The Allies Had Planned To Invade Norway, Germany Was Forced Into Another Preemptive Strike

“Most people did not know that Germany’s invasion of Norway and Denmark had preempted an invasion of Norway by Allied forces.”

The question is often asked: If Hitler wanted peace, why did he invade so many countries? Countries including Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, the Soviet Union and several others. In the case of the Soviet Union, Germany’s invasion was clearly a preemptive strike that prevented the Soviet Union from conquering all of Europe. The book Germany’s War analyzes why Germany invaded or took control of all these nations. This article will briefly discuss why Germany invaded the peaceful nations of Norway and Denmark.

Norwegian troops with Krag-Jørgensen rifles north of Narvik, Norway, May 1940 

Why Germany Invaded Norway and Denmark

       Germany had no plans to invade Norway or Denmark when World War II began. Hitler considered it advantageous to have a neutral Scandinavia. On August 12, 1939, in a conversation with Italian Foreign Minister Ciano, Hitler stated that he was convinced none of the belligerents would attack the Scandinavian countries, and that these countries would not join in an attack on Germany. Hitler’s statement was apparently sincere, and it is confirmed in a directive on October 9, 1939.[1]

Hitler eventually became convinced of the need for a preemptive strike to forestall a British move against Norway.  Adm. Erich Raeder in a routine meeting with Hitler on October 10, 1939, pointed out that the establishment of British naval and air bases in Norway would be a very dangerous development for Germany. Raeder stated that Britain would be able to control the entrance to the Baltic, and would be in a position to hinder German naval operations in the Atlantic and the North Sea. The flow of iron ore from Sweden would end, and the Allies would be able to use Norway as a base for aerial warfare against Germany.[2]

In a meeting on December 18, 1939, Hitler let it be known that his preference was for a neutral Norway, but that if the enemy tried to extend the war into this area, he would be forced to react accordingly. Hitler soon had convincing evidence that Britain would not respect Norwegian neutrality. German naval intelligence in February 1940 broke the British naval codes and obtained important information about Allied activities and plans. The intercepts indicated that the Allies were preparing for operations against Norway using the pretext of helping Finland. The intercepts confirmed Adm. Raeder’s fears about British intentions.[3]

Both Britain and France believed that the threat of Germany losing badly needed iron ore would provoke Germany into opening up military operations in Scandinavia. However, Britain and France had somewhat different objectives. Britain believed that German operations could be challenged effectively and successfully by the Allies, resulting in quick military victories for the Allies in a war that had stagnated. France wanted to open a new front in order to divert German attention and resources from her border. Both Britain and France felt the maritime blockade of Germany would become more effective once Norway was conquered, especially if they succeeded in severing the flow of iron ore to Germany. They were willing to accept great military and political risks to this end.[4]

German intelligence reports continued to indicate that the Allies would invade Norway even after the conclusion of peace between Finland and the Soviet Union. On March 28, 1940, the Germans learned about the decision taken by the Allied Supreme War Council to mine Norwegian waters. A diplomat’s report on March 30, 1940, indicated that the Allies would launch operations in northern Europe within a few days. British mining operations in Norwegian territorial waters began on April 8, 1940. Although no armed clashes with Norwegian forces took place, the British mining operations were a clear violation of Norway’s neutrality and constituted an act of war.[5]

Germany’s decision to invade Denmark was based on the plan of Gen. Nikolaus von Falkenhorst, who concluded that it would be desirable to occupy Denmark as a “land bridge” to Norway. Denmark quickly surrendered to German forces on April 9, 1940.[6] The campaign in Norway lasted 62 days and unfortunately resulted in a substantial number of casualties. Most sources list about 860 Norwegians killed. Another source estimates the number of Norwegians killed or wounded at about 1,700, with another 400 civilians estimated to have died during the campaign. Norway also effectively lost her entire navy, and her people experienced increased hardships during Germany’s five-year occupation.[7]

German Ju 52 aircraft flying over the crash site of a German Bf 110 fighter, near Oslo and Fornebu, Norway, 1940

The German invasion of Norway on April 9, 1940, was made to preempt Britain’s invasion of Norway. The Germans achieved most of their objectives in what must be viewed as a stunning military success. The occupation of Norway complicated British blockade measures and cracked open the door to the Atlantic for possible interference with British supplies coming from overseas. The air threat to Germany by a British presence in Norway was also avoided, as was the possibility of Sweden falling under the control of the Allies. Most importantly, Germany’s source of iron ore was secure, and the German navy was able to remove some of the limitations imposed on it by geography.[8]

British hopes that quick victories could be achieved by enticing the Germans into an area where they would confront enormous British naval superiority were not realized. The hoped for British victories in Norway turned into a humiliating defeat. The French objective of reducing the threat to her homeland by opening a new theater of war was also not achieved. A protracted war in Norway and the consequent drain on German resources did not materialize. The only major advantage to the Allies was a hardening of public opinion against Germany in neutral countries, especially in the United States.[9] Most people did not know that Germany’s invasion of Norway and Denmark had preempted an invasion of Norway by Allied forces.

Smoke rising from Narvik, Norway after German bombing, May-Jun 1940.

The preemptive nature of Germany’s invasion of Denmark and Norway has been acknowledged by many establishment historians. For example, David Cesarani, who did not believe in freedom of speech regarding the so-called Holocaust,[10] wrote:

      The campaign in the west was triggered by a British naval incursion into Norwegian waters in February 1940. In an attempt to limit iron ore imports to Germany, the British next mined Norwegian sea lanes and landed troops at Trondheim. On 9 April [1940], Hitler responded by launching an invasion of Norway and ordered the occupation of Denmark. The Danes capitulated within a day, but land battles in Norway and naval engagements continued for eight weeks until Allied troops were evacuated.[11]


[1] Lunde, Henrik O., Hitler’s Pre-Emptive War: The Battle for Norway, 1940, Philadelphia and Newbury: Casemate, 2010, p. 44.

[2] Ibid., pp. 50, 57.

[3] Ibid., pp. 55, 63.

[4] Ibid., p. 80.

[5] Ibid., pp. 34, 85-86, 95-96.

[6] Keegan, John, The Second World War, New York: Viking Penguin, 1990, p. 50.

[7] Lunde, Henrik O., Hitler’s Pre-Emptive War: The Battle for Norway, 1940, Philadelphia and Newbury: Casemate, 2010, pp. 542-543, 545.

[8] Ibid., p. 544.

[9] Ibid., pp. 545, 551.

[10] Guttenplan, D. D., The Holocaust on Trial, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2001, p. 298.

[11] Cesarani, David, Final Solution: The Fate of the Jews 1933-1949, New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2016, p. 294.

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6 Responses

  1. WakeyWakey says:

    I appreciated the good selection of photos depicting this Norwegian episode, thanks. Brings history alive.

  2. You should write an article illustrating why Germany also invaded Luxembourg, Holland and Belgium.

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