Which was more important to war Malta vs Guadalcanal

Discussion in 'Polls' started by pbfoot, Nov 16, 2008.

?

Most important battle Guadalcanal or Malta

  1. Malta

    46.7%
  2. Guadalcanal

    33.3%
  3. draw

    20.0%
  4. not important

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  1. pbfoot

    pbfoot Active Member

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    Both Malta and Guadalcanal occured at approximately the same time frame , both were lacking supplies ,suffering from disease, facing numerically larger forces with better equipment
     
  2. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    I would say that Guadalcanal had a larger impact on the Japanese, in terms of attrition.

    But then an axis controlled Malta would have shut down the Med to the allies.

    A draw for me!
     
  3. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    I agree with sys on this.

    Besides both were important for there perspective theaters.
     
  4. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    one has to consider the implications of an allied loss of each island. In the case of Malta, the Axis would have been able to achieve a more secure supply line to North Africa. This may have led to the loss of the Delta, and beyond that any number of alternate strategies......conquest of the Middle East (and its oil), isolation and possible invasion of the Caucasus from the South, possible Turkey adoping a more pro-Axis stance, possible invasion of India...U-Boats in the Indian Ocean.

    Guadacanal was much more limited in its possibilities.....the Japanese may have been able to complete the conquest of NG....and possibly Fiji and Noumea. This would have made Aust a difficult springboard for the US countroffensive, but conversely would have made the Japanese supply lines even more tenuous...

    So on balance, my opinion is that Malta is probably the more imprtant of the two, because of the potential flow on effects....a victory at Malta had the potential to alter the overall course of the war, whereas its difficult to see a defeat at Guadacanal doing the same. Of course this depends on what happens after those respective battles.
     
  5. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    Would go with Guadalcanal on this one. But it's close.

    Malta interdicted the flow of supplies from Europe to Africa. And while the war in Africa was important (much more so to the allies than to the axis), it was not crucial. Guadalcanal should not have been crucial, but the attritional campaign that occured there (along with the battles in New Guniea) essentially gutted the Japanese airforces (both IJN and IJA) as well as doing severe damage to the IJN Surface and Air fleets. Further, it confirmed Australia would not be invaded by Japan.

    In both cases, the battles fought in both theatres were the first major offensives for the Allies. The difference between the two was Germany could and did operate quite well with out forces she lost in Africa while Guadalcanal (and New Gunea) was too costly for Japan.

    For Malta to be on the same plane as Guadalcanal, it would have to have happened on the actual mainland of Europe, not in the periphery as Africa was.

    'Cause when you're talking about Malta, your really talking about Africa. Whereas when you talk about Guadalcanal, you're talking about Australia/NZ. The Allies could lose large chunks of Africa and it would be no big deal. But losing AUS/NZ would've been far more damaging to the Allies.
     
  6. Soundbreaker Welch?

    Soundbreaker Welch? Active Member

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    I think the Japanese shouldn't have clung to their islands like they did. They lost a lot of manpower for not much benefit. At least they should have moved all their forces onto maybe two islands, like Okinawa or maybe Iwo Jima. They way they could still defend the homeland and have had some control of the Pacific.

    But the way they kept allowing themselves to be slaughtered off each island, was just to devasting to their numbers, and their morale.

    But I suppose the Japanese generally had good morale. For them dying wasn't some thing to avoid at all costs. Their mentality was to hold on to each island, never let it go, (because that would be a dishonor,) until they were wiped out.

    So I guess I will say Guadalcanal, even though it didn't have to be for the Japanese. They could have retreated and regrouped on another fortified island instead of losing their Navy and planes and manpower.
     
  7. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    But for Malta, if the RN decides the risk to run convoys through the med is so great, what happens to the logistics for the allies? The resources from the Middle East now need to go around Africa, and completed weapons of war will need to go through the same route.
     
  8. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    For a considerable part of the war, into '43, didn't the Brits have to run convoys around the horn anyway? I don't think Malta was much of a base to cover their convoys as it was to attack German and Italian assets.

    By the time the Med became something of an Allied lake (around 1944), it's importance was greatly reduced as a theatre of war.

    Now if the Germans had taken over the Atlantic side of French North Africa and used it to interdict sea lanes to England, then the Brits would've been in deep do-do.
     
  9. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    Good point.

    One thing I wonder though, given the distance between Egypt and Tunisa, wasnt the Afrika Korps more dependant on its logistics from what can be unloaded at Tobruk?

    A Malta in Axis hands might not be the do all to end all as it seems.
     
  10. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    Definitely agree that Tobruk was a very important logistical base for the Afrika Corp. Without it, they are looking at a good 200-300 miles to Benghazi, probably the next major port for use by the AK.

    I took a look at a google map on the subject and it shows that Malta, while not in the direct line of the route from either port to Italy, it was definitely close enough to be a major problem. I would also guess the attacks coming from the Desert Air Force and sub forces from Gibraltar and Alexandria were major factors in cutting supplies. Seems worth the risk to get rid of Malta. It is almost begging to be picked off.

    Here's a link to the map.

    Tobruk Map | Libya Google Satellite Maps
     
  11. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    But just exactly how important was Malta to the AK in its battles in eastern Libya and Egypt?

    I dont see how Malta adds much to the logistical equation for that area. Benghazi and Triploi were the key logistical points. But, I will concede that a Malta in axis hands makes an allied victory in North Africa more bloody and to take longer.

    Now for Guadalcanal ..... I see its importance as inflicting losses on the IJN from which it couldnt recover. Plus a Guadalcanal victory did end the Japanese push southwards, and gave the allies a fine base of operations form which to move northwards against Rabaul.
     
  12. pbfoot

    pbfoot Active Member

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    The Axis were loosing 50% of their Afrika Corps supplies to Malta based aircraft thats a whole lot of capability .
     
  13. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    That is a lot. But did it really impact the AK's ability to fight way out in Egypt?
     
  14. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    Short answer is yes....the limits on supply and logistic support that could be provided to the axis frontline forces limited their capabilities. The axis also could not send in the forces they needed or wanted to the western desert. in the case of ground units this was because they could not be supplied properly, and because most of the bodies and equipment that made up such formations were being decimated. in the case of the air units, vast numbers of RA and LW units were tied down to trying to suppress the island, with decreasing success

    Allied wartime strategy clearly identifies the european axis as the principal enemy, with the potential to cause an upset. Japanese lacked that capability. Whether Guadacanal happened or not was immaterial to the final outcome, even in the context of the PTO alone. If Guadacanal didnt happen, the US would have returned in 1944 anyway, whilst the attrition rates for Japan would have gobbled up the reserves saved by not fighting Guadacanal in a matter of months.

    guadacanal is one of the most overblown, overrated battles of the war, achieving that status because it was being fought by, you guessed it, American troops... battles at least as important (and many would consider of greater importance) were being fought elsewhere at this time by non-American forces and not receiving the same recognition. Malta just happens to be one of them. Malta WAS the key to the Med, whosoever controlled it dictated the outcome of the battle in Africa, and hence, the battles likley to develop as a result
     
  15. Maestro

    Maestro Active Member

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    I think I'll have to go with Malta.

    My knowledge of the PTO is rather limited, but what I know is that the Japanese material/manpower lost at Guadalcanal would have been lost anyway in latter battles, due to the way the Japanese were fighting.

    While WWII was also (in a way) a war for petrol. Because without petrol, boats, planes and tanks won't go anywhere ! For that reason, you had to keep control over... erhm... oil fields (is that the right English word ?) in North Africa.

    So Malta was a good thing for the RAF as they could maintain a kind of air superiority there.
     
  16. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    Parsifal, your comments about Guadalcanal .... I'll just say they're so far out in left field, you're among a small insignificant minority to have that view.

    But for Malta, remember the logistics strain on fighting armored warfare in the desert. Just because you can get 50% more supplies to Tunisia, doesn't necessarily mean a significant amount can get to the AK that was out on the eastern fringes of the theater.

    Consider that the more supplies you need to transport, means the more support troops you need, and the more supplies you need to bring along just to support them. And consider the fuel requirement for the supply troops has to be a round trip number. Its an exponential increase in the tonnage needed to support both the tooth and the tail. The allies learned that lesson in Sept/Oct 1944 in France!

    So I don't really see a significant increase in power for the AK unless it is just defending Tunisia.
     
  17. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    I came out with the disparaging remarks about Guadacanal because it was just one of the battles of attrition being undertaken at that time against the Japanese. There were similar battles being fought in China, Burma, New Guinea, and under the oceans of the japanese empire, as well as the mining and sabotage efforts throughout Southeast asia, by groups like Sparrowforce and the Darwin Wing that were having every bit as debilitating effect as Guadacanal (well, more or less.....).

    Much is made about the attrition that the Japanese air forces suffered over Guadacanal in that five months of fighting. My understanding is that about 1000 aircrew were lost in the battle, along with about 20 destroyers, and some capital ships, and about 20000 men were lost, mostly to disease (I cannot check the details right now). This sounds impressive, and certainly the most serious of the losses, the losses to the Destroyers, were not repeated by anyone else. However, the Japanese losses in aircrew on a monthly basis had been nosediving since well before Guadacanal (read Yamamotos report to the Chief Of Staff in May 1942....already he was complaining about the losses being suffered. I am not saying these attritional losses were not important. What I am saying is that guadacanal was not the key to that attrition.....if US efforts had been put into the mainland of New Guinea, for example, along a single axis instead of following this dumbars* strategy cooked up by the Joint Chiefs to satisfy the competing egos of Macarthur on the one hand, and Uncle Ernie on the other. The old adage of splitting your forces would seem to apply in this case, and for that reason i see Guadacanal as not being the pivotal point leading to victory your populist American histories paint them to be. rather, i see it as a stark example of the failure of the Allied command system to contain and unify its command structures and keep the personailies of its leadership under control....

    Consider this, if guadacanal had not occurred, the Japanese would have carried forward in an attempt to undertake their "Fijian" strategy. The Americans. The next step in their advance was espiritu santo, as I recall. If 1st marine Div had been held back in waiting for that event, the result would have been the same....if the Japanese had been allowed to advance to Noumea, the slaughter would have been even greater.

    Bottom line is that guadacanal was not that important as a place, or a battle, because there were a dozen other "guadacanals" waiting to happen if the japanese pressed on with their plans. to me Guadacanal represents a failure in the allied leadership, but particualrly the American leadership, because it was more to do with competing egos than complimentary or optimal strategy.

    Compare that with Malta...Not only was Malta the only geographical place in the Med where such a strategy of Interdiction could be implemented, if the strategy was not implemented, the Allies were likley to be overwhelmed in the Theatre, with who knows what consequences
     
  18. HoHun

    HoHun Active Member

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    Hi Syscom,

    >But for Malta, remember the logistics strain on fighting armored warfare in the desert. Just because you can get 50% more supplies to Tunisia, doesn't necessarily mean a significant amount can get to the AK that was out on the eastern fringes of the theater.

    Malta not only strangled the supply in quantity, but also in quality. Ultra enabled the British to concentrate on the convoys or individual ships that made the biggest difference - they did not just strike ships at random, but could take out a large proportion of the high-value targets in well-aimed blows.

    This gave the attacks conducted from Malta an impact much greater than what one would assume from the plain tonnage figures.

    Regards,

    Henning (HoHun)
     
  19. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    In the end it would still degrade the AK capability, even far out in Egypt. Think about. 50% less supplies is still 50% less supplies.

    Would you rather have more or less supplies?
     
  20. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    Very few oil fields in North Africa at that time. In fact, not that much production in the Middle East. Most of the petroleum used by the allies in WW2 came from US. The Germans best chance for enhancing their oil supplies was in the southern part of the Soviet Union. I don't believe that those issues lessen the importance of Malta, the unsinkable aircraft carrier. I doubt the US Navy or Marines or IJN thought the Guadalcanal Campaign was overrated. It was a cesspool for both sides.
     
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