An American and proud of it
By Annette Brand
Published Wednesday, May 18, 2016 8:55 am
Photos submitted Bror Faber of Cedaredge, and his grandson Alex Silva, during a motorcycle ride over Grand Mesa, elevation 10,839. Bror's family immigrated from Norway after World War II, and he became a citizen while serving in the U.S. Air Force in the
Bror Faber of Cedaredge was born in Denmark, and endured the ravages of World War II as a child in Norway.
The Faber family -- father, mother, three sons -- was living in a suburb of Oslo. There was a lot of apprehension in Norway about Germany's expansion through Czechoslovakia and Poland.
"My older brother Bjorn, my hero, shipped out as a merchant marine in February 1940," Bror said.
"In the early morning of April 9, 1940, we were awakened by great noise. We rushed outside, Dad with binoculars. The sky was filled with airplanes. Tears were running down my Dad's face as he exclaimed, 'My God! The Germans.'
"We began five long miserable years of living in fear 24/7. Visits from the Nazis came in the middle of the night. All radios and private vehicles were confiscated. There were strict curfews and frequent stops by Nazi patrols, even for children.
"We had strict rationing. Norway has a short growing period. 1942 was the worst year. The potato crop froze and our staple became rutabagas," he said.
"There was only one Jewish family in our neighborhood. They disappeared, captured rather quickly.
"In school our teachers were forced to join the Nazi party to continue to teach. The German language was added to our curriculum when I was in the fourth grade," Bror said.
The Nazi bombing was over after a few days, but the British made numerous attacks on the German anti-aircraft installation at the airfield three miles from the Fabers' house.
In time, Norwegians came to understand why Germany invaded Norway: Germany needed their fjords, kept ice-free by the Gulf Stream, to shelter the German Navy, especially submarines to control the North Sea. The Germans were also concerned about Norway's very short common border with Russia.
"On Tuesday, May 7, 1945, most Germans in our area laid down their arms," Bror said.
Germany had capitulated and the war in Europe ended on May 8.
Bror said, "During those five years we had only one sign of life from my brother Bjorn. It was a Red Cross postcard from Switzerland saying only, 'I love you and hope to see you soon.'
On May 12, 1945, the telephone rang and it was Bjorn. Mother and Dad and I were in ecstasy.
"Bjorn was one of few Norwegian Spitfire pilots who came home after the war. He was trained in a Norwegian training camp in 'Little Norway' in Toronto, Canada, where he got his wings. He was sent to England to join a Spitfire squadron."
After the war the Faber family received a small inheritance from a relative who had lived in the U.S. prior to his death.
"Our family started the years-long process of applying for emigration to the U.S.," Bror said.
In November 1948 Bror's family emigrated to the United States.
"We arrived, all papers in order, in New York Nov. 29, 1948, all very excited. A snowstorm hit, making Dad furious. 'I came 3,000 miles to get away from this,' he said. 'Do we go south or west?'"
They had a friend from Norway in Los Angeles. "We left New York on Dec. 30, on Route 66, all five of us and lots of luggage in one car," said Bror.
Bror's family expected him to become a doctor. He applied to the pre-med program at University of Southern California. He had to return to Norway for six more months of schooling. He completed that schooling, returned to the U.S. in July 1949 and began classes at USC.
The Korean War started and Bror registered with his draft board.
His father flew airplanes in the 1920s, Bjorn flew Spitfires and Bror really wanted to fly.
"I volunteered for the U.S. Air Force and was accepted. I was sworn in in Los Angeles and received a slot in Colorado Springs in February 1952. In filling out the papers, I discovered that, as an "alien", I didn't qualify.
"I was still at Waco, Texas, in July 1952 when the USAF determined that, because of my language skills, I should be sent to Europe instead of Korea." Bror is fluent in Norwegian, French, German and English.
He was assigned to the TAC.Wing, a reconnaissance outfit, at Spangdahlem Air Force Base in Germany. Bror said, "Our chore was to remap all of Europe. Our wing flew from the Mediterranean to the North Cape in Norway, developed all film and made prints, then made a mosaic of all prints. The photogrammetry group converted the photos into a different form from which maps were eventually made."
An immigrant could become a U.S. citizen after either residing in the U.S. for five years or serving on active duty for three years. Bror had done both.
His commanding officer made arrangements for Bror to be sworn in by the U.S. Ambassador at the U.S. Embassy in Frankfurt, Germany. "I still have my certificate of citizenship," Bror said.
At Christmas 1952 Bror took leave and went to Norway to celebrate the holidays with his only surviving uncle and aunt.
Coming back to base on a packed train through Essen, Germany, a German conductor made extra effort to find a seat for Bror. (A couple of cartons of American cigarettes helped.)
"In Essen, a lady comes on absolutely lovely, dressed a bit nicer than Germans at that time could manage," Bror said. "I was in uniform and tried conversing with her. It didn't go well."
When leaving the train, the conductor wished Bror well, speaking in German, and Bror returned well wishes, in German.
The lovely lady angrily asked Bror, "What is a German doing in an American uniform?"
Bror replied, "I am an American and proud of it. But I was born and raised in Norway."
That exchange turned things around.
Her name was Elisabeth. When Bror got off the train in Cologne, with Elisabeth continuing on to England, they were holding hands.
Bror says, "I knew in my heart that was the lady I was going to marry."
Elisabeth was German, a registered nurse, working in England. The two made many trips across the channel. In April, "on bended knee" Bror asked for her hand in marriage.
Since Elisabeth was a registered nurse in Germany, she returned to Germany and started the emigration process to go to the U.S.
Bror and Elisabeth were married in the Long Beach Lutheran Church on Sept. 14, 1955. He worked in many fields including time with Douglas Aircraft Company and Browning Ferris Industries.
He earned a pilot's license and an instrument instructor's license and taught students how to fly in inclement weather, at night, and wingtip to wingtip with commercial aircraft.
In 1977, Bror joined Bechtel Corporation and was assigned to the Bechtel Nuclear Power Plant Construction division. He started with the San Onofre Plant in California, and was promoted several times.In 1983 he was assigned to a plant in South Korea and was able to take Elisabeth with him, where they spent 2-1/2 years. Their children, Eric and Sonya, were adults by then.
He worked on nuclear power plant projects nationwide during his career.
In 1990 Elisabeth had uterine cancer surgery.
A couple of years later Bror and Elisabeth bought a 30-foot RV and drove 78,000 miles on their "See America" tour.
Bror retired May 1, 1993. On May 3 Bror and Elisabeth moved into their Cedar Mesa home. They had 48 years together.
Bror enjoys living among the cedars with the awesome view of Hart's Basin and adjoining splendid Colorado landmarks.