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Hitler's Northern War

The Luftwaffe's Ill-Fated Campaign, 1940–1945

Adam R. A. Claasen

January 2001
400 pages, 36 photographs, 10 maps, 6 x 9
Modern War Studies
Cloth ISBN 978-0-7006-1050-1, $39.95

Book Cover ImageAdolf Hitler had high hopes for his conquest of Norway, a country which had great symbolic and strategic value for the Führer. Despite early successes, however, his ambitious northern campaign foundered and ultimately failed. Adam Claasen for the first time reveals the full story of this neglected episode and shows how it helped doom the Third Reich to defeat.

Hitler and Raeder, the chief of the German navy, were determined to take and keep Norway. By doing so, they hoped to preempt Allied attempts to outflank Germany, protect sea lanes for German ships, access precious Scandinavian minerals for war production, and provide a launchpad for Luftwaffe and naval operations against Great Britain. Beyond those strategic objectives, Hitler also envisioned Norway as part of a pan-Nordic stronghold--a centerpiece of his new world order. But, as Claasen shows, Hitler's grand expectations were never realized.

Göring's Luftwaffe was the vital spearhead in the invasion of Norway, which marked a number of wartime firsts. Among other things, it involved the first large-scale aerial operations over sea rather than land, the first time operational objectives and logistical needs were fulfilled by air power, and the first deployment of paratroopers.

Although it got off to a promising start, the German effort, particularly against British and arctic convoys, was greatly hampered by flawed strategic thinking, interservice rivalries between the Luftwaffe and navy, the failure to develop a long-range heavy bomber, the diversion of planes and personnel to shore up the German war effort elsewhere, and the northern theater's harsh climate and terrain.

Claasen's study covers every aspect of this ill-fated campaign from the 1940 invasion until war's end and shows how it was eventually relegated to a backwater status as Germany fought to survive in an increasingly unwinnable war. His compelling account sharpens our picture of the German air force and widens our understanding of the Third Reich's way of war.

"An important and original contribution to the history of military airpower in World War II."--James Corum, author of The Luftwaffe

"Claasen has completely mastered this difficult chapter of World War II. His study reveals, for the first time, the full story of the Luftwaffe's operations in Scandinavia and provides valuable insights into both the inner conditions of the Luftwaffe and German war strategy generally."--Horst Boog, author of Die Deutsche Luftwaffenführung, 1935–1945

"An impressive study of combined arms and grand strategy that will appeal to both scholars and general readers."--Edward Homze, author of Arming the Luftwaffe

ADAM R. A. CLAASEN is a lecturer in modern history, international relations, and politics at Massey University in New Zealand.


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