Colby With the Norwegian Special Operations Group
Colby overcame the rough start to his Jedburgh mission in France, and worked his way through the difficulties. He eventually ended up commanding about 6000 French irregulars, and led them in harassing the Nazis, until his command linked up with general George Patton’s Third Army in the fall of 1944. That stellar performance was praised by Colby’s superiors, and earned him a Bronze Star medal plus a French Croix de Guerre. He was given some time to rest and recuperate, and upon his return on November 1st, 1944, he was given command of an ethnically Norwegian OSS unit operating out of Scotland.
After America joined the war, the War Department tried to figure out the best way to make use of first generation bilingual immigrants from enemy-occupied areas, to help the war effort. Eventually, a decision was made to establish special units of bilingual US citizens from certain ethnic groups, for operations in enemy-occupied countries. Accordingly, ethnic battalions of Filipinos, Japanese, Austrians, Greeks, and Norwegians, were created in 1942.
The Norwegian one was the 99th Infantry Battalion, Separate (because it was unattached to any regiment). It trained for winter and alpine warfare in Colorado, and was then shipped to Scotland in September of 1943. It was there that the OSS came a-calling, seeking Norwegian speakers to volunteer for special missions. Eventually, 12 officers and 80 men from the 99th Battalion were selected for what would become the OSS’ Norwegian Special Operations Group (NORSOG).
As things went from bad to worse for the Third Reich, with the Soviets rolling Hitler’s empire from the east and America and her allies doing so from the west, the Nazis found themselves in desperate need of military manpower. One potential source was the German occupation garrison in Norway, which numbered in the hundreds of thousands. As the Nazis’ day of reckoning drew ever closer, the Germans started evacuating their forces from Norway to reinforce their crumbling fronts on the European mainland. So the Allies decided to impede that evacuation, and the task was handed to the OSS.
The OSS drew up a mission, Operation RYPE (Norwegian for grouse), to parachute a NORSOG team into Norway. Once landed, they were to slow the German evacuation by blowing up bridges and links along vital Nordland Railway, the main ground link to the country’s north. William Colby was put in charge of the operation, whose primary target was to be the Grana Bridge, near the village of Snasa. On March 24th, converted B-24s, laden with NORSOGs instead of bombs, took off from Scotland and winged their way to Norway.