WWII Hero Who Helped Sabotage The Nazis’ Nuclear Weapons Ambitions Dies At 99
A World War II hero and one of Norway’s bravest resistance fighters, Joachim Roenneberg, died at 99 years old, according to a Sunday report.
Roenneberg was “one of our finest resistance fighters,” said Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg announcing his death, according to The Associated Press. Roenneberg’s “courage contributed to what has been referred to as the most successful sabotage campaign [in Norway],” Solberg added.
Born in Norway’s Aalesund in 1919, Roenneberg escaped the country in 1940 when the Germans invaded, fleeing to Britain, Reuters reported Sunday.
After WWII began, Britain’s Special Operations Executive chose 23 year-old Roenneberg to lead an operation to destroy the occupied and heavily guarded Norsk Hydro plant. Roenneberg was the youngest man on the 12-man Operation Gunnerside team, according to Reuters. (RELATED: Bedford: Three Terrifying Badass WWII Heroes You’ve Never Heard Of)
In what turned into one of the most daring WWII missions by Norwegian soldiers, Roenneberg and his team parachuted onto a Hardangervidda mountain behind enemy lines and skied to the Hydro plant to blow up the facility so that it could no longer produce D2O, a hydrogen-rich “heavy water” substance that was used to develop the atomic bomb, according to Reuters.
None of the men were killed or injured.
Allied forces feared at the time that the Germans were using the plant to develop a bomb, and did not know how far along the Germans were in creating a war-ready weapon.
While executing the mission, Roenneberg cut down the length of his fuse from minutes to seconds to be sure that the explosion would be a success, risking his own life and ensuring that escape would be more difficult. The team escaped, but not without a lengthy manhunt, Reuters reported.
Team members later described the mission as a near-suicide assault, according to Reuters. An earlier raid was unsuccessful, leaving dozens killed and captured.
“He is one of our great heroes,” Solberg said Sunday, according to Reuters.