a. Preparatory Measures.
(1) Secrecy and Training.
The campaign was characterized by thorough preparation and secrecy regarding German intentions. Many persons in Germany must have been aware that it was the intention of the German Government to land troops in Scandinavia; in spite of this no information of German intentions leaked out. Moreover, by a series of contradictory rumors, the objective of the expedition was cleverly disguised.
For several months a considerable number of formations received a specialized training to fit them for combined operations. The troops employed were equipped and clothed for the type of operations they would be engaged upon and use was made of the mountain divisions containing trained skiers. It is reported that troops intended for HASRVIK had been specially trained and equipped to operate in small groups of five, quite independently and self supporting; the intention being that these groups should live on the country. Units were even provided with such items as sun-glasses and lanoline ointment as protection against the weather conditions.
(2) Information about the Theater of War.
The Germans were clearly in possession of excellent information of the theater of war in which they were to operate. It has been the custom to send German officers abroad every year to study possible theaters of operations and their topography. Detailed information was also provided by German officials and residents.
(3) Use of the “Fifth Column.”
The main uses of the “Fifth Column” were:
(a) Guiding troops to important localities, buildings and vital points.
(b) Providing local information on enemy’s dispositions.
(c) Sabotaging defensive arrangements; for example, putting fire control and telephone systems out of action.
(d) Issuing orders contradicting mobilization and spreading false reports among defensive troops in the hope of leading them to surrender.
(1) Deception and Feints.
Landing on the Norwegian coast was not confined to one single place. Landings were made at many points simultaneously. The German object was to confuse the enemy as to where the main effort was to be made and induce him to disperse his forces. The plan of campaign in Poland was marked by similar strategy.
(2) Use of Maximum Force.
The German operation was conducted as a “total war”, i.e., the full cooperation of the Army, Navy, and Air Force was ensured. It is a German principle to use the maximum force at the decisive point. Norway became for the time being the decisive point and, having started the operation, the German Command did not shrink from losses in order to achieve its object. It must always be expected that German operations will be carried out with the maximum available forces at what is considered the decisive point.
(3) Maintenance of the Objective.
The Germans observed the principal of the maintenance of the objective; the main task of the German Air Force was support of the advance of the Army. Direct support was given by bombing and machine-gunning enemy troops and strong points, and indirect support by attacks on hostile aircraft, aerodrones, bases and transports of the of the opposite forces.
(1) Tactical Employment of Troops.
The principal fighting was in the GUDBRAND and OSTERDAL and adjacent valleys. These valleys, which are broad in the south, narrow down to mere ravines at their northern ends where they are very easy to defend against ground troops but are absolute traps for the defenders when attacked from the air. The German Command used small detachments of motor cyclists and of infantry, sometimes in trucks, supported by armored cars and tanks and aircraft to act as spearheads of the advance. As in Poland these detachments operated in most difficult country and pushed ahead without regard to flanks and the fact that they might be out of touch with their neighbors. As soon as they met opposition, forward detachments were rapidly reinforced from the rear, or if the opposition was found to be too great their line of advance was altered and they were allotted new objectives. One method of German advance was for the tanks with artillery to move down the center of a road at about 6-7 m.p.h., infantry following them close behind, lobbing grenades and using the tanks as shields. Meanwhile other parties of infantry, (usually ski troops) operating on either side of the road, outflanked the defenders. By her action in Poland and Norway Germany has shown that she does not expect infantry to advance without the aid of armored fighting vehicles and close support from low-flying aircraft. In Norway the German infantry does not appear to have been particularly well trained. Active infantry divisions of the line were not employed. The line divisions actually used were reserve divisions organized in November 1939 and which had 5 month’s training.
It should be noted that a German infantry division is well equipped to deal with low-flying attacks. It is thought that it is the intention to have eventually 84 – 20mm. dual purpose antiaircraft and antitank guns in each infantry division for this purpose.
Despite the fact that German Aircraft bombed railways continuously for long periods very little damage was done to the permanent way which could not be easily repaired. The main damage was suffered by stations and buildings near the railway. The Germans repaired Norwegian road demolitions without difficulty, as they were usually prepared too late to be thorough.
(3) Air Attacks.
It is reported that many of the air attacks against troops were carried out by twin engined Heinkels using both bombs and machine guns. Roads and railways were bombed daily. This bombing was at first carried out from about 200 feet but later from a greater height. The Heinkels had machine guns which fired downwards at a steep angle and, even if there were no casualties, all traffic came to a standstill while shelter was sought in woods etc. Machine gunning from aircraft is reported to have had a demoralizing effect although casualties were small.
(4) Use of Aircraft for Transport of Troops and Supplies.
The German Command made full use of troop-carrying aircraft both for landing parachutists and convoying reinforcements with their full equipment and in some cases guns. They also relied on supplying units at TRONDHEIN and HARVIK by air.
(5) Flexibility of German Organization.
The extreme flexibility of the German organization should be noted. There appears to have been no rigid corps organization, but units and formations were switched from one commander to another as the circumstances dictated, temporary groups being formed. This regrouping to meet changing circumstances was also evident in Poland. One reason for this practice is that the units in the German army are self-contained with standardized equipment and transport thus allowing them to be moved from one formation to another with the minimum of administrative and other difficulties.
(6) Speed and Ruthlessness.
The German operations, as in Poland, were characterized by speed and ruthlessness. This is in accordance with German teaching, viz. that it is better to do something quickly, even if it is wrong, than to hesitate and possibly lose the initiative, Ruthlessness will always characterize any German military operations. A German order envisions as the intention the “utter destruction” of the enemy forces.
The main lessons to be learned in Norway do not differ fundamentally from those which were apparent from the Polish campaign: (1) thorough and secret planning, (2) thorough reconnaissance, (3) use of maximum force at the decisive point, (4) speed and ruthlessness in execution, (5) the extensive use of armored vehicles in support of infantry, (6) the use of the German Air Force in direct and indirect support of ground operations.