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Was the Med a sideshow?

Discussion in 'North Africa and the Mediterranean' started by Mahross, Jul 12, 2004.

  1. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Hmmmmmm.....maybe we should publish a 'WWII Forums Anthology' - you know the sort of thing ; 'The WWII Forums Reader' , or 'Best Of....' ;)
     
  2. Mussolini

    Mussolini Gaming Guru WW2|ORG Editor

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    Hey

    Just finished reading a book called An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942 - 1943 by Rick Atkinson. While it doesnt give any insights into the war vs. the Russians if the Germans had won, this is what i have to say.

    First, a good deal of the Luftwaffe was destroyed ferrying equipment and troops over to Africa when it became apparent that the majority of ships couldnt reach Africa due to Allied Interdiction missions. A good deal of Luftwaffe planes that would have been sent over to the Russian front.
    Secondly, the German and Italian Units (of the Italians, there were two elite divisions who were pretty good - Trieste and Ariete i think) who were combat-veterans. I think they would have done rather well in the open terrain of Russia as it was much like the open terrain of North Africa. Even in more mountainous terrain, they would have been a tough match. Look what they did the Brits and Yanks in Tunis when the Allies attacked into hilly terrain. Then the Panzer divisions could have been moved from North Africa to Russia. There was an Italian tank division in Europe consisting of French tanks and the like that could have been moved to North Africa once it had been conquered to help with possible defence from an allied attack.

    The Axis winning in North Africa would have also cancelled out the landings in Normandy and then the invasion of Sicily/Italy since the Allies would need to take North Africa first, as it opens up the belly to Europe, giving them the means to use several options of attack.

    The Med. was definately not a side show. It was the only Theatre that the British could fight the Germans in and they concerntrated all they could against it. It was also the only place for the Americans to get combat experiance against the germans (and got a mauling at that) after the US had entered the war. For Hitler, it was a sideshow, as he was more concerned with Russia and was concerntrating all he could there. There were 14 more divisions in France at the time of Operation Torch who were moved to Russia. Imagine if we had launched the landings in Normandy instead of North Africa in 1942? An additional 14 Divisions of Germans would be squaring off against us...
     
  3. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    even though we may consider der Führer thinking that Italy/Austria was a side show the man had to think about protecting his butt in some fashion. Had not the 1st Para division and Gebirgsjägern foughtn it out till the end with Allied forces they would of been moved elsewhere and we can only ponder where. and although it is still not adequately covered the Axis forces were still able to withstand the onslughts of many US division coming right up the alley northward into the Tirol. If a national Redoubt would of been established then who knows........thankfully it just became a myth, but an understandable one

    Erich [​IMG]
     
  4. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Aquila non capit muscas

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    May I couteously disagree?

    Quite right, and airplanes are rather inefficient load carriers, or at least you need a few thousand flights to carry the same tonnage any tramp steamer could carry. And even then you have to (theoretically) dismantle a Pz III in small pieces and then take a full staffel of Ju52 to carry the single Pz to Afrika. No ship no Pz.

    As for ships, how many Pz Divs did the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force send to the bottom, without ever touching the blazing sands?


    Possibly, but North of Stalingrad the Russian obliterated the entire 8th Italian Army in Operation Uranus. I don't think these TWO divisions would make much difference. I do not doubt the troops there were good quality, simply the logistical situation was so bad that no elite division would have any chance to show its mettle. These two divisions would most likely go down the same drain.

    Two Pz Divs (two!) in severe need of rest and refit.

    Why? The reason Italy was invaded at that time was that because it was close enough to a large concentration of forces, and the target seemed easy enough. You shut out the Med, what happens to the need to invade Italy?

    Well? You say it was the only theatre available to the Brits. That does not make it a sideshow to the Brits, it makes it the only show.

    As for the Americans you say again it was "the only place". The only place to build a great training ground, so to speak, but is a training ground the main show?
     
  5. Mussolini

    Mussolini Gaming Guru WW2|ORG Editor

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    Right - the fact that it was the only theatre for the Brits made it all the more amasing that a smaller force of Germans/Italians could almost defeat them while clearly at the disadvantage.

    I think they used 500-odd planes and lost about 355 of them trying to transport materials. Ferrying equipment was so dangerous (there was one minefield that only had 4 mile long, 1 mile wide channel through it) that Italian captains would come up with any excuse not to take it. They'd go out, turn around, go out, turn around, go out turn around again saying they couldnt do it or mechanical problems.

    The Luftwaffe had to resort to night-time flights, and with increasingly short nights, they couldnt fly as many sorties to transport the material.

    Despite all that was learnt by the Americans in Africa, they would forget about it and have to relearn it in Europe. Combined Arms tactics (Inf + Armor working in unison) and all of that which they learnt in Africa went down the drain. At least they got combat experiance and proved their worth, though the won more due to the amount of supplies they had then anything. The Germans were barely getting half of what Arnim and Rommel said they needed. Rommel lost 1,000 men (or there abouts) retreating from Al Alamein. Want to know how many replacements he got? 6 soldiers. Cant win a war like that. But the Germans sure gave the Allies a thrashing...Kasserine Pass is a great example. If Rommel hadnt split his forces, he might have got to that supply dump (i forget where it was) and had some better luck and cause more damage - he would have also been able to roam all the way back to Morocco too. The Germans used a previously captured British Tank, drove it up to a ridge (with a few other tanks and some Grenadiers) and captured some 300 Brits and killed a bunch more. The tank caused a foxhole to cave in to which the Brit yelled the likes of 'Watch where you're driving that thing' before he saw the Grenadiers jump of the back and yell for him to surrender or die. That also happened during the night. Crazy stuff. Now that i am awful tired and rambling, i shall stop.
     
  6. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Aquila non capit muscas

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    On the other hand one can say the Med was the main show for the Brits and Italians, because it was the only show that mattered.

    Considering of course Burma was a forgotten place and the East Front was something the Italians wanted to push out of their minds.

    So it all depends on point of view, Stalin couldn't care less about a bunch of people running to and fro in the desert with no clear strategic objective in sight :confused:
     
  7. TheRedBaron

    TheRedBaron Ace

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    Exactly!

    For the British it was important. It gave us much needed experience in Armour, Air Support and airborne & Amphibious landings, to name a few!

    Fpr the Germans it was yet another drain on important resources...

    For the Russians, they probably didnt know where the Med was...
     
  8. Mahross

    Mahross Ace

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    Don't know bout the germans. I know good ole Herr Hitler considered it a sideshow but if a few more resoures had been to rommel imagine what had happened if could have entered the middle east. Imagine all the oil resources he would have gained. this may well have helped germany's war effort. but it is one of those big what if's?
     
  9. Maverik

    Maverik Member

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    Hi Mahross, This was raised on the what if section last week.
     
  10. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Aquila non capit muscas

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    I guess that wouldn't work. How would the oil be brought to the Reich? No pipelines to the West (Med or Black Sea), the only way out would be throgh the Persian Gulf, and I believe the Royal Navy would try to make that a bad idea.

    If those people couldn't bring an oiler from Rimini to Benghazi, how could they bring oil from the Shatt al Arab? Besides, the Suez canal would be chock full with every kind of debris and demolitions the Brits might dump in there.

    That's the trouble with what-ifs, I'm becoming more and more convinced they're completely sterile exercises: we waste time and effort refuting each other on fantasies and have no energy left for real McCoy discussions (who was he?)
     
  11. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    ( Sigh.... :rolleyes: ) ZR, it's obvious .....they'd fly the oil over in Ju 52s. A simple matter for any armchair general to arrange ! ;)
     
  12. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Aquila non capit muscas

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    oh, hadn't thought of that... Couldn't it be flown on those oversize belly containers some Me110 had?
     
  13. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    That's what those 195 gallon underwing tanks on the Bf110 were for ! And don't forget PLUTO - surely German ingenuity could have laid a pipeline under the Med.....

    ( Getting silly...men in white coats appear....'Nurse - the sedatives !.... ;) )
     
  14. Mussolini

    Mussolini Gaming Guru WW2|ORG Editor

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    I assume the Germans would have gone towards Iraq - that whole area (which was part of the commonwealth) to get that oil. Transportation wouldnt have been hard - ships from what we call Israel to Greece would have been shortest route to Russian front. Many possibilities, all depends on where the Krauts went after they nabbed egypt.
     
  15. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Aquila non capit muscas

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    Of course not, all you have to do is dig a channel from Haifa to, say, Kirkuk so that your ships can depart from Israel to Salonika :D

    How advanced the long distance pipeline technology was at the time? And how much expertise (and means) did the Germans have on pipeline construction?

    For how long have the Coalition been on Iraq, and how is production faring? And this time no one blew the wells.

    The Ploesti oil was carried by rail and by barge along the Danube.

    There are no rivers that I recall running from Iraq Westwards, and there are no rail lines either. Building a rail line might be possible, but how many years would it take? (I worked in rail line construction, I have a general idea of the effort)
     
  16. Mussolini

    Mussolini Gaming Guru WW2|ORG Editor

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    Building a rail-line would have been no problem for the Germans - plenty of manual labor (Jews, Russians, etc - all those in concerntration camps). Or they could bypass that all together and have Ju's transport the oil as far (in my case) Israel, where ships would then transport the oil to Europe. The planes would be able to fly several sorties everyday (and night) so it wouldnt have been hard to get the Oil to the coast and ships. With the fall of the Suez Canal, the British Navy would have soon disappeared since it wouldnt have had any friendly ports and would be practically trapped in the Med.
     
  17. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Aquila non capit muscas

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    All right, let's suppose Iraq had a production of 500,000 barrels/day. 1 barrel = 160 lt, roughly.

    Assuming a density of about 0.8, we have a barrel weighing 130kg plus 20 kg tare. Total 150 kg per barrel.

    The Ju 52 max load capacity, per http://www.luftfahrtmuseum.com/htmi/itf/ju52.htm was 3910kg. Assuming no wastage, a Ju52 could then carry 26 barrels.

    Assuming the Jus were really solar-powered gliders, spending no fuel, we can say that for that nominal 500.000 b/d (not much in today's terms, really, you would need 19,230 Tante Ju two-way flights per day. There were a total of 4,800 give or take JU made, not counting those lost at Crete, Demiansk, Stalingrad, etc..

    Which means either that you would be a prime candidate for a medal by Hermann Goering for drastically fostering transport aircraft production, or else your scheme is totally impraticable.

    Oh, and this is the "North Africa and the Mediterranean" section, What-Ifs and Daydreams are elsewhere.

    --------------
    Not really apropos, but interesting, none the less.
    http://www.iwm.org.uk/upload/package/21/creteegypt/standegypt11.htm

    Also very interesting:
    "...lacking a rail system in Libya, they had to send most material forward in trucks, consuming an immense amount of precious fuel in the process. A more inefficient way of doing it is hard to imagine, but this was largely a constraint of the geography of the theatre (and, of course, Italy's failure to develop a rail system in the colony pre-war. They had, of course, constructed the aforementioned coastal highway in the '30s, the so-called "Via Balbia."

    from http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/wwii/2004-July/001072.html
     
  18. TheRedBaron

    TheRedBaron Ace

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    Ju 52s transporting barrels of oil?

    They will make a pretty sight when hit by tracer or 20mm cannon shells... :D

    Completely impractical!

    Look at the 500 JU52s lost in three weeks over the Med...
     
  19. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    how about flying them at night or use the big boy Me 323 Gigant, of course some of the opil was trasported by U-boot possibly.... ?
     
  20. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    Rommel couldn't have got more supplies with Malta still in British hands. Would it not have been for him, 'Operation Hercules' would have provided many more tons of supplies for the Panzer Army 'Afrika'. However, these supplies still had to go from Tripoli-Benghasi to Egypt, over 2.000 km away… there was no way Rommel could get through the fixed defences at El Alamein, in a frontal attack, against a strenghtening British VIII Army in the tip of his enormous supply line.

    Taking Alexandria was difficult… El Cairo, very difficult, Suez, almost impossible. The Middle East? Hahahaha… :rolleyes:

    How was oil going to be transported from the oild fields to the ports? And assuming they get there, there would be the Royal Navy and the RAF in the eastern Mediterranean waiting for them.

    They tried doing the same thing in WWI and it didn't worked out. Man power, OK, you could get the SS to make Iraqis, Arabs, Syrians and thousands of Jews to work to death building a railroad in the middle of the desrt. But still you need some infraestructure and raw materials. How are you going to get these? You can't, at least not without The British completely out of the eastern Mediterranean and with Turkey in the War.

    The load they could carry makes this operation entirely futile. More fuel would have been consumed by these planes, badly needed elsewhere, than the fuel carried by them. It's simply impractical. And of course, after some sorties operating under such conditions you would lose a high number of planes due to mechanical problems. And still, is the RAF going to sit there and stare idly? And then, what ships? Italian merchant shipping that the British could have sunk from Malta?

    Suez couldn't fell to the Germans, see above.

    These planes flew a whole bunch of soldiers, half-tracks and light guns to Tunisia in late 1942 and early 1943, just before the RAF aircraft based in Malta found out. After that, the Gigants were dead Gigants. [​IMG]
     

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