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Arland Fiske: Norway honors General Jones

In the Student Union Building at Minot State University, there is a room dedicated to the honor of Gen. David C. Jones, United States Air Force.

He was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1978-1982, the highest military position of the United States.  Ken Robertson, retired Air Force and curator of the room’s memorabilia, called my attention to Norway’s recognition of the University’s famous alumnus.  He also supplied much of the information.

On Nov. 24, 1981, Jones was awarded the Grand Cross of the Royal Order of St. Olav, Norway’s highest decoration for non-Norwegians in peacetime.  The ceremony took place at the Norwegian ambassador’s residence in Washington, D.C.  Ambassador Knut Hedemann and Gen. Sverre Hamre, Norwegian chief of defense, made the presentation.

King Olav V of Norway honored Jones “in recognition of his outstanding military service as chief of staff for the United States Air Force, 1974-1978, and as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff since 1978.”

The Order of St. Olav was established Aug. 21, 1847, by King Oscar I, who was king of both Sweden and Norway.  This recognition is an honor that Norway gives to a non-Norwegian.  (The reader should understand that even ethnic Norwegians living in America are considered “non-Norwegians” by people in Norway.  They call us “Americans,” despite our sometime claims to the contrary).

The Order has three ranks: Grand Cross, Commander and Knight.  The insignia has a golden cross with white enamel and a golden lion on a globe of red enamel in the center.  On the reverse side is the motto: “Ret og Sandhed” (“Justice and Truth”).  The King of Norway is the Order’s grand master, and all insignia are to be returned to him after the death of the recipient.

The award is given for “outstanding merit for the country or for humanity.”  Jones qualified for this recognition because Norway is a loyal and appreciative member of NATO.  Sharing a border with the then-Soviet Union, Norway could have been a target for political blackmail without American support.  The huge Soviet naval base at Murmansk is close to the northern tip of Norway.

Jones was born in 1921 at Aberdeen, S.D., and moved to Minot in 1930.  After graduating from Minot High School in 1939, he attended both the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks and Minot State University.  He had his first flying lessons in Minot in 1941.  In January 1942, right after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he married Lois Tarbell of Rugby, N.D., a schoolteacher.  Then he volunteered for the United State Army Air Force and reported to the Roswell, N.M., cadet school.

A memorable time for some of Lois’ pupils was when Jones used to visit the school where she taught during recess and played ball with the pupils. They thought that was special.  One time, he took a home-run swing and shattered their new Louisville Slugger bat.  They have, however, forgiven him in the light of his later achievements.

When you visit Minot, it will be worth your while to stop at the University and see the General David D. Jones Room.

Next week: The “Ola” and “Per” comics.


ARLAND FISKE, a retired Lutheran minister who previously lived in Laporte and now lives in Texas, is the author of 10 books on Scandinavian themes, including 2012’s “Sermons in Psalms.”