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

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Petsamo Front Bunkers Today

Highlights from a summer of 2011 offroad/battlefield trip on the former Petsamo Front in northernmost Russia.

I have no connection with the company behind the above video and thus cannot endorse their trips, but it is evident that they can take foreign tourists - in this case Swedes - to some amazing places on the Kola Peninsula.

The main goal of the tour is the former Petsamo (after 1944 Pechenga) Front or Eismeerfront, the northernmost stretch of the WWII Eastern Front.

I recognize several locations in the film. Many roads are German built and I have myself been inside the bunker that has an inscription that proclaims "TOD DEM FEIND", i.e. "death to the enemy" and "2. GEB. DIV." = 2nd German Army Mountain Division. We also see some coastal artillery I have not visited, I reckon it is Soviet 1950s.

I am not able to make out the German unit insignia visible at, 3:50. Can you?

You should watch this video in large format because the landscapes are just awesome.

Remember, WWII battlefield trips are risky even if you take many precautions. Do not pick up anything that even remotely looks like ammunition. E.g. German antitank mines are still very lethal.

BTW I just found this other video about recent finds around Rajakoski in the southern part of the former Petsamo area, now Pechenga:

Friday, December 23, 2011

Swedish-based Marder III

The caption states it is "real restored" but actually this very convincing Marder III is the result of a conversion project.

An Englishman has done what I once imagined could be done, back in the 1980s. It is Mr. Alan Swatman who has converted a Swedish/Czech tank m/41 into a German Marder III tank destroyer.

I learnt this from the latest issue (December 2011) of that most excellent British military vehicle journal, Classic Military Vehicle.

On the one hand it is obviously a successful conversion, using also a genuine Pak 40 AT gun. On the other hand there are very, very few Swedish m/41s around. Well, perhaps the information on the web I have found is not quite correct in stating an m/41? I suspect that what Mr. Swatman converted was in fact a pbv 301, i.e. an armoured personnel carrier based on the m/41 tank. Perhaps someone reading this can confirm my suspicion?

Friday, December 09, 2011

Blood Road, Arctic WWII Documentary

The first WWII documentary film I worked on, by providing research, was released in 2000. It has now gone online with English subtitles, and can be seen via the above links.

The subtitles appear more clearly if you watch not the small version above but instead click on the above link to the site Cultureunplugged.

It all started with film director Gunilla G. Bresky who saw a photo of one starved man in Arctic Norway. She started to look for him, but she found a hundred thousand. They were Soviet prisoners of war, forced to build Hitler’s Arctic Railway, parts of which remains in service today. For those who survived, a new shock was waiting back home.

What I like most about the film is the indefatigable spirit of the ex-prisoners, the landscapes and that I believe Gunilla, against all odds, succeeded in identifying the man it all started with.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Swiss vs. Swedish Military History

A Swedish Saab Gripen in Switzerland during the 2011 Sion airshow.

Today it became known that 22 Swedish Saab Gripen multirole fighters will most likely join the Swiss Luftwaffe. The Swiss Army already operates Swedish combat vehicles. Thus the military of Sweden and Switzerland have come yet a bit closer and there is reason to look back at our somewhat similar military history.

Well, a short but fact-filled summary in English about Swiss military history in comparison to Sweden's is part of the last chapter of Swedes at War by yours truly and Lennart Westberg. As we write there, "There are several good reasons for casual observers to confuse Sweden with Switzerland."

In my opinion, not least because I spent four wonderful years of my youth in Switzerland, we Swedes really have a lot to learn from the Swiss Armed Forces. Thus I hope the new fighter deal will stimulate not only more trade between our countries but also an exchange of ideas about national defence and security policy.

I seem to recall that while I was living in the Swiss capital in 1978-82 there were thoughts about purchasing Saab Viggen. That did not come about then and I believe I even said some words about this on Swedish radio in 1981 or 1982, as a flight-interested Swedish kid living in Switzerland.

Well, congratulations I say, especially to all Swiss and Swedish readers of this blog.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Nordic Band of Brothers

A tribute both to the Band of Brother-series and the Swedish and Finnish soldiers in Afghanistan.

No, I did not create this amazingly well-made tribute, I just found it. If anyone who took part in the making of this film reads this: please tell us how much time it took to make.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

WWII Japanese Flags in Sweden

I wonder if this sushi restaurant in Sweden raises an American or Chinese eyebrow?

I recently noticed the above pictured sushi restaurant in Piteå, up here in northernmost Sweden. As you can see it prominently displays the WWII flag of the Japanese Army and the almost identical flag of the Japanese Navy. I wonder if these could be used the same way in the US or China?

I only feel sure that the German equivalent, the Reichskriegsflagge, would not be possible to display in the same manner. In any country.

Please note that I know that the above Japanese Navy flag is not limited to WWII, it came back in use after the war and thus cannot be said to only symbolize Japan during WWII. However, the pictured Japanese Army flag, which is the top one, was used only until 1945.

Well, could a sushi restaurant in the US or China use these flags without attracting criticism?

Speaking about WWII Japan in Sweden I believe that until this year very little, if anything, has been written about the 1942 "Battle of Los Angeles", which was basically mass hysteria in action - only one enemy was real, a Japanese submarine. IMHO the first book in Swedish to describe this weird battle in detail is the anthology Kriget som aldrig kom ("The War That Never Came"), published this spring by the superb Naval Museum of Karlskrona. Some weeks ago another book appeared that mentions the "battle", simply entitled Swede. I recently blogged about it.

Speaking about the battle of LA I reckon most of you who are reading this post have seen the 1979 war movie "1941", which in spite of the wrong year is based on the hysterical 1942 events in LA. Well, even if you know that movie well I reckon you may not have seen this period teaser for the film:

Finally, just today, thanks to a friend in Slovenia (hat tip!) I found this stunning image (the bottom one) I had never seen before, of the Japanese officer who only surrendered in 1974, Hiroo Onoda. Evidently, he is still alive and is now 89 years old.

Monday, November 07, 2011

OSS NORSO in New Film

Trailer for "The Man Nobody Knew", a new film by Carl Colby, son of the featured William Colby.

A major documentary has been released about William Colby, the head of the CIA 1973-76, who during WWII commanded the OSS Norwegian Special Operations (NORSO) Group.

Colby and the NORSO Group are also in Swedes at War, as it had two Swedish and some Swedish American members and also operated on Swedish territory.

This weekend the new documentary has been highlighted by Norwegian TV2 as it contains several scenes about Colby's time as a OSS field commander on the Norwegian-Swedish border.

The production has a very informative website with e.g. more film excerpts.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Legend of Larry Thorne

Jussi Syren & The Groundbreakers 2008 performing "The Legend of Larry Thorne" in a Helsinki place called Texas.

Just found this song about a certain green beret from Finland that I wrote about some time ago. I welcome more info about the band.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Osama's Nordic Hunters

Getting closer to Osama bin Laden's last hometown, Abbottabad. Photo taken a couple of weeks ago by para/marine Bo Sunnefeldt. This gentleman, Ashgar, was Bo's guide.

My friend Bo Sunnefeldt was in Abbottabad for the first time in 2004, on holiday. He then noted in his diary that the place seemed natural for bin Laden to hide in. Bo has just returned from another visit there, but that is not the only Swedish connection to the end of OBL.

Osama bin Laden did not yet reside in Abbottabad when my friend made his note. Well, at least a pretty good prediction then. Some weeks ago, after some serious mountaineering in Pakistan, Bo thought he might try to examine OBLs former compound. Here are some photos from his trip.

Inside Abbottabad and rather obviously getting closer to the compound.

Alas, a couple of hundred meters from the goal, armed guards stopped Bo and his guide and rather harshly informed them that OBL-tourism is not yet allowed.

My globetrotting friend close to the spot where he had to turn around.

Coincidentally, I recently picked up a book that I now realize takes place ten years ago, Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton. This gripping book is about the fall of Taliban-held Mazar-i-Sharif, made possible by the combined forces of Afghan rebels, laser pointing Special Forces and the USAF. Here is video about the book:

In less than a month's time it will be exactly ten years since Mazar-i-Sharif fell, which since has become home for the main Swedish military contingent in Afghanistan. Furthermore, it was during the drive of the "horse soldiers" towards Mazar that John Walker Lindh, Osama's American volunteer, was captured.

Lindh I knew about and Swedish reporters have confirmed that his father is a Swedish American. But what really came as a surprise to me was to read in Horse Soldiers the name of one of John Walker Lindh's two original captors, CIA paramilitary officer Dave Olson. In other words the name strongly suggests that Lindh was captured by another Swedish American. Olson might possibly mean roots from another Nordic country than Sweden, but usually Danish and Norwegian surnames end with -sen, not -son.

There was at least one more Olson, Eric Thor Olson, who was very much part of the hunt for OBL. In his case not only the surname indicates Swedish or at least Nordic roots. Does someone out there know more about his roots?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Raiders of the Lost Spear

Note the long spear/lance and "LOGINOS" in Greek characters above the soldier who is holding it. This is a crucifixion scene painted in the year 586 and part of the the Rabbula Gospels.

Regular readers of this blog will have noticed my interest in Star Wars (the old ones). Well, it should come as no surprise then, that I am also a fan of Indiana Jones (except the most recent one). I am currently reading a book that makes me think the first Indy film could have been entitled "Raiders of the Lost Spear".

If you haven't noticed, 2011 is the 30th anniversary of the first movie about OSS Colonel Henry Walton "Indiana/Indy" Jones, Jr., Ph.D.. BTW the name was initially Indiana Smith. As I wrote in the foreword for the Swedish edition of The Master Plan (2007) by Heather Pringle, the Indiana Jones movies have effectively communicated the fact that archeology had a high status in the Third Reich. Quite considerable resources were made available to pre-war archeological SS-expeditions to places like Sweden and Iraq.

But instead of searching for the Ark, it seems as if Indy could have been looking for the Spear of Destiny aka the Holy Spear, Lance of Longinus or Spear of Christ. Different names given to the spear/lance that pierced Jesus' side as he hung on the cross. How did I reach this conclusion? From reading The Complete Making of Indiana Jones (2008) by J.W. Rinzler and Laurent Bouzereau it is clear (p. 17) that initially George Lucas had an open mind about which supernatural artifact that was to be the MacGuffin (plot device) of the first Indy adventure. It was Philip Kaufman that brought the Ark into the movie, i.e. the Ark of the Covenant. From Kaufman's own words it seems he got the Ark from "...an old dentist I went to in Chicago who was obsessed with the lost Ark's legendary powers."

Now then, which artifact would Indy have been wanting to find had Kaufman and his dentist not been? Well, the only other artifact mentioned in the first draft for the film is the Spear of Destiny (p. 28 and 30). Thus, although there is no explicit admission that the Spear would have been the MacGuffin, it seems rather probable to me.

By reading The Complete Making of Indiana Jones one also learns more about how the film's sadistic Nazi intelligence agent Arnold Toht was first imagined. He was initially an SS-Obersturmbannführer (lieutenant colonel) with a mechanical arm that could transform into a flamethrower and/or machine gun.

The book also portrays the Flying Wing in both amazing drawings and several photographs, as well that fantasy Panzer of Indy III. Speaking of fantasy tanks, don't miss these highly skilled modellers and especially this thread.

Yesterday the LA Times had some Indy news, Steven Spielberg said earlier that he and George Lucas have discussed a possible fifth Indiana Jones movie. LA Times has Indy himself, i.e. Harrison Ford, talking about this with Spielberg.

Now, considering that Indy has already chased around in Tibet, Italy, South America and the Biblical lands it is high time for Indiana Jones to have a showdown with the SS in Swedish Tanumshede or Himmelstalund. Just two of the places with major rock carvings in Sweden that attracted SS-expeditions. But what about Indy's age? No problem, he does not even have to go back in time - he can fight the SS-division "Schwarze Sonne" due to be activated in 2018 ;-)

Nordic Views of WWII

I dig the front cover illustration, from the 2008 Danish movie "Flame & Citron", and the book itself, but the title could have been shorter i.e. better.

Nordic Narratives of the Second World War is a fascinating analysis of what has been written about WWII not only in Sweden, Finland and Norway but also in Denmark and Iceland.

Through this short book (173 pages) eight Nordic historians give you a good idea about how the Second World War has been viewed and is presently viewed in the Nordic countries. They also manage to explore the difference between scholarly and popular understandings of WWII. That difference can be pretty large.

I especially appreciated the Danish and Icelandic chapters, as my knowledge of the WWII history and historiography of these nations is very limited. I was absolutely fascinated to read in Professor Uffe Östergård's chapter about how WWII history played a major role in the debate about Danish participation in the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

The book's Swedish chapter, written by Johan Östling, could have mentioned some more recent themes, such as the Swedish volunteers & sailors of the Allies, Allied troops and bases in Sweden 1943-45 ("police troops" and special operation forces). I am not the only one to have written about these subjects. But Östling at least ends with a short review of John Gilmour's Sweden, the Swastika and Stalin. That book is certainly worthy of mention.

Hopefully more books like this one will follow, focusing more on the narratives that perhaps matter most nowadays, i.e. films and TV-documentaries. Considering that the front cover of Nordic Narratives of the Second World War is from a recent film there should have been more about movies in it. But I reckon it was a good idea to make this first book of its kind a short one.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Finland's Last (?) Two Wars

The front cover shows German mountain troops on the march towards Loukhi in Soviet/Russian Karelia.

Finland's War of Choice covers a great deal of WWII history that is virtually unknown to most English-only readers. About time, as several of the battles covered in this book are among the most extreme in the history of warfare.

Aside from learning much about the Finnish and Soviet armies, the reader will gain insight into the German 20th Mountain Army.

The book's author, retired US Army Colonel Henrik O. Lunde, was born in Norway. Thus his interest in Nordic history is natural, and he had some advantages for this book project from his background.

I liked Lunde's previous book, Hitler's Preemptive War: The Battle for Norway, 1940, but I have a similar problem with both books. However, let me start with the very first impression the book makes through the images on the front and back covers. These photographs (and the others inside) have been chosen wisely. They are not well known but are both strong images and say something about both the troops and terrain in focus.

The Germans on the front cover are Gebirgsjägers (mountain troops) advancing towards Loukhi in May, 1942. From studying the photo closely I can add that the NCO in the centre is wearing a Narvik shield and thus must be a veteran of the 1940 battle of Narvik. The Finnish troops on the back cover are crossing the Murmansk railway in October, 1941. They are wearing various helmet types, the soldier closest to the camera a Swedish one.

I understand there already exists a new edition (book club edition?) of this book with another photo on the front cover, one of the most used photos from Finland during the Winter War, and not the two wars described in this book. Yes, the title is lacking not least because the book describes both Finland's “war of choice” and the hopefully very last war in Finnish history, the Lapland War (Finland vs. Germany 1944-45).

The book starts with a very brief summary of the Winter War of 1939-40, that is useful but the author is incorrect in stating that “assistance from the west had not materialized”. In fact, both British and French aircraft did materialize. Not in any vast numbers, but worthy of mention together with the fact that they were sent via Sweden.

Although the Winter War is not the main subject of this book another fact about it that Colonel Lunde could have been mentioned is that the Red Army attacked also in the north, threatening to cut Finland in half and seizing the roads and railway to Sweden.

What Lunde does best is to give English-only readers a detailed description of the Soviet-Finnish War of 1941-44, in Finland and Sweden mostly called the Continuation War, meaning a continuation of the Winter War. Lunde argues against using the Finnish term Continuation War. He has a point there. But was it instead a Finnish war of choice? Actually, Lunde delivers three arguments for renaming his book.

First, Lunde writes about the aftermath of the Winter War, that it left Finland with a “monumental problem” of having to move about half a million Finnish citizens to other parts of Finland. The country at the time had a population of a mere 3,7 million. I agree with Lunde but believe that even more important was the pressure from Finnish society to make it possible for the very large refugee part of the Finnish population to return to their home towns and villages.

Secondly, the ceded territories were of great military significance to Finland. The peninsula of Hanko was by itself, to use Marshal Mannerheim's words (quoted by Lunde), “a pistol aimed at the heart of the country and its most important communications”.

Thirdly, as Lunde writes:

“There are no doubts that the Soviets followed a policy that made Finland fear for its safety. This short-sighted policy helped propel isolated Finland into the arms of Germany. For example, at the time of the Moscow Peace in March 1940, Finland approached Sweden and Norway about a defensive alliance. Things looked promising until the Soviet Union vetoed the idea. Such an alliance may [might?] have worked to the great advantage of the Soviets by causing the Germans to have second thoughts about their planned attack on Denmark and Norway.”

Lunde adds that a second attempt at a Nordic alliance, consisting of just Finland and Sweden, was also stopped by the Soviet Union, in October 1940. Slightly concealed under this great “what if” lies another one. What if the Germans in 1941 could have attacked the Soviet Union also with those troops that were stationed in the Nordic countries?

In spite of my argument against the book's title – basically I believe it was only partly a war of choice - and other aspects, I consider this book a real must for English-only readers interested of Nordic WWII history.

The book has 409 pages and contains 14 maps.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Back to 1631 and 1991

Visiting the Breitenfeld battlefield on September 7, 1991, 360 years after Sweden's perhaps most important battle.

When I walked the Breitenfeld battlefield, tomorrow exactly 20 years ago, it was less than a year since it had been in the state known as East Germany (GDR). This year my thoughts often go back to that trip and my experiences in Moscow also during that year.

I believe it was my paternal grandfather who told me about the role that the first Gyllenhaal, the cavalry Lieutenant Nils Haal, played during the battle of Breitenfeld on September 7, 1631. What he told me astounded me and probably explains some of my interest in wars. Unfortunately I have since not been able to locate written sources that match my memory of what I heard, or think I heard.

We do know though, from 17th century records, that Nils Haal was there, on that field, on that day, and performed well. But exactly what he did I do not yet know for sure.

Many will this week, understandably, be looking back at September 11, 2001. As for me, for some reason I thought more about that day at the start of this year.

I am now more often contemplating what I experienced in 1991, above all the last year of the Soviet Union as a student in Moscow. The most vital part in that was getting to know my future wife Ann-Sofie, another Swedish student there. The no doubt most weird part was finding these two destroyed armoured vehicles on the same street where president Mikhail Gorbachev lived, Kosygin Street.

A destroyed Soviet BMP and T-54 not far (200 metres?) from president Gorbachev's official residence.

To this day I have found no explanation for the presence of these destroyed military vehicles. Their hatches were open and kids were playing in and around them while we were there, as they were actually standing right beside a school. I reckon they may have been standing just a couple of hundred metres from the Soviet president's residence. If you saw these wrecks in Moscow 1991, or know anything about their story, I'd be very much indebted for your comments.

To be on the safe side, I made peace with Peter the Great before leaving Moscow. The gentleman dressed up as Peter was (is?) probably Russia's greatest (not tallest) reenactor of the era of Peter the Great.

Swedish Heavy Metal

The all-metal 1:6 scale S-tank being constructed by Peter in Boden, Sweden. PHOTO: PE

Tigers and T-34s in scale 1:6 and even 1:4 have been around for some years now. But what about Swedish heavy metal and more specifically the tank yours truly once commanded, the much hyped/hated S-tank?

Well, there are no giant S-models for sale but I have met Peter E., a gentleman in Boden who is making his own all-metal S-tank in 1:6. Thanks to Peter I could attach the above photo of his amazing work so far.

Peter told me he saw Armorteks Tigers in 1:6 about ten years ago and then felt he should try doing something himself in that scale. Why an all-metal S-tank in 1:6? Well, Peter lives not far from the P 5 museum in Boden that has a 1:1 S-tank and thus he thought he would have some edge.

To make a project like this come true Peter has involved something like ten different firms and spent perhaps 500 hours on the project.

Interestingly, Peter's ultimate goal is not a total scale copy but a metal model with functioning suspension and gun elevation. The problem-solving process interests him more than the construction itself.

You can follow the evolution of this project in this thread which is part of a Swedish forum for large-scale model armour projects.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How Nazi Was IKEA's Founder?

A photo of IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad that I took when I met him in 2008.

Today the Swedish media is focusing on the wartime years of IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad. Yesterday evening, secret-stamped Swedish police documents about Kamprad were shown in prime time Swedish TV (SVT) news.

The new documents, found by journalist/author Elisabeth Åsbrink, say that Kamprad was, at least in 1943, a full member (party member number 4014) of the Swedish-Socialist Assembly, in Swedish Svensksocialistisk Samling (SSS), and also active within its youth wing Nordic Youth, Nordisk Ungdom (NU). ADDED 8-31: However, this is not as sensational as it may sound. Ingvar Kamprad in 1998 stated himself that he in his youth probably became a full member of the SSS but that he could not recall when he did this.

There is one English-language book that provides some facts about what kind of party the SSS was. That book is Swedes at War, by yours truly and Lennart Westberg (see the above book cover). Our book describes the character and history of the party in the chapter about Swedes in German WWII uniform, as the majority of the 200 individuals that served in the Waffen-SS or Wehrmacht belonged to the SSS.

Just how Nazi was the SSS? As we state in our book the SSS was without doubt national socialist in character. However, within Nazism there were factions and even opponents to Hitler (or Hitlerism). So, although the SSS was close to the ideology of Hitler and his party (NSDAP), it also made some notable gestures such as dropping National Socialist in its name in 1938, replacing it with Swedish-Socialist (in Swedish a single word: Svensksocialistisk). The same year the party stopped using the swastika, replacing it with a Vasa sheaf (vasakärve). The brown shirts were replaced by blue ones.

Thus Ingvar Kamprad most probably never wore a swastika armband, swastika pin or SA-brown shirt.

The main newspaper of the SSS during WWII was "The Swedish Folk Socialist".

Perhaps more significantly, three members of the SSS movement fought against the Germans when Hitler invaded Norway in 1940. At least one of them also died there, killed in action by a German hand grenade. His name was Karl Lindström and he is also described in Swedes at War. While the German invasion of Norway was taking place these volunteers had the support of their party. BTW, zero Swedes fought for the Germans in Norway 1940.

In addition it can be mentioned that there existed other Nazi groups in Sweden, more radical and closer to the German NSDAP, such as Solkorset, meaning the Sun Cross.

Nevertheless, the SSS remained, also after 1938, basically a national socialist movement. Why was Kamprad attracted by it? Let us bear in mind that Kamprad's father was German and his German grandmother an ardent supporter of Hitler.

Also, let us not forget that during the 20th century no Nazi party won a single seat in the Swedish parliament. The latter fact also became apparent during WWII when only 200 Swedish citizens donned German uniforms - which can be compared with the more than 1,000 Swedish citizens that joined various military units on the Allied side (mostly for Norway). And one ought not to forget the about 8,000 Swedish citizens that served on merchant vessels on the Allied side. ADDED 8-31: Finally, and perhaps most important for today's perception of Ingvar Kamprad, it should be noted that Mr. Kamprad in the 1998 book about his life rejected both nazism, fascism and racism.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Black Sun Mystery in Hamburg

The 2009 version of "Schwarze Sonne" is slightly longer than the earlier editions and includes the DVD with the same title.

The Danish book "Nazimyter" (Nazi Myths) also features the black sun on the cover.

I have learnt some new things about the Third Reich's (especially within the SS) "Nordic" religion, but one of my major questions about the black sun of the SS remains.

Last year I blogged about the facts behind fictional SS units like the SS-division "Schwarze Sonne" and mentioned the best source about the subject IMHO: a book and documentary called Schwarze Sonne by German author & filmmaker Rüdiger Sünner. Well, since last year the book has not yet been translated (the documentary at least has subtitles in English). But I have gotten hold of the expanded version of the book, the 2009 edition, and want to here briefly review it.

The 2009 edition differs from the earlier editions basically in that it contains a 15-page supplement and the DVD, a high-quality documentary with bonus material such as a long interview with the author. Fans and critics of "Iron Sky" will be pleased to learn that the author also writes about that coming Finnish movie in the additional pages.

The new edition has a few more photographs, one of which is quite important and can be seen also on the web. The reason I think it is important is that it represents one of the likely inspirations for the black sun inside the Wewelsburg. However, I believe this artifact (scroll down to the lowest photo) is even more likely to have inspired the Wewelsburg design (count the reversed S-runes).

Alas, Rüdiger Sünner's book has not been translated to English. But if you are Scandinavian there are now some books in our languages on the subject. I will here only cover the first of them to be published, the Danish book Nazimyter ("Nazi Myths") by Dan H. Andersen, that came out in 2007. The book provides much of the same insights that The Master Plan and Schwarze Sonne provide but also has some interesting finds and observations that I believe are new. I found three of the photos in Nazimyter extra interesting as they perfectly illustrate how far the craze for runes went in Third Reich schools and in the Wewelsburg.

Although I recommend both books for many reasons I must also say that neither of them provided me with more information about the second known black sun depicted during the Third Reich, the one under the Bismarck monument in Hamburg, which is not identical with the Wewelsburg black sun, only similar to it. Thus I am still asking why there of all places, and who put it there?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Polish-German Battle on Aksla

On Aksla outside Narvik you can really see "the hand of history". Guess it is impossible to tell if this glove was worn by a German or a Pole? PHOTO: Oyvind Johnsen (and all below photos)

My friend and colleague Oyvind Johnsen in Narvik was kind enough to send me the below photos from a hike to Aksla on Saturday, August 20th. Johnsen is the author of Slaget om Narvik, Sydfronten, which I would translate as The Battle of Narvik: Southern Sector. It sure deserves to be translated not least for the many hike tips.

As can be seen from the below photos this site of a small Polish-German battle still has some German hand grenades (do not touch them) lying about and pieces of clothing like e.g. a life vest presumably from the "Gebirgsmarine" (perhaps it helped someone poorly dressed keep a bit warmer?).

Narvik WWII historian and author Oyvind Johnsen on Aksla.

There were 22 participants on the Saturday hike, among them one Polish visitor who perhaps was the first Pole up there since 1940. My friend Oyvind held a little lecture to the hikers at about 1000 metres. Wish I had been up there too.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Unknown Arctic Airfield Discovered

By the just discovered airstrip. The petrol barrel is marked Shell. In the background the magnificent "Lapponian Gate". PHOTO: Björn Lundquist

Could this discovery be linked to the WWII Allied "Kari" or "Sepals" bases in northern Sweden? Or is it something to do with the early Cold War? Well, what seems pretty clear is that Björn Lundquist has photographed a previously undocumented airfield in a strategic area.

After a tip, Björn Lundquist of Kiruna, former commander of both northern Swedish ranger regiments, decided to check out an area between Abisko and Stordalen, places that are not that far from Norwegian Narvik.

What Björn Lundquist has just photographed resembles a simpler WWII or 1950s airfield. According to Lundquist's measurements it is 300 x 40 metres. He also found what seem to be field side markings and a field stop and the remains of a building.

No known Swedish military records have any indication of an airfield where the discovery was made.

Suggestions and other comments are very welcome.

Thank you, Björn, for letting me be first to publish this discovery and I hope some readers here can provide some clues or even unravel the facts behind these remains.

The remains of a building by the airfield. PHOTO: Björn Lundquist

Monday, August 15, 2011

Aviator of Disney Fame in Sweden

Victory Through Airpower Trailer 1943

One of the things I was most amazed about to discover when researching for Germans and Allies in Sweden was that one of the most influential personalities of the USAAF visited Sweden both before and during WWII. His name was Alexander de Seversky.

In my book I mention Seversky's bestselling book and the Disney film with the same name, Victory Through Airpower. Well, above is a 1943 trailer promoting both his book and film.

Friday, August 12, 2011

News From El Dorado

Here is a showcase example of how to start telling a story. I will quote from the new book by Paul R. Sellin Treasure, Treason and the Tower, that I received some minutes ago:

"A sharp medicine," said the last of the great Elizabethan heroes as he tested the edge of the headman's axe before laying his head on the block.

Now, that is what I call a head start.

I sure look forward to continue reading this study that I reckon will change the perception of both El Dorado and Sir Walter Raleigh, thanks to a remarkable discovery in a Swedish archive.

BTW, speaking about new facts, in case you have not seen the latest news about Raoul Wallenberg, read this and then this.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Small War in Moscow

Trailer for "Newsmakers"/"Polisstyrka X7".

"Newsmakers", a Russian-Swedish remake of the Hong Kong action film "Breaking News", has been released in Sweden as "Polisstyrka X7". Although the basic subject is crime the film is also about information warfare and therefore deserves some extra attention, like on this blog.

Also, the guys fighting the villians are not only the Russian militia (nowadays the Russian police) but also OMON (black berets) and other paramilitary units.

It is weird that a partly Swedish film that was shown in Russia in 2009 only should reach the Swedish audience two years later, directly to DVD. Still, the basic idea about the media version of a conflict being (considered) more important than the events themselves is probably more 2011 than 2009. The media-focused Oslo mass-murderer Anders Behring Breivik has made the idea painfully relevant.

It would be a strong understatement to call this remake action packed. The problem with the film is that it has so much action - performed and filmed way better than in most Swedish films - that the highly interesting plot and three great main characters simply drown in all the bloody action. The high quality of the many (too many) action scenes I reckon is mostly due to its director, Anders Banke. Yep, the director of the SS Vampire movie "Frostbite".

Thus I am not able to generally recommend this movie, called "Newsmakers" in all western countries except Sweden (here it is "Polisstyrka X7"). But if you are a (former) Muscovite or have a strong interest in action movies or information warfare... well, then you might still want to see this movie. Another reason could be to simply watch the actor Andrey Merzlikin. IMHO he does not have to say a word to be brilliant. Yes, he is that soldier in "The Brest Fortress".

The Mysterious Pilot in Älvsbyn

This large-scale model of a "Mystery Ship" is exhibited in the Petrol Museum of Älvsbyn in Swedish Lapland.

One of the most motor nostalgia-filled museums I've ever seen is the Petrol Museum (in Swedish: Bensinmuseum) of Älvsbyn. The museum is small but well worth the visit if you are in northernmost Sweden. Military items are very few but there is a great model of a plane flown by Frank Hawks.

Hawks, famous from the movie serial "The Mysterious Pilot", was a WWI aviator who started breaking air records. In my opinion his "Mystery Ship" aircraft also known as "Texaco 13" is one of the most beautiful aircraft ever built. So, just to be able to see the large-scale (I reckon scale 1:10) model of his plane was a treat in itself.

The Petrol Museum of Älvsbyn has thousands of items related to old gas stations, I reckon most are from the 1930s to 1960s. Aside from these smaller items I also greatly appreciated the car wrecks outside, here are two of them:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

From Wehrwolfs to U-boats

In September 1945 the Karesuando police raised the alarm about German guerilla bands. The Karesuando police station was also central to Norwegian police troops, the monument is for them.

My 2011 Arctic summer research trip started with Wehrwolfs and ended with U-boats. Great company, finds and superb weather made it another very memorable tour.

The first week of July two friends and I drove up to the point where Sweden, Finland and Norway converge. In Swedish we call the place Treriksröset, which translates as Three Realms Cairn.

Our first stop was in Karesuando, i.e. just before Finland. Karesuando is Sweden's northernmost town but not only has a frontier shop that boasts "We have everything, almost", it even has an Asian Restaurant that serves good reindeer dishes.

It was in Karesuando, in the old police building called "The White House" and seen above, that the local head of police raised the alarm about "German werewolves" on the Swedish border in a report dated the 15th of September 1945. This report would seem to be verified by a report from the Swedish defence attache in Oslo, written some weeks before the Karesuando police report. Also Swedish newspaper reports from the time seem to support the existence of German guerilla or werewolf groups, in German Werwolf and also Wehrwolf (the latter being Third Reich spelling, wehr means defence).

A German staff car in a stream, still there in 2011, in the area of the reported werewolf activity. Some Wehrmacht dunkelgelb paint still remains on it. I believe it is an Opel Olympia but not at all sure from which year. Any suggestions?

Now, there definitely were groups of German SS-Wehrwolfs operating in Arctic Norway, under the project name Silberfuchs. The last group turned themselves in on May 19, 1945. But these groups operated around Kirkenes, not around the Three Realms Cairn.

Not least thanks to research by my friend Simon Orchard (whose knowledge about German units in Arctic Norway is just amazing), I was able to pretty much prove that the "werewolves" by the Three Realms Cairn were basically German soldiers hunting reindeer. A few may have been escapees from a feared future in Soviet captivity, but that did not make them into werewolves.

I have written about this theme in my latest book in Swedish, that I have described in English in this previous post. In a future book in English I will write even more about this and hopefully also provide some photos from the last and very real Arctic werewolf operations, i.e. around Kirkenes.

In one of the valleys of the German Lyngen line in Norway we befriended this local who showed us his WWII skis from Murmansk. He still uses them, but only once or twice a year.

Speaking about the Kirkenes area, we were shown a pair of skis with an amazing background, in one of the most isolated valleys of the German Lyngen line in Norway. These US Army skis were manufactured in Pennsylvania during WWII and sent via some convoy to Soviet Murmansk. Then, through Soviet or Norwegian troops coming from Murmansk to Kirkenes, the skis eventually reached our new friend.

Might the Allen company in Pennsylvania still be in business? Then please send me some money for this advertisement...

Naturally, we also visited the Troms Defence Museum in Setermoen, although I have been there something like a dozen times before. But it is always good to see and has some new finds too, this year e.g. two German (Czech-made) tank turrets that had been used on top of bunkers of the Atlantic Wall.

I was once a tank commander, but not in one of these, the Germans called them Panzerkampfwagen 38(t). BTW I am wearing a surplus Norwegian army shirt bought for almost nothing but it is one of the best shirts you can find.

On the final day we realized that the Arctic u-boat base we had heard of has more remains than we had anticipated. As we only had just enough time to drive there and take a few photos I will end this report with a teaser photo. More about this base next year or perhaps I will save it all for my coming book in English...

The perfect location for a u-boat base. I would say that this fjord is the most "Tolkienesque" I have visited so far. To fully appreciate this one, see it in slightly larger size by clicking on the image.

Thank you guys, and see you next year!

I forgot to mention that after Karesuando we revisited the "Sturmbockstellung" with its modern museum. Always worth seeing if you are in the area, especially when the museum is open.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

SS Ahnenerbe and Sweden

Herman Wirth, the first leader of the SS organization Ahnenerbe, spoke at this medical society in Stockholm in 1935. I recently wrote the first detailed article about this visit.

In late June I decided to relax with some fiction, but I found it hard to treat the book in question as fiction when I realized how much it was about a dimension of the SS that I have a special interest in, and recently wrote about, the Ahnenerbe.

Since I wrote my blog post SS-Division "Schwarze Sonne" I have written an article about some previously unknown details about a lecture in Stockholm by Ahnenerbe leader Herman Wirth. The visit has not been unknown, already back then in 1935 papers wrote about it, but several details were until this summer unknown. Thanks to a recent Norwegian book, Jakten på Germania (The Hunt for Germania), and some research of my own e.g. in the Royal Library in Stockholm, I was able to write that piece, alas yet only in Swedish.

I reckon I may eventually write a proper article about the Stockholm lecture in English too, but I can immediately divulge that the lecture by Wirth was presented by the Manhem Society, a kind of club for both Swedish ultranationalists and national socialists. However, the locale of the meeting is pretty surprising, the main office of the Swedish Society of Medicine - in the very city centre.

Although Wirth's Stockholm speech is missing in Heather Pringle's Ahnenerbe book The Master Plan there are more Swedish aspects in that book that to my mind by now should have caught the attention of Swedish thriller writers. Thus I was a bit disappointed by the new and very hyped novel Strindberg's Star by Jan Wallentin, a Swedish journalist and now also author.

Jan Wallentin has chosen to make up a drama largely taking place in Sweden. A drama largely connected to the Ahnenerbe, but Wallentin has made very little use of the real Swedish aspects of the Ahnenerbe. This confounds me.

Strindberg's Star has some good qualities, I would say that the diving scenes that the book starts with are simply brilliant thriller writing. I also like the way that Wallentin almost plausibly connects Andrée's Arctic balloon expedition of 1897 with WWI and the "black sun" of the SS.

I think it is no wonder that the book has already been translated into several languages, e.g. German (not yet English AFAIK). Here is a video in German presenting the basic plot of the book:

Sadly, IMHO the author overdid things, mainly by moving away from the realism of the first parts into some kind of new age fantasy of his own. I mean, the novel already had enough esoteric stuff on the pages about the really existing Karl Maria Wiligut and the Ahnenerbe.

Jan Wallentin has a really good point though, about the only known real black sun, the one in the Wewelsburg. Why on earth is so little known about why this symbol was chosen for such a significant spot within the Wewelsburg? Wallentin provides an answer to this riddle but can not be in earnest. His reply is just pure fiction. But why no other black suns before 1946? That is, aside from the one under the Bismarck monument in Hamburg, which is not identical with the Wewelsburg black sun, only similar to it. BTW why the black sun under the Bismarck monument? And who put it there?

Speaking about Nils Strindberg's star I might add that his relative August Strindberg did have a very strong relationship to a symbol, but it was not a star. His tombstone reads "O Crux Ave Spes Unica" (O Cross, Be Greeted, Our Only Hope).

There is another modern novel focused on the Black Sun of the SS. The title is simply The Black Sun and it was written some years ago by James Twining. I read it with some satisfaction but must confess that I do not recall much of the plot.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

"Band of Bruders"?!

In "Band of Brothers," there is a scene where one of the paratroopers is passing a group of German POW's and shouts to them "Where are you from boys?!" And one of the POW's responds in perfect English "I'm from Eugene, Oregon." What the...what's an American doing in the German Army?

Well, guess what, a fan of the famous TV series has made a small but impressive film about one of the Americans in the German Army: Fred Treiber (1922-2008). The name of the production is "Project Edelweiss". May I humbly suggest another name, half in jest: "Band of Bruders" ;-)

Fred Treiber was assigned to the Gebirgsjägers (mountain troops) and ended up fighting in the Caucasus. But the above scenes take place during a Gebirgsjäger training climb in the alps.

I don't understand if there is more coming, I would like to know more about Mr. Treiber, like if he returned to the US after the war and if he during the war perhaps also served in Scandinavia? Here is a longer version of the film and here a slide show of the same hike. Still, I hope a yet longer one with more info about Mr. Treiber will be made. Perhaps the film's director, Patrick Kiser, might read this and could inform some more? Well done, Mr. Kiser, hope to see some more films from your camera.

As I have stated earlier, these kind of films both impress me and make me a bit worried, not least as they are getting so similar to the wartime newsreels that some viewers, especially in the future, may take them for the real thing, clips from the German Wochenschau.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Viking Battalion Veterans Honoured

The US Army 99th Infantry Battalion a.k.a. "the Viking Battalion" was mainly a Norwegian American unit but a number of Swedish Americans and even some Swedish citizens were part of it, which is why it is also featured in Swedes at War.

Here are two recent images courtesy of the 99th, showing how some 99th veterans recently were honoured by the Norwegian Armed Forces. I just love these images (note the viking ship insignia):

Dont miss the 99th Infantry website to see more photos, both from WWII and postwar.

Hat tip to Bill Hoffland!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

New Viking Age Discoveries

If you feel like following a Swedish archeological dig almost live, then this Swedish blog in English is for you. They are finding some rather interesting stuff from the Viking age and later.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

RIP, My Best Russian Friend

Earlier today I learnt that my best friend in Russia, Roman Kravchenko-Berezhnoy, died the 20th of May. I honestly believe I somehow sensed this. For some weeks now I have felt uneasy for long periods, which I very seldom do.

The book project I have been a part of that I am most proud of was not about one of my own books, but Roman 's book: Victims, Victors: From Nazi Occupation to the Conquest of Germany as Seen by a Red Army Soldier. I was one of its editors.

The main part of the book is Roman's secret wartime diary that he wrote as a teenager in Nazi-occupied Ukraine. At the time his dream was "to survive until our guys got back, become a soldier myself, get a submachine gun, and head westward with them". But what really sets this book apart is that Roman is a very odd volunteer for the Red Army, as he has been raised in Poland, in a home very much part of a Russia that ceased to exist in 1917.

Although Roman after Hitler's 1941 attack against the Soviet Union dearly wants the Red Army to win, his family is not at all Soviet or Communist, it is a Russian family that has lived in a Russian community within a Ukrainian part of Poland until the advent of WWII.

Roman in 1942, while writing his occupation diaries.

Thus, getting to know Roman was getting to know not only a very warm, wise and remarkable gentleman, it was also a fantastic opportunity to get to know Russia before 1917 in the form of a living human being. It is still just as mind-boggling to me as ever, no - even more now, when I think about it.

My friend after having become a submachinegunner and then frontline military interpreter. Here he holds the rank of a sergeant in the Red Army.

Well, as you have already guessed, Roman could realize his dream and become a Red Army solider, in 1944. Thus a part of the book constitutes his candid memories of being a teenage soldier that in a matter of months becomes a seasoned veteran and also gets greater responsibilities when his language skills are discovered. He is then transferred to a reconnaissance detachment.

He fights in Latvia, Poland, and Germany up to the seizure of Berlin. In occupied Germany he serves as a military interpreter for some five years, including for an Inter-Allied group searching for remains of Allied aviators.

Because of the nature of the Stalinist system Roman was then "rewarded" for his long service abroad and contacts with westerners with banishment to a construction battalion in the Motherland.

Roman Kravchenko-Berezhnoy (1926-2011). Teenage writer and soldier and later NCO, scientist and linguist. But above all: a brave, honest man and gentleman.

I was very glad that Roman got to read several wonderful reviews about his book, that in the Russian language was virtually unknown until the advent of the English translation by Marina Guba in 2007, made possible by the small quality publisher Aberjona Press of Bedford, Pennsylvania. For example, Walter S. Dunn wrote in Journal of Military History about it: "A remarkable document, casting light on events little understood. . . . Required reading for students of World War II and modern Russian history."

Still, I must say I am also somewhat disappointed that this moving and "truly unique" (quote from David M. Glantz) book has not yet been translated into my own language, Swedish, although part of the book takes place in Sweden. Amazingly, the author again became a "frontline" interpreter in 1990 while on a hijacked plane that was landed in Sweden. The book also should have a sizeable audience in German-speaking countries and in Poland, where much of the book takes place. I also strongly believe that it could be made into a movie that actually could promote understanding for the Eastern European WWII experience.

To somewhat understand Russia and other states once part of the "Eastern bloc", studying WWII is simply essential. I also believe that especially the Red Army has long been a mystery to westerners for the lack of i.a. translated auto-biographies. Therefore I warmly recommend to those who have not read Victims, Victors to check it out. The book is available from many internet book stores.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Commander Savage in Lapland

I had read about a bomb sight being thrown out over Lapland before but only now am grasping the whole story of Commander Peter Savage in Lapland, thanks to this obituary.

Hat tip to Peter Hore and Jan Erik Oja!

Friday, June 03, 2011

One Special Pacific Swede

The subtitle translates as "The Swedish American that survived Pearl Harbor".

In six months it will be 70 years since Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Because a relative of mine was there and almost went down with his ship I have since childhood had a special relationship to Pearl Harbor. This fall a book will appear about Emery "Swede" Lundquist who was there and afterwards even experienced Arctic war, but lived to tell.

In fact, Emery "Swede" Lundquist lives to this day. The coming Swedish book Swede is the result of Mr. Lundquist's meetings with an experienced Swedish journalist, Thomas Tynander. Thanks to Mr. Lundquist's wartime diary his memories are extra credible and detailed.

Swede is not Mr. Tynander's first bok about a Swedish American fate, Tynander's biography about the hockey legend Pelle Lindbergh was released also in English in 2009.

"Swede" Lundquist experienced not only all major naval battles against Japan, he was also in the extreme but rather unknown fight for the Aleutian Islands, those 200 islands between Alaska and Russia.

I was given a sneek peak and can testify that Swede will be appreciated by many, both WWII buffs and all Swedes interested in their American family branch(es). Hopefully, some US publisher will also want to publish Swede.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Nord Training In Oulu

The Finnish reenactors behind this new Wochenschau have put a lot of effort into the production.

A previously unknown German news reel from the Arctic? Well, at least a rather good attempt to create one in 2011.

The depicted area is Finnish Oulu, not very far from where I live and where the "Nord" mountain division of the Waffen-SS trained.

The production has a few flaws that give it away as a fake Wochenschau, but quite possibly younger people watching this, especially in the future, may believe it is the real thing. I find this somewhat alarming, but in this case I would say the aim has just been to create a short film Wochenschau-style for historical and human interest in the depicted soldiers, and in filmmaking itself.

I took part in similar reenactments in the 1980s portraying a British tanker. Here I am, to the right, with a "captured" Tiger tank in France:

"British" tankers with a "captured" Tiger in Vimoutiers, Normandy. Not back in 1944 though, but 1985 or ´86

Part of the key to successful faking is using a period camera with period-type film. If memory serves me right I used a 1940s "box camera" (large format negatives) for the above image.

Today I lack both the time and devotion for reenacting, but find it interesting to once in a while check out the reenactment scene via the internet.

I would say the above Finnish-made video from Youtube would have been perfect had the editing been more drastic and the speech faster and more distinct. Some moments are perfect, impossible to tell from the real thing. Which, again, makes me somewhat concerned about the whole thing. I guess I have mixed feelings nowadays, while 20 years ago I would have been mostly enthusiastic.