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What if? 10/13

Discussion in 'What If - European Theater - Western Front & Atlan' started by JJWilson, Oct 13, 2017.

  1. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

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    Today I have another what if? What if Britain and France invaded Norway and Sweden before the Germans? I know it sounds ridiculous, but the British invaded Iceland in 1940 as a staging area for naval convoys and aircraft for Canada and eventually the U.S. Nobody was killed in the invasion, and despite Iceland's neutrality, they cooperated with the Allies quite a bit. Plus the British actually planned to invade Norway! a week after the German invasion. As for Norway and Sweden, I believe (maybe wrongfully) that the British and French could have conducted a similar "friendly invasion". Norway and Sweden despite their neutrality showed some support to the allies before and after Norway was invaded by Germany, leading me to believe Norway wouldn't be overly upset about invasion, Sweden on the other hand I think would be a little more of a wildcard. Why would Allied invasion of the Scandinavian countries be a good idea? First off, the Germans were extremely reliant upon the Swedish iron-ore trade (77% of all Iron Germany used was from Sweden) cutting off that supply would have severely crippled German industrial capacity. Secondly, both Sweden and Norway had strategic positions in both the Baltic and the Arctic. The Allies could have hindered German merchant shipping in the Baltic and have a naval base for convoys going to Russia in the Northern part of Norway. What do you guys think would change if Scandinavia was under Allied control?
    -Wilson
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2017
  2. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    It sounds ridiculous in large measure because it was ridiculous.

    I strongly suggest you read Norway, 1940 by French author Francois Kersaudy, a book I reviewed here in the book review forum. The Norway operation was a bastard child from a coupling made in a insane asylum. It's initial genesis came from a popular perception within the Anglo-French Press, Public, lower/opposition government and military that enough was not being done and that the 'Phoney War' was just that, a unwillingness to fight Germany.

    Britain liked the idea of mining German river ways, especially the Rhine, but France feared retaliation by Germany on France proper. France suggested bombing Russian oil fields from British bases in the Mid east to slow the aid coming to Germany from the Soviet Union. Britain objected because that would put her bases in the cross hairs. They eventually agreed (tepidly) to a operation to seize Narvik in Norway in order to disrupt Iron ore shipments to Germany during the winter months.

    While they agreed in principle to do this, the whole operation was mired in development hell because neither the senior political leadership or most of the uniformed heads were very fond of the operation. The exception was First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill who loved the idea and kept it alive when it should have been left to expire. Time and again all be set in motion and the operation would be put on hold by Chamberlain, often for very good reason as events proved out.

    When the capture of Narvik was not considered reason enough, direct aid to Finland fighting the Winter War was added to the wish list. Mission creep on steroids. The arguments that Norway wanted "saving" and Sweden was "eager" to be a conduit for Anglo-French supplies and troops were floated, but in truth neither country wanted any such thing. For awhile diplomatic reports came back that were at best wildly over optimistic and at worst flat out false about the willingness of Norway and Sweden to be part of this operation, but eventually The Anglo-French leadership had to acknowledge they would get little assistance and quite possibly resistance locally from those they would "save/help". In any event by the time they got their ducks in a row Finland was ready to take any reasonable terms Stalin would offer and had given up on Allied aid and support.

    It would have died there if not for the Altmark incident where a German merchant raider supply ship carrying captured allied seamen hugging the coast of Norway was intercepted (on Churchill's orders) by the Royal Navy. This drew Hitler's attention and ad hoc emergency operation was undertaken by Germany to capture Norway. Ironically with just days to plan and organize they did what the Anglo-French could not do, put together a workable plan to capture Norway in the face of over whelming naval superiority of the Royal Navy/French fleet. The Allied response was a Chinese fire drill executed by the Keystone cops. Some of the ships had begun to offload troops and supplies only to be hurriedly reloaded and sent piecemeal to targets other than those originally intended. Troops landings were mixed up, or made without heavy weapons or adequate reserves of ammunition. Orders and objectives were muddled, contradictory or simply non-existent. The only thing they did well was the withdrawal.

    Had this not been followed within a short time by the German attack in the West, somebodies head would have to role and likely it would have been the operation's chief proponent, Winston Churchill. Had Germany not attacked in late spring of 1940 as she did, Churchill might have suffered the same fate he did after Gallipoli where he was sacked after another costly, ill planned and ill executed operation on the fringes of the war front. Now that would have been a game changer.

    Let us suppose the operation went off without a hitch. The Allies take Narvik, Sweden lest troops and supplies move east to the aid of Finland. This leads to a possible, if not likely war with the Soviet Union. The Nazi-Soviet Pact was a sham on both sides however it was perceived in the West. Just a temporary truce between two diametrically opposed dictatorships, giving each time to clear the brush before a final showdown. The Anglo-French thought they could handle Germany, they couldn't. What chance did they have against a truly allied Nazi Germany and Soviet Union?

    There are times when a humiliating defeat is the best possible outcome.
     
  3. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

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    I really never looked into Sweden and how they felt about the Axis or allies, I only know that they were willing to give iron-ore to Germany because they were being paid, so I'm assuming they were hoping to get some financial benefits out of the conflict? My overall knowledge of Neutral countries during WW2 is limited at best, for the most part I at least know which side the neutral countries supported or disliked. Thank you belasar for your thoughts, they are backed with good sources and ideas, I didn't even think about the potential political consequences that could have befallen the allies either!
     
  4. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana WW2|ORG Editor

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    Didn't Britain and France have lots of spare divisions for conquest and occupation?
     
  5. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Both Norway and Sweden's primary motivation was to stay out of the war at almost any cost, both knew they were in no position to fight a modern war and could not rely on Western aid on a large enough scale to avoid occupation from either Germany or the Soviet Union. Sweden was further motivated to profit by selling their Iron Ore to Germany, though we should remember the US had no qualms selling to both sides in the Great War or the West in the Second war. There was also some sentiment in Sweden that supported Germany's Pan-European crusade against 'godless communism'.

    If memory serves the final Allied plan for Norway envisioned a lean 'Corp's sized landing force initially to be augmented by a fully mobilized Norwegian army of 50-60,000 troops and possible further modest Anglo-French reinforcements. The French deployed well trained and equipped Alpine troops, The British component was primarily composed of recently raised green troops that was haphazardly outfitted, especially for winter operations. The Norwegian's had almost no heavy equipment at all and little more than militia infantry.
     
  6. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

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    Do you think it would have been better had the allies not showed up to Norway at all? Despite their initial success at Port Narvik, they were forced to evacuate eventually. Then of course a month later the low countries and France were invaded, so even if they somehow managed to maintain a foothold in Norway they would pull out to defend France. As for Sweden you can't overlook their hostility towards the U.S.S.R (which is still ongoing) which leads me to believe that they might not be totally against a allied presence around them since the U.S.S.R was still a part of the Axis. Just a thought?
     
  7. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    By the time of the German invasion the Allies were in a almost impossible position, they could not fail to send troops to aid Norway as it was a open secret in the embarkation ports that the Allies had a landing in the works but kept postponing it. Their plans were contingent on no opposition from a credible force during the initial phase which was no longer the case. Remember this is not June 6th, 1944 and the depth of planning and organization reflected it. Nor was the command system anywhere near as flexible to improvise much from the last operational plan available.

    I'm not altogether sure under optimum conditions the Allies could have held Narvik against German forces long term. Even once deployed historically simple coordination between ground units, air/ground forces and naval forces was rather clunky at the best of times. Bundesarchiv_Bild_101I-758-0056-35,_Norwegen,_deutsche_Kriegsschiffe.jpg
    This is a image of the 'port' of Narvik after the German capture, not a lot there to support a large allied presence long term against a determined foe, and there were no Mulberry ports or Pluto oil lines available as at Normandy. The troops deployed would likely not made any difference in France unless they were placed directly deployed directly in the path of the main Germany attack which was highly unlikely. The Alpine troops would have been deployed further south and the British troops further north.
     
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  8. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

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    Thank you for your input and knowledge belsar, I did not think the troops used in Norway, British, or French would be used in France either. They could have been brought to the U.K to fight in the Free French military or the regular BEF. 38,000 allied troops were deployed to Norway, that's a lot of troops that could be used for later, much better operations, especially the French alpine troops. In my opinion I think the Allies would have been better off not going to Norway in the first place, but I'm no military, strategic, or political expert.
     
  9. green slime

    green slime Member

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    The Anglo-British plan for Northern Scandinavia was a farce.

    The British intended to take control of the Swedish Iron ore regardless of the attitudes or wishes of the Swedish government and its people, "en route" to confront Soviet Russia in Finland (if you can believe that anything more than a token force would available). The Swedish government correctly interpreted British intentions and refused permission. Facilitating the British plan would simply have seen either the Soviets, or the Germans or both, fighting in Sweden, against the Entente.

    The threat of Anglo-British involvement was enough to encourage Russians to seek a speedy political solution once the Finnish resistance collapsed. Remember the Anglo-French were promising all sorts of wonders to encourage the Finns to keep fighting (which, in the last weeks of the Winter War, when the defensive lines in Southern Finland were shattered, was preposterous), primarily hoping to get the opportunity to seize the Swedish Iron Ore fields, and not to save the populous Southern half of Finland. The Soviets for their part felt they were in no way prepared to be dragged into a war with the Capitalist societies. They wanted Fascism and Capitalism to duke it out for a few more years yet.

    Primarily, the Allied leadership believed that the capture of the Swedish mines would cause the complete collapse of German war industry within a few months, and that this was worth every risk.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2017
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  10. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

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    Great points and insights there green! The thought of the Allies fighting Russia is strange, but it almost happened many times.
     

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