NORWEGIAN HERO WHO SAILED THE KON-TIKI


Knut Haugland, the last surviving crew member of the Kon-Tiki died on December 25. The six man 1947 Kon-Tiki expedition, organized by Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl, set out from Callao in Peru on a balsa wood raft to prove that people from South America could have settled Polynesia in pre-Columbian times. The expedition used only material and technology that would have been available to people at the time. The crew sailed the raft for 101 days and 4,900 miles across the Pacific before smashing into a reef at Raroia in the Tuamotu Islands.

But more importantly, Knut Haugland was a much decorated veteran of the Norwegian resistance. He helped sabotage a Norwegian heavy water plant that the Allies suspected might be used to construct a German atomic bomb. Haugland built a radio transmitter from a car battery and fishing rods. The mission was the subject of the 1965 film, Heroes of the Telemark. Haugland narrowly evaded capture when a transmitter he had hidden in the chimney of the Oslo Maternity Hospital was discovered.

Knut is at the top of my list of true Viking heroes. But all he ever said about his exploits was, “We just did a job.”

Mange tussen takk, Knut.

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JOHN STEINBECK’S PROPAGANDA NOVEL: The Moon Is Down


 

 

Viking Magazine’s recent issue on “The Unsung Hero of the Telemark,” reminded me that on April 9th, 1940, life changed for all Norwegians with the launch of Operation Weserübung, the invasion of their homeland by the Nazi’s. The country was taken entirely by surprise and it was a time of chaos for many Norwegians. Consistent with Germany’s Blitzkrieg doctrine, five divisions of Nazis invaded at once, Quisling was on the radio declaring himself Prime Minister and ordering all resistance to halt at once and the Norwegian military was left in a state of initial disarray due unclear mobilization orders from the government. The whole of the country was in a state of psychological shock from the Nazi invasion.

 

But did you know that John Steinbeck’s novel, The Moon is Down, was written as propaganda designed to encourage the resistance movement. In 1941, Steinbeck was working with a precursor of the CIA, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). He was in close contact with refugees from Norway and Denmark and the information they gave him helped him decide what kind of propaganda to write.

 

Steinbeck’s method was far subtler than that of the overcooked rant. There are no heel-clicking Huns, no depraved, monocled intellectuals, no thundering sieg heils in his tale. Yet nothing can disguise the theft of freedom, and eventually the local patriots’ desire to regain their freedom impels them to resist.

 

In spite of the Nazis’ efforts to suppress The Moon is Down hundreds of thousands of copies of the Norwegian, Danish, Dutch, and French clandestine editions circulated during the occupation. Mere possession of it often meant an automatic death sentence.

 

 

 

 

Steinbeck’s explanation for the perceptiveness that made his propaganda so effective was simple. During his visit to Norway in 1946 to receive King Haakon’s medal, he stated, “I put myself in your place and thought what I would do.”

 

STEINBECK HAD A SURE SENSE OF AUDIENCE.

 

WHAT ALL US WRITER TYPES HANKER AFTER.