WWII hero who thwarted Nazi nuclear plant dies at 99

By Nicholas Sakelaris   |   Oct. 22, 2018 at 10:07 AM

Oct. 22 (UPI) -- A Norwegian resistance fighter who led a daring raid in World War II that prevented the Nazis from developing a nuclear bomb has died at age 99.

Joachim Ronneberg famously led Operation Gunnerside, an attack on the heavily guarded Vermork Norsk Hydro plant in Rjukan, Norway, where Germans were making heavy water, a key ingredient in atomic weapons.

Ronneberg, who fled Norway when the Nazis invaded and later joined resistance efforts in Britain, was recruited for the mission at age 23. The team of five parachuted into the snow-covered mountains, teamed up with other commandos and skied to their target. They penetrated the plant on foot and blew up the heavy-water production line.

As he set the explosives, Ronneberg decided to cut the fuse from several minutes to just seconds to ensure the plant would be destroyed. The team had seconds to escape before it blew up. Ronneberg skied to neighboring Sweden, a neutral country, two weeks later.

Norway Prime Minister Erna Soldberg called him "one of our great heroes."

The whole operation was done without firing a shot.

The story was made into the movie The Heroes of Telemark in 1965.

After the war, Ronneberg became a radio reporter and rarely spoke of what happened in World War II. He gave speeches into his 90s to warn against totalitarian regimes. He died Sunday.

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