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The Fall of Malta Decisive or not

Discussion in 'What If - Mediterranean & North Africa' started by StudentofWar, May 15, 2009.

  1. StudentofWar

    StudentofWar Member

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    Does anyone else think that the fall of Malta would have been a decisive factor in the battle for North Africa? The fall of Malta would have changed at least two things.
    1. Decrease in loss of shipping
    2. More air support for Rommel
    Would this be enough to change the outcome of the entire theatre? What if the Germans had invaded Malta like they did Crete?
     
  2. redcoat

    redcoat Ace

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    No, losses on Axis convoys averaged around 15%, the main problem was the distance from the main ports to the front line. The fall of Malta wouldn't alter this



    In 1940 an Italian invasion could have succeeded as the British had thought that Malta was indefensible due to the closeness of Italy so they had done little defensively. However when the war started the British naval leadership took a far more aggressive stance, and the defenses were built up. By 1942 when the German/Italian attack was planned, the island had a large military garrison with a considerable AA defence, any attack would have been risky, with high casualties a certainty.
     
  3. tikilal

    tikilal Ace

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    Had Malta fallen it would have been a large victory for the Axis.

    But had the Germans invaded Malta, I do not think it would have gone too well for them.

    So yes and no.
     
  4. Bomber Harris

    Bomber Harris Member

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    I think it would definately have had an adverse effect on the Allied effort in the Mediterranean. The RAF used it as a base from which to bomb Axis ships; regardless of the statistics involved that has an impact. Rommel had to halt attacks due to lack of fuel - imagine if he had had a bit more and could possibly have driven attacks further. I think that the evidence of the stoic resistance of the island, and the level effort the Allies went to to re-supply the island, is proof alone that they placed a high level of strategic importance on the island.
     
  5. von Rundstedt

    von Rundstedt Dishonorably Discharged

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    Well i for one believe that had Malta had fallen it would mean that the British Royal Navy would have to conduct Naval duties from Gibraltar and Alexandria opposite ends of the Mediterranean. One other aspect is that Maltar would be a base of operations of the Luftwaffe and Regia Aeronautica this is critical as this gives the Axis an almost unrestricted movement of aerial supply convoys.

    Now we have the Jewel in the Mediterannean in Axis hands and now it is now that the Allied supply routes are cut off and when it comes to any offensive the time delay in getting supplies (especially aircraft and tanks) via the Cape could mean that the British would be overwhelmed and that with the capture of Egypt and her meager oil supply could have allowed the Axis the strategic position of a Jumping off point for the Middle East and Axis sympathetic groups could begin insurrections and coups such like Iraq, Iran, Palestine, Trans-Jordan and it also could influence Turkey to the Axis cause.

    If this had occured the Axis had a southern jump-off point for Barbarossa and that the Baku oilfields could have been captured much earlier forcing The Soviet Union into defeat.

    v.R
     
  6. Falcon Jun

    Falcon Jun Ace

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    Well, Malta certainly played a big role hampering the flow of supplies to German and Italian forces in North Africa.
    At the beginning, Malta hardly had any semblance of military strength. Italy could've taken it if they really wanted to. But what would that do? Malta wasn't at threat (yet) so why send forces to take it when it could easily be bypassed and left to its lonesome.
    Things changed when the British decided to reinforce and once the reinforcements were in place, Malta was no longer a walkover. Sure, Italy or Germany could always attempt an invasion but with the British forces in place, it would be costly. And at this point, Malta was already taking a toll on the German and Italian supplies that were passing near the island.
    I wouldn't say it was a mistake for the Italians not to take Malta at the onset. From their viewpoint at that time, Malta can be dealt with at their leisure. They underestimated Malta's importance to the British and the British, smarting from so many defeats, won't tolerate losing more territory to their foes. That's how I understand the situation. Feel free to rebut.
     
  7. von_noobie

    von_noobie Member

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    Malta is just one great example of what happens when you make assumptions, 'That little small defencless island' Nah, Thats not a threat, We can get to them later... Bad call. You should never ever leave an enemy standing if you can put them down.

    Had Malta fallen then yes NA would have a big difference, Considering Rommel seemed to alot oftimes always fall short ofwhat he needed by just that little bit, 15% of supplies lossed to some Generals might not seem like alot, To Rommel, It was a major loss, Seeing how he could use the stuff so effectivly. Hell if Malta fell, italian fleet free to choose to go and head to Alexandria or Gibralter,Capture Gibralter, And increase supplies to get to Suez canal, Then war in NA/Med Won.
     
  8. macker33

    macker33 Member

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    I think it was an all time blunder,,as well as the aircover and safety of german shipping the allies wouldnt have been able to build up prior to el alamein.
     
  9. A-58

    A-58 Cool Dude

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    By mid to late 1942, it would not have mattered if the Axis Forces took Malta. The Afrika Korps was already well into Egypt and locked in combat with the 8th Army at El Alamein. Even if Malta was secured, and more supplies got to Rommel, the Allied landings in Northwest Africa would have negated those gains. Rommel would still have to scamper back to Tunisia and have his back to the wall, facing Allied Forces from both sides. Then Axis-held Malta could have been by-passed as Japanese strongholds were in the PTO.
     
  10. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    It wouldn't have made that much difference. The major problem in North Africa wasn't getting supplies there. It was moving them to the front. The further Rommel got from Tunis the harder this became. Neither Bengahazi nor Tobruk could be used for any large amount of shipping due to the condition of their harbors. Both were litered with wrecks. The dock facilities were heavily damaged and shore facilities non-existant.
    There was nothing the Germans or Italians could do to change this. For both it was a near complete lack of construction and salvage capacity to fix these problems.
    At Alamein the Germans were using roughly 5 gallons of gasoline to deliver one to the front. The supply system was using over twice the trucks as tactical units had in their inventory to move those supplies. The whole operation was horribly inefficent.
    This is why once the Axis was forced back into Tunisia they were able to almost double the size of the army in North Africa and still supply it.
    During the entirety of the North African campaign the Germans did manage to effectively neutralize Malta several times. The reason they couldn't sustain that condition for any long period was simply once again lack of resources. The Luftwaffe couldn't afford the hundreds of bombers and fighters necessary for such a sustained operation. Nor, could the Luftwaffe scrape up the fuel, pilots and, replacement aircraft to keep the operation going on a daily basis.
    Essentially, the whole North African campaign was an expensive, self-defeating exercise in futility for the Germans.
     
    brndirt1 likes this.
  11. A-58

    A-58 Cool Dude

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    And also, a large-scale airborne operation to secure Malta was more than likely not feasible, since the inventory of JU-52s were severely reduced by constant operations, and not to mention Hitler's phobia about post-Crete airborne operations. And most importantly, the operations in the Med and North Africa was merely a side-show to the meat grinder going on in Russia at that time. The 6th Army was just getting good and bogged down at Stalingrad to mention one attention getter....

    Malta should have been secured in 1941.
     
  12. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    Italian fleet had no oil and did nothing and the capture of Gibraltar would not aid Rommel ,the British would destroy Alexandria and if the Germans could advance to the Suezcanal wat was their profit ? Another thousend miles of desert. The war in North Africa was not important ,that's why Hitler send only 2 divisions and he could not supply more.
     
  13. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    It would have been a disaster for the Royal Navy. By taking Malta, the Axis would have cleanly cut the Med in half, with much of the RN Mediterranean fleet bottled up in the eastern half at Alexandria. Movement could be safely made through the Suez Canal (maybe) adding a long time to voyages to the UK.

    With German Ju-88's and Ju-87's based at Malta, and no RAF to run interference for the RN, it would not have been pleasant for the RN.
     
  14. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    The Suez was little used for commercial shipping after 1940, in fact I believe that with the exception of supply ships to all UK forces in Egypt it was closed to all commercial shipping. Great Britain shipped all of the "stuff" going to the Home Islands around the Cape from early 1940 on. The shipping times wouldn't have been any more affected than they were historically.

    Little of the RN's supply came by way of Gibraltar, some did, but little. Malta was supplied in part by that route, but if it had fallen why would the supplies need to go that way?
     
  15. Chesehead121

    Chesehead121 Member

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    Hmm, good question. Rommel's supply lines were seriously stretched by the time he was truly about to win the entire campaign. If Malta had been taken, then maybe this would be the final straw on the Allied camel's back. However, it's extremely possible that the Allies would have pushed back Rommel anyway because the supplies that were coming in would have been diverted to taking Malta instead of where they needed to be- with Rommel and his Afrika Corps. The Afrika Corps, now downsized from the diversion of troops, would have been obliterated, something like this. :blasted: Then the Allies would have been on their way to Operation Torch and beyond :cheers:
     
  16. Wiley Hyena

    Wiley Hyena Member

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    Not taking Malta is one of the top 5 biggest Axis blunders of the war. First of all, its importance to Britain is self evident by the facts. Second, it was there for the taking had any substantial amount of effort been made by Germany/Italy (I will accept no argument to the contrary on this point). Third, Axis control of Malta would have freed the Afrika Corps to move east to seriously contest for Egypt and the Suez Canal. If Suez thereafter falls, which is a distinct possibility, Britain's naval control of the Med suffers total and complete collapse with regard to all areas east of the vertical line of Algiers. These events would have resulted in a strategic advantage to the Axis' in both an offensive and defensive way. Offensively, the road opens to Palestine, Syria, the middle east proper, and Turkey. Defensively, the Axis is in a position to meet an Allied attack from the west and without the historic east/west squeeze that eventually pushed them out. And lastly, the effect on Balkan-Turkish pro-axis politics would have been incredible with the departure of the British fleet from eastern Med waters (not to mention Italian morale).

    Clearly, Churchill was right about the importance of North Africa. German defeat in North Africa was huge.
     
  17. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    Kind of kills a response don't you think. But, riddle me this: What would, in your estimation be the forces necessary for the Axis to actually take Malta?
     
  18. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    The problem for axis supplies was not Malta, it was ULTRA. Without knowledge of the convoy sailing and routes the Malta forces would have been nearly completely ineffective, the need to make searches would have required a lot more forces and fuel than was available and attrition would probably have been pretty high as well.
     
  19. Falcon Jun

    Falcon Jun Ace

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    Hmmm... okay, let's say the Axis did take Malta. What would that give them?
    Maybe a fairly secure supply line for sending supplies to North Africa?
    Possibly even a chance to interdict Allied shipping?
    Maybe the Axis might be able to send more supplies but the next question would be: how would the supplies that get across the Med get to Rommel's troops at the front?
    As rightly pointed out in several posts here, the Axis supply system in North Africa was not efficient enough to get the required amount of supplies to Rommel's units at the front.
     
  20. Mark4

    Mark4 Ace

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    The only thing it could have was a early stage point for the bombing of polesti and dilevering supplies to the Balkan partisans and mybe a forward stage point for subs attacking German shipping.
     

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