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What if... Italy had found the Oil under Libya?

Discussion in 'What If - Mediterranean & North Africa' started by Von smallhousen, Feb 23, 2011.

  1. Von smallhousen

    Von smallhousen recruit

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    OK,
    Italy had Libya as one of its few colonies before the war broke out.

    If Italy had found the oil would it have put Mossollini on more of a level pegging with Hitler due to this much needed resource?

    Would Africa have become a more important affair than it was as it would no doubt have needed more protection and attention from the axsis forces.

    would Hitler have needed to split his forces to take the oil fields when invading Russia, the act that stalled the overall invasion and led to its failer as winter set in.
     
  2. Von smallhousen

    Von smallhousen recruit

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    this is something that has played on my mind in the past.

    Italy held Libya as one of its few colonies

    would Italy of been in a stronger position overal if it had found the oil.

    would the African campaign have been a longer and bloodier affair?

    would Hitler have needed to split his forces during the invasion of russia to take the oil fields if he had a steady supply from Africa?
     
  3. knightdepaix

    knightdepaix Member

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  4. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    A lot would depend on when. If they find it early enough and can get the infrastructure in place it might even keep Italy out of the war.
     
  5. knightdepaix

    knightdepaix Member

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    So to summarize in a few sentences, Italy would be better off to stay diplomatically neutral to work on all her deficiencies while her forces could help as volunteers like the Spanish. German military organization and leadership could help Italian forces in Libya in a defensive role if the infrastructure for exploiting the hydrocarbon resources would be going on. Then Italy would take Malta and from where land-base aircraft could support Italian Libyan defense against the British from Egypt while maritime lines of communications could strengthen among Malta, Tripoli, Italy etc.
     
  6. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Italy is better off staying out of the war. If the oil reserves under Lybia are discovered and the infrastructure built to make use of them early enough it may be apparent even to Ill Duce that is the case. Remember the two countries were not exactly close during the mid 30s.

    It's also not exactly clear thta Italy was capable of taking Malta especially once the British were determined to hold it. Although it is possible that Italy could end up with Malta as part of a deal to stay neutral.
     
  7. knightdepaix

    knightdepaix Member

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    Lybia was a Italian colony back then but I agree that Italy was better off staying out of the war. The status of Malta would still be particularly peculiar (and less so Corsica): taking it, neutralize it, leave it ?
     
  8. green slime

    green slime Member

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    Highly doubtful.

    It's not just a matter of finding the oil, and getting it up out of the ground. It is also getting from the source, to the coast.

    Anyone who has read travel in Libya in the period will realise that this would be no mediocre undertaking. Indeed, in 1959, Libyan infrastructure was still one of the worst in the world.

    After allowing Oil exploration in 1955, the Amal Oilfield was discovered in 1959, but it wasn't until 1961, that they could export any of it.

    Considering that Italy only seized control over most towns in what is "Libya" (actually Ottoman provinces Cyrenaica, Fezzan and Tripolitania) from the Ottoman Empire in 1911, but had to fight to establish control over large swathes until 1931:

    [​IMG]

    This gives a very small window of opportunity for the Italians to find the oil, and actually build the infrastructure (roads, pipes, railways, ports), to start bringing the stuff out, between establishing control of the region, and the outbreak of hostilities.


    Notice that big white blob around Kufra? Yep, that is where the first oil was to be found, in/around the Sirte Basin.

    It's hard to imagine Italy having sufficient economic muscle to develop that much infrastructure in such a remote region so quickly at that time.

    [​IMG]
     
  9. green slime

    green slime Member

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    Apparently, Ardito Desio, an Italian explorer and geologist, did predict the discovery of oil in the Sirte Basin in Libya already in 1931, but in that basin, most of the oil is below 800m, which was beyond the technology available to the Italian oil company AGIP to exploit.

    18 exploratory drills were made in Libya in 1938, and moderate amounts were found near Marada Oasis, but not the deep Sirte site.

    Current literature is careful to point out that the first commercial sites for oil drilling in Libya were the Sirte Basin, were 80% of Libyan Oil still resides.
     
  10. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    For a start Oil in Libya would have raised the significance of the Mediterranean theatre and North Africa. The southern strategy advocated by some in 1940 might have had greater traction with Hitler. The USA would have been much more interested in the MTO.

    If there was oil in Libya the same might also have been true of Slgeria and Morroco. Franco migth have been much more tempted to join the axis if the prize included a slice of oil rich morocco. Hitler might have been more willing to divide the French North African Empire if it contained oil.

    Hmm Britain established a protectorate in Cyrenacia which eventually is annexed by Egypt. Nasser has lots of oil and the most populous country in that part of the world also has a lot of oil wealth. The M<iddle Rast migth have looked different if Egypt was as wealthy as Saudi Arabia
     
  11. DerGiLLster

    DerGiLLster Member

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    If the discovery of this oil had occured, wouldn't this have given Germany and Italy the much needed move to replace their horses with trucks and field more tanks and planes, giving them armies that would be much more mobile and able to supply army lines much quicker?
     
  12. knightdepaix

    knightdepaix Member

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    To DerGiLLster, the discovery of oil or gas did occur in 1930s. Its exploitation was either very initial in development or meaningful exploitation by Italy was disrupted by the war,

    Given the above, so this what-if may be changed to how Italy would perform better if Italy had exploited oil in Libya.
     
  13. Sloniksp

    Sloniksp Ставка

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    Libya could have been flooded with oil to the point where the Germans could simply scoop it up with their bare hands, it still wouldn't solve their shortage problem as it would be impossible to transport it to Europe in enough quanity where it would make a difference....
     
    LJAd and Slipdigit like this.
  14. DerGiLLster

    DerGiLLster Member

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    That is only if Italy had found it before the war began and had adopted a friendly neutrality policy toward Germany.
     
  15. Sloniksp

    Sloniksp Ставка

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    How do you get that oil to Germany?
     
  16. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    Teletransporters ?


    And what would do the Germans with this oil? First they should refine the oil,but was there sufficient refinery capacity? And how would they transport the oil to where it was needed ? The railways were already overburdened .
     
  17. DerGiLLster

    DerGiLLster Member

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    Why is getting oil to Germany an issue here? If Italy had been a friendly neutral or a neutral that had been willing to trade to both sides, then the supply of oil should be uninterrupted getting to Italy, which is then transported to Germany.
     
  18. DerGiLLster

    DerGiLLster Member

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    They could stock upon the oil, and this is concerning if Italy becomes neutral. If Italy is in the war then it would not make much of a difference, but being neutral would help Germany with motorizing more of their land forces.
     
  19. Sloniksp

    Sloniksp Ставка

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    There are 2 ways of getting oil to Germany, either a pipeline through the Mediterranean or Tankers (Germany and Italy had none which would even make a remote dent in Germany's consumption needs). This means Germany or Italy or both would have to start building them. This is no easy task especially for a country low on resources and in the middle of a war. Ports also have to be built. Then you have to think of the pesky British in the Mediterranean, they controlled it. This means they would sink anything and everything helping Germany in the war effort....

    This is a none starter. Germany isn't getting any oil from North Africa.
     
  20. DerGiLLster

    DerGiLLster Member

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    Well then, Hitler should have put steel into tankers and not battleships like the Bismarck and the Tirpitz(if oil was found in the 30s).

    Also would Britain intervene? If Italy doesn't join the war, no one will know how bad Italy's military capabilities are, so Britain might try pressuring Italy for the first year or so. Even though Britain had a pact with Turkey, the Turks still supplied the Germans with Chromium.

    If the British were to attack a neutral Italy carrying supplies for the British, then Italy would be more unified for war, this might not mean much since their land forces are poor, and unorganized but having an actual desire to go to war and being in a total war state rather than treating it as a side thing would make capable.
     

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