The sun was shining in Oslo on Monday as King Harald V, top government officials and military brass prepared to hail Norwegian veterans from World War II and through to more recent international operations. It was on May 8, 1945 that Norway finally was liberated from five years of occupation by Nazi Germany, so it’s also a day when many are reminded to celebrate their freedom.
Seventy-two years later, many of the resistance heroes from World War II have died but others live on and aren’t being forgotten. This year’s ceremonies will especially honour Norway’s Tysklandsbrigaden, made up of around 50,000 Norwegian soldiers who traveled to Germany after the war, to help secure and rebuild a war-torn country.
They were being feted on Monday with a drill corps performance at Oslo’s Akershus Fortress and Castle, a visit from King Harald and flyovers of F16 fighter jets later in the afternoon. Akershus was holding an “open day,” from 8am when flags were raised until 5:30pm, after King Harald was to lay down a wreath at the National Monument. Prime Minister Erna Solberg was due to speak at the main ceremony frm 3:30-4:30pm when medals also would be awarded.
Not all the action was taking place at Akershus. At 2pm, a wreath would also be laid next to the monument at Bygdøy to Norway’s merchant marines, who sailed as krigsseilere during World War II, dodging German submarines as they carried oil, jet fuel and other supplies across a hazardous Atlantic from the US and Canada to England.
Canons roared from Akershus at noon and events were going on all over the country as well on what’s now known as both Liberation Day and Veterans’ Day in Norway. From Bodø and Bergen to Rena and Trondheim, flags were waving and veterans were being honoured for various acts of exceptional bravery during and long after World War II.
More than 100,000 Norwegians have served in various international operations in more than 40 countries during the past 70 years. Among those being honoured this year is a medical corps that served in Bosnia and was bombed for weeks by Serbian forces during the last Balkan war; unarmed UN observer forces in Syria; and Norwegian soldiers who were caught in a battle against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Debate continues over claims that not all returning veterans get the help they need after months in combat. The defense department was urging veterans via its website to acquaint themselves and their families with services available both during and after assignments overseas.