North Africa v Eastern Front....

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by Lucky13, Jul 5, 2010.

  1. Lucky13

    Lucky13 Forum Mascot

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    Sorry, but I couldn't come up with a proper title for this one.... :lol:

    I was just wondering, what if Hitler has opted to stay out of Africa and not helped Italy. How would this affect his plans for Barbarossa, when was the plans for this operation first drawn up, what number of troops, tanks, aircraft would he have been able to add? I don't think that it would have changed the ending of the war as a loss for the Germans, but.....would he have been able to go further, maybe even capture Moscow, more oil fields etc.?
     
  2. vanir

    vanir Banned

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    Without venturing too wildly into speculation, it is a tangible and known pitfall that due to urgency in the Mediterranean virtually the entire air support over the Moscow district was withdrawn late41 with the reassignment of Luftflotte 2. As it turned out the Soviets had as many serviceable aircraft flying from good fields around Moscow that the Luftwaffe did spanning the entire Eastern Front in December-January, it was a terrific disadvantage.

    What happened outside Moscow was the German drive effectively turned into a trench war (due as much to the attrition and condition of the mechanised force as it was Luftwaffe absence). If it had Luftflotte 2 and they managed an acceptable serviceability rate it is possible the likelihood of successfully taking Moscow would've dramatically increased even under trenchlike conditions, perhaps as a last ditch all out attempt, the one Hitler demanded in the sheer absence of air cover or any decent artillery.

    But the argument against is that serviceability for the Luftwaffe on the Eastern Front that winter was as low as 15% due to being poorly adapted to the harsh wintery conditions. Soviet aircraft by comparison could top 60% in the same conditions.
    If Luftflotte 2 had've been there 85% of its number would've been useless anyway, so they were better used elsewhere. I believe that was the reasoning. Even lend-lease Hurricanes were rebuilt using Soviet made consumables (like oil) that were better suited to the climate, or else they were stripped for parts to use in Soviet made aircraft (like armoured seats).

    That was really the greatest danger period, where the absence of the Luftwaffe was most noted on the Eastern Front. Other than that you're really talking about JG27, JG53, Fliegerkorps X and a smattering of attachments and elements being really absent elsewhere due to their commitments in the Mediterranean. It's not really a conspicuous drain on resources, the Afrika Korps is really just a brigade attachment given independence and regional command authority, it's bigger on paper than it was IRL (smaller than divisional status).

    The massive drain that Africa turned out to be was in supply and logistics, it was a massive, ever increasing commitment on that level, and whatever of the German transport force that wasn't destroyed at Stalingrad, was in the Mediterranean the moment the British cracked the communications codes with Ultra. Then it was just a slaughter, vast shipments sent out and sent directly to the bottom of the ocean, or crashing from the sky in flames irrespective of escorts.

    Africa and the Mediterranean were like a seeping wound, not too serious in terms of initial impact but it just kept bleeding and bleeding, opening ever wider until threatening to kill the host. It mightn't have even been so bad if Hitler just gave it up when pushed back to Tunisia, but whilst previously treating the Mediterranean like a distraction he suddenly had a change of heart when all was lost and made a desperate full commitment of resources. That was very costly on several levels.

    Some say his piecemeal use of new Tiger tanks in Tunisia, not to mention the latest and best German heavy artillery handed the Allies premature preparation of what to expect in western Europe, and that the Tiger could've had a much greater impact if held back until available in good numbers for a large scale commitment towards specific strategic battlefield objectives. It's a nice example of what Africa wound up doing for Germany, it was entirely a liability in the long run.

    Other than that issue of air cover at Moscow in 41 though, I'm not really sure that you could say any significant bolster would've been available on the Eastern Front, German forces in the Mediterranean weren't huge in terms of numberical presence, and already everything that had been committed to the Balkans had been shifted to take part in Barbarossa, except JG27. Logistics for the Eastern Front would've been better, particularly in the crucial period coinciding with Stalingrad, perhaps Rostov would've had supplies von Kleist and Ruoff badly needed but it was strategic errors causing the turnaround there, use of numbers that weren't really available and wouldn't have been with or without Africa.
     
  3. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    Originally, Hitler wanted to go to Russia in May. But the Italians down in the Balkans and Greece needed help so this delayed him a month or so in heading East.

    However, there is a school of strategic thought that says Hitler should've gone into Africa with large forces (not the Two divisions of the original Africa Corps), thrown the British out of Northern Africa and driven to the Persian Gulf. Theyby, he would ensure his oil supplies, turn the Med into an Axis Lake (with Turkey as a Defacto ally), Told the Greek and Balkan states they are now cutoff from any help and they were either on his side or subjects. Further, he could've put sub and raider bases on the west coast of africa and cut England's lines of communication with most of her colonies.

    By doing so, Hitler can also threaten Russia from two directions, one of them being a drive into the caucusis region and deprive Soviet Russia of their oil base.

    But that didn't happen.
     
  4. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    Vanir, Timshatz - very thoughtful posts. I agree with your analysis (and love the details) but with the following caveats :) :

    1) In hindsight, Nazi Germany with Hitler as leader and commander-in-chief could NEVER have won WW2. He might have achieved a political settlement with Britain had the RAF not prevailed in the B 0f B (note I didn't say WON the B of B :)) and who knows what would have flowed from that accommodation.

    2) Granting point (1) :), Hitler could never have conquered Soviet Russia (with or without the war in the Middle East, although I grant that campaign was a "seeping wound"). Given the larger state of the German economy, the slowness to mobilize to all-war-all-the-time economic footing, and the political viciousness of the Eastern Front, Stalin could have withdrawn East of the Urals and still re-taken the lost Territory IN TIME - given Allied (USA industry) Lend-Lease, vast manpower, and endless room to manoeuvre.

    But, I do admit I have a very simplistic view of these things :).

    MM
     
  5. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    I agree with all posted here. I don't believe that the sideshow on NA would have had an impact on the EF. To me, Russia was lost because 1) Changing of orders and targets (i.e. from Moscow to the Caucasus) was failure from the start and 2) not being able to hit production areas ( like the Allies did on the Western Front) doomed the whole plan for Germany. One reason why a long-range bomber was important for Germany.
     
  6. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    North Africa did not effect the start of Barbarossa. The invasion was postponed because of Italian operations in the Balkans.

    North Africa in my opinion did have an effect on the Eastern Front however. The manpower there might have been put to good use on the Eastern Front. I however do not believe that Hitler had the option of ignoring the North African campaign. Would this extra manpower have won the Eastern Front for Germany? Probably not...
     
  7. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    There is another school of thought (spending a lot of time in all these various schools these days), that says that one of the reasons the Kursk battle was lost was the invasion of Sicily drew forces off to fight that were involved in the fight around Kursk. Read it in a book that came out in the last couple years. For the life of me, I can't remember the name.
     
  8. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    #8 michaelmaltby, Jul 5, 2010
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2010
    "... Kursk battle was lost was the invasion of Sicily drew forces off to fight ".

    Pure theory, timshatz. Kursk was lost because the Soviets knew MONTHS in advance the exact attack time and date. Hence Soviet preemptive shelling an hour or so before Zero Hour.

    With or without that set-back, the Germans failed to make real gains at Kursk - but the fighting was vicious.

    :)

    MM
     
  9. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    The transfer of LW units to the Med theatee Of operations was the correct thing to do in my opinion. The Germans were facing a major crisis in the med at the time, which if left unchecked would have resulted in the early defeat odf the Axis forces, and the consequent early defeat of the Italians. Despite the dismissals of the italian forces, they were at that time fulfilling vital work for the axis, that if they had surrendered early would have caused an even bigger crisis for the Axis.

    Moreover, the LW in the dead of winter in 1941 was suffering abysmal serviceability and sortie rates, even compared to the maligned Russians, and to boot when they did fly were suffering terrible atrtritional losses. It took another year before the Germans managed to solve (partially) the problems of winter flying without suffering crippling losses.
     
  10. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    MM, initially, I thought the same. Everything I've ever read has put the battle in terms of a loss by the Germans who were chewed up by the Soviet Defenses. The book, I believe it is by Glantz, puts a different spin on this by stating, amongst other things, that the Battle of Prokhorovka wasn't a battle at all but more of a turkey shoot where the Soviet tanker drove into one of their own tank traps (which stopped the rush towards the Germans) and the Panzers sat back and picked them off.

    I'll make sure about the book but I think this is (not absolutely positive as I've read so many that after a while they tend to blurr).
    Amazon.com: The Battle of Kursk (9780700613359): David M. GlantzÂ…
     
  11. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    I don't dispute the "action" timshatz ... but even with appalling losses the Soviets could afford to lose more. Not so the Germans. The Soviets had had the time to prepare the ground in depth ... and the Germans driving from the North and South to cut the salient at Kursk never connected, did they? :)

    MM
     
  12. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    The plain and simple fact is that the Third Reich was stretched mighty thin in 41-42 by events. If Hitler had not initiated Barbarossa and if the USSR had not attacked him, he would have been much better situated to dominate Western Europe.
     
  13. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    No, they didn't. Similar thing happened with the Von Schlieffen plan. There weren't enough guys there to get it done. Why? Because they were on their way to another theatre (in VS plan, off to Russia). As a consequence, when a gap opened up between the German armies north of Paris, the French moved in. Different situation but caused by the same type of problem.

    One point more authors are putting out now is the history of the war in the East was pretty much dictated by the Soviets after the war. There is very little written about it and only recently have there been any challenges to the dogma presented by the SU. For instance, there is a recent perspective on Stalingrad that what caused the Wehrmacht the greatest problem (over the long term) was not the fighting in Stalingrad but the delay and casualties caused by battles that were north of it shortly before the Germans made it into the city. This is a relatively recent development. Here is a link to the show, it was an episode of "Secrets of the Dead".

    Deadliest Battle: Watch the Full Episode | Secrets of the Dead | PBS

    I guess my point is two fold. One, the history we were told over the past 70 years is being revised as more/new info comes out and two, the actions in another theatre usually have an affect in another theatre of operations.
     
  14. DonL

    DonL Banned

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    #14 DonL, Jul 6, 2010
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2010
    I absolutley agree.

    It was the biggest mistake to invade Russia for the third reich and the only motivation came from Hitler with his illness fixcation to russia.

    Also with the lost of the battle of britain all possibilities are to the third reich with north africa to make britains life realy hard and get the always wanted resources.
    In the personal archives from Rommel was his strategic plan for north africa without Fall Barbarossa.

    His final objekt was the aribian halfisland with Bagdad as final goal.
    If we look at the troops of the Wehrmacht in spring 1941 they had 22 tank divisions and 15 mot infantry divisions and extra 3 airfleets at the russian frontline

    To protect the russian frontier you will need a lot of mobile divisions to optionally counterattack a russian invasion but I think 6 tank division and 4-5 mot infantry divisions you can choose to invade north africa with the protection of 2 airfleets.
    So I think this Armygroup plus the 2 airfleets can take Malta, Egypt and the Suez Canal till the end of the year 1941. I think without other serious events the arabian halfisland would be under control in Summer 1942 and the first oil to germany from arabia could follow till end of the year 1942.
    At this time period the third reich would have massive less fallen men/troups and destroyed material without an invassion to russia, so they would have the possibility to defend north africa effective to back up the supply of oil and other resources.

    Also I think the red army was tactical to weak and without the armored vehicles from USA would not have the ability to invade the Wehrmacht at the east frontier effective.

    I think such a strategic action would be very hard for Britain and the USA.
     
  15. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    "... The plain and simple fact is that the Third Reich was stretched mighty thin in 41-42 by events. If Hitler had not initiated Barbarossa and if the USSR had not attacked him, he would have been much better situated to dominate Western Europe. "

    Total agreement. Considering the threat (perceived or real) from Communism in the '30's, if Hitler hadn't been "mad" and Germany so eager for "revenge" - Germany could have stopped with the fall of France and said: "we stop here, deal with us" and he likely would have got away with it.

    MM
     
  16. gjs238

    gjs238 Well-Known Member

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    Without North Africa, Rommel would have been employed elsewhere - hmmmm.
     
  17. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    I have to raise issue with the supposition that the Soviets were not going to attack the Germans. My understanding from released archive material was that Stalin had no intention of honouring the the non-aggression pact. The indications are that he intended to make aggressive moves into southern Europe, in particular, against Rumania, and her oilfields, in 1942, or 1943. Soviet armour was certainly massing ther in the summer of 1941, which helps to explain the stiffer resistance encountered by AGS during Barbarossa.

    War between the USSR and Nazi Germany was always going to happen, its just a question of when
     
  18. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    ".... War between the USSR and Nazi Germany was always going to happen, its just a question of when ".

    I agree with you, Parsifal, and we've gone down that road before on this Forum :). Barbarossa was a preemptive striike.

    MM
     
  19. DonL

    DonL Banned

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    I agree

    But what chance had the red army against an intact Wehrmacht with short supply lines to catch rumania?
    From all we know the red army had attacked with an massive infantry attack supported by tanks.
    So I think the Wehrmacht would try to attack the flanks and the back with closed Panzercorps or Panzergroups and this would be a big suprise for the red army and without the armoured vehicles from USA, the red army had no armoured mobile infantry.
    I think all pros of the tactic are for the Wehrmacht to defend the red army until 1944-45.
     
  20. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    #20 renrich, Jul 6, 2010
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2010
    MM, I agree wholeheartedly. If Hitler had done what you said, and I don't believe that he ever really wanted to occupy the British Isles, he might very well have solidified his conquests in Europe. Germany and Britain might have even presented a solid front to Stalin and the USSR. I did not claim that the USSR would not attack Germany. Rather, I said that if they did not. Most indications are that Stalin had an attack of Germany on his mind. He might have had second thoughts though if Britain and Germany were allied.
     
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