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Dumb question: Why a landing in France when we were already in Italy?

Discussion in 'Italy, Sicily & Greece' started by MikeGBW, Jul 28, 2014.

  1. MikeGBW

    MikeGBW New Member

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    I know this is probably a dumb question, but why was the Normandy invasion necessary when the Russians were advancing from the East, and we were already in Italy?

    Couldn't we have thrown everything into the Italian campaign and pushed north thru Austria, and possibly joined up with the Russian forces?

    Why was it necessary to mount a massive, and risky amphibius landing in heavily fortified northern France?
     
  2. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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  3. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    Been written extensively about...Italy failed.
    We needed a diversionery landing zone so the Germans couldnt bolster what they knew was coming...etc etc...
     
  4. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    The Alps, indeed. Just look at what happened at Cassino, and multiply it several times.......
     
  5. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    I was expecting someone to bite on my "failed" comment...a little harsh and misleading...the initial objectives were not met...and the Alps. A defenders dream.
     
  6. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Actually, I agree.......much was expected of the Italian Campaign ( 'soft underbelly' etc ) but it turned in a hard-fought war of attrition with the Germans exhibiting all their skills in defensive warfare. OK, you can use the 'succeeded in tying down German forces' argument but that one cut both ways......
     
  7. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    The reason for the Italian campaign was mainly political : after the fall of Sicily,there were only 2 alternatives : to do nothing,and wait till june 1944,or invade the Italian peninsula .
     
  8. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Didn´t Churchill "fancy" the Balkans as a major opportunity for an invasion instead of italy??
     
  9. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    He did. Even Churchill's friends and admirers acknowledged that he had "a hundred ideas a day, five of which were brilliant". His obsession with the Balkans dated from WWI, even before Gallipolli, and he had hoped to open a Balkan against the Germans in 1940-41 including Yugoslavia, Greece, and Turkey, despite the fact that they considered each other their primary enemies. He continued to obsess about getting Turkey into the war, hard though it is to imagine why the Turks would wish to do so.

    There was little scope in Italy for employment of more troops than were used historically, about twenty divisions on each side. It was highly defensible terrain, poorly suited for mobile, mechanized warfare. The Balkans were the same, with even poorer roads, ports, and infrastructure. Southern Italy and the southern Balkans are as far as you can get from Germany, with the least potential for employing the western Allies advantages of mobility and air power - speaking of which, they were out of reach of the main Allied air forces which could and did support operations in France.

    One rationale for giving priority to the Balkans was to forestall the Russians getting control of that area - which of course was perfectly obvious to Stalin and company. I've read that Tito's partisans, who controlled most of Yugoslavia, were under orders to resist any western incursion. When the British established a small base on the Adriatic coast, Tito demanded that it be removed.

    Historically the Allies - the Red Army - occupied most of the Balkans in fall 1944; if we consider the Allies as an alliance, there would have been little additional benefit in having British or American troops there. At best, they might have become a small sector on the left of the Eastern Front as it advanced into Germany - a Germany which would only be fighting on that one front. More likely Stalin would see that his "allies" were abandoning the long-promised second front in order to compete for control of eastern Europe, and he in turn would be fighting as much to forestall them as to defeat Germany. He might well beat the westerners into Germany; Poland was far more suitable for rapid mechanized offensives than the Balkans. The westerners would look remarkably foolish if, in order to secure the Balkans, they handed Germany and central Europe to Stalin.

    France and northern Europe were the only theater in which the full power of the United States could be brought to bear. It had the best base of operations in Britain, and despite the pre-Overlord bombing it was still the best place for mechanized armies to operate and be supplied. It was the only place where we could actively engage more than about 1/10 of the German army, and it was the only real chance for western forces to advance into the heartland of Germany.
     
    green slime and Slipdigit like this.
  10. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    the abundance of Wehrmacht truppen was in the region of France/Germany at this stage and they had to be poundd into oblivion // looks as though other members have answered why we did not really focus on Italy .....terrain a misery ~
     
  11. MikeGBW

    MikeGBW New Member

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    Thank you all.
     
  12. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    The Italian campaign forced Italy to capitulate, which opened up the entire Med and had affects all over Europe, both west and east. The Germans now had to replace Italian troops not only in Italy, but Greece, the Balkans, southern France, Russia, etc. Believe it or not, Italy had over 100 Divisions scattered around Europe and when they capitulated due to the invasion, that was a lot of manpower the Germans had to stretch and make up for.

    At any rate, you can't just count the German troops held down in Italy, you have to look at Italian troops in every theater suddenly removed from the German order of battle.
     
  13. Pacifist

    Pacifist Active Member

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    Just a side note to the Alps, wiki referencing John Keegan mentions that in WW1 during the Italian attacks into the Alps "Shellfire in the rocky terrain caused 70% more casualties per rounds expended than on the soft ground in Belgium and France." Add to that the bouncing betty's that had been introduced and in Russia everyone had just seen what old man winter could do to even a modern army.
     
  14. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    As noted up the thread a bit - it wasn't actually the Alps that were a defender's paradise - it was the narrow width of the peninsula itself with its inconvenient mountain range down the middle that cut the "front" into two that was ;) There was only a very limited number of divisions that could be brought to bear on any defender - who in turn only needed a relatively small number of divisions and resources to conduct a VERY hard fought defence.

    The Italian peninsula meant that the sort of massive campaign that was necessary to involve/draw in and defeat enough of the Wehrmacht to bring about the end of the war in the West couldn't be fought there.
     
  15. GunSlinger86

    GunSlinger86 Well-Known Member

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    If the Allies were somehow able to hypothetically march through Italy, even though the terrain couldn't have supported the armor and air superiority, they could have been surrounded by German troops coming from France and Germany. They had to push the troops back through France to Germany while thrusting up Italy with a smaller force to match the small force Germany had occupied in Italy.
     
  16. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    True, but those benefits were achieved by the initial landings in Italy in September 1943. They're not an argument for the question Mike posed, focussing on the Italian campaign in lieu of invading France in 1944. Indeed it could be argued that the Allies had achieved most of the value of fighting in Italy by the time they secured Naples and Foggia: Italy was out of the war, with all the advantages you note, the Mediterranean sea lanes were open, Allied air forces could strike throughout southern Europe, and they could support the partisans in Yugoslavia. The only further benefit of slogging up the peninsula was to impose attrition on about 1/10 of the German army.

    One other benefit of landing in Italy was that Sardinia and Corsica fell into Allied hands without the Allies having to mount major invasions. These were crucial for the invasion of southern France and could also support the Italian campaign and threaten a landing in northern Italy. If the Allies had invaded the islands, say from North Africa, it would have been a tipoff that the next move was southern France, but under the circumstances the Germans could not be so sure of their enemies' next move.
     
  17. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    There's actually no way for troops to be moved in quantity from France to Itally except via the Swiss rail tunnels...everything would have had to be moved first to Germany then south, a very roundabout route - while any German defenders in Italy, no matter where they come from, all suffer from that same problem the Allies did - the short length of the front(s) across the peninsula...

    It wasn't actually possible to "surround" the Allies unless at a bridgehead like Anzio; and even then, tho' the breakout was painful, the Germans ultimately didn't keep them there.

    In the end, if the Allies had committed to Italy as the main front you'd have been looking at a VERY painful and wasteful campaign in North Italy, a rerun of the last two years of WWI - either a front line actually IN the Tyrol and the Dolomite Alps, or the Italian flatlands north of Venice, just short of the border. The WWI Alpine campaign was horrific - every shot, shell and peck of food having to be lugged up on foot or by mule, and I've seen figures of up to 40,000 on both sides dying by avalanche alone....

    If you Google there are large sections of the WWI Alpine front line well preserved....simply because they're relatively inaccessible except to climbers. A terrible place to try and fight a war.
     
  18. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Not a dumb question. It was one asked by the commanders of the US Navy and allied heavy bomber forces. Churchill also had qualms.

    However the western allies had to liberate Europe for the values of western democracy. There was no guarantee that the Red army would prevail over the Wehrmacht. The US Army had been expanded to 100 divisions to defeat the German army and North West Europe was the only only theatre of operations where it could sensibly deploy.
     
  19. GunSlinger86

    GunSlinger86 Well-Known Member

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    I meant if the Allies were to theoretically charge through Italy, they would have large amounts of troops to clear out in both France and Germany after the Italian campaign, and Hitler would keep sending reinforcements to keep the fighting in Italy. Having a smaller, more manageable campaign allowed the Allies to knock Italy out of the war, take out German troops, and take some pressure of Russia by having Hitler send some of the best German divisions back West, while having the main thrust come from France.
     
  20. steverodgers801

    steverodgers801 Member

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    Look how hard it was to clear the Italian peninsula. It took until 1945 just to reach the alps and there was no real room for more troops. You then have to march through the Alps with even worse terrain, a battalion can hold off divisions and once you do you still have south Germany. It took eleven months to land, clear, breakout from Normandy and to reach and cross the Rhine.
     

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