Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Norway, Army

The Norwegian army of 1940 was an infantry force organized as a trained reserve within a framework of officer cadres. On mobilization, it would field 6 divisions containing 16 infantry regiments, 4 artillery regiments, 3 mounted infantry regiments, and support units. Norwegian soldiers were armed with the 1894 model Krag-Jorgensen 6.5 mm rifle and the Madsen light machine gun. Colt 7.92 mm machine guns and 81 mm mortars were in short supply. Artillery was of World War I vintage: 228 77-mm guns and 36 120-mm howitzers. Possessing no antitank guns, the Norwegians had no effective defense against German light tanks.

Army supply depots were located in the major population centers along the coast. Unfortunately, the Germans seized many of these depots by surprise when they invaded in April 1940. The swift German assault also disrupted Norwegian preparations, with the result that the army was only partly mobilized for hostilities.

In these chaotic conditions and under unremitting German air attack, Norwegian army commander General Otto Ruge waged a tenacious defensive campaign. Many Norwegian soldiers, cut off from their assigned units, joined any formation they could find. Such stubborn resistance enabled the royal family and government to escape capture and sail to England, where a Norwegian government-in-exile was established. Abandoned by his British and French allies, Ruge surrendered his surviving forces on 10 June 1940.

Norwegians in exile mounted several commando operations against key objectives in Norway thereafter. However, most of these raids were undertaken within the framework of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) organization. Norwegian ground forces in exile were devoted to preparing a peaceful and stable liberation of the homeland. Based in Scotland, the Norwegian Brigade mustered 4,000 men organized in two infantry regiments and one artillery battalion. Under British command, the Norwegians were outfitted with English weapons and equipment.

Within Norway, resistance to German occupation began immediately. Demobilized veterans formed the Milit?r Organisasjonen or Milorg. Initially quite successful, Milorg was devastated by Gestapo infiltration of its ranks in 1942 and subsequent mass executions. An outstanding leader, Jens Christian Hauge, enabled Milorg to recover from this setback. Milorg grew from 20,000 men in 1941 to 40,000 by 1945. Between fall 1944 and spring 1945, Milorg trained and armed its formations in three secret mountain bases. During the war, many Norwegians fled across the border to neighboring Sweden, and beginning in 1943, Swedish authorities permitted the training of Norwegian "police" in special camps. By 1945, about 14,000 Norwegians had received military training in Sweden.

As the war drew to a close, German forces in Finland withdrew into northern Norway, leaving a charred wasteland down to Lyngen Fjord. Into this vacuum, 3,200 Norwegian troops were sent from Scotland and Sweden. When German forces in Norway capitulated on 8 May 1945, Milorg mobilized. On 13 May, Crown Prince Olav, commander of all Norwegian forces, returned to Oslo. On 26 May, the rest of the Norwegian Brigade returned to Tromsö. Norway was liberated peacefully.

Sherwood S. Cordier


Further Reading
Andens, John, O. Risre, and M. Skodvin. Norway and the Second World War. Oslo: Tonum, 1966.; Nissen, Henrik S., ed. Scandinavia during the Second World War. Trans. Thomas Much-Peterson. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983.; Tarnstrom, Ronald L. The Sword of Scandinavia. Lindsborg, KS: Trogen Books, 1996.
 

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