3-25-14 Norway honors World War II veteran

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MARTINSBURG (AP) — U.S. Army veteran Lawrence Howie was surprised when he learned that he was being honored by Norway for his service in that nation during World War II.

A delegation of Norwegian officials recently traveled to Martinsburg to present the Norwegian Defense Participation Medal to Howie. The visiting dignitaries included Capt. Yngve Skoglund, Lt. Col. Tom Schroder, Lt. Commander Kenneth Johansen, Capt. Fredrik Sandquist and Sgt. Therese Skalbones.

“This was something just so unexpected, especially since these are important people who have lots of other things to do. I just never thought anything like this would happen, especially after so long. But it does feel good because I really have a soft spot for Norway,” Howie told media sources.

Howie, 88, served with the Army’s 99th Infantry battalion, a special unit of Norwegian-Americans and Norwegian exiles that was formed for a possible invasion of Norway, which was occupied by Germany. There wasn’t an invasion but the battalion oversaw the exit of German soldiers from Norway at the end of the war.

“When we first moved in, we went up north and pretty much took over the German camps so that we could start getting their soldiers together to find out where they were from in Germany. Then we’d make up lists of who needed to be sent where and before we knew it, the government brought in a bunch of ships to Oslo,” Howie said.

“I still remember standing guard while we loaded long, long lines of German troops onto the ships,” he said.

Howie said he had been selected for this duty because he spoke the language.

“I had friends who taught me, so I knew it pretty well and picked up even more after I got in Norway,” he said.

Leslie Young, Howie’s daughter, said the Norwegian officials’ visit helped her to learn about the battalion’s mission and the importance of its work to remove the German forces from Norway.

“Not only were they terribly outnumbered, but that’s also when the king was able to come back to the country after having been exiled for a while, so they also played a part in making sure he safely returned,” Young told the newspaper.

Young said she and her sister were skeptical at first when Norwegian officials contacted her sister to find her father.

“So I went online to pull up information and saw how they had first started honoring these men a couple of years ago when they had a reception. In the end, this was just a beautiful experience for him that we got to share,” Young said, adding that her father was also presented with a bouquet of flowers and some Norwegian chocolates.

A documentary about the 99th Infantry Battalion will be shown in Norway and will air later this year on PBS. A book on the battalion also is expected to be released soon, said Erik Wiborg, vice president of the 99th Infantry Battalion World War II Educational Foundation.

“What these men did, as part of the greatest generation, is part of the sacrifices that now allow us to live in a free world. They were a small unit in terms of numbers, but not in terms of how they helped end the war,” he said.U

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