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Was the Med a sideshow?

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

  1. Mussolini

    Mussolini Gaming Guru WW2|ORG Editor

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    I was not aware of the Ju's capabilites or lack of them, i was just speculating. This discussion is beginning to seem out of place (needs to move to the What If section). Many things to consider about how the British would have been in the Med - Malta would be the only thing in their position at this point if the Germans had managed to get all the oil etc.
     
  2. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    Malta was the key to the entire Mediterranean campaign.
     
  3. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    Logistics were the key to the whole Mediterranean campaign. Malta was a distraction.
     
  4. redcoat

    redcoat Ace

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    Originally posted by T. A. Gardner:
    Agreed.
    While Malta was a useful base for the Allies, its loss wouldn't have altered the logistical balance enough to make the outcome different
     
  5. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    And Malta was the key to the Axis logistic system.

    What's in-between Sicily and Tunisia-Libya? Malta. Italian and German supply convoys from Sicily to North Africa were merciless sunk by the RAF and the RN based where? Malta.

    Just remember HMS Upholder, which sank over 150.000 tons of Axis shipping. From where did it operate? Malta.

    60% of Rommel's fuel ended in the bottom of the Mediterranean because of RAF Beaufighters, Spitfires, Mosquitoes and Hurricanes with airfields where? Malta.

    When Rommel achieved his great successes in North Africa was because his short supply lines —when he was at Libya—, when the British Army had been weakened by other theatres' demmands and most importantly, when Italo-German aircraft had managed to isolate Malta and reduce every naval and air operation to the island.

    If the Gemans would have captured Malta, the whole central Mediterranean would have been blockaded to the British, thus cutting off Alexandria and Suez from Gibraltar and allowing 100% of Axis shipping to reach Tunis, Tripoli or Benghasi unmolested.
     
  6. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    Maybe Gottfried but the RAF was getting stronger and stronger by the week, quite possibly we may have seen more RAF heavy bombers coming over the islands in an all out plastering of every visual and non visual target to enable Malta and then later Corscia, Sicily to remain open, but this is all what-if
     
  7. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    Indeed, Erich.

    By November 1942 there were 400 Spitfires based on Malta, which made an invasion of the island impossible and that meant a huge menace to everything within their range, not to mention that RN's destroyes, torpedo craft and submarines had no longer to hide or operate just by night.
     
  8. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Aquila non capit muscas

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    That was when the George Cross Island sank by 4" due to the weight (groan!)
     
  9. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    Malta wasn't the key. Virtually all of the tankers sent prior to December 1942 made it to North Africa. So did the vast majority of other equipment and supplies shipped. Malta was only able (along with all other sources) to interdict successfully about 15% of it overall. There were some periods (that usually coincide with British offensives) where up to 25 - 30% is stopped briefly. Now, in roughly December 1942 - early 43 the British greatly upped the attacks on shipping. From that point on about 40% of what was sent ended up on the bottom.
    The problem was neither Bengahzi nor Tobruk was cleared by the Germans or Italians making both ports very limited in their ability to take shipping. Tankers couldn't unload at Tobruk for example due to a lack of suitable docks and no way to transfer fuel from anchor which itself was very limited.
    This meant that virtually all of the gasoline had to be shipped to Tunis in Eastern Lybia. From there it was trucked using tactical vehicles (mostly in the 3 ton class) to the front. This meant that for the roughly 2000 mile round trip to the Alamein position the Germans consumed 8 to 10 gallons of gas to deliver 1 gallon. Is it any wonder that the panzers at the front there were starved for fuel? This doesn't even consider the huge wastage in tactical trucks, drivers, security etc necessary to move those supplies either. How much difference would that make at the front?
    Now, which would make a greater difference?:
    A. Eliminating Malta and having the other 20% of the fuel (roughly) arrive?
    or:
    B: Using one of several methods (listed below) to eliminate the logistics nightmare on land and have what originally arrived mostly (say 80% versus 10 to 20%) of the supplies show up at the front?
    Methods:
    Build a rail line from Tunis forward across Libya.
    Build a rail line from Tobruk to the Egyptian border and connect to the British rail system there while clearing Tobruk harbor and sending as much fuel there as possible.
    Clear Tobruk harbor and supply lighters and other equipment necessary to quickly unload tankers there and then use trucks. This cuts the wastage in half roughly.
    Just look at the situation in early 1943. The German forces in Africa almost doubled in size. But, they were now virtually on Tunis' doorstep. The massive logistical train necessary at Alamein disappeared. The result was even with a greatly increased loss rate of shipping these forces could be supplied simply due to the elimination of waste in moving supplies to the front.
    Malta wasn't the key. The Germans needed to recognize the importance of logistics and make a massive effort to improve theirs.
     
  10. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Aquila non capit muscas

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    Excellent, thanks TA! Where can I read more?
     
  11. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    T.A.

    I am perfectly aware of the logistical chaos presented by 2.000 km land supply lines. That's why I've been insisting in how unlikely it was for Rommel actually seizing Suez and reaching the Middle East in several other threads, as well as the use of Tobrouk. If you notice, it is not mentioned in the above post along the other ports to which supplies were carried from Sicily.

    But the British faced the same situation when they launched their offensives in 1941. They had to carry fuel and most precious water for 1.000 km of motorways, consuming large quantities of petrol in the process. And at least in 1941 Tobrouk was under siege, so supplies had to come in from Alexandria.

    What's the difference then? That almost 100% of British supplies from home and the US reached North Africa. And they had enough lorries and fuel to keep them moving to transport fuel, ammunition and water 2.000 km away from the front.

    Indeed, even if the Axis forces could have been able to deliver all their supplies from Sicily to North Africa, they still had to get them 2.000 km away to the front. But if 50% of the fuel and lorries needed to transport supplies for frontline units ended in the Mediterranean? If 50% of the tanks, guns, ammunition, handguns, handgrenades, halftracks, radios, machineguns, etc. were sunk by Ultra, the RN and the RAF which happened to have their base just in the middle of the Axis supply route?

    Some statistics:

    British U-boats —mostly based in Malta— sunk more than 1.000.000 tons of Axis shipping; including 4 cruisers, 17 destroyers and 21 submarines, from 1940-1943.

    'On 30th August 1942, despite Kesselring's promises, Rommel had not got the 6.000 tons of petrol that he needed to push on with the offensive. Half of it is in the bottom of the sea, in the ships sunk by the RAF and RN. The other half is between Benghasi and Tobrouk. The Luftwaffe had not sent it. Rommel had only three days of supplies. He had lost his battle against the headquarters.'

    From: Erwan Bergott, L'Afrique Corps, Paris, 1977.

    Kai posted some figures a while ago…

    'Meanwhile, in the Mediterranean the Italian Merchant Fleet was rapidly being depleted. Through Ultra, Force K, a British air Squadron stained on Malta, was able to obliterate between forty and sixty percent of the supplies that were being sent to General Rommel.
    By destroying much of the Italian fleet, Force K, by means of Ultra, cut the shipping down from 280,000 tons to 120,000 tons.'

    http://www.ctable.homestead.com/files/_society.htm#DesertFox

    'The Allied offensive in the Mediterranean became more and more effective throughout 1942 with the Italians losing 50% of their supplies at sea in December 1942. In 1943 the Axis suffered even more catastrophic losses in the Mediterannean with 1.200 ships being sunk; and “in february only 25.000 tons had arrived instead of the 80,000 required": the effect on the Axis forces in North Africa certainly being decisive.'

    http://www.topedge.com/panels/ww2/na/supplies.html

    'During the second half of 1942, the percentage of Axis shipping sunk was at least 20% for five of the six months. At the end of September, Count Ciano, the Italian Foreign Secretary, was quoted as saying that "at this rate the African problem will automatically end since we shall have no more ships with which to supply Libya." In October, the month of the second battle of El Alamein, the percentage rose to a staggering 44 percent.'

    F.H. Hinsley, British Intelligence During the Second World War, (London: Her Majesty's Stationary Office [HMSO], 1979)

    http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/british_history/7252
     
  12. Peppy

    Peppy Idi Admin

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    *ttt*
     
  13. knightdepaix

    knightdepaix Member

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    [background=#fafafa]Knox, MacGregor. "Chapter 4: Strategy." [/size][/background]Hilter's Italian Allies: Royal Armed Forces, Fascist regime, and the war of 1940-1943[background=#fafafa]. First ed. N.p.: Cambridge U Press, 2000. Print.[/size][/background]

    p.8-9
    Geography predetermined Fascist Italy's enemies; Britain's command of the distant choke points at Gibraltar and Suez, and the threat of close blockade from British and French naval and air bases -- Malta and Corsica -- almost within sight of Italy, galled the Italian navy. Mussolini's navy minister in 1922-25 trumpeted repeatedly in parliament that Italy "instead of dominating [it], would remain a prisoner in the Mediterranean" unless the navy rather than the army secured priority in armaments. Mussolini made this doctrine his own, and by 1926-27 had enunciated a geopolitical dogma that fused navalist geopolitics with the Italian establishment's post-Risorgimento aspiration to great-power status:


    ....
    Geography and the alignments and resentments of the European powers also determined Fascist Italy's choice of allies. Only one great power -- potentially the very greatest -- opposed France and Britain: Germany. It had already bid for European and world mastery in 1914-18, and had failed narrowly; only its strategic lunacy in challenging the United States and in refusing in winter 1917-18 to trade Belgium and northern France for a peace that gave it mastery of eastern Europe to the Urals and Caucasus had brought it down.
    ---------------
    Therefore the Med was not a sideshow in its geopolitical importance, given the above, but was a sideshow as Italy was watching from the sideline of Germany and Anglo-French rivalry. From the perspective of Anglo-France, Italy appeared as being on the sideline.
     
  14. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    Stalin considered it a sideshow, but if we include the Balcans (mostly Greece and Yougoslavia), that absorbed a lot more German forces than North Africa ever did, it was a big diversion to the German war effort, Germany might have been better served by Italy staying neutral, but there was little chance of that with Mussolini in charge. The Italian campaign after D-Day came definetly second when it came to reinforcements priority, even if they captured the Po Valley the Allies were well aware getting through the Alps would be problematical so there was not much of an incentive to push there.
     
  15. freebird

    freebird Member

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    The Italian defeats in Africa contributed to their withdrawing from the war in 1943, which in turn diverted about 30+ German divisions from the Eastern Front, as they were then required to garrison the Balkan, Italy, Sardinia, Southern France, Greece, Greek Islands etc etc.

    It was a far better result than could have been gained by Roundup, Jupiter or any other alternative.
     
  16. GunSlinger86

    GunSlinger86 Active Member

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    It was very important. It gave the US in particular battle experience against the Germans, it allowed them to test and apply different tactics and strategy. It forced Germany to bring troops back from the East, easing the load on Russia. If you notice, from the point where the Western Allies start assaulting and invading the Axis at different points, the easier it got for Russia to push back, especially from 1943 on when the West invaded Sicily then Italy, and then France. Hitler transferred troops, and Russia started rolling. It also gave them air bases for air operations against mainland Europe.
     
  17. GunSlinger86

    GunSlinger86 Active Member

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    Between the bomber offensive and the Mediterranean, that occupied a big chunk of the German war effort. It forced them to keep most of the Luftwaffe to defend the homeland which is why Russia gained such air superiority in the East.
     
  18. knightdepaix

    knightdepaix Member

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    My question is this:
    Geography of Germany dictates it always needs to consider to fight on two front, with the North Sea, North Atlantic Ocean and the Baltic Sea as waterways. Is the geography of Italy affected Italy similarly that Italy always needs to consider to fight on two front, from Spain and Gibraltar, Greece, Egypt and Middle East on Sea. France versus the Balkans on land? If so, the navy relying purely on cruiser and battleship was a fault because amphibious landing craft, escort carrier not full size aircraft carrier would support landing and tactical air support to friendly troops near the coast. For the army, developing more tanks was a fault because Italy geography dictates expansion by navy. The army would attack tactically but defend strategically, not to mention the Allies' almost always winning the numbers game. Then more economical tank destroyer/assault gun hybrid shall be built when upgrading from light tanks and tankettes. Would those hybrid machines would fight well in hilly and wooded terrain in the Balkans where coverage was good? In Africa, German provided the pz1,2,3 tanks for attack, did Italian infantry fight more defensive strategically as they were more familiar with the terrain?

    Sometimes, I think Italy and the Med for Italy were the flipside of Norway and the Atlantic for Germany. Fortunately, Co-belligerents in Eastern Europe helped Germany. Italy was alone in the Med; Spain and Turkey remained neutral despite erstwhile allied in the Spanish Civil War and ww1. German army featured some general purpose machines and ornaments -- pz4, stug3, panzerfaust, mg 42 versus Soviet t34, il-2, etc. Italian army had submachine gun
     
  19. albanaich

    albanaich New Member

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    Well, the British lost more ships in the battle for the Mediterranean than the US Navy lost in the battle for the Pacific.

    So I I think that strategically it might be considered as important, if not more important than the battle for the Pacific.

    Failure to hold the Mediterranean would of meant a German expansion into the middle east and Africa, with access to more or less unlimited resources, Loss of the Mediterranean would of been decisive.
     
  20. Brian Smith

    Brian Smith Active Member

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    It is difficult to isolate one specific part of any multi part operation and the war is no different.

    Without control of the Med there would presumably have been no Operation Husky, without securing Sicily would there have been a foothold in Italy, without the actions in Italy would that have meant a difference in the number of German troops in France on D-Day and would that in turn have affected the outcome of the Normandy landings? I guess we can only surmise?

    Hitler obviously did believe the Med had some importance given his drive to take Greece.
     

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