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Could proper planning have won WW2 for Italy?

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  • The Exorcist
    replied
    Originally posted by CarpeDiem View Post

    That is a really great link, thanks for posting that!

    But.... okay, they had two modern cruisers there, that would be great if we were war-gaming this. Two could be sent, Light Cruisers were not in short supply for Italy in 1940, or none, or something else.
    Come to think of it, sending a Heavy Cruiser with 8" guns could have been done, but every Italian ship would have to go through the Suez canal, noted, and countered by the Brits.

    Maybe a small Guerrilla fleet really was the smart way to go, but I really want Aden, for the shock value if nothing else.

    At any rate, the idea is to send a Light Cruiser and take 100,000 excess rifles back to Italy. Seems like a good trade to me, maybe the best idea would have been to pre-package a supply base for German Raiders.... so that the Italians could skim some of it.

    Originally posted by Nick the Noodle View Post
    A great question, but I think it unlikely. Unlike Germany, Italy was on the winning side during WW1,
    So was Japan.

    Originally posted by Nick the Noodle View Post
    Like the French, the Italians were let down by their High Command, and it would take a major change in the timeline to get the Italian government at the time as militarily effective.
    Right, that is what I am trying to correct here.
    Why would it take such a major change? Change is the only thing that is truly inevitable, and Hitler managed to turn the German General Staff inside out in about 3 years, which was perhaps the ultimate entrenched clique outside of the Vatican at that time.



    Time to go into the plan for the opening move, for the Army---

    Going to war

    June 8th; Ships suitable for Army use commandeered at Massawa, Eritrea, and loading begins. Other task forces are readied for departure in the Med.

    June 9th;
    Noon; Mine-laying operations begin in Italian waters, task forces assemble, intensive fighter patrols are launched to drive away enemy recon
    aircraft.

    1400; Massawa task force departs.

    1700; Ultimatum handed to France and Britain, war will commence on June 10th.

    1800; Task forces depart from Rhodes and Italy.


    June 10th, D-Day

    Unrestricted Submarine warfare commences.

    2405; Artillery fire and raiding parties go forward along the frontier with France and Tunisia. At the later place, the attack is noisy but mainly a demonstration/probing attack. In France proper, it is the opposite. Forces go forward with as much stealth as possible, only calling for artillery when enemy concentrations are located. There will be no bombing raids on Metropolitan France.
    At the same time, the attack into Egypt begins.

    0300; after an hour of bombing raids and 30 minutes of naval bombardment, Paratroopers descend on Malta. Two hours later, a Marine Division begins landing.
    Obsolete older Bombers begin raids on all fronts that last until dawn, including Cyprus and Aden.

    Dawn (times vary)
    Aden; 4,000 Italian and 6,000 Colonial troops land under cover of naval gunfire. One hour later, two squadrons of SM 79 bombers will provide direct support.
    Cyprus; 3 x Divisions land at Paphos and North Cyprus.

    The timing of supportive bombing raids is important, you want to try to catch them on the ground. How long does it take for a Gladiator to take off, use up it’s bombs and ammo, and get back on the ground to re-load?

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  • Colonel Sennef
    replied
    Exactly, Italy should stay on the defensive in the North, stay friends with the French!

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  • sebfrench76
    replied
    Regarding the fights against the Frenchie's : Italian soldiers were brave , but keep in mind that since the great Italian migration in France from the 30's , they were likely to shoot at someone from their family at a moment in war , and that doesn't help them to be efficient fighters.
    Plus :there is no real antagonism between our 2 countries , like the ones we had towards Germany.
    What's the point for fighting each other then ?

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  • Nick the Noodle
    replied
    Originally posted by The Exorcist View Post
    Or at the very least, made it less of a humiliating ordeal?

    I have looked at the slap-dash nature of the Italian military and its operations in WW2, and then at how Japan went about it. In December of 1941, Japan didn't have any aircraft or ships sitting idle wondering what to do, and it was all about proper planning.
    Like the Italians, the Japanese had poor logistics, some good (and some not very good) aircraft, lousy small-arms and artillery, horrible tanks and a navy that looked good on paper but which proved to be brittle in action.
    Without question, Japanese esprit was much higher, but the main factor in that is winning victories.

    The most shocking deficiency was in their planning for war, they just didn't do any of that sort of thing!
    Yes, the decision to enter the war was purely Political and based on short-term gains, pure greed, in other words. However, that does not excuse the Military from setting up some operational plans to cover that eventuality. After October of 1939 (let's start there) Italy knew it would be a real war and they knew what side they would be on. If they had started formulating plans at that point, and done a good job of it, they would have had a much better chance of forcing an early decision... which would have been the only way they could win.

    Italy could have attacked the following places simultaneously on June 10th; France (the only one they did) and supportive landings in the Riviera, Tunisia, Malta, Cyprus, British Somalia, Aden and the Sudan.

    And I can back that up, they had the forces to do all that.
    However, I need to dash out, I'll be back with facts and figures later on.
    A great question, but I think it unlikely. Unlike Germany, Italy was on the winning side during WW1, and did not learn all the lessons of that conflict. Tactically in WW1, they were as good as anyone, but by WW2 Italy was more about image than substance, thanks to Mussolini et al.

    Germany became the paramount army at the beginning of WW2 for a whole host of reasons. OTOH Italy did not learn from their mistakes. They were not left with a shadow of its former military glory, one that left its relative remaining few military personnel being the elite from a devastating conflict. Italy was also not surrounded by a host of potential enemies. It had the Alps to its north as its only means of being invaded by land, which limited the weight of its tanks, but otherwise could only be conquered by sea, hence its decent navy.

    Mussolini knew style over substance could work when you were able to bluff. What Italy did not have was the infrastructure or experience to conduct total war. That Italy could have been slightly more effective at the beginning of WW2 is not in doubt. In 1942, the Germans stated the Italians were their most effective Allies at Stalingrad. What this means was the average Italian infantryman was probably as good as the German equivalent, given their almost complete lack of decent kit.

    Like the French, the Italians were let down by their High Command, and it would take a major change in the timeline to get the Italian government at the time as militarily effective.

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  • AdrianE
    replied
    Originally posted by Javaman View Post
    An additional what if; Italy discovers the oil in Libya early enough to extract some for wartime use?
    This what if has been discussed before. People knew there was oil there in the 1930s but did not have the technology to get it. The required technology wasn't invented until the 1950s. Libyan oil is a huge red herring.

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  • CarpeDiem
    replied
    Originally posted by The Exorcist View Post
    Four DDs isn’t enough to escort a convoy and beat up the shore defenses at Aden too, even with good air cover. Taking the 6” guns discarded during the refit of the older Italian Battle Cruisers can arm the Eritrea, Ramb I & II very well, but we need a cruiser down there. One must be transferred from the Med pre-war, and I suggest the “Condottieri” type as it can lay mines, has a spotter aircraft and would be more than a match for the WWI left-over cruisers the RN has in the area.
    Red Sea Naval War

    On June 10, 1940, Rear Admiral A.J.L. Murray commanded the British Red Sea Force based at Aden. Murray mustered the New Zealand light cruiser Leander and the Australian Hobart. In the weeks leading up to war, especially after Great Britain read Italy’s orders for the “immediate and secret mobilization of the army and air force in east Africa,” the British Admiralty dispatched the old cruiser Carlisle; three sloops, Auckland, Flamingo, and Grimsby; and the modern ships of the 28th Destroyer Division, Kandahar, Kingston, Kimberley, and Khartoum, to supplement Murray’s command.
    Both Leander and Hobart were built in the 1930s.
    Carlisle was commissioned Nov. 11, 1918, missing service in WW1 and being converted to an AA cruiser in 1940.

    In June 1939 Carlisle started a conversion to an antiaircraft cruiser, with eight 4-inch (102-mm) QF MK16 and 1 quadruple 2-pounder Pom-Poms being fitted. This conversion was completed in January 1940. Carlisle was fitted with radar during her conversion and introduced the Type 280 combined air warning and gunnery radar into the Royal Navy; she thus became the first naval vessel to be equipped with an anti-aircraft fire control radar system.
    By the end of August he [Murray] had four light cruisers, Hobart, Leander, Caledon, and Carlisle; three destroyers, Kimberley, Kingston, and Kandahar; and nine sloops, the British ships Flamingo, Auckland, Shoreham, Grimsby, and Falmouth, the Indian ships Clive, Indus, and Hindustan, and the Australian Parramatta.
    So the single "Condottieri" would not be facing just "WW1 left over cruisers" but two modern RN cruisers. The radar on Carlisle also makes it more than just a outdated leftover.
    Last edited by CarpeDiem; 02 Mar 17, 16:15.

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  • The Exorcist
    replied
    Originally posted by Javaman View Post
    ... The 2nd order effect of that is that relates to another recent thread about the failure of the German North African adventure. If Italy acts in concert with German strategy, we can swap the Italian 8th Army in Russia for the Panzerarmee Afrika and supporting forces (air, logistical, etc.).
    It is ABSOLUTELY in Italy's best interests to avoid the need for German involvement in the Med... for it's own sake.
    Politically, it makes them the pygmy-power in the Tripartite pack, symbolically as well as factually, further depressing Italian morale'.

    Interestingly, there was a German "Mechanized Company" in Ethiopia who's presence was of propaganda value to Italy... oddly enough.
    It was made up of German refugees from other parts of Africa, not soldiers. Even so, they fought with such determination that they were killed to the last man, according to Wiki.

    Originally posted by Javaman View Post
    An additional what if; Italy discovers the oil in Libya early enough to extract some for wartime use?
    That is outisde the parameters of this thread.
    All I am covering here is better planning by a revamped Italian officer corps, starting point is October 1939... far too late for that sort of thing.



    Returning to where I left off-


    Italian East Africa (IEA) was no joke, there was something like 350,00 armed men there, but only about 1/3rd were Italian. The rest were Colonial Troops and 5 years of Fascism had not made much of an impression on them…. yet. Carrying them along on successful offensives and then sending some of them home with tales of military glory should keep them adequately motivated. Historically, they did venture out and seize bits of Kenya, small parts of the Sudan, and all of British Somaliland.

    The Kenya adventure seems pointless, raiding parties could have done the same job. Keep the Africans off-balance long enough to fortify your side of the border, that should be the order of the day in the South.

    Somaliland was no great trick. The Italians had to be re-directed from the planned attack on Djibouti (French Somalia) and didn’t attack until Early August. This allowed the British to boost the garrison from 2 to 5 Battalions…. still too few to hold the Italians off for more than a few days.

    The Sudan was going very well, air superiority (in one battle the Italians lost five Cr. 42 to shoot down seven Gladiators) and were coming close to Port Sudan and the Nile. They were stopped by a shortage of fuel.

    Fuel, again….
    Where to get more? Russia, via our pals, the Germans.
    Germany is putting out Commerce Raiders right from day one. Once Italy is involved, those raiders can come a-calling on us at Mogadishu and then Berbera. However, if they want fuel, they can be the ones to pre-position it. THEY can pay the Soviets for it charter a Soviet tanker to bring it to us prior to the entry of Italy into the war.
    The deal is, we get a 50/50 split. So if 10,000 tons arrive, Italy gets 5,000.
    That ought to turn the trick, and allow a Corps from Ethiopia to make contact with Libya.

    But the really bold part will be taking the one British base in the area that seems out of reach; Aden.
    (just found out that the Bombers hit it early, in day and night raids!)

    Four DDs isn’t enough to escort a convoy and beat up the shore defenses at Aden too, even with good air cover. Taking the 6” guns discarded during the refit of the older Italian Battle Cruisers can arm the Eritrea, Ramb I & II very well, but we need a cruiser down there. One must be transferred from the Med pre-war, and I suggest the “Condottieri” type as it can lay mines, has a spotter aircraft and would be more than a match for the WWI left-over cruisers the RN has in the area.
    The mines matter because they are the best reply available to the RN’s inevitable counter attacks.
    There is also a purpose-made minelayer at Missawa that must start laying minefields at the south end of the red Sea a few hours BEFORE the declaration of war. It then dashes back, grabs more and goes right out again.

    (one last thing, they had over 600,000 rifles there for 350,000 men, why? 10% is the usual reserve of small arms, 30% would be fine for an isolated Theater. This is more like 100%, and that is not smart. Lets take 100,000 back to Italy.)

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  • Javaman
    replied
    If those changes had been made to the Italian Army, perhaps the best use of them would have been an immediate full scale surprise attack on Malta in June 1940 as Britain is reeling from the loss of France. That would have secured the lines of communication across the central Med and allowed a much better logistical flow. Acting defensively in North Africa would deter the British from attacking early, and if they did it was not likely to go well. The 2nd order effect of that is that relates to another recent thread about the failure of the German North African adventure. If Italy acts in concert with German strategy, we can swap the Italian 8th Army in Russia for the Panzerarmee Afrika and supporting forces (air, logistical, etc.).
    An additional what if; Italy discovers the oil in Libya early enough to extract some for wartime use?
    I'd say orders for their merchant marine to return to home ports prior to hostilities would have been hugely beneficial as well.

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  • The Exorcist
    replied
    Paring down the Army-

    At the top of the page, I started to reduce and reorganize based on what Italy actually had and could support.
    This really shows how weak the Army was, how how limited their options are.
    However, there are also many opportunities to exploit.

    29 at full strength

    3 x Tank, 2 Motorized, 3 x "Fast", 5 x Mountain, 1 x Paratroop Div. (14)
    15 x Infantry—Reduces to 10 for Trianary Organization.

    1st Mech Corps; 1 x Tank, 1 x Motorized, 1 x Infantry {towards France}

    2nd Mech Corps; 1 x Tank, 1 x Motorized {Africa}

    3rd Mech Corps; 1 x Tank, 2 x Fast ‘Brigades’ {Africa}

    4th, 5th, 6th Corps; 3x Infantry Div.s Each {North Italy/France, 2 x Africa,}

    7th Mountain Corps; 3 x Divs {France}

    Independant-
    1 x Parra Div, 1 x Fast ‘Brigade’, 2 x Mountain Divs that are unassigned at this point



    And now…. 34 at approx. 75%


    10 x "Other" Divisions.
    Static Defense; 10 Div. (Sicily; 1, Sardinia; 2, North Italy; 3, South Italy; 2, Albania; 1, Libya; 1)
    Leave these understrength, not ever Division in even the German Army went to war with all that they needed.

    24-28 x Infantry Div.

    Reorganize to ; 16 Trianary Divs* + 4 “Reservist” Divisions in training/Home Garrisons (Rome, Taranto, Milano, Tripoli) these also remain understrength at this time and will probably supply other units with replacements.

    * 16 reduces to 12 for full Strength…. OR, Reduce to 9 at full strength and 3 x seven-battalion “Divisions” for Naval Landing Divisions. with training and naval advisors. A Marine Corps, in fact.

    8th, 9th, 10th Corps; 3 x Divs Each, (think East, Central, West)
    East= Albania & Rhodes (+ Cyprus)
    Central = mid-south Italy
    West = Sardinia & Sicily


    ATTACK ASSIGNMENTS -

    Cyprus; 1 x Marine Div., 1 x Fast Brigade, 1 x Inf Div, (East Corps)

    Malta; 1 x Marine Div, 1 x Paratroop Div.

    France; 1st Mech Corps, 7th Mountain Corps, 4th Corps {inf}, 1 x Marine Div. (a total of ten Divs)

    Libya; towards Tunisia; 5th Corps. towards Egypt; 2nd & 3rd Mech Corps, 6th Corps.
    One Fast Division detached to probe Sudan towards Khartoum.


    Which brings us to the East Africa Theater. (E.A.T. ….?)

    ...But first, some details about the Ops-
    2nd Mech Corps would have been assigned to Tunisia, but the rapid collapse of France would reduce that to a diversionary attack, meant to give France one more source of worry.

    Cyprus was defended at the time by just two Battalions, taking so many troops is meant more to provide a good Garrison in one swift move. That place is of great value to the Air Force and Navy, the Army will not be sending any further units... especially not if the transit is as risky as is likely to be the case.

    The attack against Metropolitan France is designed to hasten the collapse and support the Germans, as well as serve as a training exercise for the top-rated units. Nice is a worthwhile objective and only ten miles from the border.

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  • Colonel Sennef
    replied
    Originally posted by The Exorcist View Post
    This is exactly what they were saying at the time, Italy was said to be an unsinkable Aircraft Carrier.
    However, an offensive war is being contemplated, not a defensive one. Fighters have a limited range, and Italy has few bases in the Eastern Med and none at all in the West end.
    At Cape Matapan, they wound up with no air-cover at all when the only planes with the range (German Ju-88s) failed to show up.
    Originally posted by AdrianE View Post
    Why on earth would the Italians want carriers?

    They have airbases on Sardina, Sicily and Rhodes than could dominate the med if they had a proper airforce.
    As an Italian in the early 1940's I would have preferred a defensive, neutral position.
    The bigger part of the Army goes to the North to guard the passes over the Alps against Germany and France and protect the italian industrial heart. Switzerland serves as a neutral bastion halfway and is a big help to bolster Italian defenses.
    The Navy and Air Force will defend the Italian mainland (the boot) and its overseas possessions Sardinia, Sicily, Rhodes and Libya.

    If Italy for political reasons really has to contemplate an offensive position let it be against selected targets at the other side of the Adriatic, and perhaps the Ionian Sea, as part of expanding our Mare Nostrum

    Anything more looks like hybris to me.

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  • T. A. Gardner
    replied
    Originally posted by The Exorcist View Post
    Again, I agree with most of that, and kudos for not trying to increase the numbers of weapons or troops.
    However-



    The tankettes were present in such large numbers that something had to be done with them, and they are light enough and low enough to the ground to survive in a good many situations. They could be landed in Naval units that would have had trouble with large trucks, however...
    They don't do very well in open country, like Russia or the desert. They are so low that their own view is hindered, I saw a pic of one in a recon unit with a 2-meter ladder attached to the back, so that a man could climb up and get a better view!

    As you said, in many places, their best use would be moving heavy infantry weapons around.
    Some had the 13.2mm Heavy MG, these would be good for suppressing AT guns and rifles (they had the range for that) while the ones with twin 8mm MGs supported the infantry. That may even have been the plan, but they have no business in a tank battle. With the Armored Divs, their only roles would be with the Infantry Battalions... or following the real tanks by cleaning up what had just been over-run.
    There were well over 1000 L3/33 available when Italy went to war. You need about 1200 to give every infantry battalion in the reorganized triangular divisions (say 30 divisions total) a platoon of 4 vehicles. If these were intended mainly for use as the British carrier was, they could move heavy weapons or ammunition forward. Maybe construct cheap trailers to increase their hauling ability. Add a cargo box of light steel over the engine deck for hauling stuff and you're set.
    Now they're primarily support vehicles rather than scouts or light tanks. Whether they are hauling 81mm mortars forward, heavy machineguns, or ammunition, they would be very useful in that role.

    If 2 per battalion had the S 18-1000 ATR mounted where it could also be dismounted for action, then you have a minimal antitank capacity with the infantry.

    Make sure that an antitank mine is available in some numbers and the infantry are at least capable of tank defense to a reasonable degree.
    Last edited by T. A. Gardner; 28 Feb 17, 13:10.

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  • The Exorcist
    replied
    Again, I agree with most of that, and kudos for not trying to increase the numbers of weapons or troops.
    However-

    Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
    ...
    At just 18 per division that amounts to a buy of about 750 at most to supply the army. Mounting these on L3/33 tankettes and giving 2 per battalion would have been a good way to get them some mobility. Maybe add a couple more of these vehicles to the weapons company sort of like a small carrier platoon like the British used would be the way to go. They had the vehicles to give every battalion a couple of these tankettes that really weren't useful for anything else.
    The tankettes were present in such large numbers that something had to be done with them, and they are light enough and low enough to the ground to survive in a good many situations. They could be landed in Naval units that would have had trouble with large trucks, however...
    They don't do very well in open country, like Russia or the desert. They are so low that their own view is hindered, I saw a pic of one in a recon unit with a 2-meter ladder attached to the back, so that a man could climb up and get a better view!

    As you said, in many places, their best use would be moving heavy infantry weapons around.
    Some had the 13.2mm Heavy MG, these would be good for suppressing AT guns and rifles (they had the range for that) while the ones with twin 8mm MGs supported the infantry. That may even have been the plan, but they have no business in a tank battle. With the Armored Divs, their only roles would be with the Infantry Battalions... or following the real tanks by cleaning up what had just been over-run.

    Originally posted by AdrianE View Post
    Why on earth would the Italians want carriers?

    They have airbases on Sardina, Sicily and Rhodes than could dominate the med if they had a proper airforce.
    This is exactly what they were saying at the time, Italy was said to be an unsinkable Aircraft Carrier.
    However, an offensive war is being contemplated, not a defensive one. Fighters have a limited range, and Italy has few bases in the Eastern Med and none at all in the West end.
    At Cape Matapan, they wound up with no air-cover at all when the only planes with the range (German Ju-88s) failed to show up.
    Last edited by The Exorcist; 28 Feb 17, 12:31.

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  • T. A. Gardner
    replied
    Originally posted by AdrianE View Post
    Why on earth would the Italians want carriers?

    They have airbases on Sardina, Sicily and Rhodes than could dominate the med if they had a proper airforce.
    Because the RA proved completely incompetent and incapable of supporting the navy. The reason Italian ships got those large red and white stripes on the decks was because the air force bombed their own ships more than once.
    They repeatedly showed up late or not at all to support the navy when requested.

    Having a couple of carriers with say 30 to 50 planes aboard each would have put the Italians in a great position at sea. The RN in 1939 to early 1941 had largely crap on their carriers in the Med and often had much smaller than capacity air wings aboard.

    Just having Re 2000 fighters versus the few Sea Gladiators the Eagle carried in 1940 would have ended British naval air ops entirely. The Swordfish available for strikes would have been no match for the Reggiane fighter (about the equivalent of a P-35). The Re 2001 was roughly the same as an early P-40.
    Add some Ju 87 and Fi 167 for strikes and the RN is in serious trouble.

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  • AdrianE
    replied
    Why on earth would the Italians want carriers?

    They have airbases on Sardina, Sicily and Rhodes than could dominate the med if they had a proper airforce.

    Leave a comment:


  • Colonel Sennef
    replied
    Planning to stay out of the war would have been the proper course, even preferable to joining the Allies in 1943.

    No need for ideological solidarity with Hitler to form an Axis
    Mussolini could have followed Franco's example.

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