Hero of World War II

Born in the United States, he was a leader of the courageous Norwegian Resistance in World War II, sabotaging Nazi operations.
He was portrayed in the movie, "The Heroes of Telemark."
(Telemark is a county in Southeast Norway.)

From distant cousins of war hero Knut Haukelid and his twin sister, Hollywood actress Sigrid Gurie, comes the following information on Haukelid.

Bob Coe of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada writes:

He was the leader of a sabotage team of Norwegians who first snuck into the German Heavy Water Plant at Rjukan and blew it up thus setting back German endeavours to produce a product vital to the development of an atomic bomb. Then, when the Germans decided to ship the heavy water back to Germany in barrels, Knut and his team snuck aboard the ferry which had to haul it across a lake, set a time-bomb on board the ferry timed to blow up at the exact time when the ferry was in the middle of the lake. The plot worked perfectly with the entire German cache of heavy water sinking to the bottom of the lake.

His singular action gave the United States the time to complete their own atomic bomb. Hollywood made a movie of it starring Kirk Douglas entitled, "The Heroes of Telemark." He was born in the U.S., and his remarkable sacrifice and courage should be acknowledged by not only the U.S. but by all the Allied countries for actions which directly contributed to the end of WW II.

LaVonne Houlton of Modesto, Calif. provides this information:

Bjørgulv and Sigrid Haukelid were living in Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York, when their twins, Knut and Sigrid Guri were born, on May 17, 1911.

Bjørgulv was a civil engineer with the New York Subway System for 10 years (1902-1912), and the family returned to Norway shortly before the twins' first birthday.

Knut came back to the United States to attend Massachusetts State College, returning to Norway in 1929. He completed his education in the 1930's, attending the Dresden School of Technology and the University of Berlin. He then returned to Norway, and was working for his father's engineering firm, Haukelid og Five, when the Germans invaded the country in April, 1940.

Knut's wartime deeds have been widely covered. Among the numerous high military awards bestowed on him at the war's end by five grateful nations was the Medal of Freedom with Silver Palm, by the United States of America.

Knut graduated from the Norwegian Military Academy in 1948. He served as Major in the Telemark Infantry Regiment, and was later appointed Lieutenant General and head of the Homeguard of Greater Oslo. After he retired, Knut often lectured, at home and abroad, on the importance of fostering and supporting resistance forces to serve behind enemy lines in wartime.

In 1983, when Vice President George Bush visited in Norway, he invited Knut to a formal dinner at the American Embassy.

In the Spring of 1984, on the 40th anniversary of the sabotage action against the heavy water plant at Vemork, the survivors of the Company Linge group who participated in the action were honored at a reception at the residence of the American Ambassador, Mark Evans Austad. Nine of the 12 survivors were present when they were surprised with a gift of cufflinks from President Ronald Reagan, who also sent them a personal letter. They also received letters of congratulations from John W. Vessey Jr., Chief for the American High Command. Representatives of the Norwegian Parliament and the Army were also among those present when Knut Haukelid was singularly surprised and honored with an American Passport.

He was, after all, born in America.

On Friday, October 18, 1985, Knut Haukelid was honored at the Second Annual Hall of Fame Banquet in Minot, North Dakota. He was one of five people named that night to the Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame — again an honor due not only by his deeds but because of his birth in the United States and his holding of dual-citizenship.

In later years, Knut and his wife divided their time between winters in Oslo, and summers along the coast at Lillesand, and to visits with children and grandchildren. Perhaps his last public appearance occurred during Charles Kuralt's fine television tribute to the heavy water saboteurs during the 1994 Winter Olympics at Lillehammer, Norway. He took ill soon after, and died on March 8, 1994.

Rolf A. Hoeiberg of Porsgrunn, Telemark, Norway
provides details of Haukelid's military career. He notes that Haukelid became a
lieutenant colonel in the Army Infantry in 1959 and served as colonel and head of Greater Oslo Homeguard from 1966 until his retirement in 1974. Hoeiberg explains:

There is a difference between Army Reserve and Homeguard. The Norwegian homeguard is armed and operative within a very short time and will secure the mobilization of the Army reserve in a given case.

Hoeiberg points out that at the time of his retirement, Haukelid was one of only three active lieutenant generals (2 stars) in Norway. The only 3-star general, at the time, was King Olav, he relates.

When Haukelid, in Oslo in 1969, learned of his twin sister's death in Mexico from an embolism, he, too, suffered an embolism, but recovered.

He was portrayed in "Heroes of Telemark" by Richard Harris (as Knut Straud).


Copyright, 2000-2002, Roger M. Grace