In 1940, on this day the sovereign governments of Norway and Sweden granted transit rights which authorized a British-French Corps to disembark at the Norwegian port of Narvik and support Finland via Sweden while securing supply routes along the way.
Allied Military Intervention in the Winter WarIn reality the actual prospect of Allied forces fighting the Red Army in the snow was quite ephemeral. Because the diplomatic exchange of these official requests masked a covert feint devised by the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill. His secret plan was for the vast majority of the 135,000 men sent to aid the Finns to occupy the Swedish iron ore fields that were supplying Nazi Germany. Nevertheless, upon hearing of the plan Adolf Hitler stated that should Allied troops enter Sweden, Germany would invade.
Of course the allied strategy of neutralising enemy resources had been fixed right at the beginning of the war with the fateful decision to bomb Azerbaijan's oil fields. And that military reaction to the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact led inevitably to the Russians joining the Axis.
Doubtless the Swedish Cabinet's approval of the transit rights request was relucantly given upon the threat of a similiar strike. Yet for all its obvious geographical disadvantages, a Scandinavian theatre clash would enable the Allies to strike a blow of military authority with their considerable air and sea power. And perhaps a military stalemate that starved the Axis of strategic resources might lead to a peace settlement on more favourable terms. But as things turned out, the Winter War was merely an interlude between the Phony War and the Phony Peace. This was the infinitely more complex situation inherited by the incoming British Prime Minister when Neville Chamberlain died on 9th November 1940.
This article is part of our Resource War thread..
In 1939, approval for the fateful decision to bomb Azerbaijan's oil fields was granted by the Prime Minister and his Minister of Naval Forces on this day at British General Headquarters.
Crazy HeadsIntelligence reports unambiguously confirmed that Stalin's supply of Baku's oil had been transferred to the Nazis in a secret protocol of the Soviet German Pact (pictured). Twenty-five million barrels of oil per year would be sufficient for Hitler's Panzers Division to conquer Europe, and therefore the strike order was transmitted to French Air Forces in Syria without delay. Trouble was, the operation was bungled, and the oil wells and refineries in Baku and the northern Caucasus escaped with minimal damage. Allied military leaders were forced to revert to the inferior Plan B, in which British submarines would seek to prevent the transportation of oil in the Black Sea.
The "the possibilities of bombing and demolition of Baku" were first raised in Paris by the US Ambassador to France, W. Bullitt. The French Government ordered General Gamelen and Admiral Darlan to work out a "plan of possible intervention with the view of destroying Russian oil exploitation". Ambassador Bullit informed US President Franklin D. Roosevelt that Daladye considered that aircraft attacks against Baku would be "the most efficient way to weaken the Soviet Union".
It would prove a costly mistake. In postwar statements, Charles De Gaulle would later claim that "crazy heads that were thinking more of how to destroy Baku than of resisting Berlin". He was right. Forced into the conflict after Pearl Harbour, the US would find itself at war with the combined might of the German-Soviet-Japanese Axis powers.
In 1940, on this day the second phase of the Winter War commenced with the Soviet invasion of Norway, a move which had been predicted by the Danish ambassador to London, Count Eduard Reventlow.
Pact of SteelWith German intentions as yet undeclared the Western Allies gained no benefit whatsover from this prescient warning. Unable to strategically anticipate the next moves in the theatre, they were forced into committing significant military resources to the defence of Scandinavia before the mission could be fully scoped.
What was clear however was that the German point of strategic interest was Narvik, the railway head from which Swedish iron ore mined at Kiruna and Malmberget was brought to the sea. And therefore the decision was taken to concentrate combined services forces on a strike at Narvik. Whether this bold initiative would create conflict in the Nazi-Soviet Pact, or force the two great powers into an integrated alliance, only time would tell. But in any case the allied strategy of neutralising enemy resources had been fixed right at the beginning of the war with the fateful decision to bomb Azerbaijan's oil fields.
This article is part of our Resource War thread.