WWII


I - Invasion of Norway II -The Home Front III - Norwegian Allies

September 1, 1939: Germany invades Poland after Hitler one week before had made a 'non-aggression pact' with Soviet dictator Stalin (and in a secret protocol agreed to 'share the spoils' and two days later England, then France declared war. WWII had begun.
Then followed an uneasy quiet period later dubbed 'the phoney war' until ...

  I - Invasion of Norway



 
 

April 9th ... the war comes to Norway!

April 9, 1940 at 05.30 AM Hitler unleashed the 'Wehrmacht' again. Target: Denmark and Norway. Denmark's neutrality defence was run over within hours and King Christian X and his government woke up to a 'fait accompli': a country fully occupied by the modern German Army, Navy and Air force.

Norway was to become "another cup of tea" (with a more bitter taste!) for the cocksure Germans... Because of the great distances from German harbours to the northernmost Norwegian objects of attack, the first German ships with destination Narvik left Hamburg and Wilhelmshafen on April 3rd. Their sealed and secret orders were labelled "Exercise Weser" in what was planned and carried out as surreptitiously as the criminal act it was: an unprovoked attack on a peaceful and, from a logistic point of view, 'nearly unarmed' nation. 


The force
The total German naval attack comprised 1 heavy, 
1 armoured and 1 light cruiser, 14 destroyers, 
14 torpedo boats and miners and 41 freighters 
and tankers. 

Army group XXI under the command of General von Falkenhorst commanded 2 mountain and 7 infantry divisions plus 4 armour- and machine gun-battalions, artillery- and anti aircraft-regiments, propaganda units and 3 armoured trains. 

The German "Luftwaffe" (air force) committed Flying Corps X with a total of 355 fighters and so called Stuka squadrons (dive bombers) plus more than 700 observation and air transport planes.


The plan
Hitler's planned to take the Norwegians by surprise and forcing them to surrender within hours (like he did in Denmark). But the first surprise he encountered was when the pride of his Navy, the brand new heavy cruiser "Blücher" - that was to spearhead the surprise attack on the nation's capital - at 4 AM, at full speed, no lights, were met by the searchlights a small Norwegian patrol cutter at the entry of Oslo Fjord. The German intruder opened fire, the searchlight went out and Norwegian Navy captain Leif Welding Olsen became Norway's first casualty in WWII. But the incident was reported to colonel Birger Erichsen, the commander of Oscarsborg Fortress on a small island situated at the narrowest spot of the fjord - like a cork in a bottle - just 30 miles further in.
Erichsen had warned the townspeople of neighbouring Drøbak that "war seems to be a fact now..", but had received no orders from his superiors of a state of war. The troops at the fort had been exchanged on April 1 and none of the soldiers had received training yet. Colonel Erichsen detailed the men he had to man the two largest 11 3/4 inch guns, built in the 1890s by German gun maker Krupp(!).
Oscarsborg in action
"Blücher" now moved slowly with darkened lanterns towards the old fortress built in 1847, obviously believing they could just sneak past. Erichsen stood at the main battery with his men to demonstrate that he as the boss was in the front line. As the German ships appeared from the darkness and morning fog, the loomed like giants ahead. A nervous, newly graduated lieutenant fiddled with the range finder and reported, "Distance 3,000 meter". "Nonsense!", Erichsen grumbled and shouted, "Distance 1,200 meter - Gun no. 1, Fire!" He never calculated to get off more than two shots with the museum-aged guns and his untrained men (some of them were the cooks!), so he had to get a hit!
Destiny of "Blücher"
The first shot hit the superstructure, the second hit below the rear mast in a storage of bombs, oil and petrol. Our batteries on shore followed up with successful fire. "Blücher" and the other ships answered with a rain of grenades. Luckily no one on Oscarsborg was hit, but two civilian women in Drøbak were killed by shrapnel. Many were killed on board "Blücher" and as Erichsen listened to the screams of wounded and those trown in the burning sea he could hear the crew singing "Deutschland, Deutschland, über Alles" and knew he'd hit a German ship. He then ordered fire from the secret underwater torpedo battery - two torpedoes hit and sealed the fate of Hitler's pride. At 06.19 the cruiser went to the bottom of the 80 meter deep fjord while only about, 1000 of the 2,400 crew, troops and staff on board survived the swim ashore in the burning oil that soon filled the waters and created an 2-300 meter high cloud of smoke.
History changed
Thus, it is not too much to claim that colonel Erichsen's decision to fire at the unknown intruders changed the history of Norway: the Germans did not succeed in seizing the capital until later that day when they landed airborne troops from airfields seized in Denmark. By then, not at least thanks to C J Hambro, president of Parliament, the Royal family and our nation's leaders had succeeded to escape. By noon the Parliament assembled in Hamar and later in the evening in Elverum. The King refused to accept the German terms and the Norwegian Parliament empowered the Government to carry on with anything necessary to regain our freedom ("Elverums fullmakten") until Parliament again could assemble in peace.

 
 
 
The traitor
Major Vidkun Abraham Lauritz Quisling (b. 1887-18-07 in Fyresdal) former military attache in Russia and Finland, organiser of aid to Russia 1922-23 together with Fridtjof Nansen, Norwegian Secretary of Defence 1931-33. Formed the Norwegian Nazi Party in 1933, took part in Norw. parliamentary elections 1933 and 1936 without winning any seats. On an evening radio speech April 9th, he urged the population to renounce the Government, ignore the order for mobilisation, ordered the Norwegian officers to lay down arms and support himself and his party members as the "new government" to replace the "escaped leadership". In spite of these efforts to grab power, Quisling never gained the full trust of the Germans to govern the country, but in his energetic attempts to nazify every aspect of our society and support the German occupants, Quisling added his name to international vocabularies as a synonym to "traitor".

 
 
 
 
 Get the King!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

On April 10 and 11 the Germans used firebombing against the towns of Nybergsund and Elverum - where the King and Government had sought refuge - and tried to capture them after the King had refused to give in to the Nazis' demands. The picture below shows Elverum after their "visit".


 
 
 
Kavli Glimpse of the fighting in Norway:

Captain Olav Kavli with his Norwegian infantry company at Dombås, ready to intercept an attack of German paratroopers. The idea for the white camouflage attire came from the Finnish-Russian winter war 1939-40. The Norwegian Army did not have this equipment, but Infantry Regiment No. 11 encouraged civilians behind the front to sew them. The camouflage dresses worn here was sewn by local people in Isfjorden in the course of one night (!)

The German style ...
German troops in Valdres. "One side had everything in modern technology: air planes, antiairgun, armour ... The other side had none of this." While the Germans moved ahead in Eastern Norway General Ruge wanted the Norwegians to conduct delaying action fighting and pull back step by step and in the next phase retain a firm position along a line from across Dokka in Valdres, the southern exits of Gudbrandsdalen and Rena in Østerdalen while the attack on Trondheim got underway.
... and the Norwegian style!
"Finn", the horse of the Signal Troop head the supplies column for the Second battalion of Infantry Regiment No. 15 with Olaf Langvald from Tårstad as driver.
"Travelling on the mainland of Troms at this time of the year was extremely difficult. Snow melting season meant that the dirt roads were deep mud. This car from Narvik is helplessly stuck on one of the spring-roads. [Asphalt roads hardly existed in Norway outside towns in 1940.]
Below (right) view of the town of Narvik after the battles in 1940.
Several Norwegian towns and cities was severely damaged by German bombing in April and May 1940. 

Below are the sorrow remains of Steinkjer (left) and Namsos (right) and Bodø (below) after the merciless bombings of the Germans.

King Haakon VII living up to his credo: "Alt for Norge" [everything for Norway]

During the German invasion the Norwegian General Otto Ruge took over as Chief of the Armed Forces - here shown with King Haakon just prior to the German attack. He did an outstanding job under very difficult conditions, but had in the end to give up against the German might. During the 2-month long campaign in Norway, the King held a close contact with our military and government leadership. Not until our capitulation on June 7 which followed the German attack on Benelux and France and made it impossible for our allies to continue their support in Norway, the King, the Crown Prince and the Government had to take the serious step of leaving the country and were taken by a British warship to England. General Ruge chose to remain with his troops and was - as the first Norwegian prisoner of war - sent to Germany where he remained until 1945.


 
 
 
Summing up the tab April 9 - June 7 1940:
German losses: Allied losses:
Heavy cruiser "Blücher" 
Light cruiser "Karlsruhe" (B) 
Light cruiser "Königsberg"(B) 
10 destroyers 
8 submarines 
some smaller naval vessels 
about 20 freighters 
several warships damaged, 2 battle cruisers, 
 1 pocket-battleship and 2 cruisers.

4,000 -5,000 casualties (dead) 
including 2,400 during transport

About 240 planes

British
1,900 casualties (dead, wounded, captured) on land 
2,500 casualties (dead, wounded, captured) at sea 
The British also lost vessels and planes 
French and Polish
500 soldiers 
Norwegian
1,701casualties in action (50% dead) 
185 civilian dead 
Heavy destruction after bombardment in Elverum, Åndalsnes, Molde, Kristianssund, Steinkjer, Namsos and Bodø 
Damage after battles several places incl. Narvik 
4,000 buildings totally destroyed 
10,000 buildings damaged 
300 bridges destroyed

 
 
 
 
I - Invasion of Norway II - The Home Front III - Norwegian Allies

Sources:
"I KNEW HITLER", by  Kurt G.W. Ludecke, Jarrolds Publishers (LONDON) Limited 1938
"Fem år for friheten" by Asbjørn Barlaup, Jacob Dybwads Forlag, Oslo 1945
"Skisser i smug", by Gunnar Bratlie, Gyldendal Norsk Forlag 1946
"Gyldendals Nye Konversasjonssleksikon", Gyldendal Norsk Forlag 1948
"Die Deutsche Besetzung von Dänemark und Norwegen 1940" by Prof. Dr. Walther Hubatsch, "Musterschmidt", Wissenschaftlicher Verlag, Göttingen 1952
"Alt for Norge - 40 år etter", redaktør Gunnar Guhnfeldt, Krigsinvalideforbundet og Veteranorganisasjonene 1985
"Felttoget", by Otto Ruge H. Aschehoug (W.Nygaard) 1989
"Krigen vi aldri kan glemme", by Paul Engstad, Tiden Norsk Forlag, Oslo 1990
"Usynlige soldater", by Bjørn Rørholt, Aschehoug, Oslo 1990