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Should the Axis have tried harder to take Malta?

Discussion in 'Naval War in the Mediterrean, Malta & Crete' started by 3ball44, Jul 22, 2007.

  1. 3ball44

    3ball44 Member

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    Having control over nearly all of the Mediterranean, I think it only would have made sense for the Axis to have destroyed this British outpost and kept it from being quite a nuisance to shipping. From Malta, the British had fighter range reaching parts of the African coast like Tripoli and Tunis, and the entire Island of Sicily. Not to mention the bomber range that covered most of Italy and the Balkans, and the northern parts of Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya.

    Why did't the Axis do something about this last British stronghold in the Mediterranean?
     
  2. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    I think that they already thought they had done the job by bombing it hard, and also after Crete they were not interested in making another suicide invasion effort in the near future.

    personally I think they should have taken Gibraltar and this would have led to Malta´s surrender sooner or later indirectly.No supplies, no way to fight back.
     
  3. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    A plan was already approved and to be implemented by Kesselring to take Malta but Rommel's insistance on having resources available of his push into Egypt and the losses during the Crete operation caused Hitler to do away with it.

    Militarily, I would have gone with Kesselring's plan to invade and get it out of the way. The island was subdued by the bombing but this was only temporary. In my opinion, after the continuous bombing, an airbourne operation similar to the Crete operation would have been successful. Maybe the price may have been just as heavy but consider the effect on operations in the desert campaign.
     
  4. 3ball44

    3ball44 Member

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    You both make good points, but it seems like an Axis controlled Gibraltar could have solved a lot of problems.
     
  5. topdeadcenter

    topdeadcenter Member

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    I was there.

    Do not agree that the Island was subdued by bombing at all. After two years of continous bombing the Island's defences were in good shape. A lot of work and preparations for a likely invasion was carried out. Malta was one solid fortress and being so much smaller then Crete an air invasion would have been very costly for the Germans and could have been a disaster.

    By mid 1942, fuel, ammo and food was extrtemely low but the convoy named Pedestal of 65 years ago (today its the 65th anniv) saved the Island. Only 5 of 21 merchant ships reached the Island but that was enough to recharge the Island. By then it was too late for the Germans to attempt an invasion. When that convoy arrived the German bombers were hit with everything and I think they learnt a lesson on that day.

    The three airports at Ta Qali, Luqa and Hal Far were badly damaged, so was the Naval Dockyard but none of the forts and the many hundreds of concrete pill-boxes etc were out of action.

    A few thousand German paratroopers would have been slaughtered. I dont think the German High Command could have afforded such loses.
     
  6. Vince Noir

    Vince Noir Member

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    More to the point is the lack of available aircraft and trained pilots for the airborne operation. The combined losses to the transport fleet due to airborne operations 1940-41 were far more devastating than losses to the Fallschirmjager.

    An airborne operation to take Malta, would have been a bloodbath at best and a total slaughter at worse. Given the performance of the invasion fleet at Crete I see no reason why the one to Malta would have fared any better.

    Gibralter would have been a better strategic option but the same applies and in order to take it the Germans would have required Spanish backing.
     
  7. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    The Germans did not have to take Malta by storm, just subdue it which they were in the process of doing so. You yourself have said it. Ammunition and food stocks were low. Supplies to the island were not getting through in sufficient numbers. Most importantly, Convoys destined for the Afika Korps were getting through. Had the Germans kept the pressure on Malta, the situation would have been different. I still believe the Germans could have taken Malta. You can't defend if there is no ammunition.
     
  8. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    I think the Germans should have stayed out the Med entirely just proping up Italy within that country.

    On Malta the problem the Germans had was one of their own making. They were actually quite good at supressing the island when they tried. The problem was that once they did supress it they let up and Malta recovered, once again becoming a thorn in Germany's side.
    This pattern was repeated at least three times by the Germans. Part of the reason this occured was that Germany really lacked the economic base to produce sufficent aircraft and fuel to maintain an aerial siege against Malta. Invading Malta was likely beyond German / Italian capacity. The British rapidly reinforced the Island to a point where anything short of an Allied style amphibious assault would have certainly failed.
    In a sustained assault by aircraft alone the Germans would have had to commit several hundred bombers and crews along with a similar number of fighters on a prolonged basis to keep the island subdued. After all, the British were pretty regularly sending 50+ new fighters to defend it. With attrition the Germans would have had to be willing to lose potentially hundreds of aircraft to accomplish their goal. The Allies could affort such losses. The Germans couldn't. In fact, they couldn't muster aircraft in the numbers required to make such a campaign work without severly hurting their operations elsewhere.
    Malta simply was not worth the sustained effort.
     
  9. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    that goes without saying. I do agree with you. When the Germans focused their energy on malta, it's impact against axis shipping was subdued. And, when they let up, the British move in and regain the initiative. If, and I say if, the Germans did not let up, then the second portion of your answer would not occur. The Germans would not have to lose more aircraft because the British would pulled away their ships and not resupplied the island with more aircraft, ammunition and food. The British would be the ones losing ships in supplying malta. so in essence, I agree with you totally. my two cents.
     
  10. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    Mediterranean, RN, Fleet, Oran, Calabria, force, H, Q, Calabria, Battle, Cape, Spada, Taranto, Spartivento, Libya, Inshore, Squadron, Excess, Matapan, Sfax, Greece, Crete, 10th, Flotilla, Malta, Alexandria, Gibraltar

    Even allied to France, Britain's position in the Mediterranean was not guaranteed. Gibraltar may be secure, assuming Spain's continued neutrality, but Malta was considered indefensible in the face of the Italian Air Force based in Sicily. As it happened only the later arrival of the German Luftwaffe turned this threat into a near reality. However, Malta's well-equipped base had to be abandoned by the Mediterranean Fleet for the poorer facilities at Alexandria in Egypt. A large Italian army in Libya (Tripolitania and Cyrenaica) threatened Alexandria and the Suez Canal, against which only a relatively small British and Dominion force could be fielded. Fortunately this had been reinforced earlier in the year by Australian and New Zealand troops. These threats to Malta and Suez depended on Italy taking and holding the initiative. She did not.
     
  11. Neon Knight

    Neon Knight Member

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    you probably talked to death on this, but i resume the malta issue because it's always been one of my favourite :)

    - it wouldn't be easy but not necessarly a failure, the axis already had a plan since '41, called "operation C3" first and "hercules" later. Everything was ready, just needed the final order from berlin, which never came.

    - bombing malta was costly and useful only in the short period, after a few days the island always reorganized. taking malta would require many resources but only for few days, after that the axis would have saved a lot of planes.

    - even though british could anticipate every axis move in the Med, with malta secured every attempt to sink the axis convoys would be very difficult. malta could have become the axis stronghold in the Med to protect them.

    - Anyway, if you look at what was going on in africa in '42 you realize that the resources saved from the invasion of malta was nothing compared to the huge losses that axis was facing in africa, which was mainly due shortage of petrol.

    Conclusion: Malta had to be taken, no question! every axis commander knew this! after all it was just a few Km far from sicily, it was not such a big adventure!
    it didn't happen simply because those days in berlin mr.H had "visions" of stalingrad, oil fields in middle east and so on...
     
  12. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Sea born invasions are not trivial. Especially given Ultra I suspect there is a very good chance any axis attempt to take Malta would have failed. Remember also that one of the primary effects of Malta was to "explain" the info that actually came from Ultra.
     
  13. Neon Knight

    Neon Knight Member

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    Never said it was easy, let's say 50/50. but what was the alternative?? it was a do or die situation. if u don't take malta u are bound the fail in africa. the equation is very simple: as long as malta is british the axis convoys sink.

    it's true that british convoys to malta were difficult too, but malta didn't need so much to survive, just a few food, oil and ammo. The planes, which were the real asset of malta, were provided mainly by carriers not convoys.

    On the contrary, axis convoys to north africa were essential, they had to supply an entire army. the axis had no other road to bring the stuff there. the chain of convoys sicily/lybia had to be strong and safe.

    Ultra: certainly the british would have known about the plan. but so what? 80% of axis oparation were anticipated by allied! including crete invasion!

    In mid'42 all axis generals agreed with the invasion, even though they had strong differences on way and timing (kesserling and rommel clashed violently). Rommel at the beginning was not a fan of the invasion but then he changed his mind completely.
     
  14. Jaeger

    Jaeger Ace

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    Neon Knight.

    Where did Herr Hitler get the idea to scrap Hercules?

    Herr Rommel was against the plan, his ego permitted him to think that he would race into Cairo in no time. This view the achilles heel of many german commanders: the Strategic aspect. 'Smiling' Albert Kesselring had the strategic sense to see the importance of capturing Malta. Only when the race for Cairo was lost, did Rommel favour a Malta option. But by then any operation against Malta would be a disaster.

    Nevertheless, I don't think the germans could have pulled off Hercules at any date.
     
  15. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    There is a huge difference between Crete and Malta. For one Malta's defenses were far greater. That means you can't just have an airborne invasion. If you are coming by sea the RN is going to be a real threat. As it is look what happened to the seaborne leg of the Crete invasion. Then look at how long allied fleets had to stay around and provide support for the various invasions in the Pacific. The axis simply could not afford to have their surface forces pinned like that. They also lacked a lot of the special equipment the allies had as well as much in the way of experience at sea based invasions. Even if they succeeded the loss in shipping could well mean they couldn't hold it. I'd guess they had a lot less than a 10% chance of success and failure means the loss of most of the invading force.
     
  16. Neon Knight

    Neon Knight Member

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    what you say is true Jaeger, but that's just a part of the story... ok guys, let's talk about rommel :cool: here's a few facts:
    - feb-41: meeting with Ribbentrop, Rommel states that "taking malta is essential for operations in lybia".
    - jun-41: in a personal report to hitler rommel says "malta problem must be solved the same as it was for Crete"
    - oct-41: in a telegram to mussolini rommel asks "to remind kesserling that he must immediately study a plan to take malta"
    - dec-41: in a message to berlin rommel urges "immediate action on malta"
    - feb-42: reporting to italian headquarter he urges for "no more delay on malta capture"

    but then in april/may 42 rommel has a big clash with kesserling: initially rommel is enthusiastic of the invasion plan saying the plan is very well arranged (and it was!) but then he finds out that kesserling wants to use the planes based in libya and that makes rommel furious! rommel is about to start a big offence and need any resource he has, so he asks to postpone the invasione at least to july 42.

    many in berlin exploit this request for their personal plans: no invasion would mean more resources to russian front, and you all know that to get hitler's favour you had to supprt the eastern front! malta becomes a big issue in berlin: reader and kesserling in favor and keitel and others against. kesserling basically wants the stop the rise of rommel's reputation, rommel is aware if this and accuses Kesserling of sabotage!
    Now we can say that rommel was a bit ingenuous, becasue he didn't realize that opposing kesserling was against his own interest in the long term. I agree with you Jaeger that in this occasion rommel lacks strategy.

    Anyway, just a few days later, jun-42 Rommel writes again "we need to neutralize malta immediately", and the days later the rommel refrain doesn't change.

    So we can say the Rommel spent 2 years of his life asking every day the capture of malta, but ironically he became famous as the men who stopped the invasion. :confused:
     
  17. Herr Oberst

    Herr Oberst Member

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    I think Hitler wanted Gibraltar but had difficulty with neutral Spain. So logistic minded ones, how long would it take for Germany to starve out or seriously weaken the forces on Malta and Crete before an invasion, blockade, siege style? The clock was ticking and time wasn't on Germany's side. Had the invasions been successful and less casualties of Fallschirmjäger, what other campaigns battles do you think these troops would be used in? Drops into Egypt with a bled British Air Defense?
     
  18. Mussolini

    Mussolini Gaming Guru

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    Not sure how to answer that last post/question, but i do agree Malta should have been on the priority list. It provided an Airbase and with interception of communications, the Axis were only receiving 1/4 of the Supplies they needed, with a lot of it being sunk or shot down by forces from Malta. I think if the Axis had taken Malta, their African Campaign would have done much better. Not to mention one less base for the Brits to operate out of - it acted like a stepping stone between Gibraltar/Suez.

    Well, to address part of the question. If Malta falls and DAK are more successful, then I can see them being used to drop near the Suez in coordination of a land based strike. Put pressure on defending Brits on both sides of the Canal. Now, i don't know what the Suez Canal looks like, or how large it is, or what sort of defenses it had, but i also can't see the British destroying it as it wouldn't really prevent the Germans from using it to their advantage - that would really stop the British from being able to supply Indian forces/Pacific w/o having to go across Atlantic or southern tip of Africa.
     
  19. Neon Knight

    Neon Knight Member

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    hold on!

    in case malta was captured axis would have much more resources in africa. that's for sure (just look at the dramatic figures of the convoys sunk).

    BUT that's not enough! in egypt the british still had much more MEN and PLANES. axis convoys could not solve planes shortage! (just read rommel diaries)

    the luftwaffe situation was critical and most air resources were fighting in the eastern front. Be sure that mr.H would never divert them to africa!!

    IMHO u can't even imagine airborne operations when your enemy is in full control of the skies.

    Moreover, remember that egypt was supplied via cape of good hope and not via mediterrenean, this means that the capture of malta would not damage supplies to egypt.

    So that, i think that with malta secured, axis chances in africa were 50%, without malta chances were 0%
     
  20. Herr Oberst

    Herr Oberst Member

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    You answered the question, it was a matter of hitting the British resupply of Malta and Crete, starving them of ammo and food so that when they invaded they would face a less capable opfor. Thought about the canal too and maybe drops behind the rear supply areas, raids to cause more attention and have to strip some of the forces facing Rommel. To do that Russia would have to wait and it would have helped the Axis had Il Duce discussed with Hitler before hand his plans for Afrika. Alot of wasted infantry that could have held down stuff grabbed by the Germans. Foolish non supportive Italian festung tactics they were destroyed piece meal.
     

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