The war in Scandinavia
After the occupation of Poland, Germany and the Soviet Union embarked on further conquests. The Soviet Union invaded Finland on November 30, 1939. Surprisingly, the Red Army (as the Soviet Army was called) found it difficult, despite its quantitative advantage (a force of five Soviet Armies attacked), the Finnish army composed of the equivalent to two armies at the most and enjoyed the advantage in the quality of weapons and equipment - to defeat the small Finnish army that was aided by the harsh environmental conditions of its homeland. Despite the investment of huge amounts of soldiers and artillery, the Russians were unable to defeat Finland.
The success of the Finnish defense along with the threat of an Anglo-French expeditionary force to help Finland (in addition to many volunteers from all over the free world who enlisted to help as individuals) forced the Soviet Union to end the war on March 12, 1940, with the Moscow peace agreement. According to this agreement, Finland maintained its independence but transferred the eastern part of Karelia to the Soviet Union. The West followed the stubborn struggle of the Finns and prepared an Anglo-French expeditionary force that was supposed to land in Finland and assist it in its war against the Soviet Union. However, the war ended before this expedition was under way.
In addition, Stalin annexed the Baltic States through pressure on their leadership, as well as territories from Romania through their occupation in 1940 in accordance with the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact.
Several lessons were learnt from the difficulties encountered by the Soviets in the "Winter War" as the Russian-Finnish, War was called. From the military point of view the lesson learnt was that of the necessity of adapting to conditions in the field in order to fight effectively. In addition, the mobility tactics as adopted by the Finns proved to be successful once again (the first time was when Germany conquered Poland). Hitler watched with interest and perhaps pleasure the failure of the Soviet army against the small Finnish state, and came to conclusion that the German army could easily defeat the Soviet army despite its numerical advantage. This encouraged him to attack the Soviet Union later in 1941.
The events in Scandinavia were among the causes of the fall of the French government due to the failure of Daladier's policy and which was replaced by a new government led by Paul Reynaud, a strong and courageous leader who did everything in his power to defend the country against the expected German invasion.
Germany invaded Norway and Denmark on 9 April 1940. Denmark surrendered without fighting on the first day of the invasion. Within two months, the Germans succeeded in capturing most of Norway's territory in a combined operation from the sea, air and land, and with surprisingly small forces and means.
The British navy and troops of a British army, and French Expeditionan forces (the expeditionary force which had been destined for Finland) landed at Narvik in northern Norway tried to repel the Germans to no avail and were forced to evacuate with heavy losses. The occupation cost Germany about 1,300 dead, while the Allies lost about 7,000 men. The British rightly regarded the fighting in Norway as a resounding defeat.
Germany conquered Norway because of two main reasons - strategic and economic. First of all, the threat of neutral Norway and Sweden entering the war on the side of the Allies and hereby denying raw materials to Germany seemed real with the assembly of the expeditionary force which had been destined for Finland which to the Germans meant the presence of a large Allied army in Scandinavia. In addition the British Fleet laid mines in Norwegian territorial waters to prevent the flow of iron ore to Germany, A further aim was as to prevent British control of the ports and the safe guarding the German rear. Secondly from Norway there is convenient and fast access to the iron ore in western Sweden. Sweden remained neutral under the shadow of the German threat, and having little choice she continued to supply iron ore to the German military industries. Thus Germany completed her control over the whole of Scandinavia.
Two important results of the conquest of Norway were: military - Hitler gained important ports for the German navy in the Battle of the Atlantic and politically, the Chamberlain government in England fell and Churchill took office as Prime Minister on May 9, 1940. He later led Britain and the Commonwealth to final victory.