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Jim Rose's Blog Space
Tales from the Marine Corps
Jim Breen and I were exchanging email on the "Rainbow Warrior" affair when French secret service agents bombed Green Peace's sail boat in Auckland New Zealand, murdering a Portuguese photographer in the process. Jim had mentioned that Ronald Reagan wanted trade bans against New Zealand because it went anti-nuclear, but the US State Dept. had pointed out to him that the US already had other allies that didn't allow nuclear ships... namely Norway.
That triggered a memory from my Marine days of both Norway, and the US State Department. I told Jim about it and he said "Far too good a story to stay untold. You'd better do a blog page on The Day I Met King Olav".
I actually met King Olav (Norway) and the current Queen Sonia (his daughter-in-law) . . . in 1987. At the time he was the oldest living monarch in the world. Even older than Emperor Hirohito, who was also still alive at that time. My unit was in Northern Norway pretending to be getting our arses kicked by the Russians who were being played by the British Royal Marines when the State Dept. sent word that the King (of Norway) wanted to see our new HMMV "jeeps". We were the first unit in the Corps to get them, so he could see them in person since we happened to be in his country. My gunny was extremely upset about it, as he absolutely hated dealing with civilians or the State Dept. (although technically speaking the King was the head of the Norwegian military), so I told him I would volunteer to do it. Actually I said "Let me do it Gunny. I'll show him how we treat kings in America", to which the Gunny mused out loud "yeah, let Rose do it. He don't give a fu@k". When my Lieutenant heard that I was going to meet the King, he told me he had better go along too so that an officer would be present.
The State dept. told us he would arrive in a C-130 at this remote, seemingly unused airstrip. When I get there, nobody is there. The Lieutenant tells me maybe the King is in the little building at the end of the airstrip waiting for us. Mind you, I haven't shaved for 4 days and I've got a little black beanie cap on... not exactly parade material. The Lt. vanishes inside the building leaving me outside in the HMMV. No C-130 ever arrives. All of a sudden a civilian helicopter swoops down onto the tarmac, and out pops an old man dressed in super bright... hip looking ski clothes, and a very beautiful, but a little old for my tastes . . . woman. At a distance, I have no idea if this is the King or just some random civilian cause I'm waiting for the C-130 the State Dept said was coming... so I just sat in the HMMV... by the time I realized this was the King, it was already too weird for me to get out and salute or something.
Queen Sonia popped over and said hello, stuck her head in my window and started checking out the instrumentation... not knowing what to do, I waved hello to the King, and he waved back.... with a puzzled "what the f#$! is going on" but polite smile on his face. He walked around the vehicle once or twice, then I panicked because Sonia started looking at our classified crypto gear and told her I wasn't actually allowed to show it to her. I got the distinct impression that she didn't understand my English and she just looked at me and smiled very sweetly. Either that or she was smiling as she thought about how 100 years ago she could have had me drawn and quartered. I would have offered her a chance to drive it, but I was waiting for the Lieutenant. The King went into the building where I assumed he was meeting with lots of high ranking officers.
Sonia stayed out with me. She was actually the one interested in the HMMV. I wasn't exactly a great conversationalist as Sonia and I waited outside. Several minutes of me being silent, and she decided to break the ice and asked me what I was reading. I was relieved to have something to say. I didn't actually like the HMMV that much. We could take the old jeeps on far more narrow trails in the woods, and the HMMV was diesel, so you had to wait for the glow plugs to heat up before you could start it. I showed her the "Stars and Stripes" newspaper I had brought with me to kill time which she found interesting. Then after a few moments the King came out of the building, looked at Sonia, shrugged his shoulders, and they waved goodbye and got back into the helicopter and took off. 10 minutes later my Lieutenant comes out of the building sits down and says "I hope we weren't late". I look at him puzzled. "What do you mean? You didn't see the King?" I asked.
"Rose, stop f#$!ing with me" he said.
"Lieutenant I'm not. The King was here . . . weren't you inside with him?"
"No I was in the bathroom" he said.
"Oh well I hope the other officers were there."
My Lieutenant looks at me white as a ghost now that he realizes I'm not pulling the wool over his eyes: "No, we're the only ones here. Are you joking? Was the King really here?"
I've always wanted to write to Sonia and remind her of that day and see if she would remember it and write me back. If anyone reading this knows Queen Sonia, could you please ask her if she remembers that day?
© 2003-2006 James Linden Rose, Kingdom of Hawai'i