Norway, May 1940

German reinforcements arrive by ship to Norway, May 1940. The invasion the previous month had taken the Norwegians by surprise, but the mountainous terrain and the presence of British and French forces made the campaign hard-fought. Operation Weserübung was the German move to secure the port of Narvik in northern Norway, and thus the supplies of much-needed iron ore from the northern Swedish mines. Using Denmark as a springboard, the Germans launched a combined assault by air and sea, the first such operation in history.

The actions leading up to the invasion was like a game of chess, where the players couldn’t see the pieces of their opponent. Since the invasion of Poland, Britain and France had engaged Germany in limited operations. The Germans needed the iron ore from Sweden, which couldn’t be transported while the Baltic Sea was frozen over, as well as securing the passage to the Atlantic Ocean. The British wanted to deny the Germans the ore, and had plans to get neutral Norway to side with Britain and France. There was also a plan to send military help to Finland in the fight against the Soviet Union, using Narvik as the landing port and occupying the Swedish iron mines in the process. Two invading forces were heading towards Norway in early April…

The Allied force was delayed by rough weather, and Germans beat the Allies to it. Norway surrendered after two months of hard fighting, while the Allies evacuated as Germany had launched the attack on France, the Netherlands and Belgium.

I once talked to a man who had been an officer at a regiment outside Gothenburg, Sweden. He was about to train some soldiers on 9 April, when he was summoned to his commanding officer. “The Germans have attacked Denmark and Norway. Take a truck and buy every spade, saw, axe, and iron spit you can lay your hands on.” The Swedish Army was in such a bad state after years of cutbacks, that the gear needed in the field had been passed over in favor of ammunition, as funds were very limited. The Army, just about to demobilize after the raised state of preparedness following the German-Soviet attack on Poland and the Soviet attack on Finland, moved infantry units to the Swedish-Norwegian border. Lacking sufficient numbers of tanks, combat aircraft, and artillery, as well as training, Sweden was in no state to assist Norway.

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