When my son Johnny and I arrived in Rättvik, approximately four hours from of Stockholm, we knew we had come north. It was cold and windy for sure but what a thrill to see it in person. This is where, during World War II, my Dad and his crew were interned after their crippled B-17 “Liberty Lady” belly landed on the Swedish island of Gotland.
I listened to my parents talk about Lake Siljan my whole life, and suddenly … there it was. Our guide Helen Engblom came with us from Falun for the day and made sure we saw everything. We met with a couple of ladies who were there during the war. They had their scrapbooks and let us take pictures of pictures. Just as in Falun, Rättvik came alive when the Americans came to town.
I knew from my research that Rättvik is a vacation destination for Swedes and visitors both winter and summer. The airmen who were interned in neutral Sweden during the war took advantage of everything … swimming, boating, skiing, sledding.
These young men went through hell to get there. Most of them had barely survived bombing missions deep into Germany and knew their planes were in no condition to get back to base. Once they landed in neutral Sweden they were interned for weeks, months, even a year depending in the situation. The laws of neutrality allowed Sweden to return internees back to their home countries on a predetermined basis. In the beginning, the rule was if one German airman went back, so could an Allied airman. Later on in the war, more and more Americans were sent back either to their units or elsewhere.
If you’re on Facebook, please join my Group “American Internees in WWII Sweden” where I will post many of the pictures I have of the internees in Rättvik.