John

Iceland in WWII

25 posts in this topic

I beleive they did very little, if I recall correctly they were 'Occupied' by US forces, along with some Brits, to make sure the Germans didn't do the same. I guess Iceland would have been a useful stopover for U-Boats, plus an airstrip would have been really handy for convoy spotting.

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Did the Allies use it as a Strategic post, or was it just 'occupied' to stop the Axis forces having it? I assume they must have made some attempts to fortify it.

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It wasn't a popular posting ! Will find out what units were there, the Yank presence was fairly substantial, and the Icelanders resented their 'Visitors' throughout the war.

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Guys,

This is an old post, but due to what I think is "ignorance" I felt compelled to clear the facts. Which are:

1) Before the war, many German scientist were all over the country doing so experiments, and its now known that they were looking for sites for airfields or other places of military importance.

2) Before the war started, 3 German men, claiming to be from Lufthansa, went to Iceland to visit Prime Minister Hermann J?nsson. They asked him permission to build a proper airport, but at that time the only airfield in Iceland was a poor grass strip. PM "smelled a rat" and refused them, saying the Icelandic people intended to build there own airfield. This made the 3 man unhappy and they started to make threats that this could result in a cancilation of trade aggrements between the 2 countries. The Icelandic PM, stood his ground, and the 3 men went away unhappy. Later were found out to be Officers of the Luftwaffe!

It has been acknowlaged by historians that know of this, that if the Germans would of had an airport in Iceland before the conflicts started, the war would of ended later then 1945, as the Germans would of held "the key" to the North Atlantic, as said by Winston Churchill himself. The one thing that scared PM W.C. the most was the U-boat threat. Historians also find it interesting that Iceland, the poorest Caucausian country in the world at the time, would stand up to Hitler, as he had just "walked" into his neigboring countries, with out firing a shoot.

3) Iceland had one of the highest casualite rates in WWII, per capita. (% lost vs. total population) most of them sailors, sailing with hard needed goods like fish to the UK.

4) Hitler had a plan to invade Iceland, called Operation Ikarus, which was suposed to be carried out with Operation Sealion (Invasion of UK) but since the Germans lost the Battle of Britain air conflict, both Operations were supended.

5) Allied aircraft based in Iceland, sunk and attacked a large number of U-boats, and shoot down a few Luftwaffe aircraft.

6) Iceland was invaded by the British, 10th may 1940. The Icelandic government had on 3 prior ocasions, denied PM W. C. the right to place UK garrison troops there, due to the neutrality of the island. PM W.C. knew the island was very important and attacked the country, giving the Commanding Gen. Sturgis orders that he was allowed to loose "x" number of men, before returning fire. So determind was the British PM in taking the island. This has always been called a "friendly takeover" but its really nothing shy of an invasion. Only problem was that the only armed guards that the country had, was the 100 so strong Police force, and on 10th may, they were 3 hours away from the capital on firearms trainning!

7) Upto 60.000 allied soldiers were based in Iceland, with men from US Marines, US Army, US Navy, US Air Corps, Royal Navy, RAF, RCAF, Norweigian 330 "Free" RAF sq, and many many more.

8) Iceland played a big role in Operation Bolero, ferry flight of US made aircraft / bombers via Nova Scotia-Greenland-Iceland to the UK, which went on to bombing runs to Germany. When Meeks field (Now Keflavik International) was opened in desember 1943, it had the longest runnway in the world. I have a diary from a P-38 pilot based there, that says one day 117 B-17 were parked all over, due to bad weather conditions.

9) The Allies built big Hospital camps in Iceland to treat war wounded.

10) Out of the large number of allied soldiers killed in Iceland, mainly due to accidents and bad weather, the highest ranking was Gen. Frank M. Andrews, Commander of all US Armed Forces in ETO. His sucsessor was Gen. Eisenhower. Andrews Air Force Base in the US is named after this Gen. I have reports of about 400 aircraft crashes in Iceland, WWII.

I could go on, but I think this is something to restart this topic from someone that actually knows something about it. It really pisses my off how little reqognition Iceland gets for its contribution to the WWII effort, specially due to all the men and women we lost. Though not a great number, they were a large % portion of the population at the time. Even today, the total population is not over 300.000. The Americans left the country for a few years after WWII, but came back in 1951, due to the new cold war situation with Russia. It is still here.

Regards

Hinrik Steinsson

Curator

Aviation War History Museum

Reykjavik

Iceland

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Excellent post Hinrik, many thanks for the information (most of which i was unaware of....) I'm sure our members meant no offence when they requested information....

Amos.

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Hi Amos,

I did not mean to sound mean, but I meant to sound firm. Thanks for your positive comments, and if there is any interest, I can post photos to keep this post going to an interesting descausion,

Intersting thought though.....all the US soldiers killed in Iceland in WWII were exumed, and reburried in USA. The British soliders and German soliders are still there. The German site is small and memorable, because there were so few of them killed there. There graves, are being carfull looked after by the German and British Emabassy, which now ironically, share the same small building together in Reykjavik.

Regards

Hinrik

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Hinrick,

I have learned a lot form your post. Please do continue with this topic. I would appreciate any photos you post!

How many Icelander's were killed in WW2?

You stated that there is a German Cemetary there? What happened to them? Accidents as with the Allies, plane crashes?

Regards

Paul Reck

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hinrik-

you are truly an ambassador for your country,

and can be proud of your body of knowledge

and skill in expressing it!

i want to learn something new everyday:

you have helped a great deal.

my thanks and best wishes!

joe

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I know the Coast Guard always appreciated the hospitality of the Icelanders when they pulled into port from long Greenland patrols during the war and long afterwards. I'm sorry I never had the chance to visit there during my career everyone I ever talked to about Iceland enjoyed it and I believe there was a Loran station there at one time.

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yeah , very informative! i did not know anything about it. photos and more info would be great!

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Guys,

Thanks for the positive comments.

With out looking in a book, I think around 450 Icelanders were killed, out of a total population of roughly 100.000....hence around 5% ot the total population.

There are 17 Luftwaffe aircrew members burried in a single large grave in Iceland, members of 4 different aircraft: Heinkel He-111, 2x Junkers Ju-88 and crew of a Focke Wulf Condor Fw-200. One of the Fw-200 crew was killed on his birthday of 23 years. I have the bomb selector unit of that aircraft in my collection, and I have meet the retited US Army Air Corps / Air Force, Maj. Gen. Ingelido, that shoot the aircraft down. He had 12 air victories in WWII, and later became a Commander of an Aircraft testing squadron.

At the moment, I am in China, so I have limited access to my photos, put I will gladly share the once I have, as photos is what I have most of in my collection, or around 1500 WWII - Icleand related photos, most never before published, and some marked with "G-2" "Not for publication" stamps.

Sincerely

Hinrik

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Hi Hinrik,

Really great post. Thank you very much. Oh, and please pardon my ignorance.... there really is very little information available on Iceland during the Wars.

I would love to see and hear more on the topic, particularly of your museum.

Are you enjoying China?

Regards,

John

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Hello Hinrik,

Great posts, and great information!! Thank you.

Perhaps you should write a book on the subject. Maybe something like a photo book and narrative??

Thanks again.

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John / Jim,

There are a number of good books available on Iceland in WWII, but most are in Icelandic, and therefor of no use to you. Iceland was settled by Vikings out of Norway in the year 960. We are a Nordic race and the "do you live in snow-houses?" question can get a little boring! hahaha.

For those interested in reading more, then here is a link to a book called "Outpost in the North Atlantic: Marines in the defence of Iceland" :

http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USMC/USMC-C-Iceland.html

It was written by USMC Colonel James A. Donovan.

I don?t have any plans at the moment to write a book. But I have been helping a friend of mine with a series of books on Iceland -WWII. Some of my photos are in the books.

Regards

Hinrik

Ps. China is different. I work for an airline so I travel much. Just came back from Kuala Lumpur now.

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Hinrik

Thanks (again) for the info. My late father in law was a radio operator on the trans-Atlantic Ferry Command flights - Labrador to Bluie (sp?) in Greenland to Scotland, but I know he put down in Iceland at least twice. I also beleiev that it was off Iceland where the Queen Mary had her foredeck "peeled back like a tin can lid" by a freak wave as she served as a troop transport late in WWII.

Do the Americans still have their base there? I saw in our local newspaper last summer that Icelanders now fly to St John's, Newfoundland to shop! Seems like a long way to come for cheap shoes, but I know distance is a relative thing when one lives "north of 50".

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Peter,

Interestings to hear about your father in law. Do you have any of his things?

Greenland had 3 main airfields that I know off, called "Bluie-west 1" or (BW-1) on the south tip. "Bluie-west 8" or (BW-8) on the west coast and "Bluie-East 2" (BE-2) on the east coast.

Did your father in law say he only landed 2 times in Iceland? Sounds a bit little. Maybe he did some trips through the Azores islands aswell?

The American Army was in Iceland from 1941-1947. Then they came back in 1951 and have been here ever since. Iceland became a very important place again in the cold war. Iceland does not have any Military on its own, besides the small Coast Guard unit. Now with the cold war over and the US cutting back on defence spending, the 2 countries are at present meeting over the future of the base, which might be partially closed down.

Regards

Hinrik

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Hinrik

Lawson had never bothered to apply for his medals - not given automatically to civilian employeees - but after we'd talked it over he did. he got a 1939 Star, Atlantic Star and War Medal and canadian Volunteer Service Medal, which I had named on the reverse/edges and mounted with some of his cap badges. His widow has those in their bedroom and also his cap and a son has his old flying jacket. No log books.

I may be wrong about only twice into Iceland - i'd thought he saids they went Greenland - Scotland non-stop if they made Iceland. I do recall he said they had to make two turns going up a narrow fjord to get into the Bluie feild, on minimal fuel.

Yes, he did do some Azores trips near the end but quit in Feb '45 after many of the same model of planes he was delivering blew up enroute due to leaky longrange gas tanks in the fuselages!

Hinrik

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Hi everyone!!

From reading this forum I was wondering if anyone could offer any help on medals or awards that any Icelandic people received for their service during WW2.

My Grandfather served during the war on a merchant shipping fleet and travelled extensively from Reykjavik Iceland to Fleetwood in England. He supplied vital food supplies and cargo to be utilized during the war. The route he travelled was primarily across the North Atlantic ocean and the Arctic ocean - this was of course an extremely dangerous zone at the time.

If anyone could offer any information that would be great. There is little info on Iceland's involvement with WW2 and I am trying my best to get my Grandfather recognition for his service- which greatly helped the UK at the time. He is 94 years old :)

Thank you!

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Hello Emma,

As I understand it, the Merchant Navy sailors were not treated with the respect they deserve.

If I ship was blown from right under them, that same day they were put on "unpaid leave" as

they were not "sailing" anymore. Not sure, but think they did not qualify for medals like the Atlantic

star. I do have a nice Merchant Navy lapel in my collection. I guess you can use google for more

information.

Regards

Hinrik

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ID: 23   Posted (edited)

As Hinrik says, Emma, most merchant sailors got little credit for work which was arguably at least as dangerous as that faced by the RAF Bomber Command and RN, at least if they served in the North Atlantic.  Here in Canada the government only recognized MN service within the last decade and a half - long after many survivors had passed away - and issued medals to those who applied, as there ws apparently no central registry from which to draw the names.  I also know that a Norweigan who served in our MN - on trawlers, I believe - is recognized as a 'kind of' veteran but has not been able to get medical care from our veteran's medical system, at least as of several months ago when his story briefly made the papers here.

Sadly, I suspect that to get the infromation you need you will have to locate and apply directly to the Icelandic authorities to establish what sort of recognition they gave their citizens and how best to track your granfer's service and find out whether he is entitled to any offical recognition and or benefits.  The good news is that, as far as I know, Iceland's government and civil service are very modern and, not surprisingly, used to dealing with people who don't speak Icelandic.  The other good news seems to be that any query about 'Iceland' + 'merchant navy' produces numerous references to WWII, so this is not an obscure topic.  I'd suggest you fire off an email to the Icelandic Ministry of Welfare  -  postur@vel.is - or one of the other Ministries on this site - http://www.government.is/g-offices/government-offices/ - and see what happens.

I hope this is of some small help!

Peter

Edited by peter monahan

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Hi All, 

Thanks for your responses! Since my first post I have sourced a lot of historical documentation and evidence for my Grandfathers Medal application which I aim to submit to the UK Govt Defense force in the next 2 weeks or so!

From Icelandic National archives/ transport agency and Reykjavik city files I was able to source- an image of Sverrir EA 20- the Merchant ship he served on from 1942-1944, transporting fish from Iceland to Fleetwood England. 

A full crew list including my grandfather and the captain's signatures- with proof (in signature) they were travelling to the UK to transport goods. 

I sourced a formal letter from the ships captain - requesting from Icelandic Government office of transport (in 1944) to travel without escort or supporting ship convoys to the UK. 

I obtained the registration of ship Sverrir for the years my grandfather worked on it. 

I also (coincidentally) got my hands on an article that just happened to come out in Iceland with a man who build a replica of the ship my Grandfather worked on and this was published Nationally in Iceland.

Even with all this proof and a letter I am writing to help his case- I am still nervous whether he will be recognized. I sure hope he receives even a merchant service badge at least. After all no one can argue against the fact that many Merchant ships from from an array of nations delivered vital supplies and food to the UK which helped them at a crucial time! 

 

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Let's hope he gets the recognition he clearly deserves.  Volunteering to sail from iceland to the UK without escort counts as brave all by itself, never mind both the marine and military dangers along the way.

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