This 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.
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
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.
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.
Despite 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.
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.