Wednesday, February 8, 2017

They Should Have Listened to Their King



King Haakon VII foresaw war in Europe if Hitler came to power. He repeatedly urged Norway’s political leaders to strength their defenses. They had a small, obsolete navy and an army with outdated weapons and one tank. Field maneuvers had been abolished to save money.


Sixty-seven-year-old Haakon had studied Hitler, even read Mein Kampf, and he knew his country would be in danger from Germany because of its strategic value with access to the North Atlantic and the Baltic Sea. Norway also possessed a vast merchant marine.
Norway had been at peace for more than a century, including during World War I, and intended to remain so. The political leaders ignored the king. They saw the monarchy as a useless relic they didn’t want.
England’s first lord of the admiralty, Winston Churchill, advocated Britain to take the offensive against Germany, but not on German soil or, of course, English soil. Instead, it should take place in Norwegian waters to stop the shipment of Sweden’s iron ore to Germany. He claimed they were fighting to protect the liberties of small countries.
On April 8, 1940, the British sowed mines along the Norwegian coast. The next day, the Germans attacked and occupied Norway.
The German minister met with Haakon and demanded Norway’s surrender. The king refused. After briefing his ministers, he informed them that if they capitulated, he would abdicate, renouncing the throne for himself and his family.
Many of the ministers had wanted to accept the German demands. The country was unprepared to fight. The king’s resolve, however, stopped all talk of surrender. His defiance stimulated resistance throughout the country.
 Hitler flew into a rage over Haakon’s resistance. The “petty king” of Norway must be tracked down and killed. For two weeks, the Germans bombed and strafed every place they thought the king and his government might be.
Having provoked the Germans, the British sent a force to help. They didn’t do any good. Knowing nothing about Norway, they relied on travel brochures. Routed after nine days, they evacuated. They did send a cruiser to retrieve the king, his ministers, and half of Norway’s gold.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Liberty Lady



When I decided my second book would feature a B-17 crew that lad to land their damaged plane in neutral Sweden, I discovered little had been written about the interned airmen. I did run across a website, LibertyLadyBook.com. The author, Pat DiGeorge, was researching her parents’ wartime experience in Sweden. It sounded perfect, just what I needed, except it wouldn’t be available for some time.
Pat posted her research online, however, and it gave me plenty of ideas. Her listings of places and maps from the war years were invaluable.


Last October, Liberty Lady was published. I learned a lot more about life in Sweden during the war. Had I read Liberty Lady before my final draft, would No Neutral Ground be any different? Hmm.
No Neutral Ground is a work of fiction. The hierarchy of the OSS and the U.S. military in Sweden is necessarily streamlined to focus on the characters, Rafe and Jennie. Readers if both books will recognize Pat’s influence on my novel.


Liberty Lady tells the full story of Pat’s parents, their early lives, how they ended up in Sweden—Hedy with the OSS and Herman as an interned airman—and their lives after the war. It’s a remarkable story of an American family.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

World War II Snaphot - Franklin Van Valkenburgh




A Naval Academy graduate, Captain Franklin Van Valkenburgh spent over three decades training for combat. He saw action for only the last few minutes of his life.
Assigned to the USS Arizona in February of 1941, he ran a tight ship. The men were well-trained through battle scenarios and tactical exercises in the Pacific around Hawaii.
On Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, the Arizona’s air raid siren sounded at 7:55, followed by general quarters. Van Valkenburgh was seen sprinting for the bridge in full uniform.
Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox told reporters three months later that a burst of shrapnel hit Van Valkenburgh, tearing into his abdomen, as he emerged from the conning tower to the bridge. He fell to the deck, but refused to be moved so he could continue to direct the defense of his ship.
The Arizona exploded at 8:06. Aviation machinist mate first class Donald Graham described the scene. “The whole bridge went up, flames enveloping and obscuring them from view as the flames shot upward twice as high as the tops.”

Knox reported, “When the bridge was a blazing inferno, two officers attempted to remove him, but he ordered them to abandon him and save themselves.”

Van Valkenburgh’s body was never found, only his 1909 academy class ring and two buttons from his uniform. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage and complete disregard of his own life.