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1940 France fights on in North Africa

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  • Originally posted by Bronsky
    ...They attacked as soon as they could, and evacuation would not be noticeable by the time their second-stage offensive began. Note that the Luftwaffe did expend a significant amount of efforts bombing ports - the Germans could not be certain a French surrender was coming until it did....
    Early evacuation was politically possible but had the Germans noted a weakening of the front, and the reports come to them of convoys hurrying betwixt Marseilles and Algiers, of course the could accelerate the attack. The Germans were not supermen but neither they were not the ones just crippled by an attack that routed their first line strength.

    Originally posted by Bronsky
    ...In place, no. En route, conceivably but again, the priority should clearly be to overrun Metropolitan France rather than waste scarce rail transport capacity sending an even scarcer mech unit to Italy where it will depend on Italian goodwill for shipment to somewhere approximately a frontline....
    Why would any slackening of the offensive in France be necessary. The Germans have more than enough force to finish the job. The transfer of a few battalions to begin with would make not the slightest difference on the continent.

    Originally posted by Bronsky
    ...Let us remember that the Germans did not know for absolutely certain that France was beaten in early June, let alone that it would surrender rather than evacuate. The Germans did not know that victory in France would not bring about an armistice with Britain either. You could argue they should have known, but the historical evidence is that they believed toppling France would bring Britain back to the table...
    Not suggesting otherwise. The only change here is that with the Germans approaching Bordeaux on the 20th and with Lyon having already fallen, the end was in easy sight. If the Germans have to push on to Marseilles there is nothing left to stop them and little left to evacuate that has not already left. If France fights, the Germans press on. They would not reach Marseilles and then ask, "now what?" This is France we are talking about. Hitler was not going to accept their retreat to Africa and remaining in the war.

    Originally posted by Bronsky
    ...In terms of priority, East Africa was lower than Egypt....
    .

    No. East Africa and the opening of the Red Sea to US shipping held priority over even Egypt. O'Connor was to be granted a five day raid and right on schedule he had the 4th Indian division pulled from under him to ship to the East African offensive. Egypt received a total of 125 gun-armed tanks in 1940 and enough guns and spares to bring 7th Armoured up to strength because it was falling apart. Egypt would have priority over French Africa.

    Originally posted by Bronsky
    ....Secondly, even though defending the U.K. naturally had priority, the British did not wait for their Home forces to be at full TO&E strength before dispatching reinforcements overseas. So in this scenario, they will send some reinforcements, subject to the needs of the home forces of course. As far as priorities go, French North Africa will likely rate about as high as Egypt, both because Churchill will insist on keeping the French in the war and because, as I wrote in my initial post, losing it would be just as serious as losing Egypt.
    As above, Egypt got little enough. As long as there is a credible threat to Britain, the guns stay home. After the autumn storms arrive more could go but by then the rump French state would be gone and Tunisia an Italian colony.

    Originally posted by Bronsky
    ... Finally, the troops in Lebanon-Syria will mostly not be needed there and can either be redeployed in Egypt or, more likely, shipped to North Africa. And no, I can't see the Luftwaffe as being in any position to interdict these troops movements quickly: it took it a while to effectively start harrassing the Channel convoys, and this would be more difficult in terms of distances moved and the nature of the targets attacked....
    These consisted of

    86e DI(Afr)-A (category A) in the Levant, never left.

    191e, 192e DI(Afr)-B (category B) in the Levant, which never left the area, and subsequently became Vichy units

    Supported by 54 FT-17 tanks and 96 R-35.

    Leaving these in Egypt merely complicates logistics, shipping them around Africa would take shipping and time. Shipping through the Mediterranean? Not likely after the collapse in France. Besides, they (most of them at least) need to remain in the Levant to keep the population passive.

    Originally posted by Bronsky
    ... Luftflotte 5 would be 30 Bf 109s, with as many Bf 110s, 60 He 111s, 90 Ju 88s and some recon planes. I'm assuming the various seaplanes remain in Norway (which was considered an important theater in its own right), with fighter defense being picked up by OTUs. That force is not going to overwhelm French air defenses in Tunisia, nor will it close down Tunisian ports to Allied light forces. Adding Fligerkorps X will provide significantly more punch, especially in terms of anti-shipping capability, but then the BoB is going to feel the strain, and it is supposed to be the main show, after all.
    I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume the Germans command can can up with two particles of grey matter that might just spark a thought.

    If France is priority, and there is no reason it would not remain so, why would LF 5 not consist of 90 Me-109, 60 Me 110, 90 He 111, 90 Ju 88 and 36 Ju-87? or any other combination suited to its task?

    Again, assuming the Germans have intelligent officers who might understand something about fighting a war, why would they not, in conjunction with the RA, not focus on securing the sea lanes to Tripoli east of Malta and remove the French air force based around Tunis from the equation entirely. Why would they not bomb Malta early and destroy the three Gladiators and four brand new Hurricanes just delivered as well as ruin the airfield (repeat as required in Jun and Jul). At a stroke they removed any Allied air assets and bases east of Tunis and west of Egypt.

    Since the convoys can sail far to the east of Malta and then into Tripoli and avoid Tunisia entirely, why sail into harms way. Will the French destroyers and light cruisers now sail from Oran or Algiers past Sardinia, through the Sicilian Straits and well east of Malta looking for Italian convoys? I would suggest not, at least not more than a couple of sorties worth of losses to convince them otherwise. Trading light cruisers for bombers is losing wager.

    As for the BoB, obviously everything facing the British is meant to pin British forces at home. There is no attempt at this point to force the British to see reason since the French have yet to be dealt with. And Hitler would want the French permanently broken. The British can wait.

    Originally posted by Bronsky
    ... The RAF is going to love being able to focus on 11 Group and turning 13 Group into a full-blown training command...
    Ok,... they are still sitting at home waiting on Sealion. The British still believe the Germans have nearly 3 times as many aircraft as they actually did. Alan Brooke's diary entry is simply a bit more positive.

    Originally posted by Bronsky
    ... The fact is that the Royal Navy seems to have considered that its warships were supposed to do things, and if there was no point in having them if they weren't used. In late June 1940, an Allied surface force including battleships (one of them French) bombarded Tripoli. Nobody liked losing capital ships, but the British - and Darlan - knew that trading one of theirs for one of Italy's was in their favor, so they would seek - and certainly accept - battle....
    Again, assuming the axis command has that all important grey matter,...

    Originally posted by Bronsky
    ... <snip>I am not claiming the Germans would not have eventually deployed to Africa, but we should not start to imbue them with mythical divination powers either...
    And yet the French, just so recently pummeled and humiliated are going to be the recipients of an epiphany so profound that they turn category B colonial reservists into the "Old Guard" and theGermans suddenly forget how to execute a flanking move.

    Originally posted by Bronsky
    ...

    1/ Politics
    The first hurdle is political: historically, Hitler believed he had the war all but won:...<snip>...
    I disagree. Next to the Soviet Union Hitler despised France and wanted her broken. Undeniably, irrefutably, permanently broken. If German tanks have to roll into Marseilles and Bordeaux with the French government sailing for Africa he will not stop. Hitler would want the French crushed and the British then threatened into peace. An invasion and conquest of Tunisia and the threat of a march on Algiers and Oran, placing German air strength in effective range of Gibraltar is more leverage on Britain,... to be used later. Likely just as ineffective, I admit.

    Originally posted by Bronsky
    ... The absolute worst strategy in my opinion is to commit to the Battle of Britain while sending a Luftflotte to the Med: too little to matter there, but possibly enough to make the Luftwaffe effort against the main opponent fall short of decisive.
    Again, that grey matter. The BoB is *not* the main focus, Tunisia and the final capitulation of the rump French state is.

    Originally posted by Bronsky
    ... Another point is that in OTL, Hitler stepped in to save Libya, not because he believed the place was of much value, but because he feared that the political backlash from such a defeat would topple the Duce's regime. With the French and British badly knocked about in France, the prospects of an Allied invasion of Libya would be remote. Granted, the area would be under Allied blockade and could only be safely resupplied by submarines, air transport and the odd blockade runner, but Hitler could be confident that the Allies would feel in no shape for offensive designs. Neither will Mussolini beg for help until he has to....
    I am fully aware of why Hitler sent the DAK to Libya. Libya is still threatened by France and by Britain and thus the threat to Mussolini is still there. Thus the Germans are drawn into Africa early, if only because that is the direction the French retreat has drawn them. Panzers are in Marseilles, why redeploy to Calais? Momentum carries the Wehrmacht to the Mediterranean and over it (at least a few divisions).

    The threat of Sealion is still credible considering how badly over estimated the German strength was by the British that summer.

    Originally posted by Bronsky
    ... 2/ Logistics...<snip>So when Hitler finally decided to send a force in Libya (though by that time it was to help against an expected British capture), all these earlier plans and preparations greatly accelerated things. My point here is that the historical time line may be more optimistic than what the Germans could have achieved in 1940. If it is assumed that Hitler will first go for the BoB prior to seriously considering Africa in, say, early October, then it is realistic to decide that German and Italian planners will have conducted preparatory staff talks, on a just in case basis. If, on the other hand, we are talking about the immediate dispatch of a German division in June or July, then I want to see some details before I start believing that...
    The proof is in the OTL and how the change from a blocking force of 30 odd tanks on Jan 11th to a full corps on Feb 5th was accomplished in so short a time. The decision on Feb 5th set in motion the movement of troops and supplies not previously prepared. Yes, the previous October 3rd Pz was order prepared but it was cancelled. The Germans are not going to try and organise the shipment of light division immediately, their professional staff officers will plan (those with the all important grey matter, that is).

    The first step (late June?) could easily be light infantry from the 7th FJ and 22nd Air Landing division flown in to Tripoli. Not the entire units, a few battalions to secure the base begin prepping the ground. The remainder of the divisions remain in France and Belgium trailing their coats in front of the British who think they have far more strength than they do. Then the reconnaissance troops follow after two to three weeks (with AP ammo if you think it necessary).

    The panzers and motor infantry follow in due course between weeks 5-8. It is no stretch for the Germans to establish a light division: 2 tank battalions (1 reg't), 2 motor battalions (1 reg't), Reconnaissance, AT, Eng'r and artillery and move it across in time for the August offensive. Plenty of time to scout out the route around the hills, time to corset lace the Italian infantry, time for the Italians to organise themselves. Speaking of which:

    The Italians
    In Libya the Italians had the following troops plus five corps and two army HQs along with attached artillery and support troops.

    Libyan Divisions (colonial)
    1st Libyan Division "Sibelle"
    2nd Libyan Division "Pescatori"
    Maletti Grp (3rd Libyan Division) - formed Jun 40

    Fascist Divisions
    1st Blackshirt "23rd March"
    2nd Blackshirt "28th Oct"
    4th Blackshirt "3rd Jan"

    Regular Infantry
    60th Sabratha - deployed Oct 39
    61st Sirte - deployed Oct 39
    62nd Marmarica - deployed Oct 39
    63rd Cyrene - deployed Oct 39

    "North African" Divisions (semi-motorised)
    17th Pavia - deployed Oct 39
    25th Bologna - deployed Sep 39
    27th Brescia - deployed Oct 39
    55th Savonna - deployed Sep 39
    64th Catanzaro - deployed Oct 39

    This equals the equivalent of 15 divisions of which 9 + the Maletti Group were with 5th Army in Tripolitania in Jun 40. 1st Libyan, Maletti Group, Pavia, Bologna, Brescia, Savonna, Sabratha at least were with 5th Army at that time. Sirte, Marmarica, Cyrene and Catazaro were with 10th Army in Cirenaica. These places two Fascist divisions with 5th Army and the third with 10th Army at the time (although which served with 10th is unknown)

    The Maletti Group (3rd Libyan) is no true armoured division but its two battalions did possess the 70 M11/39 tanks plus a like number of the rather gutsy L3/35s (at least the crews had guts fighting in those "tanks"). These troops fought to death against the British, why would they not want to fight with the Germans against the French.

    As noted, the Italian "North African" divisions present were the same infantry that formed the core of Rommel's infantry all the way to Alamein. They were not Blackshirt divisions and even the Libyans were given respect by the Indian troops who had to attack them in the opening days of "Compass" in Dec 40.

    The Italians were to prove they could fight when properly led and motivated. There is no reason not to suggest they would not do so in the summer of 1940 in Tunisia.


    Originally posted by Bronsky
    ...Regarding the historical time line, the dates are the following:...
    That was OTL and Hitler was already thinking of Moscow in the summer. In the summer of 1940 the Germans could bend their efforts to Sicily and Tripolitania without such distractions. The original time table is a malleable tool,... it can be bent to suit many purposes (yours or mine). There is plenty of time to direct resources (four divisions at most, if that) without abandoning Barbarossa in Jun 1941.

    Here we have a rather strong air force deploying over fourto eight weeks to support the convoys and supply lines for the lead division of a mech corps to be deployed in 8 weeks. Then the LW and RA can send some ground support a/c to aid the advance

    Originally posted by Bronsky
    ...II. Military prospects

    You wrote that the Germans would either smash through the hapless French reservists in southern Tunisia, or that it would simply outflank them. I have problems with both scenarios....<snip>...
    I do not. The Germans would scout out the route, they had the time for reconnaissance during the build up and were not idiots. "Impassable terrain" to some the Germans often proved was "very passable". The examples are many. The LW and RA could also aid in any required reconnaissance.

    Once the German tanks and armoured cars arrive behind the Mareth Line the French are finished. If the French stick to their strength and attempt to fight from their prepared positions they will be dismantled battalion by battalion, regiment by regiment. Just as the Italian regiments fought unsupported during Compass, the 7th Support Group at Sidi Rezegh, the 5th S African Brigade on Tottensonntag, the 150th Brigade and French at Gazala and the early fighting at Alamien. All were dealt with piecemeal even if they fought hard and bit back. So to would the French reservists at Mareth, then Sfax, then Tunis.

    If the French leave their prepared positions to concentrate the will simply fall apart as they did in France. The French would also *not* have more infantry than the combined German and Italian forces because the French cannot concentrate while Italian infantry, supported by the Germans paras and light infantry will be able to do so at the point of decision. Attacked from behind by the mobile formations and from the front by the leg infantry and German paras the Mareth Line will quickly collapse. It was no Maginot Line.

    In March 1941 the understrength 5th Light with an equally weak Ariete and only four battalions of Italian infantry from Brescia division first routed the hopelessly inadequate 2nd Armoured division and then chased 4 brigades of Australians into the Tobruk perimeter in a matter of two weeks and the remainder of XIII Corps back behind the Egyptian frontier (the salt marshes at Agheila were also thought to be impassable )

    Originally posted by Bronsky
    ...What I'm aiming to show here is that an amphibious or airborne assault was not a realistic undertaking, and the southern forces had sufficient depth to guard against either a full-fledged Italian assault or a flanking movement by a small force. Of course, if a full panzer division happened to managed the southern passes, the French would be in deep trouble, but that was not going to happen soon (see above)....
    No need for an amphibious or parachute assault anywhere. German method in 1940 is more than adequate to deal with Mareth, Sfax and Tunis. If the Germans decide to make the commitment, by August and September the end of French resistance in Africa will be in sight if not a reality.

    Originally posted by Bronsky
    ...Overall, I do lean toward the opinion that the Axis could have captured French North Africa, but you are making it seem too easy. The French were not going to be pocketed prior to rolling over and surrendering. They held a strong position from which only a serious commitment would dislodge them. To put it in perspective, there were 158,000 troops in Tunisia and 383,000 in French North Africa, not counting air force, navy and native irregular troops. The Italians had 225,000 troops in all of Libya (35,000 of which being native), of which 132,000 were part of 5th Army, arrayed around Tripoli. Numbers are not the whole story, but they do count somewhat...
    I am under no illusions that the Germans would have no choice but to bend every logistical effort to make this scenario happen but in truth they really have nothing else to do with their massive military strength. The do not need most of it, they do not even need some of it. They simply need a fraction of it (admittedly, 250-300 a/c is more than a fraction but not much more than a "larger fraction") and good staff planning. They are not trying to drive 1500 miles from Tripoli to Alexandria, they are not yet trying to go from Brest-Litovsk to Moscow. They are driving only a fraction (yet another fraction) of that distance from Tripoli to Tunis. Mareth is no barrier because it has an open flank, like the Maginot Line, the Gazala Line and all the other "Lines" that mobile forces could simply drive around.

    Originally posted by Bronsky
    ...III. On whose side is time?

    You wrote that it didn't matter what time the Axis would pick to roll up the Allied positions. I disagree.

    This post has gone on for quite long enough, but suffice it to say that by early 1941,...<snip>...
    There is no 1941 for the French. September 1940, and likely dissolution. The sooner France recognises there is no further point to continued resistance the sooner an accommodation can be made and some thought given to the needs of the abandoned population of Metropolitan France. Like you I make no apologies for Vichy France but the successors to the 3rd Republic, even though their intentions were misguided, if not dangerously naive in some ways, did what it could to secure and maintain the French polity. Fighting on in Africa gains the army no further honours and the government no realistic hope of recovering the State.
    Last edited by The Purist; 01 May 12, 20:47.
    The Purist

    Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

    Comment


    • I'll go even further to suggest, that even in the unlikelyhood that France somehow manages to transport more land/sea/air units in NA with the ostensible purpose of continuing the fight, the result would have been a logistical nightmare insofar as supplies aand distribution of meager materiel is concerned. With seriously diminished and limited sources of supplies in the immediate aftermath, the French forces in NA most likley face a period of two to three months, if not several months of reorganization and redeployment. Not to mention the wrangling of who is in command of this exiled force.

      Therein lies my next question - in light of these enormous difficulties and setbacks, it would have appeared to the rest of the world that the French in NA would have been undecided as to what to do next in the immediate future, not to mention how.

      So..................does Op-Catapult still occur?? If so, then any Franco-British cooperation is nil, therefore the question of France fighting on from NA is out of the question until the Americans arrive.....as happened historically.
      You'll live, only the best get killed.

      -General Charles de Gaulle

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      • Fighting to see who was in charge of the French force would cause more damage than the Germans.

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        • Originally posted by The Purist View Post
          Since the convoys can sail far to the east of Malta and then into Tripoli and avoid Tunisia entirely, why sail into harms way. Will the French destroyers and light cruisers now sail from Oran or Algiers past Sardinia, through the Sicilian Straits and well east of Malta looking for Italian convoys?
          No, that's when the Italians have to look out for Cunningham.
          Without Crete in Axis hands it would be very dangerous to route convoys that far from friendly air cover.


          The threat of Sealion is still credible considering how badly over estimated the German strength was by the British that summer.
          Luftwaffe strength? No, the British had a very precise knowledge of that, the units and the locations of them - thanks to Ultra.
          What some did overestimate was the extent of German aircraft reserves.

          The BoB is *not* the main focus, Tunisia and the final capitulation of the rump French state is.
          Hey! Cancel the Battle of Britain is what I said days ago. Do you really think AH would agree with you though?

          Anyway from the OH:
          "The insistent demands of General Rommel led to more and more units being transferred to Africa, and although the total strength of Fliegerkorps X increased from 243 in mid-February to a peak of 443 (excluding transport aircraft) towards the end of March, it suffered so many losses that it was unable to fulfil all its tasks."

          Comment


          • Egypt would have priority over French Africa.
            But the dynamics now change with the French active on the Allied side.

            Due to unfriendly NA coast, supplies for Egypt had to be routed around South Africa and past an unfriendly East African Coast

            Whilst East Africa was in Italian hands, Roosevelt would not allow American ships to enter a war zone which was another reason why EA had to be cleared to provide O'Connor with supplies.

            With NA in friendly hands the balance of risk changes and East Africa war Zone can be downgraded - it can wait until the NA coast is stabilized properly

            Comment


            • Originally posted by Scupio View Post
              ...With NA in friendly hands the balance of risk changes and East Africa war Zone can be downgraded - it can wait until the NA coast is stabilized properly
              Where in any of this (either side) do you see the Allies clearing NA. The French are in no position to attack,... they would be challenged to even defend. East Africa must still be the priority and that means sailing around Africa to reinforce Wilson's command.
              The Purist

              Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

              Comment


              • Originally posted by Bronsky View Post
                By the same time, the British had strongly reinforced the Middle East, and with the invasion scare receding they could probably have spared some more of those American 75s for their allies.
                Those 75s were requested originally by the jointly, so I think would probably be fair shares on the 895 75mm guns, 300 3-inch mortars, 1,157 Lewis, 7,071 Vickers, 10,000 M1917 MG, and 25,000 BAR received.

                So in my opinion, the French would ask the British for what they absolutely needed (like tanks) and would probably settle for a "second front" opening in Egypt to draw Italian forces away from Tunisia as the best solution. Further note that this was what pre-war planning had concluded. Joint plans of what to do should Italian declare war had been to the effects that:
                1/ There was no hurry, if the Italians felt like going to war they weren't going anywhere,
                2/ Should they mass at one end of Libya to attack either of the British or the French, the other ally would start making a pain of itself,
                3/ A full-fledged offensive would wait until France had been safely secured, Libya was no particular threat and would wait until the situation had been stabilized on the main theater,
                4/ If/when such an offensive took place (plans were not very detailed, what I saw were the joint staff talks between the two allies, as well as French tentative plans), it would involve the French attacking from Tunisia and the British from Egypt. There was no plan to mass both armies as a single strike force, both because of the need to defend either base as well as for logistical reasons.

                Wouldn't it be better that some of the British equipment the French would like to use in North Africa - tanks, radar, anti-aircraft guns etc - be operated by British troops? Save a lot of time in training and time might be a precious commodity if/when the Germans turn their attention to Africa.
                For instance the earliest 2nd Armoured Division, which sailed in October 1940, could be ready for action in the Middle East was, depending how far West O'Connor was, January or February. If they landed in French NA probably ready for action by end of November. If the tanks were handed over to French crews, Spring '41?

                There would inevitably be a logistical tail to the UK for equipment supplied, I don't see a problem in adding fighting troops to the flow of munitions ..

                Comment


                • However,in same manner Germans would had to abandon Battle of Britain if they had moved Luftflotte,do you realize Brits too would have to postpone or cancel many of their historical operations due to weapons shortages in 1940?

                  Already in last week of May,Churchill informed French that unless they make a supreme effort to stop Germans,Britain will not risk grave to help them.If even if they wanted,they had no resources.They were in grave situation already with diverted French resources, imagine without that equipment?
                  It is always more difficult to fight against faith than against knowledge.

                  Косово је Србија!
                  Never go to war with a country whose national holiday celebrates a defeat in 1389.

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                  • Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                    Early evacuation was politically possible but had the Germans noted a weakening of the front, and the reports come to them of convoys hurrying betwixt Marseilles and Algiers, of course the could accelerate the attack.
                    I think you are overestimating both German intelligence and Allied organization, here

                    Regarding the former, you now know about that 25 May conference, but Hitler did not. Hitler did not know the French were defeated. He knew the Allies were badly hit, but experience from the Great War had been of the seemingly beaten French coming back for more, zombie-like, in 1914, 1916 and 1918. The result is that Hitler's orders were for the bulk of the Army, to include all the armored forces, to finish off the French, in France, ASAP. Fall Rot was launched as soon as the troops were ready, there was neither significant pause nor delay. Local attacks could of course have been launched a little earlier, but not significantly so.
                    An Allied evacuation strategy would prioritize high-value assets like the armored divisions. These were normally held in reserve, so no particular conclusion would be drawn by the Germans from their absence at the front. Three armored divisions (1st Armoured, 2e DCR, 4e DCR) plus fragments of motorized units (5th light cavalry division, in particular) were used to attack the German-held bridgehead over the Somme at Abbeville. However, assuming the Allies refrained from that particular bit of boneheadedness, the Germans could hardly be expected to grow suspicious - besides, they did not even realize how many resources the Allies were committing to the place

                    Also, we should not overestimate Allied organization either. In the dysfunctional French command of the time, even assuming the question of evacuation was mooted in late May, there would be a big political fight over strategy. Weygand would need assurances that "the honor of the Army" would be preserved. There would be debates regarding what to do, and how. As I wrote several times, and you pointed out yourself, full-scale evacuation was simply not possible anyway, things like lack of transport, millions of refugees and the Wehrmacht would come in the way. But neither would it be ongoing by the time Fall Rot kicked off. What would more likely have happened would have been putting on hold various troops transfers from overseas to France, rerouting non-urgent cargoes to North Africa and taking preparatory steps for a major evacuation, if it was decided. Think of it as the pre-Dynamo measures undertaken by the BEF between 18th and 26th May: not a full-fledged evacuation, but things designed to facilitate one if it came.

                    So the French will not be massively evacuating two weeks after realizing they had lost, and therefore the Germans will not detect such nonexistant moves. Please note that the Wehrmacht did go for the ports whenever possible, it just happened that the Luftwaffe had much on its hands and was simply not all that good at attacking ships (there being only two gruppen that were deemed to have the proper training), hence the difference between France and Crete. The last few days of a general evacuation of France would undoubtedly have been very ugly (think Dunkirk without the RAF).

                    Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                    If France fights, the Germans press on. They would not reach Marseilles and then ask, "now what?" This is France we are talking about. Hitler was not going to accept their retreat to Africa and remaining in the war.
                    Hitler is not going to let France off the hook. The Germans are going to plan to dismember the country, and meanwhile those French civilians under German occupation will be in for a hard time.

                    But, to quote you: "I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume the Germans command can can up with two particles of grey matter that might just spark a thought. "

                    If the Germans go for London and bring the British to the table, then they will get French North Africa as part of the package since there is no way the rump French state can prosecute the war alone (in fact, the French will most likely surrender for good, in such a case). On the other hand, mopping up French colonies does not automatically force the British to surrender. Hitler may hope it will (though why would losing French colonies hurt British morale more than seeing their capital "burned to the ground" by the "almightly Luftwaffe" - strategic bombing was still an untested theory, remember?), nothing more.

                    You are assuming he will make the remaining French forces a priority. I don't necessarily disagree it was a possibility, I am just pointing out this was not his only possible option, and I strongly disagree with the notion that your assumption be the only intelligent one (as in: Again, that grey matter. The BoB is *not* the main focus, Tunisia and the final capitulation of the rump French state is. )

                    I don't know what he would have done, and neither do you, but there were some very sound strategic reasons for declaring the Med a strategic backwater, as well some unsound prejudices of Hitler's to do so.

                    Where we do agree, and even though I already wrote this, I'll repeat it for the record, is that if Germany somehow makes it a priority to grab French North Africa (e.g. because the addition of the French fleet would make the Germans shelve Sealion for good), then capture the place it will, no questions about it. Something like Luftflotte 2 + Fliegerkorps X + one panzer corps initially and another one as a follow-up force will in all likelihood see the Germans at Casablanca before the end of 1940, but that is a more substantial commitment than you are allowing for, and it means no real Battle of Britain. While we are at it, there is no reason why the Reich might not decide to go for Egypt and/or the Middle East at the same time.

                    But if instead Hitler decides to try to win the war in 1940, he needs to go to the jugular, which means attacking Britain itself, which means no significant diversions of Luftwaffe strength to a peripheral theater.

                    Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                    No. East Africa and the opening of the Red Sea to US shipping held priority over even Egypt. O'Connor was to be granted a five day raid and right on schedule he had the 4th Indian division pulled from under him to ship to the East African offensive. Egypt received a total of 125 gun-armed tanks in 1940 and enough guns and spares to bring 7th Armoured up to strength because it was falling apart. Egypt would have priority over French Africa.
                    Hm, care to mention how many gun-armed tanks went to East Africa, then? After all, you are the one claiming the fact only 125 went to Egypt indicates the latter was a second-priority theater, so that would only be fair...

                    Here's what Churchill has to say about the matter (vol II of his memoirs, chapter "Egypt and the Middle East") - bold type is mine.
                    "During July and August the Italians became active on many points. There was a threat from Kassala westwards towards Khartoum. Alarm was spread in Kenya by the fear of an Italian expedition ... [to] Nairobi. Considerable Italian forces advanced into British Somaliland. But all these anxieties were petty compared with the Italian invasion of Egypt, which was obviosuly being prepared on the greatest scale.
                    ... I therefore proposed ... to assemble the largest fighting force possible to face the Italian invaders. For this it was necessary to run risks in many other quarters. I was pained to see the dispersions which were tolerated by the military authorities. Khartoum and the Blue Nile certainly required strengthening, but ... large numbers of troops were not required [in Kenya]. They were more needed in the Egyptian Delta.
                    "

                    Egypt was the main British base in the region, and the center of Britain's Middle Eastern position. If you know of East Africa being made a higher priority than it, then I would be very interested in a source. From my reading, what happened was that Wavell considered making Egypt safe from invasion his first priority (which was the initial aim of O'Connor's offensive), and only after it had been secured would he move to clear his lines of communications by capturing Italian East Africa. Which is pretty much what he ended up doing.

                    So in terms of priorities between Egypt, East Africa and French North Africa, the British would allocate resources based on "clear and present danger" - East Africa was potentially dangerous, but the Italians did not pose much of a threat to British lines, let alone an immediate one. The loss of Egypt would be very dangerous as it was a key British base and would open up the Middle East. Losing Morocco would be just as dangerous. So my bet is that, in such a case, the British would try to reinforce Egypt while attempting to provide the French with enough equipment to stave off invasion of Morocco.

                    Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                    As above, Egypt got little enough.
                    According to the OH, it received 126,000 troops from August 1940 to the end of the year, not counting reinforcements to Port Sudan and Mombasa (5th Indian and 1st South African divisions, 1st South African AA Brigade, 2 field artillery regiments and 2 armored car companies). Yes, I understand that according to your time line, that would be too late. IF Germany prioritizes the Med, I agree it would almost certainly be.

                    Regarding French forces in Lebanon-Syria, there were locally raised troops, some of which were necessary to maintain order and some of which were not, and the 3 divisions of the GFML. The latter were tasked with deployment abroad - initial plans had been for the Balkans - and as such they included as high a proportion of active duty personnel as the active or A Reserve divisions. They were organized around a lighter TO&E, though (mainly: less heavy artillery), and I think the 191st and 192nd lacked training at the divisional level. Still not the beat-up garrison force you made them to be. As to the modern Renault tanks, they were not world beaters but had decent armor, repair shops and some spares. No reason why they could not be shipped elsewhere.

                    Under the Franco-British talks, the French had promised to send 5 infantry battalions to help with the defense of Egypt in case of an early Italian attack. I agree that the logistics precluded the early advance into Libya of a sizeable from Egypt, be it British, French or a mixture of both.

                    Given Allied fears of Axis air attacks, and the possibility of the Luftwaffe joining the fun, local commanders would probably have tried to ship those French forces around Africa to Morocco.

                    Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                    Again, assuming the Germans have intelligent officers who might understand something about fighting a war, why would they not, in conjunction with the RA, not focus on securing the sea lanes to Tripoli east of Malta and remove the French air force based around Tunis from the equation entirely. Why would they not bomb Malta early and destroy the three Gladiators and four brand new Hurricanes just delivered as well as ruin the airfield (repeat as required in Jun and Jul). At a stroke they removed any Allied air assets and bases east of Tunis and west of Egypt.
                    The Italians were just as bright as the Germans and had worked out how important Malta was. The island came under repeated attack, which did inflict damage, for example sinking the floating drydock the British had, rather foolishly if you ask me, sent there. These attacks proved unable to "ruin the airfield" and neutralize the island as a base.
                    Doing required the sort of assets that it took the Luftwaffe to provide. Ditto with shutting down the bases in the Tunis area, let alone those farther south in Tunisia. It all comes down to how much of a commitment Germany will make. If it sends enough, Tunisia will fall fairly quickly (see beginning of post). If not...

                    Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                    Since the convoys can sail far to the east of Malta and then into Tripoli and avoid Tunisia entirely, why sail into harms way.
                    Because Tripoli itself was in harm's way? The French bombed the place - not particularly effectively, but then there was nothing to bomb either - while they were still at war, after all...

                    Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                    Will the French destroyers and light cruisers now sail from Oran or Algiers past Sardinia, through the Sicilian Straits and well east of Malta looking for Italian convoys? I would suggest not, at least not more than a couple of sorties worth of losses to convince them otherwise.
                    French light forces only need to remain close to the Tunisian coast, where they would be more difficult to attack, out of range of effective Axis CAP and could hope for some modicum of fighter cover, prior to making a dash to Tripoli. No need for them to roam all the way to Benghazi.

                    The RN did sail the area, without French assistance, and it was doing fine until the Germans stepped in and spoiled all the fun. So it all comes down, again, to the level of German commitment.

                    Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                    And yet the French, just so recently pummeled and humiliated are going to be the recipients of an epiphany so profound that they turn category B colonial reservists into the "Old Guard" and theGermans suddenly forget how to execute a flanking move.
                    You can either quote me as writing something as dumb as that, or refrain from making it up altogether Anything else is simply a waste of time. If this discussion stops trying to be informative and degenerates into point-scoring, then I'll simply do a French on you, i.e. surrender the ground and leave you as the undisputed master of the battlefield, whatever it is.

                    For what it's worth, I believe French overseas troops are really unlikely to get that epiphany, so there will be next to no "lessons learned" session until they get a good bashing of their own. Which may end up being one defeat too late to recover, of course.
                    However, the French would know about the German propensity to try flanking moves (news about the Ardennes would have made it to local commanders), and they knew the area, which they were having patrolled because they deemed it vulnerable to light raids or infiltration. It was not considered practicable to a large mechanized force, which does not meant it was considered impassable. My point is, if a large German mechanized force starts making progress there, the French are going to know about it.
                    Of course, there's always the possibility that with the "Germans can walk on water" Allied outlook of 1940 the French would simply bug out of the Mareth position altogether - fighting further north would reduce the odds of a flanking movement, but the position would also be weaker and might even be captured on the run as the Germans would likely notice the French moves and attack to catch them in the open.

                    Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                    I am fully aware of why Hitler sent the DAK to Libya. Libya is still threatened by France and by Britain and thus the threat to Mussolini is still there.
                    Hitler sent the DAK when it seemed that Mussolini was on the verge of losing Tripoli. If the French stay in the war and hold on to Tunisia, they will make resupply much harder but will pose no direct threat to Tripoli until at best 1941.
                    If Hitler leaves Britain be and goes for the French (and maybe Egypt), as you assumes he automatically will, the point is moot anyway. If Hitler focuses on Britain, then there is no pressing need to bolster the local garrison, and Mussolini certainly has no reason to ask for troops. After all, if the war is won over Britain, the situation will resolve itself anyway.

                    Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                    The threat of Sealion is still credible considering how badly over estimated the German strength was by the British that summer.
                    Agreed. Germany can redeploy faster than Britain, so the British really have no choice but to keep enough force at home to repel a possible invasion. That is at any rate what they did well into 1942.

                    Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                    The proof is in the OTL and how the change from a blocking force of 30 odd tanks on Jan 11th to a full corps on Feb 5th was accomplished in so short a time. The decision on Feb 5th set in motion the movement of troops and supplies not previously prepared. Yes, the previous October 3rd Pz was order prepared but it was cancelled. The Germans are not going to try and organise the shipment of light division immediately, their professional staff officers will plan (those with the all important grey matter, that is).
                    I may be short of the grey matter you have been so insistent on in your post, but I simply can't see where that proof lies.

                    To recap, fleshing out my previously posted chronology a little for what concerns land plans:
                    Summer 1940: Hitler declares himself ready to support Mussolini's attack in Egypt with a panzer brigade bringing modern equipment to the fight.
                    21 August 1940: "the Organization department in the OKH had calculated that it would be possible to equip a mobile corps for operation in North Africa within six weeks, both in terms of personnel and equipment, though this did not mean that these troops would therefore be combat-ready." (Vol 3 chapter I.III. of Germany in the Second World War, p.210 of the English edition). Hitler then expanded the project to a corps, which was when 3. panzerdivision was earmarked for possible deployment to Africa.
                    January 9: 5 weeks into the deployment of a German air corps to the Med, Hitler orders 5th Light Division shipped to Tripoli. Using the staff work from the previous summer, which had included identifying suitable ships for transport and gathering some of them (so all that remained to do was ordering those ships to actually go ahead with the plan), those clever Germans start getting things into motion. They calculated the time needed to ship that division at 42 days (45 if the return trip of the last convoy is included).
                    February 1: The commander of 5th Light Division reports to Hitler that his unit will not be enough and he would need one additional armored division.
                    February 3: The plan is expanded into sending a corps instead of a division.

                    What this meant was that the original staff work - what ships to use, what convoy size, where to land, how fast could they be landed, how to break up the units to be transported, etc - had already been done, and the Germans only had to update existing plans to ship an armored corps to North Africa. During the 25 days from 9 January to 3 February, things were already in motion, the armored division had likely been alerted as contingency planning given how bad the news from the Italians were. Even then, it took as long as the time line I posted to put combat units on the ground. Now you are proposing that, working from scratch, they should manage to put combat boots on the ground in even less time? Where exactly is the proof in that?

                    Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                    The first step (late June?) could easily be light infantry from the 7th FJ and 22nd Air Landing division flown in to Tripoli. Not the entire units, a few battalions to secure the base begin prepping the ground. The remainder of the divisions remain in France and Belgium trailing their coats in front of the British who think they have far more strength than they do. Then the reconnaissance troops follow after two to three weeks (with AP ammo if you think it necessary).
                    Hm, where to start?
                    1. Although I agree the British would not realize it, "a few battalions" is all these two units could likely manage as they had been severely beaten up in Holland. The fleet of transport planes had also taken a beating, and most of the remainder was busy ferrying supplies to advanced air bases. If you want the Luftwaffe not to take ages redeploying anywhere, these planes are going to be needed.
                    2. The good news is that a few battalions of light infantry in Tripoli is probably the last thing the Italians need. They had tons of infantry, the French did not have the units in south Tunisia to capture Tripoli against 5th Army and the Italians probably knew it (from my reading, both sides seem to have had a good grasp of the other's OOB in Africa. It was the British which the Italians consistently overestimated). Mussolini's troops needed trucks, air support, and armor, more or less in that order.
                    3. Just repeating that it will only take "two to three weeks" from a cold start to send a force that took 35 days to arrive despite preliminary planning having already been done is not going to prove it could be done.

                    Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                    The panzers and motor infantry follow in due course between weeks 5-8. It is no stretch for the Germans to establish a light division: 2 tank battalions (1 reg't), 2 motor battalions (1 reg't), Reconnaissance, AT, Eng'r and artillery and move it across in time for the August offensive. Plenty of time to scout out the route around the hills, time to corset lace the Italian infantry, time for the Italians to organise themselves.
                    In OTL, with initial planning completed and with air superiority already established by the time the operation started, it took 60 days (9 January to 10 March) to have a force that size across. If the Germans plan to use it as their spearhead - as they will, sensible people that they are - they can't use it to corset the Italian infantry. That and the fact that they wouldn't have the numbers for that. Also, you keep assuming the Germans will automatically find a usable route.

                    Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                    Speaking of which:

                    The Italians
                    In Libya the Italians had the following troops plus five corps and two army HQs along with attached artillery and support troops.

                    Libyan Divisions (colonial)
                    1st Libyan Division "Sibelle"
                    2nd Libyan Division "Pescatori"

                    Maletti Grp (3rd Libyan Division) - formed Jun 40

                    Fascist Divisions
                    1st Blackshirt "23rd March"
                    2nd Blackshirt "28th Oct"
                    4th Blackshirt "3rd Jan"

                    Regular Infantry
                    60th Sabratha - deployed Oct 39
                    61st Sirte - deployed Oct 39
                    62nd Marmarica - deployed Oct 39
                    63rd Cyrene - deployed Oct 39


                    "North African" Divisions (semi-motorised) => not!
                    17th Pavia - deployed Oct 39
                    25th Bologna - deployed Sep 39
                    27th Brescia - deployed Oct 39
                    55th Savonna - deployed Sep 39
                    64th Catanzaro - deployed Oct 39

                    This equals the equivalent of 15 divisions of which 9 + the Maletti Group were with 5th Army in Tripolitania in Jun 40.
                    Actually, that's 14 divisions of which 8 were with 5th Army - 6 regular and 2 blackshirt. Plus indeed the Maletti Group (see below). I outlined in red those divisions that I show as being with 10th Army. Because I couldn't be bothered to pull out the Italian OH as well, I used this page which shows 2nd Libyan with 10th Army, but the Wiki page on X Armata says it wasn't in June, so it may have become part of it for Compass. If Wiki is correct and the other source wrong, then you are right that there would be 9 units with "divisione" in their names in Tripolitania. Given the track record of these two Libyan divisions (understrength with 7,224 effectives at full TO&E, undertrained, under-equipped, low morale), this is not likely to change much.

                    The regular divisions were semi-motorized only in name. Theoretically, they used motor, not animal, transport for their artillery, supply train and infantry heavy weapons. The infantry itself walked, unless it was lucky enough to be picked up by some of the independent truck transport companies that were supposed to be pooled at army level. In practice, the Italians were very short of motor transport - as I wrote, they only had 8,000 total in all of Libya - and lack of mobility was the key shortcoming that these units exhibited during Compass, with insufficient firepower a close second.

                    Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                    The Maletti Group (3rd Libyan) is no true armoured division but its two battalions did possess the 70 M11/39 tanks plus a like number of the rather gutsy L3/35s (at least the crews had guts fighting in those "tanks"). These troops fought to death against the British, why would they not want to fight with the Germans against the French.
                    The M11/39 tanks were dispatched in a convoy that only left after France had surrendered. But I agree Maletti was full of fight. Italian armor in theater consisted of 7 separate tank battalions (with the tin cans - unfortunately for their users, guts do not substitute for armor) of which 4 had been recently mobilized and therefore lacked any sort of combined-arms training.

                    Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                    As noted, the Italian "North African" divisions present were the same infantry that formed the core of Rommel's infantry all the way to Alamein. They were not Blackshirt divisions and even the Libyans were given respect by the Indian troops who had to attack them in the opening days of "Compass" in Dec 40.
                    These divisions were also the same infantry that was thoroughly routed during Compass. Rommel used them as his pinning force and to besiege Tobruk with because they were slower than the rest of his army, and he needed to hold the line with something. That the Italians could fight is not in question, that they had the means and training to do effectively in 1940 is.
                    None of this has to do with Italian-bashing as exhibited in some older sources: the Italians actually displayed great resilience to attack across the Alps into French artillery kill zones, without decent food and warm clothes. There is little doubt that the bulk of their infantry (with some qualifications for the black shirt and Libyan units) would have attacked with the same gusto in Tunisia, what I question is their competence. Granted, the French were only marginally more skillful opponents, but they had an easier task.

                    Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                    That was OTL and Hitler was already thinking of Moscow in the summer. In the summer of 1940 the Germans could bend their efforts to Sicily and Tripolitania without such distractions. The original time table is a malleable tool,... it can be bent to suit many purposes (yours or mine). There is plenty of time to direct resources (four divisions at most, if that) without abandoning Barbarossa in Jun 1941.
                    Well, Hitler first mooted the question of the Soviets in the summer of 1940. Barbarossa put restrictions on the amount of troops that were going to be committed to the Mediterranean theater, I fail to see how it had an impact on the time it took to field those units actually earmarked for deployment. I'm not claiming it is perfect, just that so far I'm basing my calculations on the historical record while you're basing yours on... what, exactly?

                    Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                    Here we have a rather strong air force deploying over fourto eight weeks to support the convoys and supply lines for the lead division of a mech corps to be deployed in 8 weeks. Then the LW and RA can send some ground support a/c to aid the advance
                    The historical time line, again, has a fliegerkorps needing 35 days before it could fly its first sortie, with half of its aircraft still to arrive. You are claiming a recon force within 2-3 weeks and a light armored division in place by week 8 (see the portions of your message I reply to above). Now you seem to be claiming 4-8 weeks to deploy the air force (which seems realistic to me), followed by another 8 weeks to deploy the lead division of a mech corps. I have no problem with that time line: all I want to point out is that end June plus 16 weeks is mid-October, not August as you wrote, or "by August or September" at the end of your post, let alone the 2-3 weeks replied to above.

                    Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                    Once the German tanks and armoured cars arrive behind the Mareth Line the French are finished. If the French stick to their strength and attempt to fight from their prepared positions they will be dismantled battalion by battalion, regiment by regiment. Just as the Italian regiments fought unsupported during Compass, the 7th Support Group at Sidi Rezegh, the 5th S African Brigade on Tottensonntag, the 150th Brigade and French at Gazala and the early fighting at Alamien. All were dealt with piecemeal even if they fought hard and bit back. So to would the French reservists at Mareth, then Sfax, then Tunis.
                    Of course.

                    Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                    If the French leave their prepared positions to concentrate the will simply fall apart as they did in France. The French would also *not* have more infantry than the combined German and Italian forces because the French cannot concentrate while Italian infantry, supported by the Germans paras and light infantry will be able to do so at the point of decision. Attacked from behind by the mobile formations and from the front by the leg infantry and German paras the Mareth Line will quickly collapse. It was no Maginot Line.
                    The French had more troops than 2nd Armoured, their logistical situation was better, and they would expect an attack. I really doubt the "attacked from behind" bit, but I agree that with a reinforced armored division plus air support the Germans can probably end up breaking through part of the French position, thus unhinging the rest. After that, only logistics will dictate the pace of the German advance until the next French stand, either around Tunis or in eastern Algeria. Not that it will be more successful, of course...

                    Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                    I am under no illusions that the Germans would have no choice but to bend every logistical effort to make this scenario happen but in truth they really have nothing else to do with their massive military strength.
                    You mean, besides trying to bomb Britain into submission while simultaneously preparing to tie down the bulk of the army to an invasion of the Soviet Union?

                    Comment


                    • Originally posted by Bronsky View Post
                      I really doubt the "attacked from behind" bit, but I agree that with a reinforced armored division plus air support the Germans can probably end up breaking through part of the French position, thus unhinging the rest. After that, only logistics will dictate the pace of the German advance until the next French stand, either around Tunis or in eastern Algeria. Not that it will be more successful, of course...

                      Not sure how useful tanks would be to breakthrough the Mareth. 50th Division's attack in '43 failed because the armour was unable to cross the wadi/anti-tank ditch - artillery kept smashing the bridges.

                      If the German are unable to find the gap in the Matmata hills, breaching the Mareth looks a set-piece assault of infantry, artillery and engineers and despite all the hype I'm not sure the Germans were that good at that sort of fighting in WWII - certainly were no great shakes at it in the historical fighting in the desert.


                      If the Axis do outflank the Mareth there is always the unoutflankable Wadi Akarit position behind it. Good luck going up against Goums in the hills.
                      Last edited by Gooner; 04 May 12, 08:08.

                      Comment


                      • Originally posted by Bronsky View Post
                        I think you are overestimating both German intelligence and Allied organization, here ...<snip>...
                        Bronsky, I think we actually agree more than we disagree and what disagreement there is lies mainly in the less important details regarding execution. I'll also apologise for any snarkiness, it wasn't necessary.

                        Suffice it to say that when the Germans make the decision to pursue the French into Africa, they can and will successfully do so. They have the means. That being the case, whether the Italo-German army begin the ground drive in August (assuming 8 weeks from Jun 18) or September (12 weeks) makes little difference to the final outcome. The French would not be able to hold and a final collapse would follow. How long it takes the Germans to get organised is an open question as is the effectiveness of French resistance.

                        Where the 2nd Libyan division is deployed, what is going on in Somalia or Egypt, or the Levant, whether there are 50 or 60 Cruiser tanks here or there and whether Malta is bombed in July by 120 or 150 bombers is not important to the end result.
                        The Purist

                        Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

                        Comment


                        • Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                          Suffice it to say that when the Germans make the decision to pursue the French into Africa, they can and will successfully do so.
                          The one thing I disagree with is that "when", for the reasons I outlined.

                          Rephrase it as an "if the Germans make the decision..." and I certainly do agree.

                          Comment


                          • Fair enough

                            "If" and when the Germans so decide.
                            The Purist

                            Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

                            Comment


                            • Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                              Suffice it to say that when the Germans make the decision to pursue the French into Africa, they can and will successfully do so. They have the means. That being the case, whether the Italo-German army begin the ground drive in August (assuming 8 weeks from Jun 18) or September (12 weeks) makes little difference to the final outcome. The French would not be able to hold and a final collapse would follow. How long it takes the Germans to get organised is an open question as is the effectiveness of French resistance.
                              You're assuming, of course, that Hitler instantly decides to send forces to Africa, Mussolini instantly agrees to allow German forces in his sphere of influence, the German air force needs no period of rest and refit before becoming effective in the Meditteranean, German mech forces ditto befre Africa, that German ships and Italian escorts are ready and waiting in Naples, that a single German division can breakthrough the Mareth line and/or find and exploit Wilders gap and that the French prepare no further lines of resistance.

                              Sure, all of that could happen just as I could get all six numbers on my lottery ticket this week ...

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