VǼRNES, Norway -- Seventy-one years ago during World War II, Army Maj. William E. Colby led a group of over 30 men with the Office of Strategic Services on a highly important sabotage mission, called Operation Rype, in which they blew up bridges, ports and railroads in an effort to prevent German troops from traveling back to Germany.
The men, some Norwegian refugees and some of Norwegian ancestry, were specially selected for the mission from the 99th Infantry Battalion. They participated in cold-weather training, hand-to-hand combat, and ordnance training in the United States and Europe before parachuting into the snow-covered mountains in occupied Norway.
“The fact that American troops were able to air-land in high ground, during winter time in Norway, and get assembled, get the equipment, do the reconnaissance, and do the sabotage actions, was an achievement of great value,” said Col. Ebbe Deraas, commanding officer of Norwegian Home Guard District 12. “My land-task force is named after Operation Rype as a way of honoring the achievements and the lessons learned by the American troops.”
The operation was a catalyst in forging a long-lasting relationship between Norway and the United States.
Today, 2d Marine Expeditionary Brigade is in Norway alongside their Norwegian allies during Exercise Cold Response 16. Among their ranks is 1st Lt. Arthur E. Colby, William’s grandson and an intelligence officer with 2d MEB.
“I walked into the main building and obviously knew about my grandfather’s connection to Norway and his efforts during WWII, but then I saw a big display with a lot of photos of him and the other men during the war. It’s impressive to see that legacy continue and to know that the Norwegians are rightfully proud of their role during WWII with the resistance,” said Colby. “It’s great to work with them now and to see that partnership continue.”
Participating in the exercise has allowed Colby a chance to reconnect with is family history while contributing to the future of that partnership.
“Arriving in the country you can see the unbelievable fjords and mountains, and I like to think that was one of the same views my grandfather saw parachuting in, albeit under different circumstances, but still with a mission and a goal of working with the Norwegians and building a combined team with them,” said Colby. “I think that idea of partnership and working with the Norwegians is an extension of his work in WWII with the resistance.”
Exercise Cold Response will continue until March 9. The exercise enables 13 participating NATO allies and partner nations to work side-by-side, training to respond to crises and uniting to form a cohesive force.