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 World War I, the Norwegian government had declared its neutrality and worked hard to maintain this status. But early on during 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
|Narvik, Norway. Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia|
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 who was U.S. Minister to Norway (now called Ambassador) before and during the early months of World War II.
On the morning of April 8, the U.S. Legation (Embassy) in Copenhagen, Denmark, phoned Mrs. Harriman in Norway and reported that a large body of German ships was passing through the Great Belt. This is a strait north of Germany, 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
Between 5:00 and 6:00 AM, Mrs. Harriman and others who had joined her at the American Legation made several trips to a newly-built 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
|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 south of town. 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 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 and no walls standing. She had no idea where to find the King and Government. 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
"'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.
Mission to the North by Frances Jaffray Harriman. J. B. Lippincott Company. 1941.
"German Cruiser Blücher," Wikipedia.
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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