Book Review: The Naval War in the Baltic, 1939-1945


by Poul Grooss

Barnsley, Eng.: Seaforth / Naval Institute Press, 2017. Pp. xvi, 400. Illus., maps, diag., appends., notes, biblio., index. $39.95. ISBN: 152670000X

An Overlooked Theatre of World War II

While account of naval operations in World War II abound, the largely overlook events in the Baltic and adjacent areas, essentially treating them as secondary to the grand events in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Pacific. This account of the theatre, by retired Danish naval officer Grooss, is the first published in Denmark in 2014, is arguably the first that treats events in the region as a coherent whole, and Grooss offers us more that his title implies.

While primarily about naval operations in the Baltic, Grooss also gives us a look at ground operations and maritime events in the Baltic littorals and adjacent waters, including the North Sea, the Norwegian Sea, and the Arctic Ocean, setting the theatre within the framework of the wider war. Grooss covers events from the opening rounds fired by obsolete German battleships against Polish coastal fortification in 1939, through the German invasion of Denmark and Norway, the naval and littoral operations during the Russo-German War, and on through the final disastrous weeks of war.

Grooss offers us profiles of the composition of forces involved and their wartime activities. So we see get looks at Polish, German, Russian, British, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Estonian, and Swedish forces and their operations, on land as well as sea, as appropriate to the ways in which the war unfolded. As he recounts naval and military events, Grooss also covers diplomatic and political matters, and even gives us some treatment of collaborationism and resistance.

While there were few major battles in these waters, the were many small actions, and Grooss’ accounts of operations and engagements are clear, and particularly valuable because many of these actions are little known outside the nations involved, such as naval operations on lakes and adjacent waters during the German siege of Leningrad, the escape of some of the Polish fleet from the Baltic as the Germans overran their country, and Swedish actions in support of their neutrality. He often offers useful analysis of key events, with explanations of technical matters in a number of side bars, and carries the story into the post-war years, as the nations undertook the enormous job of clearing up the wreckage and detritus left by the war.

The Naval War in the Baltic offers a good look at a largely neglected theatre, and will prove valuable reading for anyone studying World War II at sea, or naval operations in the littorals and in support of land campaigns.


Note: The Naval War in the Baltic, is also available in several e-editions.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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