Secret Anti-Communist Network Exposed in Norway in 1978
OSLO, Norway (AP) _ A secret network of trained resistance fighters was exposed in Norway in 1978 when a policeman tracking illegal moonshine stumbled on one of its arms caches.
The network was set up in the late 1940s by people who saw Nazi troops sweep away their ill-prepared resistance in World War II and feared the Cold War could bring a Communist invasion.
The Norwegian government confirmed the resistance network existed during the inquiry that followed the discovery of the weapons in 1978. At the same time, former CIA Director William Colby published his memoirs and referred to such groups.
″It was a little surprising that no one in the other NATO countries picked up on it, and raised questions about their own countries,″ Nil Gleditzch of the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo said Wednesday.
Colby, who was stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm from 1951-1953, was quoted Wednesday by the Swedish news agency TT as saying he helped form an armed anti-Communist guerrilla force in ″a Scandinavian country.″ He would not name the country.
Officials in other NATO countries recently confirmed their own anti- Communist cells, also established in the 1940 and 1950s, but the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has refused to say if it played a role.
In Italy, a group known as Operation Gladio is being investigated for possible connections with right-wing terrorist killings in the early 1980s.
Gleditzch said Norway’s groups are not suspected of such wrongdoing.
Hans Otto Meyer, an intelligence operative, was arrested in 1978 when an illegal still was found on his property. Police also discovered at least 60 weapons, many machine guns, and 12,000 rounds of ammunition.
Meyer’s claim that Norwegian intelligence provided some of the weapons, for use by a resistance cell, was eventually confirmed.
Gleditzch said the reference in Colby’s book stirred interest in Norway.
Rolf Hansen, Norway’s defense minister at the time, told parliament the resistance groups were privately organized after the war. Later, they were placed under the supervision of the intelligence service, he said.
The Norwegian underground network was not answerable to NATO or other countries, Hansen said, dismissing any connection to the CIA. But he would not discuss details, saying the organization’s activities had to be kept secret.
Government officials remain secretive. Asked to confirm that the groups are still active in Norway, Defense Ministry spokesman Erik Senstad responded: ″What Hansen said then still applies.″
Rear Admiral Jan Ingebrigtsen said the groups still existed in 1985, when he stepped down as head of the Norwegian Supreme Defense Command’s intelligence service.
″There is nothing suspicious about it. But these are units that would stay behind in occupied territory and it is therefore necessary that they be kept top secret,″ he told the Norwegian news agency NTB.
Christian Christensen, a former Norwegian intelligence officer, wrote many books about the groups, as recently as this autumn. He said private groups were formed in 1947, sometimes kept Communists under surveillance and became part of the intelligence service in 1948.
Norway, a sparsely populated country, expects trained citizen soldiers to meet an invasion by arming themselves from thousands of arms dumps in rural areas and the mountains.
″The idea is to have so many (caches) that it would be impossible to knock out all of them,″ Senstad said.
But Gleditzch said the so-called ″stay-behind″ groups are a last line of defense, with their own weapons.
″It’s separate from the other arms dumps. There are most likely caches of weapons in closed-off rooms in people’s basements,″ he said in an interview.