Jens-Anton Poulsson, one of the last surviving members of the Telemark sabotage operation during World War II that blocked German development of an atomic bomb, died on Tuesday, just over a month after the death of fellow war hero Knut Haugland. Poulsson was 91.
Poulsson was a highly decorated member of the Norwegian Resistance, whose 90th birthday celebration in 2008 attracted a visit from King Harald and Queen Sonja.
“As a resistance fighter he was one of the greats,” Arnfinn Moland of the Norwegian Resistance Museum told newspaper Aftenposten on Wednesday. “Now there are only two left of those assigned to Kompani Linge (Norwegian Independent Company 1).”
As part of the Kompani Linge, Poulsson was dropped by parachute in October 1942 onto the Hardanger Plateau along with Haugland (who died in December) and other members of Operation Grouse. Their mission was to sabotage the industrial plant at Vemork that the Germans had taken over and where they were believed to be developing heavy water for an atomic bomb.
Their initial attempt ended in catastrophe, with several of the planes carrying British soldiers crashing and forcing Grouse members to remain in hiding on the mountain plateau through one of the hardest winters in memory. Poulsson, from nearby Tinn, recounted the ordeal in a book republished just three years ago, describing in detail the hunger, cold and sheer waiting they had to endure until reinforcements were sent in February 1943.
They finally managed to break into the Vemork plant, and the sabotage succeeded. Poulsson escaped to Sweden and then to London, and went on to head another branch of the resistance, Milorg D16, until the war ended.
He continued a military career and served among other posts as head of the Danish-Norwegian UN forces in Gaza. He headed the Norwegian King’s Guards from 1961-1965 was promoted to colonel in 1968 and led the third infantry regiment from 1980-1982. He was also an avid hunter, and told a military journalist in 2006 that he was a “good hunting comrade” of King Harald’s.
In addition to his numerous Norwegian service medals he was decorated with the British Distinguished Service Order. He had retired to a home in Kongsberg.