Could Denmark have derailed the invasion of Norway an in effect Hitler's wars?

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Could Denmark have derailed the invasion of Norway an in effect Hitler's wars?

Post by wm » 09 Feb 2023 19:19

Wikipedia says:
The invasion's primary purpose was to use Denmark as a staging ground for operations against Norway and to secure supply lines to the forces about to be deployed there.
The attack on Denmark was part of Operation Weserübung Süd, Germany's plan for the invasion of Norway. Its main purpose was to secure the iron ore that shipped from Narvik. To capture Norway, the Germans had to control the port outside Aalborg in northern Jutland.
I don't quite understand why "the port outside Aalborg" was so important - still, the question is, could heroic Danish resistance (for a few days) have sufficiently delayed the invasion of Norway to ensure its failure?

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Re: Could Denmark have derailed the invasion of Norway an in effect Hitler's wars?

Post by jwsleser » 09 Feb 2023 22:08

It was actually the Aalborg airfield that was important. The German airfields in Schleswig were barely in range of Oslo, so Aalborg was needed as a closer staging airfield to reach more of southern Norway.

Any delay is gaining an undamaged Aalborg would delay the transfer of the shorter range ME109s and the ferry operation of the heavily laded Ju52s. Whether this alone would cause failure is highly debatable. German airpower based in Norway was important, but much would have depended on whether the Allies could leverage its absence in the opening days. That is quite uncertain.

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Re: Could Denmark have derailed the invasion of Norway an in effect Hitler's wars?

Post by Kingfish » 09 Feb 2023 23:05

wm wrote:
09 Feb 2023 19:19
still, the question is, could heroic Danish resistance (for a few days) have sufficiently delayed the invasion of Norway to ensure its failure?
As I understand it the invasion of both Denmark and Norway were executed at the same time, so I can't see how resistance from the former could delay the latter.
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Re: Could Denmark have derailed the invasion of Norway an in effect Hitler's wars?

Post by wm » 10 Feb 2023 00:16

I don't know. Earl F. Ziemke, in his "German Northern Theater of Operations," writes:
Given the risks and limitations imposed by British naval superiority, the chief task in the German planning for the occupation of Norway was to devise a scheme of operations suited to the peculiarities of the Norwegian geography.
...
Oslo was by far the most important.
...
In the south the Danish peninsula of Jutland was virtually a land bridge from Germany to Oslo and the Norwegian south coast.

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Re: Could Denmark have derailed the invasion of Norway an in effect Hitler's wars?

Post by jwsleser » 10 Feb 2023 00:24

One must remember that unlike the later Allied amphibious landings, the German invasion of Norway didn't have a large transport fleet sitting off the invasion beaches unloading supplies and heavy weapons/equipment for weeks at a time. Once the simultaneous naval landings happened on 9 April, most everything else was delivered by air. Securing and outfitting the Norwegian airfields for operations was critical. Any aviation fuel, ammunition, bombs, parts, ground crews, etc. had to be transported by air. The further away the supporting airfields, the less cargo could be carried. Think Stalingrad.

The German Heer units depended quite heavily on the LW to deliver firepower that the ground units lacked because their heavy artillery wasn't transported. ME 109s couldn't operate over Norway for any length of time flying from Germany. The ME 110s that flew the first day were at the edge of max range supporting the attacks on the airfields around Oslo. Aalborg gave them a little more range once it was secured. It was the transport fleet that truly gained as they could stop at Aalborg to fuel (which was the plan) that then allowed them to fly to Norway and returned without refueling in Norway. Aalborg also was a better location for the LW to cover shipping in the North Sea.

The ground campaign that started on 9 April didn't end until late June mainly because of the problem of reinforcing the opening strikes. Preventing the use of Aalborg in the opening days limits the German build-up in Norway. That is more time for Norwegian mobilization and setting defenses to prevent deeper penetrations of southern Norway. The ground campaign wasn't smooth sailing for Germany, but control of the air was critical for its final success. Just denying German use of airpower for a few days likely would have aided the Norwegian defense and Aalborg made that build-up a bit easier. Germany got lucky in that the Danes didn't destroyed the fuel stocks or damage the runways, so Aalborg was operating at full capacity the afternoon of 9 April.

Would it have made enough of a difference? I don't know. I haven't studied the campaign for a few years, so would need to look at the timings. Aalborg was critical to the German plan, so the question is how long of a delay would be needed to cause failure.

Just some thoughts without digging deep into the history.

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Re: Could Denmark have derailed the invasion of Norway an in effect Hitler's wars?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 10 Feb 2023 04:01

Denmark, the decisive point of WWII

I suspect the Germans had anticipated a stronger resistance and were prepared to rapidly overcome that.

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Re: Could Denmark have derailed the invasion of Norway an in effect Hitler's wars?

Post by wm » 10 Feb 2023 09:14

Ziemke writes:
The ... principal objective of Weserübung-Süd [i.e., the invasion of Denmark] was Aalborg, at the northern tip of the Peninsula. Its two airfields were to be taken on W plus 2 hours by a parachute platoon and an airborne battalion.

The 11th Motorized Rifle Brigade, supported on its left by the motorized regiment of the 170th Division, was to advance rapidly along the west side of the peninsula, reaching Aalborg on W Day.
The remaining regiments of the 1 70th Division were to break any resistance which might be offered along the border or in the south and reach Aalborg, Frederikshaven, and Skagen on W plus 1 or W plus 2 days.
From Wikipedia:
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Re: Could Denmark have derailed the invasion of Norway an in effect Hitler's wars?

Post by jwsleser » 10 Feb 2023 15:10

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
10 Feb 2023 04:01
I suspect the Germans had anticipated a stronger resistance and were prepared to rapidly overcome that.
Yes. As WM pointed out, the Germans did have a plan for a rapid advance. Given the reality that Danmark hadn't mobilized, the best that could have happened was the destruction of the fuel stocks and damage to the runways. Whether that would have been enough to derail the operation would require additional research.

Early mobilization does change the picture. The two Danish divisions were quite large and well equipped. The Daish defense plan was sound. The need for the Germans to rush helps the defenders. While it very unlikely that a prolonged defense was possible, I can easily see a two-three day fight.

When examining this 'What if', the key is understanding what was happening in Norway. The Norwegian military recognized early on that southern Norway was lost. However they felt that the waist of the country could be held and the historical fighting tended to indicate that was possible given a little more time. Any delay of the German advance from the key cities they first occupied allows Norwegian defenses to stiffen and Allied help to arrive. The fight for Trondheim might have unfolded quite differently if the Allies had a few more days before the German offensive out of Oslo started in mid-April.

Would that be enough?

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Re: Could Denmark have derailed the invasion of Norway an in effect Hitler's wars?

Post by jwsleser » 10 Feb 2023 17:16

A correction (checking Haarr). The Germans were using sea transport to reinforce their forces in Oslo. The initial landing was 2,000 troops from the warships followed by 16,700 from merchant ships over the following 5 days (Ziemke p.33, Haarr Battle for Norway states 2,000 a day, p.9). When the German offensive from Oslo started on 14 April, the Germans had 40,000–50,000 troops around Oslo (Haarr ibid). That means (using the lower figure), over 20,000 troops were moved by air. Aalborg and the captured airfields in southern Norway were critical for this effort.

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Re: Could Denmark have derailed the invasion of Norway an in effect Hitler's wars?

Post by Peter89 » 10 Feb 2023 18:53

jwsleser wrote:
10 Feb 2023 00:24
One must remember that unlike the later Allied amphibious landings, the German invasion of Norway didn't have a large transport fleet sitting off the invasion beaches unloading supplies and heavy weapons/equipment for weeks at a time. Once the simultaneous naval landings happened on 9 April, most everything else was delivered by air. Securing and outfitting the Norwegian airfields for operations was critical. Any aviation fuel, ammunition, bombs, parts, ground crews, etc. had to be transported by air. The further away the supporting airfields, the less cargo could be carried. Think Stalingrad.

The German Heer units depended quite heavily on the LW to deliver firepower that the ground units lacked because their heavy artillery wasn't transported. ME 109s couldn't operate over Norway for any length of time flying from Germany. The ME 110s that flew the first day were at the edge of max range supporting the attacks on the airfields around Oslo. Aalborg gave them a little more range once it was secured. It was the transport fleet that truly gained as they could stop at Aalborg to fuel (which was the plan) that then allowed them to fly to Norway and returned without refueling in Norway. Aalborg also was a better location for the LW to cover shipping in the North Sea.

The ground campaign that started on 9 April didn't end until late June mainly because of the problem of reinforcing the opening strikes. Preventing the use of Aalborg in the opening days limits the German build-up in Norway. That is more time for Norwegian mobilization and setting defenses to prevent deeper penetrations of southern Norway. The ground campaign wasn't smooth sailing for Germany, but control of the air was critical for its final success. Just denying German use of airpower for a few days likely would have aided the Norwegian defense and Aalborg made that build-up a bit easier. Germany got lucky in that the Danes didn't destroyed the fuel stocks or damage the runways, so Aalborg was operating at full capacity the afternoon of 9 April.

Would it have made enough of a difference? I don't know. I haven't studied the campaign for a few years, so would need to look at the timings. Aalborg was critical to the German plan, so the question is how long of a delay would be needed to cause failure.

Just some thoughts without digging deep into the history.

Pista! Jeff
Just a few remarks.

The naval contingent of the Narvik operation was supposed to be resupplied from ships, but for various reasons it didn't happen (they mostly used empty merchantmen filled with supplies). The Narvik group was never meant to be supplied via air, it was a stopgap solution only.

The air assault, airlift and air transport operations in Weserübung, in a nutshell.

The first phase consisted of 10 groups plus four additional squadrons, which carried 1 paratrooper battalion, 2 paratrooper companies, 1 airlanding battalion, 3 regular infantry battalions plus 3 infantry companies. Additionally, 6 airfield maintenance companies, parts of the staff elements of an air administrative command, the staff of infantry regiment command and about 170 m3 aviation fuel.

The mission objectives were Aalborg and Vordingborg in Denmark and Stavanger plus Oslo Fornebeu in Norway. The prevailing doctrine was the following: the first wave dropped paratroopers, who quickly subdued the airfield's resistance; then came the air landed units, to quickly reinforce them. Finally, the maintenance and staff personnel came who made the airfields suitable for larger scale operations. At this point, the combat operation turned into an air transport operation, which supported the ground units as well as the arriving Luftwaffe units. However, from the very beginning, the plan was to gradually give the responsibility over to the navy to deliver the necessary supplies and heavy equipment.

The Germans consistently ignored the importance of training in this operation. Only the leading elements of the assault group's pilots were trained in the necessary manner: close formation flight, blind/instrument flight, low altitude flight, quick landing, quick unloading, quick taxiing and quick take off in groups. Sadly, only units that belonged to the 7th Fliegerdivision - which did not participate in the action with more than a single paratrooper battalion - had this kind of training.
The Germans considered the follow-up flights little more than a peacetime flight, the thorough training that was given to the air assault crews, was completely missing for most of the pilots. Moreover, the service crews were not accustomed to properly load the transport planes; thus, a lot of overloading-accidents and under-utilizations happened (this is also the reason why the J900004 Ju 90 suffered a fatal accident). Also, the regular infantrymen received little to no training in flights or leaping into combat out of an aircraft; the German high command continued to place little emphasis on this well into the operation Merkur. Just as in the case of the infantrymen who couldn't swim but travelled on the German warships, this proved to be a poor choice.

The Germans made plans for all possible scenarios: Denmark and Norway - no resistance; Denmark - resistance, Norway - no resistance, Denmark - no resistance, Norway - resistance, Denmark and Norway - resistance. For all scenarios complete plans were worked out and all the necessary data were given to the commanders, including technical instructions, time schedules, navigational and communication plans, supply and reinforcement schedules. These master files were sent to the units, assembling in their airfields in Schleswig-Holstein, Oldenburg, Hamburg and Bremen on 8 April. The signal about the Weserübung was sent to the troops on the evening of 8 April, thus the Germans were fully anticipating and counting with Danish resistance, and the necessary troops to subdue the possible resistance, were in place. As far as operational planning was concerned, the Germans were fully prepared to take possession of Aalborg by force.

The operation started at 05:30, and the first groups took off without problems. Already in the air, the German air assault units received the signal that indicated Danish and Norwegian reactions to the German ultimatums. The Danish objectives were taken easily (in fact there were 2 airfields at Aalborg: Aalborg East and Aalborg West). The unit that attacked here, was from one of the crack units of the German Fallschirmjäger / air assault OOB, the II./KGzbV.1.

The group that aimed Stavanger arrived at 08:45 and encountered little, but fierce resistance, plus the crafty Norwegians put up barbed wire on the airfield. The paratroopers quickly subdued the resistance and removed the obstacles for the next waves. The Luftwaffe staff frantically began the conversion of the airfield into a proper staging point for larger scale operations.

However, the importance of these airfields - and that of Kristiansand later on - is minor compared to the importance of the Fornebu airport in Oslo. As the fortunes of war would have it, it was this group that did not accomplish its mission without hiccups. The weather on 9 April was good at the takeoff areas; cloudless but hazy. Visibility was 2-4 kms. Early morning fogs, especially over the ocean, were anticipated. However, the combat group approaching Oslo first encountered patches of fog, which began to grew thicker at the altitude they were ordered to maintain. It soon turned out that about a fourth of the crews were incapable of maintaining unit cohesion with visibility reduced to a few meters. In a normal practice flight, the orders should have been given to turn back, but because of the importance of the mission, the German commander, Lt. Col. Drewes refused to give the turn back order. But when two Ju 52s "went missing" - probably lost control of the aircraft or simply crashed into the sea - he finally gave the order. The designated airport(s) to return to: Aalborg.

Then the different levels of the German command gave confusing feedbacks. The HQ of Fliegerkorps X confirmed the command. Lufttransportchef (Land), however, gave a contradicting order, and issued the units to press on, arguing that the follow-up units' pilots have sufficient training in bad weather flights. The worst case scenario, he argued, is the loss of the leading elements. If the leading elements are encountering heavy resistance on the ground, he argued, then the follow-up units will simply not land. On the other hand, if the whole mission is abandoned, the entire campaign might be in jeopardy. On top of this, he went on, if all these units will return to the two tiny Aalborg airfields, then the congestion on the landing strips will result a catastrophe; the returning units had to land in a very narrow window of time for the lack of fuel, and their arrival would coincide with the arrival of the follow-up air supply units from Germany. Despite these objections, the HQ of Fliegerkorps X issued the command to turn back. By pure chance, the 103th KGrzbV, carrying one of the infantry battalions, did not obey the order. This unit was recently activated - and not organically incorporated into the Luftwaffe chain of command. Thus its commander, Hauptmann Wagner considered the order from Lufttransportchef (Land) a bit of higher importance than that of the HQ of Fliegerkorps X; also he was suspicious of enemy sabotage of radio communications. Consequently, he followed the original plan and forced the landing of his battalion into the teeth of Norwegian defenses. He, just as the German Luftwaffe attaché in Oslo (who came to the airport to observe the operation), was killed in action. His deputy, Hauptmann Peter Ingenhoven took over the command, subdued the defenders, established a defensive perimeter around the airfield and guided the follow-up elements to the airfield - he was awarded with a Ritterkreuz for his performance and bravery (he died on February 1st, 1942 in the Soviet Union). Mission reports indicate that by far the biggest problems were the wrecks on the airfield, some of them are still in flames. As the Heer infantry had no training whatsoever in airfield operations, it was both luck and skill that disaster didn't follow. The Aalborg airfield(s) under control, the remaining units of the II./KGzbV.1 joined their comrades in Oslo, and the III./324 IR was sent there as well, instead of Stavanger. By the evening of 9 April 1940, the air transport operations were back to schedule.

To answer the original questions and WI:

1. Resistance in Aalborg was expected by the Germans, and they sent some of their best units, under favourable conditions against it. Thus a complete Danish victory, without altering the unit dispositions in the WI, was unlikely.
2. However, if the Danish manage to keep the airfield under fire for the day, the effects could have been dire. The critical moment was the afternoon, when the supply runs from Germany came to the airfield. All the same, this would only increase the German losses, but not derail the Weserübung.
3. If the Danish manage to keep the airfield under fire for the day AND the Oslo group turns back and lands in Aalborg as it was issued by the HQ of Fliegerkorps X, then yes, the whole German operation might suffer a fatal delay. However, it was not a game-changer for the Danish in Aalborg because the combat troops from Oslo would take Aalborg anyway.
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Re: Could Denmark have derailed the invasion of Norway an in effect Hitler's wars?

Post by wm » 13 Feb 2023 01:42

Fallschirmjäger units made the first airborne invasion when invading Denmark on April 9, 1940 as part of Operation Weserübung. In the early morning hours they attacked and took control of the Masnedø fort and Aalborg Airport.
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Re: Could Denmark have derailed the invasion of Norway an in effect Hitler's wars?

Post by Princess Perfume » 26 Mar 2023 14:58

How will the delay start to effect the climb up Norway?

And higher losses means those troops *are not available later* and fewer troops will start little ripples that will become waves as the knock-ons start to accumulate.

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Re: Could Denmark have derailed the invasion of Norway an in effect Hitler's wars?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 27 Mar 2023 15:23

One of the knock on effects is in Norway. The original question here considers Demark in isolation. That is a legitimates question. But, its also a less likely situation. Circumstances that lead to the Danes mobilizing and resisting longer are more likely to lead to the Norwegians also initiating mobilization earlier and better resisting the initial attack. To word this a bit differently, and intelligence that initiates a mobilization of Demarks army is likely to accelerate the Norwegian mobilization & alertness.

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Re: Could Denmark have derailed the invasion of Norway an in effect Hitler's wars?

Post by jwsleser » 28 Mar 2023 03:47

Carl

The original question was.... [my bold]
I don't quite understand why "the port outside Aalborg" was so important - still, the question is, could heroic Danish resistance (for a few days) have sufficiently delayed the invasion of Norway to ensure its failure?
The question was never whether Denmark could defeat the invasion.

My statement...
Any delay is gaining an undamaged Aalborg would delay the transfer of the shorter range ME109s and the ferry operation of the heavily laded Ju52s. Whether this alone would cause failure is highly debatable. German airpower based in Norway was important, but much would have depended on whether the Allies could leverage its absence in the opening days. That is quite uncertain.
What I wish to examine is the flow of forces (both Allied and German) to gauge the possible impact of a delay. Haarr stated in his book that holding the central part of Norway was the key to the country. Any German delay in occupying the area around Oslo provided more time for the mobilization of those significant Norwegian forces. That is the piece I wish to examine.

I have hope to return to this question, but haven't yet found the time to open the books.

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Re: Could Denmark have derailed the invasion of Norway an in effect Hitler's wars?

Post by Peter89 » 28 Mar 2023 08:49

jwsleser wrote:
28 Mar 2023 03:47
Carl

The original question was.... [my bold]
I don't quite understand why "the port outside Aalborg" was so important - still, the question is, could heroic Danish resistance (for a few days) have sufficiently delayed the invasion of Norway to ensure its failure?
The question was never whether Denmark could defeat the invasion.

My statement...
Any delay is gaining an undamaged Aalborg would delay the transfer of the shorter range ME109s and the ferry operation of the heavily laded Ju52s. Whether this alone would cause failure is highly debatable. German airpower based in Norway was important, but much would have depended on whether the Allies could leverage its absence in the opening days. That is quite uncertain.
What I wish to examine is the flow of forces (both Allied and German) to gauge the possible impact of a delay. Haarr stated in his book that holding the central part of Norway was the key to the country. Any German delay in occupying the area around Oslo provided more time for the mobilization of those significant Norwegian forces. That is the piece I wish to examine.

I have hope to return to this question, but haven't yet found the time to open the books.

Pista! Jeff
Hello Jeff!

I happened to answer your question in detail. The Germans did not occupy Oslo from Aalborg.
"Everything remained theory and hypothesis. On paper, in his plans, in his head, he juggled with Geschwaders and Divisions, while in reality there were really only makeshift squadrons at his disposal."

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