Second World War

Nazi Made Big Step in Scandinavian Campaign (1940)

The Scandinavian Campaign of 1940 made impact on World War II begin, setting the stage conflicts that would follow

German soldiers marching through Oslo in Scandinavian Campaign

In 1940, World War II was escalating rapidly. After the relative quiet of the “Phoney War,” the Scandinavian Campaign, involving Denmark and Norway, became a pivotal series of events. Germany, seeking control over the strategic Scandinavian resources and ensuring the security of their supply lines, initiated Operation Weserübung. This operation was unique, marking the first time that German troops carried out combined land, air, and sea operations in a single campaign.

The Invasion of Denmark

On April 9, 1940, German forces launched a surprise attack on Denmark. The operation was swift and brutally efficient. Despite Denmark’s policy of neutrality, the small Danish army was no match for the Wehrmacht’s might. Within just six hours, the country was compelled to surrender. The quick capitulation was partly due to the Danish government’s decision to avoid unnecessary bloodshed, knowing well that any serious attempt to resist the powerful German army would be futile.

Norway’s Struggle

On the same day, Germany invaded Norway, aiming to secure its iron ore shipments from Sweden and to preempt an anticipated British and French intervention. Unlike Denmark, Norway decided to resist. The Norwegian Campaign was marked by fierce battles both on land and at sea. The initial phase of the invasion was met with some confusion and disorganization on the part of the Norwegians, partly due to the surprise of the attack and the speed of the German advance.

Naval Engagements and Ground Battles

The battles for Norway were intense and multifaceted. At sea, the British Royal Navy engaged the Kriegsmarine in a series of naval battles, attempting to cut off German naval forces and supply lines. Notably, the Battle of Narvik was a significant naval engagement where British naval forces and the Norwegian army recaptured the town from the Germans, albeit temporarily.

On land, Norwegian, French, British, and Polish troops fought against the German invaders. The Allies initially made some headways, landing troops at several key points and engaging in skirmishes that pushed back the German forces. However, the Germans quickly regained their footing and launched counterattacks.

The Role of Airpower

Airpower played a crucial role in the campaign. The Luftwaffe, with its superior air force, provided critical support to German ground troops, bombed strategic targets, and engaged in dogfights with the Royal Air Force and Norwegian fighters. The German control of airfields, particularly in southern Norway, gave them a significant strategic advantage.

The Fall of Norway

Despite the valiant efforts of the Norwegian and Allied forces, the campaign in Norway eventually favored the Germans. The superior military strength of Germany, combined with strategic missteps and communication issues among the Allies, led to the gradual occupation of Norway. By early June, the Norwegian government, along with King Haakon VII and the royal family, fled to London, establishing a government-in-exile. Norway, now under German control, would remain occupied until the end of the war in 1945.

Strategic and Political Implications

The Scandinavian Campaign had significant strategic and political implications. For Germany, the successful invasion secured crucial iron ore supplies from Sweden and denied the Allies a foothold from which they could launch operations into the heart of Germany. It also provided the German navy with Atlantic bases, posing a greater threat to Allied shipping.

For the Allies, the campaign was a sobering defeat. It exposed weaknesses in Allied military coordination and strategy, leading to introspection and changes in leadership, particularly in Britain, where Winston Churchill became Prime Minister shortly after the Norwegian campaign. The fall of Norway also heightened the strategic importance of the Atlantic, leading to the fierce Battle of the Atlantic.

Legacy and Historical Significance

The Scandinavian Campaign of 1940, while often overshadowed by later events in World War II, had a profound impact on the course of the war. It was a campaign that combined land, sea, and air operations in a way that would characterize much of the future warfare. The invasion demonstrated the effectiveness of combined arms tactics and the importance of air superiority. It also highlighted the strategic significance of neutral countries and the resources they possessed.

In Denmark and Norway, the occupation years were marked by resistance, collaboration, and the complex interplay of survival and defiance. The legacy of the campaign is remembered differently in each country, but it remains a testament to the turmoil and tragedy of war, affecting millions of lives and reshaping the geopolitical landscape of Europe.

In conclusion, the Scandinavian Campaign of 1940 was not just a military operation; it was a series of events that significantly influenced the early years of World War II, setting the stage for the complex and brutal conflicts that would follow. Its lessons in strategy, diplomacy, and the human cost of war continue to be relevant in understanding not just the history of the conflict, but the broader implications of military interventions and national sovereignty.

william cavendish writer on world war ii
William Cavendish
Meet William Cavendish, a dedicated historian with extensive study in World War II. His detailed research and passion for history fuel his writings, providing readers with immersive, well-informed perspectives on the war's complex realities, and making the lessons of the past accessible and engaging for all.

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