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

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.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sweden´s No 1 MIA

Not long ago I blogged about Sweden´s most famous MIA, Raoul Wallenberg. I was then not aware of the latest book about him, The Envoy by Alex Kershaw. If you have the slightest interest in Wallenberg, read it!

Here´s why: its up to date, very disturbing, very well written and also inspiring. If you ever have a hard time, stop and ponder what happened to Raoul Wallenberg, and more specifically how he was let down.

I have a stack of books I want to review but will be short of time till I don´t know when. So instead of reviewing books only this fall, I will instead write very short reviews. Thus I will only add that not only is this book a great read and important for what it says about Wallenberg and the late efforts to find him, it also vividly describes events in Budapest like Otto Skorzeny´s Operation Panzerfaust.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Swedish Air Force Salutes Ace

Roundel of the Swedish Air Force (low visibility version).

The highest representative of the Swedish Air Force, Major General Anders Silwer, today published this text about the only fighter ace from Sweden, William Yngve Anderson, written by yours truly, ending with the following words of his own (in my translation): "We Swedish aviators give a final salute to our colleague William Anderson".

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Sweden´s Only Fighter Ace Dies At 89

William Yngve Anderson, born in Swedish Kramfors in 1921, became 89 years old. Each swastika on his P-51 Mustang denotes one official air victory.

The first pilot to successfully shoot down a German V-1 flying bomb was William Y. Anderson, according to the front page of the Chicago Tribune on June 20th, 1944. This claim may well be correct as the V-1 had entered service only on June 12. Anderson shot down at least one V-1 over France on June 17.

In addition Anderson shot down at least seven manned German aircraft. To become an ace only five were needed. On all three P-51 Mustangs that were entrusted to him, Anderson wrote in large letters "Swede´s Steed".

The night between this Monday and Tuesday Mr. Anderson, i.a. decorated personally by Eisenhower, died in his Crystal Lake home close to Chicago, at 89 years of age. In a few weeks he would have turned 90.

Anderson is featured in the US Aviation Hall of Fame as well at the Fighter Aces Hall of Fame. A handful of Swedish pilots in Finnish service during the Winter War shot down 1-3 aircraft each, but none reached the ace stage of five confirmed victories. Thus Mr. Anderson is the most successful fighter pilot from Sweden.

Strangely, in his native Sweden his feats were unknown until a few years ago, when finally he entered Swedish cyberspace and in 2010 became known through our book Swedes at War. He is on the front cover of the book.

Anderson flew 126 combat missions. Among his many medals is a French Croix de Guerre (War Cross) and a Silver Star that Eisenhower himself pinned on his uniform.

With his lovely wife Lois (with roots in Gothenburg) he had a large family. At his death he could count three children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

During my contacts with Mr. and Mrs. Anderson I perceived Mr. Anderson as an unusually warm and cheerful man. Indeed, as one of his grandchildren wrote to me some hours after his death: "He was brilliant for aviation but even more amazing with his family".

William Yngve Anderson´s official obituary in English was published some hours ago.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Winter War Volunteer Book Delivers

This new study is modern, relevant and well illustrated. A must for anyone interested in Arctic operations, volunteer forces and/or the Nordic countries in WWII.

At last I can write the promised review of Swedish Volunteers in the Russo-Finnish Winter War by Martina Sprague. Let me say straight away that it delivers more than promised.

The chapter about Swedish citizens fighting as volunteers for Finland in WWII by yours truly in Swedes at War serves as an introduction to the theme. If you want to know more and are not able to read Swedish, Martina Sprague´s new book is definately the book to get. In fact, I recommend her book also to Swedes as Ms. Sprague presents some fresh insights and several unpublished photographs and documents.

Martina Sprague has previously written books like Norse Warfare: The Unconventional Battle Strategies of the Ancient Vikings.

In her new book, Martina Sprague provides much information about Swedish Winter War volunteers never before published in the English language. In addition she gives us both the Finnish and Soviet military perspectives of the Winter War.

The many pages about the political background of the Winter War and the peace negotiations strictly speaking did not have to be in a book with a title like this one. But what Sprague writes about the background etc is bound to interest also most volunteer-focused readers. I fully agree with Ms. Sprague that the Winter War had strategic and psychological implications (e.g. in the way Hitler came to rate the Red Army because of its performance in Finland) far beyond the scale of the short war itself.

Indeed, sending British and French troops to Finland via Sweden, that was in the cards on several occasions, would have altered a great deal in the course of WWII. How the big picture would have changed by such a deployment is hard to say, but surely the implications would have been grave.

I have one rather negative thing to say: unfortunately Martina Sprague is wrong in stating that "the Swedish Volunteer Corps comprised the largest volunteer combat force in any modern war". She does this both inside the book and on the back cover. Now, I understand why she says so, because several Swedish authors have stated this before. However, even if one excludes the about 40,000 Irish volunteers in British formations (for being in various different units), you still have to compare the Swedish Volunteer Corps with the Spanish Blue Division. Then there are the many Polish and Latvian volunteer formations in foreign uniforms. For more on this subject see the chapter "Final Reflections" in Swedes at War.

Ms. Sprague has also not included the new and quite startling Soviet side of the "Grafström Raid" story. But I reckon I published it too late for her to find it.

But I wish to stress that aside from these two points Swedish Volunteers in the Russo-Finnish Winter War is a good read and an important contribution towards better understanding both Swedish and Finnish WWII history and Arctic operations in general.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Operation Neptune´s Spear and Swedish SEALs

To find an active US Navy SEAL willing to talk about operation Neptune´s Spear is no easy thing, but an American relative managed to find Mike Smith, a former SEAL. I like his last comments.

US Navy SEALs have been of particular interest to Swedes long before the bin Laden raid. This is because Sweden´s most famous elite officer, Carl Hamilton, is a fully qualified SEAL.

Carl Hamilton, however, is a James Bondesque character in novels by Swedish author Jan Guillou, and movies based on these books. But there has been a Rolf Hamilton and a Jan T. Sundlöf, two Swedish naval officers/attack divers that I have written about in my previous Swedish book, Elitförband i Norden ("Nordic Elite Units") and a long article. These officers received UDT/SEAL training in the 1950s to 1970s. Hopefully I will have time to translate and adapt that book into English next year.

Nice SEAL-interview, Randy!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Gas Masks in the Arctic

The brand new paperback edition of "Sweden, the Swastika and Stalin".

Last year I blogged about John Gilmour´s impressive analysis of Sweden in the Second World War, Sweden, the Swastika and Stalin. The bound version of that book was quite expensive. Now there is a paperback version with a revised cover.

Not only is the new edition more affordable, the exterior is also more attractive, the cover photograph featuring Swedish ski troops with Browning Automatic Rifles and wearing gas masks, an exotic image I had not seen before.

This sentence from the back cover says a lot both about the book itself and the modern WWII debate in Sweden:

"The book also shows how Sweden successfully dealt with Germany and the Soviet Union - two of the world´s most brutal regimes - and survived as an independent, democratic nation, but remains obsessed with the morality of its wartime policies".

You really should get this book if you want to better understand modern Swedish history and society.