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Norway and WWII

While neutral during The First World War (WWI), Norway entered The Second World War (WWII) when attacked by the Germans on April 9th 1940.

Large parts of Norway was overrun in a short time, but luck and determination made the Norwegians hold out until June 7th in the North before they admitted defeat and laid down their weapons.

The British and French had prepared to occupy the strategic port of Narvik, and sent naval and army forces to Norway shortly after the outbreak of war. The battle (or battles) of Narvik was the first major battle on the western front of WWII, involving - in addition to Norwegian and German/Austrian forces - British, French and Free Polish land and sea forces.

After being defeated, the Norwegian Government fled to London, from where they organised both exile forces and a resistance movement at home. Agents were trained in Britain, and smuggled back to Norway.

Readworthy books about Norway and WWII:

We Die Alone: A World War Two Epic of Escape and Endurance, the story of SOE saboteur Jan Baalsrud, who alone survived of a party of agents sent into Northern Norway. This is the story of his journey through foul weather, illness and gun wounds, Germans and a supportive local population, risking death to help him. Among his problems were snow-blindness and gangrene, driving him to amputate his own toes while lying in a snow cave - no anaesthethics, of course....

The Shetland Bus: A WWII Epic of Escape, Survival and Adventure tells the story of one of the forerunners of the SBS, Norwegian Independent Naval Unit no. 1, nick-named The Shetland Bus because of their regular runs back and forth between their Shetland base and occupied Norway. Led and manned by fishermen and sailors who had fled the Germans, they shipped supplies and agents to the Norwegian resistance, transported refugees to Britain and reconnoitred the Norwegian coast for the allies. At the outset, their boats were Norwegian fishing boats equipped with concealed weapons. Slow-going, they were easy prey for German navy and air force if discovered. Later they were given speedy sub-chasers, improving their chance of survival. This book also gives some insight into the character of Leif Larsen, their Norwegian leader, one of the most decorated naval officers of WWII. See also Shetland Bus Man (forthcoming).

Norway 1940 by Francois Kersaudy is a (French) historian's view of the campaign in Norway and its pre-history.

Narvik (Brit. Battles S) is an account of the battle of Narvik, primarily the Naval part.

Operation Freshman: Rjukan Heavy Water Raid, 1942 tells the story of the sabotage against the heavy water plant at Rjukan, stopping plans Hitler might have had to make a nuclear bomb.
The Real Heroes of Telemark
also tells the true (as opposed to the movie, starring Kirk Douglas) story of this sabotage against the heavy water plant at Rjukan, destroying Hitler'shope of a nuclear bomb. Bravery, cunning and endurance over and beyond the call of duty on the part of the SOE (a forerunner of SAS) agents parachuted into Norway made this operation, which met with much problems, possible.
Thomas Gallagher's Assault in Norway first published 1975, reprinted 2002 is a shorter story than Mears' In Gallgher's book Professor Leif Tronstad, a scientist instrumental in getting the heavy water sabotage going, gets his well-earned praise.
Knut Haukelid, one of the saboteurs, wrote his own recollection of the sabotage in Skis Against the Atom (NB! US delivery only!).
The Norwegian 1948 movie "Kampen om tungtvannet" ("Operation Swallow" in English) is (largely) manned by the real heroes, re-enacting their own story.

A number of daring operations were carried out by Milorg, the military underground in Norway. One of the major characters were Gunnar Sønsteby who tell his story in Report from #24. Another one was Oluf Reed Olsen who has his say in Two Eggs on my Plate.

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© janeriks Jan Erik Frantsvåg 2001 Reg.no. NO 983 140 831
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