Iceland in German hands, 1940?

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by Lucky13, Aug 2, 2012.

  1. Lucky13

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    How would this have effected the war in the Atlantic, had the Germans captured Iceland 1940, when they were on the roll?
    Don't know much about this area, how is it with suitable places for airbases and bases for submarines etc...?
     
  2. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    #2 parsifal, Aug 2, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2012
    Need to get the historical situation in order first. A lot of this is straight cut and paste from wiki so my apologies in advance

    "German interest in Iceland in the 1930s grew from nothing at all to proportions found by the British government to be alarming. The Third Reich's overtures began with friendly competition between German and Icelandic soccer teams. When war began, Denmark and Iceland declared neutrality and limited visits to the island by military vessels and aircraft of the belligerents.

    During the German occupation of Denmark, contact between the countries was disrupted. Initially, the Kingdom of Iceland declared itself to be neutral, and limited visits of belligerent warships and imposed a ban on belligerent aircraft within Icelandic territory.

    Following the invasion of Denmark on 9 April 1940 Iceland opened a legation in New York City. Iceland, however, unlike Norway, did not closely enforce limitations within its territorial waters and even slashed funding for the Icelandic Coast Guard. Many Axis merchant vessels seeking shelter within the neutral waters around Iceland were sunk by Allied warships. The Chief of the Capital Police Forces, Agnar Kofoed-Hansen, started to train the National Defence forces in early 1940.

    London imposed strict export controls on Icelandic goods, preventing profitable shipments to Germany, as part of the Neutrality Act. London offered assistance to Iceland, seeking cooperation "as a belligerent and an ally", but Reykjavik declined and reaffirmed its neutrality. The German diplomatic presence in Iceland, along with the island's strategic importance, alarmed the British from the very begining of the war. After a few failed attempts at persuading the Icelandic government by diplomatic means to join the Allies and becoming a co-belligerent in the war against the Axis forces, the British invaded Iceland on 10 May 1940. The initial force of 746 British Royal Marines commanded by Colonel Robert Sturges was replaced on 17 May by a larger Army force, and eventually 25,000 British troops were stationed in Iceland.

    On 7 July 1941, the defence of Iceland was transferred from Britain to the (still officially neutral) United States, by agreement with Iceland, and US marines replaced the British. Iceland's strategic position along the North Atlantic sea-lanes, perfect for air and naval bases, could bring new importance to the island. The 40,000 US marines stationed in Iceland outnumbered all adult men in Iceland at the time. (At the time, Iceland had a population of around 120,000).

    The invasion of Iceland, codenamed Operation Fork, was a British military operation conducted by the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines and a Canadian task force during World War II.

    The invasion began in the early morning of 10 May 1940 with British troops disembarking in Reykjavík, capital of neutral Iceland. Meeting no resistance, the troops moved quickly to disable communication networks, secure strategic locations and arrest German citizens. Requisitioning local means of transportation, the troops moved to Hvalfjörður, Kaldaðarnes, Sandskeið and Akranes to secure landing areas against the possibility of a German counterattack. In the following days air defence equipment was deployed in Reykjavík and a detachment of troops was sent to Akureyri.

    In the evening of 10 May, the government of Iceland issued a protest, charging that the neutrality of Iceland had been "flagrantly violated" and "its independence infringed" and noting that compensation would be expected for all damage done. The British promised compensation, favourable business agreements, non-interference in Icelandic affairs and the withdrawal of all forces at the end of the war. Resigning themselves to the situation, the Icelandic authorities provided the invasion force with de facto cooperation, though formally maintaining a policy of neutrality.

    The invasion force consisted of 746 marines, ill-equipped and only partially trained. Although it succeeded in its mission, it was manifestly insufficient to defend an island of 103,000 square kilometres (40,000 sq mi). On 17 May 4,000 troops of the British Army arrived to relieve the marines. This force was subsequently augmented, to a final force strength of 25,000. American forces relieved the British a year later, although their country was still officially a non-belligerent. They remained there for the duration of the war".
     
  3. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    #3 parsifal, Aug 2, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2012
    I would have to say that on the basis of the above, any move to invade or occupy Iceland by the axis, would have attracted an immediate and violent response from the British, and quite probably the Americans. Since the Germans were not well placed to reinforce their position in Iceland, the likley outcome would probably have been an early defeat for the Germans

    The US was deeply concerned about Icelandic neutrality and even more concerned that the germans might invade or occupy the island, as they saw it as a stepping stone to the Americas....

    Americas drift to war in many respects was linked to its gurantees of neutrality to iceland and the extension of the pan American neutrality zone to include the waters around Iceland. By so guranteeing and extending the neutral zone the US committed themselves to its enforcement, and in so doing brought their naval forces into a shooting confrontation with the KM, particularly its U-Boats.

    On the 10 Apr 1941 American destroyer USS USS Niblack attacked a German submarine off Iceland whilst escorting ships to that country. the submarine escaped without being damaged. It was the first shot fired between the US and Germany.

    8 days later, on the 18 Apr 1941 The United States declared that the Pan-American Security Zone, last defined with the 3 Oct 1939 Declaration of Panama, to be extended to 26 degrees west longitude, 2,300 nautical miles east of New York. It was just 50 nautical miles short of Iceland, which was a major Allied convoy staging area.


    On the 9 Jul 1941 Franklin Roosevelt announced that American troops were to relieve British troops in the occupation of Iceland. Adolf Hitler responded by publicly noting that it was a clear act of aggression against Germany; however, when Erich Raeder asked Hitler whether it was time for the German Navy to deliberately attack American vessels, Hitler still rejected the request.


    The British needed their troops elsewhere, the US was concerned about the strategic importance to both sides of the Atlantic for the island. For both, it made sense to station US troops in Iceland, still officially a neutral (though in a war zone....a technicality conveniently overlooked), moreover Iceland had military understandings with the US dating back to the very beginning of the war.

    The British believed that by stationing US troops in Iceland, it would forestall any invasion plans by the Germans. in this regard they wre wrong.....the Germans were prepring their own invasion under the codename "Ikarus".

    Ikarus actually was developed in response to the British invasion, but never progressed beyond discussion stage. it was largely shelved on logistical reasons....OKM believed the island could be taken by direct assault in a similar manner to Norway, but did not believe that a meaningful military presence could be maintained.
     
  4. psteel

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    #4 psteel, Aug 6, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2012
    It could have made a huge difference to the war naval effort, provided the LW invested in Iceland to interdict allied patrols of the GIUK gap and help to escort convoys too and from Norway as well as scout for Allied convoys. Hitler ordered Operation Icarus days after the British first landed in Iceland. But it could not have been ready before the Summer 1940.

    Axis History Forum • View topic - operation icarus: Germany v Iceland

    It looks like 163 infantry division was readied for the task, while Schenker reports 4 fast passenger liners and merchants were also readied along with 38 special landing pontoons to transfer men and material from ship to shore....something the Germans had been practicing since 1926.

    Hitler cancelled the operation in June 1940 and ordered the resources to be utilized for "Operation Sealion".
     
  5. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    Of course there was never actually any inveasion of Iceland by the Germans, but a much greater chance of success exists in the immediate aftermath of Norway and the campaigns in the West. Unfortunately for the Germans, their navy and transport arms had suffered some pretty heavy losses in both those campaigns, and the Infantry formations needed for the assault, principally the 2nd and 3rd gebigsjager Divs were both recuperating after the losses in Norway. The earliest that the Germans could be expected to mount their operation would be the first or second week in August. Anything earlier was simply impossible to achieve.

    Historically, the British had dispatched the equivalent of one brigade to take the island in May 1940. Once the Germans intentions were clear that they had no immediate plans to invade the British also relaesed their ready reserves for the illfated Dakar operation The land forces committed to this operation consisted of two Royal Marine brigades. Assuming the German instead of not proceeding, continued in their preprations, it is reasonable to extrapolate and assume no committment to the Dakar operation. This releases the Ark Royal two fast battleships and a bevy of cruisers and destroyers to cover the operation should the germans move. Given that the specialist LW antishipping unit was also still recovering from its losses in Norway, the situation does not look good for this hypothetical invasion. There is only one suitable airfield in Iceland and several seaplane areas,, all completely unprotected. The Germans would have been heavily expeosed in this scenario, with very little prospect of re-supply or reinforcement. the airfield at Reykjavik is very close to the shore and sureounded on three sides by ocean....prime targets for RN BBs and cruisers.

    With German forces in Iceland, British priorities are likley to have completely changed. The forces they held in reserve between June and August were admitedly pretty thin, but were likley to consist of roughly 6 Brigade3s, mostly Canadian but also the 146th Infantry Brigade and some bits and pieces.

    There was a reason why Hitler abandoned the projected invasion. The general consensus among the German high command was that they could take the major port, and infrastructure of the island, but would have been very hard pressed to maintain that control or indeed providing reasonable supply to their forces deplooyed to the island. They had enough trouble doing that at Narvik....the situation in Icleand would have been a whole magnitude greater iin difficulty.
     
  6. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    Some details on the likely air and naval forces that might be available to counter a German invasion

    Forces used in Operation "Menace" (Invasion Of Dakar)

    HMS Barham
    Aircraft carrier: HMS Ark Royal
    Battleships: HMS Barham, HMS Resolution
    Heavy cruisers: HMAS Australia, HMS Cumberland, Devonshire
    Light cruiser: HMS Dragon, HMS Delhi
    Destroyers: HMS Echo, Eclipse, Escapade, Faulknor, Foresight, Forester, Fortune, HMS Fury, HMS Greyhound, HMS Inglefield
    Escorts/patrol boats: HMS Bridgewater, Commandant Dominé, Commandant Duboc, Houduce, HMS Milford, Savorgnan de Brazza
    Merchant ships: four Free French and one British
    Transports: SS Westernland (Dutch ocean liner), SS Pennland (Dutch ocean liner), MS Sobieski (Polish ocean liner) and three more
    101Royal Marine Brigade

    Air Squadrons embarked on the Ark Royal

    No 800 Sqn (Skuas), During the German invasion of Norway in 1940, Squadron aircraft shot down six He111s and along with (803) sank the cruiser Konigsberg. In the attack on the Konigsberg, 800 Sqdn provided 5 aircraft and 7 crews while 803 Sqdn provided 11 aircraft and 9 crews. (800) suffered 2 Skuas holed in their wings but these caused no major damage.
    The (800) Squadron CO, Capt RT Partridge, RM was taken POW and four aircraft lost on an attack on the Scharnhorst. Two of these losses had been replaced by July, so it had an effective strength of 9 a/c.
    In July 1940, the squadron was involved in the attack on the French Fleet at Oran. There were no losses to the squadron in this operation. 2 SM 79 bombers shot down off Sardinia in that month. *00 exchanged its Skuas for Fulmars April 1941

    No 803 Sqn (Skuas), Credited with 9 aerial victories during Weserbung On the two squadrons return flight from the Konigsberg operation, while climbing through clouds, one of the Skuas of (803) went into a spin and crashed, killing the leader of (803)'s third section. Lt.BJ Smeeton, and his crewman Mid. (A) F Watkinson. For the period June-August 1940 it had a strength of 11 a/c. All the other aircraft of this squadron made it back to their base on the Orkneys. The sqn re-embarked HMS Ark Royal in May, and reformed in early October with 12 Fulmar, the squadron subsequently was transferred to HMS Formidable and saw service in the Eastern Mediterranean with that carrier, including to provide fighter cover for the Malta convoys, and during with Battle of Cape Matapan where it shot down 2 aircraft and damaged 2 others. The squadron withdrew to Dekheila after HMS Formidable was damaged during the Crete evacuation, and re-equipped with RAF Hurricanes.

    No 810 Sqn (Swordfish),

    No 820 Sqdn (Swordfish)


    For the attack on the french Fleet at Mers el kebir, the British used the following

    Operation Catapult – the attack on Mers el Kebir, was carried out some time earlier, in early July, and involved the following Royal Navy Order of Battle
    HMS Hood – battlecruiser – Flagship of Force H
    HMS Resolution – Revenge class battleship
    HMS Valiant – Queen Elizabeth class battleship
    HMS Ark Royal – aircraft carrier
    HMS Arethusa – Arethusa class light cruiser
    HMS Enterprise – Emerald class light cruiser
    HMS Faulknor – destroyer
    HMS Foxhound – destroyer
    HMS Fearless – destroyer
    HMS Forester – destroyer
    HMS Foresight – destroyer
    HMS Escort – destroyer
    HMS Keppel – destroyer
    HMS Active – destroyer
    HMS Wrestler – destroyer
    HMS Vidette – destroyer
    HMS Vortigern – destroyer

    Other fighter squadrons based in the Orkneys, Northern Scotalnd or on the Furious (the Home Fleet) (Note, this entry is incomplete...I have not yet completed all necessary research

    No 807 Squadron (Fulmars) was formed at Worthy Down in September 1940 as a fighter squadron with Fulmar Is, three embarked on HMS Pegasus in December for fighter catapult operations till February 1941 after which the whole squadron embarked on HMS Furious for convoy duties.
    In April 1941 the squadron was re-equipped with Fulmar IIs and joined HMS Ark Royal for Malta convoy duties in July and September, during which time 15 enemy aircraft were destroyed. It shared with (806) squadron, another probable destroyed and 4 damaged, and 4 with (808) .
    Four squadron aircraft survived the torpedoing of HMS Ark Royal in November 1941 and flew to North Front, Gibraltar, where Fulmars and Sea Hurricanes joined the re-equipped squadron for convoys duties with HMS Argus.


    No 808 Squadron (Fulmars) was formed at Worthy Down on 1 July 1940. The sqn received its carrier qualification from formation but was not actually embarked until November (it was however available) It was a premier fighter unit of the RN, and had its Fulmar Is replaced by the Fulmar IIs in October, before the squadron moved north to RAF Castletown in Caithness, to protect the Home Fleet's base at Scapa Flow. This was a brief assignment, and in the following month the squadron moved south to Donisbristle, where it joined HMS Ark Royal.
    The squadron had an eventful time on the Ark Royal, claiming 19 victories (17 of them in a 4 month period) with No.807 Squadron in ten months. After arriving in the Mediterranean at the start of November the squadron was involved in attacks on Italian airfields on Sicily on 9 November and in the inconclusive action off Cape Spartivento on 27 November.
     
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