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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. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    It would be very foolish of franco to join the Axis :due to the destructions of the Civil War,Spain was starving,and was surviving by the US aid (food and oil),this would disappear if Franco joined the axis .
    About Gibraltar in Axis hands:without the deployment of scarce aircraft and UBoats,Gibraltar would be useless for the Germans and Britain would counter the loss of Gibraltar by ..the occupation of the Canarians.Btw:the distance from Gibraltar to the atlantic coast of Portugal is already somme 400 km.
    About the junction of the Axis forces in the Caucasus the farthest the AK could go was the Suez Canal and AG A was already blocked at the beginning of the Caucasus,it never reached the frontier with Turkey.
    A German threat to India was only a phantasy .
    Notwithstanding that the Soviet oil production was falling sharply between 1940 and 1945 (total from 32 to 19 million ton and for Baku from 22 to 11),this did not prevent the SU to hoist its flag on the Reichstag .
    There is a very interesting thread on Gibraltar on this forum by Brndirt.
     
  2. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    From other debates I've seen on this it's not at all clear that an invasion will succeed at any point in time. Certainly Malta was weak early on but then the Italians couldn't bring much against it. As time progressed it became stronger just like the opposition. Indeed I'm not convinced the chances for success would ever have been very good. Then there's what is likly to happen even if it does succeed. The RN is simply much stronger than the Italian navy early in the war. In order for an invasion to succeed the Italian navy has to be willing and able to prevent the RN from reaching the transports that would support the invasion. I can't think of a time especially early in the war when they were strong enough to do this.
     
  3. Wiley Hyena

    Wiley Hyena Member

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    First, if U.S. aid was so important, then why didn't Spain ever join the allies? It didn't do that because Franco had nothing to gain by doing so, even when it became apparent that an allied victory was at hand. Make no mistake, if Franco had ever reached the conclusion that the Axis was likely to win the war, he would have joined them to get in on the spoils. Free food had nothing to do with it. Axis control of Malta or control of Malta and Egypt would have caused Franco to sit down and reevaluate.

    Second, I wouldn't describe the 1940-41 Luftwaffe as "scarce". I'm comfortable with the thought that had Gibralter fallen, the Axis would have managed air superiority in the sector especially considering the additional use of Spanish airbases.

    Lastly, if Rommel takes Egypt/Suez then more German supplies are coming his way. To heck with the road from Tunisia. With the RN out of the med, Alexandria and other Egyptian ports would have easily had the capacity to supply a substantial force for Rommel to roll around the corner with into Beirut. Then it's the turn of Turkey and a flanking force in southern Russia. Upon the happening of these events, it is doubtful that an attack in the Balkans would have been necessary, thus saving those men and that material for other operations.
     
  4. green slime

    green slime Member

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    Not taking Malta was indeed one of the biggest blunders of the Axis campaign. But such was the attitude of non-sharing of goals between Germany and Italy. If the two dictators had collaborated in the early years, then they would have achieved much more. Malta should have been taken well before Greece & Crete. Obvious if you are planning on basing your African campaign from Libya. And a far more sensible payback for the sacrifice of Elite Paratroopers (Strategic site securing supply lines).

    Examining the losses of Axis shipping in terms of tonnage of supplies sent is misleading: As the Axis didn't have such a huge ship building capacity as the States, every sunk vessel is a huge loss: it is one more ship that is unavailable to ferry more supplies. And Axis losses in shipping in the Mediterranean was huge. If the losses in shipping were halved, how much more supplies could have reached Rommel? Assuming 15% losses, the answer is not 7.5%: because far more could be sent! But the whole DAK excursion was done as an afterthought.
     
  5. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    The problem for the Axis regarding supplies has mulitple issues going on availability and shipping space being way down the list.

    The numbers earlier came from an a Strategy & Tactics magazine article but trace back to official British histories on the war. However, that is just the tip of the iceburg. The real problem isn't losses enroute but what happens when the ships arrive. For this VanCreveld's Supplying War gives a decent picture.

    The first problem is dock space. Tripoli has only four berths. Bengazi two. Both have little in the way of port facilities to off load and move the supplies from the ship to, well, anywhere. Next, there is a general lack of both warehouse and tank space for materials and fuel. The situation is bad enough that the Germans strong armed the French into allowing supplies to be shipped through Bizerte, a much better port than Tripoli. But, this adds hundreds of miles to the distance from the front that is well, nearly a thousand miles away as it is. But, the French at least have a single track rail line from Bizerte to Tripoli so this helps alot.
    But, because of the shortage of bething spaces in the ports sending a convoy larger than 4 to 6 ships is a waste as the excess vessels will sit for weeks loaded waiting a turn at the docks.

    Then there is a general shortage of transport on the Axis' side. They simply don't have the trucks to move the supplies forward. The result is that much of what is delivered sits on the docks in Tripoli waiting for transport. So, even if ample supplies are available they aren't where they are needed and won't be anytime soon.

    Toburk was opened after the Germans took it. But, this too has problems. Tobruk is in range of the RAF Desert Air Force so shipping runs to that port result in skyrocketing losses the Italians and Germans can't afford. So, they stopped shipping supplies there and went back to using Tripoli as their main base of operations.

    The bottom line is that taking Malta changes none of the above. The Axis supply situtation is still bottlenecked due primarily to their lack of ports and terrible ground transportation system.

    Now, that said, I would think that the Germans could have greatly improved this situation by moving a good number of MFP to North Africa. They did send a few but nothing close to the numbers necessary to really make them a viable shipping system. An MFP could move 150 tons of supplies (roughly) at about 8 knots from Bengazi to Tobruk or, even further down the coast into any of several small ports or even a good piece of beach. With enough to make the trip from Tripoli to Tobruk (or closer to the front) these might have worked. Providing several MFA (gunboats) to provide protection would have helped immensely.
    The Germans might also have latched onto small coastal freighters for the same purpose. Keeping close to shore and staying as hidden as practical by day would have reduced losses. I don't know if this was thought of or fully possible but, it would have been worth a try.
     
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  6. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    But is this possible? The RN was always stronger in the Med than the axis were and in 1940 and early 41 this superiority was marked. Malta was also much better defended than Crete was.
    But Germany was never really considering an African campaign as such. When invited the Africa Korp was simply suppose to stabalize the Italian position.
    Perhaps but perhaps not. One has to look at the bottleneckes and it's not clear it was shipping. Port capacity and moving the supplies from the port to the front may have been the limiting factors.
     
  7. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    IMHO,the whole thing should be directed to the Sacred Cows:it has been explained already that Malta never was decisive (and,IMHO,not much important):if,after the fall of Malta,10 % more could be sent to Libya,the result would be that 10 % more would be blocked at Tripoli:the railway system in Lybia was that deficient,that nothing more could be sent to the front .
     
  8. green slime

    green slime Member

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    Malta was not better defended than Crete, early in the war: in fact, it was regarded as indefensible by the British at the outbreak.

    Thanks for the information about the docking situation in North Africa, T A Gardner.
     
  9. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    Italian accounts report Tobruk were was very much in use in 1942, Bengazi was not used much as, besides the damage, anything that landed there could just as easily be landed a Tobruk closer to the frontline, the biggest recorded bottlenecks occurred at Tripoli that was not badly damaged. Siebel ferries and Motozattere carried supplies nearly to the fron line.
    While port capacity at Tobruk was limited, only a couple of ships could be unloaded simultaneuosly, this was significant only because the risk of attacks made fast turnaround a necessity so the reason more ships were not directed directly to Tobruk was as much naval/ar interdiction as port capacity. The axis landed a number of railway engines for the captured railroatd at Tobruk and if you can land a locomotive you certainly can land a tank.

    AFAIK there were no rairoads in Libya west of Tobruk though I think there was a low capacity one in Tripolitania but I don't know how far East of Tripoli it extended, if I recall correctly it mostly ran west towards the Tunisia border.
     
  10. Spartanroller

    Spartanroller Ace

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    Having lived in Malta a couple of years i can say for sure that naval landings are not an option if anyone has forces on the island. What is often missed in the consideration of an invasion of Malta is the magnificent harbour facitlities, which even after the worst of the Axis bombing were largely functional. Although the British couldn't use them much while Axis planes could still raid - if the island was captured they would have been available for Italian use, who didn't need it, or German use, who had few major ships in the med, but who would have been able to use it out of range of allied interference like they had in France. That would have been a convenience, but not a war winner without Gibraltar as well.
     
  11. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Any Axis assault would, like Crete, be predominately a airborne attack. A seaborne assault could only occur after a airborne bridgehead had been established. Agreed the Italian navy would be unlikely to base heavy units in Malta, but it could be a great help to small units and air assets. The taking of Malta, in itself, could not win the war for the Axis. That would take an increase in trucks, port capacity, MFP's and perhaps the laying of a rail line heading east. None of these are impossible, but the Axis lacked the will to pursue these options.

    Even if there is no other actions taken after a capture of Malta, it would still have merit. As an outer bastion in the defence of Italy proper would almost surely force the Allies to retake the island before any attack upon the mainland or Sicily. This might prevent the fall of Italy for 3 to 6 months, thus prolonging the war for that amount of time. Which was the reason Hitler sent Rommel and the DAK to begn with
     
  12. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    If Alexandrea and the Suez are taken then Malta becomes irrelevant. Convoys could simply skirt it to the East and North along the Greek coast and then go to Alexandrea
     
  13. A-58

    A-58 Cool Dude

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    If Alexandria and the Suez are taken, then what about Operation Torch? Rommel would be way out in the proverbial "bumfuctegypt" region, and many a mile from his supply base (Tripoli) when Torch or it's equivalent takes place in Northwest Africa.

    Fifteen left now!
     
  14. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    Without Mata and Rommel blocking Suez Torch is likely to be restricted to the Morocco landings as the axis is likely to be able to reinforce Algeria faster than the allies, on the other hand a Morocco only landing may well see Vichy France put up much more of a fight. Overall it's such a big risk for little gain that IMO the allies will go for Norway instead.
     
  15. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Would Norway just be Italy with more Snow? Does this not insure that Italy remains a Axis ally till the end? Now if all of Noray is taken it makes a great airbase for bombers and fighters, and a possible jump spot for an attack on North Germany.
     
  16. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    Then the Germans have Bizerte and other ports in Tunisia that are much better to use. These are also largely immune to Malta as the distance is shorter and again the convoys can be routed away from the Island.
     
  17. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Look at the troop densities. Also the existing defences especially at the airports and the AA guns. Malta also had a united command did it not? The British forces at Crete hadn't been on the island long, many were short on equipment, and there was a rather fractured command from what I recall reading. Malta was also be supported by the RN from both Alexandria and Gibralter.

    That's what a fairly long thread over on the axis history forum has concluded. However even the air assault would be tricky. For instance air landing troops onto an airfield protected by a decent amount of AA is hardly a prescription for success. The terreign of Malta in particular the numerous stone fences and such would also be hard on parashooting troops as would the AA guns previously mentioned.
    Only if the odds of success were high enough and the potential losses not catastrophic. An air assault on Malta had a fairly high probability of failure and one which could cripple the transport arm of both the German and Italian airforces and result in near 100% losses of their airborne forces.
     
  18. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    hm,the possibility of the Germans to send troops to NA,did not depend of the possession of Malta:after Torch,with Malta remaining British,they were sending troops to Tunesia and Algeria.If Malta was German,could they send more men ? Only if more men were available,and,they were not,otherwise,the Germans would have sent more men .QED
    If we are looking at the farthest landing place of Torche(from memory:Algiers),that would be 700 km to Tripoli,that would mean that the Germans never could threat Alger.
     
  19. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    Northern Germany already was attacked from Britain,and the distance London-Hamburg and Oslo-Hamburg being the same,I don't see the utility for Britain to send men and materials to Norway .
    I presume that "an attack on Nrthern Germany" means bombardments,because,landings were excluded .
     
  20. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Is it impossible to execute a amphibious assault on Denmark? Control of Norway should make it feasable, which would put the Allies on the German border, and open up North and East Prussia for possible Attack.
     

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