Norway once again mounted its annual Liberation Day and Veterans Day ceremonies on May 8, this year under threatening skies and chilly temperatures. It seemed almost symbolic given the new military tensions in Europe since Russia intervened in Ukraine, but it didn’t dampen the celebration of Norwegian military heroes both dead and alive.
Among those honoured was Lt Aleksander Hesseberg Vikebø, who became Norway’s most highly decorated soldier since World War II at an age of 28. Vikebø received the War Cross with Sword from King Harald along with the St Olav’s Medallion with oak branch at ceremonies at Oslo’s historic Akershus Fortress and Castle. He was recognized for his heroic efforts that saved many lives in Afghanistan. Another officer, Kåre Brændeland, also received the War Cross with Sword from the king, for his service in Bosnia.
Ceremonies took place all over Norway, and lasted all day in Oslo. After laying down wreaths at war memorials and firing canons at noon, King Harald took part in ceremonies, the prime minister and defense minister spoke, the Royal Guards performed and fighter jets flew overhead.
Hundreds turned out for ceremonies at the site on the fortress grounds where resistance fighters were executed by Nazi German forces during World War II. Ivar Wendelborg, who took part in the resistance as a very young man, said in remarks at the site that he’s confident today’s young Norwegians would do the same if Norway were to be invaded again. “When things get really serious, the youth will step forward again,” Wendelborg said.
Wreaths were also laid at a monument on Bygdøy to the merchant seafarers on commercial vessels who found themselves outside Norway when the Germans invaded. Many served in difficult and highly dangerous convoys during the war but only recently have received the recognition they deserve.