Without Norway, No Normandy: The Hidden Role the Norwegians Played in WWII

North Atlantic079This week, Bloomberg News reported that the new Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, was in Washington D.C. for meetings and asked the White House for some time with the President while he was here. According to reports, the White House staff did not even respond. This broke with a long standing tradition that when the Secretary General of NATO was in D.C., the President always made time to see him. Full article is here: http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-03-24/obama-snubs-nato-chief-as-crisis-rages.

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Norwegian Resistance fighters played a well-known role in stopping the Nazi atomic bomb program by destroying the only available heavy water and heavy water production facility available to the Germans. Those attacks, carried out with help from the British SOE, are considered the most effective guerrilla operations in Western Europe during WWII.

At this perilous moment in history, with so many challenges facing our brothers and sisters in Europe, it is important to remember the historical bonds our nations have forged in the defense of common principles. It is also important for Americans to remember that the contributions made by every nation, especially during WWII, all played important roles in the ultimate victory that restored peace to Europe for a generation.

Jen Stoltenberg is Norwegian. He served as Prime Minister and as the head of the Labor Party, as well as in many other positions since his election to Parliament in the early 1990s. Today’s post is an homage to the Secretary General’s nation and its vital (if virtually unknown) contribution to the victory in Europe during WWII. I

 

The Ships that Saved the Cause

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In the spring of 1940, as Norway succumbed to the German onslaught, the Royal Navy evacuated King Haakon VII and much of his government’s senior leadership. The fight would continue, despite the conquest of their homeland. Setting up in London, the Norwegian government-in-exile possessed an ace-in-the-hole that soon played a crucial role in the ultimate defeat of the Third Reich.

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In 1939, though Norway’s population barely topped three million people, the country boosted the world’s fourth largest merchant marine force.  With a thousand, modern vessels, the Norwegians could haul more cargo than just about anyone else on the planet. Want oil moved across the Atlantic? Call the Norwegians. Their fleet included a whopping twenty percent of all tankers on the planet in 1939. The Norwegians were the masters of the seafaring arteries between Europe and the rest of the world.7655 atlantic convoy bound for sicily (1 of 1)

North Atlantic054Despite the German invasion and the Luftwaffe’s depredations, the fleet survived virtually intact. When King Haakon reached London, he delivered the 4.8 million ton Norwegian merchant marine to the Allied cause. This was manna from heaven for Great Britain, whose survival soon depended on these ships. By 1942, forty percent of Britain’s oil rode to the Home Islands aboard Norwegian tankers. Without their contribution, England would surely have been doomed, but the Norwegian crews never received credit for this crucial component to the Allied victory.

The price paid to keep Britain in the war was a steep one. Fully half of the Norwegian merchant fleet was destroyed by U-boats, mines and the Luftwaffe. These five hundred ships took three thousand unheralded, heroic men down with them.North Atlantic194

Though the German conquest of Norway seemed at the time to be a tremendous victory, there was a hidden dimension the Third Reich never envisioned. The Nazi invasion in the north ultimately delivered to the British the very means of their salvation.

 

Categories: Allies, World War II Europe, World War II in Europe | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Without Norway, No Normandy: The Hidden Role the Norwegians Played in WWII

  1. The world needs more posts like this.

    • Thank you, A. Gray. I saw many members of our NATO Alliance working with dedication and devotion in Afghanistan, and to see their contribution to the War on Terror diminished by the way our nation has responded to Europe’s own terror threat has been very hard for me to take.

  2. I fully endorse the words of Mr Gray. I just did not realise the debt that we owed to Norway. We need to be reminded more often by such posts that we were all members of the Allies, all working together for freedom.

  3. Richard Calkins

    I’m ashamed that our President has so little understanding of history and so little consideration for those who serve mankind in the effort to maintain the peace. Shame on him.

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