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Was the Med a sideshow?

Discussion in 'North Africa and the Mediterranean' started by Mahross, Jul 12, 2004.

  1. harolds

    harolds Member

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    For all those who fought and put their life on the line (both Allied and Axis) in the Med, it was definitely NOT a "side show".

    "Th' hell this airn't th' most important hole the' world. I'm in it."--Bill Mauldin.
     
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  2. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    Small point, 5. leichte was formed for the reinforcement of the Italians in North Africa (Operation Sonnenblume) and probably wouldn't exist otherwise. This would mean about 5% more tanks and equipment for other panzer divisions, which were rarely up to TO&E strength.

    After the French campaign, Hitler ordered the number of panzer divisions to be doubled, from ten to twenty. The six divisions which had two panzer regiments each lost one. Panzer Regiment 5 went to 5. leichte, the other five went to newly forming divisions, and five additional panzer regiments had be created, presumably with cadres from existing units. In our current scenario, only four new regiments would be needed.

    Several more panzer divisions were created starting in late 1941; no doubt one of these would have been the 21st.
     
  3. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    True, and a point I meant to make.

    I suspect that if there was no Africaa commitment 21. Panzer would have been organized in October 1940.

    11. PzD got PzRegt 15. from 5. PzD
    12. PzD got PzRegt 29. newly organized in October 1940
    13. PzD got PzRegt 4. from 2. PzD
    14. PzD got PzRegt 36. from 4. PzD
    15. PzD got PzRegt 8. from 10. PzD
    16. PzD got PzRegt 2. from 1. PzD
    17. PzD got PzRegt 39. newly organized in October 1940
    18. PzD got PzRegt 18 and 28. the former SEALION "swimming" Panzer battalions A, B, C, and D
    19 PzD got Pzregt 27. newly organized in October 1940
    20 PzD got PzRegt 21. newly organized in October 1940
     
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  4. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    The phrase "side show" is a rather dismissive term. Of course, using a less inflammatory term would not elicit as lively a conversation. ;)
     
  5. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    No one wants to disrespect anyone who served, suffered, or sacrificed; but does that mean we can never consider that a campaign, battle, or strategy may not have been the right or best course of action?
     
  6. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    I think it is completely legitimate to question the strategy or wisdom of the campaign. However, the question in the topic is "Was the Med a sideshow?" I think there would be much less disagreement if the OP had phrased the question the way you did.

    ADDED: I should note that the OP's initial post is more nuanced than the title of this thread.
     
  7. harolds

    harolds Member

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    TO ALL: I wasn't implying that this was an improper topic-it is! However, many Allied vets felt that their contribution was being devalued by their own countrymen. (Remember the "D-day dodgers" comment by...some lady MP whose name I forgot.) Most of the home press emphasized what was happening in France after D-day. Naturally, servicemen in Italy felt that their efforts weren't appreciated.

    Personally, I believe the campaign was a valuable part of Allied strategy, especially up through mid-1944. The Afrika Korps was way out there and vulnerable to being cut off and defeated. In Africa and Sicily we (the USA) got very good combat experience that we desperately needed. The Italian campaign lost a chance to really contribute to ending the war when Mark Clark made his vainglorious rush to Rome and let the German ground forces escape. This meant that the campaign ground on and it became a matter of opinion of who was tying down who. It probably looked like a sideshow to many but the Foggia airfields were a very strategic asset for the Allies.
     
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  8. Jack B

    Jack B Active Member Patron  

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    I agree. The term carries an unfortunate, pejorative connotation.

    And the nature of the stated question seems somewhat irrelevant in my mind. For me, the questions of "what happened?" and "why were specific decisions made?" are far more interesting.
     
  9. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    Italy has more volcanoes than France. Case closed.
     
  10. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    Many STRATEGIC mistakes were made in the Med. The biggest one occurred in Sicily when the US and Britain allowed the major part of the German army to evacuate to the mainland. This set up the Germans making Italy a slog for the Allies. It does not, in my mind, make the theater a sideshow. Yes, mistakes were made, but what theater was mistake-free? Maybe this was a poorly worded title, but I am firmly convinced that the Med theater (which was Churchill's dream) was as important as any other you care to name.
     
  11. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    It may have been an unfortunate decision, but there was little prospect of preventing the Germans from evacuating to the mainland in Sicily. The RN and USN refused to agree to the proposal for landing Seventh U.S. Army at Palermo, but that would not have changed the campaign much, although it likely would have sped it up a bit. There was never any chance of landing closer to Messina and there was never any chance of Allied air or naval forces successfully interdicting the strait.
     
  12. Jack B

    Jack B Active Member Patron  

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    Forgive my ignorance here, but were there any allied leaders who really thought the war would be won by attacking the soft under belly alone? Alternatively, were there any leaders who thought the Med campaign would be useful, but not definitive? I don't recall.

    I have a terrible memory for details. So I can't recall (if I ever really knew) what the actual objectives of the Med campaign were (as opposed to stated objectives).
     
  13. harolds

    harolds Member

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    A follow-up to my last post: Lady Astor came up with the term "D-Day Dodgers", derisively referring to men serving in Italy. The servicemen came back with a little ditty sung to the tune of "Lilly Marlene":

    We're the D-day Dodgers out in Italy
    Always drinking vino, always on the spree,
    Eighth Army skivers and the Yanks, We live in Rome and dodge the tanks
    For we're in the D-day Dodgers
    The boys whom D-day dodged.

    Look around the mountains in the mud and rain,
    There's lots of little crosses, some which bear no name,
    Blood, seat and toil are all gone
    The boys beneath them slumber on.
    These are your D-day Dodgers
    And they're still in Italy.

    (From CIRCLES OF HELL, The war in Italy 1943-45."
     
  14. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Churchill and Brooke did. Of course we'd need a little help from the USSR.
     
  15. Jack B

    Jack B Active Member Patron  

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    Churchill....maybe. Brooke, I think not.

    I'm cynical about Churchill's motives for advocating for the Italian campaign. He wanted to put off (perhaps indefinitely) a cross-channel invasion. Everyone knew it had to be done, but Churchill was not comfortable with the idea. He may have had some wild ideas about driving through Italy and the 'Ljubljana Gap', but did he think that would be a reality? I doubt it. He publicly sold the idea, but I don't think he believed it. I definitely don't think Brooke or Wilson did. Nor the USA command staff.

    An invasion of France had been the goal well before the Italian campaign, e.g. Operation Sledgehammer, was initiated. Italy filled some time between Africa and Overlord and kept the Germans occupied and the Russians (a little bit) happier.

    Brooke may have toed the line Churchill set, but (speaking after the war) his comments that I recall were that the Italy campaign put pressure of the Germans and held troops down. He knew that France was the path into Germany.
     
  16. harolds

    harolds Member

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    If Brooke really wanted an invasion of France, he fooled a lot of smart people here in the USA. Churchill said a lot of things during and after the war that may have not been true but he and Brooke understood one fact: Britain could not sustain heavy casualties over an extended period of time. I do believe that Churchill, and probably Brooke, had nightmares over the thought of what would happen if the Germans were able to engineer a stalemate in Europe.
     
  17. Jack B

    Jack B Active Member Patron  

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    Thanks for the reply, harolds!

    I find these points to be really interesting, so forgive me if I belabor my point a bit.

    I think the point I'm trying to argue (perhaps wrongly) is that Churchill, Brooke, et al. were looking at the Italian campaign has having it own merits, but not necessarily being a decisive campaign in itself. To be pejorative: a 'sideshow'.

    I don't think the Churchill or Brooke 'wanted' an all-out assault on France; I think Churchill was intimidated by the prospect. I also think the logic of a France invasion was inexorable and they came to see that. So why Italy?

    I'm going to look for a few more references (if I can), but I'd like to start by citing SICILY AND THE SURRENDER OF ITALY by Lt Colonel Albert Garland & Howard Smyth. Obviously this is a US-centric view, and I should be careful in drawing too specific conclusions about British thinking here. Nevertheless it seems instructive.

    [​IMG]

    There is no suggestion here that the British communicated to Marshall a plan to use an Italian plan to bring about a total victory.

    Marshall asks:

    ““What about an over-all strategy?” “Was an operation against Sicily merely a means toward an end, or an end in itself? Is it to be part of an integrated plan to because that island offered merely an air win the war or simply taking advantage of an opportunity?"

    The questions were asked, but they were not answered. Perhaps they could not be. Perhaps the Americans had, as Churchill remarked with some annoyance, an "undue liking for logical clear-cut decisions," whereas the British were basically inclined toward an opportunistic approach to strategy.”

    The authors here seem pretty clear that the US view of British strategy was that it was a bit more 'cut and thrust', looking for less definitive campaigns in favor of more discreet attacks.


    [​IMG]



    “General Marshall still had doubts, for he feared that Mediterranean operations might exceed in magnitude those now visualized because a drive in Italy might generate its own momentum and draw in increasing numbers of troops. Finally, the American Chiefs accepted the elimination of Italy as a prerequisite for a cross-Channel attack, although they insisted on holding Mediterranean operations to a role subordinate to re-entry into northern France in the spring of 1944. The date originally proposed for the cross-Channel attack was 1 April 1944.”

    The focus, especially among US planners, was for a sustainable cross-channel attack. Marshall would seem to have been quite prescient in anticipating that Italy might suck the allies in.

    Even Brooke sees some danger in an Italian invasion:

    [​IMG]

    I think Brooke was looking to take Italy out of the war and draw in the Germans. I don't think he was looking at much more that that.

    For me, this is a socratic discussion, and I'm in no way fixed on or convinced of my opinion. I really am poorly educated with regard to the Second World War and recognize that my thinking may be out in left-field. So I would appreciate being corrected. I do have another source in mind to consult (sorry to cop-out with a 'poor memory for detail' excuse again, but that's me.) and will try to track it down.
     
  18. Jack B

    Jack B Active Member Patron  

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    I'm still trying to come to grips with the Opana point about volcanos. A whole new avenue of research for me. Opana point is near a volcano....not sure if that represents a bias or not.....
     
  19. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    This has been a matter debated in several battlefield studies and staff rides on the Sicilian Campaign.

    There was a way to interdict the German evacuation from Sicily. Instead of the "end runs" aimed at being first into Messia, it would have been more constructive to mount an operation on the mainland - somewhere near Cartolano and Catanzaro. By the beginning of August there was at least a division available and sea-lift spare with air cover from Sicilian airfields.

    This is, I think what the Germans feared most.

    However, this would have been politically unacceptable in London and Washington as there had not been any agreement to extend the operation beyond Sicily. There are modern day lessons about the impact of politics on military operations.
     
  20. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    Even in the best case, pushing through the Ljubljana Gap would only enable the western Allies to make a small contribution on the extreme left of the Soviet advance into Germany. More likely it would convince Stalin that his allies were as/more concerned with forestalling him in the Balkans than in defeating the common enemy.

    If the Russians advance into Germany from the east, and the Allies are not coming in from the west, and Germany is defeated, doesn't that leave the Russians taking it all?
     

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