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Wars in the Snow

Discussion in 'History of Finland Norway & Denmark during World W' started by Jim, Nov 27, 2006.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Finland beat off a Soviet Invasion, but the Norwegians facing a better equipped. more formidable foe in the Germans could not hold out.

    Between November 1939 and March 1940 Finland, with a population of 3 million, inflicted a series of humiliating defeats on the 165-million-strong Soviet Union. In the end, it had to submit to Soviet demands, including the loss of large chunks of territory, but the rest of the country remained free. In a modern version of the David and Goliath story, the Finns gave Moscow a sufficiently bloody nose to make it think twice about outright occupation.
    How did it happen? In October 1939, the USSR convinced that war with Germany was inevitable, had extorted agreements from Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania to allow Soviet troops onto their soil. Finland refused and, under the command of its veteran soldier, Baron Carl Mannerheim, mobilised forces along its frontier. Stalin responded by mobilising 26 Soviet divisions. But the frontier, with its maze of forests and lakes, was less vulnerable than it seemed. The Soviets had banked on using frozen lakes as highways for men and tanks, but the lakes turned out to be death traps, swallowing masses of men and equipment. Those who made it to the far shores found only a handful of exit points where the Finns were waiting for them with machine guns. By February 1940 an infuriated Stalin had concentrated overwhelming forces in the Karelian Isthmus. By March 13, the exhausted Finns had suffered 68 000 casualties and finally agreed to the Soviet demands. Later in the war, in 1941, they tried to regain their lost territories by allying themselves with Germany. They failed and in 1944 Mannerheim, by now president, once more had to make peace with Moscow.
    Germany's supplies of high-grade iron ore, nickel and chrome from northern Scandinavia lay at the heart of their Norwegian campaign of April and May 1940. France and Britain threatened to send an expeditionary force to the region; the commander of the German fleet, Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, noting this danger, planned a coup in Norway. On December 11, 1939, he took Vidkun Quisling, a pro-Nazi former Norwegian defence minister, to meet Hitler, and together they planned the German occupation of Denmark and Norway. Hitler gave the green light on April 5, 1940, in response to an announcement by Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, that the Royal Navy was to begin mining Norwegian coastal waters.

    Hitler and Raeder hoped that Denmark and Norway could be persuaded to capitulate without a fight. On Friday, April .5, the German legations in Oslo and Copenhagen showed members of the Norwegian and Danish governments a documentary film, Baptism of Fire, depicting the Luftwaffe's destruction of Warsaw. The message was clear: don't oppose Germany. In Denmark it worked when German paratroopers landed at the Danish airbase of Alborg on the morning of April 9 the garrison surrendered.
    Norway was different. As five German naval task forces moved up the coast on the night of April 8/9, they collided with Royal Navy mine-laying patrols. In subsequent actions the Germans suffered heavy losses, but succeeded in most places in getting men ashore. Despite gale-force winds on April 9, their airborne operations were almost universally successful. The British and French response came too little and too late. Not until April 14 did the first la 000 Anglo French troops start landing in central Norway. They found themselves outflanked by the advancing Germans and were forced to withdraw. They achieved success only in the far north. Here a small force of German mountain troops held at bay 25 000 British, French, Polish and Norwegian soldiers, until sheer weight of numbers forced the Germans to withdraw. By this time, May 27, the situation in France was so desperate that the Allies themselves evacuated Narvik on June 8/9. Even this went wrong for the Allies: the German battle cruisers Schamhorst and Gneisenau surprised the British aircraft carrier Glorious, sending her and her two escort destroyers to the bottom.
     
  2. Dave War44

    Dave War44 Member

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    A real eye-opener for me this. Just an astonishing sequence of events.....
    'Speechless !
    dave
     

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