29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
"The German Invasion of Norway", by Geirr Haarr, is a detailed look at the very first combined naval, amphibious, and airborne invasion in history. In April 1940, the Kriegsmarine, Luftwaffe, and Wehrmacht violated Norwegian neutrality in an operation to achieve two objectives: 1.) to isolate the shortest path for the allies to reinforce and supply the Finns fighting against the Russians; and 2.) to prevent Swedish iron ore from being shipped to the Allies. Haarr provides an expertly researched book that looks at how the Germans planned and executed this operation; Haarr counterbalances this with the Norwegian defenses in defending their homeland.
Haarr dedicates approximately the first third of the book to examining the rationale for the invasion and the planning the Germans put into the invasion. The balance of the book dedicates individual chapters to look at major geographic operational areas: Oslofjord; Kristiansand--Arendal; Stavanager -- Egersund; Bergen; Trondheim; and Narvik. Each of these chapters follows the model of studying the naval operations and the initial contact between Norwegian and German forces. These are very detailed naval campaign studies, and Haarr did a good job explaining where the ground forces made their initial landings.
From a naval perspective, I thought the charts did a decent job illustrating where the naval combatants engaged. As a specific example, I thought the chart diagramming the British attacks on the Kriegsmarine in Narvik harbor was especially well done. The book does an excellent job of tracking each of the combatant ships through its role in the invasion, but Haarr could have better identified where the major ground units participated. The reader can track the death of each of the 10 German destroyers in Narvik harbor, but is left wondering where the Wehrmacht units participated in the assaults in the same area. These chapters would have been greatly enhanced with diagrams illustrating where the major ground units participated.
The book's appendices are also very detailed, but again very naval-centric. Four appendices detail the participants from Norwegian Navy; British Navy; and the Kriegsmarine. The Kriegsmarine appendix is even so detailed as to go into the fate of each of the ships that participated in the invasion. The final appendix is the only one that even mentions the ground and aviation units, but it lists only the casualty figures for the operation. With the level of detail to the naval aspects, I was disappointed the book lacked a similar appendix listing the participating air and ground units with their respective geographic location and opponents.
Haarr's book is extremely well-written; and expertly researched and footnoted. Haarr uses primary sources from Norwegian, British, and German archives and numerous secondary sources to provide the reader with a balanced perspective. The book is supported with numerous black & white photographs and a few wisely selected charts that highlighted the operational areas. These charts were absolutely essential for people like me who are not familiar with the geography of Norway. Overall, I was very impressed with the quality of research and writing. This is a great book for naval history enthusiasts.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on November 1, 2009
The German Invasion of Norway is an outstanding book on the topic its name implies. While not a groundbreaking study, it is nevertheless the best effort so far to present an overall picture on the operation.
This book focuses almost exclusively on the naval aspect on the war, the air and land elements are only mentioned briefly when they are relevant to the combat at sea. As such, the topic is somewhat narrow, but this does allow for a deeper, more detailed coverage than other works spanning the entire width of the conflict.
I will especially praise the fact that this work is published in English. While this might deter a few Norwegian readers, it will make the story accessible to a much greater audience. Kudos!
The book goes into great detail on the lead-up to the invasion, and although I have read much of the previously published books on the subject, I am nevertheless struck again by the almost incomprehensible ignorance shown by Norwegian leaders in this period. How they could ignore so many signs and warnings that something was afoot is truly astonishing. Equally, as often mentioned, is how big a gamble the German effort really was, it succeeded only by sheer audacity, willpower and improvisation.
As the combat at sea is the main focus, naturally the Norwegian naval units` efforts are given much space, and it is very interesting to read about the actions of smaller vessels and coastal forts. While ultimately being unable to prevent the invasion, there were many skirmishes and smaller battles that are seldom mentioned, usually being overshadowed by more known events such as those around Narvik.
It also contains many less known photographs (I only wish there were more of them), as an example there is a picture of the British destroyer Glowworm, not just the usual one where she is crossing the path of the Hipper, but also one where she is about to sink, floating with her bow torn of in the accidental collision with the German cruiser.
Alas, the book also has its weaknesses. As mentioned, there should have been more photos, as well as more maps (though the maps that are included are quite good). The editor should also have done a better job, while the language is pretty good considering it was written by a non-native English speaker, it does shine through too often. Norwegian terms are also sprinkled throughout, while this adds flavor, the proper English term should have been given next to it (there is an all too brief glossary included).
It is not easy for non-Norwegian speaker to understand terms as sersjants and oberst for instance, and where does the word pansership come from?
A work on Weserubung should also have included a chapter on the invasion of Denmark. As far as I understand, this was written but left out due to space considerations.
There are also some notable gaps in the story. Considering the impact it had on the conduct of the entire invasion, why is the cause of the German torpedo failure not discussed at length? It is only mentioned briefly that they did not work properly. (FYI, they had faulty depth-keeping mechanisms as well as poorly designed detonators)
While these minor flaws do detract from the overall impression, it is still an excellent book, without doubt the best published on the subject by far.
It is interesting and highly readable, and I can recommend it to novices on the conflict as well as to the seasoned reader.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This is excellent history that adds to the World War II literature and should be of interest to everyone interested in the European Theater of World War II. The German campaign to seize Denmark and Norway has been treated well before (but not from Norway's viewpoint), most especially in the Department of the Army Pamphlet No. 20-271, "The German Northern Theater of Operations 1940-1945" by Earl F. Ziemke: Washington; US Government Printing Office, 1959. The treatment of the planning phase for Operation Weseruebing (Weser Exercise (the Weser is a river in Germany)) from the time of Quisling's visit in December, 1939, in 20-271, Part I, Chapters 1-6, is similar to that in this book, although I noted that this pamphlet was not mentioned in the author's list of references. The DA pamphlet, however, credits Raeder with attempting to focus Hitler's attention on Norway well before Quisling's visit.
The outstanding part of this work is that the author looks at the operation from the Norwegian, German, British, Danish, Swedish and French sides in descending order of treatment and importance -- something simply not done anywhere before. The political policies, actions and blunders on all sides is extremely well presented, and there is much new material here to digest. For example, it was Churchill who first violated Norwegian neutrality, and had the Germans not mounted Weseruebing, the British would have put a friendly occupying force ashore in Norway. This was one of the things the Norwegian politicians feared, as it would almost force them into a hostile stance against the side they favored. Had the book stopped at the moment the Bluecher entered the Oslofjord, it still would have received five stars.
The intelligence received by the Swedes, Danes and Norwegians of impending German action four and five days before the invasion and the actions taken are discussed at length in this work, far beyond anything I have seen before, and are also alone worth the price of the book.
The author focuses primarily on the naval aspect of the invasion, and his treatment is detailed and thorough. German, Norwegian and British actions are all presented as the author moves from one geographical area to another. It must be remembered that the invasion points were widely separated, and exposed to attack by the British Royal Navy. The narrative essentially ends on April 10th, the 2nd day of the invasion, with the Germans ashore at all points and preparing to complete their conquest on the ground and fight off the British and French expeditionary forces that were to come shortly. Combat at some points, like the attack on Suffolk on April 17th are covered, but only the naval actions.
The invasion is covered from point to point starting with the attack on Oslo through the Oslofjord, the sinking of the Bluecher, the reduction of the Norwegian forts, and the seizing of the Fornebu airport at Oslo. The narrative then moves to Kristiansand-Arendal, Stavanger-Egersund, Bergen, Trondeim and finally Narvik. The British attacks on Narvik and the sinking of all 10 German destroyers there is covered in substantial detail. The actual landing of British troops and the subsequent ground actions and the eventual withdrawal is left for a following volume.
In many respects (or possibly in all respects) Weseruebing was a hairbrained operation, hastily planned, and extremely risky. That the Germans were able to pull it off and seize control of Norway is remarkable, and primarily due to the Norwegian insistance of maintaining their neutrality. Norway was a strategic area for both Germany and Britain, and had to go one way or the other. The Norwegian politicians lived in a fantasy world rather than practicing realpolitik. Both Churchill and Hitler did, and Norway paid the price for their naivete. The Norwegian military establishment had been decimated in the 1930s, and the Norwegians were simply not prepared to defend themselves against anyone. With respect to their geography, Norway was a tough nut to crack, but even the most difficult terrain must be defended. As the saying goes, you only get to keep what you're willing to defend. The author clearly showed that the Norwegian politicians threw away their birthright for principle. As I said, there is much to learn here. Even for today.
In 1941 Norway's population was about the same as present-day San Diego, or about 1/100th that of the United States. In addition, Norway was socialist with a homogenous population, a single religion, culture, language, and common ethnic background. Without going very far back in time, Norwegians are all related to each other one way or another. As such, their independence as a group was prized above all other things, and they rejected being drawn into what they perceived to be other countries' problems. Unfortunately for Norway, being left alone was not an option for the beligerent powers. Today, Norway is the size of Boston's SMSA, so Nobel prizes are given out by the equivalent of city counselors of Boston.
For the military historian the appendixes are valuable references, although German casualties are woefully understated. The endnotes are likewise very valuable, and I recommend the reader keep a bookmark on the notes for ready reference while reading. Many, if not most, of the references are in Norwegian or German, and probably of little use to most English readers. The author has done English readers a great service in making the information in these sources available in English in this work.
I highly recommend this book to everyone interested in World War II, and especially those who believe that national security can be achieved through talking, trusting opponents, and treaties. Had Hitler not attacked the Soviet Union, Norway (and France, for that matter) might still be speaking German today.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 24, 2009
We in the United States tend to think of World War II as beginning on December 7, 1941 but by then it had been raging in Europe for more than two years. One of the facets of the war we hear little about is the German invasion of Norway in April of 1940. Geirr H. Haarr offers an excellent way to educate us Americans in this book. He fully develops the history of Norwegian neutrality for the reader, giving both the physical and political reasons behind the policy and he shows how both the British and the Germans needed to have Norway on their respective sides all because of the German need for Swedish iron ore which was best accessed across Norway to the North Sea. The German war machine had to have more and more iron for steel and the British had an equal need to deny their enemy that access. As Haarr clearly demonstrates, a violation of that neutrality was inevitable yet the Norwegian government, like most western countries, was still struggling with the effects of the worldwide depression and were spending nearly nothing on national defense.
We are shown the reasoning that Hitler and the Wehrmacht decided to invade on the pretext of helping Norway resist a British invasion. Norwegian leaders never accepted the premise and resisted as best they could but with undermanned defenses and ancient ships and weapons often the best they could do was to threaten the invaders and then withdraw.
Haarr shows us in location by location how the Germans entered Norwegian port cities and how the poorly equipped and ill-trained defenses offered only feeble resistance, hoping that the British might come to their aid much as the Germans had been claiming to do. He discusses the infamous traitor Quisling who appointed himself the head of the Norwegian government only to be ignored by his German masters and how the notoriously bad weather worked in Germany's favor to hamper the British fleet.
The German Invasion of Norway is an excellent book, heavily researched and well written with many photos of the players involved. I can fault the book only in one area and that is a lack of maps. The descriptions lend themselves to map reference but you'll have to provide your own because the included maps often fail to show the town names cited in the text. But if that is its only failing, the book is otherwise an excellent reference and fills in the gaps in our knowledge of this aspect of the war. Haarr's ability with the text makes it an easy read. I consider it a valuable asset in any military historian's library and a necessity on the shelves of a WWII historian.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2013
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
THIS BOOK WAS EXCELLENT. I CAN'T WAIT TO READ HIS SECOND VOLUME ABOUT THE INVASION OF NORWAY. AS A HISTORIAN, BOOKS SHOULD BE WRITTEN IN A CERTAIN WAY, AS FAR AS I'M CONCERNED. HAAR DOES THIS MASTERFULLY. HE SETS THE STAGE, GIVES THE POLITICAL AS WELL AS MILITARY NECESSITIES, AND THEN TURNS LOOSE A TORRENT OF GOOD READING. HE BREAKS THE BOOK DOWN INTO PHASES, FIRST OSLO, THEN UP THE COAST UNTIL YOU REACH NARVIK AND THE CLIMACTIC NAVAL BATTLES THERE. HE PUTS THINGS INTO A MUCH CLEARER PICTURE THAN ANY PREVIOUS HISTORY OF THE CONFLICT. I LEARNED SO MUCH FROM HIS BOOK. THE ONLY NEGATIVE I HAD WOULD BE TO ADD MORE MAPS. MAYBE A GOOD MAP OF THE REGION HE IS DISCUSSING AT THE BEGINNING OF EACH CHAPTER. OTHERWISE I HEARTILY RECOMMEND THIS WONDERFUL HISTORY OF CONFLICT IN NORWAY.