(Background) After Pearl Harbor (Dec 7, 1941), the War Department considered how the military could use foreigners and bilingual, first-generation immigrants from German-occupied areas to assist the war effort. The initial assessment concluded that it would be ‘un-American’ to train foreign troops on US soil, prompting the Norwegian government to refuse a request to recruit Norwegians in the United States for military training in Canada. After a time, however, the War Department decided to set up special units of US citizens from certain ethnic groups for operations in countries occupied by the Axis powers. The following five battalions, established in 1942, were organized based on ethnic groups: 1st Filipino Infantry Battalion (Filipino the nucleus of later 1st and 2nd Filipino Infantry Regiments), the 99th Infantry Battalion (S) (Norwegian), the 100th Infantry Battalion (S) (Japanese), the 101st Infantry Battalion (S) (Austrian but dissolved in 1943 before active service), the 122nd Infantry Battalion (S) (Greek). A Polish unit was also proposed but never created.
In Norwegian historiography, the men of the 99-IB (S) are often referred to as Norwegian Americans. This is only partially correct; the original intention was to transfer as many voluntary Norwegian nationals who had begun the immigration process (a condition of enlistment) to the unit from existing armies as could be acquired. In her book, The 99th Battalion, the Norwegian novelist Gerd Nyquist estimates that the first-generation Norwegian immigrants may have constituted 50 percent of the original force – about 500 men. One of Nyquist’s sources from the battalion said 40 percent of the battalion had been Norwegian citizens (around 400 soldiers). This figure was the result of an informal survey conducted by Nyquist; however, the survey was limited to 152 respondents. Based on information from a veteran of the battalion, Max Hermansen argues in his book D-Dagen 1944 of Norsk innsats that there were approximately 300 Norwegians in the battalion.
Capt Raymond K. Minge, MD, 99-IB-(S)
Dr. Raymond K. Minge, who is a Captain serving with the American Medical Corps in Europe, has written his parents a graphic description of a German Concentration Camp and its conditions in Germany. Capt Minge has served with the American forces ever since they entered France and has been near the front lines on the long trek across the continent. His description of the camp is the first eye-witness story of conditions in Germany told by an Otter Tail County man and fully corroborates the stories that have been written by various war correspondents.
Capt Minge writes in part as follows to his parents, Mr. and Mrs. O. M. Minge of Fergus Falls under the date of Apr 22, 1945.
I am trying to keep up with the rapid advance of our armies across Germany which doesn’t give much time for letter writing. We have just moved into a fine German house, and believe it or not the occupants cleaned it up for us before they took off. After a long session of tent life, it is a real treat to again live indoors and enjoy such luxuries as electric light, heat, and running water.
German Towns Escape Damage – Civilians Well Dressed
The smaller German towns and villages often escape the destruction of war and life seemed to be almost normal among the civilians. They are all well fed and have fine clothes; the women seem to have a bounteous supply of silk stockings. The little children were at first afraid, then shy, finally becoming quite bold and asking us for candy and gum. Of course, any type of fraternization is strictly taboo and a court-martial offense. I feel sorry for the little children (and there is no end to them in this country) for they’re certainly innocent, but the older folks must be treated very sternly.
No Doubt as to What Americans Fought For
Not long ago I had the opportunity to visit one of Germany’s recently liberated concentration camps. It was a real eye-opener. Any doubt I ever had as to the justification for sending American soldiers overseas was completely banished.
Prisoner Acted as Guide
I’ve heard much about the horrors of the concentration camp but no story can give the true picture as the actual sight of starving children. We were guided through the camp by one of the liberated prisoners, a German citizen who had been at the camp for two years. He was first arrested in 1933 because of his anti-Nazi activities but managed to escape to France. There he married a French girl, established a home, and lived a happy life until the Gestapo knocked at the door two years ago and took him away. He was never offered a word of explanation as to the reason for his arrest. He spoke fine English, having lived in Philadelphia four years, and seemed to be a most refined and intelligent sort of person. He was ashamed to admit he was a German and was now eagerly awaiting transportation to his home in France. He said he was never again going to meddle in politics. How different the situation is in the states where a person can speak his true mind.
The Concentration Camp – Slave Labor
The camp was a huge affair and had been constructed entirely by slave labor in 1934 and 1935. Adjacent to it was a large factory for war equipment to feed the Wehrmacht. Here the prisoners were forced to work without pay and without necessary food to sustain life. Our guide had the greatest admiration for the American Air Force. During the last fall, it completely demolished the factory area but had not touched a single building housing the prisoners. Although the prisoners had access to no news other than a little Nazi propaganda they did manage to gather bits of news and know that the Americans were making good progress across Germany. Their hour of joy came on a certain afternoon when American machine-gun fire was heard; they then knew their hour of liberation had arrived. The majority of Hitler’s Elite SS super coward troops guarding the camp managed one of their strategic withdrawals and escaped capture.