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did the german navy even have a chance

Discussion in 'The War at Sea' started by germanm36tunic, Dec 31, 2005.

  1. Ebar

    Ebar New Member

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    From what I've read I believe the Italian problems sumerised in no particular order as:

    Lack of radar combined with the fact that post WW1 the RN had trained a lot for night actions put the Italians at a mark disadvantage during the hours of darkness. See Battle of Cape Matapan as a case in point where battleships managed to sneak up on cruisers

    Lack of aircover. The Italians never got a carrier into service plus co operation with the airforce was poor at best.

    Lack of Confidence. There were times they had the advantage but they didn't press it home.
     
  2. PMN1

    PMN1 recruit

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    They also suffered from serious fuel shortages.
     
  3. Quillin

    Quillin New Member

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    euhm, not really. the italian navy had 1.8 million liters of feul in store when the war began. it was only mussolini who waid that they had enough fuel so they didn't recieved much.
    biggest problem of the italians was aircover. a lot of italian DD's were sunk of the north african coast in 1940 and 1941 by british bombers
     
  4. PMN1

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    A quick google brings this link, i'll see what else there is on line but there are numerous references on paper to navy fuel shortages - note the date February 1941.

    http://www.regiamarina.net/others/merano/merano_us.htm

    The conference of Merano (Convegno Italo-Germanico di Merano) took place in the Tyrolean town of Merano, near the Austrian border, on the 13th and 14th of February 1941. The Krigsmarine delegation included Admiral Reader and Kurt Frike, and Captain Kurt Aschmann, while the Regia Marina was represented by Admiral Arturo Riccardi, Raffaele de Courten, Emilio Brenta and Carlo Giartosio. The conference was organized in three meetings, with the most important taking place the morning of the 14th.

    Following the conference, Supermarina - the Italian High Naval Command - compiled some very detailed documentation of the discussions in form of memoranda. Admiral Riccardi himself signed the memorandum covering the meeting of the 14th. The conference had been planned for December 1940, but after the well-known shake up of the Regia Marina’s commanding structure, it had been postponed. The changes at the top was the result of the failure to protect Taranto and the unsatisfactory results of the Battle of Cape Teulada. Admiral Iachino, who had criticized Admiral Campioni for the lost opportunity of Teulada, was made Commander in Chief of a now reunified fleet. It was previously divided into two main battle groups. Following the conference, and according to Iachino, Supermarina failed to inform him of the results of the discussions. This point is very controversial since the person who supposedly briefed Iachino, Admiral Campioni, was later executed in Verona and therefore could not defend himself. Either way, with Campioni informing Iachino or Iachino failing to take notice, the results , as we shall see, would be disastrous.

    On the second day of the conference, the morning meeting began with Admiral Reader’s examination of the current strategic situation in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Although Admiral Reader emphasized the importance of the interception of enemy traffic in the Atlantic, he did not diminish the importance of the Mediterranean sector. The presentation might have been just a matter of courtesy; the Germans truly believed that by interdicting all commercial traffic in the Atlantic, Great Britain could be brought to her knees. The Mediterranean, despite various assurances to the contrary, had not yet been identified as the crucial sector in which the fate of the Axis forces would mostly be decided. Although the debate is still open, later events tell us that if Axis forces had pushed forward and reached the Arabian oil field, the evolution of the conflict would have been substantially different. The Mediterranean was not just the door to rich oil fields, but eventually to the desperately needed raw material available in the East.

    Admiral Riccardi, representing the Regia Marina’s opinions, replied that a major battle between the two opposing naval forces (British and Italian) was inevitable. Perhaps, he was envisioning a “Mediterranean” Jutlund. Reader reminded the audience that in early discussion with the Fuehrer, he had examined the possibility of excluding the British Fleet from the Mediterranean by seizing Gibraltar. Although discussions with Franco were in progress, it appeared that Spain was not ready to join the Axis. Ultimately, Franco’s decision was a wise one, and it was primarily driven by internal issues - Spain was recuperating from a brutal civil war - and early Italian military failures did not inspire much confidence. In the Germans’ view, on the eastern front Alexandria could have been eliminated utilizing forward-located air force bases. The Germans expressed concerns regarding the delayed neutralization of Malta, to which the Italians replied that their air force was pounding the island day and night. Ultimately, the Regia Aeronautica proved incapable of subjugating the island, which was eventually brought to near collapse by the intervention of the Luftwaffe. This is an important point; the German naval command truly thought that the air force alone could do the job. The Italians, at least at the beginning, agreed, but then all parties would realize that it was up to the foot soldiers to finish the job. Despite a comprehensive plan, the actual invasion never took place and eventually Malta came back with a vengeance.

    Admiral Reader thought that Malta could also be blocked utilizing mines and naval forces, similar to what was done near the Thames, but the Italians described their difficulties approaching the island due to some sort of advanced warning system. Here the Germans failed to disclose their knowledge of British radar technology, and the Italians paid a high price for this failure to disclose such vital information. When the Xa Mas attempted to violate the port of La Valletta, Malta’s radar station followed their progress all the way to the harbor, to then unleash an overpowering avalanche of fire. Although not perfect, the radar installation in Malta allowed for early warning and proved to be extremely valuable.

    Reader thought that the occupation of Greece would ease the general situation, and Riccardi agreed; in fact, the occupation did help. The German admiral, although admitting that the situation was difficult, was sure about some positive resolution. “Tripoli must be reinforced,” the Germans emphatically conveyed, and “the troops sent by the Fuehrer to North Africa should receive increased escort service.” The Italians confirmed the deployment of additional torpedo boats and two cruiser divisions. Ultimately, the German ally would become aware of the enormous sacrifices made by the Italian Navy to guarantee the shipment of personnel and war materiel to the North African front. Later on, General Rommel would be the only one loudly complaining about his supplies, but he was also the one voraciously consuming them. Reader was emphatic about the geopolitical importance of stopping the British offensive in North Africa and closing the Sicilian Straits. Riccardi replied that the British were never able to send battleships across the straits, excluding the Malaya, which crossed during operation M.B.9. At the time, North Africa was the only open front; the Germans had stopped at the Atlantic wall and Operation Barbarossa had not yet commenced.

    Getting back to Malta, Reader restated the importance of eliminating Malta. Referring to experience acquired during the Norwegian Campaign, the admiral pointed out that with the concentration of efforts, the enemy would eventually be forced to withdraw. The discussion then covered Benghazi, with the Italians believing that the port was in very precarious conditions. What followed is important to the understanding of the Battle of Matapan. Many believe that it was the Germans who almost forced the Italians to take action in an operation against British traffic in the Aegean. Operation “Luster” had begun and the British were shipping large numbers of troops and supplies to Greece. The Germans were concerned about this build-up since they were ready to move in from Romania and occupy the Hellenic peninsula. Clearly, the Italian report does not convey any strong German demand, it states: “Reader believed that fast units, such as the Littorios, could operate under destroyer escort against light enemy forces, including cruisers.” Italian plans for a naval action were already on the drawing board, and Admiral Iachino himself had presented one. Iachino’s plan was similar to the Germans’; a fast super battleship (super for the time, since the Littorios were the first Washington class battleship) and destroyers. Faster than the British Queen Elizabeth stationed in the Mediterranean, a Littorio class battleship could have easily avoided battle if conditions were not appropriate. According to the Germans, the destroyers would have acted at night, while the larger unit would have finished off the enemy during the day. Riccardi replied by informing the German admiral that the British always provided heavy convoy escort, “two battleships and a carrier,” and that this should be kept in mind.

    Although only marginally, we can detect that Supermarina was still envisioning a Jutland style confrontation, a duel to the death, while the Germans, who after all had witnessed the squander caused by such a confrontation, were proposing the equivalent of a naval blitzkrieg. Eventually, the only Italian surface victory came about during the Battle of Pantelleria when Italian cruisers implemented a tactic which would have pleased the Germans. Unfortunately, the Regia Marina was deeply entrenched in the idea of the “fleet in being” instead of earning the position of a “fleet in action”. The Royal Navy proved its worth and rarely did her ships show stern to the enemy.

    Eventually, Supermarina departed from the idea of a fast battleship with a destroyer screen and included most of the Italian heavy cruisers (the Gorizia was undergoing refitting) and two light cruisers. The original German suggestion would have allowed for a much more mobile, flexible and better controllable force. Ultimately, it was the torpedoing of the Pola, and not of the Vittorio Veneto, which caused the Italian disaster. The Germans, and Iachino, were right. If during this operation even the British experienced communication problems between ships, how could have the Italians have avoided them? Simply, the Regia Marina deployed too many ships.

    Back to the conference, Reader moved on to the Aegean sector where he foresaw the utilization of light forces during nocturnal actions. Reader also discussed the utilization of submarines, admitting their difficult operating conditions during daylight, but stressing their usefulness at night and against isolated ships. With the arrival of the U-Boot in the Mediterranean, he was proven right; while the Italians’ greater pray was a cruiser, the German submarines sank battleships and the mighty carrier Ark Royal. The two groups agreed on the need to occupy not only Greece, but also some of its islands, thus allowing the air force to operate against Egypt. Eventually, this design brought about the invasion of Crete. Interestingly enough, this was to be an airborne invasion in which the Regia Marina had a very marginal role.

    Riccardi reminded the Germans that Italian aircrafts in Rodi were already operating against Alexandria. Before the loss of Cirenaica, it was possible to monitor the British fleet in Alexandria, but lately its whereabouts was unknown. The Aegean situation, according to the Italians, could only be solved with the opening of the Dardanelle so that fuel could be brought in from Romania. Naturally, with Turkish neutrality this never materialized.

    The discussion moved on to cover France’s current political situation, including the occupation of Corsica and Algeria. By evaluating the length of the Italian report, the time spent on the topic must have been considerable. Ultimately, despite the time spent on the topic, German failure to allow the Italian occupation of Tunisia would have a substantial cost. The shorter routes could have saved many vessels, especially the newer ones which by the end of the Tunisian campaign (spring 1943) were all sunk.

    Next, the two groups discussed the fuel situation and the Italians made their allies aware of the possibility of an imminent paralysis of most naval activities due to fuel shortage. The Italian position was that by June the surface forces would have run out of oil fuel, and that the submarine forces would have a few more months, but not many. The German admiral promised to support the Italian demands with the Fuehrer, but he also reminded all attendees of the general fuel crisis throughout Europe.

    The conference concluded with the usual expressions of mutual support and commitments to the war effort, but what did the conference change? Much significance has been given to these two days of talks in Merano, probably due to the fact that within a few weeks the Italians lost three heavy cruisers and two destroyers in a devastating naval encounter with the Mediterranean Fleet. It should be agreed that the Germans did not particularly influence these events. Although Enigma intercepted Luftwaffe signals, the same can be said about orders issued by the Italians to their command in the Aegean Islands.

    The true significance of Merano is that only within nine months from Italy’s entry into the war, the three basic strategic failures which will bring about her defeat had already been clearly identified. Malta was left in British hands, fuel was only available in small quantities, and Italian naval strategies were outdated. The issue of Malta could be easily pushed back to the Germans, and Rommel’s insistence that occupying Egypt had a greater priority. Still, the Italian forces had the means to conduct the operation on their own. Training of special troops and the construction of landing crafts show that, at one point, there was a will. The fuel situation is more complicated, especially because some historians have noticed discrepancies in the consumption and storage reports. Ultimately, one can say that, in September 1943, the Italian fleet did have enough fuel to steam all the way to Malta. Strategy was probably the greatest failure, but also the most difficult to criticize. Would the German battleship approach have worked? Considering that naval reconnaissance and aerial coverage of the fleet’s operation was always lacking, one might have much to ponder.

    Finally, Merano was important because it was the end of the parallel war (the one originally wanted by the Italian government) and the beginning of Italian subjugation to the German will. Italy, once so proud, was quickly becoming a German vassal.
     
  5. Quillin

    Quillin New Member

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    wow, that was a long text.

    i cecked the figures i have on my computer. italiy had 1.8 milion liters of fuel at the start of the war and that should be enough for six months of operations. at a certain point, the navy had only 1 million liters and it was said that that wuld be more than enough.
     
  6. PMN1

    PMN1 recruit

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    So much for planning...this was a country which declared war with at least 1/3 of her merchant marine outside the Med and therefore unable to get back - obviously expecting a short war.
     
  7. Notmi

    Notmi New Member

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    1 million litres... That is less than 1000 tons. And a fast battleship steaming at full power could consume more than that in a single day!
     
  8. Quillin

    Quillin New Member

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    whoops :oops: , seems i have some wrong numbers
     
  9. Ebar

    Ebar New Member

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    Seems an odd to conclude that the defeat at the Battle of Cape Matapan was caused by having too many ships present. I'd have said lack of aircover and lack of radar were the big killers.

    Even the most feeble bit of a carrer would have improved the Italian navy hugely. At Cape Matapan the Italians were damaged and forced to back off by a handfull of Albcore torpedobombers.
     
  10. Quillin

    Quillin New Member

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    the main problem was also their codes. the british knew that the italian fleet was comming before the ships had left the port. they were already waiting for them
     
  11. Quillin

    Quillin New Member

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    found this at regiamarina.net i haven't read it yet since i'm still studing for my exams (just taking a small break :cool: ) look out, it's a long text

    Each year Italy, a country of limited natural resources, is forced to import tons of fuel of various grades from multiple sources. This dependency on imports is particularly aggravated during war times when the larger part of these imports ceases. During World War I, when Italy was allied with the "Lords of the Sea" and with the countries controlling most of the world’s natural resources, this problem did not exist. Instead, the Central Empires were tormented by this problem, and being unable to procure what was necessary to keep the war machine running, forced to surrender. When Mussolini declared the "Autarchia" (national self sufficiency), complete self-reliance of the whole Italian industrial complex, one could not but notice the paradox of such a proclamation. Italy, even if she had had the necessary industries to sustain her (a far-fetched assumption considering the backward state of the whole apparatus), would have been unable to obtain the necessary energy to keep it running.

    In the 20s and 30s, Italy imported an average of 12 million tons of good quality coal necessary for industrial production, the generation of electricity, locomotion, and winter heating. When Great Britain decided that an Italian intervention along with Germany was preferable to a pro-German neutrality, Italy was informed on January 14th 1940 of an imminent naval blockade of all coal import from Germany ( at that time coming through the then neutral Netherlands). On February 3rd, London informed Rome of the necessary prerequisites for the reinstitution of shipments of the indispensable coal, which, under the plan, would have been shipped from England. Italy was asked to provide London with a large quantity of war materiel. Following the mediation attempts conducted by the Italian Foreign Minister, Count Ciano, Great Britain materialized her threats and on March 1st, when units of the Royal Navy interdicted and captured 13 Italian coal ships taking them to internment and confiscating their cargoes.

    On the 10th of the same month, when Italian reserves of coal had already decreased to less than one month, the Germans informed that they were ready to commence transferring coal through the Alpine passes at a rate of about 1 million tons per month. This remedy, which the British thought impossible, was the result of collaboration between the "Reichsbahn" and the "Ferrovie dello Stato" and lasted until late summer 1944. Considering that from June 1940 through September 1943 the Regia Marina had to face an ever increasing crisis with the supplies of oil fuel, which at one point paralyzed the fleet leaving the control of the Mediterranean in the hands of the enemy, how did the Italian war ships fill up to reach Malta, where they surrendered?

    After several studies, some well-known historians pointed out several discrepancies between the fuel status reports the Regia Marina was sending to the Germans and the quantity reported by the historical bureau of the Italian Navy. The most evident of these discrepancies was noted in the meeting of Merano, in February 1941, where the head of the Navy, Admiral Riccardi, stated that the Navy had only 610,000 tons left when in fact, reserves amounted to over 1 million tons. One can easily assume that the Navy had created a sort of black fund of oil fuel to be used as a last resource with the double scope of obtaining more of the now available German fuel and, in relative security, to coordinate naval operations.

    1940

    The Regia Marina, expecting the imminent conflict against Great Britain, had planned in the years preceding the war and had been able to accumulate hefty quantities of oil fuel for her boilers to about 2 million tons. This quantity was thought sufficient for about one and one half years of war without any limitations. The Navy was the only armed force, which was able to accumulate a large quantity of fuel, and in the first week of June the Minister of Corporations withdrew 250,000 tons for the operation of industries and also for the Regia Aeronautica. The Regia Aeronautica had used tanks built of tin, instead of iron, which had caused the gasoline to spoil, so the Navy had to transfer 50,000 tons of gasoline.

    Italy entered the war not only with the most complete lack of readiness of her armed forces, but also without much fuel. It was thought that the war would not have last long and that the little fuel reserve would be sufficient. As a matter of fact, until January 1941, there were no limitations on the use of oil fuel, but during this month 671,560 tons had already been burned. Supermarina was forced to reduce training. Up to that moment, no large shipment of oil fuel had been acquired to replace the spent one. The 50,000 tons coming from Rumania were all destined to the Regio Esercito and civilian use, while the Regia Aeronautica benefited from 200,000 tons of very poor quality oil coming from the Albanian oil wells. The Regia Marina even attempted to increase domestic production obtaining annually 10,000 tons of low-grade fuel. The first replenishment was only 15,000 tons and it arrived from Rumania as part of an extraordinary shipment.

    1941

    To worsen this situation came the attempted coup d’ètat in Rumania, which tried to replace the pro German government. Despite Rome’s denial, it was common opinion that the Italian government had supported this action and therefore all shipments of fuel were immediately ceased. For the Regia Marina this situation meant that in addition to losing any hope of replainge the oil fuel burned, 250,000 tons had to be transferred to the Ministry of Corporations which declared it "intangible" while an additional 34,000 tons had to be transferred to the national industry. During 1941, Italy was only able to import 600,000 tons of fuel and of this 163,000 tons were "donated" to the Navy. At this point the situation became really dramatic and the monthly consumption had to be reduced to 60,000 tons. The total amount of oil fuel available at the end of the year was about 200,000 tons and during this period of crisis it was decided to remove from service the older battleships. To worsen this already negative situation, after the November British attack in Egypt, the high command and Mussolini requested that the fleet defend the Libya-bound convoys. This strain, which eventually paid off, was only possible thanks to the special shipment of 80,000 tons of German oil fuel, which was delivered at the end of the year.

    1942

    On January 10th, 1942 Admiral Riccardi informed the Germans that the Navy’s supplies of fuel had gone down to 90,000 tons. Admiral De Courten, in his memoirs, affirms that in that month the actual reserves were 200,000 tons. This discrepancy can be explained by the 130,000 tons of "intangible" fuel assigned to the corporation. During these months, the bottom was finally reached with reserves down to 14,000 tons. The situation was further deteriorated by the shipment of 9,000 tons of German oil fuel of quality too low to be of any use.

    Fortunately, at the end of April, it was possible to start importing 50,000 tons of oil fuel per month from Rumania. Suspending the escort and mining missions conducted by the cruisers further reduced consumption. These precautions and new shipments allowed for the deployment of the whole fleet in the double operation (east and west) during the battle of mid-June. Despite the new shipment, the situation kept deteriorating because, up to the armistice, the Regia Marina transferred 40,000 tons to other units and only two shipments of German fuel (10,000 tons in July and 23,000 in September) were received. These shipments allowed for the deployment (then cancelled), of some cruisers during the battle of mid-August and the replenishment of the bunkers aboard the two naval squadrons. At the end of November, the oil fuel reserve was about 70,000 tons plus all which was stored aboard the ships; enough for one sortie of the whole fleet. At the end of December, the old battleships Cesare, Duilio and Doria were removed from service, thus allowing for their crews to be redeployed to new escort units which were just entering service.

    1943

    The allied landing in North Africa and the subsequent doubling in consumption was the new event which, once again, placed the Regia Marina in a state of crisis. In fact, now instead of just refurnishing Libya, the Navy had to supply Tunisia. These new missions were made possible by the shipment of 40,000 tons of excellent German oil fuel. In January 1943, the crisis reached its climax and the three modern battleships had to be removed from service thus eliminating the Italian battle force. The only naval division still operating was the 3rd, based in La Maddalena (Sardinia). The crisis worsened with only 3,000 tons received in February 1943 and in March and April the modern destroyers had to be removed from escort missions. Meanwhile, on the 10th of April, the only major naval force, the 3rd Division, was annihilated when the Trieste was sunk and the Gorizia seriously damaged by an allied air bombardment. Expecting a possible Allied invasion, the remaining destroyers were reactivated along with the battleships which had half their bunkers filled with diesel fuel used by submarines.

    In the month of April, the 9th and 7th Divisions were active and the destroyers were used in escort missions. It must be noted that, at this point, there was no reserve of oil fuel left; so, how did the Regia Marina reach Malta? To find the answer, we have to step back. When the Germans unexpectedly occupied the French base of Toulon on November 27, 1942, where most of the French fleet still afloat was kept, they were able to capture 80,000 tons of oil fuel. Having realized that the Regia Marina could not launch any offensive mission, the Germans transferred "on loan" 60,000 tons of "special" oil fuel thus allowing for the three battleships to be reactivated, along with the cruisers of the 7th and 8th Division, the light cruisers based in Taranto, and, at the end of June, the two battleships Doria and Duilio, while the Cesare was in Trieste being rebuilt. This oil fuel allowed for several training missions, event which had not happened in a long time. The final mission was not even compromised by the total cessation of German supplies following Mussolini’s fall. In fact when Italy surrendered on September 8th, the Fleet had enough fuel to reach and surrender in Malta.
     

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