Monday, May 23, 2016

April 14, 1940: Battle of Dombås

Sunday 14 April 1940

14 April 1940 Dombås
One of the Junkers Ju 52 transport planes shot down during the Dombås paratrooper operation, 14 April 1940.
Norway: The military commandant, General von Falkenhorst, on 14 April 1940 threatens all civilians resisting the German occupation with harsh measures. He takes 20 prominent citizens of Oslo hostage, including the Bishop. The entire situation is completely fluid: US journalist James Aldridge comments that it is the "Most nonsensical war ever seen: no-one knows where 'front' is, every time I look for fighting, I just miss it."

The British and French are unsure how to proceed. However, they are agreed that they have to do... something. The decision comes down to getting some troops ashore and then figuring out what to do with them later. So, troops land in Norway, but far away from any opposition.

Norway Army Operations: The Germans are advancing north from Oslo through the Glomma Valley, and the Norwegians are delaying them wherever possible. The German 196 Infantry Division pushes northward from Oslo, and about 3000 Norwegian troops in the sector head across the border into Sweden and are interned.

The Battle of Dombås begins when the Germans drop elite paratroopers (Fallschirmjäger) of the 7th Flieger Division near the railroad junction at Dombås at about 18:00. Unknown to the Germans, the drop is into the middle of a temporary encampment of the 2nd Battalion of the Norwegian Army′s Infantry Regiment 11 (II/IR 11). The Junkers Ju 52 planes flying at treetop level come under fire from all directions, and the planes return fire as best they can. The Junkers Ju 52s carrying them lose 8 of their 15 number, and the remainder are shot up.

14 April 1940 Dombås
A different German parachute drop in Norway, probably up at Narvik.
It thus is an extremely hazardous drop in poor weather, completed only because it is a Hitler order which must be obeyed. The paratroopers are spread out over a wide area and suffer heavy casualties during the drop. Out of a force of 185 men, only 63 wind up with the commander, Oberleutnant Herbert Schmidt, and in a position to do anything. The men on the ground barely have any maps. It is a "wing it" type of operation - but sometimes that works.

The initial objective at Dombås is the destruction of the railroad which runs through the town, as well as blocking any Allied advance inland, particularly south through the Gudbrandsdal valley. Schmidt blocks the main road in the area, cuts the rail line and cuts the phone wires, then captures a passing taxicab. Piling as many men into it as possible, Schmidt and the men head north to Dombås.

Along the way, Schmidt's taxi runs into two truckloads of Norwegian soldiers coming the other way. A firefight breaks out, and Schmidt's advance is stopped. He takes up a defensive position near the main road - thus blocking it - and waits for his other men coming along behind (walking) to catch up. The attack is a fiasco for the men involved, and Schmidt is badly wounded while retaining command - but there is more to the story.

The attack has some important results: it causes the Norwegians to evacuate the national gold reserves to Britain immediately by fishing boats and British cruisers. Schmidt also, despite everything, has blocked a key road, disrupted Norwegian communications and delayed Norwegian mobilization plans. Perhaps most importantly, he has sowed terror and confusion throughout the Norwegian government and military - everyone throughout the country soon is talking about "German paratroopers" and looking over his or her shoulder.

14 April 1940 Dombås
Dombås paratroopers, 14 April 1940.
Norway Naval Operations: The light cruisers HMS Sheffield and HMS Glasgow put ashore a preliminary force of 350 Royal Marines at Namsos, the first Allied troops in Norway.

British infantry troops then land at Harstad, near Narvik, and at Namsos, just north of Trondheim. The Namsos troops of the 146th Territorial Brigade, which have been embarked since 11 April, intend to consolidate in the Namsos and Andalsnes sectors. Execution of the operation is confused, as the 146 Territorial Brigade first is sent toward Narvik, but then is diverted south to attack Trondheim due to Vice Admiral Whitworth's (HMS Warspite) belief that Trondheim will be easy to take. The landing force's artillery, anti-aircraft guns, and commanding officer don't get the message and continue north to Narvik.

The troops at Harstad also are pointed at Narvik, the one true strategic objective in northern Norway.

The Admiralty announces that it is mining the entire Kattegat and parts of the Baltic, with the exception of a 3-mile territorial belt around Sweden.

Royal Navy submarine HMS Tarpon torpedoes and sinks Kriegsmarine minesweeper M-6.

Royal Navy submarine HMS Snapper torpedoes and sinks German cargo ship Florida.

Royal Navy Ship HMS Sunfish torpedoes and sinks Kriegsmarine ship Schiff-35.

Royal Navy submarine HMS Sterlet torpedoes and sinks Kriegsmarine training ship Brummer (sinks on 15 April).

Convoy OA 129 departs from Southend, Convoy OB 129 departs from Liverpool, Convoy OG 26F forms at Gibraltar, and Convoy HX 35 departs from Halifax.

Norway Air Operations: At dawn, the RAF bombs Stavanger-Sola airfield and the seaplanes in Hafrs Fjord. Some damage is done to the hangars.

The Norwegian air force, which has old Fokker biplanes, bombs the Junkers Ju 52 transport planes landing on Lake Hartvigvann to supply the Mountain troops holding Narvik.

RAF Bomber command sends 28 aircraft to lay mines off the Danish coast during the night.

Holland: The military extends the areas covered by the state of siege in the northern part of the country.

Future History: It is easy to make fun of the Battle of Dombås and call it a failure and so forth. However, the men of the 7th Flieger Division accomplished exactly what the paratroopers of 6 June 1944 did in Normandy - they dropped at random in the enemy rear, disrupted enemy operations, and sowed confusion and terror behind the lines despite not accomplishing all of their formal objectives. Nobody ever says that the paratroopers of D-Day were a failure.

14 April 1940 Namsos
The image is taken from a newspaper article about the bombing of Namsos (Havnegata) that was published in Namdal. People are running down to the harbor to see a British seaplane that has landed on the fjord.

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


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