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Meet the Norwegian Warrior Who Fought in Vietnam

by DIGITAL TIMES
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In one of the most outstanding memoirs that this reviewer has had the privilege of reading, retired U.S. Army Col. Henrik “Hank” Lunde gives a detailed account of his life experiences and strug-gles during the Vietnam War and beyond. Lunde served three tours in Vietnam, first commanding a rifle company with the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division before going on to serve as Brigade S-3 and battalion executive officer for the 9th Division, becoming a deputy operations adviser to II ARVN Corps and eventually commanding a Special Forces battalion from 1972-73. He was Chief of Negotiations for the U.S. delegation to the Four Party Joint Military Team (FPJMT), negotiating with North Vietnam to account for dead and missing. He also went on to serve as Director of National and International Security Studies for Europe at the U.S. Army War College.   

this article first appeared in vietnam magazine

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Leaving Norway

Lunde was born in Norway in 1936 and emigrated to the U.S. as a teenager. The early part of his memoir provides a fascinating and poignant glimpse of his hardscrabble beginnings in Norway and his family’s experiences. Living on the small island of Risoy in western Norway, he watched dogfights between British and German planes overhead and once had a dangerous encounter with German officers searching his family home during World War II. As a boy he was enthusiastic about stories involving military history and leadership, reading the Old Norse Kings Sagas by Snorre Sturlason, playing military-oriented games, crafting bows and arrows, and even (without his parents knowing) experimenting with gunpowder.

After moving to the U.S., Lunde had difficulty adapting to his new home, struggling with English and experiencing bullying. He overcame these challenges and eventually settled on pursuing a military career, as he “felt the best way to repay my new country’s opportunities was to serve the nation in some capacity.”  

Insights Into Warfare

Lunde’s memoir has many merits. His writing is packed with detail. His style is concise but informative, enlightening the reader in crisp but illuminating sentences. In addition to possessing great personal courage, Lunde has great analytical powers that come across throughout the book. He demonstrates a far-reaching ability to evaluate all manner of problems and situations from various angles. Lunde’s personality comes alive in his book. He is highly organized, professional, firm, patient, self-controlled, and also extremely humble and conscientious. There are plenty of war stories in the book which will interest readers not only because of events described but because of how Lunde analyzes factors within each situation.  

Photo of Henrik O. Lunde, left, receiving the Legion of Merit from Brig. Gen. Robert L. Schweitzer at SHAPE on June 15, 1979.
Henrik O. Lunde, left, receives the Legion of Merit from Brig. Gen. Robert L. Schweitzer at SHAPE on June 15, 1979.
(Army photo via Casemate)

Perhaps what stands out most of all in his autobiography is Lunde’s wisdom about warfare and human nature. Writing on human emotions in war, he says: “The emotion of hate has no place on the battlefield, despite what Hollywood movies portray. It interferes with a soldier’s logical reasoning process, leads to loss of self-control, self-respect and pride in the unit. Hate is ruinous to discipline and morale.” Lunde acknowledges that while elements of hate or malice “are practically impossible to eliminate in an environment where friends are killed or maimed…I am proud to say that these elements were kept on a tight rein by a group of exceptionally fine NCOs and officers.” He states, “I told my troops to fight like tigers but conduct themselves with honor.”  

There is much military wisdom to be gleaned from Lunde’s writings and this makes his autobiography a must-have for any military historian. It is also a wonderful read for anyone simply seeking to read about and appreciate the life and experiences of a very fine soldier. “If I were ever again to find myself in a tight and dangerous combat situation, Hank Lunde is the one man that I would most desire to have at my side,” wrote the late Lt. Gen. Henry Emerson of his comrade. Emerson also praised Lunde as an “effective and brave combat leader” and a “magnificent soldier.” This reviewer heartily concurs.

Immigrant Warrior: A Challenging Life in War and Peace

By Henrik O. Lunde. Casemate Publishers, 2023, $52.95

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This review appeared in the 2024 Winter issue of Vietnam magazine.

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