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D-Day November 1942

Discussion in 'What If - European Theater - Western Front & Atlan' started by T. A. Gardner, Aug 12, 2008.

  1. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    In this "What-if" I propose that the US decides to invade France in November 1942 instead of North Africa. The same fleet coming from the US is used to transport an initial landing force of 3 infantry and 1 armored divisions to France. In addition, the Commonwealth provides two infantry (one Canadian) divisions and a tank brigade out of England.
    The landing is made against the French coast at Quiberon / Quiberon bay in Brittany. The first wave ashore is the Canadian division and two of the US divisions supported by appropriate units. A simultaneous landing by a two battalion force of commandos / rangers is made to take Belle Ile off shore. The equivalent of a parachute regiment is dropped initially as well.

    The Germans have at most one or possibly two Bodenstande 2nd class divisions in the immediate area for defense. These are poor quality units that have had minimal training, have over age and marginally fit personnel in them, and are ill equipped materially. This virtually ensures the Allies get ashore with low casualties.

    Quiberon Bay gives a large sheltered anchorage in relatively shallow water making U-boat operations difficult or impossible. The town of Quiberon gives the Allies a useful, if small, initial port that is very defensible being on a nearly insular pennsula.

    The Germans are also faced with the following problems:

    The Afrika Korps is reeling in defeat from Alamein and retreating into Tunisia. At the same time, the 6th Army is surrounded (or nearly so) at Stalingrad and in desperate straights. There are just 5 panzer divisions in France all of which are undergoing reorganization (6, 7 and, 10) after heavy losses or are newly organized and in training (26 and 27).
    The Stalingrad airlift is diverting the Luftwaffe to the East.

    So, the German military in France is now faced with an invasion into the edge of Vichy France which is unoccupied. They have few useful mobile units immediately available to counter the landing and none close to it. The few units in the immediate area are virtually immobile and poorly equipped even to mount a defense. The situation in the East and North Africa call for reinforcements there too. The only ones available were in France for the most part and now facing an Allied invasion.
    The Luftwaffe is ill equipped to be of much support immediately.

    Against this the Allies land by D+21 between 9 and 11 divisions two of which are armored. They initially do not go on the offensive but instead make limited advances to secure a good beachhead. Belle Ile and other sites are selected and airfields built to accomidate fighters and later attack aircraft. Belle Ile is also used as a port facility with small craft ferrying troops and supplies across to the mainland as a secure base; the Germans have no way to take this island back at their disposal.

    The ports of St. Nazaire and Lorient are within easy striking distance of the Allies. In addition, Quiberon bay is an excellent anchorage and makes a useful amphibious base to bring supplies over the beach in calm waters.

    All the Allies have to do is maintain a credible defense for a couple of months while they build up their forces for a breakout. The Germans are really no better off than in 1944 and, the Allies face no Tigers or Panthers but rather Pz IIIs and IVs tactically.

    If Vichy France caputulates to the Allies (likely, very likely) the Germans are also going to be forced to invade and put down their assisting the Allies. This also creates a problem for the Axis in North Africa.

    I think the Allies missed a real opportunity in doing something like this historically.
     
  2. John Dudek

    John Dudek Member

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    Luftwaffe response although initially low at the onset will quickly become immediate, heavy and unrelenting. Afterall, we're fighting in their backyard now. Kriegsmarine attacks by surface elements and U-Boats ditto.

    The Germans haven't even gone to a "full wartime footing" yet under Albert Speer and haven't anywhere near hit their full wartime production stride yet.

    Rommel will undoubtedly be told to "dig-in and mark time" in North Africa. The Eastern Front's aspirations towards Stalingrad would be put aside also. I could actually see additional German consolidations and pull-backs on the Russian Front as well, especially in Von Paulus 6th Army sector, in order to free up additional armored divisions for re-deployment in France. Von Manstein would no doubt play a crucial role in all this.

    My guess is, that it would quickly become a war of wills to see whose wartime powers of pursuasion would be the strongest, the Allies or Axis.
     
  3. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    The problem for the Germans in this situation is virtually insoluable.

    6th Army is virtually surrounded by mid November 1942. It lacks the mobility to breakout or even retreat. This is a major reason it was told to dig in and wait for relief. The Luftwaffe has begun to send virtually all of its offensive bomber force east to help in the relief. Pulling some of this ensures 6th Army's death is even quicker.
    The armored divisions in the East are down to just one battalion of tanks on average in November 42. AGS had the best equipped panzer divisions at the time. These are now being ground up near Stalingrad.

    The panzer divisions in France are all undergoing reorgainzation and training. Most have a large battalion of mixed Pz III and IV available. There are no Tigers in France at the time. The Panther is still on the drawing board. Additionally, there are far fewer infantry divisions in France in late 1942 than early 1944. Many of those were ear marked to move east by early 1943 to make up for the debacle of 6th Army. Without those, the Southern part of the East Front is going to collapse entirely by mid summer.

    Rommel is hit without heavy reinforcement. Even falling back into Tunsia he faces a much larger 8th Army, likely the French with Vichy joining the Allies and possibly several US divisions in North Africa arriving by early 1943.

    If Vichy France falls in with the Allies the Germans will need a good solid dozen infantry divisions to put them down and take Southern France. Otherwise, they face the Allies overrunning that half the country by early 1943. With just 9 divisions ashore the Germans will easily need at least a half dozen panzer divisions and as many good infantry divisions just to maintain their front.
    They don't have them to send. Raising new units will take six months to a year from scratch. Pick up units made on the fly won't do. The best the Germans likely could realistically hope for in this scenario is containment as at Anzio.

    One thing in their favor would be the relative greeness of US units. This might give the Allies some initial difficulties as it did in North Africa. But, with their units less spread out and not in as confused a state of command, this likely could be overcome just as the same situation in Normandy was.

    At sea the Germans have virtually nothing that could attack the Allied naval forces in the Bay of Biscay. They have a few S-Boats and T-Boats at Le Harve but these would be of little value versus a full fleet sitting off the invasion beaches. U-boats might try attacking shipping headed to the beaches but only at the risk of being duly sunk by escorts that would no doubt be present in some numbers.
    This would also divert U-boats from the Atlantic allowing the Allies to win that conflict more easily.

    In the air the Luftwaffe would still be reduced to mostly night time nusiance attacks by bombers as the Allies even in 1942 could produce local air superiority easily. With airfields near the invasion front fighter cover would not be a problem. Carriers could provide cover until the fields were up and running, say D+10 or so for a couple of grass strips with landing mats.

    The problem there is how long can they hold before the Allies either breakout or land somewhere else. In any case it opens a second front that would have greatly shortened the war.
     
  4. von Rundstedt

    von Rundstedt Dishonorably Discharged

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    If my memory serves correctly the German and most importantly the Axis had yet to taste defeat in the East, the Germans at the time of 15th November 1942 had yet to face the Soviet Offensive which started on the 19th November 1942, what if the that the situation was so that Hitler decides to withdraw from Stalingrad at the begining of November to consolidate his forces as Stalingrad could not be taken and secured before the onset of winter. Hitler orders that the Axis forces withdraw back to the River Don bend and fortify the eastern bank, which fortification has been built over the last 6 months, this has alway been a fallback position.

    Historically the Luftwaffe was always weak in the east, so this is the case in this senario, we have the main focus of the Luftwaffe still in the west, still occupying French, Belgian, Dutch and Norwegian airfields, during this period the USAAF and RAF have only just begun their combined bomber offensive and have yet to make large scale attacks, with German Luftwaffe units been brought in from the east the USAAF and RAF face higher that historical losses, German anti-aircraft batteries also begin to take a toll on low flying missions. The western allies have yet to establish any superiority over the invasion area, also at this time the Luftwaffe is not short of fuels as it was in 1944.

    Another point in this at the time that the U-Boats are still masters of the seas, if an invasion on Brittany was to take place then i can assure you that Doenitz would send in several hundred u-boats to wreak havoc on the invasion fleet, this could see hundreds of vessels sunk.

    Also during 1942 German army rapidly expanded, new fresh divisions comming on line, fully armed and ready for a fight, although you mention what maybe 6 divisions, but weigh that up with having up to 20 or 30 division been sent into the area, regardless it would be a slaughter.

    In the end i can only see a massive failure in the Britanny landings, the invasion fleet attacked by massed wolfpacks, then to survive the Luftwaffe only to be dumped on a tenious beachead to confront dozens of fresh division being sent into the area to especially some of the new Schwerpanzerabteilung with the new tiger tanks, fighting with what circa 1942 shermans which could not disable a tiger even at point blank range, again one or two well place tiger battalions could wreak havoc against inferior allied tanks.

    It would be a rout, maybe thousands of western allied POW's, also in North Africa, Rommel is still faced with fighting on a single front, and can recover from a set back, Vichy France is still in with the Germans, Italy is still basically strong.

    Also the western allies chose the North African route because it was considered the soft option, it allowed the allies to get the Axis to deploy more troops overseas these forces were diverted from the Soviet Front, and that it tested the resolve of the Vichy French which did go over to the allied side, no the total destruction of the Axis in North Africa had to be done first, this was for the western allies a massive exercise in how to launch a large scale invasion, forrunner to Overlord, it was not called "The Soft Underbelly" for nothing.

    In conclusion a massive defeat for the West in 1942/43 set back for years.

    v.R
     
  5. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    Isn't going to happen. I suggest reviewing Hitler's Befel of 8 September 1942 (aka the Hitler Defense Order) in which he specifically cites a use of rigid linear defense not yielding a meter of ground and specifically talks about how such tactics worked in the First World War up to 1916 prior to adoption of elastic defense tactics.
    It is not historically possible that he would suddenly change his mind on something so central to his thinking less than a month later.
    When AGS is hit on 19 November, there are also attacks happening on both AGC and North at the same time and slightly before. The Germans didn't realize the danger until nearly the end of the month. With an Allied landing this really isn't going to change much. 6th Army is largely immoble as all of their transport is engaged in moving supplies. The Luftwaffe is already heavily engaged in air lifting supplies to them too.
    The rest of the German forces in AGS are deeply committed in the Caucausus and are desperately trying to extricate themselves from impending disaster as the two Romanian armies in AGS are quickly collapsing.
    Hitler is adament about holding ground at the same time.


    Even without complete air superiority the Allies will still be effective on the ground. Look at Salerno for example. The Germans managed air parity there during the opening days of the invasion. It did them no good. German flak never managed more than about 4% losses on the Allies in any air strike. The few times where they managed to best this they expended huge quantities of ammunition they could not afford to continue to use for any length of time. In fact, by the beginning of 1944 antiaircraft munitions were being rationed and other users of similar munitions like the artillery were suffering severe shortages of ammunition.

    The heyday of the U-boat is passed at this point. In the historical North Africa landings the Germans managed to get just three U-boats into the area. These sank several cargo ships for the loss of two of the U-boats. Döenitz doesn't have "hundreds of u-boats" to send.
    Aside from that, only those within a few hundred miles will make it in the first days of the invasion. Even then, they will have to stay submerged most of the time to avoid Allied patrol aircraft as they would be operating in the Bay of Biscay; the most dangerous water there is for U-boats even in 1942.


    And, none of these divisions will be ready for service until mid or late 1943. That is, unless you want to commit divisions to combat that are poorly trained, disorganized, and ill-equipped. If so, they will simply be ground up as cannon fodder. Aside from that German infantry divisions are singularly incapable of offensive action in the West. There is but one single case after the fall of France where one was actually capable of defeating an Allied division in combat, and that one was largely a matter of chance.
    Basically, you can raise a number of new units and ship them to the invasion front where they will sit and defend as best they can; nothing more.

    As with other amphibious landings, as long as the Allies remain within range of naval gunfire the Germans don't stand a chance. At Salerno the few Tigers present managed to break the British positions and make it nearly to the beach where they were destroyed by naval gunfire; in this case cruiser and destroyer 5" and 6" guns. It wasn't even a contest.
    There are recorded instances of panzers being pummelled by naval gunfire at ranges up to 25,000 to 30,000 yards while under aerial observation. And, if a Curtiss SOC float biplane can manage to stay aloft while FW 190's are in the area the Luftwaffe isn't going to be much help on that front either.
    I very much doubt that the Germans will be able to send many Tigers to France in late 1942. There are only a couple of battalions in existance at the time. A mere handful of these tanks will prove useless much as even more did in Normandy two years later.

    The US chose their route because the British "flinched" and wouldn't back a landing in France. Had the US put their foot down and demanded it Britain would have had to go along. The US had the units but were unwilling to buck British experiance to date.
     
  6. tikilal

    tikilal Ace

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    Why wouldn't the invasion come from England?

    As I recall the Americans wanted the invasion France, and it was planned for early 1943. I seriously doubt that November 1942 was an option, which is another reason they went with Africa, they could do it before the mid-term elections. It still came too late for that but only because of logistics. Which is again the point, America was not ready to land and supply that size force.

    Germany still held its own over Europe at this time. And the location you chose is not conducive to air support from England. As I recall there was only one American carrier used in the North Africa landings, and it against the Luftwaffe is a tough fight. Once the air cover is gone so it the landing force.

    At this point the allies have not destroyed the infrastructure of France like they did pre D-Day, this can not be discounted.

    Now if we move it to Normandy or Caen the we might have something to go on. I do think that Spring of 43 is do-able. Likewise as I have stated else where that after the North Africa trip, instead of Sicily and Italy had the Allies invaded southern France that would also have been successful.
     
  7. RAM

    RAM Member

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    First of all I want to say that I enjoy reading your posts T.A.
    As a foreigner I envy your eloquence and your rich vocabulary.

    Now to the topic:

    By November you have an unpredictable player in this scenario called winter.
    Winter warfare is quite different from summer warfare, something the british experienced in Norway in 1940 and the germans later in Russia.
    The winters of 1942/43 and 1943/44 were very severe, and this would be a problem for the troops when they reach central Europe.

    It is imperative to establish a bridgehead on the European continent, and the winter storms may jeopardize the unloading of the ships. This could delay the allied advance into continental Europe.
    The dominant wind direction in western Europe is south-west, which will be head on Quiberon Bay. When heavy seas reach shallow waters you will have unpleasant waves, and landingcrafts aren't exactly the most seaworthy vessels.

    The U-boats were still a considerable threat in 1943, and with the focus shifted from North Africa to western Europe the german subs in the Mediterranian would probably be transferred to the Atlantic to attack the convoys.

    Strategic bombing was still in its early days, so the German war industry was still intact and capable of a high production.
    Troops would be transferred from the eastern front to the west.
    With short distances from the production plants to the front, this combination would have caused the allies heavy losses in casualities.

    If we see this in a larger context and draw the lines to the post war situation in Europe, the picture is not so pleasant.
    The pressure on the russians would have eased considerably and they would be able to rebuild their strength faster.
    With the western allies struggling with their backs to the sea, Russia would have been able to push the weakened german forces faster and futher to the west.
    We could have ended up with most of western Europe under russian control.

    The question is, would Russia then have taken on the US and the British and gained full control over Europe?

    Regards
    RAM
     
  8. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Aquila non capit muscas

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    What, again? How many times have we gone through this already? :D :D :D
     
  9. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    The weather could also make the initial landing either difficult or impossible. Remember D-day was almost canceled because of the weather and that was in June.
     
  10. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    While weather is a factor, it is going to be less of one than the US encountered landing in North Africa. Quiberon Bay is partially sheltered and the beaches are gentle with reasonable tide patterns. Wave action will not be a major factor. The fact that the Bay of Biscay is relatively shallow means that really tall waves are not going to be generated near the coast. This takes a deep ocean near the shore with a quickly rising seabed near the shore. A reef off shore will definitely help make larger breaking waves but this doesn't exist on the French coast.
    Landing on the Belle Ile is on the sheltered coastal side where there are good beaches to come ashore.

    The historical troop convoy crossings were made in relative safety. First, assault cargo ships and troop transports tended to be faster than the average merchant. Most of these convoys crossed at about 12 knots or double a typical merchant convoy. This makes U-boat interception except on the surface impossible; one reason no troop ships were sunk making the Atlantic crossing.

    For the Germans such an operation is really a nightmare. In late November 1942 AOK 7 (7th Army Corps) of just 8 infantry divisions ( 257, 379, 716, 165 reserve, 709, 182, 343, and 346). The 716, and 709 are Bodenstande or static two regiment divisions of dubious quality. The 182, 343 are returning from the Eastern Front for rebuilding. The 165th is a collection of local units and recruits being formed into a division.
    In the proposed area of landing just one division is present covering over 20 miles of coast. The 257th is the Army reserve near Brest. It would take three or four days to move to the landing area. The five panzer divisions are in northern or eastern France and likewise would take days to transit to the landing sites.

    If the Allies do not move inland rapidly but instead consolidate their positions just a few miles inland forming essentially a larger version of Anzio, the Germans would be able to initially contain the beachhead after a week or two.
    But, this would put a serious drain on other fronts. Rommel would be hit in North Africa. Hitler probably would not allow a withdrawal and would not reinforce. Thus the 5 or so divisions there would be eventually lost probably by mid 1943 at the latest.
    In the East, the invasion would have stopped the transfer of three of the five panzer divisions in France that occured in early 1943 (10th went to North Africa and 26th went to Italy) along with the transfer of about 12 infantry divisions. These were to make up for the loss of 6th Army.
    Without them and with fewer replacements and tanks going East Kursk probably will not occur. At the same time the Soviets will likely push the Germans back a considerable distance by the end of 1943.
    If the Allies hold their beachhead into 1943 they too will manage to begin breaking out by mid year and hold most of France by the end of the year. Monty's 8th Army would be capable of taking Italy with some various Allied units against far less German opposition in the same time.
    The trade off would have been heavier Allied casualties holding the beaches through early 1943. But, overall, the Allies and Soviets would likely have benefited greatly from an earlier landing than a later one.
     
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  11. Sloniksp

    Sloniksp Ставка

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    Lets not forget that the Americans too had no military experience in combat in 42'. Who or what is to say that they would not have suffered the same fate that they had at the hands of Rommel in they're first engagement?

    Not to mention that Germany had a lot more men and supplies which to reinforce the west, then she did in 44'.

    Afterall, didnt the Americans decide to go through Africa rightfully believing that the "under belly" would be Germany's weakest spot?
     
  12. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    Would Lloyd Fredendall be the US commander? Does not bode well.
    I think that was a Churchill/British claim, not that they got a lot of arguement.
     
  13. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    While the German U-boats certainly contested for mastery of the seas, they were never "masters of the sea". Donitz did not have "several hundred U-boats" to deploy in the British Channel and Bay of Biscay in late 1942, nor would they have been able to operate effectively under an Allied air umbrella which could be spread over any invasion fleet and it's resupply routes. That doesn't even take into account the large number of surface escorts which could be deployed. U-boats would be hard pressed to even surface at night in order to recharge their batteries while radar-equipped patrol aircraft prowled the skies. All in all U-boats would be a minor threat to an invasion of France in 1942.

    I think the real problem for the Allies would be a severe shortage of logistical shipping to support such a landing and second lack of specialized landing craft. If these two problems could be overcome, then a landing in November, 1842 makes a lot of sense.
     
  14. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

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    Yup. Churchill and his "soft underbelly" Theory. It wasn't a US thing.
     
  15. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Aquila non capit muscas

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    Torch also made sense inasmuch as the Brits were already sitting on North Africa, and a landing in the German rear did make sense, on a theater where the German difficulties in resupply and reinforcement were already known.

    Not wishing to deny the arguments shown in the posts above, a landing in France would seem like a dispersal of assets and resources (yet another front), whereas in Africa it would be a sinergy with the forces already existant. Also a landing in France would also be much less safe as over more or less time this could be opposed with certainly much more ease than a landing in NW Africa.

    As it was, the NWA campaign also served as a good introduction and learning process for the US Army on continental warfare, therefore useful even if not necessary.
     
  16. RAM

    RAM Member

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    I didn't think of that, Za..:confused:
    Which thread is that?
    That would an interesting read.

    Regards
    RAM
     
  17. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Aquila non capit muscas

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  18. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    The US actually was all for this plan. The operation was codenamed Sledgehammer. The only difference was the historical plan called for landings closer to Brest. It was the British that fought this landing and eventually were able to convience the US to land in North Africa instead.

    As for landing forces, if those used for North Africa are the ones here then the following would be showing up on the German's doorstep:

    3 battleships (Massachusetts, Texas, New York)
    1 carrier (Ranger)
    4 large escort carriers (Sangamon, Chenango, and Suwannee)
    This gives a total of 104 F4F, 36 SBD, and 30 TBF for cover and immediate support.
    3 heavy cruisers and 3 light cruisers
    25 Destroyers
    9 minelayers and sweepers
    30 large transport ships
    and a bunch of miscellaneous vessels.

    These would be landing two regular US Army infantry divisions (3rd and 9th) along with the 2nd Armored division.

    If we include 1st Canadian and an unspecified British infantry division along with a tank brigade from England in the first wave ashore the Allies have 4 infantry and one armored division landed along with a proper "slice" of supporting units.

    Yes, the US was untried. But, unlike in North Africa, they are not going to be spread thin or scattered all over the countryside. Instead, they will be entrenched on a limited front initially and defending. This should make things a bit easier. Also, many of the units they would initially face are not the cream of the German army but rather untried and often poorly trained and equipped infantry units on garrison duty in France.
     
  19. John Dudek

    John Dudek Member

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    Something else just occurred to me. The whole Allied 1944 logistics train simply didn't exist in 1942. LST's LCVP's and other landing craft that were so necessary to D-Day were only then just starting to come into existance. The lack of these could prove crucial because historically speaking, the Germans would never make the gift of an undamaged shipping port to the Allied invaders. They'd scuttle every ship in its harbor, blow up all of the dockyard cranes, sow mines everywhere, before digging into the ruins of the port, to await the inevitable Allied siege.

    Granted, the Allies could get their men onto the far shore, but supporting them would be a whole different thing, without having seized any fully operational shipping ports.
     
  20. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    No, that was a British concept, vigorously opposed by the American JCS. North Africa was espoused by Churchill and the British Chiefs of Staff to secure the Med and the British communications with India and the Mid-East. The US agreed only as a way to keep pressure on the European Axis and at least do something to prosecute the war in 1942.
     

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