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  • March, 1943.

  • Norweigan Commando Jan Baalsrud swims desperately through the icy water of the Toftefjord Bay,

  • near the heart of the Arctic Circle.

  • The air around him is ringing with gunfire and screams.

  • Death is everywhere.

  • The great pillar of smoke rising from the Brattholm, the vessel that he and his eleven

  • companions were sailing on just minutes ago, blots out the sun above.

  • The others on his small team scream and swear in Norwegian as gun-toting Gestapo agents

  • pull them from the freezing depths, and clap restraints on them.

  • The grim fates that await these men in the hands of Hitler's brutal secret police makes

  • drowning look like a dream.

  • Jan and one other escaping member of his team manage to wrap their shivering fingers around

  • land on the shores of Toftefjord Bay.

  • It's only willpower, and the fear of torture and death at the hands of their enemies, that

  • keeps them going now.

  • But even that has its limits.

  • Moments on dry land, and tragedy strikes.

  • A bullet from a Nazi rifle tears through the head of Jan's only companion, killing him

  • instantly.

  • There is no time to mourn.

  • Jan can only keep walking, his wet and freezing uniform feeling like a suit of heavy armor

  • without the benefit of protection.

  • He even lost a boot to the water.

  • Suddenly, he can hear them coming towards him: Furious German voices, black boots marching.

  • He looks up and sees an advancing group of Gestapo, ready to murder him there and then,

  • or worse.

  • The ten captured men from his team - the elite group of Allied Norwegian Commandos known

  • as Company Linge - were being taken to a Nazi base in Tromsø.

  • There, they would be interrogated, tortured, and executed.

  • Jan would do anything to avoid this same fate.

  • He had to live now, or his allies had died for nothing.

  • He hides behind a nearby rock to gather his thoughts with what little time he has.

  • His rifle is gone, all he has is his sidearm: A small Colt pistol.

  • The Gestapo are approaching with rifles, submachine guns, and superior numbers.

  • They're getting closer.

  • It's decision time.

  • If he fights, he'll probably die.

  • If he waits, he'll definitely die - whether they capture him, or hypothermia takes him.

  • In the end, the choice is obvious.

  • Jan gets up, aims his pistol at the enemies, and squeezes the trigger.

  • Click.

  • It's jammed.

  • Jan pulls the magazine out of his pistol, clears the chamber, and throws away the first

  • two rounds.

  • He reloads, trains his sights on the advancing Gestapo, and fires twice.

  • For the first time tonight, Jan gets lucky.

  • One shot clips a Nazi in the head, killing him.

  • The other wounds another, sending the group scrambling back in a sudden panic.

  • They have every advantage - the last thing they expect is for their prey to start fighting

  • back.

  • But Jan doesn't want to be another dead hero.

  • He wants to survive this nightmare and return to his family, to a Norway free of Hitler's

  • iron grip.

  • He runs into the nearby hills - wearing one shoe, a uniform so wet and cold that it's

  • killing him a little more each moment, and a Colt 1911 with four rounds in the magazine.

  • This is the story of Jan Baalsrud's incredible survival, against all odds.

  • The risks he took, the people who helped him, and the horrors he endured in his quest to

  • get back home.

  • But be warned: Just because he got back alive doesn't mean he got back in one piece.

  • But why was he there in the first place?

  • As we mentioned earlier, Jan was part of a twelve-man team known as Company Linge.

  • These were brave soldiers who'd managed to escape Nazi-occupied Norway, and were trained

  • by the British in Scotland to carry out covert missions behind enemy lines.

  • This time, they were being sent back to their homeland on a mission known as Operation Martin,

  • along with eight tons of high explosives.

  • The objectives were twofold: Recruiting people in occupied Norway to join the resistance

  • against the Nazis, and blowing up a German airfield tower in Bardufoss to weaken the

  • enemy's hold over the area.

  • But one little mistake doomed the mission: They were supposed to rendezvous with a secret

  • contact in Norway to let them know why they were there.

  • However, they accidentally contacted a shopkeeper who just happened to have the exact same name

  • as their contact.

  • The shopkeeper feared this was a test of loyalty from the Gestapo, and he would surely be killed

  • if he failed to report it to the authorities, so that's exactly what he did.

  • The German forces descended on Company Linge, forcing them back to the Brattholm in hopes

  • of escaping through Toftefjord Bay.

  • But that's when the German frigateumboot R56 descended and began to attack, leaving

  • them with nowhere to run.

  • They were boxed in, and capture or death seemed certain.

  • They did the only thing they could: Detonated all eight tons of explosives on the Brattholm

  • with a timed delay.

  • The plan was for the explosion to create chaos, so Company Linge could escape on a smaller,

  • faster boat.

  • But this didn't work.

  • Their boat was fired upon and quickly sunk by theumboot.

  • And the rest, you already know.

  • Jan was left near-dead from the cold, running through the Norwegian hills from a numerically

  • superior force.

  • Even a miracle wouldn't save him, he needed several.

  • Thankfully for Jan, someone up there must have been smiling at him, but to get back

  • to heaven, he needed to spend three months in pure Hell.

  • First, in his frantic escape from the Nazi forces, he came across the modest cottage

  • of the Idrupsen Family.

  • They were terrified to see him: This delirious, freezing man with a gun.

  • He told them that he was an Allied soldier, the last of his team, on the run from the

  • Gestapo.

  • He told them he needed somewhere to shelter, but that the risk was great: If ever the Nazis

  • discovered that they had harbored a fugitive like him, they'd kill the entire family.

  • But, even knowing this risk, they took him in.

  • Receiving this help, as he did from many kind Norwegians during his horrifying three month

  • ordeal, wasn't easy for Jan.

  • He'd already seen the other men of Company Linge suffer horrifying fates, and the thought

  • of the same happening to these innocent civilians tormented him.

  • In order to survive the almost crushing guilt of laying this risk on people, he developed

  • a method: He would never tell any one host who he'd stayed with before, or where he

  • was headed.

  • That way, even if worse came to worst and the Nazis captured one family, they couldn't

  • use that one family to get them all.

  • Jan essentially hopped from home to home, traversing the brutal Norwegian winter between

  • each one.

  • People from all walks of life took in and protected him - from midwives to retired old

  • men.

  • A father, still grieving from the loss of his own son, rowed Jan across turbulent waters

  • in the middle of the night.

  • Another man hid Jan from his neighbor, a man suspected of being on the Nazi payroll.

  • A kindly fisherman even gave him a pair of skis.

  • In this regard, Jan was extraordinarily lucky, and the people he met were exceptionally kind

  • - each one knowing that they faced the possibility of torture and death from the Gestapo if ever

  • they were found out.

  • But the journey, already stretching on for over a month, was starting to take a physical

  • toll on Jan - a fact which really shouldn't surprise anyone.

  • His feet got the worst of it, exposed to such incredibly cold temperatures that they were

  • frozen solid and suffering from frostbite that threatened to go gangrenous.

  • Even walking had become a prolonged state of agony for Jan, and he still had plenty

  • of walking to do.

  • And that wasn't even the end of it.

  • Jan was suffering from malnutrition, and worst of all, snow blindness.

  • It seemed that with every passing day, even as he got closer to his goal - Crossing the

  • Norweign border through Finland and entering the safezone of a neutral Sweden - his odds

  • of survival diminished.

  • Skis made the journey easier, for a time.

  • On one occasion, he even skied right past a group of Nazi soldiers who seemingly had

  • no idea who he was.

  • But he was soon caught in a blizzard so severe it froze his eyelids shut.

  • He wandered, blind and freezing, until hallucinations began to take over.

  • By the time he was rescued by the Gronvoll Family, he didn't even know which way was

  • up anymore.

  • He was kept safe inside the Gronvoll Family barn for a few days while he was recuperating

  • from the blizzard.

  • He was then hidden in the bed of a small fishing boat, and ferried on to the small Norwegian

  • town of Revdal.

  • There, he was kept in a freezing and isolated hut that he nicknamed the Hotel Savoy - a

  • reference to the up-market Savoy Hotel in London.

  • Here, Jan had to take an even more horrific measure to ensure his continued survival.

  • His frostbitten toes had started to go gangrenous, and unless he wanted the infection to spread

  • and become potentially life-threatening, he needed to take drastic action.

  • He had no surgical tools, no painkillers, no medical expertise, just a military pocket

  • knife.

  • And using that pocket knife, he carved off his big toe on one foot, as well as an infected

  • part of another toe.

  • Sadly for Jan, these wouldn't even be the last parts he needed to shed in order to survive.

  • He'd become less of a person now and more of a barely-living package that his support

  • network needed to get back to safety.

  • The next part of the journey involved taking him to a mountain plateau, where Norwegian

  • resistance members would collect him and deliver him to the Finnish border.

  • But thanks to another unexpected blizzard and Nazi patrols in a nearby town, there was

  • a slight delay in that collection.

  • By which we mean, he was trapped up there for 27 days.

  • He barely survived, facing up against the twin threats of starvation and infection.

  • While up on that plateau, Jan was almost certain that he was going to die, but he wouldn't

  • give up.

  • Using his trusty pocket knife once again, he amputated the rest of his toes.

  • A move that doctors said was the only reason they were able to save his whole foot in the

  • end.

  • Eventually, the Norwegian rescuers did come and liberate Jan from his frozen hell.

  • They took him to the Finnish border, where he was placed into the care of themi,

  • the indigenous people of the region.

  • They were there with Jan for the final stretch across Finland, pulling him along on a sled

  • behind their reindeer, narrowly avoiding pursuing Nazi forces.

  • In the end, after months of pain and suffering, Jan had finally reached the safe haven of

  • neutral Sweden.

  • When he was finally rescued, he only weighed eighty pounds.

  • He spent months recovering in a Swedish hospital before finally being flown back to the UK.

  • Think that's where the story ends?

  • Nope!

  • Jan Baalsrud may have been down, but he wasn't out.

  • During his extended recovery process, he helped train other soldiers for Norwegian deployment.

  • When he was finally able to walk again, he even requested to be sent back to Norway to

  • assist in the ongoing war effort against the Nazis.

  • When the war finally ended in 1945, Jan was still in active duty, getting payback against

  • the Germans for what they'd done to his beloved Norway, and his fellow soldiers from

  • Company Linge.

  • In the end, Jan was able to return to his family in Oslo, whom he'd left to fight

  • five years earlier.

  • And the Gestapo officers who'd killed Company Linge were forced to dig up their bodies from

  • a mass grave with their bare hands, and wash them before they were placed in coffins and

  • given a proper burial.

  • The Norwegian government then had them executed.

  • Their leader, Kurt Stage, was also tried and executed for war crimes in Slovenia in 1947.

  • Despite his injuries and traumatic experiences, Jan lived a long and fulfilling life until

  • 1988, passing away at the age of 71.

  • These days, he's practically considered a Norwegian folk hero, and if you ask us,

  • he definitely earned the title.

  • Now go check outThe Unkillable Soldier, Modern Day God of WarandMr. Immortal

  • - A Marine Dives on 2 Live Grenades To Save His Platoonfor more incredible stories

  • of military survival!

March, 1943.

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Commando Hunted By Nazi's Does the Unthinkable to Escape

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    Summer posted on 2021/07/05
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