April 9, 1940, is a “date of infamy” in Norwegian history. In the early morning hours of that day, the country was overrun by Hitler’s war machine. The small Norwegian army fought valiantly for three months, but had to capitulate. The Norwegian Krag Jorgensen rifle did a splendid job in the hands of the mountain troops, and German casualties were heavy.
My father owned a 6.5x55 mm Krag Jorgensen—a so-called “boy’s carbine”—designed for rifle training in the Norwegian high schools in the early 1900s. He used this gun for hunting and target shooting. My favorite thing was to show off this gun to my friends and show how to take it apart.
I distinctly recall April 18, 1940, when the Germans were advancing into our valley. My father put five rounds into the magazine and one into the chamber, and he placed the gun next to his bed. “The first German through that door is a dead one,” he said. Knowing my father, had he fired, he would not have missed.
During the five years of occupation, the Germans ran Norway with an iron hand. Lots of people ended up in concentration camps, and many were executed. In 1941, an edict was issued that all firearms were to be confiscated. Anyone caught with a gun after May 20, 1941 would be shot.
Again, my father showed his colors. “Over my dead body,” he said. “My guns will remain where they are.” His Krag was always hanging behind the door of the bedroom, but I guess he felt a more secure place was needed. He put the gun under his bed. He later built a case that had the shape of a guitar. He would use the case to carry the gun when traveling on some trips that he took.
Norway had a very active underground during the occupation, and my father and two of my brothers were involved. In late 1944, a man came to our door and asked for my father, who was not at home. The man told my mother the Germans were raiding the valley, so we had better get my father’s guns into the mountains. My mother packed up the guns in some heavy paper sacks that had contained saltpeter. Needless to say, neither my mother nor I thought of the consequences of the residue in the bag on the guns.
A week later, my father returned home, and I helped him find the guns and dig them up. His beautiful Krag was full of rust. No pitting had taken hold, but all the bluing was lost in cleaning up the mess. The old man was mighty mad.
After the war, I always looked upon this Krag as a piece of freedom. I hoped I would own this gun someday. I suggested to my father that since he did not use it much anymore, I would like to buy it. The answer was always the same: “That gun is not for sale.”
In 1952, I graduated from the Norwegian Military Academy and was commissioned a first lieutenant in the Signal Corps. My father told me if I became a captain, he would give me the Krag. The gun was mine two years later. As fate would have it, I went to Canada on an assignment and ended up in California.
Some time ago, I brought the Krag to this country. I found a company called Micro Sight in Belmont, Calif., known for fine restoration work. They made the gun look as good as new. For many years, the Krag hung behind the door of my parent’s bedroom. Today, that gun of freedom hangs behind the door of my bedroom in California. It is my favorite gun.
This article appeared originally in the September 2005 issue of American Rifleman. To subscribe to the magazine, visit the NRA membership page here and select American Rifleman as your member magazine.