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Monday, May 23, 2016

April 16, 1940: Germans Cut Norway in Half


Tuesday 16 April 1940

16 April 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Oblt. Herbert Schmidt
Oberleutnant Herbert Schmidt of the Dombås Fallschirmjäger.

Norway: The Norwegian government continues the "white paper wars" on 16 April 1940 by releasing the demands made by the German Minister in Oslo.

Numerous Norwegian formations are either surrendering outright or marching into internment in Sweden. They have no orders to do either. Norwegian morale is at rock bottom.

The standard line from Wehrmacht troops to the Norwegians: "We're here to protect you from the English."

Winston Churchill goes into rhetorical overdrive and says that British troops are there to "cleanse the Nazi plague from the ancestral shores of the Vikings."

Norway Air Operations: The RAF bombs Stavanger airfield again during the night. The bombs start two big fires. All the British aircraft return. Other RAF planes attack Oslo and Trondheim.

Once again, Norwegian biplanes attack Junkers Ju 52 unloading supplies for Narvik on frozen Lake Hartvigvann. The landing area is deemed unsafe, and the remaining transports there are abandoned.

The Luftwaffe attacks the British troops unloading at Namsos.

Norway Army Operations: German troops of the 138th Mountain Regiment in an improved armoured train continue east toward Sweden from Trondheim, reaching Skurdalsvold a few miles from the Swedish frontier. This effectively cuts the country in half at the waist. However, there are still Finnish forces all around the surrounding countryside. The British also are making landings near Trondheim.

At Dombås, the day begins with the Fallschirmjäger under Oblt. Schmidt occupying a strategic position overlooking the main road. Two Norwegian companies arrive, and one I/IR 5 attacks the Germans from the south, while the other II/IR 11 attacks from the south. The Norwegians bring two 81 mm (3.19 in) mortars and Colt M/29s. There is a brief firefight, and then the Germans wave the white flag. The Germans send over a Norwegian POW who states that the Germans are demanding that the two Norwegian companies surrender or the Germans will shoot their prisoners. There may have been something lost in the translation. The Norwegians respond by sending over a German POW who says that the Norwegians are demanding that they surrender. Neither side surrenders.

The Fallschirmjäger know they cannot last long in their present positions due to the Norwegian mortars, and ammunition is running low. Schmidt continues talking, waiting for darkness so he and his men can make a run for it. Instead, the Norwegians attack again, but then suddenly a blizzard descends on the area. The Germans launch an unexpected attack, and it sends the Norwegians reeling back to Dombås. After dark, the Fallschirmjäger slip away to the south.

Norwegian troops nearby capture numerous Fallschirmjäger who had wound up far from the drop zone. Some 22 are captured at Kolstad, and another 23 at Bottheim train station. They were not participating in the battle anyway.

At Hegra Fortress, the Luftwaffe commences attacks on the castle. The German troops surround the fortress, but have no way to break in. They bring up a mountain howitzer, and it destroys buildings around the fortress but does little damage to the structure itself. One shell hits a parapet and kills a Norwegian soldier. Hans Reidar Holtermann, commanding officer, keeps his men safe but vigilant.

At Narvik, some 200 Norwegian troops retreat along the rail line into Sweden, where they are interned. The German 139th Mountain Regiment clears the line all the way to the border.

16 April 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com Major Holtermann
Major Holtermann on Constitution Day in 1945.

Norway Naval Operations: More British troops of the 148th Territorial Infantry (reserve) Brigade depart for Norway from Rosyth. They are under the command of Brigadier Harold Morgan and already have spent two days cramped up in cruisers HMS Galatea and Arethusa and another transport ship.

Instead of going to Namsos with their brother troops, however, the Brigade troops are to be shipped to Andalsnes, to the south of Trondheim. To do this, they must disembark the cruisers they are on and board two other cruisers, HMS Carlisle and Curacoa. Doing this causes them to lose valuable equipment on the former two cruisers, which cannot be brought over due to lack of space and time. The whole affair makes absolutely no sense and is a complete staff cock-up. The strategic picture is that they will attack Trondheim from the south while the troops already ashore attack from the north, but the hurried nature of the change creates huge problems.

General Mackesy lands his 24th Brigade at Harstat, 37 miles to the north of his objective, Narvik. This area is quiet and suitable for the landing operation, since it is not equipped for an opposed beach landing. While everyone gets ashore safely, the troops are of little use so far north. An overland march to Narvik would be extremely difficult due to the weather situation.

The British 15th Brigade is en route from France, where they were serving with the BEF, to Norway.

British submarine HMS Porpoise sinks U-boat 1 off Stavanger.

HMS Porpoise and U-3 exchange torpedo firings at each other 10 miles southwest of Egersund, Norway. Both miss.

British Military: The government issues a mobilization order for men turning 27 years old in April and May 1940.

Anglo/US Relations: J. Edgar Hoover and William Stephenson of MI6 meet to discuss cooperation regarding British intelligence needs in the United States.

US Military: First planes fly out of MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa Bay, Florida.

Soviet Union: The Red Army convenes a conference in Moscow to analyze whatever lessons can be learned from the Winter War.

Italy: Foreign Minister Count Ciano announces over Rome radio that "the bugles will soon sound," which some take to mean that Italy is about to enter the war on the side of the Axis. The world is awash in jokes on both sides about Italian fighting prowess:

Germans: Hitler is told Italy joining war. "Send 2 divisions, that'll finish them!" "Mein Führer, they're on our side!" "Oh! Send 10." 
At a dinner with Winston Churchill, German Minister Ribbentrop had said that, in a future war with Britain, Germany would have the Italians on its side. Churchill responded: “That’s only fair – we had them last time." 
Churchill: "Italians lose wars as if they were football matches and football matches as if they were wars." 
Churchill: "My Generals tell me that if Italy joins our side we shall defeat Germany in a year, and if they join the German side, six months."

Iceland: The island officially declares its independence and asks for US recognition.

16 April 1940 worldwartwo.filminspector.com HMAS Perth
HMAS Perth sails into Sydney Harbor, 16 April 1940.

April 1940

April 1, 1940: Weserubung is a Go
April 2, 1940: British Subs On Alert
April 3, 1940: Churchill Consolidates Power
April 4, 1940: Missed the Bus
April 5, 1940: Mig-1 First Flight
April 6, 1940: Troops Sailing to Norway
April 7, 1940: Fleets At Sea
April 8, 1940: HMS Glowworm and Admiral Hipper
April 9, 1940: Invasion of Norway
April 10, 1940: First Battle of Narvik
April 11, 1940: Britain Takes the Faroes
April 12, 1940: Germans Consolidate in Norway
April 13, 1940: 2d Battle of Narvik
April 14, 1940: Battle of Dombås
April 15, 1940: British in Norway
April 16, 1940: Germans Cut Norway in Half
April 17, 1940: Trondheim the Target
April 18, 1940: Norway Declares War
April 19, 1940: Dombås Battle Ends
April 20, 1940: Germans Advancing in Norway
April 21, 1940: First US Military Casualty
April 22, 1940: First British Military Contact with Germans
April 23, 1940: British Retreating in Norway
April 24, 1940: British Bombard Narvik
April 25, 1940: Norwegian Air Battles
April 26, 1940: Norwegian Gold
April 27, 1940: Allies to Evacuate Norway
April 28, 1940: Prepared Piano
April 29, 1940: British at Bodo
April 30, 1940: Clacton-on-Sea Heinkel

2016

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