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Could proper planning have won WW2 for Italy?

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  • The Exorcist
    replied
    Originally posted by Michele View Post
    ...
    What it might do, however, is to convince the British, come 1940, that they'd better come to terms, at least with Italy. Thus winning the war in that way.
    That means racking up a series of stunning victories which will impress on the British the notion that Italy too is as unstoppable as Germany, and picking up all the chips that are within reach....
    That is exactly the idea here.

    Now, on the Mediterranean front, the only easy pick-ups I see are Malta and Cyprus. Even in Egypt, the best you can do is a somewhat deeper and more threatening penetration. If that happens in conjunction with the seizure of Khartoum, then it will be very threatening.
    The catch is, not only is it essential that all this happen in the first couple of months of the war, Italy is only capable of doing this in the first couple of months!

    What you need is a bit of a coupe' among the officer class, and some head-hunters making sure that all available resources are put to use. For example; the drive into Kenya was stopped because of the claim that there wasn't enough fuel to keep it going... and yet when the British tool Mogadishu half a year later they found 430,000 gallons of fuel.
    What they needed down there was a handful of roving I.G.s backed up by a Death Squad in the Fascist tradition.

    About Djibouti ... you are right, I need to dedicate force to hemming them in as tightly as possible.
    Now, what I have done with this front is to take half of the 180,000 Colonial troops available at the outset (not the additional troops raised later on) and give them all invasion jobs. This leaves a major pool of troops for internal security, and/or to relive troops at the front, and a Reserve for situations like this. I also only used 2 of the 6 Blackshirt Division's Battalions for anything but holding the Capitol.

    For example, here is what I have in mind for the Kenya front -


    It should have come out large enough to read ... oh well.

    So what you have there is a cavalry raid cutting across the rear areas (and getting a look at what will be the British defensive line later on) while four columns of a total of about 40,000 Colonial troops move in to overwhelm the three battalions of S. African troops and a brigade of Kenyan troops.
    As you will see (if it can be read) the operation is planned to be able to move if 25% of the Colonials don't show, and 1,000 can still be left out of each drive for other tasks. This is because if any one column is stopped, the Brits would still have to withdraw or be surrounded.

    It looks like an attempt to take all of Kenya, but it is not.



    Those are the stop-lines, using water-sources and favorable terrain to make a good defensive line.
    Even if the Italian Colonials could take Mombassa (doubtful) it would be pointless. British reinforcements would simply unload down at Dar-es-Salam and attack an over-extended line.
    THIS line is not over-estended, it is dramatically shortened.
    By drawing the line from the south end of Lake Rudolf to the mouth of the Juma River, the front shrinks from over 700 miles to just under 400. The Italian Generals regarded the southern tip of Somalia indefensible, and I won't second guess them.

    That Lake is huge, but help will be needed to keep it secure.
    Also note that 4 out of the 5 MTBs at Massawa (or whatever it is called) were written-off for mechanical issues. Well, you fight with the Navy you have, no point in beating your head against that wall... why not just take one with a sound hull, strip it of all mechanical gear except the props and steering gear, and turn it over to the Air Force. Have them put at 600-hp motor from a Cr.32 in it, and truck it (they were small enough) overland to the river above that Lake. Put a 20mm gun where the Torpedoes used to be, and upgrade the twin 8mm MGs with a 13.2mm.
    You now have a Patrol Boat that should be good for over 20 knots, and a much longer range than it had with 1500hp.
    It would be a hell of a lot better than anything the British have there, no question.

    So, about Djib.... I keep going the long way there....
    It would be easy to put 5,000 Colonials (the lesser Ethiopian type) there, would more be needed?
    After Aden falls, 7 x squadrons of SM.81 bombers and a squadron of Cr.42 fighters would instantly be available there, and it is very close to their bases.
    The SM.79 have to be held for anti-shipping missions.

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  • Marmat
    replied
    Mussolini wants too much, ...

    Originally posted by Michele View Post
    Later in the war, no. In 1940, assuming the Germans aren't involved in Africa, the Balkans are at peace, and Britain leaves this peace conference table weakened, yes, I'd say so. Hitler wasn't even sure he actually wanted Italy to declare war, in our June 1940. He still might hope Britain would see reason in its dealings with Germany, too, and he still has his "real" war to begin. If actual "separate peace" is too much to stomach from a propaganda POV, I guess Italy could reach a "temporary" armistice with Britain and France, with final settlement of all outstanding issues to be reached as soon as Britain is at peace with Germany too. The Korean DMZ still runs along an "armistice" line today.

    Naturally, we're talking about a German-like winning streak for Italy. I'm aware it's not likely.
    ... historically, in May 1940, he wanted Malta and Cyprus from Britain, Nice, Savoy, Corsica, and Tunis from France plus Italian protectorates over Egypt, Syria and Iraq, and Sudan to be governed as an Italo-Egyptian Protectorate, just to intervene with Hitler for acceptable peace terms, and his own neutrality.

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  • Michele
    replied
    Originally posted by MarkV View Post
    Are you suggesting that Hitler would be prepared to watch Italy make a separate peace?
    Later in the war, no. In 1940, assuming the Germans aren't involved in Africa, the Balkans are at peace, and Britain leaves this peace conference table weakened, yes, I'd say so. Hitler wasn't even sure he actually wanted Italy to declare war, in our June 1940. He still might hope Britain would see reason in its dealings with Germany, too, and he still has his "real" war to begin. If actual "separate peace" is too much to stomach from a propaganda POV, I guess Italy could reach a "temporary" armistice with Britain and France, with final settlement of all outstanding issues to be reached as soon as Britain is at peace with Germany too. The Korean DMZ still runs along an "armistice" line today.

    Naturally, we're talking about a German-like winning streak for Italy. I'm aware it's not likely.

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  • MarkV
    replied
    Originally posted by Michele View Post
    What it might do, however, is to convince the British, come 1940, that they'd better come to terms, at least with Italy.
    Are you suggesting that Hitler would be prepared to watch Italy make a separate peace?

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  • Michele
    replied
    Originally posted by The Exorcist View Post
    Djibouti is by far the toughest target in the area...
    I didn't say "conquer it at all costs". I said "send something there".

    The point being (and this goes back to the thread's question) that no matter how much proper planning was done, from a strictly economic and assets-wise point of view Italy can never win the war.

    What it might do, however, is to convince the British, come 1940, that they'd better come to terms, at least with Italy. Thus winning the war in that way.
    That means racking up a series of stunning victories which will impress on the British the notion that Italy too is as unstoppable as Germany, and picking up all the chips that are within reach. It doesn't matter if Djibouti is still just under siege when the time for this decision comes; what matters is that the Italians are on the offensive there too. Djibouti might not have fallen, but if it's being besieged it will be part of the bargain equation, if it's not, it will not.

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  • The Exorcist
    replied
    Originally posted by Michele View Post
    ...
    An additional note: if you're launching all of that from Africa Orientale Italiana starting on the first day of war, there really is no reason to leave Djibouti alone. Send something there too.
    Djibouti is by far the toughest target in the area, even if there was no naval or air power worth speaking of (and I'm not sure if that was really the case).
    There were a full five battalions of infantry there, as well as several batteries of artillery and some good AAA. The Garrison would also not have been surprised at all, the only Rail Road leads from there straight to Addis Ababa!

    Historically, Italy did indeed plan to attack there, but the war was over for France before more than preliminary skirmishes had taken place (the French fell back to a fortified line). Faced with that, the Italians switched over to an attack on British Somalia and were successful there... despite the fact that it didn't get underway until August.

    This is why I push for intensive planning in late 1939, and serious preparations in the following winter/spring.

    Now.... since Aden could only be taken on Day One, I'd say hang the risks and just do it. The Brits will probably take it back someday, but until they do they have serious problems with use of the Red Sea, and this gets even worse when they lose their part of Somalia.
    So, why not go for that first, and fully isolate Djibouti before starting the assaults there?

    Pre-war planning cannot anticipate France's sudden collapse, and Priority One for this front is sealing off the Red Sea (and thus, the Suez Canal). A more deliberate and careful siege of Djibouti would seem to be the more intelligent way to go forward here.

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  • Poor Old Spike
    replied
    Originally posted by The Exorcist View Post
    Could proper planning have won WW2 for Italy?
    Not a chance, for the simple reason that the vast majority of the great Italian people are a peaceful race, so their heart was never in the war no matter how much Mussolini tried to stir them up..

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  • Michele
    replied
    Originally posted by The Exorcist View Post
    1- Yes, I was only looking at bringing up about ten Divisions to Trianary status, for the rest just making them full strength under the tables of the times would have been enough of a trial.
    Still, dropping them from 73 to 45 Divisions should eliminate the material shortages.
    I see.

    2- I thought there were Blackshirt Brigades, and that some of them did fairly well.
    Never heard of Blackshirt Brigades, but see below.

    There were 5 full Blackshirt Divisions in 1939, with the proviso that the artillery, engineers, signals etc. were Regio Esercito units. One of these was disbanded to bring the others up to strength, and another was distributed piecemeal as garrisons in Libya. The other three were destroyed during Compass, and did not perform very well at that. All of them had 6 Cohorts (battalions), either with 3 Legions having 2 Cohorts each, or vice versa.

    Later on, the MVSN formed elite independent battalions, the "M" Battalions (note change in nomenclature); actual war experience had demonstrated that heavier armament was needed, and had also provided veterans for them. These did perform well.

    A purely notional structure was the Raggruppamento di Legioni, and this might be called a "Blackshirt Brigade" by English-language sources. It actually was a HQ and two (rarely three) Legions under it, with no "brigade" assets.

    4- You mean, in addition to the normal weapons?
    I could see that in a place like East Africa, but not anywhere else. It should be an easy fit, if they could have a 20mm AT gun in the same spot.
    Yes.
    https://www.google.com/search?q=%22c...d6hb1XunHU0KM:


    An additional note: if you're launching all of that from Africa Orientale Italiana starting on the first day of war, there really is no reason to leave Djibouti alone. Send something there too.
    Last edited by Michele; 03 Oct 17, 03:55.

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  • The Exorcist
    replied
    Originally posted by Michele View Post
    A few remarks.
    1- Yes, I was only looking at bringing up about ten Divisions to Trianary status, for the rest just making them full strength under the tables of the times would have been enough of a trial.
    Still, dropping them from 73 to 45 Divisions should eliminate the material shortages.

    2- I thought there were Blackshirt Brigades, and that some of them did fairly well.

    3- A lot of Armies were like that, but Italy should have no excuse for that, they had been at war since 1936... more or less. By the end of 1939, it should have been an established fact, not guesswork or favoritism, as to who the good NCOs and Officers were.

    4- You mean, in addition to the normal weapons?
    I could see that in a place like East Africa, but not anywhere else. It should be an easy fit, if they could have a 20mm AT gun in the same spot.

    Speaking of East Africa, I also have plotted out my idea for a landing at Aden (a surprise, hopefully, to be done within hours of the DOW)




    It is parred down to 5K Eritreans and 3k Italians, and assumes sunrise at 05:45.
    "Old" Blackshirts are WW1 vets used to help the Colonials deal with fortifications, and the "Young" ones are the College boys that are there to refurbish the base and make use of whatever they can. The Alpine battalion is the 2nd wave, and can land anywhere that opportunity calls.

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  • Michele
    replied
    A few remarks.

    1. Reforming the binary division and going back to the three-regiment division is a shambles for various reasons, last but not least of them that it was a recent reform that had created the 2-regiment divisions. The easiest way to avoid it is to prevent that reform from happening. And while Mussolini surely liked to have many divisions, and generals liked to be commanders of divisions, the fact is that not all top generals were in favor of the reform when it took place.

    2. That said, yes, the 2-regiment divisions were going to receive as a standing part a 2-battalion Blackshirt Legion. There actually wasn't a shortage of volunteers, but there was a shortage of equipment (as for everything else). What's more important, the generals didn't want those Blackshirts in the Regio Esercito divisions - it was a politicization of their own turf. So they slowed down these allocations. If this resistance could be overcome, and if the equipment was found, an Italian infantry division per its official TO&E would have had 8 infantry battalions, just one short of a normal 3-regiment division with its 9. Note there were several Blackshirt-only divisions, which performed poorly, probably because of a shortage of good officers and decent equipment. One would be better off disbanding those and using the 2-battalion legions to strengthen line infantry divisions.

    3. Cadres (including NCOs) are an issue with the proposals to turn the unwieldy infantry platoon (with two too large squads) into a standard one with three squads. You need more leadership, which is sorely lacking. You'd probably also need more initiative at the individual private level too, which also is lacking both in the manpower input into training (it doesn't help when most of the privates have little or no education) and in the training itself (discipline and obedience being considered virtues, not initiative).

    4. Yes, the 45mm mortar was mounted on CV35s, and fired from them (as opposed to just carried around). It goes without saying that it wasn't properly mounted as an integral weapon, but just stuck on top; the crew had to expose themselves to fire it. Yet this field improvisation, made on a few of these vehicles, could give a CV35 company a welcome if small beyond-the-hillock capability.

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  • The Exorcist
    replied
    Just adding an image while I am thinking of this.
    The overall plan still seems a good one, given the limitations.


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  • T. A. Gardner
    replied
    Probably not. Sweeping the fiord would be too easily accomplished following the mine drop. Mines are best laid where the enemy isn't watching.

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  • Poor Old Spike
    replied
    Incidentally, the Tirpitz sat snug and safe down a Norwegian fiord for a long time and the Allies were worried it might steam out on a convoy raiding spree. Does anybody know if they mined the fiord to try to keep it bottled up?
    I've googled around but haven't found the answer yet.

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  • The Exorcist
    replied
    Originally posted by CarpeDiem View Post
    For those interested in more information on Italian mines, I'd recommend looking here:

    Italy-Mines


    and here:
    Regia Marina Weapons - Mines
    Thanks, that's good stuff!

    Interesting how the Italians developed a mine specifically for the Tropics. I am not sure if a 200-meter cable is long enough for the deepest depth in that channel, but then again "channelizing" movement into a particular area can be just as useful.
    It sure reduces the area the night patrol aircraft would have to cover, for example.

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  • CarpeDiem
    replied
    For those interested in more information on Italian mines, I'd recommend looking here:

    Italy-Mines


    and here:
    Regia Marina Weapons - Mines

    Leave a comment:

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