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  • Mussolini stays focused...

    Historically, Il Duce managed to make a complete shambles out of his nation's efforts in WWII. Most would consider his gravest error to be the decision to attack Greece in late October, 1940. Largely seen as his answer to Hitler's fait-acompli of stationing of troops in Romania (which Mussolini considered within Italy's "sphere of influence"), his implied intention was to "shut the door" on further German intervention in the Balkans...

    We all know how this turned out...

    What if Mussolini had listened to his Generals; focusing Italy's military efforts on North Africa?...occupying Tunis, Malta, and finishing the job they started in Egypt (before significant Commonwealth re-enforcements made this "difficult")?

    The drain on Italy's logistics assets to support the "Greek adventure" may be seen as being particularly decisive in the subsequent fiasco...

    IMO, the ramifications were huge...

    Discuss...

    Cheers, Ron
    48 trips 'round the sun on this sh*tball we call home...and still learning...
    __________________________________________________ __________________

  • #2
    Mmmm....UK's loss of the Suez canal. Far east reinforcements having to travel all round Africa. Access to Persia and its oil far more difficult. Aid to the Soviets delayed as much came up through Iran. Have to think about this.
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    • #3
      ahhh. one of my favourite subjects... not time to answer at lenght now, but...

      1. Mussolini did listen to his generals before the war - they (and the admirals) were all gung-ho over-selling to the Duce the capabilities of the italian forces, and showing as proof the performance of the Italian forces in Ethiopia (excellent) and spain (poor, but played as good), when in fact these were done with disproportionate amount of logistics - something that could not be done on a real war.

      2. the best decision Italy could do for itself (and for Germany) would have been to stay neutral and be the one negotiating peace with Britain, etc.

      3. Indeed, it was folly to attack Nazi-sympathising Greece, thus destabilizing Yugoslavia. (well, it was a folly to seize Alabania as well - who would want of Albania? even Albanians dont' want it)

      now, if Italy reeeeaaallly wants to do war. it has to do prepared and what is plausible and easy is:

      - bring home it's commercial fleet before starting war - and thus not loosing 30% of it on the first day of war, interned in enemy waters and harbours

      - plan and achieve on day 1 the invasion of Malta - as everyone was expecting, even the British who did not even think it was worth defending it.

      - focus focus focus on ONE front - i.e either DoW on Britain and France and focus on clearing North Africa - i.e going for Suez (and getting Tunisia from France as war settlement) OR not DoW on Britain and go only for russia - and with no balkan diversion, send a well supplied armoured/motorized army instead of a corps and take charge of rear-guard duties (italians and russians do get along better and I am not speaking of my fondness for slavic women...)
      "Freedom cannot exist without discipline, self-discipline, and rights cannot exist without duties. Those who do not observe their duties do not deserve their rights."--Oriana Fallaci

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      • #4
        Originally posted by iron View Post
        Historically, Il Duce managed to make a complete shambles out of his nation's efforts in WWII. Most would consider his gravest error to be the decision to attack Greece in late October, 1940. Largely seen as his answer to Hitler's fait-acompli of stationing of troops in Romania (which Mussolini considered within Italy's "sphere of influence"), his implied intention was to "shut the door" on further German intervention in the Balkans...

        We all know how this turned out...

        What if Mussolini had listened to his Generals; focusing Italy's military efforts on North Africa?...occupying Tunis, Malta, and finishing the job they started in Egypt (before significant Commonwealth re-enforcements made this "difficult")?

        The drain on Italy's logistics assets to support the "Greek adventure" may be seen as being particularly decisive in the subsequent fiasco...

        IMO, the ramifications were huge...

        Discuss...

        Cheers, Ron
        The Italian army takes North Africa and controls Egypt and the Suez Canal. That alone changes the war. Could India fall to the Japanese as a result. Could the Japanese replace the English and use Indian troops? Outcome still the same due to US atomic power. Probably the East looks similar to what we have today - India not in Commonwealth maybe.

        The British would actually have more troops in England, as unable to send many to the Far East, or to fight in the Med and later Italy. Maybe an invasion of France in 1943 instead?. US very inexperienced, as are Brits. Maybe first invasion fails. Eventually Nazi's would fail at some point due to US atomic power, but could Mussolini still have a Med empire? Probably too arrogant and foolish to stop him helping Hitler. Could have further Italian involvement in Russia given victory. Probably not, but perhaps no Russians in Eastern Europe when atomic bomb dropped on Berlin?

        Too many options . My head hurts . I hate you Iron!
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        • #5
          Don't really hate you, excellent thread. Have some rep .
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          • #6
            [QUOTE=piero1971;992172
            - bring home it's commercial fleet before starting war - and thus not loosing 30% of it on the first day of war, interned in enemy waters and harbours

            [/QUOTE]

            What are the good sources for discussion of the italian cargo fleet in the Med, and supplying Africa? I've been shown a sumary of some unpublished research of Italian and naval records. That made the Axis logistics problem in Lybia/Egypt appear insoluble. Are there any in depth analysis of this published?

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            • #7
              The idea for this thread...

              ...came from a book by author Ian Kershaw, called "Fateful Choices".
              In it, Kershaw examines "Ten decisions that changed the world...", all of which were taken within the period 1940-41. While he lays out the framework of the historical situations (and fully explores the reasons for the decisions made) he eschews any idea of carrying the counterfactuals forward.

              I found this particular example very intriguing as it is rather "out of the recognized mainstream", (when WWII is discussed) yet the potential "butterflies" (subsequent events as a result of the POD) are huge...

              (...as "Nick the Noodle" pointed out)

              As per Carl and Piero's input, the historical Italian logistic situation is the obvious place to start with this. If a redirection of effort (i.e. "coup-de-main" seizure of the port at Valletta) can still not guarantee a sufficient supply train to seize and secure an Italian FOB at Alexandria, then the entire premise of the thread is flawed...

              Kershaw did point out that (in his opinion) a focus of extant Italian assets would suffice to do the job; provided the effort was prosecuted vigorously, starting as early as possible...

              I put this thread up last week in the hope that someone here might be sufficiently read on the subject to either further (or refute) the idea...I guess I'm off to the books on this one...

              As per Carl's post, any help in terms of credible links or printed works would be most welcome...the historical situation (as it later evolved) has already been well examined; it's relevence to this topic is obviously not that pertinent...well, I'm off to the books!

              Cheers, Ron
              48 trips 'round the sun on this sh*tball we call home...and still learning...
              __________________________________________________ __________________

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by iron View Post
                As per Carl and Piero's input, the historical Italian logistic situation is the obvious place to start with this. If a redirection of effort (i.e. "coup-de-main" seizure of the port at Valletta) can still not guarantee a sufficient supply train to seize and secure an Italian FOB at Alexandria, then the entire premise of the thread is flawed...
                All the books and discussions I've been exposed to concern the latter period when the British defense was larger and more capable, the Africa Corps period. I've not got a clue what the Italians had for supply transport from Tobruk and Tripoli, or what the British had across the entire Middle East to use to defend Egypt in mid 1940.

                Originally posted by iron View Post
                Kershaw did point out that (in his opinion) a focus of extant Italian assets would suffice to do the job; provided the effort was prosecuted vigorously, starting as early as possible...

                I put this thread up last week in the hope that someone here might be sufficiently read on the subject to either further (or refute) the idea...I guess I'm off to the books on this one....
                It is off the usual train of thought. No Tiger tanks, jet powered super planes, or heroic Wehrmacht generals. I expect the usual suspects dont know what to make of it.

                Originally posted by iron View Post
                As per Carl's post, any help in terms of credible links or printed works would be most welcome...the historical situation (as it later evolved) has already been well examined; it's relevence to this topic is obviously not that pertinent...well, I'm off to the books!

                Cheers, Ron
                Jeff L who did the research I refered to went to the trouble to search the Italian archives and read though crumbly documents from 1941 and brittle old microfilms because he could not find usefull statistics already published. Unfortuatly I've got neither the time or money to go check his work. Perhaps he will publish a book or something soon. Meanwhile you might try the 'Commando Supremo' web site. It is in English, but several Italian and French historians, amature and professional, lurk there. perhaps if asked nicely one of them can help. In fact seach the discussions there for some starting clues.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Carl Schwamberg View Post
                  What are the good sources for discussion of the italian cargo fleet in the Med, and supplying Africa? I've been shown a sumary of some unpublished research of Italian and naval records. That made the Axis logistics problem in Lybia/Egypt appear insoluble. Are there any in depth analysis of this published?
                  ah, I am just back from Italy - I could check some detailed books on this.

                  ...now, the italian commercial fleet was severely reduced by the DoW. but the real issue is not ships it's the lack of supplies to put in them and then getting these safely across to Libya.

                  seizure of Malta helps the latter point, but supplies in Italy for a successfull and well equipped italian army (well, two armies in fact) were scarce, especially in fuel and trucks, as is well known (I'm assuming Italy does not send more useless footsoldiers in africa, but chose to make those units motorized and well supplied instead)
                  "Freedom cannot exist without discipline, self-discipline, and rights cannot exist without duties. Those who do not observe their duties do not deserve their rights."--Oriana Fallaci

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                  • #10
                    Sorry folks but Mussolini could have focused on nothing more than Africa and his army would have still crumbled away without German support. Malta is almost irellevant in the supply situation as over 90% of the supplies that left Europe arrived in African ports. Even the invasion of Egypt in Sep 1940 showed the army could not supply itself away from the ports without long pauses to drag supplies forward.

                    Italy simply did not have the trucks, or the means to build them, for adequately supplying the Libyan front. As it was the Trento division (iirc) had to give up its trucks to keep the supplies moving for the balance of the Italian army in theatre. Unless Italy could motorise its infantry (it couldn't) the British were going to outmaneuvre them. Further, Italian armour, while well served by the crews, was never going to be able to compete against the best British models. Italian gunners were incredibly brave but with the exception of one or two guns were ill-equipped for a modern war against European armies. The ari force had good models in the Macchi 200-202 but not the means to produce enought. The navy had no fuel (the army and air force were also starved) since all the oil came from the Romanian fields and Ital only got what dribs the germans would send their way.

                    Italy's best hope was to remain neutral.
                    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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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                      Sorry folks but Mussolini could have focused on nothing more than Africa and his army would have still crumbled away without German support. Malta is almost irellevant in the supply situation as over 90% of the supplies that left Europe arrived in African ports. Even the invasion of Egypt in Sep 1940 showed the army could not supply itself away from the ports without long pauses to drag supplies forward.

                      Italy simply did not have the trucks, or the means to build them, for adequately supplying the Libyan front. As it was the Trento division (iirc) had to give up its trucks to keep the supplies moving for the balance of the Italian army in theatre. Unless Italy could motorise its infantry (it couldn't) the British were going to outmaneuvre them. Further, Italian armour, while well served by the crews, was never going to be able to compete against the best British models. Italian gunners were incredibly brave but with the exception of one or two guns were ill-equipped for a modern war against European armies. The ari force had good models in the Macchi 200-202 but not the means to produce enought. The navy had no fuel (the army and air force were also starved) since all the oil came from the Romanian fields and Ital only got what dribs the germans would send their way.

                      Italy's best hope was to remain neutral.
                      Thanks for the info . This one subject I really know little about. However IRON said

                      Originally posted by iron View Post
                      The drain on Italy's logistics assets to support the "Greek adventure" may be seen as being particularly decisive in the subsequent fiasco...
                      This suggests to me he may have info he might want to share with us, especially about the logistical situation ?
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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                        Sorry folks but Mussolini could have focused on nothing more than Africa and his army would have still crumbled away without German support. Malta is almost irellevant in the supply situation as over 90% of the supplies that left Europe arrived in African ports. Even the invasion of Egypt in Sep 1940 showed the army could not supply itself away from the ports without long pauses to drag supplies forward.

                        Italy simply did not have the trucks, or the means to build them, for adequately supplying the Libyan front. As it was the Trento division (iirc) had to give up its trucks to keep the supplies moving for the balance of the Italian army in theatre. Unless Italy could motorise its infantry (it couldn't) the British were going to outmaneuvre them. Further, Italian armour, while well served by the crews, was never going to be able to compete against the best British models. Italian gunners were incredibly brave but with the exception of one or two guns were ill-equipped for a modern war against European armies. The ari force had good models in the Macchi 200-202 but not the means to produce enought. The navy had no fuel (the army and air force were also starved) since all the oil came from the Romanian fields and Ital only got what dribs the germans would send their way.

                        Italy's best hope was to remain neutral.

                        I agree.

                        if one stretches the what if a bit, if Italy planned and focused, it could have sent all its trucks to libya and invaded Malta on day one. an early summer 1940 all out offensive on Egypt would probably have succeeded (for that you would need to have 5 motorized divisions (50% of Italy's motorized/armored forces) with all remaining trucks used for supply, and 2-3 extra squadrons of planes - even the CR32 or CR42 were okaaay for a while in 1940... numbers making up for the technology lag vs. hurricanes.

                        of course the trick was to reach Egypt for it to rebel and be granted full independence. with that done, and suez cut, Britain would probably negotiate some form of peace with the Egypt.

                        but as unlikely as this is, it's possible.
                        "Freedom cannot exist without discipline, self-discipline, and rights cannot exist without duties. Those who do not observe their duties do not deserve their rights."--Oriana Fallaci

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                        • #13
                          Piero,

                          In 1940 the invasion of Egypt would have no armoured divisions and only two motor divisions. If the motor divisions keep their trucks then there are no additional trucks for the movement of supplies from Tripoli, Benghazi and Tobruk forwards. A 1940 invasion would have to consist of leg infantry and horse cavalry supported by about 70 of the small and obsolete M11/39 tanks and a host of the L3/35 tankettes.

                          What the British could muster in Egypt (1 partial arm'd div and two motor brigades) would be able to run circles around this force. The Brits could probably gather another two or three brigades and easily hold the four or five italy division (if they can supply that many) at mersa Matruh or Alamein.

                          While I believe the Italains might frighten the British, they did not have the means of conquering Egypt in 1940 or later. Malta, on the other hand could fall but that would change very little in the larger scope of the war in Africa.
                          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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                          • #14
                            I'm digging...

                            Originally posted by Nick the Noodle View Post
                            This suggests to me he may have info he might want to share with us, especially about the logistical situation ?
                            But man...there's little to be had, for hard info...
                            The U of A (University of Alberta) has a couple of relevant texts on their shelf; I still need to get by there though. (finishing up a job in
                            Old Strathcona (Whyte Ave.) this week, so should be able to "fit it in")...This is truly an under-explored aspect of the Second World War.

                            Gerry, your sources? Kershaw seemed to give the impression that a fully focused effort might be sufficient to make it work...all the "eggs in one basket, though"...

                            It's a couple of his sources that I'm going to check at the U of A...

                            Thanks for the input folks...I'll be back

                            Cheers, Ron
                            48 trips 'round the sun on this sh*tball we call home...and still learning...
                            __________________________________________________ __________________

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                            • #15
                              Barrie Pitt's "The Crucible of War" Volumes One and Two are amongst the finest texts I've found covering the war in the desert. Volume one cover from the beginning of the war to the end of 1941 and speaks to the deplorable state of training and supplies on the Italian side of "The Wire".

                              In 1940 the Italians had to move from fortified position to fortified position on foot because they lacked the motor transport for the infantry. When attacked by British armoured cars or light tanks they would even "form square" with guns at the corners as if they were fighting the Ethiopians. Needless to say, such tactics brought unnecessary casualties and quickly lowered already low morale.

                              Fresh water was very scarce and the availability of water tankers made a bad situation worse. Units were afraid to move very far from their coastal garrisons for fear that they would be cut off. As most Italian rations consisted of pasta , at least in part, the water situation was critical to health of the men and their morale.

                              The M11/39 had a 37mm gun in the hull and twin MGs in a turret. It was the first 'modern' Italian design (M=Medium, 11= tonnage, 39 = year accepted into service) and was completely ill-suited to the desert. Fewer than 100 were built and they were used by the "Babini Arm'd Grp" during the Sidi Barrani advance. The crews were brave enough, trying to take on Matilda IIs in the battles for the camps in Dec 40. All were lost during Operation Compass. I'm sure you already know about the L3/35 (similar to the Polish TKS).

                              Kenneth Macksay did a fine little "primer" covering the early battles, Compass and Beda Fomm some years ago for Ballantine (a series of concise, if not ground breaking narratives, but better than the modern Osprey offerings). Correlli Barnett's oft criticised "The Desert Generals" does pay homage to the WDF and O'Connor's defensive and offensive tactics. It is a pity Barnett was not more objective with his treatment of the other desert generals.

                              Alan Moorehead's "Desert War" gives a frontline view of the fighting through the eyes of a journalist and his observation are just as valid today even if he is not a historian. Finally there is Robin Neillands "The Desert Rats, 7th Armoured Division, 1940-1945",...which speaks for itself.

                              All of these address the Italian situation in eastern Libya and at one level or another mention the problems of supply. Indeed, one of the reasons Graziani stopped at Sidi Barrani was because he needed to lay down a water pipeline to supply his army of four leg infantry divisions who were already out running their supplies after an advance of only 60 miles.

                              More importantly, it is worth noting that the WDF had been harrassing Graziani's advance from the moment it had crossed the border and by the time the Italians reached Sidi Barrani it had degenerated into a circular blob looking each and every way for where the British might strike. The halt after four days was also necessitated by the need to untangle the army.

                              Now,...the bit about horse cavalry is my own addition,...assuming no invasion of Greece. However, as I write these words, I realise that the addition of a pair of horse mounted divisions would only make the supply (especially the water) situation worse than it already was.

                              Perhaps it was best that Graziani did stop where he did because had he pressed on to Matruh O'Connor was waiting for him and had prepared a full scale counterattack with his two divisions and two brigades. O'Connor noted his great disappointment at Graziani's caution in his writing after the war.

                              In the end the same rules that applied to every advance in the desert applied to Graziani's advance. The further he advanced from him forward base (Tobruk, in this case) the weaker he became (and Tobruk is no major port to begin with). At the same time, O'Connor's corps grew stronger as he retreated closer to his Nile depots. It is unlikely more troops would have added offensive power to the Italian advance since any advance hinged solely on the ability to supply the troops beyond the frontier. As always, in Africa it was logistics, not the prowess in battle that determined when and how far an army could advance.
                              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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