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Operation Herkules

Discussion in 'What If - European Theater - Western Front & Atlan' started by TheRedBaron, May 17, 2004.

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  1. TheRedBaron

    TheRedBaron Ace

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    What if the Germans had launched operation Herkules in 1942?

    The Germans and Italians spent several months planning an airborne operation to seize the island in a similar manner to the operation on Crete. Training took place to simulate the capture of certain defences and areas on Malta. The operation was cancelled by Hitler, against the wishes of Student who believed the operation would have been a success.

    What would have been the outcome in the Med theatre if the operation had been a success and Malta came under Axis control?
     
  2. chromeboomerang

    chromeboomerang New Member

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    Well good question. One school of thought is that it wouln't matter, the allies would still be supplied through suez. What would change is the flow of supplies to Rommel in desert. hard to guage how much of a difference that would make. Rommel needed gas, but he also needed tanks & with eastern front as top priority, it is doubtful enough would have got across to turn around the situation in desert in 42. But then I could be wrong.
     
  3. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    Malta was the key of the whole Mediterranean campaign. The Germans lost the campaign because of severe lack of supplies. Why was such a lack of supplies? Because of one simple reason: MALTA.

    'Operation Hercules' would have been a success. Certainly not a bloody Crete. By the time this operation would have been launched, i.e. May 1942 there was almost no AA ammunition in the island, the RN had limited her presence to the minimum and the RAF was almost put out of action. Also, there were no substantial ground troops to fight back German and Italian airborne troops.

    But thanks to egotistical Rommel it was all screwed up. Rommel told Hitler that with the air power of 'Operation Hercules' he could take Egypt and Suez. Hitler, afraid of another phyrric victory like Crete listened to his favourite general and cancelled the already going operation.

    Rommel seemed to forgot about this when he was asking for reinforcements, ammunition and fuel at El Alamein. All his supplies and reinforcements were in the bottom of the Mediterranean thanks to Malta.
     
  4. TheRedBaron

    TheRedBaron Ace

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    I agree with Malta being the key to the Med. Not sure of the success that the operation would have had. The units had spent some time training, including the pilots, so drops would have been accurate, but Student suggested that the operational losses would be similar to Crete. Also I am still unconvinced of the ability of the two Italian airborne Divisions. Folgore was fine but I know little of the other... Maybe a new topic there...

    I think Malta would have been a close run thing, but had it succeeded it could only have helped the German cause and assisted in the supply to Rommel.

    Crazy they never tried... Student andd his team were very keen on the op... But then Student always was keen...
     
  5. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    Red, I may not have turned out a picnic for the Germans, but certainly Malta's situation in May 1942 was completely awful and German posibilities of success were huge.

    Let me quote the commander in chief of the RAF in Malta, air vice marshal Sir Hugh Pughe-Lloyd: "Live conditions are extremely precarious... Every time you asked for a physical effort you could notice the lack of proper feeding... Water and electric energy were strictly rationed, as everything else... Coal and oil reserves could last for a few weeks but it was only a dream to have 20 fighters in April. We used to begin the day with 12 planes and we had one or two by night... Then we couldn't fight until we had fixed the rest".

    Defences had being mostly destroyed. There was lack of food, water, weapons and ammunition, the planes didn't have change-parts to be repaired, the pilots were exhausted, the fleet had been withdrawn from the ports and the submarines had to spend the day submerged. Anti-aircraft artillery ammunition was severely rationed in Malta. The gunners had orders not to shoot except to dive-bombers and only if they were under 1.000 metres high. The radar network in Malta had been neutralised by German interference devices and the vital supplies for 300.000 Maltese were running out...

    Another example, by the time of the Battle of El Alamein, marshal Rommel's forces got about 5% of the supplies originally sent from Italy. 60% had been sunk in the Mediterranean by the RAF and the RN and the remaining 35% was scattered in supply convoys all over the Balbia motorway, along 2.000 kilometres, from Tripoli to El Alamein... :rolleyes:

    In November 1942 there were 400 modern fighters based in Malta and British U-boats based also at the island sunk more than 1.000.000 tons of Axis shipping; including 4 cruisers, 17 destroyers and 21 submarines.

    :eek:
     
  6. TheRedBaron

    TheRedBaron Ace

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    But the situation could have changed had the allies been informed of the op via ULTRA...

    Did they know of the planning???

    I agree the situation on malta was VERY bad in that period, but it is the nature of airborne drops that they are always risky... The island had some tough defences, but is alot smaller than Crete. Also the effects on the German Transport fleet, in conducting another airborne op, could have caused such losses as to finally render the transport fleets inoperable. What would the results have been of a successful but costly op in terms of aircraft to the germans.

    I am sure the Germans could have succeeded (well maybe ;) ) but I still think the losses would have caused problems later...

    I will find out some more on the Italian airborne...
     
  7. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    I don't think German losses would have been incredibly great. And those would have been caused by accidents, certainly not by British resistance. The British AA guns and the defenders on the ground had ammunition for just a few hours of combat. After the scarce supplies ran out, what else could they do?
     
  8. TheRedBaron

    TheRedBaron Ace

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    Hmmm true, but dont forget the Fallschirmjager are also lightly equipped. Losses to accidents may be slightly higher than normal cue to the terrain of Malta but i doubt this would effect the operational performance...

    Just been reading (and Posting!) about Folgore and they seem a highly capable unit.

    The combined force of Fallschirmjager and Folgore MAY have been able to take Malta. Just re-read Students comments from the post-war appraisal of german airborne ops and he was very dismayed at the cancellation. Certainly Malta was ready to be plucked! Been looking at the plans for the assault and it seems reasonable to assume that the Germans would have succeeded, though I would still go with Students thoughts that he expected heavy losses.

    What would have been the Royal NAvy response???


    Fried check out the Folgore stuff... :cool:
     
  9. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    Have read some brief accounts of the 'Folgore' division, and most of them conclude about the unit being élite in every aspect of the war. I'm not sure, but I think they were deployed in North Africa and bravely fought under Rommel as did Ramcke's paratroopers. [​IMG]

    The RN wouldn't have been able to get close, evacuate or counter attack without suffering tremendously high losses.
     
  10. Mahross

    Mahross Ace

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    Hey mate, Just read a bit on Hurcules. Amazing how Student and the Italians had more guts than Hitler on this one. I know this Malta was one of 3 linchpins in Britains med strategy, the other 2 being Gibralter and Suez. If one fell it would have been extremly hard for Britain to keep up its war effort in the theatre. At the same time as Hercules was being planned Rommel had just captured Tobruk which he hoped, along with the planned ops against Malta would relieve his supply probs. With its cancelation it made Tobruks capture worthless as his supplies would still have to pass Malta, with its naval and air striking forces, to reach him. A strategic faux pas on the part of Hitler.
     
  11. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    Quite right, Mahross.

    BUT it is often overlooked that it was Rommel the one who told Hitler to divert the air power originally intended for Malta to his own Egypt offensive.
     
  12. silentmidgetassasin

    silentmidgetassasin Member

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    I think that capturing Malta for the Germans should have been a top priority. However supply problems would have made it difficult. It all depends if Germany and Italy could have gotten enough supplies.

    Ancient Fire Resurgent and I have been working on plans for the invasion of Malta (completely seperate from that of Hercules). I was planning on posting it later when we were finished, but I'll give an outline now, since it is relavent. It would be good to get feedback, especially on any problems it may have. I am actually not very familiar with the original Hercules plans, but here's what I think they should have done:

    Preinvasion Operations:
    -Italian Frogmen secure ports and harbors (any landing sites, we haven't chosen any yet, any ideas?), I don't know how much prior to the invasion this should be.
    -Brandenburg inserted by submarine pose as newly transfered brass, or MP's. Disrupt communications with Alexandria, and between islands, disrupt command during invasion.

    Airborne Operations:
    (these times are tentative, and depending on when the invasion was actually to take place, they could change, I just needed placeholders)
    -0600: Stukas bomb and strafe communications and airfields (try to take out British aircraft on the ground, what little of it there was)
    -0600: Bombers strike coastal defenses and communications
    -0620: (is 20 mins good enuough for the Stukas?) Ju-52's drop paras in and around airfields (there are three on Malta i believe)
    -0710: (not sure if this is enough time for the paras to clear the airfields enough for gliders), gliders land on the tarmac, wipe out last resistence at airfields, set up perimeter, and begin to push out.
    -Once airfields are secure, Ju-52's bring in supplies and reinforcements

    Naval Operations
    -0615: Naval bombardment begins (cruisers)
    -0640: Seaborne invasion begins
    -should it be broken into two landing waves??

    Infantry
    -haven't decided on the infrantry to be landing. Maybe a German mountain division? What kind of Italian troops would be available?
    -Main objective is to link up with paras at the airfields, there they can get supplies, etc.

    It could be about 10 days before the Royal Navy can respond, that should be ample time to prepare defenses after the island is taken.

    I am still not sure on what gliders to use. There was a German glider (me-323 giant) that was large enough to transport 88's and maybe an APC to tow it. I am not sure if they were available in time for the invasion, but it would be a good way to bring in heavy equipment.

    As for the landing sites Valetta Harbours are probably too heavily defended, same with Saint Georges Port, it depends on what kind of landing craft are to be used. There was a catamaran type lander that could be used for beaches, but I'm not sure if they were available.

    That's about it for now, we appreciate any input.

    [ 08. March 2005, 12:11 AM: Message edited by: silentmidgetassasin ]
     
  13. silentmidgetassasin

    silentmidgetassasin Member

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    Oh ya, and a naval minefield to slow down the RN if and when they do come.
     
  14. Ancient Fire Resurgent

    Ancient Fire Resurgent Member

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    couldn't the Mk 4 be carried in a Giant? that would be interesting....

    would it have been possible to mine the approch from Alexandira to Malta to slow the RN?

    about the date, PipsPriller said, "On the 10th May 1942 Kesselring advised OKW that air auperiority had been achieved over Malta and that now was the time to implement Operation Herkules. He had the full backing of the Italian High Command. "
     
  15. silentmidgetassasin

    silentmidgetassasin Member

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    And Me 110's for escort of Stukas and bombers.
     
  16. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    May I ask on what is this assumption made? Malta was indeed in a very precarious situation back in May 1942, but the British wouldn't have just stayed there and watch how the Axis tries to capture the centre of British presence in the Mediterranean.

    I don't think there would have been much resistance from the RAF, but I'm sure the RN would have prevented, even at high-losses rate, any amphibious landing, mobilising submarines, destroyers, mine-layers and other crafts from Gibraltar or Alexandria.

    The entire Italian Fleet must have been entirely thrown into this operation if success was to be achieved.
     
  17. Ancient Fire Resurgent

    Ancient Fire Resurgent Member

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    I remember reading somewhere that Churchill was advised that Malta was "undefendable" (if that's a word) by top brass early in WW2. I'm not sure they would have risked exposing their entire Med. fleet to try a recapture an island they had already written off. Also, would the relief force have included ground troop? wouldn't the mobilization of them slowed down the departure time? Lastly, What presense did the RN have in Malta at this time?
     
  18. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    Somewhere I have a OOB for British forces on Malta during the period in question. I'll see if I can find it. Anyway, the Brits have roughly a reinforced infantry brigade on Malta. This gives them some 3000+ troops total there.
    Malta also has fairly good close in coastal defenses including a fair number of twin 6pr anti-torpedo boat guns that fire 96rpm. These gave the Italians a nasty surprise the first time they encountered them.
    Given that the Germans and Italians would also be landing lightly armed paratroops on a very nasty landing area for the most part (Malta consists mostly of urban and rocky landscape) the drops would likely be disasterous. Remember, against lighter opposition in concentration the Germans almost lost in Crete; if they hadn't captured an airfield to allow reinforcements to come in by plane and land the invasion would have failed.
    The German seaborne portion of Herkules would likely have met the same fate as the Crete operation....it would have been crushed at sea in transit. The Royal Navy would likely have moved very quickly to intervien against a sea borne invasion.
    On the Axis side, what exactly could the Germans use for a seaborne invasion? A handful of captured freighters, the few MFP's available in the Med (at that point it was less than a dozen) along with some trawlers and other small craft scraped up from local sources. For the Italians, things are no better. The Italian Navy really lacks any amphibious warfare capacity. They would also have to be responsible for all sea defenses. Given their virtually complete lack of night fighting capacity (see Matapan for example) it is likely they would be unable to stop a determined RN counter attack at sea.
    Given German and Italian capabilities and, their lack of cooperation, about the best they could hope for with Malta was to shut down air operations there by sustained aerial attack.

    [ 08. March 2005, 07:28 PM: Message edited by: T. A. Gardner ]
     
  19. Ancient Fire Resurgent

    Ancient Fire Resurgent Member

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    I completely agree with you, the seaborne part of any attempted invasion would be very risky.

    addressing your concernes over the para drop zone, how about landing directly on the airfield tarmac? This deployment would only be considered if the stukas had ABSOLUTE air superiority. Just throwing that idea out there.

    Oh, the question of suitable landing craft. Would beaching obsolete destroyers and/or cruisers provide the inital deployment of men needed 2 capture a small harbor? The question is, where can u find a big enough beach? Some avaliable crusiers are the Taranto and the Bari off the top of my head. There are still some problems that need to be worked out, i admit.
     
  20. silentmidgetassasin

    silentmidgetassasin Member

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    Yes, if the RN found out about the invasion, they would probably try to take it back as soon as possible, however, that would be the purpose of the Brandenburg. They would make sure that the British would not know about it. But then again, what if the invasion fleet is spotted somehow before they reach Malta, or the Brandenburg fail? And then there's also the idea of mining the approach to Malta to slow down the RN.

    As for the airborne troops, I wonder how feasible it would be to land on the tarmac.They could easily miss. And if they scattered in and around the airfield, would they have too hard of a time capturing it? I was hoping that the element of surprise, and the Stukas would make it easier for the paras.

    I am not sure how many airfields Malta actually had at the time, depending on when they were built. Luqa is the only one that im sure of, and probably Hal Far. I am not even sure there is a third one, although I did see one on a map that was farther north of Luqa.
     
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