Fact or Fiction: Inside Episode 7

From a dramatic kidnapping attempt and a strained royal marriage, to FDR’s insistence that Martha accept the U.S. ship presented to Norway, there’s a lot going on in this episode! Atlantic Crossing’s co-writers sort the fact from the fiction.* [Contains spoilers.]

  1. 1.

    Martha’s children were almost kidnapped.

    President Franklin D. Roosevelt's correspondence with Crown Princess Martha of Norway, September 1942.
    Presidential correspondence courtesy of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library archive.

    FICTION: While it’s true that during a 1942 visit to Hyde Park, the children took tea at Eliza Forbes’ nearby home without their mother, there is no evidence of a kidnapping plot, say the series’ co-writers. The Episode 7 scene where Forbes tries to hustle the children into a car was inspired by the contents of this note from FDR to Martha. He writes he’s been informed Mrs. Forbes is friends with Hjørdis Quisling—someone with direct ties to the Reich. She is apparently definitely pro-Nazi and is being carefully watched. Please tell your nurse that when the children are at Hyde Park they must under no circumstances visit Mrs. Forbes.

    “We chose to see the note in connection with the constant security risk Martha and the children lived under. We were inspired by the possible danger of kidnapping,” says historian and co-writer Linda May Kallestein. She adds that a friendship between Forbes and Quisling “is of course no documentation that [she] was a Nazi sympathizer and we hope our fictionalization will not harm her legacy.”

  2. 2.

    Fact or Fiction: Olav was suspicious of Martha’s relationship with the president and disgruntled by her success.

    Composite image with scene from Atlantic Crossing on left (actor Tobias Santelmann as Prince Olav and actress Sophia Helin as Princess Martha) and an archival photo of Norway's royal family at their Pook's Hill home in MD during WWII.
    Original photo (on right) held by the National Archives of Norway; NTB’s war archive. Photographer unknown.

    FICTION: “This is another example of creative license,” says Kallestein. “We discussed what it could have been like for [Olav and Martha], considering they were separated by an ocean. Letters were censored for long periods of time. Olav could’ve been killed during the bomb raids in London. Martha spent a lot of time with FDR. It’s in the public records that Olav wanted to be more active to help Norway win the war. He was very frustrated about this, something he later spoke freely about. She, on the other hand, seemed to be successful in her efforts to lobby for Norway. We took all these elements into consideration and shaped our version of what might’ve taken place.”

  3. 3.

    Fact or Fiction: FDR insisted Martha formally accept the U.S. ship given to Norway.

    Actress Sophia Helin in her role as Crown Princess Martha of Norway in a scene from Atlantic Crossing.

    FACT:  The president had planned to hand over the submarine fighting ship on King Haakon’s 70th birthday in August 1942, but Martha was in London for that occasion. So the Washington Navy Yard ceremony was postponed until September when she could be present. As depicted in the series, Roosevelt gave his famous “Look to Norway” speech during the event, which cited the country as an example of “the democratic will to win.”

    The president’s threat to give the ship to Belgium if Martha couldn’t accept it is pure fiction, say series co-writers. Harry Hopkins’ opposition to the idea of Martha’s accepting the ship is also a dramatization.

  4. 4.

    Fact or Fiction: Crown Princess Martha received the Norwegian Grand Cross.

    Scene from Atlantic Crossing with Crown Princess Martha of Norway (Sophia Helin) recieves the Grand Cross award from King Haakon VII (Søren Pilmark)

    FACT:  Martha was awarded the Grand Cross by the Order of St. Olav during a London dinner celebrating King Haakon’s 70th birthday. Her outstanding efforts for Norway and humanity were the basis for the award, say Atlantic Crossing’s co-writers. Saint Olav’s Order is a recognition that is awarded in five different classes or ranks, the highest being the Grand Cross.

    It’s also true that Martha’s trans-Atlantic trip to London was a secret even from her husband and father-in-law. For security reasons, she traveled under a pseudonym in a military transport plane. King Haakon and Prince Olav had no idea she was coming until it was announced she had landed.

  5. 5.

    Fact or Fiction: General Fleischer killed himself before personally receiving the War Cross.

    Carl Gustav Fleischer, Norwegian World War II general; circa 1940
    Carl Gustav Fleischer, Norwegian World War II general; circa 1940

    FACT:  Carl Gustav Fleischer was ultimately recognized with Norway’s highest military award, though it came so late he did not receive it while alive, say Atlantic Crossing co-writers. The War Cross was conferred for his “excellent planning and management of operations during the campaign in Northern Norway in 1940,” which made him the first allied general of WWII to defeat Germany in a land battle.

    As portrayed in the series, Fleischer and his country’s leaders were often at odds during the war—beginning with the general’s conviction that the king and government should not leave Norway. Fleischer went on to suffer numerous career slights, including being forced to London, overlooked for the army and navy’s joint defense chief, and sent to Canada to oversee troops in training.

    The final insult came on December 1, 1942 when Fleischer was appointed military attaché to Washington, D.C.—a position typically held by someone of lesser rank. In reality, he never got to America, but committed suicide in Canada on December 19. He’d been awarded the War Cross just the day before.


*Based on a series of articles (in Norwegian) written by Mari Aftret Mørtvedt and Ola Nymo Trulsen for NRK, the Norwegian Broadcasting Company.



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