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July 1: Alf Paulson of Crosby

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Alf Paulson had the great adventure of his life in 1945.

Born in Alamo, 30 miles north of Williston, in 1921, Alf Harry Paulson was the son of Berndt and Kirsta Paulson, both of whom had been born in Norway.

Alf worked on his father’s farm in Divide County until WW II. He joined the U.S. Army in December, 1942, and his strong, wiry frame – 5’ 9,” 155 pounds – got him noticed. Even more noteworthy, he was “proficient in Norwegian.”

The O.S.S. (Office of Strategic Services), the forerunner of the C.I.A., was recruiting soldiers for undercover sabotage of German war-efforts. In particular, the OSS “was looking for men . . . for extra hazardous duty behind enemy lines” in Nazi-occupied Norway.

Because Alf Paulson spoke Norwegian, the OSS asked him to “volunteer for hazardous duty.” Alf replied “that the whole U.S. Army was hazardous” so they signed him up.

He became a member of the elite Norwegian Special Operations Group (NORSO), joining 74 men from the famous 99th Infantry “Norwegian Battalion.”

Paulson got trained for winter and mountain warfare, including hand-to-hand combat, plus “intensive parachute and ski training.” He also learned about demolitions, including “blowing up bridges and railroad tracks.”

Finally, in March, 1945, Operation Rype began. Rype, the Norwegian name for grouse, was the code name for this top-secret mission. 35 specially selected men were led by Major William Colby, who would later become director of the C.I.A. They flew to Norway. The goal: blow up bridges and rail lines to trap 150,000 German troops in Norway, preventing them from joining the final battles in Germany.

Only 16 NORSO men, including Alf Paulson and William Colby, successfully parachuted into mountainous Norway. These 16 commandos worked with Norwegian Resistance fighters to destroy the Tangen railway bridge connecting northern and southern Norway, and later they dynamited “a mile and a half” of railway tracks, successfully delaying rail use by the Germans.

WW II ended May 8th, 1945, and on July 1st the Minneapolis Tribune published news that Alf Paulson and his fellow “Norway Invaders’” were on their way home.

Alf Paulson came back home to farm near Crosby. The former ski-trooper died in 2007. He had served in the “only combined ski-parachute operation ever mounted by the U.S. Army.”

Dakota Datebook by Steve Hoffbeck, retired MSUM History Professor


Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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