Thursday, May 14, 2015


J.21A-1 Unit: 1 Flygdivision, F8 Flygflottilj Serial: 8/A (c/n.21002)
Second prototype of fighter J-21A-1, as it looks in early 1945, when the fighter was transferred to F8 Wing for tests. The airplane got standard SAAB-21 camouflage scheme: upper surfaces - Dark Brown/Dark Green, undersurfaces - Light Blue/Grey. Artist: © Miroslav Balous Source: Letecktvi I kosmonautika (L+K), 1989, No.2

Junkers B.3D (Ju.86K-13) "Arianne" Unit: Flygflottilj F17 Serial: M/17
Ronneby, Sweden, 1944. Ju87K's served from 1937 till 1958 in the air force. Modified B-3 used by F17 for a short period. Artist: © Seweryn Fleischer Source: "Junkers Ju.86", Wydawnictwo Militaria, No.142, (c) Wydawnictwo "MILITARIA", Warszawa, 2001. ISBN: 83-7219-200-7

At the outbreak of World War II, Sweden had a population of about 6.5 million. With a democratic government, it was a longtime neutral power and had not fought a war since 1814. The nation was militarily weak, possessing an army of 403,000 men and no tanks. The Swedish air force consisted of 596 aircraft, and the country’s navy had just 47 ships in service as of September 1939. The Swedish economy was heavily dependent on foreign trade. Although highly vulnerable, Sweden’s remote northern location and its position among buffer states—Norway, Denmark, and Finland—afforded some protection. Its greatest natural resource, from the standpoint of strategic materiel, was iron ore, which it possessed in abundance. Before and during the war, Sweden was a major supplier of iron to Germany. 

In spring 1939, Adolf Hitler proposed a nonaggression pact with Sweden. The Swedish government spurned the proposal and, fearing Hitler, attempted to form a Nordic defense union. When that failed, it proposed a Swedish-Finnish alliance, which came to nothing after the Soviet Union objected. When the war began in September 1939, Sweden declared itself neutral. With the outbreak of the Russo-Finnish War, Sweden supplied Finland with strategic materials and permitted the recruitment of a volunteer corps for Finnish service. But when the Allies called on Sweden for permission to transit its territory, they were refused. After Germany occupied Denmark and Norway in 1940, however, Sweden yielded to menacing German demands for right of transit. Sweden revoked this permission in 1943, by which time Germany had been sufficiently weakened that it was no longer in a position to intimidate Sweden into compliance with its wishes. 

From early in the war, Sweden beckoned to many oppressed and endangered people as a safe haven. Large numbers of Norwegians and Danes sought refuge in Sweden, using the country as a staging point in a flight to Britain.

Further reading: Packard, Jerrold M. Neither Friend Nor Foe: The European Neutrals in World War II. Portland, Ore.: Fireword, 2000; Scott, Franklin D. Sweden: The Nation’s History. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1989.

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