Discussion in 'Leaders of World War 2' started by Mutant Poodle, Feb 14, 2004.
Famous last words?
Yep. And of so many lkeaders of so many armies (and not a few navies, too...). 8)
Perhaps, just to refresh this topic, it ws the greatest Allied mistake in hindsight to go to Italy at all. After the succesful capture of Sicily the Italian army had been beaten; was there any need to take the horrendous casualties it took to capture the rest of Italy? I am aware that the invasion of the Soft Underbelly was one of Churchill's babies, but let's put that aside and look at the strategic need for once.
The Italian Campaign was it worth it? Some extracts from a definitive analysis of Field Marshal Sir Harold Alexander's tenure as commander in Italy indicates that it was.
"Alexander was given three objectives for the post-North African campaign. First the conquest of Sicily, second the elimination of Italy from the war, and finally, the tying down of German forces in Italy and the attracting more troops from France to insure the success of Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy. The last was as yet undefined when Sicily was invaded but subsequently became the prime objective of the entire Italian campaign."
"In Italy, Alexander accomplished what he set out to do. He drew German strength to his theatre and exploited his successes as best he could with the material available."
"Alexander's pressure in the Italian theatre left twenty-three fewer divisions in France, units which could possibly be used against the Normandy landings. During the initial stages of Overlord the Allied toehold on Europe proper was tenuous at best. Those twenty-three divisions might have tipped the scales in Germany's favour and heaven knows when another successful one could have been launched."
"One sign indicative of Alexander's ability was the total number of casualties for the Italian campaign. Traditionally, the attacker suffers a much higher percentage of casualties when attacking fixed defenses. It is usually the defender who comes off better despite the outcome of the battle. In Italy, the tally was 312,000 Allied casualties as opposed to the 536,000 suffered by the Germans."
Only too often is the Italian Campaign deemed to be both irrelevant to the wider scheme of things. However, it should not be forgotten that the out-numbered Allied forces, managed to bring about the surrender of nearly one-million Germans in Northern Italy. Additionally also to be forgotten, the swift follow up into Austria prevented that country becomng a Soviet satellite!
Well said, here here!
Well siad, no doubt. This does indeed prove your point. But what I am still considering it slightly irrelevant for is the fact that Alexander tied 23 divisions in front of him, whereas the German army consisted of over 300. This makes the Italian campaign look tiny, and therefore less relevant. Of course it had its purpose, but perhaps the forces they tied in Italy would have been stationed in the poorly defended area of Southern France, making no difference to the invasion, or in Russia where every man was needed, or along the borders of the lost ally Italy. I think this is more likely than them being stationed in the path of Overlord.
The Italian Campaign was it worth it?
Was it worth it? Don't forget that the invasion of Sicily was one of the key factors that guaranteed victory to the Soviets at Kursk.
Oh? How so?
Once Hitler learned of the Allied invasion of Sicily, he ordered the end of Citadel and moved large numbers of troops, including SS, Panzer, and Luftwaffe, to Italy to prepare for the surrender of Italy and the next allied landing.
Really? Not because he was losing hundreds of tanks each day and knew that the Russians still had some very substantial reserves? :grin:
How about the invasion of Sicily provided a convienent excuse to end Citadel. Von Mainstein at least thought he was winning the battle at Kursk and that Hitler threw away the victory.
Seriously, after the invasion of Sicily, the Germans shifted priority to preparing the West for THE invasion. Kursk and Sicily (with it's implications for the coming invasion of France) finally convinced Hitler to move to a full war economy, a mere 4 years too late.
True. I think that invading Italy can be justified, if only to secure the southern flank of the Allies and clear the Mediterranean of Axis forces. I think, however, that once Naples and the airfield complex at Foggia were taken and the front moved beyond artillery range of those two points, the Allies should have stopped and dug in, to keep the Germans from launching an offensive to retake them.
I agree with corpcasselbury. I'd add Sardinia and Corsica to the list as well.
Nope - an extra 23 divisions in France would have had serious consequences. Even if they had not been stationed in Northern France, and therefore could have no direct effect upon Overlord, they would still have made life very difficult for the Allies.
Patton's lightning advances would have received a bloddy nose if they'd come up against serious armoured opposition.
The whole debacle of Falaise would probably not have happened, or would have been a far more limited success.
The Germans would still have had to leave forces to defend in Italy. I believe corp's point, which I agree with, is that the Anglo-Americans should have basically stopped large scale offensive operations in Italy after November 1943, by which time the objectives listed above had been attained. Without having to support the Anzio beachhead and the drain of operations like Cassino or the Rapidio, it may have been possible to launch Overlord a month earlier, possibly even with Anvil simultaneouly as originally planned. The Germans may have been able to get by with fewer forces in Italy, but the full 23 would not have freed up.
Halting offensive operations in Italy after November of 1943 would also have spared the Allies the heavy casualties they took in the usually vain attacks at places like Monte Cassino or the Rapido River.
I have to agree that Mark Clark being in charge was the blunder along with some other things.
1.Racism-The Japenese American Division had Rome, and it was stopped so white Americans could liberate Rome instead. While that wasn't one of the great blunders the people responsible for that order did not deserve to be in the army because racism is a much worse dishonor then cowardice or inability.
2.Bombing Monte Cirsto (SP)-Thousands of useless casualties, the Germans didn't even go there while the ancient abbey stood up.
3.Slowness-The Italian Army was ready to fight for the allies, but because the allies came very slowly they were convinced the campaign would be just Italy vs Germany and put down there weapons. Had the Allies came quickly to help Italy it would have been a much faster, easier, and lower casualty campaign because of the Italian Army. However because the allies decided to waste vital weeks the Germans cowed the Italians into surrender and took very easily defendable terrain. Gobbells said this "Hitler and his staff are out of there minds, wait a weekl to see what the best course of action is that is crazy it isn't like the British are going to wait a week".
4.Clark being put in charge of the operation-I think all of you covered why that was a blunder.
Churchill was right that Italy was the soft underbelly, and had the allies advanced at the speed he and the Italian Army wanted them to it would be said that Churchill's only better operation was the Battle of Britain, unfortunately the allied army dragged it's feet and let the Italian army get slaughtered and let the Germans take the easiest ground to defend.
I put this on the Warships1 board a while back
http://p216.ezboard.com/fwarships1discu ... 1223.topic
But was there any way for the Allies to move faster? Italy is like you said, a formidable piece of defensive ground. Starting offensive operations into it would take a lot of preparation and careful planning. Just storming the place while it isn't fortified won't get you there.
In truth, the whole terrain of Italy denies the "soft underbelly" idea; this country is not suited for modern warfare, and your advance will never be fast, and the enemy will always have a good position on the next ridge before you get there. Good troops or not.
I think there was, but it would have meant trying to trpa the Geramns on Sicily in July-August 1943. If the Allied navies had taken the risk of invading Calabria across the straits of Messina at the same time they invaded Italy, and the Allied Navies had accepted the risk of closing traffic between Italy and Sicily, then the allies may have been able to destabilize the whole German defense of Italy, at least up to Rome, by radically advancing the time table.