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Normany Invasion earlier than June 1944?

Discussion in 'Western Europe' started by Pawnjuice, Jan 12, 2012.

  1. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    The problem with counter factual history is that it is all speculation.

    Any alternative word in which the allies did not invade Sicily or Italy but brought the 18th Army group back to the UK is also one in which the Germans might have worked out that 1943 would be the year of the Second Front. They could have cancelled Op Citadel and reinforced France. It is particularly perverse to assume that the Germans would simply have ignored any switch of allied forces and not redeployed the forces historically deployed in Italy and the Balkans after the Italian Surrender.
     
  2. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    Could we try and use a little bit of common sense here?

    Granted, if in some fantasy world the Allies fought the North African campaign through to its conclusion and then started packing up all the troops and shipping them back to England, the Germans probably would figure out the next likely move. But - as we went through on the first page of this thread several months ago - the premise here is that the Allies are trying to make the cross-Channel assault a success and using North Africa and the Med to facilitate that. The conclusion of the North African campaign would compel the Germans to prepare for potential next moves in that theater, which would be the most credible and immediate threat even though they would still be cognizant of some danger on the northern front.

    Rather than shipping army groups back and forth, the likely changes would be:

    British 1 and 4 Divisions not deployed to NA for the final weeks of that campaign. If this reduction from ~19 to 17 divisions caused the final act in Tunisia to take a few weeks longer, all for the better.

    Units sent to NA in spring 1943 solely for for Husky would be retained in Britain: British 5 Div, Canadian 1 Div, US 45th, British 1 and US 82nd Airborne; also US 36th which first saw combat at Salerno. This would free up shipping to bring a few more divisions from the US. So we have 9-12 additional divisions without shifting anything from the Mediterranean theater; and this is still without considering the impacts of reprioritizing from the strategic bomber offensive or the Pacific.

    Specialized landing craft like LSTs, LCTs, LCIs, and DUKWs had not been available for Torch, so there would be no redeployment of those from the Med either; indeed many of those in service in 1943 were built in Britain and would merely have to stay home to be available for a cross-Channel operation.
     
  3. harolds

    harolds Member

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    If I may jump back in here: If it had been me, I would have invaded Sicily, but not Italy. That would have given us extremely valuable experience in amphibious assults and also threatened Italy so that German troops there would have to stay. (Hitler also brought troops in from Russia.) Strategically, Germany needed to keep Italy, at least nominally, in the Axis camp.

    Then, in September, hit Normandy with the objective, at first, of capturing the Cherborg pinninsula along with the port. With the port captured, our need for LSTs and such would be reduced since most of the LSTs in the historical Normandy landings were needed to maintain large numbers of troops over the beaches.

    As far as the Luftwaffe fighter force goes, they wouldn't have stood a chance against the combined force of the RAF and USAAF. I doubt the German bomber force could have done even as much damage as they did around Salerno.
     
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  4. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    That is a version of the plan proposed in 1942 for a landing on the Cotentin Peninsular. There are three small problems with that scenario.


    1. The fighting in Sicily went on until 17th August. Six weeks isn't enough time even just to allow the LST's to transfer from the Mediteranean to the Channel. It certainly isnlt enough time to transfer the balance of the 1st and 8th British and 7th US Army to the UK.I doubt they could have brought the forces they wanted back in less than four months giving an earlierst starte date for Overlord of December 1943 ro January 1944. Not a great time of year to start an amphiious operation or rely on air power.

    2. A landing on the Cotentin Peninsular was rejected by the COSSAC planners as not allowing enough space to deploy an army. Remember, the aim of D Day was not to create a small lodgement to prove a point. The aim of d Day was to deploy the advance guard of a the 100 division Victory programme army. Without a landing on the beaches between the Vire and Orne the invader could be bottled up in a narrow peninsular. I think the Union Army had a similar problem in the US Civil war in the Peninsular Campaign, which is why that axis of advance was not repeated post 1862 Worse still there is a risk of the invader being trapped between the fortress of Cherbourg and the neck of the Peninnsular. An attack on Cherbourg itself is an opportunity to repeat Dieppe.

    3. The battle against the U Boats had only just been won in May 1943. There weren't very many US formations in the UK at that time. The shipping priorities in 1942-3 were for the USAAF. Any invasion in late 1943 was going to have to be mounted mainly by British and Canadian troops - and their higher command did not want to take this risk.
     
  5. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    I am all for common sense;) So was General Alanbrooke when he challenged Marshall about what he expected an invasion mounted with a handful of divisions to achieve..

    Sure, the American army was under pressure to be doing something to justify a Germany first stance. Yup. The war could only be won on the parts of Western Europe where the victory project army could deploy. But the conditions were not right for a successful invasion until the U Boats had been beaten and the US army brought across in enough numbers to make a 35 division lodgement possible and follow it up with 60 more.

    It is a historic fact that Alanbrooke and the British team won the argument about allied activity in 1943. So we will never find out whether the landing would have been successful. The fact that they can blame the limeys has enabled the American generals who advocated an early D Day to avoid the consequences of failure. They get to maintain a reputation for aggression and determination while not actually risking their soldiers lives or their own reputations. Its a win in every way.

    Ok so in your scenario we keep a few divisions back in the UK and mount a D Day based on the the troops in the UK. These are untried units led by what might be thought to be the second team. Ike, Patton Montgomery etc are in Tunisia while Paget, Gerow and Devers plan and execute D Day? I can't find a table that shows the dates for US formations arriving in Europe in 1943 , but I don't think there are many US formations in the Uk after Torch. maybe 29th and 36th ? How many divisions do you think they could have had by mid 1943 and where could they be deployed to deliver this early victory?

    PS while DUKW were not used in Torch landing craft certainly were. .
     
  6. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Sheldrake, et al,

    Interesting points, here's my response:

    1. The LSTs certainly don't take 6 weeks to get back through the Med and then up to Britain. Even allowing for some maintenance time they should have been ready by the second week in September. Besides, as we captured the ports of Catania, Syracuse and Palermo the need for LSTs would be removed so they could have started back earlier than the end of the campaign.

    2. I believe in an earlier post on this thread I noted the task of our forces in the Cotenten was not just to take the peninsula and then hunker down. As forces arrived they would engage in attacks that would push out and deprive the Germans of the opportunity to build defences that would seal off the area. Any counter-attacks could have been dealt with by defence in depth. Such counter-attacks would have probably been haphazard and weak since the Germans didn't have the forces available that they had later in Normandy. The big thing was that this early invasion would, by its timing have given Hitler and overwhelming strategic headache. He just didn't have the forces, especially panzers, to respond just then.

    3. The U.S. troops would have been the ones used to attack Italy! Bombers in the UK would have been used to isolate the battlefield in a modified "transportation plan" under the cover of P-47s and RAF fighters instead of engaging in costly and mostly unproductive attacks on Germany.
     
  7. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    Indeed it's all speculation, but I think doing Husky and then shifting amphibious shipping etc. back to England in time to squeeze in a cross-Channel operation before the 'weather deadline' of end September is cutting it a bit too close. Granted there was some value in Sicily or for that matter southern Italy, but the Allies needed to make a choice, one or the other. The threat of follow-on operations in the Med after the conclusion in Tunisia would tie down Axis forces almost as well as the actuality.

    While 1943 operations in the Med were sold as using the forces already in theater, in fact they involved deploying at least eight additional divisions and all of the 'new generation' LSTs, LCTs, LCIs, and DUKWs (as Sheldrake noted, smaller landing craft - LCVPs, LCAs, LCMs, carried aboard ships like attack transports - were already in service, as were the three tank landing ships converted from small tankers).

    I would be delighted to see more information about US divisions arriving in the UK, but in addition to what happened historically we have to consider the changes that would follow an early commitment to a 1943 invasion. For example the shipping and logistic effort involved in deploying and sustaining a division in the south Pacific, where even the most basic infrastructure had to be created from scratch, could support 2-3 divisions in England. Looking further ahead, several additional divisions such as the 6th (Regular Army), 31st, 33rd, and 38th (National Guard, called up in 1940) could have been used in Europe without seriously affecting operations in the Pacific.
     
  8. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Here is the US Army official history's account of the problems of the build up in 1943 http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-WD-Strategic2/USA-WD-Strategic2-2.html




    Even if the build up plans had been implemented and the UK received all the additional troops sent to the Med there would have only been 280k US troops in the UK, this is less than one quarter of the 1.3 million deployed into Normandy by 25th July. Even if the Allies had not undertaken Op Torch the total US troops in the ETO would have been still less than half a million by mid 1943. The Germans had 45 divisions divisions in the West in September 1943 and access to the troops freed up because there would have been no Italian Campaign.

    The idea that the allied airforces would have prevailed in September 1943 as they did in June 1944 also includes some wishful thinking. The accepted version of the air war is that the daylight offensive in the 1st Half of 1944 over Germany eroded the German fighter arm and facilitated the .Normandy invasion. If that is true, then we have to accept that the allies would have had a tougher time in 1943. The RAF managed to achieve local air superiority over Dieppe for eight hours in august 1942, but at a very unfavourable loss rate to the German fighters. Normandy is further away.than Dieppe and there may have been a real risk that the air war side of a 1943 Op Overlord might have looked like the Battle of Britain in reverse.

    It is interesting that the US Army suggested cutting down the shipping allocated to British civilian consumption - and was overruled by the President.
     
  9. harolds

    harolds Member

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    First of all, the wearing down of the Luftwaffe fighter force was well on its way by the time we're talking about here. People with a superficial knowledge of the airwar always credit the P-51 for destroying the Luftwaffe fighter force. Little credit is given to the P-47 pilots that fatally weakened the Jagdtwaffe. Many of the Luftwaffe's up-and-coming young leaders were killed in '43 or before. As an example I give you Adolph Galland's two younger brothers, "Wutz" and Paul. Both were multiple aces. One died in 1942 and the other in 1943 at the hands of Thunderbolt pilots. They were joined by many other schwarme, staffel and gruppe leaders, plus many other lesser figures. The Luftwaffe never got over these losses. There was a reason that the Luftwaffe attacked the bombers mostly over Germany; that reason is a blizzard of P-47s piloted by well-trained young men who couldn't quite get into Germany due to the P-47's range limitations. There is no reason to think that if the Luftwaffe challanged the combined RAF/USAAF fighters over western France that they wouldn't have been shot out of the sky.
     
  10. mcoffee

    mcoffee Son-of-a-Gun(ner)

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    While I am all for giving credit to the P-47 pilots for their role in defeating the Luftwaffe, to say that they were well on their way to doing so in the Summer of '43 is an over reach. At the end of July 1943 there were a total of 421 P-47s in theaters vs. Germany. Many of those were newly arrived and not yet assigned to units. Many more were assigned to units still in training and not yet ready for combat. The number of P-47s actually operational with operational combat units was probably half that. At the same time, the Luftwaffe had roughly 800 day fighters facing the Western Allies. In 1943 the blizzard is more like snow showers.

    The P-47 was at is best above 25,000 feet where it was a formidable foe for the Bf-109 and FW-190. Those were the typical altitudes that the P-47 encountered the Luftwaffe when flying escort for the heavies. When defending a beachhead, the operational altitudes are going to be much lower where the P-47 does not match up nearly so well with its opponents. An aerial battle over the beachhead would have been a long grind with the ground forces absorbing casualties for its duration.

    The first 4 months of 1944 was when the Luftwaffe was ground down. By the end of 1943 there were over 1500 P-47s facing Germany and the P-51 was becoming operational. The numbers of both types continued to climb - that was the blizzard that the Luftwaffe could not withstand.
     
  11. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    OK - the air war.

    On 1st September 1943 RAF Fighter command had 684 spitfires and 212 Typhoons and the 8th AF had 574 on hand (but only 272 effective combat strength) and the RAF had a further 300 spitfires in the Med, ignoring obsolescent aircraft such as the Hurricane and P40.and any possible contribution to the axis of the rather good Mc202 and 205 fleet.

    The Luftwaffe .had a fighter strength of 1581 on 31st August 1943. That is all theatres, but suggests at least 700 available for repelling D Day.

    I don't think that is enough of a margin of numbers to provide air superiority over a cross channel bridgehead. At any time over half of the allied fighters would need to be in transit. Most Germans shot down would be recovered, few allies etc. I haven't built an attrition model but it looks a bit iffy and not enough of a margin for the Normandy 1943 to be fought under an allied air umbrella.
     
  12. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    The Luftwaffe had a fighter strength of 1581 on 31st August 1943. That is all theatres, but suggests at least 700 available for repelling D Day.

    Why? We could research the deployment of Luftwaffe air units - I wouldn't be surprised if mccoffee has the information at his fingertips - but if you're just guessing, why assume that nearly half the fighter force would be in the west when there were active fighting fronts and major ongoing operations in the east and Mediterranean? In fact for most of 1941-43 there were just two fighter geschwader - JG 2 and 26 - on the Channel front. In mid-1943 their priorities were preparing for Operation Citadel and for the anticipated next moves by the Allies in the Med. Of course once a Channel landing was made, they would shift forces, but that would take time, especially the support infrastructure and supplies, with air bases and transportation routes under Allied air attack. Historically it took months to build up the fighter force in their own homeland for defense against the escalating bomber offensive; a sudden crisis in France would be even more challenging.

    As with other aspects of the scenario, the air situation in 1943 would be essentially as it was at Salerno or Anzio; the Luftwaffe would get in some blows but fail to significantly impede operations. The Allies would have more aircraft and far better bases and logistic infrastructure, closer to the landing/battle area. As mccoffee noted, once forced to fight, the German fighter force would be worn down. The circumstances would be more favorable to the Allies than fighting them over the Reich.

    574 on hand (but only 272 effective combat strength) is an important point which needs to be applied to all forces concerned; serviceability was never the Luftwaffe's strong suit.
     
  13. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Some false assumptions here I believe. I see no reason that given the proximaty of Normandy to England that half the allied fighters would have to be in transit. On the otherhand it's hard to maintain a CAP of over 1/3 of ones fighters. This could be offset however by the fact that Chain Home could see a larger German raid forming up before it hit the invasion area.

    As for pilot recovery I'd rate it 50:50. Much of the combat would be over the channel and the allies have a lot more vessels there to recover downed pilots. The level of AA fire that the invasion fleet could put up is something the Germans had not really experianced yet at least in any numbers. Allied attacks on the German airfields closer to the invasion site would also likely have ocnsiderable impact.
     
  14. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Prior to the invasion more air action would have been over France than the Channel. As you have posted, the allies would target German airfields prior to an invasion - as the Germans did in the Battle of Britain. The Germans would have refrained from pursuit over the sea, as the RAF did in 1940.

    All of the air forces in WW2 probably overestimated the effectiveness of their raids on airfields - and other defences. A lot of the pre d Day bombardment can best be described as "agricultural bombing". Only really the railway system took any serious damage. E.g. OB West reported that during the week ending 3 June 1944 there had been 25 attacks on airfields in the 15th Army sector and 7 in the 7th Army Sector. From these 32 attacks in the run up to D Day the Germans report the following:

    Only five airfields are un-serviceable in the whole of Northern France
    Destroyed: One aircraft,, ten hangers, a fuel installation, two AA positions, two motor cars, three trucks destroyed and some (electrical?) circuits.
    Damaged: six aircraft, six runways, seven tarmacs,six other airfield buildings two AA positions four AA guns, three motor cars and two trucks and some telephone and electricity lines

    That is 55 individual objects, buildings or pieces of tarmac hit from 35 raids, each mounted by a minimum of a squadron of aircraft. This doesn't convince me that a smaller number of aircraft will do more nine months earlier.

    An allied naval fleet would have been both a target as well as an AA barrage. It is perhaps better that the allies found out about Ftitz X and the Hs293 at Salerno. Losing a couple of battleships off Normandy.could have been embarrassing.


    In any event this is not about which side would win an air war of attrition. Its about the probability that the allies could achieve the achieving the level of aerial dominance which has been cited by the allies and the Germans as one of the reasons for allied victory. Just one little thing, consider the difference if it would have made if every AOP shoot had needed a fighter escort.
     
  15. steverodgers801

    steverodgers801 Member

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    plane numbers mean nothing, the Luftwaffe had lost too many pilots by the time Normandy came and like the Japanese there were few trained replacements. In 1943, the Luftwaffe probably had an advantage in terms of experienced fighter pilots, this was gone after big week in 1944.
     
  16. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Re. mcoffee's remarks on the P-47 being inferior to the FW 190 a lower altitudes: This was true when the "Jug" first came out but incremental improvements to the powerplant and airframe, plus the addition of the wideblade propeller in July of '43 made the American aircraft at least the equal of the FW. Also, according to Caldwell and Muller in their book, The Luftwaffe Over Germany, the replacement problem for the German fighter force was already critical in the Summer of '43. The preportion of experienced leaders was already going downhill. Simply put, the Luftwaffe just couldn't take a lot of casualties in a relatively short space of time. I stand by my earlier post in saying that an early D-Day would have resulted in the earlier defeat of the Luftwaffe.
     
  17. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Harolds you may have a point. The problem that the allied fighters had was to force the Luftwaffe to fight them on anything other than their own terms. A 1943 invasion is likely to have forced the Luftwaffe fighter arm to come up and fight that they didn't have to against all the coat trailing exercises. I have seen the same argument presented in respect of the Battle of Britain - that launching Op Sealion was possibly the only way to forve the defending navy and air units to fight where they could be destroyed by attrition.

    However, the aim of Op Overlord was not to defeat the Luftwaffe - it was to deliver a second front and launch the Victory programme army on the Germans. No one would have launched D Day without a guarantee of air superiority.
     
  18. mcoffee

    mcoffee Son-of-a-Gun(ner)

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    What is your source for the P-47 receiving paddle blade props in July '43?

    The paddle blade props were introduced on the production blocks P-47D-22-RE and P-47D-23-RA. They did not exist in the Summer of '43. Robert Johnson's autobiography states that the 56th FG received its first paddle props in early January '44. Every source I've found puts the paddle blade props arrival in theater in early '44.
     
  19. harolds

    harolds Member

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    To mcoffee: Wm. Green

    To Sheldrake: You are right in that the purpose of the Invasion of France was to put troops ashore. However, the Jagdtwaffe had to be defeated somewhere and western France is a great place to do it because both the RAF and USAAF could be involved. I'd also point out that at Salerno we invaded there without near the air cover we would have in Normandy. We lost ships to the Luftwaffe but that didn't seriously damage our effort there. Why then would the Normandy landings be any different? If anything, there losses would be less due to better air cover.
     
  20. steverodgers801

    steverodgers801 Member

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    would it be wise to work to finish off the Luftwaffe at the same time that you are invading? The biggest concern I see is the probable inability to interdict German ground troops in 1943 to the extant that was in 1944
     

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