National Geographic : 1943 Mar
Norway, an Active Ally BY WILHELM MORGENSTIERNE NORWAY, overrun by the Germans in the spring of 1940, bounced right back to become one of Germany's most tormenting enemies. It has become customary to regard Norway as one of the conquered countries and conse quently to consider her opposition to the Nazis to be chiefly of the "underground" variety. This is not so. Although there is no less underground activity in Norway than in other occupied countries, Norway's chief fight against the oppressors has been waged aboveground and in the open, both within the country and from abroad. The population of Norway is about three million, roughly equal to that of the State of Tennessee, but dispersed over an area three times as great. What can a group as small as that, and as scattered as that, accomplish against a ruthless and all-powerful foe? Especially when that foe has firmly entrenched himself in the homeland of that people, seized con trol of their national and local administration, of their resources and industries, of their press and radio, of their transportation and commu nication systems. The picture is almost that of a Lilliputian tied down by a whole gang of Gullivers. Parts of Norway Have Eluded Hitler First of all, consider those parts of Norway which eluded Hitler's grasping fingers. Foremost of these are King Haakon VII and the Royal Norwegian Government (pages 334, 339). After directing open war against the oncoming Germans for two months in Norway, the King and all members of the Government, acting on express instructions given them by the last free Norwegian Stor ting (parliament), removed to England, there to carry on the fight against the enemy from abroad. The King quickly became, and continues to be, the living symbol of all that Norway hopes and strives for-in a word, the return to her free, democratic way of life. Around him all Norwegians have rallied in spirit, and with him they have taken up the many tasks re lated to Norway's ceaseless fight for freedom. Naturally, the leadership of Norway's far flung war efforts rests with Prime Minister Johan Nygaardsvold and the members of his Government. It is inspiring to note that, thanks to their foresight and enterprise, Nor- way is today able to strike back at the enemy, from abroad, with an Air Force, a Navy, and an Army. Nor is that all. A second, but highly important, part of Norway that eluded Hitler's grasp in 1940 was the Norwegian merchant marine, or at least more than 80 percent of it. That figure represents every Norwegian ship on the high seas and outside Axis-controlled ports when Hitler loosed his blow against Norway on April 9, 1940. Norway's merchant marine was the fourth largest in the world. Its gross tonnage in 1939 was 4,835,000, as compared with 21, 215,000 for Great Britain, 12,003,000 for the United States, and 5,630,000 for Japan. In quality, forty-five percent of its ships were less than ten years old. Sixty-four per cent were fast, modern motor vessels. Forty percent were tankers, the finest, fastest in the world. Norway's merchant fleet had not been built up by the aid of government subsidies, but purely by private enterprise on the part of scores of large and small shipowners scattered among the country's coastal towns. One of the first acts of the Royal Nor wegian Government after the Germans had launched their invasion was the requisition ing of Norway's privately owned merchant fleet for war use. By means of London radio, and through the Norwegian Embassy in Washington, D. C., orders were sent out to the more than 1,000 ships then on the high seas that they should report immediately to British or Allied ports. The ships' masters received that order just a few minutes after the receipt of contradic tory orders sent out by Oslo radio, which by then had fallen into Nazi hands. It fell to each individual master to choose which order he was to obey, and without a single exception they elected to follow the directions received from London. Norway's Fleet Aided Battle of Britain Certainly Hitler's snorts of fury must have singed his meager mustache when he learned of this development, because it was obvious that one of his chief purposes in attacking Norway was to strengthen himself with the Norwegian merchant fleet. Instead of joining Hitler the 1,000 Nor wegian merchant ships, and the 25,000 Nor wegian seamen manning them, immediately turned against him in a most telling manner.