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Joachim Roenneberg (1919 - 2018), Norwegian World War II hero

AP Photo / Alastair Grant

Leader of a daring raid that crippled Nazis’ nuclear ambitions

Joachim Roenneberg was a World War II hero who led a team of five Norwegian resistance fighters on a daring raid to blow up a Nazi heavy water plant in German occupied Norway. Nazi Germany was using heavy water in an attempt to start atomic bomb production.

Called Operation Gunnerside, Roenneberg’s team parachuted into the mountains and skied during the night to the water plant. They penetrated the heavily guarded plant, setting off explosive devices. Chased by thousands of Nazi troops, the team skied hundreds of miles, successfully escaping to Sweden. The raid crippled the Nazi’s abilities at the plant.

The operation has been recounted in books, documentaries, feature films, and TV movies.

Roenneberg led other brave missions, including blowing up an important railway bridge used by the Germans for supplies. He was awarded Norway’s highest decoration for heroism, the War Cross with sword.

After the war, he became a radio broadcaster.

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Died: Sunday, October 21, 2018 (Who else died on October 21?)

Details of death: Died at the age of 99, according to Norway Prime Minister Erna Solberg.


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About the mission: In a Norwegian documentary on the raid in 2014, Roenneberg said the mission “went like a dream.” He also recalled his decision to cut the length of his fuse from minutes to seconds to ensure an explosion but that left little time to escape.

What people said about him: “Mr Roenneberg was one of our finest resistance fighters”, whose courage “contributed to what has been referred to as the most successful sabotage campaign in Norway.” – Prime Minister Erna Solberg

Full obituary: Chicago Sun Times

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