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What if Italy stayed neutral in World War 2

Discussion in 'What If - Mediterranean & North Africa' started by British-Empire, Mar 15, 2008.

  1. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Few things woulc have benefitted Hitler more than having his entire southern flank neutral and secure. No doubt Churchill would still be concocting schemes to involve Turkey or Yugoslavia in the war, but Hitler could remind them, perfectly honestly and in conformance with international law (something of a novelty for him) that neutral countries cannot allow their territory to be used by belligerents and that such action would entitle Germany to act to defend herself.

    While I'm not bashing the Italians, their contribution to the Eastern Front hardly compares to the value of the German troops, armor, vehicles, combat and transport aircraft, etc. that would not be tied up in the Mediterranean. Nor does Italy's neutrality give Romania any less reason to side with Germany against the ongoing threat of the USSR.

    Without an active front in the Mediterranean, Britain and Churchill would have few serious options for carrying on the war, though I expect they could hold out themselves almost indefinitely. The whole might seem a bit pointless. The naval assets - aircraft carriers, destroyers - not tied up in the Med could significantly aid the battle of the Atlantic.

    They wouldn't be throwing together a Force Z at the last moment to try to deter the Japanese; rather as tensions grew they could build up land, sea, and air forces in the Far East. There would be little reason to retain the Anzacs or Indians in the Middle East. The "lifeline of Empire" through the Mediterranean would be open.
     
  2. von_noobie

    von_noobie Member

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    Apologies, Did not mean to make it sound as clear cut as i put it.

    Sorry to say i have honestly not heard anything on this part of the subject where any earlier attack could not be launched in any case due to the weather, If you happen to know of any sources off that top of your head id appreciate it, No one should ever stop learning.

    In any scenario, I don't see how any RN or RAF units could make it down there on such short notice, The force wouldn't have been any larger then what was already there, Seeing as the British viewed Europe as the main battle ground all ships would be kept there unless the need arrived later on, And when such a need arrived, That being Japan joining the war.. It would take some time to get those naval forces ready and then time to get them down there. So no difference would be made at Singapore, But as for battles set after Singapore, When there dash across the pacific was stalled in there first loss, At the hands of Australian Infantry that is when such units would be of help.
     
  3. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    It comes up in many Eastern Front what if's. I think it's been mentioned here but I know it has over on the axis history forum, multiple times. Some of the threads even have some good references. When they come back up I'll see what I can find on it.
     
  4. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Well he doesn't get to abandon the Med completely does he? What happens if the allies invade Mediterranean France? Or the Balkans. Certainly he can threaten say Yougoslavia but if the allies show up with a major invasion force and the Yougoslavs step aside he still has a fight on his hands. On the other hand at least as far as transport aircraft go the LW is in far better shape without loosing all those transports in Crete and later in North Africa.
    Well Norway becomes an obvious place to counter attack and taking even part of it makes things more difficult for the KM and easier for the Artic convoys. Converting the Vichy colonies to Free French may also be easier. Torch becomes a real cake walk if there are no German units in North Africa and the Italians are neutral.
    Indeed. I would for instance expect the Bismarck breakout to be countered if not earlier more forcefully. Once that happens or even before major units can be moved to the Pacfic although things don't really heat up there until Aug of 41.
     
  5. Markus Becker

    Markus Becker Member

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    Excuse me but the Allies were given ~1.5 years of advance notice. Shortly after the Fall of France, the Japanese occupied the North of Indo-China and the allied build-up began. Slowly and always hampered by what the Italians started in the Med. NA had to be cleared, Ethiopia too, then the Germans intervened, the fiascos of Greece and Crete, Iraq revolted and the Vichy French Syria had to be occuied.

    Result: What could have defend the Far East was used in the Med.
     
  6. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    Some aspects of this particular WI that few people remember....

    1/ the RAF would end up with hundreds of the excreble Caproni Ca 310/11/13 family of recce bombers on their inventory!

    The Air Ministry negotiated the purchase of several hundred of these...beginning with the terrible 310, later morphing into orders for the 311 and 313...to replace the dozens of Avro Ansons and Airspeed Oxfords that had been leant to Coastal Command...and Bomber Command was short of multiengined bomber crew trainers. In April Hitler OK'd the deal when Mussolini asked him if it was all right to continue...so it's VERY possible that this transaction would continue!

    The 310 was an excreble aircraft - google on the "Klipfish bombers", the four that the Norwegians bought - and the Hungarians RETURNED the two dozen they'd bought and demanded their money back! :D

    2/ the position of Switzerland is greatly affected...possibly for the better, but possibly not!

    The Swiss Army was fully mobilised three times in 1939 and 1940 - one at the start of the war, once in November, and on the invasion of France. After the fall of France, the Swiss Army was in a terrible quandry; it had by then NO frontiers that were not theatened by an Axis power after Italy entered the war; through the winter of 1939-40 the Swiss and French had entered a series of military conventions, and planned for the french )two army corps'-worth) to enter Northern Switzerland and occupy part of north-wastern Switzerland and assist the Swiss defend the Limmat Line in the north-east, that cut across Switzerland's only extensive flatland... the area the Wehrmacht was likely to invade first. During those first months, with no worries that they had to thus defend anything EXCEPT the Limmat Line, the Swiss had planned a "one front war" if invaded, with the French taking care of everything else for them

    After May 10th....the two French Army corps designated to assist the Swiss were sent elsewhere, out of contact...and of course, after the Armistice, the Swiss were in REAL trouble; all of Western Switzerland faced German-occupied France, and northern/north-eastern Switzerland faced Germany....and the rest faced Italy!

    Swiss defence policy, driven by Gen. Henri Guisan, changed at that point, to one of "Dissuasion" as Guisan put it - basically give the Germans whatever they asked for...but at the same time demonstrating that taking it instead without payment I.E. by invasion....would both be terribly expensive AND see the destruction of Switzerland and anything in it that would have been useful to Germany.

    Guisan kept the full Army in the field until the first new underground bastions and forts had been built in 1941, putting "field" artillery units underground in the Bernese Oberland....and closing the gaps around the OLD late 19th/early 20th century forts that closed the valley entrances to Switzerland ;) After that, he demobilised half the Army, and kept switching the halfs on a rotational basis until the end of the war, so there was at least half the Swiss Field Army in the mountain forts at any one time...

    In the meantime...through the years from 1940, Hitler and Germany demanded more and more from Switzerland; they paid for it of course - but they got Swiss optics, arms, munitions, aircraft from Dornier AG etc, rail passage through the alpine tunnels....and a HUGE amount of Swiss agricultural produce; the Swiss experienced low ration levels as low as anywhere in Europe, down in fact to Greek levels, during WWII. A common characteristic of Swiss pensioners' memories are "the years without meat"...but having the weak Swiss federal government agree to it all, sometimes with more argument, sometimes with less - all part of Guisan's policy as selected Commander-In-Chief ( he had a LOT of control over governmental policy) to make Switzerland SO valuable that the Germans would loose so much by invasion ;)

    But one of the very FIRST things the Germans forced the Swiss into, by the end of the summer of 1940 - was to halt the continued export of military optics etc. out to Britain via the "diplomatic hole" that technically allowed them to send materials to the UK out via Vichy by "diplomatic bag"

    Obviously - if Switzerland was NOT threatened by a "neutral" Italy on her southern border....

    1/ the trade out to the UK would remain; it would probably actually INCREASE!

    BUT...

    2/ there would be no re-orientation of Swiss defence policy to cope with a 360-degree threatened frontier....so very possibly NO Dissuasion...NO mountain fortress expansion/building programme...

    3/ and very possibly the Swiss Federal government MIGHT think that without a threat to the whole Southern frontier, they could stand firmer on demanded trade concessions by Hitler's Germany....possibly actually CAUSING a German invasion of Switzerland!!!

    :eek:
     
  7. Markus Becker

    Markus Becker Member

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    Hmm, in case the Ca 310 was an even worse GR/ASW plane than the Anson, try switch the order to SM.79 instead. One of the best and possibly the most successfull heavy torpedo bombers of the war. Fast as hell, could carry two torps and thanks to the wooden fuselage it floated fantastically. Perfect preparation for all eventualities. :D

    The Brits liked the Italian 20mm AA-guns very much, didn't they. They even boarged sinking Italian ships to salvage them on one occasion.


    Sounds like Italy wasted an opportunity to make tons of money.
     
  8. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    They didn't want an aircraft like the SM.79; they wanted a small light, twin-engined aircraft that would fulfil the SAME exact role as the Anson I.E. bomber crew trainer. Bomber Command didn't have enough trainers anyway....and THEN they were taken from them for over a year and used as maritime patrol aircraft! :eek: Bomber crew training had been one of the big losers in the moritorium on RAF spending after Munich in order that Fighter Command be brought up to readiness ASAP. BC didn't even open it's first dedicated nightflying school until the late spring of 1939!

    The negotiations had dragged on from late 1938 - when the 310 still looked good in early Italian service - and as late as December 1939, the Air Ministry officially ordered 200 Ca. 310s and 300 Ca. 313s...and later, prior to Italy entering the war, decided to amend the order AGAIN and replace the 200 310s with a hundred 311s.

    There's not much the Ca 310 was better than...except maybe the Breda Ba65 ! The four Norwegian aircraft had REPEATED engine failures, Piaggio engineers had been to Norway on a couple of occasions to try and get the engines running...and they'd failed again...and the engines were even crated and sent BACK to Italy to be rebuilt. As of April 9th and the start of WESERUBUNG...exactly ONE of the three was "technically" airworthy....in that it had only one engine running! :D It got off the ground at Stavanger/Sola, was shot at in the air by a Me110, and "crashed"...bellyflopped, actually....in a river at the end of the runway!
     
  9. Markus Becker

    Markus Becker Member

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    That's how Costal Command ended up with the Anson. Interesting and troubling. So BC has no use for the SM.79 but I was thinking of CC. The Hudson was a fine Recon/ASW plane but lacked a strike capability.
     
  10. von_noobie

    von_noobie Member

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    Well honestly i don't see any serious attempt by the Allies to build up there, Even ship's from the US Pacific fleet where being transferred to the Atlantic. As far as i can see, Even with out the Italian's being aligned with Germany, The world for the most part viewed Germany as the clear and present danger. Force Z which included several ships that where being used in the Atlantic was only organized and sent a few month before The attacks on pearl Harbor occurred so as far as i can tell, The allies didn't start building up forces in advance, and didn't see any threat from japan until maybe 6 months at best before they joined the war. So i stand by my original post that any extra vessel's they may have been able to add to the Pacific would not arrive in time to make a difference at Malay or Singapore.
     
  11. Markus Becker

    Markus Becker Member

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    HMS Barham, HMS Ark Royal... where were they and many others lost and thus not available in the Far East?What campaign tied down five allied divisions at a time Malaya was defended by less than three?Where did all the planes from the USA go? War- and Tomahawks, Marylands...
     
  12. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Well he doesn't get to abandon the Med completely does he? What happens if the allies invade Mediterranean France? Or the Balkans. Certainly he can threaten say Yougoslavia but if the allies show up with a major invasion force and the Yougoslavs step aside he still has a fight on his hands.

    On the one hand, the British did support de Gaulle's efforts to take over Vichy territories, with mixed results. On the other hand, the most prominent actions followed on Axis threats to British interests. The invasion of Syria and Lebanon derived from the Germans' use of Syrian bases to support Rashid Ali's attempt to install a pro-Axis regime in Iraq. The North African landings were intended to help resolve the ongoing campaign in (Italian) North Africa (and the invasion of Madagascar was to preempt a supposed Japanese threat). Even if the British/Free French did secure North Africa, where would they go next? Given that Italy, including Sicily and Sardinia, were neutral. Or are they going to invade neutral Greece or Yugoslavia? And as noted earlier, the Mediterranean sea lanes, so vital to British interests, are completely open to them and can only be threatened by an outbreak of hostilities. I just don't see where they have many options or much to gain.

    Well Norway becomes an obvious place to counter attack.....

    I would say lack of other options. And until they develop either a carrier force comparable to say the USN invading the Philippines or a large force of long-range fighters, Norway is likely to be another debacle like Churchill's 1943 Aegean project.

    By the time the British realize they're not facing invasion - and even before Hitler invades the Soviet Union - escalating tensions with Japan will compel them to reinforce the Far East. Preserving the Empire was just as important to Churchill and the British leadership as beating Hitler or - prior to Barbarossa - containing Stalin. In the absence of ongoing hostilities or any serious opportunity to engage the Germans, Japan would become the priority.
     
  13. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    This has been discussed a few times recently on AHF; Churchill actually ordered plans drawn up as early as July 1940 for a return to the Narvik Enclave.

    There were actually quite a lot of landing fields fields inside the historical Enclave; I had a list of them to hand a few days ago, but as well as Bardofuss and Bodo, there was another - a civilian field - across the sound from Bodo, and two more being developed north of Ofortfjord by the time Narvik was taken in late May 1940. These were originally to be diversionary/dispersal fields for Bardofuss, but could house their own complement.

    If any return to the Northmark denies the Germans use of Bodo...they're in the same boat as they were in May 1940; only a very long range fighter like the Bf110 could operate over the Enclave ;)
     
  14. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    Well, arguably it wasn't until April 1940 that anyone in Whitehall considered the possibility of the entire western seaboard of Northern Europe and Scandanavia being in enemy hands! The need to interdict "enemy" convoys plying up and down within range of strike aircraft flying from the UK didn't arise until the Germans occupied Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium and France :eek: Until then, about the worst they feared was a repeat of WWI - uboats based in whatever part of Belgium was overrun; that required ASW and patrol aircraft ;)

    There's only a need for strike aircraft when there's something to strike ;)
     
  15. Markus Becker

    Markus Becker Member

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    There was enough to strike. One of the first air raids of the war was an attack on a pocket-BB. It was conducted by Blenheims armed with 250lb bombs. It was followed a short time later by a disasterous attack on the Wilhelmshaven naval base.

    IIRC these and other attacks were flow by BC but anti shipping strikes had always been a CC mission. One for which CC didn't have the planes.
     
  16. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    In regards to this:
    Here are some links:
    Axis History Forum • View topic - The Most Decisive Factor in delaying Operation Barbarossa?
    This one indicates some significant debate on the matter.
    Axis History Forum • View topic - Did Italy cost Germany the War?
    A longer thread and probably more informative as is this one:
    Axis History Forum • View topic - Did Greece save Russia?
    It's been discussed in other threads there and my impression in the latter ones was that it was the weather, it may not be that clear however. I.e. you may have been correct most likely we both were partially correct.
     
  17. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    Actually, Coastal's role was initially primarily defensive; to protect convoys from German submarines, and protect Allied shipping from the Luftwaffe. It had only been "formed" in 1936 out of the old Coastal Area command, and its five (!) squadrons spent the next year exercising ideas on maritime patrol and protection. There were several HUGE expansion scehemes proposed....but Coastal had only expanded to 18 squadrons by September 1939, having suffered by the same moritorium as Bomber Command after Munich; especially with the development of new aircraft for actually attacking anything, the Air Ministry only being interested in dedicated bombers.

    An argument over the role and equiping of Coastal beginning in March 1937 defined the role of the service arm - AWAY from anti-submarine patrol and protection, supporting the bomber offensive, and the support of naval forces along the British coastline....TO trade protection, which included ASW...but they'd got rid of the support role to Bomber C0mmand ;)....which was a bit of a bollix as it got them even LESS priority for attack aircraft I.E. bombers!

    Things then moved about a bit through the rest of 1938/early 1939 as the argument rumbled on, and first the navy, then the Air Force, got to the top of the pile....but as of September 3rd 1939, its role was its first task was to co-operate with the Navy to prevent enemy vessels from escaping into the North Sea and Atlantic Oceans. Second, it was to provide ASW support where and when it could. These steps are significant as the language indicates a change from passive reconnaissance of enemy warships and submarines, to an active directive which involved the attack of the enemy combat vessels by Coastal Command aircraft....unfortunately accompanied, because of all the chopping and changing and priorities levied elsewhere, by a distinct LACK of attack aircraft! :D

    So...anti-shipping strkes on Kriegsmarine vessels WERE a priority - eventually! - by September 1939....but not the day-to-day interdiction of enemy cargo tonnage; this was for the RN Blockade ;) But all the dithering, and shifting priorites, for three years had meant that noone in the Air Ministry was looking to spend big on Coastal in ANY way, except maybe a dribble of new flyingboats (and a LOT of very old ones were kept flying!!!)...and they certainly weren't going to buy "non-domestic" for Bomber Command!

    As late as three years into the war, they started getting Bomber Command's castoffs...old Whitleys and Wellingtons...and THEN had to lend them back again for the first "Thousand Bomber Raids" :D:D:D
     
  18. von_noobie

    von_noobie Member

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    Thanks lwd, Yeah possibly both partially correct, Maybe not have been able to launch the attach when they wanted.. But maybe still a few weeks sooner with out the loss of eqipment, supplies and personnel. But ill read up on it, See if i can get an actual time line for the bad weather going. Cheers, von_noobie
     
  19. British-Empire

    British-Empire Member

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    What we would see with a neutral Italy is an earlier German invasion of the USSR.
    Originally planned for May 15th but postponed by Hitler on March 30th 1941 in order for Germany to deal with Italy's debacle in Greece and the Yugoslav problem.
    There would be also a great deal more trucks available for the Germans in the USSR (a quarter of which had been used in Libya), a full Air Flotilla and 2 Panzer Divisions not counting the loses sustained in North Africa that can also be added.
    German weapon deliveries of both German and captured French equipment would be given to the Hungarians, Romanians and Fins instead of the Italians too.
    This extra armour and air power may be enough to help the Germans capture Leningrad on the bounce in 1941.
    There will also be more more good weather campaign time to capture Moscow and capture and hold Rostov.
    This may be enough to make easier the capture of Stalingrad and the Caucasus in 1942.
     
  20. British-Empire

    British-Empire Member

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    The Allies would no doubt still invade Vichy North Africa in 1942.
    They may even offer the Italians to chance to grab Tunisia, Nice, Corsica and Djibouti.
    Alternately the German on hearing of the Allies landing in Vichy may offer Corsica, Djibouti, Nice and even Tunisia (depending if the Allies land there) to the Italians.
    Either way its likely Mussolini wont miss the opportunity to grab some thing.
    D-Day may well come earlier with no Tunisian and Italian campaign for the allies to deal with maybe in the summer of 1943.
    This however may not be a good thing for the Allies.
    The war will however be decides in the Caucasus in 1943.
    If the Germans and their Allies manage to hold back the Soviets in 1943 they may do enough to grind out some sort of peace deal with Stalin especially if D-Day doesn't happen in 1943 or if it fails.
    If the Germans cant hold the Caucasus they will be defeated by 1946 but with the British and Americans likely reaching Berlin first.
    If not
     

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