Norway and World War II
Norwegians were surprised and unprepared when Nazi Germany, with its superior military might, attacked Norway on 9 April 1940. The general public, and their political leaders, had believed that Norway would be able to stay out of the second world war, just as the country had maintained its neutrality in World War I. They believed that Norway was strategically on the periphery, protected by British naval power, and thought that Norwegian neutrality was also in the interests of the warring nations on both sides.
By Jon Aamaas
Therefore, the Norwegian government had declared Norway's neutrality when the war broke out in the autumn of 1939. There was a broad political consensus for this stance. The military forces were geared to protect the national borders and hinder violations of the country's neutrality, and unprepared for an invasion. During the first winter of the war, the Norwegian authorities even negotiated trade agreements with both Germany and Great Britain.
In February 1940, these talks ended in an agreement allowing Great Britain to charter a portion of the Norwegian merchant marine while Norway was to be permitted to maintain its pre-war level of trade with Germany. In case it proved impossible to stay out of the war, the government of Johan Nygaardsvold (Labour Party) had no intention of fighting on the German side.
Neutrality of little value
The Norwegian neutrality proved to be of little consequence. Strategic interests led both sides to make plans which involved violations of Norwegian boundaries and operations on Norwegian territory. From mid-December 1939, both the German and Allied sides analysed scenarios involving operations in Scandinavia.
The Allies planned mainly to send an expedition corps to Finland, crossing Scandinavian territory from the North Norwegian port of Narvik to the ore fields of North Sweden. In...