Joachim Ronneberg, like so many other courageous individuals during World War II, tried to do what he could to fight off the Nazi invasion and oppression of his nation. He didn’t mean to become a hero. But that’s what happened.
In 1943, Ronneberg and eight fellow resistance fighters skied across the Telemark pine forest, mostly at night, until they reached the hydroelectric plant at Rjukan, Norway, where the Nazis were producing “heavy water,” a vital ingredient for making the atomic bomb that, if produced, could have won the war.
At Rjukan, they broke into the plant, made their way past a barracks of Nazi soldier, found their way down to the level where the heavy water was being produced, and planted the explosives they were carrying.
At the last moment, Ronneberg cut the fuses so that they would burn for 30 seconds rather than the two minutes that were in the originally planned. Doing that set the explosives off and created enough confusion that all nine were able to escape without firing a shot and without a scratch.
That was just one of the pieces of good fortune that the raiders encountered during their amazing feat.
After the war, Ronneberg became a journalist and worked for the public radio system of Norway.
Ronneberg died over the weekend. He was 99 years old and the last surviving member of the raiding party. You can read more about the raid and about his life at the links below.