99th Infantry Battalion (Separate)

The Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, which I wrote about a few days ago, had a display focused on this WWII outfit, which was made up of Norwegian speakers. The idea was that they would be useful in unconventional operations in Norway, as well as an eventual invasion. They trained essentially as mountain troops, partly with the famous 10th Mountain Division at Camp Hale in the Colorado Rockies. They shipped out to Scotland, and were later stationed at Perham Downs Camp between Salisbury and Andover in England, and at Glenusk Park Camp near Crickhowell and Abergavenny in Wales. The poster above shows them during advanced training in either Wales or Scotland.

As things developed, the battalion wound up fighting at Normandy and in the Ardennes, and only got to Norway after V-E Day. But from the bottom of the poster, here’s their mountain-fighting equipment list.

“Carried on the person:
Pistol belt and pouches
Gas mask
Ruck sack

“Carried in the pocket of the parka:
Dark goggles
Ski wax, scraping knife
Extra mittens and wrist warmers
Waterproof box of matches

“Carried on the pack:
Entrenching tool
Emergency snowshoes

“Carried in the ruck sack:
Rations, canteen
Sleeping bag, ground mattress
Winter camouflage pants and mittens
Socks and soles
Green/white reversible mountain tent
Tent poles, tent pegs
Pocket pliers
Ice spurs (pocket size) for skis
Coleman gas stove, cooking pots

“In addition, there were white skies and poles.”

I’m delighted I don’t need to carry an M1 and a gas mask (all Americans, of course, pack a pistol), but the non-soldier part of this isn’t hugely different from what we’d all be carrying in our “ruck sacks.” I’m easily old enough to remember when military surplus stuff formed the core outdoor kit. Ah, the perfume of treated canvas.

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