Controlling the seas

The Second World War was fought on land, in the air, and at sea – an all-encapsulating conflict which affected most of the countries in the World – including many that were neutral. The naval aspect of the war was of critical importance to both the Axis and Allied powers and the fight for the control of the oceans and seas was a recurring feature of the war.

And there was so much that needed to be done: Merchant ships to transport vital war materials, anti-U boat patrols, invading obscure, isolated yet strategically placed islands that could not be left unguarded or ignored, the rescue of downed airmen or in some cases, entire armies and miles of coastline which required monitoring less the enemy decide to invade. It was inevitable that both military and civilian ships of all shapes and sizes would find themselves in the frontline.

Theatres of war

The different naval theatres of war played a crucial role in shaping the outcome of the conflict. The Atlantic theatre was vital for the Allies to maintain their supply routes, and it was the site of the Battle of the Atlantic – the ongoing, relentless, six-year struggle, where German U-boats threatened to starve Britain of resources.

The vast Pacific theatre was the site of some of the largest naval battles in history, including Midway and the Coral Sea, where the huge Japanese and Allied naval forces fought for control of strategic islands and shipping lanes, often without the warships from either side ever actually seeing each other.

Instead, reconnaissance planes would patrol the skies, scanning the horizon for any indicator of enemy shipping. Once spotted, torpedo and dive bombers would be launched and hurled at the enemy targets before rushing back to refuel and rearm, desperate to get back into the air before the opposing side could retaliate in kind.

In the balmy Mediterranean, both sides fought to secure their supply routes to North Africa, and the while the Axis and Allied air forces and navies attempted to disrupt those supply lines. The see-sawing war of attrition between the Allied desert forces and Rommel’s Afrika Korps was sucking up resources on both sides and with little developed infrastructure in North Africa itself, getting supplies across the shallow Mediterranean from Europe was the only realistic way for both sides to maintain their military efforts.

The Indian Ocean theatre was also important, as it was here that British and Japanese navies first clashed. With the Japanese empire increasingly sprawling its way across the far east, the Allies’ needed to secure their oil supplies from the Middle East to have any chance of stopping them. However, with such a huge, global Empire to defend, the Royal Navy found itself at times stretched thin, only able to maintain its commitments with the help of men and ships from that very same Empire.

Each of these naval theatres of war had its unique challenges, from harsh, freeing weather conditions in the North Atlantic to the vast, almost unimaginable distances of the Pacific, making logistics and communications critical.

The naval battles in each theatre also shaped the course of the war, with decisive victories such as the Battle of Midway and the sinking of the formidable Bismarck inflicting huge blows on the Axis. The naval actions also helped to open up new fronts, such as the Allied landings in North Africa and the Pacific islands.

Key events

The naval aspect of The Second World War was characterized by a series of major events that had a significant impact on the course of the war.

From 1939 until the end of the war in 1945, the Battle of the Atlantic was fought between German U-boats and surface ships and Allied naval forces in the North Atlantic. The Germans sought to disrupt the supply lines between North America and Britain, while the Allies sought to protect these vital lifelines. Great Britain was reliant on importing goods from overseas to prevent starvation and being forced to sue for peace, and it was this battle – more than any other – which caused the pugnacious British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, the most nightmares. This epic battle was fought throughout the duration of the war and resulted in the loss of over 3,500 Allied ships, as well as scores of German U-Boats.

In December 1939, the German pocket battleship Graf Spee was on a commerce raiding mission in the South Atlantic. After sinking several Allied merchant ships, it was hunted by a British squadron. In a brief engagement near the coast of Uruguay, the Graf Spee – although having battered and almost sunk one of its pursuers, sustained damage and withdrew to the neutral port of Montevideo. With the British closing in, the captain, Hans Langsdorff, decided to scuttle the ship to avoid capture. The scuttling caused significant damage to the ship, and Langsdorff later committed suicide.

The Battle of the Mediterranean from June 1940 to May 1943, was a series of engagements fought between the British and Italian navies in the Mediterranean, as they wrestled for control of that region. The British sought to protect their shipping lanes to North Africa and the Middle East, while the Italians sought to control access to the Suez Canal. The battle was fought throughout the war and resulted in the sinking of several major warships on both sides.

The Hunt for the Bismarck was a naval operation undertaken by the British Royal Navy in May 1941, following the sinking of HMS Hood by the German battleship Bismarck. The pursuit involved numerous British warships, including battleships and aircraft carriers. After several days of searching, the marauding Bismarck was finally located and attacked by British aircraft and ships, eventually sinking on the 27th of May 1941. The sinking of the Bismarck was a significant victory for the British and demonstrated the effectiveness of coordinated naval operations. It was a significant blow for the much weaker Kriegsmarine, leaving them with only a few remaining capital ships.

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese launched a surprise attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in one of the most notorious acts of the war. Over 350 Japanese aircraft, launched from six aircraft carriers, attacked the base, inflicting significant damage on the US Pacific Fleet. Four US battleships were wrecked along with other various other vessels, and over 2,400 Americans were killed. The attack brought the US into The Second World War, as President Roosevelt declared war on Japan the following day. The attack on Pearl Harbor is often considered a turning point in the war due to it dragging the USA – a major industrial power – into the war on the side of the Allies.

Taking place from the 4th until the 8th May 1942, the Battle of the Coral Sea was fought between the Japanese and American navies in the Pacific. The Japanese sought to capture Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea, while the Americans sought to defend their territory. The battle resulted in the loss of one Japanese aircraft carrier and marked the first time that aircraft carriers had engaged each other in battle.

The Battle of Midway occurred from the 4th – 7th June 1942 and was fought between the Japanese and American navies in the Pacific. The Japanese sought to gain control of the Pacific islands and defeat the American Navy, while the Americans sought to defend their territory and regain some sort of initiative.

Despite the Japanese initially gaining the advantage against the smaller US fleet, the battle eventually – due to several key decisions on both sides - resulted in the loss of four Japanese aircraft carriers and marked a turning point in the Pacific War. It was a catastrophic defeat for Imperial Japan and one which their navy never recovered from.

The Battle of Leyte Gulf was a major naval battle that occurred in October 1944 near the Philippines. The battle involved the combined American and Australian forces against the now diminished  Japanese Navy.

The Japanese plan was to lure the US fleet away from the Philippines while their remaining forces engaged the Allied ground troops on Leyte Island. However, the US fleet was able to intercept the Japanese and a massive naval battle ensued. The Allies emerged victorious, and the Japanese lost the majority of their remaining surface fleet. The battle is considered one of the largest naval battles in history and the decisive victory that shattered Japan's naval power in the Pacific.

Doctrines, strategy and tactics


  • Provides overarching principles, beliefs, and practices for military forces
  • Guides decision-making and actions across a range of military operations
  • Includes guidelines for training, leadership, and decision-making


  • Refers to the overarching plan for achieving military objectives
  • Involves the use of military resources to achieve specific goals
  • Determines the direction and focus of military operations


  • Refers to the specific actions taken in order to achieve military objectives
  • Involves the use of military units and equipment in a coordinated way
  • Designed to achieve specific objectives in the context of broader strategy and doctrine


The United States entered The Second World War with a relatively small Navy, but quickly ramped up production and became a dominant naval power. The US Navy developed a variety of doctrines, strategies, and tactics to achieve its objectives in the war.

The US Navy's doctrine during The Second World War was focused on achieving sea control and supporting ground operations. This involved developing the capabilities to operate in both the Atlantic and Pacific theatres, and the ability to project power over long distances. The US Navy also emphasized the importance of amphibious operations, which involved landing troops and supplies on enemy-held beaches.

Naval strategy for the USA in the Pacific theatre was centred around the concept of island hopping. This involved capturing key islands in the Pacific and using them as bases for further operations. The strategy was designed to bypass heavily fortified enemy positions and avoid costly frontal assaults. In the Atlantic theatre, the US Navy focused on protecting Allied shipping lanes and disrupting German U-boat operations.

The US Navy's tactics during The Second World War implemented a variety of innovations, such as radar and sonar, that helped to detect and track enemy ships and submarines. They were also at the forefront of developing a number of new technologies, such as the landing craft, that were critical to the success of amphibious operations in both Europe and the Pacific theatres.

One of the key tactics employed by the US Navy was the use of carrier-based aircraft to strike enemy targets. This tactic allowed the US Navy to project power over long distances and attack targets that were beyond the range of other weapons. Although Imperial Japan were certainly no slouches in this regard, by the end of the war it was the USA who proved themselves masters of this type of long-range warfare.

Admiral Chester Nimitz was the Commander-in-Chief of the US Pacific Fleet during The Second World War and played a key role in the development and execution of the US Navy's island-hopping strategy. Admiral William Halsey was another prominent US Navy admiral who led the naval forces during several key battles, including the Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944.

Much of the success of the Navy was down to the quality of the leadership which demonstrated a measured, aggressive approach and a willingness to adapt and adopt new strategies by not allowing itself to be tied to tradition or outdated doctrines.


The Imperial Japanese Navy played a significant role during the war, particularly in the Pacific theatre. Their naval doctrine was centred around achieving a decisive battle, at least partially in recognition of their precarious state regarding natural resources – they didn’t really have any. Japan’s whole ability to wage war was based on obtaining access to various, vital war materials such as rubber, oil etc. They were grimly aware of how much they lagged behind countries such as the USA in regards to industrial capabilities yet, as they increasingly expanded, would be destined to face them across the battlefield.

Counting on a superior martial attitude to the Americans, they felt that a sudden, powerful blow would shake the US so much as to discourage it from ever trying to retaliate, or at the very least significantly delay them from entering the conflict. They believed that if they could defeat the US Navy in a single, decisive battle, they could force the US to sue for peace and retain their empire in the Pacific. This doctrine was embodied in the idea of the "kantai kessen," or "decisive battle."

However, the Japanese were never able to achieve a decisive victory against the US Navy. They certainly tried though; the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 was an attempt to cripple the US Navy and allow the Japanese a free hand in the Pacific. The attack certainly hurt the US Navy, leaving them reeling and bleeding, like a boxer on the ropes. However, the Japanese gamble ultimately failed though, the US Navy escaping a knockout blow, leaving them to slowly and inexorably regroup, rebuild and by refocusing its efforts on its carrier force, eventually grind the Japanese down.

In terms of strategy, the Japanese were nothing if not ambitious and aggressive. It focused on seizing territory and resources in the Pacific to support their war effort. This involved the capture of key islands and ports, such as the Philippines and Singapore in order to provide bases across their vast territory.

The Imperial Navy’s tactics during The Second World War included the use of surprise attacks and night actions. The Japanese were also known for their use of torpedoes and midget submarines. The Japanese employed kamikaze attacks, where pilots would deliberately crash their planes into Allied ships, causing significant damage. The Japanese also utilized long-range submarines to attack Allied shipping. However, the effectiveness of these tactics diminished as the war progressed and the Allies adapted their defences.

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto was the Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet and played a key role in the development of the Japanese naval strategy during The Second World War. He was responsible for planning the attack on Pearl Harbor. Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita was another prominent Japanese naval commander who led the Japanese fleet during the Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944.

One of the biggest challenges facing the Japanese Navy during The Second World War was the industrial and technological superiority of the US. The Japanese were unable to match the production and quality of US warships and aircraft, and their lack of resources also limited their war effort. The Imperial Navy also suffered from a lack of experienced pilots and crew, as many had been lost during the early stages of the war.

Additionally, the Japanese naval tactics, such as kamikaze attacks, were seen as desperate measures and reflected a lack of viable alternatives

Great Britain and Empire

Throughout the war, the British Empire's naval doctrine was centred around the idea of maintaining control of the seas. The concept of a "two-power standard" meant that the Royal Navy should always be equal in size to the next two largest navies combined. This doctrine was embodied in the Royal Navy's fleet-in-being strategy, which aimed to keep the bulk of the fleet in port, ready to engage enemy forces when they attempted to leave port. This strategy was used during the Battle of the Atlantic and other key naval battles.

The British naval strategy was focused on maintaining control of key strategic positions, such as the Mediterranean, and supporting Allied operations in Europe and North Africa. The Royal Navy also played a significant role in the Battle of the Atlantic, which aimed to protect vital Allied shipping from German U-boat attacks. A key strategic success was the sinking of the formidable German battleship Bismarck in May 1941, which helped to secure Allied control of the Atlantic.

British naval tactics during The Second World War included the use of convoy systems to protect Allied shipping and the development of radar technology to detect enemy ships and aircraft. The Royal Navy was also known for its use of carrier-based aircraft, which played a key role in the Battle of Taranto and other naval engagements. Another notable tactic was the use of midget submarines in Operation Source, which targeted the German battleship Tirpitz, which – thanks to persistent attention from the Allies – was unable to play much of an effective role throughout the entirety of the war.

Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham was the Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet and played a key role in the British Empire's naval strategy during The Second World War. Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay who came to prominence during Operation Dynamo – the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) - was another prominent British naval commander who was responsible for planning the amphibious landings in Normandy during the D-Day operation.

One of the biggest challenges facing the British Empire's naval forces during The Second World War was the scarcity of resources, particularly in the early stages of the war. The Royal Navy was also stretched thin due to its global commitments, which meant that it had to rely on Allied navies to support operations in different theatres.

Additionally, the Royal Navy faced the threat of German U-boat attacks in the Atlantic, which posed a significant challenge to the British Empire's war effort. However, through a combination of strategic planning, technological innovation, and tactical prowess, the Royal Navy was able to overcome these challenges and make a significant contribution to the Allied victory in The Second World War.


During The Second World War, Germany had a well-organized and advanced naval force (although one which was notably smaller than many of its rivals), which played a key role, particularly during the Battle of the Atlantic. The German Navy was divided into two main sections: the Kriegsmarine, which consisted of surface vessels, and the U-boat arm, which was responsible for submarine warfare. The German naval doctrines, strategy and tactics were crucial in achieving their initial success in the early stages of the war.

At the beginning of the conflict, the German Navy's primary goal was to protect its coastline and maintain the blockade against Great Britain. Their strategy focused on using submarines and surface vessels to target Allied shipping and starve Britain into submission. The German Navy's tactics were centred on the use of the U-boat arm, which employed the "wolf pack" tactic to attack Allied convoys.

German surface raiders, also known as commerce raiders, were naval vessels that were designed and equipped to disrupt Allied shipping during The Second World War. These ships were armed with guns, torpedoes, and mines and were equipped with the ability to operate for extended periods of time without resupply from the shore.

The Admiral Graf Spee was a powerful ‘Pocket Battleship’ that was responsible for sinking numerous Allied ships in the South Atlantic before being forced to scuttle itself in Montevideo harbor in December 1939. Another well-known example of a German surface raider was the Kormoran. The Kormoran was a merchant raider that sank or captured 11 Allied ships before being engaged and sunk by the Australian cruiser HMAS Sydney in November 1941.

The German surface raiders were a significant threat to Allied shipping during The Second World War. They caused significant losses to the Allies, particularly in the early stages of the war when the Allies were struggling to protect their shipping lanes. However, as the war progressed, the Allies were able to develop tactics and technologies that made it more difficult for the German surface raiders to operate effectively.

In 1941, Germany's naval strategy shifted with the invasion of the Soviet Union. The Kriegsmarine was tasked with supporting the land operations by securing the Baltic Sea and providing naval gunfire support to ground troops. The German Navy faced significant challenges during the operation due to the harsh weather conditions and the Soviet Navy's unexpected resistance.

By 1942, the German Navy's focus had shifted once again with the entry of the United States into the war. The Kriegsmarine was tasked with disrupting Allied shipping and preventing supplies from reaching Europe. The German Navy's tactics were adjusted to focus on individual U-boat operations rather than the "wolf pack" tactic, which had proven less effective against Allied convoy escorts.

Admiral Karl Dönitz was the most well-known of the high-ranking German naval commanders (and who would briefly act as Fuhrer of Germany in 1945 after Hitlers death), and had been appointed as commander of the U-boat arm in 1939. Dönitz played a significant role in developing and implementing the "wolf pack" tactic, which was responsible for sinking numerous Allied vessels during the early stages of the war. However, the tactic's effectiveness diminished as Allied convoy escorts became more effective and technological advancements allowed for improved detection of U-boats.

Despite initial success, the German Navy faced significant challenges during the war, including Allied technological advancements and the lack of resources compared to the Allies. By the latter stages of the war, the German Navy was largely restricted to defensive operations and was unable to launch any significant offensive operations.


At the outbreak of The Second World War, the Italian Navy had a formidable fleet, including six battleships, eight cruisers, and 65 destroyers. However, the Italian naval doctrine was heavily influenced by their army's experiences during the First World War, which emphasized the use of submarines and torpedo boats for offensive actions rather than a large surface fleet.

In terms of strategy, the Italians focused on defending their maritime trade routes in the Mediterranean and securing their colonial possessions in North Africa. They also sought to disrupt Allied supply lines by using their submarines to target convoys.

One of the key personalities in the Italian Navy during The Second World War was Admiral Angelo Iachino, who served as the commander-in-chief of the Italian fleet from 1940 to 1943. Iachino was instrumental in the planning and execution of the Battle of Cape Matapan, a major naval engagement in the Mediterranean in March 1941.

The Italian Navy faced significant fundamental issues during the war. Their ships were often outdated and ill-equipped compared to their Allied counterparts. Additionally, they lacked the resources to build new ships or replace those lost in battle. This made it difficult for them to mount any significant offensive actions against the Allies as the war dragged on.

However, despite these challenges, the Italian Navy did achieve some successes during the war. In 1940, they mounted a successful attack on the British naval base in Alexandria, Egypt, sinking two battleships and damaging several other ships. They also managed to disrupt Allied supply lines in the Mediterranean, forcing the Allies to divert resources to protect their convoys.

Overall, the Italian Navy's inability to keep up with technological advancements and lack of resources ultimately led to its downfall. By the end of the war, much of their fleet had been destroyed or captured by the Allies, and Italy's once-great naval power had been significantly diminished.


Despite having one of the largest navies in the world prior to The Second World War, the French Navy was ill-prepared for the conflict. Their naval doctrine was heavily influenced by the lessons learned from the First World War, which emphasized the use of battleships in major fleet engagements. However, advances in technology and tactics during the interwar period made this strategy outdated.

At the start of the war, the French Navy was focused on protecting their colonies and maintaining control of the Mediterranean. They also planned to engage the Italian Navy if they entered the war on the side of the Axis powers. However, the German invasion of France in 1940 caught them unprepared and with the swift collapse of the French ground forces, the French Navy soon found itself isolated and in some degree of disarray.

One of the key personalities in the French Navy during The Second World War was Admiral François Darlan, who served as the commander-in-chief of the French Navy from 1939 to 1940. Darlan advocated for a more modern approach to naval warfare, including the use of submarines and aircraft carriers. However, these ideas were not widely accepted within the French Navy, an attitude that how dire consequences for France in 1940.

The French Navy faced significant challenges during the war. Many of their ships were outdated and poorly maintained, and they lacked the resources to modernize their fleet. Additionally, the German invasion of France caught the French Navy off guard, and many of their ships were destroyed, isolated or captured without putting up much of a fight.

After the fall of France in 1940, the French Navy was largely inactive for the remainder of the war. Some French ships joined the Free French Forces under the command of Charles de Gaulle, while others were interned by the Vichy government or seized by the Germans. The Vichy government, led by Marshal Philippe Pétain, collaborated with Nazi Germany and was recognized as the legitimate government of France by many countries, including the United States.

However, after the Allied invasion of French North Africa in 1942, the Vichy Navy was divided between those who remained loyal to the government and those who joined the Free French forces. The Vichy Navy's most significant contribution to the war effort was the scuttling of its own ships in Toulon harbor in 1942 to prevent them from falling into German hands.

Despite these challenges and ongoing divisions throughout the war, the French Navy did have some notable successes during the war. In 1940, before everything fell apart for them, they managed to sink the German submarine U-37 in the Mediterranean. Later, Free French vessels also played a role in the Allied landings in North Africa in 1942.

Soviet Union

During The Second World War, the Soviet Union's naval forces faced significant challenges due to the country's lack of development and modernization of its naval power. Despite these obstacles, the Soviet Navy played a crucial role in several operations, including the defence of Leningrad and the delivery of supplies to the Soviet Union from the United States.

In terms of doctrine, the Soviet Navy emphasized the use of submarines for offensive purposes, focusing on disrupting enemy supply lines and defending its immense coastline. This approach was partially due to the Soviet Union's limited access to advanced naval technology, as they lacked the resources to build large surface fleets.

One key example of the Soviet Navy's use of submarines was the defence actions taken during the Siege of Leningrad. The Soviet submarine fleet conducted attacks on German supply ships, effectively disrupting the flow of resources to the German army and aiding in the beleaguered city's defence.

In terms of strategy, the Soviet Navy worked closely with other branches of the military, including the army and air force, to defend the country's coastline. This was particularly notable in regard to the Arctic Convoys, in which the Soviet Navy worked with British and American forces to deliver supplies to the Soviet Union via the northern Arctic route, which was less vulnerable to German attacks than other routes.

Admiral Nikolay Kuznetsov served as the commander-in-chief of the Soviet Navy from 1939 to 1955. Kuznetsov played a significant role in the development and modernization of the Soviet Navy after the war, but during the conflict, he was instrumental in organizing the defence of the Soviet coastline and coordinating with other branches of the military.

Despite their successes, the Soviet Navy faced significant challenges during The Second World War, including a lack of resources and technology, as well as significant losses in the early years of the conflict. However, their efforts to disrupt enemy supply lines and defend their coastline played a crucial role in the ultimate Allied victory.


During The Second World War, China's naval capabilities were limited compared to the major naval powers of the world. China had a small Navy consisting of mainly outdated and poorly equipped ships. As a result, China's naval doctrine focused on defensive tactics, guerrilla warfare, and utilizing the country's vast coastal regions to their advantage.

Japan invaded Chinese Manchuria in 1931, taking advantage of internal squabbles between Communists and Chinese Nationalists, and in 1937, Japanese forces began a massive advance to the south, marking for many, the true start of the Second World War.

As the Japanese rampaged through the Chinese mainland, their planes demolished most Chinese warships that hadn't previously been torpedoed by Imperial Japanese Navy ships on the high seas, or that had failed to scuttle to avoid capture. Even the cruisers Ning Hai and Ping Hai - the most powerful modern units of the Chinese fleet - were quickly sunk by attacking Japanese torpedo bombers.

Facing such a powerful and aggressive foe, one key Chinese strategy was the use of land-based aircraft to patrol and defend the coastline, which provided an early warning system against Japanese naval incursions. In addition, Chinese naval forces would use speedboats and small craft to harass and attack Japanese ships in coastal waters.

The Chinese Navy, knowing it was outmatched by Imperial Japan, also relied heavily on the use of mines to defend its coastal waters, with minefields being laid at strategic locations to deter Japanese vessels. The Navy also utilized submarines to confront Japanese shipping in the region and to gather intelligence on the Imperial Navy’s movements.

Admiral Chen Yi played only a small role in anti-Japanese efforts, seeing combat mostly against Nationalist Chinese forces but was appointed commander-in-chief of the Chinese Navy in 1945. He was a respected military leader who had fought against the Japanese in both land and naval battles. Under his leadership, the Chinese Navy began to modernize and expand its capabilities.

Despite the limitations of China's naval capabilities during The Second World War, their defensive strategies and tactics helped to disrupt Japanese naval operations and contributed to the overall Allied war effort. However, the lack of resources and outdated equipment meant that China's naval contribution was limited in scope and scale.


Poland had a small Navy before the war, consisting mostly of older vessels that were not well-equipped or modernized. Recognising this, the Polish Navy even evacuated several of its Destroyers to the UK before war had even broken out.

When Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, the remainder of the Polish Navy attempted to defend its ports and naval bases, but it was quickly overwhelmed by the much more powerful German Navy. Many of the Polish ships were either destroyed or captured, and the remainder were forced to flee to allied ports in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.

After the defeat of Poland, Polish naval personnel joined the Allied navies in the war effort. They served in various capacities in the British, French, and Soviet navies. The most significant contribution by Polish naval personnel was in the defence of the British Isles, where they served in a variety of roles, including as pilots in the Fleet Air Arm and as crew members on British warships.


Norway, a small country with a long coastline, had a limited Navy during The Second World War. However, they had a significant role in the war, especially during the initial stages of the German invasion of Norway.

In terms of naval doctrines, Norway adopted a coastal defence strategy, focusing on protecting its coastal regions and waterways from enemy incursions. Their naval forces primarily consisted of small coastal defence ships and submarines, which were used to protect their waters from German naval attacks.

However, Norway's naval forces were quickly overwhelmed by the might of the German Navy during the invasion in April 1940. The Germans launched a surprise attack on the Norwegian coast, and despite brave resistance from the Norwegian Navy, they were forced to retreat.

Despite this setback, the Norwegian Navy continued to play a vital role in the war, mainly through its work with the British Navy. Norwegian naval personnel were trained in Britain and went on to serve in the Royal Norwegian Navy, which played an important role in escorting convoys to Russia.

One of the most prominent Norwegian naval figures during the war was Captain Andreas Anderssen. He commanded the coastal defence ship "Norge" during the German invasion and later went on to serve as a submarine commander in the Royal Norwegian Navy.


The naval aspect of The Second World War was a complex and dynamic theatre of war that was shaped by advances in technology, strategic goals, and the actions of key personalities. The major naval powers of the war, including the United States, Japan, Germany, and Britain, developed different doctrines, tactics, and strategies that reflected their unique strengths and weaknesses.

The naval engagements of the war, including battles such as the Battle of the Atlantic, the Battle of Midway, and the Battle of Leyte Gulf, were critical turning points that ultimately shaped the outcome of the war. Today, the lessons of the naval aspect of The Second World War continue to inform the strategies and tactics of modern naval warfare.

Further reading