NORWAY 1940 by François Kersaudy


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 A lively look at one of the sideshows of WW II--the Nazi invasion of Norway as Britain stood by--from Kersaudy (History/Sorbonne and Oxford). Although its scale and bloodletting were minuscule by comparison with what was to come, this Allied fiasco had an impact disproportionate to its inherent importance, for it confirmed all the worst fears about the direction of the British war effort and led to the replacement of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain by Winston Churchill. That outcome was preceded by a tale of unpreparedness, incompetence, and deceit unusual even in war. The Norwegian army, in theory 30,000 strong, in reality had only 7,000 men--who had never been on maneuvers together and had no machine guns, grenades, antiaircraft guns, or tanks; meanwhile, the Norwegian navy had not left its ports since 1918. Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, and concerned about supplies of Swedish iron ore to Germany, produced a plan to take action against the Norwegian port of Narvik, but the direction of the attack was endlessly debated by the British and French cabinets and changed a half-dozen times in less than two weeks. Finally, the responsible commanders on the ground were not told what had been decided but were explicitly told to tell the Norwegians nothing. By contrast, Kersaudy explains, the German attack was short, sharp, and brutal, even though the Nazis had to rely on maps torn from old school- geography books. Only King Haakon VII, resolute while his cabinet drifted, and Churchill, resourceful and combative, emerge here with any great credit from the debacle. And in the debate that ensued, it became apparent that only Churchill could command the trust of the House of Commons. An ironic, biting account of an episode as deplorable for its deceit as for its incompetence. (Sixteen pages of photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-312-06427-6
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1991


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