The Well-Regulated Militia…

…where “Well-Regulated” means “can hit what they shoot at”, and “militia” means “civilians with guns”, can have an incredible impact on the world when they need to.

It was 69 years ago today, during Germany’s invasion of Norway, that an ad-hoc group of Norwegian soldiers and armed civilians repelled a German attempt to capture King Haakon VII and his cabinet.

King Haakon VII and Prince Olaf

Germany invaded Norway by surprise.  Norway’s policy at the time was absolute neutrality – in other words, belief that all belligerents were equally wrong – which led them to hold that the British, French and Poles were just as wrong as the Germans for World War II.  It’s a footnote in history that they were, for their own purposes, basically right; as the German invasion force sailed and flew toward Norway, a British force was also moving to try to seize Narvik, as the jumping-off point of a campaign to cut off Swedish steel supplies from the German war machine.  Events changed the British invasion force into group of timely reinforcements.

Norway, being officially pacifist both as a practical matter (it’s a small country stuck between military giants) and a political one (they were controlled by a socialist government), had only very recently decided to modernize its military.

Norwegian soldiers, 1940

Its navy’s small destroyer and torpedo boat fleets had been built in the 1910s at the latest; it’s two “battleships”, really nothing more than harbor guard ships, were antiques from the 1890’s.

Torpedo boat HNoMS Kjell, built in the 1890s, still in service in 1940

Coastal defense “Battleship” HNoMS Eidsvold, blown up and sunk in the opening moments of the war after being torpedoed by surprise, with a loss of all but six of its crew of 181. 

The Germans went straight for the Norwegian jugular, attempting the contemporary equivalent of a “shock and awe” campaign.

Narvik on fire

Fallschirmjäger (paratroops) landed at key spots around Oslo, seizing key government installations; ships with German troops landed out of the blue at others.  One of them – the heavy cruiser Blücher, loaded with a battalion of German troops – went barrelling up Oslo fjord.  I’ts mission was to land the troops at the head of the fjord, cutting the only real road out of Oslo to the interior, preventing King Haakon and his government’s escape on the chance that the paratroopers missed him.

Germans advancing in Norway, 1940

And it was there, and only there, that Norway’s formal defenses worked; an antique, 40-year-old torpedo, fired from a tube at the Oscarsborg fortress, sank Blücher, killing hundreds and preventing the rest of the invasion fleet from blocking Haakon’s escape route.

KMS Blücher blazes as it sinks

Haakon and his cabinet escaped into Norway’s interior, to lead a motley collection of troops from Norway’s tiny army, and thousands of “reservists” who were, truth be told, mostly members of outdoors and hunting clubs.

It’s there we pick up our story.

With Haakon’s escape, the German command detailed a raid to try to capture him.

A detachment of Germans Fallschirmjäger, the elite of the German military at the time, trained and armed with the best the Wehrmacht [*] had, launched what we’d call a “commando raid” today (the term “commando” wouldn’t be introduced to these types of troops for another year or so).  They drove off into the interior…

…and smacked into a Norwegian roadblock at Midtskogen Gård, near Elverum.

Norwegian troops, 1940

The Norwegians – a company of Norwegian royal guards, reinforced by a bunch of rifle club members armed only with antique-y Krag-Jørgensson rifles and hunting pieces, kicked Nazi ass, killing two Germans (one of whom had been the German military attache to Norway before the Nazi treachery unfolded and he took his place as an officer) for a loss of three wounded Norwegians. Rumors that anyone yelled “Wølverijne” while shooting at the Germans are completely unconfirmed.

“The founding fathers were writing about muskets when they wrote the Constitution!” Norwegian citizen-soldier, armed with the “assault rifle” of the day, takes aim at an invader.

Most importantly, the Germans realized the motley collection of Oles and Svens had delayed them to the point where King and Cabinet had escaped; the Germans retreated to Oslo, and King Haakon got away to the UK, where he led Norwegians in exile against the Germans for the next five years.

And so while the militia couldn’t defeat the Nazi war machine outright, it did give it a bloody enough nose to give Norway – and freedom – a chance to fight another day.

The rear guard; Norwegian and British soldiers in the interior, 1940

Further proof, were any needed, that Liberals are wrong.

* Military history geeks: Yes, I know – Fallschirmjäger were part of the Luftwaffe. not the Wehrmacht. Work with me here.

33 thoughts on “The Well-Regulated Militia…

  1. Great post. I always enjoy reading about the history of the Fins and the Norwegians during World War II. Both fought different enemies, but the goal of national defense was the same.

    I wonder if we’ll ever see any more of the Norwegian Krags imported in the US. Swedish and Finnish World War II era rifles are fairly common, but 6.5mm Norwegian Krags are still quite rare.

  2. Well, then starting in September you should enjoy coming here. On 9/1, I’ll be starting a series on “Myths of WWII”, on the dates of each of the major invasions. And there’s tons of good stuff on Finland, as you’re well aware.

  3. I’ve n ever seen a Norwegian Krag! I’ve seen a few of the pre-’03 American ones – they’re not uncommon in North Dakota for some reason – but never a Norwegian one.

    Seen quite a few Swedish Mausers, and had a Ljungmann once (sa-weet!).

    The Finns used Moissin-Nagants, didn’t they? I know one of them did; I have a piece in the works on the greatest sniper who ever lived; it was not Vasily Zaitsev…

  4. The Finns did use captured MN rifles. They took captured Soviet/Russian MN 91s and 91/30s and made them into much superior rifles, the best being the Finn M39. They updated the barrel and a other parts, but kept the original receivers intact. New heavier stocks and sights made them far superior to the original MN 91/30s.

    I have a Finn captured/marked MN 91/30 but am looking for an M39. The M39 has a windage adjustable front sight for better sight adjustments. The MN 91, as issued, just isn’t a marksman’s rifle.

  5. Right – it proved the liberals wrong, because shock and awe worked SO well, and because the resistance in Norway, they were liberals.

  6. Pen,

    Since it’s Good Friday, I’ll give you a chance to step back, mull your point over, and try again. Shoot for a point that doesn’t contradict itself.

    You’re welcome.

  7. Excellent bit of history Mitch. May I add a reference to the Paper Clip, a common household and office item, that was invented in Norway. The step father of a friend of mine, a post WW II Norwegian immigrant who was involved in the resistance as an adolescent, confirmed to me that wearing a paper clip was indeed a regular means of identifying both national identity and resistance during WW II. Because it was such an ordinary item, it went unremarked by the Nazis.

    Not only a symbol of the resistance during WWII, it subsequently was key to one of the most excellent instances of innovative teaching WW II history I have ever seen – the Paper Clip Project in Whitewell TN. There are a variety of information sources online, but it is well worth viewing the documentary of their efforts.

    There is a current extension of the original school efforts, called the Paperclip Campaign, originating from a school in Colorado Spring, Colorado that enlists people all over to wear a paperclip somewhere visible, on their clothing, like a collar or pocket, during the period 4/27/09 to 05/04/09 both as a rememberance, and to show solidarity against hate crimes and terrorism.

    For those who might have an interest in reading further, it may help to note that the original school project is found under Paper Clip (two words) while the more recent school project uses Paperclip, single word.

  8. I do have to give teh Peevee his due; there *were* a lot of leftists charged with the defense of Norway……that’s why the coastal defense ships Eidsvoll and Norge went down without firing a shot,

    Having heard the news that the coastal batteries at Narvik, under command of Colonel Sundlo (a devoted follower of teh Peevee’s hero), had refused to fire their guns, (because doing so would have exceeded their Co2 cap), the German C in C of Group V ( Blucher, Lutzow and Emden) was caught completely by surprise when the guns of the Oscarsborg fortress blazed out as his group approached Oslo.

    As the Blucher sank beneath the icy waves, the commander was heard to exclaim “God damn that conservative hate radio!!”

  9. Mitch, I hope that ‘Bun’ and ‘Zam’ enjoy it as well.

    It’s a great way to get kids involved with history as something that is exciting rather than boring. I believe the DVD of the original project is available to schools and libraries, along with teaching materials, either free or at cost, if they show an interest.

  10. Don’t forget the 15th Wisconsin regiment during the Civil war (members also from Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois). Of the 906 soldiers and officers, 90% were born in Norway. 128 of the 906 were named Ole. Cannot find the data now, but I recall that somewhere around 30-40 were named Ole Olson. Mail day must have been confusing there.

    There was also a Norweigan-American unit during WW II. They trained out west as a ski unit. Original thought was that they would be used either for commado raids, or as part of an all out invasion of Norway. Their unit patch was a Viking ship. Never saw combat in Norway (obviously) but I think some of them did particapate in the post-surrounder return of the King in June of 1945.

  11. Also, I should have said, this was, by and large, an excellent post. My only complaint was with the last sentence – there were PLENTY of resistance fighters who were in fact liberals, and even some socialists – definitions which aren’t, despite repeated lies, the same .. I also of course had some issue with the attempted conflation to ‘Shock and Awe”, the Germans understood full well the need to put boots on the ground, and that the Norwegians weren’t simply going to give up without a fight. A better analogy to that would have been the Netherlands and the bombing of Rotterdam, imho.

    Speaking of proof..

    Mitch, that’s where politfact shows Bachmann quoting a widely discredited report on the cost of cap and trade.

  12. BTW, Mitch, the other thing, I think you know well I FIRMLY defend the right of the civilians to carry arms, for just the reason you’ve pointed out here… an irregualar army may need to be self armed – and I know a helluva lot of liberals who do as well.

    So, happy good Friday to you too :). This was otherwise quite a fine post.

    Tom Swift, when you join the Army, you can lecture me on service, until then, you’re just a two-bit, vicarious REMF. Nuff said. BTW – Tom, a LOT of libs are in the Army, in fact, probably many more of them than neo-con chicken hawks like you, my little arm-chair warrior.

  13. Sorry, the other thing, “Shock and Awe” really applied to the Netherlands, imho, far moreso than Norway. The Wermacht understood the need for boots on the ground in Norway, certainly far better than did Donald Rumsfeld, who overruled his own General Staff regarding the numbers of troops to employ in Iraq.

  14. So, peev, do you think that the SecDef should not be allowed to over rule the gemerals?

  15. I thought I heard penigma say he didn’t know what ‘neo-con’ means again. He reminds me of Ignignokt. 🙂

    Ignignokt: “Our god is a god of vengeance. A god of hate.”
    Err: “A god of action!”
    Ignignokt: “Our god is an Indian who can turn into a wolf and-”
    Err: “Dude, that’s Wolfen.”
    Ignignokt: “Yes, well Wolfen will come after you, with his razor.”

  16. “So, peev, do you think that the SecDef should not be allowed to over rule the gemerals?”

    “a two-bit, vicarious REMF” ruling the generals?

    You don’t really think peevee will respond?

    Hey peev any mention recently of any Jonah Golberg books over on your penisblog?

  17. Terry, no, generally, I don’t think it’s the correct approach for the SecDef, a civilian with ZERO military experience like Rumsfeld, to tell his General Staff that their exhaustive planning is in error when he feels the political heat/cost for the invastion will be too high at 250,000 troops.

    Hindsight, fortunately, proves me right. We failed to secure dozens of military ordinance sites, and ordinance from those sites was stolen and used to kill US soldiers. Further, the ‘surge’ raised numbers near the amounts the General Staff requested. The fault lies with Rumsfeld, and also with Cheney.

    The response should have been, if you want to do it with less, perhaps it should not be done. You neo-kooks talk all the time about not overruling the generals, apparently except for when your President is in office.

    Troy – I think YOU don’t know what neo-con means, I’m pretty satisfied I understand that the Paul Wolfwitz, Dick Armitage, L. Paul Bremer Project for a New American Century crowd is rather easily identified, as is their now defunct and discredited approach to foreign policy.

  18. Yeah, Tom I won’t ask you if you’re a chicken-sh%^ (unlike many libs), and then yiou won’t have to admit to it.

  19. Shiftee said: “Pfft.”

    Leave Shiftee alone, penigma. His head is leaking again.

  20. Just as a point of order, Pen, I should note that Swiftee served in the Navy. If my memory serves, I think he may have been on active duty longer than you, not that it matters a whole lot.

  21. Peev
    Terry, no, generally, I don’t think it’s the correct approach for the SecDef, a civilian with ZERO military experience like Rumsfeld, to tell his General Staff that their exhaustive planning is in error when he feels the political heat/cost for the invastion will be too high at 250,000 troops.
    Rumsfeld was a navy aviator. He flew jets. He joined in ’54, retired in ’89 as a captain.
    The reason a civilian is made secdef is because it is a political job, not a military job. This is essential in maintaining a democracy. It means our military is under civilian control, rather than our civilians being under military control. A good secdef will NOT rubber stamp the advice of the chief of staff. You would know this if you actually knew anything about Rumsfeld, our constitutional form of government, or the planning during the runup to the Iraq War.
    It is a sign of a mature intellect to shut up when you don’t know anything about the topic under discussion, peev.

  22. Mitch-
    Not sure if you are aware of this, but the entire Capra-directed Why We Fight series of WW2 documentary/propaganda films are available as a free (though slow) download at They are in the public domain. If you don’t know what they are, check out

  23. “Troy – I think YOU don’t know what neo-con means, I’m pretty satisfied I understand that the Paul Wolfwitz, Dick Armitage, L. Paul Bremer Project for a New American Century crowd is rather easily identified, as is their now defunct and discredited approach to foreign policy. ”

    The neo-con approach is essentially a muscular military and to engage countries based on national interest without compromising principles. As opposed to a pragmatic approach of say treating North Korea no different than France. Now here’s where it gets interesting. Their domestic approach is welfare state ok, so is messing around with free markets for social engineering.

    In other words, do you really think everyone here you reflexively deem neo cons are supportive of a welfare state? Screwing with free markets for social engineering? Really? Here is a something that will probably confuse you. Both Roosevelt and Dewey were both against The United States being defeated by Nazi Germany. Yet (and this might confuse you) Roosevelt was not a Republican and Dewey was not a Democrat.

  24. A neo-con is a former liberal that got mugged by reality.

    Mitch, when you were young and naive were you a liberal?

    Peev get taken to task once again. 😆

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