Home History Sole Survivor: This Commando Evaded the Nazis in the Arctic for 63 Days

Sole Survivor: This Commando Evaded the Nazis in the Arctic for 63 Days

by Enochadmin

In late March 1943 25-year-old Norwegian commando Jan Baalsrud, three different Particular Operations Government officers and a crew of eight sailed northeast from the Shetland Islands aboard the fishing boat Brattholm. The four-man workforce was to recruit resistance members in far northern Norway with an eye fixed towards sabotaging enemy installations. Their jumping-off level was an island north of Tromsö, Norway, 270 miles above the Arctic Circle. 

The mission quickly went awry when Baalsrud and companions revealed themselves to a shopkeeper they mistakenly believed to be their contact. Fearing he was being examined by the Germans, the person alerted authorities to the workforce’s presence. 

The commandos returned to Brattholm, however on March 30 a German warship found the boat. After lighting a time-delay fuze to destroy their cache of explosives, the workforce and crew made for shore in dinghies. The detonation fully destroyed Brattholm, however in a subsequent firefight the Germans killed one of many workforce and captured everybody else—besides Baalsrud. Having swum ashore, the younger Norwegian killed a German officer and wounded a soldier whereas making good his escape. 

That night Baalsrud, soaked to the pores and skin and having misplaced a boot, chanced upon two teenage cousins out for a stroll. The women took him residence, the place kin supplied meals, dry garments and substitute boots. The eldest boy then rowed Baalsrud to Ringvassoya Island, hoping the husband of the native midwife might transport the commando to the mainland. The person had left hours earlier, so Baalsrud saved on the transfer, touring at evening and sheltering by day with fellow Norwegians keen to assist him. One sympathetic fisherman rowed him to the mainland and gave him a pair of skis.

Baalsrud was quickly caught in an avalanche that broke one ski and swept away the opposite together with his meals satchel. 4 days later he stumbled into the farmhouse of a household with resistance ties. Snow-blind and ravenous, he seemed extra useless than alive. 

On April 12 his rescuers took the helpless Baalsrud east by boat throughout Lyngenfjord to a crude, distant hut the grateful commando nicknamed the “Lodge Savoy.” Regardless of his bravado, he was struggling horrible ache in his legs, and his toes had turned blackish grey with gangrene. Realizing the an infection would unfold, he used his sheath knife to chop off one in every of his huge toes and a part of one other toe.

On the evening of April 24 resistance members took Baalsrud by sled into the Revdal Mountains to fulfill a gaggle from close by Manndalen that might spirit him into Sweden, however their contacts weren’t ready on the rendezvous level. Assured they have been en route, the workforce left Baalsrud on his sled tucked snugly beneath a rocky overhang. It was a lucky selection of shelter, as 4 days handed earlier than resistance members might make it again as much as the commando’s hiding place. After guaranteeing he was alive, they despatched a message to Manndalen: “The fish yarn is accomplished and able to be picked up.” 

On Might 11 the Manndalen workforce carried Baalsrud to decrease floor and hid him in one other cave. He remained there 17 days, throughout which he eliminated six extra of his gangrenous toes and amputated a seventh to the center joint.

Lastly, two Sámi (Lapp) brothers volunteered to take Baalsrud into Sweden. They carried him on a pulk—a sled with out runners—drawn by reindeer. A German patrol fired on the trio as they crossed the Swedish border.

Arriving in a Swedish hospital after 63 days in occupied Norway, Baalsrud was requested who had amputated his toes. The doctor was surprised when the younger man responded he had carried out it himself. There Baalsrud realized his workforce members had been tortured and executed.

Following Norway’s liberation Baalsrud was awarded the St. Olaf’s Medal with Oak Department for his wartime service. “I’m not the hero,” he insisted till his demise at age 71 on Dec. 30, 1988. “The folks in [the region of] Troms are.” Each July locals nonetheless collect for a 125-mile commemorative march alongside Baalsrud’s wartime escape route. 

this text first appeared in Army Historical past journal

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