Hitler's Northern War

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

Adam R. A. Claasen

Adolf Hitler had high hopes for his conquest of Norway, which held both great symbolic and great strategic value for the Fuhrer. 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.

“This is a most important work. As a case study of combined operations planning and execution, it offers valuable lessons to anyone interested in the dynamics of inter-service co-operation, and provides significant insights into German grand strategy, ideology, and military culture. Based on an impressive array of primary sources and sound scholarship, engagingly written, and well illustrated with useful maps, the book sheds much new light on a neglected aspect of the Second World War.

—International History Review

“An important and original contribution to the history of military airpower in World War II.”

—James Corum, author of The Luftwaffe

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Goring'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.

About the Author

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

Additional Titles in the Modern War Studies Series