Clearly, our walks around this city provided ample time to talk about very important things. Future plans, big dreams. And RISK!
I’m sorry? Yes, I mean the board game.
I picked that photo because it has the armies that were roman numerals. Now they’re all soldiery and stuff like this:
RISK! came up because I remember playing it and always debating the strategic importance of Iceland. More accurately, I remember hating playing it (Brett loved it). Why is it too much for me? Because I do not have a mind for strategy and things like this exist.
Most of the Icelandic history we’ve been regaled with has been of a fairly ancient sort. There are Vikings and Sagas. Tales woven with runes and the marks of early Christianity. Modern Icelandic history was a bit sketchier. I knew Iceland had been under the control of the Danes up until World War II at which point they declared their independence. The Danish were under Nazi occupation so they weren’t really in a position to protest.
Over the course of our month here I’ve tried to learn a bit more. In general I like to believe history comes easily to me. I have a facility with dates and a pretty good memory. But the complicated names and nameplaces have made me a poor, poor student.
The one thing I’ve taken away for sure was being quite surprised to learn about the joint British/US invasion and occupation of Iceland. Yes, you heard me right. We occupied this place.
Much like a game of RISK! (gotta get that exclamation point in there), Iceland’s strategic importance wasn’t lost to the Axis or the Allies. Germany tried to play nice with Iceland, which seems surprising since the Nazis are not remembered for their ability to play nice. Apparently, this playing was confined primarily to friendly soccer matches between Germany and Iceland. Yup, soccer.
Iceland stayed decidedly neutral once the war started. It did manage to declare its independence (easier since its ability to communicate with Denmark was considerably hampered as Denmark was occupied). Still, the lack of the usual wild hostility of the Nazis worried the British. They attempted a few times to get Iceland to join the Allies.
And when the Icelanders refused, the British invaded. Yup, they invaded a neutral nation in 1940. It was called Operation Fork, which is just about the worst military name ever. It was also terribly planned. No one in the expedition spoke Icelandic and some of the maps were drawn from memory.
The British then turned the occupation over to the US in 1941. Right, when we were still technically a neutral nation. So we occupied a neutral nation while we were a neutral nation.
Nope, I never knew that.