Saturday, 12 March 2016

The Next War, Operation Attila - "Akser Wotan", the Danish unit that never existed

By John Burns, The New York Times

The following interview was taken Friday May 16, 1980 in a military hospital in Belgium.

Lieutenant Jonas Roggon, 28 years old, is a German Attack Helicopter pilot. He has minor wounds in the left part of the body, and lost his left eye. Despite that, he's recovering and willing to talk.

At dawn of May, 13 Roggon's squadron was ordered to fly to Copenhagen and support Danish defenders against a Soviet Paratroop Division airdropped South of the city 48 hours before.
Distance made a round-trip impossible, so the squadron had to land at Vaerlose airport and wait two days for fuel supply before getting back to its original airfield.

During this forced stop, with his helicopter grounded for refueling and maintenance, Jonas Roggon had the dubious luck to witness the May 15 assault to the airfield by Soviet paratroopers. The ensuing fight has already been defined by someone as "ferocious beyond human comprehension".

How was the defense troops readiness level when you arrived? Did the Danish expect an airdrop or were taken by surprise?
They were expecting it, actually sooner. The airfield and Western part of Copenhagen were defended by their best troops.

And were their best troops up to the task?
Well.....I have spent my whole military life in the Bundeswehr, and I must say our training is more accurate and a lot better. The average Danish soldier was more....amateur when war started, but he is a quick learner. The equipment is quite good, too.

Was the civilian personnel already evacuated when you arrived?
Yes, they left as soon as the news of the airdrop arrived; well, "evacuated" is not the correct term; they simply fled as fast as they could. I think that was probably the main reason for what happened later.

Could you elaborate?
Well, Copenhagen airport always had a lot of.....strange traffic, I mean, Danish are quite open-minded people, and there's a lot of drug around during the weekend....I know it because I used to spend some time there during summer.....don't get me wrong, never used it, but I know there was a lot.
Simply put, airport police entered a get-out-of-here-fastest-we-can mode; they didn't care or have no time to empty the Customs depot. The way they told me, they blew up the door with C-4 plastic, right after their arrival at the airport.

Olaf Kristensen and his unit. When I arrived, they have already been high on every imaginable drug for four days. At that point, they liked to be called "Akser Wotan", something like "Odin's Axes".

Olaf Kristensen, Commander of the "Odin's Axes" unit, arriving at Copenhagen airport at May, 11
How many were part of this "Odin's Axes" group?
I'd say maybe one hundred, the majority of Kristensen's Company. They acted as a sort of irregulars, with their own orders and tactics. I think the Battalion commander gave up, or decided that after all they were more effective that way.

"That way"?
Someone in the Company brought a lot of medieval battle axes, using a pick-up. I mean, not the replicas you find in some store; real Viking-style battle axes. I presume it was a joke at the beginning, but after a couple of days on amphetamines they began to use them seriously.

Do you mean they used axes in combat?
Yes. When I arrived at the airport at May 13, one of them showed me their "Trophy Room". They had at least twenty heads of Soviet paratroopers, with basque and everything. They kept them on a couple of tables, in the airport's Chapel.

Did their Commanders know about this "Trophy Room"? 
As far as I know, yes.

And they didn't try to stop this practice?
I presume they had more urgent matters at hand, and after all Kristensen's Company already made its name by repulsing a couple of Soviet attacks.
Members of the "Akser Wotan" unit, posing for a photo the day before the Soviet assault

Tell me about the May, 15 attack.
I was grounded at the airport as my chopper was being refueled and repaired. Soviets started the assault before dawn, maybe they thought their night equipment would give them an advantage.
Actually, Kristensen was expecting them; they stored something like 400 smoke grenades on the roof of the check-in area, with a dozen of men ready to throw them inside.

When the assault started, they let the Soviets advance to the check-in, then started filling the whole area with smoke. it was quite a surprise for the Commies, you know, it's usually the attacker who needs a smoke screen. In five minutes, the visibility inside was near to zero. At that point they charged in, wearing protective glasses and gas masks.

They charged in using the axes? 

Sounds like a very risky tactics, point-blank combat in a smoke filled area.
They didn't give an ass to risks or losses at that point. They were full of amphetamines and just wanted a "great Ragnarok", to use their words.

Yes, I had to ask too......the final battle of the Gods before the end of world, you know.

How did the charge go?
From a military point of view, the Soviets routed after half an hour and the airport remained under Danish control. From another point of view, it was......well, I've been at war for the last 15 days, I've seen what it means......
(he pauses)
The worst came when the smoke dissipated. The whole check-in area looked like the set of one of those horror movies. I threw up almost immediately, and had to get out as fast as I could.
But Kristensen and his men were in an exalted state. They kept acting like ancient Vikings, and I saw several of them getting out holding a couple of heads and yelling their battle cries.

What happened after the battle?
I don't know. I was wounded a few hours later by a mortar shot, and evacuated the day after.
(he pauses again, then lay down on the bed)
Now I'm quite tired, please let me sleep.

We asked SHAEF for more details about May, 15 assault at  Vaerlose Airport. They answered that "there are no reports about any unusual tactics or behavior during the engagement". 

A couple of days after this interview, we tried to recontact Lieutenant Jonas Roggon. 
The military hospital Officers told us he has been transferred and refused to give more details about his whereabouts.


  1. There was a really creepy vibe to this account - nicely done.
    The Danes in Afghanistan liked to call themselves Vikings as well.

  2. Thank you Michael....I really enjoyed writing it and I'm happy to hear the creepy atmosphere I had in mind reaches the reader!

  3. I'm really enjoying your blog, I mean, the release of the archives of such a terrible war. This one was a terryfing account indeed!

    1. Thanks Rafael! The account style was inspired by the book "World War Z", I strongly suggest you to give it a try.....You'll be surprised.


Comment? Comment!