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Could the Axis Powers have won in the Mediterranean and North Africa?

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  • Could the Axis Powers have won in the Mediterranean and North Africa?

    The perception I recieve of the Mediterranean and North African theatres is that they were for the Axis Powers seemingly impossible to win in or bring successfully to a conclution. This is particularly evident from the launching of Operation Barbarossa onwards.

    Geographically the Mediterranean sea was always heavily contested between the Axis navies (mainly that of Italy) and Allied navies (largely the British Royal Navy) even when all of Southern Europe was a member of, occupied by or influenced by the Axis. The strength and effectiveness of the opposing navies had a huge impact on the successful conduction of the Axis and Allied armies in North Africa. In this arena it was the Allies who had the numerical, technological and economical advantage whereas the Axis armies advanced just as much on the number of supply ships of essential fuels that managed to evade being sunk as on the number of supply vehicles that were not destroyed by Allied aircraft.

    After the launch of Barbarossa the Mediterranean and North African theatres became officially a second priority to the Axis, which was shown by the lack of supplies, attention and seriousness given to them.

    However, despite these inferiorities was it realistically possible before American economic power came into the scales for the Axis Powers to win in the theatres of the Mediterranean and North Africa during and including 1940-42?
    Last edited by WarMachine; 13 Sep 14, 14:09.

  • #2
    It might have been possible if the Germany had immediately on Italy's entry into the war placed a couple of motorized divisions supported by 88's and a battalion or two of tanks in Libya and overrun Egypt in mid 1940.
    The loss of Egypt and the Suez Canal quite possibly would have resulted in an Axis win in the Middle East.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
      It might have been possible if the Germany had immediately on Italy's entry into the war placed a couple of motorized divisions supported by 88's and a battalion or two of tanks in Libya and overrun Egypt in mid 1940.
      The loss of Egypt and the Suez Canal quite possibly would have resulted in an Axis win in the Middle East.
      Do you know when and why this opportunity became unachievable?

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      • #4
        Originally posted by WarMachine View Post
        The perception I recieve of the Mediterranean and North African theatres is that they were for the Axis Powers seemingly impossible to win in or bring successfully to a conclution. This is particularly evident from the launching of Operation Barbarossa onwards.

        Geographically the Mediterranean sea was always heavily contested between the Axis navies (mainly that of Italy) and Allied navies (largely the British Royal Navy) even when all of Southern Europe was a member of, occupied by or influenced by the Axis. The strength and effectiveness of the opposing navies had a huge impact on the successful conduction of the Axis and Allied armies in North Africa. In this arena it was the Allies who had the numerical, technological and economical advantage whereas the Axis armies advanced just as much on the number of supply ships of essential fuels that managed to evade being sunk as on the number of supply vehicles that were not destroyed by Allied aircraft.

        After the launch of Barbarossa the Mediterranean and North African theatres became officially a second priority to the Axis, which was shown by the lack of supplies, attention and seriousness given to them.

        However, despite these inferiorities was it realistically possible before American economic power came into the scales for the Axis Powers to win in the theatres of the Mediterranean and North Africa during and including 1940-42?
        Purely a personal opinion but I do believe that the Med was a too important key to the allies {particularly Britain } to allow them to take control. Anyway to completely 'Rule the roost' they would need Gib: and without the co operation of Spain that could never be and even with Spains assistance it would be extremely unlikely. I'm an old 'Bootneck' and the Gib: is ours!!! lcm1
        'By Horse by Tram'.


        I was in when they needed 'em,not feeded 'em.
        " Youuu 'Orrible Lot!"

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        • #5
          Originally posted by WarMachine View Post

          After the launch of Barbarossa the Mediterranean and North African theatres became officially a second priority to the Axis, which was shown by the lack of supplies, attention and seriousness given to them.
          1)Already before Barbarossa,the Mediterranean and North Africa were considered a second priority

          2)there was no lack of supplies,attention and seriousness given to the Mediterranean and North Africa .

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          • #6
            Originally posted by lcm1 View Post
            Purely a personal opinion but I do believe that the Med was a too important key to the allies {particularly Britain } to allow them to take control. Anyway to completely 'Rule the roost' they would need Gib: and without the co operation of Spain that could never be and even with Spains assistance it would be extremely unlikely. I'm an old 'Bootneck' and the Gib: is ours!!! lcm1
            Occupying Vichy North Africa slams the door on the Atlantic, even with Gibraltar in British hands - the fortress only has to be taken if Italian naval operations in the Atlantic were deemed desirable.

            Taking out Vichy seems incompatible with Barbarossa, so once the decision was made for Russia, Britain would hold the sea route to the Atlantic.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by WarMachine View Post
              ...However, despite these inferiorities was it realistically possible before American economic power came into the scales for the Axis Powers to win in the theatres of the Mediterranean and North Africa during and including 1940-42?
              No. It was all about logistics and the infrastructure to move said supplies to where it was needed. There was not enough fuel for the Italian fleet, air force and army. The ports were too few and too smal to properly supply an army of the required size in Africa. The air force, while numerically large was not well equipped in 1940 and by the time better kit arrived it was too little and too late. The navy, possessing some good ships, was still too small to protect both the convoys and capital ships with which it needed to try to wrest control of the region. The navy was also starved of fuel for training and reacting to British moves.

              The navy was so poorly supplied that only the central Mediterranean was contested not the entire sea.
              The Purist

              Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by ljadw View Post
                1)Already before Barbarossa,the Mediterranean and North Africa were considered a second priority

                2)there was no lack of supplies,attention and seriousness given to the Mediterranean and North Africa .
                Agree. Wasn't there considerable reinforcement or the German forces in North Africa *after* Second El Alamein? Which every commentator I have consulted considered an ill-advised move spurred by Hitler's perception of his loss of prestige? I am asking and would be grateful to be corrected as this is not my area of expertise, though I am interested in it.

                Susie
                Will no one tell me what she sings?--
                Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
                For old, unhappy, far-off things,
                And battles long ago:
                -William Wordsworth, "The Solitary Reaper"

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                • #9
                  Some interesting bits from 'Stopped at Stalingrad' regarding the resource tug between the mediterrean/NA fronts vs the East:

                  The Fuhrer orders were orders. Hayward postulates that Hitler was heavily distracted by events in the Mediterranean and did not fully grasp the importance of the southern front and prioritize. Even after the encirclement, the Germans sent 81,000 troops and 250 JU52s to the doomed theatre.

                  To meet the 6th Army's supply needs (500 tons a day), they needed 800 JU-52s. But the entire LW had only 750. Over half were in the mediterranean theater with 295 serving the AGS. The medium bombers were as good as JU-52s but using them as transport decreased the LW's combat power.
                  Zhitomir-Berdichev, West of Kiev: 24 Dec 1943-31 Jan 1944
                  Stalin's Favorite: The Combat History of the 2nd Guards Tank Army
                  Barbarossa Derailed I & II
                  Battle of Kalinin October 1941

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by WarMachine View Post
                    Do you know when and why this opportunity became unachievable?
                    Approximately September 1940 about three to four months after Italy entered the war. Had Germany promptly put forces into North Africa following the fall of France they very likely could have taken Egypt.

                    This is when Britain is suffering severe shortages of equipment at home and has to rebuild following their withdrawal from Dunkirk. Malta would have been unable to interdict the convoys and the RN really couldn't have either on short notice.

                    If an Afrika Korps sized force were added to the Italians it is extremely doubtful the 7th Armored Division or the Mobile Division, its predecessor could have stopped a combined German-Italian offensive.

                    It is a small window that Germany ignored.

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                    • #11
                      Yeah but in the long run we'd still grind them out of existence...
                      Credo quia absurdum.


                      Quantum mechanics describes nature as absurd from the point of view of common sense. And yet it fully agrees with experiment. So I hope you can accept nature as She is - absurd! - Richard Feynman

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                      • #12
                        It is not so that without a commitment in Tunisia after november 1942,more Ju 52 would be available for Stalingrad : a lot of Ju 52 were tied in Libya to supply the AK.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
                          Approximately September 1940 about three to four months after Italy entered the war. Had Germany promptly put forces into North Africa following the fall of France they very likely could have taken Egypt.

                          This is when Britain is suffering severe shortages of equipment at home and has to rebuild following their withdrawal from Dunkirk. Malta would have been unable to interdict the convoys and the RN really couldn't have either on short notice.

                          If an Afrika Korps sized force were added to the Italians it is extremely doubtful the 7th Armored Division or the Mobile Division, its predecessor could have stopped a combined German-Italian offensive.

                          It is a small window that Germany ignored.
                          Here there is a flaw : a combined German-Italian offensive to go to the canal,was depending on supplies ,and as there were insoluble logistic problems in 1941/1942,these problems would also block an offensive in 1940: the Italians did not advance in 1940.

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                          • #14
                            The Italians were extremely short of trucks in 1940 and this effected Graziani's ability to move supplies forward from Tobruk, let alone Tripoli. As for the Germans, they had pulled just about every serviceable truck from the civilian economy for France and these badly needed to be returned. This lack of transport effected the LWs ability to establish their forward bases and thus the air campaign against Britain. The Germans were about to take possession of a large and varied truck fleet from France but it would take time to sort this largesse out.

                            None of this overcomes the lack of port capacity in Libya and the Italians were behind the curve at sea almost from the very beginning. Supplies could be landed in Tripoli but that is where they stayed for some time.
                            Last edited by The Purist; 16 Sep 14, 12:26.
                            The Purist

                            Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by ljadw View Post
                              Here there is a flaw : a combined German-Italian offensive to go to the canal,was depending on supplies ,and as there were insoluble logistic problems in 1941/1942,these problems would also block an offensive in 1940: the Italians did not advance in 1940.
                              The trucks the Axis needed were in Russia.
                              The fuel the Axis needed was being burned in Russia.
                              The ports the Axis needed were in Vichy French Tunisia, which wasn't going to be invaded because the Germans were in Russia.

                              So, everything points to Egypt being impossible because of the invasion of Russia.

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