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  • Germany invades Turkey

    I just found this site three days ago and thought I would throw a question about WW2 out there. Was an invasion of Turkey by Germany in WW2 a viable strategy? Would it have opened up new avenues into Russia and the Middle East or would the rough terrain of Turkey cost the Germans too much in resources?

    I happen to play a lot of wargames and, at least in grand strategy WW2 games, a strategy I see every once in a while is to invade Turkey to get to the Russian oil fields or to hit Egypt from two directions. Sometimes its to do both.

    Would Germany invade her WW1 ally to try to defeat Russia? Did Turkey have the infrastructure to support a large German Armies needs? How would Russia react to an invasion of Turkey? Would she immediately send in troops to keep Germany as far away from the border as possible?

    I admit that I do not know much about Turkey or its military during WW2. Also, I apologize if this has been answered somewhere else in the forum.

    Dan Stueber

  • #2
    Originally posted by BooBoo130 View Post
    I just found this site three days ago and thought I would throw a question about WW2 out there. Was an invasion of Turkey by Germany in WW2 a viable strategy? Would it have opened up new avenues into Russia and the Middle East or would the rough terrain of Turkey cost the Germans too much in resources?
    I'd vote for the later. The terrain was very rough and the Turkish army could put up stiff resistance in the mountains, or even just partisans.

    But it might redirect Allied units from North Africa at a critical moment, too.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by BooBoo130 View Post
      Would Germany invade her WW1 ally

      ...you mean German workers going by the millions to work in turkish industries instead of the opposite?

      ... ... sorry could not resist!!!
      "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
        I always figured the terrain in Turkey would be a big hinderance to an invasion but the games I play don't seem to make it a problem. I always thought the Turkish straits could be easily defended by the Turks and make any invasion very difficult.

        Could Turkey have blocked the straits so that they would be unusuable for a significant time? Also, did Turkey have enough of a rail/road net to support an advance to the Russian border or to Syria?

        If anyone has a good website showing any of this I would like to see it also.

        Dan Stueber

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        • #5
          Originally posted by BooBoo130 View Post
          I always figured the terrain in Turkey would be a big hinderance to an invasion but the games I play don't seem to make it a problem. I always thought the Turkish straits could be easily defended by the Turks and make any invasion very difficult.
          On the surface you would think the paras would quickly seize a bridgehead across the strait. But, on closer reflection one has to note that the Germans never could seem to get their head around amphibious ops. But, the Italians do have a navy...

          Originally posted by BooBoo130 View Post
          Could Turkey have blocked the straits so that they would be unusuable for a significant time?
          Block ships would be a very temporary measure, if they suceeded at all. The channel is both wide and deep.

          Originally posted by BooBoo130 View Post
          Also, did Turkey have enough of a rail/road net to support an advance to the Russian border or to Syria?
          Absolutely not to the USSR. There are not even good goat trails through that country. The Ottomans lost a entire army in those mountains in 1915 when its supplies could not be moved forward in the winter weather. The traditional transportation route is along the coast on small Black Sea freighters or ferrys.

          The railroad, built before 1914, meanders through the hills to Anakara, then zigzags south to Mesopotamia and Bagdahd. I dont know if it went further south in 1939, or if the branch from Istambul to Syria existed in 1939.

          On the gameboard I have found the Italian navy is necessary to deal with the Turks in a timely manner. It is also usefull to enlist the Greeks for this adventure. They very much resented having their Ionian population displaced.

          After Istambull fall under Axis control then the Italians can aid Barbarosa by raiding and threatening the landing of a corps along the Black Sea coast. Forget Lybia, the real show is in the USSR. A suprise siezure of Batum or other suitable anchorage on the east side of the Black Sea is interesting.

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          • #6
            You will find that most Grand Startegy wargames are absolutely terrible at showing the reality of what was or was not possible. Their fault lies in being too simplistic where terrain, infrastructure and logistics is concerned. Simply being able to trace a "line of supply" free of enemy 'zones of control' on a hex grid map does not mean that 4 panzer corps can make a breakthrough attack in European Turkey and then exploit all the way to Antioch.

            For example, the old 3rd Reich game or TSRs "ETO" allowed all kinds of nonsense such as tank corps rolling through mountains without hindrance (but maybe doubling the defenders defence factor). A wargame is no measuring device for determining if such an operation was possible in Turkey. From what little I've read the road and rail system in Turkey could not have supported more than a few divisions without a major overhaul so attempting to get behind the Russians by invading Turkey was a non-starter. The Red Army would be waiting in Eastern Anatolia long before the Germans got there (the Brits would be coming up through Syria and landing troops in the south as well). A very big headache for the axis to open a front here. Chances are, British bombers are harassing Ploesti in short order.
            Last edited by The Purist; 22 Oct 08, 20:21.
            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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            • #7
              I wonder what the practical capacity of that railroad was in 1939, the section from Istambul to Bahgdad?

              http://talk.consimworld.com/WebX?233...sure=.1dd31859

              That link has some stats for the Persian railway carrying military traffic in WWII. The 1942 ammount of 165,000 tons is not impressive. A German army of fifteen divsions could consume that much in a month. But perhaps the 1943 or 1944 quantity is a better indicator???

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              • #8
                Thanks for the replies Carl, played any TAC AIR lately?

                I am obviously posting this in regards to a game I am playing at the moment, but I would like to know about the actual feasibility of an operation in Turkey.

                I am playing "A Struggle for Europe" and my opponent invaded Turkey just prior to invading Russia. When he invaded Turkey I asked if I was allowed by the rules to have Russia move units into Turkey. I found out that Turkey becomes a British ally if invaded, so I would have to declare war on Britain for Russian units to move into Turkey (Russia was neutral at the time). I had to watch as Turkey was destroyed and German units made it all the way to the Turkish/ Russian border. Plus the game has a rail line from Istanbul to the Caspian Sea. I have tried to find out if there really was a rail line there but never could.

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                • #9
                  The Purist,

                  Thats my feeling on a lot of wargames. I wish someone could come up with a realistic system of supply that was more than "an unlimited rail line free os ZOC's", but not overly cumbersome.

                  What book did you read that information from? If you happen to recall I would like to find it.

                  Dan Stueber

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by BooBoo130 View Post
                    The Purist,

                    Thats my feeling on a lot of wargames. I wish someone could come up with a realistic system of supply that was more than "an unlimited rail line free os ZOC's", but not overly cumbersome.
                    Look at the Operational Combat Series from the Gamers. It has a very effective supply system that puts a leash on operations.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Carl Schwamberg View Post
                      On the surface you would think the paras would quickly seize a bridgehead across the strait. But, on closer reflection one has to note that the Germans never could seem to get their head around amphibious ops. But, the Italians do have a navy...
                      And Turkey really didn't have much of one to oppose them.

                      But if Germany invades Turkey in 1941, do they do it with Barbarossa or before it? If they do it before, they can use more forces and don't need to worry about fighting the Red Army at the same time, but could also give the Red Army more time to prepare (or more time for Stalin to realize Hitler doesn't want to stay neutral ).

                      But if they do it at the same time, they would need to support their allies and reduce their forces used against Russia proper. And the Soviet Black Sea Fleet might be able to play a significant role by aiding the Turks on any attempted crossing of the straights. It would be easy for turkish artillery stationed along the coast, along with any allied aircraft sent to aid Turkey to help close it, while the Soviet Fleet would force the Italians to worry about a Soviet sortie and the Germans would need to keep air assets in the area to help keep the Soviet fleet away/try to sink it.

                      I think the best bet for Germany would be for them to delay the invasion of the Soviet Union and focus on the Middle East by invading Turkey first, delaying Barbarossa until Turkey has been conquered and German/Axis forces can move into Iraq and Syria/Palestine.

                      Block ships would be a very temporary measure, if they suceeded at all. The channel is both wide and deep.
                      Very true. But dug in artillery positions and aircraft on the Asian side would be a very effective countermeasure against any landing attempt accross the straights. In fact, the best bet might have been for the Axis to land on the south coast to flank the positions or force the Turkish army to split up, especially if Germany offers the Turkish government a settled peace and not a unconditional surrender kinda deal, so they don't need to fight for 2 years to try and pacify the nation.

                      Absolutely not to the USSR. There are not even good goat trails through that country. The Ottomans lost a entire army in those mountains in 1915 when its supplies could not be moved forward in the winter weather. The traditional transportation route is along the coast on small Black Sea freighters or ferrys.
                      And the CCCP Black Sea Fleet would be a very big player in this regard. The Axis would need to worry about this greatly, and as the Italian fleet was already hard pressed in the Med. it would be a difficult task to accomplish.

                      The railroad, built before 1914, meanders through the hills to Anakara, then zigzags south to Mesopotamia and Bagdahd. I dont know if it went further south in 1939, or if the branch from Istambul to Syria existed in 1939.
                      We can count on the infrastructure being poor in any case.

                      On the gameboard I have found the Italian navy is necessary to deal with the Turks in a timely manner. It is also usefull to enlist the Greeks for this adventure. They very much resented having their Ionian population displaced.
                      But Greece would be a difficult ally because Hitler would need to take a firmer hand against Italy and keep them from invading Greece in 1940. Any war against Turkey would really need Yugoslavia/Rumania/Bulgaria in the Axis camp too, to ensure supply routes and the like.

                      So a conquered Yugoslavia would still be a pain for the Axis, but a friendly Greece would make a good Ally in exchange for territorial concessions. But I think that Greece and Bulgaria share some of the same territorial claims in that region, so it might become an either/or situation for Germany.

                      After Istambull fall under Axis control then the Italians can aid Barbarosa by raiding and threatening the landing of a corps along the Black Sea coast. Forget Lybia, the real show is in the USSR. A suprise siezure of Batum or other suitable anchorage on the east side of the Black Sea is interesting.
                      They would still need to deal with the Soviet fleet, plus any Allied air assets operating in the region (if Turkey is still resisting, then from bases on Turkish soil). But yeah, with an Italian fleet able to operate in the Black Sea during the invasion in 1942 or '43 (after the delay of invading Turkey), the Germans could really play hell with the Soviet defense strategy by forcing them to send units to garrison the Black Sea coastline, and reinforce gerrisons along Turkey's eastern border.

                      Axis light-infantry and mountain troops, aided by Turkish units friendly to the new Turkish government, would be a severe enough threat to the USSR's oil producing region that they would need to send troops there, while the Allies would be threatened by German units decending on the Middle East from the north.

                      On a side note, an invasion of Turkey in mid to late 1941 (after invasion of Yugoslavia) would need a name, and I think it would be cool if Operation Barbarossa would have been picked for it, because thats where the Crusading German Emperor actually travelled.

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                      • #12
                        In WW2 invading Turkey by the Germans would have honestly served no purpose. Germany had invested interest in the Turkish population as they were workers in German Industry. So invading Turkey would alienate them, and subduing a population is not easy also they would be opening up 2 more fronts. Having Turkey neutral is more important then invading them to get to the caucus oil.
                        If you sacrifice freedom to obtain some security, you deserve neither and will gain none.

                        There never was a good war or a bad peace.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by BooBoo130 View Post
                          Thats my feeling on a lot of wargames. I wish someone could come up with a realistic system of supply that was more than "an unlimited rail line free os ZOC's", but not overly cumbersome.
                          Well, doing so would be quite a chore. Supply systems were historically very cumbersome and complex systems, so any game really has to try and "dumb" it down to be anything near fun or useable in a game without dragging the whole thing down.

                          That and all the variables that need to be taken into account ranging from micro-problems like popped tires, tree logs in the way, and broken down trucks to macro-issues like rail-bridges being destroyed, the front lines moving far forwards, etc.

                          But any invasion of Turkey would be at the mercy of the supply situation. Germany's best hope for avoiding a prolonged guerilla campaign would be to get Turkey on their side peacefully, or conquer Istanbul quickly and then give the Turkish government a very 'light' peace treaty (better than Denmarks), only giving Greece/Bulgaria small land concessions and demanding military access through their country.

                          Turkey was historically a very isolationist nation during this period. Although Pan-Turkish sentiments were high in some circles, and any opression of Turkish minorities in Russia would be fuel for the fire, it would still be difficult to convince the Turks to fight for Germany in either case. I still think that Germany would be better off just getting some military access through Turkey, so as to move troops to the areas north of Syria/Iraq in preperation for operations there.

                          If a few German divisions were free to operate in the Middle East, and have a guaranteed supply route through Turkey, the Allies would have been hard pressed to hold on in North Africa (especially in 1941), and India would find its own garrisons reduced against the coming war with Japan.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by daemonofdecay View Post
                            If a few German divisions were free to operate in the Middle East, and have a guaranteed supply route through Turkey, the Allies would have been hard pressed to hold on in North Africa (especially in 1941), and India would find its own garrisons reduced against the coming war with Japan.
                            Except the Allies would have simply declared war on Turkey, and pretty sure Turkey wanted to stay out of this war, so I doubt it would have been possible to convince Turkey to join Germany, also if Germany did capture Istanbul, Turkey would have fought the Germans everywhere and would not have been puppeted. Point in fact Turkey probably would have joined the Allies before joining the Axis.
                            If you sacrifice freedom to obtain some security, you deserve neither and will gain none.

                            There never was a good war or a bad peace.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Lonewulf View Post
                              Except the Allies would have simply declared war on Turkey
                              I meant more as in the British really lacked the strength in the Middle East to succesfully invade Turkey if they were an ally, conquest or Vichy-puppet of Germany, especially with the Afrika Korps in North Africa to worry about. If reinforcements sent to N. Africa were redirected to fight German troops in Turkey/Syria/Iraq, it would cause problems all over.

                              and pretty sure Turkey wanted to stay out of this war, so I doubt it would have been possible to convince Turkey to join Germany
                              I agree. Turkey was very isolationist at this time. But Germany might have 'persuaded' them to join through force, or might just have destroyed the forces guarding Istanbul and captured the city, then offered them a peace treaty giving Germany military access or forcing them to join the Axis, etc.

                              also if Germany did capture Istanbul, Turkey would have fought the Germans everywhere and would not have been puppeted. Point in fact Turkey probably would have joined the Allies before joining the Axis.
                              Its very likely that Turkey would not have surrendered to the Germans and indeed would have tried to fight on. If so, Germany would have been in for a long haul trying to cross Turkey and fight partisans in that terrain. But Turkey would have been no match for Germany and the Axis. Like Yugoslavia, Turkey would have fallen but continue to be an open sore as forces are sent to deal with the partisans.

                              Even then though, its not impossible to imagine German forces moving through Turkey (slowly ) and threatening the Middle East. Like I said above, that would have forced the British to send troops to oppose the movement, which would have weakened them elsewhere at a critical moment.

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