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Operation Sealion / Unternehmen Seelöwe

Discussion in 'Sacred Cows and Dead Horses' started by brndirt1, Jun 30, 2009.

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  1. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    The Royal Navy most certainly did have control of the sea, and the channel BTW. The "pocket battleships" (not even battlecruisers), Lutzow (ex.-Deutschland), or Admiral Sheer would be of little aid, the Graf Spee was lost well before the planned Operation Seelowe (but they were only 16,000 + tons). Maybe you are thinking of the Scharnhorst, and Gneisenau both about 30,000 tons (but they cannot do the job since they had been damaged in 1940, and were being repaired from March, 1941 to Feb.,1942). Or maybe it is the Bismarck at 45,000 tons which is the only true battleship in the modern context which the Nazis had by 1941, and it was hunted down and sunk by May of that year. Its sister ship, the Tirpitz was NOT out of the Baltic until 1942, so neither could be of any more help than they were historically, absolutely zilch help since they were non-existent when Seelowe was planned.

    The Prinz Eugen could NOT be of any help since it wasn't even commissioned until Aug.,1940, and hadn't passed its sea-trials. Also it was damaged by a mine in early in its career in 1941. Then it was tied up in Brest after the sinking of the Bismarck for repairs, and made that mad dash with the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in Feb., of 1942. So, people must be thinking of the ten destroyers and less than thirty U-boats that the Kriegsmarine had as seaworthy units by mid 1940 through early 1941!

    Against that HUGE and imposing sea force of the Nazi Kriegsmarine (giggle), with their little surface fleet and about thirty submarine vessels, the Royal Navy (in 1940) could ONLY put up the aging but capable warships; Ramillies, Resolution, Revenge, Royal Sovereign, Repulse, Renown, Queen Elizabeth, Valiant, Warspite, Malaya, Barham, Nelson, Rodney, King George V(end of 1940), Prince of Wales (May ’41), and the of course the Hood, by the time of its demise it was as near to a Battleship as most other craft of its size. Its deck armor was lacking, but due for a refit when she was sunk by the Bismarck. However the Battlecruisers Repulse and Renown at 32,000 tons, 30 knot speed, and six 15 inch main cannon, were more than a match for most Kreigsmarine surface ships afloat at the time. And let us not forget the RN’s eleven light cruisers, its aircraft carriers, its submarines or its 53 destroyers in the Atlantic alone, nor should the Canadian Corvettes be ignored either.

    Remember the time frame, with no Japanese attack against the Commonwealth until Dec. of 1941, after Barbarossa, the Brits may NOT have dispersed their other surface power as they did historically. Especially if Nazi Germany was really seriously attempting an invasion using its entire available ships.

    Good grief, the Kriegsmarine was a pitiful force until after early 1941 and then only when the U-boats really started to make a difference, but by then Operation Seelowe was abandoned, and Barbarossa being prepared for.

    During the summer of 1940 the Luftwaffe had no large, armor-piercing bombs, no operable aerial torpedoes, and no torpedo-bombers. It's kinda hard to sink ships without them. Even with advanced weaponry and opportunities of five more years of advancement they sank few RN warships. I believe the Royal Navy would indeed take LOSSES, but the record of the Luftwaffe against the Royal Navy is rather dismal for a pronouncement of prowess as some have expressed. In my mind, the Royal Navy would have UNDOUBTEDLY prevailed in defeating the Kriegsmarine supporting a Sealowe cross-channel invasion.

    There were some light cruisers which were sunk by the Luftwaffe around Crete and in the Mediterranean in general, but still demonstrative of the uphill battle the Luftwaffe would face trying to stave off an earnest Royal Navy interdiction of Seelowe. Total; warship losses at Crete were 3 RN cruisers and 6 destroyers with another 12 warships damaged but repaired. Sadly for those who wish to "glorify" the Luftwaffe, it was a real dullard compared to its Japanese counterpart in sinking ships.

    And, the Crete campaign is the most likely similar scenario and outcome to Seelowe with the Royal Navy doing its job, and prevailing on the high seas, but at some cost in terms of light ships. A cost easily borne by a seagoing nation ardently defending itself and at the same time cranking out new ships aplenty.
     
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  2. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    I think the KM had enough mines to complete the barrages, but the problem was that they didn't have enough mine layers to do the job in a reasonable amount of time. You are correct that it would take several trips with all the complications that entails. The Germans frequently used their DD's and TB's as mine layers, and most of the operational ships were so used in the September, 1940, time frame; makes it kind of difficult for the destroyers and torpedo boats to also escort the invasion fleet. Their crews are going to exhausted by the time the main event kicks off.

    Of course, the RN was watching the Channel closely and would quickly become aware of the mine laying missions. The British light forces would not sit on their duffs while this was going on, so it is questionable that the German mine fields would ever come into being. How durable they would have been against British mine sweeping is also an open question.

    Neither the Lutzow, nor the Admiral Scheer were actually available during the period Operation Sea Lion was being contemplated. Admiral Scheer was in the dock yard receiving major modifications from February, 1940, until July, 1940, and then on trials in the Baltic until October, 1940. The Lutzow had her rudders and props blown off by a British submarine torpedo in April, 1940, and was subsequently under repar until May, 1941. Both vessels, BTW, were reclassified as "heavy cruisers" by the KM at this time. As you point out, the Admiral Graf Spee had been scuttled by it's crew in the fall of 1939.

    The KM was never anywhere near as strong as the RN, and had been severely hurt by the Norwegian campaign in April, 1940. It's absurd to think that the German Navy had any hope of challenging the RN for control of the Channel waters, or for that matter, even temporarily protecting an invasion fleet capable of lifting nine divisions across the Channel.
     
  3. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    A more clear example of just how disasterous Seelöwe likely would have been comes from the Japanese invasion of Malaysia.
    The main landing at Kota Bahru consisted of a single division (reinforced) of Japanese troops. The defenders at this beachhead consisted of part of an Indian infantry Brigade that was ill-trained and marginally equipped.
    The Japanese first wave in using proper landing craft for the most part was largely wiped out and pinned on the beachhead. Successive waves came ashore in anything they could find that floated. Neither side had air support but, the Japanese had total naval control of the waters off shore and provided limited bombardment from their ships.
    It was only Japanese leadership and troop quality that ended up saving the day for them.
    In the end they managed to get ashore and stay there. The Indian brigade was withdrawn inland.

    Now, going to Seelöwe: The Germans have zero naval superiority and would have no gunfire support to mention off shore. All of their landing craft are improvised and most crewed by personnel with little or no sea going experiance.
    While the troops would be well trained and led, the landing itself would have been a disorganized debacle. Many of the landing craft would have ended up capsizing in the surf (as happened in some small scale exercises that the Germans carried out in France). Those getting ashore and disembarking would have almost always ended up stuck on the beach with no means of retraction.
    Air support would have been largely non-existant as there was only very limited means to coordinate strikes. There would have been a real danger of amicide from such strikes as were delivered.
    The Germans also planned to land forces on three widely spaced beachheads that couldn't support each other. On top of this, once the first wave was ashore there was little possibility of getting a second one ashore in under a week or more, if ever.
    Then the Royal Navy comes along and dominates the waters off shore. So much for the assault and reinforcements.
    Seelöwe would have been a disaster.
     
  4. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    No they didn't. But, they had several hundred ships of destroyer size and larger. They had 36 destroyers alone specifically assigned to anti-invasion duties and initially home ported in Channel ports. After the Luftwaffe made hundreds of air strikes on these ships in harbor and damaged (note that) several, the British moved them to ports just north and south of the Channel where this did not happen.

    Given the historical evidence: The destroyer. If you look at the losses off Crete most occured for one or more of the following reasons:

    The ship was at anchor (like off Dunkirk) and loading troops.
    The ship ran out of antiaircraft ammunition. This occured several times at Crete where there were no replenishment dumps nearby like there would be in a cross-Channel invasion.
    The ship suffered other damage.
    The ship was travelling alone and was overwhelmed by 50+ aircraft.

    You have none of these things present in a cross Channel invasion except possibly the last one.

    Then there is that little problem called NIGHT. The Luftwaffe can't fly at night to attack ships. The RN can move a destroyer from over 100 nm away from the Channel into the Channel at NIGHT create all sorts of havoc for several hours and then withdraw again before sunrise. The RN has radar on most of their ships and they can fire star shell as well. The RAF could also illuminate targets for the RN.
    Since there are ZERO examples of the Luftwaffe attacking any ship after dark during this period (and for well over a year thereafter) there is no evidence that can be presented they could have managed such a feat if they tried.

    On the other hand, the Luftwaffe pilots have ZERO knowledge in ship identification and there are alot of German ships of all sorts in the Channel for a Seelöwe. Amicide is very likely. Compounding this issue will be the German crews and soldiers who will be very trigger happy simply due to fear of British air or naval attack.
    As I have pointed out before one British ship opens up on an invasion convoy at night and it is likely the convoy will start shooting at each other far more than the British ship.

    If that. The KM was planning on most of the escort vessels having nothing larger than a 3.7cm cannon aboard with no fire control system outside a ring sight. Basically, their escort was cosmetic at best.

    I severely doubt this. By the BoB the RAF was about on par pilot-wise with the Luftwaffe. The Luftwaffe was also outside Von Richtofen's VIII Flieger Korps not trained in or equipped to perform tactical air support missions. The system in place for such missions required that the request travel up the Army chain of command to army level were the Luftwaffe liason officer forwarded it to the Air Force for consideration. If the mission was accepted then the strike was generally planned for the next day.
    The Wehrmacht wasn't going to get a lot of useful air support from the Luftwaffe on those beaches.

    The BEF in France fought well. It was the French collapsing around them that caused their defeat. Certainly Arras showed the Germans that the British could launch an armored assault and cause serious problems. The British simply didn't have the numbers in France to take on the Germans alone.
    A similar attack on a German beachhead to Arras would have been disasterous. The Allies later in the war when faced with such a problem used their overwhelming naval gunfire support to stop such attacks. The Germans have no naval gunfire support to speak of so they are doomed in that situation.

    First, you have to capture a port big enough to supply the troops you landed. The three the Germans initially proposed to take Folkestowe, Dover and, Ramsgate were all small ports that in perfect condition could have only supplied a fraction of the initial landing force.
    The British knowing that the Germans would try and take ports had the ones on the Channel coast wired for demolition and had block ships in place. Had the Germans actually tried to land and take these ports they would have found them largely useless.
    Worse yet, the Germans have ZERO means at their disposal to repair a demolished and blocked port. So, they would be back to landing reinforcements and supplies over the beaches.
     
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  5. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    You aren't debating accountants. You are debating people with a very deep understanding of warfare and World War 2.

    In the case of Japan versus the US in the Pacific what you miss in your argument is that both combatants possessed naval air power; that is, aircraft carriers and naval aircraft. Land based air power did not defeat the Japanese navy. Carrier based airpower did. The Germans have exactly ZERO carrier based air power.
    What you are doing is looking at a result without understanding the cause. Carrier based airpower is an extension of sea power. In WW 2 carrier based planes acted in concert with other ships to extend the range of their firepower at sea. But, the crucial aspect of this was that the aircraft were with the ships and acted in concert with them.
    Carrier planes could be held on the carrier until a naval enemy presented themselves and then be launched against that enemy. Today, missiles replace much of the anti-ship function of manned aircraft but the point remains valid: Naval airpower is available when it is needed to project seapower.

    Land based airpower on the other hand is far more limited in usefulness against seapower. This is why the Luftwaffe would (and did) fail against the Royal Navy. It is also why you see so little land based air power projection into naval battles other than attacking ships in harbor.
    Yes, there are singular instances of land based airpower working but they are the exception not the rule. There is obviously the case of the Prince of Wales and Repulse as a success but that is due mostly to poor tactics and a lack of good antiaircraft systems on the British ships. On the other hand, the Italians never managed to get land based airpower to work with their navy. Then there is the late war example of Empress Augusta Bay where four US light cruisers and four destroyers were attacked by over 100 G4M bombers (the same ones that sank PoW and Repulse.
    This time, the US ships deployed in a tight and correct anti-aircraft formation and shot down over 30 of the attacking aircraft and damaged most of the rest. The bombers scored a single bomb hit on a light cruiser killing 5 men and knocking out one 5" gun.

    If we go to Crete, the best contemporary example to the one at hand, we find that the Germans deployed somewhere in the neighborhood of nearly 500 aircraft total against the RN there. Yet, if you look case by case, the ships they sank were for the most part either at anchor or had run out of AA ammunition. Many of the ships they attacked were damaged and survived including one of two carriers attacked.

    The problem in the BoB / Seelöwe scenario for the Germans in this respect is two fold: First, they cannot use their entire airforce against the RN. They will need the greater bulk of it to support their land forces in the invasion and for air defense against the remaining RAF forces. Second, their air force is neither trained, equipped nor, orgainzed for a naval war. They have next to zero maritime patrol aircraft and the few they do possess are short ranged for the most part. That is, they cannot scout effectively for the Royal Navy at sea. Range also limits their aircraft to just coverage of the Channel and portions of the North Sea for the most part.
    What this means (and the British know it) is that the RN is effectively safe from Luftwaffe attack outside a very limited area. It also means that the RN holds the initative on attacking German naval forces. The British know when and where their ships will appear. They can support those operations with naval or land based air power far more easily than the Germans who will have to maintain standing patrols whenever possible.
    This means the Germans would have to have a number of partol aircraft they don't possess flying far out to sea looking for the RN's approach. Without these, their only other choice is to stack armed bombers and fighters over their invasion forces continiously.
    But, this later choice dilutes the number of aircraft they have available for this mission based on their loiter time (ie how long they can hang around before running out of fuel). Here, the problem is that the Luftwaffe opted for payload over range so this is limited and frequent changes of patrol aircraft would be required.
    Since the British know this they could simply wait outside the area where the Luftwaffe was effective and then enter this area after dark, engage the German naval forces at night and, withdraw by daylight. Even in the Pacific air power didn't get the tools to be effective at night for the most part until 1943 - 44. So, the Luftwaffe finds itself powerless to stop this sort of incursion on the fleet and the Germans lacking sea power of their own are defeated at sea.
    The other scenario is the British attack in daylight. Here the few Luftwaffe aircraft on standing patrol do what they can to stop the British ships. They may get a few hits and force a ship or two out of how many ever the British send to either withdraw due to damage or even may sink one or two. But, this occurs close to the German fleet due to the lack of patrol aircraft.
    Reinforcements from French airfields might take as much as 30 minutes to an hour to get airborne and fly to the engagement. These aircraft would have had to be fueled and appropriately armed, ready to go and held for such a mission. This represents alot of wastage of aircraft as they could not be used for other missions if held ready for this one.
    In any case, when they arrive the British are now engaged at close range with the German ships. How does the untrained Luftwaffe pilot tell friend from foe? Flags or markings on deck generally won't help. The Italians went so far as to paint the ENTIRE forecastle of their ships (the deck forward of the front gun turret etc) with red and white diagonal stripes yet, their ships were still occasionally attacked by their own aircraft.

    What the above boils down to is:

    1. Land based air is far less effective against ships than carrier air power.
    2. The Germans cannot devote hundreds of bombers to a mission of sea denial simply because they cannot afford to waste that many aircraft sitting doing nothing most of the time.
    3. The Germans lack the orgainzation and correct types of aircraft to carry out such a mission in any case.
    4. The Luftwaffe is ineffective a night and cannot deny the approaches to their fleet to British naval operations meaning the British can and will be able to operate freely after dark.

    Basically, the Luftwaffe is all but powerless to stop the Royal Navy.



    True. The Germans were a land power. That is, they had a large army and land based air force. The British are a sea power. They have a large navy and small army. In this situation, the Germans cannot defeat the British unless the British choose to take on their land power. At the same time, the British cannot defeat Germany except on land.
    So, a stalemate ensues.

    In true historical fashion the British went shopping for allies which is what sea powers have done for thousands of years. The US (an historical exception being both a sea power and land power) joined the war. Now, the Germans were finished. They were now fighting Russia a land power, the US a land power and, Britain a sea power. Both Russia and the US were superior land powers in terms of economy and resources to Germany. Germany's defeat was inevidable.
    The British role in this was primarily political. They got the coallition together with a bit of idiotic cooperation from Hitler (eg., he attacked Russia and po'd the US).

    Seelöwe represents an operation where a land power attempted on the fly to project sea power against a sea power. The Germans, like you Macker, thought air power could substitute for sea power. General William Mitchell and Guillo Douhet also thought this was true. They all were wrong. Land based airpower cannot and is no substitute for sea power. It wasn't in the Pacific. It wasn't in the Mediterrainian. It wasn't more recently in the Falkland Islands.
    You need a navy to defeat a navy. The Romans figured this out in the Punic Wars. The Spartans figured this out in the Pelopennisian Wars. Alexander figured a way around it as a land power against Persia by luck of geography, something the Germans didn't have the luxury of.

    So, the bottom line here is if Germany launches Seelöwe, it would have failed disasterously.
     
  6. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    I simply must add this old file of mine, don't recall putting it in this thread. If I have, my apologies. :eek:

    The proposed invasion called for 140,000 men (9 divisions) to be transported across the channel in river barges. Many of the Baltic sea barges sank in coastal waters while being transported to France. The river barges were even less seaworthy. The landing would require another 20,000 trained seamen to man all the vessels to transport the 9 divisions across the channel. You cannot just put anybody into a coastal assault boat and expect good results.

    Witness the failure of the set of Sherman DDs at Omaha beach when the tank commanders kept their eyes trained on the church steeple as their aiming point, and the current moved them sideways until the sea washed in over the sides of their canvas skirts. A trained maritime yeoman would have gone "with the sea" as happened in the case of the British and Canadians whose DDs made it to Gold, Sword, and Juno from further out. Those DDs which made it onto Utah were delivered literally "on the beach".

    The Sea Lion plan called for it being done at night, the column of barges going single file, going down the channel, then simultaneously turning to shore and heading to their beaches. The plan was to land along 275 miles of coastline. A tug pulling 2 of the barges could move 2-3 knots. The current might move at 5 knots and it was estimated that it would take 30 hours of travel to cross the channel. The barges had such a low seaboard that the wash of a fast traveling ship, or small rogue swell would sink them. The UK DD's could sink a lot of the barges without firing a shot.

    A trial was run, during daylight, in France. One single main exercise was carried out, just off Boulogne. Fifty vessels were used, and to enable the observers to actually observe the performance, the exercise was carried out in broad daylight. (The real thing was due to take place at night/dawn, remember). The vessels marshaled about a mile out to sea, and cruised parallel to the coast. The armada turned towards the coast (one barge capsizing, and another losing its tow) and approached and attempted to land.

    The barges opened, and some of the soldiers swarmed ashore. However, it was noted that the masters of the boats let the intervals between the vessels become wider and wider, because they were scared of collisions. Half the barges failed to get their troops ashore within an hour of the first troops, and over 10% failed to reach the shore at all. The troops in the barges managed to impede the sailors in a remarkable manner; in one case, a barge overturned because the troops rushed to one side when another barge "came too close". Several barges grounded broadside on, preventing the ramp from being lowered.

    In this exercise, carried out in good visibility, with no enemy, in good weather, and limited current after traveling only a short distance, with no navigation hazards or beach defenses, less than half the troops were got ashore where they might have done what they were supposed to do.

    The RAF wasn’t oblivious to the idea of using river barges as transport units, and had begun to bomb them where ever they found the barges being collected or consolidated:

    Bombing the barges Air Commodore Wilf Burnett DSO OBE DFC AFC;

    'The Station Commander gathered all officers together one morning in August or September 1940 and told us that it appeared invasion was imminent and that we should be prepared for it. I remember the silence that followed. We left the room and I don't think anyone spoke, but we were all the more determined to make certain that we did everything possible to deter the Germans from launching their invasion.

    At the time we were bombing the invasion barges in the Channel ports, undertaking operations almost every other night. I remember one operation in particular against the invasion barges. We had part moonlight, which was very helpful because navigation in those days depended entirely on visual identification. We flew to the north of our target so that we could get a better outline of the coast. We followed the coast down towards our target, getting down to about 4,000 feet so that we could get a better view of what was below, and to increase the accuracy of the bombing. At that height light anti-aircraft fire was pretty heavy and fairly accurate so we didn't hang around after dropping our bombs. This was done repeatedly over a period of time until the invasion was called off.'

    Air Commodore,
    Wilf Burnett DSO OBE DFC AFC

    From:

    RAF BOMBER COMMAND


    Not only was "Sealion" a non-starter, its implementation just might have brought Hitler and his Nazis to their knees and forced a surrender years earlier than historically. I personally wish he would have tried it.

    Just think of all the lives which wouldn’t have been lost if he had "given it a shot"!
     
  7. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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  8. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    " The British General Brooke commanded a Corps in France, and later became the British Army´s Chief-of-Staff. When questioned by his biographer Bryant after the war, he stated that only the harshness of the winter prevented Hitler from attacking in the winter of 1939.

    `The Wehrmacht would have reached the channel coast five months earlier at a time when we were still short of 20 Royal Air Force Squadrons. Even now, after the final victory, I still tremble at the thought as to what would have happened if Hitler had attacked in winter.´

    Arthur Bryant also recalled a conversation with General Gort, who commanded the BEF in France. He met him in January 1945, after the Battle of the Bulge, and asked him if his force and the French would have been able to put up more resistance if the Germans had attacked in November 1939. He received the reply.`Much Less.´

    The French General Menu thought:

    `...our units were scarcely better in May 1940 than in September 1939. Some would even say, with sadness in their heart, that they were worse.In 1914, during the first months of the war, General Joffre dismissed 47 Generals. How many Generals did our 1940 Commander in Chief relieve from their posts for inefficiency during the phoney war?´

    From Field Marshal Manstein a portrait- The Janus Head by Marcel Stein
     
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