An unexpected romance

Folke Bernadotte, Hedvig Johnson and Herman Allen. Photo: Private/Pat Allen DiGeorge

In January 1945, Folke Bernadotte was invited to attend the wedding of two employees at the American embassy in Stockholm. Herman Allen gets married to Hedvig Johnson and it is Folke Bernadotte who leads the young Hedvig to the altar to give her away to Herman, an American air force lieutenant.

On his return from his stay in the United States at the beginning of World War II, Folke Bernadotte reported for military service in the army reserve as a major in the cavalry. Chief of Army Staff, Axel Rappe, thought it a good idea for Folke Bernadotte to be put in charge of the prison service for prisoners of war in Sweden. At an early stage, foreign soldiers had been imprisoned in Sweden for various reasons. This included Norwegian soldiers who had fled across the border at the start of the war as well as pilots of different nationalities who had made emergency landings on Swedish soil. According to the rules of war for how neutral states should act in war, foreign soldiers should be taken care of and detained in anticipation of being handed over to their respective nations. Naturally the prisoners would be treated well under the Geneva Convention, but the diplomatic dimension of the assignment meant that the prisoners were not only treated well, but rather very well. Folke Bernadotte takes on the assignment.

On 6 March 1944, the American bomber Liberty Lady lands in a field outside Hemse on Gotland. The crew onboard survive without injury and are arrested by home guard soldier Albin Larsson. They are transported to the mainland with final destination Rättvik Airport in Dalarna. One of the crew of the American bomber, Herman Allen is now a prisoner of war under Folke Bernadotte’s responsibility. In Stockholm, Herman meets Hedvig who is working at the American embassy, and soon afterwards they get married.

Read more about Herman Allen and the American detainees in Sweden at Pat Allen DiGeorge´s Liberty Lady Book Project