple of days a Swedish private museum has a functioning full-scale replica of a Tiger I.

This is the vehicle, based on a Soviet T-55 tank:

This is while it still was in the UK, where it was made. PHOTO: Roland Jarl

This is the arrival the other day at the Global War Museum north of Gothenburg. AFV-buffs will know that the wheels do not look quite right, but this is something the new owner intends to improve on. PHOTO: Roland Jarl

The replica Tiger I was brought to Sweden this fall but only arrived some days ago at the Global War Museum located between Gothenburg and Norway, owned and operated by Roland and Pernilla Jarl. The delay was due to that it first took part in some reenactments in southernmost Sweden. Thanks for sending the photos, Roland.

BTW, in the 1980s I believe there were still some Tiger II parts lying around in Västergötland on the site where it had been shot up (in the 50s?). I am positive these parts are long since gone. Does someone know who took care of them, a museum I should hope.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Foreign Legion Swedes Remembered

I knew that in Paris, in the Swedish Church, there is a large memorial with the names of the Swedes in the French Foreign Legion who died for France in WWI. But thanks to a reader of Swedes at War I now know there is one more, in the town of Craonne in Picardy.

This is the plaque that Tommie Andersson, a Swedish resident of France, discovered in Craonne:

This is how I read the message: "Sweden, in memory of its sons fallen in the service of France in the Craonne area contributed to this city hall of the heroic municipality of Craonne". PHOTO: Tommie Andersson

Tommie Andersson explains that Craonne was totally destroyed during WWI. The new Craonne was built in 1921-27 beside the ruins of the old town, partly using materials from the ruins. The Franco-Swedish Friendship Society, the Amitié Franco-Suédois, donated a sum for a new city hall, which is where the above plaque is located.

More information about the plaque and the Swedish links to Craonne would be most welcome.

New Winter War Images

This is just a teaser for a coming book of unpublished images from the Soviet-Finnish Winter War of 1939-40. Here is the cover:


The book is filled with strong images that virtually nobody has seen since the war. The text is in English, Finnish, Swedish and Russian and the book has been produced by one of the leading experts on the Mannerheim Line, Bair Irincheev.

Is is being printed right now. More news about it to follow.

Walter Schuck Meets Vera Lynn!

One of the Luftwaffe´s absolute top aces (206 combat victories) in the Nordic area, Walter Schuck, recently met Vera Lynn:

Walter schuck with Vera Lynn. Yes, this is a real image, not something photo-shopped. PHOTO: KI Michael Johansson

The above photo was taken by a friend also living in Arctic Sweden (in Luleå, not that far from me). His name is KI Michael Johansson and he is a documentary film maker. Johansson right now is involved in several very interesting projects involving German and Allied pilot veterans. In one of the next issues of the Finnish magazine Suomen Sotilas ("Soldier of Finland") Johansson will tell more about his meetings with Walter Schuck and his last adversary during WWII, former USAAF pilot Joe Peterburs.

If you have not seen the following TV news video with Walter Schuck and Joe Peterburs I think you will want to see it:



I have Schuck´s autobiography in German, Abschuss! and it is the finest book on a Luftwaffe pilot that I have. Here it is in English.

Some of my Norwegian friends met Schuck when he recently revisited Arctic Norway.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Quisling No 1 Not Quisling


This is how "Strictly Confidential" opens, with subtitles in English.

The Norwegian WWII documentary "Strictly Confidential" is certainly one of the best documentaries I have ever seen. It is so well made, personal and contains astounding interviews with both Quislings and SOE-operatives.

Among the things that "Strictly Confidential" really brings home is that the most effective and dangerous Quisling was not Vidkun Quisling himself.

Here is the documentary´s website.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Waiting for the Taliban

Since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 I have had a strong interest in what is going on in that country. These are the books about Afghanistan at war that I value most.

The order of the following books does not correspond with how valuable the books are in my opinion. But I can say without a doubt that the one that is most explosive and adrenaline-filled, is this one:


Briefly put, this must be the ultimate book about life and death at an American outpost in Afghanistan. Reading this book is simultaneously addictive and painful. "Very hard to put down" is such a cliché, but for me, in this case, it was true.

I believe that the author, Sebastian Junger, has done more research in Afghanistan for this book than anyone could demand. But then he was at the same time making the documentary "Restrepo" together with Tim Hetherington.

Having a special interest in soldiers from Swedish American families I was amazed by how many Swedish names pop up at the featured remote US Army positions.

There is one thing I do not like about this book. War gives the impression that the book could be about war in general. It is not even about the current war in Afghanistan in general, it is a book specifically about the fighting in the Korengal Valley, seen almost exclusively from an American perspective. On the other hand, Junger in War goes to impressive lengths to understand what war in general does to man. But I still think Combat in the Korengal (or something like that) would have been a better title.

Before moving on to the next book I must ask if anyone out there knows if Sebastian Junger had read the German WWI stormtrooper Ernst Jünger before writing War (could they even be distant relatives?)? In some respects I would say Junger compares to Jünger, I am especially thinking of the latter´s Storm of Steel. For clarity, I do not mean this in any negative way (re. Ernst Jünger there is this brilliant companion to Storm of Steel, written by the Swede Nils Fabiansson).

There is a book about the Soviet war in Afghanistan that I would compare to War, this one:


I read The Hidden War when it came out in 1990 and can say that it really made a lasting impression on me. In contrast to War it is not limited to one valley or one unit but is about the whole Soviet war in Afghanistan. I believe the author, a young Russian reporter, probably wrote the best Russian civilian account of that war.

I have not read many accounts written by Soviet soldiers who served in Afghanistan. I only have two such books. The most recent one I can absolutely recommend:


This is the 2010 Swedish edition of the book. The title translates as "The Soviet Union Invades Afghanistan: an Airborne Soldier´s Account". This book provides a very detailed and critical view of how Soviet airborne units operated in Afghanistan. Aside from a unique text it contains a number of very interesting photos.

At the time of writing it is only available in Swedish and Lithuanian - it was first written in that language. Hopefully it will be translated to English.

Now I have come to the final two books and I would say that they are the best I have found so far about the general situation in today´s Afghanistan. The first one is entitled I väntan på talibanerna ("Waiting for the Taliban") by Swedish reporter Jesper Huor. Here is the cover:


To date the book is only available in Swedish. There is a new book in English with the same title, but that is a book I have not yet read and can say nothing about.

About Huor´s book I will say this: it is one superb read and gives insights not only about the fighting in today´s Afghanistan but also about the country itself and its many peoples. Jesper Huor has been able to experience more than most western reporters because he blends in quite easily in Afghanistan - he is half Cambodian and thus can pass as an Afghan.

Jesper Huor has really talked with all sides, even the Russian ambassador to Kabul. The interview with him is just one of several really amazing ones.

Finally we come to a book as recent as Huor´s and somewhat similar to it, but so far only available in German: Eine Nacht in Kabul ("A Night in Kabul") by the Austrian reporter Ulrich Ladurner:


Quouting from the preface by the former Chancellor of West Germany Helmut Schmidt (in my translation from German): "Nine years ago the NATO intervention in Afghanistan began. The operation thus has lasted longer than WWII, longer than the Vietnam War, longer than the Korean War. There is still no end in sight". Schmidt then concludes that regardless of what one thinks about how to best tackle the issues ahead we will have to deal with Afghanistan also in the future, one way or the other.

In addition, as Helmut Schmidt also writes, the current situation in Afghanistan speaks not only of Afghanistan, but also a great deal about how the world of today functions.

The author Ulrich Ladurner´s method for trying to explain to us what Afghanistan is and what is going on in Afghanistan consists both of reporting about his own many travels in Afghanistan and the visits of other foreigners, not least British ones in the 19th century and the German adventurer and officer ("German Lawrence of Arabia") Oskar von Niedermayer in the early 20th century.

Importantly, Ladurner has spent time not only in Kabul (in spite of the title), but has also been to Taliban-rich areas in the south and to the area where Germany and Sweden has most of its troops.

Eine Nacht in Kabul does not have the adrenaline of War but I believe it is one of the most important and well-written books ever about Afghanistan and today´s NATO in action. Hopefully someone will have it translated to English. Like real soon.

Stalingrad in Lapland

I am no big fan of the German 1993 movie "Stalingrad" . Many aspects of it are impressive but I still lost interest. E.g. the tank scenes seem unrealistic to me - being a tanker I think I have some idea about tank realism. But what I recently learnt made me want to give it a second try.

I recently learnt from a Finnish WWII buff from Lapland that the film´s battle in the snow with Soviet T-34 tanks was filmed around Kemijärvi NE of Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland. The T-34s are coming from the island of Pieskansaari, that briefly can be seen. Yes, this means that a frozen lake is part of what you see. You get a glimpse of this scene at the end of this trailer:


"Stalingrad" (1993) trailer.

I understand some more scenes were shot in Lapland, in Ketola, some klicks west of Kemijärvi. I believe these are the snow storm scenes in an "Arctic wasteland". The place is a huge industrial area with sand, sand, sand. A man-made desert in Lapland. Am I right about this?

Now, all you Norwegian readers, am I correct in remembering that some scenes, with large bunkers, were shot in Arctic Norway, or was that for the movie "Winter War"?

Finnish OSS Volunteer

I knew about a Finnish volunteer in an OSS Operational Group, Karl Hoffman/Matti Raivio, but had never heard about this guy: Eero Saarinen. Now there is even this temporary exibition about him in Washington D.C.

Cold War Hipsters

Yesterday I finally got to see one of the most brilliant and inspiring Russian movies ever made, IMHO: "Stilyagi" (Hipsters). It may be mainly a comedy/drama and musical but it also about the Cold War and even to some extent about WWII, as is evident from this Youtube-clip:



The official movie website is not worse, albeit only in Russian.

There are so many things about this film that I like. To mention at least one I love the way rock songs from the 1980s also are part of the film. Here is an example with an adaptation of one of my favourite Nautilus Pompilius songs:



This film was released in 2008. I wonder if anything comparable was made last year or this year? I doubt it.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Arctic and Alpine Warfare

I reckon one of the reasons I am so into snow, skiing and Arctic history is that some of my formative years (the most?) I spent in Switzerland with superb skiing in the Alps every winter week.

I often think of the fact that the WWII Gebirgsjägers (mountain infantry) in Norway and Finland had a somewhat similar background, they were almost all raised in the Alpine areas of Austria and Bavaria. In addition quite a few of the Gebirgsjäger officers had fought in the Alps during WWI.

Enter almost any graveyard in Austria and you will find images of Gebirgsjägers who died in the Arctic/Russia. This gravestone that I photographed in Fulpmes, Austria, belongs to one Heinrich Sterzinger, fallen somewhere "in the east" in 1942.

Because of this I have "always" wondered about how the WWI and WWII battlegrounds in the Alps look like today. Well, here is the answer. Nice website, Herr Mößlang, and thank you for the tip, Dom.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Coldest Cold War

I recently wrote about how German WWII submachine guns and pistols were still used in the 1960s by Norwegian soldiers in UN service in Africa and the Middle East. No small wonder then that they were in use within Norway even longer.

To illustrate the use of MP 40 submachine guns within postwar Norway there is this recent book cover:

Yes, the submachine gun raised into the air is a German WWII weapon.

The book title Isfront translates as "Ice Front". It is a Norwegian book that recently came out in Swedish. The book is about the Cold War in the Arctic, mainly on the border between the Soviet Union and Norway. You might think not much happened up there on the desolate tundra. Well, that is not the case, as author Asbjørn Jaklin amply shows.

In 1968, for example, the Norwegian border guards (some presumably with MP 40s) got ready to fire on a large Soviet mechanized unit that was obviously about to cross into Norway. A few Soviet vehicles even did cross, but just a few meters.

Several of the Norwegian soldiers had their weapon safety levers in the "off" mode.

The Norwegians might very well have fired upon the Soviets, but wisely they abstained from doing so.

It turned out that the Soviet move was "just" a massive protest against a NATO exercise. The Norwegians did not immediately realize this, as the NATO exercise in question was not held by the border and not even close to it. The reasons for this Soviet demonstration of military might are very interesting indeed and have a lot to do with the Soviet experience of WWII, to be exact Operation Barbarossa.

Amazingly, the Norwegian authorities were able to stop the story of this very serious Cold War incident from reaching the Oslo media. Things were so much easier to control without mobile phones and the internet! This event only became fully known in 2008 through a Norwegian TV documentary. But Isfront also contains many other dramatic passages.

Isfront is not yet available in English, but it ought to be. The author´s previous book, The Northern Front (2006) about WWIIs northernmost battles (in my opinion not as good as this one), has been translated into several languages.

Norwegian SS Fantasy Uniform

Another Norwegian WWII poster I would like to read some comments about is this one:

The message reads: "We win! Join the Norwegian Legion´s Ski Ranger Battalion".

This poster is on display in the amazing Svolvaer War History Museum on Lofoten.

As neither the ski hat (looks almost like a postwar one) nor Norwegian national insignia on it were worn in the field by any Norwegians in the Waffen-SS one wonders if these posters were on display for long? Also note the absence of any German insignia.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

German Paratroops in Scandinavia

As a Nordic author with a special interest in the German paras at Narvik I am a bit ashamed I did not write this book myself, or some Nordic colleague. Instead, a Spaniard, Óscar González, beat us to it. But, well done Mr. González!


Soviet WWII parachute operations against Finland were minute and Finnish parachute ops vs. the Red Army were also very few and small-scale. The British Special Operations Executive (SOE) did drop a number of agents and soldiers over Norway and Denmark, but, again, very few at a time.

To study larger airborne actions in the Nordic area one must turn to the German invasion of Denmark and Norway in the spring of 1940, which is what Óscar González has done. His book German Paratroops in Scandinavia starts with a prologue written by one of the most experienced German paratroopers ever, Knight´s Cross holder Alexander Uhlig, who died two years ago. BTW a friend was able to interview Uhlig on video shortly before Uhlig´s death. I sure am looking forward to see that documentary.

Alexander Uhlig was personally part of the Narvik action and this is one of the great things about German Paratroops in Scandinavia, the author has located a number of veterans and visited the sites of action. Thus there are a number of experiences, facts and photos in the book that you will find in no other book.

Although I have been interested in the subject of German paratroops at Narvik for years the author has documented a number of things about the paras at Narvik, even some significant points, that are absolute news for me.

The book is very well illustrated and the quality of most of the photographs (some in colour), paper and binding are top notch. My only complaint is that some of the most unique photographs should have been reproduced in larger size. The photo on the cover is of course well-known to all interested in the subject. Perhaps a more unusual photo could have been chosen? But then it is a striking image.

If you wish to see the relevant areas and have a special interest in German paratroops - well, then this book is simply mandatory. I should think many WWII historians, elite unit buffs and collectors will also want to own this book.

German Paratroops in Scandinavia has been produced by Schiffer Military History in the United States. In Europe the book is distributed by Bushwood Books, who have a number of other titles about German paratroops and other elite units.

Finally I shall quote from the prologue written by Alexander Uhlig, because I truly believe that this was his heartfelt wish: "My only hope is that future generations will be spared the experience of war".

Monday, November 08, 2010

Raiders of Modern Empires

World War Two and the Cold War are still present in the countryside of Poland and the Baltic states in such a strong way that is hard to grasp for us citizens from historically more fortunate nations.

Remains of a Soviet sailor in a former Soviet naval base. PHOTO: Jan Jörnmark

To comprehend what Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania went through during the 20th century, reading can only get you so far. Then you have to talk to those who were there and see the remains of the imperial projects in the region.

Jan Jörnmark has documented with his camera not only various remains of the German and Soviet empires but also all kinds of forgotten giant projects in Europe and the United States. Jörnmark´s website is simply a must if you are into travelling back 30, 70 or a 100 years ago.

But to get the full story of these mainly WWII and Cold War related sites you should get his latest book, produced together with Katarina Wikars. The book is so far only available in Swedish but can be bought just for the sake of the photographs. If you can read Swedish you are in for an ever stronger experience. The title is Atomtorg, porrharar & Hitlerslussar, which translates as "Atomic Squares, Porn-Hares and Hitler Sluices".

Imagine a very disturbing but also beautiful roadmovie - that´s what this book is like.

Awesome Clip from Brest

This clip from "The Brest Fortress" is simply awesome:



The official Brest movie website starts with a superb slideshow. If the movie is as good as it looks it must be terrific.

Its about the first days of the 1941-45 German-Soviet War, in Russian: the Great Patriotic War.

The movie is a project of the Union State of Russia and Belarus.

There is a Swedish connection, the lead role is played by Andrei Merzlikin, who also starred in the Swedish-Russian production "Newsmakers" (2009) which was directed by "Frostbite"-director Anders Banke.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Wehrmacht Clashes with Swedes

There´s a new Swedish WWII movie coming and it looks interesting. It takes place on the Norwegian-Swedish border. The title simply translates as "The Border". Here´s a clip:



The production has this website.

I have nothing to do with the production - have had no contact with the filmmakers.

USAAF Special Ops in Norway

The main website about USAAF special operations during WWII - for example in Norway and to some extent Sweden - has moved and been improved.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Norwegian Stalingrad Poster Unique?

I have been wondering about this Norwegian propaganda poster ever since I "discovered" it in the Defence Museum in Oslo in the mid-1980s. By the way, is it still hanging there today?

The words "Stalingrad er tatt!" are Norwegian and mean "Stalingrad has been taken!".

I understand that the poster was produced by the Norwegian Quisling government and never displayed during the war and most copies were destroyed. What I do not know is:

1. Was there a German, French etc version of this poster of which none have survived, or was it unique for Norway already at the time?

2. Exactly who made it?

UPDATE:
The source for the below info on this poster (see first comment) is the Norwegian book Den Norske Nasjonalsosialismen (1990) by Hens Fredrik Dahl, Bernt Hagtvedt and Guri Hjeltnes (1990). Thanks T-H!