Thursday, November 1, 2018

Miracles in Norway: A World War II Story & A Giveaway

by Cindy K. Stewart

Many miraculous stories took place in Norway during World War II. Over the next several months, I'll be sharing some of these stories, starting with those from the initial German invasion in 1940.

Norway didn't expect to be drawn into World War II. Just as in WWI, the Norwegian government declared its nation neutral and worked hard to maintain this  status. But early on in WWII, two major factors made this position untenable. 

Iron ore dug at Kiruna and Malmberget was railed to Luleå
and Narvik. Courtesy of Wikipedia & Creative Commons

To maintain its war machine, Germany needed uninterrupted access to iron ore from Sweden. The only year-round ice-free port was at Narvik, Norway, to which the iron ore was shipped by train across a short distance. It was vital for German ships to travel safely down the Norwegian coast from this northern port, but England was determined to end German access. 

Narvik, Norway. Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia

The Germans were concerned that the British would not only interfere with iron ore shipments but that the Allies would also gain access to Norwegian airfields and ports from which they could launch attacks on Germany. The Germans didn't believe the British would allow Norway to maintain its neutral status, so Hitler ordered his military to draw up plans to invade before the Allies could gain a foothold.

In early April 1940, the British navy laid mines in the waters off the Norwegian coast at Narvik in an effort to force German ships into international waters where the Allies could attack. Unfortunately, the British waited too long. The German invasion was on. 

Today's post will focus on the firsthand accounts of Mrs. Florence Harriman, U.S. Minister to Norway (now called Ambassador) before and during the early years of WWII.

On the morning of April 8, the U.S. Legation (embassy) in Copenhagen, Denmark, called Mrs. Harriman in Norway and reported that a large body of German ships was passing through the Great Belt. this is a strait between two large islands in Denmark. Most officials, including the Norwegian government, thought the fleet was heading to the North Sea to engage the British Royal Navy in battle. The British even withdrew all their ships from Norwegian waters.

The Blücher Which Led the German Fleet into Norway
Courtesy of Wikipedia

At 11:30 PM, the air raid alarm sounded in Oslo, but the street lights remained on for some time, and most assumed it was just another practice air raid alarm. Mrs. Harriman went to bed. However, at 3:00 AM, she was awakened by a phone call and notified that German warships were coming up the Oslo Fjord (a long narrow waterway connecting the capital with the North Sea). Mrs. Harriman was unable to call or cable the United States - Nazi collaborators had already taken control of communications. 

Between 5:00 and 6:00 AM, Mrs. Harriman and other who had joined her at the American Legation made several trips to a newly-build bomb-proof room in the building. German bombers circled the city with Norwegian planes in pursuit. Anti-aircraft fire penetrated the early morning air.

The Norwegian Foreign minister notified Mrs. Harriman that the Court and Government were fleeing Oslo on a special train, and they wanted her to join them. Although she began packing, she was only given a twenty-minute notice of the 7:00 AM departure time, so she left in her Ford automobile at 9:45 AM along with other Americans. 

German Troops Marching Through Oslo on April 9, 1940
Courtesy of Wikipedia and Creative Commons

On the route north to Hamar, those fleeing Oslo passed Kjeller Airfield, which had been bombed and the hangars were still burning. Behind them, the Nazis occupied Oslo, but their arrival was delayed by eight hours. Coastal guns from the Oscarsborg Fortress sank the German flagship Blücher, which slowed down the invasion and allowed the King and Government to escape the Nazis.


German Cruiser Blücher Sinking in Oslofjord
National Archives of Norway @ Flikr Commons

After six hours, Mrs. Harriman and her party reached the city of Hamar but no accommodations were available under any roof. When word came that the Nazis were headed to Hamar, the Norwegian Government, and the U.S., British, and French Legations traveled in a long line of automobiles to Elverum. After the King and Royal Family passed by, soldiers erected a barrier. Later two hundred Germans were killed at this roadblock, including the German air attache. 


Dept. of History United States Military Academy. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Upon reaching Elverum, the town was blacked out except for the brightly lit schoolhouse where the Norwegian Parliament, the Storting, was meeting. The King and Royal Family continued on to Trysil, seventy miles north, and Mrs. Harriman found lodging with a family outside of Elverum. By 5:30 the following morning, German planes were attacking Elverum. The Germans flew at low altitudes and terrified the inhabitants with their deafening roar. When the bombing ended, only a church and Red Cross hospital remained. The Government escaped safely and retreated to Nybergsund. 

The Norwegian Foreign Minister urged Mrs. Harriman to follow, but a barrier stood in her way and deep snow made the forests impassible. The Norwegians maneuvered her Ford around a barricade, and only the frozen ice kept her vehicle out of the nearby river. Upon reaching Nybergsund, Mrs. Harriman found the town wiped out with no walls standing. She later learned that the King and Crown Prince had run for their lives into the forest when the Nazis attacked.

King Haakon and Crown Prince Olav Hiding in the Woods During Bombing
Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia

Mrs. Harriman decided to cross the border into Sweden so she could make contact with the U.S. Legation in Stockholm and report that she and other U.S. officials were still alive. Although she remained close to the border and intended to cross back into Norway once she knew the location of the Norwegian Government, she was never able to return. In her memoir, Mission to the North, she shared a portion of King Haakon's speech to his people, broadcast while he was on the run. 

"'In this hour, the most difficult our country has ever known in a hundred years, I send the most pressing appeal to each of you to do all in your power to save the liberty and independence of Norway. We have been the victims of a lightning attack from a nation with which we have always maintained friendly relations. That nation has not hesitated to bomb the civil population, who are suffering intensely....They have employed against us, and against the civil population high explosives and incendiary bombs and also machine-gunned us in the most savage fashion....I thank all those who are today with me and the Government, and who are fighting at their posts of duty for the independence and preservation of Norway. I pray you all to treasure the memory of those who have already given their lives for this country. God protect Norway.'"

On the first of next month, I'll share more stories about the German invasion of Norway, including the final escape of the King and Royal Family.

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Sources:  

Mission to the North by Frances Jaffray Harriman. J. B. Lippincott Company. 1941.

"German Cruiser Blücher," Wikipedia.

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Cindy Stewart, a high school social studies teacher, church pianist, and inspirational historical fiction author, semi-finaled in the American Christian Fiction Writer’s 2017 Genesis contest, and won ACFW’s 2014 First Impressions contest in the historical category. Cindy is passionate about revealing God’s handiwork in history. She resides in North Georgia with her college sweetheart and husband of thirty-seven years and near her married daughter, son-in-law, and four adorable grandchildren. She’s currently writing a fiction series set in WWII Europe.


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Giveaway: 

Earn a chance to win Tricia Goyer's WWII book, A Secret Courage, by commenting below. Also, earn another opportunity by sharing this post on Social Media. The contest will run until Saturday, 11/3, at 8:00 PM EST. Don't forget to leave your e-mail address and let me know if you've shared on Social Media.

28 comments:

  1. I wish I had known more of this history when traveling in Norway to locations you mention. Stacypilot at yahoo dot com.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd love to visit these places myself. Thank you for commenting, Stacy. You're entered in the drawing.

      Delete
  2. Thank you for this fascinating post! Shared on Google+ and Facebook.
    psalm103and138atgmaildotcom

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Caryl. You've earned two chances to win the giveaway.

      Delete
  3. Wow! What a great post! Thank you for sharing! mauback55 at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Melanie. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. You've earned a chance to win the WWII novel.

      Delete
  4. I hope you include a post about a Norwegian commando raid that effectively crippled the Norsk Hydro plant critical to Hitler's quest for a nuclear bomb. The extremely difficult dead-of-winter 1943 attack was one of the most important acts of sabotage in WWII.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I would like to share the story about the Norsk Hydro plant. I read the book, and I'm wondering how to shrink the tale into one blog post. Maybe it will be a continuing story too. Thank you for commenting and for your kind words below. You've earned a place in the giveaway.

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  5. I should have also said, nice piece today!

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  6. My paternal grandparents were born and raised in Norway, My grandmother had siblings and her parents who were in Norway during WWII none of this we as grandchildren knew about. Thanks for sharing. cheetahthecat1986ATgmailDOTcom

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Kim. I'm so glad you saw the post and learned about some of the tragedy your family faced during WWII. There are several more posts to come about Norway. Thanks for commenting and you're entered in the drawing.

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  7. What a story!!! bcrug(at)twc(dot)com

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  8. I knew a survivor of the invasion and member of The Resistance, who worked with British Forces after his escape. He was a long time professor at the University of Chicago, Ole Kleppa.
    I shared thru email and on Pinterest, Facebook & Instagram.
    j4hibdon(at)yahoo(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting, Jennifer! I'd love to read Professor Kleppa's story. Thank you for commenting and for sharing on social media. You've earned two places in the giveaway.

      Delete
  9. Fabulous blog - I tried to find all the places mentioned on the map. Thanks so much for the giveaway. I shared on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+.
    bettimace at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Betti. I'm glad you enjoyed the post and found the map helpful. I always like to see where the stories I read take place. It makes it seem more real. Thank you for sharing and for commenting. You're entered twice in the drawing.

      Delete
  10. Awesome post, Cindy. I remember studying Norway in schuool but not this history. I've always wanted to visit there.
    Shared post on Facebook
    marilynridgway78@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd like to visit Norway too - especially now that I've been researching the history from WWII. Whole towns were destroyed and then rebuilt. And then there's the story about the gold that was smuggled out ... But that's a story for another time. You've earned a chance to win the WWII novel.

      Delete
    2. Actually, you've earned two chances to win the novel. :)

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  11. Thank you, Cindy, for this post! It was so interesting learning about Norway during WW2. I look forward to learning more in your upcoming posts about the German invasion of Norway, and am anxious to learn the final escape of the King and the Royal Family! Thank you as well for the chance to win Tricia Goyer's book, A Secret Courage!! ~Alison Boss

    nj(dot)bossman(at)gmail(dot)com

    I shared on:
    -Twitter: https://twitter.com/aligirl777/status/1058122642732015617
    -Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/alison.g.boss/posts/10213247501441708
    -Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/505177283198865464/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Allison. Thank you so much for commenting and for sharing my post on social media. You've earned two entries in the giveaway. More stories to come on the 1st of each month!

      Delete
  12. Fabulous post, Cindy. I learned so much from it. Never knew the reasoning behind why Germany invaded Norway until now. Mrs. Harriman's account of that event were riveting. Looking forward to more history surrounding these dark days of WWII
    I'm sharing via e-mail, facebook and pinterest.

    patjeannedavis at comcast(dot)net

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for stopping by, Pat. I'm with you - I love to know the "why's" behind momentous events in history. You've earned to entries in the drawing! Thank you also for sharing my post.

      Delete
  13. Love this neat post! Thanks for sharing.

    maddycroneATgmailDOTcom

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Maddy. Thank you for your kind comments. You're entered in the giveaway!

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  14. And the winner of the Giveaway is Melanie Backus! Congratulations, Melanie!

    ReplyDelete