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Rommel pursues a different strategy in North Africa

Discussion in 'What If - Mediterranean & North Africa' started by T. A. Gardner, Jun 29, 2008.

  1. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    But Rommel almost lost his troops in the Gazala cauldron. If Ritchie had acted at normal speed even that could have been the end of Rommel.
     
  2. von_noobie

    von_noobie Member

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    While utilizing the plans of the Italian fortifications helped I don't think it is wise to put the fall purely down to that. It was well known that they did not plan to hold Tobruk in another long siege, Add to that that the moral of the troops under Klopper's command was low and they where very exhausted where as the moral of the troops under Morshead's command was high and they where not so exhausted.

    You must also look at the battle in full rather then trivializing it, Klopper's troops where taken by surprise due to a very well timed and lucky ruse in which Rommel's panzer's appeared to be heading past Tobruk rather then towards it. So they where taken by surprise, That in its self is not enough to guarantee victory, What is though is Klopper's HQ being bombed and any decent communications being gone making any chance of counter attacks impossible.

    So assuming that Tobruk would fall as a fact in 1941 if Rommel had used the Italian blue prints and hit from the South East is not actually a fact but rather an opinion. Must also remember the Aussies didn't just use the Italian defences, They built there own with every fox hole/dug out having clear fields of fire for up to several hundred yards and most if not all in positions so that they could provide over lapping fields of fire with other fox holes/ dug outs. Morshead and the Aussies style was far different to that of Klopper's and the South Africans, Not to say that Klopper or the South Africans where bad but in that situation the Aussies just fought harder, Didn't wait for attacks but rather snuck into German lines and attacked them. To hold Tobruk required a special breed of men and the Aussies where just Stubborn and Crazy enough to fit that criteria ;) though it also helped moral wise giving the Italians an ass wooping earlier on.
     
  3. British-Empire

    British-Empire Member

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    Anything that has not happened is opinion not fact.
    But based on what did happen its an opinion back with a great deal of evidence.
    Let us not forget the English and Scottish troops of the 70th Infantry Division who fought very well at Tobruk.
    As for fighting quality the British and British Dominion Troops all tended to be very good.
    I watched a documentary on the Afrika Korps some months ago with interviews with Korps veterans, they said of all the troops they faced the New Zealanders were most brutal in attack and the English the toughest in defence.
     
  4. von_noobie

    von_noobie Member

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    Your great deal of evidence comes down to it being more tanks yet ignoring everything else so I dont buy it. As for this doco can I get the name? Would be interesting though from other's I have seen always been said the Aussies where the toughest defenders.
     
  5. British-Empire

    British-Empire Member

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    I will see if I can find it.
    Out of interest Harold Macmillan former British PM said the best troops he had ever seen were the North East English.
    Which would be the Durham Light Infantry, Green Howards and Northumberland Fusiliers.
    The only VC awarded on D-Dad was was to a Green Howard named Stan Hollis.
    There is a book about him now.
    When you read about him you begin to wonder if he is immortal.
    His exploits through the hole war make you think so.
    Rommel even met him in person when he was captured in North Africa and commented on his bravery.
    He escaped several days later.
     
  6. knightdepaix

    knightdepaix Member

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    Assuming no major diversion from history, the Libyan theatre of Italy was, in short, more tactically defensive while strategically offernsive - to hold the land; Italy needed to consume resources. What follows are assumptions: taking Egypt would be a crucial step to sustain the Italian control of her North Africa; after this conquest, Sudan would be being sandwiched by then attacking Italian forces.

    For Rommel was known for his tactical prowess, his manoeuvre warfare would be draining resources on desert which would not favor development of human settlement. So a leapfrogging strategy of ports from Tripoli to Alexandria required an admiral who would have about equal power of military command to and accompany Rommel. This strategy would also bring into consideration Italian navy, which was the best among the three Italian military branches, make conquesting Malta at the beginning of war much more important; The island would be the backup of the leapfrogging strategy and throughputs of its ports sustain the Italian-German joint forces combats on whichever ports attacked along the coast. Joint attack with Rommel's manoeuvre warfare by the navy and army in leapfrogging of ports would almost completely surround British forces at ports to force a surrender before Rommel's own forces running out of resources. The port could then be instantly worked on to restore its throughput by the occupying navy and army instead of only army holding it until reinfrocement came. As the Italian had been involving in more static combat on deserts, they were more suitable to guard or attack ports as part of navy and army instead of fortified position in desert. The British garrison initially did not expect attack, the Itlaian could transform the defense of quickly captured ports into an urban warfare, making use of their superiority in infantry but avoiding inferiority in machines (c.f. the Soviet Red Army in Statlingrad); the more mobile German forces would be the flanking forces. Although the RAF could bomb the port, German and Italian warplanes from Malta could then intercept, not to memtion anit-aircraft batteries camouflaged inside the port instead of on desert. The leapfrogging strategy would make all these tactics more possible to happen.
     
  7. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    If the Italian Navy is going to be more active they will need quite a bit more oil. Where is this going to come from?
     
  8. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    wasn't there a huge difference in NA vs Russia in that they had to ship all supplies and men there, which was much more difficult than transporting them on land to the Russian front?? for NA, transport to port, unload, then load ship, sail in dangerous waters, unload ship, re-load to rail/truck/etc...transport to front...for Russian front, transport to front, unload once...?
    it wasn't as simple as sending men and supplies.
     
  9. knightdepaix

    knightdepaix Member

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    Both Japan and obviously Germany had tried on developing synthetic fuel production. Did Italy or any other non-US nations try ?
     
  10. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    The problem was that it was very expensive. I think I remember reading that in the mid 30's German synthetic oil cost about 10 times what regular oil did. Germany pushed the development because they saw that they simply didn't have internal sources or reliable external ones in case of the war that was coming. Italy didn't really plan on going to war with the major powers and Romania was suplying a good portion of what they needed. Then the war started and Italy was cut off from most of the other sources except Romania, that is until Germany took over the Romanian production. The axis in general seamed to have not taken a good look at the logistical implications of war or figured they could win it quickly enough that those implicatoins wouldn't matter.
     
  11. knightdepaix

    knightdepaix Member

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    So if Italian land forces, mostly infantry and some artilleries performed dfensive urban warfare in cities or towns that teh DAK or Italian forces had took before El-Alamein, can their resilent gallant defense persuade Britain to attack Europe from another route ? In other words, could resilence, brevity and other individiual quailities of Italian infantry make up for their weakness in weapons and resources ? If so, could a Battle of Stalingrad happen in North Africa ?

    In alternative history, if Italian land forces with DAK armor could hold the Britian forces in Cyrenaica until 1944 or after when Germany was clearly losing the war, could Italy still hold onto Libya as a colony after ww2 ? As Italian made up for a bulk of axis african forces, their better performance could tip the balance in favor of Italy, and hence her co-belligerent. Personally, comparing Italy's choices in ww2 with Finland's, Finland maintained the nation unified without invasion against the Red Army while Italy did not against the Western Allies. In this regard, Finland performed better.
     
  12. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    The short answer is no.


    It is misleading to try to separate the Italian lack of reliance from their lack of effective weapons and other inadequate preparations made by the Facist regime before entering the war. Italy had forces that looked better on paper than in the reality facing soldiers with inadequate weapons and training led by poorly trained officers and NCOs.

    There were no opportunities to wage successful urban warfare in North Africa. Garrisoning and fortifying the towns of Bardia and Tobruk did not work for the Italians in 1940, when they were beaten by well co-ordinated infantry attacks, despite some acts of great courage by italian soldiers. Neither Benghazi nor Tripoli offered opportunities for an Stalingrad style battle of attrition.

    The best course of action that would have helped the Axis cause most would have been if Mussolini had remained neutral, and demanded support and territory as the price for not getting involved. A neutral friendly Italy would have given Hitler everything he needed from the Mediterranean theatre. The worst outcome for Germany was that which unfolded. Italian incompetence followed by Rommel's combination of tactical brilliance, political favour and strategic imbecility
     
    belasar likes this.
  13. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I think I read somewhere that the British even considered giving Italy Malta if they stayted neutral.
     
  14. knightdepaix

    knightdepaix Member

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    Although I respect ideas, please explain with informations so that the readers agree. If Mussolini Italy stayed neutral, would GB just handed over Milta and islands of the Aegean Sea to Italy ? Franco Spain stayed politically neutral yet Spanish troops participated in thousands on the Eastern Front, did Spain get Gibraltar ?

    On the other side, how could Italy help Germany while staying neutral ? If the incompetence was caused by ineffective leadership, would sending thousands of Italian troops to the Eastern front gain valuable leadership experience under fire ? The survivors out of that Darwinian process can then be assumed with good enough leadership to lead troops on home soil and beyond. I suggest that the area to perform this Italian particitpation would be the Battle of Leningrad. Italian troops performed in second line duties under Army Group South in 1941. In Leningrad Finnish troops were not fighting and German troops were bogged down by the siege; would Italian and German troops under Army Group North in 1941 capture the city ? Beyond Leningrad, no major cities were German targets thus a bulk of German forces could be sent to Army Group Center against Moscow.

    In tanks, if Italy remained neutral, would assault gun and tank destroyer would be more cost effective anti-tank vehicles ? In that sense, Italian Semovente 75/18, German licenced and Italian built Jagdpanzer 38 Hetzer and Sturmgeschütz III could contribute against the more numerous British and later American tanks. In other words, could Italian industries still produce armament for Germany while Italy remained neutral ?
     
  15. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Re your fist paragraph. These are counter factuals - what ifs. No one can know for certain what would have happened and there can be no agreement on a discussion board!

    There were several reasons why Italy was at best an unreliable ally and at worst a liability.

    The Italian Facist state was a triumph of style over substance. Mussolini pushed the image of Italian strength beyond its actual capabilities. The Italian economy was not strong enough to sustain an industrial war. It did not have the kind of industry that turned out powerful aircraft engines, motor vehicles field guns and tanks. It s army was neither recruited, organised nor trained for a sustained war. The Italian Facist state had lots of unpleasent features, but it was full of contradictions and, as demonstrated by the course of events, could not mobilise for war in the manner achieved by Britain, the USSR and Germany.

    This might not have mattered. Mussolini was more interested in the appearance of capability than its reality. While Mussolini may have appeared a buffoon internationally, there was a logic to his approach. Between 1848 and 1939 Italy territory had had grown substantially through war. Italian armies had been beaten in 1866 and 1917, but ending up on the winning side. So it was not unreasonable for Mussolini to think that it was more important to take part on the winning side than to have a war winning army.

    Hence Mussolini's decision to take Italy into the war despite the problems it caused for his allies.

    Italy could have helped Germany in very very many ways as a neutral.

    Neutral Italy and a neutral Balkans, protected German's south flank from air or ground attack. If the Italians had not invaded Greece in 1940 there would not have been a Balkans campaign in 1941, and no need to garrison the place.

    A neutral Italy ensured the failure of any economic blockade of Germany. It could have provided a friendly diplomatic voice.
     
  16. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    interesting and excellent reading...thank you....I would have to agree here especially as I think Shel points out to Italy's failure /s in the war.....well done....
     
  17. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I don't think Spain was considered a likely candiate to join the Axis where Italy was. Gibralter was more heavily defended in 1940 that Malta by a considerable degree. I think that even after Italy joined the war Britain considered withdrawing from Malta. Details were mentioned in one or more of the threads on Malta over on the Axis History forum.

    In regards to Italy as an ally of Germany another point was they essentially had to share the same oil sources. When Germany took over the Romanian fields Italy was dependent on Germany for oil. If Italy stays neutral they can get at least some oil from the allies much like Spain. They could also be a potential conduit for other materials including food to reach Germany. Then there's no reason for Germany to get involved in North Africa which saves resources and food. The elimination of Italy as a landing area also cuts down on the German defencive perimeter by a substantial amount. Not going into Greece and Yougslavia has similar impacts.
     
  18. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Your confusion is understandable as the Spanish participation in WWII, or lack of it, remains one of the less understood aspects of the era on a general level. The information is out there, but the focus is naturally on more dynamic aspects of the conflict.

    All Spain could offer the Axis alliance was position, a jumping off point for the possible capture of Gibraltar. She had a minuscule navy (1 Cruiser, handful of Destroyers and Submarines, all in poor repair) Small numbers of aircraft ( all or nearly all from German/Italian factories) and a small, poorly equipped Army. She had no industry to arm herself with modern weapons and no significant natural resources to supply to allies.

    In short, Spain would be a drain on Axis forces, a drain Franco knew Hitler and Mussolini could not properly fill. He drew the conclusion that Il Duce should have, but then he had no real aspirations to expand his 'Empire', simply rebuilding his war ravaged country was his goal.

    Offering the Spanish 'Blue Division' to fight in Russia was a canny Political move on Franco's part, one that took a page out of Hitler's own political playbook.

    After Hitler came to power in 1933 he faced potential problems with both ends of the political spectrum. Conservatives (Industrialist's, Financier's and the Army) wanted stability and their power/privileges retained, The more revolutionary elements in the Nazi Party (largely, but not exclusively in the SA) saw the National Socialist revolution only half complete. Hitler's solution was the Night of the Long Knives where Hitler eliminated any significant opposition in his radical left while demonstrating to his conservative right the 'revolution was over and Germany would be politically 'stable' in the future.

    Franco faced similar pressures within Spain as well. Dispatch of the Blue Division, filled with the radical Fascist elements of his party, got rid of these threats and got the Russian's to shoot them for him. He partially placated the internal pressure to join the Axis formally while also partially placating Hitler enough to ensure that he did not put Spain on his target list and continue to receive modest aid from the Axis (as well as the Anglo-American's).

    If Germany prevailed he could have claimed he did his part, considering his limitations, or if Germany lost he could say he did as little as he could without being drawn into the war fully. Since the Blue Division killed Russian's, The Western Allies could turn a blind eye to this limited participation, much as it did with Finland.

    Say what you will about Franco, and much can be said, he was one of the more adroit political leaders of the era.
     
  19. knightdepaix

    knightdepaix Member

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    My question was an extension of these two ideas; thus Sheldrake's reaction is not surprising. Drawing from lwd's and Sheldrake's ideas -- just in case that readers are unsure where the following content bases on -- a neutral Italy can benefit the nation and Germany because Allied military would be eliminated from landing onto Italian soil. While Italy can draw on Allies' resources, the "potential conduit for other materials including food to reach Germany" could be modeled on Turkey's wartime experience of bringing mineral resources to both sides; however is this approach going against Mussolini's preference in diplomatic policy ?

    The contrast of Franco's canny political move of sending the Blue Division to Mussolini's sending increasingly more troops to the Eastern Front can be a source for Mussolini's "more interested in the appearance of capability than [..] reality." Thus by leveling Franco's and Mannerheim's political adroitness on managing both sides of the ww2 conflict, Mussolini would appear indeed "more interested in [...] appearance". However I want to ask if this difference is due more to politics of each nation than leadership of indivdual leader. Risto Ryti also contributed to continuing Germany military aid to Finland, not to mention Finnish military leadership helped Finnish grittiness against the Red Army in the Winter War. If a neutral Italy did help continue "potential conduit for other materials including food to reach Germany", is there a non-Mussolini but Italian leadership to save the then strained German-Italian relation to continuing German (military) aid to Italy ? German contribution of Daimler-Benz engine on Macchi C.202 Folgore and Sturmgeschütz III on Semovente 75/18 cannot be underlooked. If not, an neutral Italy would help more Italy than the Axis, of which Rommel's strategy is the topic of this thread.

    Obviously I am bringing pieces of ideas together but were there power alternatives for non-American, British, French, German, Soviet powers -- the prominent powers of ww2 -- to benefit from aligning among themselves than holding onto one side of those prominent powers ? In repeating Belasar's opinions, Franco's and Mannerheim's leadership demonstrated that the possibilities were present. If Italy follows their adroitness, Rommel's leadership -- even if he still be present in North Africa -- would be less welcomed in North Africa. In the Winter War, Finland demonstrated a potentially war-winning military despite national weakness than Italian; geography gives Finland an advantage that she only faced three powers - Scandinavian/Swedish, Soviet and German, one of which was neutral and the other two were enemies to each other. Italy did not share such an advantage. Is centering on the Mediterranean favor political neutrailty than taking sides ? I think so. By typing, I hope to bring more lights on the non-prominent power of ww2.

    Last but not least, from somewhere on the Internet, Italian experts had found petroleum resources in Libya in 1930s. If Italy remained neutral and accelarated importing British, Romanian, American and Soviet technologies in extracting petroleum in arid geography, oil-producing Italy thus strengthened the nation in any talks. By extension, German or British intrusions to Libya and/or Italy would create new battlegrounds and thus could a neutral Italy benefit from this mutual exclusivity on the basis of oil production? For comparison, was Ploiești still bombed if Romania remained neutral ? The Red Army still attacked Romania nonetheless while Ion Antonescu lost power due to Romanian reversal of fortunes in favor of the Allies. Thus the idea that neutral Italy saving the nation from Allies invasion shall be based on American or British policies.

    For the discussion in this thread, I think Italian non-neutral stance is very important basis for Rommel's strategy. Also the central location of Italy and Eastern Europe shall be understood with more than just conflicts in the binaries of Soviet versus the West or the Axis versus the Allies. Media have been written along this storyline: Between Hitler and Stalin, Bloodlands etc..
     
  20. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Back to the North African strategy: Suddenly Hitler started sending Tigers and men to North Africa to keep Italy in war. By sending troops earlier he could have possibly prolonged the war in Africa?
     

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