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At end April 1941, should the Axis have attacked malta rather than crete?

Discussion in 'Naval War in the Mediterrean, Malta & Crete' started by scipio, Jun 25, 2012.

  1. scipio

    scipio Member

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    We have just had an enjoyable cut and thrust on the Potential Invasion of Malta in 1942.

    However, in reading up some bits and pieces, I came across the intriguing statement that the OKW wanted to invade Malta at the end of the Greek Campaign but were overruled by Hitler who chose Crete.

    Bearing in mind the situation in NA, failure of Sea Lion, and impending Barbarossa, would Malta have been a better strategic target than Crete?
     
  2. Tamino

    Tamino Doc - The Deplorable

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    Crete is a great place for holidays, indeed. ;)

    For the British Commonwealth, the Mediterranean was of paramount importance to secure traditional spheres of interest from possible Russian invasion after the victory over Germany. For Germans, however, Mediterranean wasn't that important at all, even Balkan wasn't a big issue. It appears that Germans were dragged towards south because their allies, Italians, have failed utterly. For the Germans, African/Balkan/Mediterranean adventure was just a waste of valuable resources. They could just simply left that region alone, entirely without big troubles, except Sicily. The key was the victory at the East.
     
  3. A-58

    A-58 Cool Dude

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    I do think that the oil reserves in Romania was of some interest to Hitler, so that makes the Balkans relevant in that regard. That and the sudden change of power in Yugoslavia and their abrupt departure from the Tripartite Alliance further threatened the oil in Romania. Of course Mussolini's bungling of the Greek Campaign didn't help matters either. It brought the British back to the continent, even though it was for a short stay. So much turmoil in the Balkans was not what Hitler needed prior to attacking the Rooskies. So I'd say the Balkans were important to Germany after all.

    In keeping with the theme of the thread, once the British were driven off the continent, they holed up in Crete. That left no options and Crete had to be freed from British control in light of what I mentioned earlier. The oil had to be secured, and Crete provided bomber bases to harry production. If (and a big if) the Germans were able to get the 22nd Air Landing Division into play in the invasion of Crete, then possibly the Fallshirmjagers would not have been pummeled as bad as they were. Sure they prevailed and drove the British out with help of hastily delivered Gerbigsjagers, but at a heavy price. If the airborne forces were in condition to be rehabilitated after some well needed R & R, then Malta should have been their next move in the Med. Just an idea here, sort of a what if I know but isn't that what we do when speculating? But all this was moot because Hitler's attention was to the East as we all know.
     
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  4. Tamino

    Tamino Doc - The Deplorable

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    :cheers:
    I do indeed appreciate your opinion but if you were familiar with the terrain of Balkans you should have known that Ploesti was absolutely secure from any land attack until august 1944. During 1941-1944 western allies haven’t been able to launch an effective invasion of Balkans and it would have been waste of resources anyways. Operation Tidal Wave was a costly proof that even an air raid could not jeopardize Ploesti oilfields. The only feasible way towards Ploesti was either from Ukraine or Moldova.

    Of course, Events in Yugoslavia in April 1941 have changed the time-table of Barbarossa, but that is another story.
     
  5. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    Crete would be the base of air (not land) attacks on the Romanian oil fields, the Nazis couldn't leave that potential base of operations for air attack un-attended to. What was NOT known was the effectiveness of lack thereof of air attacks on oil fields. That would be proven later, but was unknown at the time.
     
  6. Tamino

    Tamino Doc - The Deplorable

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    Clint, they SHOULD have known hat!

    The only efficient way to render oilfield useless for longer period of time is just by having cement poured down the bores (*). Bombs damage just pumping and refinery equipment which are easy to repair quickly.

    (*) This is exactly what Soviets did in Maykop shortly before German troops have arrived. Stalin personally appointed a man who would lead this action and told him that his head would roll if they pour cement too soon or too late.
     
  7. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    The problem here is that at the time the Nazis didn't know that, they were sort of neophytes in oil-field production and/or protection. The Baku fields had been open and privately owned (by Nobel) pre-Soviet take over. They were much more versed in the problem than the German engineers. You cannot dis-count what you do not grasp as a danger. The Soviet oil production fields had been pre-WW1, pre-revolution, they knew the fields and how to sabotage as well as protect them. The Germans didn't. It isn't surprising that they would go the "over cautious" route, since they had never gained a single barrel of oil upon invasion with the exception of the mission in France. That was the only mission in which they came out with more "oil product" than they expended, and that was captured stockpiles, not oil-fields.
     
  8. A-58

    A-58 Cool Dude

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    Bombing from Crete would have put an added strain on Germany's war effort against the Soviets. The Luftwaffe would have had to redeploy much needed air units from the Eastern Front to protect the oilfields just as they did to counter the massive bombing campaign the US and Britain prosecuted from the British Isles. We all know how that turned out for the Germans, the loss of air superiority wreaks havoc on vehicles on the move and troops in the open. The Luftwaffe had it's hands full as it was with the original time line of events as available air units are concerned. Also, Germany would have had to leave stronger ground forces in Greece to counter possible Allied invasions as well, which would further strain their effort in the East.
     
  9. Marmat

    Marmat Member

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    Actually, the problem was that bombing tended to hit the storage areas. The result was very impressive, lots of fire and smoke, but little by way of true production limiting damage. Bombing doesn't have to prevent crude oil from being taken from the ground, it can have severe impact by targeting refineries and pipelines, especially if a major user is running hand to mouth. That type of equipment usually isn't off the shelf, if bombed repairs are usually limited to getting production back ASAP, which means they're largely ad hoc. A large proportion of the Romanian oil industry was British owned and built, all of it was in major need of capital investment to build and repair infrastructure anyway, it limited production such as it was.

    Albert Speer was very clear on this matter regarding Allied bombing of the petro-chemical industry, in May 1944 when the Allies targeted this most sensitive of industries. The reason was that "direct hits were no longer required to do extensive damage. Merely the shock of bombs in the area caused leaks everywhere. Repairs were almost impossible." After a respite due to Overlord, Speer considered it a triumph that the Luena works aviation fuel production was back up to 10% of its former production, in August it was 10%, Sept. 5 1/2%, Oct. 10% again.

    The bottom line is that Hitler was correct in being worried about British bombers on Crete in 1941, regardless of how well they bombed at the time; by comparison, Malta was a non-issue.

     
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  10. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    IMO the RAF didn't even come close to having the capability to do a strategic air offensive from Crete, but the Germans had no way of knowing that so they probably had to attack Crete, the big problem with the invasion was they underestimated the garrison's size by a factor of 3, so the paras were greatky outnumbered. Had they known the true size they probably couldhave done better.
    Thinking of air attacks on oilfields they were definetly on the allied agenda, the 1940 plans to bomb Baku and Batum are one wonderful what if, Stalin could well have retaliated by going after the middle east fields by land and if he does all bets are off.
     
  11. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    No doubt that was discussed, since Stalin's Soviet Union was supplying Nazi Germany with the bulk of its POL until June of 1941. I believe even the anti-communist Winston Churchill was opposed to bombing the Baku fields, even to shut off the spigot for Hitler's war machine. Churchill's ability to "see down the road" better and more clearly than others could have put the "halt" to that idea. Churchill came to "power" in May of 1940, and Baku was never bombed. Just a thought.
     
  12. scipio

    scipio Member

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    But if the British were not able to use Crete offensively for bombing the Romanian oilfields what use was it strategically? Surely this puts in almost on par with Cyprus which was never targeted by the Axis.

    Were not OKW correct therefore to want to take out Malta (I know it it's very difficult to erase from the mind the what actually happened in Malta and Crete) but Hitler had committed Rommel and he was about to launch an attack on the El Agheila position where the British had run out of steam.
     
  13. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    The RAF wasn't able to use it as a bomber base, but that doesn't mean the "danger" didn't exist to the Romanian oilfields in the minds of the Nazis. What wasn't allowed to happen, or be explored as a viable attack air base cannot be in the argument as to why "Crete" and not "Malta". Malta couldn't threaten the oilfields, Crete had the possibility of doing so. BTW, Cyprus was miles and miles further away from the oilfields than Crete, and to get there without a dog-leg over Crete Turkey's neutral airspace would have to be infringed. The British were adamant about either keeping Turkey neutral or getting them to come onto the Allied side.

    Overflying their airspace would not be seen as a "friendly" act by a potential ally. Crete made sense, Malta didn't, and Cyprus is a non-starter.
     
  14. A-58

    A-58 Cool Dude

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    Interesting discussion gents. Somebody come with something else worthwhile!
     

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