A Tale of Two Harbor Defense Organizations–Part Two

This is the second in a series comparing two incidents from World War II in which ships tried to force entry into a hostile harbor. Part one looked at the bloody, but ultimately successful British assault on the fortified port of St Nazaire. This part will look a German attempt to force their way into Oslo, Battle of Drøbak Sound. Part three considers what these incidents can tell us about what it takes to stop a terrorist attack on an American port using a ship as a weapon.


Early in World War II, After the invasion of Poland, but before the invasion of France, the Germans invaded Norway to secure their access to Swedish steel and Iron ore and deny it to the British. (Denmark was also invaded on the same day, to secure airfields to support the Norway invasion.) Unlike their other invasions, there was no direct land route into Norway, so the invasion had to came by sea. With the Royal Navy and their French ally dominate at sea, the transit would be risky, but resistance from the Norwegians was expected to be light. Norway was at peace. They had only a small Navy and standing Army. Their defense depended primarily on mobilizing reservists. If they could be defeated before they mobilized, it would be a quick and relatively inexpensive campaign.

Six separate task forces would seize critical facilities all along the Norwegian coast. Rather than a Normandy style assault, the invasion of Norway looked like several simultaneous Special Forces operations. Troops would be landed from warships that could make the transit quickly. It would all be over before the Norwegian military could react–or so they thought.

The Target:

The particular operation we will examine was to seize the seat of power in Norway. It was intended to capture the capital, Oslo, and with it, the King, the Norwegian cabinet, the Storting (Norwegian Parliament) and the national gold reserve.

Continue reading

A Tale of Two Harbor Defense Organizations–Part One

This is the start of a three part series, the story of two harbor defense organizations, how one, already at war, well trained and well armed, failed to stop a small force, while another, ostensibly at peace, facing a vastly stronger force, and in many ways poorly prepared, managed to stop their enemy.

I’ll put both stories in context, but what I found most interesting and most relevant to current Coast Guard missions was the means employed and the relative success of each in stopping a hostile ship from reaching its objective inside a port. The third part will talk about implications for the Coast Guard.

File:Saint Nazaire Harbour 1942.png
First, the St Nazaire raid. This is normally told from the prospective of the heroic British sailors and commandos who successfully ran a small ship (about the size of a 210) into the gates of the only dry dock on the Atlantic coast of occupied Europe where major German warships, including the Battleship Tirpitz, could be serviced. There the four and a half tons of explosive packed into the bow of the ship, exploded, wrecking the dry dock gates and disabling it for the remainder of the war. Continue reading

Working with Army Air for Coast and Harbor Defense

Here is an interesting explanation of how a command in Korea used a little out of the box thinking to address an unconventional threat. In a bit different circumstances, the NCC (Naval Component Commander) might be Coast Guard, and a similar command arrangement might be useful. (Its also possible Coast Guard units might find themselves in Korea again.)

Thanks to Grandlogistics for the link.