It was late summer of 1943 when the 99th Mountain Battalion arrived at Area F (Congressional Country Club) for basic OG training. The battalion, which had been stationed and trained at Camp Hale Colorado, had been recruited as a unit to form the Norwegian Operational Group.* Discipline and professionalism were readily demonstrated in the manner these officers and men responded to the OG training exercises and field problems that were given at Area F. And in December 1943 the Norwegian Operational Group of about 100 officers and non-commissioned officers transferred to England where they were attached to the OSS Special Operations (SO) Headquarters, Scandinavian Section. In anticipation of possible operations in Norway the unit then underwent additional training in Scotland.
Come summer of 1944 with no approved missions in Norway, the Norwegian Operational Group was committed to operations in France and became the major component of the UK-to-France unit of the French Operational Group.
In December 1944 following the liberation of France, all OG personnel who had served in France were rescreeened for assignments in other countries or returned to regular military units. Some of those reassigned returned to the United States for home leave and further training before assignment to Far East operations; some transferred to Italian OG operations; and approximately 50 of the original Norwegian OGs were rescreened to meet tentative plans for operations in Norway.
At that time there were approximately 150,000 German troops concentrated in the Narvik-Tromsc area of Northern Norway who, according to intelligence information, were to be transferred southward through Norway to be employed in the defense of Germany.
The only available transportation routes available to them were the snow blocked roads, the sea and the single track Nordland Railway running down to Trondheim. The Supreme Headquarters Allied Forces (SHAEF) hoped the Germans could be forced to take the sea route to the south.
Opportunities for OG operations from England that were being considered to meet the rail disruption objective were to be under the direction of Lt. Col. Hans H. Skabo, Section Chief, Norwegian Special Operations (NORSO). Major William E Colby, a former Jedburg, was appointed commanding officer of the Operational Group.
Major Colby split the group into two units.
The main unit of 3 officers and about 30 enlisted men would be under
the direct command of Colby and identified as NORSO I. The second unit
of 1 officer and 18 enlisted men under the command of Lt. Roger Hall,
and identified as NORSO II, was intended to serve as a reserve or reinforcement
unit to NORSO I or be available for a separate mission.
*While the Norwegian Operational Group was commonly referred to as the 99th Mountain Battalion, Erling K. Salvesen, a veteran of the Norwegian OGs has made the clarification that they were 74 members of the 99th, not the whole battalion.
This summary of the Norwegian Operational
Group was taken from the records of the National Archives provided through
the courtesy of Lt. Col. Ian D.W. Sutherland. Among the records used
were the final report of Operation RYPE written by Major William E.
Colby, plus numerous other of his reports; and papers written by Lt.
Col. Hans H. Skabo. "You're Stepping On My Cloak And Dagger"
by Roger Hall, leader of NORSO II, was also reread for possible added
background. The writer was able also to reflect on memory of personal
observations and contact when the OG group was in training at Area F.