How should the invasion of Crete been conducted?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by wiking85, Jan 23, 2016.

  1. wiking85

    wiking85 Well-Known Member

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  2. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    The Germans seem to have prevailed despite the odds - Allies need to get their act together, not Germans?
    But, in the spirit of the thread question, having more mortars and MGs would've helped.
     
  3. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    I agree with tomo. Historical invasion worked just fine.

    If I were to change anything it would be more Greece based Ju-88 dive bombers to keep the RN away. But that requires Germany to have more Ju-88s available.
     
  4. wiking85

    wiking85 Well-Known Member

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    Given the wholesale slaughter of paras it was only by intense luck that the invasion succeeded. I was thinking more along the lines of concentrating on taking one airfield and not dispersing the attacking force going after all three and then expanding outward once that one is taken.
     
  5. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    That way the defenders can make a single and short defensive line, while still retaining the edge in artilery fire, while the Germans cannot receive much of artillery, and/or tanks that maybe could be used, despite the hilly terrain.
    We also have a quesdtion of how much gliders and men a single landing zone can accept in the short period of time, less of an issue with 3 landing zones.
     
  6. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    It should have been opposed more aggressively by Freyburg. Unfortunately saying anything negative about Freyburg usually equates to slaughtering a holy cow on most history forums, but I believe the invasion, already in trouble at the end of the first day, could have been turned into a German debacle.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
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  7. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    I don't believe in holy cows either :)
    Many German and Japanese sucessess were more a product of a faulty Allied (includes Soviet Union, Poland, France etc.) response to the gamble, rather than a product of some overwhelming military advantages.
     
  8. wiking85

    wiking85 Well-Known Member

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    Historically all the gliders were used at the Malme field IIRC, while air support was dispersed. In terms of the short defensive line, that doesn't really matter as the Germans were able to reinforce with mountain troops that flanked all the Allied positions via the mountains, so turned their flanks constantly during the historical campaign. As it was historically the landings at the two minor fields in the center and east of the island were defeated, their air support and men used wasted. So historically the Germans had to reinforce Malme and move from west to east along the coast, but also have mountain troops move in via the mountains to flank British positions from unexpected directions. Also the Italians landed tanks and men at Sita bay.
     
  9. wiking85

    wiking85 Well-Known Member

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    I think there is no doubt about that. He kept his forces on the defensive and what counterattacks did happen weren't pressed home with the determination the Germans showed on the attack. Had the Brits been willing to take casualties early they could have quashed the Germans.
     
  10. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    There has long been tacit acknowledgement of certain shortcomings, particularly in the defence of the airfield at Maleme. In recent years that has become more overt and even in New Zealand the performance of certain senior officers has come in for more realistic assessment.
    Anyone who is already interested will know who I mean and others can look it up for themselves, I'm not going to precipitate the inevitable arguments :)
    I think Tomo's comment in post #7 sums it up.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
  11. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    I think the Germans made their own "intense luck" with sound tactics that were aggressively executed. Just as they did when invading Russia a month later.
     
  12. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    I'm not trying to sell short the German proves in war, especially in the 1st half.
    Their successes were very much helped by not issuing the declaration of war until too late, or issuing the DoW after the war started. The deployment of troops, especially Polish and Soviet, was great to supress smuggling, but not to fight major war - thus readily presenting them for the Germans to crush them.
     
  13. wiking85

    wiking85 Well-Known Member

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    Yeah the Germans got intensely lucky prior to 3rd quarter 1942.
     
  14. LisaM

    LisaM New Member

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    It was a tactical and strategic disaster, the British should have finished clearing North Africa...which was a 'must do' strategic issue.

    That was still in the early days before Allanbrooke got Churchill under control.... who was beyond hopeless at anything military.

    The British at the begiining were a disaster area in terms of stratbgy and tactics. They nearly got into a war with BOTH Germany and the USSR at the same time in 1940.. (and that was not even Churchill's fault),

    They had to hold the Med it was worth 2 million tons of shipping to them, which meant keeping Malta, and controlling the whole N/A coast and getting Sicily as well. The rest was irrelevant.
     
  15. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    I'm sure they'd have loved too, but what about Greece and the Balkans? The British were over stretched and incapable of 'clearing North Africa' in 1940/41. North Africa finally got cleared with American help over two years later.
    At the time of the Battle of Crete the British and their allies were well and truly going backwards in North Africa, hardly in a position to clear it! The British were effectively back to the Egyptian border and the Aussies were about to withdraw from Tobruk.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
  16. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    Also at the time of the invasion of Crete, the British had resources tied up in Iraq, putting down a coup d'etat which required keeping a maintenance force there afterward.
     
  17. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Churchill bashing is fashionable and easy giving some of his shortcomings but he wasn't hopeless at anything military, he could occasionally be brilliant .
    This is an aviation forum and Churchill's influence on early naval aviation cannot be ignored. It was under him that the Navy confronted the air ship menace by going out and bombing their bases. As early as Christmas 1914 a long range raid was launched against the airship sheds at Cuxhaven. This was only possible because Churchill had ordered the conversion of four cross Channel passenger ferries into seaplane carriers for the mission. Churchill was directly responsible for the first ever use of aircraft carriers in war, and look where that went.
    His other achievements (some hand in hand with Fisher) in the period preceding the Great War should not so flippantly be ignored either.
    The conversion to oil and the ability to re-fuel at sea which, in Churchill's own words would "avoid the growing submarine menace which will await them near their coaling bases" being two of the most important.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
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  18. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    #18 nuuumannn, Feb 18, 2016
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2016
    Definitely. 'Just fine', Dave? Hitler got the jitters after Crete and vowed never to use paratroops again as a result of the heavy losses.

    There is a bit of sacred cow-ness about Freyberg - he is, after all a fellow countryman, although I too, don't abide by such things, but in his defence, the soldiers on Crete were poorly supplied. I've read accounts by NZers who were there and a number claimed that they could have withstood the German invasion, but others state they just didn't have enough bullets. A bit of a shambles for the Allies, really and didn't go too well for the Germans either.

    Most definitely not; despite his faults (crikey! Will there always be someone banging on about how crap Churchill was?) he was extraordinarily far sighted. He was also the only one who could see the hole that was forming at Antwerp in 1914 and had the temerity to order troops to go harangue the Germans' flank, but sadly there weren't enough Marines and the Germans realised what the British were up to and the opportunity to make a big difference to the course of things so early in the conflict was lost.
     
  19. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    The Germans ultimately succeeded on Crete not because of the supposed brilliance of their operational plan, but because of the British command’s negligence and failure to act competently. In a real sense, the Germans were victorious because the mistakes they made were not as numerous or appalling as those made by the British. Operation Merkur was certainly daring and audacious but it was also far from perfect. Wildly inaccurate intelligence, dispersal and isolation of forces across four objectives rather than their concentration in one sector, and a basic recklessness, produced enormous casualties and nearly cost the Germans the campaign. Indeed, in the final analysis the Battle of Crete was a highly ambiguous, Pyrrhic victory. Hitler was displeased with the operation, which produced more proportional losses of soldiers and planes than any of his previous conquests, from Poland to France. With 4,000 dead and 3,000 wounded, most from the assault and parachute regiments, Hitler decided that large, independent airborne operations should not be repeated. Reflecting both the intensity of casualty figures and Hitler’s consequent resolution about the operational fate of airborne warfare, Karl von Student famously described the Battle of Crete as “the graveyard of the German paratroopers.” Despite their hard-fought victory, the Germans did not take advantage of their conquest of Crete. Hitler, like Wavell, albeit for different reasons, ignored Crete once the island was under his control. As a result, he squandered an incomparable strategic opportunity. From Crete, with sufficient forces, Hitler was in a position to establish air superiority over the Eastern Mediterranean, complete the destruction of the British Mediterranean Fleet begun by the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Crete, occupy Cyprus and Malta, disrupt, if not seize, the Suez Canal, and deliver a decisive blow against the British Empire in the Middle East. Hitler’s shortsightedness about the immediate strategic potential of Crete could be attributed to his prioritization of the invasion of the Soviet Union. The place of Crete in German war planning was formalized in Fuhrer Directive Number 30, issued on May 23, while the Battle of Crete was still raging. This Directive made it clear that the decision to launch an offensive to break the British position in the Eastern Mediterranean would be determined only after Operation Barbarossa and the destruction of the Soviet Union. Despite Hitler’s decision to draw the line at Crete, as it was, the German war machine, using a new, innovative form of warfare, had been seen once again to triumph against the perpetually humiliated and retreating British. The Battle of Crete was, indeed, unprecedented in the scope of its use of airborne forces. Airborne troops had been used by the Germans earlier, in Belgium, Norway, and elsewhere, but all of those actions involved small parachute units operating as support elements for conventional ground forces. In the case of Operation Merkur, and for the first time in history, a major campaign was conducted by an independent, large-scale airborne force. The Germans and the Allies drew different conclusions from Operation Merkur. While Hitler decided that the airborne invasion of Crete was far too costly to risk repeating, it spurred the British, and soon the Americans, to create entire airborne armies and parachute corps, which would play a major doctrinal and operational, if not always successful, role, in the Allied campaigns in Sicily, Normandy, and the Netherlands. The Battle of Crete was unprecedented for another respect—it was the first time German troops encountered widespread resistance from a civilian population. Throughout the battle, Cretan villagers, often armed with only makeshift weapons or captured German firearms, joined in the fighting against the German invaders. As an ominous portend of the sort of brutality that would soon become characteristic of the German occupation throughout the Balkans, Eastern Europe, and the Soviet territories, the Germans reacted to Cretan resistance with extreme savagery and indiscriminate violence. On June 2, the first day after the end of the Battle of Crete, a German paratrooper force, acting under orders from General Student, took hostage and executed 260 villagers from Kondomari, a village outside Maleme. The following day, June 3, the village of Kandanos, near Chania, was razed and 280 of its inhabitants were shot. These reprisal killings were the first in a long series of atrocities that would blacken the Germans’ reputation in Crete. Indeed, before the end of the German occupation of the island in 1944, the occupation forces would kill 8,000, and according to some estimates torture as many as many as 70,000, Cretan civilians. Clearly, in the final analysis, the most important consequences stemming from the success of Operation Merkur were those which would affect the people of Crete—namely, foreign occupation, deprivation, terror, and death.
     
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