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Did Rommel have air support as well?

Discussion in 'North Africa: Western Desert Campaigns 1940 to Ope' started by devonian, Mar 4, 2012.

  1. devonian

    devonian recruit

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    Hi. Watched a 2003 Western Desert video last night and was intrigued that Monty was able to get air support before his major (?) attack on Rommel. Wellingtons however had to fly all the way from the UK to drop their bombs before returning home, however I didn't see any mention of Rommel using air power as well especially as I think they would have been based in S. Italy a very short round journey by comparison.

    Does anyone know if Rommel had this option and if so what happened ?

    Thanks
     
  2. belasar

    belasar Court Jester

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    devonian, first let me welcome you to the forum. Secondly, let me caution you about getting your history from TV or videos. While some are quite good they all suffer from the flaw of too little time to go into detail. Nearly every attack made by Montgomery was done with near or total Air-superiority over Axis forces. Meaning that for every German-Italian plane in the air over the battlefield, there were at least two British-Allied planes aloft.

    Rommel did get air support from Southern Italy, but for both sides the vast majority of aircraft were based in North Africa itself. The combat radius for most tactical aircraft, Fighters to Medium bombers, were well under 400 miles when fully armed.

    The Wellington was touted as a long-range bomber pre-war, but was really just a medium bomber at best. There is no way a bomb loaded Wellington could launch from England, bomb Rommel in Africa, and then fly back to England. The distance is too great. B-24 Liberators were at their extreme range flying from North Africa to Rumania and back. The Liberator was a true 4-engine long-range bomber.

    Fortunately you are in the right place to learn these and many other facts about WWII, Enjoy!
     
  3. steverodgers801

    steverodgers801 Member

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    At the Battle of El Alamein Monty had air domination. There was an airflotte taken from the Stalingrad battle that was used to bomb Malta for a time, but Im not sure how long and why they were not able to support Rommel.
     
  4. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Axis air assets waxed and wained during the North African Campaign. The Luftwaffe units sr801 refers to were temporary transfers from the East and West fronts whose mission it was to bomb the stuffings out of Malta. They were based in Italy and gave Malta a thorough pasting in preparation for an invasion. This was just before Rommel's last successful offensive that culminated in the capture of Tobruk and the push to El Alamein. Neither Rommel nor Hitler really wanted the invasion, but for different reasons so the Axis domination of Malta was allowed to lapse-big mistake in my opinion. Those assets went back to where they came from.

    German-Italian air forces in N. Africa were something else. At one point they were enought to gain air parity and sometimes air superiority over the Desert A. F. However, by the time of the Second Battle of El Alamein, these forces were in the eclipse. Berlin wasn't able to reinforce Rommel's air units because of increasing pressure from Russia and England. The USA had entered the war and made no secret of their intention to bomb in daylight, so Western Europe had to be reinforced before the secondary theater of Africa.

    One must also understand that Axis units, both air and ground were far from their supply bases in Africa. The opposite was true for the RAF. Also, the RAF was making huge strides in increasing their numbers both quantitatively and qualitativly. RAF units in Africa were getting the later marks of Spit and better attack air craft instead of second-rate craft like Hurricanes and Tommyhawks. This was the main point of contact between the German and British armies and the British gave the theater a high priority.

    So, at El Alamein did the Germans have air support? Not much and they were totally outnumbered. Hans Jochim Marseille and Werner Schroer died during this period and that kind of destroyed the morale of JG-27. Stukas and HE-111s stood little chance in the air by this time.

    It also must be said that one of Rommel's weaknesses was that he really didn't know how to use air cover when he did have it and wasted a lot of air attacks.
     
  5. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I believe I've read that bombers from Great Britain would stage through Gibraltar and on to Malta then effectively "shuttle bomb" on their way to Alexandria. This could have been what was being referred to.
     
  6. devonian

    devonian recruit

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  7. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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  8. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Wellingtons were based in Egypt as early as November 1940, starting with No. 37 and 38 Squadrons. They were intended to provide a night bombing force, although in time they undertook other missions like anti-shipping attack.

    Something in the program must have been misinterpreted or presented out of context. England to Cyrenaica is about 1500 miles one-way, Egypt about 2000, assuming Monty's major (?) attack on Rommel refers to El Alamein. Look up the specs on the Wellington; no way it could fly out and back, let alone with a bombload. They would also be flying over Axis-controlled territory or waters most of the way. They could have shuttle-bombed as lwd suggested as part of deploying to Egypt along the Gibraltar-Malta route.
     
  9. devonian

    devonian recruit

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    Forgot to ask if there were any Luftwaffe bases in S. Italy able to mount bombing raids for both Rommel's desert campaign and Malta as it would seem a logical area to operate from ?
     
  10. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Malta was heavily bombed from bases in Sicily, although the intensity waxed and waned depending on the Luftwaffe's other commitments. As mentioned earlier, most of Rommel's air support was based on the ground in North Africa - as was the Desert Air Force supporting the British army. Italy-Cyrenaica, let alone -Egypt, was extreme range for most WWII aircraft and out of the question for fighters or Stukas. Basing closer to the battlefield allows the air force to fly more missions, carry heavier bombloads, and respond promptly when needed. Fighters can spend more time patrolling and still have gas for combat.

    The Germans also had air bases in Crete and Greece, not sure how much they used them to support the fighting in North Africa.
     
  11. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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  12. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    I believe some of Rommel's air support, especially bombers, was based in Crete not S. Italy, unlikely units in S. Italy flew GS missions in NA in 1942, most were employed agaist Malta, Crete is a much better base for operating in the Tobruk area though some did happen like a 20 Ju 88 raid of Sicily based III/KG 30 on Tobruk on 19/4/1941 but that was before the fall of Crete. IIRC most of the bomber force were Ju 88 not He 111. It's probably possible to trace which units were based where at a specific time, the recon Ju 88 of 1(F)/121 and 2(F)/123 were based in Greece with a detachment in NA.
     
  13. harolds

    harolds Member

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    I'm pretty sure that German units bombing Malta were issued JU 88s. However, I have read accounts that mentioned that HE 111 were used in Africa.
     
  14. steverodgers801

    steverodgers801 Member

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    The Germans had only 3 basic bombers, the JU88 HE111 and the Dornier 117. I would suspect that the Italians contributed some bombers.
     
  15. steverodgers801

    steverodgers801 Member

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    The Germans did some arrial mining of the canal, but overall Crete was fairly useless to Germany. The navy wanted the island for bases to support operations in the east med and Hitler was worried about it being used as a base against Ploesti.
     
  16. Fred Wilson

    Fred Wilson "The" Rogue of Rogues

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    Many Wellington Squadrons operated out of the middle east during that period.

    The Wartime Memories Project - The Second World War - No. 40 Squadron RAF
    No. 70 Squadron (RAF) during the Second World War
    RCAF 420 Snowy Owl Squadron North Africa

    Wimpys in the Mediterranean

    Desert Air Force - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia will lead you to many stories of air battles between Allied and Axis support air forces.
     
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  17. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    There were quite a few Ju 88 based in Crete, if you look at a map you will see it's a lot closer to the Tobruk area than Sicily and much closer to Ploesti, where the fuel was comming from, than Italy.
    I don't think Do 17 were used in the Med after the invasion of Greece, AFAIK the few squadrons still operating the type were all moved to the Eastern front, Do 217 were used in the Med (the Roma was sunk by a Do 217K fired Fritz-X) and there was a He 177 unit in at the time of the Bari attack (though the attack itself was Junkers). AFAIK there was one He 111 unit in NA (II/KG 26) but the overall ratio was something like 3 Ju 88 for each He 111, the roomier desert Heinkels were prefered for "special ops" like the attack on Fort Lamy, the Suez Canal or support for Iraq so they were probably more "visible" than their numbers, interestingly He 111 with civilian markings were used as transports by the Franco-German armistice commission in Algeria
     
  18. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Ah, Ft. Lamy, that was the raid I was thinking of! The He 111 that carried out that raid got lost and ended up having to crash land. The crew was rescued just barely in time. They were almost dead from dehydration after their water supplies ran out.

    An interesting artifact that was probably in that bomber was a Survival drilling that "Der Dicke" had made up for his bomber crews that operated in the arctic and desert areas. They were issued in 12gaX12ga over a 9.3X74R rifle-roughly equivilant of the 350 Rem. Magnum. The drilling was housed in an aluminum case with ammo, a manual on the gun and a sling. The gun was made by the presigious firm of J.P. Saur and Sohn and featured a beautiful case hardened receiver, checkered stocks and even engraving! This was probably the fanciest piece of survival gear ever issued in any war. The 12ga. ammo was supplied in both bird shot and brenneke slugs. One can still buy one of these drillings but you have to have VERY deep pockets!
     
  19. Gebirgsjaeger

    Gebirgsjaeger Ace

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    I fear that deep pockets arenĀ“t enough! They have horrible prices! This crash landing crew was happy to be found by a Italian aircrew.
     
  20. Fred Wilson

    Fred Wilson "The" Rogue of Rogues

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