Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame
Knut Haukelid (May 17, 1911 – March 8, 1994) is one of Norway’s national heroes from World War II – a man known as an excellent saboteur, warrior and adventurer. Books have been written about Haukelid’s historic deeds and he is the author of “A Day is Dawning” and “The Fight for the Heavy Water,” a book related to his most noteworthy feat during World War II.
Haukelid was actually born in Brooklyn, New York 1911. He was a twin and his twin sister, Sigrid, grew up to become a well-known actress in Norway. His parents returned to Norway in 1914 when he was a child and Haukelid grew up there. He came back to the United States to attend Massachusetts State College, then went on to the School of Technology in Dresden, Germany and the University of Berlin. But the war was about to start and he started his return to Norway.
However, war broke out and Haukelid was nearly captured before he got back to Norway. In 1940, he became involved in the illegal resistance movement in Norway. After a time, he and the others were discovered and they had to flee to England. In London, he became a part of Winston Churchill’s sabotage organization and he was selected to attack the Heavy Water Factory at Rjukan, Norway.
First though, another group of soldiers were sent. They were shot down and those that survived were ordered put to death by poison injection. “That was Hitler’s order and such a ghastly deed is unheard of even during war,” Haukelid has said. “After the war, we found the German doctor and arrested him.”
Haukelid was among the second group sent to destroy the factory. He was the youngest and second in command. They had to ski down a steep precipice after being dropped by airplane in the mountains. They crawled under a bridge loaded with German guards and down to the factory where they planted a plastic explosive. The factory blew up.
He returned to resistance work and their work was so successful that at one time, Hitler had 4,000 men combing the mountains looking for them. But they knew the mountains better than the Germans did.
Then the Germans were in full operation of heavy water again and they decided to move the heavy water plant to Germany after the Americans attacked it. The Germans were moving 16 tons of raw materials, which would produce the heavy water, by ferry down to Tinnsjo for further transport to Germany. Haukelid, with three others, got past 20 German soldiers guarding the ferry and blew it up. The Germans had lost the fight for the heavy water and peace was in sight.
When the was over, Haukelid was a major in the Telemark Infantry Regiment and was later appointed Lieutenant Colonel and head of the Army Reserve for Greater Oslo.
He remained a military man, although he ran a mountain resort when he was not engaged in military business. Later in life, he and his wife spent winters in Oslo and summers at their residence at Lillesand. Haukelid died in 1994 in Olso.