The young sailor likely repeated the simple instructions endlessly in his head as the Greek ship heaved and groaned on a westerly heading through the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
"When you see the green lady in the harbor, that's it," Finn Pedersen had been told. "It" was New York, and the gateway to a new life for the lad from Norway.
The seafaring teenager had been born in Oslo in 1921. He had received his initial training aboard the Christian Radich, which was a Norwegian ship used to teach fledgling mariners the ropes.
By the time the Statue of Liberty came into Pedersen's view, Europe was teetering on the brink of World War II. His father had encouraged him to seek "a better life" in America, and he had taken the advice.
New York was the best place for the youngster to get a toehold, because he had an aunt there who could give him food and shelter as he worked to get established. With little more than the relative's address in his pocket, he left the ship as soon as it docked and never looked back.
The land of opportunity would give the young man his shot at a better life, as well as a chance to earn it. When the United States entered World War II in 1941, it quickly became apparent that special elite units would be needed.
On July 19, 1942, the 99th Infantry Battalion (Separate) was activated at Camp Ripley, Minn. This outfit would be manned by Norwegians and Americans of Norwegian descent who could speak the language fluently.
The intended mission of the battalion was to conduct behind-the-lines, unconventional warfare operations against German forces occupying Norway. Pedersen was assigned to the unit as an infantry scout soon after he entered the Army on Feb. 8, 1943.
The 99th's shoulder patch was an arrowhead, just like that of the elite 1st Special Service Force. The difference was the First SSF had “USA” and “CANADA” embossed on its arrowhead, and the 99th had a Viking ship.
Pedersen joined up with the 99th at Camp Hale, Colo., where the men were getting training in cold-weather and mountain warfare. In early September 1943, he was back on a ship, this time heading for Scotland.
The unpredictability of war is not swayed by the plans of generals, and the 99th became a classic example of that. Instead of being used to liberate Norway, the unit saw its first action in France soon after D-Day.
The 99th saw heavy combat as the Allies fought their way through France and into Germany. By war's end the battalion had been in combat for 101 days, during which time 52 men were killed and 305 wounded out of a total force of about 800 men.
On May 9, 1945, two days after the war ended in Europe, the 99th finally received orders to go to Norway. Once there, the men assisted in the disarming and transporting of about 400,000 German soldiers back to their home country.
On June 7, 1945, the 99th Infantry Battalion (Separate) was given the distinction of serving as the Honor Guard for the return of King Haakon VII to Norway after a five-year exile in the United Kingdom.
The Norwegian people adored the men of the 99th and treated them as the true heroes they were. As the years went by and the young grew old, this love and appreciation never faded... (see more at: http://www.dailyprogress.com/)