Welcome to the WWII Forums! Log in or Sign up to interact with the community.

What if Italy had been a capable air/naval power?

Discussion in 'Alternate History' started by Skontos1, Jan 28, 2012.

  1. Skontos1

    Skontos1 Member

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2012
    Messages:
    23
    Likes Received:
    1
    Two weaknesses I noticed with axis efforts were one, lack of coordination between the axis (Japan couldn't assist against Britain, Germany couldn't reenforce Japan in China) and two Italy plain and simply could not prove it self as a true military force capable of attacking and taking territories like their axis counterparts.(Germany takes Poland, Japan takes Manchuria, Italy gets sent back in Greece) Suppose that Italy was that unifying force which could allow for troop movement, shipping weaponry and supplies between the 3 powers what would that have ment for axis efforts? I think greater coordination could have allowed for more aggressive and effective assaults on other areas such Britain and maybe even in the Pacific. Think of the Italians providing the Axis with a strong amphibious force able to attack effectively and rapidly fom sea to land. Lets say in this scenario also Italy wielded a capable Regia Marina and A Regia Aeronautica about half the size but just as well equipped as the IJN. Picture a facist Italy with a truly capable military top to bottom but particularly strong as a naval, air and amphibious force. I think had this had been the case a full ground assault on Britain would have been much more feasible with these type of Italian forces working together with Germany, almost having like having a piece of the IJN in Europe working along side the Wehrmacht. Furthermore dealing with the Italian control of the sea would have been priority one before landing on a German controlled France. Breaking the supply lines through which Italy controlled would have also been important in taking away the coordination between the Axis powers in Europe. Allied dominance in the air and sea was a big advantage that the Axis lacked having this capable Italian force controlling the seas and the air maybe would have only served to prolong the war or I think would have allowed for a quick capture of Greece and an opportunity for attacks on more ambitious targets after that.
     
  2. Oktam

    Oktam Member

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2011
    Messages:
    40
    Likes Received:
    2
    This is a question I planned to ask. Thanks! :)

    The main problem with the Axis is that next to Germany there was no other major military force that could assist her in Europe. An additional Germany-like nation as an ally would make a whole world of difference. How would the outcome of World War 2 be in that case, I can't predict. Now, let's presume Mussolini is more capable than usual and during his reign by 39' turns Fascist Italy into a war machine. I see Germany having a relief in the south, leaving the Mediterranean and Balkans to Italy. This means that Barbarossa doesn't get delayed. How would this effect the operation I don't know. A capable Italy means more Axis troops fighting in the east (a bigger, better equipped, and more competent ARMIR). How this too would affect Barbarossa, I don't know either, but Germany couldn't get bad things from it. No need for Germany in the south also means Italy is competent enough to invade the Mediterranean on its own. This would probably mean that Italy tries to drive out the British from the Middle East, North Africa, and Gibraltar. A free passage of Italian naval forces through the Gibraltar passage to assist Germany in Operation Sealion demands this.
     
  3. Marmat

    Marmat Member

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2011
    Messages:
    292
    Likes Received:
    71
    Location:
    Huronia, Upper Canada
    The Italians committed far more by way of resources into the war against the Soviets, than the Germans did propping them up in North Africa against the British Commonwealth/Empire. Considering Barbarossa, Rommel's DAK of mid-1941 couldn't even make up the shortfall of the loss of Messe’s Corpo di Spedizione of 3 good divisions (Torino, Pasubio, and 3rd Light) numbering over 60,000 with support troops, which fought well at Petrikowka, Dnieper, Stalino and in the Donetz Basin. The commitment only got larger, by late 1942 Gariboldi's 8th Army numbered 10 Divisions of some 220,000 men, and the Italians had committed sizable chunks of their modern artillery, aircraft, and motor transport – again, far more than the Germans did to North Africa, before the US entered the theatre. Also, closing the Central Med. to commercial shipping traffic was worth a great deal in other ways, most notably to Raeder, Donitz and in the KM’s war.
     
    Dash39 likes this.
  4. belasar

    belasar Court Jester

    Joined:
    May 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,515
    Likes Received:
    1,176
    Some problems Italy could address about her Navy. Better quality control in ammunition, Radar for major fleet units, more aggressive senior command officers, even the conversion of a liner to a auxillery carrier, or at least better co-ordination with the existing air formations. The one factor Italy could not overcome in anyway was a extreme shortage of fuel for her fleet. It was well understood that Italy could operate her heavy units freely for at most a year then be forced to keep them in port for lack of fuel. So in effect you get one brief period to use the Italian fleet offensively, reguardless how you improve its combat effectivness. Logicly you would wish either to fight a very short naval war, or seize the oil quickly that would allow extended use of your major fleet units. The nearest source of oil would be Arabia.

    Italy's Air Force had as good a group of pilots as any nation, it was her aircraft that was substandard. So it is reasonable that Italy could have produced decent planes, indeed some late war aircraft were quite good, but produced in very few numbers. Italy's main problem was a terribly inefficant war production machine. Had italy produced quality aircraft they would have been in fewer numbers than the less advanced types (CR-42, etc.) originally built. Fewer air formations, but better ones.

    Italy's Army was in the same perdicament as her Air Force, large in sheer numbers, but poor in quality. Italy's Army, like her Navy, had one shortage that she could not overcome, the shortage of men who could drive or serve as senior NCO's with a technical expertise. To put it bluntly Italy had a larger percentage of her military age men with a limited or no serious education. In WWI this was not so great a problem, but by WWII the need for technical minded people was greater to keep the modern machines of war operating. Italy could have produced better weapons, but again in fewer numbers than the weopons actually built. Again Italy would need to create a smaller but more capable army.

    Putting this all together you would have a much smaller (in number of formations) military that is more agile and leathal. As such you could pursue one or at most two main thusts of action, not the three Italy historicly did (North Africa, Greece/Balkans, Russia). The only offensive action that would make sense would be single focused move in North Africa to punch through and reach Arabia and its oil. Saying it is easier than doing it.

    Italy could not win a long war in anyway. Also even an improved Italian military could not act as a bridge between Japan and Germany, the distance was too great and Italy's assets too slender.
     
  5. Marmat

    Marmat Member

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2011
    Messages:
    292
    Likes Received:
    71
    Location:
    Huronia, Upper Canada
    Geez - and people call me the "Alternate History Party Pooper"! Join the club!
     
  6. belasar

    belasar Court Jester

    Joined:
    May 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,515
    Likes Received:
    1,176
    Aw, your just trying to butter me up!
     
  7. Skontos1

    Skontos1 Member

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2012
    Messages:
    23
    Likes Received:
    1
    That's how I picture the Italian forces in my scenario with emphasis on amphibious capabilities, almost like the marines in the Pacific; quick striking, effective, efficient what could that have done for the Axis? To me it would have made expansion in Greece, and North Africa much quicker and more effective; but still coordination is key so having this smaller yet more mobile quick strike force can be effective but reinforcements by Germany to really assert control in a given area is critical; and yes that's true even best case scenario (access to oil) for this type of Italian military there's just such a distance to really effectively connect all 3 of the Axis. That's just one advantage for the allies that's so difficult to over come.
     
  8. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2008
    Messages:
    3,223
    Likes Received:
    452
    Marines are high quality light infantry, they have really no big role to play in a large scale European conflict where armies are hundreds of divisions strong and mostly made up of "heavy" units that would outmatch them in firepower unless so reinforced as to loose their mobility. The axis mountain troops covered more or less the same role when needed but the axis really needed more mecanized corps not more light infantry. A smaller but more modern (and better trained) force would possibly make Italian forces more effective, but it would make for a whole new mindset for the army that was thinking of quantity not quality (and Mussolini was a military incompetent so who would push for something that would drastically cut on the number of generals needed?).
    Giving up the "autarchia" principle earlier could have big benefits in some areas, (tanks, light AA, AT and field artillery, planes, infantry weapons) as the homegrown products were one generation behind if not more but the lack of stocks and the inability of the fascist regime to really mobilize the industry (wartime production was just a fraction of what it was in WW1), would still limit it's effectiveness to one or two years at most, after that all the strategic materials cupboard are empty not just the navy's fuel reserves.
     
  9. Skontos1

    Skontos1 Member

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2012
    Messages:
    23
    Likes Received:
    1
    The role I'd think for them on the ground at least (or sea to land) would be in conjunction with the German troops again going back to my first point about coordination. The Italians would be the primary invading force establishing footholds and beacheads in given territories while the Germans would reenforce them and maintain control after then allowing the faster more mobile Italians to move on. To me the Axis effort as a whole would have benefited more not from having essentially two Germanys or two nations that do the same thing well, but having an additional ally that added something new to the table i.e. Naval/Air/Amphibious capabilities things Germany could have used reinforcements with. The point I'm saying about the marine aspect is more about what the biggest strengths Italy would bring that was unique to them. Navy/Amphibious forces something different that just wasn't a part of the equation. I'm saying Italy as a true military power but in this unique way.
     
  10. efestos

    efestos Member

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2010
    Messages:
    497
    Likes Received:
    26
    Italy would have started the war in... Malta. I suppose.
     
  11. belasar

    belasar Court Jester

    Joined:
    May 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,515
    Likes Received:
    1,176
    TOS makes several good points here.

    Many nations have or had 'marines', but the USMC is a uniquely American creation. Virually an army in and of itself, America spent nearly 200 years creating the USMC. No other force of 'marines' have come truely close to what the USMC became in WWII. That being said it would not be absolutely needed for Italy to copy such a force. The Allies made as many if not more large seaborne assaults using conventional Infantry trained for the purpose. So Italy could dispense with a 'Marine Force' and simply train a conventional Infantry formation to serve as such.

    While Italy was considered a major European power her Industry was a fraction the size of Germany, Britain and France. It was also badly administered by both the Government and the Industrialists themselves. Since Italy had 3 times as long as Germany to prepare for its war of conquest, some of these shortfalls could have been made up by a more vigerous and determined Fascist Party. Not all, but some. Limits in natural resources and energy production would still keep Italy in last place of European Industrial/Military powers.

    Let us assume for the sake of aguement Il Duce is as determined as Hitler, and surrounded by as capable a group of underlings determined to make Italy as powerfull as she could be. She improves her military as outlined in post 4 of this thread. A Navy with perhaps one former liner converted into a light aircraft carrier, major ships equipped with crude radar, aggressive, inspried sea commanders, enough sealift to deploy a Brigade/Division in a seaborn assault, Army divisions, though smaller in number, but able to stand toe to toe to British/French divisions of the early war period, and a fighter equal to the Hurricane/De 520. Further Italy develops Infrastucture of North Africa, better ports and with better roads/railroads to Egyptian frontier.

    Historicly Italy went to war with 2/3 of its Battleships in drydock for modernization, so either Italy forgoes upgrades, starts upgrades sooner or holds off war until these units return to the fleet. If we further assume Italy does not start hostilities without these ships ready a theoretical course is possible.

    Italy does not invade France for spoils or Greece for that matter, but places all her eggs in a North African thrust. A mobile force, supported by aircraft strike across the Egyptian frontier with as much speed as possible. The Navy forces a landing at some oppertune point and waits for link up with the Army coming from the west. The combined assault destabelisesthe Western Desert Force allowing Italy to reach Alexandria and the Suez. This much could be possible with a revamped Italian military and a good bit of luck.

    To make a strike at Arabia and its oil Il Duce would have to convince Hitler to aid him for half the oil.

    But as they say thats a whole nother story!
     
  12. freebird

    freebird Member

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2007
    Messages:
    690
    Likes Received:
    55
    Italy has virtually no capability to become a major maritime shipping power between the Pacific & the Med, not to mention the problem of getting through the suez canal.
    The British (& allies - excluding USA) have at least 10 times the shipping that Italy had, and have a string of bases with patrol aircraft controlling the Indian Ocean. (Aden, Trincomalee, Bombay, Singapore etc etc. The British have subs deployed in the Atlantic, Indian oceans and the Med, and the Dutch have a large sub squadron in the DEI.
    The British, Canadians & Allies have also a massive investment in controlling the seas, with some 600+ ASW craft ordered in 1939 - 1940, and entering service during 1941. (400+ corvettes, about destroyers or sloops and some 150+ ASW trawlers)
    Controlling & protecting the oceans and your shipping doesn't come cheap, and the British/CW have made this their priority in the war.
    Unless Italy is planning a building effort on a far larger magnitude than contemplated, they are not going to be shipping anything to Japan.

    Consider the japanese effort to neutralize Singapore:
    Despite a much larger and much more modern air force in Malaya, and intense efforts to neutralize the RAF in Singapore, the British were able to ship supplies in and prevent Japanese landings/ships from operating near Singapore, while using a motly collection of aircraft that might best be described as a bucket of crap. (Buffaloes, Vildebeests, old biplanes etc)
    For Italy to ship through the Indian Ocean (assuming that they had captured Suez) they would have to neutralize each British base, and find a way to protect ships with virtually non-existant ASW capability.

    Not to mention that the Italians have virtually no landing craft, they would have to be built from scratch - a process that took even the US a couple of years to build up.
    (The naval landing on Crete was attempted by the Axis with a fleet of "caliques" - a kind of sail-powered small fishing vessel - which suffered a huge loss of life when they were intercepted by the Royal Navy and destroyed with heavy loss of life.


    Italy enters the war in July 1940, just in time for the Fall of France. Keep in mind that France put up quite a fight against Italy, they made no headway until the Germans finished the job. There is not enough time to storm Gibraltar in 1940 to offer any help to Sealion, before the winter storms begin in Oct. (When Sealion was cancelled)
    Also, Franco is not really convinced that an attack on Gibratar will be a disaster for Spain, so without his support the Axis would be attempting an amphibious/airborne invasion against a heavily defended British base.
    Compare the similar assaults on fortresses in 1941 (Tobruk, Sevastopol), and you can figure that Gibraltar won't be easy or quick.




    One interesting thought, suppose in the spring of '41 the Axis had decided instead of Crete, to land in Cyprus (from Rhodos) and move to seize the oil facilities in Palestine Iraq.
    Not an easy task to be sure, but the British were also spread thin.

    It would have been better for Italy to just use German fighter types, instead of trying to devlop modern fighters.
     
  13. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2008
    Messages:
    3,223
    Likes Received:
    452
    In June 1940 the BBs were still shaking down and training after modernization (Doria and Duilio) or completion (Vittorio Veneto and Littorio) but they were not in drydock. There is little that needs to be done with the navy technically, most ships are sound designs, but training was not realistic and adding a few Bofors and Oerlikons would go a long way to reduce the "Swordfish threat" (the Italian 20 and 37mm weapon mounts had no recoil systems so could only be mounted on very robust structures otherwise they would buckle the plates). Training in night fighting and ASW doctrine are the big gaps. Getting some sort of carrier is a major undertaking and IMO not realistic unless they started working on it in the mid 1930s.

    The Regia Areonautica is a mess, there are no really modern planes barring the SM82 transports, on the plus side the opponents are not much better equipped, getting a few hundreds German aircraft may well be enough to tilt the balance (historically they got some 50 Ju87), if they could get something like the A6M in production it would be a nightmare for the FAA. Doctrine and training, especially for sea operations, needs a big effort.

    The army had lots of "divisions" with limited capabilities, an Italian order for tanks may well avoid the late 1940 cut back in Pz IV production, but IMO the only way Italy can field a useful force is by adopting an explicit "Hi-Lo" force mix, they can probably field 2 or 3 mecanized corps if they concentrate on those but it means the rest of the army will get very few vehicles, (let's not forget that most Italian recruits had never driven a motor vehicle in civilian life so mass motorization is impossible even if the vehicles had been available). On the other hand getting decent AT and field guns is a priority, they should stick to 75 (or at max 105) for divisional guns as most will be horse drawn but they need something like the soviet 76 not the low power howitzers they actually had.

    BTW the San Marco marine regiment (it belonged to the navy not to the army) was quite capable and enough for limited anphibious operations, the Regia Marina had some landing ships, though they were officially classed cisterne (water carriers) for security reasons.
     
  14. Skontos1

    Skontos1 Member

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2012
    Messages:
    23
    Likes Received:
    1
    I did read that the San Marco regimen was composed of some effective fighters but how well could say 3 or 4 divisions of those type of fighters be with a Regia Marina a fraction of the size of the IJN but just as modernized and transporting around A6M equivalents for the Italians, or maybe Germany supplies the naval fighter planes that they were planning to use on their incomplete carriers. Italy in this fashion would be able to effectively take territories but the real payoff would be in with Germany's efforts against Great Britain. Germany ended up taking over the Italian N. Africa, and Balkans campaigns but that happened out of failure than out of coordination what if that was organized so that was the intention. The Italians attack Britain with their "Regia Lagunari" backed by their Regia Marina as part of Sealion then after the Germans step in to reinforce the Italians on the ground. Of course if this was the plan for the Axis in that then I could also see Hitler also wanting the Italians to open up the attacks for Germany against the Soviets (which still wouldn't be enough to win in a Russian Winter) but I could see the idea working better in the British Isles.
     
  15. freebird

    freebird Member

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2007
    Messages:
    690
    Likes Received:
    55
    200,000 troops would be at least 12 divisions of marines, not even the US had that many.

    When exactly would this über-force be raised & trained?

    You do realize that building a capable carrier force requires more than just sticking aircraft onto a carrier right?
     
  16. Skontos1

    Skontos1 Member

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2012
    Messages:
    23
    Likes Received:
    1
  17. Skontos1

    Skontos1 Member

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2012
    Messages:
    23
    Likes Received:
    1


    See this is why I'm glad I found this site, education by the more well informed lol Now I'm confused, there were 600,000 troops that made up the US marines for the US but 6 divisions and 5 air wings so that's why I came up with what I thought was a reasonable number of what i was assuming was about a 3rd the size of what the US had (200,000) so then 3 to 4 divisions which is what I'm shooting for here. (after doing some thinking about how those numbers are broken down). I know the Germans had a prototype for a naval fighter called the Arado Ar 197 that was meant for their incomplete carriers so I didn't think it was a stretch since it was mentioned here before about Italy using German fighter types at least that's how this novice figures. I'm figuring between the feeling of being cheated after WWI and Germany's re-armament a fighting force can be raised and trained around this concept?
     
  18. freebird

    freebird Member

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2007
    Messages:
    690
    Likes Received:
    55
    Most divisions in WWII were about 12,000 - 18,000 men, with some weaker divisions (late-war German etc) only about 10,000.
    Depending on the number of support troops there could be many more men, but for a rule of thumb a brigade or regiment was usually about 4,000 - 5,000 combat troops, with most infantry, marine, motorized or mountain divisions having 3 regiments (or brigades)

    Some divisions were a little different, the US Para divisions had 3 para regiments + 1 glider regiment for a total of 4. German Panzer divisions had 2 motorized regiments + 1 panzer regiment.
     
  19. Skontos1

    Skontos1 Member

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2012
    Messages:
    23
    Likes Received:
    1
    Thanks for that now my posts can make more sense to everyone lol, but back to this scenario. The Italians would have built their military focused around making their Navy, Air and amphibious forces it's biggest strengths. Maybe working along side the Germans closer to when they started their re-armament so as to be better equipped (more modern planes, ships,weapons) and better coordinated and to have the training necessary that you mentioned. Coordination between these two powers so as that this Italian force is prepared by September of '39 so's to be a force in those three areas I mentioned (a force of a realistic number :p). There would be purpose behind strengthening their military in this way so's to provide Naval power and amphibious operations for the Axis against ambitious targets such as Great Britain while at the same time having the strengths of the German military to reinforce the light infantry marines of the Italians against such targets. IMO for Italy as a maritime nation it would make sense that if they were going to be a military power at this time that their strengths would be built around their strong Navy, amphibious doctrine, techniques and tactics. In certain theaters of the war that plan may have proven more fruitful than others, against Britain and Greece I'd think so, Malta almost certainly, but in the Desert in N.Africa and against Russia I'd be less sure about Italy's effectiveness with their strengths built around light infantry.
     
  20. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2008
    Messages:
    3,223
    Likes Received:
    452
    Still in nitpicking mode ....... the lagunari anphibious batallions are part of the army and distinct from the San Marco that is navy (typical sample of the Italian military duplication of efforts still going on today).
    200.000 marines makes no sense, light infantry is good for creating beacheads but not for fighting heavy troops that have more firepower. I have a suspicion the Soviet naval infantry was the largest "marine" force (if only considering the anphibious element not the attached naval and air assets) in WW2 not the US Marines, IIRC they had no division sized units but a huge number of brigades.

    IMO Italy had even less chance of mounting a successful invasion of the British Isles than Sealion, getting to Suez in 1940 was possibly within the capabilities of a couple of well equipped and led mecanized corps, after all the Commonwealth had only one armoured division in the area but creating them would require a big switch in priorities. If the axis closes Suez the RN will be eliminated from the Eastern Med and Gibraltar and Malta become traps, no real need to attack them as they can be isolated. The Regia Marina cannot leave the Med, that would require taking Gibraltar and getting Franco to join the axis, the first is feasible but costly, the second unlikely, and most of her ships don't have the range for effective ocean operations anyway, though raiding forces at Massaua could make things interesing in the Indian Ocean and stretch escort requirements for the RN even worse than they were. IMO iwith axis forces at Suez and advancing along the cost northwards it would actually be easier to convince the Turks to join up instead of Franco and that would open an additional front for the already badly stretched 1941-42 soviets.
     

Share This Page