The best books about Norway during WWII

Who am I?

I am a trained historian and past educator at a historical museum. I fell into my passion for Norway during WWII after I dreamed about a man in the snow surrounded by German soldiers. I was encouraged to write the scene down. That scene became the prologue to The Jøssing Affair, but not before going to libraries and reading countless secondary and primary resources, interviewing numbers of Norwegian-Americans who settled in my area in the 1950s, and eating a lot of lefse. This passion of over 28 years has taken me to Norway to walk Trondheim where my novels take place and forge friendships with local historians and experts.


I wrote...

The Jossing Affair

By J.L. Oakley,

Book cover of The Jossing Affair

What is my book about?

British-trained Norwegian intelligence agent Tore Haugland has enough worries when he is sent to a tiny fishing hamlet on the west coast of Norway to set up a line to receive arms and agents from England via the “Shetland Bus.” Posing as a deaf fisherman, his mission is complicated when he falls in love with Anna Fromme, the German widow of an old family friend. Accused of betraying her husband, she has a small daughter and secrets of her own. When Haugland is betrayed and left for dead, he will not only have to find the one who betrayed him and destroyed his network, but also prove that the one he loved was not the informer.

The books I picked & why

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Gold Run: The Rescue of Norway's Gold Bullion from the Nazis, April 1940

By Robert Pearson,

Book cover of Gold Run: The Rescue of Norway's Gold Bullion from the Nazis, April 1940

Why this book?

The German invasion of Norway was sudden and thorough, capturing major ports from Oslo to Bergen and Trondheim on a single day in April. Their only failure was not capturing King Haakon, the cabinet, and Norway’s gold bullion. Robert Pearson’s Gold Run is a thrilling account of the efforts of “a visionary bank chief,” loyal Norwegians, and ships and men of the British Royal Navy. While under bombardment, immense courage was displayed as 50 tons of gold were moved by road, rail, and fishing boats. Pearson provides documents, photos, and personal accounts as well as a great narrative. If you don’t know anything about Norway during WWII, this book is a great way to understand the history of the invasion, how it unfolded and what was at stake. 


The Shetland Bus: A WWII Epic Of Courage, Endurance, and Survival

By David Howarth,

Book cover of The Shetland Bus: A WWII Epic Of Courage, Endurance, and Survival

Why this book?

The Shetland Bus was a great operation fighting against the German occupation of Norway and David Howarth, second in command of the organization, brings a personal and knowledgeable telling of its history in The Shetland Bus. This book inspired me to write my novel. It is an amazing story of courage and skill. Fishermen on the west coast of Norway began to run fishing boats to England at the beginning of the war. Known as the North Sea Traffic, it eventually became formalized under British command. The Bus only worked during the dark of winter, when sea and weather conditions were dangerous, bringing over arms and agents, taking back refugees. Later, submarine chasers, the Hessa, Hitra, and Vigra, served from 1943 to the end of the war. 


The 12th Man: A WWII Epic of Escape and Endurance

By Astrid Karlsen Scott, Tore Haug,

Book cover of The 12th Man: A WWII Epic of Escape and Endurance

Why this book?

The Twelfth Man by Norwegian-American writer Astrid Karlsen Scott is the dramatic story of Norwegian agent Jan Baalsrud’s survival after a SOE mission gone wrong. A first account of his ordeal was published in 1955, but this is a more accurate telling. I like her in-depth approach to uncovering the true facts. On one of her research trips to Norway, she teamed up with Dr. Tore Haug who was also investigating Baalsrud’s story of survival. They were able to meet and interview all the survivors who helped the agent or who were indirectly involved and had knowledge of his story. You not only see what is at stake for the hero of the story, but for the people who are helping him escape the Nazis’ search for him. 


Skis Against the Atom: The Exciting, First Hand Account of Heroism and Daring Sabotage During the Nazi Occupation of Norway

By Knut Haukelid,

Book cover of Skis Against the Atom: The Exciting, First Hand Account of Heroism and Daring Sabotage During the Nazi Occupation of Norway

Why this book?

Skis Against the Atom is a classic action story from WWII and about one of the most famous commando raids. It is the first-hand account of the heavy water raid by one of the men who was part of it, Knut Haukelid. First published in 1954, this book just pulled me into the dangerous and heroic actions of a group of young men who undertook the destruction of the heavily-guarded plant at Rjukan in Telemark. It gave me ideas for my own book concerning not only the planning and execution of missions, but the camaraderie of the men doing it. One of my favorite stories in the book happened after the plant was blown up. It’s almost as thrilling as the actual raid. It’s a great read and constantly in print.


Occupied: A Novel Based on a True Story

By Kurt Blorstad,

Book cover of Occupied: A Novel Based on a True Story

Why this book?

Occupied is a fictionalized story of the author’s father, Trygve Borstad, during WWII. I recommend this book because I think the novel gives a realistic portrayal of ordinary life in occupied Norway as he tells the story of his family and their struggles to survive during the German occupation of their country. Trygve was only 7 years old in 1936 when he was living with his grandparents in Norway. His father had gone back to the States to find a place for the family to live and raise money for their passage for them to travel. Ten years will pass until he will see his father again. As he grows into a teenager, he is entrusted with a job that will protect a resistance group in the town. 


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Norway, World War 2, and the British Royal Navy?

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The British Royal Navy Explore 29 books about the British Royal Navy

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