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Glomma River / Glåma River Line

The Glomma, also spelled Glåma, is the longest and largest river in Norway. The 620-kilometer (390 mile) long river has a drainage basin that covers a full 13% of Norway. A few defenses retain great fame or infamy, such as the Great Wall of China, Hadrian’s Wall, and the Maginot Line, but most are obscure, in- cluding the Great Wall of Gorgan (Iran), the Zasechnaya Cherta or Great Aba- tis Line (Russia), the Great Wall of the Dutch Republic, Offa’s Dyke (Britain), the Metaxas Line (Greece), and the Glomma River Line (Norway).

Östfold is the southeast part of Norway, the area from Oslofjord to the Swedish border, south of a line from Oslo to Kongsvinger. The part of Östfold west of river Glåma is the denser populated region, with mixed terrain and a reasonably dense road net. East of the river most of the terrain is covered with dense forests, with few roads. Östfold is divided in two approximately equal pieces by the big river Glåma, running from north to south with its mouth in Fredrikstad. It makes for a rather formidable river line with two long lakes covering about half its length, and from the southernmost lake the river forks in two and sometimes three branches past Sarpsborg and down to Fredrikstad.

A forcible entry of Norway by the Germans would be both helped and hindered by the country’s geography. The Kingdom of Norway featured a long, heavily indented coastline and shared a common border with Sweden. The length of this coastline seem to made the country difficult to defend from seaborne incursions, but the relative lack of major port facilities and the placement of population centers recessed from the coast (accessible only by narrow fjords) restricted suitable points of debarkation for large bodies of troops.

The planning priorities of the Norwegian armed forces prior to the German invasion were: defense against a Russian attack on Narvik, possibly aided by Swedish troops; and defense against enemy landings in the principal ports of the country. By April 1940 two scenarios were contemplated when planning the defense of Oslo against a German invasion: an invasion over land through Sweden, or invasion by sea. A land invasion was supposed to be stopped at the Glåma river line, with the two most important crossings, at Sarpsborg and at Askim, defended by forts.

In the spring of 1940 the German military conducted a successful combined air and amphibious invasion of Norway, securing that country in less than two months. German plans - code named Weserubung - had identified six strategically important areas: the region around Oslo Fjord, including the capital, the narrow populated coastal strip of southern Norway from Oslo to Stavanger, Bergen and its environs, the Trondheim region, Narvik and the rail link to Sweden, and Tromso and Finmark in the far northern portion of Norway.

The Germans occupied Narvik by 0810 on the morning of 09 April 1943. Attempting to run the series of coastal forts defending the long, narrow entrance to the port of Oslo, the leading light cruiser (Bluecher) of the group was struck several times by eight- and eleven-inch coastal gunfire and sank. The naval group then withdrew in order to reduce the forts by ground attack supported by air bombardment. Forts protecting the passage to Oslo were attacked by waves of bombers and fighter-bombers throughout the day. This was successful, but consumed the entire day. The forts surrendered without any serious resistance, despite order to hold out as long as possible. The important bridge over Glaama at Fetsund was taken undamaged by the Germans on the 11th after the Norwegian 2.Div, responsible for the defence of the area, had withdrawn to the north on the 10th without fight. Höytorp at 14:16 on the 14th April. Trögstad on the 15th, without any fight.

Norway was of considerable value to the Axis for strategic and economic reasons. It affords several naval bases where submarines may refit and from which they raid the sea lanes to northern Russian ports. It afforded air bases from which the same sea lanes can attacked by planes from far northern fields. A more important military advantage is that the north flank of Germany was covered against any invasion from the north, unless the mainte intelligently handled.

From an economic standpoint the Axis had complete control of the resources of Norway. These are not inconsiderable, and include some copper and nickel, timber, and fish. There was a movement of German industries to Norway. This was part of the scheme to decentralize the former big plants, found to be too vulnerable to attack from the air, by transforming them into a multiplicity of small plants scattered as widely as possible.

Some Norwegian labor had gone to Germany. It may be unwilling and furnished only by necessity of having food for families, but it benefited the Axis, even if to a less extent than free labor would. These advantages the Axis had at the expense of maintaining in the country 10 divisions, plus special troops and administrative personnel. Together these may amount to 200,000 men. This was a considerable price. It represented, however, only about 10% of the active German army outside of Russia, or 3% of the total German (not Axis) strength.

It was possible to take worn divisions out of line in Russia and station them in Norway for a period of months for rest, reorganization, and (incidentally) garrison duty. Provided but one or two divisions were changed at the same time, the presence of these troops in Norway, as long as there is no invasion, would not be a drain on German military strength.

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Page last modified: 27-08-2016 15:34:57 ZULU