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Could proper planning have won WW2 for Italy?

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  • The Exorcist
    replied
    Originally posted by ljadw View Post
    1) It was much more : 7000

    2) This was out of the question :the pacification of Ethiopia had yet to start: there were 88000 Italian soldiers and 35000 civilians in a hostile country that .No one had any faith in the loyalty of the 200000 colonial soldiers .

    And a lot of these 88000 were non combattants .
    Okay, I'll get this one first.

    How can you call 88,000 guys a bunch of soldiers and non-combatants in the same post?

    Also; the British Army came close to admitting that on a one-for-one basis, the Soldiers on the other side were tougher than their own guys; the Japanese in Burma, German Paratroops in the mountains of Italy, and the Eritreans they faced at the battle of Keren.

    So, some Colonial troops were crap, but some were most definitely not.

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  • ljadw
    replied
    Originally posted by The Exorcist View Post



    Yes, a few hundreds, but only as Guerrillas.


    The idea here is to force the enemy to have to do that!
    1) It was much more : 7000

    2) This was out of the question :the pacification of Ethiopia had yet to start: there were 88000 Italian soldiers and 35000 civilians in a hostile country that .No one had any faith in the loyalty of the 200000 colonial soldiers .

    And a lot of these 88000 were non combattants .

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  • BF69
    replied
    Originally posted by The Exorcist View Post
    Almost as if 5,000+ years of farming the same land over and over again has depleted the topsoil to the point where it is almost gone, eh?
    Not at all. The Ethiopian plateau is incredibly fertile - from the air it is like a giant patchwork quilt of tiny fields. On the ground many areas have beautiful black soil, though not so much in northern Tigray. Agriculture there is not as destructive of the soil as the mechanized version - lots is still done by hand of necessity. Provided the rains fall it produces enough to feed 90 million people every year. The problem with being on a giant volcanic plateau is that it is also full of rocks. I suspect the five millenia process of clearing those fields involved a lot of shifting of rocks.

    My point was simply that going 'cross country' isn't much of an option except on foot.

    In so many ways...
    What I set out to do as stated almost seems too easy, the only people in the war that did a better job of throwing opportunity away were the Nationalist Chinese.
    The problem we have is that I think your plan is actually worse. They could have holed up in northern/western Ethiopia and sucked up British resources for a lot longer than they did. Going on the offense would have been questionable with a decent military. The Italians in East Africa only occasionally rose to 'decent'.


    Right, and that is one of the places where I use offense as a means for a better defense.
    South Sudan is going to be the target of an offensive that is basically organized as a looting expedition... something the locals can understand and take advantage of. First comes a Commando-style raid at Jubba, using the one Fokker tri-motor Italy has in the area. Then about 3,000 Colonial levies lunge out to make a mess of all the places that could be used as staging areas to support an uprising in the Italian rear. They will be backed up by a handful of armored cars, 6 x Ca-133, and 2 x Ro.37 aircraft.
    Not much, but still roughly ten times what the Brits have in the area at the outset.

    And once the first bunch is enriched, rotate them home so they can spread tales of how profitable it was to go a-raiding with the Italians.
    You are going to send 3000 troops into one of the biggest swamps in Africa against local tribes who are not remotely going to welcome their presence? OK, your troops to use as you wish. I suspect the tales they return with won't be the sort of thing the Italians will be putting on posters.

    The border close to Gondar may be hard to plug, but its also hard to move a decent military force through, especially one attacking Ethiopia. Lots of uphill. Its no coincidence that the irregular 'Gideon Force' chose a more southerly route or that one of the last Major Italian forces to surrender was in Gondar. Local unrest is going to be irritating, not fatal. That area is actually pretty secure in this scenario (if not in peacetime).


    It is the best option. There are also semi-mechanized attacks in British Somaliland (Division-scale) and and a Regiment-sized mob moving up between this and the Cavalry-based offensive headed for Port Sudan.

    Instead of burning up hundreds of tons of fuel and trucks the Italians dont have, using a few kilos of small gold coins to get the locals to raft your supplies to you seems like a good bet.
    It sure ain't happening any other way.



    Okay, the maps for that are on post #109 on the previous page.
    This is an effort to shorten the defensive lines in anticipation of a British offensive in the near future. There are a lot of troops in Africa that they can gather up, so what has to be done is give up the southern tip of Somalia and draw as straight a line as possible to the southern tip of Lake Rudolf.
    The line curves to leave the most desolate ground on the southern (enemy) side and to have the best defensive ground on the Italian side, of course.

    It won't hold for long against a serious attack by several Corps, but it isn't meant to. The 40,000 men manning the advanced line are of less importance than the time they will cost the British in the one area that they can mount a serious a serious invasion... if the other operations go as planned.
    I would set up the defensive perimeter inside Ethiopia, using mountains, lakes & gorges as choke points. Fortify particular spots and assign small, mobile reserves to certain zones to contain any breakthroughs while the defence is reconstituted. Use air assets sensibly in support. Possibly use irregular forces to disrupt British movement - this will work best in areas where the locals aren't super hostile to the Italians or don't love the Emperor much (there are bits).

    That isn't going to overcome poor troop quality, poor officers & poor equipment, but it is going to give them the best chance of exacting a heavy price. To be honest, I'm not sure how you improve a military that behaved the way the Italians did - literally bugging out on the basis of rumors and surrendering to much inferior forces either without a fight, or on terrain where a vastly larger force should have been required. Good luck with fixing that.

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  • The Exorcist
    replied
    Repeating myself here, so I will keep it short.

    Originally posted by BF69 View Post
    I spent 3 weeks driving around the place, so I have a fair idea what it is like. Ethiopia is also the rockiest place I have ever been to. I mean everywhere, cities, towns, countryside, pretty much everywhere there is exposed dirt there are rocks at the surface...
    Almost as if 5,000+ years of farming the same land over and over again has depleted the topsoil to the point where it is almost gone, eh?


    Originally posted by BF69 View Post
    Which makes what the Italians chose to do so mind numblingly stupid. They literally chose the worst possible option.
    In so many ways...
    What I set out to do as stated almost seems too easy, the only people in the war that did a better job of throwing opportunity away were the Nationalist Chinese.

    Originally posted by BF69 View Post
    Unfortunately for the Italians the West is the old Amhara heartland and it is some of the hardest country to negotiate. It also has an open border to Sudan (I know a couple of guys who walked from Gondar to Sudan in the 80s to escape the DERG. It is a hard border to plug). Pacifying it was going to be difficult to impossible.
    Right, and that is one of the places where I use offense as a means for a better defense.
    South Sudan is going to be the target of an offensive that is basically organized as a looting expedition... something the locals can understand and take advantage of. First comes a Commando-style raid at Jubba, using the one Fokker tri-motor Italy has in the area. Then about 3,000 Colonial levies lunge out to make a mess of all the places that could be used as staging areas to support an uprising in the Italian rear. They will be backed up by a handful of armored cars, 6 x Ca-133, and 2 x Ro.37 aircraft.
    Not much, but still roughly ten times what the Brits have in the area at the outset.

    And once the first bunch is enriched, rotate them home so they can spread tales of how profitable it was to go a-raiding with the Italians.

    Originally posted by BF69 View Post
    The Blue Nile is only going to be navigable for 6 months of the year at best and I'm not sure how effective it is as a 2 way artery. I'm also not sure what access points are suitable to load all this stuff on. Not sure I'd want to be the division relying on that.
    It is the best option. There are also semi-mechanized attacks in British Somaliland (Division-scale) and and a Regiment-sized mob moving up between this and the Cavalry-based offensive headed for Port Sudan.

    Instead of burning up hundreds of tons of fuel and trucks the Italians dont have, using a few kilos of small gold coins to get the locals to raft your supplies to you seems like a good bet.
    It sure ain't happening any other way.

    Originally posted by BF69 View Post
    Sure, but once you advance into Kenya, then what?
    Okay, the maps for that are on post #109 on the previous page.
    This is an effort to shorten the defensive lines in anticipation of a British offensive in the near future. There are a lot of troops in Africa that they can gather up, so what has to be done is give up the southern tip of Somalia and draw as straight a line as possible to the southern tip of Lake Rudolf.
    The line curves to leave the most desolate ground on the southern (enemy) side and to have the best defensive ground on the Italian side, of course.

    It won't hold for long against a serious attack by several Corps, but it isn't meant to. The 40,000 men manning the advanced line are of less importance than the time they will cost the British in the one area that they can mount a serious a serious invasion... if the other operations go as planned.

    Leave a comment:


  • BF69
    replied
    Originally posted by The Exorcist View Post
    You may be more right than you know.

    When the US took over the Iran supply system in a big way in 1943, they discovered that tires rated for 60,000 miles were only lasting for 4,000.
    Now, maybe they were using the wrong sort, and the Italians were not going to be surprised like that in a part of the world where they had been since the 1800s, but I doubt the terrain in the horn of Africa was much better than in old Persia.

    Maybe all those tankettes weren't just sitting around in depots waiting for the next war.
    I spent 3 weeks driving around the place, so I have a fair idea what it is like. Ethiopia is also the rockiest place I have ever been to. I mean everywhere, cities, towns, countryside, pretty much everywhere there is exposed dirt there are rocks at the surface. Even the farm land, though cleared, is enclosed in small fields surrounded by rocks. Not quote bocage, but more mountainous. Even now rural Ethiopians walk everywhere and cart heavier things with donkeys & mules. It is hard country on vehicles, even now.


    I am glad somebody recognizes that!
    The distance from Mogadishu to Khartoum is similar to the distance from Astrakhan to Leningrad. Italy only has 25 transport aircraft in theater...

    I have said before that once any major unit is committed to a certain strategic direction, that is pretty much it for the duration. There can be no question of re-deploying a Division from one end to the other with a front like that and such lousy infrastructure.
    Which makes what the Italians chose to do so mind numblingly stupid. They literally chose the worst possible option.


    Yes, but something must be assigned to that task.
    Western Ethiopia was especially restless... I will have to work up a list of assignments for them and see how it all pans out.
    Horses might work, but its not even great horse country. I suspect they used lots of Eritrean troops on foot and aircraft. The best tactic was to get the local Ras (prince or lord) on side, as they did in Tigray & other areas. Contrary to popular opinion an awful lot of Imperial rule was done via local intermediaries. In Ethiopia there were quite a few Rases who disliked the Emperor for personal or ethnic reasons. That is why the Brits were bombing Mekele in 1943 - to put down a rebellion.

    Unfortunately for the Italians the West is the old Amhara heartland and it is some of the hardest country to negotiate. It also has an open border to Sudan (I know a couple of guys who walked from Gondar to Sudan in the 80s to escape the DERG. It is a hard border to plug). Pacifying it was going to be difficult to impossible.


    And that is what I am trying to avoid.
    For the MSR for 65th Div., I use the Blue Nile. Not just for the fuel-free passage for the rafts & barges, but because you can blow holes in a river all day long, and nobody will care.
    The Blue Nile is only going to be navigable for 6 months of the year at best and I'm not sure how effective it is as a 2 way artery. I'm also not sure what access points are suitable to load all this stuff on. Not sure I'd want to be the division relying on that.

    Also; the need for a no-nonsense approach lies in the fact that lack of fuel was given as an excuse for stopping the advance into Kenya. Yet, when the Brits took Mogadishu in February of 1941, they found 400,000 gallons there. (yes, intact)

    That sort of thing just can't be allowed.
    Sure, but once you advance into Kenya, then what? The Royal Navy could take total command of that coast & drop a sizeable force in a very awkward spot. The Italians were skittish enough on 'home' ground - retreating from large areas based just on rumours & a bit of clever deception. Actually sitting a force of presumably their better troops at the end of a long supply line in Kenya just screams 'disaster'.

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  • The Exorcist
    replied
    Originally posted by BF69 View Post
    Why so few? because the road network in East Africa was virtually non existent and ill suited to vehicle travel.
    You may be more right than you know.

    When the US took over the Iran supply system in a big way in 1943, they discovered that tires rated for 60,000 miles were only lasting for 4,000.
    Now, maybe they were using the wrong sort, and the Italians were not going to be surprised like that in a part of the world where they had been since the 1800s, but I doubt the terrain in the horn of Africa was much better than in old Persia.

    Maybe all those tankettes weren't just sitting around in depots waiting for the next war.

    Originally posted by BF69 View Post
    However, Ethiopia even without Eritrea & Somalia is big - 40% bigger than Texas. Add those two and it is Alaska size or larger.
    I am glad somebody recognizes that!
    The distance from Mogadishu to Khartoum is similar to the distance from Astrakhan to Leningrad. Italy only has 25 transport aircraft in theater...

    I have said before that once any major unit is committed to a certain strategic direction, that is pretty much it for the duration. There can be no question of re-deploying a Division from one end to the other with a front like that and such lousy infrastructure.

    Originally posted by BF69 View Post
    The value of tanks & armored cars in controlling the population would have been limited to major cities & the surrounds or the lowlands....
    Yes, but something must be assigned to that task.
    Western Ethiopia was especially restless... I will have to work up a list of assignments for them and see how it all pans out.

    Originally posted by BF69 View Post
    Trying to supply large forces, especially mechanized ones, would be a fraught exercise, especially as supply would generally rely on a single road that was vulnerable to interdiction.
    And that is what I am trying to avoid.
    For the MSR for 65th Div., I use the Blue Nile. Not just for the fuel-free passage for the rafts & barges, but because you can blow holes in a river all day long, and nobody will care.

    Also; the need for a no-nonsense approach lies in the fact that lack of fuel was given as an excuse for stopping the advance into Kenya. Yet, when the Brits took Mogadishu in February of 1941, they found 400,000 gallons there. (yes, intact)

    That sort of thing just can't be allowed.

    Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
    I think the Italians in East Africa should have hedged their bet. Installation of a cement manufacturing plant early on, and then building a line of fortifications around the few key areas would have gone a long way...
    That is a very interesting idea.
    Could that have been done between Sept. and June?

    If so, bridge abutments could have been much more plentiful, and areas prone to wash-outs could have been protected.
    I'm not sure I would have given roads and bunkers priority over runways, depending on how well those were set up.

    Good call!

    Originally posted by ljadw View Post
    The Italians continued the fighting in Ethiopia til september 1943.
    Yes, a few hundreds, but only as Guerrillas.
    The idea here is to force the enemy to have to do that!
    Last edited by The Exorcist; 19 Jan 18, 14:53.

    Leave a comment:


  • T. A. Gardner
    replied
    Originally posted by BF69 View Post
    There is pretty heavy rain in Ethiopia for about two months a year around September/October, and again in March. Not sure if that would be an issue or not.
    Not really. Even if a portion of such a road washed out, it is easily repaired. Southern Arizona has a similar monsoon period. Dry washes on like roads in Arizona wash out pretty regularly but can be restored in a day or two easily. It also leaves something like 90% of the road unaffected and is way better than a simple dirt track.

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  • ljadw
    replied
    The Italians continued the fighting in Ethiopia til september 1943.

    Leave a comment:


  • BF69
    replied
    Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
    I think the Italians in East Africa should have hedged their bet. Installation of a cement manufacturing plant early on, and then building a line of fortifications around the few key areas would have gone a long way to keeping them in the game if things went against them.
    Certainly, the British with no heavy artillery and mostly lightly armed colonial troops couldn't have taken on a line of fortifications and bunkers. In the worst case these could have tied up considerable Allied assets for quite a while if there were stocks of food and such available for the defender's use.
    The Ethiopian plateau should have been easily defensible given Italian resources. There were limited roads, some serious deserts in the north and lots of ravines & mountain passes. There are some easier approaches from the south - along the rift valley - but that also has huge lakes constricting movement to narrow routes. A mobile reserve south of Addis and hole up along the other access points. With a judicious placement of supplies & similarly judicious use of air power should have been able to hold the plateau for a lengthy period and force Britain to divert resources to seize it.

    They did construct a few fortress complexes, but seem not to have paid much attention to a proper defensive strategy. Once the British began to attack from Sudan & Kenya there were a series of rapid retreats leaving behind lots of supplies and losing the ability to set up proper defensive positions.

    The war in East Africa was a microcosm of the Italian war - poor planning, poor leadership, little or no strategy and poor troop performance. There were exceptions, but not nearly enough. Put a similar or even smaller sized force of Japanese, German, Russian, British, Australian, Kiwi, American or a few other nation's troops at Keren and the outcome changes. That alone makes the speed & cost of the British adavnce very different.

    As for roads, simple gravel with waste oil would have sufficed in most cases as the lack of constant rain and no cold winter would have made such roads perfectly viable once rolled and compacted. While this is less durable than an asphalt road, it is quick to manufacture and finish. All they'd need is a good sand and gravel plant to make the gravel, and they could use waste oil mixed with tar for the sealant.
    There is pretty heavy rain in Ethiopia for about two months a year around September/October, and again in March. Not sure if that would be an issue or not.

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  • T. A. Gardner
    replied
    I think the Italians in East Africa should have hedged their bet. Installation of a cement manufacturing plant early on, and then building a line of fortifications around the few key areas would have gone a long way to keeping them in the game if things went against them.
    Certainly, the British with no heavy artillery and mostly lightly armed colonial troops couldn't have taken on a line of fortifications and bunkers. In the worst case these could have tied up considerable Allied assets for quite a while if there were stocks of food and such available for the defender's use.

    As for roads, simple gravel with waste oil would have sufficed in most cases as the lack of constant rain and no cold winter would have made such roads perfectly viable once rolled and compacted. While this is less durable than an asphalt road, it is quick to manufacture and finish. All they'd need is a good sand and gravel plant to make the gravel, and they could use waste oil mixed with tar for the sealant.

    This is the modern equivalent done in Australia:

    Leave a comment:


  • BF69
    replied
    Originally posted by The Exorcist View Post
    But.... why so few Armored Cars in a place where policing the interior was a major priority and Armored Cars would have been the more efficient and effective tool for that job?
    Bad planning, once again, and it is reflected by the fact that more than 50 trucks were made into armored vehicles at the start and during the war.
    Why so few? because the road network in East Africa was virtually non existent and ill suited to vehicle travel. As I'm sure I've mentioned before, most of Ethiopia & Eritrea is mountainous and riven by deep valleys. The Italians began to expand the amount of roads - though none of them were sealed with asphalt (there are still roads between major Ethiopian cities that are unsealed & many have only been sealed in the past 2 decades). The Italians also started to construct more bridges, though only some.

    However, Ethiopia even without Eritrea & Somalia is big - 40% bigger than Texas. Add those two and it is Alaska size or larger. Cities and large towns are very spread out, with most of the population living on farms & in smaller villages. Somalia & eastern Ethiopia is relatively flat. So are bits of the south, but the main population is in the north west . Those villages would have been difficult or impossible to access in an armored vehicle of the time (some are still difficult unless you have a 4x4).

    The value of tanks & armored cars in controlling the population would have been limited to major cities & the surrounds or the lowlands....assuming the infrastructure existed to keep these vehicles running. The same issues arise in warfare. Trying to supply large forces, especially mechanized ones, would be a fraught exercise, especially as supply would generally rely on a single road that was vulnerable to interdiction.

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  • The Exorcist
    replied
    Originally posted by Pruitt View Post
    The Italians could have relied more on Horse Cavalry, both Italian and local instead of Armored Cars.

    Pruitt
    That's true, they had a couple of Division-sized units in both Eritrea and Somalia, and the quality of those units was very respectable... but not regarding equipment.

    But... okay, yeah... 1940 and its not western Europe, so nobody was very well equipped.
    Yes, it actually works, especially if you are looking at being mobile with very limited fuel reserves.
    Good call!

    Originally posted by ljadw View Post
    There was no bad planning,because there was no planning : the DoW was an improvisation :no one in Germany or Italy could imagine that in the first days of June France would already be defeated...
    Yes, that is exactly how it happened, IRL.

    However, as I mentioned before, there was much that could have been done, and some people did see it coming.
    The Air Force did, and boosted their readiness from 50% to 75% between Sept 1939 and June 1940.

    All I am doing here is speculating on what a dedicated and aggressive General Staff could have come up with.
    When Japan lowered the boom on the Allies, every plane, every ship and every soldier had a mission... and they didn't have any more time to prepare for the inevitable than Italy did.

    Leave a comment:


  • ljadw
    replied
    There was no bad planning,because there was no planning : the DoW was an improvisation :no one in Germany or Italy could imagine that in the first days of June France would already be defeated. Il Duce had to hurry to declare war, if he waited, the war would be over before Italian soldiers would be killed, and without a few thousand losses, he could not draft Italy's demands . As Adolf said ; if you want to eat, you must help in the kitchen .

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  • Pruitt
    replied
    The Italians could have relied more on Horse Cavalry, both Italian and local instead of Armored Cars.

    Pruitt

    Leave a comment:


  • The Exorcist
    replied
    I have found some more definitive information on the Armored Cars in the East African theater, and it isn't good news for the Colonies;

    Distribution of armored units were as follows;

    At war start
    Riserva Generale Addis Abeba and Dessiè with:
    -321.a and 322.a Compagnia carri M11 (4 platoon each- 16 M11 each)
    -1.a and 2.a compagnia carri L (??? L3 each)

    Comando Truppe Scioa with:
    -Squadrone carri veloci “Cavalieri di Neghelli” (15xL3)
    -Reparto Autocarri armati PAI (some armaured trucks armed with MG)

    Comando Truppe HARAR with:
    -Sezione Autonoma autoblindo Fiat 611 – (5x37mm Fiat611)
    -Seziona Autonoma autoblindo Lancia IZ – (4xLanciaIZ)

    Comando Truppe Galla-Sidamo with:
    -Sezione Autoblindo Lancia del Galla Sidamo (Gimma)(3xLanciaIZ)
    -Sezione Autoblindo Fiat 611 del Galla Sidamo (Javello)(3xFiat611mg)
    -Compagnia autocarri armati del Galla Sidamo (Gimma)(some armoured trucks with MG)
    -Sezione autocarri armati (Uolisciò) (4xarmoured trucks)

    Comando Truppe Amhara with:
    -Reparto provvisorio autoblindo (Debrivar)(some LanciaIZ)
    -Sezione autoblindo Lancia (6xLanciaIZ)(Debra Marcos-Goggiam)

    After the war start
    Compagnia Carri Armati dell’ Amhara (Gondar)(367 mans and 34 armoured trucks)


    13+? x Lancias and 11 x Fiat 611s, total. That is pathetic, even if the home-brews were good ones.

    So, info about 126 Armored Cars was false. But there were also 32 instead of 24 M11/39 tanks, and maybe 45 of the tankettes.

    But.... why so few Armored Cars in a place where policing the interior was a major priority and Armored Cars would have been the more efficient and effective tool for that job?
    Bad planning, once again, and it is reflected by the fact that more than 50 trucks were made into armored vehicles at the start and during the war.

    Leave a comment:

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