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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. Bolshevik

    Bolshevik Active Member

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    If you want to know what happened to Operation "Herkules", you have only to read Liddell Hart's "The Other Side of the Hill".

    Kurt Student was the planner, and he says that it relied on suitable weather.
    Some of the best trained Italian units were slated, and the operation was to be supported by over 1200 Italo-German aircraft.

    But Rommel's push into Egypt after taking Tobruk sucked away all the air support. Rommel broke his promise to send the German air units back to softening up Malta, and the units slated for Herkules turned up as reinforcement for Rommel instead.

    Cruwell went to Africa and came back with tales of Italian units failing to support the good German herrenvolk, and Hitler's mind was full of constant complaints from Rommel about the Regia Marina supposedly failing to deliver Rommel's supplies and men in the quantities he was looking for, which if you look at the figures was complete and utter nonsense. The Regia Marina took great losses and delivered most of what Rommel needed, but he wasted them and used up his supplies piecemeal, not thinking ever to stockpile, and having no concept of economy.

    Rommel's conduct was nothing short of incompetent in a logistical sense, and his constant attack on the efficiency of the Italian navy bore fruit with Hitler, who felt that any operation to capture Malta would result in the Regia Marina running for home and leaving the airborne elements stranded!

    Another element that caused friction were German promises of fuel deliveries to Italy that were NEVER lived up to in reality. The Regia Marina had to limit their operations due to this very fact, despite being allies in a common cause, the Italians literally had to beg for every ton of fuel and were forced to limit their operations àccording to fuel availability.

    All this was combined to sink Herkules altogether, and Malta would have been a tough fight, but the condition of the garrison according to its commander Lord Gort was not good, it's defence battalions dressed in rags, short of food and broken up and spread out to repair bomb damage.

    With the quality of the Axis units slated for the invasion, there is no question in my mind that Malta would have fallen.

    It's all in Liddell Hart's book. I got the information of the state of the garrison from an article about an Avalon Hill wargame called Air Assault on Crete. It had a mini game of the Malta invasion, and in the accompanying issue of the General magazine, there was Lord Gort's assessment of the true state of the garrison.

    Malta was the worst failure of the whole Axis effort in the Mediterranean.

    And Rommel bears principal responsibility for his outrageous claims about the Regia Marina and their supposed failure to supply him.

    Rommel's attitude caused friction between him and his Italian superiors, which he got around by using his favoured status to influence Hitler and get his way like a spoiler child does when he complains to daddy that mommy doesn't let him do this or that.

    Bolshevik
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2022
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  2. Bolshevik

    Bolshevik Active Member

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    Sorry. That German General who went to Africa and returned to report was CRUEWELL.

    And he got all his anti Italian gossip from ROMMEL.
    He didn't even visit a single Italian unit
     
  3. Bolshevik

    Bolshevik Active Member

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    Von Weichs was Army Gruppe B commander
     
  4. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Gibraltar not Malta. Why lose another 10,000 paratroopers.
     
  5. Bolshevik

    Bolshevik Active Member

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    Wasn't it Goering that lamented the failure to capture Gibraltar in a post war interview? I remember him stating that if Gibraltar had have fallen, the Axis would have won the war in the Mediterranean
     
  6. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Someone leading Spain did not let the German troops through his country. Did not Hitler say the negotiations were like pulling off teeth or even worse.
     
  7. Bolshevik

    Bolshevik Active Member

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    Yes, Franco was too intelligent to be swayed by Adolfs bullying diplomatic style. He presented Der Leader with a demand for arms, money, food and raw materials which he knew very well that Germany could not supply, particularly oil.

    Franco's regime lasted as well as Fascism in Portugal. The wounds of the Spanish Civil War were still raw, and Spanish diplomacy was doing a fine job of playing both ends against the middle to be embroiled in a general European conflict.

    Mussolini could have easily gone down the same path and outlasted the National Socialists in Germany by decades, but Benito was hell bent on such policies as Mare Nostrum, and on recreating the glory days of the Roman Empire.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2022
  8. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Hitler was btw almost losing the pact of steel when he made the Ribbentrop pact. Benito and the Japanese were furious about Hitler making co-operation with Stalin.
     
  9. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Yes, after meeting with Franco at Hendaye on the Franco-Spanish border.
     
  10. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Few things would have benefitted Hitler more than having the Mediterranean remain at peace. A rare case in which gaining an ally reduced someone's chances of winning a war.

    Upon Italy's entry into WWII, Churchill supposedly commented "It seems only fair; we had them last time."
     
  11. Bolshevik

    Bolshevik Active Member

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    There was a joke going around in German officer circles.

    It went something like this.
    Q- Who do you think will win the next world war?
    A- We don't know. But whatever side the Italians are on will be the loser
     
  12. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Rommel might have done well after the battle of Gazala and the capture of Tobruk to halt his advance at the Libyan-Egyptian frontier and consolidate his position. He'd have secure supply lines to Benghazi and Tobruk, and if this option allowed the Axis to capture Malta, so much the better.

    Historically of course he ended up on the defensive at El Alamein, at the end of a long supply line, having expended considerable resources to get there. It still took the British until October 1942 to be ready to attack. How much longer would it take if they had to move all their troops and supplies by road to the frontier, while Rommel spent the time building up defenses and reserves?

    Of course such considerations were never Rommel's strong point. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to say "the Axis" would have been better off.
     
  13. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    I am always surprised how Hitler and the German High Command did not care much of the DAK situation until spring 1943 when loads of troops and Tigers were sent to be destroyed or the men captured as POW's. Well, it did shorten the war with these losses so in a way a good thing. I know Hitler had the Stalingrad problem in his hands but in this case later was not better.
     

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